I wish I could stay here forever-this is like paradise, Raymond Andersen thought. Raymond was wandering alone along a shallow stream in the forest. He had his camera ready around his neck for surprise photo opportunities. Perhaps he would happen upon a glen with sunbeams filtering down, illuminating it in an amazing way; or a hawk soaring high above the trees.
I used to have dreams of flying as a child, Raymond remembered. Every night I would fly through the clouds like Superboy. It’s quite a jolt to grow up and realize how bound to the ground you are. I could have dreamed forever.
Raymond had always loved being in the forest-where everything was wild, lush and green. For him, a forest was an enchanted place. Earthy and unfettered was how it made him feel. The forest was a sure remedy for his deepest worries and fears.
Raymond rounded a bend in the stream and came upon a tattered bag of garbage that had been tossed down. “I’d like to give whoever did that a piece of my mind,” he said disgustedly. He wondered what would happen when “progress” claimed all the land and resources.
Raymond picked up the scattered trash and sat down on a fallen tree trunk nearby. “I’m sure that by the time man exhausts all his land and resources, he will have become vastly more ingenious than nature herself,” he said.
Suddenly, he was hit with an excruciating headache. “Shit, there go those pains again.” Raymond clutched his head, pressing the butts of his hands against his temples. “I can’t take this. Please make it stop. I can’t live with this kind of pain anymore!” And with that, he dropped to his knees and began beating his head violently against the trunk of the tree . . .
As the chemicals flooded Raymond’s bloodstream, he bolted upright in the bed and blinked at the stark overhead lighting. The cubicle was sparsely furnished. A clinician was removing the electrodes from his head and body. He asked her, “How many more treatments do I got left?”
“As many as it takes to bring you into compliance with Title MCMLXXXIV, Chapter 4, Section 268 of the Crimes Against Progress Act, Mr. Andersen,” said the clinician. She packed up her equipment and prepared to wheel it out. “Until then, put in your 140 hours a week to the Local Authority, meet your quotas and pay the Grand Tariff. Such is the grease that keeps the big wheel turning for the good of us all.”
“Am I gonna make it, you think? I mean, you know, make the cut?” Raymond asked.
“We are not down to the last resort yet. Yes, you’ve been a recalcitrant case. We have invested vast resources in you, forging new synaptic pathways and rerouting neurotransmitters. Cognitive and volitional restructuring is a delicate science. But you are showing excellent signs of progress. Relax and drink your formula.”
“You know, I feel more peaceful than I’ve ever felt in my life,” Raymond said. “I think I’m finally beginning to . . . to see the light.” Tears of joy were running down his face.
“Most assuredly you are,” said the clinician, “Most assuredly so.”