The Void.

David has always lived with an alien enitity in his mind, always there; he does not know what it wants, only that it is not benevolent...

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3. A package.

My life continued. Before, my internal battles with the thing had been quick and decisive: I would flare up in an all-out rebellion and be crushed by its overwhelming strength, submitting myself to its inconcievable will until my strength returned and I could rise up again. For a time, my life was consumed by these small but constant battles.

   But then things changed.

   I realised that fighting it in a burst of emotion, no matter how strong, was pointless. Instead, I started to maintain a steady pressure on it, never letting it get too strong. As time passed, I even tried to reason with it; to compromise on certain things. My life was now a struggle to maintain power and balance; to live my life while keeping it under control. I desperately tried to keep track of my various part-time jobs and to cope with the huge tumult of people coming and going every day of my life.

   It was hard.

   Then one day, some years later, I woke up with the idea that maybe humanity wasn't half as bad as I made it put to be; that maybe the world wasn't such a bad place after all. I quickly stopped the train of thought. What if it was planting these thoughts in my head? Paving the way for another of its nefarious schemes? But no, that couldn't be it: the thing seemed to be dormant right now. On the verge of shrugging off this wave of euphoria, a sudden longing hit me, stronger than anything I'd ever experienced. My eyes filled with tears as I realised what it was. More than anything, I wanted to find love. Maybe if I had someone by my side, it would be easier to cope. And it would be... nice. Yes. Nice to have company besides that voice in my head.

   I felt the thing stir within me, apparently awken by these strong emotions. As its tendrils probed my brain, I whimpered in fear and pulled my meagre bed covers over my head. Listening to it, I understood what a bad idea it would be. How could I possibly cope with the embarrasment? The fear?

   No.

   Best to stay home.

   All I'd ever known was lonliness. How could I possibly change now? Nestling in the warmth of my thin blankets, I started to drift into a light sleep...

   Only to be snatched from the arms of relaxation by the sharp ringing of the doorbell.

   I instantly jumped from my bed, panicked, throwing my covers to the floor. Who was it? What could they want? I'd never had a visitor before. Why now? What had changed? Should I open the door or leave it? It could be anyone out there, after all.

   Exactly, said the voice. Besides, it's probably nothing; I'd leave it.

   I took a deliberate step towards the door, happy with my small victory but wary of my unknown visitor. With infinite care, I unhooked the latch and turned the handle, simoultaneously throwing the door open and jumping back, expecting the worst.

   What I got was a delivery boy.

   Holding a package.

   With my name on it.

   The delivery boy looked bored and slightly annoyed. "Delivery for David Marks," he said, looking me briefly up and down. He thrust the box at me but I shrank back; I had no friends. No family. Who would send me a package?

   Then it struck me: what if this was some elaborate conspiracy against me? This 'delivery boy' might not be any such thing. A lot could be hidden in a box. A bomb. Some kind of exotic and horribly poisonous creature, perhaps?

   That may be the case, but from the surface thoughts of the thing, I could tell it didn't want me to have it. Taking the chance, I took a deep breath and extended my arms, hands shaking, to grab the small box.

   "Thank you," I whispered softly, staring deeply at the brown paper package. Before I could wonder about tipping, whether to do it or not and how much to give him, he turned on his heel and stormed away down the hallway. I closed the door and took the box inside.

   I set the package down on my small table and journeyed briefly into my small kitchenette to grab a knife. With it, I made short work of the string and packaging to reveal a paperback book and, on top of this, an envelope. Taking the envelope in one hand, I examined the book. It was called 'A Guide to the Inner You: Mastering Your Emotions.' According to the plain cover, it had been written by a man called Henry Sun, Ph.D. I shrugged slightly and tore open the letter. It was very brief. It read:

 

Hello.

   My name is Dr. Henry Sun; I work as a professional psychologist. I have heard about your case and it intrigues me. I believe with some therapy, I may be able to help you with your predicament. I have enclosed my business card; please call me any time you wish to arrange a meeting. I have also enclosed my latest book, in the hope that you might find it helpful. Sincerely, Henry M. Sun, Ph.D.

 

Shaking the torn envelope, the mentioned business card fell out and landed on top of the book. I picked it up and absent-mindedly dropped it into my shirt pocket. I was interested in the book. Rifling quickly through its pages, I soon discovered that it talked a lot about something called 'depersonalisation'. According to the reviews on the blurb, the book had helped many with many people's problems. Still, I doubted a book would do much to help me. I dropped the book back in its box and pulled out the business card again, mouthing the number inscribed on it. After some consideration and no small amount of hesitation, I picked up my virtually un-used phone and dialled the number.

  A youngish voice answered almost immediately, startling me with its enthusiasm. "Hello?" it said. "This is Dr. Sun's office. How can I help you? Would you like to make an appointment?"

   "Um... well..." I wondered what exactly I was supposed to say. "I got this box from Dr. Sun... and I, uh, was supposed to call him... I mean, that's what the letter said..."

   "Oh, hey you must be the high-priority patient he was talking about, huh? Sure. Well, he's free tomorrow at noon. Is that okay? Good. Thanks for calling. Bye." The phone went dead in my ear and I stared dumbly at it for several seconds before dropping it slowly back into its cradle.

   So Sun would be over at noon tomorrow? What would that mean? What would it involve? Maybe...No. Could I think that? Could I dare hope? After all this time? I tried imagining life without that corruptive parasite insode my head and found I couldn't. Oh, how good it would be. The bliss, the sheer relief, of having that thing gone forever would be worth any side-effect of some treatment. What would it be like? A world without it? Who could know?

   I felt the thing push against the barriers around my mind, attempting to cloud my mind with its dull, heavy, overwhelming presence. I pushed it away. Seconds later, it came back; it pushed and explored, searching out any weakness in my defence.

   [hatred. disgust. fear. panic.]

   My vision blurred; my head was spinning and swimming. I fell to the floor woth a heavy thump, trying to keep my head above the waves with which it threatened to drown me.

   [death. despair. anguish. ceasing.]

   I gritted my teeth and pushed my hands against my eyes. It had never been this strong before. Never! It must have been readying itself for this crushing blow for some time; biding its time and building its strength.

   [forfeit. release. relax. relinquish.]

   Had it finally decided that it wanted complete control?

   A scream was building behind my lips; I hardly contained it. The agony was intense. My heart was pounding like a frantic bird in a cage. It would be so easy to just let it take over completely. Some part of me even relished the idea; never again would I have to fight it. We would become one and the same, each indistinguishable from the other.

   And yet, I couldn't deny that it would be a relief; to be free of this ever-present conflict would be bliss.

   It assaulted the barriers around my mind again, crashing through at long last.

   My screams followed me as I fell into the void...

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