by Stewart Wilson
Light glares through the curtains, bouncing off my eyelids and turning the world behind them an ugly shade of red. I hate early mornings. I fall out of bed, find glasses, swear at the sunlight and finally open my curtains.
Welcome to the world. It feels like this every morning, like I've woken up in a world I was dreaming of. I know that's not it, that this is my world, but every morning I look out over the spires of Milton Keynes' cityscape and take a minute just to drink everything in. Flying ambulances delivering patients for cures that ten years ago would have been magic. Glittering stars shine from jetpack exhausts. Tesla towers broadcast power through the air to every device people use these days. A science fiction dream made science fact.
Once the sense of wonder dies, I head through to the other room. This one's not got such a grand window, just a little thing more for the light than anything else. I push a button and the autocoffee machine delivers a cup of perfect java without me having to wait. A hatch on the counter has bacon, sausages and eggs ready for breakfast. Not synthetic, either. Real meat. One of the perks of being a hero that I managed to retain.
While breakfast cooks I shower and make the laserazor leave me a goatee. I want to see what I look like with a bit of a beard. I think it goes with the glasses. Then breakfast, eaten in my main room, before I think about what I'm going to do today. Because I don't want to think about that.
The plates and cutlery are all taken away for washing by robot arms, leaving me to sit in one of my sumptuously comfortable chairs and ponder doing nothing again. I smoke while I do so, plumes of ash, tar and other Bad Stuff™ shot high towards the ceiling or falling into an ashtray that's been around since the 1970's. I try to think of things to write about. I manage half an hour into a story about superhuman suicide squads before falling prey to depression again.
I didn't always do nothing with my days. I used to be a Science-Hero, psychic and expert on the weird and occult for the New Men. And that makes no fucking sense, but at least I was doing something. I had a role, I had something to do, and when I had the mental breakdown I still had enough money for a good flat in New Milton Keynes and real meat to eat every morning. But why was I a Science Hero to begin with, and why do I even now think of them with capital letters? we have near limitless energy. Sooner or later we're going to run out of problems. There's so little crime that the police mostly concern themselves with keeping people safe. Heroes are just another archetype, something that the world needs to believe in. Figureheads.
At this point in my train of thought I really should take my medication. All this is building up to something colossal in my head, something I won't be able to stop. The room pings and pops up a glass of water along with a couple of pills.
I throw the pills in the unmaker and drink the water neat. Ever since this breakdown of mine my head's been full of cotton wool. I haven't been able to get so much as a whisper from anyone's mind. Whenever I try to think about thinking, it all falls apart. I have the tools, but I don't know how to use them. I know that I need the medication — without it, I'm liable to break down again, everything I know scattered to the four winds. But today, today I've had too much. I can't live with this fucking cotton wool around my brain any more.
The alst few months have been a shambles. I was a science-hero, a fabrication of society whereby those capable of thinking dangerous things or doing things people in general couldn't were cast into a specific role in order to guide their actions. I was the slightly-weird one who had the answers. Even the glasses are part of the role. We have these roles even though there's not really anything for us to do in them, and what we end up doing is engaging in play-fights with other people who do and think things most people don't so that everyone else feels better about themselves. We do things to support the status quo or we do things our own way and wait for science heroes to kick the shit out of us.
Thoughts are slowly clicking into place. My brain is moving, like an old, rusty engine forced to move and do shit anyway, casting off chains and shackles and all the other metaphors for societal constraints on thought. After I had my breakdown I tried my hand at writing. That lasted me until my second breakdown. I didn't even realise I'd had a second breakdown before now. My writing was too close to the edge. I was too close to what I almost uncovered as a science hero. I had another breakdown to shield my mind.
Or did I? Did I really? Or did something make me have a breakdown? Paranoia is a side effect of the medication, I'm sure. I have to go out for some fresh air and some more smokes, maybe something to clear my mind. That's when the door buzzer goes. I punch the videophone that monitors the whole thing in the hallway. The image is screwy, it always has been, but I can make out Max, one of the guys I was a science-hero with. He comes by once a week for a drink and a smoke and a takeaway and we talk about the old times. I don't think he realises what's going on, the same as most people. Today I get to tell him.
"Hi, Max. Look, something's come up. You mind if we have our chat while we walk? I kind of need to hit the streets."
"Sure, but I brought the beers already."
"Don't worry abotu them. Drop them in my mailslot and they'll be fine."
At this point, I want to shatter his world. Part of me realises that doing so would lead to him calling the other Four Great Blokes and we'd have one of those stereotypical fights between the Team and the One Who Went Rogue and I'd end up on new meds or in a padded cell. Not a good idea. I try to act like what I remember as normal, giving the walls some time to break. We chat as we walk the city, picking up Indian incense and green vegetables, a new lazerazor cartridge and a copy of the Greater Key of Solomon. That last one earns me a weird look.
"You're not thinking of summoning a demon, are you?"
"Relax, Max. It's all metaphor. I was thinking... it's been a while since I helped you guys, and I know you're missing out on some occult support. I'm not a psychic any more, but you could still have me on call. And even if not, it's something to read while I remember what I used to do."
Max smiles and passes no further comment. We eat Greek, but I don't drink. I do break in to a new gross of cigarettes, watching the patterns in the smoke. A small, easy form of autohypnotism for me. The sort of signs I used to look for all the time. It's an interesting distraction.
it's dark by the time we leave and we're nearly knocked flat by a jetpack courier taking someone their night-time kebab or pizza or gyros. Not that I care. I tell Max I'll buy the beer and the meal next time to make up for the drinks he's lost, and head back to my flat.
I close the curtains in my main room. The world beyond is nothing more than a big distraction, something to sap my attention from the task at hand. Writing. I fire up the electro-type and pound out silly stories about giant artificial machines that look like people but wage war for planets, anything that I can write about to clear the rest of the metal rust. Halfway through I light some of the incense and breathe in.
Everything becomes so obvious now. The first breakdown was a reaction of society. The collective conscious mind. I knew too much, so I had been pressured into the role of science hero, but I couldn't stop thinking about my role. I was psychic and that was dangerous, better I look into the minds of the dangerously unique than the minds of the people around me. But the minds of the unique gave me ideas, and the world couldn't have that. Too many ideas are bad for a person. So I had a breakdown. Was forced to have a breakdown. Both the same thing. I was part of the system.
I tried being a writer after the breakdown. I was convinced that I wasn't a psychic and my head was filled with cotton-wool static to stop me thinking but my brain was more powerful than people imagine. I expect I had my gift because my brain operates as a semi-aware part of the universal consciousness, a brain cell with a mind of it's own, so I was clogged up and shut down, but that didnt' stop me. I wrote things that I didn't publish about the world. People recognised that about me and I had my second breakdown, I left myself nothing but the legacy of a wannabe writer and chain-smoker who used to be somebody.
But now I have my brain back. And I realise this. The unique, the clear thinkers and the weirdos, all of us forced into fringe roles by the world we live in are still part of it. We're still part of an over-mind, a conscious force that has shaped the world since the Sumerians when humanity first became truly conscious. My fingers fly over the keys as I document this.
We're at the mercy of the overmind because we are all part of the overmind. It sets up roles that we all fall into. We act out these roles because that's what the overmind knows we must do and thus what we know we must do. There are walls around our thoughts that prevent us seeing outside the box. But these walls only look deep. To study them is to fall into recursive reflection, falling through the infinite space in a mirror. To a free mind, the world of this over-mind is revealed for what it is — the world that humanity wanted. Except that this is what the overmind wants us to think. So many conscious minds all thinking the same thing, the result has to be conscious... I type faster, trying to capture the essence of what I am saying.
It's so fucking simple. Why didn't I think of it before?
More incense. Caffeine and smart drinks, tarot cards marking the points of a pentagram. Swords. Challenge and cutting through bullshit. That's what I'm going to do, right here in this scummy flat in New Milon Keynes. I'm going to cut through the bullshit of the overmind. I light another cigarette and fix my glasses. Stroke my goatee. It feels good. I focus on the smoke overhead and let my body sit while my mind explores.
I'm going to make psychic contact with the sum total of human consciousness.
Imagine the world around you is only the reflection in a mirror. But it's all you can see and you can't see yourself reflected in the mirror, so you think it's real. Now, smash that mirror and go on through it, up through the clouds into the wide blue yonder. Welcome to the astral plane, home of everything humanity thinks.
There are dreams and miracles here, beautiful worlds and hideous degradations both. All of those are islands, floating in the infinite blue sky. The overmind is not an island. The overmind is a fluid thing, covering the planet down below (take a look, don't worry, gravity means nothing here). And now it rears up, moving without really moving, just reshaping itself. A black thing, protruding from the planet it enshrouds, with a single red eye/lens framed in silver. And it thinks at me.
I can't describe it's thoughts. It wants a struggle. It gets one. Here on the astral, self-perception is everything and the overmind doesn't have much of a concept of self. I hurt it enough and it rears off, plotting another attack.
I send it a message: Stay out of my head. Leave me the fuck alone.
I don't sense acceptance but I don't need to. I sink back down to Earth, back through the looking-glass to my own body. Everything's burned out, words still glowing on the electro-type behind me. I gather the cards, easy as you like, light one last cigarette, and document my meeting with the overmind. I save that last one in a special place that only I know the keys to. When the time comes, I'll be able to free others. Help others to see that the world they buy into is an illusion. But not tonight.
I gather up the tarot cards and empty the ashtray. I sweep the detritus of the day into the unmaker, open a beer, and watch television until I head to bed.
Light glares through the curtains, bouncing off my eyelids and turning the world behind them an ugly shade of red. I hate early mornings. I fall out of bed, find my glasses, swear at the sunlight and finally open my curtains.
But this time, I'm looking forwards to the day.