The role of god is a maddening twenty four hour experience complete with overtime and few rewards. A job where there is no clocking out, no in house psychiatric care and no chance of early retirement. When the thing in the big chair loses the plot, whose job is it to save the world?
... 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
“I should be so 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
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
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
“A steady acceptance of reality.” said
“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
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
“Drool laminated fingers and –”
“What was that, John? Did you say
“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
“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 –”
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
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:
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
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
“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
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
“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
“Wanna see something cool?” He locked
eyes with the man at the wheel via the rear-view mirror.
“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!”