(This is a story that came out of an improvisation session – it was all taken from the randomly chosen word ‘Cyclophosphamide’, a genuine drug which is used as a chapter title in the book ‘Patient’ by Ben Watt. As it was a real drug, I had to come up with an alternate name, but I was rather startled at how this ‘Jeff Noon meets Philip K. Dick’ tale just seemed to download from my head. I kind of wish I could get that to happen more often… This story was published online in Hub Magazine in 2011, and also helped me get onto my Creative Writing MA course at Manchester University.)
So, it’s Friday night, and I’m already speeded up to my eyeballs. The whole world is like this exciting, multicoloured frenetic blur that sometimes resembles stuff I recognise, but I don’t care. I’m doing what I want. I’m down the club, dancing, larging it, throwing myself around, feeling like nothing matters. Darrel’s there, and he’s doing the same, only larger and louder – but after a while, he looks over at me, and starts saying all this stuff about how I need to chill out. And he gives me these pills. Little red pills that glow when you hold them in your hand.
“What’s this?” I shout.
“They’re Cycloparalleladrine,” Darrel shouts back, over the roar of the music. “New stuff. Good stuff.”
Through the noise, I can hear him saying more. Like how it’ll make me feel good, make me see things differently. Says it’s a great buzz, life-changing. Fucker won’t shut about it, to be honest, but I let him go on. He can be an arse at times, but anything Darrel says to take is okay. And if he says I need to cool down, maybe he’s right.
I’ve been larging it for the last couple of days. Truth is, it’s the only thing that makes life worth living. The job down the Leisure Centre sucks. Every time I see Lisa, all she does is bawl me out, even after everything she’s done. We’re fighting more and shagging less – when she isn’t fucking other guys behind my back. My parents – my uptight, jumped-up, loser fascist parents – say I’m going to have to move out, and ‘turn my life around’. What would they know about that? Cunts are stuck in a grey, soulless fucking rut. Every day the same. Not for me.
Club’s the only escape. The one place I feel like I belong. All I can do is head there, stoke myself up – bit of speed, maybe an E if I’m in the mood – and feel the bass pound through my body until I want to die. Big bass, shaking up your body. Reducing you to liquid.
I stand there, the pills in my hand, looking at Darrel throwing his arms around, the whole seething tide of the club around me. The bass in my head, pulverising me. Seeing things differently… it feels right. I like the sound of it. Another escape. Buckle myself in, and take the ride.
So, I take the pills. Gulp them down with water.
Here we go.
The first thing that happens is the room blows up. Not a hallucination, not a rush. It really blows up. There’s this massive explosion, a fireball crashes in from nowhere. Debris, and smoke, and all of a sudden there’s screaming and panic everywhere. People being trampled. The ceiling of the club starts crumbling. Last thing I remember is the wall near me collapsing, knowing I was about to be buried, and thinking – Seeing things differently. Yeah, right. Then there’s pain, and weight on top of me, and everything goes black.
They find me twelve hours later in the rubble. I’m unconscious, mangled, half-dead. It takes them six hours to revive me. As part of the tests, they check my blood, and it tests negative for any drugs. Don’t ask me how.
I know something’s wrong the moment I wake up in the hospital bed, and Lisa’s there. Dressed all smart, like she’s off to a job soon – which is weird, considering what a lazy bitch she is most of the time. She’s sitting at the edge of my bed, looking at me real worried, like she’s going to lose something precious if I go somewhere. She looks different as well – her make-up is… lighter. Makes her look nicer, somehow. More gentle. I lie there, bandaged up like a motherfucker, barely able to move for all the painkillers they’ve pumped into me, and I don’t know what to do. She’s all over me, hugging, and kissing, and saying how she couldn’t believe I’d made it. Lisa, who hadn’t really given a shit about me for months. The girl I’d only stayed with out of habit, the girl who’d sucked off my best mate and then let me find out about it, just because she ‘didn’t think I’d mind.’
Two weeks later, they let me out of hospital, and now she’s talking about marriage. And I’m trying to get my head around these weirdoes who’ve replaced my parents. Dad used to be a used car salesman. Now he’s a sharp-suited, slick-haired guy who runs a bank. And Mum’s a children’s books writer. Apparently she won the Carnegie Award last year, but I’m fucked if I can remember. They live in this huge house over in Holland Park. And I live there too, according to what they say.
I know it’s the drug. When I finally get back to work at the Leisure Centre, and find out I’m the manager of the place- the manager of a staff that thinks I’m the bees knees, by what I can work out- I know it’s the drug. This isn’t the way the world works. My Mum and Dad aren’t the go-getters I’m seeing. I don’t have the loyal, gorgeous girlfriend who’s smart, funny, and – as she’s now proven time and again – dynamite in bed. This life isn’t mine. I don’t belong here.
And that’s because I know I’m not really here. I’m back at the club, on the dancefloor, everybody dancing around me, the bass pounding at me like a sledgehammer. It’s the Cycloparalleladrine that’s doing it – sitting at the heart of my brain, changing what I see and what I feel. Feeding me a different world. It’s a beautiful world, but it’s all lies. Every happy moment, every smile, every time my parents tell me how proud they are, every time Lisa says how much she loves me – I know it’s all lies.
But how long can I resist? How long can I hold out?
And how long before I come down?
Originally published in 2011 by Hub Magazine
(c) Saxon Bullock 2011