Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Configuration of the Pegadrift (excerpt)

His doctor had instructed him to visit this website. A government website set up to facilitate the self-diagnosis of mental and emotional disturbances.
He drove over to his brother’s house. His brother had a computer. It was a sunny afternoon at the end of autumn. A cold wind stirred dead leaves on the pavement. A young girl drifting past on a tricycle stared at him intently.
He rang his brother’s doorbell and immediately heard the dog barking from within. A minute later the door opened and his brother stood there, gaunt, registering him with blank, washed out eyes. He stepped aside to let him in. The dog swished its tail and sniffed at his knees, its eyes gleaming with enthusiasm.

He sat down at the computer whilst his brother went to make coffee. He logged onto the internet and immediately looked up his favourite amateur pornographic website, scanning for the latest updates. He then opened another window. The computer made a sound like rustling leaves. His brother was in the doorway, staring at him blankly.

He glanced out the window. A light rain had begun to ascend. He witnessed the grotesque spectacle of the dog squatting on the grass, straining to expel a thick turd.

It was getting dark as he drove back to his flat. A huge moon hung low in the sky. A computer printout lay on the empty passenger seat. According to the test results he was suffering from a condition named Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. The words were like melting ice or vapour trails hanging in the expanse of his mind. The infinite grey-blue expanse that registered such phenomenon as maroon leaves under a violet sky, a dog swishing its tail, and other cryptic fragments of infinity. He drove in silence, the radio turned off, quietly perturbed by what he was witnessing.

His girlfriend was waiting for him at the flat.
“And?” she inquired. He wordlessly proffered the slice of paper, the diagnosis. She held it and her pale eyes scanned the printed words. He retrieved a beer from the fridge and took a long swig. She pursed her lips and exhaled and then set the piece of paper down on the dining room table.
“Well?” he asked.
Her eyes were cast downward, toward the piece of paper.

Little was known about the syndrome the printout explained. Symptoms included delusions of grandeur, listlessness, rage, lethargy, episodes of severe confusion, chronic daydreaming. He suffered from at least four of these he and his girlfriend agreed. Then they were silent a while, digesting this information, like computers overloaded with data.


The next morning he caught a train south. The printed report had recommended avoiding caffeine.
“You do have a tendency to shriek intermittently after drinking coffee,” his girlfriend had observed. He had nodded solemnly.
As the train hurtled south he watched the mute, barren countryside race past outside the window. Then he turned to regard his fellow passengers, glum, stoic ignoramuses.

After a few hours train journey he caught a cab from the station to the specialist practice he had been referred to. He waited for 25 minutes in a waiting room with walls painted yellow. There was a selection of experimental psychology journals for the perusal of patients. A thin, agitated looking man was pushed past on a wheelchair by an obese, smooth skinned, bespectacled middle aged man.
His name was called and he walked up a narrow corridor lit by fluorescent tubes. A few canvases hung on the wall, abstract expressionistic pieces.
The specialist greeted him warmly. He quickly decided that the specialist had the appearance and mannerisms of a pederast.
“How can I help you?” the specialist asked somberly.
Jonathan reached into his coat pocket and removed the printout of the diagnosis. The specialist donned spectacles and scanned the printout intently for a minute.

Through the window he glimpsed skeletal woodland in the distance.

Jonathan took the train home that evening. He sat in an empty carriage rocking back and forth slightly, occasionally murmuring to himself. The sky was dim and swollen.

He was back in his flat, in his kitchen, staring at a glass of red wine. His girlfriend stood behind him, lightly pinching various parts of his body; his neck, his shoulder, his hip, his scrotum.
He had a new printout. It was in the living room, behind the clock on the mantelpiece.
“You need to take the test,” he told her suddenly. Her hand ceased pinching him.

They drove to his brother’s on Saturday morning. The streets were still damp from dawn rainfall. They parked the car. A gaunt youth drifted past on a skateboard looking preoccupied and purposeful.
He rang his brother’s doorbell. Silence.
Where was his brother? Where was the dog?

“We need to find a computer,” he stated.
She averted her eyes. “I’m not sure if I want to take the test.”
He looked up at the sky and frowned.

They drove out to the beach. A few gulls drifted listlessly across the blank sky. Old couples ambled around in brightly coloured raincoats which rippled in the breeze. Dogs galloped across the wet sand, chasing Frisbees. The words Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy flashed across the sky in purple neon letters. Jonathan twitched and asked Indigo if she’d seen that.
“Seen what?”

They bought coffees from a fast food van and then walked out to the surf to stare at the meaningless horizon.

Whilst walking back Jonathan stopped suddenly. He discarded his coffee cup, unbuckled his belt, and yanked his trousers and briefs to his ankles. He then squatted over the sand and strained to expel a thick turd. Indigo watched, stunned into mute horror. After he finished, she said
“What the fuck, Jonathan?”
Jonathan seemed very flustered. “Sorry…I…I got…I’m sorry, I was confused…”
Indigo began to sob quietly.

When they got back to the flat a familiar looking black Labrador was pacing around outside. They got closer and realized it was his brother’s dog. It looked at them, seemingly puzzled. They took him inside, filled a bowl with water for him and then fed him some biscuits. He swished his tail and then plodded around the flat, his feet clicking on the laminated floor.

Jonathan led Indigo into the bedroom and fucked her forcefully. He grunted as he ejaculated on her buttock. They then lay side by side as afternoon began to dim.

Later that evening Jonathan received a phone call from an old friend who seemed exceptionally depressed. Jonathan wasn’t sure what to say to him and hung up suddenly in mid-conversation. He pondered for a moment and then disconnected the phone. He placed the phone in a cupboard and then closed the door.
He went to check what the dog was doing. The dog was asleep on the couch. He went to check what Indigo was doing. Indigo was asleep on the bed. He lay beside her. He began to feel restless. He got up and went through to the couch. He lay down beside the dog. The dog groaned and shifted slightly to accommodate him. He put his arm around the dog and nuzzled his head against the dog's ribs. Then his cock got stiff. The dog must have sensed something awry for it lifted itself up and jumped over Jonathan and plodded away into another room. Jonathan fell asleep.

He awoke at dawn with a severe headache. He lay massaging his temple for a while. Then he got up and found some aspirin and took four. He went through to the bedroom and dozed for a while beside Indigo.

When they awoke his head was fine and he felt refreshed. He cooked scrambled eggs and made coffee. Indigo played with the dog and fussed over him.
"We still need to find a computer terminal," he reminded her. She said nothing. "So you can take the test." She said nothing.

Attempts to locate his brother proved fruitless.
Attempts to find a computer proved fruitless. Indigo remained untested for potential mental disturbances. They cared for the dog and treated it well. Took it for walks along the beach. Bought it food.
On Monday afternoon, Jonathan's boss phoned to check how he was doing.
"I'm still fucking sick!" Jonathan screamed and walloped the receiver against the wall. He then petted the dog who seemed perturbed by his behaviour. He petted the dog and made reassuring noises, noises that could have been construed as senile gibbering.

Another place they liked to go walking was a nearby hill by some derelict factories. The hill afforded them a good view of the distant city, a decrepit cement dream by day, a sinister gleaming by night. One evening they encountered Jonathan's brother on the hill. He wore a bright green raincoat and his eyes were grey, impossibly distant.
"We've been looking for you," Jonathan explained. His brother muttered something unintelligible and sat down heavily on the damp grass.

The three of them, Indigo, Jonathan and his brother, plus the dog, all repaired to Jonathan's brother's house. Indigo had sexual intercourse first with Jonathan and then his brother. Then they turned out all the lights and huddled around the dim glow of the computer monitor. They logged onto the government website for the self-diagnosis of emotional and mental disturbances. They each took the test in turn and then mulled over their respective printouts.
Jonathan was slightly dismayed to discover that his results were completely different from last time.

The next morning they walked to the pharmacy with their printouts to collect their medication. All was going fine until Jonathan suddenly halted in the middle of a pedestrian crossing to drop his trousers and defecate. An obese woman walking past with an infant retched violently whilst the infant appeared severely haunted. Jonathan bared his teeth at them in a deranged grin and then licked his lips.

Jonathan and Indigo were staggering around the beach in the rain. Indigo clutched a plastic bag full of medicine. They had taken to sampling each others medications. Sometimes they ground up various pills and snorted the resultant powder.

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