They are projecting images in my mind. Nimbus clouds and rhombuses. Nimbus clouds and walruses.
Here in the center for the mentally unable.
I protest and when asked I only respond “I only see egg rolls.”
“You would.” A voice in my head responds.
The doctors shake their heads and say “You can do better than that.”
I stare at the walrus, the nimbus, and the rhombus. “I cannot do any better. I only see egg rolls.”
I imagine it’s better than playing along. I have no faith that I will be released from this very serious house, so why make my captors think they are progressing with my treatment?
Back in my room I greet David, my roommate. “Hullo, David!”
“Iggy Pop tried to rape me.” David says as he looks up from a game of Scrabble he’s playing by himself.
“Really, now? Is he still in the room? I would love to get an autograph.”
“No. He’s gone. He came to me in a dream. He also lost my dog.”
For the life of me I can’t figure out if David is playing nuts like me or is really nuts. Judging by his lack of taste for excrement like the others in here, I’m guessing he’s putting me on. Or, possibly, there’s nothing nuts about dreaming Iggy Pop raped you. I imagine you can’t be held accountable for dreams. I sure wouldn’t want to be. I mean, the pure numbers of times I’ve flunked out of college and shown up for the final naked after not studying all semester – my father would be pissed at that waste of money.
“David, do you ever want to get out of here? I’ve been here for almost ten years now and I know they won’t release me. All hope is gone.” I sit on my bed and put my face in my hands.
“You know, there’s more than one way to skin a goat.” David says.
I look up at him from between my fingers. “Uh, huh. And if that goat were an escape plan?”
David looks out the window and points. “There’s nothing there. Nothing.”
“Sure there’s something!” I stand. “Jobs, women, drugs, excess, freedom, cheeseburgers!”
“They serve cheeseburgers on Fridays in the cafeteria.” David says glumly.
“Yes. Of course they do. But don’t you, you know, want a life? A life of your own?”
“This is my life.” And David stares down at his Scrabble board and spells “freedom” off “eggrolls”.
Before I was caught, I was something of a cool guy. I had a great job, girlfriends, houses with an “s” and all the trappings of what it was to be a guy you wanted to be.
All of that changed with a simple encounter.
Something ugly came into my life and started sucking the life out of me. Something vile and parasitic. And if you think I’m leading up to a metaphor, you’d be wrong. It wasn’t drugs or women or disease – it was something alien.
“Are you going to eat that?” David asked me looking at the cheeseburger on my tray.
“David, you’re going to eat two cheeseburgers?”
“No. I want to give it to the janitor for a cigarette.”
“You don’t smoke.”
“I don’t smoke now. Who knows if I’ll ever start. And then where will I be without that cigarette?”
“I don’t think you’ve thought this through.”
“I think everything through. All the way through. That’s why I’m in here. I think farther than the normal person,where most people stop is where I begin. And that stepping off point is what they call reality. If they only knew what’s really out there.”
“You told me nothing was out there yesterday.”
“Out there, there’s nothing.” David said pointing out the window. “But in here…” He points at his head.
“What is your fascination with eggrolls?”
“I just think they’re cool. People are eggrolls. Fried and burned up on the outside, but on the inside they’re…what the hell is that shit in an eggroll? Not the meat, the – is it sprouts?”
“I think you just choose not to think farther than reality. And I think, for you, it’s cowardice.”
“Then I guess I’m a coward.”
I was in bed and this orb appeared. Just hovering over the bed. I stared at it and tried to think of what it could be besides a green orb. It was 4ish in the morning. I stared for a minute or so and couldn’t come up with any ideas to make me content, so I turned on the lights and there in front of me was the alien.
“You know, I heard they sometimes let people out. For good behavior. Like Marvin.”
“Marvin committed suicide.”
David shrugged “See?”
“See what? That Marvin committed suicide?”
“No, they let him commit suicide.”
“I already explained this.”
“So, who’s winning?” I looked down at the Scrabble board.
“You are vague like the sun is hot.”
“And do we know that?”
“That the sun is hot?”
“Yes, how do we know?”
“Everyone knows the sun is hot. This is stupid.”
“Have you touched it personally?”
“I don’t need to, scientists take decades of schooling to assure me that it is.”
“Then you’re basing your opinion on hearsay.”
“99% of life is hearsay.”
“You don’t say?” David played “orb” off “monster”.
It was about 15 feet tall, and hunched over my bed. The green orb was circling it’s black shape. I couldn’t move. I only looked up into its hideous red eyes and determined I was about to enter a place I’ve never been before.
“We read all about you.”
I couldn’t speak.
“Your people. We’ve come to assign you a task.”
Nothing. I could barely manage a breath.
“You are to help us…adapt.”
“You know, you’re pretty content for an insane person.” I say to David as I watch him play Scrabble.
“Being in content means never having to say you're sorry.”
“We need to escape.”
“Fuck no. I mean leave the grounds. Escape. Go back to humanity.”
“It’s gone. Look out there. What do you see?”
“Rolling hills and trees.”
“And beyond that?”
“Nothing, I can’t see that far.”
“Because I was there. I know that there’s steak houses, bars, booze, drugs, girls, websites…”
“Are you the same person you were then?”
“It was ten years ago, I don’t even remember what I was like.”
“Then how do you know those things are still there and you’ll still like them?”
“Don’t get odd. Every conversation with you is odd. Can’t you just – you know, talk normal?”
“No. I already explained where you choose to drop off and I choose to begin.”
“We need to install ourselves on your world. As…” It’s shadow face gained texture as it wrinkled around the black mouth and “…guests.”
I finally managed “I have money. You want…money? There’s drugs in the cabinet in the kitchen. Take them. Just…stop talking to me.”
“We need certain knowledge of where certain things are. Am I speaking correctly?”
“Take the computer. It’s a laptop. Or, I know women?”
“For instance, I need a supply of greenhouse gas? Is that what you call it?”
“Sure. Greenhouse gases. I can get those.” I summoned the courage to rise. “What are you?”
“We also need food fast. The greasy kind. And cigarettes.”
“I have cigarettes here.” I offered it a shaking hand with a deck of cards in it.
David is out the window, holding the inside of the room in one hand and smoking a cigarette with the other. The storm outside doesn’t seem to deter him.
“I started smoking – I told you!” David yells at me.
I had been downstairs playing a video game and had come up to offer David a bag of Fritos.
“David, maybe you should come back in.”
“You don’t understand, this isn’t an easy habit to kick!”
“David, it’s raining! You’ll slip!” He’s crouched on the sill.
“I really need to quit!”
"You just fucking started!"
The light faded away around him and then all was black, except for a red dot in the distance.
He floated towards it as it sucked him in.
He looked around. The room was lined with burlap sacks and the stink of sulfur.
He cleared his throat and looked around once again.
"Nothing." He said to himself.
He looked towards the orb on his left that hung in the air glowing red now.
He looked towards a painting of Napolean on a horse, hung on the wall of bags.
The orb began to moan.
Glancing at the orb, he nodded and moved towards the door where the trail of blood led.
Opening it, he found himself in the board room once again.
"Charles, where the devil were you?" Hamstrand exclaimed to the room of suits.
"Go fuck yourself." Charles said and sat down wiping dust from his sleeves.
"Excuse me?" Hamstrand asked.
"Fruit loops. Harlem Globetrotters. Ed McMahon."
The board murmured and Hamstrand asked "Are you alright?"
"I'm not alright." Charles took out a cigarette and lit it.
"Oh, pardon the cigarette."
"The cigarette is hardly the problem."
Charles looked over at the woman next to him wearing the Nancy Regan red power suit. "I'm sorry." And he flicked the cigarette at Hamstrand.
Charles moved towards the woman next to him, grabbed her face to his lips and blew. "Bbbbbbbbbllllllpppppp". She screamed and leapt from the chair and ran into the closed door.
Charles snickered as she fell to the floor.
Hamstrand was too busy hitting the security button to notice.
The room grew black as Charles had his millionth heart attack and slumped in his chair staring at the ceiling, at the red light.