It begins with a cold.
It starts off mildly. Your nose starts running, it gets harder and harder to pronounce words. You take days off due to a fever, congestion in the head. Finally, you start going to work again, sure that the cold is making its way from your body.
But it begins with a cold.
It isn't apparent at first. You think it's because of the cold that, when all is silent, you hear random words being whispered right behind- no, in front- no, no- in your ear: dinner, mom, Sonny, dead, car.
But it begins with a cold.
You start going more and more to the doctor's. You notice more people than usual, and that they all cringe in pain as one more person walks in. All with runny noses, swollen heads, baggy eyes, open, slimed mouths. You go in. The doctor says the same thing every time: take this medicine, twice daily, keep away from children, rest well.
But it starts from a cold.
Because it's too late once the cold sets in. The voices in your head get louder and louder. The boss doesn't notice that you're gone because he's been sent to the asylum for unknown reasons, sniffling about thoughts and how it's the end of the world. The Chinese vendor across the street doesn't notice you're in all the time because he's also upstairs in his cramped apartment, wasting what's the last day of his life watching crappy MTV shows, because that's the only channel his antenna receives due to a thunderstorm thirty-seven years ago. He's been here that long.
But most importantly, you don't notice that you're gone from work. You drive in every day, but it seems like you've been in for days when you drive in. The calendars are there to prove it. Your boss got them from a failed business venture he tried when he was fresh out of college. It was called 365 Ideas a Year, and it was 365 post-it notes with inspirational messages on them. You wonder how he even got the idea. He just tries to forget and move on.
The bottle with the pills say rest well. You rest well.
You rest too well.
Because the next time you wake up you notice that your Zimbabwean plumber is gone, but you haven't called him in since last February 20 because your roof had leaked 27.6 milliliters of a mixed solution of mercury and water, which was kind of dumb because mercury kills you. That's what David Kelling, Mr. Kelling told you in seventh grade. You hear the voices more. The Spanish pizza delivery guy next door watches his music videos. You can hear them clearer. You understand Spanish.
Rest well. Rest well rest well REST WELL
IT BEGINS WITH A COLD
THERE'S NOT A DAY IN HIS LIFE THAT HE DOESN'T REGRET DIVORCING HIS WIFE. THE VOICES ARE CLEARER NOW. LISA. LISA DON'T LEAVE ME. ALL HAIL MAO ZEDONG. 365 SOUNDS LIKE A GREAT IDEA FOR A BUSINESS VENTURE, CARL, DON'T YOU THINK DON'T YOU THINK IT'S A GREAT IDEA WE'RE GONNA BE MILLIONAIRES NOW THE VOICES ARE CLEARER THEY HAPPEN THEY COME MORE FREQUENTLY YOU CAN'T STOP IT IT'S LIKE THE HOOVER DAM BROKE OPEN AND IT'S GORBACHEV ALL OVER AGAIN TELLING HIMSELF TO TEAR DOWN THIS WALL TEAR DOWN THIS WALL
Now you sit on your Ikea sofa going through each step over and over again while people outside honk their Ford 2013 model horns over and over again trying to get THEIR voices out of THEIR head because they want that RAISE.
You don't know what's happening, but by the next week the voices are almost constant. You go to the clinic, writhing in pain as you pass by a LGBT rights parade, voices of various people banging in your head. But it's not the same voices that the radio that Dan Gerald hosts on 67.1 FM every Saturday morning you don't know what's happening but the math equations that have always bothered you are ringing in your head now a dog comes up to you and it speaks to you in English that hot dog vendor hates you for that beeping the driver of the car in front you is a female her name is Sarah Smithson she is scared because everyone around her is honking their horns.
But somehow you make it to the clinic.
Somehow you think all of these voices, all of this TRUTH is rushing through your head because of that cold a week ago, but that thought is replaced by the ones that tell you that there's a worm on Mars fucking another one and they can't enjoy it because they're worms and the ones that tell you that that missing guy that Hailey Baker anchor told you about 21 days ago is drifting down in a river and it's night where he is so his pulse is zero and his body temp is about thirty below zero Celsius.
Too many thoughts.
Another guy with a runny nose stumbles into the clinic whilst the cheap Cambodian chime rings for the 4,701th time. The clinic should celebrate. 4701st chime. The door closes. His name is Jack Hagerty. He has had this cold for exactly 432,010,891 seconds. 432,010,892 seconds. In another reality you are eating a hotdog whist accessing the vast memories of the hotdog guy. In another you are already dead. In yet another you go to work like normal. Finally, there's one reality where the guy just experienced his 432,010,893.3rd second of his cold.
The door opens. The doctor walks in. You are next. Your head yells out in pain as a dozen more thoughts enter your head.
Rest well. Lie down.
It begins with a cold.
You don't even feel it when the door closes and your brain, having just held the entirety of 5 human minds for one week, and then holding 105 minds of homosexual protesters, to holding the 36 patients' minds of the clinic, to holding just the one mind of the doctor, collapses onto itself, its neurons and microscopic axons having given up the sheer stress of doing a job that it just got used to.
You don't feel it when your skull hits the table and your cranium, softened by a month of brain inflammation, cracks open. You don't feel it when your skin, having its nerves and skin cells stretched by the almost nonstop flow of blood for 31 days of January, explodes. You don't feel it when the police come and poke at the mass of red that was once your brain, doctor having pissed himself at the sight of one of his patients just having his head blown up.
But this is just the start. Your consciousness is awake. You don't feel it- you know all of that. You know that the final thought passing through your head before you died was the doctor's name. You don't know that you're going to know everything. Every little detail. And you can't tell it to anyone. Not in any dimension. Not in the past, the future, the present, and everything in between.
Just know that it starts with a cold.
Written by 41488p