July 15-17, 2006
Now that I was dosed on an anti-psychotic, I was much calmer, although thoughts of the Conspiracy had not been banished completely from my mind. The weekend passed, and Fred and I took the return trip. There was no trouble along the way. We recovered my Jeep from the parking lot in front of the bookstore, and went back to our house.
Once at home I contemplated what had happened and what I had learned about the Conspiracy. The insight about how they used genealogical records to eliminate whole families of victims at once was important. It meant that it was essential to keep tabs on my relations, something I could do using e-mail. I had also learned that there were problems with departing on a trip suddenly and in a panic. It was best to be prepared ahead of time.
I decided to try relaxing, even though I was uncertain what the effects would be now that I was taking Zyprexa. As usual, my mind raced with thoughts about the Corporation's evil plots and how I could possibly outmaneuver them. I should have known better. I starting forming a plan for how I would escape the Corporation's clutches. I would pack up a suitcase or bag so that I would always be ready to leave at a moment's notice. I would start hording cash, so I could travel without leaving an electronic trace. I would have to gradually accumulate a horde by making small withdrawals from ATMs. Too much at once would draw attention.
I thought about where I could go. I had relatives in Texas - that could be a good choice, since the state was notoriously independence-minded and might be difficult for the Corporation to penetrate with its schemes. But I would have to simply head straight for that sanctuary without notifying anyone, because any forewarning to my relations could be intercepted, as subsequently I would be as I travelled. For now, I would stay in touch with my extended family via e-mail, to keep tabs on everyone. Just friendly chit-chat, not letting on that anything was amiss.
On Monday I had an afternoon appointment with the psychologist I had seen earlier. But first I had to face the music at work. Frank, the boss, called me into his office. He was there with his manager, Vince. I was lectured about missing work without giving advanced notice. I had skipped out on the last two days of the previous week, after all.
"Your father called me," Frank said. "We talked." This was news to me. I wasn't sure what my father would have said to him.
"We're worried about you," said Vince.
That was understandable.
"You need to make sure this never happens again," Frank continued. "You need to be careful. We know about your call to Florence, too."
Of course I realized that Frank was right; I did need to be careful. Now they had an easy way to get to me - all it took was one slip-up on my part. Sullen, I returned to my desk.
As I sat there I overheard Lloyd telling Dan and Nora about his week off. Something about disaster preparedness training. Or so he claimed. A new possibility emerged in my mind - could it be that he was one of the Corporation's agents? His week of military leave had coincided with the operation in my neighborhood. Maybe he had been one of the operatives, mercilessly executing the Corporation's agenda that night. He might be an agent and not even realize it. They could be using some sort of brainwashing technique to use him as a sleeper. Nothing was beyond these people.
Accompanied by these depressing thoughts, I went to see the psychologist. I told her about what had transpired over the weekend, more or less. I told her that I had been to a doctor in another city and been prescribed Zyprexa.
"That's powerful stuff," she said knowingly.
She recommended that I start seeing a psychiatrist, since I was now being treated with medication. There was one in her practice, and she set up an appointment for me. Not much else was accomplished, and then there was the considerable charge. I understood that therapy was a slow process, since it took time to build trust, but it didn't seem like I was getting my money's worth.
Once home from work, I noticed that the house next door that had been empty for so long now showed signs of life. So I steeled my nerves, went over to the house, and knocked on the door. Shortly afterwards it was opened by a middle-aged man. He looked at me suspiciously.
I asked him how his wife was, since I had heard that she was sick. He told me she was doing much better, but was still receiving treatment. I expressed my sympathy, then asked him if it seemed that there was something going on in the neighborhood. Did he hear gunshots sometimes? He became even more suspicious, and as best as I could I politely ended the conversation and returned to my home.
Before long the doorbell rang. It was my neighbor.
"How did you know my wife was sick?" he asked.
I told him about the elderly man I had seen at his house who had talked to me about it.
He nodded his head. He seemed less suspicous of me. "You know," he said, "I do hear gunshots sometimes. I don't know what's going on."
Just then came a series of sharp, explosive sounds. They came from somewhere not too far away. Gunshots, maybe, or it could have been fireworks. We just stared at each other, not saying anything, while the shots continued to resound in the hot, humid, summertime evening air. It didn't matter what was actually causing the sounds, just that it was clearly a message to me. They were listening in on the conversation using the bugs in the house, or using my dental implant. And they were mocking me.
July 18, 2006
On Tuesday I had an appointment with the DMV. I had to take the on-the-road driving test; this was mandated by the fact that I had had a seizure a couple of years back. I was lucky to be allowed to drive at all; that had required a signed form from my neurologist.
I went to the designated location late in the afternoon. There was the obligatory wait, of course, and then my number was called. I met my instructor, and we went out and got into my Jeep. She seemed surly, like she had been having a rough day.
I went out into traffic, merging and turning as she instructed me. I was careful to use my turn signal, look in my mirrors - to do everything just right. I was nervous about the slightest mistake costing me my driving privileges. That would certainly interfere with my plans for escape.
Eventually we got through most of her checklist of driving tasks. Then, she had me pull off onto a side street, one I hadn't even known existed. It was unpaved, a stretch of gravel road that went off into the woods. It appeared to dead end.
"Now you are going to do a three-point turn," the instructor said, in somewhat of a monotone. "Pull up to there and come to a stop." She was indicating a spot where the road was a little wider.
Fear gripped me. I realized this could be it. We were alone on a sunny stretch of road, completely surrounded by trees. I was being instructed to perform a maneuver during which I would briefly be unable to drive off, for just long enough for killers lurking in the forest to strike.
I pulled slowly up to the wide spot on the road, hesitant to stop. I tried to appraise my surroundings, to find some sign of my waiting executioners, but it was difficult to do so while following directions. The instructor seemed to think I was failing to understand her. "You are going to do a three-point turn here," she repeated, in a tone at once firm and flustered.
My agitation was clearly affecting her. I went through the motions, trying to control my panic. I wasn't certain she was an agent of the Conspiracy, and if I overreacted and upset her, there might be consequences.
Time slowed and everything grew brighter. The trees glowed, sunny and green. Breathing deeply to calm myself, I backed up, pulled forward, as smoothly and quickly as I could. This was the moment of truth, the moment they would be most likely to strike. The "instructor" seemed exasperated with me, as I tried to act as natural as possible.
I backed up. The third point in the turn. I was now turned around, aligned with the road again. Was this it? I put the vehicle in gear and headed toward the main road and relative safety. The instructor was slumped in the passenger seat, as though as relieved as I was that the ordeal was over.
Back at the DMV office she signed off on the driving test. I had survived another encounter with the Conspiracy, and kept my driver's license.
July 19-20, 2006
As the week progressed I put my escape plan together. I went out and purchased a duffel bag, and packed away some changes of clothes inside it. I also bought a new toiletries bag, and filled it with soap, deodorant, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and whatnot. Into the duffel bag it went. And I began accumulating cash in my wallet, by making repeated modest withdrawals.
I continued to relax after work, even though I knew that was probably a bad idea. I had supplies remaining and didn't want to waste them. As my thoughts churned I imagined Lloyd participating in the grim work of cleaning out my neighborhood. Was he so amoral that he could perform those violent acts and then appear calm and normal the next week at the office? Or was his mind controlled so that he did not even realize what he had done?
I also began to conceive of a new threat.
My roommate George wasn't around much any more, for some reason. I think he was annoyed with us at having been left alone with the cats over the weekend. But Fred still did hang out at the house, and I imagined that the Corporation might recruit him to get at me. He was unemployed, after all, and could certainly use the extra money. And he seemed to have developed some resentment and hostility toward me.
My fears grew stronger with each passing day. I began to dread returning home after work. Then, on Thursday evening, Fred and I were together in the kitchen. He was speaking to me slowly and deliberately, just the usual random stuff he always said. But as he did so he moved towards the block of knives on the counter. He fingered the handle of the cleaver as he continued to speak. It was ominous.
I stood there near him, breathing slowly and steadily, gripped by tension. Was he going to draw the knife and strike? Finish me and collect his payment from our mutual masters? Time was suspended as the possibility lingered in the heavy air. I could feel my skin flushed and my hairs standing on end. Carefully, gradually, I backed away, and retreated to my room.
I had no way of locking my bedroom door, so I listened attentively through the night for the sound of someone coming up the stairs. Until whenever it was that I finally fell asleep.
July 21, 2006
On Friday I was perturbed all day long by thoughts about Fred and the threat that he represented to me. As the work day progressed I grew more and more agitated, and by the time I should be leaving I was at wit's end. I feared a repeat of the scenario from the previous weekend, of panicking and losing control. So I sent my father a chat message.
Hi. Where are you?
Is everything alright?
(after a pause) You need help.
I don't know what to do.
You need to go to the hospital.
Find one that is recommended by your company's mental health plan.
I didn't really like this suggestion, but I did not know what else to do. My anxiety about Fred's potential murderous intentions was at a point where I dared not return home. I looked on the Corporation's internal web site and found a page in the HR section which listed some nearby mental health facilities. The one that seemed easiest to drive to was a regional hospital with a behavioral health center. Another Internet search gave me directions to drive to it. I copied these by hand onto a piece of paper.
I sent my father one last chat message letting him know where I was going, including the address copied from the web page.
I got into the Jeep and headed out into the rush hour traffic. I was calm, considering my overall mental state. I drove into an area where I had never been before, trusting the directions I had written down. Traffic was heavy, but moving steadily. There was a sense of inevitability, as though I was being swept along in a tide of commuters.
Inexorably, I reached my destination, a large hospital complex just off a main road, surrounded by parked cars. I turned into it, found the long-term parking, and left the Jeep there. I walked through the ER entrance, into a crowded waiting room. A police officer stood, watching the people who were milling and scurrying about. I looked for the place where I should sign in to be admitted as a patient. A plexiglass window appeared to be the right choice.
Once admitted, I knew, I would be at the mercy of the hospital staff. I was all alone, anxious, afraid. Was I sure I would be safe from the Conspiracy even here? They might be in control of this hospital. Or it might simply be part of their design to ensure that anyone smart enough to figure out their machinations would end up marginialized in a mental institution. Could I just be playing into their hands?
What ultimately guided me, I believe, was a small part of me that, through the fog of my fear and doubt, understood that something was wrong with my thought processes. I walked up to the window. The police officer seemed to take no particular notice of me. A woman at a desk pushed a clipboard through a slot at the bottom of the window. I ingored it, and told her I was there to admit myself because of my paranoia.
She looked slightly taken aback, and then told me to wait. She made a quick call using the phone on her desk. Shortly afterward, another woman, an orderly in blue garb, came up to me and directed me to sit with her in some plastic chairs lined up against one wall of the room.
The orderly was about my age, and looked worn out from work, but also genuinely concernced for me. She had a small stack of papers which she began filling out with information as she questioned me. She got my basic personal information, and my insurance information. Next was the question of why I had come.
"I'm afraid that someone's trying to kill me. They're out to get me. My employer, or my roommate."
"Hmm. Do you think you might be out to get yourself?"
"And you came here because..?"
I felt the hestitation in my voice. "Can I...is it possible I can admit myself..?"
"Hmm. Let me see." She jotted down some notes. I could just see some of the words on her paper: paranoia...denies suicidal ideation... She stood, and the words on the paper left my line of sight. "I'll be right back," she said. "Wait here." She went through a door into the space behind the plexiglass window. To where the phone was, I surmised.
Presently the ordrely returned. "I'm going to take your vitals," she said. "Then I'll take you down to the behavioral wing, ok?"
I nodded my acquiescence, and she took my temperature and my blood pressure. Apparently satisfied with the results, she then led me through the hospital, down the wide, clean, cold and brilliantly lit hallways to some far section of the building. We reached a point where a set of large, steel double doors separated a wing from the rest of the facility. A guard posted at the door controlled access through them. At her sign, he opened them. We crossed the threshold.
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