They're out to get him. Even the dog is wired for sound.

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I knew all about THEM. THEY were responsible for all the terrible things that had happened to me in the course of my short life, a catalogue of disasters and failures far too long to recite. Needless to say, I could not forget the abuse I had suffered at their hands.

They didn't know I knew about them. That's the funniest thing.

All the time they were convinced their surveillance of my home and person was covert, I was casually observing THEM in reverse. Nothing they did escaped my unwavering attention. There wasn't a single bug that I didn't know about. I knew immediately when I was being followed, and, more importantly, I learned to spot their exchanges and coded messages, instructions they passed by means of complicated hand signals and odd nasal discharges.

Here again, they thought I didn't know. They thought I would never break their code. But, as usual, they were wrong.

Clearly I remember the exact hour, the exact day they began their secret observations of me. They must have decided upon an agenda long, long ago. Perhaps even before my birth. I have always felt my parents were some how involved in this conspiracy to sabotage and discredit me. So it is not unfitting that they should have chosen my birthday as their GO DATE. My thirtieth birthday, to be exact, at noon.

That was when the first flash bulbs popped, the first reel of tape started rolling, the first electronic bug started transmitting radio broadcasts of my every spoken word. Somehow they even managed to infiltrate my dreams, forcing me to relive nightmarish sessions filled with naked women and shameful escapades of inhuman sex. Their message to me was very simple.

They wanted me to conform. Now that I look back, I can see how every subtle change in my life was attuned to just that agenda, the agenda of conformity.

My education, my religion, my experiences (though limited) with members of the opposite sex, and even my professional experiences later in adult life; all were designed to instill within me a sense of constraint and orthodoxy. An orthodoxy which called for ceaseless humility and self-debasement. An orthodoxy which was hard and finely tuned, which left no room for human error or emotion.

No matter how valiantly I struggled, there was nothing in all the fiber of my soul I could cling to, no dim reason however remote I could use to reconcile my existence against my expectations of life. Social institutions called for my subservience, and daily I asked myself; Is this all there is? Is there nothing more?

It was inevitable I should be caught. There's something about people like myself that draws the dogs, the nightsticks, the lynch mobs and the dangling ropes. I had lived with this phenomenon all my life, had been persecuted relentlessly for ridiculous social transgressions and flawed aspirations. THEY were always right, I was always wrong. THEY were better than, I was the standard by which they abased themselves.

Things had regressed to the point, standing there at the party held in honor of my thirtieth year of existence, that I actually forgot my own name. I had to read the cake several times in order to convince myself that I was the Robert being referred to so neatly in the icing.

Robert. But what did that mean?

Who was this man standing in my clothing, clutching a soggy drink so nervously that the ice in the tumbler tinkled like a dozen tiny bells? Who was this suffering wretch so awkward in relating to his own species? Who was this man I called my self?

I began asking other people who they thought I was. Besides being told quite frequently that I was drunk (which I could never verify), there was not one single relevant remark from all the guests that shed light on these questions. Nobody seemed to know or even be able to guess who I might be.

Not that I knew who THEY were. At least not then.

Now I can guess. They are the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the N.R.A., the N.B.A., etcetera . . . the list runs forever. They always seem to refer to themselves and their secret organizations in code. But it doesn't fool me.

No matter how well they hid, I could always spot them. They always set themselves apart with such things as diplomas and money. Their very nature dictated that they meet secretly in esoteric places to review the tapes and films they compiled, to plan their character assassinations, to decide who next to observe.

One day my name must have come up. Robert somebody. The details don't matter.

What matters is the effect their decision had on my life. In retrospect, I can see how carefully they manipulated me and the people around me, how they turned my wife and children against me, used them as spies to make sure I couldn't escape.

First they slipped drugs into the drinking water, which caused me to sleep later and later every day and made me later and later for work. I was ultimately fired.

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