Ascent Into Madness

Ascent Into Madness

A Story by Juan More Story
"

Sometimes the more you feel sane, the crazier you're actually becoming.

"

The earliest memory I have is watching my mom cut my food for me at the dinner table when I was three. At least, that's what I tell anyone who has ever asked. In reality, I actually remember what it was like to be a baby.

Don't get me wrong, I don't remember everything. Its more like a movie clip, or rather more of a sensation. My eyes weren't even open yet, but I could sense the light through my eyelids. I remember the feeling of my own calm breathing. Just a ten second memory of being alone in the world. Now I am alone once again.

It all started in the middle of my second year in college. It was like any other normal day. I was running on only a couple hours of sleep as I scrambled to finish my paper. I stumbled out of the dorm building, paper in hand, and went to my political science class like I did every Monday. Well, almost every Monday. The life of a college student never ran like clock-work.

Since I was living in the dorms, I didn't have my parents hanging over my shoulder reminding me about deadlines; and it...was...awesome! I got to hang out with my friends and go stay with my girlfriend without having to sneak back in before my parents woke up. All of that was well worth a few sleepless nights doing homework.

I reached the social science building and held the door open for a couple of cute girls, ignored the guys walking up to the door, and made my way to the classroom. I set my paper on the front desk and took my seat, proud of the work I had done. I wrote about the long term implications of the PATRIOT Act. I wrote about how it had greatly expanded the use of Guantanamo Bay, as well as the blatant use of warrant-less wiretaps by the FBI on ordinary citizens. I had done a ton of research, and felt it was nothing short of a masterpiece.

I continued to mentally praise myself just as Dr. Goodman walked into the room. She set her things down and skimmed through the stacks of paper, pausing for a minute on one of them. She then pulled out her cellphone and sent a text to someone. She nervously set her phone aside and began to lecture. I fought the urge to sleep, especially since the last time a student fell asleep she had threatened to fail them. After a few minutes of fighting off sleep, I had realized something that made me wide awake.

The professor seemed to be watching me.

I mean, she looked around the room as she talked, but only for a second. The rest of the time she would be looking right at me, as if she was trying to make sure I wasn't going to run off. I thought about how crazy that sounded. She probably just noticed how tired I was and just waiting to catch me falling asleep.

I sat up in my chair, making sure she would never get the chance. The threat of failure gave me a burst of energy. But even with my new attentiveness, the professor kept looking over at me.

I lost track of her lecture as I kept thinking about why she was staring at me. I checked my hair, my pants zipper, and any other embarrassing thing I could think of. But even though everything was okay, she still kept staring. I looked down once again and realized I was naked. Horrified, I looked back up and saw everyone was staring at me, their faces filled with sinister smiles.

I jumped in my chair as I suddenly woke up. I knew I had dozed off for less than a minute because I still knew what was going on in the lecture. Dr. Goodman was looking all around the room as she gave her lecture, giving no indication that she had noticed me falling asleep. So it was all a dream after all. Relieved, I decided to go back to my dorm room and get some sleep before I got yelled at.

I grabbed my backpack and I got up, excusing myself as I sidestepped my way out of the aisle. As I walked over to the door the room suddenly went silent. Dr. Goodman had ceased her lecture. I nervously turned around and waited for her condemnation. Instead I was surprised to see she was texting on her phone.

I took the opportunity to slip out of the door unnoticed. I quickly walked down the hallway to get out of sight of the professor. A man rushed past me and opened the door to the classroom I just left. I walked a little faster as I heard my name coming from behind the door. The doorknob began to turn and I quickly ran out of the building, and I didn't stop until I was safe back in my dorm. I collapsed on my bed and threw the covers over me, knowing I would feel better once I got some sleep.

I was wrong and right at the same time. I did feel better once I woke up; but I still felt that something was...off. The next day I went out with my girlfriend to get something to eat after classes. We had just finished munching on some burritos and started to walk back to campus. The cool ocean breeze made us hold each other tight for warmth.

“Sometimes I can't believe how amazing this place is,” Jennifer said.

“Yeah. This moment would be perfect if I hadn't overstuffed myself,” I said, feeling sluggish as my stomach battled with the food.

“That's okay,” she said. “It doesn't have to be perfect for you to be perfect for me.”

I looked down at her as she smiled teasingly. I smiled back and gave her a squeeze with the arm I had wrapped around her waist.

Peter... A voice whispered from behind.

I let go of Jennifer and turned to look, but I didn't recognize anyone. There were plenty of fellow classmates pouring in and out of the Starbucks to try and keep themselves awake for the day ahead. I locked eyes with a man who was (pretending?) to read, the newspaper covering everything but his eyes. I got the feeling I saw him somewhere before, and my heart began to beat faster as if it already knew the answer; and it wasn't good. He turned the page, allowing me to see the rest of his face. It was the man in the hallway, the one who seemed like he was looking for me...

“What's wrong, Peter?” Jennifer asked, grabbing my hand.

“Nothing,” I said, her touch bringing me back to reality. “Just thought I heard something.”

We turned back towards campus once again. I heard more whispers, but resisted the urge to turn back around. I just squeezed my girlfriend's hand and kept walking, letting the breeze carry away the whispers.

Once we got back to campus we went into the library to study. We set our things up at our usual spot on the third floor; equal distance to the bathrooms and the elevators. I went to the bathroom to release some of the pressure in my gut as my girlfriend cracked open her book and began highlighting. I shook my head, having already warned her the bookstore would probably give her less for a marked book.

I left the bathroom having felt like I knew why girls made such a big deal about childbirth. I turned the corner wondering if I should start bringing my textbooks with me to the toilet when I noticed my girlfriend was talking to a stranger. He was an older man in suit, no book-bag or any other kind of materials.

I watched them as they talked for a few minutes, wishing I could hear, or at least read lips. I watched as Jennifer nodded her head several times, her face cold as stone. After a few more words the man pulled out his cellphone and began dialing as he walked to the elevators. I waited until the man was safely tucked away inside before I met up with Jennifer. There was a tightness in my stomach, and this time it wasn't from the food.

“There you are,” Jennifer said. “I was starting to worry about you. Everything alright?”

“Yeah, I'm fine,” I said, not sure if she meant because I might be sick or if she could tell I was uneasy. “Who was that just now?”

“Oh I don't know. Some guy. He said he was lost or something,” She said, looking down at her book.

She is lying to you.

“Are you lying to me?” I blurted out.

“No! Why would you think that?” She answered (too?) innocently.

“I don't know. Its nothing I guess,” I sighed.

I sat down and opened up my math book to study, but I couldn't concentrate. I was surprised I had taken the interrogation as far as I did. Even after putting her on the hot-seat, I still didn't feel satisfied with the answers. The conversation seemed longer than simple request for directions. But she said it was nothing, so what else could it be?

Its not nothing.

We studied in silence for the next hour. Well, almost in silence. Jennifer kept picking up her phone to text someone every few minutes. They were short messages too, not the kind that kept a conversation going. I tried hard to remember if I had always seen her text that much. It wouldn't have been so irritating if it hadn't made me so nervous.

I wonder who is on the other side?

That question led to many others. Was she texting the man I saw earlier? Was he following us? Following me? If so, who sent him? Why?

After half an hour of staring at the same page, I had had enough. I quickly packed up my things; looked confused as she watched me.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

She didn't ask what was wrong. She only wants to know where you're going.

“I'm just going to...head home,” I said, hesitating. “I think all that food really did get to me after all.”

“Poor baby,” she said, cutely. “Here, I'll just grab my stuff and study over at your place.”

“No its okay!” I said so fast it made her blink. “You won't get any studying done if you come over. Besides, I'm probably just going to go to sleep anyways.”

“Um, okay,” she said, looking hurt. “I guess I'll see you later.”

“Yeah.”

I leaned over and kissed her. I kept my eyes open and looked down at her phone to try and see who she was texting. The font was too small for me to read, so I abruptly ended the kiss. I picked up my backpack and went down the elevator.

Its not safe in the dorms. But where to go?

I left the library, unsure of where to go next. I kept running through the names of everyone in town I knew, ruling them out one by one. I needed someone I knew wall enough to take me in, but someone most of my other friends didn't know; especially my girlfriend. That left only one person, and the choice was less than ideal.

I pulled out my cell phone and found the number I was looking for. I was about to press the dial button when I realized it would leave a record, and whoever may be after me would be able to track me down. I walked around the campus looking for a payphone, and came across one near a bus stop. I quickly dialed and prayed that she accepted calls from numbers she didn't know. Lucky for me, she did.

“Hello?” Sandra answered.

“Hey Sandra, its me. Peter,” I said as normal as I could.

“Oh. Hey Peter. This is a surprise. Did you get a new number or something?”

“Yeah, something like that. Listen, I have a huge favor to ask. I was wondering if I could come over for a little bit.”

“You mean like right now?”

“Yeah. I mean, if thats okay.”

“You know what? Sure, why not. You remember where I live right?”

“Yep. Thanks so much. I'll be on my way.”

“Okay. See you then,” she said.

I hung up the payphone, turned off my cell, and started walking towards the resident parking garage where my car was.

Take the bus.

I stopped in my tracks as the thought sunk in. My car was fairly new, with GPS built in and everything. I had heard about police turning the GPS on to find people during their investigations. No matter where I drove, someone could always find it, and then find me.

Instead of the garage I turned back around to the bus stop I had just left and looked at the system map. I was confused as I looked at the twisted lines that strung out all across the city. I hadn't taken the bus ever since I got my license because, well, I had my license. Now I needed the anonymity of public transportation. After 10 minutes I found which route took me the closest to Sandra's house, and sat down, hoping the wait wouldn't be long.

It was.

During the long commute I reminisced about Sandra. We had met during a summer program before our first official semester of college. It was a quick way to get some of the BS introductory courses out of the way, as well as get priority registration. We hit it off and dated during the two month course.

After school really started though, we realized the only thing that tied us together was our boredom. She broke it off with me about five minutes before I was about to break it off with her, and we hadn't seen each other since. None of my friends or family had seen her either, which was why I was using her place to hideout.

An hour and two buses later, I arrived within five blocks of my destination. I used the walk to make sure I wasn't being followed. After being reasonably sure I wasn't, I stopped looking over my shoulder and just walked. The cool air of the seaside town was finally getting to me, so I walked a little faster to stay warm.

I passed by row after row of identical houses, and walked up to yet another identical house. Had I never been there before, I would never have been able to distinguish it from the rest. I rang the doorbell, and then succumbed to the urge of looking over my shoulder one last time.

Peter... I heard a voice say.

“Peter,” Sandra said from the doorway.

“Oh. Hey Sandra,” I said, having jumped a little.

“I almost thought you weren't going to show. Was there a lot of traffic?”

“No. I had to take the bus because my car...” I hesitated. I wasn't sure if I could trust her just yet. “My car is in the shop. Not really sure what's wrong with it.”

“That sucks. Well, come on in,” she said.

I stepped inside, noticing how familiar, and different, the place felt. The furniture was the same, but the decorations and paint were all different from the last time I was there. Instead of the walls being a plain white, it was a warm yellow, like sunshine; or piss, whichever way you looked at it. Any other time the change would have been negligible, but tonight it felt oddly menacing. Like it it was changed just to screw with me.

“So what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” Sandra asked as she sat down on the sofa.

“Actually, I need your help with something,” I replied as I sat in the armchair across from her.

“Help with what?” She looked at me strangely, as if wondering what skill she possessed that was important enough to break our silence after more than a year.

“Its kind of complicated, but you've already helped a lot by giving me a place to think things over.”

“Is everything okay, Peter?” she asked, her body tensing.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you're not like, suicidal or anything, are you?”

“No! No! Nothing like that!” Peter said, holding back laughter.

Good,” Sandra said, her shoulders relaxing. “Well if its not that, then what is going on?”

I paused for a moment, wondering how much to tell her. I looked into her soft, brown eyes, and sensed genuine concern. Whatever was going on, I wouldn't be able to handle it on my own, so I decided to let her in. Something I had never done while we were dating.

“Alright. So the last couple of days I've felt like someone has been following me,” I finally admitted. I waited to see how she would react.

“What, you mean like the cops or something?” she asked. She went over to the window and poked head through the curtain.

“I don't know for sure. They're dressed in suits and stuff. I think they're using my professor, and maybe even my friends, to keep tabs on me.”

“What do you mean using them? Like threatening them?”

“I don't know,” I said, frustrated. There were so many unanswered questions. “Maybe. It all started with my professor. She texted someone on her phone during class when she normally always has it off. Next thing I know there is a guy in the suit walking into class, looking for me. I took off before he could find me though.”

“No s**t,” Sandra gasped.

“Then earlier, I see the same guy following me and my...friend..through town. We ditched him and went to the library to study. I left for a second and another guy in a suit is talking to my friend, then leaves. I come back, and my friend is texting someone every time I make a move. I took off again and decided I needed to hide-out someplace safe. Thats when I called you.”

“It sounds like you've been through a lot,” Sandra said. “So it all started with your professor, huh. He got some kind of grudge against you or something?”

She teaches political science,” I corrected. Sandra rolled her eyes. “She does some kind of research for the government, but I don't think its her exactly thats doing it. She took one look at my paper and then suddenly started texting that guy in the suit.”

“That's pretty weird.”

“Yeah...” I said, trailing off. Then it suddenly hit me. “Maybe there is something about my paper! Like something I put in there I wasn't supposed to know?”

“Like what?” Sandra said, skeptical.

“I wrote about the PATRIOT Act, while everyone else wrote about the wars. Thats why I must've been singled out. There's something there that is threatening. I can't remember what, though; I was pretty tired when I wrote it. I gotta look at it again to find out.”

“You really think its your homework that's gotten you in trouble with the government?”

“Its the only thing that makes sense, given the timeline. It all started in class, right after I turned it in. I mean, what else could it be?”

“I don't know. Maybe its all just coincidence.”

“Nuh-uh. I've heard these people whisper my name. They're definitely after me,” I said, indignant.

“Wait, you're hearing whispers? Like hearing voices?” Sandra asked, her eyes going wide.

“No! I just said I heard these people say my name. I probably just overheard them talking into their radios or something.”

“So you heard the guy whisper. Must be a pretty lousy agent if you can hear him.”

“Well maybe he just got sloppy. Anyways, you're missing the point!”

“Which is...”

“That I'm being targeted by people, probably government, and it most likely has something to do with my paper. I have to go back and get it to find out why.”

“What does it matter? Your professor probably handed it over first thing.”

“That doesn't seem to stop them from following me. Can you give me a ride back to my dorm so I can make copies of my paper?”

“Seriously?” Sandra asked, looking at him sideways. “Even if what you say is true. Wouldn't that be the first place they go?”

“You're right,” I said, and thought for a moment. “They'll probably just take my computer; but I also have it saved in my flash drive in my other backpack. They might not look for that.”

“But it all just sounds a bit...crazy.”

“With the PATRIOT Act, the government was given power to do crazy things. They infiltrated grassroots organization, like a seniors group, and tried to catch them plotting against the government. So yeah, it might be crazy, but its possible.”

Sandra looked at me for a minute, her eyes revealing that she was still in doubt over everything. I'm sure as she looked in my eyes, she knew I was praying for her to help me. She gave a big sigh, and then nodded her head.

“Okay, lets go,” Sandra said, with ruefulness.

I smiled and stood up from the armchair in relief.

“Thank you so much!” I said as I gave her a hug. When we parted she was smiling.

“No problem,” She said. “Let me just grab my things.”

Sandra left the room and I moved over to the garage door to wait for her. I let out a big yawn, not realizing how tired I really was. For the first time that night, I felt at ease. The answers to whatever was going on were near at hand. My relief was short-lived as I saw Sandra walking up to the door, cell phone in hand.

Her too?

“Did you call someone just now?” I asked, trying to play it cool.

“No, just checking the time. Why?” She asked, raising an eyebrow. “You think I'm calling the cops on you?”

“I don't know. Were you?”

“I don't know, should I?”

We stared at each other, both of us trying to figure out what our next move should be.

“No,” I finally answered. “But could you please turn your phone off? Even if you don't call anyone, they can still track you.”

“Alright...I guess,” Sandra said, complying with my request.

On the drive back to my dorm, we were in a rather uncomfortable silence. She seemed irritated about my ban on cell phone usage, and wasn't speaking to me. I used the opportunity to plan out what I would do. The police might be there, and they might have already found the extra copy in my backpack. Whatever obstacles there might be, I knew I still had to try.

We arrived at the campus and parked as close as we could for a quick getaway. As Sandra and I walked across the quad, I looked around for anything suspicious. I kept an eye on two guys who came out of my building, but I heard one of them mention beer and figured they were just two guys going to a party.

Wasting no more time, I hurried into the building, with Sandra struggling to keep up. I went up the stairs, no wanting to get trapped in the elevator. Luckily I was only on the fourth floor, though Sandra still groaned.

I became more cautious after I reached my floor, slowly walking through the labyrinth, looking around the corner of the hallway my room was on. The whole hallway was empty, no one was at my door. I walked up to it, and as I reached for the knob, I hesitated.

“Keep a lookout,” I told Sandra, and went inside.

The silence was the first thing I noticed. None of my roommates were there. Tensed, I quietly went to my room. As soon as I flicked on the lights, I saw my girlfriend asleep on my bed, phone in hand. The light woke her up and she sat up with a start.

“Peter?” she asked, groggily.

“What are you doing here?” I asked, eying her phone.

“I was waiting for you,” she said, more awake now. “I'm so glad you're alright! I got worried when you left so suddenly that I decided to stop by and see how you were doing. Your roommates said they hadn't seen you, but let me in. Where were you?”

“I couldn't sleep so I went for a long walk. How long have you been waiting?”

Jennifer opened her mouth to answer, but her Katy Perry ringtone cut her off.

“That must be your mom. I called them when your phone kept going to voicemail.”

She called them? Didn't she say she only called your mom?

“Who is them?” I asked accusingly.

“Umm, your parents,” she replied, and answered the phone. “Hi! Yes he came back just now. You can stop looking for him. You want to talk to him?”

Jennifer had turned her back to me when she answered the phone. Normally I hated it when she did that, but this time I used the moment to slip out the door and run like hell. I flung open the door and brushed past Sandra, who was texting on her phone.

She's on to you too! Just keep going!

“Hey, what happened? Did you get it?” Sandra called out.

“Stay away from me!” I yelled, and ran down the hall. I burst open the door to the staircase and moved down the stairs as fast as I could, looking at two the other residents suspiciously. It must have been a scary look because they made extra room for me to pass. I ran through the campus and headed for the city.

I passed by tons of my fellow students, all just hanging out and having a good time. But they would all pause look at me, as if I they were all keeping an eye on me.

They were stationed here in town to keep watch on you. Look! That one just texted someone. They can't be trusted. Just keep moving.

“I know that,” I said aloud. “You're the only friend I have now.”

That's right. I am the only one you can trust now, whispered the voice in my head as I disappeared into the city.

© 2015 Juan More Story


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I love what I've read so far. The relevant social commentary mixed in with the question of the main character's sanity, stemming possibly from lack of sleep hallucinations all the way to almost schizophrenic voices and paranoia. Not to mention the possibility of it all being a dream sequence. All these things mixed really draw you in to try and figure out what's actually going on. I look forward to reading more. :)

Take care and be well
E.VA

Posted 4 Years Ago



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Added on July 12, 2012
Last Updated on June 13, 2015
Tags: Acent, Into, Madness, paranoid, schozophrenic, college, student, texting, hearing, voices

Author

Juan More Story
Juan More Story

CA



About
I have a strange perception of the world. I look at it in such a negative light that it tends to exceed my expectations, making the world seem beautiful. As a result some of my writing doesn't have.. more..

Writing
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A Chapter by Juan More Story