As I say, I don’t see what happened to me all those years ago as ‘a psychotic break-down’. Far from it. I see what happened to me back then when things got kind of weird as ‘a reality implosion’. That may not make a lot of sense to most people but it makes a hell of a lot of sense to me, I can tell you. People always look at these things backwards, in my experience, so what they have to say on the subject can safely be disregarded. As the utterances of fools…
What ‘reality implosion’ means to me is that my life used to be a kind of an empty, hollow shell, containing nothing at all apart from a wretched little bit of stagnant air, air with ‘nowhere to go’. A sealed capsule of stale fart-gas, if you will. And then one day the pressure of reality became too much and that fragile little capsule imploded. The fragile shell which was me cracked and crumbled, letting all that reality in, sending thousands of shards of splintered, fractured, disintegrated personality husk flying off in all directions. Splat! Crunch! Zing! End of the hollow shell. End of the false-reality bubble. End of the old me…
Needless to say that reality implosion wasn’t exactly what you’d call a pleasant experience, not by any stretch of the imagination, but there you go. Not exactly a barrel of laughs. But that’s just the way of it. Of course, you might quite reasonably ask what earthly good that ‘crack up’ (or ‘implosion’, or whatever you might wish to call it) has done me. What improvement has it made? Admittedly, on the face of it, not a lot has changed. I’m sure I come across just as dysfunctional as I ever did. I certainly haven’t suddenly turned into ‘Mr Popular’ or even – ‘Mr Socially-Acceptable’. If anyone took the trouble to notice me I’m sure they’d dismiss me immediately as a weirdo, a misfit, a loser. It just so happens that it doesn’t get to that stage because I don’t seem to show up any more on people’s radar. I have become invisible. I’m not hooked up into the social game reality anymore. So anyway am I not calling what by anyone else’s standard was a fully-fledged psychotic breakdown by the fancier name of ‘a reality implosion’ just so that I can feel better about what was clearly a melt-down on a major scale? Is it not just the case that I am putting a positive spin on things so that I don’t have to feel so bad what happened to me, because I am – quite understandably – simply unable to cope with seeing the truth? Which isn’t in all fairness that easy to cope with.
In one way, answering that question is what this story is all about. In another way it isn’t – it’s about something else entirely. Possibly. Either way, I’m not going to say any more on the subject at this stage. It’ll all come out, one way or another and then you can draw your own conclusions. If you still want to. Which you might not want to. Personally speaking, I’m no longer sure that it is about drawing conclusions. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what it’s about anymore. It’s definitely not about drawing conclusions – if that’s not a conclusion in itself. I’ve got to the point where wondering ‘what it’s about’ no longer seems to matter. Conclusions – like theories – are for people who want to stop thinking. They exist purely to confirm the assumptions of the psycho-static mind. But I don’t want to jump ahead of myself so I will return to my narrative.
The meeting with my Polish connection when ahead as planned and I found myself only three weeks later standing outside a surgical enhancements clinic with a big wad of money in my jeans pocket and the resolute intention to undergo whatever painful surgical procedures might be necessary to permanently change my situation. Only this time it wasn’t the Galway Enhancements Clinic – which had actually been shut down just over a year ago amidst lots of bad publicity due to unhygienic practices – but instead a rather scruffy, seedy kind of a place in some side-street off the Uxbridge Rd in North London. To be honest it wasn’t so much of a clinic as a low-end tattoo parlour, but I was in no position to be fussy.
I suppose I was pretty lucky really that I had the money to pay for the procedure in the first place. That was a bit of a fluke. Turned out that three or four other customers of the Galway Enhancements Clinic had ended up with bad infections, not just me. One had turned out to be particular nasty and had made the national papers and so on the tail of those cases I put in a claim for what had happened to me, which had been distressing enough. Along with all the other stuff that had happened to me at the time, which I have already mentioned. So I had got paid twelve thousand euros compensation, one amongst a rake of other claims that had gone in at the time, and now I was about to hand over a significant proportion of that money to a Vietnamese guy called Huu Phuoc, if I’ve got that right.
Mr Phuoc, a skinny middle-aged guy wearing a dirty white gown and high-tech looking binocular microscope pushed up on his forehead, met me in the voyeur. Once he had established to his satisfaction that I was the customer he never spoke to me again, although it was clear he spoke perfectly good English. After taking five grand in sterling off me at the front desk he hastily ushered me down a corridor into a little side room and got me to sit down in what looked like a dentist’s chair. He looked kind of nervous, which didn’t seem to me like a good sign. The Galway Clinic had been a way more professional set-up than this – but, on the other hand, that had been legal, so what did I expect? All the same, his manner did nothing to inspire confidence in me. He jacked the chair down and got to work on the left side of my head, injecting copious amounts of what I took to be novocaine. And then, without even waiting for the stuff to kick in, he started going in with the laser scalpel. Funnily enough, there was no pain. People say laser surgery doesn’t hurt, not at the time anyway, even if you don’t have anaesthesia.
There was a lot of pressure on the side of my head, like he was leaning the whole of his weight on me. This went on for quite some time, possibly as long as half an hour. In my mind I imagined that he was fitting a socket, like the three-pin electrical sockets you stick household plugs in. Obviously, this wasn’t what he was really doing but it nevertheless kind of helped to imagine it. It helps to have something concrete to imagine. Then, when he was finally satisfied with what he had done, he reached for a white plastic gun-type thing and fired what was must have been the illegal biochip into my skull. And that was it. Job done…
The guy, whatever his name was, Huu Phuoc, placed a remarkably beaten-up looking woolly hat delicately on the top of my head and gestured for me to pull down firmly. “Cold outside,” he said, “Make bad pain for you…” As we walked along the corridor to the foyer I resisted the almost unbearable urge to touch where the implant had gone. Mr Phuoc seemed less nervous now – almost jolly, in a rather alarming kind of a way. “If you wait twelve hours for neural connection to grow then everything OK. Then you no problem any more…” he advised me with a benign but at the same time deeply impenetrable expression on his face. Numbly, I shook his outstretched hand and thanked him. Strangely, Mr Phuoc then proceeded to give me a big, comic-book wink. Trying unsuccessfully to mentally process this last, distinctly disconcerting event, I stepped out of the front door into the cold November street without looking back and that was the last I ever saw of him.
It was the afternoon of the next day when the connection eventually started to kick in. I was still in bed in my budget super-saver hotel room in New Holland Park Rd, not feeling very well in myself, thinking that I might actually be coming down with something, when I experienced the odd sensation of what felt like a series of mini-electric shocks chasing each other all the way around my brain, accompanied by an unpleasantly metallic taste at the back of my mouth. Then my vision went funny and the next thing I knew I was surrounded by a brilliantly incandescent white rope of searing light twisting and writhing about like an ultra high-voltage electric cable that had come loose and was snaking around amidst terrific showers of sparks in a crazy out-of-control dance. And then everything went back to normal and I could see a row of mauve-coloured alphanumerics pulsing regularly in a bar somewhere on the far left of my visual field. I could hardly dare believe it – I was connected again.
It was good while before I managed to get the hang of the user interface. It wasn’t at all familiar to me – on the one hand the interface seemed ridiculously rudimentary, and yet on the other hand there were features to it that I had simply never seen before. And there wasn’t a tutorial package to go with it – although maybe that was expecting a bit too much out of the deal. Worse was to come however. I could interface with a few options but these were no more than basic TV channels. In fact the more I got to grips with the thing the more it started to look like the equivalent of the Freeview package you get when you buy a TV but can’t afford to subscribe to Sky or UPC. There were hundreds and hundreds of channels there but the crappiest, most worthless channels you can imagine. The pure dregs. They were the pits – the worst of the worst. Commercial channels selling jewellery and keep-fit equipment, channels devoted to demonstrating time-saving kitchen devices and handy household gadgets, Country and Western channels, dozens upon dozens of them, and – worst of all – at least a hundred USA-style evangelical channels. God channels.
I went into a state of pure shock at that point. I had been taken for a complete and utter dope. After a few minutes of walking back and forth within the cramped confines of my hotel room, I pulled myself together. If they were just going to rip me off, then surely they wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of sticking anything functional in my head – why would they bother? Why bother with this weird Freeview TV-type shit? They could just as well have put a steel ball-bearing in my head, or nothing at all. I wouldn’t have known the difference. It didn’t make any sense that they would go to the trouble of implanting an actual biochip in my skull, even a stupid one like this would still cost a lot of money. More likely there was some kind of signal error. Maybe I was picking up the wrong stuff. I sat down on the bed, leant back against the padded headboard, and closed my eyes. I chilled out there for a while, gathering myself back together. A part of me – admittedly a small part – wasn’t taking this drama seriously. It was almost as if – deep down – something in me was smiling at the ridiculousness of my situation.
And then someone close by, someone actually right there in the room with me, softly but distinctly cleared their throat. I opened my eyes. Standing at the foot of the bed I saw a smartly dressed man of medium height, regarding me in a curious sort of a way and holding a rather expensive leather-bound book in his hands. He was a little bit on the rotund side, with short dark hair combed over neatly to one side of a rather unusually round head, and a pleasant – if ever so slightly bland – expression on his face. My immediate feeling was that he was harmless, friendly even, but definitely not there by accident. He looked much too sure of himself for that…
The man caught my eyes. “May I introduce myself, Nick,” he said, “My name is Terence Jones and I’m a representative of the International Christian Fellowship. I thought I might take the liberty of dropping in on you, so to speak, to ask if you might be interested in joining our Bible Study Group…” I had of course worked out what was going on at this stage. The penny had dropped. I tried to say something but couldn’t, and Terence obviously took my silence as assent. He continued with his spiel, “As I’m sure you know, Nick, the Bible is a kind of Operator’s Guide to life. After all, if we need a manual to help us use a new washing machine or vacuum cleaner, it stands to reason that we are going to need something to help us know how use God’s gift of life. Life’s a lot more complicated than your average washing machine, as I’m sure you’ll agree. And the Lord is hardly going to give us a gift like this without making sure we have a users guide, is He?” Terence paused to chuckle at his own rather lame joke here, and then progressed to his next move. “If we look here in the Gospel of Matthew,” he said, opening his Bible at a pre-marked page and at the same time making as if to sit on the bed beside me, “we learn something very interesting about what God expects from us in life…”
At the very last moment inspiration came to me. I had been sitting there in a frozen panic, wondering how on earth I could possibly get rid of this guy. This was no ordinary Bible-basher – this was a hologram, appearing to exist out there in the real world but really existing only in my own brain as a series of electro-chemical impulses precisely stimulated my visual cortex by the brand new biochip implant in my skull.
“I should have mentioned,” I blurted out, “I’m a pagan. I’m a Born Again Wiccan. I’m fully subscribed to the Church of the Erisian Mysteries and they – I mean we – eschew Bible study on religious grounds. On the grounds that it contradicts the teachings of the Immortal Goddess Eris…”
Terence regarded me carefully throughout my sudden outburst. His eyes were curiously calm and composed. As I looked at these eyes I had the sudden unaccountable feeling that what I had taken to be blandness on his part was actually a mixture of near infinite patience and incredible, irresistible determination. Then he went back to being merely bland, but I had spotted something there and it totally freaked me, I can tell you. “We’ll talk again, Nick.” He said pleasantly, and winked out.
I can’t describe my feelings at that point. This was far, far worse than I had originally thought. Incalculably worse. It was in fact my worst nightmare come true – I was wired directly and permanently to the most insidious God channel there was, the infamous UCF holochannel…