Out of breath. How far have I run? For how long? The subway. It’s difficult to focus but I manage to buy a ticket and board. I sit far from the crowd, least monsters lurk among them. Closing my eyes, I lean back and try to relax, though the buzz humming through my nerves taunts me with random muscle twitches. I have to make sense of this but it’s hard to hold onto anything. My mind is a roiling mess of thoughts.
Concentrate. Is this crazy? Insanity? The drugs. The lab.
A voice, from the depths of my mind. “Shut up,” I say.
Don’t you see the mistakes we made as children, being cruel without knowing another’s hurt? Now I’m you and you are someone else. I don’t dare hit you with the stick of his prejudice. It leaves splinters in the subconscious and we pass them through our children’s games of chase.
Extroverted introspection, the voice whispers, looks so serene without the rapier wit of pen-in-hand cartoonists.
“I don’t want to hear you.”
I open my eyes, glance at the other passengers. They’re staring, muttering low and muffled. It’s about me, I’m sure. They know what I’m thinking. They can’t possibly, can they? No. Quick, think of something else.
“It’s worse than that.” The other passengers speak in unison, in one clear voice. The voice from my head. They lean forward, eyes glazed, lost, but still they see me. I fall back, eyes wide and body tense. No.
“We hear you, too. Our mind’s eye stares into the cold heart of your character. You can’t be quiet in the face of her hostility. She put the words on the wall of your corner, a song of uncertainty. And there she waits for you.”
I slam my eyes closed as the train slows, stops. I’m lunging through the door before it even fully opens. The other passengers stand, grasping for me, laughing at me. But I’ve bolted, well beyond their reach.
Later. I look around, realize I don’t remember wandering. I can’t recall anything since the train. Did that really happen? Where’s home? Ahead of me lovers kiss in the golden halo of a streetlamp. My mind attempts to focus but their bodies seem so unnatural. I move into the shadows and watch.
An arm wraps around a waist, a malevolent tendril fusing with flesh. A kiss, all-consuming with hungry lust. Chests heave in an archaic, synchronous rhythm, and where they touch, pseudopods grope knowingly, tangling. Feet shuffle closer, leaving legs to twist and entwine, like lovelorn serpents. Where once there had been two now stands only one, a misshapen mash-up of flesh, bone, and bodily fluids, lost in its primal desires. An eye swivels, stares, and winks.
I blink and shake my head, trying to dislodge the images nesting there. I step from the shadows and continue onward, closer to insanity with every step. Pulling at my hair and punching at my head it dawns on me, I’m already there.
No, you have miles to go before you weep.
The voice has been quiet. I welcome the return. The company will do me good. Here’s someone who has to know what it’s like to be lost in a maze of work and too many adults. Am I right? The voice goes silent. Contemplative?
Your mind is led by your outlook, so weird, and I’m wowed at what I get from your thoughts. Look at it from all angles, turn it again. Stop. There’s the proper perspective. Can you see it?
I look. Things are familiar, they tug at me, pull me along as first a mailbox beckons, and then a set of steps. An entire street corner calls out to me and I move that direction. I turn at the corner and there’s my building, three stories of calm and comfort. My body needs no instruction. Serenity summons and I am merely an automaton riding the rails. Up the steps and through the doors, and I find myself in checkered chaos.
Black and white tiles, large as welcome mats, fight for dominance of the hallway. Welcome mats? Anything but. A warzone, a battlefield in two dimensions. Upstairs, rest awaits. I lunge forward, landing on the nearest white square. I’ll stick to the white. The black squares look incomprehensibly deep. Another leap.
I make my way down the hall, white square to white square, praying the next doesn’t move from under me. The impenetrable darkness below would swallow me, seep into my pores, drag me–
Here’s my door. I struggle with the keys, trying one then the next, searching for the pattern that penetrates the gaping maw of the lock. Finally, the pins find order, tumble over. The door opens with a sigh and I step inside.
Home at last. If insanity has truly come calling then nothing except comfort is necessary. Just as long as my mind doesn’t catch up with that last gasp of light and bad space. Time is nothing more than chit-chat kicked from my mind. At the couch I turn and fall. I do nothing but watch the ceiling sail away.
I can’t live in this world that doesn’t relish the beauty of the profound laziness of thinking. Amen to that.
A movement from the corner of my eye catches my attention, distracts me. I shift my eyes but nothing. Just the wall in front of me. Wait. The paneling wavers like the sinuous dance of heat on a summer day. The lines in the wood slither to a secret beat, seductive, bewitching. A hand, all lines and light, swirls forward. A finger curls, come to me, an invitation as old as time.
I roll from the couch, plant my feet and step to the wall. The hand moves. My gaze follows. But, that hand. I know it.
Yes. You do. The voice, now distinctly female.
The hand shoots outward, pushes my feet from under me. I fall. My arms instinctively go flailing in a weak attempt to grab hold of something. The impact I expect never happens. More hands, dry and jagged, grab and tug, leaving splinters with every touch. They hold me, draw me deeper, until, finally, darkness.
But it’s okay. It’s not like that, she says. It’s alright to be wrong.
Worlds of thought writhing in failed words.