Of Not Being
It is dark. Strands of light cannot pierce through this blackness. The man realized this only after waiting
what seemed like eternity for his eyes to adjust to it, expecting to see some gray outline of his confinement, to
see the bed he laid on, or if it was even a bed for that matter. But he could see nothing and could not tell if his
eyes were opened or closed. He reaches out to touch his surroundings but all he feels are walls, cold walls that
Sweat matted his body. He'd been screaming without pause into the blackness. His throat is strained and
stung as though someone shredded the thin muscle tissues of his larynx and the taste of copper sits on the back of
his tongue. He doesn't know who put him here. He doesn't know why. He doesn’t know if they're returning for him.
And the not knowing kills him.
The silence is suffocating. He gasps in rapid, short intakes of air. The air is acid against his raw throat.
Loneliness, the polite fiend, had been creeping over him for some time now, quietly gnashing his chest and
burrowing its fingernails into his heart while despair paralyzes him. He doesn’t want to die here, in this place of…
It is so cold.
And so black.
And so devoid.
To die without acknowledgement, without existence, without a connection to something is... terrifying. He
rocks back and forth, petting his torment every now and then when he imagines who would rescue him and his
hope brings him sanity. But those shallow moments of reprieve eventually plummets forever when he admits to his
No one is coming.
He laughs, a laugh that squawks like a wretched bird being trampled to death. Then he weeps into his hands.
He was just a guy with simple concerns like getting his taxes done on time, worrying about rejection from a pretty
woman, or dealing with his asshole boss. That world seems so far away and darkness is now his reality. He thinks
he has been here for days, but the truth was that it had been much less.
He feels the darkness warping his mind. What is his name? Could it be that he never lived the life he has
memories of, but is rather an aware consciousness in the midst of nothing creating “memories” from imagination?
Or is he dead and this is hell? The more he dwells, the deeper he falls into his abyss. He hears his heartbeat pound
in his temples and that is perhaps the only thing that keeps him sane.
His throat scorches as he rasps, “Let me out! Pleaassee. God…I beg of you, please.”
He cannot think anymore. He is too exhausted, too depleted of energy from both body and mind. His head
hurts. Logic has no place. He is only aware of the darkness and his want of an escape from it.
“FUCK! LET ME OUT!” Silence.
He bawls on the ground, feeling his last wisp of dignity die away.
“I’ll do anything…I just want some light…some warmth…” Silence.
“What do you want? I’ll give it to ya. Whatever you like.” Silence.
“SOMEONE! ANYONE!” Silence.
“Yea, you cowards. Too afraid to face me, huh? I’ll bet you’re all pussies, still hiding under mommy’s skirt.”
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry. I take it back. Just let me ouuuutt.” Silence.
“No, you know what? I’m NOT sorry. You ball-less bastards.” Silence.
“How about I trade you my balls for a pair of candles? Huh? Seems like a pretty good deal to me.”
He pounds the ground.
The darkness is eating him.
He mumbles. “My name is Lorne. I am an architect. I live in a crappy apartment in New York City. I hate cats.
Shelley’s cute. I was born in Sequoia in DC. My name is Lorne. I am an architect. I live in a crappy apartment in New York
City. I hate cats. Shelley’s cute. I was born in Sequoia in DC. My name is Lorne. I am an architect. I live in a crappy apartment in New York City. I
hate cats. Shelley’s cute. I was born in Sequoia in DC. My name is Lorne. I am an architect. I live in a crappy apartment in New York City. I hate cats.
Shelley's cute. I was born in Sequoia in DC. My name is Lorne. I am an architect. I live in a crappy apartment in New York City. I hate cats. Shelley’s cute. I was born in Sequoia in DC. My
name is Lorne. I am an architect. I live in a crappy apartment in New York City. I hate cats. Shelley’s cute. I was born in Sequoia in DC…”
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
His hand slaps the snooze button on his alarm clock as he opens his eyes to the sunlight permeating his
bedroom window. Light? His body shoots out of bed. Light! Just a dream. Just a dream it was!
He runs to the bathroom to brush his teeth and begin his day at work. Oh, the taste of peppermint
toothpaste. You pretty mirror. You wonderful sink. You… worn out bristles. I should get a new toothbrush, he
muses giddily, giddy because he can.
A warm brush of fur moves across his calves. It was Maple the cat, a lasting souvenir from his ex-girlfriend
who thought it so adorable that she “needed” to save it from the pound. He came home one day to find the little
fur ball tramping on his bed. And the kicker? Maple was paid for with his money. She didn’t bother to take the damn
thing with her when she broke up with him. He knew she knew he hated cats.
Grinning, he picks up the cat and buries his face in its stomach, never so glad to touch a living, moving,
responsive thing. He can hear its stomach rumble! Maple claws its escape from his rough affection.
He resumes brushing his teeth and then turns on the shower awaiting a hot wash. Instead, freezing water
pelts him in the face, hardening goosebumps all over his skin. His nipples could cut glass. Thank you, crappy
apartment. He slathers himself with soap and washes as quickly as he can to get his stiff limbs out of the cold. He
turns on the hairdryer first to dry his hair, then feeling the comfort of hot air on his shoulders, he points the device
all over his body, warming it.
He dresses and with newspaper in hand, he eats, savoring the creamy taste of butter spread on crispy
toasted bread as it melts in his mouth. He sips his espresso. Smooth. When has he ever just sat and enjoyed
without worrying about the next thing to do? The aroma of freshly ground Arabica beans lingers in his kitchen.
He breathes in the sweet, polluted air of the city as he walks to the train station. The rotting flowers in the
concrete flower box, the excrement beside it, the repugnant perfume of a woman passing by. A rhythm grows in
his hips like a beating drum and he had to mute the urge to dance all the way to the station, to be alive. The sky is
beautiful; a pretty pastel blue behind plush wisps of cloud and it uplifts him. It was like he was seeing it for the
first time. Sure, it was always there, he was aware it was there, but, he never truly saw.
The station, as always, smelled like urine, strongest around the painted columns. He is jostled into the train
by the mass of people waiting beside him. And as always, someone smelled of body odor but it didn’t matter today.
He was just happy to be wrapped around people and their lives, that on this train, even if he is Mr. Stranger-
Nobody, he exists. There is comfort in knowing that if he punches someone, they’ll punch him back and that if he
greets them, they’ll greet back. Acknowledgement is the proof of being, he realizes. And we are terribly afraid of
He greets the receptionist, a woman in her thirties with dirty brown hair tied back in a bun.
“Hey Fran. How’s it going?”
“Good morning, Lorne. Mr. Vass wants to see you at three for the staff meeting today. He’s not happy with
“Oh geez. He never is. Does he want me to redo the roof hatch access?”
She doesn’t answer him.
She doesn’t answer him.
“Here is your toasted sandwich with melted mozzarella cheese, sundried tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette,
and assorted Italian meats.”
He takes it from her. “Huh… thanks. But about Mr. Vass?”
“Please come again. Don’t forget to buy the milk at the store today.”
He scrunches his eyebrows at her. “Okay… will do.”
He schleps into his empty office on the 25th floor and drops the sandwich on his desk. He has a view of the
city behind his desk, but today, he couldn’t see anything outside. It’s blurry. He rubs the window to clear what he
thought was fog. It does not remove. The windows don’t feel glossy anymore but matte. The windows are no
longer a transparent glass, but an invasive white. How did they change the windows so fast? It wasn’t like this
He turns on the computer to check his email. The screen is blank. His finger abuses the power button to no
effect and he unplugs the power cord. Still, the monitor remains backlit and blank. But no matter, they’re already
entering his head. An email from Mr. Vass about the clientele, an email from the structural engineer, and a spam
email telling him to buy milk. Buy one get one free, it reads, from freshly squeezed cows fed on goat shitted grass!
He organizes his desk for the day’s tasks while combing the long, luxurious hair all around his desk with a
tiny purple brush. The hair grows from the living scalp that is the edge of his desk. It needs a haircut soon;
otherwise its hair will get tangled in the wheels of his leather chair and get pulled out again. Scabs were already
forming on part of the scalp from the last time it happened. It throbs. Poor thing. Pinprick holes enlarged around
the scab are where the pulled hair follicles will never grow again.
Anger wells in him. That reminds him. He still needs to send an email to that bitch website developer. What
he wanted was clearly stated on the contract and she failed to provide those services. He didn’t want to work with
her, but blame it on his bad luck that she is Mr. Vass’s daughter and there was nothing he could do about it. His
mind blurs. He hears static. The email is already sent.
The room spins and he grabs onto the desk to support himself. The room is different.
He sees a little girl playing with her china dolls in the furthest corner of his bare office. Her lips move as
she narrates the dialogue between her dolls.
“Who are you?” he entreats. She feels familiar. Where has he seen her before?
She continues to play with her dolls. Her small fingers thins into sharp needles and she pierces the head of
one of her dolls, ripping it off. The head roll to stop beside his feet. It bleeds.
He walks toward her, afraid and unable to stop himself. The closer he gets to her, the more removed she is
from him. The distance of the ground between them stretches with each step he takes. He walks faster and faster
until he lapses into a sprint. His body can’t stop running. She doesn’t take notice of him. Yet, he can feel her noting
his every movement.
His desk has traveled miles behind him now. Just as his legs are about to collapse, she looks up at him,
startling him with the darkness in her eyes beneath her lashes, and utters a word. A single word. A word he fails to
catch. And he falls.
The room morphs back. The girl is gone.
The large clock on his wall strikes three and opens its mouth to scream out a yellow-feathered bird with
wide, horrible human eyes. The bird flies at him screeching, “Mr. Vass meeting! Mr. Vass meeting! Mr. Vass
meeting!” He ducks, narrowly missing the wing of the bird and the creature slams into the windowpane behind him,
splattering itself bloody. Its viscera speck his shirt.
He finds himself at conference room B. He must’ve gotten there somehow, although he can’t recall how.
The events of his day are transitioning so quickly.
Mr. Vass strides into the room. He wears tight denim pants and a white collared shirt. Shelley, his
secretary,follows behind him and a stream of people in crisp, black suits follows behind her. He doesn't know who
they are. They take seats around the conference table, indifferent to his presence. Mr. Vass presents a big project
on the PowerPoint. He makes grand gestures. They nod and comment, but Lorne cannot understand their garbled,
muffled words. Yet, he knows they are speaking perfect English. It frustrates him. The person on his left and right
speaks, as does the person across from him. He is left out of the loop.
Mr. Vass points at him and their faces turn in his direction. Everything suddenly became clear. He can hear.
“Lorne. I expect you’ll get that done today.”
“What, Mr. Vass?”
“Yes, from the store, you dumb twad.” He pulls up a slide with a carton of milk.
Milk? Why is he talking about milk? His head blurs and suddenly it makes perfect sense. He doesn’t know
why, but it does.
“Oh yes, Mr. Vass. I will go after work.”
The next instant, he is at home. Maple curls at his feet. He doesn’t want to go to the store and puts it off
just a little longer. He turns on the television. The screen is blank. He wants to make coffee. There is no water. He
goes to feed Maple. It is dead. Anything he wants to do, he cannot because there is only one thing that is
acceptable. To buy milk.
There is an unsettling feeling tugging as his chest. Just a while longer, he tells himself.
There is a knock on his door. He opens and his heart leaps in bounds.
“Shelley! Fancy seeing you here.”
She glides past him, the click of her pumps clacking against his tiled floors. She leads him to the bedroom.
He is confused. They were just acquaintances and he never mustered enough nerve to ask her out. She locks the
bedroom door behind them and takes off her clothes.
“What are you doing?” he asks, looking away, unsure of whether to stand there like a gentleman or to join
She gestures for him to do the same and starts to remove his clothing. Shocked as he was, he doesn’t stop
her kisses but respond accordingly. She pulls him down so that he fits with her slender body and he presses her
down on the floor, their chests rising and falling and quickening until they reach a quivering stop.
He looks at her face and freezes. He knows that look, that intent. Get milk.
She doesn’t reply.
“I don’t want to.”
She doesn’t reply.
“I… suppose I must.”
He is dressed and is suddenly at the store. The day feels all too familiar, strange yet the same. He picks up a
pack of pink waffles and remarks how much chemicals and coloring they've put into it to make it so tasty. He
wrinkles his eyebrows in confusion. He said this before. And that spill of orange juice by the deli counter. How
annoying it must be to slip and fall in that. This, too, he’d thought before. He makes his way to the refrigerated
section, disturbed. Pulling open the glass door, he takes the milk. The way he stands, his quick glance at his
contorted reflection in the silver handle of the door, the weight of the milk. He cannot escape the familiarity of
“Nobody move!” A man in a black ski mask locks the front door and points his gun at each person in the
store. The cashier cowers.
The masked man treads toward him and pulls off his mask. He has no face. No eyes, nor nose, nor mouth,
merely a hideous mesh of skin. Lorne tries to keep himself standing while his knees tremble beneath him. He feels
the end is near.
“Lorne,” he slithers, “do I sound familiar?”
It does and for a long moment he wracks his brain for where he had heard it before. It hits him. The sound
of his own voice. How can this be? What’s going on?
“You already know that if you die in your dreams, you wake up, right?”
“What do you m—”
“The real question is… are you afraid of where you will find yourself when you will wake up? Or… if waking
is still a possibility for you?”
Lorne quakes. “I don’t understand. What are you talking about? I’m dreaming?”
“Are you? I don’t know. A dream within a dream? Or a sequence of dreams? A coma perhaps? Or have you
merely fallen asleep from the dark place you were?”
“I…don’t know. I know I don’t want to go back.”
“Ooh, but sorry. You’ll have to.” He cocks his gun.
“Wait. Why did everyone tell me to get milk? Why did I need to get milk?”
“It’s not important. It’s the destination that was important. Don’t you remember?” he asks coyly. “You were
getting milk that day at this store. And in your pocket, you had a gun. Just. Like. This. One. You didn’t plan it. No. It
The carton slips from his hand and it spills onto the floor. No…
“You’re lying.” Yet, he can feel the dark despair clutching him. It starts to sink in. “Don’t do this to me.”
“I didn’t do this to you. I’m helping you.” He points his gun at him.
“Stop! That girl. What did she say? Milk? Did she say that?”
The faceless man crackles, holding his stomach as if it’s the funniest thing he’s ever heard.
“I already told you milk was not important. Look to your right.”
He does. There on his right, lay the girl from before with her dolls. Her dull eyes bore into the faraway
distance. Dead. Blood flowing from the bullet hole though her head. Several more corpses littered around him. He
knows these faces. They were also in the store that day.
“Oh, don’t give me that sad, tortured face. You know what you did. She didn’t say milk. That’s for sure.”
“Then what did she say?”
“Oh c’mon. Think. It’s so obvious. You already know. It's an idea that you were playing with, that which you
don’t want to admit.”
“Tell me.” He begs, the desperation tethering in his voice, hoping for an answer that would grant him peace.
He is afraid of losing himself. The darkness is closing in on him. “Tell me, what is it?”
He points his gun.
“That in the end, there is…Nothing.”