A Matter Of

Self Control

This story was inspired by ataxiophobia, which is the Fear of ataxia. (muscular incoordination)

I have a real problem. Or, rather, I would say that I had a problem. Well, I guess I do still currently have a problem, but really it’s not going to be a problem for too much longer, considering the present state of things. I know that that may not be an incredibly informative way for me to begin recounting the events that put me in this position, but I have personally hit a point where I honestly do not know what to say, how to say it, or whether it’s really worth even saying anything. Worse yet, I don’t even know if the words that are coming out of my mouth belong to me, or if the thoughts that are rapidly bouncing around inside my thick skull are actually mine, or if they’ve been implanted by some foreign entity. I’ve done things over the past few days that make no sense, and I’m terrified of what I’m about to do next.

Let me start over, maybe explaining things from the start will lead to some sort of epiphany of where it all went wrong. If nothing else, it’ll be a nice way to document the horrors that I’ve been through and maybe I can use it as some sort of explanation when they try to build a psychological profile for why this all happened. Thinking back though, when was the first time I noticed something happening that was off? Was it on that date? Was it on the drive home from work that one day? Or….

No, it was that day at work. It was as boring as every other day that I’ve ever lived through. I guess you would need to know what I do for a living to know how boring that actually is; I work for a crappy call center, taking inbound support calls for insurance companies. Most of my job is taking calls and answering basic questions for people that are too lazy to open up an internet browser and search for things like “Is a brick flying through my windshield covered by my insurance”, or “My two year old set my couch on fire and nearly killed everyone in the apartment complex, will this increase my rates?”. No joke, I’ve had both of those questions, and each time something like this would come in, I could feel life draining rapidly from my body. It’s not even that they’re too lazy to Google something, it’s that the answers are typically pretty obvious. Where did the brick come from? Oh, your ex wife, yeah, probably not covered unless you have full-coverage.

I’m not even going to dignify the two-year-old pyromaniac with a second thought.

Anyways, that was my life; answer the phone, die inside, explain why I was dying inside to the customer, and then start it all over again within 5 minutes. The only time I felt like life was worth living was when I was hitting the button to clock out for lunch, or for the end of the day, and that was just because I could go home, pour myself a drink, and forget that my existence was hell.

As I said, it was that day at work where this all started. In fact, it was one of the dumbest calls I had ever gotten in the entire time I’d worked there. It went kind of like this; I said hello, the angry man on the other end of the line said “Why did you raise my rates?” I took his information, looked up his account, and found that he’d been in 4 accidents in the last 6 months, and each one he was determined to be at fault. When I was typing my notes, I tried to type something like ‘customer is upset that his rates have increased, reason: numerous at-fault accidents. Sending email to insurance agent to discuss’, but while those exact words were going through my mind, and I thought that those were the words I was typing, I ended up inputting a note that said ‘customer is an angry idiot that has zero understanding of how the world works, and if they were to die in a car crash the average IQ of the planet would increase substantially’. Worse yet, I actually submitted that as the note on the account.

At first, as I stared at the words on the screen, I thought it was hilarious, but then I realized that everyone could see it. My co-workers, the insurance agents.

My boss, Maria.

I panicked and had no idea what to do beyond own up to it. I immediately picked up my phone and dialed Maria’s extension. I told her that I had typed up a passive aggressive note about the customer to ‘relieve some stress’ and that I accidentally submitted it. She then took me off the phone and called me into her office and we had to have a corrective action style conversation about it. She laughed, sure, but she told me that it was not OK, and that it would count as a formal write-up. I told her I understood, and after a short conversation about keeping my anger inside when it came to the customers, I went back to my desk and continued working.

That was the first moment where things were weird. I assumed that I had simply been thinking the words I typed and not what I wanted to type, and somehow managed to just type my angry thoughts. Fortunately, it was correctable, she edited the notes to say what I wanted, she documented that I had done something bad, and we moved on. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last time this happened, in fact something similar happened the very next day. I was on a call, listening to the customer talk about how they had managed to accidentally break a sliding glass door with a chair, and in the middle of my response the call went dead. I heard the whole thing just disconnect. I said hello multiple times to try and re-establish the conversation, but the call was definitely over. It wasn’t until then that I realized that my hand was on the base of my phone holding the button to hang up the call. I was nothing short of confused, but again, I thought maybe I was doing things that I wanted to do subconsciously. Then it happened again. And again. By the fifth time I’d hung up on a customer, my manager had caught onto the fact that something was going on; my calls were ending abruptly, I was adding notes that the calls were disconnecting without a conclusion, and the customers were getting flagged in our system as call-backs, because they were calling back within the hour. If you’ve ever working in a call center, you’ll know all about that number tracking and how they watch you.

Maria once again called me into her office and asked me what was going on. I tried to think of something, anything that would work in this scenario; thankfully I’ve always been a decent liar. I said that I thought that the phone line to my receiver may be shorting out, because the calls were sounding staticy on my end, and then dropping. It was the one thing they couldn't verify in their recordings, because the calls would always sound clear on their systems. It was a get out of jail free card in this situation, and she bought it. She said she would have the support desk look at my workstation, but until then I was to move to a different desk. I agreed, and set up my work station at that desk.

It didn’t get better. In fact, I saw it happen in real time; I watched as I was answering a customer’s question; my hand lifted up off my mouse, moved over to the receiver and my finger slammed down on the button to hang up. I watched this whole event play out with my own two eyes; my hand did this all on its own, and no matter how my brain told it not to, it didn’t matter. My hand followed through on the motion no matter how much I wanted to stop it, no matter how much I tried to stop it. I didn’t even feel my arm move, I didn’t feel my finger extend, and I didn’t feel the sensation as my finger moved down to hit the button. It was as if someone else was pulling my arm up, and manipulating my hand, as if someone else’s brain was firing the synapses that told my arm to move and follow through on the motions.

As soon as it happened I threw my headset down and pushed my chair back just staring at my hand. I could feel my hand, move it, manipulate it and do whatever I wanted to, but for that moment in time it was like it wasn’t mine. I moved it around, wiggled my fingers, grabbed my other hand to make sure everything was working, and it all was, at least it all was at that moment. Once again I was at a loss- I had no idea what I needed to do to remedy this situation, but before I could come up with an answer, I noticed that I was already standing up and walking toward my boss’ office. I hadn’t planned on talking with her, but yet I was now standing in Maria’s doorway and tapping on the door to get her attention. She very politely looked up at me and asked how she could help me.

I wanted to say something like “I need to go to the doctor, I’m losing my mind” but instead the words that came out were “You know what, Maria? I’ve always wanted to tell you that you’re an absolute dumb ass, and I genuinely hope that, on your way home from work, your car flips a dozen times into a river, and they never find your body.” She sat there with a stone cold look on her face, almost as if she half expected these words to come from me. She then smiled and said “Anything else you want to tell me before you leave?” The best thing I could have said in this scenario was “I am so sorry, I don’t know what’s gotten into me”, the worst thing I could have said was “As a matter of fact, there is. Your sense of style is nothing short of a pile of colorful vomit, and half of the office has made comments about how much weight you’ve gained over the last month. You should lay off the donuts. Also, you’re even dumber than you look if you can’t see that your husband has been sleeping with Sharon down in HR; they’ve literally done it in your office in the middle of the day, and numerous people witnessed it, we just all hate you too much to actually say anything to you about it.”

I’ll let you take a guess which one of those two things were actually said, but I’ll give you a hint by telling you that I became unemployed at that moment in time.

I wish it had ended there, but of course it didn’t. On my way out the door, as I was being escorted out of the building by my manager and a few other higher ups, I randomly stopped at Sharon’s desk and yelled out “The whole office knows that you’re screwing half the guys that work here”, and I then grabbed the photo of her and her husband off her desk and threw it across the room. The security guys that were with my manager ended up having to grab my arms and literally throw me out of the building, because no matter how much I wanted to leave, how much I wanted to stop causing a scene and doing what I was doing, I couldn’t. It was as if I was unconscious, and my body was just doing random things that it wanted to do, and all I could do was sit off to the side and watch as the whole thing unfolded. It was as if I had been possessed by some kind of evil spirit, and it was doing whatever the hell it thought was fun. I was simply the victim of circumstance; my life was being altered by something outside of my control, but it was using my body.

After they threw me from the building, and I had gotten into my car, I just kind of sat there and stared at the steering wheel. What in the name of God was going on with me? These past few days it was like I was someone’s puppet, a marionette that was being told to dance, and I couldn’t stop whoever was tugging at the strings. I started the car and started my drive home, thinking that I just needed to get to the house, go to sleep, and when I woke up tomorrow this sick nightmare would be over.

Of course it wasn’t that simple, it never is. On the way home, I was stopped at a red light, just waiting for my turn to go. Two ladies with their dogs were crossing the road in front of me, walking in the crosswalk while the light for them to go was lit up- they were doing everything they were supposed to be doing. I was watching them go about their business as normal, when I heard the sound of a revving engine, and noticed that they had looked over in my direction. I looked down, and as soon as I did, I felt the jerk of the car as it lurched forward. I have no idea if I hit either woman, or if I hit their dogs; I honestly didn’t look up to see the whole thing play out. I know that there was a lot of sound when I went forward, but I was too much of a coward to see it happen.

None of my limbs, at this point, seemed to be under my control. I was passing cars on the wrong side of the road, I was gunning past people in crosswalks, I was speeding through stop signs and lights, and at one point I just closed my eyes and waited for my car to smash into something and kill me. I was more surprised when it didn’t happen, when I felt my car stop somewhere and I heard the parking brake engage, and the engine shut off. When I finally opened my eyes and looked up, I was sitting in front of someone’s house, a house that seemed familiar, but one that I didn’t really know. I got out of my car and walked up to the front door, then rang the doorbell.

A man answered, a man that I’d recognized as Maria’s husband. He recognized me and asked how he could help me; it seemed that she hadn’t called home about what I had said before I was thrown out. I opened my mouth to tell him that I was sorry for outing him, that it was none of my business what he did, and that something else was controlling me. Of course I didn’t say that though, instead I said “Actually, yeah, I was wondering if I could talk to you about Maria. I’ve noticed a change in her behavior at work and I’m worried about her. May I come in?” And of course he let me in; my words, or rather the words that I said, were kind and made me sound like I was worried about his wife. Nothing about me appeared malicious, nothing I said seemed like it was problematic, or like I was a threat, so he calmly opened the door and let me into his home.

His hospitality was the worst thing he could have offered at that point in time. I had no idea personally why I was in his house, or what I was going to do, but I knew something was going to happen that was out of my control. I knew it was going to be worse when I asked him if I could get a glass of water first, even more so when I mentioned to him that I would get it myself. He was so kind to me, so polite about this man that he barely knew standing in his house. It wasn’t until my hands grabbed the large knife from the block that I knew what was going on. My hands pulled the knife, placed it calmly behind my back and then my feet started walking back toward the living room. I begged myself in my mind not to do it, I pleaded within my own brain to not harm this man, that I had already caused enough damage and I was silently screaming that I could just stop now and leave and everything would be fine.

Then I heard the thoughts echoing back, telling me that I had to do it. Not only had my limbs and mouth left my control, my own thoughts were now someone else’s. The words that rang out in my brain were those of encouragement, telling me to follow through, murder this man, end his pointless life; and my own voice that was begging myself to not kill him was nothing more than a whisper.

As I walked back into the living room, he was facing away from me, standing in the middle of the room and staring at his cellphone. He barely got the chance to turn toward me, to utter the words “You said you wanted to talk about Maria?” before the kitchen knife was driven into his back. I have no idea how many times my hands stabbed him, how many times I drove the knife into him before whatever was controlling me had decided that was enough; I lost count after ten or so.

His body slumped onto the ground as my hands pulled the knife from him and my legs took a few steps back. I looked at the scene in front of me, and I could feel my lips curl up in a smile. How the hell could I smile after I had murdered an innocent man? This question was answered by my own brain- he wasn’t innocent, he deserved what happened. I could feel my heart rate increase, I could feel my breathing getting faster as an instance chuckle escaped my lungs.

I wanted to drive the knife into my own body and end this, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t move any part of my body at all. I was numb, I was empty. All I could do was watch as everything happened around me. I pulled the man from the floor and I situated him in a chair in the living room, then I went and I hid in the closet by the front door. I asked myself what was next, and my own brain answered back that we needed to wait for Maria to get home. And that’s what I did, whether I wanted to or not.

You can imagine how it all played out, she unassumingly walked in the front door, closed it gently behind her, and placed her purse down on the side table. She sighed as she walked into the entryway and toward the living room, and then started to say that “They needed to have a talk”. But I think at the end of this sentence, she must have noticed the display that I had set up for her, because she let out a scream, a scream that caused my legs to spring into motion, that caused my hands to grab her throat, and that caused me to throw her down and squeeze until she was no longer breathing.

I just watched as my body committed its second murder, potentially third considering the whole thing with the ladies crossing the road earlier, and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it. I watched as my hands grabbed her cellphone, as they dialed 911, and I listened as my voice told the dispatcher to send police because I had just murdered these two people. Then I walked over to the front door and just stood there- leading me to where I am right now. I’ve been standing here for about ten minutes, just staring at the front door and waiting, with the knife in my hand, for the police to show up. I cannot count the number of times I have tried to do anything to stop myself, but I know what’s coming next. I have a weapon, I reported that I‘d committed murder, and the police are coming- I know what I my body is setting up to happen.

Every second feels like it's passing in slow motion as the sirens get closer. Every breath is slow and meticulous, almost as if my breathing is automated. My eyes are blinking at the exact moments they need to to stop the sweat from dripping into them. I can hear everything, I can see everything, and I’m sure that I’m about to feel every agonizing moment of my own death…

And what’s worse is that I can’t do a damn thing to stop it…