Abstract patterns of information, unfinished thoughts, untouched paths, memories of things forgotten; all faded. I heard myself sob. Sensation returning to my body in fragments, a touch of damp sheet here, the brush of the fingertips there, I shuddered slightly and opened my eyes. The room was dark. I pried my lids wide to let it in; the invigorating emptiness, the delicious monotony. As long as I was aware, I had never been able to sleep in anything less than total darkness. Over every window of the cramped bedroom I had tacked up thick fleece blankets strategically aligned to forbid any slim streak of light from slipping in. Even by midday, I could keep the room almost perfectly bereft of light.

There was no real way to hang blankets over deep memories. If it only were as easy as blotting out a few paragraphs, highlighting and deleting to replace with the sentence fragment "unimportant things here." My conscious mind was more than willing. My unconscious mind was obstinate. Malicious, even. Without mercy, I would dream myself every night into a world that would never exist again. The vast networks, glistening spiderweb threads arching lightyears, uncontrollable, unconquerable, encompassing and engorging on the body of human knowledge, a collective mind augmented and accelerated beyond any individual's comprehension, an infinite realm where mythologies subsumed realities. The layers of meaning had lain one beneath the next, extending so far past the mere physical sensations at the surface level. What was the smell of a rose, when with a glance you could summon up its entire history of growth, every intricate genetic modification that kept it such an exquisitely virginal shade of red, its complete journey from seed in a Warsaw factory to bush in a park oceans over, the extended etymology of the word itself, every mention of 'rose' in every work of literature in every human language for the last millenium?

No. I would not start this. That world had shattered and scattered ten years ago. We couldn't even find most of the shards, much less somehow fit them together again. It was over. The Schism was total and irreversible. While the night had free reign to torture me with meager scraps of memory, in the light my mind was my own. I chose to forget. I had found new meanings to fill my life.

One of which began to weigh heavily on my increasingly lucid mind. Dragging myself the rest of the arduous way from half-sleep to wakefulness, I noticed the sharp ache running from shoulder to toe in a smooth, continuous line of ouch. As it was most mornings, I had twisted myself into an impossible position through the course of the night. Wrenching the sweaty sheets apart with a grunt and no small amount of effort, I finally freed myself.

Limping to the bathroom, I kept my eyes locked on the medicine cabinet. I clawed it open to grab the dull orange bottle crouched in the top shelf corner. I dumped out six perfectly hexagonal pills. A wonderful, compassionate, entirely understanding Dr. John Doe had taken pity on my unfortunate condition and written me a permanent prescription for Kepefrin. I was, of course, strictly forbidden from taking anything above the minimum dosage. One wouldn't want to risk addiction, would one? In all seriousness, six really was a luxury, but I was in a piss-poor mood. I cupped my hand, moments from downing the little bastards. I paused.

Today was Naomi's birthday. She was coming over sometime around four thirty. I was a fairly discreet junkie, but there was no use pretending. With six, she would know. I stared at the pills with a deep, wrenching sense of regret, then slowly let four of them slide from the palm of my hand back into the bottle. For her sake. I downed the remainder all the quicker, closed my eyes, and waited for the rush. Thank God they hadn't lost the formulae for quick-dissolve pharmaceuticals in the Schism. I counted thirty breaths, then opened my eyes. The saturation setting on the world seemed to kick up a few notches, as did the serenity of my thoughts. My aches faded into irrelevance; pain noticed, not felt. Cautiously, I tried on a smile. My hair, graying slightly at the temples, was a catastrophic mess. I needed a shave. My irises were diluted, watery. There were dark lines beneath my eyes and worried creases all along my face. But I looked happy. It would be enough for her. As I hit the shower, I tried to beat back the disappointment of a need unfulfilled with pleasant anticipation of seeing her again.

Next: Playground ruin, beware: live wires

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