As the perception of hours passed by in this colourful dream scape, my mind began to adapt to the lack of body and form. I began to see what my mind could do here. Before long, I was able to form rudimentary shapes within the swirls of colour. I started to concentrate on fashioning a body of sorts for myself. After a few minutes, I was an assortment of sharp edges and wobbly circles.
I was working on perfecting this form and experimenting on the surroundings, when the ear piercing noise started up again. The sensation of my body trying to escape from my eye was felt again, only this time in reverse. It started with the intensity, and then slowly abated. Seconds later, the noise stopped and this time when I tried to open my eyes I could actually feel them opening.
I was back in human form. There were no swirling colours, only ambient lighting and a steady hum from a power source of some description. I was lay on a bed with black sheets, at the foot of which was an unnervingly large mirror that I instantly assumed was of the two way variety.
This would be the part of the film where I start to scream a string of barely intelligible babble littered with various shades of choice colours from the swearing rainbow about why I was here, who had done this to me and what the crying fuck was going on?
And my current predicament was no different, only the words were in my head as I was still thinking my speech rather than projecting it vocally.
After a few minutes of silence, I would start to receive some kind of answer.
“Eric,” came a soft female voice, “How are you?”
Remembering to use my capacity for speech, I replied, “I’m fine, considering. What…” I began, but was interrupted before I had even formed the question in my head.
“The time for questions will come later. Before that, we need to perform some tests on you to ensure that your transitions have not harmed you in any way.”
“Transitions?” I said, with a mildly alarmed tone in my voice.
“Don’t worry, all will become clear soon” replied the female voice. “Now, if you would….” she started, but it was my turn to interrupt.
“Okay, I guess I can wait for answers. How’s about a name?”
“You can call me Sarah” she replied, “Now, if you would just step on the scales beside the bed.”
Great. If the purpose of these tests was to damage my self esteem, then this was the start of a downward spiral. I saw no point in refusing to comply, so I reluctantly cooperated. I stepped onto the rather expensive looking digital scales.
The numbers displayed in red LED in front of my toes was not at all what I was expecting.
“Wait a second. Are these scales accurate?” I asked.
“Yes Eric. They are accurate,” replied Sarah.
“Then how do you explain that I am now 75kg whereas before I had this ‘transition’ I was over 90kg?”
Since I had returned to human form, I had neglected to look at my body and get reacquainted with it. Perhaps the perception that I was only out of it for what felt like a day at the most played a part in that. I felt that I had not really been away long enough for any reasonable change and I’d simply been expecting same old, same old.
“Then the transition has worked beyond what we expected in that capacity.”
“We? Who exactly is that?” I asked, a little more sternly now that I knew that one sixth of my body had been stolen, although I knew that this was weight that I was not going to miss.
“The time will come for answers, please bear with me Eric. These tests are important to ensure that the transition has not affected you in any other way.”
I sighed, I was going to have to comply before I got the answers I required. Over the next hour I endured a series of tests to measure my fitness and reactions. It was becoming apparent that the transition had improved by body in every way that I had failed to do for the previous ten years. Not only was I much leaner, but all the little twinges I’d complained about over the years were no longer present in my body. My endurance had vastly improved and there was certainly far more definition in my muscles, without them being grotesquely out of proportion with the rest of my body. Transition certainly had its advantages, that much was already apparent.
“Well, everything seems to be in order physically,” said Sarah after I’d completed the rigorous set of tests, “Now we will need to perform some cognitive tests to ensure that your brain and thought capacity have not been affected in any way.”
Same results. I performed every test beyond my known abilities. I was beginning to wonder if the whole purpose of this transition was perfect me in some way. Admittedly, it was far easier than dieting, and much cheaper than a gym membership. Yet, I was still burning with anger inside at the lack of answers.
But that wasn't the end of the tests. Next up came what I'd been dreading – the prodding and poking with needles and other invasive objects. A fully masked person in medical garments came into the room with two equally masked minders. All the instructions were relayed by Sarah. Lift up this, drop that, bend over, open this, close that. Exactly what you'd expect when you were in an unknown location with sinister masked people surrounding you whose only goal was to perform a full body MOT on you.
When they'd finally taken all the liquids that they required and got all the measurements that were on their check-list, all three left the room. In the hour that they'd been conducting their tests, none of them had uttered a word. Not even a grunt or a sigh.
“Eric, you will be happy to know that the tests have now been completed,” came Sarah's voice from a location I had not yet detected, a voice that I was starting to believe was actually omnipresent.
“Good, because it's time I got some answers,” I snapped in reply.
“And you will get them,” replied Sarah, “But you will not be ready for answers until you have completed your social readjustment.”
“What do you mean by 'social readjustment'?” I asked, with a hint of concern in my voice. As if my predicament was not weird enough, then I was surely being taken to the next level of weirdness with every step of whatever it was that was happening to me.
“If you would care to seat yourself in front of the computer and follow the instructions, I think you will find that some of the questions you have will be answered.”
Again, I did not really have much choice but to comply with Sarah's request. I took my place in the rather comfortable and sleek black chair in front of the monitor. I gave the mouse a little nudge to break the monotonous screen saver. As this dissipated from the screen, I saw that my first instruction came in the ubiquitous form of the 'Press any Key' command. I blindly punched a key at random.
What I saw next shocked me so much that I flung myself backwards in a state of confused disbelief. The words on the screen simply said 'Today's date is July 1st 2003′.
I probably should not have been as surprised as I was given the post-transition events of the last few hours, but I was simply dumbfounded. The last I was aware, it had been 6th July 2002. Nearly a whole year had passed, yet to me I had only experienced a touch over a day.
I sat there in silent contemplation for the next few minutes as a tsunami of emotions flooded through my confused mind. Thought after thought shot through my head – what did my family think? Which photo did they use for the missing persons report? Did Simon actually notice that I’d gone? Did anyone get to my fish before they all died in a tank of stagnant water, malnourished and so very alone?
“Eric, we can understand that you have been taken aback by this information, but we must ask that you please continue with the social readjustment.”
I composed myself, and clicked the mouse to move the screen onto the next instruction. Here, I was asked to wear the earpiece headphones and clunky looking glasses that were in a small drawer that had mysteriously opened next to my right knee. Fully aware of what had happened the last time I had worn an earpiece, I was obviously a little reluctant to expose myself to another aural assault.
Nevertheless, not wanting to be prompted again by the increasingly impatient Sarah and her floating voice, I followed the request and clicked next.
More fool me.
For the next 45 minutes I was subjected to an audio visual information blitz. Images and video flashed in front of my eyes whilst multi-layered sound was played through the earpieces, the left and right ears receiving noticeably different recordings. Despite the speed of the visuals at the same time as the sound, my brain was taking it all in. It quickly became apparent that all this information was a heavily condensed summary of what had happened in the time that I had been in ‘transition’. News, sport results, deaths, marriages, disasters, popular music and films.
And my brain was taking it all in, storing it in an efficient manner for instant recall. As I was processing the information once the barrage had ended, I saw it there, right at the top, complete with a shockingly awful picture that was actually seven years old taken on my 21st birthday. ‘Local man missing for three days’, followed by ‘No sign of missing man after a week’ and later ‘Still no sign of missing man’, with ‘Hopes fade for missing man’ a few days later, with the final piece being ‘Manager of missing man arrested on suspicion of murder’. I never liked the guy, but I thought that this was a rather harsh turn of events. I guess that it pays to keep your stories consistent, and Simon was never one to be able to do this.
The instructions on the screen had now stopped and I was told that my social readjustment had finished. I relocated to the bed and decided to consider some of the information that I had taken in before I started to ask for some answers.
Nearly a whole year condensed into little more than a day and short film was a lot for me to take in when only the day before I was contemplating a future where I would lose my job and force me into looking for something to pay the bills with very little in the personal achievement stakes. I decided that it was time to get some sleep before I embarked on the raft of questions that were gathering in my mind.