Panic

September 25, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Posted in People, Senses, Society, Threats | Leave a comment
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The trolley grew heavier and with it, Tom’s sense of doom. The air became dank and the Tannoy announcements disintegrated …

[This is an experimental piece of fiction. It’s mainly about depression, but it contains Aspie elements. Do you think it works?]

Tom sat at his desk, paralysed for work, voices screaming. Again he studied and sniffed the stain on his index finger, now many layers deep. His self-harm ritual had burgeoned to a full-blown death wish. Every thirty minutes he would shuffle downstairs, lock himself in his car and administer another dose.

The act was devoid of pleasure, the pain immediate and sharp. With every drag he imagined a tumour nestling in his left lung, greedily devouring that which made it stronger.

Smoking had once brought relief, stilling his panic and sating the force that wanted him dead. Now it was means to permanent peace, but one no longer imbued with the consolation of erotic fantasy.

A photo stock book lay open before him. Tom flicked to ‘Going on Holiday’. Mauritius, Micronesia, Thailand, Tahiti, even Australia. Flawless shots of cobalt skies, powder sand and transparent seawater.

Tom’s eyes smarted and grew hot. So much beauty; so much world; so much life to be enjoyed. But not for him. At thirty-three he’d voided his right to visit such places.

In systematically destroying his body, he’d reneged on a fundamental deal with God. The cancer surely clutching at him was God saying: ‘I gave you a perfect life: money, love, career, health, imagination – and you threw it back in my face. Journey not then among my creations, you petulant, self-indulgent f*ckhead’.

A tear splashed onto the expensive paper and ran into a Jamaican estuary. This was as close as Tom would get to Paradise and he wondered how he could hold it together for another eight hours.

**********

Every pole telegraphed, ‘Hit ME!  HIT me!  HIT ME!’ The wheel in Tom’s hands was small and light. One sharp turn would be all it would take, though speed would be difficult at this hour. And the hospitals were close.

Tom hunched forward, peering through slitted eyes at scenes he no longer had a right to be part of. The stunning sunset made him moan. The stately park trees shunned him. The fountain sprays dove earthward to avoid his gaze. He had completely worn out his welcome.

He felt like he was on borrowed time, with foreclosure imminent. He thought how easy it would be to liquidate his savings in a final, reckless attempt to break out of his bullsh*t.

In theory his thousands could buy comfort and happiness. But what to buy? He had everything he needed, save the ability to enjoy it. Moreover, he felt he’d forfeited all right to happiness, since he considered his sorrow void of legitimate cause.

Heavy guilt hastened his mood’s descent. Tibetans, Kurds, Somalis, Kosovars, East Timorese: these had a right to feel miserable. Deaf people, blind, autistic, paralysed, aged, bereft and alone: they had cause for grief.

He’d lost no one to Death, never starved, never been denied comfort, never coveted something he couldn’t get with hard work. No childhood diseases, no broken bones, parents happily married, education, advancement, prospects. Free to pursue his own course, he’d built success upon privilege, then had the outrageous temerity to get depressed about it.

What a thankless turd.

The pounding in his head presaged a split, through which thoughts streamed dark enough to obscure the windscreen. Sarah’s building towered menacingly. Tom parked in its shadow and bid it crush him. He was early. When Sarah finally climbed into the car, she beheld a face that read: ‘my whole family has just been murdered’.

**********

Powerless for the moment and desperate to get home, Sarah watched Tom slide as he listlessly piloted them through treacle traffic. As with her morning apnoea attacks, she knew it’d take all her strength to break the barriers forming around him.

What a f*ck. It was Friday; the end of a sh*t week. Sh*t at work; sh*t at home; sh*t everywhere. All day she’d clung to the hope that Tom would feel like going out, if only for noodles and a Chardonnay. A brief respite from the hospice their home had become. Not a chance.

In eighteen months she’d become intimate with every sign his furrowed face could muster. And tonight the ‘Danger Long Wide Load’ flags were out in force. F*ck!

Then she remembered: Jacinta was coming for dinner. Oh please God, not tonight. The house was filthy, the fridge empty and the vegetarian recipe untried. She was due in an hour, the mobile was dead and they’d already cancelled twice. There was no choice; they’d have to shop on the way home.

Sarah shuddered, as if about to slither down a death spiral of her own. As the car inched towards the turnoff, she began to assemble careful sentences.

**********

Tom had appeared to take the news well, but as ever, this was a lie. Now among the avocados and starfruit, he was slowly losing it. In no mood for drama, Sarah docked him to the trolley and begged that he simply walk behind her.

Tom mutely acquiesced and shuffled like a crone. He’d let his sight drop out of focus and the serried goods blurred into a gaudy gouache wash, repellant as lolly vomit. As he progressed, pieces of colour detached themselves and flew towards him, each sounding a cold chrome shudder on landing.

The trolley grew heavier and with it, Tom’s sense of doom. The air became dank and the Tannoy announcements disintegrated.

**********

At the delicatessen, the meats yelled insults, furious at Tom’s complicity as a consumer. The shock brought him back a little, though his mind continued to swim and throb.

He surveyed an impatient throng of customers, vainly tracking ticket numbers on the recalcitrant display. Every face showed anger or frustration. Some were veined as pastrami, others white as turkey loaf. Teeth became gobbets, olives became eyes and at once Tom felt greasy processed flesh all about him, jostling and shouting.

His heart began to pound and he felt suddenly faint. His wet fingers slid from the trolley and he drifted from the cacophony. The space he left filled quickly and the gaggle of meat people gawped with malevolent interest.

Tom spun around, searching for Sarah but finding only terrifying faces of tongue and jellied ham. They lurched and loomed as he fled – straight into an elaborate buttress of tins. The structure caved with a clamour to wake more of the dead, burying its hapless detonator.

Fifty sausage fingers pawed at Tom’s clothing. He screamed as five closed around his ankle, magnetizing every guard in the complex and terminating Sarah’s bakery foray. Skittering cans in all directions, Tom howled at his attackers, ignored the pleas of his lover and tore futilely at the vinyl floor – his lust for oblivion never more acute.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

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