October 29, 2011

The Plan Will Always Fail Catastrophically

doorway.jpg
unsee it

Still light out.

Driving too fast, there's still patches of snow on this road.  But you're almost there.

Turn in the driveway.  The house is dark.  Crap.

Do not look at the upstairs windows.

Garage door opens.  Empty.   Park.

Still light out.  

You have about 15 minutes.  


Move.


II.

He opened the door, reached in and turned on the light.  The kitchen windows still let in plenty of light, but this was just in case.  

He didn't step inside.  He gripped his mobile phone.  Breathe.  Dial.

Ring.           Ring.               Ri

"Hi, baby," she said.

Go.

"Hi," he responded, locking the door behind him and wriggling it.  The garage is done.  He dropped the bag on the counter, not glancing at the window.  "How are things there?"  He reached into the living room and flicked on that light but did not look inside, then doubled back to the kitchen and headed for the whisky bottle. He took two small gulps, and then a third,  then out of the kitchen towards the stairs.  Another light, click.

"I'm so tired from being here, you cannot believe words words words words words words."  At the top of the stairs he had to make a choice: right had more western windows but would take longer.  Last.  Go left.

"words words words," his wife said.  The phone was in the hand that was turning on the light. The Checklist: windows, closets, cabinets, bed.  Windows, closets, cabinets, bed.  Bathroom had a shower.

Windows: feel them.  locked, locked. He pulled the shades down.  "Did you guys have dinner yet?" he inserted.

"No, my mother made words, so we're words words words words"

He opened the closet door. Nothing.   It made an unexpectedly noticeable amount of noise as he closed it, and he reflexively looked over his shoulder.   Come on, get a grip.  No large cabinets in this room.  He fell to the floor and looked under the bed.  Nothing.  He unplugged the phone.  He left the light on, and hurried to the next room.  Windows, closet, cabinet, bed.  Leaving that light on as well, he left the room and went back down the hallway.  That room is completely fine.  That room is completely fine.

Next bedroom: light first.  He scanned the windows.  Both were clearly locked.  These windows cannot be jimmied.  He pulled the shades down.  He slid the closet door open, peeked inside.  Nothing.  He closed it.

"What are you going to eat tonight?" he heard her say.  "Words words words words words."

He lingered at the closet.  He had just checked this closet, it was fine.  But.  But he hadn't really checked the back right wall behind the coats.  But it was clearly empty.  Don't be OCD, or be sure? No room for mistakes.  He opened the closet again and moved the coats.  Empty.  He closed it.  Cabinets, bed.  All fine.  

The bathroom was tricky to get into, but there was still enough daylight to make it inside.  He placed his back against the hallway wall and reached behind him into the bathroom and felt for the light switch.   Click.  He rolled inside and looked at the floor and the walls.  The shower curtain was pulled open already.  Nothing.  He shook the shower curtain to be sure.

Then: tap tap

Do not look up.  It's a trap.

"Hey," he interrupted, "I was meaning to ask you.  When is the baby's next immunization?  What has she had already?"

"She has her 9 month well baby visit next week, and words words words words"

Now look.

The medicine cabinet mirror was fine, of course it was fine.  He tried to push his finger in through the glass, but couldn't.   Too much light.  He opened the medicine cabinet, listened to his wife say some words, braced himself, and closed it again.  The mirror was fine.  In some horror film a woman was washing her face in the bathroom, and when she bent down into the sink her reflection in the mirror didn't bend down with her, its stayed there and looked down at her.  That was just a movie, but it reflected the deeper truth of it: mirrors were the most dangerous things in the house because they were the one place you could be tricked into looking at IT.

Stop.  He stepped out and thought about anything else.

You have ten minutes left.


The last thing was the door to the attic stairs.  He reached for the handle.

It was locked.

"Jane," he interrupted, "why is the attic door locked?"

"It's always locked.  What are you doing up there?"

"Where is the key?"

"I have it with me.  Why do you need to get in there?"

"You mean we have no other key?"

"No." Pause.  "Honey?  There's nothing in there."

The lock was unpickable. He shook it.

"Is it locked from the inside?  If I went up there, would I get locked in?"  He could suddenly feel the whisky taking effect, calming him, making reality more vivid.

"Well, no, because you'd have to have used the key to open it.  If you magically appeared in the attic, yes, you'd be locked in."

He shook it but not so vigorously as to attract attention to himself.  It would have to suffice.  It was getting dark.  Top floor is secure.  There is nothing on the top floor.

yet

Eyes widening, he forced himself to focus on his wife. "I feel bad for her that she needs more shots," he said.

"Me, too, the last time she had a fever words words words"


Downstairs.

Within five minutes and during the recitation of the 9 month well baby visit he had performed the Checklist on every room in the house. He had lights on in every room and hallway.  Out of the bag he removed a cheesesteak and broccoli, two beers, and with the whisky bottle headed for the living room couch. On the coffee table sat two flashlights and two of his wife's scented candles and a 4 gallon Poland Springs jug filled to the top.   He lit one of the candles and placed it on the far end of the coffee table.  He turned on the TV.  The moment he saw the local news reporter talking about the real his entire body involuntarily relaxed.  12 hours to go.  He could make it.

"All right, baby," he summarized.  "You enjoy your dinner, I'll talk to you before I go to sleep."

"I love you."  Pause.  "Are you nervous in there?  Did you take out the gun?"

No guns.  "No, of course not.  What would I need a gun for?"  Guns proved you were afraid.  "I'm fine, go have your dinner."

"Ok, I love you.  Be safe.  Don't burn the house down."

III.

 
He had known about the Plan since he was 4 or 5.  He did not know how he had learned it.  The Plan had two parts, The Checklist and The Escape Hatch.  

The Checklist had three rules for survival: Rule 1, Important: check all the rooms.  Rule 2, Very important: leave the lights on in the rooms he couldn't see.  Like with roaches.  It prevented them from wanting to come out.  Rule 3, Ultra-Important: make sure there was nothing in the rooms that could be turned on.  So: batteries out of all toys.  Alarm clocks double checked, or unplugged.  Phones, especially the phones, had to be unplugged.  Only the mobile phone with him was on.

The problem wasn't the unknown, but the lack.  In a horror movie the woman would walk into the unknown house and of course there was something relentless and relentless waiting for her.  In real life it was the opposite: you knew the house, knew there was nothing in the house.  What was supposed to be there-- the kids, the wife, activity-- were absent.  So your mind populated the empty spaces.

If you had a weak mind, your mind populated it with imaginary ghosts.
If you had a strong mind



IV.


The Plan could fail catastrophically in two ways.

One: blackout.  All blackouts are attacks.  If the power went out he had been detected.  Using the flashlight to see where he was going would only make things worse, but that's not what it was for.  It was for The Escape Hatch.

The other was his bladder.

He could drink himself into unconsciousness.  But some point he would have to pee.  That meant he had to walk to the bathroom.

The trick was to not see.  He could only be seen if he saw, his gaze was what revealed him.  On the couch he could divert all his attention to the TV, but if he walked to the bathroom he'd have to unsee the kitchen, the hallway, the bathroom mirror, and everything around him, all while calling attention to himself by his motions, his noise, his thoughts, his fear. 

Fear of the dark wasn't that there would be something in the dark, but that you would see something in the dark, the terror was in the perception and not the reality, and even if it turned out to be an illusion or a hat or a shadow that brief moment of terror of what could become possible was too much.

That's what made the long trip to the bathroom so difficult.  There were too many things that he had to unsee.  He had once thought about getting a bedside urinal bottle, but it was too risky.  It would be unusual, it was a physical representation of his fear which would lead to his awareness of what was inside the house.  He had to act like everything was normal.

He stood up, took a long look at the TV and tried to empathize with the talk show host as he feigned interest in a movie's supporting actress.  Amazing legs.  His mind wandered towards her vagina-- then stopped.  Not tonight.

There was a clear line of sight from the couch through the kitchen into the hallway and bathroom.  Everything was lit.  With the interview running in his head, he walked calmly and assertively to the bathroom.  In his mind he was asking her if she did her own stunts.  He passed into the hallway and didn't look up the stairs.  

Facing the toilet, he started to pee.  The mirror was behind him.

He flushed.  He almost never washed his hands after he peed, but this time he had to-- everything had to be done correctly.  No shortcuts.  No outward display of fear.  Another thought to the interview and he turned to face the mirror.  Nothing.  He didn't see what he knew would not be there now: his own reflection but turned completely around, facing away, its back to him.  He had never seen this reflection yet.  When he did, if he turned his head just slightly he would be able to catch a glimpse of the face, his face, proving that it was aware it was being looked at by not looking back.  The glimpse would reveal a sad, terrified face.  It had been crying.  The mouth was gone.  Someone had taken its mouth. For minutes it would stare away from him, its sobs barely audible through the ordinarily impenetrable glass of the mirror.  Resigned to its fate, it would walk defeatedly away from him deeper into the reflection-bathroom that had been telescoped punishingly into a hallway, and at the end was a wooden door that he should not have in this house. His tiny reflection, trivialized by the distance, would open that door inwards, hang its head in surrender, and walk through.  Not having a mouth ensured it would not scream.

He glanced at the couch back in the living room.  Just get back there.

He started towards the living room but made it only as far as the kitchen when he heard it.

tap tap tap tap

He froze.  Think.  It was too clear and too obvious to be a danger.  It had to be something real.

tap tap

swish

He took a few steps to the right to get away from the hallway.

tap tap

ah

Yes.  Now he was sure he had heard it, it was definitely real so it was defintely nothing.  A squirrell on the roof, the heating system, mice, elephants, it didn't matter.

Relieved, he took another step towards the living room and then froze.  Oh no.

Because of the steps he had taken to the right, he was approaching the living room obliquely which meant that he could no longer see the couch.  The couch was hidden from his view.

He had lost his line of sight.  He had been tricked.

He thought about the phone, but that was on the couch.  If he ran outside he'd never be able to get back in.  Upstairs was madness.

He tried to concentrate on the actress.  Great legs.  Implants, too.  Had to be implants.  Had to be.  He took a step forward but his concentration was momentarily interrupted.

tap tap tap       tap       tap tap       ta

He wasn't sure if he had heard this, which meant he had heard it.

His back muscles tensed so suddenly that his posture straightened. He knew something was behind him.

He had almost no time.  He squeezed all his focus into thinking about the actress curling her toes and walked arrogantly into the room.  He unsaw the couch, looked at the TV and went right for the Poland Springs jug.  In his peripheral vision and in the safety of the TV's talking he noticed the couch was empty.

He could salvage this, maybe.  Sit on the couch.  He sat, his foot by the Poland Springs jug.

Do not look up. 

Look at the TV, the TV, the TV
.

It is above you.

"We'll be right back," the late night host said and it went to a commercial, and in the millisecond it took to fade to black he realized that TV would become the worst kind of mirror, a dark mirror, and he was going to be able to see a reflection in that mirror.

God, please.

In the instant of blackness on the TV he saw it move to the left

ah

It was

And it said: shhhhhhhhhh

The TV never went to commercial, it stayed black. Everything was still.  Now he could not help but see what was there all along.

It was peeking around the doorway into the living room.  A charcoal grey shape.  It is a broomstick.  No, it was a blanket draped over a broomstick, like a huge puppet, and the broomstick emerged from the corner of the doorway, creeping slowly, until it was standing fully in the doorway.  The handle of the broom poked out from beneath the blanket tapping on the wooden floor.

The blanket was staring at him, because it had two black ovals painted on it, like eyes, and the broom turned so it was facing him.

tap tap tap on the wooden floor

He couldn't move, or else he didn't try to move, nothing moved, nothing did anything except the broom and the blanket which glared at him with big black oval eyes.

"H-h-hi," he whispered to appease it.

Suddenly it withdrew back into the kitchen and the house rebelled against him, from the upstairs he heard the angry, heavy, stomping sound of the worst thing he could imagine, and finally heard the voice he had always unheard

wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhe

There was no time to get out, and getting out no longer mattered.  The Escape Hatch.  He bent towards Poland Springs jug but he was in slow motion, the stomping was coming  downstairs much faster than he was moooovviiiinnngggggggggg

Get to it get to it get to it


The whole house was shaking from the rage of the footsteps

just before IT came around into the kitchen his foot cooonnnneeecccttteeeeddddddddd with the jug

enough gasoline splashed out of it to reach the candle

fire is real

The explosion blinded and deafened him.  It would be surprised.  It had never noticed he had a weapon.

get       to       the                             door

Slow motion again, going too slowly, being sucked back in.  And his back was on fire but he knew IT had made it into the living room.

He pulled the front door open, so very slowly but as fast as he could, and just as he felt something brush at his flaming back he was out of the house and suddenly time resumed.  

He collapsed in the snow, arm, back, face still on fire.  He looked back at the flaming house. There IT was, the blanket on the broom standing in the doorway staring at him, enraged and confused and trapped in a house that would soon be obliterated.

His whole body was in pain but the pain was real and the broom heard him screaming at IT in his mind

burn












Comments

First!... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2011 5:32 PM | Posted by Kg: | Reply

First!

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -37 (41 votes cast)
what... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2011 5:39 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

what

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 1 (19 votes cast)
What did I just read?... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2011 5:48 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

What did I just read?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 11 (23 votes cast)
Beautiful. ... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2011 5:51 PM | Posted by ThomasR: | Reply

Beautiful.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 4 (12 votes cast)
wut... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2011 5:52 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

wut

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Excellent!... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2011 6:01 PM | Posted by Enki: | Reply

Excellent!

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 5 (15 votes cast)
To the confused people, it'... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2011 6:39 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

To the confused people, it's about the tricks the human mind can play on oneself, why that happens and how severely it can ruin a persons life, if they are not resilient. I know this, because a lot of this sounds like what I used to do before I went into therapy.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 34 (38 votes cast)
That was perfect. Do many c... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2011 6:41 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

That was perfect. Do many children use this technique to keep the monster(s) from instantiating - not looking and unseeing?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 10 (12 votes cast)
thought you would appreciat... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2011 7:26 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

thought you would appreciate this young artists (David Foox) work in raising awareness for organ donation. His creepy cute toys stand 3.25" tall and are one of 24 different body parts. http://organ-donors.us

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What the shit is this fuck?... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2011 7:48 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

What the shit is this fuck?

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The end makes it all right ... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2011 7:48 PM | Posted by TheCoconutChef: | Reply

The end makes it all right (as soon as it exploded it made it all right) but I'm not that far away from the time when I was afraid of looking in the mirror of the bathroom facing my room when going to sleep late at night. It reflects through the bathroom in the bedroom through a sort of visual corridor and if the light is closed in the bedroom you can't really see what's behind.
There's a little square window right beside the mirror as well. You can't see what's outside of it. It's just a black square but you know it's 3d, it extends beyond the glass.

When I was little I hated when my parents went to sleep before I could fall asleep. They would listen to TV before going to bed and it's as if the sound coming from the TV would keep everything else away.

His tiny reflection, trivialized by the distance, would open that door inwards, hang its head in surrender, and walk through.

I don't think it would walk through. It would just put its hand on the knob and wait there or stand in the doorway and do nothing and everything would be silent but it would be as though something was sceaming anyway and this thing in the doorway would be the only thing you could see and there would always be that risk that it would turn around.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 15 (15 votes cast)
It's fun because the text r... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2011 7:51 PM | Posted by TheCoconutChef: | Reply

It's fun because the text reactivated things.

It'll take some time to wash off.

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tldr... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2011 7:54 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

tldr

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"I don't think it would wal... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2011 9:19 PM | Posted, in reply to TheCoconutChef's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

"I don't think it would walk through. It would just put its hand on the knob and wait there or stand in the doorway and do nothing and everything would be silent but it would be as though something was sceaming anyway and this thing in the doorway would be the only thing you could see and there would always be that risk that it would turn around."

Oh fucking shit, please do not try to bring back my childhood nightmares.

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Avoid nightmares by practic... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2011 11:46 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Avoid nightmares by practicing lucid dreaming.

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So this is a bit of a lame,... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 3:51 AM | Posted by Anon21: | Reply

So this is a bit of a lame, potentially misguided question, but: what sort of disorder does the man in the story have? At first it seemed like OCD, but then it seemed more like schizophrenia.

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Or, on the other hand, What... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 5:18 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Zo: | Reply

Or, on the other hand, What the fuck is this shit.

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Stephen King, is that you?<... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 7:09 AM | Posted by Edna: | Reply

Stephen King, is that you?

Then again...a part of me was thinking, how can a guy know how that feels? I always thought it was just a abused girl thing.

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Couldn't breathe before I f... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 7:41 AM | Posted by Cartaxo: | Reply

Couldn't breathe before I finnished.
That was intense.

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"It had never noticed he ha... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 10:57 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"It had never noticed he had a weapon."

Haha, excellent. Cinematic.

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bravo alone... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 12:43 PM | Posted by bravo: | Reply

bravo alone

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I love your blog so much, a... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 12:53 PM | Posted by Hilarity in Shoes: | Reply

I love your blog so much, and frequently find something in your posts that makes me think of things in a new light, but this... It's always odd to see your own, private compulsions written out, and to find that other people share them.

I'm much better now, but for years and years the first thing I would do in an empty house was throw open the shower curtain and make myself look in the closets. And of course you have to do it the minute you walk in; any later is far too late.

This was brilliant.

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sorry, this runs rings arou... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 1:11 PM | Posted, in reply to Edna's comment, by joe positive: | Reply

sorry, this runs rings around Stephen King.

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Words words words... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 2:02 PM | Posted by Hermione: | Reply

Words words words

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I found it strange that the... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 3:05 PM | Posted by Vince: | Reply

I found it strange that the protagonist didn't consider the mirror aspect of the blank television, something he's ostensibly watched before the events in the story. Otherwise great piece!

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That was great. I am confus... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 3:34 PM | Posted by Rob: | Reply

That was great. I am confused.

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You've made an art of ingra... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 3:41 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

You've made an art of ingraining the wife/kids idea in every post you make.

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SNOW: ...he's up there, in ... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 4:26 PM | Posted by Solaris (Lem): | Reply

SNOW: ...he's up there, in the laboratory, and I doubt he'll come down before dark, but...In any case you'll recognise him. If you should see anyone else - someone who isn't me or Sartorius, you understand then -
KELVIN: Then what?
SNOW: In that case do nothing.
KELVIN: Who could I see? A ghost?
SNOW: I don't know. In a way it depends on you.

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i know what this is, or at ... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 9:17 PM | Posted by ab: | Reply

i know what this is, or at least i know what this feels like, but can anybody help to explain it?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 1 (3 votes cast)
better yet, what is the ant... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 9:21 PM | Posted by ab: | Reply

better yet, what is the antidote? if every plan fails, what else is there?

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I know it as an abused boy ... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2011 9:30 PM | Posted, in reply to Edna's comment, by Sfon: | Reply

I know it as an abused boy thing. Do you mean to say you assumed it was tied to gender? One isn't less human than the other.

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Start smearing jello all ov... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 1:16 AM | Posted by Aron: | Reply

Start smearing jello all over the floor. Set the couch on fire.

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That was scary! The evocati... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 3:13 AM | Posted by eugene: | Reply

That was scary! The evocation of the monsters - the broom with the blanket and the Thing upstairs that was coming down - were terrifying. I've always hated being in a big house alone at night because my mind starts fucking with me like this.

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I really don't think I'll b... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 4:15 AM | Posted by Justin: | Reply

I really don't think I'll be sleeping until the sun comes up now. I've never had much trouble with empty houses, but my god man, I was sweating by the end of that.

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If you don't get it, it's n... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 4:17 AM | Posted by DGS: | Reply

If you don't get it, it's not for you?

Whew.

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This was awesome, but I wan... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 5:38 AM | Posted by MrBoom: | Reply

This was awesome, but I want an explanation for this one!

But it does remind me of an inner dialogue I had with myself not too long ago:

I go into the bathroom to take a piss.
"Why do I need to open the shower curtain, she's not there. She can't be, she's not real. But why do I refuse open it, why am I thinking these thoughts, is because I know she's there? But she's not. She's not even real. And even if she was real, she needs a TV to crawl out of."
I open the curtain, breathe a sigh of relief, then close it.
"Shit, why'd I close it? I know she's there now, for sure. This is one of her tricks."
Run out of bathroom still zipping up my pants.

I have found that sometimes saying my thoughts out loud helps with this sort of irrational fear, as if your own stupidity frightens the spooks and disperses them.

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Happy Hallowe'en to you too... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 8:32 AM | Posted by merope: | Reply

Happy Hallowe'en to you too!

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Turn of the Screw loose... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 9:06 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Turn of the Screw loose

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The obvious: there's enough... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 10:59 AM | Posted by Guy Fox: | Reply

The obvious: there's enough ambiguity here that it's a Rohrschach test. Eco said that novels are interpretation generators, and there's plenty of room for interpretation here too.

The not obvious: Protag is ignoring everything that's real. If he *really* hears it, it's not real, but if he barely hears it or isn't sure, it is real. What did he change by turning on all the lights and checking all the closets? Nada. Everything was the same before as after, but he added a superficial layer that made him feel better. This superficial layer's effect, though, was only temporary. He knew he was conning himself, and he couldn't maintain the con indefinitely. Mirrors would present what's real, but he avoids reality, so he doesn't look at them and fantasizes about what they might reflect instead. The reflections he conjures in his imagination are horrid projections of how he sees himself, but he still prefers them to how he really is(n't). He and his wife just bounce words off each other. Neither really hears what the other is up to, and neither really cares, because each is absorbed in her/his own netherworld. TV is an island of comfort because what it shows is *not real*. It's a freakin' unreality generator. The thought of impossibly great legs and silicone implants becomes a mantra to bring him back to his unreality. When the TV goes blank, and he's just left with his own thoughts, he starts to lose it. Some tiny insignificant thing assumes existential significance, and he liberates himself from the terror, the focused rage, with destruction. If the real won't leave me alone, then let it burn! "The pain was *real* [i.e. not] and the broom heard him screaming at IT in his mind. [a broom heard anything? Of course not. It's *in his mind*.]"

So how do we help poor Protag? Tell him, "The problem is not the dark, and it is not the mirror, and it is not the unknown, and it is not the broom. The problem is..."

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This wonderful story which ... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 12:20 PM | Posted by Nicholas Ochiel: | Reply

This wonderful story which left me terrified —as I was reading it on a tiny phone in the dark during a power black out— demands that I quote The Bard,

And as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a name. Such tricks hath strong imagination, That if it would but apprehend some joy, It comprehends some bringer of that joy; Or in the night, imagining some fear, How easy is a bush supposed a bear!
~ Midsummer Night's Dream
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Not necessarily the right p... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 12:35 PM | Posted by DataShade: | Reply

Not necessarily the right place to post this, but I just listened to the Jack Gallagher episode of the Marc Maron podcast, and while Jack was talking about his son's disconcern for constructing a self-image to impress others, and the line "you wouldn't worry so much about what other people think of you if you knew how little they do," and it made me wonder: could the rise of autism be an evolutionary response to narcissism?

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That's for Chicken Hearts, ... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 1:32 PM | Posted, in reply to Aron's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

That's for Chicken Hearts, silly.

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The post didn't really mean... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 1:46 PM | Posted by Washington: | Reply

The post didn't really mean anything to me, I just wanted to point out that "I don't get it. Genius." is a horrible response to anything.

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Now if you want to hear a r... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 3:46 PM | Posted by Alex-5: | Reply

Now if you want to hear a really scary thing after this story - ask Alone how many real people today are leading a life of the main character in their own way.

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Buying things keeps the lac... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 6:48 PM | Posted by Jay: | Reply

Buying things keeps the lack at bay. It does other things, too. Nothing gets too close or learns too much about you if you replace it every year or so. No patterns, either. IDK, but it seems to work for me.

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"if every plan fails, what ... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 6:57 PM | Posted by Jay: | Reply

"if every plan fails, what else is there?"
"The problem is not the dark, and it is not the mirror, and it is not the unknown, and it is not the broom. The problem is..."

The problem is the plan. It might feel comforting but a plan will betray you just as soon as anything else. Sooner, really: a plan makes you think you're safe. Try this: "I know I'm not safe, and that's okay." I guess that's the other way I keep the lack at bay: can't be lacking if you're never filled.

Contradictory with buying things? Sure, I guess. But not really. Both avoid ever touching down too hard. You have to touch down: just try and do it in different ways each time.

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<a href="http://vimeo.com/1... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2011 9:19 PM | Posted by TheCoconutChef: | Reply

Relevant scene

You can watch it as a short movie.

Is the conclusion of any terror dream death (which turns in waking up)?

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sounds a lot like Haruki Mu... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2011 2:34 AM | Posted by cheezmiss: | Reply

sounds a lot like Haruki Murakami's short story The Mirror

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Not in my experience (n=1);... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2011 4:21 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by A Girl: | Reply

Not in my experience (n=1); there is no unseeing, only light, shadows and the distance between you and your safe place.

The problem is always getting to your safe place - the monsters know where it is too.

On a different note: Outstanding piece. But my semi-OCD brain is missing some sort of punctuation just before IV'th section.

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You're right. I was a dork ... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2011 5:21 AM | Posted, in reply to Sfon's comment, by Edna: | Reply

You're right. I was a dork and I take that back. Not an abused girl, an abused human being thing.

I'm sorry, I could only see it from my perspective at that moment.

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I think what people mean wh... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2011 5:27 AM | Posted, in reply to Washington's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I think what people mean when they say that is "I can't explain why yet, but I feel it in my bones that this is something great." I usually have this kind of feeling immediately after seeing, reading, hearing something that I will eventually love.

If people would ruminate on it for a while before responding their comments would be better. But, you know, their audience need to hear their thoughts.

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"If you had a weak mind, yo... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2011 8:51 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"If you had a weak mind, your mind populated it with imaginary ghosts.
If you had a strong mind"

DAMNIT.

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<a href="http://thirdtierre... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2011 10:23 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

http://thirdtierreality.blogspot.com/

A collection of nightmares await those who enter this site.

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Excellent short story!... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2011 10:45 AM | Posted by Empire of Jeff: | Reply

Excellent short story!

The misdirection with the Poland Springs bottle was my favorite part.

"It didn't know he had a weapon."

Yes! FUCK YOU, BROOM! Taste the rainbow of pain, you creepy piece of shit!

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I disagree with the wife th... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2011 2:56 PM | Posted, in reply to Guy Fox's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I disagree with the wife thing.

The way I see it, the wife is a link with reality, he called his wife to distract his mind (Courage Under Fire, telephone scene). Words don't matter, link does.

"Ok, I love you. Be safe. Don't burn the house down."

She knew him better than himself.

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If the plan "always fails c... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2011 4:53 PM | Posted by On The Other Hand: | Reply

If the plan "always fails catastrophically," and the bladder was one of the ways it could fail, then "The Plan' did fail. But only in the Plan failing was he able to confront IT and destroy it.

This reminds me a lot of the Abusive Boyfriend post, where one's carefully constructed defenses are all bad for you.

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I liked the story because I... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2011 5:36 PM | Posted by Lexi: | Reply

I liked the story because I wasn't bored, I felt the tension in my body the same as standing just close enough to a tesla coil. But, I was very annoyed that he didn't just look. I wante to scream, just fucking look, it will not destroy you. But I know he thinks it will. And as long as he listens to fear, it wins.

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And now while I'm annoyed w... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2011 5:42 PM | Posted by Lexi: | Reply

And now while I'm annoyed with not seeing/looking, it seems like a good time to see what I'm not looking at.

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The plan failed because he'... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2011 6:47 PM | Posted, in reply to On The Other Hand's comment, by Donald Atkinson: | Reply

The plan failed because he's alive.

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15232... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2011 7:58 PM | Posted by Anon: | Reply

15232

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It's a shame Alone doesn't ... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2011 10:21 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

It's a shame Alone doesn't respond to comments any more.

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Beautiful prose, the flow o... (Below threshold)

November 2, 2011 1:30 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Beautiful prose, the flow of the entire piece really compliments the madness inherent in the narrators thoughts.

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Lexi, it's strange that I t... (Below threshold)

November 2, 2011 3:09 PM | Posted, in reply to Lexi's comment, by MrBoom: | Reply

Lexi, it's strange that I thought the exact opposite. I'm just speaking from personal experience, but it seems to me that whenever people have paranoia of this type, they don't look for fear of seeing anything.

"Fear of the dark wasn't that there would be something in the dark, but that you would see something in the dark, the terror was in the perception and not the reality, and even if it turned out to be an illusion or a hat or a shadow that brief moment of terror of what could become possible was too much."

My biggest complaint with the story is that he started off by checking out everything. It seems more likely, to me at least, that someone with such a paranoia would avoid looking anywhere, with the urge to look coming from a sense of pride and "it's not real" instead of being driven by fear. Close the closet, but don't look while you're closing it. Monsters under the bed? Why don't you check?
You know why.

That sort of that sort of thing.

Much more likely that instead of searching, he would go straight to the couch and start drinking. No need to check. After all, you know it isn't there, so why risk seeing it?

What a mindfuck.

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You probably can't "get it"... (Below threshold)

November 2, 2011 7:46 PM | Posted by Mika: | Reply

You probably can't "get it" unless you experience something similar yourself, on a regular bases. I am just glad my problem is nowhere near this magnitude. All I have to do is check every space in the house and keep the area I plan to inhabit in my field of vision. Good thing that i live in a studio apartment, and that electricity is included. Plus, having another living, breathing intelligent being (like a dog) around helps. Oh, and if I gotta pee in a cup, I just pee in a cup. No big deal. Poor dude.

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What, burning their house d... (Below threshold)

November 6, 2011 5:22 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

What, burning their house down? No, they don't.

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My mind is so fucked now, s... (Below threshold)

November 6, 2011 6:35 PM | Posted by Håkon: | Reply

My mind is so fucked now, seriously. I was doing fine and then I read this little text and now I'm sitting here, disturbed. All of a sudden I can hear sounds everywhere, the music I have playing just sounds like a curtain to everything happening and my dark bedroom in the end of the hallway feels like a trap.

This text brought me back 10 years till the day I was standing in the garage facing a 20meters walk back to the house. I couldn't do it. I was afraid of something, I had no idea what. I started crying and I called my parents making up stupid reasons for them to come to the garage. I ended up having to do it alone. So I ran as fast as I could, not looking anywhere else but straight forward.

I feel like there's a burst of emotions connected to this, unpleasant emotions.

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MrBoom, I don't think it is... (Below threshold)

November 9, 2011 3:23 AM | Posted, in reply to MrBoom's comment, by Lexi: | Reply

MrBoom, I don't think it is strange necessarily that you thought the exact opposite, we come from different experience points, although I don't know how different, but I do like the way you approach.

What I find amazing, and enlightening, is how many people can relate to this almost exactly as it is written, without translating it to a metaphor like I did. It sounds like a really unpleasant experience.

You quote "a shadow that brief moment of terror of what could become possible was too much." And let me know if this is what you are getting at, but it suggests the terror that precedes the what-if, the unknown, a desperate need for certainty, and a very large fear/anxiety/terror arising without it? And it isn't on the other side of certainty, but the process of getting to certainty that poses the problem? The other way I could see it, is someone is aware that they hallucinate, and do not want to run into their hallucinations. But I do have hard time understanding not trying to examine.

The only thing in my history I could relate to this story is: I sometimes (rarely now, but often in my teens and early twenties) got a creepy crawly feeling that something or someone was somewhere with me for no reason I could point to and I did not want to know what it was and tried to avoid that sensation anyway I could. Something that I couldn't see, but could sense, and it felt "dark" or "not good" and having occasional sleep paralysis/nightmares didn't really help that. As a child I slept with the radio on to feel safe.

Today if I get that creepy crawly feeling, I go look. I sometimes call someone and tell them what I'm doing (just in case it is something), and it always turns out to be nothing, but god dammit, I'm going to look even though my body is having a stress response that feels like it is very concerned about being attacked or harmed. It's like that double slit experiment though, as long as I don't look all realities are possible and I can spend a momentary eternity in fear, but by looking, I lock in one reality and know that in that moment, I am safe. (You know, until one day I find something, but not looking sure as hell isn't going to help.)

Maybe this is just evidence that I still don't get it. I might not. And if you're up for explaining it more, you now have more info about how I think.


Totally agree tho- What a mindfuck.

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I can't believe that other ... (Below threshold)

November 11, 2011 12:54 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I can't believe that other people do this too. Also I've never been abused so that can't be it.

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Your ideas are too great. Y... (Below threshold)

November 14, 2011 2:23 AM | Posted by hermes bags: | Reply

Your ideas are too great. You analyze the problem from the point of view of new and original., From your point of view I learned many things. I quite agree with what you talk about. I hope I can continue to study with you and know more novel ideas from you.Thanks for your sharing.linmei/comment201111

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Your ideas are too great. Y... (Below threshold)

November 14, 2011 2:37 AM | Posted by hermes bags: | Reply

Your ideas are too great. You analyze the problem from the point of view of new and original., From your point of view I learned many things. I quite agree with what you talk about. I hope I can continue to study with you and know more novel ideas from you.Thanks for your sharing.linmei/comment201111

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Interesting point about one... (Below threshold)

November 22, 2011 8:51 AM | Posted, in reply to On The Other Hand's comment, by Rookie: | Reply

Interesting point about one's defenses being bad for you...

Theodore Millon's work on personality disorders conceptualise personality as like your mental immune system, deigned to keep your 'self' stable and manage the integration or rejection of information from the outside world. If information (or reality even) is too distressing then your defenses may chose to reject it by ignoring it, by explaining it away, identifying wiith other people or any one of a range of strategies to allow you to reject it without being too irrational. I guess if you're exceptionally detached from reality then information that changes your world view is likely to be exceptionally distressing because it can change it so much or so rapidly; change is frigthening. Your defenses would work hard to reject any such challenging information, continuing your detachment from reality. If you're detached from reality you can't respond as effectively to changes in it!

I figure your defences are there to keep you safe secure in your mind, but they can fuck you up pretty hard... I totally include myself and all of us too, and even this very sentence feels partly like a defence...

Wheels within wheels.... argh!

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Anxiety with a splash of OC... (Below threshold)

February 19, 2012 9:48 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Anxiety with a splash of OCD..? Parts of this remind me of a book called Babel-17, although it felt like I was reading a script rather than a short story. Somewhat unclear. Lacking coherency, or lacking something.

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If you had a strong mind, y... (Below threshold)

March 13, 2012 11:04 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

If you had a strong mind, your mind populated it with real ghosts.

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If you have a strong mind, ... (Below threshold)

April 23, 2012 4:59 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

If you have a strong mind, there is nothing else to talk about. You simply move on to the next thing to be done.

In God is hope; and hope gives us courage, and courage kills fear.

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That you are consequently ... (Below threshold)

May 5, 2012 4:03 AM | Posted by oakleyeyeglasses: | Reply

That you are consequently nice! I just adore realising stunning along with creative giveaways this way. They will really jazz up my own morning, many thanks greatly. liulipingcomment201205

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I'm thinking this guy burnt... (Below threshold)

May 10, 2012 9:59 PM | Posted by Simon: | Reply

I'm thinking this guy burnt his family to death because he is scared of the dark!

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This post deserved a better... (Below threshold)

October 22, 2012 9:17 PM | Posted by Trajan: | Reply

This post deserved a better welcome than it received.

As far as I understand, it was written in advance to be used at an appropriate occasion. You deserved better. I just want you to know it's on my mind.

You are complicated my friend. For me, this text is an invitation. At the same time, you also in a sense took in advance what you asked for to be given voluntarily.

What was the plan? In your next post you signal more clearly than ever so I do excuse you. I should have seen it. But then what? What was it about? Screening? So you could make sure I'm not a dangerous person? What now? I'm starting to think that you don't fear me very much and perhaps you do believe me when I say speak of all these good intentions.

So what then is the matter at hand? You doesn't seem to reject me either, nor fear me. I think.

Many selfish questions here. Mainly I wanted to share with you how I see this alternative story, perhaps more alike the one you envisioned at the beginning. I failed you miserably.

We should be talking at a whole different level instead of whining about software. We could have it, a very different conversation. But I can't have the software and I need your help.

For everyone reading this I'm obviously a mad person.

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Although thankfully I don't... (Below threshold)

December 22, 2012 3:01 PM | Posted by Tim: | Reply

Although thankfully I don't suffer from anywhere near this level of phobia, I nevertheless found this to be a haunting, riveting piece.

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This article too, is writte... (Below threshold)

March 4, 2013 9:07 AM | Posted by Trojan: | Reply

This article too, is written long before publishing date.

I wonder about the headline. Does it have a second layer? Meaning that what you realized what you planned didn't work out well?

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If the plan "alway... (Below threshold)

April 3, 2013 12:22 PM | Posted, in reply to On The Other Hand's comment, by unasenoraviejaenfuego: | Reply

If the plan "always fails catastrophically," and the bladder was one of the ways it could fail, then "The Plan' did fail. But only in the Plan failing was he able to confront IT and destroy it.

This reminds me a lot of the Abusive Boyfriend post, where one's carefully constructed defenses are all bad for you.

I think this analysis starts right but ends wrong. What did he destroy? Don't say IT; we don't know what IT is. IT is undefined. We don't even know that IT exists. That IT exists to the narrator is less interesting to me than the tangibles he did destroy: (1) his house, (2) likely much of the skin on his back. Oh, and his liver's probably not doing well either.

He's destroyed a good chunk of his life.

And as someone above noted, it's implied by the wife's statement that he's either done this before or expressed to the wife that he was thinking about doing it, enough so that she ends the call with the admonition, "Don't burn the house down." Yes, it could be just a flippant signoff except, wait--that's after she's also asked him whether he has a gun. If this is how you end phone calls with your spouse on the regular, your marriage does not have a happy ending.

What does the plan entail? Not seeing--not being conscious of reality, letting the unconscious direct you. What does the unconscious want? Status quo. What's status quo for this guy? See paragraph above. The guy's ruled by fear; his solution is to plan ways to manage it; the plan always fails catastrophically; he either knows that the plan always fails catastrophically, or doesn't understand the effects of alcohol on the bladder. There are no indications given that he's actually so stupid as the latter, so it's the former.

So why plan, if the plan always fails and he knows that it always fails? Why not just NOT bring a jug of gasoline and candles to the house? Why not just stay at the Holiday Inn? Crash with a friend? Hell, why not sleep in the car?

Because he wants to burn down the house, and because plans don't circumvent the unconscious.

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I’ve seen about three years... (Below threshold)

July 5, 2013 2:53 PM | Posted by CombatVeteran: | Reply

I’ve seen about three years of intense combat, and I always thought this was a major side effect of the combat PTSD. How does PTSD influence this response? Now that I've read some comments though, I do seem to recall this happening when I was younger.

Last time my wife left with the little ones to her sister’s house in the far north, I spent each night in front of the TV, not leaving the room for anything but the kitchen. The lights in every room remained on and built confidence. I knew that I could see the shadow of the thing coming down the hall long before I saw the thing. The semi-automatic 12ga and the 45cal on each side of me was the replacement for my family, and they would give me confidence. Everything had to be checked, and everything had to be secure. Even now I know that my upcoming week in a hotel out of state will cause the repetitions and rituals that must occur for my life to continue away from my family. It isn’t really loneliness. It is the realization that without my family I am unguarded and not complete, and that is when IT has an opening to destroy me.

I feel much less special and intelligent thanks to this post. It is disheartening to have my actions and thoughts be quickly explained on an internet blog (because it's 'alone' doing it, it's actually not soooo bad). Even when I am home, but the family is asleep, I do the same thing. I will poke each of my sons in the face to make them twitch, prove they are alive, confirm that I am not the only real thing in the house. I need to make sure I'm not making them up, making it all up. I fear that I'll turn around and I will be standing in an apartment by myself, single, never having a family. Sometimes I fear to sleep for the same reason after an episode like this. I'll wake up and it won't be real, and I won't want to keep living... But if it wasn't true, and I realize that, why is it different than any deep dream I have had?

Here is what I find most interesting about the blog example against my own... Why not do this all the time? What is it about my wife and children playing and talking, like individual bodies and spirits, or even self-made marionettes, that gives me the confidence to live a normal life? A confidence so quickly removed when they cease to exist as I do; sleeping or away from home. Aren't they just protons in the form of light, gathered by my eyes and processed by my brain into a mental image? Is their touch not just the compression and firing of neural sensors in the dermis of my skin, translated to match the image from my eyes, and the waves of sound collected by the intricate structure of the inner ear? What is it that makes them real, and causes them to be so required for me to have a sane and structured life? I am versed in philosophy, and quite religious, and I do know they exist for their own purpose and not mine. Why do I have no fear of death on a personal scale, but fear it immensely for their sake? I have accepted death, and yet beg God to give me time for their sake. This all leads back to the original post about the weak and strong minded, and our perceived existence in this world. When left to our own devices, what exists in the world is what we perceive exists in the world, i.e. anything at all.


Alone, I wonder if you could do a post about the cartoon 'Adventure time'. Sounds stupid, but hear me out... In Episode 8 from season 5, the main character (Finn) is having some serious girl troubles. His buddy Jake pulls an 'alone' on him, and he bails to hide in the fort and think about stuff. Well, at the end of the fort he sees a door and finds himself in a new world, made entirely of pillows. He enters and the door disappears. He saves the town from a dragon, and they throw a party. He asks about the portal, but no-one has any clues. He meets a young pillow woman that teaches him some things about relationships and eventually becomes his wife. They have 2 children, and the show brings us in to Finn (the adventure boy) as an older man quite at peace with his life, and in love with his family. His life is full. The town mayor, Finns father in law, comes to the farm to tell Finn that after so many years the portal may have been found. Finn spends many more years looking for the portal, instead of enjoying the life he had with his family. His family is grown, and his wife expresses her sorrow about Finn leaving them for his old life. Finn decides that his current life is worth more and gives up on the search. Fast-forward and he is surrounded by friends and family as he lay dying. The end comes... and he emerges from the pillow fort like nothing happens. He tries to explain to Jake what he experienced, but is distracted with a call from the real girlfriend. Jake asks about the dream again, and he can't remember a thing. Was it real? Does it matter? You might, at this point, feel sad that he forgot his loved ones, but remember that he had a full life. He never abandoned them, and resolved to stay. Is it important that he remembers, or that the family he left behind remembers his as a good father, who stayed for them? The show is funny, but has many moments about the human experience. I recommend it.

This was a long post, and may not be read by many or any, but this all ties into my personal cross about what is real and what is not. I would like to say that I have a strong mind and that my mind is responsible for this concern. This however might be a greater cross then I intended. I do find myself envious at times, of the people on this rock that can exist by simply accepting their lot and truly believing it to be free will and by choice. I recognize the world for what it truly is and I fight against becoming a slave, but I sit and watch those who have accepted and venerate their slavery, and I feel a tinge of shame at my sporadic jealousy. Still, who is better off?

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So what does it say that I ... (Below threshold)

December 2, 2013 7:33 AM | Posted by Sek: | Reply

So what does it say that I was more confused by all this than bothered?

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