I was sitting on a wooden bench in Angell Park in Brixton, feeling the sun heat up my jeans. Behind me there was the ceaseless noise of traffic but here in the park all was quiet. Sitting there, I felt that I was in some way thawing out, or ‘coming to’. I felt that I was coming back to myself. If I was coming back to myself then it stands to reason that I must have been away but I didn’t know where. I had no recollection of being away. I had no recollection of being anywhere. This was an odd feeling, now that I noticed it. I felt that my past had been completely swallowed up by some kind of hungry creature. Or perhaps it had been erased or amputated, as if by a very sharp knife. It was as if I had only this very minute come into existence, sitting here on a bench in Angell Park off the Brixton Rd. I had no past.
This thought frightened me a bit, but at the same time it was strangely comforting. There was some kind of illicit pleasure in that forgetting, in that all-pervasive stupefying numbness. I wasn’t numb now though – I was warming up in the sun, I was slowly coming back to my senses but I could still feel the terrible hold that all-pervasive blankness had on me. I could remember the Great Forgetting, the Great Numbness, the Great Blankness and I was still in thrall to it. I was still it’s eager servant. Part of me wanted to stay there forever, part of me didn’t want to come back. All of me didn’t, in fact. I was returning only reluctantly. But I was being reborn into the park whether I wanted to or not and already I could feel the niggling of various awarenesses telling me that I had to be concerning myself with this, that and the other. There was stuff I had to do, even though I couldn’t quite remember what that stuff was.
I don’t want to make out that I was suffering from amnesia or anything like that. I could still remember my name. I could still remember where I lived. I could remember everything. It’s just that it didn’t mean anything to me. I couldn’t have cared less about it. It was all irrelevant information – it was coming from somewhere a long, long way away. It was me, but it wasn’t me. The details I could remember related to my life, and yet they didn’t relate to anything – not really. There was something very pointless about them. It was all stupidly meaningless…
I tried to focus on what it was I had to get done this morning but I couldn’t shake the intense mental lethargy off me. I couldn’t free myself from the hypnotic effect of the Numbness. Which is like a giant rubber eraser that instantly rubs out everything it touches – the Mind Eraser. The Big old Mind Eraser. Rubbing out everything. Numbing out everything. Numbing it and numbing it. The Great Numbifier. The Big Blank. Blanking it all out. Blankety-Blank. I didn’t know what I was saying exactly, I just kept repeating those words in my mind because it made me feel strange and I kind of liked the way it made me feel. Although I kind of didn’t at the same time. On a deeper level, the feeling was profoundly unwholesome and it chilled me to the bone. I knew that it was a manifestation of darkness.
I was getting uncomfortably hot so I got to my feet and started to make my way back into town down the Brixton Rd. I knew that there was something I was supposed to remember but I couldn’t and this left me with an unpleasant feeling. It troubled me. It was like a pain deep down inside me. A dull, blank sort of a pain – the pain of knowing that I had lost track of something important, something which became more obscure to me the more I got to thinking about it.
Go through the motions of doing stuff and it will all come back, I said to myself. Just keep on acting like you know what you’re doing. Eventually it’ll catch, like an old car engine. Your battery is probably drained. Or the starter-motor’s gone. Or the spark-plugs need replacing.
I was walking down the High Street. People everywhere. Volumes of people. Coming up the street and going down the street. Everyone knowing where they were going. Locked onto their destinations. Sure of themselves, sure of their destinations. Unlike me who was sure of nothing. Apart from the Big Blankety-Blank in my head.
I wasn’t just a little bit afraid then, I was terrified. I was horrified, shocked to the core. I was here but I wasn’t here. Something inside me was missing. Something inside me had been scooped out. I had been negated, it occurred to me. I had been erased on the inside. I had no inside. I was all on the outside.
I felt as if I was walking through something terribly thick. Something thick like treacle. Or thick like a dense, miasmic fog. This fog was reaching deep into my brain. Tendrils of it wrapping themselves lovingly around each and every brain-cell. It was the brain fog. The brain-fog clung to me as I walked like a heavy, sickly-sweet anaesthetic gas.
I couldn’t shake it off me.
I couldn’t shake it loose.
I couldn’t free myself from the tendrils.
The process had gone too far – it had advanced beyond the point at which it could have been reversed. I had allowed it to set in and now it had taken hold. It wasn’t going to let go.
At that point I didn’t know whether I was feeling very very tired or whether I was just very very lazy. Both possibilities seemed to me to be the same thing. It was the same either way. An immensely heavy weight was pressing down on me and I wanted more than anything else in the world just to close my eyes and give in to it. I could barely remain conscious.
I was on the bus. I tried again to focus. I stared at my trainers. I knew I had to do something. I have to go to Stockwell to meet Adrian, I suddenly remembered. There was something we had to do. It was important. I remembered that it was important but I couldn’t remember what it was – the attempt to recall it was painful.
Blackness swallowed everything up on all sides. Greedy, sucking blackness. An image suddenly flashed into my head: a symbol, and then a set of schematics. A complex diagram. There was a word that came with it – a word that rang in my head and sounded like ancient Greek. The word was intensely meaningful – it was like a talisman, it occurred to me. As quick as it came into my consciousness it was gone again, leaving behind nothing but that feeling of dull pain which had been with me before. The memory had sunk back into the darkness of my mind.
Then, as the bus approached Stockwell in heavy traffic, I remembered that I didn’t even know anyone called Adrian…