They wheel me in and my level of disorientation is through the roof. Probably the same roof that represents all I can see. A drab ceiling, broken only by unattractive patches of mould. Acres of it, endlessly winding as I wind endlessly beneath.
My awareness is reduced to this. They’ve doped me so expertly, they could wheel me into a lion enclosure and I wouldn’t make a fuss.
I wonder if that’s what they’ve done. Put me in the company of predatory cats who prefer speckled white fibreboard and lifeless neon to basking in the open savannah of what I’d hitherto suspected was maybe
The real world.
I’m dumped. Like a spotty teenage boy who knows it’s back to wanking in front of the computer.
They drop me on the spot, leave me on the gurney.
Why shove me off the thing? Why bother to make me hit the floor? These bastards know I’ve hit bottom already.
So it’s the trolley. I’m the thing you don’t want to shop for.
Some reused, shoddy-as-all-hell shower curtain encircles me. Becomes all I can see.
A disorientation tactic? Cut out my one good sense, leave me alone with the disturbing after-effects of the rest.
Blips and bleeps, a cacophony of machinery. Footsteps, ever pacing; too, too many. People bitching, people screaming. Faceless as they ever were.
A rancourous odour, I don’t even know what it is. But it’s flaying my sinuses, crashing like a nasal drip down the back of my throat in a beeline for my agonised taste buds.
My hands shake. Somebody smack me on a morphine drip, you sons of bitches, and straighten my arm out while you’re at it. Fix me; I’ve got rights.
I’m mesmerised by my own nervous system, the throb of blood through my arteries taking on a staccato rhythm that’s all too intoxicating.
Seconds resemble minutes, but hours pass. There’s a stabbing pain in my arm and it insists I stay acutely aware of every maddening little moment. My natural dopamine levels rise: the opiates trickling through my bloodstream are slicing to nothing. They blunt the Bowie knife that is my right ulna, but they never let me sleep. Never let me forget this endless sabbatical.
If I have to be here, I just want to let the whole endeavour happen despite me. My mind whiles away the stuttering, shuffling seconds in search of a get-out clause. In typical fashion, it fails miserably.
All it’s got to do is switch itself off, but it denies me this reprieve, flatly refuses to grant me the luxury of a blackout.
I watch helpless, transfixed, as time marches right past the window that looks in on the rest of my existence. Granting me eternity in the blink of an eye.
When I’m aware of awareness again I discover some old codger’s been wheeled in next door.
I listen to this shit head. Realise this really is a circle of Hell set aside exclusively for me. He bitches, he moans, he complains about how long he hasn’t been here.
Suck it up, you prick. Try my sentence on for size and see if you’re still laughing.
Uniformed drones pass occasionally by. (I can’t see them for the curtain but they sound uniformed.) They part the screen every now and then and pretend to care. They’re shift workers, pushing each new batch of inmates through processing, greeted by fresh meat every time they clock on.
Whenever they see me they express their ever diminishing surprise that I haven’t been similarly advanced to greater things. Their plaintive mournful greetings recur as mantras. ‘Still here, eh?’
Thanks. No shit.
These uniforms dressed in their smiling faces do their spot checks. They test my lucidity, ensuring its scarcity. I’m slapped once or twice about the face and told, ‘Fuck you,’ for another couple of hours. Until the next round.
I ask them all, each one to the sick, sorry last, what they can tell me about my predicament. I’d get more out of the loud-mouthed geriatric behind curtain number two.
I must yell, ‘I demand to see someone ostensibly in charge,’ because hours later – days? weeks? – I get a ‘Hello’. It’s a miracle after enough of the silent treatment – vapid, meaningless niceties aside – to think I can expect any attention at all. But here it is. Live, in person, present and correct in the form of a clueless Suit.
‘How are we today?’ it says.
Is this patter, my conscious mind wonders, or are you being deliberately obtuse?
I grumble. It’s all I’ve got the energy to do. Between the doping and the abject lack of anything approaching sustenance I’ve been offered, I’m barely a shadow of my former self. I’m sludge, a stain on the trolley, a forgotten commodity metamorphosing into a steaming, pickling heap of waste.
‘Do I get a cell?’
The Suit laughs, like a sphincter convulsing. ‘At least we have a sense of humour,’ it condescends spontaneously. All eyes off me, and an aside to its stable mate: ‘Make a note of that. Humour.’
Shit. Jesus fucking shitty son of the Divine. I’ve just consigned my own idiot arse to idiot torture. It’s written now, it’s on the page. In my file.
That’s how this works. That’s how these Suits and these Uniforms do it. They take it all. Every ounce of strength, every ounce of worth. Then whatever the drugs won’t extract, they document. To be used later, at their discretion, as a tailor-made weapon.
And I walk right into it.
I try to divert them, I try to be smarter. But when you’re in the state I’m in, it’s impossible to muster the tactical sophistication. So instead it comes out sounding like a person abdicating all independence. It comes out sounding like, ‘Is there any word on my situation?’
It actually comes out sounding polite.
‘We’d like to say you’ll be attended to reasonably soon.’
Sure. And I’d like to say ‘Go fuck yourself’, but that doesn’t mean it’s on the cards.
It continues. ‘We want to get this over with as quickly as possible, and we know you do too.’
You know, do you? In my file, is it?
‘We couldn’t tell you at this stage,’ the Suit smirks, self-satisfied.
Its offsider, Keeper of the Notebook, lesser half of the gestalt beast, forgets its relative insignificance and chimes in. ‘Not at this stage, no. Too early to say.’
False hope. It’s just another tactic, but I’m not biting.
‘Maybe tomorrow,’ it suggests. ‘Hopefully. We’d like to get it done tomorrow.’
‘It depends?’ I suppose aloud.
The lesser half nods. ‘On availability of facilities.’
A call comes through. A cancellation. Something about a noisy old man who died in the night. I’m on for tomorrow, they tell me as they draw the curtain closed.
Tomorrow. Which means they don’t need to transfer me to a proper cell.
It also means they’re not compelled under any human rights acts to excuse my semiconsciousness or fill my stomach with anything more substantial than hallucinogens.
I buy into it. I trust them. I can sleep easy. It’s my last night in this place. It’ll all be over soon.