When Calvin woke up, he was in a steel gray room lying on a table facing the light. He could not move, and could not tell why. Without willing it, he saw images in his head that felt like strangers casually going through his things: trees on fire, hot wind across a blasted landscape and sand between the tops of office buildings; and then a streaking of pain down the center of his forehead straight to his gut and he thought he could feel the suffering coursing through the network of all conscious things -- stinging limbs after a bombing; everyone crying for something that could not be changed; and then after an excruciating moment (he had no idea how long) the pain relaxed its grip and his body filled with the feeling of plants moving towards light, the frantic scattering of an electron deep inside his eye; what a spider sees. That you are making harm on the planet. Watch for the man with mouths for eyes.
It was this last thing he remembered first, when Calvin found himself running down the Belt Parkway, cars honking from behind him, no shoes.
Cliff sat with his headphones on, staring at the ceiling in the dark. He believed that music was a mood-altering substance. Made of waves, not particles like weed or caffeine. He thought it worked by causing the firing frequency of select neuronal groups in the auditory system the match the frequency of the incoming pressure waves. Then those select groups gave an electric tug to the neurons they are connected to, and those groups tugged on groups even further out, and soon the whole brain was dancing. That was why drums made people go crazy, swinging their bodies and seizing up. Or why people like Alexa, who Cliff used to date and always took him to long slow drone shows where everyone listened with their eyes closed in the dark, why people could hear those low waves and drift off. Like a coma.
He thought about Alexa and the sex they had. She had weird dreams and like to tell him about it in the morning. Aometimes what's wrong doesn't even hurt. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, and let the music stop.