image © Casey Reinhardt 2008
“Please, just try to avoid determining I’m insane before I’ve finished the story. I know it’s strange, but I simply cannot explain these rectangles. They haunt me. They creep up on me from all sides now. I see them everywhere and in everything.”
It was absolutely unnatural for a woman to be shaking so much; so anxious, so afraid. Her eyes a deep emerald steeped in fear. I looked away for a moment, adjusted my tie, picked up my coffee mug, surely exhibiting a premature disbelief disguised as patience.
Her face was dripping with sweat, head turned to look out the window every few moments. The vacant gaping may have indicated she was spending time in the deep recess of her mind. I urged her to continue.
“Are you waiting for something?” I said as my disguise melted away.
Her face dropped down into the palm of her hand, the dark circles under her eyes barely visible between bony fingers.”Sorry, take your time.”
Her words are muffled: “It began toward the end of my fifth semester in college, four hours into my shift at work.” Lifting her head from her hands, she throws it back with a profound resignation. “I remember, it was April 14th. The computer screen began moving. Ridiculous, but I swear I could see the light, swirling multicolored imagery, moving upward, downward, backward, forward, sideways — everywhere. I felt my cell phone vibrate amid this trance. I took it out of my pocket and flicked it open. The glowing rectangle lifted itself off of the screen, leaving it black. It began to hover in my peripheral vision, blinding me with some awkward angle to the eye. I would attempt to blink it out of existence but there it remained. The unnatural psychedelic imagery led me to vomit right into the garbage can under my desk. I hurled until my gut hurt, attracting the attention of everyone in the department as they all ran in my direction. The manager shoved my bag into my hand and led me out the door, urging me to see a doctor.
“As I walked out, I tossed the cell phone in the garbage. I closed my eyes as I walked, intending to re-set my vision. I was so sure at that time that my eyes were just playing tricks on me.” Her eyes closed, with a sigh she declared: ”That’s just the problem, we believe these are just tricks of eyes and light. We close it or start it over and move on, never even realizing…”
Her eyes, for the first time this interview, focused on my own. “So I figured, What do I do now? Where will I be away from technology? The park.”
“Did you begin to feel better when you got there?”
“You see — when I left work, aside from the scent of vomit and my empty stomach, I felt fine. I could run, and I did, at an unnatural speed toward my car. The wind in my face helped to clear the haunting images. When I got into my car the digital clock screen immediately began taunting me in the same absurd fashion. It would flicker on and off constantly. I turned off the radio to subdue it, ultimately failing. I closed my eyes to suppress the mental trickery. Regardless, I could sense it. That goddamn red glowing rectangle wanted me to pay attention to it, I was so certain. As I said, these images are repetitive and malicious. The more I became afraid the more persistent they became.
“After arriving at the park, I stopped my car and began toward the nature trail. For some reason, I turned back toward the car with an unusual sense of urgent curiosity. I opened the door to my car, unlocking it slowly, methodically. Once open, I grabbed my laptop from the back seat. I guarantee you it was hooked up to nothing, nothing! The battery had been dead for three days. I opened the lid to a bright glowing screen; a brutal, blinding light. This was confirmation that I wasn’t losing my mind. The battery had been dead for three days, as I said.
“In a fit of rage I slammed the cover of the computer, followed immediately by the car door. Once out of the car, that revitalizing sensation sparked by the brisk wind against my skin returned. Laptop in hand, I jogged toward the trail.
“I stood still at the entrance, looking only upward at the large expanse of green leaves and blue sky. I tried to appreciate the natural, warming light — restarting my brain. I could feel it for a moment, seeping into the pores of my skin, bathing me in delicate warmth. The wind making my hair dance and tickle my skin. I smiled — although it soon faded back into the anxiety of my reality now being marred by this bizarre haunting. My sense of loathing deepened — with one focused swing I hit the computer against a tree. It was a pitiful attempt at destruction at first, barely a dent was visible. I did it again, this time with wreckage at the forefront of my mind. Empowered by adrenaline and the wind in my face I repeatedly hammered the laptop against the tree. My heart pumped; my strength doubled. At one point, I absentmindedly tore my hand apart on the bark.” She held her hand up, showing me the scabs covering her fingers and knuckles. Even I winced slightly.
“I didn’t notice at the time, however, I was so consumed with rage it went entirely overlooked. At any rate, once I was done pummeling the machine into the tree, I threw it to the ground. I kicked it as hard as I could, missing the first time because I was so incensed. On the second attempt it barely lifted off the ground so I jumped on top of it, bounding toward it so as to release all of my weight, breaking it nearly in half.
“Shocked by my own strength, I stopped and tried to pry the cover off of it, to detach it from the rest. I did manage to open it with some force and do you want to know what color that screen was? Do you want to know Doctor? Could you even imagine?”
“It was glowing.” I sat back in my chair, frantically inhaling a cigarette. My leg bounced frantically on the ball of my foot.
“Of course it was! Its mocking light penetrated my entire being, provoking me beyond the point of consciousness, I swear it.” She was growing short of breath, arms flailing to color her descriptions. ”So you know what I did then? I threw it into the goddamn creek. I threw it in, threw the biggest rock I could find on top of it and ran away.”
“I got into my car, used my tweezers to destroy the LED clock in my car and drove home. I pulled my Kindle out of my bag, took a moment to mourn my collection of books, and threw it out the window. I sped down the road at about sixty miles an hour, swerving like a maniac through the slower cars. At the next stop the ipod came out of the bag, I smashed it against the dashboard several times and threw it as far as possible, the car making a sharp swerve to the right, taking out a mailbox or two. When I came to my house, I pulled the car into the front lawn. It took a moment to catch my breath. Once calm, I slammed the car door as hard as possible, releasing ample frustration. After stumbling a bit, I walked toward the house.
“I paused for a moment before walking through the door — I was sure the television would be on, as it always was, begging for my attention. I tried to calm myself down, counting backwards from ten and then pushed the door open slowly. I caught a glimpse of the television and quickly slammed it shut, not trusting myself.”
There was a deep pause, a deafening silence in the office. The girl’s breathing was erratic and her entire body pale with horror.
“Well… did you open the door again?” I lit another cigarette to avoid running my mouth.
“Of course I did! How could I not?” Her face moved from horror to indignation in a split second, and I leaned forward, entranced by her senseless madness. “When I opened the door again I walked in and stood right in front of the thing. I stood, staring at it. Of course I tried to turn it off, to no avail. It just sat there, it’s bright speckled static and somehow yellowish light pushing me farther into the pit of madness. I took a curtain rod from the corner of the room and began again to thrash and strike it, kick it as hard as my body would let me. As it lay on the floor, battered beyond the point of recognition. This is where it gets crazy doctor. This is where you begin to think I’m on drugs, if you haven’t already. It began bleeding — yellowish liquid electricity pouring from the screen, pooling on the floor. For a moment it looked as some godly being were suffering at my expense.Even if it was, I have no sympathy.
“As I’m sure you’re aware, my husband found me in the bathroom, where I was sitting on top of the sink, rocking back and forth, eyes closed. You see, after killing all of the televisions and computers, their yellow matter began flowing all over the house. There was a pool of it just below me. I thought I would be safe in the bathroom; I was wrong. You see, unfortunately the light wasn’t afraid of water. Soon it began leaking from the upstairs bedroom onto my head. I had no where to run. I just sat, rocking. He came home, picked me up into his arms and brought me here, to somehow make sense of it all.”
“You do realize that these objects are inanimate, and that they do not bleed?” Without taking my eyes off of her, I lowered my laptop, setting it under my desk, out of sight.
“Don’t you patronize me. Don’t you realize that soon, we’ll all be bleeding light? That the very blood around our bones will soon be replaced with the light of the screen? Everything concrete has been replaced, what makes you think you’re going to evade it?
“Don’t be irrational. You’re an educated, professional — albeit paranoid, woman. Nothing bleeds light.”
She began laughing, a hysterical laugh known only to the truly mad. Then, after nodding her head in thanks, she ran. She ran faster than I’d ever seen a woman run, out my door, feed banging down the hall. I rang security and had my agents apprehend her at the front door, and per my instruction soon sent her off to the county hospital.
As I reflected on her possessed nature, I sat back in my chair, still smoking the cigarette I’d last lit. I set my laptop back on my desk. I opened it. There, illuminating my dimly lit office, unaided by electricity or a charged battery, the rectangular screen glowed the most fantastic yellow, demanding my undivided attention.