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  ...presents...                     Slowing
                                                         by Tom Fawcett

                      >>> a cDc publication.......1994 <<<
                        -cDc- CULT OF THE DEAD COW -cDc-
  ____       _     ____       _       ____       _     ____       _       ____

     I usually enjoy driving this road.  It has long stretches punctuated by
curves and hills.  In the daylight it is scenic but tonight there isn't much to
see.  The sides of the road are marked by large drifts of dirty snow.  Behind
the snow are trees, dark evergeens whose color is invisible even in the
headlights.  Beyond the trees on the left is the lake.  The immense dark water
is occasionally visible in the dim moonlight.

     The posted speed is 45; I'm doing about 60.  Part of my mind tells me
"there is ice, this is dangerous" but I don't care.  I've seen only a few cars
out tonight.  I cross over the line on curves and don't think about slipping.

     I feel a tightness in my chest.  I turn the heat down.  I unbuckle my
safety belt and unzip my coat.  It's not enough.  I crack the window and cold
air floods the car.  I force myself to take deep breaths.  That seems to help.
Sometimes at night my throat starts to go tight and I can hardly breathe.

     I turn on the radio, something to distract my mind.  I get a talk show
discussing US intervention in Bosnia.  I push the button: an oldies station
playing fifties music.  I push again and get dance music.  Again, and get
another talk show.  I push a few more times, lose patience, turn it off.

     I drive along in silence.  I become aware of something sticky on my thumb.
I turn on the inside light.  I raise the thumb to my eyes: it's blood, from a
crack in dry skin.  I am relieved and surprised at the same time.  Lately I
always seem to be bleeding a little, somewhere.  Cracks in my fingers, paper
cuts, razor cuts, nosebleeds.

     Out on the road snow is beginning to come down now, earlier than they
predicted.  I flip on the high beams, but the light-flooded snow drifts are
more than I can stand and I quickly turn them off.  I feel better when I can
only see the gray drifts as blurs at the periphery.  My eyes focus on the
endless short strip of road in front of my car.

     I start thinking about a friend I knew in college.  She'd had a lot of
problems, depression and fast personality changes that had been very hard on
her.  She'd had to drop out for a year to get herself together.  Recently I
asked her about that year, and she told me about her descent into depression
and her long slow recovery.

     She said the one thing she remembered vividly from those days was what she
called "the compression".  Most of the time she felt depressed and despondent,
and that was bad enough.  Sometimes when it got very bad she would experience
what she called time compression.  She said that most people live with a time
horizon that they're not even aware of, a horizon of hours or days or weeks. 
During the compression her time horizon just shrank into nothing.  Her future -
the evening, tomorrow or next week, the future most people take for granted -
disappeared completely.  She felt trapped permanently in the present, not able
to imagine the next minute.  She said it's not like you don't know what the
future will be; you're sure it doesn't exist.

     After a while the compression would lift, but a few days would pass before
she felt normal again.  It came on without warning, like a seizure, and left
her terrified and drained.  Even many years later, married with kids, she still
remembered it well and never completely lost the fear that it would return.

     Now, as I watch the dark road pass under my car, I remember the dread and
anxiety in her eyes as she described it.  I think of the snow banks, the
invisible trees and the dark water.  I think of the endless road and the small
frozen towns along the edge of the lake, the infinite empty winter sky.  The
dirty snow and the jagged ice.  I can imagine the compression.

     I shake my head to scatter the thoughts.  I look out the side window.  I'm
aware of a pain in my head.  It was a little tightness a while ago, but now
it's grown into a throbbing headache.  Maybe it's the low pressure or
something.  I clench my jaw and the pain subsides.

     Up ahead I see a sign and a building.  I take my foot off the gas.  As I
approach I notice it's a convenience store, common along the lake, the kind
that sells beer and bread and bait.  I'm surprised it's open so late this time
of year.  I slow down and pull in.

     I push through the door and look around.  I make my way down a crowded
aisle.  An old man watches me from behind the counter, probably surprised that
anyone would be out this late.  I look around the aisles for a moment and find
what I'm looking for.  I pick up a bottle of aspirin.  Near it are Band-aids. 
I pick up a box.

     I look up at the man behind the counter, who's been watching me.  His face
looks dusty and pale in the thin fluorescent light.

     "You have ice?" I ask.  He points to one side, beyond the counter, at
something hidden from my view.  I go over and open the door of a big freezer.

     "Not there, the other side," he says, "That side's bait."  I open the
other door, pull out a bag of chipped ice, and walk to the counter.

     For a moment he looks at me, a smile with a quizzical expression.  I
wonder what he sees.  A spot of dried blood from the nosebleed?  Bags under my
eyes from last night?  He looks away and starts ringing up the sale.  I brush
my upper lip self-consciously.

     Walking back to my car, I notice the snow is still coming down. I pull
back onto the road and bring the car up to speed.  I drive along for a few
minutes.  I slow down for a curve, then straighten out, and suddenly my vision
smears.  I blink several times fast, but it remains blurry.  My God, what is
this, are my eyes bleeding now?

     I glance in the rear-view mirror for cars and pull over to the side.  I
turn on the light and tilt the mirror down so I can see my face.  My eyes are
watering.  My breathing is shallow and fast.  A snowplow approaches from the
other direction.  Its strong headlights flood the inside of my car with light.
As it nears I close my eyes tightly.  After it passes, I look back in the
mirror.  A tear is running down my cheek.

     I turn off the light and start the car moving again.  I remember the ice.
I reach over and tear open the bag with a fingernail.  I pull out a small
chunk.  I press it to my cheek and feel it slowly numb the skin.  I press

     If only I can make it past the lake and into the hills.  I never realized
how long this lake is.  This is taking forever.
 _______  __________________________________________________________________
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  (' ')  |            Save yourself!  Go outside!  DO SOMETHING!            |
   (U)   |==================================================================|
  .ooM   |Copyright (c) 1994 cDc communications and Tom Fawcett.            |
\_______/|All Rights Reserved.                               08/01/1994-#278|