Stress level nine.
There are no demons. There are no dark forces aligning to take over the Earth. The voices in my head are only pieces of my own imagination chemically imbalanced to talk louder than voices talk in other people’s heads, and as long as I externalize them as some enemy I have to fight, I will not be able to look at myself clearly to see how fucked up I really am. That makes sense. It’s logical. I have a strong mind. I can sort it all out.
I’m not destined to purify the world from evil. I’m not some magical savior of the universe. I’m an adult male, 33, who had a traumatic childhood I can’t remember clearly, who manifested schizotypal tendencies at thirteen and tried to commit suicide. There are other kids who were fucked up by the ÄBÄ who are doing much worse than me.
But wait. No, the ÄBÄ doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist. Just because you can’t prove something doesn’t exist doesn’t mean it does exist. It’s just my delusional mind making things up to make sense of what couldn’t make sense to my kid’s mind.
I can keep it all straight. I just need some food to ground me.
I sit down in the booth of the local diner—part of my ritual after my sessions with Todd—rituals are important—and get out my meal punch card and look at the brochure. The walk over here cleared my mind. I’m seeing straight again, and the chatter of Goo and Magoo is behind a wall of buzzing and ringing. I can finally see the brochure for what is really there—smiling, well-groomed young people.
But these are paid models, not recovering addicts or crazy people—these faces gleam and sparkle, inviting me to embrace their world of regulated drudgery and timed-to-the-minute slavery, which they probably know nothing about with their trust-fund lifestyles. If the advertisers that made this brochure really understood their target audience, they would have put face-tattooed, toothless junkies and glassy-eyed mental cases on the cover. I couldn’t trust what these perky, clean-cut people were trying to sell me. It was all bullshit. Everything was bullshit.
I really need to take my meds.
I get agitated easily when I’m coming off of my dose. I close the brochure and look over the laminated diner menu. There’s a bit of food crusted on the edge, right under my thumb, and I feel it move. Goo giggles in my head that it’s going to bite me and I feel it burrow into my thumb.
Ah shit. Tactile hallucinations are the worst.
But I can’t take my meds on an empty stomach or I’ll get sick and puke my pill right up again. I have to eat something. Food always grounds me for the bus ride home. Then I have to get back to my room at the home and take my meds. Cheeseburger with waffle fries and a coke. Ritual. Keep to the ritual. I scan the room for the waitress, but she’s milking tips at another table in the far corner. The older guy she’s talking to looks like he’s got some money by the way he’s dressed and his hundred-dollar haircut, antiquing with his wife in their leased SUV hybrid.
The waitress has her hand on his back. Everyone has their own magical rites, and she is just performing a form of physical enchantment on him, milking more tip out of him by keeping her hand on his back. The way he’s smiling, it looks like it’s working. There’s also a peachy-golden light coming out of his chest and flowing right into the waitress.
She never touches me. She never gives me a peachy glow. She knows my punch card gives her a standard gratuity set by the State, and she won’t get anything more out of me, so she’s in no hurry to take my order, but she can feel me sitting in her territory. I can see her psychic tendrils on the floor connecting to my booth. She knows I’m here. There are blue lumpy trails all over the floor, and her tendril connected to my table is pulsing.
Shit. Now I’m seeing aetheric patterns.
No. They’re just hallucinations. It’s part of my disease. Aetheric patterns aren’t real, it’s just my overly synesthetic mind creating visual patterns to reinforce what I’m thinking. It’s a feedback loop I’m all too familiar with. I need my meds. I need some food. I need to keep calm. Stress makes it worse. I empty a packet of sugar into my mouth and open the brochure. I grit the dry crystals between the roof of my mouth and my tongue and it feels like sparkling crystal sand as I look over the words printed on the page.
… receive market-abel job skills through staining and exorcisms in areas such as accounting, secret-arial/cleric-al, computer dairy, food poisoning, pubic relations, slaughter/telepathic marketing, automotile repair, building mountains, land-scraping, carpentree…
The demons are interfering with my eyes. I’m supposed to pick a new career from this brochure, but I’ve only known how to do one thing, and that’s kill people. Well, I’m still trying to sort out if they were really people that I killed. My voices always convinced me that I was cleansing the earth of Subhumans, not people—worshippers of the prehuman deities Azh-Qohoch, Shoshalgraah, and Heshsess—inhuman priests of The Great Wyrm.
No. Stop. I have to get on top of this. I know none of this is real. It’s just a complex mythology I created to make sense of my childhood ritual abuse. But I’ve been living with it for so long, I can feel these dark gods waiting for me to return to my body. It’s like the drugs keep me hovering outside of my skin, safe and detached. As soon as the drugs start to thin out of my system, I begin to feel those dark entities, waiting to feed on me, like a defenseless moth just out of his chrysalis.
But if the Subhumans aren’t really agents of the Great Wyrm, and there aren’t demons that corrupt and destroy, the people I’ve been killing were just normal people. Like Todd and Marty and Haley are.
If, as Dr. Hawes says when I was listening to her out-loud voice, the voices in my head are just part of me and my disease and they’re not demons, then none of the weird shit I have seen in the last twenty years was real—like Todd turning into a pink rat. There are no Agents of The Great Wyrm, just innocent people that I killed. And Boss Boone and the others have not had me assassinating key figures of the Wyrm’s army. So who have I been killing?