I hesitated for a moment, knowing that to make this phone call would be to set in motion a process that might last months, or more. Just then I heard a loud meow and looked down to see the cat poised beside her bowl, fixing me with an irritable stare. I stroked her head and went to grab some food, happy for this momentary respite from the decision.
Did I really want to go back to work? On the other hand, did I really have any choice? I took a good, hard look at the squalor around me, then reached for the phone and punched in the number.
The phone rang only twice before a voice answered: a female voice, and quite a lovely one at that. I began to picture this Rubelcaba as an old-fashioned type who would have a statuesque, probably blond secretary with whom he might or might not be sleeping.
“Mr. Rubelcaba’s office,” said the voice, dutifully and efficiently.
The rest of this story writes itself: Once that initial whoosh wore off, I had to start increasing the dosage; but you can keep that up for only so long — the human being is simply not designed to go without sleep.
At first, sleep deprivation produces a state of of euphoria, but in the long run it begins to transmute — slowly and almost imperceptibly — into a kind of insanity. Exhilaration gives way to anxiety, paranoia, and a deep, fatiguing unease.
Even so, you can keep functioning for a surprisingly long time. But not indefinitely. Sooner or later, things start to slip. Unfortunately, by then you’ve fucked your mind so badly that you don’t notice.
There’s a reason, I think, that the idea of making a deal with the devil retains such currency, that it’s such an eternal theme. It’s a story that can be told over and over again because, no matter how many times you’ve been warned, and no matter how much your rational mind is aware that it’s a bad idea, the temptation to make a deal with the devil is always there.
Why? It’s just a question of time. When you sell your soul to get what you want — a million dollars,1 a mansion on the hill, the power to cloud men’s (or women’s) minds — you get the reward now. The bill doesn’t come due until later, and the person who has to pay it won’t be you, it will be some future version of you. The main thing is that you get what you want and get it right away; dealing with the consequences is future version’s problem.
And then there was the speed.
It started with a deadline. Like a lot the pseudo-creative, I was a terrible procrastinator — by which I mean that procrastination was something I was terribly good at — and somewhere around junior high I’d gotten into the habit of leaving every project until the very last minute, then relying on a fear-stoked burst of adrenaline to bail me out.
You’d like some background at this point. “Who is this guy?”, you may be saying, or perhaps, “Who does this guy think he is?” Two very different questions, if you think about it — but I digress.
Like most people, I was born. I’m sure that it was vastly traumatic to be evicted from the amniotic peace of the womb into the light and turmoil of the phenomenal world, but I can’t say that I have any particular memory of it.
At first, I was a child. This was difficult at times because I was smaller than other people and ignorant of many things. But on the whole, it wasn’t bad. I don’t remember too much of it, to be honest with you. I think I watched a lot of TV.