I was sitting with him, in the office. We work together at a co-working space in the Central West End. His eyes suddenly lit up. The hairs on his arms stood on end.
“Hey, are you okay?”
No answer. He just sat there, frozen. When I said his eyes lit up, I meant it metaphorically, but it was starting to look like there actually was a light coming from behind his eyes.
He snapped out of it.
“What the hell was that?”
“What was what?”
“You just went weird for a minute.”
“I have an idea!”
“What? Are you okay?”
“I’ve never been better! I can see The Façade.”
“What the shit are you talking about?”
“Just like with a building, when you stand outside of it, you can’t really see the building can you? You see The Façade. We are standing outside the building, and I have just seen inside.”
I thought about this for a moment. He’s always been the kind to speak in metaphor, so at this point I wasn’t particularly worried, even though I should have been. I think I thought that he was just struck by inspiration.
I talked to my best friend, Alex, about this. We went out for coffee the next day.
“Weird, that kinda sounds like something that happened to me last month.”
I had never heard this, she apparently didn’t feel like talking about it. She explained how, last month, she had an episode where she saw a different world. It was like a dream, but it happened while she was awake. For a week or so afterward, she became obsessed with trying to find out what happened, searching through old books, diaries, scouring libraries for more information, but she didn’t find anything substantial.
“To me, at least, the most important thing is that Morgan was there for me. He helped me figure out what had happened, and he supported me through it. When it became apparent that I would never see the beauty of this other world again, I became depressed. He helped me through that. I don’t know what I would have done if he wasn’t there.”
I thought about what Alex said. Especially when I came home to see a mess of papers strewn all around the living room. I picked one up and looked at it, it had an ink sketch of a mansion, with a neoclassical brick façade. He had drawn a crack going from the top left, around a window, and stopping just above the door. There were rays of light shining through the crack.
He popped out from behind the couch.
“How are you feeling?”
“I’ve never been better!”
I asked, “What have you been doing this morning?”, already knowing the answer.
“I’ve been working!”
“Yeah, I can see some of your ‘work’ all over the floor.”
“I’m trying to explore it. I’ve learned so much in the last 24 hours. My whole life I could only see The Great Façade. Now I know that there is something behind it. The world is so much deeper. If I just keep exploring, I will be able to see through the cracks; the cracks in the world where the light spills in. I just need to rise a little higher…”
This scared me. He sounded obsessed, hypnotized almost. I thought back to when I read about ancient myths in college. Pliny the Elder wrote that a snake could fascinate its prey, rendering it defenseless. The snake would hypnotize the prey item with its movements, making the prey comfortable with its approach.
I didn’t know what to do, I thought about what Alex said. I feel I should support him in some way, to help him get through this, whether I believe what he says or not. On the other hand, if I play into his delusion, I could just make things worse.
“Come on, let’s go out for dinner.”
“I just feel like I’m so close to understanding what it all means.”
“This thing about a truth to the universe being hidden behind something.”
“Yes, see you get it!”
“But don’t you think that this is unfounded? The very idea that there is some hidden truth that only you know about, it seems strange to just proclaim that all which we observe is actually a falsehood being presented to us. First, we have to ask, “why would the world be organized that way?”, and second, “if not by observing, how can we know the nature of the world?”
“This is exactly what I’m saying. The Façade has cracks, and we can see The Light shining through them. The more I focus on these cracks, the more I understand about The Light.”
“Fine, what have you learned about this ‘Light’?”
“Every time I close my eyes and focus on ‘The Light’, I see more to the world. The more I see the more I realize I know nothing. I feel like a child, I am fascinated.”
“That didn’t really answer my question, Keegan.”
“Of course it did! I am telling you I know nothing, and I am enveloped in a need to know.”
I decided that I would deal with this in the morning, I’ll bring him to a psychologist or something. I snuck away after he went to bed to set up an appointment. When I fell asleep, I dreamt about the snake again. It slithered side to side, fascinating the mouse. The mouse held still, just staring into the serpent’s face. The mouse then started to creep toward the snake, almost appearing curious about the snake’s motion. They locked eyes. The snake struck, and I awoke with a start.
I felt the bed beside me, Keegan was gone. I ran out into the front room, and saw him walking toward the door. I called to him, and he stopped and turned toward me.
“Hey honey, I figured it out, I got it! I know how to pierce the Façade!”
In the dark, I couldn’t see what he was holding.
He left, and I followed him. He raced down the stairs, but I couldn’t keep up. By the time I got out of the building, he was already standing out in the basketball court in our neighborhood. A street lamp made a pool of light around him. He was staring into it. In the light I could see that he was holding a chef’s knife. I called out to him. I yelled ‘NO!’
“I’m going to see the truth, finally!”
One of the neighbors had called the police. This is good, since I was just lying on the ground, sobbing. One of the officers was kind enough to carry me to his car, and then to the psychologist’s appointment.
“From your phone call, it sounds like Keegan had some sort of psychotic fit. It sounds like something suddenly changed in his mind, and that triggered a delusional spiral. Even with the advances in neuroscience since the turn of the century, we still know so little about the connection between the mind and brain, perhaps something malfunctioned.”
“I don’t know about that, doctor.”
“Well what do you think happened.”
“I understand that ‘we just don’t know’ is the rational stance, but I just can’t shake the feeling that he was somehow a victim of predation. Somehow, some being targeted him, and drove him to suicide, in an attempt to consume his being.”