The Voice


P   R   E   V   I   O   U   S   L   Y      I    N 
S   P   I   D   E   R   F   I   N   G   E   R   S
... Like many a lost soul at Bellevue Hospital, he considered his room a sanctuary, but it was also a stage.  These were the good times, before the voice.
There had been a little girl’s chatter in the room, Spiderfingers not at all sure if he was finally hallucinating, or if his past had finally caught up with him.
“Fantasising is a pastime for the real lunatics.  No one’s talking to me, dammit.”  Regardless of his protestations, the voice spoke to him, sharing untimely confessions.  Off and on.  For days.  He couldn’t escape the invisible female’s London cockney.  His small space within the white walls constituted home sweet home for one occupant, not two.
“Spider? It’s me, Vicky,” the chirpy drawl whirred from somewhere behind his left earlobe, “I can chat through objects now.  Hope you can hear me?” The maturity in the vocal alarmed him.
I’m having a time sensitive breakdown, for fuck sake.  He tried singing over her:
“I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky!” But, Vicky’s insistent tones rung about his head, clearly, throughout the seclusion of his padded box.  Agitated, after several moments’ worth of Kylie Minogue, he paced the room, failing to find a ‘cold-spot’.  Vicky wrenched him back, six years into history, shunting his consciousness into a former life of chaos and uncertainty.  His past: a near manageable hell, where his very existence threatened those faithful enough to champion his cause.  The unsettling monologues commenced with harmless social niceties:
“How are you? What’s the food like?” Then the small talk got bigger: “O.K … I get why you had to leave, but things are like, really weird at home.  We need you.”
“I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky!”
 Sometimes she was apologetic, and yet, for all its regret in reaching out to him, Vicky’s voice wouldn’t cease its visitations.  She pleaded for help in the afternoon, a few more ear-pricking sentences during early evening.  There would be no word for days, and then:
“I want to come visit you, but I know mum and dad will find out.  You might not even be hearing this.  You’re so far away.”
Not far enough, apparently.
Frustrated at his inability to identify patterns of emergence, he tried to shake her out, smashing his forehead into a wall one late morning, but Vicky felt more tangible, more real than any dream fate sent him.  She reminded him that his name wasn’t really John Clay, that it didn’t matter what his doctors told him was possible and what wasn’t.  When the voice relented, Spiderfingers heard his own.
His life played out like a comic book header’s synopsis:  Spiderfingers, the earthbound demigod charged with the thankless task of surviving wave after wave of warriors, hell-bent upon his demise.  A tale shared with his psychiatrist, to keep him locked up:  These minions belong to his jealous off-world brethren, a race of divinities who relentlessly seek their access to Earth in order to rule us with fists of iron.  For that enslavement to occur, Spiderfingers must die.
In his holding room, within walls of cloud coloured padding, the inner monologue began to sound ridiculous.
“Vicky, must stay in here to protect Vicky.”
How much time did he have?
“I should be so lucky!”
When would some undeserving stray minion take advantage of his uncertainty?
“Lucky, lucky, lucky!”
How long till one of his father’s troops snuffed out his unique lifespan?
“I should be so lucky in love!”
He might lose his mind first, inane pop lyricism unable to wall off the madness.
“I should be so lucky!”
Other voices might join Vicky’s; his brain presenting him with individuals his doctors couldn’t see.  The inhabitant next door let out a yowl, a familiar plea given fresh horror: “Nutters and Germs, Spiderfingers has to leave!” His life, the play demanded urgent re-writes, his fraught existence screamed out for a thorough re-structuring.  Transformation – before true madness took him, bound him, made him an easy bullseye.

“A steady acceptance of reality.” said Doctor Kwame.
“A healthy rate of distance and acute disposal of his fantasy character.” concurred Doctor Silberman, both medical men sitting at the table in John's new room, the setting for his life’s revision.
Lavender walls were pasted with indications of his nineties heyday.  Kurt Cobain slumped over a guitar, Jarvis Cocker posing effeminately as the chronicler of broken relations and illicit sex, a pop singer once worthy of a centre-fold.  The idols that coated his environment originated from a classic anniversary issue of Time Out Magazine.  For those that governed his treatment, the living space signified the workings of a sound mind, a new man, who replied to his Christian name without disagreement or hesitation.  However, not talking to himself proved difficult:
“Drool laminated fingers and –”
“What was that, John? Did you say something?”
“Oh no, nothing,” he would lie to the nurse, the doctor, the janitor working through their shift, “Just singing a song to myself.” He knew they were watching him, taking notes, probably laughing at his frail attempt to fool them despite his feverish compulsion, the dire need to indulge in meta-playacting.
“What you singing today, John?”
“Just some Nirvana B-side.  You wouldn’t know it.”
To placate baying in-mind patrons, his fancy manufactured a more grounded production.  Sorry, Bertolt and bye, bye Samuel.  Hanging out with Chekhov and Ibsen these days.  My pal Stan’s got a system that’ll help me get out of this nuthouse.  Don’t take it personally, you’ve been a blast.  Often, when the drive to stage his depravity threatened to infatuate him, Spiderfingers climbed into his journal.
“What you writing John?” said Nurse Stephens, her free arm wheeling a trolley into his space.
“Oh, y’know, it’s good to write things down, so you don’t forget them.” He stared directly at the arm slung against her midriff.  “About the arm –”
“Shhh, John,” she unloaded fresh toiletries, milling about. “You weren’t yourself.”
Entry Eighty Five
From day one, his violent episodes predictably resulted in immediate protective solitary confinement; performances without violence could have easily fallen flat, regardless of his white robe of a costume, despite his rational delivery of his fantastical worldview.
The accounting gave him a comfort not unlike the embrace of a childhood blanket after many hours of attic searching: The truly crazy – for the most part – appear perfectly lucid.  So, Spiderfingers only rocked now and then, resorting to attacks when his ‘reality’ came under extreme prejudice.  A man of silence, for mystery is a jewel in the crown of power.
He waited till Nurse Stephens completed her housekeeping before slumping on the edge of his bed, crying, notebook in hand, not entirely sure as to what prompted the sobbing.  Had he been happier before the journal? He couldn’t quite remember, but being encouraged to keep the diary filled him with some dignity, not to mention the greater control over his tendency to talk to himself.  He straightened up, meditating upon the details of his residency.  He recommenced his writing as he did so, his hand lending itself to the capturing of recent experience:
He shook, doing his utmost to play up his mid-distance glare, attention seemingly elsewhere whilst Doctor Kwame stood across from him.  On every given occasion, he’d offered no reaction to Doctor Kwame’s talk of negative behavioural patterns.  No flicker of the eyes when the term Hyper-Psychosis was coined.  Addictive Subscription to Childhood Trauma, another recurring damnation, but Spiderfingers had played the part of the non-responsive drooling patient for long enough.
In spite of the humdrum requirements of his day to day, he remained in character, sane enough for Doctor Kwame to prescribe walks up and down the lawn.  All business outside the room thoroughly mapped out before execution; every movement, practiced; the very smile on his face being a stage direction.  Sane men were not long for Bellevue Mental home.  Vicky’s voice? She had followed him, an audible spectre marring his move from the high security wing.  His long strolls throughout the complex offered respite, but only for a short while.  Vicky’s voice wafted everywhere he went.  Dangerous then, for the role he played was that of John Clay – a man.  A challenging role to play, but a mortal nonetheless.  Fracture lines began to widen on the fragile vase his rationality had become.  
“You’re not here.  I can’t hear you!” As the final you! escaped his mouth – he recognised – right there, sitting aghast in front of three assessors, how far he’d set his rehabilitation back (that fat fuck, Kwame, playing with that smoking pipe of his).  He chose not to think about it, blocking out the following weeks of sit-downs and observation.  He read through the lines in his head, channelling the dramatic part his observers demanded.  All this drama whilst the little girl’s chitchat went on and on and on.
I should be so lucky!
Entry Two Hundred and Seven
He clung to his own body, the nightmare still in possession of his reasoning as he groped at his chest, arms and face.  All there, not amorphous, just the way a body ought to be, he thought.  The scratching under his bed became noticeable as “So I said – no – I don’t like the idea of it, but women should have the right, mate.”
Four tentacles whipped out from beneath his bunk, “Shut her right up.” long purple limbs bound over his legs and torso, over and over, and “You gotta stand up for your mates.” you gotta stand up for your The creature under his bed pulled taut.  He hauled his entirety up, tearing at the rubbery feelers till he became free, able to grab the bed sides and wrench it out the wall.  He stood triumphant for a moment, pillows and sheets falling off the bedstead gripped in his fists, high above his head.  Spiderfingers bit into his writing hand as the voice from behind his left earlobe ate into his writing time:
“All that shit with the minions made me a better person.  I don’t care how everyone else remembers things.  You were more good than bad, Spider – don’t forget that.”
A moment of silence.  A long pause.  The pen in his hand seizing upon the paper again, jotting away: The monster quivered, juddering insect-like, its frantic display of dying awful to behold.  Spiderfingers slammed the furniture down upon the minion’s back, crushing its body with an unfeeling cold-bloodedness.  Mucus flew out the sides of the upturned bed, purple guts all over the room.
“Another idiot bites the dust.” Vicky he said picking the viscera from between his toes.  This isn’t living, he thought as he heard the sound of his door unlocking, but this isn’t dying either.
“Spider,” He jumped at the return of Vicky’s voice crunching its way through an apple, chomping big chunks out of his concentration: “What do you do all day anyway?” His notebook and pen went to the wall.  Her constant talk prompted him to walk over, pick them up, return to the bed and try again, and again, and again, and again …
Vicky of two thousand and four? Sweet, precocious; legendary in warfare.  Vicky today? Similar to a radio he couldn’t turn off, much like the eternal outbursts that plagued Bellevue’s night and day.  The pressure to form a distinction between the real Vicky and his hallucination was in itself, maddening.  He tried a new tactic: An increased intake of media, his desperate bid to filter out the blather.  Initially, he couldn’t read the words of others, Vicky’s pleading being omnipotent.  Months went by before magazines, radio and television worked collectively to station his thoughts.
Harold Camping speaks about the end of the world; a whirlpool forms off the Japanese coast after the March Tsunami; the fall of Bin Laden; A protester gets sprayed in the face with pepper spray at an Occupy Portland protest; the death of Steve Jobs; the Arab Spring; Hurricane Irene; the death of Amy Winehouse; riots blaze across London whilst copycat violence erupts in neighbouring cities …
Doctor Kwame even lifted the ban on comics.
“Anything with pictures – a real help.”
“What’s that?” Nurse Stephens waited casually at his open door.
“Oh, nothing.  Play I’m finishing.  No insanity in this room, Janice.”
“John, you’ve come so far.  Hey, maybe you could send your manuscript out? You’ve worked on it for so long now.  Must be genius, eh?”
“Ha! I should be so lucky.”
John Clay: lone desert explorer, a patient finally granted the ownership of maps to aid his long trek back to civilisation.
Anything with pictures.
There came a day in September, where he found himself laughing with the Martel family.  Cynthia and Huxley Martel visited Bellevue to check in with their son, Robert, the day spent wading through his doublespeak and confusion.  The task proved easier once John Clay offered insight into their son’s worldview.  That one time he happened across them in the hall, explaining Robert’s tiny invisible slug could tell him how the queen was an evil lizard, but it couldn’t remind the young man how much his parents loved him.  Often these scenes were staged in full view of senior staff, unaware of their role as audience members.  John Clay: a hero in their midst.  
All this progress, so that after seven years of residency, his omnipotent watchers set him free.  No more close quarter combat for him.  No more bizarre animal attacks in the middle of the night.  Out there – sure – there would be death.
Not mine, decided Spiderfingers, his palm at the taxi’s door, his expression perfectly riding the barrier between tearful triumph and resolution as he waved goodbye to Doctor Kwame.  No more prescriptions, evaluations, targets or creepy Doctor Silberman, the dwarf man in his wrap around correctional shades.  Farewell Bellevue, the building’s orange brown brickwork looming in the autumn afternoon.  September’s poetic scenery no longer shielded from view.
He resisted a theatrical bow as he tossed his holdall into the backseat of the taxi, commanding the driver to head to Kings Cross.  He encouraged the man up front to weigh in on Tony Blair’s year-long departure from government.
“Back to eighties Britain my friend, all strapped in for the ghost train?”  
Of course Spiderfingers scrutinised his likeness blinking back at him from the passenger window, adjusting his new pair of glasses.  His hands then returned to his lap, cupped in a delicate pile: A good boy awaiting instruction.  Fingernails unable to inflict self-harm due to their neatly cut status (he had been entrusted with the responsibility of pedicure for weeks).  Bitten - down - crooked - wannabe talons replaced with trimmed evidence of a practical mind.  He held his nails up to the glass, the reflection of his hands morphing with the greenery outside the speeding car.  His hair? Combed enough to run his large hands through.  Perhaps it was then he realised the silence; he didn’t have to shut Vicky’s voice out anymore.  His imaginary little girl’s gibbering muted.  He held off on celebration.  She comes and goes.  The former resident grinned wide. 
Is this bye, bye schizophrenia? Should I feel lucky?
As soon as his cab meandered round the driveway and out Bellevue’s main gate, Spiderfingers tore at the casual suit and tie he’d so readily accepted.  His fingers scrabbled into his light baggage, pulling out the Superman hoodie, jeans, a long red cape of a coat and apple red boots.  He whipped his yellow leather belt about his waist.  Then, he stuffed his suit into the holdall, offering the bundle to the driver:
“Not for me sir, thank you.” Unperturbed by the cabbie’s refusal, Spiderfingers laid the duffle bag on his knees as he inspected the trees on either side of the country road.  He poked his head up against the glass, trying in vain to find an angle sharp enough to view the treetops.
“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.
N   E   X   T      T   I   M   E      I    N     
 S   P   I   D   E   R   F   I   N   G   E   R   S

Lives were in the balance.
“Mine didn’t know my story!”
There would be busking.
“I’m the only deity on Earth, and he didn’t even know my name!”
There would be shoplifting.

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