Night had fallen on the first truly warm day of spring. Mim’s body and mind were in tune with the weather, experiencing as primitive man once had the change of the seasons. The electronic distractions that normally filled his leisure time held no interest for him tonight, so in touch was he with the world’s resurgence. The breeze that whispered to the plants to come to life again awoke something in him as well. He was content to watch the world outside his window and experience his connectedness to it.
He went to bed early simply because the conditions were so perfect for it. He had had a tiring day and the thought of the comfort of his bed appealed to him. It was a clear sky and he would be able to stare out his bedroom window at the world within his view. From his bedroom he could see the fence and the wilderness that lay beyond. The soft breeze was refreshingly cool after the unexpected heat of the day. All conditions were right for relaxation and sleep.
Yet when he slipped beneath the sheets, he noticed that the subtle discomfort he had been feeling had not vanished as he hoped it would. It had been with him all that day, though his conscious mind had fought to keep it from surfacing. It flitted subtly at the edges of his awareness, yet it was driven back as if by some sub-conscious censor. “How odd this uneasiness is”, he thought to himself, for he was an honest man who had nothing to fear. So he set his mind to pursue this thing that was lurking around and behind his thoughts. He tried to focus his thoughts on this thing but his thoughts just seemed to obscure it more. So he tried to tried to relax all thought in order that this thing might appear from the crowd. But when his thoughts quieted, this thing began to rise from his subconscious and a great wave of fear overcame him, and for a time he backed off. He was curious as to what remembrance could be so frightful to him that his consciousness would prefer it hidden. Some part of him cautioned him to just leave it alone, that it was best not to know. He now wished he had stayed up later, watched more TV. He wanted this feeling to leave him, wanted to tear it from his mind. But he knew that it lived somewhere in his psyche and would never leave on its own. He would either have to face it or lock it away in one of the many dark rooms where he never went.
He did not wish to face any challenge like this at such a late hour. Night was a time to put away one’s worries, to rest from action in order to regain one’s strength for the following day’s problems. But there was some idea or memory that would not give him peace. He did not like the idea that there was some aspect of his life that he was not coping with, some disease within him that fed and grew stronger while he ignored it. And so he concentrated his attention on this discomfort, seeking to convert emotion into thought. He followed the strands of this sensation, hoping to link to it with his reasoning mind. Again a wave of fear shot through his mind, seeking to disrupt the process. Vague memories began to appear into his thoughts, things he could not make any sense of. The only thing he could understand was the fear that accompanied these images of the past, so vague in form yet vivid in impact. The fear increased as the remembrances came to him, until at length fear overwhelmed him and he again ceased his efforts. He fled the thoughts, preferring to keep them buried than having to deal with them. So strong was the fear that his instinct for self-preservation decided that running away was preferable to confrontation. He would live with the feeling of unease. Perhaps with time it would subside.
But the fear did not subside, it grew until it raged within him with a voice so strong it was all that he could hear, all he could feel. It sucked whatever perceptions he had in the dark night from his eyes so that all was darkness around him. The connection had been made and the door to this dark closet burst open. Memories like flotsam on a wave of fear rushed over him as he curled up in his bed. He remembered now, remembered the first time he had felt like this, remembered the first embrace of madness. He remembered his meager attempts to cope with the outside world, trying to behave normally as the flames of madness consumed him from the inside. He remembered his collapse, remembered them taking him away to a place where his worst fears were realized. He had been mad, out of touch with reality, dangerous to himself and others. With treatment and drugs he was in time cured, sent home to live a normal life. But it was happening again. With the return of the memories came the return of the madness. The fear that strove to redirect his thoughts had now gained control of him. The voices in his head had been reawakened, whispering lunacy to him. They slithered on his skin like snakes or unwelcome lovers. The animal in him strove to run away--anywhere--out into the night. But he knew there was nowhere to run; the thing that he feared was within him, and he would not escape it.
Their was no ebb to this tidal swell of madness. No current of thought could enter his head that could withstand the wave of fear that constantly crashed upon him. that was not instantly swept away. There was no interruption, no brief reprieve that could give shelter to hope or change. Time itself seemed to cede its dominion over the world to this fear of madness, this madness brought upon by fear. For in Mim’s mind the two were separate yet one. Only a distorted mind can grasp such contradictions. He did not know if madness brought about this unreasoning fear or if terror drove him to madness. In his mind, it was a single entity with two faces. Madness brings its own unique clarity.
Morning’s first light brought some dim hope, if not relief. It symbolized change, for what it was worth. It marked the passing of time, demonstrating his ability to survive. Night had seemed endless. His body and soul had become a dwelling place for vermin that craved intimacy. His night was spent swatting at bugs that could not be squashed. How many sunrises had Mim lived through without notice? But this dawn was eternal, its experiences surpassing all the memories of his life. His previous life was some distant memory with no colors or lasting impressions. His madness was all, excluded the outside world. Everything on the outside him was veiled by a wall of insanity, jealously guarding him from any influence but its own.
As morning advanced, some instinct towards motion stirred in him; humans seem to have within them some force that propels them onwards even when conscious thought cannot. While escape was impossible, movement might give some sense of normalcy, some illusion of flight. He arose slowly from his bed without any real idea of what he was doing or where he would go. Habit led him to the bathroom where he prepared himself as he normally did. In the shower, he scrubbed at his skin in the vain hope that his cleansing ritual might reach deeper into him. It did not touch his inner stain, but he clung to the thought of routine as a way to achieve normalcy. If he performed everything as he always did, habit may get him through the day. He needed to get through the day…which would be proceeded by night. He couldn’t afford to think of that right now. He could not afford to think that this unending day would lead to another unending night followed by…He just needed to concentrate on now, needed to act and survive. When we are on survival’s edge, there is no thought to waste on tomorrow. He performed his morning rituals as though he were donning a disguise or plastering over some gaping ugliness. He was concealing his inner disintegration the only way he knew how. He needed to throw whatever exterior signs of normalcy onto the barricade that separated his madness from the outside world.
For the first time in his life he felt his complete aloneness. He realized now that he had always been alone, but he had never felt the compulsion to actively separate himself from the world. He had never known intimacy, but he had always felt at home in his surroundings. He always dealt with people in a friendly way, even while maintaining a slightly lofty air. In the past he felt that, in his social interactions, he was freely giving of the riches of his personality. There was no barrier between him and others save the fact that he was made different and slightly better than they were. Now he had no feeling of superiority; he was a malfunctioning unit in a well-running machine. He could not let his defect be known. His first repair had been extensive enough. On a lesser worker, they may have taken a write-off and simply brought in a replacement. Fortunately he had been a valuable enough commodity to warrant the expenditure. But a second break-down might demonstrate that he was not cost-effective. They would take his chip and that would be it.
He looked through the kitchen cupboards for some kind of breakfast food. Normalcy. He had no taste for food but he knew that he ate breakfast every morning. He chose some bread-like substance and began to chew on it, letting his jaw muscles perform the task they had been doing his whole life. He found swallowing uncomfortable, but forced the food down. Chewing from habit and swallowing with effort, he ate a portion close enough to what he ordinarily would eat to satisfy him. He still did not know what he would do with himself, but thought it best to go outside. He needed to get away from himself even if it meant exposing himself to the outside world. He would simply walk and see where that would take him. He opened up the door to his house to find a piece of paper on his porch that said “Jesus saves”. He unfolded the paper to find the full message: “Jesus Saves at Consummart”. Below that there was advertising for the local food store with an image of a happy Jesus pushing a shopping cart full of groceries. “Very well“, he thought to himself, “I’ll buy some groceries”. Even though he had no thought for food. Normalcy. Act like a normal person would act. Act like you would act if the voices in your head weren’t drowning out reality.
He pushed himself outside the door and in a moment found his body locked into a stride as he walked down the street. It was still quite early, and as it was a Sunday, there were no Cargill about. They would all still be resting from their night at the tavern, regretting their free time and the pain it had caused them. By Monday morning, they would be ready for the drudgery of work again.
Not that he worried about Cargills anyway. He would have to malfunction very badly indeed to have one of them notice anything. He was more concerned with the monitors, and others like him. They would know how a well functioning Mim would behave. He passed by a few people on the street. Anxiety spiked in him until they passed from his sight. He threw back furtive glances to see if thy were looking at him. He carried his madness around with him like some hideous physical deformity that for some reason the world did not yet notice. So far, his barrier was maintaining.
Dread approached him as Consummart came into view. Walking through nearly empty streets had been a severe test of his stamina, now he would have to walk under the monitors, perhaps interact with people. As he approached the automated doors, he sensed the voices within him getting louder, multiplying. The door slid open in front of him and was about to close again before he summoned up the will to walk in. There were people inside, and although they did not notice him, he had no idea what he would do if they did. He conquered his urge to flee, knowing that that was the sort of behavior that would call attention to himself. Normalcy. He walked aimlessly, thinking he should grab some items but not knowing what he wanted. It seemed that all of the merchandise was screaming at him, extolling their virtues, or trying to tempt him with their charms. A box of snack cakes seemed to know his secret, telling him that he was a fraud and a defect. He rushed past the aisle; too fast, he noted to himself. He was losing control now, everything happening too fast. Habit was giving way to instinct, routine giving way to self-preservation. He found himself within the produce section and the call of exotic birds thronged inside his head. He heard a rippling stream and voices that spoke of wilderness. He heard drumming and primitive chants and, before he knew that it had happened, he found that he had fallen to the floor. And all the while the noises and voices grew louder and more manifold. He lay on the floor , covering his ears and shouting “No, no.” He could hear the monitors turning to observe him. There was no normalcy now, no barrier. There was no self-preservation, only fear, panic, dread. They would come for him now.