Saturday, 22 September 2012


Madness- by L.P. Hernandez

“Number 5,231,985

There are fates worse than death.  There are fates worse than hell, even.

My head swam freely, nonsensically in my final moments, as the torrent of blood yielded a slow gurgle, my tireless heart beating on adrenaline and instinct.  Senses dissipated one by one.  The sight of the bathroom tiles became a shapeless white wall, and then nothing.  The sound of rushing water gave way to a drone that was replaced by emptiness.

In those final moments of cognizance I might have hoped to see something beautiful in my mind.  I anticipated a chorus of singing voices and a feeling of warmth and ascent.  I yearned for white light, not caring if it led me to heaven as long as it led away from that life.

My brain, perhaps from a lack of blood and oxygen, fired at random instead.  The last thought that dwelled in my waking mind was that of a saying I’d heard years before.  I am not able to recall the precise wording, nor am I in a position to research it.  However, there is a theory that, given an infinite amount of time, a monkey seated at a typewriter and striking keys at random would eventually type the entire works of Shakespeare.

As my heart relaxed for the first time in its twenty-eight years, I saw an image in my dying mind of a chimpanzee, not a monkey precisely, at a typewriter. 

I cannot account for the time that passed between my death and the sudden realization that I was walking.  I followed a man wearing a black suit.  His hair was black as well, not styled but parted towards the right.  Together, we walked down a white corridor with doors on either side at regular intervals of around eight feet.  His steps were quick and deliberate.  Though I stood half a foot taller than him I had to jog to keep pace.

“Where are we?” I asked, assuming by his stern countenance that he was in charge.

He might have grunted in response.  I can’t really trust my memories.

After a few more silent steps he stopped before a door that, in appearance, was no different than its neighbors.

He opened the door and faced me, inviting me to enter with a mirthless smile that looked like a fresh scar on his face.  I did as he wished and walked into the room, taking about three steps before stopping when I realized he had not followed.  The man, and his face is only a blur in my mind now, grasped the doorknob.  I do trust my memory in one respect.  I recall the words he spoke, although the texture of his voice is lost to me.

“The complete works.  When you are done you may move on,” he said.

He closed the door.  There was no sound of a lock engaged but I soon found the knob to be rigid and unmoving.  While gripping the knob I noticed my wrist was healed.  There was a faint, white line that would have been imperceptible had I not been looking for it.  Although I recalled the wound, the sudden image of my arm stained red, I did not associate it with my death.  I then surveyed my body and found that I was clothed in a tunic of sorts, an outfit comprised of a single piece of white fabric.

The room was white as well, but there was no identifiable light source.  I walked forward, my footfalls making not a sound.  I walked for ten seconds or so before I stretched my arms out in front of my body preparing to contact a wall. 

I am still searching for that wall.

After walking and then jogging for fifty then one hundred feet I stopped and turned around.  The door should have appeared smaller in my vision but it was not.  Seeing no other option I returned to examine the only feature of the room, the desk with the typewriter on it.

The desk was white and the typewriter black.  The seat was white, angular and stiff.  I ran my hand over both the desk and the chair and found my sense of feeling was dull.  It was almost as if there was nothing beneath my fingers.  Of what materials the chair, desk, and typewriters are comprised I am not sure.

I sat before the typewriter and hit a key and then another

Hi appeared on the page already fed into the device.

I realized that I had not seen a source of paper and so looked beneath the desk.  There was not a stack as I would have expected.  The paper emitted from the floor, itself.  On my hands and knees I brought my eyes to within an inch of what I assumed would be a gap in the floor.  But, there was no gap.

The paper would not rip, either.

I returned to my seat and typed a bit more.

The quick brown fox.

That sentence stirred something in my mind, a recollection.  I imagined a chimpanzee seated at a typewriter. 

My mind strained to make a connection but failed in that moment.

“Hello?” I said.

To my own ears my voice sounded small and distant.  I recalled the corridor from which I had just arrived and the doors that extended to the limits of my sight.  I left the desk for a moment and walked forward in the same fashion as before, my arms extended like a mummy in a Scooby Doo cartoon.
After fifty paces I turned and saw that I had, in fact, only walked about six feet.  The desk was only about the length of my body away from me.  Before returning to the desk I walked the six paces to the door and seized the knob again.  With my teeth gritted I turned and felt my bloodless hands slide over its featureless surface. 

I sat at the desk again.

My name is John.
My name is John.

I had used typewriters before and this instrument functioned well.  Yet it was almost silent.  As I considered the mechanics of the device I heard the voice of the man in the black suit in my head.

“The complete works.  When you are done you may move on.”

I made the connection, slowly at first, to the seemingly random thought of a chimpanzee typing.
I did not immediately remember why I died but only that it was so.  I recalled the dulling of my senses and my disappointment at not hearing the voice of an angel welcoming me to some higher plane.  I saw the chimpanzee again, my last thought in life.

The complete works.  Move on to where?

I thought about Shakespeare and realized at once that I only had a passing knowledge of his writing.  I read some works in their entirety when it was required of me and enjoyed them.  For every play I had read there were probably two that I had not. 

Romeo and Juliet

I typed those words and then reclined in the chair again with my hands clasped together atop my sternum.  Beneath the base of my palms I detected no heartbeat.  I searched my neck with two fingers for the carotid artery.  There was no pulse.
Was I still dead?
Was I in a coma?

Perhaps my mother had come over for a visit and found my body, nearly lifeless in the tub.  I did not care if I had lived or died but only wished that I was not seated at that typewriter with the words of the man in the black suit swirling in my mind.

I waited.

There are many ways to tell time: the modern conveniences I took for granted to even the passing of the sun overhead.  Light and darkness.  The changing of the seasons.  Hunger.  Fatigue.
I had none of those.  I had no heartbeat to serve as a metronome.  I was not hungry and felt no desire for sleep.  I had nothing, not even the regularity of breathing as I soon learned that I no longer needed oxygen.  What felt like hours but could well have been minutes passed in absolute silence.  I breathed because it comforted me, not because I needed it.  I sang because my rebellious mind was making connections.

I began to type because of a lack of alternatives.  I did not attempt Shakespeare, however.  My mind was not committed to the fact that Shakespeare was my fate.  Instead, I wrote about what brought me to the bathtub a minute, day, or a thousand years prior.

When I finished, the manuscript overflowed the desk but found its way to the same, non-existent slot from which the paper originated.  As I typed, new paper came up through the floor, the desk, and the typewriter.  What I had written eventually found its way back into the same slot.  I do not understand how it functions but nothing has changed since that time.  I also realized that I could not write to entertain myself as the paper always disappeared into the floor.  I could read the equivalent of about seven pages before it was consumed.

I tried the doorknob again.

I found the chair to be indestructible as well the desk and typewriter.  My body, likewise, was unbreakable.  I punched the typewriter and only managed to depress a few keys.  I felt no pain and found that not even an indentation of the circular keys was left in my skin.  A quick slap to my face was like a plastic prosthesis contacting numb flesh.

I returned to the desk and began to type.

Shakespeare was not on my radar.  The thought of those thousands of pages was too vast to envisage.  I wrote about good things, pleasant things.  Even in a terrible life there are moments of joy.  I wrote about these things because of a pale, unacknowledged voice inside me that suggested I might be here awhile.  I wrote because I did not want to forget.

I described my mother’s face.  In the final years of my life it was in a state of worry more often than not, the genuine smile collapsing over time into a rigid grin.  I wrote about a dog I had loved only to recall holding her black and white paw as the drugs took effect.  I wrote about the first movie I ever saw in the theater, about a little league game in which I was the hero.  I filled the endless page with memories and they disappeared into the floor.  But, the simple act of writing kept them alive in my mind.

Reliving joy, it was not possible to feel confident in the decisions that led me to the bathtub.  Had I really wanted it or was I trying to cause pain?  It was too heavy to consider.  The weight of my decisions rested on my shoulders like the burden of Atlas.

Days passed.  They must have.

I lost track of the number of times I attempted the doorknob.  I ran miles into nothingness, never feeling out of breath and never breaking a sweat.  With a marathon’s distance behind me I turned and saw the desk as it was, the paper filled with a story I started.  I both hated the typewriter and loved it.

I sat on the chair and attempted the impossible.

Romeo and Juliet
Romeo where for art thou?

I did not know the first line of Romeo and Juliet and it was Shakespeare’s work with which I was most familiar.  I wrote the outline of the story as best I could remember, pausing many times to walk away, sometimes for what felt like days.  I yelled and screamed and clawed at my own skin.  My screams were dull to my own ears and my fingernails left behind not a blemish.


I would have preferred madness to the tyranny of reason.  I understood my plight and so knew it was impossible.  If I typed Shakespeare’s work in its entirety and spelled Mercutio with a second t I might never know my error.  I might miss a comma.

Was it Henry V or Henry VIII?

The fine line extending from my wrist to the middle of my forearm mocked me.  The memory of the warm, vermillion flow never left my thoughts.  Had I known that decision would lead me here…
I typed at random, never looking at the keys, for days into weeks.  For months.  Far worse than hell is the fruitless hope for salvation.  Religion never factored into my musings.  I cared not the destination after this one as long as it was different.  The mind cannot comprehend infinity.  I had nothing but time to consider it and I am no closer to understanding.  Trillions multiplied by trillions of years might be a fraction of my sentence.  Though I did not know where I was, what plane of existence, I refused to accept that it was unending.

I longed for hot lashes across my back, in that place where I could take residence among the damned.  I longed for nothingness, to be broken down into elements and dispersed throughout the universe without a memory of the white room and the typewriter.  Worse than pain is the knowledge that pain will never come.  Solace will never come.

I tried the doorknob again.

How many words had Shakespeare written?  Thousands upon millions?  What chance did I have?  

Then again, what choice did I have?

I walked into the endless expanse of white nothingness for longer than I had lived on earth. 
I forgot my mother’s face.  When I realized this I knew she had been dead for years, decades more likely.  And through it all my sanity did not waiver.  I was coherent and aware of my fate at all times. 
I have not slept in hundreds of years.  My waking dreams are fleeting and untrustworthy. 

Ask for me tomorrow and you will find me a grave man.

I wish for nothing more.

I have typed billions of words on this damned typewriter and will type billions more.  However, I am through trying.  I have written the bulk of Shakespeare’s words, though not in the proper order.  I will not try again.  When the Earth is consumed by its life-giving star I will be here, typing.  When that star expels its matter across the Milky Way I will be here, typing.  When that matter begins to collect and condense and become the seed of life again I will be here, in this white room, typing.  Until there is nothing, finally, when the cycle of death and rebirth ends I will be here.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow.”

He paused for a moment and looked at the doorknob.

“Number 5,231,986

There are fates worse than death.  There are fates worse than hell, even.


  1. Oh, the sad, sad payment for taking one's own life. Well done!
    I too believe you take the pain with you, and the atonement is massive.

  2. That's wild man. I love it. Keep it coming.