Apollo's curse, or, "as you were, wolf"

Once within a sick and dying culture was born a girlchild, Cassandra. The culture into which Cassandra was born had not always been sick. It had become sick as a result of infection. You may have seen that old science fiction movie called "invasion of the body snatchers"? Well, this story is about mind snatchers. It's less about space invaders and more about mindspace invaders: virtual viruses infecting the minds of virtually everyone within the culture.

The mindspace invaders were ideas, aka "memes". There were good ideas and bad ideas. Among the worst were "smoking cigarettes", "waging war", "watching television", "using credit cards", "advertising", "fad dieting", "body piercing", "religion", "nation states", "private property", "fast food" and others.

Immune to the viral invaders was a small number of people, among them Cassandra. People who didn't enjoy watching television. People who saw the lies that lie at the heart of every advertisement and every religion. People who knew, understood and instinctively rejected false relativism and equivalence. People who deride Derrida and his satanic cohorts. People who could have helped defend the culture against the depredations of the virulent and vicious memes. People who could have changed the world. People whom no-one took seriously.

On the night of Cassandra's birth, a new star was seen in the sky. On that night the god Apollo and other Supernatural Beings (SB's) abounding in that part of the multiverse gave Cassandra many gifts in celebration of her 0th birthday. They gave her a big, juicy brain with lots of neurons and dendrites. They gave her an extra brain lobe (visible from outside her skull as a big, fat bulge on the side of her head). And for use within her extra brain lobe they gave her a special if almost but not quite unique re-entrant circuit (neurons that wire together fire together) that when activated gave rise to the power of true prophecy.

But for Cassandra, true prophecy was not a gift, but a curse. Whatever she predicted came true but no-one ever believed her predictions. Nor did anyone ever remember her predictions after they had taken place. She became known as "the girl who cried wolf". The pattern of prediction and disbelief was extremely frightening and traumatic for Cassandra, psychologically, physiologically, and behaviourally. She became increasingly withdrawn, depressed, angry, resentful and alienated.

By her twelfth birthday, things were well and truly going horribly wrong for Cassandra and her family. She was finding it difficult if not impossible to sleep. She was experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations. She was self-mutilating and self-harming in several different ways. She was anorexic. She was substance-abusive. She engaged in high risk behaviours including but not limited to having unsafe sex with strangers.

Unsurprisingly, her parents were alarmed and distressed. They asked her what was wrong but she could not or would not say. They were so desperate and worried that one day when she was at school they searched her bedroom, found and read her diary---the private journal in which she described and commented on her life. The contents of the diary provided Cassandra's parents with a deeper insight into her innermost thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams, but unfortunately did not point to any potential resolution of the issues and problems facing her.

Cassandra's parents consulted numerous experts. They arranged for her to visit psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, and interventionists of all stripes and shapes and sizes, none of whom were any help whatsoever. Nothing helped. Nothing worked. Cassandra grew more and more difficult to handle. She became more and more of a danger to herself and others. She had to be watched 24 hours a day in case she attempted suicide. Eventually, after much agony and despair, her parents decided to commit her to an Institution, but not just any Institution, the Institution: the one renowned all over the world for its so-called "success" in treating so-called "troubled teens". Especially those suffering toxic culture shock syndrome (TCSS).

Known informally as "Rivendell" (because it was home to people who were said to be "off with the elves and pixies") the Institute was a place where a range of therapies was applied to the bodies, brains and minds of its youthful inmates. As well as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), the use of so-called "anti-depressants", "anti-psychotics" and "mood-stabilisers" was very much in vogue among Institute psychiatrists. As were other even more powerful substances and preparations including belladonna, jimson weed, peyote and others.

The Institute was located on an island owned by the members of the Institute's Board of Directors. The location of the Institute was advantageous because it meant that the so-called "boot camp option" could be exercised without having to worry about the reaction of concerned parents or scoop-hungry journalists to the unfortunate events that frequently occurred at Boot Camp. The Boot Camp option involved removing kids to the remote and undeveloped interior of the island and subjecting them to military-style discipline, inadequate diet, and hard manual labour. Unfortunate events such as death or total and permanent disability were only to be expected, under the circumstances.

To be fair, though, some of the Institute's therapies were actually quite useful in helping prevent the invasion of the afore-mentioned mind-destroying memes. Therapies involving meditation, for instance, were found to be highly effective, especially those in which the objective of the meditation is to empty the mind of all thought.

Of course, for kids such as Cassandra with natural immunity to the virtually viral invaders, meditation therapy delivered no benefits of the meme-repelling kind.

But for all the inmates, meme-immune or otherwise, the Institute's trademark practice of "mega-therapy" (Copyright the Institute for Shamanic Research. All rights reserved) was indeed highly effective by virtue of the damage it wrought upon the brains and minds of those on whom the therapy was practised.

"Mega-therapy…" as the Chairperson of the Institute's Board of Directors would describe it to newly recruited Institute staff members in the course of their induction program "…like most good ideas works because it is simple. Whatever the dose, whatever the recommended treatment duration---double it, then treble it then quadruple it. The more the merrier. If one therapy works, two or more work even better. Contra-indications? No such thing. If the mind is the problem, attack the mind! If the brain's not working properly, destroy the brain!"

"That's how we inflict the Dolorous Wound ! That's how we practise therianthropy! That's how we manufacture shamanic travellers. That's how we cross the bridge of worlds."

Of course, the Chairperson was quite mad. Clinically insane. As insane if not more so than many of the staff members and all of the inmates put together.

The systematic destruction of Cassandra's mind by means of mega-therapy was atypical. Contraindicated if you will. In fact, the whole trajectory of Cassandra's institutionalisation was atypical. For one thing, she made a number of friends among those inmates who, like herself, had been born with extra brain lobes and the ability to foretell the future.

At every opportunity Cassandra and her friends would talk about escaping from the Institute. Those opportunities were very few and far between because the kids were so closely watched. However, the real hardcore inmates, including Cassandra, were frequently sent off for weeks at a time to Boot Camp, where there were more opportunities to talk than at the main campus itself.

It was at Boot Camp one bitterly cold night that the escape plan was finalised. "At the next full moon," whispered Cassandra to her friends, "we will make our move."

"At the next full moon," they all whispered, barely able to contain their excitement and hope.

The days went slowly and the nights slower still as the monthly cycle of the pale goddess progressed.

Finally, it was time. The moon hung full in the black sky. Suddenly a terrible howling pierced the night, followed by screams of pain and fear beyond imagining. Shadows came to life. Death and darkness stalked the corridors of the Institute.

Cassandra and her fellow therianthropes fell like ravening wolves upon inmates and staff members alike, rending and tearing flesh and bone as the insatiable bloodlust rose in their mindless brains.

In the morning, all the people were dead. Only the lycanthropes lived.

And on a table in the Chairperson's bedroom was a letter, addressed to Doctor Moreau.

Copyright © S R Schwarz 2007. All rights reserved.

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