Say you had a kid in a mental institution who lost his mind because he didn’t sleep for two weeks. Say he seems to be keeping things together, and is scheduled for release. Would you schedule him for a sleep-deprived EEG and keep him up all night?
To be fair, they didn’t know it was the sleep deprivation that drove me over the edge. They were trying to figure out if something more terrible than a run-of-the-mill psychotic break was going on. Also, though they were were aware of my apparently deteriorating condition after the weekend pass, they didn’t think it would be as much of a problem as it became.
I don’t really feel responsible for any particular decision I made after the events of chapter 5. I feel wholly responsible for getting myself to that point, so I’m culpable in all the events, but in the actual moment I just had alternative theories of ownership, and I was trying to save the world, for fuck’s sake. All great heroes ignore petty laws when the world needs saving. Also, I didn’t even know I was breaking the law.
Part 11, or “Grand Theft Auto: Orono Dreams”
OtherThinKid was also scheduled for an EEG so they put us in the main room to keep each other awake for the night. I think we mostly watched TV and played Scrabble, which I had a surprisingly good handle on, all things considered.
I got back on the Hitchhiker’s Guide kick, but at least this time I had maps. The three colored balls I’d been using for contact juggling. I couldn’t believe it took me so long to figure out what they really were. They were black with night sky-ish patterns in various colors: blue, for the Moon Map, yellow for the Sun Map, white for the Star Map. Of course the Moon and Sun maps weren’t maps of the moon and sun, they were maps of the galaxy in their Moon and Sun aspects.1 I was examining them at around 3 a.m., and since it was dark out, I knew the Sun aspect map would be useless, so I threw it in the trash. OtherThinGuy found this hilarious.
By dawn, I was thoroughly armed with the knowledge conveyed to me in the Scrabble games, and was ready for my ascension. We each had a nurse guard, and went out in some kind of bus. I don’t think it was an ambulance.
We got to the hospital, and I went in for my EEG. They lay me down in a dark room, and starting sticking things to my head. The gel on the sensors was cold, and because of the deliberate way they applied pressure to attach them, I was convinced they were sticking rounded metal rods about a quarter inch in diameter into my brain, about half an inch deep.2 The absence of my skull cracking in a dozen places would have convinced sane me this probably wasn’t the case, but I didn’t bother to confirm the theory. It was quiet, and they told me to close my eyes for a few minutes, then open them for a few more minutes.
This blew my mind. With the spikes in my head and the lilting voice of the technician, I was being changed, altered on an existential level. My brain was being remapped to adopt to some godlike form, with which to smite and bless, and various other things gods are good at.
I was in a kind of trance after this, and the nurse walked me out to have a smoke while we waited for the bus to come back. I sat on a terrace at the hospital and had a Camel light,3 which gave me the final piece of the puzzle. I was an avenging dragon,4 and had to go find L.A. Queen, again, except now she was also an alien, and I had to convince her people to join in the ascension of conscious beings instead of ruling over humans.5
We walked out of the smoking balcony while I was in this condition. When we went down the stairs and into the pickup area, the nurse—in one of the not so savvy decisions of her career—walked in front on me. She said
“There’s our ride.”
She was talking about the crazy bus that had just pulled up. What I saw, at the moment she said this, was the hot little black number that had just parked. In real life, it was a taxi. In my delusion, it was My Ride. The taxi driver walked by me without looking at me, but I knew he was giving me license to take his wheels. I got in the car. I spent a good amount of time checking out the interior, while my nurse was probably freaking out wondering how I’d vanished. I examined the cell phone, as it was my conduit to the masters of the universe, whoever they were. Amazingly, the keys were in the ignition, so when I finally focussed, it was easy to start the car and get moving.
BAM! Grand theft auto.
I immediately drove the wrong way out the emergency access ramp for ambulances. An attendant ran toward me screaming “Hey, hey, HEY!” but I ignored him, since he was obviously on the side of the government forces trying to stop me. If an ambulance had been coming the other way at the time, this story would have a very different ending, if it was written at all. The access ramp led to route 2 going the wrong direction, so I drove the wrong way down the the road for a couple of minutes before I decided I should blend in, at which point I made a U-turn in traffic and headed for the University of Maine, since I’d been meaning to get back to school all week.
Once I got near the school, I pulled into a field and took stock of my vehicle. Aside from the infinitely fascinating cell phone,6 there were some maps and a crowbar in the trunk. Good. That was everything I needed to get to California. I stuck a map in my pocket and drove on.
I decided this car wasn’t going to make it, so I pulled into the parking lot of the school chapel looking to make a deal. I wandered in, and asked whose car was in the parking lot. Turned out to be the receptionist’s, so I asked if she wanted to trade. She blinked at me, then smiled and said no.
There were some other people wandering around and one of them asked me if I wanted some water. I said yes, drank it, then thanked them and left. They called the cops.
I walked down the road toward the main campus. I knew I was being followed, but as long as I walked along the shadows of the power lines, nobody could see me. I walked up to a sorority and knocked. A sorority girl answered and I asked for a glass of water.
I hit the frat, and, predictably, a frat kid answered, and was much friendlier. He gave me a glass of water and I sat on the couch for a while, doubtlessly weirding people out as I offered to trade my map for various things. Eventually I moved on, and hit some of the sophomore housing, where I ran into some people I almost knew. I say “almost” because they were Boyz in the Woodz types who listened to nothing but Eminem and tried to have homies, even though they just sat around doing what everybody does in Maine at that age, which is stay inside all winter drinking cheap beer with underage girls and lying about their sexual history.
I’m not sure how, but I ended up heading back to his housing and hanging out for a bit. I was generally quiet, since I was figuring out my quest, but at some point, a girl asked me:
“So what’s up?”
“Just broke out of a mental institution.”
“No, I just grabbed a car and broke out of a mental institution.”
“Can I bum a smoke?”
The girl gave me a menthol and left. I smoked it and left, probably without a word.
So the students weren’t going to be especially interesting. I wandered around the class areas, and finally decided to go into the little concert theatre building, where I walked into a theatre class.
“Do you belong here?” asked the teacher.
“Ah good good. We’re filling up.”
I sat and was bedazzled by the complex information on acting and narrative and story, and all the secret weapons the teacher was giving me to become a spy and a history re-maker. At some point, he said, “One of the most important things is to know when to stop and make a good exit,” so I took that as my cue and left.
I was getting close to the ethics building, and that’s where I knew my next bit of information was, because therein lay God.
God God. The big christian one, who I now knew was my ethics teacher from the previous year. His name was Oscar Remick, and he was the best teacher I ever had. A quintessential scholar. Unfailingly respectful of the dignity of his students and all human beings. He could lecture for an hour and a half and it was gripping to a roomful of hungover students. He taught a full round of classes the day he died of cancer, at his desk. If I didn’t already have such a good actual father, he would have been my strong father figure they’re always harping about in after school specials.
He wasn’t there. I went to the bathroom, and somehow locked myself in. This was especially troubling, since there is no lock on the door. Maybe I was just too crazy to work a doorknob, but I’d just driven a car GTA style down a busy road, so this fact still bugs me out. I had to go out the window.
If you’ve never read The Hitchhiker’s Guide, there’s a scene I have to describe. Zaphod Beeblebrox is trying to find Zarniwoop, and he eventually gets to Zarniwoop’s office, where he’s been told to go out the window. In the book, this is because going out the window means he’s going into a custom universe designed especially for him. So this is what I assumed was happening to me: Oscar Remick had locked the door with his God powers, and I was supposed to go out the window into my own custom designed universe. In moments of ontological doubt, I wonder if this actually did happen.
I walked straight to the student union with uncertain purpose. I didn’t make it. At roughly noon, two hours after my escape, when two thousand students were getting out of class and heading to lunch at exactly the building I was in front of, the cops drove a cruiser onto the grass and arrested me.
My first thought was, “Ah, my ride’s here.” I can’t say that thought changed in any particular way over the next twenty minutes. A cop I recognized from previous semesters got out of the car and said, “Sir, please come over here.”
“Sure,” I said.
I wanted to make him comfortable, since he seemed nervous. I thought he was nervous because he was arresting a dragon, as was his duty, but there was no guarantee I wouldn’t fry him. He was nervous because there was a county wide APB out for me, describing me as mentally unstable. He directed me to get face down on the hood of the car, at which point he cuffed me and frisked me. Satisfied that I had no weapons,9 he stuffed me in the back of the cruiser.
For several years, I wondered why I’d never met anybody who’d seen that happen. I met a bunch of people in my remaining college days, and I always asked if they’d seen me cuffed and stuffed in front of the student union. Not one person recalled it. Four years later, it finally hit me: the people who saw it don’t talk to me.10
On the ride, I asked the cop how he was doing and what all the funky gadgets in the car were for. He responded to most of my inquiries by asking me to sit back and not get my face so close to the grate. He drove me straight back to the mental institution, where a bunch of people I’d become aquatinted with were considerably less happy to see me.
I had graduated from voluntary patient to involuntary patient.
Settling into the nuthouse.
1 If this makes no sense at all—and it doesn’t—the closest literal description of what I think I thought the concept of “aspect” was is in Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny.
2 I distinctly remember the sensation and these measurements.
3 The traveller’s cigarette.
4 Lack of scales, wings, and fiery breath notwithstanding.
5 My obsession with L.A. Queen would make you think I’d been in love with this girl my whole life. I wasn’t; she was one of the girls in college I had a brief crush on, and their numbers are legion. I got over it when got a real girlfriend and had a descent friendship with her until we drifted apart. I have no idea why my brain fixated on her so often while I was crazy, though she did have great hair.
6 They’d taken my cell phone away in the institution, so it had been a while since I could get messages from outside the matrix.
8 For me, anyway. The obvious answer was “Not in any way, shape, or form.”
9 He didn’t know about the tiger eye stone in my pocket.
10 And they knew my name, since I made the first police beat of that year’s campus newspaper, so they could avoid me at a distance.