I winced as all this surreal instruction started causing a little disorientation. Within a blink or two, Franko and Merv were supporting my neck and back keeping me from fainting. Paulo snapped his fingers a few times in front of my eyes.
“Don’t worry; it’ll wear off in a minute. It’s the memories kicking in.”
“Memories? What Memories?” I murmured.
“Where you are from and where you are going aren’t all that backwards compatible kiddo. We had to slip you into one of them.” Franko muttered.
“What? Like a clone? You put me in the cloned body of a dead guy?”
“That’s protocol sport. So put your new duds on your new duds. The swooning was the memories of the clone kicking in. Soon they’ll integrate with yours and it’ll take a while before you can discern which ones are yours versus his. Should be fun, people are gonna call you all kinds of crazy.” Paulo quipped.
“Don’t let em’ razz ya. Out there it won’t take you long to realize you aint just another clone out there like them. That’s what’s gonna help you find the others.” Franko whispered.
“The others? What others?” I asked.
“A handful of others were slapping the Sistine chapel roof of waking up before we pulled the plug but came just a little too shy. So in the reboot they are a little more …let’s say aware, than most. You’ll know em’ when you meet em’. They’ll dress funny, have weird dreams, believe in fairies and unicorns and mermaids and stuff.” Paulo said.
“So…other crazy people?”
“And some dogs.”
“Right. And some dogs.” I repeated.
Orange, orange, orange…um…orange, yeah, that’s orange, orange there too. Orange over there, some orange over here and some orange in between. There’s orange by the television; some orange playing cards. Orange getting patted down, orange playing basketball. Orange making phone calls aaaaand oooh, there’s some stripes! Who would have thought that there is a place on Earth where the most exciting thing one has to look forward to in a day is someone wearing a black and white striped jumpsuit in a sea of orange jumpsuits? Well, the answer would just so happen to be anyone who has ever been kidnapped by the state and thrown into a privately owned, profit motivated mechanism we know as the prison industrial complex. Typically in this day and age most of the men and women you will find in county and state cages funded by the tobacco industry are the “offenders” of victimless crimes for the most part. Well unless you actually buy the whole thing about the “state” being the victim which is on the same level as saying Santa Claus or Sasquatch are the victims as well. Nevertheless, we live in a world where Americans continue to say they are living in the land of the free but neglect to see that there are more people thrown behind bars to rot on this soil than any other country on the globe. Life is funny with little idiosyncrasies isn’t it?
I stepped away from the plexi-glass window on my cell door to face the cinder block walls all around me slathered in sloppy, white paint. In this little 8×10 cell the only things to break the scenery up are the steel desk affixed to the wall, the two steel bunks affixed to the wall, and a sink/toilet combo affixed to the wall which oh, by the way, also only comes in steel for that extra bit of “Fuck you!” from the mighty, middle finger of the state. Even the spigot from the sink shoots the room temperature water upwards at you like the jail itself is pissing on your face. I had been reading for the past hour or so while the pod I was in was on lock down somewhere in between what they call breakfast and what is allegedly known as lunch, before taking a little break to see what might be out my window. As I had predicted, it was little more than the inmates who get out of lockdown early for pill call. I couldn’t help but take note that most of those guys were in here for being in possession of some narcotic or the other only to be lined up in the wee hours of the morning to ingest some narcotic or the other. Ah, progress. I was going to hop back up in my cot to finish the chapter I was on in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel I had been losing myself in the past few days but that plan came to a halt when the intercom screeched something inaudible. The best I could make out was “Bzzt, brzzz, Crumpton…berzzert, zzzzmmmnnn,…medical.” Apparently I was right because directly afterward the electronic lock on my door made a few noises and the cell door inched open.
‘Well, if I’m about to step out on the so called town I had better dress my best’ I thought. I looked down at the singular button on my orange jumpsuit that had been left unfastened and snapped it together with the suave of 007. I stepped in front of the warped so called mirror (also steel) to ensure that I looked debonair for the occasion and once content made my way to the desk of the C.O. to be felt up. The current C.O. had come to lord over our pod only a day or two before and boy was she the walking epidome of a basket full of daddy issues. What kind of 20 something year old female wakes up one day and decides that having college frat boys take turns doing jello shots off her ass isn’t quite dysfunctional enough and opts for a more straight forward approach by seeking a career where you can handcuff, shackle, demean, ridicule, man handle and throw men in a cage when you are ready for some alone time? Since she had started her shifts on our pod several theories were in the air. Mine was obviously that she had severe daddy issues which in my experience tends to be the root trauma of most chicks for whatever reason. Maybe Sigmund can one day be revived to uncover some of those mysteries for us and save the male species many of sleepless night from trying to figure out the motives behind much of what women do. Another theory was that on the outside, no man would put up with her sadomasochistic horseshit for longer than 48 hours, thus she needed an outlet to unleash her boat load of crazy on a captive test group. Eugene, the head of the prayer group and a deeply righteous and spiritual man, simply summed it up by saying “Naw, she just getting’ her ass beat at da house.”
Now granted, when you are locked in a cell block with a bunch of other guys for a prolonged period of time with nothing to occupy the mind except reading and counting cinder blocks, the presence of a female does add a hint of excitement. Unfortunately, even if you are the fairest Chiquita in a bunch full of soggy, bruised bananas, that just means you are the best looking thing in a bowl full of not so good looking things. Sure, while she remained in her 20’s she might be able to enjoy a somewhat appealing figure but as I often say; gravity always wins. Honestly that was the best thing she had going for her at the moment. Her personality had the appeal of a bowl of wood shavings for dinner with stale milk to wash it down and her head reminded me very much of a Muppet. The eyes, nose and mouth were extremely exaggerated and as animated as a sock puppet that had the hand of one of Jim Henson’s henchmen shoved far up its ass free to flail about this way and that. I often caught myself staring at her intently as she spoke to see if at any point the top of her head above the jawbone went all the way back so her forehead could land in between her shoulder blades like they do on Sesame Street when they are excited. It never did, though it came awfully close at times. I believe on the outside the classiest of men would call her a butter face. You know, she’s got a nice body…but her face? As I approached the desk I simply smiled, said my name and turned around to pose in the form of the crucified Christ. I even added a little head tilt at no extra charge as Ms. Sadomasochist Muppet ran her phalanges from the top of my jumpsuit to the bottom. For the brief moment of the invasion into my territorial bubble the only mantra I could muster was ‘Please don’t graze my balls, please don’t graze my balls, please don’t graze my balls…’
On the way to medical with a few other gents from the block I couldn’t help but take notice of the fact that we were ordered to walk in a single file line on the right side of the hall and the moment that anyone dared speak, a guard would jump out from nowhere shouting “There is absolutely no talking in the corridors!”. This entire environment was very familiar to me in that it smacked of the public school system only with tasers and man-cuffs. Cinderblocks were everywhere, one had to ask permission to do anything, the unidentifiable substance called food was laced with a chemical cocktail to sedate and lower testosterone, everyone must march in the ant formation of single file lines and when in the corridors it was absolutely imperative that you keep your mouth shut so the staff could think up more ways to strip you of your dignity. As if the squat and cough initiation followed by the chemical shower to rid one’s self of critters wasn’t enough of a shaming. Let’s not even touch on the fact that the most passive of “offenders” were brought to this machine of a place in a fashion that seemed to be more of an audition for the remake of Silence of the Lambs than a simple slap on the wrist for an infraction of statutes and acts that involved no one else but themselves. I suppose the obvious conclusion one can come to had they been to both the public school system as well as the prison industrial complex system is that someone or something has been preparing us for enslavement since damn near the time we could formulate free thoughts. I suppose this is why I didn’t mind too awful much when I had the experience of being locked up because it gave me the perspective that many Americans do not have. That perspective is that the structure is one that conditions the masses to servitude in a beast that has no empathy, no conscience, and no sense of humanity and really, really wants money to grease its moving parts. There is no rehabilitation taking place behind the walls of a jail what so ever, unless you consider people learning how to break worse and worse laws some sort of improvement to society. The only real benefit of jail is the knowing that there is nothing you can do as far as the outside is concerned. You are forced to either freak out from claustrophobia and be taken to the hole after trying helplessly to kick your cell door open or, and in my case, meditate on life in general.
There indeed is something freeing in lying on a cot for hours at a time with nowhere to go but inside. It has been my observation that the world is designed to keep us in such a hurried distraction that we never do such a thing. We are either always on the go doing this or that menial thing or constantly refreshing the pages of social media to stop for a significant amount of time and examine the bigger questions of existence. So when the state rolls up on you in over-priced chargers decked out with more gadgets than Optimus Prime, shackle you like the treasure chest of Davey Jones’ locker, charge you with a bunch of numbers and dashes for profit and throw you in a cage; look on the bright side. At least then you can have some “me time” as you wait for some dude in a dress to finish what Ms. Muppet head started.
After twiddling my thumbs in the waiting room of medical my name was eventually called for a very thorough examination. Or perhaps we should say, the name of the dead guy whose cloned body I presently find myself in, lest we lose grip of the nature of the tale thus far. It was that name, that identity, that ego that got me into the predicament I find myself in. Since the world had come to an end with a tale that would be somewhat carried onward through time by means of another Earth-like dimension, I, the watcher, continued with the outward appearance to observers that nothing too terribly strange has occurred in the past few years. No apocalypse to see here; move along.
“Let me see your arm, please.” The nurse insisted with the word please dripping of contempt.
As she took my blood pressure and listened to the ratty-tat-tat of my ticker I casually gazed over the paperwork that was associated with the name they were calling me. Such a sad little mug shot on that one. Clearly when that was taken I was not present. The little shit had been doing that a lot to me as of late. His memories creeping up when I least expect it, luring me into the illusion that that person is who I am. When I wasn’t paying attention the ego of those memories would seduce me into the daydream of the past where I would lose control as the present tense was no longer at my conscious grasp. He would take over and completely drown me out in hours of selfish pissing and moaning about his lot in life. “Why did God let this happen to me? Am I being punished? What did I do wrong?” and on and on and on. Whining, puking, maggot. On the occasions when that ego would silence itself, curl up in a corner somewhere and cry his sad little eyes out; I would make every attempt to regain control of the energy he had been draining me of and finally put a stop to this persistent illusion by once and for all dealing with the movie in my head that seemed to be stuck in auto replay. I was tired of having to relive events that were not mine, have memories of things I wasn’t present for, long for that which I loathe, do that which I would not, not have the things I want, and hearing the name of someone long since gone directed at me. The sound of modern enlightenment is Once in a Lifetime performed by the monks at the Talking Heads monastery.
After the nurse scribbled down my stats she was joined by what I presume was a shrink. He made no eye contact with me as he entered, rather simply sat and eyed his clipboard intently. Several clicks of the pen were initiated before the ink coated ball would even touch paper. What is it with shrinks clicking their pen over and over again anyway? Is this some sort of gestalt technique taught at university or do shrinks collectively have some deep rooted trauma dealing with their parents that they have hidden away in the catacombs of their mind only to be manifested by a constant priming of the writing pump? Even if it is just to check simple boxes with a yes or a no.
“How are we today mister Crumpton?”
“I’m in jail. How are you?”
“Yes, right. Well how has your morning been? Are you having any problems today so far?”
I can see where this line of questioning is about to go. I have been on the receiving end of this diagnostical gang bang before. Of course the first time I was invited to the psychiatric orgy of so called American medicine, I opted to take the route of the samurai, and answer the questions fired at me with the grace and fluidity of someone that refused to be labeled with a diagnosis of any kind. It worked, because after all a diagnosis of anything is simply another box, another label, another cell, another ego, another way to deny who one really is at their highest being. It is a method to reduce the ALL of Eternity into a tiny clay jar with a sticker on the front that says “Hi, my name is:” on the front. It worked back then and I managed to emerge without a diagnosis and free of any scribbles on little post it notes that would make it legal for me to go down to the pharmacy and purchase drugs. After all, drugs are good if the state tells you to take them and lobbyists make tons of money off of your new found addiction. That was three years ago though, and having the experiences in my head of events that would transpire as a result of that dance, I considered for a second what would happen if I answered the questions as if I were the ego they had on those pieces of paper. What if I played the game for a moment and gave them what they wanted by jumping through the hoops with more precision than you see at the fair when the goofy man makes the cute, little Chihuahuas do his bidding by rewarding them with little “treats”? That sounded like fun to me at the time so I steepled my fingers and prepared for the onslaught.
“To tell you the truth doc, it’s been a rather difficult morning.” I smiled.
“Understandable. Any physical symptoms? Headaches, nausea, and tremors?” he returned.
“All three as a matter of fact. I have had this migraine booming in my head since I was arrested. I would love nothing more than five minutes alone in an actual bathroom where the throne is made of porcelain and not metal so I could vomit out my soul and I am shaking so bad right now that if anything so much as touches me,…it’s gonna have an orgasm.” I said with a smile and a mic drop.
My gleeful tightness of face was returned with a brief glance above the nose and rim of the designer eye spectacles, to be followed directly after by the checking of a box somewhere on the clipboard. After the passionately intent motion of a check, the next barrage of questions came.
“Right,…now any further thoughts of suicide?”
“Absolutely.” I answered with a certain amount of joviality.
“How often do you think about suicide?”
“Every other minute or so.”
“When was the last time you had a suicidal thought?”
“When I woke up this morning.”
“What did you think?”
“Well, considering I woke up in a cell my options instantly became extremely limited. Blowing my brains out really wasn’t an option, though I do have that outlet the minute I walk out of this place. I also thought about overdosing with sleeping pills. That seems a pleasant way to go, or at least I thought so until my lady friend on the outside said it actually isn’t all that easy to check out that way. Nevertheless, that option isn’t at the current moment available to me so the idea of suicide by means of overdose is really just a pipe dream and shouldn’t be accredited to me as a thought of suicide. I had considered tying my sheets into some sort of noose and maybe attempt to hang myself with the convenient amount of space left for me to lift myself up and stop an otherwise meaningless death in my cinderblock cell. But then again, I know instinctively that my body would fight to preserve its existence so at the most I would be one of those sad saps that talk about suicide, but because they didn’t have the fortitude to go through with it, have to come up with some story about the harrowing efforts of the will to live intervening. I didn’t really want to be that asshole either. So I thought the best course of action, because bludgeoning one’s self against the walls or the steel counterparts would be rather brutal, would be to bite my wrists. Though I am not too fond of the memories in my head, I don’t think those memories need to be dealt with by self-bludgeoning. There is always a much more humane way. So by my estimation, and in the confines of my cell, I thought that simply biting into my wrists where the major veins and arteries are I could simply bleed out as I dose off to sleep. It would be much like slitting one’s wrist I suppose only I would have to tear into myself like I were eating a piece of chicken or something. I mean, surely it would hurt for a moment or two but afterwards would just be like falling asleep, wouldn’t it?”
There was a long pause as his pen hovered over several different boxes to choose from. I believe by the look on his face he had been contemplating the scores for March madness on ESPN before he drove into work and continued to do so up until I spoke those last words. There was a glitch in his thinking, a shoe in the machine. He was actually being invited to engage his conscious mind for a moment and make an intellectual diagnosis.
“So you want to kill yourself?” he asked.
“Wouldn’t that be the very embodiment of self-control? The ability to choose when the experience you are having is over? Sure, suicide has a stigma on it due to the whining of those left behind but what if for the person performing it, it just so happens to be the greatest thing ever?” I asked.
More pen clicks, more glances from behind spectacles. This did not discourage me in the slightest. I shifted my fingers into a new formation and waited for the tennis ball to come back over the net.
“No, because when you are dead you are dead. There is nothing else after you are dead.” He spat.
“On the contrary good sir, you are very wrong. When you are dead you are indeed not dead but very much alive. It is only when you have managed to reach a state of realization that you are not what experiences reality in time, space or dimension can you understand what it means to be alive. No, living is death. Pretending to exist in simply four dimensions which are measurable and have nearly been conquered by the human will is not being alive. It is being limited. Limitation is death. It is the end of the road, it is the destination that was set for you but not set by one’s own self. We create an ego to interact with this world, yet we are not that ego, but over time persist that we are. Over time we forget that we simply created a vessel in which to explore this arena we call time and space. We become the vessel. We forget what and who we are. Is it not prudent that when such a thing occurs we do away with the ego and off ourselves?” I asked.
“You know you are making my job more difficult, don’t you?” He asked.
“You picked it. I didn’t.”
“Do you hear voices?”
“I hear you now.”
“No, I mean do you hear voices that aren’t there?”
“Well those voices are there regardless of if others hear them or not. Voice is a vibration, vibration is turned to sound when a conscious mind receives and translates that vibration into sound, or voices. So to ask if I hear voices that aren’t there is a very large catch twenty two. I hear voices, but they are not there. You too hear voices…but they are not there. In fact they don’t become voices until they are in here; on the inside. So I guess the both of us hear voices, don’t we?” I quipped.
“Okay, do you see things that aren’t there?” he asked.
“Of course I do. If we are still following your line of logic I have heard things that in fact are not there and lock in step, I see things that are not there either.”
“What do you see?” he asked.
I had to think for a moment on that one. I know that at the present moment I am assuming the ego of the person that got me to this place but still, I have to consider what will happen to my experience if I give that ego too much. Where does this go if I let it run free to its destination? All right, this shouldn’t be too difficult. All I have to do is establish a connection between that ego and the higher self. Once that is done I will have control of the situation.
“Listen man, I am not who you think I am. You have all those sheets of paper in front of you with names, dates and places and you think that is who I am. It’s not. I’m not that person. What you have on that paper is a dead man. A man that ceased to exist just a few years ago. The person sitting here in front of you is something altogether different. I have his memories inside my head, and sometimes I think they are mine. But they aren’t. So you can see how all of this can get a little bit screwy, right?” I said.
The doctor continued to scribble upon the clipboard as I pondered the meaning of his sudden detachment and evocation of the emotionless. Was I finally getting a diagnosis? Was there finally a word to describe what goes on inside my head?
“Give it to me straight, doc. What’s ailing my head?” I asked excitedly.
Would it be multiple personality disorder, manic depressive, bipolar, schizophrenia, ptsd or something completely new which combines them all?! It was like biting one’s nails Christmas morning. I watched with glee as he shifted from his clipboard and over to the side of the desk which housed a small cup and a pitcher of Gatorade. My giddiness dissolved as he poured me a shot and carefully place it in my hands.
“Drink this and plenty of fluids when you get back to your cell block. I’m taking you off suicide watch, okay. Try to get some rest.” He said.
And that was it. Even when I was trying to get some sort of a label none would be provided for me. Clearly whatever was going on in my head was nothing this particular world was prepared to deal with. So what was one to do? I slammed the Gatorade shot and gave the doc a thumbs up as I swaggered back out to the waiting room. After being given permission to walk back to the cell block I was greeted again by a feel up by Ms. Muppet guard. Thankfully by the time I got back we were off lock down. What that means is that you aren’t locked in the 8X10 cell and are free to walk around the block as you make future business connections and weed dealers for when you get out later. There are two television sets, which really means one seeing as how the set on the other side of the block is deemed the “sports t.v.” That means unless you are someone so stuck in the control system that sports actually mean a god damned thing, you are forced to watch one television and hope that the crowd that has amassed underneath are somewhat seeking more than just toilet jokes and third grade punchlines. If not you are left to either play spades, chess, sorry or walk around the cell block over and over again until the next lockdown. So for me it was a quick dash to the cell to grab the Star Trek novel I was more than halfway through and to a table to enjoy a solo cup of what I am told was Kool-Aid. I settled myself into my seat only to be joined shortly thereafter by none other than Paulo, the interdimensional key traveler.
“Hey there, ole boy.” Paulo said with an apologetic smile.
“Hey, chief.” I responded.
Though I only looked up from my book for a second I was able to make multiple notes on the difference in his appearance. Obviously the first thing I noticed is that he had been forced to shower. The smell of his typical presence was nowhere near the potency of times gone past. Obviously his overcoat and dirtied clothes had been taken at intake along with his shoe string of multiple keys. No, this time Paulo and I were on equal footing. Orange jumpsuits and a solo cup of Kool-Aid.
“You know, you used to call me boss. Is ‘ole boy’ a promotion or a demotion?” I asked.
“Yeah, I used to call you boss. I might call you boss again someday. Not when I find you like ‘dis do.” He replied.
“Oh, are you gonna bust my balls too? It’s not like that shit isn’t gonna happen when I walk out of this place you know. I got plenty of people on the outside that think I’m somebody I’m not waiting to hand me a new ass once I put civilian clothes on. I don’t need you coming up in here and adding insult to injury.”
“Stop it. Just stop it. I aint here to bust your balls, ole boy. I’m here because it’s time for a briefing. Three years you been dealin’ with this and its time all that comes to a stop. I tried to tell you it wasn’t gonna be easy filterin’ through his memories and yours. But you done gone and let what aint, be. And what you lettin’ be just aint. All that storm up there; that aint you boy. That aint neva’ been you. Maybe you think because you see it, that’s you. But that aint you boy. That aint eva’ gonna be you.” Paulo exclaimed as he shuffled his cards.
I stared at him for a moment. I didn’t know what the standard operating procedure was for dealing with an entity outside space and time that can at will insert itself into what we call reality, so clearly this was new ground for me. The only solution that I could come to was to sit back in disdain and say “Fuck you, man. You’re like,…not even from this plain of existence. What gives you the right to pass judgment on my screwed up decisions? You’re all up there and I’m all down here. You do your ascended shit and let me do my four dimension shit, ah ight?”
Paulo didn’t seem to be phased by my disdain. He simply continued to shuffle the cards and wait for me to cool down. I wasn’t going to get anywhere with him in that manner, that was obvious.
“Yeah, man. I’m sure. Sorry about all that. But you understand, right?”
“More than you think, ole boy. Can we get down to bidness now?”
“I think so.” I said as I popped my neck and spine.
Paulo watched as I got my shit together and prepared for the conversation we were about to have. There was a brief moment when he slowed down his shuffling of the cards, and in that moment I knew I was finally doing right. He watched me purge out thoughts and feelings for a moment then decided to stop the process. He slammed the deck of cards down on the table and waited until I opened my eyes directly into his.
“Who am I talking to?” he asked.
“You are talking to Daniel. That is who I am.”
“Good. Now tell me the first thing you remember when you got here.”
My eyes bobbed to the right for a moment before I was able to answer. There was still this part of me that didn’t want to answer, but I knew that I had to. I knew that if any progress was to be made I would need to go back to the beginning. To my beginning.
“I remember Iris. The first thing I remember when I got here is Iris.” I whispered.
A SONG TO PLAY US OUT…