Consultation with Torch

by Samuel Piccone

The dictator of a post-apocalyptic world controlled with pharmaceutical weaponry interrogates two brothers who attempted to escape the globe-spanning city.

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R E T U R N  T O  S T  O N L I N E



 Consultation with Torch



-Case No. ______ – Mandatory consultation prior to correctional action following violation of Sec. 1, Art. 1A, Sec. 4, Art. 1A, and Sec. 5, Art. 1A of the P.I.C. International Law Statute.


-Subjects – Walters _____ and Barnes _____


-Presided over and administered by The Hon. Torch Ph.D., Pres., and G.A.


-April 5, ____






What happened on the day you knew you were escaping?


It was the first day I didn’t take my lithium in the morning like I was supposed to. I even reached over to my nightstand that morning for the bottle but instead found a note that said, “YOU FLUSHED THE REST OF THESE DOWN THE TOILET LAST NIGHT. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE THEM ANYMORE. YOU ARE GOING TO ESCAPE. CALL WALTERS.” I wasn’t entirely sure what this meant. So I called Walters, and he told me to stay put. He told me to pack up a bag, because we were leaving town tomorrow for a better place. Walters was always doing this kind of thing to me, saying that he knew what was best for me. But I’m not sure he did. If the P.I.C. had found out that I flushed my pills, they would have locked me up with all the others who don’t take their pills. They’re on the news all the time, those people. They cry and scream and beg while the red army shuttles them off to the prisons. I don’t understand. I have never cried or screamed once in my life, and I’ve been taking lithium since I could remember. If they just took theirs, they wouldn’t be sad or upset, and they wouldn’t be going to jail. The P.I.C. would leave them alone, just like they do with me.






Why were you trying to escape with your brother?


I was tired of taking lithium. Lithium is a funny drug; it will keep you from remembering things. Even after only three days of not taking it, my memory had improved leaps and bounds. I started to remember things. I remembered when the first of the People In Charge clinics began to sprout up in the major cities of the world, spreading like wildfire across the planet. I remembered when you had them built. I remembered you standing behind your podium, talking about making the world a place where people never had to fear their rivals, their neighbors, or themselves ever again.


So, you find me to be some breed of tyrant like most everyone else. You know, that was never my intention.


It doesn’t matter what your intention was, Torch. Look what you did to all of us. Look at what you did to the world. You brainwashed it. You and your P.I.C soldiers dosed every man, woman, and child, every government official and brilliant thinker with those drugs, the highly concentrated lithium chloride bombs and benzodiazepine gas. You stole our emotions from us and turned the planet into a complete wasteland.


I helped this world, Walters. Before me, people suffered from mental anguish. Now, people coexist in perfect vapid clarity. What about that is wrong? What about that warrants protest and fighting?


The protest groups rallied in the streets in front of the red towers of the city because we never had a say. We flooded the world with a message of justice, a message of “free-emoting” and the power of the un-poisoned mind in an effort to get you to consider what you were doing. But you killed us off without even listening. I remembered those soldiers in their reflective red uniforms installing A.B. bracelets on each and every one of us rebels. I remembered when they came to put a bracelet on me, when they fused the cold metal to my wrist, the feeling of the tiny proboscis inside the bracelet piercing my skin and descending into the corridors of my veins and blood vessels. I remembered wanting to scream, but not feeling compelled enough to do so. What a terrible thing, to live without memory. Do you know what that’s like?


I wish that I did. All I wanted to do was to make people happy, to use humanity’s own achievements in pharmaceutical science to their fullest potential. It was working for your brother.


Bullshit. Barnes was in bad shape, worse than ever before. You had him up to 1600 milligrams of lithium daily, combined with a few Xanax here and there, and an anti-psych. You were trying to break his mind apart, turn it into an amorphous jigsaw puzzle that could never be put back together.


That’s not true. I was trying to save your brother from his own mind.


No you weren’t. You were trying to keep his mind trapped, to keep him from getting the better of you. You knew how different he was, and you couldn’t stand to have anyone stand out as much as you.


You put him up to this, didn’t you?


Yeah. I flushed his meds down the toilet and planted a note in his apartment, telling him that he should call me. I was going to try to free him from this world, lead him to the Outlands. I know that deep down, behind the cloud of medication in his head, that he wanted to leave this city.  He belonged in the Outlands with the other gifted minds who managed to escape. 


Did you really think it was going to work?


It was only a matter of time before you and the P.I.C. realized that my bracelet had been disabled, and that I had disabled his as well. I knew you would come looking for us, and if you found us, we would end up in this prison. I knew that you would try to stop us, plug our exit with droves of red soldiers, with clouds of gas and poison. But I didn’t care. I wanted us to be free. 







Tell me about the drive from the city.


The scenery out on the road was nice. I could see the great red towers in the distance, through the silver mist that always floats around. It glowed like the sandy beaches I’d seen on television.


What about your brother? What was he like on the drive?


Walters came over early that morning and picked me up. I told him I was hungry, but he said that we were heading for the Outlands and that we couldn’t afford to stop until nightfall. Then, I tried to roll my window down and take in some of the air, but Walters stopped me. He said, “Trust me, Barnes, you don’t want to breathe that stuff in. Not anymore. We are gonna take care of that brilliant mind of yours from now on. No more drugs.” Then I asked, “Do you even know what’s so great in the Outlands?” But he just said the same thing, “Trust me, Barnes, you don’t want to be here.” He was squeezing the steering wheel and checking all the mirrors, like somebody was following us.  I didn’t really know what he was talking about.


What do you know about the Outlands, Barnes? What do you think about it?


I’d seen the Outlands on television before, that tall stripe of forest that ran across the entire earth, like a great long shadow painted on the ground. The news always said it was full of escaped people who lived like animals, feeding off the earth and running around naked. I didn’t really understand why Walters wanted to go there. It sounded like a zoo to me.


It is a zoo. I’m glad to hear you feel that way. What else happened on the drive?


Well, my mind started to feel a little fuzzy while we were driving, but it wasn’t really anything, I don’t think.


Interesting. Tell me, were you having any particular thoughts? Were things coming to you in an especially clear manner? How were you feeling at that point?


Well, like I said, my mind started to feel a little fuzzy while we were driving, but not like it usually does. Usually, ideas will come into my head, roll around for a few moments, and then disappear. But this fuzziness was different. An image was sticking out in my mind, and it wouldn’t go away no matter how hard I tried to stop thinking about it. I saw myself running through the Black Field, running fast like a wild cat. My hands were shaking as I ran. In the distance, there were hundreds of red army soldiers marching toward me, armed with cannons and hoses. I started crying because I was afraid and wanted to turn around, but my legs wouldn’t listen. I just kept running toward them until I finally collided with the army, and everything exploded into millions of white pieces, like the mist that hovers around the city. I couldn’t stop thinking about anything else, and it scared me to have something stay in my head that didn’t make sense to me.


Do you have any guesses, now looking back on it, what that image in your head could have meant?


I don’t think so, Torch. I have been trying to figure that one out, but it’s like every time I come back to it, the less I seem to remember. I just kind of figured it wasn’t worth remembering if that was the case.


But if you had to guess?


Well, if I had to guess, I would say that it has something to do with the red army and the Black Field and me exploding everything into white. Something about those colors seems important, don’t it? I mean, you have the red, which is about as unmistakable as any color, and you have the black, where you can’t really tell one thing from the next. But then there’s the white, which kind of covers up those others, but covers them with nothing. It’s just white, plain old white.






What happened the night before you walked into the Black Field?


I parked my truck in between a couple of giant dumpsters in an alley so that we could rest a few hours before we set out. I fixed Barnes up in my truck bed with a sleeping bag. That was it.


Why didn’t you leave immediately? I’d think if you were so adamant on saving your brother, you wouldn’t have stopped.


It really wouldn’t have mattered. You knew where we were, or at least where we were headed. When our two broken A.B. bracelets showed up in your system, I’m sure you shuttled a horde of troops to our apartments. And when they discovered that we were not there, you would undoubtedly start sending them to the Black Field to stop us.  I had driven six hundred miles that day. I was tired, and I figured we were going to meet up with your army either way.


Barnes said you were acting a bit paranoid on the drive. Care to elaborate?


The withdrawals from that so-called miracle drug of yours have some serious side effects.


I see. Would it be safe to assume then that you felt less paranoid when you were on my medication?


Come on, Torch; don’t pull that pretzel logic crap on me. I had to squeeze the steering wheel just to keep my hands from shaking. My thoughts were racing, and it took everything I had to hold them in. I often found myself with an urge to laugh or cry with joy. My mind was doing too much for my body to keep up with. Chances are I would have never known what that kind of paranoia or lack of control would have ever felt like if I had never taken your medication in the first place.


Whatever the case, he seemed a bit put off by your demeanor. It’s odd to me that you wouldn’t have clued him in more than you had about your plans for him, considering what you know about his capabilities.


I hadn’t told him much about why we were leaving mostly because I didn’t believe he was ready to understand yet. The gears in his head had just started turning. He was asking me questions the whole drive, which was something your medication had prevented him from doing his entire life. It meant that there was still hope for him, that his right mind, his real mind, might have still been in there. No chance in hell I would risk overloading his head with information just to keep him happy with me. You know how fragile his mind is. You would have been as cryptic as I was.






What do you remember about the walk in the Black Fields?


My back hurt from sleeping in the truck bed, and as we walked, my head started to feel strange again—stranger than it did the day before. More images stuck, images of the red army and me and the explosion of light. I could see the red city tumbling down, and people running in the streets, singing songs and hugging each other. I asked Walters if images stuck in his head since he stopped taking his pills, if his mind held things in place for far too long. He told me that they didn’t, and that his mind was kind of the opposite. He said it was full of frantic things. I wasn’t sure what that meant.


Well, Barnes, that’s because your mind works much differently than his. Tell me, what did you feel like, being so close to the Outlands? Did it stir up anything in your mind at all?


You know, despite what it looked like on television, so dark and so full, I couldn’t help imagine that the Outlands were kind of an empty place when you’re standing there. I thought, even if things keep sticking in my brain, my brain will never look like the Outlands does—a jungle of thoughts for me to wander through. I thought if I were there, it would be just as clear as any other place I had ever seen. Still a wild place, but not a zoo.


Trust me, Barnes, it is a zoo. That’s why I stopped you from getting there. That’s why the red army was there. Do you understand?


Yeah, I guess so. 


Why did you start running toward the red army when you saw them, Barnes?


Well, when I saw them, my legs just started running, like the image stuck in my head. I felt Walters trying to hold me back, but I couldn’t stop myself. My hands started shaking. The army was getting closer, and I could feel tears falling from my eyes, but I just couldn’t stop myself. They were right there in front of me, holding their cannons and hoses, and I saw them raise them into the air. I tried to throw myself to the ground, but instead, my legs pushed me into the air, and it felt like I was flying right toward them. It was almost like I was a ghost.


But that’s not what happened, Barnes. You ran into the cloud of gas and fell to the ground. 


No, I flew into the air and collided with the army. I could feel the air on my face. I could see my body way up above the earth. Then, I saw a bright light, just like in the dream, and the next thing I knew, I was in this room, talking to you.






How were you feeling as you walked toward the Black Field?


It was hard to tell if it was the withdrawal or the absence of medicine in the air, but the entire thirty or so miles between the Outlands and us looked as if it were paved with the charred remains of a small city. I couldn’t keep my hands from shaking, and whenever Barnes began complaining about his back or asking me what kind of thoughts were in my head, my mind would tune in for a brief second before racing off in a new direction, following a new train of thought.


Delusions, tremors, restlessness—those are all classic symptoms of mental


They’re symptoms of withdrawal, Torch. Plain and simple. I don’t have depression. I’m not schizophrenic. I’m over-medicated. That’s all.


Nevertheless, your brother is convinced that his account of what transpired in the Black Field is accurate—that he was flying and whatnot. You’re familiar with the image in his head. What did you see in the Black Fields?


Well, I saw the army. A great line of them hoisting medicine cannons on their shoulders, walking in perfect unison. We couldn’t have been walking for more than a few miles before they were visible, but there were thousands of them, and the shimmer of their uniforms against the dark backdrop of the forest behind them was unmistakable. I turned to look at Barnes, but he had started to run. I tried to catch up to him, but he was too fast. Then I yelled, “Barnes, don’t you see them? The red army is walking right toward us!”


What happened then?


He turned to look back at me while he was running and hollered, “I saw this yesterday in my head, Walters. The image I told you about, remember? It’s been stuck in my head. I know what happens next.”


And that is all you saw?


The only other thing I saw was the giant white light explode from the earth. I couldn’t see Barnes or the army, just the light. It knocked me backwards, and I remember flying through the air for a moment, almost like a ghost. The next thing I knew, I was in this room, talking to you.






Copyright © 2012 Samuel Piccone

A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R:

Samuel Piccone is from Fort Collins, Colorado and is a recent graduate of DePaul University’s Master of Writing and Publishing program in Chicago, Illinois. He is an avid writer of poetry, and his poems appear in journals such as Forge, Leveler, Threshold, and The Eudaimonia Review. When Sam isn’t writing, he is usually drinking cheap beer and watching awful movies or driving aimlessly around town, pretending to look busy. He currently resides in Colorado.

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