Mountains of Madness

Two years ago, I ended up spending three weeks in the hospital as a result of a very bad infection. This is what my mind went through at the worst of it.

I remember having delusions or hallucinations (I guess) when I had an infection or a very high fever from a very young age. Although I’ve never read the book, I remember being lashed down, like Gulliver, with laser ropes by dwarves that had dug a trench around my body when I was sick. While feverish at the Minneapolis VA one day, I told Nicole I needed a new suit because the CIA had asked me to replace the president. I also tend to develop an altered mental state. Sometimes, I forget how to operate my wheelchair, or I can’t fully explain things to Nicole or my nurses and have gotten downright mean. There are other examples, but my most recent stay at the VA showed me just how deep and dark my mind could go.

I went in for lithotripsy (blasting kidney stones with lasers) on March 29, 2022. It was supposed to be a relatively routine operation: I spent the night before at the SCIU, went in for the procedure the following afternoon, recovered, and spent the night at the VA to make sure I was good to go. After my operation, I felt and acted fine, and things looked good. It’s common for your white blood cell count to be elevated after an operation. My operation triggered a reaction from the body’s defenders. White blood cells attack any illness or threat the body perceives. This, in turn, can raise your temperature. I’ve had this happen before, but no infection was discovered. However, this time around, I developed a very severe infection.

I had developed a high temperature (near 104°) and could not stay awake. I ended up on four different antibiotics to combat my infection. On Tuesday, May 5, my mind began to spiral into one of the longest and most frightening places I can recall outside of my initial injury.

This was my descent into the mountains of madness.

I remember waking up and it being very dark. I overslept my alarm and woke up in a sheer panic. I knew I was supposed to take action, so I lashed out, cutting through the fabric of time. I made the cut with 3.2 seconds remaining, killing the intruder. Suddenly, I’m transported into the next room, in bed, in the dark, and in walks a nurse. She begins taking a set of vitals when another nurse comes in and tells her that she has been dismissed. The original nurse protests, and the two begin to argue. Eventually, the first nurse wins the argument and activates what I started to call the “grunkle.” I don’t know what the device is or where it came from, but it begins a dialogue with a hostile alien race, with whom I start an expletive-laced tirade. Eventually, I win the argument, and an option tree opens. I don’t recall the options or their outcome, but I finally read a sign on the wall that says, “No noise: sensitive to noise and touch.” That sign became one of the worst things in my life. Every time I would look at it, the day would reset. (This sign actually existed – it was taped to a whiteboard on the wall of my room.) I continuously woke up late, making the cut, and being transported. This must have happened several hundred times (After a while, the nurse went to make the cut while I stayed in the second room). Slowly, after countless repetitions, the following sequence of events occurs.

After killing the enemy, the second nurse comes in and continues to dismiss the original nurse. Things progress, and eventually, the second nurse becomes angrier and angrier and is eventually accompanied by another nurse. Soon, the latter two nurses attempt to intervene before the first nurse can make the cut. However, when I looked at the sign, the original nurse entered the first room and made the cut. Eventually, I understood why the first nurse was being stopped.

Oh, and my head would jerk to the side every time the cut was made. My neck muscles are so strong that my head is usually pinned to the right. Anyway…

Now, to follow what was going on in my mind, you would’ve had to have read a good deal of H.P. Lovecraft and the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons and watched a fair amount of sci-fi. That said, eventually, the pair of nurses would force the original nurse out of the first room. This was crucial for the existence of the intruder to enter our reality. The intruder was an emissary of the Ousters, a branch of humans that left Earth around the year 2750, shortly before the destruction of Earth. Because of their time spent in 0-G and due to genetic enhancements, the word “human” is merely relative. In my mind, this took ages to occur. They were trying to reach out and re-establish relations with the common race of humans. I was simply the pawn of the first nurse. It was devastating.

In real time, I would fall asleep and wake up very rapidly. Also, I would look at the clock about every five minutes while awake. It seemed impossible that I could be looking at the clock at five-minute intervals, so every time I looked at the clock, and every time I looked at that “reset” sign, I felt that an entire day had passed. These days quickly added to what became weeks, months, years, centuries…

Eventually, I came to some “clarity.” It was now daytime, and I could see my nurses and Nicole; however, I had developed double vision because of my feverish and delusional state; it was also a symptom of the severe concussion I received after my initial injury. Adding to the double vision, I noticed a pattern of facial tics or phrases that I soon associated with lying. At this point, everyone was lying. I eventually told Nicole to stop coming to see me. I told her it was because I didn’t want to look at her if I couldn’t see correctly. This was true, but I felt she was also lying to me. I also associated her wearing her sunglasses as a sign she was lying to me. I was so convinced that everyone was lying that I didn’t want to see pictures of the kids or talk to my parents on the phone.

In my deluded state, the reason for my impaired vision was a small scar located on my optic nerve. This is where one of our most beloved nurses became the most villainous person on the planet. During clinicals with an optometrist, this nurse discovered a way to bypass my double vision, a technique that no one else found. So naturally, I thought this nurse was the cause of the scratch – no one else could find it, so how did he know precisely where to look? From then on, if I ever wanted to see straight, I had to “right mouse click” and select this nurse’s name to see correctly. It was torture.

Then, I began to live life as an Ouster. I was traveling in giant “migration clusters,” giant enclosed atmospheres around comets, minor asteroids, and treeships traveling at relativistic speeds. I created a new bubble every time I spoke with a doctor, which had consequences; sometimes, I would make the appropriate setting, and other times, I would create giant blank spaces. These empty spaces could be soothing or terrifying, depending on how I felt then. Again, I continued to develop these migration clusters for what seemed to be an eternity.

And then Lovecraft kicked in.

This was an incredibly frightening ordeal. I was scaling a sheer cliff that was laden with basreliefs of the “great old ones,” straight out of At the Mountains of Madness (hence the title of this story). At the pinnacle was my eyesight. Various locations on this cliff wall represented the body parts I was trying to salvage. At this point, I don’t know if I can describe it much further. It was simply a horror in my mind. During my climb, I made it a point not to look at or focus on anything directly in front of me. I was so scared that the damage to my vision was permanent. I couldn’t face that reality. I remember talking to the doctor and Nicole (at least I think I did) and the whole time stretching, trying to reach that pinnacle. I couldn’t make it.

Now began one of the most mentally taxing events of my delusion. I was trying to get up and into my wheelchair. This was an exceedingly different task because, in my mind, I had spent years in bed, so my muscles had atrophied, and my ligaments were not as strong as they once were. I had to work towards sitting up so my blood pressure wouldn’t crash and so that I could begin to develop muscle tone so my joints wouldn’t collapse.

To get into my chair, we had to get the sling underneath me and lift me to a separate bed next to my chair. My nurses would slide me across the mattress and into my chair. It was necessary to pad it with an incredible amount of pillows so that I wouldn’t develop any pressure sores. After what felt like an eternity, the pillows were removed, and I could drive around. As liberating as getting into my chair, I felt our lives were irrevocably changed. Because of our association with the nurse mentioned above, society completely shunned Nicole and me (as the news feeds in my mind played out, I stated that the level of this nurse’s treachery and treason made the WikiLeaks/Chealse Manning scandal look like an issue of Archie). This left us in a giant warehouse setting. Things weren’t so bad for me at first. We lived in a vast warehouse with an immense library of digital and hard-copy books on every subject imaginable. I guess it still wasn’t too bad for me because I love reading and could study as much as possible. However, I felt terrible for Nicole. She couldn’t go out, couldn’t attend school, and couldn’t get a job. Our whole existence was spent in this warehouse.

In my mind, this took hours and hours and hours, which became days and weeks again—in reality, about three minutes had passed. This crushed me. Emotionally and, what seemed, physically.

Another more gruesome/gross ordeal I went through had to do with my jaws and lips. At one point, I kept asking everyone to get me a mouthguard. I even asked for Gavin’s mouthguard for lacrosse. I needed this mouthguard because my jaw was clenched so tight. I don’t know if this actually happened, but in my mind, the pressure of my jaws was crushing my teeth, and I was grinding them down to the bone. Also, my lips were dry; again, I’m not sure if they were, but I asked Nicole for some lip gloss, and they kept putting bacitracin on my lips. I have a bad habit of chewing on my lips. In my mind, I had completely chewed off both of my lips..

One response to “Mountains of Madness”

  1. This is truly, completely, unimaginable. It’s totally beyond words. Thank you for sharing all of this.

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