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On the way to the bus stop, Neil passed a person he could swear he knew from somewhere, but he didn’t remember his name. As soon as a K came to mind he started subconsciously running through every possible contingency that would happen. As they passed each other Neil blurted out “KEK” and the passerby partially did an awkward half turn to look back at him. Confident nothing would happen, the two strolled away and almost instantly forgot about each other.

The following night Neil awoke with a start and screamed “CARL!” in a way too passionate voice, which for some reason made himself think that as a result a neighbor was convinced that he was having sex with a dude, possibly a vagrant or foreign...

“Wait what the fuck?!”

Yes it seemed Neil was just generally out of sorts that day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and so on and so forth. Neil’s brain was an enigma to all, not even the...third or fourth doctor he saw? One of the two for sure--could wrap his head around it. Honestly Neil got used to it after a while, the whole world seemingly consuming him…

It’s amazing he even still remembers this, looking up at the starry night skies as it seems his vision is getting narrower and narrower.

“I’m not going to die...am I?”

I.Edit

Neil was always careful to reach for the produce at the back of the piles of plump probably HGH-ridden (whatever the fuck that noise was) fruits as those in the front were at crotch-level with most customers. Somehow that idea filled Neil with contempt. The cashier asks him how he feels, he gives the typical answer and asks the same thing, but she doesn’t answer. Neil feels so used he’s ready to bash her face into the paraplegic war vet beside him until he hears crunches.

When he gets home and places his keys on the counter, suddenly his thoughts turned to how many times he’s placed his keys there in that exact spot. How many days of his life wasted doing the same tasks and rituals over and over again. Maybe this just was his life and the horrifying part was that he did other things.

That night he dreamt his mother was plucking out his hairs and thinly slicing his newly exposed scalp into slits to feed herself.

When he awoke he felt so tired despite him sleeping for...13 hours. That’s neat. His calendar, which had little animals as the frontrunner pictures for each month, this month was a kitten adorably playing with a ball of yarn. Thinking food will get him going again, he ends up angrily eating an entire box of crackers yelling at a TV which just won’t change channels. He calls his ex to chat and tell her about the manatee, wait...cat, yeah cat, on his calendar, and as he hangs up, contemplates how lucid he could have been during the cracker incident as he only just remembered he had actually neglected to even turn the TV on in the first place.

The next morning Neil felt worse. As he walked uptown the hot smell of manure blew past him and assaulted his nostrils. He finds a mass crowded around three dead horses lying in the middle of the road, apparently mowed down in the night. “Guess that explains the smell”

He met his ex in the park during her lunch break and they took a walk in the park. Neil noticed that everytime he got close she picked up the pace to dart away from him. Neil felt like trash. They sat and watched the birds sing and the leaves fly on the wind and talked about the finality of death and how they would loathe being buried. Neil thought coffins were too claustrophobic and cremation wasn’t an option since intense heat causes bodily fluids to heat until your head explodes. Neil said that he’d probably want his remains scattered on his estate. His ex seemed confused as she knew he didn’t want to be cremated but avoided pressing him on the matter lest there be some really creepy implications with his choice.

Neil got a new booklet about dealing with memory loss at the clinic. Somehow the thought of cryogenically freezing his body until an ample cure could be applied to his brain to rid him of his burden pops into his mind. He thought of donor brains, or preserved brains like Einstein’s or a serial killer’s. He wondered if there were still bits and pieces of individuals within the confines of gray and white matter or if once the body fails your entire existence is gone just as quickly as it began.


The next day he went down to the park to get some fresh air. He came upon someone proposing to their mate and he began crying hysterically for some reason, at first at the beauty, but then at the hypothetical prospect that he was ruining their moment by crying, even though they were some yards away and definitely could not hear him. Neil then proceeded to urinate slightly, much to his dismay.

Then a child came up to him and offered to sell him a magazine subscription. Neil planned to pretend to legitimately contemplate the decision before politely turning the kid down, but for some reason instead angrily wondered why an Asian porn mag wasn’t offered. Then he wondered why he even wondered that.

As he walked to the doctors he found he only heard voices in loud, irritating, terrifying screeches. His booklet looked so different. Instead of a funny little wisecrack about losing your head, it reaffirmed him that everyone he loves will be dead someday. Weird. At the bus stop Neil was seated next to a man with a cow head, which he pretended not to notice.

His doctor had discouraging news, no further surgery was possible and the treatment just seemed to stop working, but found nothing that would explain him seeing things.

Neil went home and furiously masturbated for nine hours before going to sleep with bloody hands.

He woke up the next morning to a room that seemed different. Everything was doubled in his vision, only one image was more closer and more tilted than the other and everything was blue.

“Oh my God my mouth is bleeding!”

Neil found his pillow soaked red and four little teeth lay beside him.

The supermarket was drenched in red and everyone looked like a demon with their swollen, infected, BACTERIAL, PESTILENT TESTICLES IN ALL THE GODDAMN PRODUCE!

His whole body was sparkling, and his shoes felt like they were filling with blood, his hands smelt of copper. For a brief moment he lost control of his jaw and the entire lower half of his face slumped down as a river of drool escaped his gaping maw. Clouds began swooping down and killing pedestrians in front of Neil’s eyes, but no one else seemed to notice.

Neil could read the thoughts of his waitress who had no self-esteem and wore too much makeup. He’s afraid to leave because there are bird creatures outside telling children to sit on their laps when they pass by. Their faces just melt and contort the more Neil waits for them to just FUCKING DIE ALREADY!

Neil put on some slippers and flew to the bus stop as pheromone music blared in his ears.

Neil kept staring at a mutated fly creature that waited for the bus with him. His eyelids won’t close anymore and his teeth feel like razors. All he can do is tear at his bald head and scream and cry and wait I’m--i mean--HE’S BALD

Maybe this just was his life and the horrifying part was that he did other things.

The fly thing is screaming at Neil as he tries to gouge out its own grotesque compound eyes, meanwhile Neil pounds his fists on the ground, screaming still.

It feels so natural.

It’s as if he’s a monster, breathing fire and tearing people apart just for looking at him funny. Beyond all this anger and hopelessness was just a scared little man begging God for it all to end. Just for it all to fucking


They said they found him curled up in an alleyway after someone nearby called 911, fearing for his welfare. He stumbled into the dark enclosure punching himself and screaming in Hebrew, oddly enough.

II.Edit

His mother came all the way from Illinois to take care of him. They watched puzzles together and built televisions. It was the happiest Neil had been in a long time. One morning, while admiring the weather from the couch, Neil’s mom noticed a loose thread in his collar. As she approached with the scissors, Neil leaped up, roared with a burning passion, punched the scissors out of the elderly woman’s hand and stopped short of jabbing his poor mother in the arm with enough force to cause a severe hemorrhage for a woman her age.

With a trembling, hopeless voice and tears in her eyes and she asked, “How could you think I’d ever want to hurt you?” before crumpling to the floor. In that moment of utter apathy, Neil could only think of how old she looked.


Sometimes the IV left a really horrible taste in his mouth. One day he awoke to beautiful sunshine and tried to jump out the window, but luckily didn’t have the strength to stand.

The third day his uncle came in all the way from Iowa just to see him. He took so much time off from work just to see his nephew, yet Neil couldn’t help but feel he looked annoyed.

The next day he felt better, the next much better, following that he had a mini stroke, but then felt fine the next day.

The doctors were baffled. One suggested that Neil’s body was “rallying” before it just...gave up.

Still, after two days the doctors found that Neil was not going to die, so his mother had the flowers in his room removed, and his coffin returned at a great inconvenience.

Neil had to go back to work the next day.

The rain on the bus ride there brought up some bad memories.

His half-brother Manny had been born with no arms, and a brain as misshapen as his legs. No one really knew him because he was in all the special classes, took a separate bus to school, and just counted rocks in the corner of the courtyard during recess. One day on a field trip to the beach, Neil and the other kids were playing in the sand when a gull flew overhead. Manny was with the adults, but when he saw that gull something inside him snapped. His eyes became overcome with emotion and he charged into the sea screaming unintelligibly. The first thing all the kids thought before the terror of the reality hit them was the extraordinary speed in which the measly child ran with.

That was the year when Neil’s mom forced him to wear a huge woolen coat in fear of him catching the AIDS. Soon he had been wearing it for five years. Those five years were a mystery to him now, his mother rarely left the house and threw bottles and Hasidic Jews that passed by the house. You would think if there were such a plentiful number of Orthodox Jews in the neighborhood that they would at least stop going on our block for a little while but they never did.

For his seventh birthday Neil’s mom gave a rusty pin, a broken key, a stamp, and a ribbon of twine before hugging him for ten solid minutes.

He remembered hearing screaming that night through the tiny hole in his floor. He crawled out of bed and propped his eyes into the enclosure just in time to see his step-father, suitcase in hand, storming out the door. He looked up to the hole in the ceiling where Neil had been perched, probably for dramatic effect more than anything, no way he could’ve noticed his step-son standing there, and screamed “I JUST CAN’T TAKE THIS GODDAMN WOMAN!”

Neil was sure that his step-father could not see him through the hole, but after screaming he just looked through it and stood motionless for a bit. Neil fixated on his face, a corpse of former emotions.

To Neil, the look in his eyes as he gazed through that hole never left him.

His mother sat in front of the door for three days before finally moving to pass out on the couch.


Neil’s hair was finally growing back…

...and so were his teeth..?

After completing the clinic’s daily memory test, he walked out to get some fresh air.

It took him thirty seconds to unlock his door.

He remembered, this was the anniversary of his diagnosis. He remembered it vividly, he and his ex stayed up late drinking and the next morning she told him it was over.

He finds he has trouble sleeping that night before realizing he’s just lying in the dark with his eyes open.

The next morning while rummaging through some old shit Neil found a family tree he had made while in grade school. He remembered his grandmother for the first time in years. Yeah...he would show her his drawings. In return, she contemplated how quickly she could toss little Neil into the fireplace or out a window, or even how far she could toss him period. Every night she would take a preserved cat head from her drawer and rubbed its decomposing maw all over her face until the fish in her head were quelled.

When Neil saw a hospital for the first time, he remembered hearing the words “terminal, tumor, dementia” and “senile”. He didn’t know what these words meant but he could have a guess.

Her father was a simple man from Iowa who serviced electrical machines, who once strangled a rock in a fit of religious stupor. He enjoyed telling his children of how his own father tamed the wild like he did. One morning while walking down Main, a tree fell and it’s swinging form knocked Neil’s great-grandfather back at least 20 feet. He survived, but incidentally landed square on the rails and was cleaved in two by a train.

Grandma’s brother thought his mole hairs made him Jah. One night he fathered an illegitimate child, and smothered it in the stables and raped it. Authorities still aren’t sure the order in which events transpired. Crippled with lead poisoning, Grandma’s brother was also, oddly enough, killed by a train.

Grandma’s sister Polly had beautiful golden locks. She used a large hammer to beat imaginary animals before dying of the yellow fever at age 8. This came at a very serious shock since, as horrible as it may have sounded, a part of the family wished she’d die by train like her brothers before her.

Grandma’s second brother died peacefully in the fields after suffering from tuberculosis. A sunflower grew where his headstone was already set to be placed, which Neil thought was beautiful.

The family moved to the big city where Neil’s great grandmother spent the rest of her days in a senile rage chugging whiskey and persecuting Jews. Seriously. She just sorta threw bottles at them, course she was never strong enough to make ‘em break. I mean would you hit her back? Anyway, she died surrounded by visions of ghouls and was buried underneath a heart shaped shrub that made her cry each time she passed it. Neil felt like that was kind of a dick move but what could he do, that family really seemed to like that shrub in their yard! I guess pray that they don’t decide to ever move the thing. Grandpa died a decade before Grandma did. It was okay though, she always insisted, she’d just play Bingo for two now.


Neil’s left arm felt funny, guess he slept on it weird.

At work the new guy swallowed a stapler and had to be rushed to the hospital. The guy in the cubicle next to Neil got into a conversation with him about something he saw on the Discovery Channel the other night. Two brothers separated at birth grew up to be serial rapists, as if they had no choice.

Genetics is pretty messed up.

This reminded Neil of his thoughts of the brains at the clinic.

That night Neil warmed up some leftovers and watched the microwave spin his food for 5 minutes trapped in a reverie.

He found a message on his answering machine.

His mother was dead.

She skipped her meds and launched into a fit of senile hysteria…



...and was hit by a train.


After the funeral, Neil rummaged through her things in the attic, baby toys in hand and eyes screaming to cry.

He found a centuries old family album, which in addition to having pictures of relatives he had never met, oddly enough featured pictures of bacon.

He found several photos of himself, happy, surrounded by friends. One of him with his father and Manny even.

It depressed him how foreign these pictures seemed to him now. How life had stolen this happy dead kid’s identity, and as an adult, made a complete mess of it.

Beneath the album was a folder full of his mother’s medical records. He found a physician's note attached to her initial diagnosis strongly urging she never have children.

At the bus stop Neil felt his eyes tear and his neck choke up like when you’re about to cry but you’re not quite there yet.

He envisioned himself bedridden in a hospital, near death. Surrounded by concerned faces. He’d been terrified to die his whole life, and as much as he tried not to think about it, it was always in the back of his mind, eating away at him. Around every corner, hovering on every horizon.

As a child, it seemed like such an abstract concept, something that could never happen. But as the decades droned on, and Neil began gaging the time he had left, he slowly began realizing the only absolute thing in life,

You will only get older

The next thing you know, you’re looking back instead of forward.

My stomach is cramping up

And now, in the climax of all those wasted years of worry, he finally finds himself staring his death in the face, surrounded by people he can no longer recognize, and he no longer feels anything for. If only he could impart some wisdom to the young faces in this room.

He raises his hand to speak, but only musters, “If my wife long outlives me, please tell any Jew in the neighborhood to stay away.”

And his daughter laughs, because she gets it. But no one else seems to at all.

He snaps back to reality.


“Where the hell did I put the memory test??”

He decides to make toast, but for a moment, can’t remember how.

I think I’ll take ahow do i get to the clinic again?

...there’s only a brown stain where those horses were.

I don’t even understand wh--“I have nothing but good news Neil…”

How did I get here?

“You’re making terrific progress! Nothing out of the ordinary.”

The doctor put his hand on Neil’s shoulder.

“If I didn’t know your medical history--thanks again for providing me with those records--I’d give you a clean bill of health.”

Neil still leaves with a smile plastered across his face. It was the happiest Neil had been in a long time. He took a deep breath, and began to say,

“Maybe…”

One more breath, almost in...anticipation?

“Everything will be oka


That’s as far as he got before he fell to the ground.


“Ma’am please calm down, what happened?”

“HE JUST FEEL TO THE GROUND AND HE’S SHAKING!”


and the world is dark


“Ma’am please calm down, how old is he?”

“M...mid forties--OH GOD HIS MOUTH IS BLEEDING”


gggggg


“Alright, I turned him over, it’s coming out”

“Good, is he responsive?”

“Hang on!”

“...no, he’s not, his eyes are just blank too!”


where’s my mother? mommy knows how to take care of me


“Alright we’re on our way, stay with him.”


לִברוֹחַ

III.Edit

Neil was born to a world of red and orange.

He…

Yeah…

He likes the way the rug in the living room feel on his fingerNeil, can you hear me?

He likes sun beams, and rockets. Andoh god melted chocolate ice cream…

The smell of dew on the grass in the early morning.

Watching the lights while he falls asleep in the back seat“Suction! We need to find where the blood isHe sits with someone on the shoreNeil can you hear me??who tells him that the waves have been thereHe’s waking up!long before he was born, and will be here long after he diesHe’s choking! Help him! SOMEONE GET HER OUT OF HEREyet if feels like he’s going to drown’Neil you’re going to be ok


Hear that Neil? You’re going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. You’re going to be okay.

ZAP

ZAP


ZAP

CLEAR

ZAP


Birds and the smell of copper. That’s the last thing he remembers.

Neil awakens to dust twirling through the sunlight in the windows. And then goes back to sleep...

I am in pain

Neil’s roommate Don can’t speak, he’s been given an electronic device that will play six phrases, like “I need water” or “My heart stopped beating”, but all he does is push the same button.

I am in pain

That night he dreamt his mother was plucking out his hairs and thinly slicing his newly exposed scalp in...wait.

His ex has been visiting lately. Talking about current events, eating ice cream. It was the happiest Neil had been…

...in a long time…


Neil was given a new doctor and given a short interview. He doesn’t know what month it is, but is aware he’s in a hospital, which he assumes has always been his place of residence since he doesn’t remember even being anywhere else that much. His vision is a bit blurry, and the grip in his left hand is gone. He can only certainly distinguish his ex’s face because of her long hair.

It's a while before it dons on him something is missing. All the memories the doctor had him recall are suddenly out of grasp. All those years, faces, moments...reduced to a vague feeling.

The years…

...the years are slipping…

...the years are slipping away from him…

Another test is arranged. Bill’s head is hooked into a helmet in a white room and then doctors plugged him into a machine. A radiologist makes an incision and places a catheter into his leg, up through his heart, his stomach, his chest...and into his brain.

“Ok Neil, can you count back from twenty for me?”

A dye is introduced to his brain veins.

“Heh heh, brain veins...o-okay here we go...uh, twenty…”

“Nineteen”

“Eighteen…”

“Seventeen…”

I’m feeling so used.

“Sixteen…”

“Fifteen…”

They’re telling him…

“Fourteen…”

“Thirteen…”

That they’re shutting down…

“Twelve…”

“Eleveen”

“Ten”

“Nine”

The left hemisphere of his brain is being shut down.

“Eight”

“Seven” “Six”

And for the rest of him…

“Five”

“Four”

The test beg…

“Neil, can you hear me? Can you look up for me?”

“Can you tell me what your objects are?”

“Can you tell me what this is?”

“Neil can you add these numbers up for me?”

“You’re doing great Neil.”

“Neil look at me. Look at me Neil.”

“Can you tell me who this is...Good!”

“Doing great Neil.”

“Alright, can you tell me who she is?”

that long hair…

“Neil?”

“Do you recognize her?”


Today she’s joined by her boyfriend, Steve. He just keeps staring at Don’s curtain.

I am in pain

The doctor says Neil might have trouble understanding past and present tense. It may also be hard for him to distinguish what memories are real and what are not.

“You see, when the brain tries to confront memory loss, often it will subconsciously resort to sort of fabricate memories...uh...confabulated stories.”

Neil is starting to cry. He doesn’t even remember who his doctor is.

“False memories...things that never existed, it’s merely a tactic to rationalize what is happening, nothing he does in this regard is intentional.”

Today they will chat awkwardly. Neil can’t stay on one topic for more than a few seconds, and he is easily agitated. She apologizes for bringing Steve (who?) the other day, admitting he quietly cried on the way home.


After the next round of tests, he can’t even remember the last time his ex visited. His uncle had come all the way from Iowa, and was just staring out the window.

He’s visibly been crying.

He clears his throat and in a quivering voice speaks,

“It’s too bad people don’t say how they feel until it’s too late.”

A doctor visits and asks him if he’d feel more comfortable under family care for a few days.

He accepts.


A neighbor must’ve bought groceries for him. There’s a bag of eggs, milk, and some bread on the counter.

It’s actually a pretty nice day.

He decides to take a walk. He goes around the block, downtown, back up the road, under the bridge and back up the side road past a dead fern to his apartment complex’s door…

It’s actually a pretty nice day.

He decides to take a walk. He goes around the block, downtown, back up the road, under the bridge and back up the side road past a dead fern to his apartment complex’s door…

It’s actually a pretty nice day.

He decides to take a walk. He goes around the block, downtown, back up the road, under the bridge and back up the side road past a dead fern to his apartment complex’s door…

It’s actually a pretty nice day…

Why are there so many bags of eggs milk and bread in his house, does he really need this many groceries?

Oh that reminds him, he needs to go out and get some eggs milk and bread, maybe he’ll take a walk, it’s actually a pretty nice day.

He decides to take a walk. He goes around the block, downtown, back up the road, under the bridge and back up the side road past a dead fern to his apartment complex’s door…

What was her name??

It’s actually a pretty nice day.

He decides to take a walk. He goes around the block, downtown, back up the road, under the bridge and back up the side road past a dead fern to his apartment complex’s door…

He decides to make coffee, but as he reaches for the mug it falls from his grasp, that hand keeps dropping things.

It’s actually a pretty nice day.

He decides to take a walk. He goes around the block, downtown, back up the road, under the bridge and back up the side road past a dead fern to his apartment complex’s door...

Why does he keep dropping the same mug? The same arm, the same spot, the same thing every-It’s actually a pretty nice day.

He decides to take a walk. He goes around the block, downtown, back up the road, under the bridge and back up the side road past a dead fern to his apartment complex’s door...

There’s a doctor on the answering machine. What’s wrong? Is he sic..WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS MUG??

It’s actually a pretty nice day.

He decides to take a walk. He goes around the block, downtown, back up the road, under the bridge and back up the side road past a dead fern to his apartment complex’s door… There’s a doctor on the machine. He spouts off numbers Neil doesn’t understand before reiterating information Neil doesn’t remember, before going quiet.

He tells Neil he doesn’t have long to live...

It’s actually a pretty nice day.

He decides to take a walk. He goes around the block, and sees beautiful color in the faces of the people he passes and the bricks-oh the bricks! Such striking passionate colors of red and orange! It’s so beautiful! I must have passed this every day! Oh these weeds, I must have passed this every day! The air seems so bright! It smells sweet! I have to call mother! I have to tell her I love her! I have to say I forgive her! The world is clumsy and yet so beautiful!

My crummy apartment is so gorgeous. I’ve eaten so many egg sandwiches!

It’s as if he’s been asleep his whole life and something has shaken him violently awake.

It feels so natural, On the way to the bus stop, Neil passed a person he could swear he knew from somewhere, but he didn’t remember his name, “You’re making terrific progress! Nothing out of the ordinary.”, “Nineteen...Eighteen”, hit by a train, it’s actually a pretty nice day…


He’s rented a car and has been driving on the freeway for hours, following directions he can’t comprehend, to a place he doesn’t even know, trying to absorb all he can before it just fades away. He stops at a motel to sleep, and doesn’t remember his dreams at all.

He stops at a gas station in the morning and finds a man who asks if he could borrow a pen. Neil obliges, and the man apparently calls his daughter. He tells her how proud he is of her, and promises her they’ll see each other soon before scribbling something down on a receipt. He then presents the pen back to Neil with a little flourish, and immediately after taking it back Neil has no recollection of what has just happened.

But he has to keep driving.

He’s at a house now. He used to run through a house just like this as a child. A man comes up to him. A familiar man he just cannot recognise. “Kek…” he whispers for some reason before Iowa comes to mind for whatever reason. He gives him an address on a slip of paper, an address his mother never wanted him to have. It’s where he can find his father.

His real father. A man that was gone before Neil was even born.

The man hugs Neil before leaving.

Every mile, another thing gone. Another motel, another dream he couldn’t have hoped to remember.


Neil hands the lady at the counter a slip with a name that isn’t his handwriting, not even remembering how he got to this oddly familiar clinic.

A man in a wheelchair is rolled out to the visitor center. Ten years and not a single visitor. They stare at each other for a bit. Neither men know why they are there or who the other is, but they sit, talk, and watch a game show together.

When it’s time to leave, Neil stands, holds the man’s hands, and says,

“You are forgiven.”

Neither man knows what exactly is meant, but they share a cry anyway.

And they will never see each other again.

He’s driving a car. And every time he realizes he’s driving a car he figures he should just keep driving.

Sometimes he sings, sometimes he cries.

The sights are getting darker and darker.

“I’m not going to die...am I?”

He wants to keep driving.

He wants to keep going.

He has to keep going.

He wants to go forever.


As his left side becomes slack he finds a large oak tree, blossoming beautifully. He lays with his back to it and watches the sun rise.

He looks to the orange and red, and the pink and blue, as the lights twinkle in his eyes as the heavy eyelids force themselves closed.

He sees people he’s lost. People he’s loved.

But he still can’t recognize them. But he knows he is loved. He knows he loved.

As it all escapes him he breathes one final sentence…

”It’s such a beautiful day…”

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