On a morning in early autumn I awoke in a red brick hospital on a long, sloping hill high above London. I opened my eyes to striplights rudely blinding me. The one directly above was making a noise, a loud buzzing sound.
“How did that happen?” I asked someone in a white coat, pointing at the source of the noise without staring directly at it. I could barely see this person’s face; afterimages from the striplight floated before me like long, purple amoebas, seared onto my retinas.
“How did what happen?” A female voice, gentle, English, well-spoken.
“How did the fly get inside?”
“The fly inside the light. Can’t you hear?”
Her laughter was unaffected, genuine, from the diaphragm.
“I can actually. It does sound like a fly, doesn’t it? I think it’s just faulty. It’ll probably need replacing soon, like a few things around here.”
“How are you feeling?” she asked me.
How was I feeling – now this was a question. I felt plugged in. I was plugged into a thousand circuits, in parallel, in series, loops and configurations. At various points around my body, capacitors and diodes manipulated the current, boosting it through various channels of my nervous system, diverting, gating, reversing it through others. I was on my back. A thin, central beam supported my head and my spine. The rest was abandoned to gravity. My arms and legs hung down around me. My knees bent at right angles, my feet hung to the floor. My arms listed out at my sides, palms upwards, the vulnerable parts exposed. Networks of tiny coloured wires ran from my arms, emerging from holes inside my elbows and my wrists. Little currents ran intermittently through these; different circuits were being tested, a new one each time. Accordingly, I felt little stings dancing about in my arms. At various intervals tendons in my forearms were activated, causing my fingers to flex.
I stayed looking at the ceiling, narrowing my eyes so the striplights didn’t blind me completely. My eyes were unusually sensitive to the light. I didn’t want to look down, because I knew that if I did, I would see that my entire torso had been opened up like a jacket potato. Thick tubes, each one constructed from hundreds of shiny steel vertebrae, ran into me and out of me. There were more wires too, but these were in fat, multicoloured clusters; scores of tiny threads woven together to form thick ropes, hefted together every few inches with plastic cable ties. Inside the cavity, my cavity, were dozens of clamps attached to more cables, jump leads, crocodile clips, holding things in place. Beside me I could now hear a thick, electric hum such as might emanate from a twenty thousand-volt power station in a metal shack by a railway line bearing a hazard sign. I was one with this generator. The generator was one with me. It had all the power to run the universe. It had enough power within it to destroy the world.
“I feel plugged in.”
“You’ve been given a mild sedative. You might be feeling a bit spaced out.”
Rather than a doctor, she was a technician, testing and checking diagnostics.
“Are all systems in order?” I asked.
Eventually, she replied. “It seems so. But we want to give you a CT scan.”
I was helpless, inert, wired up. How would you sell this trip if you could manufacture it and put it in a bottle? I’d call it…
Cybotron. I began to compose some thoughts for future use. It was then I became aware of a cable running up my cheek, hooking round into my mouth, running alongside my tongue, down my throat, and into my gut. It tasted of sour rubber and disinfected dormitories. The instinct to vomit was overwhelming. It took all of my will to stop myself asphyxiating. I had to find a way to carry on breathing normally with this alien thing inside me. I tried my hardest to believe that it was as much part of me as my teeth, my tongue and my bones. I distracted myself with thoughts like these:
I am energy, nothing more, nothing less. I don’t need to lift a finger, to exert any force, for I am pure energy. I lie here and they take it from me, they harness it, they use it for whatever they like. They are feeding me into the machine.
It definitely wouldn’t be for everyone. It certainly wasn’t for me. This, in fact, was what I would squarely class as a bad trip.
This time I’d been found on a roof. I’d climbed up there myself. This was a revelation to me; I was quite unaware I had such skills. Nonetheless, I was seen by several people scaling a three-floor building and making it onto the roof. Apparently all three emergency services showed up. You’d think they had better things to do. I’m not sure who made it to me first, but whoever it was found me sleeping like a baby.
I’d forgotten to take my pills again. All the same, from what I understood, they didn’t think missing one dose alone could have led to this. The drugs have a long half-life, you see – they stay in the system for some time.
Another technician came and spoke to me. He asked me the usual inane questions, and several more I was quite unable to answer. If I couldn’t remember why I’d climbed the building, could I think of any reason I might have wanted to climb the building? No, I replied, I couldn’t, although I sensed he didn’t fully believe me. He asked me what my feelings were about authority. He asked me dozens of questions about my childhood, and about my parents. Lately, I have started heavily embellishing my replies, purely for amusement.
They want to try new medication on me. To maintain some consistency I am to keep taking the tablets as usual, but I have to gradually wean off the capsules and cycle onto new ones over a period of three weeks.
I was more than happy to get out of there. I had a lot to do, and it’s hard to gather your thoughts against the petulant shrieking of a woman who thinks she’s Idi Amin. They gave me another one of the bleeping alarms for my pills. I truly loathe electronic gadgets, but think I might use it this time. The novelty of the hospital stays is beginning to wear off a little.
It was a beautiful day up on that hill. I decided, as I was there, not to waste it.