The Reality

deru kugi wa utareru - "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down."
- Japanese proverb

"I fought back in my mind, never lets me be right"
- Eddie Vedder, "I've Got Id"

"Wake up young man, it's time to wake up"
- Layne Staley, "Wake Up"

He walked slowly past the electronics store. The T.V.'s were visible from the outside switched to the latest news of the war, the newest result of man's hatred for himself. He paused a bit, letting the muted images enter his mind, the sound trapped behind the thick shatterproof plexiglas of the store window. They made him .
The street was barely illuminated by the infrequent streetlights. The recent rain caused the lights to reflect eerily off the pavement. He glanced at his cheap "imitation of a expensive watch bought in Hong Kong for only $15 because it was only an imitation and didn't have the cost of a brand name attached to it but worked just as good and looked the same," and it read 7:30. As he reached the nearby parked car, he casually glanced around, afraid of the images of hardened criminals and gangsters revived by the latest episode of a T.V. cop show. Seeing no one in his vicinity, he opened the door to his car and quickly got in. The car radio came to life as he turned the ignition. He immediately knew the song, the latest hit group from the newest trend in music. He was . That he knew that this song would grow old quickly didn't matter. There would always be new groups and new styles. The Industry never failed; it was efficient. Fast to kill something that was growing old and replace it with something new and appealing. Talent wasn't an issue, it was easy enough to find it, undeveloped, in bands just formed. Find a group, give them a song, and you can sell an entire album, that's the Industry's motto. When the public began to dislike the new group, the Industry would simply move onto another group, and you would be happy.
He pulled into a middle class suburb and turned into his driveway. He felt . "A good neighborhood, full of good kids, nice neighbors, and police quick to react." That's what the realtor and the neighbors said. No robberies, no murders. If ever a kid got into trouble, give them another chance you would say, they live in a good neighborhood...a good neighborhood.
A chill ran through his body. A few seconds later, another chill ran through his body. Strange. The heat in the car was on high. A tingling sensation ran up his back, stopping at the base of his skull. The hair on his neck stood up. His brain . He didn't feel good. Could be a cold. That was running around now. People called into work today, saying their sick. Yes, definitely catching something. There's some medicine in the bathroom upstairs. Just treats the symptoms, too many different types of viruses and bacteria. You can go to the store now and find 100 different brands of medicine for your exact symptoms. Specialization, that's the trend now. You can't buy one bottle that solves all your problems, no, you have to buy one for the daytime, another for the nighttime, one for sinus congestion, one for a sore throat, another for the cough, one for a runny nose, one for a fever, etc... In five years you see hundreds of new types of cold and cough medicines spring up, yet in ten years you see no new drugs that can treat cancer or cure AIDS.
He hurried into the house and upstairs. The house was done in a conservative manner. White walls, white carpets, furniture that you could find on sale at any department store. It was a large house for a single man, but he hoped someday to have a family, like everyone else, to fill the empty bedrooms. He put down his briefcase at the top of the stairs. He still had some papers to do that he didn't finish at work. His head still .
As he walked through his bedroom he stopped to glance out the window. A man dressed in black casually rested on the curb and a couple walked their dog down the street. The neighborhood children were laughing and talking, it was a Friday night. Probably searching for someone with a driver's license to take them to see a movie, the one with the big stars and great special effects. The one that's spent millions on advertising, airing commercials on every channel 'round the clock. The critics hate it, but that doesn't matter. None of the other movies out have spent half as much on advertising as they had and probably won't last half as long in the theaters. The critics will probably name one of them Film of the Year, and everyone will agree because they never saw it.
As he turned toward the bathroom he stopped. He felt someone...watching him. The room was silent. The clock in the room read 8:30. He looked back out the window. The man in black was gone. Must have found something better to do.
He turned back toward the room and walked into the bathroom. He looked at his face in the mirror. He was neat, well kept, but his were tired and baggy. It was a tough week. He pulled back the bathroom mirror to reveal a small medicine cabinet full of various bottles of shaving cream, cologne, and medicine. After much deliberating, he decided upon the bottle of Brand X Nighttime - Cold Relief and Decongestant; Alcohol in a Bottle, Causes Drowsiness - Hides the Discomfort. Consult your doctor or physician before taking medication. What kind of disclaimer is that? If you could consult a doctor you would probably have some real medicine instead this diluted one that will wear off in the middle in the night. The bottle probably says to take every 8 hours. Probably makes you feel like you need to take one every 2 minutes.
He walked back into his bedroom staring at the bottle of medicine. He looked up. The room was gone. A cold black darkness enveloped everything around him. He looked at the floor. It was gone, he hovered above an endless space below him. He closed his .
...He was inside a strange room, small, yet large enough to walk around in. The room was made entirely of some kind of metal, without any doors or windows. The only light came from a small hole in the wall in front of him. The sounds of strange clacking mixed with weird humming noises emanated from the other side of the wall. The metal walls caused the sounds to resonate tormentingly. He opened his .
The room was as it was before. The clock read 8:55. Must have dozed off and been dreaming. Maybe I've got the flu instead. Probably need to get some sleep. No, the paperwork still needs to be done. A walk will freshen me up. That's right, try to push it to the back of your mind, try to forget. I won't let you. I'll remember.
He walked down the street. Things were starting to quiet down. The occasional car passed by blasting music too loud to listen to, but overall the neighborhood was still. Fall was turning to winter and the nights were getting colder. Isn't it great that you live in a generation now where Science has figured out almost everything for you? Why you get sick, why you have dreams, how you came to be. Think of those poor fourteenth-century Europeans who thought they could fall off the edge of the earth. They were so sure that it was the , but no, they were wrong. Science is the , you're sure of it.
The walk felt good. His head didn't as much. Maybe I better take some Tylenol just in case. He was nearing his house again, only about a block away. He glanced at his watch. 9:20. I gotta start on that paperwork now.

A nurse walked down the hallway and stopped by an electronic readout on the wall. The sounds of feet hitting the tile floor and people talking echoed loudly through the hall. She began to record the data on a large chart that she was carrying.
Two men walked up and motioned her aside. One, dressed in black, pulled back a small panel on the wall that allowed him to look inside, where a man lay in a dark room strapped to a table. A small label on the wall identified the man inside as "."

An over-the-hill man jogged down the sidewalk coming towards him. Mr. Cammarano was his name. No, he like to be called Robert. Nice apparel. Brand new purple jogging suit, blindingly fluorescent. Brand name running shoes with hardly a spot of dirt or sign of wear. The began in his head again. He grimaced and shut his .
...Wires sprang out of the ground and engulfed Robert. They wrapped around his head and neck, pulling open his and flashing light into them.
He blinked his . Mr. Cammarano continued jogging past and gave him a short-winded hello.
He ran down the street and into his house.
He opened the bottle of Tylenol and stuffed 5 into his mouth. Forget what the bottle says - it's non prescription strength. Get some from a doctor and they give you a dosage 4 times as strong. He felt . Anything in a pill could make you feel just as good, as long as you believed it could.
He took out his pen and started on his paperwork. The small lamp on his desk illuminated his work. The rest of the room was dark. He began to cross out some of the typed lines and make notations in the margins. The deal needed to be revised. There was no way that they would accept it. They wanted everything, they were greedy just like everyone else. Fire some people here and there, spend several hundred thousand dollars on new equipment. They wanted .
Sweat began to bead on his forehead and drip down nose. His hand ached from writing. His breathing grew louder, deeper. The grew worse in his head. He stood up and wiped his hand across his forehead. The clock read 10:45. Pounding. Can hear my own heart beat...BEAT. Feeling weak...dizzy. He collapsed down to his hands and knees. His closed.
...Dozens of tubes and wires ran in and out of his body. Nutrients still poured in and out of his body, and an I.V. continuously released mind-controlling drugs into his system. He tried to move, but dozens of restraints held him tightly to the table. Can't move. Can't scream.
A readout on the wall showed that his brain activity was and his heart rate was growing faster. The man in black stood near the him, at the side of the bed. Another man, clad in all white approached, carrying a steel binder.

"Do you think he saw me earlier?"
"We don't know. We're trying to figure out. We don't know what's happening but they could be responsible."
They began to walk away from the body and headed down the hall.
"How was he able to see through ?"
"We don't know, but this may be the biggest danger to yet."
Concern spread across the brow of the man in black.
"What do they think they're doing? Can't they see the good in what we're trying to do?"
"Shut--" The rest of the doctor's reply was stopped abruptly by the nurse next to him.
"Doctor, the readout shows a change in the patient. His readings are becoming more ."

Fever's getting worse. Can't finish my work. Must be hallucinating, must be. Rationalize, rationalize, rationalize, explain, explain, explain. Is that all the human race can do? Could you stand the ? Are you so bound by the world that Science and the Media creates for you that you can't begin to even try to see anything that is beyond your understanding? Shut up, shut up, shut up! Why? Because this isn't real, because this is just part of your fever? I said shut up!!!
He reached for the telephone and dialed his friend Monica. One ring, two rings, shut up!!!, an answer.
"Help..." click.
She stared at the receiver, worried. It sounded like... She dialed his number. An answer, breathing. She called out his name over the telephone. More breathing, anguish. She picked up her coat and keys and ran towards the door.
She glanced at the clock as she opened the door. 11:12, no, two minutes fast, 11:10.

...The phone lay on the floor, beeping. Reach out with your mind. It's all there, you're a part of it. War. Death. Bombs. Plague. Destruction. The Media. . Stop it!!! Wait... there must... be... an answer to all of this. Control, control, control. It's all . Captain, I cannot give her any more, she just can't take it. I'm a physician not a mathematician. It just doesn't add up. Alternate interior angles are congruent if the lines do not intersect and lie in the same plane. But, I need three points to define the plane! Nooo! It doesn't work, it can't be done. I kept telling them it couldn't be done. But nooo, no one ever listens. Copernicus was wrong, the sun lies at one of the foci and not at the center. They just don't understand. One day, oh yes, they'll see, they'll KNOW. Yes, the world always wants to know the , doesn't it? But the truth doesn't become the until the majority decides that it is. It takes . What we hold as the "" today existed long before in the minds of the minority. Then they were lies, fantasy; now they are the , Science, postulates, theorems. From one idea, man creates an entire reality.
He passed out.

Monica pulled quickly into the drive in her black Honda Accord. Not caring to lock the doors, she turned on the security system with her keychain as she ran up the steps. She rang to doorbell and banged loudly on the door. She glanced nervously at her watch. 11:21. No answer. Not a sound. Let's see, predictable, naive... She found the key to the house taped under a plant around back.
The back door led into the basement. Everything was dark. She called his name. No answer. She ran towards the direction of the stairs. Oww, $@#$!? dumbbells. Doesn't even use them. Upstairs in the kitchen the light over the dinner table was on, revealing a half eaten sandwich from the local deli. The phone was on the hook. Wait, there's another phone upstairs. As she ran toward the entrance hall, the kitchen clock read 11:28.

"Yes, yes. Phone upstairs. Have them send a team down here"
"Yes, sir."
The man in black began to talk. "You're not to revive him, you know."
"Shut up. I don't need you to tell me my job. We'll deal with him like the thousands of others. Still, there's so much I could learn."
", ."
"Yes, yes, I know. Shut up, will you?"

A small light in the study provided the only source of light upstairs. A limp hand holding an empty container of pills was slightly visible through the frame of the door. The sound of a beeping phone echoed loudly. She walked up to his body and picked up the container of pills. No label.
He lay on his side, arms sprawled forward. A puddle of drool slowly formed below his mouth and brief giggles mixed with cries of pain escaped his lips. His were dead, unfocused. She rapidly clicked on the phone until she got a dial tone. 9...1..1. The clock slowly crept past 11:30.

"Doctor, the team is here."
"Yes, yes."

The medics were quick to react to the call from the Monica. An ambulance arrived in less than 5 minutes. One of the medics walked up and knocked on the door. Drug overdose probably, they said. We're getting more and more of these reports, lately. A lot of them we can't figure out. Drug-like symptoms, no sign of drugs. Probably used their whole stash. Rationalize, rationalize, explain, explain, explain.
They quickly lifted his body onto the stretcher and had him on the way to the hospital in less than 4 minutes. His life signs were quickly fading. Not much they could do for him 'til they reached the hospital, over 20 minutes away. That's what you get for living in a suburb. If you lived in the city and got shot, you could be at the hospital in less that 3 minutes. Fool.

A group of five men and women clad in all white stood around the body, waiting. The doctor spoke.
"Disconnect him."
"But, sir, you sent for the team."
"I know that. Disconnect him!!!"
"Yes, sir."
"Shut up."

Five nurses and orderlies awaited his arrival.
"Trauma one! Take him to Trauma one!"
A doctor came running up to his moving stretcher.
Funny, doesn't look like George Clooney. Maybe it's Anthony Edwards. No, must be Chicago Hope. Never watch that. Nobody watches that. Wait, Wait, I know! Noah Wylie! Nooooo! Definitely gonna die. Writers. Ratings. Definitely gonna die. Stupid.
"Do we know who he is?"
"Yeah, some woman called 911."
The stretcher was lifted onto an operating table.
"Sir, what do you want us to do? Sir!"
The doctor stood still.
"Shut up."
Whoa, this episode isn't that good. There're hardly even moving around. Let's have some dramatic music in here. Gotta have a good soundtrack. Sell it, make more money. Make them pay $12.95 for a CD that has only one song they like. Hey, I recognize that guy. A man dressed in black stood at his side. Now, where did I see him. The man in black reached out towards him. I know-- A hand closed down on his .
"No pulse. Doctor!"
"Mark him D.O.A., 12:05 AM."

Copyright © 1996, 1997 K. Conley
All rights reserved.