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The world just seems to spin around the muffled corridor I’m standing in.
Here, the faint hum of fluorescent lights
embeds in my unconsciousness
like a sleeping madness I can’t hear.
Dormant--.
And the Hypochondriac,
out of the many selves occupying me,
is the one that surfaces.
And I’m suddenly struck by the thought
that the descent into schizophrenia must be worse than Death itself.

But I’m not mad,
the Rationalist says.

Okay.

I’m just standing in this hypothetical hallway,
with the whole left side of my face plastered against this door.
Maddening. Maddening.
Light laughters rippling on the other side.
Glasses clink, beyond.
They must be having a party,
all light-green.
Camaraderie.

My fingers scrabble blindly for the
doorknob, won’t you rattle?

The murmur of voices through the wood is
maddening, beckoning,
uproarious, even,
as I smack the door.
Hear me?
Smack. Roar. Smack. Roar.

I can hardly breathe, my heart nerve-strung, my wits scattering like beetles.
The mummies died.

Something in me wants to cry, but I have to be mute.
The only thing in the corridor that isn’t me
is my animal scuffling.

Act adult now.
No Butts,
one of the voices says,
watching with a cold, sarcastic eye.

But I thought you were dead,
I reply,
it’s locked it’s locked it’s

No answer.

I sink down slowly,
sliding my sweaty palms over the doorface until I wrap my arms around my knees,
and go to sleep. For a little while,
as the sounds of the party within waft out in little, dynamic bursts
until they dissipate into white noise.
Until I wake up
and adjust my mask,
and walk through an open door I had missed earlier.

My eyes widen like a cat’s.
It’s a dark, dingy room, like a dilapidated coffee shop.
And somehow, yet, I know,
this is not all there is, so
gingerly, gingerly,
I weave myself through a maze of thrifty wooden chairs.
Deeper, deeper in,
the place grows wider, wilder.
Linoleum gives way to grass in the dark,
the ceiling to the stars.
I breathe at last.

Before me, mountains stretch.
On one of these,
the glass citadel stands.
Impenetrable.

As I advance,
light grows, expands.
I see.
At last. At last.

A whimsical breeze flutters and flirts with me,
brings the smell of jelly-beans,
sweet tangerines,
but I smell Autumn in it—
Dusty fuel for fire,
and Death.
But I ignore this and advance.

So with the breeze fisking at my back,
I came to the Garden of Earthly Delights,
a sackcloth wanderer with half-frightened eyes peeping through my mask.

You can see the citadel from here,
stabbing the land with long shadow under the midday sun.
This path here goes toward it.
But first, you have to pass through that wood where nightmares grow.
The bravest of you go.
But I’ll kill you first.
Because if I can’t have it,
then no one will.
He’s mine! He’s mine!

I repulse you, don’t I?
In this Garden of Madness.
Fungus creeps over the apples of our eyes.

All dreams end,
I say,
but my teeth are clenched so tight,
that a senseless grunt is all that bubbles out.
My foot raises to stamp,
but stops,

as music splits the air:
The Devil’s music,
playing with my heart-strings,
until I rise, nose-first,
like a ripe balloon.

Look how the beast is gentled, they say.
Such is the power of music.

I want to spit,
but mesmeration catches me,
swift and sparkling,
like a coat of dreams
with its golden tassels spinning in the air.
Spinning to nowhere.

Who is the lord of the citadel?
I entreat,
Whose lands are these?

See for yourself,
replies the dream.

He plays the Devil’s instrument, I wonder aloud
as we reach the citadel—
The door’s opening!

I blink.
A pair of eyes blinks back at me.
His mask’s awry.
Strings shatter.
He shrieks, voice cracking,
“I don’t need your help!”

And I’m back in the old corridor.
Just like that.

You fool. You naive fool,
the voice says inside my head.
I shove it back and stumble,
seeing another open door up ahead.

Here we go again.





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