Z-anon-sensei Speaks #88
“That would be telling.” Number Two
Z-anon-sensei says disruptions of the sleep cycle confuse and weaken the mind. Dreams are interrupted, unresolved, and cloud the waking state with residual images and un-located emotions.
Illnesses both physical and mental can produce such disruptions of normal sleep patterns. The coughing attacks of pneumonias and Covid-19 have this effect, breaking up day and night into fragments of restful breathing that never last quite long enough to reach the peacefulness of real sleep before the hacking, choking, suffocating cough begins again. The sufferer drifts into a sort of in-between zone, a space between dream and reality which was in times past a state of consciousness sought after by Sufi mystics and surrealist poets alike. Robert Denos was famous in Parisian Dada circles for his ability to fall asleep at will, in the midst of a soiree, and wake moments later, describing the dream he had just had in minute and fantastic detail.
Certain types of training can allow the practitioner to maintain mental control even during long stretches of severe sleep disruption. Long term sufferers from insomnia, soldiers on the battlefield, as well as adepts of the esoteric practices learn meditative and yogic methods for surviving without deep sleep, though there is a limit to the ability of the mind to preserve its hold on reality without sleep and dreams, as Jung and Freud both knew well. Psychosis, either temporary or permanent, can be the end result of long-term sleep disruption.
From certain perspectives, these psychotic breaks can be useful.
Sleep deprivation is a common form of mind control in cults, secret societies, in the brainwashing laboratories of the NSS, and as a tool for interrogators of military, law enforcement, and other persuasions.
Xenon was getting the treatment. The first day (it seemed about a day, but she knew she was only guessing.) the lights never went off. They hummed, too, so that even with her eyes closed and the thin blanket pulled over her face she could hear that unrelenting sound and feel the cold light beating down on her. She would fall out for a few minutes, then wake as though someone had shaken her. But it was only the buzzing brightness reflecting off the bare white walls of her cell and beating on her from all directions.
After a while, she started to yell about it, and she yelled about it for a while. Xenon could get going when she got going, truly, and she let them have it. She knew they were listening and she called them everything she could think of. A few times she even surprised herself. But after an hour or so, she decided they were probably just getting off on it. Fuck them, then. She wasn’t going to break that easy. She sat on the cot, crossed her legs and assumed the posture she had learned at the dojo. She focused on her breathing, dropped her shoulders, felt her heartbeat steady and slow. No worse than a bad trip, really. Just keep your shit together, girl. Breathe.
And then the lights went off. Complete darkness, and absolute blindness. Xenon lay down on the cot with a little bit of satisfaction. The principles were the same: spin away from them, don’t give them anything to hold on to. Be water. Blissfully she felt herself drifting into exhaustion. Oh, a few zees were all she needed, yeah…
And the lights came back on.
An irregular cycle began, with the lights on and then off for varying periods of time, sometimes as short as a few minutes between darkness and light, but never as long as two hours.
When the lights were off, the room was absolutely black. Xenon learned to find the commode— just a metal toilet with no lid or seat—in the total darkness. At irregular intervals when the lights came on she would see a plastic plate of food had been slid under the door. It looked like a microwave dinner plate with tiny portions of mashed potatoes, a slice of unidentifiable meat, and three pieces of boiled carrot or broccoli. Always a dinner, nothing to identify a time of day. She was given no utensils, but learned to tear a small piece of the plate off to use as a kind of spoon. Water came in plastic bottles— exactly the kind protesters would chuck at the cops back at the protests, she noticed. The thought evoked a wrenching moment of nostalgia and a weird kind of homesickness in Xenon, as if the protests over the last two months had become ancestral home for her, a familiar landscape from an innocent childhood, and the other protesters her black-clad tribe, her fellows-in-arms, her family, all now gone and far away in a fog of already-fading memories.
An indeterminate time passed. A long time. Xenon guessed it to be at least three days, but she had truly lost track. She found her thoughts beginning to fragment badly. Damn, girl, they are indeed trying to break you down. She sang, chanted, made up rhymes angry and sad and nonsensical, but she tried not to give them anything to work with later.
No one had come to talk with her. They had never even read her her rights. She had still not cried.