|A short story by Astro|
|It happened really all of a sudden, sort
of. As a matter of fact, from that moment on, "sudden" never ended, so
to speak. It began initially on his break from work. Sitting in the cold
air outside the office complex, he stared pretty much blankly at the digital
clock on the outside of the bank across the street, also vaguely taking
in the pedestrians, the traffic, the architecture... At first he thought
it was a trick of his wandering attention. Each time he actually read the
clock - although it was always in his field of vision - each time the numbers
registered in his thoughts, the
clock had either advanced a minute (maybe two) or had even changed while
he watched. His break was passing quickly, but he didn't really care, he
was relaxed, and the cold had ceased to bother him. The clock had gained
more of his fixed attention after having glanced not just the sporadic
change of numbers, but several sequential changes (7:21, 7:22, 7:23...)
Now he began to concentrate on the glowing numbers, slipping easily but
still uncomfortably (numbly) from meandering daydreams
to a dreamlike near-trance. Even staring directly, intently at the clock,
every time he could focus his attention, the numbers would change. Faster
now, minutes ticked away before him. Concentrating all his energy, he shifted
his attention to the other portions of his surroundings. Everything was
now moving at an accelerated pace, like a videotape in fast-forward scan.
Although with seemingly effortless strides, people seemed to run past him.
It was like the purely mental picture that modern urban society conjures
up in its residents: that of faceless masses of people hurtling from and
to different stations of productivity punctuated
by motor vehicles rocketing through intersections... The clock now keeping
good pace with his pulse (943944945946947!!), the walk / don't walk sign
flashed like a dentist's drill and the traffic signal echoed his ensuing
panic like a strobe. Now at the apex of crippling anxiety, he realized
that while he could manage to move his limbs, it was slow, difficult and
totally confusing in the blur of activity accelerating madly around him.
The street and buildings remained as fixed and as constant as they had
been prior to his rapidly exploding malady, but all tangible elements had
become a smear of colors that he now realized was becoming a concentrated
cloud around him. He barely glimpsed the smudged visages of co-workers,
strangers, medics, police -the digits on the clock moved so fast now that
he could only see them all at once - 88:88.
After ten days, the doctors didn't know any more than they had when he was first brought to them from the emergency room. (Seemingly) comatose, he had for no apparent reason simply frozen on a bench outside of his office building two hours into his shift as legal clerk. Another employee on break discovered him after two and a half hours, and unable to rouse him had gone for help. He had maintained a slight fever, the EKG's of a conscious person in heated concentration and only the slightest, most gradual motor movement - although muscles throughout the body were contracted strongly and then relaxed over long periods of time, like an ultra-slowed down simulation of an athlete in motion.
After six months, nothing had changed and the family elected to remove all but the most basic life supports. Neglected so badly that sometimes for two or three days his sheets would go unchanged, his glucose not replenished, his body deteriorated and his mind became an insane machine formulating problems and recording patterns out of the sporadic machine gun bursts of the attendant appearing and disappearing in a blur, the changes of air and temperature in the room and the flashing rise and fall of the sun.
Eventually he had been unattended for eleven days. The hospital social worker entered his room to discover that in those eleven days, he had managed to make his way three feet across from the bed to the desk. He had managed somehow to write in those eleven days a note - in perfectly clear script - on the neglectful nurse's stationery: