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Short story

Oliver Mallah
September 13, 2004

Many years ago I accidentally, yet at the same time quite intentionally, decided to eat a very large piece of chocolate, not the regular kind with fat if you know what I mean. Anyway, that night things turned out to be rather more than had been previously anticipated. It's very hard to describe the extent of such experiences without using some kind of allegory.

At the time I was 18 years old and I had what I thought was a relatively self-aware mind. I mean I imagined that my brain was like this enormous mansion with tens maybe even hundreds of rooms laid out like a giant architectural maze (I know that in such an allegory the truth would be closer to millions or even billions, but hey lets keep it to something tangible, something our imagination can temporarily hold).

So I basically considered this massive building, a bit like a castle let's say, as the place where my consciousness resided. I felt that the point from which I observed reality was somewhere within this house, sometimes seated on a cold surface and at other times in a cosy place.

Now I'd heard about Freud and Jung, I'd also heard that we barely used a fraction of our cranial capacity; you know I'm sure you've heard the estimates, somewhere between 1 and 30 percent or so. Well, with all this background knowledge my teenage come adult brain had formed its own self image. I felt like a person who wandered through some gigantic building trying to work out its size, its shape, looking for treasures, trying to remember the landscape, the different ways to get in and out of different feelings, different modes of thinking.

Much later I was to discover that there were short cuts, trap doors, corridors lined with adrenaline, chill out rooms up in the attic with giant windows and oversized sofas on which I could sit around for hours and watch the world go by. But at the time I was still feeling my way around in the dark, trying to get better at navigation.

I had started as a person with their eyes closed, seated in some corner not aware of the possibility of movement. Then one day, having discovered my legs, I'd arisen and begun to explore the surroundings. I'd walked very precariously with my arms outstretched ahead of me, feeling my way around.

By my teens I'd opened my eyes and could make out faint silhouettes of objects when directly in front of me. Well, a couple of experiences in my mid teens had changed my perspective considerably, a bit like that person in the distant past who must of practically shat their pants when the two bits of wood they were rubbing out of boredom suddenly ignited. Like them I'd found a box of matches; it helped me steer through that seemingly endless maze of mine. I could only light one match at a time mind you. The length of time they burned seemed to correlate quite neatly with the available attention span; often too short to make an attempt worthwhile.

Well, getting back to this large slab of chocolate which I'd just ingested. It took a while to kick in, but about three or four hours after I'd finally got to sleep I found myself awake and staring at the ceiling. I was hungry it seemed, so I got up and walked to the kitchen.

The house belonged to the grandparents of a friend of mine. Six of us had borrowed it for two weeks to celebrate the end of our sentence, at school. It was in Spain and it was right by the sea I seem to remember, surrounded by golf fields. Our form of transport was a golf buggy, which we'd use to get into the nearest town for our shopping.

Anyway everyone was asleep at this point while I proceeded to make myself something to eat. As I slowly made my way through this bowl of cereal, one of the guys who was on his way to take a piss noticed me and stopped to take a look, he began to laugh. I started to laugh too. Our laughter continued for a while, then I suddenly realised that I wasn't laughing because I found anything funny, but rather because I was scared. My inner senses were heightened yet everything coming from the outside had a time delay on it. This is when an attempt at describing the experience seems futile. The realist painter can do only so much, at some point the surrealist must take over.

Therefore let me go back to where I was standing in the middle of a colossal house totally unaware of the enormity of my surroundings. That person who in his imagination was standing there in the dark holding a fast burning match that night, in reality had a soggy bowl of cornflakes on his lap and was being laughed at by his friend. But in his mind he was starting to have an experience so much grander. An experience which seemed like someone, somehow was switching on the whole electrical system of his cranial castle, powering up and switching on flood lights both inside and outside the house, the garden, the outside of the neighbours house and the whole landscape surrounding him. It was so bright that it felt like it was burning a hole through my retina, my optical nerve acting like a fuse which was about to light up my whole brain. That is a lot to take in at any one time. And there is very little one can do as far as interaction is concerned, I simply stood in awe at the best of times and the rest of the time I grappled for sanity.

I may not remember the contents or even the whereabouts of all the various rooms but I certainly can recount the size, the greatness, the splendour and the wonder. I also gained so much respect, respect for how little I knew and how much I needed to learn, respect for the fact that although I would never fully understand I would have to trust, trust the foundations. Foundations that have grown through time and that serve some function, due to that incredible system of trial and error called evolution I had ended up with a structure that was capable of so much, with processes that most of the time I'm not even aware of.

Each room was emitting a different feeling, a different emotion, a different way to see the world, a different perspective. I saw them like tools in a tool box, all had there uses if used at the correct time, in the correct place, for the correct purpose. But at that point it seemed like so much responsibility, so many choices, so many decisions, so much effort, so such commitment, fuck, this shit seemed complicated. Hold on , breathe... slowly,  that's it,  deeper, you're freaking out, chill out, maybe you should go and puke, some of it probably hasn't been absorbed yet, that's right, you'll feel better if you puke... I was struggling at times, but then I'd get it together again and it would seem so beautiful I wouldn't want it to go away.

Soon I found myself in the room I'd been sleeping in for the last week, and I was by myself. It felt like I was struggling to stay alive, maybe you know this yourself, when you feel you have to actively keep breathing. Well, in reality it was probably not that serious at all. Who knows though, at the time you feel like you have to keep breathing otherwise your body will stop, you have to keep your heart beat under control, otherwise your body will get in a jumble, who's going to say fuck it to that? Not me, I was busy trying to keep everything functioning. I was mainly trying to continue breathing but I also had to control my heart.

Some part of me knew that I was probably being silly and that I should just calm down, I should think of something else, but how? At this point I noticed music. It was so beautiful. It got me on my feet, and then with my eyes closed I felt how it started to move me. I didn't seem to have any control; it was the acoustics that were like a wave of energy, a gentle, warm, auditory blanket, rocking me into a sense of security. I got so into it or it got so into me, it's hard to say, every movement seemed perfect.

I had not spent much time in that room during those two weeks; most of the time was spent on the beach, by the pool or in the living room talking to the others. I think that at that time, with my eyes closed, if I had been asked, all I could have told you was that the room had a bed in it, and the walls were yellow.

Anyhow, at some point I felt the music move me to the centre of the room, my arms waving about, my head like it was on the end of a coil, my whole body was being stirred from some deeper point. I'm not sure how it looked but it felt perfect, completely synched to the music, often movements seemed to anticipate the sounds so well that I think a bystander would have thought I had heard the songs many times before. I had no idea what I was listening to, but it sounded divine.

So, there I now was with my eyes closed, when the music suddenly started its build up towards a long drawn out climax, I found myself stopping, my feet were still, my legs together, my head bowed down, my eyes still closed. The music then lifted my head up and as it climaxed, my eyes opened. I was staring straight ahead of me at a painting. I'd never noticed this painting before but it was predominantly yellow, to go with the room, and it showed a valley with slopes coming down from the left and right. Suspended in the air between the two slopes was a head, not male, not female, of no particular age, but from within, from its centre radiated light.

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