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Milton got up in the morning wanting to do something that would just knock 'em dead. Underneath was a shiver in his chest because he could be left abandoned and die alone.

“My neighbor has a theory,” Milton told me. “It involves doom. I have a headache,” Milton said. “Whenever I see him I have to listen to his theories. Why do I feel bound to listen? Is it some kind of perverse courtesy turned against itself? Have I become too civilized to escape.” Milton collapsed in his chair as we spoke, and covered his face with his hands, trying to shut out vision. “The worst part is, he, my neighbor, uneducated that he is, imagines himself to be the only one alive that knows the secret. He knows how those we trust are really conspiring to kill us.

He is the only one smart enough to get beyond the news bureaus and the regulators and the world community. I have heard the lecture more times than I care to say. My rage mounts, my futility mounts. His joy is in the creation of monsters. No one can argue with him. What binds me to that?”

“I suppose it's good that my neighbor speaks his mind. If he was not destroying everything I hold dear, if I was not tempted to accept his logic, if the world of doom was not so logical and the nightmare of secrets was not so undeniable, I wouldn't be so angry.”

Milton knew that his neighbor in all in 36 years had never suffered a moment of deprivation, never walked cold streets, knew real peril and nearness of death. Milton knew that for peopl neighbor like his neighbor and himself doom was a romantic dream. In a way both of them wished it. How would it feel? Doom would invite excess that Milton would not permit himself. Nightmares, after all, were just dreams. His neighbor took the liberty of recounting his dreams.

Suddenly Milton knew the need to supplicate. He no longer prayed. But he did fall into a plea posture, with knees bent as if he couldn't hold himself erect. He stood against the wall, finding a private subdued corner and pronounced a non-prayer, stated as fact.

He pronounced these words:

What binds me
to the hearing of nightmares?
Nightmares, after all,
are just romantic dreams
inviting excess that nobody
would permit himself.
When your joy is in the creation of monsters,
no one can argue with you.

“I know what those conspiracy theories are for,” Milton finally replied to his neighbor. “They are not things of fact and debate. They are not probes into the truth. They are tools to break the confidence of those around you. They are instruments of interpersonal drive. They are efforts to project your superiority against the gullibility and weakness of others. That's why you don't permit discussion. There is never a quiet conversation about doom.”

“You are not my friend,” Milton said. “You are not a man of good will. You wish me evil.”

Milton left.