A few years ago, I was suffering a bout of what the doctors refer to as Hemiparesis. In my particular case, the right side of my body was about 30% paralytic, with the muscular degeneration and tingly weirdness you would expect from such a condition; i.e., enough to make everyday functions uncomfortable, but not enough for unlimited visits by the Stranger.
As part of the diagnosis, a crown-to-waist MRI was requested by the head neurologist on the case. He suspected a slipped disc in my neck or upper back, and wanted to have a look around the works. He was confident, and probably would have preferred vivisection judging by the smug expression and little round glasses he wore, but the fools in the myopic scientific community would have called him mad, mad, so went instead with the MRI.
Elisson describes the process as pleasant, at least to people of his philosophical bent. I cannot say that I enjoyed it. It started innocently enough, with the warnings about being in a gigantic magnet and the effects it could have on your body. Things like ripping a pacemaker right out of your chest, dragging with it the attached heart, still beating as electric jolts continue, the device none the wiser that it is only pumping air.
Before they fed me to this monster, I was allowed to pick some music to listen to during the process. Figuring I would come across as more intellectual, and that Hank Williams probably was not one of the options, I asked for classical music. The headphones they give you obviously can’t be conventional headphones, as those are based on magnetic impulses being transferred along metal cables; the twirling magnets would spin the cables around you, pulling tight until your body was crushed, shooting blood out your ears and nostrils and fingertips as you spun around in circles and nurses screamed and your loved ones banged on the glass until they fainted at the sight of what remained of you.
As I slid into the tube strapped to a table top, I found myself wondering if I had forgotten that I had metallic hip implants, or if the metal fillings I have in a few molars might be ferromagnetic. I could see my teeth getting pulled out of the gums and right through my cheeks, clacking against the tube enclosure, swirling around as they chased the giant magnetic loops that were twirling behind the plastic walls.
The table top locked into place, and everything was quiet. Then the music started. MRI headphones sound different, transferring the music as they do through a long tube, which is attached to little paper cones next to your ears. The result is unsettling; scratchy, distorted carnival music heard from a great distance, distorted by echo. The deep, bone-rattling boom, boom, boom coming from the machinery spinning around you shudders beneath it, out of sync with the music and causing a low-level unease that grows until you’re spending all of your energy not to freak the fuck out.
The whole thing last either thirty minutes or a thousand years, depending on whom you ask. The output was a little animated slideshow that started from the top of my skull and ended at the sacrum, neat cross-sections of all the vile giblets that fill us and keep the meat moving. It showed no blockages to the network cabling, so the neurologist sent me to have an electromyogram. I can only assume this was done as punishment for debunking his original diagnosis.
EMGs are weird, mad-scientist puppetry best left undescribed.
I hate being ignored more than just about anything. Anything besides the sound of fingernail clippers, that is. Not nail scissors, mind you, those I have no issue with. But nail clippers drive me right up the fucking wall. I literally can’t even be in the house when someone is knips knips knipsing away at their nails. When I hear that noise, it feels like my spine is trying to slither out my back and down my leg, looking for a hole to hide in until the coast is clear. But I digress.
I really try to listen when people are talking to me. If someone walks up to my desk at work, I’ll acknowledge their presence; and if I’m busy or talking on the phone, I’ll make awkward head tilts, hand gestures, and otherwise contort myself just to make sure they understand that I see them there, waiting to talk to me. If I know there’s an SMS or iMessage waiting on my response, it weighs on me like a ton of bricks. I have no peace until I read it, respond to it, and get it off my back.
Maybe my hatred of being ignored is simply jealousy. Perhaps I’m affronted by the fact that other people can knowingly have my message sitting there in their inbox, them not giving a moment’s consideration to something that would drive me to distraction.
If I walk up to someone who is on the phone, and they don’t so much as look in my direction, maybe it’s the admiration that I feel for their sense of utter detachment that makes me want to strangle them where they sit, preferably with their own telephone cord, should there be one. This is a downside to the ubiquity of wireless technologies: the absence of ready-made garrotes in everyday situations
So yeah, being ignored and using nail-clippers. Oh, and blowing your nose loudly in public. Fuck people, they do vex me so.
I opened a bottle and in I strode.
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
my town and my world behind me.
I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king
and dived in a bottomless ocean.
I opened a bottle and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
and followed their road with its bumps and bends
to the happily ever after.
I finished my bottle and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
but I have a bottle inside me.
With apologies to Julia Donaldson: that last part is a little creepy.
I was sitting in the train this morning, listening to music and reading something on my tablet. This was all according to my morning routine, a quiet and comfortable place, with nothing more serious to worry about than a flat iPad battery.
About 10 minutes before we reached the final stop, where I would transfer to the train that takes me onward to my own final stop, a pretty girl collapsed.
She didn’t go down like a sack of potatoes, mind you. She was a class act and just sort of gently leaned, and kept on leaning. The lady next to her realized what was happening pretty quickly. She calmly caught her and gently laid her out in the floor, right by my feet. As far as collapses go, it was orderly, graceful even, like a slow-motion stage-faint.
Once she was safely on the floor, calls went out for anyone who might know first aid. A twenty-something guy in immodest cycling pants confidently stepped forward and started giving orders. He checked her pulse, made sure she was breathing, and went about arranging her body so she wouldn’t choke on her tongue, should dire things indeed be happening. But she was breathing fine, and lay there on her side with her hands beneath her face, sleeping peacefully. Right by my feet.
I wasn’t sure what to do. Not in a flustered or chaotic way, more like when you’re speaking in public and can’t figure out what to do with your hands. It’s been well over twenty years since I took first aid, and I don’t think you’re supposed go straight to leeches and trepanning any more to treat these types of imbalances of the humors. Not knowing what else to do, I just sat there and watched her sleep.
This felt creepy almost immediately, so I turned back to my reading. I was in the middle of a Tumblr post by Cory Doctorow, something about cyberfreiheit or Disney’s Haunted Mansion most likely, and wanted to get to the end of it. This was when my iPad died on me. For just a split-second, sitting there watching the device’s spinning wheel of hibernation, I felt like the universe was conspiring to make me miserable, that life could be cruel and unfair. Then I remembered the young lady who was laid out unconscious at my feet, felt guilty, and checked up on her progress.
She was sitting up but groggy, with people gathered around, asking her if she knew her own name and who was Prime Minister. I realized that if I fainted and people started asking me these kinds of questions, I wouldn’t be able to get more than 50% of them correct. There would probably be a lot of sad, slow head-shaking about the young man who was so out of it he doesn’t who the Mayor of London was or who chuffed the lorry. Luckily, and to her credit, she was more up to speed on UK current events and was fine, if rattled. We arrived a few minutes late but I made my transfer without any hassles.
I entered the connecting train and sat down for the final 45 minute train ride into work, wondering what I was going to do with myself without a telescreen to stare at. Right before leaving the station, someone sat down across from me: it was Sleeping Beauty, and though she was ambulant she was definitely looking like something that the cat had dragged in.
I wasn’t sure if her passing out on the morning train was something I should bring up. I thought it could be an ice-breaker, maybe, a way to get a conversation going and pass the time. But then I thought, she might ask what I did to help, seeing as she had been laying on top of my shoes. I was front row center to her collapse, and not only had no impulse to jump in and help, but would probably have done more harm than good had I tried.
So I put on my headphones and pretended to listen to music, sneaking the occasional glance to see if she was still shaking and pale. And for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what to do with my hands.
WTF, climate, it’s almost the end of April. The sun finally came out today, and the sky is blue. But it’s cold. It should be 65 degrees and breezy outside. May’s coming up, you fucker, now make some effort out there.
An advertisement for the Kantine bar in Augsburg, Germany. It’s a bar located in the abandoned American military base close to the town.
According to legend, the city was threatening to shut them down for years. Once, they even had a closing date. But they were given a reprieve. This postcard is an invitation to the celebration party.
It has been raining cats and dogs. And there are snails. Snails and slugs are everywhere. They creep around the garden at night, as expected. But they’re also shameless, flaunting themselves all throughout the day.
When I go out to smoke at night, there’s all too often the crunch underfoot, another escargot falls to the Croc, crushed to paste in his little home. I usually feel pretty bad about that.
Indeed, there’s a veritable snail plague underway over here in England. I guess one should expect it, with rain every day for a quarter-year straight. I’m alright with it, to be honest, they don’t bother me much. Except when I accidentally crunch them, that is. Then it kind of gets to me, makes me feel bad and clumsy.
But the little lady, she’s a gardener, and sees things a bit differently. Gardeners tend to have that ruthless, detached streak in them that you only otherwise see in serial killers and cattle farmers. If some creature might get in the way of their ultimate goal, be that a coat made of women’s skins or a milk quota, well, God help whatever that creature might be. Measures will be taken.
A couple of days ago, she decided it was time to spruce up the edges of the garden. Plants were bought, packed in little plastic grids, destined for a lifetime of loving care. For she’s a generous gardener. New homes were made for them, all along the boundaries, between the other flowers. There was just one problem: The snails would be coming, and everybody knew it. She knew it.
She brought more than tulips home from the garden shop that day. She brought snail pellets, little bright blue nuggets of horror that she could strew about the garden. They looked scary enough on their own, but there should have been a warning on the bottle. A warning to all, that it contained scenes of Armageddon, of the End Times.
Since that day, a week ago, the garden has become a charnel pit of loathing. A multitude of nails and slugs and gastropodes of all descriptions lie writhing in their own secretions outside my house at this very moment.
Whenever I dare venture outside, their blank little eyestalks stare up at me, quivering, begging my help yet hopeless of salvation, dying in a pool of slime that used to be their bodies. And they have lain there since the butchery began. Every day, there are new piles of empty shells scattered on the flagstones, settling down into the horrifying masses of goo, the remnants of dozens or even hundreds of the slugs and snails that were drawn to the Blue Death before them.
I hope her flowers survive, I really do. But I can’t help wonder: at what cost!