Empathy

Chapter 15: The Gift

Most people tend to think that the world we live in is dull, and lacks true power. We are conditioned to think that we are limited as humans in the things we can achieve. It was not always the case; time is a complicated structure, and in a way, what we see of it is only a fragment of its true potential. Our Earth was not always as it is now; there have been a time when Earth was much different, when people could do wonders and even go through the stream of time itself! But that world is no more. That world died with the return of the silence, and so much have been undone to give earth a chance to keep existing. Our world is the product of that undoing; a desperate attempt to conceal the upcoming doom, and the sealing of the symphony of time avoiding any mingling with the flow of things.

It is wrong to think that our world never knew anything out of the ordinary. Incredible things happen everywhere, in the less expected places and to the less expected people. One of those incredible events happened through the person of Simon Dice, a small and skinny little man born in a poor neighborhood of the suburbs of Los Angeles the 20th July 1950. Simon was not really the type of person that could shine anywhere. His physic has always been scarce, and he always gave the impression that he was about to fall from starvation. He was from Spanish lineage, but the only thing he got from that was a tanned skin and black eyes. As soon as he reached the age of 13, he started loosing his hair and decided to shave what was remaining of his brownish tangled hair. Simon had a respiratory condition that made any big effort a source of great pain and shortness of breath. He was also subject to epilepsy and had very strong convulsions if he forgot to take his pills on time. In a way, Simon was roughly treated by life. Most people avoided him, and the ones that acknowledged him never failed to remember him of how pitiful his condition was, and not in a sympathetic way. He was picked on all the time, and was the default scapegoat and punchbag of everybody. In a weird way, he tolerated harassment way more than disgust or complete ignorance as he felt that in some sort of way he belonged somewhere.

Simon’s life changed forever the 6th may 1968. It started as every Monday, a basic class day in the community college that he recently got enrolled in. For once, he didn’t really got that much made fun of. Something pleasant even happened. Sarah Grey, another freshman that was with him in the American Literature class came to talk to him. She was really pretty, way too pretty for him. For first, she was taller than him. She was blonde with very long hair, and deep blue eyes, the very image of the perfect women in the collective unconsciousness built up by years and years of stereotyping. She was the woman for whom any guy would have fall, and Simon was no exception.

“You are Simon, right? I am Sarah, Sarah Grey. We are both in American Literature with Mr. Hardy! I noticed that you are always on your own, but there is no reason for that! You should hang out with us sometime, we can discuss literature then and many other things; what do you think?”

Simon was chocked, nobody before have ever talked like that to him. More than that, she wanted to see him more, was it possible that they could be friend, or dare he think, even more? He tried to reply:

“I… I would… love to…. But, why me?… And why now…?” He struggled to say.

“Well, life is short, and I tend to think that people can be way more interesting than they let think. So, I’ll see you tomorrow evening, 3.30 pm, let’s meet at the campus store, then we’ll see where to go from there!” She said with a beautiful smile.

Before Simon could say anything, she was already away. For the first time in his life, he had a date! He was ecstatic, it took him a little moment to process this new information. For once, Simon was truly happy.

As he was thinking that everything was great, Simon was pushed back to reality. Simon was on his way back when he passed a bunch of skinheads gathered around a poor Mexican boy and hitting him while swearing racist slogans. Simon walked the other way, and tried to avoid eye contact with them. He thought he passed them without them noticing, but as soon as he walked few steps away, one of them screamed to the others:

“Hey! Another shit head from Mexico! Get him!”

Simon started running, but he knew that he couldn’t hold much longer so he decided to go for the forest, thinking that they will lose his trail pretty quick. Simon was so carried away by running, that he failed to see a whole in the ground cover with leafs and branches. As he walked on it, he felt in a deep cavern. He thought that the fall will never end. Like falling in a dream, everything was so slow, and for a very brief moment, light like he had never saw, then nothing, a total fade to black.

Simon woke up flooded with sweat, and his heart beating like crazy, he quickly reached for his inhaler to regain his breath. He felt a huge headache as he was getting back his calm. The last thing he could remember was him falling in that cavern, and he was suddenly there. He looked at the time, 6.30 pm, those things happened an hour ago. He couldn’t recall how he managed to get back to his dorm room and fall asleep. One thing was still bright in his memory, the vision of light. His roommate entered at that moment, as soon as he entered the room, Simon felt something strange, like an emotion that felt directly from the sky; a sort of deep sorrow accompanied by a huge shame. Simon also heard words. ‘It was not a good idea to do that, I might love him, but I shouldn’t do those things. I will rot in hell for that. My god, why did I fall in love with Brad Garrison? What is wrong with me?’

“Hey dude, how was your day? Mine was amazing; I landed a major babe downtown. An amazing day I tell you.”

“What was that?”

“What was what? I just told you about my amazing day and that’s all you gotta say Simon! I shouldn’t have hoped for more from you, you half witted imp!”

“What’s going on with Brad Garrison?” Simon asked to see if what he heard made any sense.

“Who is that Brad Garrison?”

Simon felt a new emotion, fear and panic. ‘Oh my god, he knows! What should I do? I should just keep on denying any knowledge about brad! Even if he knows anything, who is going to believe Simon, nobody cares about fucking Simon. He is just a worthless piece of shit and everybody knows that, even him.’

“Sorry, I need to take some air.” Simon said without waiting for an answer from his roommate.

Simon was in shock, he didn’t really understood what just happened. It was like his mind was invaded by the feelings and thoughts of his roommate. And how unexpected were those thoughts and feelings; he always saw his roommate as a basic bully, a senseless womanizer. How unexpected and how out of character were those thoughts. Simon didn’t really had anything against such things, he believed that everybody should be free to love whoever they want, but it never occurred to him that under that coat of roughness his roommate could be involved in such a relationship. Simon was still confused if those thoughts were even real, or just his mind going insane. Simon left the room, happy to see that the corridor was empty. He felt good to only hear his internal voice in his mind and his own emotions. Simon thought that he was over that weird happening, but as he was regaining his calm, he felt a similar emotional aggression way stronger this time; it was a mix of contradictory feelings, joy and sorrow, excitement and boredom, envy and hate; so much at once. Simon saw a group of people walking next to him; they were seven; three boys and four girls. As they approached, he started hearing voices.’…What should I do tomorrow…I wish he likes me, I don’t care if he’s engaged…I must throw the gun away as soon as possible…nobody should know about the money…’

Simon felt intense pain as they were approaching, everything was blurring in his mind, the emotions and voices didn’t make any sense anymore. It needed to stop, and it needed to stop quick. Simon pushed himself to ignore the pain, and started running, as he was fleeing from that group, he stumbled upon more people which lead to more blurry mind input. Finally he reached the outside where he managed to find a quite place where nobody would bother him. He took a moment to enjoy the silence in his mind before thinking about all that. He couldn’t deny the obvious anymore, not after all this pain, and all those words and feelings. He was able to feel others’ emotions and in a way read their mind, a sort of literal empathy. But what was the cause of that; he couldn’t really see what would have triggered such ability. It took him a moment to link this new gift with his fall in the cavern, and the light he saw. Maybe that light changed something deep inside him, and made the minds and feelings of others accessible to him.

*

Chapter 16: Diving in the Abyss

It is truly marvelous to witness the change that can occur in a person when something radically changes in their lives. So was the case for Simon Dice as well as being able to feel and hear the emotions and thoughts of others changed his very core. Before that event, Simon was so focused on his own misery that he eventually created a barrier; separating himself from the others. After all, it’s not like the others were eager to have him in his life, the only exception was Sarah Grey, or so did he think for a moment. But once he received the gift, all of this changed completely. The impact of the gift on Simon was complex and evolving; Simon went through six different stages in his relation with the gift.

The first stage started as soon as he received it. It was a strong and unpleasant part of his experience with empathy as he wasn’t able to control the flow of new input he was receiving from the people around him. The first experience of empathy he had was with his roommate as he saw a new facet of him that he would have never guessed. Simon had to leave to an empty space in order to stop the pain of the first links. He was saturated with way too much new information, and as soon as he got back his calm, the first thing that he could think about was that the whole phenomenon was just the product of his mind going insane; however, he ended up linking those happenings to his fall in the cavern, and the visions of light he had.

It took Simon quite a while to adapt to this new ability, but it was all the way worth it. He was able to stop the input to only one at the time, but he was still unable to silence it completely. The first instinct of Simon was to deny the obvious. After denying the very existence of the gift by simply linking it to his mind going crazy, Simon also denied the need for him to have such a gift. The only thing he wanted to do was to get rid of it. He tried as hard as he could, but he could never stop it completely. He tried to research similar cases, but the only leads he had were scams, and people searching for attention or scam opportunities, even the gift that he was trying to get rid of was pointing to that.

Simon entered the second phase of his empathy cycle as a result of a very specific event. He was still not really convinced that his gift was real, but everything became clear to him again when he experienced empathy with Sarah Grey.  A few days after the cavern incident, he run into her at school. Beautiful Sarah Grey with her long blond hair shining like the sun, and her deep blue eyes in which he felt he could drawn. Simon new that the gift will take effect as soon as she would be close, he saw her coming toward him, and try to avoid any eye contact, praying to get away before it starts again. He wanted to keep the image of beauty that he had of this girl, and through his recent experiences with the gift, he noticed that it tended to give him very contradictory insight with what was displayed. He walked a few meters before she distinctly called him:

“Simon! Wait for me!” She screamed from across the corridor.

In a blink of an eye, she was already next to him. The first thing that Simon felt was happiness, but a very light happiness, almost forced. Then came a hint of Shame, she was ashamed to be seen with him! Another feeling was there as well; confidence, confidence that she could do with the shame as soon as she could get to her goal, thinking about that made a new emotion rise; satisfaction. She knew that everything was going her way. As she was looking at him, he felt a peek of disgust reeking. ‘My God Sarah! What are you doing?! Is passing American literature that important for you! What will everybody think seeing me hanging around with this freak? They will think there is something going on between us I guess. Bunch of snakes and bitches! As if I could get that low! No fucking way! Just Smile Sarah, Smile and play nice, and he will totally be your dog.’

Simon was chocked. He sure had no big hopes for what she thought of him, but judging how she talked to him the last time, he wanted to believe that for once, he had met someone different; someone that saw beyond his grotesque appearance and his very low status among his equals.

“Simon! You are so pale! Is something wrong?” She said showing genuine concern on her face; however, what Simon was receiving was quite different.

Simon felt more disgust, and a beginning of impatience, then a fast pasted wondering before a sort of epiphany. ‘Shit, his pulling a broken thing one with me; Fuck! What should I do? He might be suspecting something. But how could he? Nobody knows about this. I should lead him on for now I guess. Motivate him to get down to business; should be a piece of cake.

“You know I’m worried sick about you!” She said while frowning in a cute and somehow suggestive way.” What about walking a little! Some air will do you good, and I hope my company would as well.” She concluded smiling at him.

“Do you think anything of what you just said?” Simon asked looking her directly in the eyes. “Any word at all?”

He felt fear rising, as well as confusion and anger. ‘How could this fucker doubt my words?! Isn’t he fucking happy I’m even talking to him?! What is wrong with this guy?!”

“What do you mean? Of course I mean all of what I just said.” She said in an innocent voice giving him a ‘I am not guilty’ frowning face.

She got closer to him and held his right hand while looking at him and smiling.

“I am not your enemy, you know? I just want to be your friend.” She said turning her eyes away and blushing a little bit.

He felt a rise in confidence and satisfaction. ‘No way he is not falling for this!’

Simon looked her in the eyes, trying to push himself to believe that what he was thinking was wrong. He kept starring at her for a moment, then in the moment of a heartbeat; he reached for her, and kissed her. For a moment he felt no empathy input, just that moment frozen in time. But before he realized, the moment was over, the empathy stroke back stronger than ever; a strong mixture of feelings and words that he couldn’t really decipher.  He felt a strong force pushing him away. The face of Sarah Grey was no more cute or attractive, it was pure rage. Her pale beautiful face was red and torn in anger. Her pupils were so dilated that the blue of her eyes were only two tiny rings circling two big black discs.

“GET AWAY FROM ME YOU FREAK! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! WHY COULDN’T YOU JUST BE LIKE THE OTHERS AND PLAY THE FUCKING GAME. HOW COULD YOU EVEN THINK THAT I WOULD DO ANYTHING WITH YOU, YOU SICK WEIRDO!”

The rent flood on and on, and everything Simon felt and heard raised to the surface making his doubt disappear. He runned away leaving Sarah still screaming.

“RUN AWAY YOU FUCKING COWARD. MAY YOU FUCKING DIE AND ROT YOU UGLY SHIT!”

Simon continued running until he was all by himself. He found himself in a waste land with humongous amounts of garbage of all kind. All he could feel at that moment was anger. Anger towards everything, starting by himself, then the others, then this stupid gift or bloody curse he got. He was angry because now he knew for sure how low everybody thought of him. He knew that he was not really liked, but being confronted to it in such a way was pushing him to his limits. He went on a rampage until it was too dark for him to see anything. Smashing everything he could smash around him. He felt no satisfaction in his destructive action, but kept on doing it until he couldn’t breathe normally anymore. He was torn up and feeling like shit, and he knew that he couldn’t do anything about it. Worst of all, his first kiss was a complete disaster…

It took Simon many weeks to calm down his anger and move to the next stage. After cutting himself from the contact of the others and living in seclusion for a while, he meditated about those entire events. He got to the conclusion that people didn’t like him anyway, but now that he knows what they really think and feel, he could actually help them. He started bargaining with himself, thinking of ways to positively use his gift to bring good to the world, to help others! He could help people be better by helping them reflecting about their thoughts. He decided to test this new vision on people around him, but all he got was negativity back.

“Are you calling me queer? I’ll fucking kill you!” was the response of his roommate.

“Get the fuck away from me you sick fuck! I’ll make your life hell if you ever approach me!” Sarah Grey said when he tried to apologize and explain himself.

He tried to expand his reach to people who didn’t knew him, thinking that they will be more open to his help, but they all took him for some crazy people while he tried to explain to them that he knew what was bothering them and saying he could help. It took many and many failure for Simon to fall into his fourth Stage, a stage of deep depression. In that stage, Simon got back to his solitary seclusion believing more and more that he was the wrong person for such a gift, with such power. He would have helped so many people if only he wasn’t who he was, a sore to the sight, and a walking disaster in the eyes of everyone, a reject doubled by a crazy maniac speaking nonsense about knowing what was mingling in the other’s minds and hearts.

*

Chapter 17: Global Empathy

The life of Simon Dice was quite the joke. He was trapped in the persona of an outcast that was built through years and years of rejection and bullying; he gained the gift of knowing what was going beyond his own mind, and was able to glimpse at the inner sanctuary of the others’ minds. This unlikely mix leaded Simon to the boarders of sanity. The gift by itself was overwhelming, and controlling it was never something Simon could completely achieve. What the gift did to him was to drag him through several stages through which his behavior evolved according to these new parameters. After going through denial, anger and bargaining, Simon entered the fourth stage of Depression.

The transition wasn’t really caused by one specific event, but was rather due to an accumulation of failures in trying to pursue a noble cause. Simon quickly understood that the gift he received was more important than his pathetic life and was going beyond his own pride and self-esteem. He tried to be impermeable to rudeness, insults, and physical pain as well in order to become the voice of reason, to give people an objective perspective on what was going on in their mind. But of course, he was reminded all and every time that he wasn’t fit to judge if people needed to be help or not.

Simon was trying to resist the urge to stop doing what he was doing for quite a while before effectively retiring from the public sphere. The boy was sick and tired by the flow that he continuously received for almost a year, and for a whole month, he locked himself in a remote place in the surroundings of L.A. The first days were the hardest as Simon was continuously tortured by his flow of thought leaving him awake for days and days. He couldn’t just let go of all those events that have transfigured his life. He tried to remember the exact moment everything started to go wrong, but he couldn’t blame the light by the end. He could only blame himself for not being worthy of this incredible gift. One face in particular was haunting his memories, Sarah’s face. He was able to actually put up with everything else after a moment, to even calm those thoughts and the guilt for some time, but her face was always there; in all her beauty. He couldn’t really picture her in details, but the lines of her face weren’t scrambled in his mind, rather radiating in light. He could see the deep blue of her eyes, like an ocean drowning him and sucking him toward the deep black pit in the middle. Simon cried and cried in pain until the tears stopped coming down. He thought about killing himself, to end all this madness, and he tried, but each time he failed miserably. He hated himself more at that moment, he wasn’t even able to control that part of his life, to put an end to it. Everything didn’t make sense…

Simon was devastated, but by the end of the month, patterns started to appear. After linking everything up, he finally reached a conclusion, his fifth stage: Acceptance. Simon accepted the fact that his gift would never work with him. He was an unworthy host for such a power, and decided that he would just ignore the input. To send his attention somewhere else during those emotional aggression.  Simon left his retrenchment and went back to his regular life. He stopped trying to affect anyone, and didn’t give the empathy any second thought, suppressing his involvement with the messages. Weirdly enough, the emotional feedback got better as a result of his new attitude, even though certain people’s thought stayed as bizarre and disturbing as they used to be. Simon stayed the same outcast that he used to be, nothing in the people’s attitude really changed that much; however, he felt so much lighter by not concerning himself about others’ problems. Everything seemed to be back to normal, but life is never that simple.

The 20th July 1969 started as a strange day for Simon. He was still separating his judgement from his empathy, but he noticed a sort of pattern in people’s minds. Everybody was thinking about the moon landing. Apollo XI was orbiting around the moon, and it was scheduled to land on the moon some time during that exact night. And Simon felt that people were actually getting out of there little personal bubbles and feeling more open about the other. Simon started laughing, and he laughed and laughed for so long. What he tried to accomplish with his gift, this openness toward the others, this care, that was exactly what he wanted to make people see, and they were doing that in a small degree, but still. Then he got it, Simon finally got it! He knew exactly what he had to do.

Simon went back to the forest he had fled to from the bullies who have attacked him on that faithful day his life shifted. This time however, he wasn’t afraid or escaping; he knew exactly what he had to do. He followed the trail of his memory and after some searching, he finally found the pit he felt in. As soon as he approached from it, it started to glow. Taking a moment, he focused his thoughts toward what he wished to accomplish, about the way he wanted his gift to change. Taking a deep breath, he jumped into the Light with a last thought: ‘Happy Birthday to me…’

After the intense light, Simon fell in darkness, loosing every link with reality. Minutes later that seemed like centuries, Simon woke up in his college room just like the other time. He felt the difference; he felt this extension in his abilities. He knew that he could actually use the gift to achieve something, but he also knew that doing so would come at a cost. What he intended to do was at the limit of this new ability he received; deciding to use it at full potential could be risky. The worst was that he didn’t know what would happen to him, only that he might never be the same afterward.

Simon glimpsed at the cat shaped clock that his roommate was keeping for some obscure reason; of course, Simon knew that it was a gift from his lover, but he preferred to stay away from that. the time was 7:51 P.M. He remembered that the moon landing was scheduled around that time. He rushed to the old TV him and his roommate had and turned it on. The channel was broadcasting satellite images of the shuttle approaching the moon. Simon couldn’t focus on the commentary that was describing the approach of the shuttle in such a powerful way. He needed to do it, he had no other choice, and that was the perfect moment.

7:52. Simon closed his eyes, and started feeling the people around him one by one.

7:53. All those little lights started to link. Apollo XI touched the lunar ground.

7:54. A first wave of feelings started to run in the network on a very slow paste. The door of the shuttle opened.

7:55. Simon started to feel the flow of emotions and thought in a very strong and chaotic way, surrounding his mind in a sea of foreign thoughts. Armstrong wasn’t down the ladder of the shuttle.

7:56. Everyone felt what everyone else felt, a general euphoria where everybody made one; where every human on earth wasn’t alone in her or his mind anymore, but they all shared the general consciousness through this moment of bliss. Armstrong sat foot on the lunar ground saying those words that would stay in history: “It’s a small step for a man and a giant leap for the mankind.”

Ironically enough, Armstrong who was at thousands of miles away from the reach of the global empathy of Simon was the one to best describe his act. but for Simon, this extensive use of his gift to broadcast the general consciousness was his last step. Everybody felt the experience in a positive way, and everybody was touched by it, not even knowing where it came from. Most of them ended up linking it to the euphoria of the moon landing, ignoring the only person that made it possible and lost everything in the process: Simon. Simon felt all the global consciousness in its raw form, 3.6 billion people radiating him with their thoughts and feelings. As a result the mind of Simon literally shattered. He was still alive for some reason, probably as a side effect of his contact with the light, but his mind was in a very deep catatonic stage.

8:07. Two women in long cloaks and hoods entered the college room of Simon. One of them told the other:

“So this is the source of the disturbance. This grotesque male boy; are we really obliged to carry him all the way to the head quarter?”

“He is the key to our victory sister! He is the error that has been foretold; the one will use the tunnel of light to access the Symphony after the world has been reborn. He will be the final element to the rise of the falcons! to the rise of the hidden faith of the moon. Our daughters shall suffer no more the cruelty of men after that point. The sun will fall as certainly as it has risen; and at that time, the holly crescent will prevail!”

The two women didn’t speak anymore. They took a brain damaged Simon, transporting him to some unknown location.

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