Before I begin all of this, I am going to ask you to play a mental game for me. In this game, I want you to think of anything except a white horse. My psychology professor told us to play this exact game as a means to learning something about our memories and our mind. The object of the game is to think and go as long as you can without thinking about a white horse. Some people try to distract themselves by thinking of other things and some just try to blank their minds of everything. Just keep those results in the back of your mind.
I am a student at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. My major was Psychology and before you go about judging me, I had a practical use planned out for my major. I wanted to be an analogical therapist, (Please don’t combine those words) who gave therapy sessions to the less fortunate. Before all that could happen, I had to pass my senior year in college and that meant coming up with an original study for my senior capstone project.
I don’t want to get too in-depth in the field of psychology for fear of alienating the less knowledgeable or less interested, but just so the reader knows, there are a lot of different branches of psychology and I was interested in Jungian psychology. The major difficulty was that my professor was a Freudian psychologist and he directly influenced my senior capstone experience using his authority.
I had originally wanted to focus on the Jungian archetypes and their role in dreams, but my professor had steered me in another direction. He instead wanted me to focus on the subconscious and its impact on human behavior. It was unfortunate, but my desire to pass quickly outweighed my interests and I found myself carrying out my professor’s study while he was masquerading it as my own thesis project.
We debated the multiple possibilities we could employ to better know the collective unconscious that he insisted on calling the ID. (A Freudian term to define a hidden part of the mind that is made up of impulsive desires.) We butted heads a few times on this subject because of our Jungian and Freudian roots. I wanted to study the collective unconscious, a portion of the psyche that is interconnected in all of humanity and commonly referred to as inherent knowledge and professor Pankejeff wanted me to focus on the ID, subconscious desires.
This difference created an ever-present rift between us. It heavily impacted my study. I had wanted to study a series of subjects to better understand my concept and professor Pankejeff was more interested in doing a case study using a single person. We bickered about this for so long that the due date for my senior thesis snuck up on both of us and I had to relent and accept his idea of studying a single person. Due to the slow start, there were no available participants and I had to volunteer myself as the subject and the observer.
I am going to explain the process that we used to try and contact the subconscious, my subconscious. We used Franz Anton Mezmer’s concept of animal magnetism and trance-like states to put me into a somnambulistic state. The closest thing I can compare it to would be hypnotism without the clichéd pocket-watch or phrases like, “You are under my control and will do my bidding.” I know it sounds like bullshit, but to see it in action is another thing entirely.
When I went in for the first session, professor Pankejeff was waiting for me with a Richard Matheson book in his lap. He continued to thumb through it while I set up the camcorder to record the session.
I sat down, he closed the book, and said, “Are you ready to make that “Long Distance Call?” All you have to do is pick up that phone.”
I shrugged my shoulders; he had a tendency to make little-known book and movie references to feel smarter than he was. We started the session.
My next conscious moment was Pankejeff snapping his fingers in my face. I sat up slowly and inquired about how the session went.
He said in a deadpan manner, “Turns out you’re crazy.”
I gave another shrug, “Tell me something I don’t know.”
We reviewed the session and I was disappointed. I guess I had thought that we would have had a break-through or some big revelation about the human mind, but it was just thirty minutes of me looking dead-eyed and mumbling responses to our planned out questions.
That happened for the next two sessions as well. He would put me in a trance and ask a battery of questions like: “How do you feel?”, “What do you like to do in your free time?”, and “What are you thinking about now?” He would follow up with a moral quandary question to gauge my ethical understanding. After each session, I would sit down and record my findings in a red journal I had bought from a nearby store. I responded the first few sessions in the same dopey manner giving only one-word responses to the questions. I was getting ready to abandon the whole project until our fourth session.
I was brought out of that session with professor Pankejeff snapping excitedly in my face.
He only responded, “Something amazing.”
I sat down and watched the recording with bated breath. It began normal, but at the beginning of the questions. I responded in a more lucid state.
“How do you feel?”
“I feel great!”
“What do you like to do in your free time?”
“Whatever I’m feeling at the moment.”
He was about to ask the third question when I sat up from the bed. He explained that he thought I had woken up until he saw that my eyes were just as glassy as before. I answered the moral quandary questions in a self-serving manner. I said I would have kept a wallet I found on the street and told no one, I ignored people that were broken down on the side of the road, and I agreed with taking food out of the lobby fridge even without permission or ownership.
Pankejeff spoke excitedly, “I think we did it! I think we got in touch with your baser desires. Five or six more sessions and we could really be onto something!”
He shook my hand and we planned out our next session. I was really pumped about the whole thing. A case study like this may be enough to be actually published in a reputable psychology journal. We could be closer to understanding the mind.
The next session started off differently. Professor Pankejeff sat me down and told me that we were going to try and create a Pavlovian trigger to make it easier to slip into the trance state. If I imagined a certain object before every session, we could make it easier to go into a trance state so we could have more time to explore the ID. I wanted to correct him and say collective unconscious, but I bit my tongue. I told him that I would imagine a white horse in my mind before every session.
He grunted, “The Jungian archetype for instinctual urges and base desires? Have it your way.”
I spent a half hour before every session thinking of a white horse in the hopes of expediting the process.
A few sessions later and the Pavlovian response were really starting to work for us. Thinking of a white horse calmed me down and helped me enter a hypnotic state more expediently. We continued to get intriguing responses from my mesmeric self. We spent hours planning out what we would ask. I recorded all of my responses in the red journal for future reference.
On pure whim during one of the sessions as I was slipping away to that state where I could commune with the collective unconscious, professor Pankejeff asked me what I was seeing. My response was so intense and unnerving that I sat down and transcribed it here. I don’t know what influenced me to say what I did, but it sounded vaguely Lovecraftian and that alarmed me.
“I am sitting in a room, facing a window.”
“What’s beyond the window?”
“I am at the edge of a rift starring into immutable darkness, looking into the yawning abyss whose stygian depths have never been plumbed before. I want to look away, I want to shriek at what I am seeing, but the malformed abortions shriek for me. The homunculi screech as something tumbles up from void, disgorged from their writhing, ululating mass. It was entangled in the creeching, copulating, clashing amalgamation, but it has felt my gaze and is approaching. Detangled from the writhing forms, it moves towards me with a lurching, but vaguely human gait.”
“What does it look like?”
“It is here.”
In the tape, my eyes glazed over as I entered that familiar fugue state.
I must have watched and re-watched that tape five times. I couldn’t figure out what it all meant. Each time made me shiver. Was looking through that window into that chasm like peering into my subconscious? If that was the case, what were those writhing masses? Were they subconscious thoughts competing to make their desires known to me? If those things were homunculi as I so eloquently put it, were subliminal thoughts, what was that one that rose into my consciousness?
I decided that at my next session with professor Pankejeff, I would bring this up and see how it feels. I am not sure why I wanted this, but I had the urge to ask him if I could be restrained during the sessions. I think it was just how I described the homunculi as a shadowy figure that made me feel such sinister undertones towards it. The fact that I hardly knew anything about it and that it was communicating through me probably unnerved me the most.
As I walked through the campus courtyard towards the psychology lab, I took in the temperate environment and reveled in feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin for the first time in months. It was the first warm day we had had in months and it greatly affected my morale. I think it was the dark, dreary, and cold weather that had so profoundly influenced my mental state. I felt re-invigorated, I realized I had spent so much time indoors, writing notes, and barely eating anything.
Winter was finally waning and the students were out in droves to celebrate the change in seasons. Students were throwing Frisbees and basking in the sun. A few had even brought out their radios and were listening to the campus station. Students ran the radio station and every now and then, they would play old songs from the 80’s. I was walking by when I heard a snippet from a song with a catchy kind of electronic beat. It went like this:
“If you want to be rich.
You got to be a bitch.
Don’t ride the white-”
I walked out of ear-shot of the music and kept going on my way towards the psych lab.
I was a couple of yards away from the building when I started to feel dizzy. My head swam and my vision seemed to grow blurry. I managed a few more steps before collapsing onto the stairway that led to the building. I woke up in the hospital with a pounding headache and overall felt nauseas. The nurse calmly informed me that I had to take better care of myself. I had apparently passed out from exhaustion. I told her that I was working on my thesis and that I had neglected myself a bit to get it completed in time. I was released on my own recognizance. I went home and sent an email to professor Pankejeff explaining my situation. I told him I was going to take the next day off and get myself back to health.
I went to bed and woke up the next day. I felt better. The nausea had passed and my feeling of fatigue was gone. Professor Pankejeff hadn’t responded to my email, but I knew that he had a tendency to read an email and not send anything back confirming. I would show up to the lab the next day and schedule another session with him. I watched some old Sci-fi B movies on Youtube and relaxed for the rest of the day.
I went to the psychology lab the next day with my apology all prepared in my mind. Typically, I could find him in his laboratory with the DSM-IV book laid out in front of him or grading paperwork. He wasn’t there. I went to his office and found the door closed. There was a note on the door. It calmly stated that he was taking a leave of absence to deal with some family issues. My heart sank at reading that. I had wanted to discuss the relevance of what I had said during my last trance state.
I got in contact with the co-chair of the psychology department who advised me to review our notes and begin compiling the results while I waited for him to return. She seemed slightly disappointed that he had left on such short notice, but was understanding of the situation. She gave me a couple weeks extension and expressed her interest in seeing the final result of our study into the subconscious mind.
I went back to my room and began focusing on writing the thesis. The notes I had written about our sessions and my hypothesis flowed easily out onto my computer. Before everything was said and done, I was on page twenty and I had supported my hypothesis of the Jungian concept of collective unconscious with multiple psychologists both current and antiquated.
After that I began watching the tapes. Now I found that whenever I watched the tapes of our sessions, I was extremely anxious. Things that I had said while in my trance state that had seemed harmless albeit selfish earlier, now were tainted with an almost sinister quality.
The line that unnerved me the most was in the fifth session when professor Pankejeff asked me in my trance state, “What do you do in your free-time?”
To which I responded, “I do what I always wanted to do.”
I spent those ten days writing and reviewing my thesis. I only had the conclusion left and was fairly certain I could complete it in one or two more sessions. I was glad that professor Pankejeff had decided to set the camera to record after I had been put into the trance state. It saved some time and it seemed disconcerting to me the idea of drifting out of consciousness to commune with my unconscious. I was also secretly glad he had decided to take some time to deal with family issues. This whole experiment was beginning to feel ominous.
A few days later, I decided to swing by and see if professor Pankejeff had posted any update. There was nothing new there, but I did have an interesting encounter with another student.
She saw me hanging around his and asked me, “You’ve been working with the professor a lot lately; do you know when he’s going to come back?”
“How would I know?” She was caught off guard for a second before responding, “You were the one that put up his message on his door, I thought he must have told you something about when he would be back.”
My heart started to beat faster.
I asked her the question despite realizing how crazy it sounded, “You saw me put up the note?”
She raised her eyebrows and answered, “Yeah, are you all right? You look pale.”
I told her how I had passed out about two weeks ago and was still recovering. I told her that I didn’t know when professor Pankejeff would be back, but I would try to find out. I found out her name was Teresa, got her email address, and we parted ways. A horrible thought was festering in the back of my mind.
It didn’t take much work to get onto the Washington College website and look up professor Pankejeff’s information on the directory. I tried calling his home number, but there was no answer. I reasoned with myself that he could have been out or away from the phone. I called him two more times with the same results. I proceeded to look up his home address using his phone number and decided to drive down to his house, unsure of what I would encounter there.
It was a twenty-minute drive that gave me a lot of time to let that horrible thought fester and grow unfettered in my mind. I knocked on his door, but there was no response. I knew I was overstepping my bounds, but I had to know. I turned the knob and found it was locked. I looked around the yard and found a key under a conspicuous white rock. I unlocked the door and opened it and almost immediately, my nose was assaulted by a sickening smell. I lied to myself and prayed that it was just the odor of an ill-kempt house, but I knew better.
I found him in the kitchen. It appeared like he had opened the front door and then fled in terror back into the kitchen looking for some means to defend himself against the assailant. He must have tripped or been dragged into the center of the room where he had been brutally beaten with an old metal coffee pot. The viciousness of the attack left his face a broken mass that looked like an abstract painting. I don’t know how many blows it had taken to kill him, but I know that the assailant had kept beating him even after he had died. The pot was discarded next to his bloody, bruised, and putrefied corpse. He must have been dead for at least a week.
My worst fears became a reality when I turned from the broken and brutalized body to see that someone had painted something on the back of the front door. I could only stare at it in abject horror as those pieces all clicked into place. Painted on the door using whiteout was the outline of a white horse. It was painted so it looked like it was in mid-gallop. That image scared me more than the thought of the professor’s body pulverized with a blunt object. As I watched the white horse outline on the door, I started to feel dizzy. At first I thought it was shock setting in and then I realized in a supreme moment of terror that it wasn’t and I was slipping into a trance.
I came to in my room. I was lying in my bed and for a single, transcendent moment, I convinced myself that it was all some horrible nightmare. That idea deteriorated like ashes when I sat up and realized that my hands were stained a crimson red. I watched in utter revulsion as I made a fist and winced at the pain that it elicited in my hands. The caked blood crumbled from my fists. It felt like I had fractured a few bones in my hand, I knew that I had lost control to whatever that thing was and done something horrible.
I washed the blood off my hands, revealing bruised knuckles underneath and tried to understand everything. I realized what was happening. Our idea of using a white horse as a Pavlovian trigger to make it easier to put me in a trance state had horribly backfired. Now any extended thought of a white horse was enough to put me into a trance state and let that thing take control. I can think about it for only a few seconds before I start to feel myself losing control.
I’m still not sure what I did in my latest trance state, but I have an idea of who the target was. On my email account, I had sent an email out to Teresa a few hours ago while I was still in the trance state. I don’t want to know what happened. I have enough clues to piece it together: my fists are bruised and sore, I am missing a hank of hair from my head, I have a long scratch starting at the base of my neck that trails down to my chest, and I got sick a few minutes ago and I vomited up about a pint of a reddish substance with a bunch of crumpled up pages from a small book.
It didn’t take too long to connect the ingested pages to the red book where I had been keeping my thesis notes. They were soggy and illegible from soaking in my gastric juices for a few hours. I opened up the red book to see if there was anything left that I might be able to give as evidence to the police for these absurd events, but there is nothing except a few pages left. Anything I do now will make me seem stock raving mad. I can’t go to the police or they’ll lock me away. There are a few pages left in the red journal. They all have the same phrase written on them, repeating in a repugnant mantra, “I’m here now, I’m here now, I’m here now…”
I realize now that the homunculus, that aberrant thought, is trying to take control of my life to live out its vicious urges. I have no doubt that my thesis has probably been erased from my computer should I go to check it. My only hope is to go as long as I can without think of it and hoping that it fades away. The passing of time should lessen the effects of it in time like I had once read about the Ludovico technique that was used to condition ultraviolent youth in England to have a physically nauseating reaction to violence. In those studies, the Pavlovian effect only lasted a few weeks. I still have a chance of not losing myself to these subconscious desires.
Days have passed. I have holed myself up in my room and I now realize how much of a fool I had been. I thought that I could escape falling into a trance state by not thinking of my trigger words, but that is foolish. If you remember the mental game I asked you to play earlier and knew the mechanics you would realize how foolish of a thought it was. I tried to distract myself from the white horse trigger by thinking of other things, but that has only linked that different thought to the image of a white horse. Now I know that every thought is like a chain that leads back to those trigger words that are capable of sending me into that trance state. My rapture is approaching me like a wave and there is nothing I can do to stop it.
It’s not going away. Every thought is starting to make me feel tired and I am growing tired of this mental cat-and-mouse. I have a feeling that the next time I go under, I will wake in a jail cell, I will find out what the world after death is like, or worst of all, I will never come out from under the homunculus’ control. I am tired of fighting it. I have been awake for days now. There is a line of music rattling around in my head and it is infectiously catchy and I feel myself growing wearier by the second. Where is that song coming from?
“Here I lay,
still and breathless
just like always.
Still I want some more.
who cares what’s behind?
Just like always,
still your passenger.”
I am here.
Written by EmpyrealInvective