*TW Mental Health/ Substance Abuse.
I held that plush in my hands for what seemed like a century. The line was so long it nearly wrapped around the store. My dirty fingers had begun to sweat, leaving ashy fingerprints across the white underbelly of the purple stuffed bear. The voices in my head had begun to swirl, whispering ice cold words into my ear.
"What's the point? She doesn't even know you exist, and even if she did, it's not like she could love you. Look at yourself, you're an embarrassment!" the first voice hissed.
"Shut Up!" I growled, grabbing at my ear, attempting to plug it with my finger.
The man standing behind me shifted uncomfortably and looked at his wife. He didn't think I could see him. But I saw everything. To him, I was just another junkie trying to make up for years worth of dead-beat behavior by buying a Christmas present for the daughter I hadn't seen since she was born. He was probably taking mental bets on whether or not this gift would make it to my daughter before I got hard up and traded it for drugs. It's a bet he'd probably win. But I needed these drugs in ways he could never understand from way up there on his high horse. There was a time I would've sworn he was wrong about me, but the facade of self pride had long faded. The years I had spent trying to convince people that I knew the truth of this world had exhausted me. I no longer had the energy to both lead this societal horse to water, AND make it drink. Suddenly, a second voice in my head sounded the alarm.
"Look at them, they're all watching you. You know who they work for, don't you? You know what they want to do to you..."
I could feel the fear bubbling up inside me as if I were a bottle of Diet Coke, and the world had just dropped a Mentos mint inside. It came rushing out of every orifice, overflowing into my system until I could taste, see, smell, and feel nothing else but terror. I began to look around, and that's when I saw them. They were coming up from the north end of the store. They looked like innocent shoppers, but I could see it on their faces. They were agents of this gilded reality. The bear tumbled out of my hands and hit the ground where I was standing as I took off running. I got a lot of angry looks as I barreled through the mindless pedestrians, who were just skulking around, vacantly navigating endless isles filled with Christmas propaganda. I approached the exit of the store, and there, blocking my way out, were two more agents, disguised as security guards. There were no other moves to make, and so I did the only thing I could think of, and I lowered my shoulder and barged my way through their sad attempt at a human barricade.
We all came tumbling out of the entrance to the store and onto the sidewalk to the background music of shocked sighs, and shrill screams, followed by a chorus of "Oh my God's." I sprang to my feet, and made my escape , running the next 5 blocks before running out of steam, and retreating into an ally where I could hide and catch my breath. The voices in my head began to speak again.
"You can't let them catch you. They'll force their poison down your throat and turn you into another sheep for the slaughter," it hissed.
I knew they would never stop hunting me. I had become a threat, because I knew the truth. I had pierced their veil of secrecy. I had seen what lies beneath the curtain. It was as brilliant of a system as it was horrifying. We were all puppets, and everything around us was fake. The cities were fake, most of the people were fake, the systems of government were fake. It was all a false reality, one manufactured in our minds. The brilliance of it, was that the chemical alterations of our projections of reality allowed for creative freedom. We didn't all see the same EXACT reality. Each one was different according the the wave structure of our brains. It was the same base concept for everyone, but we saw it not as it was, but as WE were. Those differences in perception were what made it feel all the more real to us.
They had built this system to enslave us. The few of us who were lucky enough to be born with "the gift," as it was called, the ability to see beyond it, were quickly sedated, and given medical mandates that forced us to cram pills down our throat that blocked our sensory receptors. It made us just like the rest; complacent, and lazy. They didn't want to risk us exposing their master plan. To the blind, this was "the land of opportunity." It was everyday life, where people went to work everyday, fell in love, started families, what we would call "Normal." But being unimpeded an unaffected by the neural camouflage allowed you to see that this world was a barren Hellscape. It was similar to the movie "The Matrix," except instead of being in a world ruled by machines and computers, it was desolate and hot, and the overlords were terrifying demons, with glowing red eyes, that towered over us humans.
There are rumors that "the gift" manifests when you are a child. The one's who have frequent nightmares of monsters hiding under their beds and in their closets, they are the "Truth Bearers." Of course, because they're children, no one believes them, and they either succumb to false reality and shut their gift off, or like me, they are institutionalized, and medicated into submission.
How they get these chemicals inside us without us knowing, is genius. They pump it into our artificial atmosphere. It's in the air that we breath. There's virtually no way to avoid it. The only way for those of us with "the gift" to stave off the effects, is a specialized serum. We call it "Optical Induction Adapting Truth Elixir" or, OPIATES. It was invented by a woman named Artemis Grouse, the first known of the "truth-bringers." The street name for the elixir was "Heroine" because she was a hero. Of course, once the overlords learned of the drug, they villainized it. Eliminated most of the supply, and poisoned others so that it would kill them when they took it. This one move shattered the truth-bringers. It massively impacted supply, which made it all the more valuable. Instead of utilizing it to fight for the fate of humanity, those in possession used it as a way to get rich, and grow fat in a world they knew didn't really even exist.
They had it all figured out really. They made it illegal to possess, and spread the narrative about how "evil" it was all over the media that fed directly into peoples manufactured morality. They barely even had to patrol the cities to look for it, the police and other branches of “enforcement” they put in place did it for them. Humans hunting humans under the guise of greater good. If it wasn't as gut wrenchingly terrifying to watch, you would almost be impressed.
When people saw the truth bringers, fighting a demon patrol in reality, what they saw was just a homeless junkie, swinging wildly in the streets. It made the idea of one day liberating this planet laughable. But I had to try. I had to try for Natalie, my daughter. I had distanced myself from her, because I never wanted her to have to pay the price for my actions. I was going to free this world, no matter what it took.
I could feel my brain clouding. I knew I had to find some Elixir, and quickly. I quietly and quietly navigated my way to an old homeless encampment I used to live in. I stood on the outskirts for awhile, watching. They had a "Social Worker" that was tasked to keep an eye on me. Make sure I kept swallowing their medicine. She knew all my old spots. I couldn't risk her spotting me. After about 15 minutes, I spotted Daryl skulking into an ally, and setting up shop in his usual location. I pulled my hoodie over my head, and slipped in behind him.
"Daryl!" I hissed, just loudly enough for him to hear.
He turned around and look me over.
"Hey Buddy! Ain't seen you for quite a spell!"
Daryl was exactly what you would expect from a drug dealer who frequented homeless encampments. He had curly, grey-black hair that was always greasy and unkempt, he was missing most of the teeth in his mouth, and what teeth were still there were stained a deep yellow. He had a neck tattoo that looked like it was done in prison, a southern accent, and an odor that landed somewhere between stale Cheetos, and foot-fungus.
"Has anyone been around looking for me?" I asked.
He must've sensed my nervousness, because he had a good chuckle at my paranoia manifesting into repeated glances over my shoulder.
"Why? You in some kind of trouble? Got the boogeyman chasing you again?" he joked, followed by a dry smokers cackle.
"I Just need a fix." I said, still surveying my surroundings.
My hands shook as dug through my pockets to get the few crinkled up bills that I had stashed in there from my holiday shopping drip. Daryl fished a small baggie and syringe out of his pocket. He dangled it in front of my face.
"You sure you wanna do this? You've kept yourself clean for a few months now."
"I need this Daryl. They came for me again today. This time in the store. I barely made it out," I answered.
He shook his head.
'Shit Mayne, the Demons again?" he asked.
I looked over my shoulder again, and noticed a group of transients staring at me.
"Yeah man, the demons. Now please, just give me the elixir," I pleaded.
He messed with me for a few more seconds before dropping the baggy in my hands.
"Here you go, keep fighting the good fight!" He said, almost mockingly as I walked away with the score.
I found a quiet place, and I administered the elixir to myself. As I felt that warming, calming feeling spread through body via a free ride in my vascular system, it became clear what had to be done. The "Truth Bringers" were broken. We couldn't tear the mask off the monster that this world really was, and so we had given up. "Better to live well in falsities, than to suffer in reality" had become our adopted mantra. I knew in my heart that we were meant for more. We had to be.
Soon, the Elixir did its job, and started to teardown the artificial world that had been projected around me. Buildings disappeared, streets and cars vanished. It was just me, alone in this barren wasteland. The people around me were all sitting on the ground, ripe for the slaughter. Anytime the demons hungered they would just pluck one. To cover their atrocities they would simply fill the sounds waves with news reports of "Heart Attacks" or "Car Accidents" whatever they felt like would make people ask least questions. Out in the distance stood one tall tower, bathed in blood red light. It was well fortified, and a beam of light shot up directly from the center.
"This must be the control center where they release the chemicals." I thought to myself.
I dug up the gun I bought months ago and stashed for the occasion. My intent for the firearm bounced between taking my own life, and fighting the demons on a semi-regular basis, but to this point had not been utilized at all. I checked the clip. Still fully loaded with hollow points. I held the gun in my hand, and held one single thought in my mind.
"Come Hell or High Water, I will deliver my daughter the gift of truth this Christmas."
When I awoke I was strapped to a gurney. A women in a lab-coat was standing over me.
"Cameron, Cameron can you hear me?"
I nodded my head slowly.
"You're in the hospital. You suffered a bout with psychosis likely derived from your unmedicated paranoid schizophrenia."
"My what?" I asked.
"You have a mental disorder Mr. Ortiz."
"The Hell I do! I am a Truth Bringer! You need to get me out of here before they find me!" I said, panicked.
"Before who finds you Cameron" The nurse asked me, in a patronizing tone.
"The Demons!" I said wild eyed.
She shined a light in my eyes, causing me to groan in agony.
"You were tased by a security guard in a store. Do you remember that?" She asked.
"No, I was in the Demon Control center. I was just about to pull the plug...and then...and then..."
"And then what?" She asked.
"I don't remember" I answered.
Everything in my head was so fuzzy. I couldn't make sense of it. I had no idea what was happening. How did I get here? What happened at the control center? I could feel the fear building up again, and I started to struggle against the restraints.
"Sir, I need you to remain calm" the nurse said.
"NO! I need you to get me out of here. GET ME OUT OF HERE BEFORE THEY COME!" I shouted, in sheer terror.
The room turned bone-chillingly cold, and the lights began to flicker. It was them, they had found me. I struggled as hard as I could with the restraints, but I couldn't break free. A male orderly approached me with a needle, just as I wiggled my foot free. I kicked him in the leg before he could jab me.
"KEEP THAT AWAY FROM ME!" I shouted, but to no avail. Three more orderly's pinned me down. As I looked up, helpless, a large demon loomed over me. My heart sunk, and I began sobbing.
"Please no! Please! Please don't"
I felt the sting of the needle as it entered my neck. Everything started to become blurry, and the room began to spin.
I couldn’t make sense of any of this. Did I imagine all this? Was I really ill? It seemed so real to me.
It couldn’t be fake. Could it? I know what I saw. This is the demons. This is those monsters messing with me. They’re trying to break me down. Make me question myself. None of this is real. This hospital isn’t real…..but maybe that means I’m not real…. Am I? Am I really here, now? Or am I just some projection of self from the over active imagination of a mind trapped and rotting away inside a sedated body? Was I ever really even here?
As my mind tumbled in endless circles of fear, confusion and despair, I had but one thought echoing in my mind.
"Here goes another Christmas where my daughter gets nothing from her dad. I failed her. I failed us all."
I felt a single tear roll down my cheek and then everything went black.
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
Lived this story
Eric, my dear friend. As you know, I often believe people do not understand or care about the things I experience and go through, they say they do but I struggle to believe them but then you go and write this, proving that you do care, you might not understand completely but at least you listen. So, thank you. <3
Cameron, I believe that is my purpose on this slow-spinning rock, to act as the interpreter between worlds. The only way to truly heal as humankind is through compassion and understanding, so thank you for opening the door to your world, and for allowing me to draw the rest of humanity a map. Stay well my friend.
Brutal truth, captured the paranoia perfectly.
This is a riveting story that well encapsulates the experiences of individuals with psychosis. Thank you for this!
Thank you Kristen, so glad you liked it! I appreciate the read, and the kind words!