An excerpt from

A Wild and Precious Life: A Recovery Anthology

Lily Dunn and Zoe Gilbert

End of an Episode
by Rob True

Drill, rawl plug, five hundred millimetres, drill, rawl plug. Darren holding the other end of the trunking, supporting the weight, as Theron puts a screw and washer in place. Trying to ignore the vision repeatedly flashing in his mind. Hanged brother. Sweet, death face distorted, purple. Lolled to one side on stretched neck, slowly swinging from rope. The horror breaking through bricks and metal and screws.

In goes another, drill gun rattle, hanged brother, level up. Down the ladder, hanged brother, move along and up the steps again, hanged brother, concentrating on the screw, rattle of gun through sight of Paul hanging. Darren drilling a wall across the corridor, sound shattering echo through Paul swinging, peacefully.

Theron climbs down to get more trunking and as he bends over he sees boots in front of him. He straightens to see Paul there like an apparition, solid, but ghost-like vision. Paul is telling him something, but there are no words, just a strange, alien noise as Theron tries to comprehend, slowly aware of Darren talking to the client nearby.

This is not real, this is not real, he repeats like a mantra in his mind, as he raps knuckles on his forehead, trying to dislodge the reality before him.

That evening, he lies in a bath, trying to wash away the pain. He’s meeting a friend at the Ten Bells and has to catch a train. Theron dresses himself while in a trance. He looks at his hands like they don’t belong to him and he’s surprised to see them, as they change from transparent, luminous, to rotting colour of old flesh wound.

On the train, Theron is struck by a ridiculous excitement that everything’s amusing and absurd. Everyone like hideous puppets. He watches out the window. Dream journey, back through ancestral past, as the track takes him through ancient towns of dead relatives. He sees the backs of houses in place of the slums where there’d once lived. There are gaps too, where more recent blocks of flats that he once knew, have been demolished. He remembers dramas of life and death, delusion and disaster, beatings and delirium, and Theron feels like he’s in an alien world, different from what he had known and understood.

As the train passes through a tunnel, the window becomes a dark mirror. Theron looks into his own empty eyes and sees the abyss, infinite and terrifying. He notices a young couple laughing together behind him. They are laughing at him. Anger wells up, fierce as fire in his blood. He turns to look at them, but they won’t look back. He stares madly at the man, trying to catch his eye, provoking conflict.

Are you fucking sure? I’ll smash your face through the back of your head, cunt.

He sends this violence telepathically on laser beams through his eyes. The man looks away laughing and, as Theron goes to get out of his seat to attack the fella, he’s stopped dead by a terrible scene. The whole carriage is looking at him. Every couple, every group are all talking about him, laughing at him. He is at one end and can see the whole length of the car. All those faces, mocking, judging, sneering. Dream vision of smirking masks. Theron is both livid and afraid. Violence in a nightmare show. It seems like he is in a film.

An old couple right opposite him are laughing too. Frail and decrepit as they are, he wonders how they would dare to deride him so obviously.

The train stops and the lad who first laughed gets up and makes his way off the carriage.

-Sorry, excuse me, thank you.

Polite as you like. It don’t make sense. His behaviour doesn’t match Theron’s understanding of an enemy belittling him. He looks back at the rest of the carriage. Everyone minding their business, chatting and laughing, but not at him. Confused, he can’t escape his anger.

The train pulls into its final stop, where Theron gets off. A wave of hurrying humans, ugly and vivid in electric light glare of rude, abrasive station atmosphere swarm at the train he’s leaving. Echoes of movement and voices. As they come at him, Theron wants to lash out and smash their heads.

Just one of you get in my path and I’ll beat you to the fucking floor.

But none of them do. They part before him, like magnets repelled. One look at his face is enough.

In the pub, as the first pint goes down, Theron levels out and begins to relax. The rest of the night is spent pouring lager all over his adrenaline, to put out the flames rushing up.

Saturday, at home, Theron sat in dream room, staring at nothing. The colours are strange with the odd air, moving in slow currents and eddies around him. His wife and son, unreal somehow, seem distant and out of reach. It’s like he is seeing it all from another dimension. He wonders if he is even really there, as he looks at Jake playing and Jane clearing up. With their sounds slightly muted, distorted scene, beyond communication, it’s as though he’s watching through a thick glass wall. He thinks if he knocks on that wall, they might not notice.

-Why are you staring at me like that? Jane says, annoyed by his intense atmosphere. Theron knows now that Jane and Jake don’t like him. They don’t want him around anymore. He feels his isolation and loneliness among the two people he loves most, and is lost. His eyes float off into desolate depth of dream blue walls and Jake looks at him with curious fear. He knows his dad behaves oddly sometimes and isn’t like the other dads, but moments like these make him uneasy.

Theron laughs at nothing. It’s a crazed laughter and he has no idea where it is from, or what it’s for. Maybe it’s just laughter at life, absurd and meaningless. What a joke. Nonsense. His laughter trails off and tears spring up in his faraway eyes, nowhere gaze in oblivion face, then roll down his cheeks. Jane sees his despair and comes over to put her arms around him. She holds Theron tight and he cries quietly into her dress.