Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Don't Think Too Hard

When an idea takes hold, there is very little that can shake it from its place. When people think of parasites, they think of the flesh-sucking menaces, the worms, the roaches, the viruses. They never think of the simpler things. A look. A word. A thought. These are among the most powerful parasites, and can grow to be the most dangerous in the world.

I was sitting in my basement, waiting for the fabric of reality to return from its departure, when I felt the thought for the first time. It was subtle, yet absolute. It had no weight yet, but that didn’t prevent it from sitting solidly in my mind. I turned to my friend, who seemed to be drifting away into the background, and asked him what he thought of it, but he was in his own world. He stared vacantly at the absence of matter in front of us, appearing to be just as intimidated as intrigued. I shook the feeling off.

The second time this bizarrely profound idea struck me, I was on my morning commute, driving to a job that only the failures still cared about. It was a stepping stone for me, and nothing more. At least, that was what I told myself. There looked to be a grisly accident, forcing the two twisted heaps of metal into the median. Looking at it, there was no telling how this could’ve happened… There was no situation I could visualize that made the scene makes sense. The troubling part of all of this was the sheet lying over a five-foot-eleven object between the two cars… It’s nothing, I told myself. I drove on.

I get in to work, walk through the front doors- No one is there. There were no attendants at the front desk, and beyond that, every office was empty. Passing the one before mine, I noticed something odd: Frank’s office chair was upside down on the wrong side of his desk, and the window behind that was tinted orange. The idea resonated around inside my skull, echoing around my conscious mind. The pieces were falling together. I shook my head and blinked a couple times, and there was Frank, sitting behind his desk, in front of his crystal-clear window. He was just… staring at me, a fascinatingly worried look on his face. I left before my mind cracked any more.

I got to my office when I heard the alarm start ringing, and promptly sat up to shut the damn thing off. Every morning, it’s the same high-pitched squeal. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, the disturbing image of Frank’s office, the accident, it all faded away into a quickly forgotten dream. Thank god.

After hobbling down the stairs, gliding through a breakfast of over-cooked eggs, and falling out the door, I nearly stumbled into an abyss of memory. I saw my entire life happening simultaneously in the vast pit before me. Everything I rejoiced in, everything I was ashamed of, my first date… I blinked, and there she was, walking her dog on the other side of the street. I waved to her, but she noticed nothing. That idea kept poking at the back of my mind.

After walking the couple blocks to work, I sat down behind the screen, and watched it dissolve into data tables and line after line of code. It flickered past me on the screen, each one a command. A thought in the machine. An idea. I was programming a virus; it was what I do here. They call it corporate espionage, I call it maliciously illegal. But it paid well. Really well. The idea hit me again, and physically manifested itself as an itch at the base of my neck. Feeling around, I noticed something… A rectangular hole at the base of my skull… It felt like metal… A USB port. There was a port in my brain.

The next thing I did only felt obvious. I rooted through my drawers for a cable, and plugged myself in to my work. I downloaded this virus into my mind. I forced this idea into my head. And there it stayed, clear as day. A stain-glass portrait of this elegant thought, built lovingly into the window to my subconscious. I saw it all, now, and as I stared inwardly at this shocking concept, my vision faded to black. Reality melted away.

I coughed a bit. I was back with my friend, watching the wall come back from the brink of existence. He turned to me and smiled a calm smile. “Good shit, right?”

I was dazed, but replied. “Hell yeah. But, tell me…” I trailed off as it dawned on me. That wasn’t his voice. That was mine. One of us wasn’t real, and I honestly wasn’t sure which. So I asked. “Which one of us is really here?”

“Ah. So you figured it out?”

“I… I think so…” I died. I felt the idea blossom throughout my entire being, as if to tell me I was correct. I was driving home from my day job to work on my night one. My underground one. Some drunk ass turned right into oncoming traffic. I wasn't able to react in time. I plowed through him, forcing us both off to the left and into the median. Hitting him how I did, the front end of my car was destroyed. I must have kicked up rocks or something- Some object that could punch through my already-shattered windshield and send the fragments inward. Glass in vehicles wasn’t supposed to shatter like that. There shouldn’t have been shards. But there were, and a good handful of them were through my face. My neck. One embedded in my shoulder.

My friend just stared at me, and responded in my own voice. “No, no… You wish you were. You aren’t.” He paused and looked away. “You’re the only man left alive. You wish you were dead. And you wish it was a relatively normal death. But that isn’t what happened.”

I wasn’t shocked. The idea pounded in my brain like a demonic heartbeat, but it brought no emotion with it. Somewhere, somehow, I knew this was the truth. But still, some part of me couldn’t accept that. “Bullshit. I just smoked too much. Work’s been stressful.”

“You’re right,” he replied. “Don’t think too hard on it. I know I wouldn’t.”

It was still my voice. I went to bed, the idea beginning to define the essence of who I am. It couldn’t be true. I saw too many things, too many people, too many unpredictable events. But still… His voice was my own. Was it just the drug? Did I snap ages ago? Is he dead or am I? Too many questions, and no way of getting answers.

Those last words rumbled beneath my skin: Don’t think too hard. It was his voice, and it was mine. And that was the breaking point. I felt the eloquent idea rupture out of me, bursting through my flesh, enveloping my vision, my world. Did I die in that accident, or did everyone else?

The idea responded. And just like that, I was no more.