It’s weird, I can write quite happily about torn flesh, splintered bone and gushing blood. My short stories contain quite gory details at times, but this is cartoon violence, ridiculous, over the top, from the stygian depths of my imaginata (as Garth Merengi was oft to say).
Should I see some mundane act however, for example an injection, or pretend surgery in some tv doctor drama, I immediately go pale, feel queasy, break out in a cold sweat and adopt a floppy helpless manner like someone whose taken a cup full of horse tranquilisers. It’s mostly about blood, not the site of blood, but the thought of it. It’s hard to explain…. but blood keeps us alive, it surges through us thousands upon thousands of times a day. The thought of lacking in blood makes me feel weak. I don’t want to be an empty husk… I think this is what its about. Being transformed into a medjool date. Shrivelled and full of dust, like a mummy.
So when I had an MRI scan on my knackered ankle and was told I needed to be injected with a dye half way through (cue scanner operator saying without irony “you’ll feel a small prick”) I felt a vague anxiousness. They were going to corrupt my blood. They were going to poison my very essence. As opposed to “steal” my blood, which causes an equal effect of horror within me.
I lay down on the table, my leg was immobolised in a cradle, the headphones I was given were playing low volume classical music, Pachabel’s canon I think. It was barely audible above the noise of the creature who consumed me, the MRI machine loomed above me as I slid into its belly. I closed my eyes to relax. Menacing and clinical it snarled and growled at me. Grinding cogs and levers seemed to be churning inside it, like some Victorian steam powered calculating engine. I loosely held the emergency button, I guess it’s there for those people who find the whole experience claustrophobic. But I didn’t mind the confines of the room, or the disconcerting din of the scanner splicing and dicing images of my bones and flesh this way and that.
See examples of my ankle scans below – disgusting isn’t it? That there’s this sort of shit inside you?!
This is a cross section across the ankle, tibia and fibia being clearly visible. The second shows a cross section of the foot itself. The ligament I’ve torn connects the tib and fib. Yuk.
After what seemed like an age, the classical music was interrupted by the scanner operators jolly tones. “The first parts finished, I’ll come in and inject you with the dye now.”
Silence from the machine. The music stopped. The table slid back out. Jonah had daylight again.
I didn’t make eye contact with her as she came in, I was businesslike in my tone, perhaps brusque verging on rude. I hope she appreciated she knew it was because I was nervous. I tried to explain. “I don’t mind injections, as long as I don’t have to watch.” She chuckled and started telling me about previous patients, who couldn’t take the dye, whose veins collapsed. This is not what I wanted to hear. When she asked me to clench my fist and I felt the wet dab on the soft flesh inside my elbow joint, I imagined the blue veins glistening and prominent on the skin. I clenched as hard as i could, but the strength was ebbing away, my hand was weak, I scrunched my eyes. I felt the needle, no real pain, as I expected, just that small prick she promised. She rattled about, i guess trying to get the dye in. “What’s happening?” I asked, head facing away, eyes closed. “It’s not taking I’m afraid… in fact, your vein has collapsed. Going to try another.” There was a tiny hint of doubt in her voice, maybe she was inexperienced at this? Maybe I didn’t clench hard enough, but I imagined the needle shooting out and a spray of blood caressing the walls, which was of course ridiculous, but my mind had gone into mental mode. I felt weaker. Sicker.
“Clench your first again please” she said. I did as bidden, again, my fist was weak. The cold dab of wet cotton on my arm. Vein no 2, needle no 2. Collapse no 2. She was trying to be upbeat, perhaps to hide her inexperience and put me at ease. But telling me “oh dear, this one’s collapsed too” was not the best choice of words. So when she did it a third time and announced it with the same happy nervous chirp my arm felt like a cold mackerel with no strength left to lift, let alone clench a fist, she grabbed the emergency buzzer from my other hand and pressed it herself! “I’m so sorry, you’ll have three bruises tomorrow.” I imagined my poor butchered arm, fit for nothing, no blood pushing through the broken veins, my fingers cold and dead, like a vampire.
Her colleague came in, she just told her to do her best with the procedure without the dye. I felt her sticky plaster me up. She was apologetic. It wasn’t her fault, she didn’t know what was going through my brain though. So back into the belly of the beast, more classical music (J.S Bach) more grinding and whirring, snarling and chomping. The MRI machine was smacking its chops. It tasted my blood.
My most creative moments of inspiration are at times of unhappiness or great stress. So whilst being devoured by the machine I imagined that perhaps they were preparing me, to eat. The scan was… Analysing my calorie content, nutritional value, body mass index, whether my flesh was more suited to garlic or thyme. A slight smile developed. I’ll write a short story, a vaguely funny one, but dark. The following will appear in it, in some form. It’s a bit formulaic, but I like the concept, something to build on.
As he emerged from the machine, he heard her voice, distant and tinny. He felt the medical lamps, warm and bright knocking at his eyelids, but his eyes remained shut.
“there is no immediate visible damage from the scan, your leg looks perfectly delicious, I mean healthy. We do wish to keep you in overnight however.. for a marinade. I mean, observation. And tomorrow, all being well, the chef, I mean doctor, will come and prepare you, I mean discharge you.”
Aghast at what he’d just heard, he rolled his head towards the voice and opened his eyes. He screwed up his face, trying to protect his eyes from the glare. The young woman stood there, a small glass, drained of liquid just leaving her lips, a messy scarlet glob trickled down her chin. She put the glass aside and wiped the liquid away from her lips with the back of her hand, leaving a red smear across her mouth and hand. She hungrily licked at the hand, slurping noisily.
“My blood, give me back my blood….” he whispered. He tried to raise his arm, but it didn’t respond, just a slight flicker of registration, he glanced at it, pale, skeletal and emaciated. He had no strength, they’d taken it from him. Stolen it.
She walked towards him. She rubbed his forehead, as if she really cared, her hand was soft. She dabbed a finger in his mouth, he tasted the metallic tang of his own blood still hanging on her skin. “You need to relax. Stress makes the meat less tender, I mean pushes your blood pressure up. So try to sleep my sweet. You’ll be well looked after here.”