By Neil Beynon
He had read about It on the feeds but never talked about It. You didn’t talk about It – It wasn’t the done thing. It was something private to be contemplated in the sodium orange of three AM when you couldn’t sleep or whilst hugging your knees tightly to yourself as you watched your loved one sleep.
When It came It was like someone had lanced his mind with a stalactite, it spread across the rear right quadrant of his head like melting ice water. His legs collapsed under him and he sat down hard on the lino-covered concrete, his hand still entwined with hers.
His heart was racing now, a loud jungle drum in his ears, he crunched his teeth together so hard his molars cracked, his mouth filling with coppery blood. He couldn’t move now. He should have been. By now he should’ve been out of the door as she’d instructed and heading for the docks. His legs wouldn’t move.
The sensation in his head was no longer cold. For their anniversary he’d bought a large chocolate cake with iced sugar sprinkled over it like fairy dust; her favourite. The bakery had messed it up and the cake was too moist, parts of it collapsed in thick wet pieces. That was what his mind felt like: wet cake falling away in chunks.
There was a terrible moment where his chest felt as if someone had sat on it; a pregnant pause that seemed to last forever where he wasn’t sure if he’d draw breath once more. Then it was gone. He could breath. He could move his legs.
And, as he sat on the floor with blood on his chin, he wished he could feel anything even that horrible icy lance instead of the dreadful dark void in his skull. Like a cavity in a tooth he couldn’t leave alone, he mentally tongued it, probing this way and that, trying to understand the new geography of his mind.
They found him shortly after.
He hadn’t moved although he was still breathing, they didn’t always survive and survive he would.
“Will they punish him?” asked the younger.
“No mate,” said the older. “They’ve already done enough to themselves.”
“Why don’t they tell people?”
“No one would ever connect then where would we be? Besides normally they don’t take It into their own hands – we can help if we know in advance.”
“Look he’s still holding the plug. Jesus he must of…”
Gently the younger man eased the plug from the prostrate one’s hand and helped him to his feet. Together the two attendants led him from the room; the yellowed husk on the bed staring glassily after them. Later someone would come to close the eyes.
But not now.