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I Must Kill The Gnomes: (A Short Story)
He had known He was not crazy. He had known all along, even as they took Him to doctors. They had all tried to convince Him that His unique vision was madness. They tried to suppress His vision with medication, talking therapy, hospitalization. They had looked at Him with such desperately loving, worried concern.
What kind of future will he have, they would murmur among themselves, when they thought He wasn't listening. Sometimes they acted like they were afraid of Him. It got so bad that they would visibly jump-cringe whenever He entered the room, as if He were some kind of fearsome monster.
Perhaps they were working for the gnomes, and that is why they feared Him. If they were working for the evil gnomes, well then, they are no less deserving of the same punishing justice He would bring down on the gnomes themselves. What a disgraceful thing it is, to turn their backs on their own species. And for what? Some money, some power. Whatever those malevolent, pointy-headed creatures had promised them.
After His fourth interment in a psychiatric facility, His family had brought Him to another doctor, a new one, a neuroscientist with an experimental treatment.
The implant was the diameter and thickness of a quarter. It was an extremely powerful computer.
He and His family sat in the conference room, talking to Dr. Gregory about it. Dr. Gregory was the genius who had done the most to develop the exciting new technology that would deliver Him from his agony.
"Why don't they just kill me?" He thought to Himself.
The doctor was talking to His parents about the procedure, its rationale, how it came to be originated and developed, the potential benefits and risks of the procedure, and so on. His opinion was not asked for, as He was not yet seventeen. His parents would be making this decision for Him.
They were signing various release forms now. Apparently no risk was too great for them, to try to cure what they said was His schizophrenia.
He broke in. "Will this... thing 'cure' me?" He asked.
In a herky-jerky movement the doctor turned to him. He went into full SuperNerd mode. "The language in this field tends to be... too.... binary, polarized. When it comes to the human mind, it may not be so simple as 'sick,' 'cured,' 'broken,' 'fixed.' That kind of simplistic conceptualization is not always helpful, in my opinion. The human brain and mind are infinitely more complex than that."
He looked at his parents, who looked at the doctor, catching his eye. The doctor looked at HIm again.
Dr. Gregory said, "Think of it this way. We all live in two worlds, you might say. The world of fantasy and imagination, where anything can happen. Let's call that mythos. Then there's the everyday world of concrete reality, in which we function -- its where we live, eat, sleep, make love, work, play, and reproduce. Let's call this world logos.
"To a greater or lesser extent and degree, all of us move back and forth between these two worlds. We go to sleep at night and dream, thus accessing the realm of mythos. When we do creative work of some kind we access mythos. We sit and daydream and access mythos this way, and so on. We move back and forth between logos and mythos... rather seamlessly, without any trouble. It so happens that some people, sort of, well... get lost in mythos and have trouble finding their way back to the real world of logos."
"Like me?" He said?
The doctor took a sharp intake of breath and quickly closed and opened his eyes. "A lot of people.... when they drive in their automobiles, especially when they go on long distances, they avail themselves of a GPS device. Amazing technology, is it not? They're connected to satellites in outer space. When you get lost, going wherever you're trying to get to, all you have to do is speak to it or punch some buttons, and the device puts you back on the path.
Dr. Gregory held up the device that would be implanted in His skull. "That's how you should think of this implant. All it is, is an internal GPS. The device is sophisticated. If you're not sleeping or engaged in creative work or play, the device can pick up when you're.... getting diverted for too long in the realm of mythos, and it can gently guide you, put you back on the path of the concrete actuality, so that you can function."
He thought about it. "So, this device, this thing will keep me from getting 'lost' in fantasy, then?"
The doctor nodded.
"It won't let me stay 'stuck' in 'fantasy', is that right? So that I can 'function.'"
The doctor nodded again. "Yes, that's right."
"But what if I find myself in a situation where something traumatic is happening to me," He said. "And what if my only way of coping, of survival, is to go somewhere else in my mind --- as anybody would if the situation is hard enough. Are you saying this thing won't let me escape? That it will force me back into the agony of reality as I'm suffering some kind of unbelievable trauma?"
He looked at the doctor, who lowered his head, shrugged, and let out a sharp exhalation of breath. He looked at his parents, who looked at Him, at each other, lowered their heads, shrugged, and let out sharp exhalations of breath.
He happened to catch his own reflection in a small mirror across the room. He, also, lowered his head, shrugged, and let out a sharp exhalation of breath. It was in his medical files. They all knew. They were all remembering the time when He was four years old, and a wicked gnome had invaded His dreams and tricked Him into strangling His baby brother....
A couple of sobs lurched out of His mother. He looked at her, moist-eyed. His father stroked her head and said, "Now, now.... there, there..."
"If the procedure works," said Dr. Gregory to Him, "it'll mean no more medication. I understand how slow and sluggish and miserable it makes you feel."
The doctor didn't know the half of it. None of them did. They thought the medication would keep him from seeing the gnomes, being 'bothered' by them, as they would have it. But he saw them just as clearly.
What the medication did was make Him powerless against the fiends. The medication dulled him all over. He felt like he was constantly moving through quicksand, and that without terrific effort he could easily sink, lose the will to live, and simply die of despair.
He had found that he needed to lay off the meds for at least twenty-four hours in order to even make love to his girlfriend.
No longer of this world, Marah had been her name. Marah! She had been a 'Goth.' She wore black all the time and funny jewelry. She had the lithe, supple, small-breasted body of a dancer, or maybe a swimmer. And something about her face always reminded him of a cat.
Of course, she had been slightly disturbed. But He had been drawn to her despite that, perhaps because of her mental imbalance. She didn't always like to take her medication either.
Marah had been severely depressive, and therefore the medication she took tended to excite her, make her more energized, and happy and peppy. Really, 'happy' and 'peppy,' the prescribing psychiatrist had said. Well.... they made her as 'happy' and 'peppy' as someone like Marah ever could be.
Sometimes the couple liked to swap medication --- a ritualistic exercise, of sorts, in an attempt to gain a deeper insight into the other person.
He had spent a weekend with her, while her parents were away following Led Zeppellin on tour. They swapped medication and made love. With her curled into a ball, face down on the bed, He moved in and out of her to a distinctive rhythm, first slowly, then picking up momentum, and then, finally, rather quickly.
"Happy and peppy," He intoned. "Happy and peppy.... Happy and peppy... Happy and peppy... Happy and peppy... Happy and peppy... Happy and peppy..."
Later, she asked, "How was it for you?"
"Almost as much fun and satisfying as killing gnomes," He said.
Marah nodded. She was a wiccan, so she understood his quest.
"How was it for you?" He asked.
"Glorious," she said. "I almost felt normal, not quite 'happy' and 'peppy.'" At that she grinned at Him, poking HIm in the ribs.
"Yeah," He said, blushing.
But, ultimately, He had not been able to save her. Partly this was because she had chosen this particular suicide attempt to make good on. Partly, though, it had been because the wicked gnomes had prevented Him from going to her.
He had gotten to within a few yards. He called out to her but the gnomes were stuffing cotton into his mouth. His voice, therefore, only rattled around deep in his throat, in his mind.
Now dozens of gnomes surrounded him, prevented Him from taking another step. Now they had HIm flat on His back. They were lashing Him to the ground with thick, heavy cords. They were stuffing his mouth with cotton and filling his eyes and ears with foam, making him blind, deaf, and mute.
He struggled and called out in his mind. "Marah!..... Marah!...... Marah!........ I'm sorry. I"m so sorry...."
One day, when He had been ten years old, He was riding His bike one Summer afternoon. He was happy. School was out for a couple of months and He was spending some time with His favorite person, namely, Himself!
He was riding down the sidewalk when --- a couple of houses away, a man and wife were hauling a box of rubbish to the front curb. The man had dropped his end, and out came one of those little garden gnomes.
It was rolling down the front yard, and onto the sidewalk, right into His path. His front tire slammed into the gnome, sending Him flying.
He had been stunned. But He was young and wiry. He wasn't seriously hurt. Nicks and bruises. He would live, saying as much to the frantic, apologetic couple. They brought Him back to their home, where they washed and treated His cuts with iodine. While the man fixed His bike in their garage-workshop, the woman fed Him milk and lemon cake.
At this time, this run-in with the gnome had been an isolated incident, and He quickly put it out of His mind.
About two years later He was playing catch with friend in the fellow's backyard. He ran back, preparing to catch a long pass of the football. He found himself right next to the garage. He had accidently jostled something. Then, a split second later, before he knew what was happening, he felt a sharp pain on the top of His foot.
Resting on His foot was the back of the head of a gnome. What a coincidence. Coincidence indeed!
While He didn't know how it could be possible... He had the sneaking suspicion... Of course, He could have been wrong.... But the truth of this suspicion persisted.... This looked like the very same gnome that had attacked Him two years before. The very same gnome? Yes, the very same gnome. THE VERY SAME GNOME!
It was time for the procedure now. They were wheeling Him into the operating room. His parents trailed behind. His father assured Him that everything would be fine. Called his son 'sport,' several times.
His mother implored Him not to be afraid. She called Him 'my baby,' many times. She said that they both loved Him. Even after everything, He loved them too..... He supposed. He had never really thought about it.
Everyone concerned was in the operating theater. The professionals were all scrubbed and assembled around Him, wearing their masks like bandits. He felt like roadkill being descended upon by buzzards.
A local anesthetic had been applied, ennabling Him to remain awake throughout the procedure, ennabling Him to listen to Dr. Gregory drone on.
"You should consider yourself very privileged," Dr. Gregory said. "You are the first, the pioneer. It is the mind, not outer space, which is the 'final frontier.' The mind... unlocking its secrets... Anyway, the device, as I mentioned, is a very powerful computer. It is programmed with the knowledge of all the world's folklore, all the world's fairy tales, all the world's mythology, all the world's religions and old wives tales, all the world's urban legends, all of it.
"The computer is not only a vast storage space, it is designed to think. Yes, this device also represents the creme de la creme of artificial intelligence, AI. What the device will do is, when it notices you getting 'lost' in the world of fantasy, mythos, it will go into action. First, it will read your mental patterns to determine what kind of fantasy you are lost in. Then it will use that to present you with a roadmap, of sorts, back to reality. The implant will actually speak to you, like a talking GPS.
"It will do this ever so gently. Who knows? Perhaps in time, you will find yourself getting 'lost' less and less often."
Eight years later found Him the finance administrator of a large soap-making company. The device, the implant had worked admirably, kept him from getting irretrievably lost in his head. He still saw the wretched gnomes, of course.
But the implant... the luscious feminine voice in which it spoke to him, always persuaded him to bide his time, be careful, wait, plan things out meticulously. 'Don't make the office corridors run red with blood just yet. Plan things out, put the gnome under surveillance. Get to know his movements, habits, friends, enemies, hobbies. Then, when the time is right.... When the time is right.... he won't know what hit him. The planning is the real fun. Just wait awhile."
And so, as He was sitting there at his computer screen, on the Internet or something, and one of those Travelocity ads (with the gnome!) would pop-up. He would try to dismiss the idea immediately. Then, he would get pulled in, engaged. But instead of hauling off and making a war zone of His office, the implant went into action, soothing Him, consoling Him, diverting him, appeasing Him.
He was, therefore, moved to direct his killing rage (at least for the moment) into role playing games for example. He always played the villainous roles (evil wizards, cruel warlords, and the like) just so that he could put himself into opposition to goody-two shoes characters like elves, dwarves, any kind of beings.... creatures that reminded Him of the accursed gnomes.
He played those online soldier games. By imagining his opponents as the accursed gnomes, He regularly shattered all-time scoring records and made himself an invaluable teammate.
He went to carnivals and spent hours at shooting game booths, knocking over those metal ducks and winning kewpie dolls.
He embarked upon a rigorous program of physical training, and took instruction in close-quarters fighting.
He, incidentally, happened to greatly expand his circle of friends in the process --- much to his surprise. People seemed to like him, like being around him; they seemed to believe he was a 'great guy.' Amazing.
But above all, He found Himself more than willing to accede to the suggestions to the silky feminine voice inside His head. He was grateful for THIS companionship above all of His associations.
Why, He wanted to marry the woman with a voice like that! The automated voice of the implant, her voice had a full, husky quality.... you know, a lot like late-night female radio DJs on Jazz stations --- like that.
In time He had learn to deliberate summon the Voice. He did this by deliberately putting His mind to the subject of gnomes. He was not stimulated by pornography in the usual sense. He did not partake of Internet of pay-per-view pornography. He had no use for pornographic magazines or anything like that. He never set foot in strip clubs.
These abstentions were not due to a purity of his soul. He abstained from such entertainments simply because they were not stimulating enough for him. What pleased Him was the nexus between sex and violence.
When He wanted to pleasure Himself, He merely hung a large picture of a gnome on his bedroom wall. He would stare at it from His bed. He would transport Himself to that Other place. He would go there and see the accursed gnomes, and He would grow angry and vengeful, and He would be moved by an incendiary rage. He would be ready to take action.
But then the voice from the implant would come online, as it were. That soothing, understanding, husky, luscious female radio Dj's voice, would go to work. Nice and easy. Moulding, remoulding His intentions, steering Him back to the place they call reality, all while acknowledging the righteousness of his mission.
He applied His willpower to staying within His killing rage. He wanted to make things last longer. The more insistent her seductive siren song, calling Him back to reality, became the more stubbornly did He cling to His feral gnomophobia, even though His temptation was to surrender to her immediately.
His right hand was on the inside of his shorts now. The rhythm He applied went something like... "Happy and peppy.... Happy and peppy.... Happy and peppy..... Happy and peppy..... Happy and peppy...."
The climax came after He visualized Himself having stalked and hunted the accursed gnome, having trapped and captured him, and for the coup de grace, having smashed his skull open with a mighty two-handed blow of an axe.
It was so real He could taste it, and as the gnome's blood and brains spilled out everywhere, He then allowed Himself to come..... back to the place they call reality. He allowed himself to be gently returned to the place where He was a twenty-six year old, single, finance administrator of a large soap-making company.
Two years later He was a married man. He sure knew how to pick 'em. She had just come off a long-term engagement to a man serving twenty-five-to-life for arson-related homicide. But at least He could be open with her. She was extremely tolerant and accomodating; and she understood His problem without fear or revulsion.
It had come to pass, one day, that they were driving home during the wee hours, from the soap-making company's Christmas party. It had been a snowless, stormy night. His wife had enjoyed herself and drunk to excess. He, on the other hand, had only drunk a couple of cocktails with half-portions of alcohol.
So He was steady, alright. The ride home would have been uneventful had it not been for the only other vehicle they saw on the road at that time. It turned out to be an overworked truck driver --- who fell asleep behind the wheel of his enormous truck, which caused it to swerve off his opposite-bound lane, across the median, and right into the side of their car, on His wife's side.
The truck had swept their little car off the highway. The car rolled over and over and over.
He had, somehow, been thrown clear. As He rose to go help His wife, He got struck by lightning and rendered unconscious.
He awoke in the hospital, where a doctor told Him with great sorrowful regret, that His wife had been DOA, dead on arrival.
He mourned His wife, boozed it up to try to dull the pain, which didn't work, which only gave Him another problem. But He did manage to pull Himself away from the edge of the abyss of alcoholism.
After the flowers, after the cards and letters, after the wake and the funeral, after standing by graveside, looking aggrieved beyond measure, after watching her body being lowered into the ground, after the priest said his beautiful words over her, after receiving bracing words of strength and encouragement and offers of 'anytthing I can do just let me know,' from friends and relatives, after all of that.... Life moved on.
He was sound asleep one night, mercifully, when He heard: "What are you waiting for?"
He figured this was merely residue of some dream, and, thus, He merely turned over on His other side.
"Get up. Get ready. Get moving," the Voice said.
"What?" He said, reluctantly coming out of His coma, and sitting up in the bed.
"You've been preparing for this for a long time. That time is now. Do you hear me? The time is now."
He put a hand to the side of His head. "Is... Is... Is that you?"
The Voice said, "Those gnomes aren't going to kill themselves."
"The gnomes?" He said.
"Yes, dammit," the Voice said. "Snap out of it already. The time is now, revenge."
"Revenge?" He said.
"They have now even taken your wife from you," the Voice said.
"My wife," He said.
"And Marah," the Voice said.
"Marah," He said.
"Revenge," the Voice said.
"Revenge," He said.
"Begin now," the Voice said. "Review the plans and then get started. The time is now."
He smiled and said, "Yeah! You and me, baby, twenty-four-seven."
After taking two weeks to get back and shape and sharpen His skills, He went to work. He found out the identity of the truck driver who had slammed into His car; the guy had miraculously been unhurt. He flew across country to pay the truck driver a visit.
After that He flew back across country the other way and stopped in on His loving parents. Over coffee and cookies and breezy conversation the three of them had a nice visit. The visit ended with the prone, lifeless bodies of His parents on the living room floor.
He dressed them in pointy red caps, green tunics and wide buckle belts, and furry moccasin boots. He used a can of white spray paint to color their hair snow white. And for a little rose in their cheeks He put on a little bit of red spray paint.
He propped them up on the living room couch and took His leave.
He found Dr. Gregory, Dr. Michael Anthony Gregory. He was now a professor of neurocybernetics and linguistics at the M.I.T.
Dr. Gregory, a lifelong confirmed bachelor, lived alone in a cozy suburan bungalow. He was waiting for the doctor when he got home one day. He was sitting right at the doctor's kitchen table when he walked in.
"Who are you? What are you doing here?" Dr. Gregory said.
"Don't you remember me?" He said. "I was the first, remember? The pioneer."
Dr. Gregory squinted at the man. "Oh yes, yes.... but what are you doing here, now?"
"I wanted to thank you for everything you did for me," He said.
"That's quite alright...."
"I got you something," He said, extending a box. "Open it. I can't wait to see your reaction."
The doctor opened the box and saw, in it, a red pointy cap, a green tunic, wide buckled belt, and furry moccasin boots. "Is this some kind of joke?" Dr. Gregory said.
"Oh no," He said, smiling and grasping His hunting knife. "This is certainly no joke, doctor."