The Strange – Episode 29 – InVision

Goldberg found himself pedaling his bike with it’s distinctive “bood-ie-hop-mmm” sound down thirteenth street towards eighth and away from campus.  He wasn’t quite sure how he’d made it this far, couldn’t think of how he got up the hill from the Pen, didn’t really remember saying good bye to Joy, though he did vaguely remember “If you need me, call me” and the concern on her face.

The red warning of the guy on the balcony and the craziness of Teague, of all people, knocking the guy’s lights out had spooked him.  He was only now coming back into his mind.

“What the ever-loving fuck?  I … I really wish I had just a second to slow down and think.  Hiding had clearly not worked for me.  Maybe running?…”  He realized that he was well beyond the turn off to Third, which would have taken him home.  Running was happening already.

“Gotta think.  Gotta clear my head.  Ganja was a bad idea.”  He snorted at that.  “Story of my life.”

The downhill slope of the street at this point made the noise of his tires into a hyperactive hiccup.  “Just got to think.”

His mind, still stoned, looked down at the post of the bike, where it met the handlebars.  Once again, he imagined himself as a tiny man watching this from the balcony of some kind of theater on a huge screen.  He’d had this feeling before, generally while high, and it always amused him.

He tried not to look at the corner of his vision, where the glasses cut off, but soon enough he noticed a peculiar tunnel vision.  More peculiar still, the rhythm of the noise from his ten-speed piece-a-shit slowed to his ear.

The tunnel in his vision popped away.  The cadence slowed even more.  Goldberg became concerned about balance and traumatic injury and road rash.  The view of the outside world receded and slowed still further until he could see the edges of the screen, notice the speakers.  Turning his head, he found the view to the outside still showed on a very huge screen.  That screen showed the handlebars and the now very slow passage of the street under his front wheel.

His view, his new view, the view of the little man inside of his head looking at the huge screen from a balcony, was … just that.  Except his seat was really nice.    Like one of those plush desk chairs that was good but not so overly ornate or big or high backed that you sagged into it.  A nice improvement over the worn bike seat that was giving him a wedgie the size of Kansas and was threatening to numb his junk.   He looked at his hands and feet.  Totally normal.  He was that little man.

This not being his first hallucination, he took full advantage of it and looked around, swiveling his chair.  The view over the balcony was into just a blank floor stories below.  The ceiling was way high and on his side of the balcony, it was a regular-sized ceiling with different screens and monitors lining the walls.  Turning almost all the way around he noticed a table with two drinks on it that had been slightly behind him with his original vantage point.  Grabbing the one nearest him, he saw a hand grab at the other.

He could have sworn he was looking in a mirror as he glanced up.  There he was, new haircut, red rose sunglasses, nose too big for either.  He waved his right hand and the other waved his left.

“You wanted to think and I thought it might be a good time to have a chat,” The Other said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Loveless dreamed of black and white.  He’d worked on the problem with the model until sleep finally claimed him, yet his work followed him into his dreams.  Even here he hated surprises.  While there was color here in the dream, or there would be if viewed objectively, Loveless didn’t dream in black and white, he dreamed of black and white.

In this dream, loveless walked down University, just at the corner where Hogstown State started, past the bookstore and around the corner from the burrito place.   He looked at the color, the clear blue sky, the birds, the unrestrained throng of students and cars and bikes and everything.  Color and noise and indecision and formless nonsense and bustle.  All around – chaos.

The color was just one aspect of it, but it was emblematic.  It held no certainty.  Was this blue a black or a white?  Maybe it was a navy blue that looked like black.  Maybe it was a very dark blue that was impersonating black or was the blue in an LED streetlamp that impersonated white.   Would it be or not?  Would it appear or not?  Left or right?  Up or down.  The noise of it!  The chaos!

He brought his hand down hard and smashed the world flat.  The black of nothing was pierced in only two dimensions by this flat world as loveless once again raised his hand.  This time he made a passing wave and filleted the world by color, assigning each a dimension and either a black tile for present or a white tile for not present.  He could have gone with white for true and black for false, but it didn’t really matter.  At angles to these planes of color identification he created more superficial properties, cold and hot, again as numbers that would further be pivoted to yes or no, blossoming off as Loveless focused on more interesting qualities.  Moving or not moving, connected or separate.  To these he pulled his hand back and stretched them through time creating discrete points each with their own qualities, each manipulated and perverted to render themselves in being or not being.  Though this, Loveless formed order from chaos.  Certainty.

No scales.  It either is or is not or is probably white or not.

In his dream, the world swirled around as either or.  There was no gray.  It was or was not and then had the probability of either.  And then one probability affects the probability of other aspects to be in or not.  Black or white.

Loveless floated through his dream of black and white, certain of it all.  The dimensions and probabilities flowed around in certainty of being.  And even then, when a thing was probabilistic, if looked at close enough the outcomes themselves either are or are not in themselves.  What would be grey are vanishingly small points of certainty.

Color splashed through his certain world.  A new issue as yet unaddressed in the model he’d created.  Loveless dissected it with new dimensions.  Though it fought him, in the end, he was the master.  Even this splash of color would resemble a checker board by the time he was done with it.  He would will it.  Cut it.  examine it.  Find it’s pattern.  Find it’s certainty.

And he did.  This seemingly random issue came to a mundane wrinkle, like all others.

Except…

Before him lay a splotch… two splotches.  Red.

An obvious pattern laid across the white and black sea of constantly shifting dimensions and ever resolving probabilities.  Two red splotches.

A simple geometric pattern, yet they defied quantification.  They remained… qualitative.  Squirming.  He imposed his will and yet it refused to cooperate.

Frustrated, He reached out to pick it up.

The glasses, for that is what they were, slapped themselves to his face.  Everything became red as blood or the sickly black of bile.  Certainty shifted into chaos as dimensions collapsed and probability defied expectations.  The wave forms refused to collapse, no matter how hard he stared under this new sight.

He grabbed at his face.  The glasses, though crude and wirey, remained resolute.  All around, the struggle cleared away the carefully laid constructs that kept the hues of the uncontrolled world to a minimum and the scalars confined to ones and zeroes, left and right, up and down.  The certainty of is or is not broke down completely.

With a great expenditure of will, he wrenched the glasses free.  His bare eyes witnessed nothing short of chaos.  Color and form, property and action and relations all swirling randomly.  And within that colorful and misshapen form, danger lurked.  The chaos Loveless feared.  Things uncategorized and untamed haunted him from the cover of wavering confusion.  He began again to master this domain into the black and the white, but it no longer fit.  He could not find the thread.  The pattern changed and changed again.  Something kept it in motion.

He wandered off to find a truly dark place in this new world.  Finding it, he looked down at the glasses that changed his world.  He knew these glasses.  He knew who wore them.  Goldberg.  The jackass from the lottery, the Collector’s house, the picture Vic took of his weird ass wearing glasses, these glasses.

He put the glasses on once more and found that the world resolved back to a state of polar color, but instead of black and white, it was now blood and bile.

Well, Loveless could live with that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A green canopy let only bits of light down to the forest floor.  In the distance, the village appeared, but that was not his destination.

Delgado realized that he was much too close to the ground, as if he were on a belly crawl.  The sounds of the jungle and the things that lived inside of it were all around and sharply in focus for him.  As he walked, he noticed, unsurprised, that his paws padded the well-worn path.  Splitting from the path to the village, he dove up the trail, tail lazily swishing in time to his stride.

He passed priests and astronomers, in their red and gold robes.  They all looked down with reverence at his form.  One day, he may eat one of them, and they would be glad for it.  Such are the ways of this time but for now, he was not hungry.  He had a meeting to keep.

He threaded his way through the increasingly familiar Aztec ceremonial complex, tracing the avenue east to west.  At the foot of he stepped pyramid at the center of the complex, he stopped, turned himself inside out around his navel, and stood as a man.

There were stares, he could sense them on his skin, but he paid them no mind.  On his powerful, tan legs he propelled his squat, muscular body up the stairs of the pyramid.  When he reached the platform, he lifted his arms high to the heavens.

As if to answer, a rift opened in front of him and a man wrapped all in cloth with a transparent window where his face should be stepped through.  It was apparent, that this was no man and he belonged on the earth not at all.  Through the window a single huge eye stared back.

The two, cat man and non-man stood at the top of the stepped stone pyramid for a while before the non-man spoke.

“So, are you going to put some clothes on, or do I have to be reminded of how you people procreate … again?”

Delgado could tell from his vantage point behind the cat-man’s eyes that this was not English or Spanish, but he could understand it all the same, just like with the other dream.

The man smiled.  “And since when did you get to be such a prude?  Nice get up!”

“Yeah, don’t remind me.  Squeezing my ass into this thing was a monumental undertaking.  Not everyone is so enraptured by the form you humans occupy. “

“Well, we could have asked you to come in the guise of a cat. “

“Blah!” The thing shook.  “You realize that I have to keep most of myself in a pocket dimension just so I don’t frighten the natives.  Have you any idea how badly that chafes?”

“Oh, poor baby.” The cat man smiled.  “So, pleasantries out of the way, old friend, I got your message.  How is it that I can assist you?  Oh, and make a bunch of grand gestures for the audience.  They love that shit.”

The man in the strange garb with an eye for a face turned to him.  “I’m not an attraction here.  That you keep up this ruse of divinity for these people is your problem.”

“Yes, well, as long as I’m running the narrative, they won’t gut me as I sleep.”

“Wonderful.”

The man smiled down at the watching crowd and said through gritted teeth, “Seriously, though, you didn’t come all this way wearing that to scold me for nudity.  What is going on?”

The being rolled his one single huge eye that only the cat man could see and raised his hands up and down.  “You remember the last time we worked together, right?”

“How could I forget?  The Azdomidans came through the dimensional rift under the river basin.”

“And you remember our allies?  The Knight, the Ninja, the Dark Warrior.”

“Yes, and you brought them all here with you.”  They both kept waving their arms up and down like idiots.

“No.  Those people are of this planet, just like you.  I followed the Azdomidans as they were planning to do to your dimension what they tried to do to mine.”

“Yeah.  Those guys were dicks.”

“And dangerous, Greedy.”  The non-man looked around, swiveling his body so his faceplate could allow his single huge eye to take in the scenery.  “I am not of this plane naturally but I quite like it.  I’ve taken to exploring it along with some of the others from that group.  And I have learned of and made alliances with others of this plane that are not of this planet.”

The cat man stopped waving and knitted his brow at the non-man.  “You found aliens?  Are they headed here?”

“Calm your fur.”  The non-man also stopped waving his cloth covered limbs. “These aliens had already made contact with the great civilizations of the west, east and the land beneath the great desert and the great island.  Places your ancestors never knew of or lost to their histories. They were given gifts, warnings really, or communications.  A way to … as you say … keep people like yourself from being gutted.”

The cat man gave the visitor the side eye.  “That isn’t making much sense, even for you.  You going to simplify that for me?  Remember, before I could skin walk, I was just a farmer, not even an astronomer.”

Delgado almost yelped in his sleep when the non-man pulled from a pocket in his garment the silver block.  He wanted to keep the cat man from reaching for it, since he was inhabiting that skin.  The silver thing stung like fire, he knew.

But it was smooth and cool in the cat-man’s hand.  “What is it?”

“It is a gift from civilizations that have come before any of the human civilizations.  Other beings have been touched by the same ineffable magic – even for a being such as myself there is no better term for it – that touches you and the others.  It is an emissary of the ones who have traveled before and travel still.  It helps weigh the weather and keep the storms at bay, lest they rip this world asunder.”

He palmed the device.  “So, I’m supposed to keep this and it will make me safe?”

“No.  It keeps you safe by giving it away.”

The cat-man blanched.  “To who?”

“To one of them.”  The non-man pointed his finger down the side of the pyramid at the crowd.  “But choose wisely.  Some of your people are kind of dumb.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“It’s reflex,” The Other told Goldberg.

“Reflex?” He said, not quite tracking.

The Other took a sip of his drink and set it on the coffee table.  “Look.  You asked specifically for the power to show things that were relevant.  Those things pop up in your hind brain way before you can intellectualize them.  So… reflex.  If a basket-ball were headed towards you, you wouldn’t calculate the trajectory, you’d just put your hands up or duck.  Knowing you, probably the later.”

“Do you have to be a jackass?”

“Well, I am you, dude.  You are naturally self-deprecating.”

They both shrugged, knowing the truth of it.

“So, putting Joy in the path of a bullet… ”

“A bullet that was headed toward your junk, by the way.”

“Well, yeah.  But doing that … That was reflex?  She could have died!”

The Other took another sip then shook his head.  “Nope.  You came here to think, so think.  Joy and Sarah both have the same weird hair thing, right?”

“Yes.”

“Examine that.  Focus your power on it.  And don’t pussy it. Really dig in.”

The answer came to him almost immediately.  “They… How can they have the same number of hairs on their heads?  That’s statistically…”

“They are the same person.  It’s fucked up, but it’s the most likely solution.  So, if one gets shot, the other takes half the blow.  That’s what we were working with.  Panned out.”

Goldberg gaped and The Other waved his hand.  “Dude, come on.  Don’t be all shocked and amazed with me.  You knew this.  At least you suspected it the second Sarah showed up at the Pen.”

“This more reflex?”

“No.  Look, you really need to think a bit about what the power you have really is.  Luck… at least our luck, is just foreknowledge plus reflex.  But it’s so much more.  You can divine the likely output of all things physical.  The relationships between things.  And it’s everything!  Be very, very glad that the first thing you did was to put a damper on this thing or else you’d be drinking from a firehose.”

“So… Why aren’t I again?”

“Because you asked, right when the power really began to manifest, to be told what was relevant or painful or when you asked.  The power wrapped itself around that as a permanent feature.  So, you need to concentrate on something for the relationships to appear.  And be super glad that you also got a huge upgrade on your ability to process information from the power, but we also keep that from you and use it to crank through the combinations and permutations.  That’s the only way to figure out relevance and harm.  As you instructed.”

“You say ‘We’…”

“Turn of phrase.  Pronouns get really fucked up here.  You are actually part of the ‘we’, after all. Consider me or us as the back office.  You are the front man.  Or just don’t think of it at all, but try using the resources your power gives you once in a while.  You are going to have to work on this.  So far, you’ve only been reacting to things the power gives you because they are an immediate threat.  You can do much more if you thought about it.”

“Ok, fine.”  He looked around.  “I gotta say, sitting here all plush while my meat body is out there cranking away is a nice plus.”

“You’ve only been here for a handful of seconds.  There is a time dilation because you are perceiving this weird-ass space ship delusion at the speed of thought.  And you can talk to yourself awfully fast.  Besides, you can’t do this for very long.  You’d do something stupid.”

“Like what?”

“Trip, run into a pole, hit a rock the wrong way.  You aren’t paying attention to your surroundings.  The mechanism behind it really doesn’t matter.  The effect is the same.”

“Well that’s …”

“Look, you wanted to think, so think.  You didn’t do this so you could drink imaginary Electrogreendrink with your imaginary other self, you came here to think.  What’s on your mind?”

“You mean aside from your little intro to how the power works?” Goldberg was starting to get annoyed with himself interrupting him. “OK.  What the hell am I doing?”

“That’s a good place to start.”

“And how did all this start?  Who is chasing me?  And why?”

“I think you’ve got a good idea about the why.”

The room changed.  Suddenly, Goldberg was in the entryway to Bill’s house.  The huge mess in the front room gave him the same crazy fractal spiral, rendered in translucent non-color.  Everything was exactly as he remembered it.

“Yeah.  Fuck.”

“You’ve been ignoring it,” the voice of the other said out of nowhere.

Goldberg shouted up at the high ceiling.  “I’ve been trying to stay ahead of it, actually.”

“By going off for hours and getting high?  By putting yourself in public view to get your lottery cash?”

“Hey, I needed to do that today or I got nothing.”  He felt the need to raise his voice, like he was shouting at the sky. “At least I didn’t go in to City Hall and the epicenter of all things Cop.  And what was that with the lottery anyway?  Was that you?”

“Initial burp of the power.  Reflex.  We were kinda sick of being poor.  So, we looked at the balls for the drawing, looked at where they would be and got the numbers.”  The Other mumbled in its disembodied voice, “Actually, a bit of a crap shoot.  They might have mixed things up more on us.”

“Just like that?  More reflex?”

“Yep.  Not terribly subtle, but it worked. Given the initial state and the action, the outcome was preordained.  Tada!  No longer poor.”

“But known…”  He looked at the door to the kitchen where he knew Weird Bill’s body stood, propped up.  “…Hunted.”

“We didn’t know you were going to be stepping hip deep into shit when we did it.  That was a week ago.”

“Again, with the ‘we’.  Fuck you all.”

“We’ll have an orgy in your honor later. Now focus.”

The room changed back and Goldberg mumbled into his drink.  “I don’t wana.  I don’t need to see it again.  My first dead body and it had to be someone I liked and knew well but wouldn’t exactly call a friend.  You’d think if I had to avenge someone, I’d at least, like, be buddies with them or something.”

“Well, we don’t get to pick our first corpse.  Does thinking about the ‘why’ resolve things for you?”

“No.  Why didn’t the cops want to take a statement?  Why haven’t they found me by now?”

“That last bit, that’s more reflex.  We’re routing your random wanderings around them.  It only works because it’s a passive search, but it’s worked so far.”

Goldberg got tired of being surprised and instead hung his head.  “So, I didn’t know about it, but I’m hiding from the cops?”

“Sure!”  The other leans back and rattles off the day.  “Dan talks you into going to the secluded woods, your desire to ‘disappear’.  Someone chases you and shoots darts at your ass and you go have lunch instead of calling the campus police?  You haven’t been mindful or purposeful, so your hind brain and your reflexes have been moving you around to best advantage.”

He looked up.  “That’s fucked.”

“Not really.  Ninety percent of all human activity is just one big shrug.  It’s the really rare thing to contemplate one’s actions.”

“Ok, now that’s fucked up and depressing.”

“Yes, but it gives the power here a little bit of something to hold onto with humans.  We can’t determine what a human will do, but given the default, we can expect them to do that.  That’s how we got Officer Small to be right where he needed to be.”

Goldberg sank back into his chair.  “Well, as long as it keeps me safe.”

“Oh, you aren’t safe.  You’re still fucked.  I can keep you from random cops, but that other guy is both active and … wrong.”  The Other scrunched up and visibly shivered.

“Yeah, I got that too.  It set off my alarm like crazy.”

The Other looked like he smelled something rotten.  “It shouldn’t be alive. Not like that.  Its arm was broken and it didn’t even notice. And this was before Teague broke most of the bones in its face.”

“So, what are you saying?”

“Don’t know.  No information.  But, and this is just me as your other me talking, I’d stay the fuck away from that thing and maybe … and I understand that this isn’t your strong suit, but bear me out … maybe you need to be more proactive here.  Whatever this is, it’s going to find you.  You can be ready, or you can let it blindside you.”

There was a sharp sound in the room and the light changed.

Goldberg looked up and around.  “That can’t be good not good.”

The Other looked alarmed.  “Yeah, That’s the power and it’s telling you to wake the fuck up. Been nice chatting!  Remember to think.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Goldberg instantly found himself biking along thirteenth again.  He’d only gone a block in all the time he’d spent wool gathering.  He used his power to focus on the bike.  It reported to him in a color that was not a color that the chances of it being involved in a catastrophic accident in the next few minutes was five percent and steadily growing.

A tan Buick slowly advanced with the traffic on Thirteenth street.  In the passenger’s seat, a man with Angry eyes poking out of a face covered in bandages had his arm slightly out of a window.  His hand, also bandaged, waved in the breeze.

A truck turned right ahead of them, exposing the hunched shoulders of Goldberg, pedaling away. The bandaged Mr. A pointed his hand towards Goldberg and a smile made of cracked and bloody teeth split the oozing gauze.

 

[Author’s note: Well, back.   Dad is up and about and back to giving me a hard time about my life choices.  Nice to have that continuity back.

I’m curious to see if anyone comes back to the strange.  You are here, of course, because if you aren’t here you wouldn’t see this, but I’m thinking of the other people and, of course, the robots, randos and people looking for porn and going away disappointed.  In other words, the internet.

From a story perspective, we’re finally starting to turn a corner here. And as far as my manuscript of already kinda finished chapters, it’s where the road starts to get bumpy.  This chapter, for instance, is completely new.

In any event, I’m trying to find my groove again and we’ll see what that groove winds up being.  I’m also going to do NaNoWriMo in November with a new story “The Minions of the Orange Overlord” as a further attempt to recapture my mojo.  I’ll try to get some episodes in the can so there won’t be another huge pause.

As always, votes on top web fiction, likes and follows are super helpful to spread the word for the story.  And also, you can… you know… just spread the word.  That works too!

Stay Weird

-SC]

Fixing a Whole

Bobby couldn’t sleep.  Two nights running, thoughts crept into his head and set up camp.  His mind buzzed with ideas, thoughts, plans, problems and anxieties screaming for attention.  It was like trying to sleep in the middle of a carnival.

His new wife was no help.  He could hear Barbra’s soft, even breaths over the hum of the HEPA air filter.  Jealousy is an ugly thing in a marriage, especially when you are only a couple of months in.  ‘She can sleep anywhere, anytime,’ he thought.  ‘I’d love to do that.  I’m in my own house and can’t sleep and she could doze off at a bus stop with sirens blaring.  Sleep? Hell,’ he turned. ‘I go to visit her folks and I can’t even crap much less sleep.’

The clock read one forty five in angry red numbers.  He was starting to get desperate.

Somewhere else, three figures dressed in black lurked, keeping watch over the train wreck of Bobby’s mind.

One spoke with perfect diction.  “Perhaps we should implant the suggestion?  The one we had discussed?”

“Yeah, Yeah!  Maybe this time!  Let’s do it.  Can I do it?” another chimed in.

The third one tilted his head in thought.  “Sure, go ahead.  Let it loose.”

In Bobby’s mind, a new thought drifted in and soared above the chaos.  His best friend, Ernesto, had suggested that he try meditating.  Ernesto bought into all that new age crap that Bobby considered himself far too enlightened to fall for.  Yet, for all the seeming ridiculousness, Ernesto always looked rested.

Tossing and turning, he tried hard to drift off to sleep, but the harder he tried the more frustrated he became.  If ever there was a time to try Ernesto’s crazy idea, this was it.

‘No more crazy than sitting here awake for the third night in a row,’ he thought.  ‘I can’t go on like this.  Today was brutal.  Need SLEEP!’

He rocked back over onto his back and stretched out with his legs straight and his arms relaxed.  The rhythmic sound of his wife’s breathing filled his ears as he dismissed any thought that came to him.  Work problems inundated him and were dismissed.  Life plans were put on hold for the time being.  The financial books in his mind closed and background music faded away.  Unpaid bills and parking tickets, random facts about breweries and bands found themselves directed to the land of dead thoughts.  All of the nagging thoughts of things left uncompleted were ignored and silenced.

The whole of Bobby’s mind began to unwind.  It stretched out into an open plane of dreams as his body gave into the fatigue of sleepless days.  Tense muscles relaxed and he felt like he was retreating into himself.  He let go of his thoughts and finally went with the flow.

Soon he was flying across the quiet landscape of his mind.  He noticed things that occupied his normal waking life as he passed by their representations, but he did not focus on them – the branching machine that was the computer program he worked on, the cartoon like structure of a game, the tables and racks of probabilities that made up the rules of cribbage. He passed them all by and idly floated within his consciousness, feeling better than he had in days.

Up ahead, in this veritable forest of thoughts, skills and knowledge, floated a dark void.  He headed for it, hoping it was an even deeper level of sleep.

As he went closer to this place that wasn’t, free of all cares, he found himself being drawn into it.  Drunk on the novel whimsy of throwing away all his worries, he now wondered if going into this blackness was a good idea.  Too late, he realized that it wasn’t.

In his bedroom, Bobby’s body tensed.  His unseeing eyes bolted open.  His conscious self was sucked down into the blackened abyss.

And three figures smiled in triumph.

# # #

Bobby sat in a white leather recliner.  His white button-down shirt was undone at the collar with sleeves rolled up, as usual.  Across a white room that appeared to have no walls and no end, stood three men who all looked a bit like him.

One of them was unkempt, in black shorts and a tee shirt.  Waving his hand, he said, “Hi Bob!  Ooo!  I just heard ‘Hi Bob!’  Like the game ‘Hi Bob!’  Gota drink!”  A shot of Tequila appeared in his hand and he drank it down.

“Sorry to bring you down here, Bobby, but things have gotten out of balance,” another said.  Bobby thought he was looking at a mirror when he saw this one, except his clothes were black and not white.

The third one dressed in an all black suit and tie and said, “We’ve come to help you set things right.”

A moment passed as the three looked at him.

“Yeah,” Bobby droned out while thinking.  “OK, well… this is all very weird.”

“Perhaps introductions are in order.”  Bobby’s twin stepped forward.  “You see, I’m Ego.”

The man in the shorts said “Id!” while pulling apart a pizza that appeared out of nowhere.

The man in the suit gave a stiff bow. “I am Super Ego, otherwise known as your better self.  We’ve noticed your recent trouble with control in the consciousness and feel compelled to… lend a hand.”

“What do you mean? ‘Trouble controlling the consciousness?’  I’ve just been… a little out of sorts… and not sleeping well”  As Bobby got up from his recliner, it disappeared like an unneeded thought.

Putting down his pizza, Id said. “Dude, you aren’t out of sorts, you are letting your demons run you.  It’s getting crazy out there!  Now, I might like crazy, but I also like sleep.”

Ego stepped in.  “I’m afraid Id is right, Bobby.  You have a problem with balance.  Not getting enough sleep is just a symptom of the issue.   The fact is things are just stacking up and not being addressed.”

Bobby got worried, and then started to smile. “Hey! This is one of those crazy dreams.  I bet if I wanted, I could do the flying thing or make like I’m having sex with Britney Spears or something.”

Id perked up.  “Dude, forget that.  There are much better looking chicks than her.  What about that English teacher you had in tenth grade.  Mrs. Wortz.  Damn, she made my balls hurt!”

Super Ego slid over to where Id was materializing a bucket of fried chicken. “Good god. Must you be so foul?”

Around a face full of drumstick Id smiled and said, “It’s my job, man, and I do it well!”

“We’re still not getting to the point here, and please don’t encourage … It.” Ego waved his hands in the direction of Id who had regressed to wearing a black thong. “The fact is, Bobby, if you don’t get your head in order here, you aren’t going to live a normal life again.  Is that what you want?”

“What I want is some sleep,” Bobby replied without a second thought. “You’re saying I need to psychoanalyze myself in order to get it?  Fine.  Let’s get to it.”

Super Ego said, “Yes, Let’s,” and turned to a screen rising from the floor.

As the lights dimmed in the white, wall-less room, Ego looked at Bobby and smiled.  “I’m glad you are taking this so well.  We’re only here to help.”

“Since you are me, I would hope so.  By the way, exactly which one of you is me?”

At the same time all three of them said “I am.”

“Well that clears it right up.”

Ego walked over to the screen hovering in the air and said, “You don’t sound totally convinced.  Since we are you, we anticipated that.”  He tapped on the screen and a blob with a squiggly line drawn through the top came up.

Looking for a seat in front of the screen, Bobby said, “What’s that? It looks like a blob, or a map of Barbados.”

“It’s an ice berg, for illustration.”

Bob scrunched up his face trying to make out the ice berg in the picture.  He hadn’t recalled sitting but suddenly realized that he was sitting on a white leather couch between Id and Super Ego.  He’d thought that the screen was missing a couch big enough for all of them to sit on, and here he was, as if by magic.  Or maybe it was all in his head.  He looked up and focused on the task at hand.

Id was suddenly interested and hopped up to sit on the back of the couch. “Ego!  You cut out  Rum?  How could you, man?”

Super Ego slid over to Bobby and said, “I wanted to do this with snazzy graphics, but Ego said it was a frivolous use of the visual cortex.”

Putting his hands up, Ego said, “This doesn’t have anything to do with Rum, computer graphics are frivolous and you…”  He pointed at Bobby.  “I’m you.  You suck at drawing.  This is an iceberg!”

Bobby crossed his arms.  “Fine.”

Mimicking Bobby’s mannerisms, Ego combed back his hair with his fingers.  “So the iceberg is your total mind.  You are the conscious mind or the part controlling the day to day, represented by the part above the water.  Below the water, is where Id and Super Ego duke it out over topics of the day.  Sometimes Super Ego wins out and you are more conscientious and civic minded, moral and upstanding.  But, when the Id wins, you eat fried food and watch porn.”

Bobby took a quick, evil look over his shoulder at Id who was still eating fried skin from the bucket of chicken.  Id just shrugged his shoulders.

Turning back to the screen, Bobby asked, “So what do you do?”

“Ah, I’m the messenger and the arbitrator.  I’m all over.  Id and Super Ego give me constant feedback and what comes to you as the consciousness is the most persuasive argument at the time.  So really, your job is to translate my direction into actions.  I coordinate between the bickering factions of the subconscious and relay them to you as the voice in your head.”

Pointing his finger, Bobby leaned forward.  “So you are the bastard responsible for getting songs stuck in my ear!  You are a sadistic fucker, you know that?”

“Actually, that’s mostly Id, with the music.”

From around a piece of food, Id said, “What can I say?  I like show tunes.”

Turning once again to Ego, Bobby said, “So wait.  Isn’t this a dream?”

“I’m afraid not.”

Id continued to eat and said, “You are in here with us until this gets resolved.”

Super Ego stepped up to explain.  “You see, you fell, rather unceremoniously I might add, into the hole in your life.  Climbing out and sealing it up is not an option.  And the reason that the hole is there, is that balance has been lost.”

“Cutting to the chase,” Id broke in, “one of us has to go!”

“What?”  Bobby’s head whipped around in surprise.

“I’m afraid so,” Ego said.  “One of us has gotten too powerful and no longer listens to the others.  Now things are out of balance and the cracks are starting to show.  Not being able to sleep is just an outward sign.  So are the recent arguments with Barbra.  The uptick in drinking…”

Bobby stood up from the couch, which faded like the screen once it outlived its use.  “Now wait a second.  If one of you go, wouldn’t things get out of balance in the opposite direction?”

Super Ego, who was sitting on the couch with Bobby and now sat in a high-backed chair, laced his fingers together.  “Actually, no.  At least not in the long run.  The troublesome aspect would reestablish itself fairly quickly, but in the meantime, the remaining aspects will strengthen themselves so that a more appropriate balance is restored.”

“It’s like a lizard.”  Id came forward and wiped the crumbs off of his black tee shirt. “You cut off the tail, but it knows that it needs a tail, so it grows back”  He looked off into the distance and mumbled, “Damn, lizards are so cool.”

“So,” Bobby clapped his hands together. “It’s a mystery!  Someone is out of balance.  Well, I’m anxious to get started so I can get some rest, so I’ll start by interviewing you individually.  Together you all bicker too much.”

“That is our function, but I do fear that it’s made worse by the imbalance.”  Ego put out his arms and seemed to draw in the other two.

“Yes, OK, all fine and good, but if I’m to get to the bottom of this, I’ll need to talk to Id and Super Ego myself.  I’ve already realized that you aren’t the one out of whack, so I’ll talk to you last.”

The three looked at one another, somewhat astonished, and then Ego turned back to Bobby.  “Feel free to take all the time you want.  I’ll consult with you at the end.”  He smiled and added, “Then we will get some sleep.”

Bobby clapped his hands together.  “Sounds great!  So who’s first?”

Id jumped in front of Bobby and wheeled him around to a desk forming out of the mist.  “I hate waiting.  Let’s get this party started.”

# # #

Bobby went around to the business side of the desk and took the plush white office chair.  Id sat in the not quite so plush guest chair on the other side.  Pens and paper found their way to the desk as soon as they were looked for, as did a picture of Bobby’s wife.  Feeling at home, he checked the roll on his white shirt sleeves and laced his fingers.  “Okay, so what do you do?”

“What do I do?  Yer kiddin’ right?”

Bobby was once again impressed with how much the Id looked like him, though much more animated and sloppy.

“I’m the one who made you stick at it until you got into Mary O’Conner’s pants all through college!  I’m the guy who persuaded you to throw that killer party for Halloween two years ago!  That’s who I am.”

“Mary O’Conner.”  Bobby leaned back in the chair and let the name dredge up fond memories.  “You are a good man with that one, but what have you done recently?”

Id thought for a second, stroking his temples. His fingers snapped and he exclaimed, “I got you to buy season tickets for hockey!”

“But that was for ‘bonding time’ with Barbra!” Bobby protested.

“You think?”  Id leaned back and smiled.  “Ego is really good at spinning stuff.”

Bobby picked up the picture of his wife, and she started to look kind of pissed.  “So what else?”

“Other things, big and small.  To be quite honest, you ain’t been listening too much lately.”

“What can I say?  I’ve been busy trying to build a life, now that I’m married.”  He put the picture down.  “I can’t exactly just do whatever I want any more.”

Waving his hands to emphasize points, Id said, “Do you really think that’s all I do?  I’m some kind of animal?”

“Yeah.  You are my impulses and baser desires, right?”

Bobby’s sloppy twin kicked back in his chair, but kept a cautious eye on the man in white.  “You’ve got me cold.  But it’s not all fun and games.  I let you be comfortable.  What do you think about that new couch you got a few months ago?”

“I love that couch.”

“You see, that’s me working.  Without me, you wouldn’t enjoy stuff.  I’m the thing that lets you laugh and make jokes, especially the crude ones.  I invite you to have a beer after a hard day and unwind with a good action move.  I drive you to cuddle and *ahem* other things with Barbra.”

Straightening up in his chair, Bobby waved his finger.  “Careful, this is my wife you are talking about here.  I love Barbra!”

“Hey! I’m in charge of that too.  Heard about being ‘madly in love?’  Just call me cupid”

Bobby looked at his desk and found the notes he would have taken about the conversation, had he taken notes. “So without you, I wouldn’t be motivated by emotions and sensations?”

“Exactly.”  Id smiled wide.  “I gotta say, though, things have been pretty tough out there lately.  Imbalance and all that.  Cupid isn’t exactly able to get though all the stress and brewers droop.  You gotta throw us all a bone and let up.”

“I don’t get it,” Bobby said.

“Don’t I know it.  You’re trying too hard.  Even trying too hard to have fun, which takes all the fun out of it.  That couch is awesome, you need to decide to turn your crap off and sog into it more often.”

“I can’t.  I’ve got things to do!” Bobby protested.

“Then do ’em.  Or not.  Ether way quit stressing out about it, man.  You’re not acting as much as you are acting out and on anxious idle.  Shit like that keeps you up all night!”

“OK.”  He reached out his hand and Id shook it gleefully.  “I’m all done here.  Can you get Super Ego for me?”

“Sure thing dude!  Nice knowing you!”

# # #

Super Ego came to the door of the dream office and walked into the room.

“Hi, Super Ego.  Have a seat.”

The stiff version of himself laid down a three page resume on the desk.  “I come prepared.”

Bobby read over the resume until he came to a line. “Hm.  You were the one that kept me from marrying Mary O’Conner right out of college.  Good man.  She was a nightmare.”

Super Ego sat there, looking pleased.

“Is there anything else, or is it all here?”

“Well, I’m much more about keeping you from doing detrimental things. I’d like to point out that anything that takes more than a day or so to plan is controlled by me as well.”

With a kidding grin, Bobby said, “Well, my ability to focus is crap, so thanks a lot”

“Certainly no fault of mine.  You treat your body like a garbage dump.”

“Well, aren’t you also the part of me that drives me to the gym?”

“To be honest, that’s one of the points where the Id and I agree, though for differing reasons.  I propose that you need to take better care of yourself, lose weight and tone up your cardiovascular system.  The Id just likes the runner’s high and the fact that it improves your sexual performance.  And, he tends to like places where women walk around in tight clothing.”

“And you aren’t in on that?”

“I’m ambivalent.  It’s not my job.  My job is to keep you from trying to start anything with those tramps at the gym.  I keep you doing your job, until it’s time to go.  I get you up in the morning and make you go to bed at a decent hour.  I keep you from breaking laws and your word.  In other words, I am your higher self and steer you toward noble goals.”  He folded his hands in his lap and stood straight and still in the chair.

Bobby was impressed with this guy, but he had to find out if he had taken too much power away from the other two.  “So, lately, what is a major accomplishment that you can point to as being mostly your own.”

The stiff twin shifted in his chair and looked Bobby straight in the eye.  “That question shows a lack of understanding of the predicament in which we find ourselves.  Nothing gets accomplished without the input of the other aspects.  Everything is tempered, run through justifications and finally filtered through the personality, you, to actualize in the physical world.  So, I can rightly claim nothing to be my accomplishment.”

Silence greeted this answer, as Bobby considered it.  “Okay, let me rephrase.  What timely action, taken by all of us, was most driven by you?  There must be something that you initiated.  I’m sure you weren’t the initiator of the Hockey tickets.”

“Oh the Hockey tickets.”  He rolled his eyes.  “I spent a long time at the insistence of the Ego coming up with justifications for that.  Truthfully, ever since you got married, it’s been harder and harder to get anything done around here.  I get you checking your check book and going to work, but even that is a struggle.”

“Is that because of the imbalance?”

“Yes.”  His eyes grew wide in alarm and he seemed to somehow grow while staying the same size.  “The imbalance makes it difficult to properly align with expected norms of behavior.  What results is only minimally acceptable, triggering coping mechanisms.  Your lack of sleep, for instance, is every undone thing shouting at you, both the required and the desired.  These things don’t just go away if you ignore them.”

“Well I really haven’t been able to focus on any of that stuff.”  Bobby waved a hand as he replied. “I’ve been busy, you know…”

“NO!”  Super Ego insisted.  His fist came down on the white table top of the desk, momentarily turning it black.

“Excuse me?”

Behind SuperEgo, the white room darkened.  The figure in the chair became more clearly defined, somehow more there than he had been before.  His face froze into a hard, lecturing stare.  “You do not get to give yourself a pass on this one.  The way you are acting, taking on every problem and resolving none, taking up every distraction and vice without care or enjoyment, you are acting as a barbaric fool.  No wonder Barbra argues with you. You drink, you eat like crap, you avoid her, you avoid your job, you avoid the gym.  Your logic wants to think that behaving like an animal will make you happier, but still you can’t let go enough to enjoy your antisocial behavior.”

“Hey!” Bobby squeaked in protest, “Quit stepping on my dick, jackass.”

“I would like to, but you keep presenting it to be trod upon and keeping you on the straight and narrow is my job.  As part of that job, I have to tell you that you, as you are now are a loathsome creature.  And to top it all off, you don’t even have the common decency to be ashamed of yourself.  You must… put an end to the imbalance… or we are all lost.”

“You done?” Bobby crossed his arms and rocked back in the white office chair.  “You done, or would you like to sit there and shit talk me… us… a little more?”

Super Ego straightened and feigned distraction by inspecting his sleeve for lint.  “I believe I’ve said my peace, Bobby.  I’d apologize for the unfiltered nature of my comments if I didn’t believe that they were one hundred percent justified.  I fear that even with this admonition, you will continue on your current course.  And as usual, I will have your best interest at heart and will attempt to guide you down a path of piety.”

“Uh, thanks, I guess…”

A pencil eraser tapped nervously in Bobby’s hand, rapping against a notepad.  He looked at the notes that appeared on the pad as he thought them up then addressed Super Ego.  “OK. I need to think about this.  If you can let the others know that I’ll be out in a bit.”

The stiff entity stood up and left the office, leaving Bobby to ponder his subconscious.

# # #

“How did the interviews go?”  Ego was so exactly like Bobby that he was a touch stunned at seeing him again.  It was as if the mirror suddenly started talking.

“Fine. Just don’t tell me that you really are Mary O’Conner.”

“No.  Actually, I’ve got some regrets about that girl.  She was quite the troubled soul.”

“Yeah, she was.  Hot though…”  Bobby nodded at the ground for a moment then raised an eyebrow at his twin.  “I’m having a hard time.  Both Super Ego and Id have elements that seem over the top and out of control.  But I’m thinking that the Id has grown too crazy.  His appetite for fun and games seems to be a problem.”

Ego shook his head. “I was afraid you’d say that.”  The man in the black placed a hand on bobby’s shoulder.  “You see, Bobby, It’s you, the personality, the consciousness.  You are the problem.”

“Me?”

“Yes.”

“How can I be the problem?  I’m the one who is actually Bobby!”

“Not without us, you’re not, and that’s the problem.  You have suppressed your subconscious to the point where your waking mind must do all the analysis and make all the decisions.  You haven’t done what you wanted to do, because you thought it would be indulgent.  You haven’t done what you should do because you resent always having to be responsible.  In the end, the tools that are given to your conscious mind are overtaxed and running out of control, causing you stress and sleeplessness.  The waking mind can’t sleep because you have given it so much work to do that it needs to run well into the night to catch up.”

Bobby stuck his hand up and turned away from Ego. “That’s a bunch of crap.  All I’m doing here is talking to myself.  This is just another weird dream, though I guess I should be thankful.  At least it means I’m sleeping.”

“See?  You aren’t paying attention.  This is no dream.” Ego charged at Bobby with his finger in the air.

“But I’m keeping myself together as best I can for my wife, my job and my future!”

“Your wife and your job would be better served if you let your whole self address the issues in front of you.  She fell in love with you as a whole person and the problems that come up between you two are partly because you changed.  As for your future?  Well, you can’t keep your current state up very long.  Eventually your conscious decision making process will crack and you will start screwing up or going mad.  You already can’t sleep, so who’s to say you won’t have a costly nervous breakdown.”

The Personality of Bobby clenched his fists.  “I won’t let myself have a nervous breakdown!”

“Now there, you are more right than you know.”  Id and Super Ego flanked Ego and all three were looking at him.  “You, Bobby’s personality and waking mind, you are the one who has to go.”

“Whoa, wait a second!  Then what was all that interviewing and such about?  You said one of you all must go.”

“I said one of ‘Us’ must go.  Knowing that you were the one of ‘Us’ that was on the way out, none of the rest of us thought that there was any harm in letting you have your fun.  Besides, you might have learned something and made this unnecessary.  As it is, further self reflection will have to be handled by your successor.  Good bye.”

“Wait!  Hold on! What are you…”  Bobby’s personality slowly disappeared into the vague whiteness of the room’s boundaries, as if it had been a piece of forgotten furniture.

Out in the real world, Bobby’s whole body sighed and the cleansing chaos of dreams flooded his mind.  It swirled and danced with the pieces of computer program, making them play cribbage to thirty one.  Worlds unfolded and evaporated to give rise to strange beings as gravity bubbled up and explored the ceiling.  All of the trouble in life mixed with this chaos and new connections were tried with the crazy logic of dreams.  The magic work of the subconscious raced through the sleeping mind.

At the center of the storm, in the endless white room, Id, Ego and Super Ego looked at an image of the sleeping Bobby on a screen flaked by the dream images.  A separate screen showed the progress of Bobby’s brain and body descending into a deep sleep.

Super Ego leaned in to talk to Ego.  “Are you sure that was wise?”

“No.” Ego turned and faced the straight laced, subconscious personification. “But it was necessary.  He’ll sleep past his alarm in the morning, giving us ample time to create a new personality from his memories and experiences, his thoughts and dreams.  It will be him – us – but without all that willful control nonsense that was causing so much trouble and angst.”  Ego looked once again at Bobby finally at peace, healing and resting.  “When Bobby wakes up, he’ll feel like a whole new man.”