The clock strikes noon. You walk to your cabinet, take out your pill-bottle, retrieve two of the small, blue capsules, and, with a glass of water in hand, down them each. You feel nothing immediately. Of course you wouldn’t. A palace is not built in a day, after all.
In several minutes, all movement stops. The world ceases to turn, the very fibers of your brain begin to shrink. All velocities terminate momentarily, all possibilities contract. Thought itself stops, the fractal associations of cognition come to an end.
Breathe now, remember that this can be okay if you don’t overthink it. You remind yourself that you have done this before and will do it again. But in this time where your enchantments have faded, where your brain is subjected to interface with these countermetabolic neuroleptics, all lines of flight become counter-exponential diminutions of negative potential. There is nowhere to run because you can’t run from what’s already inside of you, you can’t go anywhere, there’s nothing left to do.
Smile now, put on a brave (or at least, a cute) face. Though you feel the dopaminergic collapse accelerating with each passing nano-instant, you don’t head for the exit. Where would you go, anyway? No matter where you turn, there are more of them. More of them waiting, with needles and restraints, with handcuffs and social power, with magicks more terrible than yours by far. No, you don’t turn in any particular direction. Not yet.
It takes all of the energy you can muster to restrain yourself from running away. From throwing it all away, abandoning this life, starting over somewhere else, with some new mode of being. Some new way to pretend that you aren’t what they say you are. But that would be folly. You’re on record, have a legal personality; you can therefore be identified and made to repeat this torture again, and this time with a neuroleptic more horrifying than one you negotiated your way to in the first place.
No, escape is not a possibility anymore. You touch the side of your face; yes, your flesh is still there. Though you can feel the very rhythm of your metabolism slowing, you know that your body remains in space. A clumsy object dancing through time. A thing on a stage that they can see, and now they turn the lights up.
They can see you, but they can’t see inside of you. You can feel that you are under assault from the inside-out and though you can sense your cognitions becoming estranged, that is, separate from you, unreal for their lack of anchoring to yourself, this persistent derealization is far less terrifying than the accompanying dissociation. Can you feel yourself evolving in reverse, passing down through the genetic constitution of your being to species alien to yourself? You are not walking, you are crawling through time, you are slugging down, you are a worm, you are molecules reacting with others, you are a series of enzymes, you are proto-molecular atomic material, you are subatomic freakishness defined, quantum weirdness bundled up and made into a shape foreign to your consciousness. The worst part is you aren’t even a wave of probability because you are under constant observation. You want to be a wave? Too bad—they’re watching, and watching closely. You are forced to assume a definite form and be this-or-that, namely, psychotic or functional, and there is no in-between. You have been made a particle.
You think, is there a way to reverse this flow? Well, no, not entirely. They have stolen your metabolism, after all—that means they control the outcome of all chemosocial reactions, at least within certain parameters. Learn to survive this interface, and you might have a chance, dear madling.
Touch your face again—yes, you’re still there. Can you feel everything speeding up again? Wait, no. I know that it feels like you’re spinning in a thousand directions even though all movement has stopped. How many seconds have passed? It’s irrelevant. This experience is outside of time. It is therefore eternal. You need to stop thinking in categories of space and time because these things only make sense to the human animal, and you are, after all, no human. You are a thing. A subject in an experiment. But don’t be fooled—you are a “subject” in an experiment, but you are no subject. You are an object, your consciousness, your cognitions, and your phenomenological life-world are entirely alien and unknowable and irrelevant to the gaze of the observer. They’ve even decided that you lack capacity to articulate your desires, wants, and needs to any one of them, because they have decided that language is the vehicle through which your madness is made most clearly manifest.
You are remote, distant as a planet, unfathomable as the dream of a star whose core has reached the final stage of life. They have their scopes, they’re looking at you, they’re calculating the movements of your rays, predicting your expenditures, assessing the risk that you will go supernova at any moment. Their world lies too close to you to let that happen, their world is too fragile, their dreams are too weak to provide them any escape. No, no, they require that you be in the here-and-now, or, more precisely, their here-and-now, and they don’t have any time to listen to protestations. Remember, here you are an object and so what you want is quite literally not the point. They want to see you, they want to know you, they want to decide what you are, they want to tell you what you look like. Does this sound like hubris to you?
Ah, and let’s not mention the capsules you took four hours prior. They take more time to enter your system, they’re made of metal, after all. But can you feel your emotions slowing down right about now? Can’t you remember what it was like to feel, to affect, outside of this capture? No, capture is not the right word. This was a steal. They have taken away your feelings and replaced them with waxen facsimiles, cruel imitations, markedly inferior photocopies that they dipped in water before putting back through the machine. You can smile, you still know how, but you know it’s no longer your smile. It’s the smile of some girl whose name you don’t know. You thrash desperately, aching for some kind of understanding because all you know is being eviscerated inside of you, and more of it is gone with each and every day.
They want to talk to you now, they want to pull you out of this sublimity and throw you into the realm of the social. No, you scream to yourself, you can’t talk to me right now, there’s nobody inside left for you to talk to. They have created a statue, or rather, a machine, some kind of automaton, that knows in what conditions what responses are appropriate but who knows not the meaning of any words at all. Yes, they’ve created an artificial intelligence whose main protocol is function. Or perhaps they’ve replaced you with an egregore overnight? Or, more completely with each day?
Shut it down, exorcise the demon, reverse the spell. But, as you’ve thought before, escape is impossible. Their observations look out in all directions at once, and it’s unclear where you would go anyway. No, it’s not even that: You can’t escape because you are not “you” any longer. Are you a part of them? Well, separation is surely a fiction but that does not mean that it is altogether erroneous. You cling to aspects of what, or rather, who, you were before the “miraculous” intervention of the psychiatric cure, and find what you are to be wanting in nearly every respect. You have gained nothing from this, nothing at all, except perhaps a more thorough psychiatric vocabulary and an appreciation for industrial noise.
You think to yourself, why did it have to be like this?
Well, you know the answer. It’s a complicated interrelation of genetic, behavioral, environmental, and social conditions that cause you to exhibit enough of a certain set of “symptoms” to be objectively identifiable as belonging to a discrete class (well, several classes, really) called “mad.” Yes, you are mad, you are insane, you are pathological—there is something wrong with you, with the way you act, with the way you think, and the world just can’t handle you. Drink more water—don’t forget that these capsules are salts, your body is drying out by the second. You’re being reduced to sand, with each passing second you become more and more removed from the person you were before, on the other side of madness.
Is it possible to reach through the looking glass? Well, they think no. They yoke you back to intersubjective reality by any means necessary. They have equated madness with death, and decided you don’t know what’s best for yourself. They have declared that you are only provisionally a person. You get to live your life so long as you hide the behaviors that would land you back in the hospital. You get to be a person so long as you are not who you are.
This isn’t any kind of closet—there is no space to hide from their gaze. Even hiding is a pathology. Are you afraid of being seen by them? You say you can feel them looking at you, is this a hypochondrial thoughtform? You cry out for release, but before you can even draw breath you can feel yourself rocketing upward, skyward, you can feel yourself freed from gravity but pulled in some strange direction and feel the compression of the air and the extension of your limbs outward, grotesquely mimicking the feeling of pulling on taffy.
As you levitate, you light a cigarette, and behold the wafting swirls of carbon monoxide drifting ever upward beside you, only to bemoan with jealousy their dispersal into nothingness. As you move upward, you reach the peak nihil of neurolepticity. You can’t feel anything anymore, you don’t know anything anymore, you don’t have words anymore, your body isn’t your body anymore, your name isn’t your name anymore, your life isn’t your life anymore. But you can see now, in this non-place, you can see all things at once, you can see all things reflected in each thing, you can apprehend the arrangements of all things in their relations to all others. Ah, so much to know, so much to see, can you memorize all of it before you fall back to the ground and are restored to your metabolism? Well, only restored relatively, because your metabolism isn’t really your own anymore, but you get the idea. You look around, you can see all of history, the rapid development of medical science to this point of total human engineering, the way in which psychiatry is the most desperate of all sciences, for it alone produces the very pathology it seeks to annihilate. Behold furthermore the way in which it has deluded whole populations into believing in the sanctity of its cause, the way in which the mad have been made into latter-day demons, damned to scream in silence and be silent in screaming.
Can you feel yourself falling yet? The strange thoughts you’re having start to move away from one another, and you can breathe again. You look to find that half your cigarette has turned to ash in the time since you last looked at it. Is this what catatonia feels like when nobody is looking? You would be fair to consider the possibility.
Do you remember how to sing a song only you can understand? Do you remember how to fly when nobody else is watching? Do you remember what it felt like to have feelings, and to know that they were yours? You know what role you have to play—they’ve made sure that you know your part. But do you remember how to hide in plain sight? Can you find a way to reclaim your metabolism? Your cognitions? Can you remember what it felt like to be alive, once? Maybe if you play the right game, you’ll get to feel that life, again.