Another boring meeting, not enough coffee to keep awake, no one knows where the agenda is, Google drive is so cluttered, why is this room so warm? Shit! What was that? Did I see that? Wings and scales and bright eyes and claws and those teeth must be razor sharp. Crap, where did it go? Did anyone else see it? Just caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye, over there by the waste basket, a freaking little dragon! Oh my God! Take a deep breath, don’t freak out. Shit, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who saw it. Am I hallucinating? Jeez, it’s been years since those mushrooms in college. Why would it start up now? What am I going to do? There it goes again! I swear I saw it duck behind the chair next to me. Carol thinks I’m creeping or something by checking out her chair. Okay, knock it off. It’s obviously only happening to me. No one else can see it. Bloody hell there it is, right on the table, sitting there staring at me.
“What? No, sorry. I don’t have those numbers for you. I’m not feeling well. This room is too hot. I think I should step out and get some fresh air for a bit. Be right back.”
The fog crept closer each day, rendering bits of the outside world more obscure; some of his memories evaporated completely, leaving only small bits of disconnected tissues or vague emptiness in the shape of some forgotten impression or emotion. The mirror fog claimed most of him, erasing his past.
He stepped onto the sidewalk outside his tenement building and joined the commuting masses on their way to work. Each step adding incremental momentum, guiding his steps like a rollercoaster with its terrible slow rise to the top and inevitable mad rushing fall with a promise to throw him from side to side until he could exit to the platform, shaky legged and unable to cope with the growing nausea and the realization that this ride would never end, the initial plunge would never stop, and he’d fall, fall through the floor to some darkened abyss to be swallowed by the earth.
Another day of flicking through websites, obsessive FOMO, dunking teabags until the caffein leaves a permanent buzzing ring around the frontal cortex, daring the clock to start running backwards or the alarm clock ring to disrupt the lucid dream and restart the morning, a horrifying thought, a Sisyphusian nightmare with arms and legs wrapped up in permeable bags dipped in boiling water and served to the pleasure of the gods on Mount Olympus.
Six robed figures seated on one side of a stark wooden counter, their faces cloaked in shadow; the room is dark save for the food lights directly over each figure and the empty stool across the counter. They sit in judgement.
“Sit,” says one of the judges. The one furthest stage right perhaps?
Your throat constricts, blood rushes to your head, and you aren’t sure you can walk that far without passing out, but your feet shuffle and you find yourself sitting.
“Speak,” says another of the judges.
“I don’t know where to begin,” you say.
“Stop,” says a third judge. “You must tell the truth.”
You bite on your lips, your breath becomes shallow as the cold snow-melt river that meanders at the border of town. Your hands freeze like they did that day you last stepped into those cold waters with that burden over your shoulders. You can still hear the splash of that over-full burlap sack, the weight of it sending up an icy shower baptism. You are tied to that body you submerged as surely as the sack you cinched shut.
“Stop,” says the first judge. “We have heard enough.”
Were you speaking? Did your tongue betray you and tell this tribunal what you did? Or did they plumb through your thoughts and divine your actions? It doesn’t matter.
The judges rise as one and turn, walking into shadows leaving you to rot on your stool.