He knew the building used to house prisoners of war because he saw it on one of the computers. He started up an old milky grey computer in a small office just inside the front entrance. He clicked on a folder containing a list of names and identification of Haw people captured by the Yee during the Yee Haw Controversy, one of the many local conflicts during the Apocalyptic War. After the war, the building had been left to decay. It looked as though people passing through used it as temporary shelter, just as Lohbado planned to do. After his three day hike across the rugged terrain of the plateau, he was exhausted.
Along one side of the interior, the remains of dividing walls marked the cubicles which housed prisoners. Most of the walls had been taken down. Some studs remained. Stains or dirt marked where walls had been. The cells along the opposite wall facing the river had been completely removed, expanding the open space. He looked out a window and saw rusty old mattress frames and broken spindle chairs in a small dump along the ground sloping down to the river.
The fridge, stove and coffee maker in the little kitchen still worked. Water came out of the tap but the toilets were out of order and stank of sewer gas. Lohbado put the tap water through a carbon filter before making coffee to go with the tuna sandwich he ate before lying down. He enjoyed how sun lit up old panes of glass and created rectangles on the floor of light and shadow. As he lay on the sofa, he felt suspended in silence, in an in-between state or bardo of light and dark, life and death, in-breath and out-breath, one moment and the next. He planned to spend a few days there to recover from the exhausting hike across a boulder-strewn plateau. Nuclear weapons had smashed old mountains to smithereens, reducing them to huge boulders and rubble. He needed to calm his nerves.
The hike across the plateau was like a bad dream. Huge rats and mutate ground hogs had lunged at him a few times as he went through a dense section of rock, a kind of labyrinth. Rodents lived inside cavities, caves, broken pockets in the rock. Some of them carried disease and toxic levels of hard metals and radiation. The hardest part of crossing the Plains of Radiation was the solitude. He hadn’t seen a human in three days. He began to experience moments of dissociation or unreality. To stay focused, he tried not to think. He paused often to do pen sketches of patterns, lines and textures in his notebook. Making texts and images provided a focus. Don’t lose your nerve.
Panic starts as nausea, the sudden urge to vomit. Then one trembles and sees stars. An anguished sense of doom darkens the mental horizon. To avoid such painful moments, Lohbado maintained a discipline of writing and ink drawing.
Lohbado’s last human contact took place three days ago, when he spent the night in a bombed out basement covered in plywood and blue tarp, the guest of a deranged man named Rex. The man, a traumatized veteran, repeated a handful of sentences often: “People are rotten. Life is hell...” Then he told Lohbado he was wasting his life, after allowing Lohbado three minutes to speak.
“You’re wasting your brains,” Rex exclaimed, tapping Lohbado on the chest as if to try and wake him up.
Lohbado thought often of Rex often during the three days hike across the plateau. Rex’s comments played in a memory loop... life is hell... people are rotten... You’re wasting your intelligence. Read this book and you’ll know the truth. Up to this point, everything you’ve done is futile, a waste of time...
Lohbado partially agreed with the last statement. Often his life did seem pointless an d futile. Often he yearned for death. he wished his heart would stop beating, or that he would be afflicted with a quick acting cancer, or maybe leukemia. He wanted a quick, painless death. Maybe a bullet... if he entered a conflict zone. It had to be fatal. He didn’t want to be wounded.
It didn’t matter what happened to his body, Lohbado felt no closer to dispelling the mystery of death. During the war he saw dead bodies. He tried not to think about it. Certain memories made him sick to the stomach... certain images of broken, battered, burned or mutilated bodies. It wasn’t something to talk about, the horror, the crimes against humanity committed in the name of money, greed and lust for power. Why did people want to control others? Each time he encountered a dead body, Lohbado contemplated the corpse. The bodies were on one level so ordinary, so matter of fact. They disappointed his metaphysical expectations. They provided no insights into the nature of death, other than one can look at a corpse and imagine that one day one’s own body will be a corpse.
Such thinking made him depressed. When such thoughts occurred, he let them go, without pursing them or getting into a mental debate. Yes yes, it’s painful. So be it. But you’ve got to keep moving. It’s not permitted to collapse in a heap. If you lie on the ground, you’ll get cold and hungry. Your bones will ache.
“I’m telling you how it is,” shouted Rex, “One of these days you’re going to have to get real.”
Rex’s version of reality was ugly. Lohbado would never get real in the way Rex envisioned reality, a wretched, claustrophobic little space of uninformed opinions and fanatical beliefs. Lohbado had sparked this tirade when he asked Rex if he was awake or dreaming.
Rex responded as if it were an insult, not a deliberate insult but an insult. So he wasn’t angry at Lohbado. He wanted to set him straight, so that Lohbado would never asked such a question again or dare to make such statements such as the world has no beginning and no end.
Rex’s eyes bulged as Lohbado speculated about the nature of thought and thought objects. When he called self a mediated fiction, a product of DNA plus social economic circumstances Rex shouted at him to stop. He interrupted Lohbado. When Lohbado tried to keep talking, Rex talked louder to drown out what Lohbado was trying to say. For a moment, it felt like raw mania. Rex looked like a madman, red face, eyes wide, mouth spraying saliva, hands agitated as if he was ready to leap up and slam Lohbado against the concrete wall.
He liked Rex. Lohbado appreciated the company; but Rex created tension. Lohbado felt pressure in his head as Rex got increasingly excited. Rex got so intense, for a moment, a haze filled the room. Lohbado felt a sense of unreality, a floating sensation, as if he were drifting out of his body and witnessing the interaction from above. Rex’s face appeared to detach from his body and to become transparent, like a death mask. His eyes expanded into portals with spiral staircases leading straight to hell, to the place of wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Lohbado felt both attraction and revulsion towards Rex. One moment Rex appeared soft and cuddly. Lohbado was tempted to seize him, to throw both arms around Rex and give him a hug, a comforting squeeze. At the same time, he feared puss, ooze or discharge from skin pores, mouth, nostrils, ears and eyes would mess up his body. He didn’t want a funky substance, the odour of rotten broccoli or mildew and wet newspapers all over him. He wanted to shout at Rex to please stop. Please calm down.
He knew shouting at Rex would only make things worse. He breathed in and slowly exhaled to let go of the tension in his head and the stomach nausea as Rex continued rambling about what Lohbado should be doing with his life, even though he knew next to nothing about Lohbado. Lohbado tried to imagine what would be worse: extreme solitude, extended loneliness or the company of a maniac. Lohbado wasn’t trying to be moralistic. Never judge a person who endured the war. It messes people up. Lohbado himself had a lot of anxiety issues. He knew it was pointless to ask Rex to calm down any more than one could get Lohbado to stop being anxious by telling him to relax.
Rex finished his discourse by telling Lohbado he was only trying to help him. He spoke because he liked Lohbado. He wanted to do a good deed by setting him straight, putting him on the right path. The fanatic tirade was for Lohbado’s own good.
It hit Lohbado the next day, after he said good bye to Rex and began the three day hike across the plateau. After the tension of enduring Rex subsided, depression hit... a sense of profound bleakness. Rex’s vision was so limited, so dull, so lacking in imagination. It discouraged Lohbado that a person should be so anxious to proclaim a dull and predictable vision of reality. It was better to be alone than to endure the lack of joy being offered. He wasn’t being arrogant. He felt no ill will towards Rex. He liked Rex and wished he could find happiness. It was just too painful. How long could a person sit in a room with a crying baby (or a robot that made the sound of a crying baby, non-stop) before going crazy? One would eventually snap, have a mental breakdown.
That’s enough for today. Stay tuned for more...