How Not to Behave at a CT Scan

Published June 18, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

While in hospital I had a CT scan, or CGI scan as I kept calling it. I’ve had one in the past, but this time it took place when I was off my head which resulted in the 5% of my aware brain being totally embarrassed by 95% of me.

I’d been out of it all morning leading up to the scan, my anxiety had shot up to maximum levels at the thought of the claustrophobic scanner, I was on a lot of morphine for the pain, and my temperature was high, which always distorts my brain. I didn’t realise that the combo of all this would result in me losing all filters in my brain and not knowing when to shut up.

It was a strange experience, instead of just thinking my thoughts, they were all coming out via my mouth, and even though the tiny reasonable part of my brain was listening and telling me to stop talking, I couldn’t. I had no control of my mouth, even though I could see peoples facial reactions to me. I’m sure most of them thought I was a complete loon. I certainly did.

It started when the porter, Steve, arrived at the ward to take me for the scan.

‘Are you my taxi driver?’

He humoured me. ‘I am, jump in.’

‘I haven’t got any cash to pay you.’

‘Don’t worry, I’ve switched the meter off.’ What a good sport.

I climbed into the wheelchair and he attempted to put a blanket across my lap. ‘I don’t need that, I’m far too hot.’

‘I was thinking of your modesty.’

‘Oh, don’t worry about that, everyone has seen everything before.’ I can assure you everyone hasn’t seen everything of me and I was wearing a nightie that went down to my ankles. We set off. ‘Is it far? I don’t fancy a long journey today.’

I was assured it was just down one floor in the lift then straight into the scanning rooms. And it was. It was a busy day as when we arrived in the waiting area there were three neat rows of people in wheelchairs, about nine ahead of me. Steve parked me in the front row.

‘Are we going to watch a drive-in movie?’ I asked loudly. I should point out too that because I’d been nil by mouth all morning, for the scan, my mouth and lips were like cotton wool so I was slurring my words due to my tongue trying to cling like a limpet to every surface in my mouth.

Steve said we weren’t watching a movie and went to inform the scanners I was there. The scan lady came out to find me slumped over (I felt like I was going to pass out in the heat), she got me to sit back in the wheelchair and felt my forehead looking concerned.

I indicated to the room on the right, ‘I don’t want to go in that room as it sounds like a 3D printer and I’m not looking my best today, can I come back another day when I look more presentable.’

Deciding I was delirious with the temperature the scan lady upgraded me to going in next. ‘I’ll just go and load her details into the machine’, she said to Steve.

He said he had to go and pick someone else up, I waved cheerily goodbye to him.

The scan lady asked a paramedic, who was with their own patient two rows back, to stand with me to keep an eye on me while she popped back into the room. The paramedic lady did this reluctantly, she tried not to make eye contact with me. I asked her if she had a slush puppy she could plug into my cannula in my arm to cool me down. She just said no and remained looking ahead. I then told her my slush puppy flavour order of preference. I didn’t know I had an order of preference.

The scan lady came back out and wheeled me into the room where there was another scan lady waiting, the paramedic went back to her own patient with relief. The scan room was heavenly. It was so cold.

‘You have the best room in the hospital’ I told them, although they probably knew that already.

They asked me to lie on the scanner bed. ‘Ooh look! I’m coordinated!’ The runner on the scan bed was purple and so was my nighty. I explained that I wasn’t drunk, it was because my mouth was so dry that I was talking a bit funny. They relaxed a bit.

I led down, and the one lady asked me to put my hands above my head. I did. ‘Am I going hang gliding?!’

‘No, I’ going to inject dye into your veins to we can see everything on the scan much easier.’

‘I’d prefer to go hang gliding.’ I don’t think I would, I don’t like heights, or flying.

Now I kept amazingly still during the scan. But that’s because I had reached maximum capacity anxiety and had therefore disassociated my mind from my body, it doesn’t happen often, and I can’t control it at will so it’s not a great party trick. When I emerged from the scan however I came out of my trance and continued sharing my thoughts with the two ladies. ‘That was great! I felt the dye going through all my veins down my arms to my abdomen and I pretended I had been struck by lightning and was turning into a superhero.’

‘Oh, that’s different, no one has told us that before,’ one of them laughed.

‘And then the whooshy fast stuff was like NASA space training.’ There was no whooshy fast stuff, but my brain thought there was. ‘Although I must disclose I have never done NASA space training, so It’s what I imagine NASA space training to be.’

After more laughing from the ladies, they asked if I could sit up unaided. I wasn’t sure. They asked how I’d get out of bed normally, sit upright then swing my legs out or swing my legs out as I sit up? This seemed like the most difficult question in the world. I’ve never thought about how I get out of bed before. ‘I don’t know, move me like a Lego figure and put me where you want me.’ They did. ‘Can I stay with you for the afternoon, you’re the best and your room is so lovely and cold.’

‘We’d love to let you stay all afternoon, you’ve made our day, but they need you back up on the ward.’

‘A superhero’s work is never done.’

I was wheeled back out to wait for Steve. ‘I highly recommend going in there,’ I told the glum crowd. ‘It’s the most fun you’ll have all day.’ Steve took me back up to the ward. My three other inmates were in bed as it was ‘quiet time’ (more about that in another blog).

As I entered our room the girl in the next bed whispered to me ‘how did the scan go?’

‘It was great! I did hang gliding and space stuff.’

She looked at me confused. ‘Oh, you’d better have a lie down then.’

I got into bed and fell straight asleep, dreaming of what kind of superhero I’d be.

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Hospital Hallucinations, Visions, and Delusions.

Published June 17, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

While in hospital I had the most vivid hallucinations that were scary, unnerving, and downright freaky. For three whole days I thought I had lost my mind and was expecting to get transferred to the psych ward at any moment. Then in a moment of clarity I asked the nurse what antibiotics were in my IV drip. Metronidazole. Of course. I had these in tablet form from a dentist once and I saw a Zulu warrior sat on my sofa, and a grapefruit dancing in my bedroom. I stopped taking them and made a mental note not to take these ever again. Unfortunately, when being admitted to hospital and asked what I was allergic to I had only mentioned penicillin. I was kept on metronidazole for another day until my consultant switched them for a different variety, gentamicin. So, I’m blaming the antibiotics, but it could have been that combined with the morphine I was on, and the temperature I had distorting my brain too.

If you’ve never hallucinated it’s scary as you can see things that aren’t there, and no matter how much you tell yourself it’s just your brain playing tricks, because you can see it so clearly you can’t convince yourself it’s just a mirage. I can’t remember all my hallucinations but here are the ones that I can. It would have been freaky enough to dream these, but to see them was terrifying.

Dancing biscuits. My fellow inmates and nurses were witness to me shouting ‘make the biscuits stop dancing’. Embarrassing to look back on, but at the time I’d been tormented by a five-foot custard cream and a five-foot pink wafer with arms and legs dancing, jazz style, next to my bed for hours. Every time I opened my eyes they were there, grinning at me, dancing. They weren’t nice friendly grins, I found them darkly menacing.

Velcro Bryan Ferry. I opened my eyes and the hospital walls and ceiling were covered in Velcro. Bryan Ferry popped up in a bright yellow Velcro suit and proceeded to sing ‘Let’s Stick Together’ whilst flinging himself to the walls and ceiling. When I ignored him, a bed appeared to the right of me (there was no bed on my right-hand side) covered in Velcro and he wrapped himself around the bed in 2D flattened style, still singing. I had to whisper ‘not now Bryan’ to make him stop. He then sat on the bed that wasn’t there with his back to me and kept looking slyly over his shoulder at me to make sure I was watching him.

Eight grim reapers. At one point I opened my eyes to see not one but eight figures in black hooded cloaks gathered around my bed. This seemed like such a revelation that there was more than one grim reaper. I shouted ‘There’s more than one! Everyone has it wrong, there are loads of them!’ plus ‘That’s so unfair, eight of them and one of me, I don’t stand a chance.’ Goodness knows what people must have thought I was looking at.

Headless patients. Looking around the room and seeing the other three patients minus their heads made me physically vomit. (I was vomiting a lot though, so my stomach didn’t take a lot of persuading to purge itself again). Two were sleeping minus their heads, the third was flicking through a magazine with her hands, but there was just a neck stump, no head.

The scariest hallucinations though were ordinary people stood in front of me, talking to me, that weren’t there. There was a lady with short hair in an orange and blue horizontally striped jumper that I found particularly creepy, she would talk to me about her dead children then stare at me. I did wonder at one point if I was doing a ‘Sixth Sense’ and seeing dead people.

I have never experienced audio hallucinations before. I now have. I hear voices in my head most of the time, but I ‘hear’ those with my mind as a running commentary, as I guess do most people. But I’ve never heard things externally with my ears that weren’t there, so I didn’t realise it wasn’t genuine at first. There was a lady in bed three whose hearing aid kept whistling. When she fiddled with it trying to tune it in it played Jingle Bells. ‘What kind of warped person buys an elderly relative a hearing aid that plays Jingle Bells’ I thought to myself. This happened a few times. I was cussing whoever bought it for her. It was only when the hearing aid started to play Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’, in its high-pitched tinny sound, that I realised my brain was messing with me.

Other auditory hallucinations included hearing people say my name and start talking to me, except when I opened my eyes there was no one there. And I could hear a rock station on a radio. I thought it was the woman in the next bed listening to the radio, quietly but not quietly enough, and for a couple of days I was thinking ‘why can’t she put headphones like the rest of us’. I then realised it wasn’t her (she checked out of hospital and it was still playing), it was my brain playing tricks on me again. It was so weird though, I could clearly hear the host introducing artists, new rock music, and I could hear this music and lyrics I’d never heard before so clearly. I can’t remember any of the songs now but at the time of ‘hearing’ them they were all new to me. I wish I could remember them so I could write them down and sell them on to musicians and make a fortune.

As well as hallucinations I had delusions. Only a few thank goodness. I was convinced one of the catering staff was a cyborg. She walked down the corridor exactly like Robert Patrick in ‘Terminator 2’ and as she walked past my room her eyes scanned in, with a slight movement of her head, just like the T2. That was enough for me, my brain told me she was a cyborg, I believed it. I wouldn’t make eye contact with her or I’d pretend to be asleep when she came around. I also believed we were all being given drugs via our drips that were keeping us sleepy and docile, and that the hospital was a front for top secret experiments on our bodies. Whenever I woke up I would scan my body for any signs of unauthorised incisions.

The visions I had were both terrifying and amazing. When I closed my eyes to escape the hallucinations I had visions. No escape from my brain. The inside of my eyelids became a film screen and I was shown weird and wonderful images by my mind. The horrific images my brain showed me were so repulsive I’ve buried them in a filing cabinet never to be talked about, I’ll just say I was disgusted I could create vile images that make ‘The Human Centipede’ look like ‘The Teletubbies’.

There were weird images, that felt like psychic images. I could see the bottom half of a body buried in mud, blue denim jeans, brown boots and a brown satchel type bag buried with, but that was all, then my mind would flicker onto another vision. There was an exquisitely animated film that made me cry as it was so beautifully shot. It was a Swedish girl in the woods, and the animals she lived with and the music was so haunting. They were made of a weird clay type pottery and painted in muted colours, and it was stop go animation. I can’t remember much more now about the story, but at the time it made me weep with joy.

There was a story of two blue and yellow birds that were unseeable by human eye, they lived in human noses, one in each nostril. They were soulmates paired for life but would never see each other as they couldn’t leave their respective nostrils as their jobs were to protect the nose from invaders like pollen, bugs, germs etc. The birds were the happiest creatures, even though they couldn’t see each other they would tweet to each other through the nasal cavities and just knowing the other was there was enough for them. They had such a pure love for each other it was beautiful. They’re names were Geoffrey and Viola.

My brain made a complete Disney animated movie called ‘Vegas to Alaska’. There were four Alaskan Malamute dogs (Montana, Iowa, Utah, and Vegas) that performed in a Las Vegas show. They weren’t mistreated but had a working dogs life, having lived there performing in shows all their lives. Due to animal shows getting less customers they were dropped from the bill and the owner was selling them on. Three sold quickly but no one wanted to buy Vegas, he had been born with one ear and couldn’t bark/talk like the other dogs. The owner was due to fly to Florida, so he gave Vegas away to a random stranger, Ben. Ben had stopped in Las Vegas on route home to Alaska and had lost his dad’s money gambling. He was feeling such a loser but couldn’t say no to taking Vegas home with him.

The film followed their bonding trip in Ben’s red pick-up truck from Las Vegas to Alaska, Vegas taking pure joy from simple things like riding in a vehicle with his head out the window and feeling a breeze on his face, something he’d never experienced before. It was basically a love story between man and dog, about learning to trust, learning to value the small stuff, and learning to love life. I enjoyed it.

A short film that played in my head was a beautiful love story starring Tom Hardy. He played a man, finding out his sister had been mistakenly switched at birth. He only found this out when he’s contacted by his birth sister’s ‘brother’ explaining she needs a kidney. Reluctantly he agrees to visit her in the hospital and when he meets her he agrees to donate, telling her ‘I will always be a part of you and we will go on magical adventures.’ They fall in love, but not a sexual love, a pure love of humanness. They move in together and are inseparable, they make everyday life into wonderful adventures, but then she is stabbed in a random petrol station robbery and dies in his arms. It was called ‘The Day my Kidney Died’.

A comforting vision I had was a huge belly of a monster hovering above my bed, it was peach coloured and furry, with an outie belly button. But the belly button opened like a lid and inside was a fluffy baby monster curled up. I climbed in and the lid closed, and I snuggled with the fluffy baby monster. It was lovely.

There was so much more that played in my head but unfortunately I can’t remember anything else. I was too out of it to write it all down at the time, a Dictaphone would have helped but I didn’t think to ask my mum to bring one in for me. ‘Can you bring toiletries, spare nighties, and a Dictaphone in case I hallucinate.’ Mental note – buy a Dictaphone and carry it with me always.

And while I’m glad I escaped and left my hospital hallucinations behind, the creative part of me would like to have some of the visions return, maybe with an on/off switch. Oh, and yes, I do feel bad that I left my fellow patients to the mercy of a cyborg.

My Eurovision 2018 top 10 (ish).

Published May 7, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

1. F.Y.R. Macedonia – Lost and Found by Eye Cue. This song grew on me but is now my favourite. Not completely danceable as there are some floaty moments but when the beat drops I shimmy like a possessed possum on peach schnapps.

2. Cyprus – Fuego by Eleni Foureira. Well, if Shakira’s hips don’t lie, my hips are spilling the beans constantly during this song. Extremely danceable, my hips can’t keep still, and my invisible hula hoop dance move goes into overdrive.

3. Finland – Monsters by Saara Aalto. This song gives my lungs a good work out as I am compelled to belt it out, it makes me feel confident and motivated, who knew a song could do that?

4. Switzerland – Stones by Zibbz. A little bit of soft rock is always going to get a thumbs up with me, so soft rock with a pop vibe gets both my thumbs up. I don’t normally like a female rock voice but this one I do. Gravelly and sexy. I want to be Corinne.

5. Ukraine – Under the Ladder by Melovin. Love this one, kind of has a Rob Thomas feel to it for me, not a brilliant one for dancing to but great tempo, a top train track for me.

6. Moldova – My Lucky Day by DoReDos. This song is just pure Eurovision to me. It reminds me of the little weird ditties they play between songs when we are shown video clips of the countries. Lots of lovely oomph pa moments and musical instruments that are exotic to my ears. Danceable.

7. Austria – Nobody but You by Cesar Sampson. Fabulous voice, like treacle trickling down my legs. Not terribly danceable but great to listen to

8. Belgium – A Matter of Time by Sennek. Fabulous voice, inticing and intoxiacating. The chorus feels like a Bond song and I imagine silhouettes of ladies flowing in and out of focus. Not one to dance to, unless doing a seductive James Bond lady dance, but it gets me lost in it.

9. Czech Republic – Lie to Me by Mikolas Josef. Funky. I do like a muted trumpet. Not great to dance to, unless you want to pretend to be Justin Bieber. This was my original favourite but after each listen it moves down my chart.

10. UK – Storm by SuRie. My favourite UK entry for a long time. I voted for it in the selection stage. A proper belter. I sing along with this like I’m stood on top of a skyscraper (with a safety harness on). I love the way it builds to the chorus and I think SuRie looks like Annie Lennox.

11. Israel – Toy by Netta. Wow. This is certainly different. I can only describe it as hip-hop chicken on crystal meth. Fun and catchy song, and I like the fact when I sing along ‘mudda bucker’ sounds like I’m swearing but I’m not.

Previous Band Names

Published May 3, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

Lots of bands weren’t doing too well so they changed their names and the rest is history*.

*This may not be true.

1. Stare 281 – Blink 182
2. Warmnap – Coldplay
3. Blind Pantha – Def Leppard
4. Knives n’ Posies – Guns n’ Roses
5. Duke Magenta – King Crimson
6. The Arsonists – The Killers
7. Woodlica – Metallica
8. My Fragrance Free Friendship – My Chemical Romance
9. Uncertainty – No Doubt
10. Coral Curd – Pearl Jam
11. Kings of the Bronze Age – Queens of the Stone Age
12. Gripvelcro – Slipknot
13. Audiolawn – Soundgarden
14. Fat Betty – Thin Lizzy
15. Corduroy Pistol – Velvet Revolver
16. Uh-Oh – A-Ha
17. Brenda’s Basement – Alisha’s Attic
18. Front Avenue Lads – Backstreet Boys
19. Hit for Brows – Bat for Lashes
20. Silver Swot Bicycle Club – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
21. Brownie – Blondie
22. Skinny Malcolm – Boney M
23. Skittling for Pita Bread – Bowling for Soup
24. Empty Bungalow – Crowded House
25. The Fresh Freesias – The Dead Daisies
26. Light Lilac – Deep Purple
27. Dexy’s Midday Walkers – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
28. The Windows – The Doors
29. The Candle Band – Electric Light Orchestra
30. Gas Five – Electric Six
31. Cuddle – Embrace
32. Frankie Goes to Cleethorpes – Frankie Goes to Hollywood
33. Enemy Floods – Friendly Fires
34. Lung – Heart
35. Tootie & The Clownfish – Hootie & The Blowfish
36. Mike and The Osteopaths – Mike and The Mechanics
37. Sulky Greys – Moody Blues
38. Seven Centimeter Screws – Nine Inch Nails
39. Sleet Guard – Snow Patrol
40. Hard Nucleus – Soft Cell
41. Tin Tiger – Steel Panther
42. Moist Thumbs – Sticky Fingers
43. The Stabbers – The Stranglers
44. Pampered Pussies – Stray Cats
45. The Fashion Forum – The Style Council
46. Chit Chat – Talk Talk
47. Beers for Deers – Tears for Fears
48. Creepyview – Terrorvision
49. We Are Postmen – We Are Scientists
50. Pinkworm – Whitesnake

Eighties Original Songs

Published April 7, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

Original 80’s Song Titles before they were changed by the artists to appeal to the mass market.

1. Simply Red – If You Don’t Know Me by Now (you haven’t been paying attention to our conversations you ignorant prat).

2. Fine Young Cannibals – She Drives Me Crazy (when she talks during the football).

3. Cher – If I Could Turn Back Time (I wouldn’t have gone for the cheesecake as your tiramisu looked nicer).

4. Belinda Carlisle – Leave a Light On (as I’ve just watched ‘Halloween’ and I’ve got a loose bladder).

5. Texas – I Don’t Want a Lover (I want a man who does the ironing for me).

6. Glenn Medeiros – Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You (unless you keep cooking kippers on a Tuesday).

7. Tiffany – I Think We’re Alone Now (apart from all the voices in my head and my invisible unicorn Neville).

8. Belinda Carlisle – Heaven Is a Place on Earth (called Scunthorpe).

9. Phil Collins – Two Hearts (make you Doctor Who).

10. Cher – I Found Someone (to sort out my plumbing, so take those rubber gloves off).

11. Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up (unless I’m offered a bag of Malteasers).

12. Jackie Wilson – I Get the Sweetest Feeling (when I eat too much fudge).

13. Terence Trent D’Arby – If You Let Me Stay (I’ll put up that shelf you wanted and treat you to a bag of chips).

14. George Michael – I Want Your Sex (but a Mars bar will do if you’re tired).

15. Level 43 – Running in the Family (ended with me, I’m a walker).

16. Robert Palmer – Addicted to Love (and pizza and Haribo sweets).

17. Phyllis Nelson – Move Closer (because you smell of cottage pie and I really want to sniff you).

18. Tears for Fears – Everybody Wants to Rule the World (except me, I’m a lazy ass and just want to watch Bargain Hunt on TV).

19. Bruce Springsteen – Dancing in the Dark (because I’ve not paid the leccy again).

20. Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill (has given me shocking shin splints).

21. Paul Young – Every Time You Go Away (your best friend Laura plays Scrabble and eats pork pies with me).

22. Fine Young Cannibals – Johnny Come Home (your spaghetti hoops are starting to congeal).

23. Stevie Wonder – I Just Called to Say I Love You (and to cadge a lift home because I’ve missed the last bus).

24. Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t It Be Good (if I was a ginger cat and lived with Mrs. Jones in number 42).

25. Cyndi Lauper – Girl’s Just Want to Have Fun (and a man that does the dusting).

26. Ultravox – Dancing with Tears In My Eyes (because I’ve stubbed my toe yet again on that ugly coffee table).

27. Chaka Khan – Ain’t Nobody (gonna to eat my last Rolo).

28. Siouxsie & The Banshees – Dear Prudence (stop eating the food on my shelf in the fridge or I will wrap your feet in cellophane while you sleep).

29. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Come on Eileen (that table’s not going to take your weight much longer, and for Gawd’s sake put your boobs away

30. Yazoo – Only You (make me want to throw myself off a stepladder while eating a cactus).

31. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll (sausage rolls, swiss rolls, forward rolls and fat rolls).

32. Human League – Don’t You Want Me (suspended by fraying wool over a shark tank).

33. The Police – Every Little Thing She Does is Magic (apart from Yorkshire puddings, she can’t make those for jack.)

34. Odyssey – Going Back to My Roots (because peroxide prices are extortionate).

35. Abba – One of Us (is an annoying twat and it’s not me).

36. Depeche Mode – Just Can’t Get Enough (of you mum’s apple chutney).

37. The Police – Don’t Stand So Close to Me (I had a curry last night).

38. The Nolans – I’m in the Mood for Dancing (but my bunions have other ideas).

39. Blondie – Call Me (if you’re having pizza tonight, but not if you’re having anchovies on it).

40. Prince – Let’s Go Crazy (and have a dessert and the cheeseboard).

41. Duran Duran – Hungry Like the Wolf (so two pasties and a doughnut for me please).

42. Wham – Last Christmas (you didn’t buy me a chocolate orange and I can never forgive you).

43. Queen – Under Pressure (I eat lots of cake and watch the True Movie channel).

44. Whitesnake – Here I Go Again (picking up your socks from the floor, lazy git.)

45. The Cure – Pictures of You (make me want to vomit and I use them on my dart board).

46. Def Leppard – Pour Some Sugar on Me (as I’m having a hypo and my insulin’s not kicking in).

47. ACDC – Back in Black (because I’ve eaten too many Easter eggs and my backside is the size of Luxemburg).

48. Starship – Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now (unless my passport doesn’t come back because I left it late as per usual).

49. U2 – Where the Streets Have No Name (I get a bit lost and have to use my sat nav).

50. Bros – I Owe You Nothing (apart from maybe that 10p I borrowed in 1984 for a Curly Wurly).

The Good Samaritan

Published March 31, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

Joe closed his eyes and felt the cold rain slap his face. It was perfect. It would be over soon. No more pain, no more anguish, no more self-loathing that consumed every cell in his body. He loosened his grip on the rail and took a deep breath.

‘Hey!’ A voice shouted louder than the rain.

Joe tightened his grip again, opened his eyes, and turned his head towards the voice.

‘Hey, what you doing?’ The voice in the rain belonged to a man in his thirties, black rain mac, dark hair made darker with the rain.

‘Isn’t it obvious? Go away.’

‘Well I can’t do that now.’

Joe stared back down into the agitated river. ‘Why?’

‘I couldn’t forgive myself.’

‘There’s nothing to forgive. Walk away, this’s nothing to do with you.’

‘It is now.’ The man took a step towards Joe. ‘You’ve kinda made it my business by doing it out here on a public bridge.’

‘I couldn’t find a private bridge.’

Again, the man took a step forward and was almost in touching distance of Joe. ‘Come down here, you’re making me nervous.’

‘Go away then.’ Joe stayed transfixed on the rushing water below.

‘Told you I can’t. Not gonna happen.’

Joe leant forwards with arms locked straight behind him. A glimmer of moonlight illuminated him, rain running down his face, like a marbled figurehead on the bow of a ship.

‘You’re really kicking off my anxiety here.’ The stranger shouted up at Joe.

Joe stayed poised in position.

‘My name’s Mick, what’s yours?’

‘Joe. And you’re an annoying bastard Mick.’

‘Technically correct on both counts, my dad ran off and didn’t marry my mum, and I have been told many times by many people I’m annoying. Usually by ex’s just as they dump me.’

Joe relaxed his arms and leant back against the rail. ‘Jesus Christ.’

‘I don’t think he’s here, it’s Good Friday, I imagine he’s busy, so I’ll have to do.’

‘What do you want from me?’

‘I just want you to come down here, stop me feeling anxious. And I’m getting soaked. I’ll probably get pneumonia. Do you want me to catch pneumonia Joe?’

Joe closed his eyes. ‘I just want to die.’

‘Can we make a deal? Some kind of trade off?’

Joe remained anchored.

‘If you come down, come back to my place and talk things through, if you still want to jump off a bridge I’ll find you a private one to do it from.’

‘Are you nuts?’

‘Says the man about to jump off a bridge?’

‘This makes perfect sense to me. More than you. You don’t even know me.’ The rain whipped at Joe’s face.

‘If you jump now I’m always gonna be thinking I could have saved you, and wondering why you jumped. Plus, there’s a crowd gathering here and I don’t want to look like a shit negotiator in front of them.’

Joe opened his eyes and turned his face to Mick. Looking down he saw five people clustered together. ‘Oh Christ.’ He turned his face back to the river. ‘Alright, make them go away and I’ll come down.’

Mick turned to the little group behind him and started waving them away. ‘You heard him folks, go on with your whatever you were doing.’

‘Should we call the police?’ A large woman in a navy anorak peered at Mick from under a pink polka dot umbrella.

‘No, it’s gonna be fine, I got this.’ Mick smiled at the lady. ‘I’ll look after him.’

She smiled back. ‘God bless you.’ She then dispersed into the night with the other onlookers.

‘Ok, people shooed away Joe.’

Joe turned and checked there was no audience, then climbed back over the rail and down onto the pavement. He stood face to face with Mick, inches apart. ‘You can go now.’

‘Are you kidding me? As soon as I walk off you’re gonna be straight up there again.’ Mick gestured to the bridge girder. ‘Look, I just live around the corner, come back to mine, chat, eat, drink, and like I said, if you still want to end it all I won’t stop you.’ Mick placed his hand on Joe’s shoulder. ‘Do it for me, give me a clear conscience when you jump.’

Joe stared into Mick’s eyes, the deep blue seemed to swirl like the river. ‘Ok.’

Mick patted Joe’s shoulder again and grinned. ‘Good, come on.’

Mick ushered Joe into his basement flat. ‘It’s not a palace, excuse the mess, I wasn’t expecting company, although to be honest I probably wouldn’t have tidied anyway.’

The living area was a riot of colours. Reds, oranges, pinks, and greens.

‘Let me get out of these wet clothes and I’ll get you something dry.’ Mick disappeared through a door at the opposite end of the lounge.

Joe stood in silence, dripping onto the doormat. He surveyed the room. A tired sofa had an orange woven throw draped over it. A terracotta tiled coffee table was adorned with different varieties of cacti and a New Scientist magazine. And the kitchen area in the corner, painted bright red, had dishes stacked up high on the draining board like a modern art installation.

Mick returned through the door, wearing jeans and a blue and white striped shirt. ‘I’ve put some clothes on the bed in there, you look the same size, and put your stuff on the radiator to dry out.’

Joe fiddled with a button on his jacket. ‘I’m ok, don’t want to be a bother.’

‘You’re bothering me dripping on my floor.’ Mick held out his hands. ‘Jacket.’

Joe slipped his jacket off and handed it to Mick.

‘Now go change.’ Mick smiled and hung the jacket up on the bulging coat rack behind the door.

Joe re-emerged from the bedroom in bare feet, with grey jogging bottoms on, and matching sweatshirt.

Mick was in the kitchen, the kettle boiling. ‘Sit yourself down. Tea, coffee, something stronger?’

‘I’m an alcoholic.’

Mick shrugged. ‘Ok. Tea or coffee then?’

‘Tea.’

‘Sugar?’

‘One please.’ Joe sat down and sunk into the sofa.

Mick pottered about and carried over two mugs of tea to the sofa. He handed Joe his tea and sank down next to him. ‘So. Cut to the chase, why do you want to kill yourself?’

Joe took a sip of his tea then placed it on the table, he shrugged. ‘I just don’t want to live anymore. I’m a failure, I have nothing to live for. I can’t go on anymore.’

‘Friends, family, colleagues. There must be people that wouldn’t want you to kill yourself?’

‘The only friend I had ran off with my wife, my parents are dead, my sister is a self-absorbed bitch who lives in France, I’m self-employed, well, I was, my business has just gone bankrupt. So, you see, no one would care if I’m here or not.’

Mick took a sip of his tea. ‘Ouch. That is pretty shit.’

‘Yep.’

‘There’ll be other women, I’m sure your wife wasn’t the first woman in your life and she doesn’t have to be the last. You’re a good-looking guy. Granted you haven’t got a lot going for you right now, so more of a potential catch than a current catch, but you’re not dead in the water in that department yet.’

Joe shook his head. ‘I could never love anyone again. I could never trust anyone again.’

‘You will.’ Mick combed his hands through his damp hair. ‘You can get another job easy enough, might not be your own business but you can earn money. What did you do?’

‘A chef, I had my own restaurant.’

‘There you go, everyone needs to eat, you can get a chef job anywhere.’

‘I’m too tired to start again from the bottom.’ Joe leant forwards, cradling his head in his hands. ‘I just can’t. I don’t want to.’

‘How old are you?’

‘Thirty-six, why?’

Mick tucked his legs up and under himself. ‘Hardly past it. You could have an exciting bright vivid future. Starting with this blank canvas in this moment right now. The future can be anything you want it to be.’

Joe lifted his head from his hands. ‘That’s just it, I don’t want the future to be anything, I don’t want a future. I’ve had enough.’

‘I think you’re lying.’ Mick took a gulp of tea and then placed his mug on the table.

‘What?’

‘I think you do want a future.’

‘Look, you’ve been kind to me, but you don’t know me, I want to die.’

‘Nope, you’re a liar.’ Mick folded his arms.

‘I’m not lying.’

‘If you’re not lying to me you’re lying to yourself.’

Joe sat up straight, frowning. ‘With respect you’re talking shit.’

‘With no respect, you’re the one talking shit.’ Mick grinned.

Joe stood up. ‘Thanks for the tea, I’m going.’

‘Where to? In my clothes? Gonna jump off the bridge again, oh no wait, you didn’t jump did you, because you don’t want to die.’

‘I didn’t jump because an asshole like you came along and interrupted me.’

‘If you really wanted to die you wouldn’t have let an asshole like me stop you. You’d have just jumped. You wouldn’t have even chosen a busy bridge to jump from if you were serious, you wanted someone to stop you.’ Mick uncrossed his arms and uncurled his legs. ‘Sit down Joe.’

Joe sat slowly back down. ‘If you didn’t think I was going to really jump why did you stop.’

‘Why didn’t you choose a whiskey?’

‘What?’

‘When I offered you a drink, you told me you were an alcoholic and you chose tea.’

‘So?’

‘If you were an alcoholic and wanted to die you’d choose a whiskey. Why stay sober if you don’t even want to live?’

‘Habit.’

‘Bullshit. You’re self-indulgent, loving to be the centre of attention in the drama you create.’

‘I don’t have to sit here listening to this crap.’ Joe stayed seated, his shoulders slumped forwards.

‘No, but you are, because you love being the centre of the drama. You certainly don’t want to kill yourself.’

‘I do. I’m just a coward.’ Joe started to sob. ‘I don’t want to live but I’m too much of a coward to kill myself. How pathetic is that.’

‘That’s pathetic.’ Mick sighed. ‘And sad. Pathetic and sad.’

‘You should have left me on the bridge.’ Joe wiped his eyes with the back of his hands and sniffed snot bubbles back up his nose.

‘To do what, be ‘rescued’ by a different passer-by?’ Mick placed his hand on Joe’s knee. ‘This cycle would just keep repeating itself, wouldn’t it? The torment would never go.’

Joe nodded. ‘I’m such a failure I can’t even kill myself.’

‘Do you know what’s not a failure Joe?’ Mick stared into Joe’s eyes. ‘Meeting me. That’s a definite result on your part. Do you know what I do Joe? For a hobby that is, my day job is butchering.’

Joe shook his head, his eyes not breaking connection with Mick’s.

‘I watch the bridge. I was in the café watching you. I sit in the window there and watch for leapers. Lost souls that don’t want to live anymore. Then I talk them down, just like I did with you Joe. A few leapers have a cup of tea with me, are grateful for my intervention, and go back to their lives, thankful for the stranger that saved them.’

‘You have some sort of a hero complex?’

Mick removed his hand from Joe’s knee. ‘Oh no, I don’t enjoy helping people walk back into their dreary lives. I enjoy helping the people who really want to end it all.’

‘I’m confused. You talk them out of jumping.’

‘Watching someone jump to their death is not a thrill Joe. Helping someone to their death is.’ Mick relaxed back into the sofa, resting his hands on his thighs. ‘When someone tells me they really want to die but can’t do it themselves, I help them. Assisted suicide.’

Joe turned to face Mick more, perching on the edge of the sofa. ‘How? Drugs.’

‘Administering drugs and watching someone slowly slip away is also not a thrill Joe. And it’s not good for the decider either. If you decide you want to die, you want it to be over with quickly. Don’t you?’

Joe nodded. ‘What do you do then?’

Mick’s eyes sparkled. ‘I use a knife. Quick and easy. People can request where they want to be stabbed. Throat or heart are the most popular.’

‘What happens after?’ Joe frowned. ‘With the bodies?’

‘What’s it matter? They’re dead. No one loves them enough to want to bury them.’ Mick sighed and stood up. ‘Your clothes might be dry now.’

Joe stared up at him. ‘What?’

‘Your clothes, dry. You can put them back on and go back to your life of drama.’ Mick started walking towards the bedroom.

‘Heart.’

Mick stopped mid step and turned to Joe. ‘Pardon?’

‘Heart. I want you to stab me in my heart.’

Mick walked back to the sofa and crouched down, he held Joe’s hands. ‘Are you sure? I don’t think you really want this.’

‘I do. Please.’ Joe squeezed Mick’s hands. ‘I can’t go back. I don’t want to.’

Mick’s voice was almost a whisper. ‘Only if you’re one hundred per cent sure. I’m not a murderer. I’m a suicide assistant.’

Joe gazed into Mick’s eyes. ‘I’m sure.’

‘Ok.’ Mick nodded slowly. He stood up and slinked silently into the bedroom. When he came back out he had an eight inch hunting knife and some plastic sheeting which he laid down on the floor, moving the coffee table slightly to make room. He indicated to Joe’s clothing. ‘Take my tracksuit off and lie down.’

‘I have to be naked?’

‘It makes it easier to clean up after, and saves me a tracksuit.’ Mick grinned. ‘Coz you’re gonna shit and piss yourself, everyone does. It’s perfectly natural.’

‘Oh, ok.’ Joe nodded, stone faced, and stood up starting to undress.

‘It’s only a naked body, I’ll only be looking where I’m stabbing.’ Mick started to unbutton his shirt. ‘I’ll take this off to avoid blood splatter. Dry cleaning bills are a bitch.’

Joe stood naked in front of Mick, his hands hung loosely in front of him.

‘Lie down Joe.’

Joe led down on his back. His hands alternating between by his sides and covering his privates.

‘Relax Joe, leave your hands by your side.’ A topless Mick straddled Joe and lined up the knife on his chest between the fourth and the firth rib, the tip of the blade resting gently on his skin. ‘Whenever you are ready I need you to say to me ‘please take my life’.’

Joe nodded. His breathing deepening. Mick leant over Joe, his two hands gripping the knife. The two men stared into each other’s eyes. The silence was deafening.

‘Please take my life’.

Mick thrust the knife at an angle into Joe’s chest, swept it swiftly along, then removed it rapidly. Joe’s eyes widened like a goldfish as a jet of blood volcanoed upwards splattering Mick. No scream came from Joe, just a gasp and a gargle, his eyes scared and pleading faded to acceptance and regret as he drifted down into deaths warm embrace.

Mick leant forward and kissed Joe gently on the forehead as the last beat of life left him. He sat upright on Joe and, with his head back and back arched, he massaged the blood that was decorating him into his chest. Licking his lips he started to undo his trousers.

The Snow

Published March 4, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

Day 27 – I’ve done it. I’ve eaten human flesh. I’ve eaten Mark. Not all of him, just his leg. He tastes good. I’ve buried the rest of him in the snow. For later. Except his head. I can’t look at his face. I’ve covered it with a Waitrose carrier bag. He has a judgmental frown frozen to his face. I don’t know why, he’d do the same. I’m going to dig more fridges outside. Now I know I can survive and look after Kate.
***

Day 1 – I wish the news would stop whipping up a media frenzy re the weather. I’m sure they’re given a backhander from the bakeries to make people go crazy on the bread buying front. And I wish the sheeple didn’t go and clog the supermarkets buying six loaves per person. Crazy people.
Kate dumped me today, I don’t think that’s helping my mood. I knew it was coming though, I’ve known about her and Mark for weeks. I should’ve kept going to the gym, if I had a six pack like him she might not have looked elsewhere.

Day 2 – Advice today on the news on how to keep warm in the impending cold storms, some prick telling me to ‘layer up’ and not just wear a jumper. If someone needs to be told how to keep warm, then they shouldn’t be wasting my air space. Why not layer up with all the bread you’ve just bought you nutters. Maybe shove a couple of croissants in your pants too.
Kate texted me, she asked me to gather up all her stuff ready for her to collect. I got excited when I saw her name ping onto my phone, part of me wanted her to say she’d made a mistake, part of me knew I wasn’t that lucky.

Day 3 – The snow has fallen here now. Fed up already of seeing posts on Facebook re snow days. Seems most of my friends are now five-year old’s making snow angels on their lawns. I’m probably only grumpy because I want the day off from work too, or a week, having to be nice to customers when inside I’m crumbling is draining me. But no, I live within walking distance from work, according to Mr. Jacobs, so I’m the sucker trekking in while Ben is warm at home drinking hot chocolate with whiskey and watching Netflix marathons. Twat.
Haven’t heard from Kate today.

Day 4 – Suggested we close today as we didn’t have any customers, but Mr. Jacobs said no. Who the hell wants to have their eyes tested in a blizzard? Unless they’re worried that all they can see is whiteness. More snow forecast on the doom and gloom box. I think I’ll throw a sickie tomorrow, I can’t take anymore of rubber band ball boredom. And sneaking onto Facebook to see people enjoying the snow is annoying me now.
Kate changed her profile from ‘in a relationship with Adam’ to ‘in a relationship with Mark’. It physically hurt to read that. She could’ve at least had a day of being ‘single’. And all her friends obviously knew as there were just thumbs up and heart reactions to the post. I wanted to write something stinging in the comments, so Kate would know how much I was hurting, but what’s the point, she doesn’t care anymore.

Day 5- Tried to order extra warm gloves from Amazon and they’re not offering next day prime delivery due to the weather. No local shops are open due to the weather. So, I guess my hands will just have to be cold, due to the weather. At least I got sent home early from work today. Mr. Jacobs has had enough of sitting in a silence, and watching me make a ball from elastic bands was probably doing his head in just as much as mine. Only one supermarket open in town, it’s starting to look empty. Those stupid people bulk buying have stripped it. Selfish twats.

Day 6- It’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day watching the news, snow, snow and more snow. More due, no end in sight. I might go back up to the supermarket today, get some tins in.
Waitrose was the only shop open in town, full of people like me who had braved a walk in, covered in snow and looking for essentials. Not many essentials left though. I bought tins of soup, packets of cereals, jelly cubes and chocolate. There was no bread, but packets of cream crackers a plenty, got loads of those. Not many staff in so a bit of a queue. There was a strange eerie vibe amongst us in there. Seemed like we were all sizing up each other’s baskets, and each other. The checkout lady said they were closing in an hour and didn’t know when they were going to open again. I went back around and got dry roasted nuts, Battenburgs, and Jaffa Cakes. I’m so cold my bones are numb.
Packed up Kate’s stuff, some toiletries, some clothes, and ‘The Secret’ book. The irony isn’t lost on me. Oh, and a pot of Nutella in the fridge which I’m keeping. Not much really considering she stayed here a lot. I guess she always knew it wasn’t long term for her.

Day 7- Lights have flickered a bit today and the tv keeps threatening to go off. I’ve charged up my kindle and phone. I’ve fished out some torches from the shed and dotted them around the house. The Granger’s packed up their four by four and drove off, I guess they’re going to stay with one of their kids and their families. That only leaves me here and Mark down the lane now.
Kate texted, she’s on her way to collect her stuff. I hope that doesn’t mean what I think it means, because I know she can’t get here from her parents’ house in this snow. I have her belongings in a cardboard box on the dining table now, it looks like a weird mini shrine.
I just cried for the first time since my mum died. I feel such an idiot. Kate picked up her stuff. She looked beautiful, all wrapped up with her pink wooly hat on, rosy cheeks, and smelling so wonderful with that jasmine perfume on. She didn’t want to stay for a drink, didn’t want to bring snow into mine on her boots. She said she was glad we could be grown up about things. I just smiled and watched her walking down the lane to his house. That’s when I cried. I’m glad I didn’t do it in front of her. The thought of her in his bed tonight, cuddling up to him, the thought of seeing them as I walk to work, life you are a bastard. I hate Mark, I hate myself, I hate the world.

Day 8- I’ve given up clearing the path from the lane to the house, the postman has stopped coming now anyway. It must be three feet deep out there now. I don’t want to go outside, I don’t want to see them, I don’t know what I’ll do.

Day 9- More snow overnight, what a surprise. Four feet now. News channels are showing carnage all over the country. Roads unpassable. Looting in cities. I’m glad I live here in the sticks. Well, the one exception. I’ve seen Kate through the window, trying to walk Mark’s dog. The dog doesn’t want to go, he just pees in the garden and they go back in. I stand to the side of the window, I don’t want her to see me watching.

Day 10- The internet has gone. Well, the landline broadband. Mobile phone internet is still up and running. The news is all the same though, no end in sight to the big freeze. Reading more now, classics, Kate always said I should read more, of the quality kind. Frankenstein is my current one. Different to the film. I prefer the film. I bet Mark prefers the book. I wish I’d picked up more varieties of soup, I’m fed up of tomato now. It’s Kate’s favourite flavour.

Day 11- No mobile signal. After an initial panic I’ve realised that no one phones me, and I don’t phone anyone. Only Kate, but not anymore.

Day 12- The satellite signal has gone down. No more TV for me. At least I have lots of DVDs I can watch. Time for a Lord of the Rings marathon. More snow. Less soup.

Day 13- Now the electrics have gone. Cold soup is gross but better than nothing. Going to bed when it gets dark so that I can save the torch batteries. Got all my clothing out to keep warm, layering up.

Day 14- Still no electricity. It feels weird being cut off from the rest of the world and not knowing what’s going on. The snow isn’t stopping. I cleared a path to the shed and found the camping stove. At least I can heat my soup. My last can.

Day 15- Snow.

Day 16- Snow.

Day 17- More fricking snow.

Day 18- I have no food left. I’ve even eaten Kate’s Nutella. I feel I need to go out and look for food, but I’m also worried about conserving my energy, it’s a six-mile round trek into town, and what if it’s for nothing? I wonder how much food Kate and Mark have.
Struggled into town, my legs hurt so bad walking through the snow. No surprise that nothing was open. It was like a deserted ghost town. I only saw two people, one man pulled his hood up and walked in the other direction when he saw me, the other man just blanked me when I said hi. Weird. I wondered if I’d imagined him. A few shops had their doors broken and had been looted. I stood and stared for a while, surprised this had happened in this small town. I’m ashamed to say I went in and took items too. I’ve written them down and will pay the owners when this craziness stops. I took cheap wine from Bargain Booze, someone had beaten me to all the spirits, and throat sweets and paracetamol from a ransacked chemist, all the stronger drugs had gone.
I saw a dead cat on the way back and was tempted to bring it home to cook it. But then I thought it might have died from a disease and not just the cold. How has it come to this? Stealing from looted shops and eyeing up dead animals on the roadside. Life is a bastard.

Day 19- I’ve woken up cold and hungry. I thought about setting traps to catch rabbits, but the snow is so deep it wouldn’t work. And I haven’t even seen any rabbits.

Day 20- Mark came outside with the dog today. I hope Kate is ok. He cleared the square in his garden and left the dog out while he popped back in. Christ, I felt myself wondering how the dog would taste.

Day 21- I stared at myself in the mirror. Having not shaved for weeks I saw my dad staring back at me. How I remember him anyway, he’s probably dead by now, I wouldn’t know, he didn’t want responsibility. He didn’t want me. Did he feel a failure like me? Is that why he walked away? If I had kids they’d be better off without me.
I saw Kate at the upstairs window. I waved. She didn’t wave back. She probably didn’t see me, the houses are quite far apart. She’s the only person that wanted me. Until Mark stole her away from me. Now I just have wine and pills to look forward to.

Day 22- Wine, you taste like cheap vinegar, but you make me forget what a loser I am. For that, I love you.

Day 23- Why aren’t the military or the police dealing with this shit? We’re all going to die. Maybe most people have. A second ice-age? Is this what happened? Everything just froze to death.
I broke into the Granger’s house this afternoon. I didn’t need to clear a path as the snow is so deep and compact you can just walk on top of it. They had porridge oats in their cupboards, I have no milk to make proper porridge but at least I can eat the oats. I took their drinks. Whiskey and a collection of wines. Some vile sherry too, it wouldn’t be my first choice but wasn’t going to leave it behind. I also got a pot of mustard, a jar of lemon curd, jars of tomato pasta sauce, tinned vegetables and tinned fruit. I had a good look around their house. Mrs. Granger has a nice collection of lingerie, not what I would have expected for an older lady. Mr. Granger has a rifle, I didn’t know that. I took that too, with a packet of bullets. Maybe I can hunt something. The food I’ve taken from them won’t last long.

Day 24- Feeling better today, could be the food, could be the better wine. I’m going to see if I can find anything to hunt to day. I’ve never shot a gun before. I’m strangely excited.
Nothing, not even a bird in the sky. The only movement I watched through the scope was Mark and the dog. They went into the garden again for the dog to do its business. Mark went back inside to give the dog some privacy. I followed the dog with the rifle scope. It didn’t have much energy, it must be hungry itself. It would be kinder to put it down. I haven’t seen Kate in a while now. I hope she’s ok.

Day 25- Mark came outside with the dog again. Where’s Kate? What’s he done to her? I’m going to go check on her. Tempted to take the gun with me but if he sees me walking towards him with that he could kick off and I don’t have the energy to waste. I’ll take the small vegetable knife from the kitchen with me. Just for self defense if he tries anything.
Smug bastard. He was in the garden with the dog. I asked him where Kate was. He said she didn’t want to see me. I asked him to ask her. He said she was ill in bed. I asked to see her. He said no, she was sleeping. Bastard. He’s not looking after her properly, like I would. He went in and locked the door. Stupid twat left the dog outside. I can see him now out the window, shouting for the dog to come to him. You’ll need to shout louder Mark, he can’t hear you with the boiling water bubbling around his ears on my camping stove.

Day 26- I slept well. Surprising what a good protein meal can do for you. I feel stronger today. That’s good, Kate needs me to be strong now. She needs me. I’m focused now. I think I can do it. I know I can do it.
I might have a long wait. He won’t be out for the regular dog toilet breaks. I’ve opened the window slightly, enough for the tip of the rifle to poke out. And I’ll wait. As long as it takes.
Two hours. That’s all I had to wait. He went outside calling for the dog again. My first shot missed. Excited fingers. Luckily Mark didn’t twig what the noise was until I lined him up again for another shot. I got him in the chest. He hit the ground hard. I watched. Ready to fire again. He didn’t get up. I ran down the stairs and down the lane. He was still on the ground. The snow under him was vivid red. I stared. I looked up at the window, no Kate watching. I dragged him back here. Exhausted now. Must rest. Kate needs me.