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I remember it well, the night I lost my mind. I set this down, not as a cry for help, but for understanding. It is terribly important that you understand.
I was on a plane, a big 747 getting ready to leave on a red-eye flight to… nowhere. It occurs to me now that such details are really insignificant, so suffice it to say that I was on business. Besides, given the strange occurrences of that night, and my own questionable behaviour, it is probably for the best that I remain anonymous.
I can’t say that I felt out of the ordinary prior to the incident – I boarded the plane when I was called, and made my way to my assigned seat as I had done countless times before. I found myself sitting in the window seat of an emergency exit aisle, something new to me, but not at all out of the ordinary. I glanced out the window at the wing beneath, and the flashing signal light caught my eye for a second, not in a conspicuous way, but in a way that seems to me noteworthy. I am unsure why. No matter.
I entertained myself with a few small,
commonplace thoughts for a while – I thought of my wife, our daughter, Emily,
and my elderly father, who has lived
It was not a succumbing to madness. I
suppose I may be unique among lunatics in that respect. My insanity was not
lurking just beneath a mask of civility, waiting for a moment of stress or
anguish to strike. My descent was a conscious choice, a decision that I
made wholeheartedly and willingly, without a hint of reservation. The hows,
whys, and wherefores of it elude me now, as they eluded me then.
When the change came upon me, I was not sure what to make of it. It is difficult to see madness for what it is, especially when the perspective is first-hand. I simply knew, suddenly, that something was different. Whether it was myself or my surroundings that had changed, I could not tell.
A sane person lives his life according to his impulses. There is an impulse which makes the sane man awaken in the morning in time to catch his ride to work. There is another which makes him choose what colour tie pleases him the most on that particular morning. Another impulse causes him to treat his co-workers with courtesy, so that they will think him pleasant to be around, and their lives will be better for his presence than his absence.
There is an impulse towards self-preservation. A person who is insane also lives a life governed by impulses.
For instance, when the change came over me, I decided that I should dearly like to open the emergency hatch and walk out onto the wing of the plane. An alarm sounded as I pulled the lever, but it seemed little more than a minor annoyance to me, and I paid no attention. Heads turned to look at me, and I saw expressions of shock and distress on the faces of my fellow passengers, so I smiled amiably at them, to show I meant no harm.
Then I pushed the emergency hatch out onto
the ground (as I had seen outlined in the safety handbook in the pocket of the
seat in front of me) and stepped out
The night air was cool and pleasant, as I
had known it would be. The plane was taxiing slowly down the runway, and the
effect was that of a gentle breeze cooling
It was then that I gave in to the next of
my newly insane impulses – to hop down onto the runway and walk away. I walked
out into the darkness, my mind resolved to heed nothing but this wonderful new
alignment of my perceptions. I decided that I simply must explore my new madness
to the fullest, as it might disappear as
I began to run, cherishing the wind on my
face, whistling past my ears as a mighty hurricane roaring across the surface of
my mind. I ran until I reached a tall fence at the boundaries of the airport
property. This I climbed with little difficulty, and
My sinews exploded forward, and I ran into
the forest with a boundless energy that seemed to seep from my every pore. My
clothing felt terribly constrictive,
How would the society I had forsaken see my
newfound enlightenment? Would they search for me, capture and cage me, try to
reclaim their lost sheep? Would they leave me to my own devices, slowly building
up the stories about my disappearance into legend, until I became little more
than a faerie-story told to
I contemplated the world I had left behind. I thought of my co-workers and their small, tedious lives. Never would they have the courage to see the things that were now abundantly clear to me. Time would pass, and all the things that once worried me would fall into obscurity, but I would live forever.
I would be immortal as the forest, which was now as much a part of me as I was a part of it. I ran, and I ran, and I did not falter. I would never falter. My madness, precious madness, would sustain me always.
When I finally stopped to rest I was many kilometres from the place I had shed my clothing. I crouched down to the earth, feeling the grass and soil under my bare feet, listening to the blood roar in my ears, as the wind roared in the trees.
And then… I became aware of a Presence.
Something that watched me from the trees. Lurking in shadows, espying me with
cold animal eyes much like my own.
I remained stock-still, and watched with
feral eyes as the creature stepped out from behind the trees. It was a great
grey wolf. It approached me cautiously,
The wolf circled me, and it was then that I began to sense other Presences in the shadows around me. As if they knew they could hide from me no longer, they began to reveal themselves, first two or three, then more, until the whole pack of hunters stood around me, fur bristling, waiting on the command of their leader.
The alpha male paced in front of me. I
remained absolutely still, so as not to arouse his suspicions further. His eyes
were questioning, ponderous. Slowly, I extended my hand to him. The wolf paused,
and then gently licked my outstretched fingers.
The alpha male threw back his head and let
loose with a wondrous howl that echoed through the forest like the voice of God.
The other wolves joined in the
And I realized then that I howled with them, and they were my brethren as surely as by birth. The moon shone down, clear and full, and we howled so as to call it from the sky, and my madness was complete.
It was wondrous.
Then the howling ended, and a change came over the pack. Fur bristled, and noses sniffed the air with new purpose. The hunt was on. Powerful muscles sprang to action, and the pack surged forth as one. We had caught a scent, and our animal instincts urged us on to the kill. Our prey was close; we could smell sweat, and blood – the scent of fear, pure and sweet.
As we bounded amongst the trees, I began to
understand the nature of my madness – for I was insane, make no mistake. No
matter what I say here,
Looking back, I wonder if “ancestral
memory” is a more accurate and appropriate term. It mattered not to me at
the time, however – so absorbed was I by the hunt, by the sound of the ragged
breath coursing in and out of my brother wolves as
When the hunt culminated it was fast and
merciless, swift and deadly. The pack exploded into the clearing where the deer
lay with their young. Quick as a flash
Savagely I tore at the corpse with my teeth
and consumed the deer’s flesh. A new energy ran through me, and it was bloodlust
that ruled my being then. Blood was the impulse of my madness, now closer
to consuming me than ever before. I reveled in it, and I was the Beast-Man of
the faerie-stories, and I loved
Our triumphant howls cut through the night
for what seemed like hours afterward. Bathed in sweat and blood, I bayed until
my throat was sore. Then, tired and panting, our lust for prey sated, we began
to make our way back to the den to sleep. The alpha male and some of the others
took some of the deer’s remains
The alpha male gave the meat to his mate,
and they nuzzled one another affectionately. Then he looked at me where I knelt
before them, and I was assailed by images of my former life. I thought of my
dear wife, and our daughter, Emily,
I thought also of my new life and my beautiful madness. And I knew what I must do.
I chose sanity once more.
As I stood up, I realized that I was cold, and I wondered where my clothes had gone. The alpha male, my wolf-brother, sensed the change in me, and he growled. You are welcome, he seemed to say, but only as you were. You are Man now, to be feared and shunned.
I looked at my brother sadly, regretting
that we had known each other for such a terribly short time, but thanking him
for the wondrous gift he had given me. I
I left my wolf-brethren and my new life
behind in the forest, and walked out of the wood exhausted. I managed to find
some of my clothing, and made my way
But I know that there will always be times that I will think about my wolf-brethren and the wonderful lunatic state in which they exist. I know that the song of the World-Enders will forever echo through that part of me that sleeps always. I know that sometimes I will wish to rejoin them in that mad dreaming.
I know that the other life is never far from any human being. Each man can choose which impulses to obey, and which to suppress. Insanity, the Beast, is closer to the surface than we think.
I know this now: it is a better thing to be sane.
At least for now.
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