Tuesday, 15 July 2014

A Stage Called Bellevue

Act I
Spiderfingers rocked back and forth in the corner of his padded cell, foetal, hunched, chin to knee.  Like many of Bellevue’s lost souls, he considered his room a sanctuary, but it was also a stage.
In the four walls of protective white there had been nothing but breathing.  Countless hours spent in the near vacuum, inhuman screams of distant communal suffering muffled.  When his cell door finally heaved open, Spiderfingers heard the anguish of insanity pour into his cushioned refuge.  He peered over the shoulders of those entering, searching beyond the visitors to gaze through the corridor windows, investigating – out there, past metal and glass.  His vision latched upon the long dark stretch of Mother Nature rattling against double glazing.  He longed to caress crayon yellow leaves as they flailed in the stubborn autumnal breeze.  He reached out.  His hands waved dramatically as the door closed behind people entering his quarters.  So, no earthly wondrousness for him, the chaotic howls of the deranged barricaded, once again, as rays that preceded Doctor Kwame and his staff were denied.  Shut out.  Midday solar naturalism replaced by the familiar scrutiny of the overhead strobe as the psychoanalyst stood close by the locked entrance:  Portly bespectacled Doctor Kwame, flanked by twin towers of muscle, their biceps rippling through medical whites.  Spiderfingers cleared his throat:
“My family send their servants to densely populated areas, cities … cos that’s where they think I’ll hide.  They don’t know me.”  He watched Doctor Kwame fumble cardigan pockets for a notebook, the feigned sympathy a weak facade.  Spiderfingers: no longer a person, not to any of these professionals.  Spiderfingers: a case study that rarely broke its silence. “See, The High-Father thinks I’m like him, constantly after hero-worship, surrounding myself with as many potential acolytes as possible.  Daddy’s army won’t find me, not out here in the sticks.”
Spiderfingers leapt at Doctor Kwame, his long fingers around the chubby man’s neck, “This one has tentacles! It’s possessed Doctor Kwame to get to me!” Both nurses wrestled his slight frame away from the rotund psychiatrist, who spluttered and coughed, gripping his red bruise of a jugular.  For six long years he’d skilfully avoided any hint of recovery, now and again laughing manically over the pointlessness of Bellevue assigning him a black therapist.  The self-proclaimed demigod’s heritage being far more complex than what the colour of skin might suggest.
“You have an unhealthy fluidity of character.” Spiderfingers remembered Kwame’s parting words clearly.  On these occasions he imagined playing himself in a re-enactment of his situation.  Each metal and fibre that surrounded him reconfigured under the guiding hands of his imagination.  His padded cell became a forgotten abstract memory.  He stood centre stage for the approval of a packed auditorium.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, giants and trolls – tonight, I shall play both parts!” He fired home line upon line of his production – but not at a cushioned wall.  He only saw the darkness.  He could only hear the applause of his audience in their seats of royal purple.  The delusion bore no cracks, his sight detecting no flaw in creativity’s sculpture. “Behold,” he whipped off his tracksuit bottoms, plain white hoodie and slippers to reveal slacks, a cream shirt and a lab coat.  He rammed a fake moustache under his flared nostrils and cupped a smoking pipe against his hip.  The absurdist parody of an old English gent was complete. “Feast your eyes, my wonderful watchers! I am the overfed Doctor Kwame! And –” He swiftly unglued the moustache and threw his lab coat into the front row, revealing the costume underneath: a sinewy man of African descent, not long past the age of twenty five.
“… I am also the demigod of chaos: Spiderfingers! Look upon him Ladies and Gentlemen.  He sports a dense thick sponge of an afro – hard as rock.  The static tangle atop the swaying mess of a character who seemingly cares little for his hair; little for his personal hygiene – so revolting!  His mouth prone to moments of elasticity, like so.” He displayed his open mouth, his finger aimed under his chin whilst one side of his jaw dropped, then the other.  The sell-out crowd laughed riotously. “Drool laminated fingers, ‘til Nurse Stephens or Nurse Patel feels charitable with their cloths.  His fingers are behind his back, of course.  It’s straitjacket time, again!  Once is never enough, eh kids?” He leered up at the children giggling in the royal box. “There he stood; an underweight scrunched up wreck, all laced up in a spit laden patient’s robe, eyes bulging to take everything in.  A madman, clearly, and in dire need of a new pair of glasses.”  Or so it seems, he thought, Ha! If only he could be trusted not to weaponise his personal effects and lash out at the staff during their rounds.  Nurse Stephens’ arm-cast ought to be removed soon.
“Round after round, check after check, his life the ongoing play an instant success, an exhaustive performance run since two thousand and four.  The monthly evaluations are like his days, whilst the night’s dreaming consists of his transformation into a little demigod on the run from a lightening-wielding deity.”  One act followed the next until the internal investment wore him out, barely cognitive for real-life entrants to his insignificant apartment. 
“Personalities are informed by shared experiences, John.” Doctor Kwame, placed his notes against his chest, head cocked to the side as he spoke. “Where you grew up, who your associates are, what class your parents were born into.  You are free to be Spiderfingers because there’s no expectation from your family and friends.  You’ve left them behind.  Their vacancy allows you to play the tragic hero.”
He couldn’t identify with him, not on any profitable level.  He resented the letters that followed the good Doctor’s first name.  Cursive indications of power, earned through hours of study.  He was more than a little jealous of Doctor Kwame’s six foot plus titans at his beck and call.  Still, he endured talk of a persecution complex as he sat through Doctor Kwame’s waffle about processing information.  He only pretended to be frustrated.  His failure to pass monthly reviews pleased him.
Too many innocent citizens depend upon my captivity.
He denied himself the use of X-Ray vision, Super-hearing and anything else that might disrupt his immersion into his role play.  Nothing could disrupt his plan.
Then he started hearing the voice.

N   E   X   T      T   I   M   E      I    N      
S   P   I   D   E   R   F   I   N   G   E   R   S
“Wanna see something cool?” He locked eyes with the man at the wheel via the rear-view mirror.
“What’s that?”
“Stop the car.” The car was still braking when Spiderfingers hopped out, his crimson trench coat flowing behind him.
        “Watch this.” He raised his hands to the sky, reaching, waiting, pushing, hoping and tensing his muscles as he remained standing by the side of the taxi.  Nothing.

1 comment:

  1. Can I just say, I LOVED the beginning. I loved the very visual, epic styled world you created, the giant, the demigod, the mountains, the water - I really felt like I was there. You did an excellent job in maintaining the fast pace, building tension and excitement and gripping my attention. Probably the main reason I never managed to leave feedback on your first chapter is that I didn’t really have anything to say but praise. ‘Cloud spearing summits’ is perhaps my new favourite phrase ever, and i’m so happy it’s in the first line. I love the thoughts written in italics, which could also be speech. I love..love..loved it. Especially the ending line: ‘My name is Spiderfingers and this is a room for mad people’. I had a ‘whaaat’ moment where everything started to compartmentalise in my mind and I could start to see his real world, his dream world, his struggle with father figures, his sense of angst.
    Great first chapter Well done. Really enjoyed reading it.

    One thing I found interesting about the second chapter was your use of language. Every word, every phrase, is written with a flourish (‘Mother Nature’ instead of a tree) which I thought carried on the theme of the protagonist’s self-aggrandization/the epic style/the sense that everything is inflated. It made me need to read a couple sentences twice, but all in all I enjoyed the imagery.

    ‘You are free to be Spiderfingers because there’s no expectation from your family or friends. You’ve left them behind. They’re vacancy allows you to play the tragic hero.’ I found this bit really interesting, and it made me sit and think about it for a little while. Dr Kwame appears to be offering us some rationale while we lose ourselves in Spiderfingers’ chaotic mind.

    I didn’t really understand the ‘too many innocent citizens depend on my captivity bit’ - which is not a bad thing, it shows me that it’s a key theme that will be picked up later.

    To be honest, I don’t have anything much constructive to say at this point. It’s a fairly polished piece, and I’m looking forward to reading more about Spiderfingers’ (probably violent and sexually explicit) shenanigans.

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