The next morning, I woke up, more refreshed than I’d felt in years. I practically sprang out of bed—it was Sunday, and that meant that Mom and Dad were off to church. (As kids, my sister and I had been forced to accompany them, but now they gave us the choice…with Ashley and I unanimously deciding that staying at home was a greatly preferable option.)
I brushed my teeth, combed my hair, picked out a nice outfit, and went to sit in the garden.
Either I was crazy, or it had worked.
The drawer had looked exactly as I remembered it—hundreds and hundreds of files, fitting impossibly in the same drawer. At the very front, where I had hastily shoved it last night, was the one that read “Organization”. Behind it was simply “Air”, and behind that was one reading “Water”. They continued in this manner, with “Food” sitting only a few files ahead of “Orgasm”, and “Love” a few behind that.
I can’t remember all of them, but a few stuck in my head—I couldn’t resist pulling out “Video Games”, to discover a checklist of sorts of the games that I had and hadn’t finished, in order of priority. “Morality” was in there, as well as “Basic Grooming”—I didn’t see any labelled “Advanced Grooming”, but there were so many that after the first few hundred, I had to stop.
What had I found?
* * *
In high-school, we learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I remember it mainly because I got teased for months afterward—I don’t know if we were related to the Hierarchy Maslow, but if your surname is the same as something you learn about…yeah, you’re going to get shit for it. Not a lot of “Edisons” or “Einsteins” or “Plancks” or “Lincolns” in the class, so most of the teasing went to me.
I also remember it because it was interesting, though—this Maslow guy, he worked out all the human desires, and then ranked them. The first priority was stuff like “Food” and “Shelter”, and then once you had that, you could start to worry about family, clothes, all the non-vitals that are still pretty important.
According to his pyramid, it’s only if you have those that “self-esteem” and “achieving something with your life” becomes a priority. That’s why you don’t see a lot of heroin addicts running for president (well obviously that’s not the only reason but you know what I mean).
Looking at the order that the files were in there, it looked like this was a similar thing, but…for me. For my own brain.
Air, obviously, is a pretty high priority, and water isn’t far behind. By moving “Organization” to the front, I’d put it as my number one priority in life—only if things were organized would I make the time to drink, eat, breathe…
As the enormity of what I’d done sunk in, I considered how lucky I was. It only occurred to me then, as I sifted through the files, that I hadn’t eaten anything that day—there had always been something to tidy, something to rearrange. Had I put myself in a situation where the choice was between breathing and sorting something out, I could have died. I would have died.
Fortunately, I wasn’t compelled to put the files in alphabetical order or anything like that—I’m pretty sure that would have killed me, if only of exhaustion…there was an uncountable infinity of them, presumably representing every possible need that a human could ever want. I slid “Organization” back into the middle of the drawer, and felt as though a huge weight had been lifted. Because it wasn’t my room or my responsibility, it hadn’t been as much of a priority, but without me even realizing, my brain had been aware of the dust in the room, of the haphazard way in which the cabinets had been placed.
I tried to ignore the questions bursting into my head—who had put them there? How did they work? Was this just a dream? On a rational level, I knew that a room like this was impossible, completely inconceivable…but at the same time, I was there, I was standing in it.
The buzzing of questions grew louder and louder, as they did every night, preventing me from sleeping more often than not. Suddenly, I had a moment of clarity—after a few minutes of my fingers skipping through the files, I found it: “Curiousity”. I picked it out, and kept searching until I found “Sleep”, and placed the “Curiousity” file directly behind it. For good measure, I also grabbed “Basic Grooming”, and moved it way up the priority order. I always found it so, so hard to care what I looked like, or whether my shirt was clean…
From what I’d observed that day, it seemed that changing the order wasn’t obnoxious or intrusive…just like it never bothers you if you don’t like anchovies—you just don’t like anchovies—hopefully this would make taking care of how I looked such a natural, basic impulse that I’d never leave the house looking like a mess again.
As soon as I shut the drawer, the questions stopped buzzing in my head, and a wave of tiredness hit me. And not the gnawing, “I need to sleep but I don’t want to sleep” wave that comes with insomnia—a real, true desire to curl up in bed, and just sleep.
A few minutes later, I did exactly that, and when I woke up, I felt well-rested and full of energy.
* * *
Now that I’d slept, the questions were back, but since they weren’t impeding my rest, I actually welcomed them for once. My head was buzzing with possibilities—what to do? What could I do? And, perhaps most importantly of all, what should I do?
I decided that safety had to be my number one concern. The fear that had gripped me when I realized how casually I’d moved a desire to be tidy and organized in front of a desire to live was still lurking, and I vowed that I wasn’t going to put anything above the basics. Air, food, water…they were my priorities. They had to be. But what else? I could make myself more motivated…I could make myself more motivated to do whatever I wanted, in fact. Instead of following my heart’s desire, I could decide my heart’s desire, and then follow that.
And this, dear reader, is where I made my big mistake.
See, humans aren’t wired to make those kinds of decisions. If you want to be a carpenter, you want to be a carpenter—you don’t decide to be a carpenter and then spent the next few years learning to love it. I have no regrets…hell, perhaps I’m past regrets. But if I could do it all again, I think I’d do it differently.
I spent most of the day pretty much just grooming myself and napping. Trust me, as someone who spent so many years deprived of sleep…it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. And it turns out that I tidy up okay! Combing my hair, straightening my clothes…all these things that used to be chores were suddenly…not.
When I sneaked into the room again that night, I’d decided to sort through the drawer, find something that would get me ahead in life and move it forward. I’m sure that from the outside, you can think of a million better ways of doing this, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I moved “Organisation” back up—not nearly as much far up as I’d moved it last time, just enough so that my life would be neat and I’d never have to waste time looking for things. And then, deep in the drawer, sandwiched between, of all things, “Sandwiches” and “Nose-picking” (which I moved back as far as I could reach), I found it:
“Sex With Ashley.”
Now when I’d moved “Organization” up, organizing had been something that I just did without thinking, and I can only assume that I thought this would work the same way. Perhaps if I moved it up, it would just…happen. I wouldn’t even have to think about it.
You’ve got to understand, I was an eighteen year-old virgin. On top of that, I’d just found a magical cabinet that controlled my mind…and my sister constantly strutted around in various states of undress, driving me wild.
And so I didn’t really think it through. As if they belonged to someone else, I watched my hand pull the file out and move it toward the front. Not to a dangerous level, of course, but looking back, still quite high.
I rearranged a few other files—“Intelligence” got a boost, though as I’d soon work out, that just meant a desire for intelligence, not intelligence itself. I considered delegating “Video Games” to the rear ranks with “Nose-picking”, but decided that I needed an outlet, and didn’t want the money that I’d already put into various consoles to be a complete waste. “Pet Ownership” got bumped…our parents won’t let us have one, and I was sick of yearning for the impossible.
As soon as I closed the drawer, I felt the changes. The thought of owning a dog or a cat suddenly held no appeal, and even though my “Sleep” desire now outranked “Curiosity”, I was still tempted to go online and browse Wikipedia. I could feel a dried booger at the side of my nose, but I was content to just leave it there…after all, it wasn’t doing any damage.
And when I thought of my sister, I suddenly had the biggest boner I’d ever had…and couldn’t stop myself from glancing over to her cabinet, and wondering what was inside.
* * *
I didn’t touch it. Not that night, anyway…instead, I went to bed, and despite wanting to sleep, tossed and turned for a few hours before I actually drifted off.
The one question kept coming back to my mind—it was a question of morality, not curiosity, and so the new arrangement of my files had no effect.
I’d just look, I told myself. I’d just see if “Sex With Jacob” even ranked…I wouldn’t touch anything, and if I did, I’d…no, I had to cut that thought off before it began.
On the other side of the battle within my brain, I could clearly hear “Sex With Ashley” talking. Just a quick fiddle, it told me. You’re not hurting anyone…look at yourself. You’re happier now that you’ve got your priorities in order. While you’re in there, you can even increase her motivation, her fitness, her…flexibility.
That last thought took over briefly, and I jerked off twice before going to sleep, images of Ashley as my own personal sex slave flashing through my mind…
I dreamt about it, that night. Going there for real was so dreamlike, when I awoke I could barely remember what had actually happened and what was the product of my subconscious imagination. I’d definitely gone into my drawer, I knew that…but had I also opened Ashley’s? The file reading “Servitude to Jacob”, before even Air or Water or Food, that was definitely a part of the dream, but what about the rest?
The turmoil didn’t end, and I spent the entire school-day distracted. Every time the teacher called on me, my mind was drifting, picturing Ashley in a collar, on a leash, mine to command…
Had I realized at that point my mistake, that I’d moved “Sex with Ashley” too high, this story would have a completely different end. I would have gone home, moved it back to a reasonable level, and perhaps locked the door to the mysterious room, never entering it again…
…but I didn’t. I spent the whole day struggling with my conscience, and when I got home, I’d had enough.
The solution to my insomnia had been easy—move “Curiosity” behind “Sleep”, and never lay awake at night again. And so when a similarly simple solution struck me, it was no wonder that I didn’t think twice before carrying it out…
The other factor, of course, was Ashley. If I hadn’t arrived home that day to find her sunbathing in the front back yard, lathering herself up with coconut oil, moving her hands up and down her long, white legs, across her beautifully taut stomach, rubbing it into her long neck…perhaps I would have thought it through more.
A part of me even wants to blame the bikini—I don’t even know where you get an orange bikini, but Ashley had one. She’d once told me that she’d never wear it out, but for some reason it was fine to wear at home…presumably because family shouldn’t be looking at each other like that. It was designed to cut down on tan-lines, and the easiest way to do that is to expose as much flesh as possible.
So yeah, when I’d arrived home to acres and acres of utterly fuckable flesh, I think it screwed with my brain a bit. I didn’t even go and masturbate to cool off—I stormed straight through the little door, opened my drawer, picked up “Morality”, and put it as far away from the front as I could.
As soon as the drawer was closed, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The war was over, the voices in my head, ceaselessly bickering…had stopped. A smile spread across my face, and I realized that now, I was unstoppable…
I’d done what Pinocchio should have done the second the talking cricket showed up. I’d killed my conscience, and now nothing was off the table.