by Simon Wells
A whistle. No, that’s not right. They call it ringing in the ears. Ringing? Not in my case. More like the pulsing high-pitched whine of a synthesiser, with the key wedged down and an inexhaustible power supply. Several octaves up from middle C. Maybe an F sharp?
A monotonous soundtrack. Not the film score I would have chosen for myself. Not enough drama. Not enough detail. I need detail. They say you should look inside yourself. How about hearing inside? Does that help the patterns make sense? Does that help any of this make sense? The dull insistent thud of my heart beating; reassuring and terrifying in equal measure. The creaking and cracking and snapping as tiny tectonic plates shift within my skull. Sometimes the pressure in my head builds up so much I want to stick a pin in to see if I’ll deflate. I’m like a sausage being grilled by my introspection. Give it time, write it down and keep taking the tablets. That’s what they say.
It wasn’t like this before the operation.
Five, four, three… that was all I remember. Count down from five, the surgeon said. Fully conscious to comatose in less than three seconds. My guard was down.
I was out for two hours, apparently, but it could have been days.
It was a week later, in Sainsbury’s, aisle 14, between the sweet pickled onions and the own-brand ketchup, that I realised I was being followed.
She was playing it smart, no doubt about it: keeping her distance and feigning interest in a half-price deal on doughnuts. But it was the way she scribbled on the square of folded foolscap that gave her away. For a second I caught her eye; there was a flicker of recognition, then she quickly returned to scrutinising the paper in her left hand. That was no shopping list, no checklist of dreary domestic desires. She wore green trousers and a floral-patterned blouse. The blogs I’d read said they always do. I knew then that they must be right.
I panicked. The noise in my head was deafening; the F sharp slicing into my synapses so I couldn’t think straight.
Gaining as much speed as I could in a metre-and-a-half I rammed my trolley into the neatly lined jars of cornichons and stuffed olives, then swung it round (anti-clockwise, I think) and shoved it towards a stack of toilet rolls in the central aisle. It never made it. Almost immediately it collided with a pensioner, delivering a hurtling metallic punch right to their kidneys. It stung pretty badly judging by the godawful howl they gave out as they hit the floor. I thrust my clenched fists out to either side and stood there shouting.
The security guard must have approached from the left because my head lashed to the right when the punch came in. Instinctively I defended myself with the nearest thing to hand, grabbing a broken jar of pickled onions and pushing its jagged edges into his vacuous face. Tiny silverskin spheres rained into his eyes like tangy hailstones. I’ll never forget his agonised screech as the vinegar doused his freshly gashed skin.
After that it got really messy. Bystanders piled in and my memory is a mashed-up montage of screaming and smashing and swearing and shouting. And pain. I recall an easy-peel satsuma striking me just below the eye. Price labels littered the floor, smeared with blood and ketchup. I think that’s when the police arrived and dragged me away.
The doctor’s letter had dropped on to the doormat out of the blue. An MRI scan during my recent annual health check (a requirement for the company’s insurance) had revealed a lump beneath my ribcage. As a precaution, the letter insisted, it should be removed.
I didn’t believe it for a second. I’d read about this. Rumours were all over the internet. They get you into hospital under the pretence of a routine operation and that’s when the ID chip is implanted. But what could I do? I needed my job.
It had been the Government’s big plan after the terror attacks last year: tracker chips for everyone. If we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear, they said. But we did fear. We feared that to relinquish our free movement was to relinquish our free minds. We feared that a life lived under constant supervision meant the terrorists, who themselves sought to stifle independent thought, had won. And we voiced those fears in our masses. A million of us marched on London and the plan was abandoned. Officially.
Now I’m in a secure ward at the hospital.
They tell me I’m delusional, that ID chips and tracking implants are the stuff of paranoid fantasy, that I’ve listened to too many internet idiots. They say I should write down my thoughts about everything that’s happened in the past few weeks because only then will I take the first steps towards “recovery”. Give it time, write it down and keep taking the tablets.
So I pretend to take the tablets. And I am writing it down. After all, perhaps they’re right. Perhaps I’ve been driven crazy by this constant whine drilling into my core. I’ll write it down. I’ll write it all down. Then maybe I’ll be left alone.
Suspect’s account of incident dated 26/07/2016.
Security level: Red.
ID tracking chip number: 74351.