"Wet night," the waitress observed.
"You walking around in this?"
She looked at him suspiciously. He was as drenched as if he had fallen into a swimming pool. She probably thought he was homeless.
"My car stalled on me."
"Guess they're right about it moving this way."
"Yeah," he said, confused.
Outside, the wind slapped a wet cardboard box against the window.
"Like the end of the fucking world," she muttered. "Coffee?"
"Sure," he said.
"Delightful. Indescribable. Wonderful."
She moved away from him with false nonchalance.
He laid out the papers on the table. Some of them were damp, but still legible.
The waitress plunked down a cup of coffee.
"Thanks," he said.
"Pleasure. Sump neat?"
He started to panic—then realized that she was asking him if he wanted any food. But the idea of food was as remote and irrelevant as the conventions of medieval architecture. Yet he also understood that ordering from the menu was expected of him.
"Hmm," he said, and with diabolical cunning added, "maybe later. Just the coffee for now is fine."
"Wait," he called after her. He was safe for now, but it wasn't a good idea to hang around here, like a sitting duck, for too long. "Can you tell me the half hour? Can you tell me it's a half hour? Sorry: can you give me a half hour? I mean, can you tell me when it's a half hour? When a half hour has gone by?"
"You gotta be someplace? You got an appointment?"
"I shouldn't stay for more than half an hour." It came to him: "The tow-truck."
"Well you see that clock over there? That says it's about four-thirty. So when it says five ..." She brought her palms together in a lazy clap.
"Thanks." He was immune to her jibes. The thought gave him a thrill of happiness. He was operating above the petty concerns of ordinary life. Food, sleep, pride, social custom— these were trivial abstractions. He was on the trail of something big.
"Oh hey," he called after her again. "Do you have old newspapers?"
"Maybe you keep them around?"
"We recycle. By law. Why?"
"I'm looking for the Post-Times from two weeks ago. The Wednesday, I think."
She eyed his papers and books. "Doing some homework?"
He could see that she was impressed. Bums didn't carry around documents.
"Something like that," he said.
"Might have some in back, I guess. I'll see what we got. Tell you what, Chuck. If I'm not back in half an hour ... call the cops."
He had to get his mind straight. Maybe Mike was right. Maybe it had something to do with mind control, schizophrenia, electromagnetic waves. It fit—or almost seemed to. But he couldn't step back far enough to see the whole picture.
The coffee tasted vile, unlike any coffee he'd ever drank, but the caffeine helped. He felt words and ideas organizing themselves just outside his awareness. This was important. He had to think.
He remembered Mike's packet, and fished it from his pocket.
There were only three other people in the restaurant. One by the window, two at the counter, all three with their eyes glued to the silent television behind the counter, like iron filings lined up around a magnet. No one was paying any attention to him.
It was a plain white powder, fine as flour. He dabbed some with his finger and sniffed it; it smelled faintly of plastic. He touched some to the tip of his tongue, and the tip of his tongue went numb. He sniffed a little more, and coolness spread through his sinuses and throat.
He felt okay. He was alright.
He stirred some of the powder into his coffee and put the packet away.
Then he turned his attention to the papers spread out before him with a feeling of patient competence. Somewhere here was the proof. The link. All he had to do was look through it.
But there was so much of it. Miranda's file from the hospital. The pages of code, or gibberish. Mass Congephrenia. A few other dogeared books on schizophrenia, all with unpromising titles: How to Become a Schizophrenic. Schizophrenia 1677. Memoirs of my Nervous Illness. Dense, technical articles Mike had photocopied, portions of which he had highlighted, or underlined, or sometimes both. Drew opened the Memoirs at random.
My physicians and attendants could hardly see in me anything but a stuporose dullard. And yet the real situation towered sky-high above this appearance: I lived in the belief—and it is still my conviction that this is the truth—that I had to solve one of the most intricate problems ever set for man and that I had to fight a sacred battle for the greatest good of mankind.
Yes, yes. Encouraged, yet with trepidation, as if some invigilator were watching over him, Drew began riffling, sometimes reading the passages Mike had highlighted, sometimes (defiantly) avoiding them.
Naturally under normal conditions, use of this nerve-language depends only on the will of the person whose nerves are concerned; no human being as such can force another to use this nerve-language. In my case, however, since my nervous illness took the above-mentioned critical turn, my nerves have been set in motion from without incessantly and without any respite ... I have all the less reason to doubt the objective reality of this event, as in quite a number of other instances later I received souls or parts of souls in my mouth, of which I particularly remember the foul taste and smell which such impure souls cause in the body of the person through whose mouth they have entered ... Phrases of the lower God were in part addressed to me personally, in part to his colleague, the upper God: "Well, since you have made the weather dependent on one human being's thoughts" ... The winds arise, however not uninfluenced by the existing state of the weather; but short blasts of wind coinciding with pauses in my thinking are quite unmistakable ... We are used to thinking all impressions we receive from the outer world are mediated through the five senses. This may be correct in normal circumstances. However, in the case of a human being who like myself has entered into contact with rays and whose head is in consequence so to speak illuminated by rays, this is not all. I receive light and sound sensations which are projected direct on to my inner nervous system by the rays; for their reception the external organs of seeing and hearing are not necessary. I see such events even with eyes closed and where sound is concerned would hear them even if it were possible to seal my ears hermetically against all other sounds ...
These words, Drew realized, were being impressed on his consciousness in an extraordinary way. This was not reading; it was experiencing. It was as if he were receiving the ideas directly, as if they were being projected onto his inner nervous system by some intangible means. It was frightening, and intoxicating, and he could not stop.
No mechanical obstacle made by man can prevent the entry of the rays. I experience at every moment on my own body that this is so; no wall however thick, no closed window can prevent the ray filaments penetrating in a way incomprehensible to man and so reaching any part of my body, particularly my head ...
Here it was, in black and white, in print, in a book. So it had all been going on for a long time. No doubt, as Mike had pointed out, the technology was even more sophisticated nowadays ...
Drew closed the book and took a slurp of coffee. The coke coated his tongue in a sheath of unfeeling. The coffee tasted better this way, but he would have to be careful: anyone could poison him in this state. He would not order food.
Next he browsed an article, "On the Origin of the 'Influencing Machine' in Schizophrenia," which discussed the various things that schizophrenic patients (so-called schizophrenic patients!) said were being done to them by a mysterious machine.
1. Makes the patient see pictures. The pictures are seen on a single plane, on walls or window-panes, and unlike typical visual hallucinations are not three-dimensional.
2. Produces and removes thoughts and feelings by means of waves or rays or mysterious forces.
Miranda had not been lying, or joking, or crazy. Sheila probably had been trying to poison her.
3. Produces motor phenomena in the body, erections and seminal emissions, that are intended to deprive the patient of his male potency and weaken him. This is accomplished either by means of suggestion or by air-currents, electricity, magnetism, or X-rays.
4. Creates sensations that in part cannot be described, because they are strange to the patient himself, and that in part are sensed as electrical, magnetic, or due to air-currents.
How unwittingly wise he had been, these past weeks, to eat so little! And yet he could not have known that they would try to poison him; something, someone, some them must have been guiding him.
5. Responsible for the occurrences in the patient's body, such as cutaneous eruptions, abscesses, and other pathological processes.
If they could do all that back then, what couldn't they do now? Surely today it would be no problem to drive someone insane.
"Wednesday, Thursday, Friday," said the waitress.
He looked up. "What?"
She slapped the newspapers down on the table and put her hands on her hips, pleased with herself. "You didn't seem too sure about the date, so I brought Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from two weeks ago."
A smile spread across his face. People are intrinsically good. They want to help. They just need to be asked. Maybe there is hope.
"Thank you," he said—and she seemed to understand everything he was saying.
You soppy asshole, said his cancer.
She's one of us, said Miranda.
TEEN SUICIDE UPSETS PARENTS, COMMUNITY
boy "very unhappy," "angry" at world
By Drew Dunkel, Post-Times Reporter
The body of Nathan Shipley, 17, a student of Skyview All-American High School in Brotoks, was discovered this weekend by his parents, Rhonda and Gerard Shipley. According to findings by the coroner's office released today, it was a suicide.
Though distressing, this news did not come as a surprise to Nathan's parents.
"He was very unhappy," said Rhonda, his mother, through a veil of tears.
Gerard Shipley, his father, agreed, while adding, "The astonishing thing was the extent of his anger."
Interviews with friends and acquaintances from Nathan's school paint a similar portrait.
Stephanie McAllister, the principal of Skyview All-American, said, "The consensus seems to be he was someone who had a grudge against the world."
"He was always sort of a rebel," said one classmate. "Sort of starched-off."
This was nowhere more apparent than at the scene of his death. Sometime Sunday night he took his own life in the basement suite of his parents' home in Brotoks. Police photos reveal that, after slashing his wrists with a razor, he proceeded to splash the walls and ceiling with blood.
"I don't need to tell you what kind of mentality that exhibits," said one police officer close to the investigation.
Nathan also painted, in what might have been blood, angry messages and what could be a swastika, the infamous emblem of the fascist Nazi party.
On one wall he wrote, "These are not my thoughts," evidently referring to the schoolbooks and other items of mainstream culture that filled the shelves of his bedroom.
Edwin Barry, a criminal psychologist who sometimes works closely with the police, said, "This kind of violent exit is not uncommon among teenagers. Especially if they see themselves as put-upon underdogs, or if they're involved in political agitation, like with fascist organizations.
"Not that I'm saying [Nathan] was a fascist," added Barry, who is quick to point out that he did not know the student personally. "But it's a type."
No memorial service is at present planned for students of Skyview All-American, though McAllister suggests, "Anyone feeling upset by this tragic event is of course encouraged to visit our excellent guidance counselor, Kev Nealy, during his office hours."
The funeral is scheduled for this Saturday, 1:00 p.m., at Fair Fields Memorative Center.
It wasn't anything like what he had written. The parts he had written had been changed, falsified. It was all lies. And yet.
Who had looked at the police photos? Someone from the Argonaut, presumably. Telerude or Moonie or one of them had handed over Drew's background and Casey or the kid Harper or someone over there had patched together this tissue of half-truths and whole lies—which they had then cordially sent back to the Post-Times. But still ...
these are not my thoughts.
It was an impossible coincidence. Therefore, it wasn't a coincidence.
But what could it mean?
Only one thing: that Nathan Shipley and Miranda had been fed the same thoughts, been injected with the same madness. The mind was a radio wave. Theirs had been influenced, undermined, interfered with by radio waves from without. The same pattern. Like a piece of software being downloaded onto two different HDRs.
He looked at the article again, fussily. He read as far as "veil of tears," then had to stop. And they had put his name on that garbage!
The motherfuckers will pay, said the worm in his guts.
He pushed the newspapers aside—exposing the "Influencing Machine" article. Almost instantly (as if his gaze had been guided there by some force) a phrase caught his eye.
"She declares that for six and a half years she has been under the influence of an electrical machine made in Berlin. It has the form of a human body, indeed, the patient's own form, though not in all details. The trunk (torso) has the shape of a lid, resembling the lid of a coffin and is lined with silk or velvet."
Just like her drawings. All those women with coffin lids installed in their chests.
Again, it couldn't be a coincidence.
The idea had been put there. All the same crazy ideas, put into all these different heads. To make them seem crazy. To make them crazy.
Drew riffled through the scattered papers, sure now that he was getting close. The link was here somewhere. The books, the articles. Miranda's file from the hospital. The pages of gibberish—or code.
grr;omh yjsy og o vsm kidy lrr[ ,pbomh. kidy lrr[ yu[omh. lrr[ hpomh eoyjpiy ;pplomh nsvl o vsm dysu sjrsf pg yjr,/ o lmpe yjru idy jsbr ,r [om[pomyrf om d[svr smf dp,ryo,rd o yslr dp;svr om yjr ofrs yjsy yjr rstyj od ,pbomh niy pg vpitdr yjrot dsyr;;oyrd pt ytsmd,oyyrtd str ,pbomh s;pmh eoyj yjr rstyj dp yjsy\d mp jr;[ sgyrt s;; niy o ;olr yjr ofrs/
It looked like she'd just been hammering at the keys of the typewriter randomly. Like she hadn't even been looking at—
Don't look at your hands. It came to him in a flash, as a complete thought. Junior high school; Mrs. Hebbings, whom the boys all called Hebba-Hebba; typing class; the cardinal rule: Don't look at your hands—so that, eventually, you wouldn't have to look at your hands.
She hadn't been looking at her hands.
Because what happened if you put your hands in the wrong position? Everything would be shifted to the right or the left.
He looked at the text again. There were a lot of semicolons, commas, and brackets. Where were those on the keyboard? He held out his hands and imagined typing something. Yes, yes, yes: the semicolon and the comma were typed with the right pinky.
If he was right, if she'd simply shifted her hands one key to the right, there should be no letters from the left side of the keyboard—no A's, Q's, or Z's. And there weren't. And wasn't O to the right of the I? That would explain why O often appeared by itself here: it was the word "I."
He grabbed a pen, found a blank side of paper, and slowly but deftly, by consulting his fingers' memories, recreated the layout of a keyboard. Then, by consulting this diagram, he was able to translate the first chunk of text by shifting every letter to the left: G therefore was F, RR was EE, the semicolon was L, O was I, M was N, and H was, yes, G. It spelled FEELING! The next word, YJSY, was ... THAT. OG ... IF. O ... I. FEELING THAT IF I ...
He'd done it. Sunshine danced in his head. He'd cracked the code! More than that, better than that: it was a code! She hadn't been crazy. She'd written a message.
He could translate it all by hand, but there must be quicker ways. He could shift his hands to the left and type what he saw on the page. Or he could scan it, then run a simple find and replace ...
He had to get to an HDR.
"Check!" he cried.
He paid cash and left a big tip.