His name was plain and boring, and I never understood why that bothered me so much. It could be that his existence was so tortured, or perhaps it’s because if I went through what he had seen and felt on a daily basis, I would’ve made up some sort of stage name for myself. It would be appropriate, really. Fred was delusional. That is what everyone thought, if they didn’t take time to get to know him. I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. Fred was my neighbor. Sure I could have ignored the pounding on my basement-apartment door, but he would have just gone outside and pounded on the garden level window. I also care too much for my own good, and when I heard his pleas and the tone in his voice, my soul was compelled to react. So at 2:30 A.M., some late night about a year and a half ago, I really “met” Fred for the first time. After I let him look in all the other rooms, to ensure we were alone, and after I let him turn up my radio to very rude (to everyone else in my apartment building) volume, he was calm enough to explain his situation.
His visions and paranoia started when he was 15. He sensed he was being watched, and judged by everyone around him. By strangers, friends, even relatives. He’d catch things out of the corner of his eye and over time he came to know their identity: angels and demons. At first he was terrified and drew into himself and stayed locked in his room for days. His parents had to call doctors to the house to talk him down. His extreme reclusiveness got to the point to where they had no choice but to call the cops and assist in having him committed. Fred knew this was just some sort of code the “judges” used. Fred had failed some test, and he knew that if he went with them, he’d be enslaved in some Hell, forever. So he did a very reasonable thing considering his frame of mind, he’d kill himself and save them the trouble.
Fred woke up in a hospital and there were people all around him. They weren’t judging, they were sad, they were crying. After he recovered from his self inflicted wounds they made him undergo an evaluation. The doctors could find nothing wrong, other than Fred insisted he was the subject of a great cosmic experiment, they wrote it off as delusions of grandeur, prescribed some medication and set him on his way. Fred didn’t take them, he saw it as just another test. He told me at that point he had begun studying his dilemma and soon became frustrated when all he could find was references to psychosis and delusion. At that point he resigned himself to believe he was indeed sick and the ordeal had “cured” him. A few years went by until Fred started to see the patterns emerge again; interested glances from strangers that lasted a bit too long, running into acquaintances in unexpected places, and he would hear snippets of conversations that seemed to directly apply to him. It worsened until Fred couldn’t take it anymore He knew he couldn’t be imagining these things. He stayed up for days scouring the internet for answers. He found one, and it struck a cord.
His shout matched the volume of the radio. I took a peek at my phone to check the time and was surprised to see only 30 minutes had passed. I felt I had lived 10 years in Fred’s shoes. I tried to squeeze in some questions but he proceeded to push along with the story. He told me he studied and conversed with others about his revelation. He was certain that he was this strange guinea pig, living out various loops in reality, with slight changes to the scenario, to preserve his “sanity” and hide the truth. Fred told me he then decided to test his theory. He jumped off a bridge over the Ohio River, just a few blocks from where he had grown up. Again he woke up in the Hospital and again people were there crying. He was convinced that he had restarted the scenario. That he became determined to figure out how to keep the judges away. Maybe if he passed some “test” the loops would stop and he could go on to live a normal, linear life.
I was trying to process this as he sighed loudly an said, “I failed.”
He had started to see “them” again. The angel and demons spying on him from the corners of reality, making bets and mocking him. Recording his actions so they can file their reports to the judges. Now I was afraid of Fred at this point, but it was past 3:00 in the morning and I figured it was an appropriate time to be murdered in my own apartment. So I asked him “Why are you telling me all of this, are you not concerned that I’m one of them, that I will conspire against you?”
He told me he had that all worked out. That he had studied me and was sure that I was “safe”, that I could be trusted. That shouldn’t have reassured me, but it did. Though I wonder silently why I had never noticed him spying, if I was oblivious, or if he felt he had some extrasensory skills or sensitives that let him spy from afar. Then he thanked me for listening and told me he would talk to me again soon. He shook my hand and promptly left. I locked the door behind him.
Fred killed himself roughly 36 hours later, walked in front of a bus. I wasn’t shocked as much as sad, I thought I had helped him a little bit. I just wrote it off, like anyone else would do, crazy is as crazy does right? That’s exactly how I felt until a few hours ago. I was walking down the street to my house when a man ran up to me and said “Its you! I’ve finally found you.”
I thought I was gong to get killed or beaten, or some other awful fate was about to befall me. I said, as calmly as possible, “I’m sorry sir but I don’t…”
He cut me off, “Oh its been awhile, I know, but come on it’s Fred!”
He seemed pretty happy, chipper almost. He told me he had it all figured out this time. It was going to be different, he was going to get it right. I still don’t know what bothers me more, that he keeps on going by the name Fred, or that he managed to find me, again.