Recently someone mentioned the word ‘malaria’ to me, and so one whole flood of memories came pouring back.
I remembered about a promise I’d made a while back, relating to a real experience that came closest to “my worst possible Room 101”. ¹
I remember the crickets. They were the switch. When the crickets came on – sometime between the breathtaking daily thunderstorm and the darkness painting over us – then the nightmare reasserted itself… without warning, without delay, without kindness.
Instantly my blood boiled, my joints creaked, my stomach rumbled, my nose twitched. And my skin prickled. I was really ill, and my body told me so.
But it was all in the mind, really… My mind, only my mind.
And that was the scary part. You see, apparently Larium – the anti-malarial I was taking – can “do that to people”.
It was completely uncontrollable… like, stepping out of your body, and watching it happen to yourself without you being able to do anything at all to stop it. All the “physical symptoms” were purely imaginary… but no matter how wise you were to that, you could neither fight them nor accept them; only panic at your increasing entrappment.
The strangest part was the way it would turn on-and-off at night. I’d switch-on-terrified at dusk… then, in the morning, the world would all be a new fairytale again – gloriously pretty, deliciously t-shirt-temperature and with the pleasant buzz of a community all waking up at the same time and getting settled for another harmonious day together. Hardly a starker contrast.
But by evening I knew it was coming again…
There were hours of sleeplessness. Once I tried staying awake all night. But I hadn’t counted on the lights running off backup generators that got switched off sometime in the early morning. chains++
There was a quandry of pill-swallowing: do I take the next scare-mongerer, or do I meet a mosquito round the next corner? (I’m sure I inhaled a healthy dose of insect-repellant while I was at it.) And, well, rationally, I’ve no justification to not-take medication… handcuffs++
And the agony of lonliness. Whoever wants to share someone else’s mind with them!? Most especially when they’re having an off-day. Prison-cell++
But then again, I’ll admit the larium-induced state was only the most miniscule of windows onto some crazy alternative reality. But even a window is sufficient to demonstrate the terrifying situation.
My worst Room 101 would therefore be: being in a state of having no control whatsoever over my mind (and, by extension, over my body, and potentially entire being) and yet having to “live through it” by watching myself live: hearing my deranged thoughts; watching my unjustifiable actions and even having to bear the consequences of a life I hadn’t “authorised myself” to live.
And, yes, I even did get malaria in spite of it all…!
¹When I last wrote around this topic, I wanted to maintain the clique-iquette of sticking to our agreed ‘rules’ of putting stuff in a room… but I always wanted to come back and really try to scare people 😛