The Euphoric Problem

The thought of my “present reality” was plastered on the front side of a coin with a backside insisting, “Try to escape.”

Notice, while the backside literally read, “Try to escape,” the front side did not read, “Present reality.” Instead, the front side listed that which was, at the moment, my present reality. More often than not, the front side of the coin featured only a single word. For example, at any given moment, it might say, “Hungry,” or “Tired,” or “Complacent.”

Sometimes I really wanted to try to escape. Take the present reality of being “Cheated.” This is a situation requiring action, and I would most certainly find the bastard to blame and right away work against my present reality until I was fully “Rectified.”

At other times, it was not such an immediately satisfying game. I found, for instance, that every time I was “Euphoric,” I hesitated before considering my escape routes. To be euphoric is in all aspects desirable; and yet, even at the height of euphoria, I was confronted with the instruction to escape.

When I hit upon what might be called The Euphoric Problem, I began to realize that the coin analogy was burdened with a subtle oversimplification—an oversimplification that really amounts to a fatal oversight.

The coin correctly highlights a present reality and the compulsion to escape, but it leaves out a third level: the “subconscious will,” if you like.

When I began to contemplate this third level, I realized that it was the primary force responsible for projecting any given word onto the surface of the “present reality” side of the “coin,” and that is when I came to understand that the complete totality of my conscious circumstance undergirded a single proposition, which might be stated as: “Create any present reality and see if you can escape it.”

My only true present reality, you see, was this statement. I had been escaping a running series of present moments, but only in the context of this statement. With the satisfaction of the winning move in a game of chess, I promptly directed the proposition itself onto the front side of the “coin.” And that is how I achieved my current state outside the present moment. It might be called “disoriented,” “not-present,” or even “dead”—or it might be called: the answer to a problem.

Todesregel Isle (Part IIII)

Gunter’s wrathful howls briefly filled up the ambit of the creaking, frost-laden wood where the bodies of the dead lay like flowers from some other world of mescaline dream, swiftly swallowed by a snowstorms ceaseless churning as the survivors of the wael made for the cave, found it and huddled about in the middling-dark, scratching about for a fire. Villavic proved most proficient in the construction of a blaze and was consequently looked upon as a momentary savior as a light blossomed beneath his deft and dirtied hands, stiff-moving against the chill. The waif hunched beside him like a lost dog, her wide, coffee-grass eyes fixed upon the flames and her hands upon her knees. Even Gunter was momentarily bewitched by Villavic’s sorcerous generation and ceased his cursing and watched a while until Villavic asked Derrick to free the pugilist from his shackles. Derrick did so and Gunter thanked Villavic and asked why such solemnity afixed all faces and where to the rest of the party had gotten. Villavic suspected the boxer already knew but set himself down beside his small, smoldering fire and explained.

“They’re dead.”

“All?”

“All but those here.”

“Fuck.”

“Had you been successful in routing the women from the cave, they’d have died,” Villavic gestured to the waif, “She would have died. Do you understand, Mr. Gunter?”

“Aye. I think I might have gone a little mad.”

Villavic stifled a laugh, “Only a little?”

“Aye. I’m sorry.”

For a while, all were silent and contemplative as the wind ranged between the branches of the trees like the tortured souls of all those that had died there’neath. The barkeep, who sat opposite Villavic, finally broke the silence, his voice low and hushed and filled with the uneven trembling of fear.

“I can’t stop thinkin’ bout that skull. Out there. In the marsh.”

“What do ya think coulda done something like that?” Derrick asked to no one in particular, his eyes fastened to the fire. The barkeep shrugged. The crone spoke up then, emerging from the shadows at the far edge of the dancing light, “This place is cursed.”

“Ah, hell, woman, stop saying that.” The barkeep ejected with frustration. Villavic noticed a rising tension in the group, now but thirty in number, a paralyzing sense of uncertainty and terror. The old woman’s arcane pronouncements would only act as a stimulant. He thought it was prudent to intervene. No survival without general purpose and no general purpose without general knowledge.

“Alright, settle down, now. We’ve a bad enough spot of it without working ourselves up any further.”

The young woman, Ericka, turned towards Villavic where he sat in the middle of the cavern, beside the fire on an odd-shaped rock liken to a throne and there was venom in her eyes and tongue alike.

“My husband is dead.”

“He is. Losing your focus and letting your emotions overtake you will only increase the likelihood that you will join him. I have known many a couple and, given this knowledge, I can induce that he would, were he still with us, want you to survive. Don’t you?”

The woman feel into silent weeping as Villavic rose, stretched and took stock of the back of the cave, opposite the entrance, where the flour had been stashed. Then he removed from a hidden inner pocket in his jacket a small, leather-bound journal and a mechanical pen and set himself backdown upon his rock.

“Tell me your names.”

“Why?” Inquired the barkeep.

“Because, if we all die, it would be helpful for whoever finds us to know, all the better to circumvent a unmarked grave.”