panic

My Collapsing Head

I owned an enormous apartment in the penthouse of a tall building in the centre of a city which was an amalgam of London and Berlin. There were several bedrooms with double beds and silk sheets, and a huge living-space with marble floors which extended around a central room. I had been throwing a party for old school friends and acquaintances, and everyone was crashing out now in the beds. F was there, and we had some kind of brief, animated conversation with waving of hands and laughter, and I remember being happy that we could still get on well together.

An old schoolmate was there who had actually killed himself with a shotgun when he was 15, but this didn't appear strange to me; I just became suspicious when I saw him moving the Xbox out of the main room, because I suspected he was stealing it, so I followed him into the bedroom he was bringing it to and asked him what he was doing. He got a dull, haunted look in his eyes as he explained that he just wanted to get on to Xbox Live, and I saw that this was the room with the modem in it. I felt a little guilty for assuming he was thieving, since he obviously knew what I was thinking.

When I left the room, I noticed something a little strange about my head. My forehead felt strange. I found a mirror and was shocked to see that my "forehead bone" had become displaced and was moving around my face, making it misshapen. I thought, "Oh Christ, I've punched myself in the head too many times and this time I've done some real damage, I'm so stupid." I pushed it back into place with my fingers, and it slotted back in painfully and slowly, with a horrible feeling in my face of it sliding around under my skin. I was in a mild panic, and I decided I had to find a doctor. I ran out of the apartment and found some strangers and said "I need a doctor...please help me..."

The next thing I knew I was being examined by two doctors in a surgery. They were fascinated by my dislocated forehead, and they decided it had to be replaced by a prosthetic. While they were in the process of removing the old forehead bone (for some reason I was awake and calm during this procedure) they discovered another thing that interested them - my entire upper jaw had been replaced by an "orthodontic plate". I remembered that this had been done years before when my jaw disintegrated, and I'd forgotten about it. The doctors moved the pieces of my head around like a jigsaw and put me back together.

I went back to the apartment afterwards to find Jo and explain what had happened, because I'd been out all night, and I thought she might think I was out cheating on her. When I got back she told me that she knew what had happened, and she looked at me with deep concern, because the work hadn't taken properly yet. I looked in the mirror again and saw that the prosthetic forehead protruded at the sides and that my eyesockets were in the wrong places, preventing me from seeing properly. I tried to manipulate everything back into place, but it had all become plastic and my face kept morphing away from anything recognizable. My nose grew and shrank, my eyes moved around and even my skin tone changed.

All of a sudden my face turned into my father's face. It was his complete likeness, and I thought "OK, this is possible because genetically I have my father in me." I spoke to Jo, and my voice was my father's voice too. Then a little more manipulation and I changed again. At one point I looked like myself again and there was a sense of relief, but I knew that at any moment it could change again; that what was holding my face together was very fragile. I was trying to think through the implications of this when I woke up.

The Dark Pool

My friends and I were clearing out the garden  of an old abandoned house - it was full of weeds and junk, and at the bottom of the garden was a deep pond, almost like a swamp. We had to clear out the pond, so we were taking turns to dive into the freezing cold water and fish stuff out of the bottom - old TV tubes, bits of wood, plastic milk cartons. The water was sludgy around the edges of the pond, clogged with floating weeds and mud, and some of us were getting stuck there, and had to be pulled out by the others.

Then P went to the bottom of the pond and didn't come back up. We were staring at the water, trying to see his outline, getting more and more anxious. We extended a length of black hosepipe down to him to grab on to, but nothing happened, so Paul decided to go down and get him. He took hold of the hosepipe and jumped into the deepest part of the pond. After a while he jerked on the hose, and we started to pull him up - as he got closer to the surface we could see that he'd found P, who had got stuck in some weeds at the bottom, and they were both holding their breath.

Something went wrong. The hosepipe came free, and they floated back down out of reach, so we sent it back down again. Everyone started to panic.

The next thing I remember, I was indoors, asleep, and I woke up to the feeling of sun on my face and the sound of laughing voices outside. I knew that something was very wrong, but I couldn't quite remember what. I went out and I was in the garden again, and P was standing talking to everyone. That's when I remembered that I had thought he was dead, and I ran up to him and hugged him really tightly, nearly in tears. I told him how happy I was that he was still alive, and he seemed almost a little embarrassed, but he hugged me back.

Rotten Teeth

I was trapped upstairs with my partner in the house I had lived in for 13 years. It had been a sunny summer's day, but then a sudden storm came, and everything next to the open windows inside the house was drenched. I looked out of the window and I saw that the room underneath ours was on fire, started by an electrical short circuit, and I knew we had to get out of there really quickly.

We managed to climb on to the roof of the garage, and from there we could get to the ground and back into the house. I turned on the garden hose and pointed it at the main body of the fire, and then ran through the house closing the windows and turning off appliances. A lot of the electrical outlets were fizzing and sparking because of the rain. When I came back to the burning room, the fire had gone out, and there was nothing except thick black smoke.

After so much excitement and panic, we had to calm down. I was feeding the cats in the back garden, and I noticed that one of them was my mother's cat, Sheena, a gorgeous tortoiseshell-and-white persian who died when I was 14. She often appears in my dreams, and I always remember that she is supposed to be dead, and it usually signifies some kind of decay, something bad about to happen. This time was no exception.

I was feeling my teeth with my tongue, and I noticed one of them was loose. I wiggled it with my fingers, and it grew looser until I realized it was going to come out. A soft pop, and I was staring at it in my hand. The root was black, and my mouth started to fill up with black liquid which was bleeding from my gums. I ran inside to look in the mirror. Another tooth was loose, and came out as soon as I touched it. The root was also black, and I had to spit more black liquid into the sink. This was really starting to get disturbing. "I really have to make an appointment with my dentist," I thought. I felt around in my mouth again, and another tooth came out. I was starting to panic. "I'm going to be so ugly that Liadain won't love me, she won't even want to look at me!"

That last tooth was a bad one. There were shards left in my gums, which seemed to be turning into some kind of soft organic pudding. As I picked them out one by one, I caught hold of another of my molars, and an entire section of my jaw seemed to come loose. I realized my whole face was falling apart, and I started to scream "Oh my god, oh my god..." - I realized that I was fucked, that my only chance, the only chance I had left, was if this was a dream...let it be a dream, please god let this be a dream...

I woke up with a kind of spasm, and sat up saying "Fucking hell, fuck fuck fuck, god fucking damn it", and for the next five minutes I couldn't stop feeling my teeth to make sure they weren't loose. I've had several nightmares about my face falling to pieces and it doesn't get any easier to deal with.
 

Dark Night of the Soul

shrieking under folds of blackness,
hands clawing at the fabric of an unlit tent.
veins swelling in a vacuum, empty eye sockets wide.
the midnight of his memory full of monsters.
what we know as horror: the crossing of death into life,
the corpse walking with a blind smile,
the puppets jerking at their strings.
his mother's bloody grin, holding her own head by the hair,
and he ran out the door into the apocalypse they promised him:
the destiny of the destroyed atom, and a trillion ghosts
left to roam a nightmare planet in unfinished visions.

slicing himself for the feeling of bright sharpness, the reality.
sky on a frozen winter's day, the cloud diamondcutter.
the clarity when he first loved her, when he first recognised her
and became a river running to her. the deathly fear
when he lay awake in the living night-time, presences
crowding in his awareness, afraid to turn over.
when he took the elevator to the basement of his mind
and found the mutilated man, madness shining in his remaining eye.
the boy in the abandoned house who swallowed a living scorpion -
tongue numb with venom, his skin turned black and livid -
but inside he became a storm of daisies, summer light and wind.
someone who would love the demons and angels alike -
an alchemist, at war with the dead physics of his universe.

strange notes from the other side of a drugged mind:
"what the FUCK happens when we die?" and the feeling
of crossing into an unknown land. his only journey:
miles of roads lined with bodies and flowers, tiger paws,
daggers, vertigo footage from cameras falling off cliffs.
or, like faded newsreel, spotted and flickering, set to the sound
of muttering, whispering voices, old showtunes:
the body's last words,
spoken on a sunlit evening stretching into neverness.