Posted: 08 March 2005
Word Count: 1985
The man at reception tells me to follow the green smell. They don't care much at these' council run clinics. I wander down the corridor looking lost until a little girl tells me I'm looking for room 5.
I sit on the floor and chat to her for a little while. She tells me she's got to learn the new textures. Apparently she's not a Blanket, like me, she's just an Alternate. She's being taught to feel the flavours like everyone else, but complains that oranges still feel spiky. She tells me it's her parent's fault - they didn't believe in the assimilation process the council is trying to enforce. There's a lot of opposition to it - Friends Of Freedom, George Orwell Foundation. Mostly old-timers left over from the 80's. Still trying to buy a piece of the world, but there's none left.
A few decades ago they decided that what had been seen as a freak genetic mutation, was actually a step up the evolutionary ladder. So they started encouraging multi-sensual learning, and discovered most people are synaethetics. Some are Alternates, who simply perceive in a different way, and some Blankets, who have no cross-sense perception. They're not allowed to breed anymore.
A weepy-eyed couple, yuppie types, scurries round the corner; suits crumpled like their eyes. They start fussing over the little girl, asking if she's got it right yet. I get up and leave, feeling uncomfortable around all this family emotion.
My family hasn't spoke to me since the doctors proved I wasn't an Alternate. They ran some tests, found out I was faking - a Trendie. That's why I'm here. I figure it's a long shot, but if this new treatment works I'll get my family back. I mean, people used to take hallucinogens for fun. And I heard Electro-shock treatment used to make people see all kinds of stuff.
I take a number and sit down. I wonder if the little girl can hear the screams.
Ladies and Gentlemen: may I have your attention. We are here today for a specific purpose, and we must not forget that. As an organization in our own right we have considerable influence over the citizens of this great country, but it is these very citizens who are questioning our methods. I beg of you to spare a moment or two to listen to what I propose, and to vote according to your beliefs on the subject.
The question we must address is this: is resistance to the rise in Trendies futile, or do we stand a chance of success? And should we try to recruit these traitors?
Please, please, quieten down. Since the very beginning of time, society has punished those who do not fit in. We have encouraged every resistance to individuality, and rewarded those who obeyed the laws of similarity well. This has resulted in a society of men and women who are willing to do anything to become accepted. The surgical enhancement fad of a few years ago supports this, as does the well-documented sociological impact of the eighties. It is for this reason and this reason only that I suggest a merciful approach to the traitors out there. Provided that they can be shown that there is nothing right about their actions, they can change. They will learn that the current national obsession with Synaesthesia is only about peer pressure. The reported study that implies that up to eighty percent of the mutated society are Trendies proves that these so called normal people who genuinely suffer from this deformity are not normal. And they must be dealt with accordingly. But surely those who merely follow the footsteps of a depraved shepherd should not be thrown to the wolf. You cannot blame the sheep, they are only following years of breeding. You cannot blame the peasants -they too are at the hands of genetics.
And we must not forget, that is only due to the foresight of our ancestors that purified our gene pool, that discouraged breeding out side of our rightful class, that we are here today able to see so clearly what the lower classes cannot.
Before we continue, I would like to vote on this matter alone. Do we agree that as the advantaged patrons of this society, it is our duty to offer mercy to those willing and able to accept it? All in favour say Aye.
I wonder if the patients can hear the screams. I turn the dial a little more, and the screams echo round this tiny insufficient lab. I'm supposed to help people in this prickly smelling room, with little or no budget, and substandard assistance. The little that the council pays me wouldn't cover the electric bill I'd create if I followed their plan, and the pharmaceutical company would have withheld services months ago. I'm just hoping the accountants don't know anything about this treatment, or they'll start to wonder why the bills are below quota. Hypnosis is a lot less painful, and it really seems to solve the problem. Just substitute green for yellow and spiky for silken, in the old subconscious, and bob's your uncle, as my grandmother would say. It's the Blankets that cause the problem. With nothing to retrain, it's a little tricky, but the G.O.F. solved that one - LSD makes even the most single sensed Blanket see colours. And once we get the dosage right, the police will stop pestering me about the `suicidal properties of this radical treatment'.
Of course I feel caught in the middle with all this. I believe in freedom of individuality, but I can't change the council. And I know I'm doing their dirty work, but my treatment doesn't melt their brains. These get their sense of identity back at my hands. Surely a false sense of acceptance is better than the exclusion they suffer at the hands of society?
I wheel my patient into the recovery room. The hysterics will soon fade, and the nurses will ineptly council the patient in the tablets he'll be popping for the rest of his life. The treatment will help him beat the loneliness. He's one of the lucky ones.
Right then folks. Hush up a while, I've got news. Pretty simple really, but those bigwigs over at Friends of Freedom have decided to grant mercy to all the Trendies they can lay their hands on. I'm sure we've all been here long enough to know that the only mercy those toffs know of is the ECT Room. So unless we all want to end up drooling below stairs while they drink tea and play cribbage I suggest we do something about it.
On the bright side at least we know that the study reached them. Old George would be pleased with us - using their media to misinform them was pure genius. The only problem is the council haven't released a statement about the infiltration of their headquarters which can only mean one of two things. Either we were right and there is an increase in Trendies this year, or they haven't realised we broke in.
Our little informant at the centre clinic tells us that the numbers of patients going for treatment with our doctor friend has fallen, but he reckons that everyone who goes to her is well chuffed with the results. I suggest that we start attempting to hire another doctor in another clinic. We'll need to get a few more informants, but it's never hard to encourage a community spirit when your armed with a few favourite foods. Plus a few savage scents lets us make sure we get the right people. We don't want any more accidents, so we?
So, every one agree with me then? We get more staff at the clinic, right?
I'm one of the lucky ones. All I have to do all day is tell people where to go and pretend I'm not a complete Blanket. My real job is acting, so I can pull of the part. It's the fear that's the hardest bit. I mean, normal people don't live with fear behind their eyes. In their ears, on their fingertips. They're normal. But a Trendie they have to think about everything they say, think, look at, touch and smell. Oh, smell. I love the smell of a nice steak, but since the council banned all `savage scents' food, I have to get it where I can. Usually from the F.O.F. centre, from one of there rebel contracts. And that's rare nowadays. I was lucky with this job. Firstly they gave me the directions to all the doctors - green smell for the lab, yellow for the pharmacy, and purple for the lock up. So, I didn't have to work it out. Secondly, it allowed the F. O. F to find me. They changed my life. In the centres they don't even allow you to talk about multi-sensuality. They don't even let alternates in. All I have to do is take names, remember faces. I supply the information, so they can get new members. Sometimes the patients don't want to be members and they disappear, to get away I guess. But the F. O. F still pays me for the information.
They worst part of the job, is facing the fear. On everyone 's faces when they walk in, in the faces of little children, as young as 2 or 3. And the screaming. I wonder if people on the street can still hear the screaming.
On the street I can still hear the screaming. It pours out of the walls in red and orange stripes. the pavement feels like jelly under my feet, my clothes feel like smoke, and the exhaust fumes are bitter limes, and jellied eels in my nose. The air tastes like Irish coffee, then it mixes with the fear and the confusion in the back of my throat. Is this what normal people live with? The nurse has given me a bottle of pills to take, to regulate my heart rate, and the sound of them rattling in my clenched fist is exploding stars and red-hot needles in my vision. Closing my eyes doesn't help. Maybe closing my ears would. Will my family really love me like this? I want to go and see them, to show them what I am, but I can't remember how. I sit down on the curb, and try to collect my thoughts, but they keep getting run down by the traffic. I try and grab hold of one as it scuttles into the road.
I like sitting in this corridor. My parents have gone again, to speak to the doctors. They're worried about me, but I know what will make them happy. If I can just remember to say what they want to hear, it'll be ok.
I'm lucky like that. Being able to hear what they see, I can copy them. It's just with them both being Alternates, I sometimes get confused. If they were normal, 1 could follow their normal thoughts. But in this corridor there are so many thoughts to learn from, I'll get it right eventually.
I know they worry when I finish their sentences, or do things without being asked, but I can't help it. They're so close, so loud. But now I know what normal is I can pretend. For now. As long as z bide my time, copy the right minds. I don't want to have that treatment. It makes you crazy; it doesn't even make you normal. I don't know why everyone wants to seem normal - there not inside. But they don't know that. They think the treatment makes you right. They think crazy is normal. But it isn't. It's crazy. Like that boy outside. The quiet one. The one under the bus.
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