|Andrew Lindemann Malone's Internet Playpen|
The past is prologue, prologue to more past. The future has already passed. The future is the past: in a different light. I tried to pass my past but everyone knows my future is my past unless they lock me away from it. Other people can lock you away from a past, but you yourself cannot pass it. The future knows what you have done and expects you to do more of it.
Trajectory is an ugly word, mostly because it sounds as harsh as it is. Since birth I have labored to achieve what I am doing now. The first minute since I was born determined the rest of my life. My early childhood has also determined the rest of my life. And especially my first sixteen years and nine months and seventeen days have determined the rest of my life. I could live for seventeen million years and never deviate from the course that I started on.
The first microsecond has spawned the trillions that followed it. It set me at an imperceptible angle from what I was supposed to be doing. And the trajectory swelled off of the line it was supposed to be following, creating my past and determining my future. My past is my will and dictates what I choose. The fact that I write this is an outgrowth of it. The fact that I sit in this room is an outgrowth of it. The fact that I will never live outside of walls again is an outgrowth of it.
This is what I am told.
I was just brought my meal. It came in through a little slot in the door. No one wants to open my door. The man who put it there, his life has a trajectory too. He does not want our trajectories to intersect in any way. He seems to know where my past is pointing. I do not know anymore.
I brought myself this meal. I brought myself to this place and to this room and my need for food brought the tray through the door. I am not hungry, but I am told I need food at four-hour intervals. Or someone has told someone that I do, and I am given food.
I live in a box. Beyond it is a long, narrow box connected to other boxes like mine. I do not know exactly what lies beyond the boxes. I do have a window in my box, four inches thick of unbreakable Plexiglass, but it shows only some other boxes, stacked upon each other, and a parking lot in the foreground, and a few weak trees.
Today it is raining and there is a sharp wind. I believe it is winter, because there are no leaves on the trees, although I have not been outside in a long time. I remember what rain feels like: a cold, penetrating, claustrophobic embrace. I think I remember what wind this strong feels like: a force specifically designed to cripple movement, when moving either with its direction and losing control of forward progress or moving against it and being unable to make any. A capricious, permeable wall.
The fluorescent light is shining too hard against the matte red walls of my box and I stare where I think the wind is. The wind shatters the trajectories of raindrops for a few seconds, then falls silent.
What I am, according to some people, is "dangerous to the community by reason of extreme mental detachment." When they decided that, they placed me here. I have been in this room for five years. I have a bathroom and they will bring me books from a list and sometimes let me exercise in a rank gym. My trajectory crosses the trajectories of others as little as possible. I could influence them badly. That is the thought behind it, anyway.
They think the past is eternally prologue. They think that my actions once will be my actions forever unless they take the proper precaution. I cannot surpass my past. I cannot change my trajectory myself. This is why I need to be medicated. This is why I need to be alone as long as I refuse to be medicated. This is why I am living in a matte-red box with four inches of Plexiglass looking onto other boxes and parking and weak trees.
Before I did it, they thought I was fine. That was my trajectory then, that I would continue to make B's in suburban school and graduate and go to college and be helpful to the community. Then I did it and now my trajectory is different. They say if it had been something outside of me that made me do it, I would not be punished like this. But I insisted it was me and so I am in my box, red matte and Plexiglass.
I changed my trajectory from okay to bad, but they say I can't change it myself from bad to okay again.
I don't really understand it.
They ask me about my dreams and I write them down for the psychologist to look at, because he doesn't want to be in the same room with me that often, I think, and because I used to write and they want me to keep doing it, they tell me. I thinkI rememberthat being honest is something you have to do to be okay in society. It doesn't seem to help.
"I wake up in a room, fluorescent lit from the bases of its walls, grey industrial carpeted, the walls rising in a trapezoidal form to a sixteen-foot high ceiling above me, with two dark windows on either side of a thirty by twenty foot room. The sensation of movement and an odd hum convince me I am on a very smooth-running, fast train. It is obviously night out as the windows are dark. I am in the room's corner. I look up and there is someone I am acquainted with from before the institution. He has a gun.
"It is not pointed at me but at some sort of wolf-beast. The wolf-beast resembles everyone I have ever seen somehow. Its main distinction from humanity is its enormous, sharp teeth, like tines on a pitchfork, gleaming white except where stained with blood. It slobbers wildly, pitching its spit with sharp turns of its head.
"The boy turns and screams for me to get out of the car. I go through a door towards the back of the car that I have to have pointed out to me with a wild gesture of the Glock 9mm. I step between the two cars and the same scene repeats itself, with all the particulars in place beyond the exact wording of the warnings and the identity of the people. There seem to be two to a car, and they are all people I knew before I came here.
"I go through this for seven cars, until the last car on the train. There is no door at the opposite side of this one. It contains some more wolf-beasts and two people I count as friends from before the institution, an Arab boy named Hassan and a white girl named Talia. They have the same 9mm handguns and shout the same frenzied warnings. I tell them I have been forced out of every other car on the train. Hassan tells me to wait in the corner.
"Talia, a beautiful girl, comes over to me while the wolf-beasts are in some sort of temporary catatonic state I had witnessed elsewhere in the train and counted as sickness or dementia. Talia explains that the beasts are in this catatonia when the time on a certain digital watch is an even number. She takes the watch out of her pocket and shows it to me. But when the time is odd, she says, they become murderous beasts. Only during the odd times are my friends, she and Hassan, everyone on the train, allowed to shoot the beasts.
"Hassan explains to me that he will be better able to shoot the beasts if he knows where they are going. He says I should go out into the middle of the room and wait until they exit catatonia. Act as bait. He says he is an excellent shot and will be able to pick them off before they reach me. Talia assures me of her shooting prowess as well.
"I have very few options. I go to the middle of the car and wait seventeen seconds. Then the clock turns. The wolf-beasts stay rooted to their spots. Hassan and Talia cannot shoot them as they are for some reason still catatonic. I wait fifty-five seconds and then they lunge at me. Hassan and Talia have lost their concentration and cannot get the shot off. Once they realize what has happened, they cannot manage a clear shot at the wolf-beasts, one that does not endanger me. The wolf-beasts manage to rip out my intestines before their odd minute is up.
"My intestines are hanging off one tooth of one of them when they enter catatonia. They may or may not feel pain, but I am not catatonic. The substance of my existence is slowly spilling itself across gray industrial carpet as two friends of mine look on. I cannot cry out, but only manage a soft moan.
"Hassan and Talia kill the beasts within about a half-second of the next change in time. Talia is the first to come over to me. She gets down on one knee next to me, has a tender look on her face momentarily, and says the following words:
"Sometimes people have to die during a war.'
"Her eyes are looking straight into mine. Her Glock rises in between my eyes, a line perpendicular to both her forehead and mine. She closes one eye as she pulls the trigger. Then blackness."
The psychologist thinks these dreams are symptomatic.
Would Talia have anticipated what I did, a year or so after I knew her? My past has determined my future, so my past when I knew her must have been sufficient to show my future now too. Maybe she could not have seen it. It is moot. I don't know her anymore.
This dream is part of my past now, and it was determined by things that happened in my past, so that it can be connected by a line to things that happened in the past. Everything can be connected to something else. Change does not occur outside of events forcing it to.
This does not make sense to me. I am told that I have no free will but I am being punished as if I did and then told that there are ways they can make my will be good and what they want it to be. And when it becomes what they think it should be, I leave. When that happens they are no longer forcing my will but it stays changed because things happened in the past to change it.
I have no control over my own actions, but they do.
I asked one of the psychologists about this and she said that it didn't work like that at all but that some stuff had happened in my past which was very bad and very dangerous to those around me and they were just here to help me change because it was just such a giant task that there was no way I could do it alone. They had to help change me, but the change would come from me.
I told her she had repeated what I had just said in soft terms.
Most of the day I read books. I like books with thick, very white paper, paper that feels substantial without being glossy. Also I will look out the window and try to remember what the weather feels like. It is 72 degrees here in the summer and 68 in the winter. There is stuff outside my room for me to do like puzzles and TV, but I would have to do certain things to be able to do that stuff and I don't want to do it enough. I would have to take medication, for one.
Sometimes I just sit on my bed and feel cold and feel like crying in the fluorescent light at night, and try to forget thought. I am limp sitting up.
The grass was blindingly green, recently mowed and absolutely perfectly maintained, a suburban high school's grassy play field on a summer day. The green was dizzyingly uniform in color and stretched unbroken to the horizon, where it met the white-blue of an ozone sky. It had recently been mowed, so it looked as if it had found its own level like a sea: green everywhere, forward and back and east and west. And above me nothing but ozone and below me nothing but grass.
The sun was brutal and cast no shadows.
The smell of the cut grass was overwhelming and dry and irritated my nose. The sun was blinding and I had to squint to see anything. Standing still, the dominant noise was the robust hum of a cicada swarm somewhere nearby. All else was silence. The occasional expletives or exclamations shouted by the people I was with sounded like the popping of a cap gun in the vast auditory emptiness.
I was an okay Ultimate Frisbee player, not much arm but accurate and a great defender. I was an excellent running back and a pretty good small forward, but none of these people liked to play those games. Possibly they thought this sport was more collegiate. In any case, I was not captain material but was always chosen third or fourth, after the athletes, because of my ability to guard against the long pass. I would stay behind my own defense and be ready to knock away throws headed to one of the fast people streaking towards the end zone, trying for the quick strike.
Today about thirty people were playing, shirts and skins, with discarded shirts marking off a large rectangle of grass as the playing field. I was about two-thirds of the way back from my team's goal. The Frisbee was quickly passed up to midfield by the other team and I was backpedaling when one of the long throwers got it and a short but extremely quick kid took off. I knew where it was going. I stayed about twenty feet farther downfield than him until the Frisbee took off.
I knew it was a heavy Frisbee, so it would have a lower apex and fly slightly slower but carry farther, and I knew there had been some odd gusts of wind so I tried to stay aware of those in case one came. If a gust of wind came and I was not paying attention the fast kid could probably beat me to the new spot. I saw the trajectory. It was a beautiful throw, but I had anticipated it. The fast kid was to the spot first, as I had expected, but the Frisbee wasn't there until I was. As it came down and the kid waited helplessly flat-footed for about one-and-a-half seconds, I stepped nicely in front of the kid to knock it away. It was satisfying.
I picked up the Frisbee and looked downfield. I was near the left sideline, in the end zone. No one had been down here from my team, because they had all been relying on me to make the play. Normally someone came up to meet me halfway because I couldn't throw very far accurately. No one had, and some were yelling for me to throw.
I went ahead and threw it. The throw ascended and held height for a while, longer than normal with my throws, which always seemed to end up leaving their courses. Then the wind gusted. The Frisbee veered, imperceptibly at first, but then pronouncedly, and went off outside the left sideline, where it would be turned over to the other team. One of the other team's true athletes picked it up and immediately threw it to the opposite corner of the end zone from where I was standing. The fast kid I had denied earlier eased up his sprint and glided under it to catch it and score the point just as I looked over my shoulder. I had been caught flat-footed.
Ben came striding across the field. Ben had been the second one picked for my team. He was a readhead, not as tall or strong as I was but not short or weak, either. He had a wild look in his eyes.
"What the fuck were you doing, Bennett?!"
"You fuckin faggot! You know you throw like a fag!"
I stared at him, twenty feet away and advancing.
"You fuckin could have lost us the game, fuckin loser. Do you even fuckin care?"
Of course I did. I stared.
"You fuckin "
He was bodying himself against me now, in my face, head darting as he talked, like a predator, looking for an angle of attack.
"Why are you out here if you don't want to play the fucking game?"
The sun beat down on my shoulders. I saw him yell but his words were lost to me in the cicada thrum. They sounded like china breaking on carpet. I saw his mouth form the words and knew what they meant. I was looking over his head at the grass and sky.
"What the Are you even fuckin listening to me?"
I stared. The sun pounded. The cicadas buzzed. I felt this cold unconsciousness stir in me that I had never felt before.
"LISTEN TO ME!!"
He grabbed me by the shoulders and jerked my head towards his.
"Say somthing for yourself, pussy faggot!"
My blood rushed and I felt something else in me step aside. It had always been there but suddenly I knew that it wasn't.
He threw a punch. When the punch was about halfway there I lost conscious control of my body.
When it ended, I looked back up at the sky and grass meeting and suddenly saw myself again: my hands were still in loose fists and covered with blood, my knee was resting on Ben's ribcage. Ben's face was unrecognizable. The other kids were white with fear and slack-jawed and gazing at Ben and me.
"Steve," one finally said. "Steve, what the fuck are you doing?"
I turned slowly to face him and saw the police cars coming. I looked down at my hands and back at Ben, and walked out towards the cars.
Ben died, of course; Ben was dead on the field. I had blocked his punch with my left hand, hit him with a right that had sent him reeling backwards, kneed him in the stomach and then the groin, thrown him on the ground, dropped my knee on his chest and beat his face in with my fists. I had hit him long after he had become unconscious, indeed long after he had died. But the important part of the encounter had taken about fifteen seconds.
I think Ben was not prepared for the idea that I could hit back.
I certainly wasn't.
I pleaded guilty but couldn't promise I wouldn't do it again, because I didn't know how I had done it in the first place. And they sent me here.
What made me do it is still unknown to me, but I remember very well what it was like; it is a permanent memory. Now I can say that I know there were stages that my brain went through on the way to the murder, and I could identify those stages if they happened again and remove myself instead of staying there, in the other man's face, staring. I can say I would recognize these stages and turn away from them, turn away from the situation. I can say I don't think about killing people all the time, or even part of the time, and I don't need medication because medication is for the people who can't stop thinking about violence, can't stop being violent.
I can say these things. But these things are words to them. Air blowing over the face of a dead man, to them.
I think I could go back out in the world and be what I was supposed to be. They think I cannot. I will never find out who is right.
The wind is still whipping the rain out of lines into slants. I sit back and close my eyes and try once again to remember what it feels like.
All this tasty writing ©2002-11 by Andrew Lindemann Malone. All rights reserved.