Descent into Madness

By Brian Lawrence (1997)

In the places where light yields to dark, where evening loses over to night, where night surrenders to dawn, they lurk. At the far end of a dimly lit room where the border between shadow and substance is diffuse, they thrive. Always present, never directly seen, floating images of the otherworld taunt my waking mind.

There! In the corner of my left eye. I see it clearly, yet not at all. A black...no gray...no...it defies color, defies shape, defies substance. But it is there. I turn and look. Nothing. Just the white wall. The bare white wall.

Again! An almost imperceptible change. A twitter in the light. Is it them or just my eyes attempting to adjust to the dimness? As I sit huddled in my bed, pressed up against the low headboard, I feel them closing in. The cold steel of the headboard sends shivers down my spine. Or is it the headboard?

Clicks and pings and pangs shatter the quiet. The hairs on the back of my neck stand alert. I await, no anticipate, the touch that will come on my shoulder, from behind. I can feel it coming. They are behind me, mocking me, tantalizing me. I turn. Nothing. Nothing at all. Just another white wall with a crack tracing a ragged path disappearing into the gloom.

The night is their abode, but daytime does not dissuade them. On my drives to work they accompanied me. They danced just beyond the periphery of my vision. Aimless shapes, blending with shadow, disguising their intent. I'd look. Nothing. But I knew. I knew what they were up to. THEY COULDN'T FOOL ME! I KNEW! I STILL KNOW!

At work I was a bit-twiddler, a manipulator of machine language. I built systems which contained modules which consisted of code. Buried though, in the code, were their words. The meaning just beyond my grasp. The words were recognizable, but the logic fuzzy. My head swam as the letters floated in front of my face. No matter what I typed they twisted it, tore it apart and put it back together into messages. Messages that beckoned, lured, incited me into their madness.

I fled the frenetic pace of the working world. I found myself swimming in the teapot of life and they had lit the fire, turned it to high. Madness boiled all around me. The substantial people in my life faded into the shadows leaving me at the mercy of the insubstantial. I wandered the halls of solitude, but I wasn't alone. Always just there, but not there, they waited. Whirling around three hundred and sixty degrees, again, and again, and again. But I could not see them. They would not let me look directly at them. Only from the edges of my perception do they allow any contact.

My mind screams, "WHAT DO YOU WANT? SHOW YOURSELVES!"

Then I found this place. A place, I thought to be the holiest of all places. Somewhere I could rest, escape from their forays into my mind. For days I was granted respite. The only visions were what I looked at directly, the only sounds what I heard clearly, the only touches what I felt. Until...Until they found me. THEY FOUND ME!

There it is again. At times I almost hear them. Blended with the whine of the ceiling fan, stirred in with the whisper of the vent. Voices. When the air conditioner runs their noise intensifies. Sounding like muted locusts, their chatter maddens. I strain to catch their meaning. Just as their palaver centrifuges from the background the air conditioner clicks off. They fall silent. Silent, but not forgotten. Oh no, never forgotten. They won't let me forget.

Sleep comes reluctantly. In the dark, I lay alone. Every snap, every creak, it's them. Or is it? Maybe its just the building settling. It's old, you know. But then why does my heart race? Why do my lungs constrict? The adrenaline holds a derby through my arteries. My eyes refuse to stay shut.

There! A shadow at the door. The tiny window that let's in a spattering of light falls dark. I'm looking at it. I'm looking at it. I'M LOOKING AT IT. DIRECTLY AT IT. It opens the door. I must turn away, but I can't. My eyes stay riveted to the dark form that flows through my door. Soundlessly, it enters the room. Silently, it stands just inside the door.

Blinding. The light from its presence is blinding. My eyes close on their own, but the shadow is visible through my lids. I can't stand it. I CAN'T STAND IT.

I scream, "LEAVE ME ALONE."

"Oh, hush now, Mr. Jamieson. It's time for your nighttime medication."

I open my eyes. The apparition is gone. In its place stands the night nurse. Her substantial bulk shades my eyes from the overhead light. She gives me a serene, sympathetic look as she extends her pudgy hand with a small plastic tray. On the tray is a paper cup with water and another, smaller cup with a pill. A glorious pill.

I take my Haldol and lay back down. Sleep is sure to come. The magic pill, once again, stops my descent into madness. For now.