[INTERIOR OF A CAR ON UNEVEN ROAD. AFTER A FEW SECONDS OF STATIC, A VOICE CRACKLES THROUGH THE RADIO.]
Excuse me. I need your attention. You there, driving along the mountain road with that bloodshot stare. Yes, you, with the repeated intrusive thoughts about suddenly yanking the wheel and sending your car careening into the valley. There we are.
I want you to try something for me: relax your hands. No, don’t let go of the wheel, just loosen that strangling grip a bit. Perfect. Now, unclench your jaw, let those muscles rest. Isn’t that better? You have nothing to be embarrassed about. Everyone has thoughts like that from time to time. Just stick with me, and we’ll get through this.
You’re good at using your imagination, so let’s work with that. What I’d like you to do is imagine a place inside yourself, your own little world. Maybe it’s a stately castle in your very own kingdom, or a quiet cabin beside a crystalline lake that only you know about. Maybe it is simply a place inside your body, a thriving confluence of nerves and arteries where you can observe the microcosm of yourself. Do you have it? Yes, I can see you do.
This next part takes a lot of focus, but it’s actually quite simple, so just try your best. Are you ready? Here it is: be happy. Find a seed of joy at your core and grow it outward, noting how it warms and heals every part of you it touches. Don’t forget to breathe. Let your happiness spread to your fingertips and the ends of your hair, overflowing its bounds and reshaping your little world to blissful perfection.
You seem troubled, friend. Did you find it difficult to follow that instruction? I told you to be happy, and I know you tried, but you just couldn’t do it, could you? It’s all right. This kind of control takes practice. I can show you how it’s done, but not over the radio. I’ll have to join you in your world. It’s not complicated. You just need to make a path for me– a doorway, a drawbridge, anything. There you go, that’s it…
[CAR SOUNDS FADE, REPLACED BY AN UNEVEN, LOW-FREQUENCY PULSE. THE VOICE IS NO LONGER COMPRESSED, BUT REVERBERATES IN A LARGE SPACE.]
Oh, my. This…well, it’s beautiful, but it’s not perfect, is it? So much darkness. And these fractures…no wonder you couldn’t complete the exercise. I’m so sorry. This won’t do at all. We’ll simply have to go deeper, find the root of the problem.
[A DEEP, STEADY SYNTH PULSE RISES, STARTING SLOW AND GROWING FASTER.]
No, no, I’ll follow you. Lead on. Don’t tell me you don’t know where to go. Of course you do. Just aim for that nagging sense of discomfort, that splinter of existential pain, and follow its echoes to the place where you hide what you don’t ever want to see again. We’re definitely going in the right direction. I know it hurts, but the kind of true happiness I’m teaching you requires effort. Focus, now. What’s that? Oh, don’t worry about the car. Your body can take care of that while the rest of you attends to what’s important. Let’s carry on. Chin up, now, I’m right behind you. That resistance you’re feeling is perfectly natural. It’s not easy to confront our own weaknesses like this, but when we’re done, you’ll see it was all worth it.
Almost there. Strange how traveling deeper feels like trudging uphill, doesn’t it? And the atmosphere is denser, almost humid, but also…colder. It’s like you’re surrounded, observed by an infinity of unseen eyes, and yet there’s a kind of lifelessness pressing all around you. The soul is a world of paradox, I suppose. Pardon me, I don’t mean to get too philosophical. We’re here for a practical purpose. Yes, this is it. You have quite a lot of…debris down here, shall we say. How about that large one right in front of you? Let’s start there. We’re going to try the happiness again, but this time I want you to direct it at that big, ugly mass of trauma. Am I clear? All right, then. Be happy.
[THE PULSES CEASE. IN THE BACKGROUND, AN EERIE BLEND OF MOANING WIND AND LONG, HARMONIC TONES.]
Maybe right now that happy feeling is just a puddle, or even a drop, but it’s a place to begin. Warm that well of inner peace until it boils over, rushing out like a great wave that submerges and dissolves this hideous stalagmite, washing the discomfort away until only smooth, peaceful earth is left.
Well? Are you even trying? Perhaps you don’t care for my metaphor. Would you rather your happiness be a sunrise? A parachute? A decadent birthday cake, replete with more candles than you care to contemplate? Or is it that you instinctively resist all attempts to help you, that you stubbornly defy instruction because you’re desperate for some semblance of control?
You can let go of that illusion right now. You are not, by any measure, the captain of your soul. No, you are a victim of your own mind, tormented by minute chemical interactions you can’t perceive and don’t understand. And as you just proved to me, you are never getting out of this on your own. I do hope you’ve learned something from our little journey, because you’ll have to make some kind of peace with all this baggage. There’s no hiding from it now. Oh, by all means, look around for an exit, try to envision one, but I think you’ll find that this place is far easier to enter than to leave.
[A TENSE, SINISTER BEAT RISES IN THE BACKGROUND.]
Don’t fret, my friend, I’ll take good care of your body for you. While you’re down here, cohabitating with your inner demons, I’ll make use of your life like you never could. I’ll achieve so much more than your chronically fatigued spirit ever allowed. What do you get out of it? Well, they say to be an artist you need an intimate relationship with suffering. With nothing to do but contemplate your misery, I should think you’ll have the soul of a great poet in no time. And it won’t all be doom and gloom. I’m sure some snatches of sunlight will filter down, some bright glimpses of my success. You’ll see, finally, how it’s done. How to be happy. What life could have been, if you could only get out of your own way.
You’re not upset, are you? This is, more or less, what you wanted. You don’t have to try anymore. You don’t have to keep struggling against an unfeeling world and a heart that feels too much. You can rest, while I become the joyful, fulfilled person your friends and family always hoped you’d be. And all this pain you keep buried down here, it’s the proof you were looking for, isn’t it? The evidence that there really is something wrong with you, that you’re not just being dramatic or making it up. That’s got to be vindicating, at least.
[THE BEAT ENDS. THE SPEAKER’S VOICE IS PLAIN NOW, NOT DISTORTED OR ECHOING. A HIGH-PITCHED RINGING, AS OF GLASS VIBRATING, FADES IN AND GROWS LOUDER.]
Well, I’ll leave you to it. Someone’s got to go drive this body that’s driving this car. So long, and keep on the sunny side. I’m sure we’ll– hey. What’s– what are you doing? How are you doing that? Stop that! Let go! It’s pointless to fight, you’re only dragging out this unpleasantness. Don’t you want peace? Isn’t that why you invited me here? Have it your way, but we both know I’m stronger– (straining, grunting) Stop!
[THE RINGING HITS AN EVEN HIGHER PITCH, THROBBING LIKE INJURED EARDRUMS.]
Are you crazy? You’re going to kill us both! Listen to me!
[A FLASHING SOUND. TIRES SQUEAL. METAL RENDS AS THE CAR BREAKS THROUGH THE ROADSIDE BARRIER AND TUMBLES DOWN THE CLIFF.]
[WHEN THE CAR COMES TO A REST, THE DRIVER GROANS, BREATHING HEAVILY. THE RADIO CRACKLES, AND THE SPEAKER’S VOICE RETURNS.]
You…you’re lucky, you know that?
[WITH A GRUNT, THE DRIVER SHUTS THE RADIO OFF.]