He laid there, his eyes sunken and face drawn, left arm cut off above the elbow. He was exhausted from the intense headaches, the uncontrollable convulsions and twisted stomach. His legs were sore, muscles throughout his body prone to quick cramping causing soreness in places he didn’t know existed. And another one was coming soon.
His thoughts offered a subjective view, as if he was viewing himself from a distance, but make no mistake, he still felt it all.
His back arched then, and his face contorted in agonizing pain, eyes shut so tight even those hurt, but that was nothing, when compared to everything else. He tried to cover his face with his left arm, when he realized it was nothing but a nub; quickly, he moved his right arm over his face, his eyes resting firmly in the comfortable bend of his elbow.
It was just one more. It was always one more.
His body calmed for a short while. A solitary tear found its way out, streaking what little of his cheek could be seen in a fine, glinting and somewhat erratic line down to his jawline.
His stomach was empty, but the dry heaves came anyway. He was lucky to get even a little bit of acid to come up. Was it sad that he actually hoped to have some acid come up with his distinct lack of vomit?
Night’s out. As the darkness enveloped him, he felt an odd warmth, despite the cold of the room and the lack of blankets.
What the fuck was he thinking? Even he knew it couldn’t last. Nothing ever does. And yet, he kept at it, as though it would never catch up with him.
Perhaps it wasn’t so much that he thought it wouldn’t catch up to him though; perhaps it was deeper than that, a deep-seated desire, a need even, for the fix. He had tried it all, but heroin was the only thing that really brought him out of himself. It was the only release from the hell of life. Perhaps his body’s need began with a need for his mind to be freed from the memories. Perhaps it was all just an excuse.
No one would have guessed, looking at him now, that he graduated as valedictorian from his high school. No one would have guessed that he graduated summa cum laude from MIT at the age of 19 with a Masters and two Bachelors. Hyper intelligent with a bright future, he got lost along the way when a past he had buried came back to haunt him.
He drew deeper and deeper within himself. He was done. Damaged goods. Broken. Soon, with these comforting thoughts of pure loneliness to keep his spirits up, he drifted off to troubled sleep.
“Brian Frederick Greene!” came the announcement over the speakers. Cheers were heard throughout the auditorium for him, and he felt such a sense of pride as he walked across the stage. He was loved.
“Thank you sir!” Brian said, with the biggest smile and bright gleam in his eye.
“No need for thanks, young man, you deserve it. You’re going to change the world.” He certainly planned to. He was going to head back to MIT after a short break to get his PhD in Particle Physics. His goal was to be at CERN within a few short years, and from the sound of his professors, had a real shot at getting in.
It all started during the summer after he graduated from MIT. He had found a job as part of a research team looking for evidence of dark matter alongside some of the greatest minds in the world. At first, it was nothing more than flashes or images coming across his mind. But soon, they infiltrated his dreams.
“Brian, you look like shit this morning, have a fun night?” his roommate Cameron was always quick to point out the obvious.
“Thanks, Captain…” he let the rest of it hang there, he knew Cameron would catch his drift.
“You’re very welcome. But seriously, what’s up?”
“Nightmares, and I have no idea where they’re coming from. They looked and felt so real, and no matter what I do, I can’t shake ‘em,” the look on Brian’s face was certainly enough to show his concern. But he’d made it through worse.
“So is that to mean that you have been having these nightmares for a while now?” Not much got past Cameron, good thing he was a friend as well.
“Yeah, couple of months now.”
“Wanna talk about it?”
“Nah, I’ll be okay. Thank you, though. I gotta head to work or I’ll be late.” And with that, Brian made his way to his car.
Two weeks pass.
“Brian!” Dr. Stephenson called out.
“I’m here, sir. How can I help you?”
“You can help by getting some sleep. You look like you haven’t slept in weeks.”
“I’ve just been having nightmares, it’s nothing serious,” Brian’s words weren’t even able to persuade himself of his statement, how could he think he could pull the wool over the professor’s eyes?
“I’m giving you the rest of the day. If I were you, I’d go talk to Dr. Franks,” he was sincere.
“The shrink?!” Brian’s voice was elevated as he stood, incredulous that Dr. Stephenson would dare suggest such a thing. “I don’t need a shrink, I just need some sleep.”
“If your mind is unable to process something, your sleep won’t come until you release it. Either you go on your own accord, or I’ll bring some intervention to aid you in going.” The Dr. was clearly agitated, and more importantly, was seriously concerned about his young protégé.
Brian walked off, pissed, but he knew he was going to head over to Dr. Franks’ office. He had no choice, and he knew that this wasn’t just something he could sleep off. His work life had been faltering, to be sure. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt.
The shrink’s office was the epitome of pretentious. With its motivational posters and bright walls, a cheery receptionist whose smile could brighten the darkest night, and books on the health of the human mind lining the wall, anyone walking in there would know this guy was the end all-be all of mental health professionals.
“Hi! You must be Brian!” the receptionist’s loud and boisterous voice certainly made him come to. “We’ve been expecting you!”
“Uhhhh, thanks,” he said with a raised eyebrow, “I guess I need to visit with Dr. Franks?” He realized his last statement came out as more of a question.
“Yes, go on back, the Doc is waiting for you,” Beverly said, with a smile.
Brian walked over to the door and tentative knocked and turned the knob simultaneously. “Come on in,” came the reply from the other side of the door. “Please, have a seat.”
Brian went over to the couch without a word and sat down. How so very cliché, he thought to himself, I get to sit on the shrink’s couch. He realized then that his tiredness coupled with his cynicism was proving to be a bad thing, especially in light of the situation. He figured he’d play along.
“So, you were expecting me, huh doc?”
“Yeah, Dr. Stephenson called me, so I cleared the next few hours. Let’s figure this thing out and get you back out there, because Jim doesn’t want you back out there until you’re getting sleep again. Apparently, you’ve been more of a liability of late.”
“I suppose I have,” Brian admitted, almost more to himself than to Dr. Franks.
“So tell me about these nightmares.”
“I don’t know where to start. They’re horrible, and every time I fall asleep, they’re there, haunting me. To be honest, I am a bit worried. I’ve always been so rational, and these…well, they’re just wrong.”
“I understand. Perhaps the best way to be rid of your nightmares is to get them out in the open. Maybe what you need to do is simply trust. I’m here to help, nothing more.”
“You’re probably right. Well, they all started with flashes and images going through my mind, often triggered by something, a color or a situation.”
“A trigger is typical of memory, not of foreshadowing nightmares.” The doc was careful to read Brian’s face.
“That’s why this is so troublesome. I read up on it all, I’m fairly sure I’m dealing with a memory trying to make its way out. But I have no cognitive recognizance of this event.”
Replying in a reassuring tone, the doc said, “This is why you need to trust me. Just tell me what the nightmare is, and we’ll start from there.”
“Alright. I was viewing the dream as though a spectator. I could see a man, he looked like my father, you know, from the one picture I have of him. Anyway, he appeared to be sexually assaulting a boy, and a woman who looked like my mother was clawing at his face, it looked like she was trying to pull him off the boy, who couldn’t have been more than 3 years old.
“At any rate, my dad was able to grab my mom, jumped off the boy and choked her out, slamming her head into the wall and was quickly on the boy again. I felt hopeless, powerless, as I could only watch and not act. As I drew closer I could see the boy more clearly…he was me. I was bleeding, my face was beaten and battered, but it was me. I couldn’t tell if the boy was dead or just unconscious.
“As I watched my father literally fuck the little lifeless body I grew more and more angry, and somewhere deep inside, I felt a rage, a burning hatred that welled up from who knows where. I saw the boy wake up and start screaming. He was screaming for mom to help him, dad slapping him every time he said anything. I stepped back and realized that mom was gone.
“Next thing I knew, a gun was fired and dad’s head was blown off, with the boy looking right up into his face. With the body limp, it just landed on the boy, bleeding out all over the poor little thing. Mom didn’t even help me out from under the limp body, she just collapsed,” Brian’s face went down, his face somber as the realization washed over him, this was a memory. Never in his life could he remember feeling so vulnerable. So utterly frightened.
This whole time Dr. Franks had only listened, and even now in the silence that followed the telling of such a nightmare, there was nothing to be said.
“Brian, are you okay?” his voice was less arrogant, less pompous, less…just less. It had an air of true concern.
“No…” the young man’s voice simply trailed off, lingering.
“Your records indicated that you grew up with a foster family sometime after becoming a ward of the state. There are no records pertaining to your parents within your files. Would you like me to find out what I can?”
“I don’t know what to do, doc.” Tears were filling his eyes. Brian soon felt the touch of the doctor, who had somehow evolved from a master of his craft to a helpless bystander in minutes. “I don’t know what to do.”
Over the next weeks, Brian retreated into himself. Even with regular visits to Dr. Franks, they were both out of their depth.
Eventually, Brian found himself at a bar, drowning his memories in alcohol. But before long, even that wasn’t enough. He never returned to work. He never returned to school. He had made a friend at the bar, a friend who had survived a similar traumatic childhood. Apparently, his new friend used cocaine to drown out his pains.
It may have taken some years, but Brian cracked, pardon the pun. Starting with cocaine, he quickly spiraled into the drug underworld, trying to find that thing that could cure him of his ails. By this point, Dr. Franks was little more than a memory, often met with derision when mentioned by Cameron, who had since distanced himself. Cameron’s problem was that he still cared, and still believed Brian to be within reach…
Heroin became his drug of choice. There was a stillness to be found in it, and even though the memories were still there, they were somehow more distant, and as long as he could keep them there, he might be able to find a way to live. He could smile again. He could drown out the memories and the memories of the nightmares that plagued his conscience. Of course, he had now killed a man who bought the last of the heroin off the dealer, poor idiot never even saw the three inch pipe coming for his face, turned his head into shattered bone. Worked out well in Brian’s favor actually, one less man to fight with when it came to supply, and he didn’t have to pay for it.
At some point, Brian fully alienated everyone who had ever cared for or loved him. The only partner he shared his life with was that lovely heroin. And it wasn’t about an addiction, he didn’t need it for that. He needed it so he could just make it another day. Ironically, he never saw that he had stopped living a long time ago. And then his arm… His arm was getting worse and worse, and he kept shooting up. His arm was swollen and grotesque, an infection had set in, and it didn’t take long for a wandering fool in agonizing pain to draw attention from the cops.
He was thrown in jail, and without the use of any medications whatsoever, his arm was sawed off. The rest, as they say, is history.