Saturday, 18 February 2012

Tactile hallucinations

"You're suffering from trans-finite hallucinations," said Dr. Fraud.  He was bored; this patient didn't appear to have anything interesting to say for themselves, and didn't even seem to be having interesting hallucinations.  His last hallucinite had believed that Lovecraftian Elder Gods had already returned to earth and were working in hairdressing salons to facilitate access to human brains.  This one hallucinated lemons that were real enough to touch.
"What does that mean?" asked Marcel.  He was sitting cross-legged on Dr. Fraud's chaise-longue, with his shoes taken off and tucked neatly underneath.
"It means that there are a countable infinite number of your hallucinations, and that you will keep counting them," said Dr. Fraud.  He was sure that he'd given the right definition, but it didn't seem to be what he'd had in mind when he wrote the diagnosis down.
"Will they end when I finish counting them?"  Marcel was in his mid-forties and looked a little older.  His hair had gone the kind of undecided grey that people referred to kindly as salt'n'pepper and his beard stubble had more white than ginger in it.  There were deep crow's feet around his grey eyes, and a haunted look ingrained in his face.
"No," said Dr. Fraud, sounding a little annoyed.  He was sure he'd specifically said 'trans-finite'.  "There are a countably infinite number of them, not a countable number.  You'll never stop counting them."
"But if I lived for long enough I would, wouldn't I?"
"No, you stupid little man.  You are not listening to what I am telling you.  If you lived until the heat-death of the universe you would not stop counting them.  You would run out of names for numbers before you ran out numbers, and you'd still run out of numbers, if that were possible, before you ran out of hallucinations."
"Oh," said Marcel.  "That sounds like a lot of hallucinations."
"It is," said Dr. Fraud, feeling satisfied that he'd achieved something with the man.  "Pay on your way out."
"No, wait," said Marcel.  Dr. Fraud checked the time on his desk-clock so fast there was a tiny thunderclap as air rushed into the vacuum his movements had created.  Marcel still, technically, had eight minutes of his session left, so Dr. Fraud tried not to grumble too loudly.
"How do I get rid of the hallucinations?"
"How do I get rid of the hallucinations?  You cure them right?  You're a mental doctor."
Dr. Fraud eyed Marcel carefully, wondering if he was being cheeky.  That was the problem with English, he thought regretfully.  You could say anything in it, in at least three different ways, and each way provided its own subtle commentary from the speaker.  It was a minefield, a despicable language that allowed two people to hold two entirely different conversations without ever learning that the other person didn't have a clue what was really being said.  And there it was: did Marcel mean that he was a doctor of the mental faculties, or simply a mad doctor?
"I can help you, I think," he said a little stiffly.  "For a price."
"Exactly," said Marcel.  "That's what I need.  Help.  Someone to hide behind."
"To hide behind?" Dr. Fraud was very puzzled now, this seemed to be a non-sequitur.
"Yes, they're starting again.  The lemons are coming to get me!"
"Don't be sill–" started Dr. Fraud, then stopped abruptly.  He rubbed his eyes, peered in front of him, and then rubbed his eyes again.  Marcel took advantage of his distraction to clamber off the chaise-longue and run behind Dr. Fraud's desk.  Dr. Fraud stared still; there was a six foot tall lemon in the doorway to his office.
"Tactile hallucinations," he said, light dawning at last as to why trans-finite hallucinations had seemed wrong.  "You're having tactile hallucinations."
"Save me," squeaked Marcel, as the lemon bore down mercilessly on the pair of them.

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