Maybe you’ve heard the stories, the baroque theories on late-night radio or the soliloquies of sunburnt men who mutter at the traffic. Like the one about how they trained telekinetic children to interrogate terrorists and accidentally discovered how to bend time with a pack of playing cards. Or how they dosed soldiers with LSD and dropped them in a forest to see how they would perform in combat. (Not very well.) Or the one about the college student who volunteered for a behavioral study. After feeding the kid a mescaline cocktail, they watched him pace a padded room for three days before he sat down and announced that he was a glass of orange juice, and if anyone came too close, he would tip over and spill himself all over the floor. They say that kid is an old man now, still sitting motionless in the corner of an institution in Virginia.

They’ve invented sights and sounds that will ruin your personality and cause you to soil yourself in the middle of the street. Aural destabilization, they call it. Its milder variants are used for dispersing street protests, but its more extreme applications belong to the land of rumor, those two o’clock in the morning stories told by creatures teetering on barstools who say they’ve heard a sound so loud it heats the air, dredging up your ugliest memories and rupturing your intestines if you stick around long enough. 

These stories always boil down to the spectral they, don’t they? The black choppers and nameless spooks, the shadows that haunt the minds of wild-eyed loners with custom-built radios, their speech riddled with dates and acronyms. 

This is the type of man I would become for a while.

This is the first episode of Interstate Scenes, a fictional collection of homeless paragraphs, remixed and upcycled bits from the past, and bloopers from the stories I’m writing.