Friday, January 14, 2011

Paranoid Delusions

Avery drove past the same cars he drove past every day on the way home from work.  A blue Cooper at the corner, a red one right behind it, a sickly orange pickup truck, partially rusted out.  The same thing he saw every single day, except one.  Just around the corner, but still in sight of his apartment, was a white van.  He only took notice due to it being completely clean.  In the middle of winter it’s hard to keep anything that free of salt buildup.

He turned at the end of the block, around the meridian separating the two lanes, and parked.  By the time the engine was turned off, he had completely forgotten about the van.

Inside the apartment he did his standard routine.  He removed all items from his pocket, feed the cat, and rolled his eyes at his roommate for still being asleep.  He then sat down and tried to forget the day.

His roommate has always been known as a hippy, bouncing from job to job, having no direction or path.  Today, much to Avery’s surprise was different.  He wasn’t asleep, but in his room building a resume.  When he walked out Avery was visibly shocked to see him in normal cloths.

“What happened to you, Dave?”  He asked.  “You lose a bet?”

“Nah, this morning I woke up and felt different.  I feel bad about mooching off of you these past years.  I figured it was time to start pulling my weight around here.”

“You’re shitting me.  After all this time you grow up overnight?  Wait, what’s that smell?” Avery said sniffing the air.

Dave sniffed “I smell nothing.”

Avery stood up and walked over to Dave and sniffed.  “You don’t smell like pot.  You... smell like you’ve bathed.  Who are you and what have you done with my roommate?”

Dave dismissed Avery’s accusing look.  “Kinda hard to get a job smoking illegal drugs and smelling like a foot.”

“Well, whoever you are, I’m glad I won’t have to be footing all the bills any more.”  With that he sat back down and let his roommate go on being the new him.

The day went on like it normally did, except now there was less fear that the cops would randomly knock on his door.  A little later Avery was staring out the window watching the sun set and the stars come out when he noticed the white van still there.  He looked a little closer, but it didn’t look out of the ordinary.  Maybe someone was moving around the corner.  And he promptly forgot about it again.

The next day went just like any other.  Avery got up, went to work, and came home.  As he was driving up the road he saw the same van parked round the corner.  The night before it had snowed, but the van was still immaculate, like someone had washed it during the day.  Other cars that had been sitting all night were covered with snow.

As Avery locked his car and turned to go inside he thought he saw someone in the van watching him.  He looked again, but the face was gone.  Figuring it was his mind playing tricks on him like he learned about online, he turned around and went inside.

Dave was walking out just as Avery walked in.

“I got a job interview.”  Dave said.

“Oh, where?”

“The DMV.  It’s just a filing....”

“The DMV?” Avery interjected.  “You do know that’s a government department right?”

“So?”  Dave replied confused.

“You hate the government.  They’re always ‘putting you down’ as you say.  You even went to that anarchy protest downtown last month.”

“I wasn’t thinking then.  The government isn’t that bad.  But I can’t chat, don’t want to be late.”  And he walked out the door.

He walked to the window and watched his roommate leave.  He looked up at the van and saw the face again looking at him.  He blinked and the face was gone.  He blinked again and shook his head.  Must have been a longer day at work then he thought.

It was a few hours before Dave came back.  He walked in whistling.

“I got the job” he proclaimed.

“Good for you.  How much?”

“Ten bucks an hour, starting.”

“Cool, cool.  Did you notice that white van out front when you came back?”

Dave scrunched his face in thought.  “No I don’t believe I saw a white van.  I saw that matchbox of a car, Cooper was parked in your spot.”

Avery shrugged and went back to the Babylon 5 DVD marathon he was working on.

Latter that night he looked out the window.  The van was still there.  It was time to check it out.

He snuck out the back, checking all around to make sure no one saw him, and took a long walk behind the trees, threw the park next door, and around to the other side of the van.  He ducked behind some bushes and watched the van for a little while.  He didn’t see anyone threw the front windows, but he did see it shake just a little every now and then.  Like someone was moving around inside.  Checking one more time to make sure no one could see him coming, he snuck closer.  Pausing every few seconds to look around, he made it to the side of the van without being seen.

Just then a man came out of nowhere.  He wore a black suit with a wight shirt and black tie.

“Can I help you sir?”  he said in a vary commanding voice.

“No, I was just, um... going for a walk.” Avery said urgently.  “I like night time walks threw the park.  They’re just so relaxing when I have insomnia.”

“Keep it moving then.”

Avery walked back the way he came, not wanting to show where he truly came from.  Behind him he heard the black suit man talking as if in a radio.  He couldn’t hear all of it, just make out a few words.  Suspicious, surveillance, and compromised were all he got.  After that Avery snuck back around the park and back in threw his back door.

He wasn’t able to sleep all night, the event kept playing in his head.  Eventually he was able to fall into a fitful sleep just as the sun came up, only to wake up a few hours latter.  It was Saturday so he didn’t have to worry about work, but Dave said he had training in the morning so he was alone.

He fired up his computer and started searching.  “White Van” gave him results about some speaker scam.  “White van man in black” just resulted in sexual predator results and someone called “White Van Man”.  “White van surveillance” gave him something that made him pause.  The first result was a Yahoo question from someone fearing he was being watched.  The next result was about insurance agencies monitoring injured clients.  Further down the list was a story about a family who had a pair of men in suits, driving a white van, break into their house but seemingly did nothing.  One of the comments suggested they look for hidden cameras.

This struck a cord with Avery.  He kept searching and started finding information about the FBI monitoring people.  He found something called COINTELPRO, an organization created in 1956 to infiltrate so called anti-government groups, and they even monitored individuals who didn’t fall into place.  This group was disbanded, but they did it before, why not again?

The more he searched the more he found.  He found people who had been watched by the government and he found stories about people who had claimed to be watched but then disappeared.  If he had seen these sights just a few days before he would have called them “Tin Foil Hat Wearers”, but not now.

It made sense.  The government must not have like a few of his comments he posted on certain vocal websites.  They must think he’s a dissident.

Shortly after Dave came home to find Avery hiding behind the couch.

“Dude, what are you doing back there?”

“Get down here and be quite” He whispered pulling Dave down.  “The government is watching me.”

Deciding not to push his luck too far, Dave spoke quietly “The government isn’t watching you.  Why would you think that?”

“The white van outside.  People inside have been watching me,  Yesterday I went to check it out and got turned back by a guy in a black suit.  He even had a radio he was using to talk to others.”

“There is no white van.  I looked this morning before I left and even when I came home.  I didn’t see a white van.”

“No, it’s there.”  Avery jumped up and ran to the window.  “See it’s right...”  The van was gone.  “They must have packed up and left after I tried to check it out last night.  They said something about the mission being compromised.“

“You look like crap and you’re talking crazy.  Go to bed.  In a few hours I’ll wake you and make a nice dinner.  You’ll feel better then.”

Avery looked from Dave to where the van was and back again.  “OK” he said dejected and walked slowly to his room.

Dave let him sleep for six hours and then gently woke him.  He sat Avery down in front of his favorite TV series and started dinner.  Unknown to Dave, the next episode in the lineup was the episode where the main character was arrested and tortured by a corrupt government.

Dave spent forty five minutes making the biggest home made meal the apartment had ever seen.  There were chicken breasts, rice, green beans, and he even found a can of cranberry sauce.  Both of the friends spent two hours just chatting and eating.  At the end of it all Avery did feel better.  A little worried still, but he did feel it was possible he was making things up.

The next day went without incident.  Dave didn’t have to go to work so he decided to stay home and play video games with his friend.  Nether of them looked out the window.  Avery wanted to, but he forced himself not to.  He didn’t want to start down that paranoia path again.

The next day, on the way to work, he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, same thing at work.  But when he got home he saw a giant black SUV parked a little ways away from where the white van was.  He felt a twinge of paranoia, but he forced it down.  It was just someone visiting.  The windows were tinted vary dark, much darker then he thought was legal, but again he refused to let himself fall back down that path.  He told himself it was just an eccentric friend of someone on the block or maybe someone trying to be a gangster.

He went inside and tried to forget what he saw.  The image stayed in his mind.  Just as the sun was going down, curiosity overcame him and he looked outside.  The black SUV was still there and this time he saw someone beside it.  The man was facing the other way, but it looked like he was wearing a fancy suit.

“See” he told himself “It’s just someone with more money then brains.”

The man in the suit turned around and Avery saw it was the same man that strong armed him Friday night.  The man looked up at the apartment and Avery dived below the window.  His heart was racing, he could feel the adrenalin pumping threw his vanes.

Dave came home from his finally normal shift to find Avery hiding behind the couch again.

“Ah crap, now what.  Did the white van come back?”

“No, there’s a black SUV down the street.  The same guy who was with the white van is with it.  They’re back.”  Avery was rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet.

“That SUV, the one with the tinted windows?” Dave waited for Avery to nod.  “How about this, if you’re so worried, I’ll call the police.  They can look into it.”

“Sure, for all we know it’s the cops watching me.” he snapped.

“The cops wouldn’t be watching you, nor would they be this dedicated to it.  If someone is watching you it’s the FBI and they wouldn’t tell the cops about it.  I’ll call the cops anonymously.  The guy won’t even know who called.”

“OK, I guess.”

“I’m going to use the phone in the park just to make sure our number can’t be traced.  Does that make you feel better?”

“Yes, much.”

Dave walked out of the apartment and Avery stuck his head just over the windowsill so he could see.  Dave was true to his word, he walked away from the SUV and to the phone.  He spoke for a few minutes and walked back to the apartment.

“It’s done, the cops will be here shortly.”  He said walking in.

Avery said nothing, keeping his eyes on the SUV.  About thirty minutes latter a police cruiser pulled up.  A cop stepped out of the car and knocked on the window of the SUV.  Avery could see he was talking with someone in the SUV.  The occupant handed the cop what looked like an ID and the cop went back to the cruiser.  A few short seconds latter the cop got back out, gave the ID back to the guy in the SUV, and drove off.

A few minutes latter the black SUV drove off.  As it passed below the window Avery could see inside.  The driver hadn’t rolled the window back up.  Avery froze, he could feel his face flush.  The driver was the same man from Friday.  Something is definitely going on.

He kept his eyes on the street for several hours.  People came and people left, but nothing that suggested the black suit man had come back.  Everyone that came got out of the car and went into a house.  Everyone that left came from a house and promptly drove away.

Dave tried a few times to draw Avery away from the window.  He even made a giant dinner like last time, but Avery didn’t even eat.  After a while he gave up.

Avery stayed all night watching the street.  He didn’t go to work.  Dave was nice enough to call Avery’s office and let them know he was sick, then he called his new job and begged for a day off.  Dave was still unable to pull Avery away from the window so he gave in and sat beside his distraught friend, hoping his presence may help.

“There” Avery said quietly.

Dave, who had nodded off, woke with a start.  The apartment had been silent for several hours so even the whisper was defining.

“What?”  He said, groggy.

“That gray car across the street.  It pulled up thirty minutes ago, but no one has gotten out.”

Dave peeked his head over the sill.  “Maybe someone’s just waiting for someone in a house to be ready.  People around here are kinda snobs so I could see them taking awhi...”

“No, even here no one would take that long.  It’s him, I know it.”  Avery stood up, a little shaky on his feet after sitting for twelve hours.

He walked over to the closet and started rummaging around inside.  A few seconds latter he pulled out an aluminum bat.

“What are you going to do?”  Dave said, scared.

“I’m going to end this, now.”  Avery started walking to the door.

“No, I won’t let you do that.”  Dave said, quickly jumping in front of the door.  “Let me get you some help.  You’re not alright.”

“NO” Avery shoved Dave aside, throwing him into the coffee table and knocking him silly.  “This ends now!”

He slammed open the door and stormed over to the car.  Inside was what he both wanted and feared would be inside; the black suit man.  Avery swung the bat high above his head and brought it down on the windshield, spider-webbing it instantly.

“Why are you watching me?” Avery screamed swinging the bat against the car door.

The man inside was caught off guard.  He never had someone react this way before.  He reached into his coat pocket, but before he could pull anything out a cop, that happened to be close by, tackled Avery to the ground.  Avery screamed and flailed about, his bat knocked from his hands in the fall.

The cop pulled out his cuffs and pinned Avery, managing to pull his hand behind him and putting on the cuffs.  The cop had to keep his weight on Avery’s legs, he was kicking around so much, and called in backup.  Vary soon three cruisers with their lights on pulled up and forced Avery into the back.

The first cop spoke with the man in the car.  “What the hell happened?”

“Don’t know officer, I was just sitting here when he attacked the car.”

“Well, he’s going to the station now, I’ll need you to come down and answer some questions.  Then we can file formal charges.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t do that.  I don’t want to file any charges, too many questions will be asked that I can’t answer.  Just get him some psychiatric help, that’s all I ask.”  The black suit man flashed his ID again.  The cop took one look at it and agreed.

The black suit man glanced over the cops shoulder, got back in the damaged car and quickly drove off.  Just then Dave walked out of the apartment.

“What the hell happened out here?”

“Do you know that man?” the cop asked Dave pointing to the raving man in the back of the cruiser.

“Yeah, he’s my roommate.”

“We’re taking him down to the station and then probably to the psychiatric wing at the hospital.  Looks like he had a nervous brake-down.”

“He was claiming someone was watching him.  Scared the hell out of me, but I feared getting him help, I didn’t know what it would do to him.  I guess I should have tried harder.”  Dave looked back at his friend who had stopped screaming and was just staring at him.

“It’s not your fault, If his friend had, in his mind, betrayed him, it probably would have broken him faster.  Do me a favor, call his next of kin and see if he’s had any emotional problems before.  Give me a call in an hour or two and I’ll let you know where specifically he will be.”  The cop handed Dave a business card and left with the others.

Two and a half hours latter the officer’s phone rang.  It was Dave letting him know what was found.

“Turns out Avery had a history of emotional issues when he was young.  He had to be with psychiatrists for years before he was better.  His mom always feared of a relapse.”  Dave said to the officer.

“That’s what I feared.  I spoke with a doctor and he recommended I move him to a home for the mentally unstable.  He can get proper treatment there.”

“You moved him to an insane asylum?”  Dave said, noticeably shocked.

“That’s a horrible name, it’s not like that.  Besides, I had no choice, the hospital was full and they said they wouldn't be able to help him anyways.  It’s that place on 23rd avenue.  You know it?”

“Yeah, I do.  Thanks, I guess” Dave hung up before the officer could respond.

Dave gathered up his things and left for 23rd avenue.

Outside of town there is a small building and inside is a small office.  A man in a vary fancy suit sits behind an old oak desk in that office flipping threw papers and poking at his computer.

The door opens and another man in a fancy suit walks in.  “The mission is complete, sir.  The target is classified as a non-threat.  He shows no signs of dissidence nor does he remember the re-programming.”

The man behind the old desk looked up from his reports.  “Good.  Lower his surveillance level to standard.  Anything else to report?”

“A friend of the target spotted our surveillance team.  We switched the vehicles several times during the surveillance, but it seems the change was ineffective.  One of our undercover cars needed several hundred dollars of work after he took to it with a bat.  He then started raving about the government watching him, and is now in a mental institution with ‘paranoid delusions’.”

“Make sure he stays there.  We have enough conspiracy nuts running around.  We don’t need anyone actually getting close to the truth.”

“Yes, sir.”  The second man said and walked out of the office.

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