Twilight Sleep

It all started out so innocently, but doesn’t it always. I lost my job. I lost my wife. I lost my small circle of friends. I felt nothing.

I plummeted into endless hours of depression and daytime television, trimming my fingernails and counting paperclips.

As time went on, I discovered that I liked taking things apart: dismantling broken radios, disassembling toasters and tinkering with oily car parts. I filled the scraping hours by disembowelling washing machines and dismembering endless clockwork mechanisms: all that uniformity and precision, undone.

Then, I realised that I liked cutting things up and pulling them apart. I developed an interest in archaic medical textbooks and anatomical science. I started reading books about eugenics, ethnic cleansing, forced labour camps, random dismemberings, genetic experiments and mass graves.

I liked figuring out how things worked, and what their insides looked like. I was fascinated by the mechanics of the human body; all those cogs and pulleys and springs in perfect synchronicity. My workshop was scattered with corroding parts, indiscriminate machinery in chaos and order, all at once. All that metal and wiring in organised disarray.

I would painstakingly hone my skills, crafting flawless cross sections of subjects and objects. The cross sections were so thin and immaculate, nearly transparent, held up in kaleidoscopic wonder, the soaring joy of contents laid bare.

The first machine that I managed to slice up good and proper was a 1989 Erica portable typewriter. It was a marvel, a revelation, a triumph of engineering achievement, its innards on display, its insides revealed, its innermost mechanisms cast asunder in a shower of golden sparks skittering from the blade of my circular saw.

My cat Edison stationed atop the uppermost vantage of my industrial shelving unit, littered with nuts and bolts and slivers of amphibian and preserved domestic animals floating in jars. Every slice, thinner and thinner.

I dedicated my first foray into medical science to Edison. The cat, not the inventor. Old Edison, disinterested, judgmental, sanctimonious, surprisingly resistant to change. Skinned and carved into delicate slices and preserved for eternity, encased in Perspex, illuminated by neon tubes and decorated with old cinema reels and tangled video tape and polyurethane fibres shaved from surfboards, spangling with the frazzling ends of children’s sparklers.

And, of course, it is a natural progression of lazy narrative to bribe a local mortician, Kevin, into letting me practice on the real thing. One evening I devoted fourteen hours to dividing and sectioning an 87 year old left scapula. She died from necrosis of the liver and pancreatic cancer and the best parts had already been claimed.

I found true beauty and discovery shining in the layers of her skin. Kevin has a voracious interest in artistically cross sectioned children’s lollipops. Kevin is a dangerous and depraved pervert.

Twilight Sleep is equal parts morphine and scopolamine. Kidnapping became like second nature in Kevin’s private ambulance. It is truly incredible what you can get away with dressed in a dark suit and rubber gloves. Throw in a clipboard and an impatient and officious tone and I guarantee that you could walk into any care home and cart away a corpse.

They never check the paperwork or my homemade identification card, bearing a crudely photoshopped logo emblazoned with the motto “Ego interficiam in populo”. Twilight Sleep was primarily used in inducing insensitivity to pain without losing consciousness.

I discovered there was a surprisingly buoyant market for cross sectioned military memorabilia. I sold a dissected Wolfsangel for a princely sum that paid for my chemotherapy. I have one client in Japan who literally pays thousands for sections of sliced up South Pacific veterans who survived theatres of war across the globe. He will pay handsomely for the remains of landmine victims. He will purchase fleshy trinkets from holocaust survivors or preserved slices of amputees. If he then choses to consume slices of liver and assorted detritus with dark soy sauce and nigiri salmon, that is a matter for him.

Now that I know I am terminal, I have brokered a solemn undertaking from Kevin to decorticate my brain tumour and serve slices of my freeze-dried heart as canapes at my funeral. It all started out so innocently. In retrospect, I should have stuck to dismantling toasters and not performing unsanctioned surgical experiments on the elderly.

Twilight Sleep induces a sedative, semi-narcotic state which ameliorates the experience of pain, or reduces the likelihood of memory of pain.

I am so fucking sick of sighing. I am so fucking sick of being only half alive, shuffling in the shadow of mortality, floating in the sweet embrace of purgatory. I have begged Kevin to make sure that I am conscious when he surgically removes my heart. I hope that as I drift off and fade, I catch a glimpse of the insides of my heart as he holds it up to the light, in glorious transparent ruby, pulsating and resolute, all its secrets laid bare.

So, here is another slice of my freeze-dried heart for your consideration, wrenched out, dripping and repugnant split open for your approval and disgust. Twilight Sleep promises to numb the pain, so shake your head until something beautiful falls out and then slip into consciousness, hanging in half-death,

until it is time to go back to sleep.

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