Logic told me that Bart hadn’t poisoned the gum, but that didn’t mean that he hadn’t. He had offered to it me, after all, and had never offered me gum before. I felt my heart twist and grow black, the paranoia sliding down the slip in my chest, down into my bowels, my intestines.
I could feel it coming upon me. It was precursor to an attack, a slight out-of-body experience, as though my true self was floating a few inches to the left of my shell. My emotions were disembodied too—I didn’t feel, I observed what I felt. I could see myself grow weary, paranoid, heart rate accelerating ominously as I drifted along beside myself.
The dorm room at the College of Wooster was cramped with Bart, Salim and myself—our auras, the stifling heat of our bodies, our intentions reverberating off each others’—the images we thought and projected smashed noses, skulked, attacked again. Sometimes I could see them.
Fuck this. I won’t let the paranoia take over again. I unwrapped the gum and stuffed it in my mouth. Just chew. Tack yourself down to reality.
The gum tasted off. Towards the end-taste, the very end…yes, there it was again…a chemical that tasted purple like the viscous translucent gop they injected the human guinea pigs with at Tuskagee.
You are only chewing the gum because you want to die. You know I’m right.
Don’t fall back into that shit. Use your brain.
But the brain is visceral too and the body-brain connects. Mine hummed unhealthy, liquefying itself. I waited for Bart to leave the room, then spat the gum into the trash.
Fall into darkness. I laid on the top bunk, arms and ankles crossed like the deceased. I closed my eyes and opened them, and it was dark.
I could feel Bart sitting at his desk, the pulses of his aura flogging me. He was faced away from me, thank God. But I had no idea how long my eyes had been shut for, whether it had been seconds or weeks. I was detached from the timeline, floating above it, horrified, removed from the rotations of reality. I finally gained the strength to open my mouth.
-Hey Bart…what time is it?
I paused. Such vagueness meant nothing to me. I was floating higher above the timeline, and the air was getting thin.
-8 at night or 8 in the morning?
Bart laughed at this, HAR-HAR…laughed and didn’t answer, didn’t turn around. Like he didn’t want me to know.
I felt sick…the paranoia vibrated so hard that it exhausted, gave no strength. I fell into darkness again for a moment, and when I blinked my eyes open it was all black, as though they had stuffed me in a barrel of oil and shoved me into the bottom of a shipping container.
My heart started to thump like it was drowning, like it wasn’t big enough to deal with the onslaught, like it was going to explode.
Use your…I stumbled out of the room and into the dorm’s vacant hallway. There were no human noises or smells or auras here, like the sickness had rushed through while everyone was asleep and turned them to corpses.
But now the energies of vacantness were present. The air was thick with dark-light, and the room buzzed loud-soft.
I needed water, something to stick me back to the timeline, to reality. The thickness of the air was beginning to solidify into a jungle of bloody tendons, difficult to move through: each time a met one, it sucked something from me.
I passed the dorm’s kitchen and saw a flicker inside like lightening inside a volcanic cloud. I snapped my head around and the movement echoed like a gunshot. There was a figure, a little man with a knife hidden deep in his body. He was translucent, and a rainbow of too-bright colors swam under his skin like a squid’s. He smiled too-bright and walked too-bright, beaming at me like one would to a retarded infant; it was like overdosing on saccharine, the chemicals leeching the very genes out of your body and onto the floor. He walked slow, like a gingerbread man, but the time around him skipped, so that he slowly leapt to different positions, speeding slowly past where I could see him in the door-frame.
I stalked forward like a lobotomy patient to the bathroom. I couldn’t see at first, and blinked. The dark-light was so intense in here that I had to squint and there was a hum so loud-soft that it was hard to figure out what was paining my ears. I looked into the mirror and my eyes were as red as pools of blood in the desert. My heart was beating so fast that it started to hum along with the cyborg-drone around me. A drop of red splashed on the sink and I could see that my eyes were tearing blood. The hum grew more intense until it combined with my straining heart. More dark-light drifted into the room from all corners, and when I glanced down, there was a basin of gore gathered from my eyes in the clean, porcelain sink. I looked back up and my eyes were more black then red now, and turning darker. The iris and whites combined with the pupils until I was looking into a doll’s face, blank and hard—a face that was not my own. My eyes ruptured like yolks, and the dark pools slipped down my face as sweetly as silk. The hum drifted out of my skull and combined with the hum around it. My heart stopped.