The Lunatic

Thursday, January 24th, 2757 C.E.

Patient continues to have constant hallucinations. He responds to stimuli that are not present. He still claims to somehow be sensing “sounds.” In this evening’s sessions, he suddenly pressed his hands very firmly to the sides of his head, closed his eyes tightly, and opened his mouth wide. He then began to thrash wildly and violently. Though he was not aiming any violence at any particular person, I still felt it necessary to retrieve two orderlies to restrain him. This is the third occurrence, and I just noticed that it seems to happen every Thursday evening. Next Thursday, I will have him restrained during the session.

We still have yet to understand the complete neurological effects of his particular drug use, and autopsies of previous patients with similar symptoms have yet to find a cause. Will update again soon.

Dr. Jacobs closed the file on his computer. He looked up at the mirror over his monitor to see if there was anybody behind him in his office. Satisfied that he was alone, he opened his journal file on his home server.

The more I see this condition, the happier I am that it is not prevalent or contagious. Dave’s behavior is completely unpredictable. I’ve gotten to like him over the past couple of years, and it kills me to see him tortured like this. He still maintains that there is nothing wrong with him, of course. It is difficult if not impossible for me to wrap my head around what he signs, but it is certainly clear to me that it’s nonsense.

There are only a handful of these cases, and none of them end well. Only one patient was ever released, and she was later readmitted after she signed that she was foolish to lie to her doctors before. As I understand it, she lied to the physicians and signed that she was no longer experiencing her symptoms, and later expressed regret at that lie.

Dr. Jacobs felt a hand on his shoulder, and realized that he hadn’t been watching the mirror above his desk. He quickly panicked and closed the file. He turned around to see Jonathan, the orderly.

“He’s fine now,” Jonathan signed. “He asked for some painkillers for a headache, and I told him I would have to ask you.”

Jacobs signed, “Yes, that’s fine. I’ll do it, don’t worry.” He then stood and left his office, closing the door behind him.

The building was a pre-war hospital, Oklahoma City Hospital, and was in high demand. Though it was more than three hundred years old, it was still standing due to what maintenance could be done, and it was one of few buildings in the area that had working electricity. Shortly after the war it was mainly used to treat radiation sickness, but breakthroughs in research had greatly reduced that need. Now it was a general hospital to which only wealthy people could be admitted.

Dave was an exception. Dr. Leonard Jacobs was a leading psychiatrist working with the more unusual patients that could be found, and Dave was his main project. Physicians who were lucky enough to have working computers logged onto the Oklahoma server to follow the progress of this case.

Jacobs came to Dave’s room and an orderly unlocked and opened the door. He knew that after he enters the room, the orderly would lock the door behind him. Dave was lying on his bed with his hand over his eyes. Jacobs put his hand on Dave’s shoulder to let him know that he was there.

“Are you feeling better?” Jacobs signed.

“My head hurts,” signed Dave, without removing his hand. “And I can’t hear anything but a loud ringing in my ears.”

“We’ll talk about that in the morning,” signed Dr. Jacobs. “Until then, try to sleep.” Then Jacobs extended his hand and gave Dave two pills.

“Thank you,” signed Dave, and he took the pills.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” signed Jacobs, and left.

He left the building and went into the town. Oklahoma City had significantly lesser damage from the war than other areas of the country, and was resultantly the closest thing that the post-war world had to a metropolis. Radiation sickness was now at an all-time low, but it was not completely absent, and population was still declining. Nevertheless, Oklahoma City was relatively healthy.

Once in a rare while, a traveler would come with news of cities much further away. Most of the major cities of the former United States were completely destroyed by nuclear weapons during the war. New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C., and San Francisco were among those known to have taken direct hits from powerful bombs sent by a forgotten enemy. The rest of the nation was ravaged by chemical and biological weapons. The neighboring nations previously known as Canada and Mexico were also thrown into chaos. Nothing was known of the fates of those who lived across the sea. After the war, the governments of the three nations became fragmented, and smaller wars broke out amongst the various organizations that claimed to be the descendant of the federal government. After some time, kingdoms were not uncommon, and the only form of authority now left was the city-state.

Dr. Jacobs went to a diner to meet with his friend Warren. As he came in, he noticed the scrolling marquee on the wall.

TULSA SCIENTISTS SIGN THAT MINING PRE-WAR TECH IS A WASTE OF RESOURCES.”

Dr. Jacobs looked and saw Warren at a table, watching the scroll. He came and sat at the table.

“What do you think of that?” Jacobs signed.

“I’ve tried emailing them before,” signed Warren. “They don’t know what the hell they’re writing about. We wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for pre-war technology. You know that better than I do when it comes to treating radiation sickness.”

“That’s true,” signed Jacobs, “but I haven’t really given that much thought in a long time. I haven’t treated radiation sickness in a long time. In fact, the only time I’m ever in the radiation ward is to get my own monthly treatments. Which reminds me, you haven’t been in in over two months.”

“I know, I know.”

“You need to come in before you start vomiting, not after.”

“I’ll come in, I promise.”

“Can I get you guys anything?” signed the waitress as she came up.

“I’ll have water,” signed Jacobs, “and a turkey sandwich.”

“I’ll just have coffee,” signed Warren.

The waitress wrote down their orders and left.

“You’re nauseous, aren’t you?” signed Jacobs.

“I signed I’d come in,” signed Warren.

After a brief, irritated moment of inactivity, Jacobs finally signed, “What are you working on?”

“We found this new pre-war piece of equipment about a month ago. We think it’s called a—”

Warren then slowly signed the two syllables, “Sie-renn.”

“A siren?” signed Jacobs. “What does it do?”

“We don’t really know yet. In our fragments of pre-war documents, we found one person writing, ‘The sirens will provide some notice before an attack, but not enough.’ So, we’re guessing that they were some kind of early warning system that was insufficient.”

“Insufficient—Obviously.”

“Right. We fired it up just about an hour ago, but this is the third time and it still doesn’t seem to do anything. We thought maybe we weren’t giving it enough power, so we put it up to full power. When we did that, we noticed that the ground started to vibrate a little bit, which certainly would have been a way to notify everybody in the area of an impending catastrophe. But it was pretty weak, so it must have either needed far more power than our electricity rations could provide or it’s lost its power by deteriorating over the years. It actually does seem to be in almost perfect condition, though, so it’s kind of a mystery.”

“That is interesting. If we could figure out how to use it, and maybe even make it better than the pre-war people did, we might be able to use it to warn our own people for whatever reason we might need to.”

“I’ll tell you something else, though,” continued Warren, “we won’t get a thing done with all of this damn electricity rationing. You’re lucky enough to be considered a ‘high priority’ so you always have electricity. My research could help so much more than it is now and I’m not even considered ‘mid priority.’ You know, we only get electricity on Thursdays.

The waitress then came and brought their order. After she left, Warren continued, moving in closer and trying to be discreet. “Look, we’re right next to the hospital. Don’t you think we could run a cable over to where we are?”

“No, absolutely not,” signed Jacobs. “If they found out about it they’d execute me. Besides, you have a lot of pre-war tech already, why don’t you try to find a way to make electricity for yourself instead of getting it from the city?”

Warren sat away, disappointed, but not surprised. “As soon as I make it, the city will ask about it in my report and then just take it away ‘for the sake of the city,’ like they usually do.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right.”

The two men continued their conversation for some time before getting up to leave, and Jacobs returned home that night.

The next morning, Jacobs came to the front doors of the hospital to find Jonathan running out in a panic.

“Dave got out,” he signed.

“What? Where did he go?”

“We don’t know. This is the first time he’s ever even tried and he got out so easily. We tried to catch him, but he somehow always knew when we were behind him. I don’t know how he did it. He’s a maniac, and I really think he’s dangerous.”

“No, he’s not dangerous,” signed Jacobs, “but he is desperate. Is he still in the building?”

“We don’t even know that much. Nobody’s seen him leave.”

“Let’s keep looking for him, and block all exits.”

Jacobs ran into the hospital and began to look with the orderlies. He started with the third floor, where Dave’s room was, then the second, and returned to the first. The only place that was then left was the basement. Only technicians went into the basement, and even then not very far into it. It was very dangerous, and very few lights were still working, but Jacobs knew that it was unlikely that Dave could be anywhere else.

They opened the door to the stairwell and descended, Jonathan first with the hospital’s only working flashlight. They cautiously walked down a hallway, but Jacobs was suddenly pulled away into a dark corner by an unseen force, and because Jonathan continued looking forward he did not notice.

Jacobs struggled, but he soon found his hands and feet bound and he was sitting on the floor.

A light came on. He found himself in a large room with many round tables and chairs. It was entirely unmaintained and there was debris everywhere. Dave was the one that turned on the last remaining light in the room, which was very weak.

“Dr. Jacobs,” signed Dave. “I know that you mean well and you don’t have any desire to harm me, but you just don’t understand what’s going on. I need to get out of here, but they’ve blocked all of the exits. The only way I can get out is if you release me.”

Dave looked at Jacobs as if awaiting a response. The only thing he could do to reply was hold up his hands that were tied together to indicate that he had been silenced.

“At this point, especially after this, you won’t be convinced that I am mentally sound,” continued Dave. “That is, unless you see things the way I do. Then you will realize that I am not a danger to you or anybody else in society. Unfortunately, there is only one way that can be done as far as I know, and I have absolutely no certainty that this will work.”

Dave then picked up a long, thick metal rod from the ground and walked behind Jacobs. After a sharp, disorienting pain, Jacobs lost consciousness.

Jacobs awoke on his back, his hands and legs no longer bound, lying on one of the tables. He felt a very powerful sensation, something that he had not felt before. It started out strong, and then faded away slowly. Then he felt another sensation, sensing something different but with the same sense, very short in duration but repetitive and slightly more powerful than the previous sensation. This new sense was directional; he could tell which direction the source was coming from, and it did not matter which way he was facing. He sat up and saw Dave walking towards him in the weak light, and he noticed that the short, repetitive sensations seemed to happen exactly when Dave’s feet hit the ground.

“You looked up at me when I started coming,” signed Dave. “I guess that means that it worked. Are you feeling okay?”

Jacobs was too much in shock to really know if he was feeling ill or if he was in pain. He felt only an oppressive uncertainty. He looked at Dave, but his attention was greatly divided, for he felt another sensation from this new sense. It was soft, but drawn out, and it began over again. After looking around and searching for the source, Jacobs realized it was his own breathing. He then sensed again the first thing he sensed when he woke up.

“That is thunder,” signed Dave. “There is a lightning storm outside, and you can hear it now. It’s fairly faint since we’re in the basement.”

“How do you know what that is?” signed Jacobs.

“I’ve heard it before.”

Jacobs moved over to the edge of the table he was on. He could still see from the faint light that Dave had turned on.

“You’ve been out for about six hours,” signed Dave. “I’m sorry I had to do that, but I’m glad to see that it worked. That’s how it happened to me; I was scavenging in a broken down pre-war building, and a beam fell and knocked me unconscious. When I woke up, I could hear.”

Jacobs stood on the ground, and began to walk. He could hear his footfalls, repeating in the distances of the large room. He could still faintly hear the thunder.

He turned around and looked at Dave. “What have you done to me?” he signed.

“I have freed you,” signed Dave. “Even though I was locked up in that cell, I still considered you to be the captive and myself to be free. At least relatively, since I still wanted out of the cell. Do you think you are insane?”

Jacobs paused before signing, “There are many cases of those under the influence of psychoactive drugs to smell colors. I believe that you and I suffer from brain damage and are receiving similar hallucinations.”

“If they are hallucinations, then they cannot reflect reality, correct? If they are not caused by legitimate sense experience, then they cannot reliably interpret physical phenomena.”

“I guess that’s a matter of debate, but—”

“Here, let me demonstrate something. Make this sound.”

Dave then opened his mouth and Jacobs heard another sound.

“How can I make that sound? I don’t truly believe that you did yourself.”

Dave then pulled back his leg and kicked Jacobs in the shin. Jacobs instinctively shifted his weight onto his other leg, crouched down and held his hurt shin in his hands. He then realized that out of his own throat came the same sound that had come out of Dave’s.

He looked up at Dave, who then signed, “I’ll stay here and face this direction.” He then pointed towards one end of the room. “You go over there in the dark part of the room—don’t worry, there aren’t any rats or anything in here, I already checked—and then you make that sound. Every time you do it, I’ll raise my hand, then I’ll put it down. Do this as long as it takes before you’re convinced that this is a real stimulus.”

Dave then faced the corner of the room, and Jacobs, still in shock and not understanding the situation well enough to acknowledge the ability to defy anybody, walked, half limping, into the darkness.

Jacobs made the sound. Dave raised his hand, then put it down. Jacobs repeated the sound, and Dave put his hand up, then down again. Jacobs made two quick sounds, and Dave quickly put his hand up, then down, then up again, then down again. Jacobs then paused before making several short sounds followed by one long sound. Dave shot his hand up and down several times before holding it up and shaking it before bringing it down again, and while he did so, Jacobs heard another sound coming from Dave’s throat. Though he had not heard this particular sound before, he could instinctively tell that it was a friendly and benevolent sound, though he did not know how he knew that.

Dave turned around, smiling, and laughing a bit, while that sound continued from his throat. It seemed that that was what the new sound was: Laughing.

“You see?” signed Dave. “How could this new sense be merely a hallucination if my sense of hearing perfectly corresponds to your sense of sight?”

“But how do I know—” Jacobs started to answer, but realized he was still in the dark. He came into the light and signed, “But if I am having hallucinations, how do I not know that my sight is compromised as well?”

“I suppose you don’t. In fact, I don’t know how you can. But by the same token, how do you know that your previous senses were reliable?”

“Because that’s what everybody was experiencing.”

“I’d hate to use majority within society as the foundation of faith in myself in any situation, especially when it regards my mental stability. Unfortunately, what is and what is not considered to be normal thought and behavior as opposed to psychotic thought and behavior is based almost entirely, if not entirely, on what society determines it to be. The most frightening part of that is that I don’t have any clue what might be a better foundation, but at the same time, society, it seems, is very flimsy and untrustworthy. It was considered the norm of whatever God-forsaken society came before us to ignore psychotic enemies until after they bomb them to hell, so I can’t imagine wanting to use that society as a standard. I’m not sure we’ve changed all that much. Honestly, I’m skeptical that we can, no matter how enlightened we think of ourselves.”

Jacobs then heard another thunder peal, this one particularly powerful. He then started to breathe heavily, and he could hear his own breathing. The more he heard his own breathing, the more anxiety he felt, and the harder he began to breathe, until he started to hyperventilate. He sat down in a chair and tried to calm himself down. Dave came up to him, and Jacobs looked up at him. His anger began to build. His life, his work, now all destroyed because this madman had brought him into this fantasy world.

Dave apparently noticed Jacobs’ resentment. The expression on his face was obviously concerned, and he began to back away. Jacobs jumped out of the chair and leapt at Dave, all the while making a loud sound from his throat. That sound itself made him angrier. Dave moved out of the way, and Jacobs fell to the ground.

Jacobs turned around, still on the ground, and signed, “You’ve killed me, you son of a bitch!”

Dave did not respond. He did not know how to comfort him.

Jacobs came up to his feet. “Nothing can be done now; you know that,” he signed. “I can’t get you out anymore; they’re going to think I’m crazy now, too. All you’ve done is ruined my life as well as yours.”

“I’ve freed you. Better constrained by chains than ignorance.”

“Haven’t you heard the ancient adage, ‘ignorance is bliss’?”

“Bliss is not my end. Truth is.”

“Well, what gave you the right to change my life?”

Dave paused, then signed, “Nothing, I suppose. What gave you the right to change mine?”

“What do you mean?”

“You approved having me committed. What gave you that right?”

“You were dangerous; it was self-preservation, a natural inclination.”

“It was my natural inclination to share the truth,” signed Dave, “but I’m not completely certain that ‘natural inclination’ is a universally acceptable rationale anyway.”

“Why not?”

“Why would it be?”

Jacobs stopped signing for a moment, and then slowly paced around the room for a few minutes. He finally approached Dave. Dave had been staring at the ground, but Jacobs noticed that as soon as he started in approaching him, he looked up. He knew that Jacobs was approaching, merely by the sound of his footsteps.

“What now?” signed Jacobs.

“There’s only one thing we can do,” signed Dave. “We go back up. Then you can release me.”

“They won’t let me do that; they’ll think I’m psychotic before I even get a chance!”

“They don’t know you can hear. Besides, we don’t need them to be able to hear to prove that our own hearing is real. The test I used before didn’t depend on your hearing, only mine.”

Jacobs thought briefly before signing, “I don’t think that’ll be enough for them. They’ll think it’s just a magician’s trick, like a horse doing math.”

“Well, then, just release me, and don’t tell anybody that you can hear.”

Jacobs looked at Dave, and then signed, “Ok, I’ll try it. I guess our only other option is staying down here until we die of thirst. I guess the worst that can happen is they’ll find out and put me in a cell, but even a cell is better than waiting to die here. But you know I can’t release you immediately after you broke out of your cell. I’ll have to wait at least a week.”

“Okay, I’ll accept that compromise. Let’s try it.”

Jacobs then walked to the door and went into the hallway, then turned to the right towards the stairway. He could see the light from the open basement door, and he ascended the stairs. He came out into the hospital hallway, where two orderlies ran up to him.

“Dr. Jacobs,” he signed, “We’ve sent teams down to find you several times! Are you hurt?”

Then the orderlies saw Dave following Jacobs and reached out to restrain him. Jacobs pulled them away and signed, “Wait, Dave and I had a good discussion, and he’s coming back on his own. Let’s let him go by his own will.”

The orderlies nodded, and walked away.

Jacobs and Dave walked up to the room. The two orderlies kept their distance, but continued to follow. Jacobs and Dave both heard the rain against the windows and the thunder outside. Jacobs naturally turned his head towards the window upon hearing it, but realized that he needed to continue to act as though he could not hear.

Dave voluntarily went into his cell and lay down on his bed. Jacobs closed the door but did not go to the trouble to lock it. He then went to his computer terminal and made an entry for other psychiatrists to follow.

Friday, January 25th, 2757 C.E.

After an escape scare, patient had an amazing breakthrough. I believe I am now on the verge of breaking the surface of this condition and discovering a great deal more about it, and it appears that it is not at all as we have thought. Will update again soon.

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