Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – A Novel



“That’s the first moment of genuine, non-medicated calm I’ve felt since…”

The sentence decayed into silence and Pat found himself looking out the window as if looking to see where the rest of it had gone.

“Since…?” prompted the doctor.

“Since before I was hospitalised,” he replied. “Long before. So long, I can’t remember.” He felt as if a tear were about to crawl out the corner of his eye.

“I have a headache,” he said. The heat under the skin of his face was increasing.

“Would you like something?” He wanted to decline, but found himself suddenly confused by the question.

“What?” he asked feebly.

“Do you want a glass of water, or some paracetamol?”

“Okay. Thanks.” Helen left the room, leaving the door open behind her. He heard a tap running. When she came back into the room, he could see the serene, gentle concern in her eyes.

He looked into the glass she had brought him and it almost made him cry. Helen handed him the glass and the water sloshed toward the rim. As it did so, he knew he wouldn’t be coming to see her anymore.

“I don’t think I can keep talking today.”

“Okay,” she said. Helen didn’t even look towards the small travel clock positioned in one corner, on the floor. Once he had seen the clock, it explained how Helen had been able to conclude their sessions on time.

It had made him feel hopeless; as if the help she offered was actually a retinue of simple tricks that created the illusion of hope until he had learned to see through it.


When he got back to his room, he felt exhausted. Unfortunately, it was not a substitute for calm. His clothes were beginning to stick to him, so he stripped off, took his towel and headed into the shower.

The room was empty and the lights were off. He went into a cubicle, closed the door and turned on the water. He made it as hot as he could tolerate until clouds of steam filled the tiny space and obscured the walls. He sat down on the floor and let the spray crawl across his scalp.

The gauze patch Nir had put over the graze became soggy, so he peeled off the tape that held it, flinching as it pulled the hairs out of his legs. He balled it up and threw it in the corner.

Pat picked at the dried pus along the edge of the graze and watched as blood rose in beads. He tilted his leg so the water could wash it away.

As his thoughts began to spin slower, he felt a weird sensation of calm. He gripped his head between his hands and pulled it down hard to his chest, straining his neck and glad for the pain.

It was as if the spinning of his mind was slowing under the falling water, and the absence of the force which had been keeping the pieces unified meant they were slowly falling away.

He had visions of watching one ice floe drift into another and hearing the screams of the ice as it broke into pieces.

The relentless motion of one body destroying another. The inexorable momentum of nature which hopeful, foolish people mistakenly interpret as divine.

Relentless, cruel, ruthless, brutal.

He wondered if this was the actual sensation of dissociation which his doctors had diagnosed as psychosis. As a younger man, such a vision would have been terrifying. Now, the muscle of his heart had become so weak, ultimate dissolution figured as the ultimate relief.

He watched the water dash through the grid of mouldy grouting and away down the plughole. Pat thought of his mother and how he had made her suffer. Still, no tears would come.

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