– Prepare for the end of the days! The Time has come! Everything is useless now, you can do everything you want, you can kill me, it doesn’t matter anymore! Kill me, doctor! Take everything from me! The end is near! Tomorrow is the Day, it’s the end of the world!
The patient gives me a cold look, completely convinced that he owns the truth. He watches me from his world and, for a short moment I feel uneasy, while the alarm sound inside me rings like the biggest bell of the Strasbourg cathedral, or like all the bells of the said cathedral ringing at the same time.
– Look here!, the patient says, while entering in the toilet of his room. Look at this towel hanger! God damnit, this wasn’t here yesterday! This is The Sign! We are all going to die! There is nothing we can do now! It’s over, man! It’s over!
I look at the towel hanger. It’s the standard, typical, ordinary hanger one can find in a hospital. Nothing unusual.
– Look at them! What are they doing at my window?!
I see some people passing by the window of the patient. The window is next to the small road going by the building of the hospital. Obviously, people come and go, that’s the purpose of the road.
– How can you do that, doctor!
– Do what?
– How can you move them? How can you move those people outside!
– But I’m here with you in your room. Those people can’t even see us. And they definitely can’t hear us.
– Incredible! He pretends not to know it!, says the patient, while searching the eyes of the nurse next to me. You make them walk by my window, doctor! You make those people come and go! How on Earth do you have such a power?!
– But I can’t. This is not possible.
– You can see. And you can do it. I know you can. You are like me, in here and in there, at the same time.
– I am only here with you, sir.
– No, you lie! You can, but you refuse to acknowledge it! Liar!
Silence falls for a moment in the middle of the room.
– We’re dying, doc! Tomorrow! It’s the end! I can see it and you know it! Give me everything you want, I take all the medication you prescribe. There is no time left. It doesn’t matter anymore.
I leave the room. Luckily I wasn’t attacked. The eyes of the patient still haunt me, that otherworldly gaze that comes from beyond historic times. And then it’s the feeling – that feeling of encountering a million-years-old wise man that went completely crazy – wise enough to know the movements of the universe and crazy enough to destroy it entirely.
– So, we have only one day left! Tomorrow it’s the Apocalypse on our schedule!
The nurse would like to smile or joke but it can’t or decides that it’s not the case.
– What if the patient is right? What if the patient would be right?
My question remains unanswered. The nurse undoubtedly judges my remark as weird. I continue:
– In this case, tomorrow we’ll be spending the apocalypse. And I intend to survive it.
The nurse smiles enigmatical.
The phone rings. A message:
“You must have cash money in your home. Store some food and water for a week. And candles, many candles, as we won’t have electric power for a couple of days. You always say that I’m delusional or psychotic, but I am not. You’ll see that I am right. I warn you so as to be prepared. Keep your faith and pray to God!”
It’s someone very close to me, from my inner family circle. I switch of the phone and put it back on the table.
Being a psychiatrist implies that you can discern between what is right and what is wrong, or between what is true and what is false. And you are supposed to do this in all situations, even if the entire world falls apart. You are supposed to recognize the psychotic syndrome when it manifests itself in the person in front of you. But, not all the madmen are or will become inpatients. Some are on the loose, wandering freely among us or online. Persons that live next to you, your neighbor, your family. Persons that are so much caught in the mass hysteria and the primitivism exploding everywhere on social media, internet, and in gatherings and groups, that it becomes impossible to control or notice them. They simply pop up in unexpected places, induced by a collective madness that seems to get stronger lately.
I get the same message on my phone or through live discussions for many years. Hell is about to be unleashed! Judgment day is about to come! The end of the world is near, very near, preparations must be undertaken – perhaps a bunker must be dug… or just a hole in the ground. It is imminent, it may happen even… tomorrow! Yet, nothing happened. For many years the end of the world fails to happen. Danmit, it didn’t come! The usual response when confronted is that people prayed, God was persuaded to intervene and to pardon the world, but… we can’t be sure – God is unreliable and capricious – and, since we are heavy sinners, we’ll be expecting a new apocalypse in a certain amount of time, but nevertheless, it is likely to be… soon.
This game is tiresome. And it is annoying. We fail to achieve the end of the world every time. It becomes reliable that it won’t happen tomorrow.
Unless it does happen.
What is the difference between the patient and the one who sent me the message? First, the patient is in the locked psychiatric hospital and the other one is free to roam. Then, if disconnected from social media and people with similar beliefs… and expectations… (such as gurus, people doing channeling, weirdoes, full-blown schizophrenics making YouTube videos, etc.), the second one will likely return to a balanced state of mind. The problems arise when you are caught in the crossfire: you work with psychotics and when you are back home you encounter exactly the same thing. Life begins to feel different after a while, and your sense of objectivity is under pressure. I mean, where to find that proverbial stone that can act as a cardinal sign, as a north star, as a benchmark, as the only unmovable point in a continuously moving and deeply psychotic environment?!
The patient seems to be telling the truth: there is something wrong with the towel hanger. Sometimes you can’t find anything solid and reliable anymore. He also seems to be right that we can be in several places at the same time, namely that we cannot really leave the stage (or the shift, or the madhouse) even when we go home after work.
I spent the apocalypse with the patient. It went well, it was a pleasant day. Uneventful, I could say… He didn’t die and I didn’t either. It appears we still have Time… As for the message… I still look at the phone and I don’t know what to answer. I have water and food for a week, rest assured, thanks to the coronavirus and the possibility of an unexpected lockdown or isolation. I have some cash although I fail to understand if it might still hold value in case of an unexpected doomsday. But I have no candles.
The towel hangers are still where they are supposed to be in my bathroom; at least they seemed to be fine when I last checked them.
* The photo of the article is taken by me in Colmar.