Noble X - Episode 6: Filters Off

Noble X - Episode 6: Filters Off

By Mike Vinopal

John is in his bathroom now, inches from the mirror. His consciousness hovers, floating in between once again. His body is standing but in his mind, he is battling himself on the other side of the mirror. 

Somewhere between sitting down on the couch, flipping his laptop open, and starting a movie, he had zoned out hard. Once again he unconsciously disrobed and shuffled through the apartment, this time to the bathroom, marking himself and the mirror up with symbols that appeared foreign, written by a stranger, yet familiar all the same. John’s timeline is getting spottier. He’s losing track. And while his body stands zombie-like at the sink, the fight on the other side wages on. 

Moments before, John climbed through the mirror. 

He climbed through to engage in hand-to-hand combat with a disgusting future self he had seen looking out at him, taunting him. A version that was balding, unkempt, disgruntled, toothless, and spewing vitriol. John, appalled, climbed inside. 

Now he stands face-to-face with this monster in a room that goes on forever. John is incensed as this troll goads the fiery demon within with every bit of negative self talk you can imagine. John continues to grow in size as he advances on his future self and proceeds to refuse this destiny with skill and agility, deftly attacking with the precision of a ninja. Ready to beg for mercy on his knees, John towers above his future self.

Without thinking, John hears “Finish him!” even deeper within his mind and he snaps off the balding head like that of a barbie doll. No gore. A clean snap. The remaining neck, a naked plastic peg in the room that goes on forever. 

John holds the head as if this is commonplace, removing the top, like the casing of an electrical appliance, revealing the inner workings to tinker. John is delighted by the contraption beneath the cap. An intricate Rube Goldberg machine plucked from the imagination of Dr. Seuss himself, situated on a triangular plate, cycling perpetually. At each corner sits an upside-down coffee filter, made of something resembling white stone. John knows he needs to remove the filters to truly be free. 


He takes the first off and grinds it to dust in his palm to be rinsed down the drain. He takes the second off and burns it in a flash, leaving only ash behind to wipe clean. John notices the cycles of the machine have sped up significantly and thinks better of destroying the third and final filter, just in case he needs it for work tomorrow, setting it aside on the bathroom shelf. And as the remaining stone filter meets the metal shelf with a click, he snaps to.

His eyes struggle to make sense of what he is seeing. Nearly pressed against the mirror, his eyes finally refocus on a drooling reflection. John is a little freaked out at first, not recalling how he got from one end of his apartment to the other, but realizes he is alright and begins thinking of his study, “Naked again? Strange. A marker clutched in my hand? Writing on my body and the mirror? Very strange indeed.” Still slightly shaken, he closes the lid of the toilet and sits, looking over his arms carefully. Subconscious brain dump. Emotion laced into the sweeps and angles of the moody lettering. Neat, sloppy, angry, and calm. Forwards and reverse, reflected words and numbers. "Interesting findings," was all he thought as he stood and headed off to the spare bedroom where he had begun storing his behavioral log. 

He added his findings, “Difficult to tell if I am hallucinating or dream-walking but sleep deprivation is most definitely blurring the line between where my subconscious and conscious mind meet.” He notes that since Thursday, he has probably slept a grand total of four to five hours, averaging about an hour per night. John wonders what will happen if he continues to trim sleep margins back to nothing.

He is peering over the edge of madness as his sleep grows thinner, high on his own mind, and this is only night number four. 

John’s belief that he has been tasked with the mission of conducting a sleep study on himself has taken root and he is now also certain that the study will last seven days. In the remaining three nights he plans to continue to push the limits during which he will record further effects of sleep deprivation as they progress. Furthermore he believes the house show he has been planning would be a fitting way to celebrate the seventh evening. Twisted thoughts come more naturally now, “I mustn’t tell anyone what I’m up to,” paranoia rationalized and disguised as concern for fidelity of the experiment. He would begin planning at once.

John’s frayed mind wanders and he looks up, trying to recall how long he has been sitting on the bed in the spare room writing and wandering around in his own head. He stashes his notebook, making a mental note to grab some clipboards from work tomorrow. And with that thought, sets off to his own room, his own bed, not bothering to wash off the marker mess on his forearms. 

Arrows. Plus signs. The single word “Thank” forwards and mirrored. Roman Numerals. And numbers. Lots of numbers. 

As he lies in bed with the now familiar morning bird song in full swing, his eyes fall heavy. As they shut, his alarm goes off to wake up for work and he hops out of bed as if startled, momentarily confused and nearly certain he has overslept for work. 

Stay tuned for Episode 7. 


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