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The Carrot of Doom Presents...
Mind the Gap

Channelled by Adam J Purcell

"How long are you going to continue this?" she asked.

"Long as I can", he replied groggily.

"It's been three days since you slept, it can't be good for you. All this to prove a point?"

"A theory."

"'Theory'? Here's my theory - ever since you lost your job you've needed to find something else to occupy your mind. But this, Ben...", she said looking concerned.

Ben glanced down at his watch. 23:45 - time for another caffeine tablet. Just gone eighty-five hours according to his chart, being no longer capable of performing calculations in his head. He sat up from his slump in the swivel computer chair and reached behind the keyboard in front of him for the packet of tablets. Popping two tablets from their plastic and foil packaging he looked around at his wife who was standing at the door of the computer room. "Half gone already..." he said indicating the two tablets as he dropped them in his mouth, lent his head back and dry swallowed them. She continued looking at him, expecting a retort. He gave in. "Look, I'll be fine. What harm can it do? There will come a point where I fall asleep, no matter how hard I try, and then I'll wake up a new man. You'll see." he mumbled.

"Hmm, well I'm off to bed." she said shortly.

"Clare..." Ben called after her as she stalked off to the bathroom.

He looked back at his computer screen and pondered the High Score board on display, realizing he couldn't remember how his computer avatar had just died. It was very clear, however, that his scores were deteriorating considerably with every waking hour. His reflexes had become increasingly sluggish and his tactics virtually non-existent. He found he was controlling his movement through the virtual reality world in an instinctive fashion, 'auto-pilot' as he thought of it. There was little conscious control. In fact what consciousness that did remain to him felt as if it were watching the world passively, observing his body's actions rather than having any direct control over them. It was a strange feeling. He was awake but not in control.

Rubbing his face in an attempt to revive his mind a little he resolved to have another game. He had to keep himself active to prevent sleep overcoming him. "I'll have another cold shower at 3:30" he ordered his mouth to say but didn't realise the message didn't get that far.


"Don't they ever turn these street lights off?" Ben asked the empty street as he walked though the mild night. He couldn't remember leaving the house but it must have seemed like a good idea at the time - another way of staving off the sleep that was eating its way into his mind.

He wandered in a daze, his consciousness ebbing away minute by minute. He was no longer sure if he was asleep or awake.


"Why are you doing it?" the stranger asked.

"Doing what?" Ben said, suddenly unsure where he was but somehow just accepting what he found with nothing but minor curiosity.

"Trying to fight off sleep." said the mysterious man sitting next to him at the bar.

"Well I have this theory..." Ben said into his glass.

"Oh, yes?" the man prompted, looking intently at Ben.

"Why is this place open at... What time is it?"

"It just is. Please, continue."

"It's all to do with the mind, you see. My mind. Everyone's minds. When you sleep it dies. When you wake up it is reborn."

"Your mind dies and is reborn? You mean you lose consciousness and regain it when you awake?"

"There's more to it than that, I'm sure of it" Ben said just before emptying his glass.

The stranger continued to stare, his eyes asking for more from Ben.

"How can I put this?" Ben asked rhetorically. "The conscious mind is finite, it has a lifespan of only a day or so. I've tried to push mine beyond that to see what the maximum is and to see how feeble it becomes if you force it to live beyond its time."

The stranger continued to stare, his eyes asking for more from Ben.

"Our dreams are created as a byproduct of the creation of a new conscious mind, you see? The events of the previous day are compiled in with the other long term memories to create this new personality." Ben said just before emptying his glass.

The stranger continued to stare, his eyes asking for more from Ben.

"We all have a finite number of, well, minds. With most people their bodies die before they run out of minds/consciousnesses/personalities - whatever you want to call them. But the best ones are always used first, the worst ones left until last, as they may not get used. Do you see what I'm saying?" Ben said to his interrogator.

The stranger continued to stare, his eyes asking for more from Ben.

"It explains why babies and young children are so good at learning but old people are so slow to learn and adapt, why their minds are often, erm, lacking!" Ben shook his glass in triumph, spilling a little of the golden contents.

The stranger continued to stare, his eyes asking for more from Ben.

"You see, it explains the diminishing mental capacities of old age! Yes I can tell you are skeptical." Ben said looking at the colour of the man's fedora. "Look at it this way - imagine you cloned someone. Completely copied them, right down to the contents of their brain, including all their memories and everything. Now that copy would be new, they wouldn't be the same person but they would think they are. It's like in all those sci-fi programmes with their teleporters/transmats/whatever they call them. You know - beam me up and all that." Ben rambled at the stranger just before emptying his glass.

The stranger continued to stare, his eyes asking for more from Ben.

"Wouldn't get me in one of those. They scan you, make a note of where every atom is in your body and then turns you into energy. It kills you; I mean who could survive having every cell in their body turned into energy? The clever thing is that they take the energy generated by that to build an exact replica of you, right down to the atomic level. This new you has all the memories of the old one so it thinks it is you. It thinks it has survived when it hasn't, it has just been born! You could scan a person like that, get some energy somewhere else to build the copy at the new location and then take the original out the back to be shot! It's the same effect, the new copy will think it was transported when it wasn't! That's us - we think we are the same mind as before we went to sleep but we aren't!" Ben said and wiped his chin.

The stranger continued to stare, his eyes asking for even more from Ben.

"Yeah, I know, I'm rambling..." Ben said looking at the movement in his companions face. "You see it also explains why people have so much trouble when they are woken up too early. When they 'wake up on the wrong side of the bed', figuratively, it could be a result of a partial failure on the building of the new mind!" Ben proclaimed whilst stopping his bar stool from shrinking further.

The stranger continued to stare but finally spoke "To what purpose?"


"Why build a new mind, why sleep?"

"Well sleep, or at least rest, is probably required on some physical level. Do we need to lose consciousness to rest? Probably not, I don't know..."

"Why a finite number of minds?" the face of the man in the trench-coat asked.

"Erm, well it would be wasteful or impossible to have an unlimited number?" Ben racked his brain.

"Perhaps. Defence?" the stranger offered.

"From what?" Ben asked, finishing his drink and drying off the inside of his shoe.

"Indeed." answered the stranger before drifting off.


"Wake up!" Clare shouted at Ben, forcing him to return to consciousness.

"Huh?" Ben muttered easing himself off the floor by the front door.

"You left the front door open, probably all night given how bloody cold it is in here." she complained.

"Damn, I fell asleep. Oh, er, sorry."

"Never mind, you should go upstairs and get some proper sleep."

"Yeah, no point staying awake now."

"Did you even get out of the door?"

"Yes, er, I think so. I went to a pub or bar or somewhere. Can't really remember."

"You're lucky you didn't get mugged, or worse. Go on, off to bed, I've got to get ready for work."

Ben pulled himself upstairs feeling exhausted but nonetheless somewhat more with it than he felt only a few hours earlier. A new, fresher, mind he thought to himself. Would going to sleep now cause it to die and be replaced so quickly he wondered.


"Ben?! Ben, are you okay?" Clare said concernedly into his ear. With that Ben awoke with a start and blinked a couple of times whilst getting his bearings.

"Ugh, yeah. Yeah, I'm okay, I was just having a bad dream. What time is it?" he said pushing himself into a seated position.

"It's a quarter past one. I thought I'd come home to check on you over lunch. You sure you're alright?"

"Yes, don't worry about me." Ben said and rubbed his eyes.

"I do." Clare said, pausing before continuing. "What was your dream?"

"Don't ask!" he laughed but could tell she was too interested to let it go. "I was in that computer game, except I had no weapons. I was being chased."

"By one of those monsters from the game?"

"Err, no..."

Clare could tell he was reluctant to say for sounding foolish but continued to press, in a mock concerned parent way she said "By whom..?"

"Around a swimming pool..." he said reluctantly.

"Go on," she said gleefully.

"By William Shatner." he said faintly.

Clare couldn't help herself but laugh out loud. "Now I know you're mad! Did he have big nasty teeth?!" she quipped.

Feeling rather foolish to be frightened by such a ludicrous idea he couldn't help but laugh at it along with her. "It wasn't a pretty sight! Shatner in his swimming trunks wobbling around those corners! The worst bit was his wig sitting upright on his head directing him like you would a horse!"

"You really should avoid pubs when you haven't slept for three days!" she joked as she climbed, fully clothed, into the bed next to him and pulled him into a hug.


With Clare having returned to work for the afternoon he pulled himself from bed into the bathroom. It felt like forever since he last had a warm shower. He pulled the opaque shower curtain across and turned the dial on the power shower.

Within the minute he was relaxing into the water that was cascading down on his head but from nowhere he had the strangest feeling he was being watched. He fought off the feeling by grabbing the shampoo and concentrating on lathering up his thinning hair. The feeling continued to grow and was quickly accompanied by mild fear.

Suddenly he had enough and needed to prove to himself that there was no one there. He ripped back the shower curtain just enough to crane his neck around, fast enough so that anyone there would be caught unawares.

Finding no one there he relaxed slightly. Then he noticed something. The door was slightly ajar. Had he left it like that? Plagued with doubt he called out "Clare?" The only answer was the silent emptiness of the house. But it wasn't silent. The shower was still hissing away behind him. He could hear the faint noise of the boiler. Was that it? He could of sworn he heard, no sensed, a movement out on the landing.

Feeling panic rising he readied himself to face it. Dripping wet and with shampoo sliding down his face and neck he jumped out of the shower, pulled open the bathroom door and confronted the landing. Nothing. Just to be sure he did a quick check of all the rooms in the house but it failed to convince him. He moved cautiously around each room, always careful to look over his shoulder at random moments. Whatever it was it felt like it was behind him now. No matter where he turned it was behind him. He could not escape it. It was everywhere he was. Watching. No, lying in wait, ready to pounce. Fighting back the rising panic he walked back up the stairs and into the bathroom. This time, for the first time ever, he locked the bathroom door. Whatever it was it would have to wait until he'd finished showering.

He rapidly rinsed himself off and, before turning off the shower so as to surprise them, he took another quick look around the shower curtain. Nothing there. The door was still firmly closed. Being annoyed with himself for getting so jittery he dried off. Still the nagging feeling remained.

He was relieved, but unsurprised at a rational level, to see the door was still locked when he went to open it. Unlocking and opening the door he confronted the landing again. "It's in your mind, Ben." he said to the house and himself, though not as loudly or as confidently as he had intended.

He stalked off to the bedroom, still occasionally looking over his shoulder. He closed the door of the bedroom once inside. Part of him wished it had a lock and he had to fight off the urge to shift the nearest bedside cabinet across it. This is crazy, he chastised himself, there's nothing there! Unfortunately the rational part of his mind was losing out to his instincts. Instincts that were giving off major alarm signals.

Before going anywhere near the wardrobe he found himself going to the window and opening the curtains that Clare had deliberately left closed for him. Through the net curtains he could see that it was a dark, miserable, overcast day. Where he had hoped the daylight would drive away his fears, instead the world outside added to them.

A shiver ran down his back. There was something moving in his peripheral vision. He spun around. Nothing.

The house was fairly warm for an early December afternoon. The chill he felt seemed to come form inside him, eating its way out. He moved towards the mirrored wardrobe and gave himself a fright when he saw his own face reflected back at him. For three years he had used that wardrobe and never had such an effect. He didn't dwell on it. Pulling open the door he selected the most accessible clothes and pulled them on.

Finishing by slipping his feet into a pair of thick sturdy shoes he muttered to himself "There, be warm in a second." Ben, rather cautiously, drew the wardrobe door shut. He stood there for a second almost hypnotised by his own reflected eyes. The face was his but the eyes were not. Yes, they looked like his eyes but it was a stranger staring back at him. Ben knew it was crazy but he was sure someone else was looking back at him from behind his own eyes.

He caught sight of a grey figure in his peripheral vision again. He spun around but there was nothing there. With all the hairs on the back of his neck standing up, and unable to shake the feeling of a presence, he made his way downstairs.

Needing to hear something other than the odd creak and groan of an empty house he switched on the TV and sat down in his usual chair in the living room. The room felt bigger, colder and a lot less like home than usual. Ben reached over to a neatly folded blanket on the floor next to him and covered himself on the chair, pulling the blanket up to just below his nose. He watched, uninterested, an old black and white war film on the TV.


Ben closed the door of the staff car and started the engine. He floored the accelerator and was soon zooming down the mud-tack road, dodging the occasional shell that blasted a hole in the road around him. The two small flags waved triumphantly on the front corners of his bonnet.

The car was hand brake turned into the small driveway that appeared suddenly to the left of the road. Ben skidded the car sideways neatly into one of the many vacant parking spaces at the end of the drive. He jumped out of the car and locked the doors with the remote control key fob. He smoothed down his dinner jacket and made his way towards the small pub but first double-checked the package was still safely stowed on the back seat of his vehicle.

The pub was empty, save for a single figure sitting at the bar with a small glass of liquid in his hand. Ben sat on the stool next to him.

"Drink." said the stranger in the trench-coat.

"Who are you?" asked Ben, staring into the infinity that peered out of where the stranger's face should be.

"I am you."

"Then who am I?"

"You are they."

"They? Who are they?"

"They are everywhere. They are nowhere. They want something from you."

"What? What do they want?"

"What you have but they do not."

"But I am one of them?"

"Soon you will be one of they."

"I don't understand."

"You should be me, you should be you. You should not be they."

Ben emptied his glass again and rubbed his face. Something didn't make sense.

"What can I do?" Ben asked his companion.

"Run. Fight. Die. Submit."

"Are those the options or the inevitable sequence?"


"Either way then, I run."


Ben rushed out of the pub back to his black van. He slid open the side door to see his three companions. "Is it safe?"

"That's what you're paying us for, isn't it?" said the white haired man in the black gloves.

"You'd better drive, Hannibal." said the sharply dressed ladies man.

"Where's B.A.?" asked Ben.

"Sorry, we couldn't persuade Mr. T to reprise his role. So, instead Murdock will play both roles." replied the face man.

"Cut your jibber jabber, you crazy fool!" Murdock said to himself.

"Okay..." Ben said uncertainly.

"Close that door - here they come!" shouted Hannibal as he shifted the van into action.

Ben slid the door closed but despite his best efforts was unable to catch a glimpse of their pursuers.

Face climbed out of the front passenger seat and made his way back into the rear compartment with the other two. "You'd better hold on, we're about to jump an unfinished bridge."

Just then Ben felt a strange falling sensation and then the sudden impact as they crashed down onto the busy interstate that was the other end of the bridge.

"There goes another set of axles." called Hannibal from up front. "Never mind, we can continue without them."

Murdock opened a small hatch in the floor and began welding on a new pair as they sped down the motorway.

Ben got up to move towards the front seats, only to be stopped by Face. "Ah, you don't want to go up there, kid. I don't think Hannibal's bathed in a few days..." Face said and pulled a face whilst holding his nose. Ben nodded and sat back down.

"Work, work, work, work. Work, work, work, work. Work, work, work, work. Work, work, work, work. Work, work, work, work. Work, work, work, work..." Murdock chanted as he welded a large metal plate onto the underside of the van.

"Did you know that great deals of stress and/or mental trauma act like a beacon to they?" Face asked conversationally.

Ben shook his head.

"Well, yes. It's very interesting, really. Varying degrees of infiltration cause corresponding varying degrees of mental disorder. Strong minds can fight they off, especially with help, and assuming the infestation is fairly minor. The worst-case scenario is when they take control completely. Then you are subsumed utterly. It's not unlike high finance..." Face continued.

"So that means, er..." Ben said looking worriedly at Murdock who was dangling down into the workings of the van.

"Quite... He's a spy, for they." Face said quietly so Murdock didn't hear. He crept up on his long time friend and, with a sharp kick, knocked the crazy fool into the machinery below.

"Hey! Ouch! Ow! Ooh! Argh! Ach!" Murdock exclaimed as he was ground into a fine paste over the road.

Face smiled and rubbed his hands together. "Now if you'll excuse me I have three dates tonight and I can't disappoint the lovely ladies... Oh, don't forget your package." Face said whilst handing something to Ben.

Just at that instant the entire back of the van exploded into darkness and they were all thrown forwards as the vehicle came to a dead stop.

"Quick, save yourself!" yelled Hannibal as he pulled open a small white door in the side of the van. "The mini-bar - get in!".

Ben flung himself into the mini-bar, closed the door behind him and ran through at least four departments before collapsing into a nice leather armchair. He looked about himself and realised that this particular bar was very similar in design to a grand department store. Where each department would be there was a little pub bar surrounded by people. Each department was different, one was just a simple bar, another had a number of snooker tables, another a series of small tables with leather arm chairs, another with a some flat television screens hanging from the ceiling and the odd small group standing around them.

"Hey man - take a look at this!" said a funny little man with large rabbit ears as he plonked a large microscope onto the table before Ben. The room shook and the lights dimmed considerably.

"Okay, I'll take a quick look but I've got to hurry, they are after me." Ben said to the strange furry fellow.

"Aw, that's bad news, man." said the drugged up sounding creature.

Ben looked into the microscope but saw nothing in the center except white light. Then he noticed that around the edges of the sample the silver sample tray was reflecting something. It was himself, looking into the microscope. That seemed perfectly reasonable to him. What didn't however was the other people reflected around him and apparently they were all standing in his living room at home. They were all grey and colourless except for one, the one standing directly behind him.

"Clare!" Ben exclaimed as he spun around and grabbed her into a hug.

After a brief moment he let her go and looked about him at the other people who were in their living room with them. "Who are they?" Ben asked Clare.

"They're the people who lived here before us."

Now that she mentioned it he did recognise two of them as the couple they bought the house from a few years earlier. "Listen, I can't stay long, they are after me."

"I know, what are you going to do? You can't run forever. They already have a piece of your mind. You cannot throw they off by building a new mind now." Clare said desperately.

The sky outside suddenly, instantly, became overcast, thrusting the house into virtual darkness. They both looked about themselves with mounting panic.

"What options have I got?" Ben asked.

"Run. Fight. Die. Submit." Clare repeated.

"Running isn't working, they are already in here, in me. Fight - I don't know how to fight they, I know that I can't! Die - I don't want to die. Submit - I will never submit! Never!" he said angrily.

All the light suddenly snapped off, he was in complete darkness and silence. He quickly switched his torch on and searched around.

"Clare..!" he called but knew she was gone. He ran out of the house which now appeared devoid of walls and furniture. The carpet faded into grass and he ran and ran for what felt like miles until he smacked headlong into a tree.

He picked himself off the ground, out of breath and with blood streaming down his face. The grass darkened. He grabbed onto the tree and before he knew it he was looking down at the now black grass from high up in the branches. "I will not let you take over my mind. I will not!"

He could feel the dark wind around him, he could feel it telling him he has no choice.

"Run - I can't. Fight - I can't. Submit - I won't. I have no choice. You won't get me. You won't!"

Ben pulled the package open and removed the toy of himself. He pulled off the battery cover. The tree suddenly animated, desperate to stop him. He fought off the darkened branches as they attempted to restrain him. He could feel they encroaching further and further into his mind. They were attempting to stop him from both inside and 'out'. His own limbs were beginning to betray him. With one last, desperate, ounce of control he pulled out the batteries, thinking of Clare as he did so.

The last thing he felt was a scream, almost an earthquake of rage given out by they as he watched the two batteries fall slowly to the floor.