Grief does sad, bad, tragic things when resisted. Protracted grief even kills people. So we offer an antidote in the form of a drug, Tryptorinox, which has solid results and some are permanent, some great- even if short lived. Take Maurice d’Agen for example. Poor bastard, such a sad story, so believe me dear reader, if you’re not willing at this point to feel a little compassion for the bereaved turn the page for Buddha’s sake.
Morrie the Prune, as I privately liked to call him, was a tycoon of incredible wealth. His file revealed the normal ascent through the social credit scale, great rating parents, great school results, great university …yahdahyahdah. Bland bland bland! He’d married a high star rater and had two kids genetically modified for genius, wit, charm and beauty. Like Castor and Pollux, these two kids shone brilliantly in the firmament of lesser mortals, who only had the potluck of random human procreation. It seemed that even using the gene modification company, gave an enormous ratings boost, the odds are stacked in their favour. But the ratings system was hated by everyone except those in the highest echelons who clearly derived the greatest benefit from living in their privileged eyries. Thanks China.
People like the d’Agens used the services of Alset, which made pilotless capsules, pods, built to propel small numbers of people through low altitude travel. These took the wealthiest above the sorry masses, milling and toiling below.
Later there were rumours of sabotage after the pod plunged into the river, killing his two kids who were on their way to school. People thought they were murdered in revenge for something their father had done to one of his enemies. There were also the inevitable cries of ‘terrorists!’ but without doubt, the chances of a successful strike on a moving pod by a terrorist in our omniscient, omnipotent surveillance system was like trying to find a frog that sang Puccini.
It wasn’t the first nor would be the last of these kind of accidents which are like any accidents involving children; regrettable and distressing. That a high proportion of very rich people died in such accidents might be regarded by some as upsetting the social order but some might assert it was restoring it. Malthus lives on.
Maurice felt deep intractable grief, most notably based in guilt. Recently divorced, his wife blamed him for the deaths of their children, sadly a very common thing for such events to cause a rupture rather than make couples draw closer. Unity in adversity? Death the spectre, sweeps his scythe in a brutal arc, those who fall aren’t necessarily only the dead.
His plan was destined to fail. No-one can return from the City with anything other than the experience itself and all the internal consequences of that, as I have said before- I bind up the wounded. Our Maurice had other plans though that caused us all to experience a kind of ex-gratia grief, watching him. It is always the secondary effects that have the harshest impact for everyone it smacks around.
Maurice paid a huge sum to have his kids reanimated in a couple of bots. The management should never have allowed it, clearly on their part, they’d mixed, even curious motives. Part policy, part sympathy, part profit driven? I mean, as I said, he’d paid a small fortune to have the programming done and it took a long time and a huge team of re-animators.
After it all ended so badly, the initial interview with him revealed his original intention by every slumped neuro-biochemical assay, the dullness of defeat in his eyes and his flat tone.
“Mr d’Agen, my name is Dr John Grey and I would first like to say how very, very sorry I am for your losses. I know there’ve been quite a few and they are the hardest things to bear. I just want you to know that.”
He looked blankly at his feet and bent forward to scrape a small fleck of dirt from the toe of his right shoe with a rather long manicured fingernail. He sighed but didn’t speak.
“How are you today?” I asked quietly.
Again he sighed but straightened up and looked out the window then spoke, still looking out.
“How do I go on? After all this, how the fuck do I go on?”
I’m not in the business of obfuscation, of putting Patsy Kline into the conversation although Patsy has her place even after all these years. I couldn’t imagine losing my kids, let alone losing my wife as well, so I could only rely on the empathizer to feel his feelings, so harsh I battled tears that wanted to flow. I said shakily.
“Well, I think we can refer to some horrible old clichés here and the answer lies in the moments that stretch into minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years, until finally the day arrives when you don’t hear the crows outside, you hear the finches in the blossom trees.”
He leaked grief. His eyes were dry but every pore exuded his sorrow and guilt, even his head was slightly lowered, plus he didn’t make eye contact, sure sign of shame.
“I killed them you know. My wife said I did.”
This was common. The blame.
“You may well think that she preferred to blame you, believing her anger at you would be effective in deflecting her own intense sorrow, her angry feelings. But what do you believe about yourself Morrie? Do you think if your kids were sitting here you would be capable of getting a gun to shoot them, a knife to stab them?”
He frowned.“That’s ridiculous.”
“Then it is equally ridiculous to think that by sending them off to school you were deliberately consigning them to their deaths. What loving father could ever do that?”
“What loving wife could blame her husband?”
I acknowledged this with a nod, sitting silently, waiting for the moment to fill with his psychotropic modulated feelings. It should really be kicking in about now, the Tryptorinox.
It was somewhat unpredictable how the drug would manifest itself. It was a new brew of neurotransmitters that acted sort of like gates, regulating other neurotransmitters, letting them in or out. If you think of this drug like perfume then you will understand the subtlety of it.
Perfume has notes, dominant or emerging with time or heat, even the wearer’s pheromones. Thus it was with Tryptorinox. The dominant or top tier was norepinephrine but the base was tryptomine which, with a bit of tweaking, hung around the synapse modulating and enhancing the uptake of serotonin and dopamine. The brain of someone with PTSD has lost their way in the world. They revisit powerful emotions, and lay down reinforcers of traumatic memory. Maurice needed to learn to tolerate his intense feelings not by replacing his children with replicant look alikes but in learning to be in his pain without running away. He needed to take action that would increase his capacity for interoception, being sensitive to what was going on in his body not his mind.
All the poor man had done since the accident, was to look for ways to mitigate the experience, which is a normal fight or flight response to his trauma but the Tryptorinox enabled him to deal more effectively with the feelings. That was the theory anyway.
So I was a little unprepared for what Maurice did next.
Cats have what is called an antagonistic reaction to benzos, like Valium, sends ‘em cray cray. My much older brother, when he was a cocky med student, tried to euthanize some stray cats in our parent’s glass greenhouse. Someone dumped them on my sister and she didn’t want them, no-one did, then they had kittens. She dealt with the kittens by putting them in a black plastic bag then dropped them over the edge of the tower she lived in. So my brother, thinking this terribly inhumane, and having a mix of saviour complex and narcissism, volunteered to kill the adult cats humanely, using 10mg of Valprexone, the new benzodiazepam.
Truly it was like a scene from an old cartoon. The cats were rocket-fueled, juiced up and literally zooming and flying past him, tearing at his face with their claws while he ducked and dodged. He emerged after a few minutes bleeding, shocked and panting. He and the cats ran off in separate directions and I’m not sure any paw ever touched the earth. Later we thought the aversion therapy he used was most successful.
Likewise Maurice and Tryptorinox.
Maurice stood with his back to me at the window, his hands behind him like a statesman about to meet’n’greet. Then he started to jiggle and bounce on the soles of his feet. This grew abruptly into a pronounced up and down springing, his arms drifted out from his sides and flapped like washing whipped in a strong wind. I was alarmed but transfixed. He began to grunt, let out whooshing sounds, then a long wheeeeeeeeeee. I went over.
“Mr d’Agen. Are you okay?”
Jiggle jiggle flap… bounce
I stood a little at a loss for what to do but figured the best thing was to simply wait. He couldn’t go on forever with such massive energy.
Suddenly he glanced over at me with a sideways look, piercing and glittery, the look of someone in the grip of an uncontrollable force. He spat out.
“Shaking the tree! I’m shaking the tree!”
“Qigong! I’m…sh..sh..shaa.. shaking it off…the energy!”
“Oh, ok. How long will it take do you think?” I asked trying to sound nonchalant.
“T…t..till the end!”
I went back to my old, plush green, wing-backed chair and sat down. It was kind of mesmerizing to watch him, especially after fifteen or so minutes when he got into his stride and his body attained a kind of wave or flap of movement starting from his feet, finally snapping his head back, as though he was a cobra on speed coming out of a gigantic basket.
Thirty minutes passed and no signs of abating. This had to stop, he was going to do himself an injury. I went over to him.
“Mr d’Agen sir, can you slow down?”
His eyes were fixed ahead, looking at a vanishing point that had long since vanished. I put my hand out, lightly touching his arm. Nothing. I pressed with my fingers and called him more loudly.
“Maurice. Maurice. Can you hear me?”
He responded with a sideways head jerk but the rest of him continued the flapping and bouncing. Then he wheezed out.
“Ohhhhhh…..shhhhhh….wop wop wop….wheeeeee…I th..th…think…m..m..my ..k..k..k..k…kundalini is stuck!”
I agreed. It was time to call in the big guns.
Going to my desk, I held my thumb over the biometric receptor. A female automated voice responded asking me for a code. I responded.
“I see. Your code is 1-5-1-4. Is this correct? Answer yes or no, thanks.”
“I see. Thanks. You have given 9-1-5-1-4. This is not a valid code. Please repeat.”
I breathed in deeply and slowly and repeated.
“Sorry. I’m having trouble understanding you. Please repeat or try again later..tt..try again l..later.” It buzzed and clicked off.
I cussed big, bad, naughty, ugly words. You know, I work in one of the most technologically sophisticated places in the entire world and could I get this fucking crisis measure CODE RED thing to work? No sirree.
In despair, I looked over at Maurice. Extreme snaking and leaping now apparent. I had a bad feeling uncoiling in my guts, the old vaso-vagal response. I tried the crisis code enabler again.
I said it quicker. “18.104.22.168.”
“I see. You have given Ensign.1.4. This is not a valid code. The code consists of four digits. Please speak the code slowly and clearly.”
I shouted. “Motherfucker! CODE RED!”
It paused, then,
“Just a moment please. I’ll direct you to a human agent.”
I moved to Maurice whose face looked somewhat pale by now, a bit cyanosed around his mouth which meant his heart was significantly overtaxed and oxygen wasn’t getting through to his extremities. By reflex I threw my arms around him to attempt to control him, hoping to bring him to a slower bounce, just as the doors slid open and the team arrived to see me wrestling with Maurice. From the corner of my eye I saw Nelson the big boofhead with something in his hand. An appalling pain hit my right shoulder as The Buzz missed Maurice and got me.
“Fuck! Fuck! Him you idiots, him…not me…sedation not electrocution! Fucking monkey nuts… Buddha!” I reeled back holding my shoulder. Damn these guys were stupid. Truly a sandwich short of a lunch.
Boofhead Nelson, dropped the charger, produced another disc like pad with small rounded bristles on the face of it, which when applied anywhere near the neck, induced a transcutaneous pulse straight into the nervous system, dropping the victim like a sack of shit. I jumped back a metre as they approached Maurice, my shoulder still throbbing.
Bang! They popped Maurice on the neck and he did a curious thing. He stood perfectly poised for a few seconds, turned slowly towards me, smiled beatifically into my eyes and dropped dead.
It didn’t matter what they did then, the whole jiggery pokery of do-dads and wizzy bangerang whatsits.
He was gone. Maurice d’Agen, Morrie the Prune, fell off his tree, germinating in a new world of finches and blossoms.