Monday, December 14, 2009

The Procedure - 9

I got up late, all wobbly and bleary, with fragments of last night all mixed up in my nightmares to haunt the shadows of my hangover. Alex's beatific expression. Tequila. His avowals of great happiness, of boundless capability. Beer. His emotions regarding the Procedure itself. His longing to experience it again. Did he really say Teri was dead?

Over the course of the day, as I numbly carried out my pitiable tasks – e-mails, phone calls, meetings – I agonized over my impending appointment with Dr. Herkimer. I vacillated between steadfast determination and doubt. I told myself it was normal to be scared. The Procs existed on a higher plane; ordinary people were bound to misunderstand them. They had transcended petty, sentimental preoccupations; this might be shocking to Nocs, but wasn't that the point? Their state was not the result of mere mood alteration, of cozy, coddling talk. They'd acceded to a higher level. They had evolved. It was a testament to the scope of their transformation that it bewildered those they'd left behind. Right?

This logic kept me resolute for long stretches. Then my thoughts would drift and I'd get scared again. And not just scared like you're gonna get your teeth pulled. Though there was some of that. That kind of scared I knew I'd overcome. But I mean deep-down scared. The kind of scared that might be trying to tell you something.

On the way home I went by Herkimer's house again. To hell with it if he caught me. I just had to hear one more person get the Procedure. I figured if I heard those cries of ecstasy again my mind would be made up. I had to reassure myself that this was what I wanted.

I crept up quietly and took my seat upon the grass and leaves. A young-sounding man was unburdening himself to the doctor. He was in bad shape: weary, desperate, lost. He was a little more aggrieved than most, but otherwise this seemed like a typical pre-Procedure consultation. And then the conversation took a stunning turn.

"When did you say you had it? About six months ago?" asked Dr. Herkimer.

"About six months ago."

"You were one of the first," the doctor remarked gravely.

Through whimpering sobs, the patient asked, "Has anyone else come back to you like this?"

"Michael, I'm not at liberty to divulge the therapeutic experiences of my other patients."

More crying. Suddenly, Michael erupted in a desperate howl.

"Can you undo it?! Doctor?! My God, can you undo the Procedure?!"

"Shhh, shh. Shh... Relax, Michael, relax. Take a deep breath."

"Ahhhh... God! God!!"

"I can only help you if you try to focus." The doctor's voice was pointedly, exaggeratedly sedate. "Try to relax."

"OK," Michael gasped.

"Good. Now. Tell me what you're experiencing right now."

Michael emitted a stuttering sigh then spoke haltingly, quickly, before tears got the better of him again.

"There's... there's... there's something deep inside me that's dead and gone and I don't know where it is and I want it back."

"I see," said Dr. Herkimer tensely.

"I thought I had everything but I have nothing."


"I have less than nothing."

"I see."

"Can it be undone? Please?"

I heard no reply but evidently the doctor was shaking his head.

"Aaaaahh!" howled Michael. "AAAAHHH!! AAAHHH!!"

"Shh, shh. Shh! Stop. Don't. Stop! Michael!"


"Stop it, Michael! Stop it! I can help you! I can help you!"


"No! No! NO! NO! NO!"

Amid the patient's agonized wails I heard the chaotic noises of a struggle: objects swept off of a table or desk; furniture upended; something falling over – a lamp, perhaps. Instinctively, I crawled a few feet away from the wall. I looked up to see the young man lurching towards the window, Herkimer shadowy behind him. Michael threw his head into the glass, shattering it and bloodying his face. The doctor grabbed him from behind and wrestled him back down and out of view. Parrying Michael's flailing arms and clawing fingers, he held aloft a syringe. When he found a momentary chance he quickly plunged it downward. As Herkimer stood above him Michael's screams grew weaker and lapsed into moans of deepest sorrow, then resigned sighs, and finally, silence.