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Excerpt for The Invisible Ear by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

THE INVISIBLE EAR


WRITTEN AND LIVED BY


MICHAEL HARDING


PUBLISHED BY THE GRACE OF GOD

GAYLORD L’ANSE NISULA WINONA MASS CITY

VANDERBILT EAST LANSING EVANSTON

CHICAGO SAN FRANCISCO LOS ANGELES

PILSEN REALNESS COOK COUNTY JAIL EDEN

THE INVISIBLE EAR


Copyright © 2018 by Michael Harding


All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without permission from its author, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law. For permissions contact: mjh826@gmail.com


DISCLAIMER


Legal mumbo-jumbo:

This book is a combination of mostly facts about my life and an occasional embellishment.  The information in it is true and complete to the best of my knowledge. I have tried to recreate events, locales, and conversations from my memories of them.  Names, dates, places, events, and details may have been changed, invented, and altered for literary effect. The reader should not consider this book anything other than a work of literary nonfiction.  In any case, the claims that I made are based entirely upon my personal experiences and opinions. Furthermore, like some justices, judges, and prosecutors, I am not a legal expert; therefore, I am not accusing anyone I may have mentioned in this book of any illegal wrongdoing.


ISBN 978-1-980-92681-8


For more information visit:

www.outshinedark.wordpress.com

CONTENTS

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

MAYA ANGELOU


CONTENTS


DEDICATION


EPIGRAPH


PREVOICE


INTRODUCTION TO MY DESTRUCTION

Cloudy with a Chance of Phish and Chips


A NEW BEGINNING ANEW

Bread and Butter


MIND OVER MATTER

Walking to the Beat of City Streets

Telecommuting

Drinking Games and Mind Games

Broken Record

Silent Reading


FIRED UP! READY TO GO!

The Sounds of Success

Along Came a Spider Network

Cloudy Hazing

Insane in the Membrain

Fire and Ice


INDICTMENT AND CONFINEMENT

Tipping the Scales of Justice with Money

Jailing

Night Light

Tunnel Vision

I Know Why the Caged Jailbird Sings

Buried Treasure

Waiting for Our World to Change

Disorder in the Court

Lady Justice Has Gone Gaga

SISU

Guiding Light

Trials and Tribulations


‘L’OVE

Freedom’s Just Another Word for Illusion

Window to the World

Pee-Wee, May I Borrow Your Tinfoil Ball?

Alexa, Siri, How Does Technology Work?

Eeyore, I Feel Your Pain, Honey

The Walls Have Invisible Ears


BILL OF RIGHTS


SPECIAL THANKS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


WISE WORDS BY WHICH TO LIVE


LAST BUT NOT LEAST

DEDICATION


A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit,

a golden thread to the meaning of life.


ISADORA JAMES


I wholeheartedly dedicate this book to my niece, goddaughter, and hero, Carly. And to Carly’s “mommy,” and my sister, Leah. Leah is no longer with us physically, but she lives on in all the lives she touched.  I only briefly mentioned Leah in this book, but her name graces the cover, just like she graced my life. She’s always with me and always will be. And for all the individuals I know, and for all the individuals I haven’t yet had the privilege to meet who have had their voices muted, ignored, or silenced.  I heard you, I hear you, and I care deeply about you. Your cause is my cause. I promise always to do “write” by you while keeping in mind that actions speak louder than words. Special thanks at the end of the book.

L E A H


1983 – 2015


My heart still aches in sadness, and secret tears still flow…


What it meant to lose you no one will ever know…


Your love will live on in my heart forever…


EPIGRAPH


Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in. And, when you stumble, keep faith. And, when you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.


hillary rodham clinton


Author’s Note: Love her or HATE her, the above are wise and inspiring words by which to live.

PREVOICE


Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on.


THURGOOD MARSHALL


THIS IS MY STORY, BUT I WROTE IT FOR YOU. I wrote The Invisible Ear hoping it would awaken the senses and clear the cobwebs from the minds of everyone who reads it or hears about it (no puns intended). I wrote this book for the future of our country, for the future of the human race, and for the future of our world. I wrote The Invisible Ear because I care about you, and I love you. SPOILER ALERT: Welcome to the New Age! It’s been “waving” at you, and you’ve been “waving” back without even realizing it, yet.


I think it’s worth noting that the writing in this book contains some grammar mistakes. Most of the minor errors I made were intentional (more on my reasons for doing so later in this book), but a couple were quite possibly the result of my own grammatical ignorance. Admittedly, I even ended a few sentences with a preposition. In fact, I ended the previous sentence with a preposition. Can you identify my attempt at humor? Reread the third sentence of this paragraph and think about it for a second. *ba-dum-ch* (I love word games! Grammarians, I love you too!)


I added grammatical errors for the following reasons: First, my writing is full of symbolism and some hidden and not so hidden double meanings. We are all surrounded by countless symbols, many of them have deep, dark, and secret meanings that are widely unknown to the general public. For example: the first (6), middle (6), and last (6) numbers of most product barcodes, which are also called the guard numbers. (Check for yourself if you don’t believe me.) This book, my writing, and the words I used are symbols. Not only are words symbols, the word words is an anagram of the word sword.


Secondly, this book and my writing aren’t perfect, I’m not perfect, and neither is the world we live in. (Or the world we live in now or the world in which we live to avoid the ghastly mistake of ending a sentence with a preposition.)


Lastly, but most importantly, while this book isn’t perfectly written, at least not grammatically, that doesn’t mean that the story I wrote isn’t honest and truthful. Just like the honest and truthful voices of individuals who aren’t perfect who find the courage to stand up to and speak out against powerful people and organizations that seem close to perfect until their immoral and criminal behavior is finally exposed.


I know that a lot of individuals who have been victimized don’t always speak up when they are abused because they fear that nobody will believe them or listen to them. Not necessarily because of the perceived believability of the claims they want to make against their attackers, but often because of who they are, who they are not, and sometimes out of concern that they will be judged by the words they use or misuse.


Compassionate, intelligent, hardworking, and extremely patriotic Americans who struggle to make an honest living in a world where the cards are stacked against them, often through no fault of their own. Mainly because we live in a society that is dominated and controlled by an “EL-LITE” group of corrupt individuals and organizations that allow specifically targeted groups of people to suffer needlessly no matter how hard they try or how loud they speak up about the injustices they face and struggle to overcome.


Our society often places a higher value on an individual’s education level, vocabulary, grammar, financial net worth, job title, zip code, and so on, than it does on their moral character and virtue. For the record, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with recognizing educational, professional, and financial success; however, I personally place a much higher value on a person’s loving heart, helping hand, and their caring soul—the real, not perceived, value and net worth of someone’s life.


I’ve heard the echoing silence, scared whispers, and the all too often unanswered pleas for help from disenfranchised Americans without a voice. Voices that are frequently muted and silenced by a system that is rigged against them. A system that allocates more funding to throwing the book at someone in a court of law than it does to educating them with books, teachers, and good schools. If you continue to read this book, you will hear some of their voices in my voice. A voice I finally found after listening to and learning from some of the frequently ignored and unjustly discredited voices of a lot of remarkable people.


Readers have told me that The Invisible Ear contains a remarkable, powerful, and inspirational narrative. It’s a story I not only wrote but also lived. From start to finish, it took me about two months to write. I would have spent more time working on it, and I eventually will, but once I decided to write this book only weeks ago, I wanted to make it available as soon as possible. I deeply regret that I waited for as long as I did to open up about the terrible secret I’ve been living with that I now know is damaging the lives of countless other unsuspecting innocent victims—quite possibly even you or one of your loved ones.


I think it’s worth noting that I am an amateur writer. This book is the first book I have attempted to write. (I hope and plan to write several more.) The most I had ever written before I started to write this book was a ten-page college term paper, and I’ve never taken a writing class other than basic college English. My writing, much like my life, is a constant work in progress.

I hope you enjoy reading my story, and I hope it empowers you. Please feel free to let me know how your overall experience reading this book was by writing your review online or by contacting me personally. I appreciate all constructive feedback, and I will use it as the foundation for my upcoming book projects. More about me and how to contact me at the end of the book in the “About the Author” section. Many heartfelt thanks!


Sidebar (there are a few italicized “sidebars” in this book): One of the grammatical errors I made in this book is I referred to businesses, organizations, and the like as they/them/their. I know I should have used it/its instead; however, since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, corporations, by law, have the same rights as individuals. (Supreme Court: It’s We the People not We the Corporations!) Therefore, I’d argue, respectfully and peacefully of course, that using they/them/their to describe corporations is grammatically correct.

INTRODUCTION TO MY DESTRUCTION


Every great dream begins with a dreamer.

Always remember, you have within you

the strength, the patience, and the passion

to reach for the stars to change the world.


HARRIET TUBMAN


Cloudy with a Chance of Phish and Chips


ALTHOUGH MY LIFE HAD EXPERIENCED more than its fair share of storms—almost more storms than one life can take—it was going well. I wasn’t perfect, and neither was the life I lived, but I tried hard each and every single day to build the best life I could. I did my best regardless of whether I experienced rain or shine, sleet or snow, foggy mornings, or clear starry nights. I put forth a valiant effort irrespective of the weather conditions and circumstances I faced, and I had a lot of help and support along the way.


My teachers and mentors not only provided me with countless tools and other valuable resources, they also taught me how to use them. Their support and guidance—along with my drive, determination, and passion—helped lay the solid foundation I needed to build the structured and well-balanced life I had always dreamed of having and living.


Many of my dreams and goals were finally becoming a reality. Not even gravity could hold me down as my life started to rise higher than the trellis of flowering vines that grew high into the sky in front of a house I once called home. A nurturing home, located on the top of a hill that overlooks San Francisco, where I once lived, laughed, learned, and flourished.


I’ll be straight with you, the life I led was far from perfect—it was even disastrous at times. My life was definitely a work in progress with a major learning curve, but I firmly believed it was headed in the right direction. I might not have been an up and coming cut-throat salesman—and I’m not the most excellent writer—but I was becoming a pretty darn good foreman of sorts. With the help of many wonderful people, I drafted a blueprint for the purposeful life I planned to build and live—a life I intended to use to serve Americans and change the world.


Life, much like weather, can change suddenly and severely without any warning. The weather was calm and comfortable on the dreadful and ominous day that changed my life drastically, dramatically, and forever. Unsurprisingly, perfectly predicted by my favorite Chicago weatherman.


I trusted the weather forecast of this locally beloved meteorologist and a man of the community. He had nothing to gain by lying about the weather or by protecting his loyal and faithful viewers from an approaching storm without warning them. If he lied about the weather, he would risk losing his credibility and damaging his reputation.


I once read that this weatherman didn’t always need advanced technology to predict the weather. According to the article I read, all he needed to do was stand on the balcony of his high-rise condo and look at the sky.


I’ve stood on balconies in and around Chicago that have provided me with unobstructed views of spectacular sunrises over a Great Lake named after a great state that is home to some of the greatest people I know. From the windows and roof tops of some of the world’s tallest buildings, I’ve taken in panoramic vistas of stunning sunsets over a pleasant prairie that is home to some of the most pleasant people I’ve ever met.


Hundreds and hundreds of feet below those balconies and skyscraper outlooks, I had an even better view: the landscape and lifescape of a metropolis built by the world’s broad shoulders, bright minds, loving hearts, and caring souls. An unparalleled view of a city where millions of people from around the world enjoy life and a magnificent view when it isn’t obstructed.


On that picture-perfect day, as I stood firmly on solid ground and looked out in amazement at the wondrous world around me, I slowly but surely made my way through the city in a garden that I had lived in most of my adult life. At the time, I had no idea a storm of sorts was brewing on my horizon. My eyes didn’t see any clouds in the bright blue sky above me, and I had no clue that an invisible cloud of sorts surrounded my head.


Not a puffy cumulus cloud like the ones I would watch form and travel across the sky while I enjoyed a lazy summer day at Hollywood Beach. Not a dense layer of low lying fog clouds that form when the cool air of an ocean named after the Latin word for peaceful dances with warmer inland air; the finger-like fog I used to love to watch roll past the Golden Gate Bridge and over the San Francisco Bay as it gently blanketed a city filled with golden hearts and peaceful souls. Not to be confused with the picturesque and tight-knit city by the bay (more like small-town with a big heart) located in the Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I had the privilege of being raised. I saw those cloud formations as clear as day. I didn’t, however, see the invisible cloud my head was in on the picture-perfect yet fateful day that I will now write openly and honestly about as well as the days, months, and years that followed.


During the past few weeks, I’ve been hastily trying to write this book hoping to open the eyes, ears, and minds of everyone who reads it or hears about it to a secret I have been living with for more than ten years. A secret I have known to be true—without a doubt in my mind—for about three years. It’s a secret so perplexing and surreal, I have been trying for years to figure out how it is possible and how to explain it to you.


I wish I didn’t know about this deeply hidden secret, and I wish I could keep it private. I would keep this secret to myself if I felt convinced that I could protect you from its powerful and violent storm. I can’t even begin to try to shelter you from the grave ramifications of this secret if I don’t at least try to tell you about it.


My shelter walls are covered in cobwebs, invisible ears, and even invisible eyes. I have conclusive and irrefutable evidence that proves your shelter walls are too. Have you heard the sounds of silence? Do you have an invisible ear? Is your head in a cloud?


Everywhere I go a cloud follows me. No, my name isn’t Eeyore. My name is Michael, and this is my story. My story is not fiction, and it is not science fiction. The Invisible Ear is a factual and detailed account of my horrendous ordeal with a debilitating phenomenon that I have had to try to live with on and off for more than ten years. I’m writing this story about my real-life experiences because I don’t want anyone else to have to go through anything like the excruciating mental abuse and trauma I had to forcefully and arduously endure.


I don’t always need a meteorologist’s forecast to provide me with the information I need to prepare myself for the weather. Sometimes, all I need to do is open my eyes, listen for sounds, feel the air temperature, and use common sense. I hope my story will help you open your eyes and your mind to what is happening in the world behind closed doors, right in front of your face, and deep inside your mind that affects your life much more than the weather does.

A NEW BEGINNING ANEW


I dedicate this chapter to my jail family. Although it came with bologna, I’ve never broken bread with better people.


Bread and Butter


I WASN’T A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS MAN, but I was spiritual. I saw, heard, and felt God wherever I went (more on how and where throughout this book). I hadn’t regularly attended church since I was a child in Sunday school and confirmation, but I believed in God, and I had faith in God. I also had faith in our world, faith in humanity, faith in the Land of Liberty, and most importantly, faith in myself. I believed that I needed to have faith in myself before I could put my faith in God.


I lived in the light of love, and I shed light on the shadows cast by darkness whenever and wherever I found them. No, I didn’t regularly attend religious services, but I spent as much time as I could in a church of a different nature—my church is our world. And I didn’t need to attend prayer breakfasts or soup suppers for fellowship, although those are wonderful community gatherings. All I had to do for fellowship was make a reservation at my favorite restaurant or swing by a friend’s house for brunch or dinner.


Every meal I shared with others had soul food on the menu. Not necessarily the food itself, but rather the camaraderie, thought-provoking conversation, laughter, and feelings of love a table of people who at one time or another were complete strangers can manifest—phenomena of light and love. When I dined with others, I often felt like I was breaking bread with God.


It was the Sabbath, or Sunday Funday as many people call it now. Instead of drinking the blood of Christ from a gold-plated chalice and sitting in a pew with other holy worshipers, I was sipping on white tea sweetened with raw sugar as I took a seat at a table with a handful or so of other hungry brunchers. My unorthodox Sunday fellowship, which had become a new tradition and ritual for me, was in full swing.


My friends and I feasted on the following: cage-free (but not free-range) eggs served scrambled, sunny-side up, and over easy; sizzling applewood-smoked bacon; smoked hickory sausage; American fries with sausage gravy; crispy hash browns; flap jacks with pecan wood maple syrup; cream-filled butter-sugar crepes; a variety of freshly-squeezed fruit juices; coffee; tea; and brunch simply isn’t brunch without liquid libations. I was feeling a little under the weather, so I downed a couple of sports drinks and continued to sip tea.


I had never tasted food so good. Every nibble I gobbled up, and every mouthful I swallowed, were pure bliss—like a party in my mouth. I didn’t want to stop munching and brunching with my friends, and although I was joyfully immersed in fellowship, I felt the need to spend some time outdoors—at “church”—alone. I hadn’t spent much time outside in nature in recent months because I had been working a ton and the weather was awful. I could tell by glancing out a window that the drizzly wet morning had turned into a glorious afternoon.


Based upon my limited knowledge of weather, I assumed a front had passed. The sky was still mostly cloudy, but the rain had stopped, and the sun was starting to peek through. I hadn’t watched the daily weather forecast of my favorite local meteorologist in weeks because the weather had become as depressing as the news. But I had heard from several people that average day-time temperatures, which had been falling precipitously for some time, were finally going to rise again. Midwesterners were finally going to get their first taste of summer. Yes, I lived in a world swarming with weatherman, and since I’m on the subject, I also lived in a world crawling with political talking heads and self-righteous preachers with a choir but no church.


I often got baffled by the fact and unfortunate truth that people talked more about the weather than they did about life. Everywhere I went I got a weather forecast and a daily rundown of the current political climate. Sometimes, I even got preached to by someone who didn’t know me from Adam. I never understood how someone could judge another person without ever having spent a single moment in their world.


Even more baffling and troubling, I rarely got asked if I was happy. I noticed that people often shared how they were feeling physically, but hardly ever mentioned their mental health, if at all. I also listened to a lot of people talk about how health conscious they were, but when it came to their level of spiritual consciousness and personal enlightenment, I heard crickets.


On this day, like most days, I was happy and doing well, but my mind was overloaded with over-stimulating conversation as well as thoughts of work deadlines and a tumultuous breakup. My heart had been broken recently, and I only had myself to blame. Thankfully, my loving and sweet as sugar friends helped me wash down the jagged bitter pill I had to painfully swallow. Whenever my world came tumbling down, I always had caring and supportive friends to lean on until I was ready and able to stand up and start walking again.


I noticed that my leg had fallen asleep. My eyes became heavy, and my energy level was waning, so I thought about switching to my usual coffee. I wasn’t drinking coffee because I hadn’t been sleeping well as of late, and as I mentioned earlier, I was feeling a little under the weather. To make matters worse, I had slipped into a food coma, so I decided it was time for me to skedaddle. I felt so exhausted at this point I could have fallen asleep standing up, which I had done before while riding a packed ‘L’ home during my daily commute.

MIND OVER MATTER


My first day in Chicago, September 4, 1983. I set foot in this city, and just walking down the street, it was like roots, like the motherland. I knew I belonged here.


OPRAH WINFREY


Walking to the Beat of City Streets


AS I PULLED OPEN THE SLIDING GLASS PATIO DOOR of the charming home where I had just finished devouring a savory Sunday brunch, I was warmly greeted by dazzling rays of sunshine and the melodic songs of chirping birds. I tapped my pockets to make sure I had my keys and phone, thanked my friends for their hospitality, and I hoped nobody was mad at me.

In addition to a hot gourmet breakfast, my friends and I also had a heated and passionate debate about politics and world affairs. We were mostly in agreement, but we occasionally disagreed on some hot-button issues. Judging by the giant bear hugs my friends tightly embraced me with as I made my way out the door, everyone was fine and dandy. Phew I thought as I smiled and let myself out.


The sun had dried up all the rain, but I tripped on the slippery wood stairs that were still wet from the recent monsoon-like thunder storms that had drenched the area. Thankfully, the sturdy porch rail broke my fall. I leaned my back against it for a few seconds and laughed at myself for being so clumsy.


I regained my footing and radically accepted my stomach urgently needed some medicine. I hated taking medication unless it was necessary, but I felt dizzy and nauseas. I had also puked up some greenish and whitish bile earlier that morning. My gurgling gut was obviously trying to tell me something.


I briefly thought about going to a hospital, but I had work deadlines and several other obligations to meet that day. I dreaded the likely possibility of having to spend several hours in an ER, so I decided that I’d make an appointment with my primary care physician later in the week if my stomach problems worsened. I already had an appointment scheduled with my quack on Tuesday. I figured why not kill two birds with one stone, if needed. I really wasn’t all that worried, in fact, I was dying of laughter. Yes, I felt disoriented and I fell, but I got right back up, kept walking, and sang to myself “zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, my, oh my, what a….” as I made my merry way home.


For reasons I don’t know or understand, I often find myself laughing when I should feel humiliated, enraged, or sad. I also haven’t figured out why I almost always walk with my head held high—even during moments of immense shame, regret, and embarrassment. My best guess is that there’s no use in crying over spilt milk. If you had milk in the first place, the milk man will most likely come around again.


As my journey home continued, I walked down a stone path lined with flower-filled ceramic clay pots. The fresh and fragrant air was enchanting. I paused again briefly not only to smell the roses, but to also admire an American flag flapping freely and gracefully in the wind of the Windy City. After I took a moment to take it all in, I closed the sturdy iron gate behind me and entered a blossoming city.


At the time, I had no inkling—not a clue—that before the early summer sun would gradually fade over the western horizon, and the sounds of singing birds would be replaced by chirping crickets and peeping frogs, I would hear sounds of a different nature. Piercing sounds that over time would shock my senses, trigger a mental breakdown, and significantly diminish the respect, deep trust, and unwavering support I once had for the government (not the people) of the United States of America. Deafening sounds that nearly killed me. I couldn’t hear, see, or feel the senseless attack my life would soon face coming at all, but it already had me completely surrounded. (Author’s note: throughout this book, you’ll get a taste and a “partial disclosure” of things to come.)


I could, however, feel the warm inviting breeze and see the bright blue sky. And although I was still feeling a little under the weather (no pun intended), I decided to take a longer but more peaceful route home. Instead of taking a Sunday drive through the country, I went on a winding Sunday stroll through my favorite city—the Second City and my adopted hometown.


Long, invigorating walks helped me clear the cobwebs from my brain. During my urban hiking adventures, I loved to take in all the amazing sights and sounds of the wondrous world that surrounded and hugged me. I rarely listened to music when I bebopped around the city. I preferred to listen to the sounds of life in a metropolis very much alive and well.


I slowly passed through one quiet tree-lined street after another and stayed as far away from the bustling central boulevards as I could to avoid the ear pounding and body rattling noises of nearby construction projects. I favored the sounds of leaves gently swaying in the breeze, neighbors gabbing and laughing on their porches, gleeful children playing in the parks I passed, dogs barking at chattering squirrels, as well as the sound of my flip-flops slapping the solid ground I stood on and walked along. All those sights and sounds brought me a sense of peace, a sense of comfort, and a sense of belonging. I went for long walks by myself often, but I never ever felt alone.


Although I wanted to stay outside in the great urban outdoors, my leisurely Sunday stroll had to end. I needed to stop dragging my feet and head indoors to get some work-related projects completed before Monday morning and adult duties called.


I unhurriedly approached my apartment and continued my snail-like pace up the concrete walkway that ran through the middle of the simple yet pleasant garden in my building’s courtyard. I pulled open the heavy front door, and as it abruptly slammed shut behind me, I thought to myself that I couldn’t believe that the building maintenance crew, if one existed, still hadn’t fixed the broken hinge.


I climbed up the creaky, carpeted stairs to my flat as gingerly as I could. I had to jiggle my keys around in the sticky locks of my apartment door to open it. As I entered my home, I gently placed my heavy shoulder bag on the shiny hardwood floors and tiptoed across the main room. My hardworking and accomplished roommate, a very close friend of mine since we first met in college, often worked into the wee hours of the night, even on weekends. I didn’t want to disturb her if she was getting some much-deserved rest. She wasn’t home, so I was alone, or so I thought.


As I plopped down on a simple and unassuming futon (a treasured and celebrated artifact from my roommate’s college days) and took in the relative silence of my apartment, all I could hear was the humming of the a/c unit on the other side of the room. I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed that I could no longer hear the maddening dripping sound of the leaky kitchen faucet. I thought to myself that there must be a building maintenance crew after all. They weren’t something I had imagined or made up in my head. I then stretched my long, tired legs out against the futon cushions to relax my body before I put my brain to work.


I finally stopped procrastinating and shifted my attention to the stack of folders piled next to me. As I began to peruse through work reports, I heard the distinct voice of a coworker coming from inside the room. I immediately became alarmed and terror-stricken. There wasn’t a single person within sight or sound. I didn’t even hear anyone walk up the creaky stairs or knock on the battered wooden door.


Telecommuting


THE SMALL, DIMLY LIT ROOM I WAS ALL ALONE IN just moments before, suddenly became filled with voices I was more accustomed to hearing at a packed work meeting in the large, brightly lit conference room at the corporate headquarters of my employer. All that was missing from my make shift home office were the savory aromas of coffee brewing and a catered hot lunch, the sound of a Xerox machine copying, a power point projector humming, and quite frankly, actual people.


My quiet and peaceful home became a spooky and petrifying house of horrors. Shaking and scared senseless, I frantically and nervously paced the squeaky floors of my apartment for several mentally agonizing hours until the haunting sounds abruptly stopped. Deeply troubled, I spent the remainder of the day trembling in fear as I tried to make sense of what I heard but couldn’t see. I eventually popped a couple sleep aids hoping it would help calm me down and fall asleep. I had to be at the office in the morning for real.


At work the next day, I heard some of the same voices that had rocked my sanity and rattled my nerves the day before. This time, the voices came from actual people, or at the very least, through my work phone and voicemail. The terrifying inner voices that had shocked and blindsided me on what was supposed to be Sunday Funday were gone, but the hair-raising ordeal I went through was still very much with me.


As time progressed, I thought less and less about the puzzling experience I couldn’t piece together or solve. I did my best to mentally hang in there and maintain the well-framed composure and image I had effortlessly exhibited prior to the off-the-wall experience I painfully suffered through on what had started off as a picture-perfect early summer day.


Drinking Games and Mind Games


A COUPLE OF MONTHS LATER, I ATTENDED a private social function. I showed up fashionably late, and by the time I got there, the party was in full swing and jam-packed with people. The lively and inviting atmosphere was bursting with laughter, celebratory cheers, and heart-thumping music. My favorite sounds at the boisterous end-of-summer soiree were the voices of friends old and new. Just moments after I arrived, one of my buddies caught my attention when he shouted my name and motioned me to join him and some other people I recognized at a picnic table next to the bar and buffet.


The main entrée at this feast of food and fellowship was pig. While the hog was cooking in an underground pit, guests were invited to dig in and pig out on a mammoth spread of food unlike any I had ever seen before. Smoked barbeque meatballs; spicy cocktail wieners; chicken pâté; wafer, club, and buckwheat crackers; a variety of tossed salads; homemade buttery buns; and a fresh fruit tray were just a few of the mouth-watering appetizers and savory sides that lined the copious buffet. There was also a seasonally inspired dessert cart for guests to indulge their taste buds in after dinner—that is if they weren’t already filled to the gills with pig meat. Just looking at all the sinfully delicious food made my mouth drool and my midsection grow. I didn’t want to look like the pig being roasted, so I only sampled and nibbled on a few hors d’oeuvres as I made my way over to my group of friends.


While enjoying the enticing aroma of the roasting pig, I cracked open a beer and started to get chatty. After I finished drinking my first adult refreshment, I began cracking jokes and gossiping. By the time I had my third drink, I found the courage to mingle and even flirt a little with the party guests I didn’t already know. All the booze in Chicago wouldn’t have given me the liquid courage I needed to deal with what happened next.


To the best of my knowledge, there wasn’t a ventriloquist at the party, but as I was engaged in a conversation with one of the party’s hosts—a bosom buddy and favorite pal of mine—the sound of his voice suddenly came at me from two different directions. One voice originated from my friend’s mouth; the other from deep inside my head. The two voices I heard sounded exactly the same, but they weren’t saying the same words. To make matters worse, painful memories of the haunting voices I had heard months before—and had since tried to erase from my memory—came rushing back to my mind at a supersonic speed.


Despite the jovial atmosphere, which I had been thoroughly enjoying, it became increasingly difficult for me to be social or even present as I mentally attempted to wrestle with the strong and heady force that was beating the drum and pulsating the lobe of my invisible ear. My mind was under siege by a severe and persistent attack. It got bumped, hit, beaten, slammed, and nearly tossed over the edge of the deep chasm between sanity and insanity by the grappling brain bashing power of the battling inner and external voices that were simultaneously pounding my mind to the brink of a mental breakdown.

My head was throbbing, and I was unable to think straight. I tried to relax my quivering body and calm my unraveling nerves by methodically taking subtle deep breaths while I gripped the wooden handle of the picnic basket I came with that I hadn’t finished unloading yet. This desperate attempt to ground and center myself failed miserably.

I could no longer maintain my composure. I emptied the contents of my basket, which contained a brut bottle of bubbly that I wanted to give to the party hosts, and then politely excused myself. I feared that the swirling chaos overloading my mind was about to explode like sparkling wine gushing out of an uncorked champagne bottle.


Before I even had a chance to get lei’d, I hastily left the luau and hurried home. I didn’t say a word—not a peep—to anyone about the uninvited guest that had crashed my mind and the invite-only private neighborhood party and pig roast.


Broken Record


THE NEXT FEW DAYS WERE MENTALLY GRUELING and physically exhausting. My mind continued to be bombarded with and tormented by a never-ending deluge of internal voices and other peculiar sounds. (I now refer to the internal voices and other inaudible sounds I heard as the goons.) While the goons made their presence forcefully known, I tried to ignore them to the best of my ability; however, I became increasingly concerned about my mental health and emotional stability.


I can best describe the goons’ voices—sounds I heard but others couldn’t—as being somewhat like having a song stuck in my head. (An experience we’ve all probably had at one time or another.) But I wasn’t hearing a catchy overplayed song, and I didn’t have an earworm or stuck song syndrome. I was hearing deafening internal voices deep inside my head that wouldn’t go away no matter what I did to try to mute them. Sometimes, listening to loud music helped muffle the voices and other sounds the goons made that only my invisible ear could hear.


At times, it seemed like I was engaged in a back and forth inaudible conversation with the goons that only my mind could participate in and hear. No verbal communication was required during those exchanges, not even lip reading. Mind reading hadn’t crossed my mind, yet.


During the weeks that followed the party and my severe panic attack, I attempted to hold internal dialogues in my head by using the voices of my friends. I couldn’t keep those inner conversations going for more than a couple minutes at a time. When the goons spoke to me with a voice that sounded exactly the same as the voice of someone whom I knew, those inaudible exchanges, which I heard all too well, frequently went on uninterrupted for hours and even days at a time without any effort whatsoever on my part.


I finally accepted the fact that something wasn’t quite right in my mind. Worried and scared out of my wits that I was developing some sort of mental illness, I conducted extensive research on mental health disorders. Eventually, I stopped hearing the goons again, and so for better or worse, I chose to ignore the possible symptoms of schizophrenia that I might have been experiencing.


Despite the perplexing and excruciatingly painful mental trauma I suffered through that summer, I kept calm and carried on.


Silent Reading


ABOUT A YEAR LATER, I TOOK A GIANT LEAP OF FAITH. I moved halfway across our great nation to a different city with different sounds. I traded the urban paradise that I had become comfortable with and often took for granted for a progressive utopia that I hoped and believed would provide me with a fresh perspective and golden opportunities. I headed west to San Francisco because my life in Chicago had become increasingly stagnant, and I believed a change in scenery would help me grow personally, professionally, and spiritually.


I missed my adopted home city and the sounds that came with the dynamic life I had there, but I loved listening to sounds I had never heard before. Instead of hearing the gentle waves of a Great Lake, I heard the pounding surf of the world’s largest ocean. Instead of hearing the ‘L’ as it passed above me on elevated tracks (one of my favorite sounds), I heard the bells and cranks of cable cars filled with gleeful tourists climb one steep hill after another. Instead of hearing Midwest dialect and the various accents of people from all over the world living together harmoniously, I heard the voices of laid-back surfers, overly caffeinated techies, spirited hippies, and vocal liberal activists.


It may not snow in San Francisco, but there are more twinkling and stellar “snowflakes” in the Bear State and the Land of Milk and Honey than there were winter snowflakes in Chicago and the Land of Lincoln during the Snowmageddon of 2011. A catastrophic storm that shut down the city that works and left buses, cars, and commuters stranded on the city’s awe-inspiring Lake Shore Drive (also known as LSD). Nevertheless, I went to work during the peak of the brutal blizzard. I don’t even think that I had to wear a chook. Yooper blood is not only thicker than water, but it is also thicker than snow, ice, and even thicker than some of the horns I’ve seen hanging from camp buck poles.


My greatest fear of living in California was the threat of a catastrophic earthquake. Another fear of mine abruptly surfaced again. The goons followed me to San Francisco. As the roaring madness of the goons returned to my mind, my body started to shake violently. In addition to terrorizing my mind with the voices of my friends, the goons began haunting and taunting me with the voices of individuals I once knew who had since passed on. I began wondering if I was communicating with ghosts or developing psychic abilities.


I ruled out my short-lived theory that invisible spirits were summoning me when the goons started using the voices of elected officials from Chicago. I didn’t have the mayor of Chicago’s ear, but he had my invisible ear. The goons also disclosed some information about themselves, their purpose, and their reason for attacking my mind. They said that they were a secret government surveillance organization that screened and monitored current and prospective government officials. According to the goons, I was on their radar because I was being carefully considered for a future position in the government.


During one of my encounters with the goons, they instructed me to pick up a book, any book. I nervously scurried out of my room and rushed up a set of stairs to grab a book from my friend’s vast personal library in one of the most exquisite and loving homes I have ever entered. Once I had a book in hand, the goons told me to open it and read the words on the pages to myself in my mind just like I would in a quiet library at school. This is how the goons ordered me to communicate with them. I had to do so in complete silence and without moving my lips even slightly.


The goons went on to reveal that I was a candidate for a training program that they could best describe as a boot camp for future political leaders. They asked me detailed questions about government and politics. Occasionally, they even complimented me on my depth of knowledge in those areas.


When I asked, the goons refused to provide me with any more information other than that they were a covert government agency. The goons went on to say that if I wanted to learn more about them, their mission, and the reasons why they selected me for their so-called training camp, I had to remain quiet, completely silent. I wasn’t permitted to say a word about our encounters to anyone.


I remained tight-lipped but more intrigued and perplexed than ever before. I asked myself if the goons really were a secret organization trying to recruit and train me, why wouldn’t they just contact me in person? Why did they only communicate with me telepathically? Despite my experiences with the goons, I still didn’t believe telepathic communication was possible.


My limited knowledge of telepathy came from science fiction films and an article that I once read in a reputable science magazine about animals communicating telepathically with one another. I started to wonder if telepathic communication was possible in humans too. I remained very open-minded as I brainstormed and considered other possible explanations.


Was I hearing the voice of God? I was taught to believe that God was always watching and always listening. I ruled out my theory that God was communicating telepathically with me because the goons were usually very mean-spirited and mentally abusive when they spoke to me. I didn’t believe that the God I worshiped and loved would say the things I heard deep inside my invisible ear.


Was I schizophrenic? This possible explanation had already crossed my mind numerous times, but I didn’t think I was experiencing the same symptoms as the individuals I knew who did in fact suffer from schizophrenia. However, I did fear I was getting a glimpse into my future whenever I saw someone with schizophrenia. I thought about seeking psychiatric help.


I didn’t know what to think, especially about what I was hearing. Thinking was part of the problem after all. I did, however, become increasingly anxious and troubled once I realized that the goons knew everything I did and thought—EVERYTHING! Even when I couldn’t hear the goons, I often felt like they were watching me, listening to me, and analyzing every single one of my thoughts. It was a mentally draining, an incredibly creepy, and at times, a very humiliating experience.


Every thought I had was under constant surveillance, scrutiny, and attack by the goons. If you can mentally handle it, try to picture yourself being stalked. That is kind of what it felt like. But my “stalker” wasn’t a shadowy figure I caught surreptitiously peeking into my window or following me down a dark alley. My invisible “stalker” surrounded and hounded me all day and all night. I couldn’t escape or hide from the goons even if I was by myself in a safe, secure, and windowless room.

FIRED UP! READY TO GO!


My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.


PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY


The Sounds of Success


I DIDN’T HEAR THE GOONS AT ALL over the next few years. They vanished without a trace—not that I looked for them—and without saying a word. I was once again able to enjoy the sound of silence. As my memories of the goons faded, my future began to get brighter.


After spending two rewarding years in San Francisco, I left the West Coast and moved back to the Best Coast (the Great Lakes region). I didn’t leave my heart in San Francisco, but I left with a bigger heart from all the light and love I received during two of the most remarkable and memorable years of my life.


Blissfully back home in my adopted hometown and favorite city, which I deeply missed while I was away, I started a new job—a job I had dreamed of having for years. It wasn’t a government position, but it was definitely public service related. I was a barista at a busy cafe. Every morning at work, I heard the voices and contagious laughter of some of the friendliest, funniest, and most interesting people I have ever met. Although I had to wake up before the earliest of early birds got their worms—and ride a bus and two trains to get to work—I never felt tired or unfeathered. I was as happy as a jaybird.


A year later, I made the sound decision to continue my formal education. I majored in Political Science. Instead of hearing frightening and mind-boggling internal voices (the goons), I attentively listened to fascinating classroom lectures taught by phenomenal professors. Moreover, I also received an invaluable and enlightening education from the unique and diverse life experiences and well-researched opinions of my classmates during our informative classroom discussions and debates.


I was excelling. I was an honor student, and my name was consistently on the Dean’s List. I earned straight A’s in most of my classes. I was recognized for my academic achievements by being named a Presidential Scholar. I also received an exclusive invitation to join an international honor society, which I accepted with sincere humility and great pleasure.


This was my third attempt at completing a college degree, so I had a lot of practice this time around. Although I hadn’t graduated from college yet, I was very well schooled both inside and outside of the classroom. As the old saying goes: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Not only was I trying again, I was finally starting to succeed.


Midway through my first semester back at school, a student mentor and distinguished professor at my college suggested that I consider applying for a highly selective and prestigious internship in our nation’s capital—a coveted internship at the White House. I couldn’t believe what I heard. My efforts and talents were finally being recognized.


On the proud day I submitted my application, résumé, essays, policy proposals, and letters of recommendation to the White House Internship Reviewing Committee, I ate Chinese food for dinner from one of my favorite local treasures. When I cracked open my cookie the fortune read: “Someday you will make an excellent statesman.” I hoped and prayed it was a sign of things to come.


I waited for several months with great anticipation, but unfortunately, I didn’t hear the response I had hoped for from the committee. I was disappointed but more motivated than ever before. I pushed myself harder, and I became even more active and involved in my community.


I could be seen and heard on the streets and on the phone gathering support for political candidates and social causes. I could also be seen and heard promoting my candidacy. I ran for and was elected to a position in the student government at my college. I loved being called Senator Harding. My friends and I thought it had a nice ring to it. Most of all, I loved listening to, addressing the concerns of, and working with other students I felt incredibly honored and privileged to serve.


When I wasn’t at work, school, or studying and socializing at my favorite coffee shops, I could be seen holding campaign signs high above my head at political rallies and heard chanting catchy slogans at the top of my lungs at election night victory parties. On one of the most memorable and thrilling days of my life, I met my lifelong political role model—a human rights crusader, world leader, and U.S. presidential candidate. I tried so hard not to be nervous or star-struck, but as she made her way across the packed and boisterous Union Hall to introduce herself to me and shake my hand, I froze solid like the Chicago River during a polar vortex.


No, I wasn’t where I wanted to be professionally at this point in my life, but I was making some significant progress in the right direction. I was finally swimming upstream against the currents I was previously too weak and unprepared to swim against, until...


Along Came a Spider Network


OUT OF THIN AIR, and faster than the speed of sound, the goons forcefully invaded my mind yet again. This time, they were more intimidating and direct than they had ever been before. The goons told me that whether I liked it or not I was part of the so-called Spider Network—a secret government organization—and if I ever wanted to work in the national government one day, either publicly or privately behind the scenes, I had to undergo their rigorous screening and monitoring—there were no ifs, ands, or buts about it.


The goons stated that regardless of how I felt about having my mind read and communicating with them telepathically, it was standard procedure for anyone who wanted to work in government. They emphasized that I needed to continue to cooperate with them and remain tight-lipped about our encounters. I reluctantly obeyed their orders.


The goons claimed that they knew everything about me, and a lot about my friends and my family. They revealed that they had been monitoring my life for more than a decade. The goons seemed to know more about my past than even I remembered. They brought back memories—good and bad—that I had long forgotten, and they reminded me of some of my past accomplishments and failures. They knew silly sayings and inside jokes I shared with my friends, and they even knew nicknames I hadn’t been called since I was a child.


What bothered me the most—and still does—was that the goons knew every single secret that had ever been shared with me. Many of my closest confidants and even some strangers trusted me with their secrets. Secrets that I had kept private and fiercely guarded through the years. I could no longer keep anyone’s secret—not even my own—because my mind was an open diary to a secret organization.


I struggled day in and day out as I tried to live with a secret that I didn’t share with a single soul. A secret I desperately wanted and needed to talk about, but I didn’t even know how to begin to explain it. I lived in a state of disbelief and shock as I tried to make sense of what was happening to my mind. The goons became so overpowering at times, I started to feel like I was living in an alternate reality. Some days, I felt like I was in a trance or under a spell.


No matter what I did or how hard I tried, I couldn’t escape the goons or the myriad of different voices they used. They continued to mess with my mind by using the voices of my close friends and other people that I knew when they communicated with me. At times, in my weakened and fragile mental state, the goons managed to convince me that I was communicating with some of my friends telepathically. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.


In addition to mental head games, the goons inundated my mind with a plethora of detailed information pertaining to government, politics, and public policy. They started to schedule debate practice sessions with me. One of the goon moderated debates went on for more than a day uninterrupted! I begged and begged for a break. I can recall lying lifeless on my bed. I was so physically and mentally exhausted I couldn’t move. Not that it would have mattered if I could have rolled out of my bed and walked away. Wherever I went, the goons followed. If they weren’t on my mind, they were in it.


The goons and their relentless attacks on my mind were inescapable. I would go jogging on noisy city streets in the middle of the night trying to run away from what was happening deep inside my head. I could walk or run all night; nevertheless, the goons persisted, and I continued to hear every single whisper and scream they made as clear as day.


Cloudy Hazing


I TOSSED AND TURNED AT NIGHT, and I was distracted at work and school during the day. I no longer functioned even remotely close to the way I once did. Before long, I resigned from my job, dropped out of college, and only communicated with friends and relatives—or anyone for that matter—when it was absolutely necessary. I couldn’t think straight, let alone carry on a conversation with someone. I isolated myself from everyone and everything in the world I cared about, loved, and missed. Eventually, I confined myself to my lonely, desolate apartment, and I more or less quit living altogether. My perpetually closed window blinds took on a meaning of their own, and so did my cracked mirror.


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