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Dad’s been in touch. He says he’s not long for this world, probably, and he wants to make  peace, and the twin towers were blown up from below, the planes were merely holograms.

He say’s I’ll probably always regret it, if we aren’t reconciled. After all he’ still mad at himself for hating grandad, who after all did bust his ass to send his son to the posh school so he wouldn’t have to be a sheet metal worker like him. Dad say’s those public school perverts just beat with birch rods and worse, he didn’t get a single qualification, and by the way the Nazi death camps are a lie of the Zionist conspiracy, just like all those stage managed atrocities we keep seeing on the TV, where no-one really dies.

He says he wants to meet his granddaughter, at last, five years is long enough. And by the way, Hiroshima was never bombed and nuclear weapons are a myth.

Its as though no-one told him the internet is not necessarily full of truth. I think this kind of uber credulity should be in the DSM, that mighty tome of every known psychiatric disorder, which in the bad old days included homosexuality and now is hemming and hawing about whether to put in internet or porn addiction. I’m so repulsed by the illogical wiring of my poppas brain that i can barely bring myself to reply, let alone introduce him to my daughter.He means well but then again don’t everyone, according to their own version of the universe. We all think we’re doing right, right? Even if that means, say,  keeping your kid of school and plying with week from the age of ten, say. After all the real world is an illusion, and its all part of the conspiracy to stop us feeding our kids dope until they’re too scared to leave the house, and it takes them five years ten years and counting, just to claw their way back to some semblance of normalcy.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I’m on the ward, convinced I’ve drawn the short straw in my little bay full of wild men. Roy is confused by a mysterious infection, a very reasonable man brought low by this mystery illness. He’s obsessed with class, and keeps shouting: “what do you think of people from working class estates, then?” and “this place seems very middle class..for a prison.” in a powerful Middlesborough accent. A security guard has been called, as he’s prone to leaping out of bad and trying to fight with the nurses. His wife is charming and assures me hes normally a completely sane man, an artist and a poet and a teacher.

The others are incurable: a once great lawyer who looks like Peter Cushing (as most people do in here) now reduced to a gibbering fool by dementia. Two more demented men, one whose super-neat bed making marks him out as ex-military, and the other a retired Jamaican postman whose heavy patois accent cant disguise the fact he is talking absolute gibberish. One keep shouting, another wandering off, and its all we can do to keep them from falling or clambering into each others beds or pissing themselves…

But when i step out of the bay and go looking for a nurse, i realise we’ve got it easy. I walk into a bay where a crazy man immediately seizes my hand, crushing my fingers and screaming “CAN YOU GET ME OUT OF HERE?!”;  an old black guy with hair just like don king is flailing around like a fish; and a third man, who i know of old, immediately begins screaming: “Albert! Unhook me from this machine! YOU USELESS CUNT!”

My name isn’t Albert.

Its a vision of hell. I duck out of there to where an ancient Russian man in a strange hat is rifling through the linen cupboard. Neen appears to tell me that he is in fact a famous gangster and she quite likes him. (Neen loves anyone eastern European- they all remind her of her grandad. Violent and mad and polish, being the best combination of all.) She steals me away to wheel an enormous fat man on a bariatric bed into a side room. And all the time there’s people with disintegrating brains wandering the corridors, asking if you’ve seen their Mum, or gibbering with fear, or screaming NURSE!!! as loud as they can, sometimes for no reason at all. Leonard, the lawyer, is hurling objects from his bedside tray across the room. “why are doing this, Leonard?”

Leonard looks at me, placid as a cucumber. “Does there have to be a reason?” he says blithely.

**********************

Dad’s constructed a version of reality which makes sense to him. The great events of history and the news are just too absurd, the world is one big hoax. This strange fantasy perversely comforts him- after all, a conspiracy that brings back the jews from the ovens and Nagasaki from the fire storm; where mad shootists all use blanks and their victims wear fake blood-bags; that’s gotta be a pretty benign conspiracy, right? Else what do they have planned, that is WORSE than all of that?

Me, i see the world differently. It makes perfect sense to me. Chaos is the flood, battering at our door, and oblivion is always nigh. The world exists only the minds of the people who perceive it, and those minds live in fleshy brains. Prey to forces of destruction which can begin nibbling at any time, chewing away one version or reality. When one mind dies, a version of the universe dies with it. And here we are, at the place of endings, the last gasp saloon, where old brains come to die, firing out sparks and smouldering to a stop, their work done but their bodies refusing to die. Not just yet, anyway.

Of course there were death camps, of course there are atom bombs, and of course madmen roam the world with their guns and their hatred. You only need to come here, for your proof.

Sanity is cobweb-fine construction, blowing away like a dandelion clock at the faintest mouthings of the breeze. Madness is what’s left. And it’s infinite.

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Christmas is coming and a man’s gotta work.

I call  this particular shift-pattern‘The Stinker’:  three fourteen hour days back to back. ‘Specialing’  David Arboghast, the  wild man of ward 69.

“Can i ask you a question? Where AM i?”

“You’re in hospital, Dave.”

Dave is amazed. Yet again.

“HOSPITAL? I’m in HOSPITAL?”

“Yup.”

“And where’s me Mum?”

“I’m sorry Dave. She’s passed away. But i do think you already knew that.”

Dave’s eyes widen, but he doesn’t break his flow “She’s passed away…? She’s in heaven. And can i ask you a question: where am i?”

“Hospital, Dave. You’re in hospital”

His eyes bulge with fresh astonishment: “ HOSPITAL? And when can i go home?”

“Well, we need to find you a new home, Dave. You don’t have one just now.”

More puzzlement. “I don’t have a HOME? And wheres me Mum?”

“She’s dead, Dave. YOU know this. It’s been five years.

Again, confusion wracks his face. “Dead? And where am i…?”

“Lets stop taking for a bit, Dave. Why don’t you drink your coffee?”

“Okay. But can I ask you a question? Where AM i?”

I leave the bay and step out into the ward. Wendy is in the sluice, having punched the girl specialing her and legged it down the corridor. No-one wants to go in after her. “why don’t you try? She’s good with you.”

 

Wendy is crouched behind the bedpan masher, her face contorted with the pain of constipation. “Come on Wendy. Let’s get you to the toilet.”

She lunges  with demon-speed, catches hold of my ID lanyard and starts to strangle me with it,surprising strength in her bony arm. Luckily its the quick-release model and comes loose in her hand. With a  scream of relief she unleashes a huge poo on the floor of the sluice room. Fatima pops her head in “you okay?”

“Sure. She’s pooed. I think she should be calmer, now.”

Mister Chang weaves past,  laughing, a snaking trail of urine in his wake…there doesn’t seem to be any other staff on the ward. I reach out to Mister Chang. “Mister Chang, wait…do you want the toilet?” The man in bed fifteen is screaming that his bed is on fire…a hand grabs my sleeve. It’s Bob, the boxer:

“What the bloody hell is going on? I need to get to work. Can you catch the bus, from here? I’ve never seen anything like it…”

Sounds emerge from Dave’s bay, cries of wrath and screams of fear.I rush in to find Dave, towering over Arthur in bed ten,  who is quaking like a child. Arthur is ancient, and has terminal cancer. He’s  compos mentis but suffering from acute anxiety.   Previously he regarded Dave as  an amusing  clown, having arrived at the ward after Dave recovered from his original state of disconsolate 24-7 rage. But now it’s back. Dave’s teeth are bared, cords stood out in his neck, a vein bulging on his forehead.

”Where the FUCK is that TWENTY QUID YOU OWE ME?”

This is another of Dave’s  little fixations, which he rotates. Earlier it was his Mother, yesterday  it was girls. Now the carousel has clicked back round to money. His fists are raised, face purple. I get between them.

“Dave! Get away from this man! He doesn’t owe you ANY money! Get BACK NOW!”

“NO!” Screams Dave, hysteria rising “He DOES! HE OWES ME TWENTY QUID AND I FUCKING WANT IT NOW!”

“Get out” I say. “Get out of the bay and into the day room!”

“NO!”

“YES.”

“RIGHT, THAT’S IT!”

He pulls down his trousers and starts doing ‘the pelvic thrust,’ manically shoving his floppy dick at the terrified man, cowering in his bed, fists flapping menacingly. I give him the iron finger. “GET OUT!”

“RIGHT, THAT’S IT!”  He turns on his heel and goes storming out of the bay, his little fat bum wiggling angrily as he waddles into the corridor. I follow.

“Get your trousers on and get in that day room!”

“Okay.” He says, suddenly mild. Soon we’re sat watching ‘Come dine with me’, and hes meek as a lamb. “I’m so sorry. Its just, i get very confused. Me ‘ead’s in BITS.”

Passion starts to rise again. “I NEED TO GET A LIFE. I NEED TO DIE. I NEED TO GET A GUN SO I CAN KILL MESELF. I NEED TO BE KILLED YOU BASTARDS! WHY WONT YOU LET ME DIE?”

Is this confusion or a moment of clarity? Its hard to call. Dave, by the way, is not mentally ill. Nor is he an elderly patient like most of the others here, so it’s unlikely to be dementia. He is only thirty-nine years old.

Dave’s problem was supposedly a mystery. Me and Alicia  spent weeks telling everyone it’s Korsakoff’s but the Doctor’s wouldn’t have it. They’ were acting all ‘House’, scanning and testing for rare syndromes. The results eventually confirmed our amateur diagnosis. I can write the script, too.

Dave has never been that bright- I’d say a mild, undiagnosed learning disability, low IQ. He’s spent most of his life hanging around in shitty pubs where people of slightly higher capacity have found it hilarious to ply him with drinks, and eventually he’s attracted orbits of creeps who make a living exploiting vulnerable adults. There are skanky little cartels of them,  no-marks who inveigle themselves into their victim’s confidences then fleece them for anything they can. “I need to borrow your X-box mate, okay? And can you lend me fifty quid? How can I be ripping you off,  I’m your mate. Here, have a packet of fags.”

The worst of it is, Dave then forgets to eat. He drinks and drinks, plays the clown, while vitamin deficiency nibbles at his brain. By the time he’s found wandering the streets in an acute state of derangement, its irreversible. Now he’s beyond learning disability, he’s completely crazed.

I’ve been following reports of the plans for the first human head transplant, and one phrase stuck in my head. Denouncing surgeon Sergio Canavero as a madman, one doctor said that if the patient survives, he will ‘experience previously unknown levels of insanity”.

Looking at Dave, I have an idea what he might mean.

The divine spark of consciousness, instilled in the vulnerable porridge of a human brain. It’s a miracle it ever works at all. But when it goes wrong…hooboy. “The thousand shocks which flesh is heir to” said Hamlet.  Well, we’ve come a long way since your time, prince of Denmark. Now we have the medical encyclopedias breaking our bookshelves. Now we have thousands. Plural.

Nine-thirty. I’m out of here. More of the same tomorrow. I should sleep, but instead I’m on the net. Looking for flesh to drown in. Get some fun out of this meat suit before that unhappy inheritance turns up to take it all away.

Ooh look a party. For broad minded adults. Anything goes. Bring a bottle.There will be twister.Hollinwood ain’t so far away.

“Taxi!”

……………………………………………..

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