Like a lot of children, I was convinced that I had psychic powers. If I just concentrated hard enough, for long enough, I would be able to make miraculous things happen. The intently constipated look on my face, growing redder by the second, fixed gaze on the damned pencil that absolutely refused to move. I’m sure Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda’ had fair responsibility for this fantasy! I even recall this intensity washing over into my dreams, as I acutely recall several occasions where my psychic experimentations actually worked, only to wake up moments later to find I could not actually fly after all.
Accepting that there are things in the world that you cannot achieve with the power of your mind alone seems to spare a great number of strokes and hernias. At least, that’s what they would have you think!
Recall the times you have been so ill you have been pretty much delirious. The mind stops making sense, and starts behaving quite erratically. The ability to sort truth from fiction vanishes, and the world becomes very uncertain. This is the breaking point. It is the moment where the mind gives up fighting for its grasp on reality, and finally gives way under the pressure. With practice, the breaking point can be achieved with greater ease and control. The breaking point ceases to be a barrier and instead becomes a portal into a fantastic world of almost limitless potential.
For me, I was obsessed with moving that damned pencil. I spent hours trying to shift it. I exercised every mental muscle I had in vain. One sleepless night, at around 2 in the morning, it finally moved. Naturally I was surprised, blinked, and the pencil was right back where it had started. No breeze had disturbed it, yet it had seemed to move. I renewed my efforts, but nothing happened. I eventually gave up, but with a curious sense of optimism. I tried again the next two nights in a row. My cat clearly knew I was deranged, and gave up watching me and returned to grooming itself. My mind kept becoming destracted by inconsequential issues, throwing up a smokescreen to deter me from my efforts. Eventually… it happened again. I froze. Without breathing, I tried rolling it back. And forth. And twisted it round and round. I knew the pencil wasn’t really moving but like that Matrix moment with the Spoon boy, it certainly appeared to move. That was enough.
Once I got into the habit, I started experimenting more and more. Not just pencil spinning, but entire bookshelves. Sheets began dancing in the air. Vehicles started flipping over and cartwheeling. The sky changed colour. People’s faces started switching around. Cutlery started dancing for me on the kitchen table. God, my family must have thought I had lost it by the number of times I burst out laughing at a plant pot balancing itself on my mother’s head, or when goldfish swam in and out of my sisters’ ears. I was never bored, as lift walls were transformed on a whim into panoramic seascapes, and tarmac rose up and undulated into bituminous gargantuans which fought for my amusement. My walks to school were blissful romps across desert dunes one day, arctic expeditions the next. Pavements became dramatic skywalks floating in the sky, with the earth miles below.
There were unforseen benefits from these mental gymnastics. My mind grew increasingly supple and limber, arithmetic grew easier, algebra flowed effortlessly and my memory became almost photographic in its accuracy. In English lessons words danced at my beck and call, little sprites rushing to my bidding. My grades soared, my parents were astonished and my classmates violent with envious resentment. Sad to say, their envy was not the only side effect of my internal projections.
I began to notice… tremors. Not physical shaking or anything, but… uncertainties. In hindsight, I suppose this might have been an expected consequence of flouting the breaking point so often. As my mind gave way to my will, it became increasingly lazy and impotent. In the corner of my eye, a table would fade away, only to snap back when I focussed on it. Numbers would swim before my eyes until I forced them into order. Even sounds and smells started twisting in my head, lending to a kind of synesthesia. My mind started relying on my will to perceive the world, and where my will was weak… something else stepped in. Nightmares grew worse. Deja vu grew common place. Friends accused me of zoning out and ignoring them. In short, my world started breaking down around me.
I was only 15 when this began. I tried multiple methods of staving off the tide: Meditation, positive visualisation, exercising my willpower more and more, but all these simply served to weaken the glue of my perceived reality, and in the gaps my imagination gained even more free rein. I turned to art to crystallise the various images that started to afflict me. I made up imaginary friends to impose behavioural order on mere phantoms. I tried writing for a bit, but I stopped when my friends commented on the strange dreams they started getting after reading my stuff. I did not want it to spread.
So I find myself, aged 31, teetering on the edge of insanity. Master of perception, and a slave to my own subconsious. It reminds me of the old film ‘Forbidden Planet’ based on Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ where an alien race fall prey to the power of their own deeply hidden urges. I have been preparing my escape route for years and years in secret. As parts of my mind give way, I have bolstered them up through sheer will. All the while, I have been carefully crafting myself a home. In my head, like a snow globe, I have fashioned a mental retreat. Every detail has been as meticulous and precise as possible to leave no space for my subconsious to creep in. I trace the same path around this house hour after hour, counting the utensils and checking the colour of the carpets. Paintings on the walls, books in the shelving, all carefully memorised again and again. From time to time, something hideous will creep in through a crack in the walls, or around the edge of a door. Every time so far, it has been repulsed and driven out, frantic mental plastering and re-imagining resetting the borders of my sanctuary.
What a fragile egg-shell sanctuary it is, but it is all I have left now. I dare not even look outside the door or behind the curtains for fear of what lies in store for me. On the other hand, I have furnished the insides very lavishly. If it is to be a cage, then I’m going to make sure it is gilded wonderfully. Objets d’art are everywhere, swimming pools and fish tanks, banquet halls and libraries. Let’s just say that there will be no limit of willing sexual partners either!
Some day soon, when the strain of maintaining the balance becomes too much, I will disappear inside my hiding place for good. I imagine I will simply be found comatose in my bed or sprawled on the sofa. God help me if it happens whilst driving, but in a sense it might be a blessing. The only reason I have not tried ending it all is a spark of hope that there may yet be a way out. Some method, or tricky revelation to bring back good old reality. The reliability of the mundane I have missed for so long. Perhaps I may yet manage to reign in my rogue imaginings, and return to the world in complete and utter mastery of my perceived reality. A solipsist deity incarnate! In my darker moments, doubts plague me. There is no guarantee that such a revelation would be genuine. It may even be a trick to provoke over confidence and make me drop my guard. No sooner would I step out of the cage then I could find myself locked deep inside.
So here I must leave you. I remain stranded in equipose, caught between realities, unable to move for fear of stepping the wrong way. As long as I refuse to decide, I cannot be mistaken, and remain safely yet uncomfortably on the fence. It’s ironic after all, that I even created you in the first place as someone to talk to. I guess everyone gets lonely from time to time, but I can’t afford to get too attached to you of course. How do I know I can even trust you?
I didn’t mean it. It’s just that things can get overwhelming. We say things we don’t mean, and think things we could never say. Tell me something about yourself. It’s sad really, as I still have to fill your mouth with words and ideas, but this charade still means something to me. What do you even look like? Are you male or female? Short or tall? Haircolour? Clothes? Maybe naked? Nah, don’t worry, I’m not in that kind of mood. Besides, I could do better. Just kidding!
Anyway, that looks much nicer. A face I can talk to. Isn’t it strange that after all this time, the thing I miss most is a hug? That feeling of intimacy, no question of deceit or falsehood. Just a shared moment of warmth in simple physical contact. With my eyes shut, everything becomes so… basic. Nothing to imagine anymore, just feeling. I can’t help but feel sorry for God having to imagine the world into being – it’s just too much.
It’s getting dark. Or is that light? Hard to tell with my eyes shut.
I don’t care what’s coming through the walls and down the stairs.
I can feel you still there. I hope you really are.
It’s very quiet.
I never imagined it would sound like this at the end.