[Trigger warnings: suicide, mental illness]
Biede had never met an insane person before, and didn’t know how to handle it. Somehow the wheel of fortune in his head landed on excitement and enthusiasm. Afterward he let a carver carve naïf into the broad of his forehead, and he filled it in with ink and guilt.
He was introduced to the fond Mary an evening when the stars were falling from the sky in the form of crystals, and rejoining the water they came from, and everything was beautiful. Especially her. He didn’t know it until he’d talked to her a while but then he was struck by her and the stars and the whiskey enough to walk bad. Someone told him about the insanity and she nodded.
“Now, I didn’t mean that to be fetishising,” said Sober Biede through Drunk Biede’s mouth and body and hands, “I mean, I’ve met plenty of crazy people. My best friend only occupies his body half the time, the other half guy is kind of a jerk. But I see a certain difference between the two terms, y’agree?”
Fond Mary just smiled.
“I’m very much myself right now, just so you know. But please, continue.”
Their friendship lasted two weeks. “Have you ever read the Tibetan Book of the Dead, perchance?”
“Can’t say I have.”
“Well, hmm. There is an idea that everything that is happening to you, especially your beliefs and religious experiences, is just a series of hallucinations fervently produced by your dying brain, and once you learn to let go of them you can finally be let into heaven. Or, you know, whatever the equivalent is.”
“Curious.” He balanced his glass of wine in his one hand, Mary was over for pizza and Star Trek. They weren’t really paying attention to the Star Trek.
“And, you know, isn’t it funny that every civilisation masturbates about the end of the world? That’s what this whole thing is about. I find that funny. The end of the world inside your own head. I’m trying to make those illusions go away.”
“But how do you know they’re hallucinations or illusions?” Biede was finding out that wine didn’t go especially well with pizza, but Mary didn’t seem to mind it. She ate pizza with a knife and fork, she’d had to ask him specifically to bring those, she couldn’t with her hands. Delicate hands, really, at the end of always-sleeved arms.
“That one’s easy. There is no way to confirm that any of the things you see are true. You can find rules, but I can impose rules on a rat I’ve got in a cage, and the rat could learn these rules, but that doesn’t make the things the rat believes true, now, does it? Press the button for cheese isn’t a universal rule anymore than gravity wells are.”
“This is fascinating. You should be published. And you believe this with the whole of your heart?” The stars were still falling and she was still gorgeous. He wasn’t allowed to touch her, but two layers of clothes was okay. He thought she probably needed someone to hold her, the bridge they were on was cold. He’d brought the beer and she’d brought a basket of strawberries she’d picked herself.
“Yes,” she said. “Can you make any sort of differentiation between the rule that heavy objects attract other objects, and the rule that there are natural, seemingly random, indentations in the gravity cloth? No. I aim to get rid of all these chimaeras – of meaning and sense and truth – and I will become like god. Like the tower of Babel, but I will succeed, I will climb high. I’ll achieve apotheosis.”
The realization came when he wasn’t drunk, when Sober Biede could ponder everything that had happened, when he called one day and there was no-one at the phone. The first thought was, ah, he should probably spend some time with his other friends too. The second one was about the sleeves, and the third one, at the third one he swallowed hard, about insanity.
He called someone else, the first one in his phone book. “She’s dead, my friend, she’s dead and I encouraged her.”