After a few minutes of quiet contemplation, the Teller resumed his tale . . .
“About a week after I had been impaled on the railing, I was awoken in the dead of night by a hobgoblin driving scalding hot needles into my legs. Each thrust required such effort he rolled his little golden eyes, sneezed and sweated. His drool was thick puss-acid in strings from his nose and lips, globules gathering strength on his chin where they hovered, quivering, then drip after drip dropped in slow motion into the wound he had just made. Within seconds my legs were raging, the skin under the chest bandages had caught and the fire quickly spread to my spine. In the darkness, I could neither breathe nor shout but banging around my head was the realisation that I could die, or at least parts of me could. The reality was that being sliced by a dirty spike had set in motion a chain reaction of imbalance and degradation which cultivated the perfect conditions for cysts and lumps to grow around my spine with incredible speed, choking the nervous system.
After heat and flames there came battalion after battalion of electric beetles stomping through vessels, mustering behind my kneecaps for a paralysing assault on thighs and shins. Leg muscles, no longer mine, stretched and retracted of themselves, tensing and bouncing in sodden sheets. For reinforcement thin snakes writhed, jockeying for position just beneath the skin which rippled as they slithered in pursuit, mopping up straggling senses. All the while, that diseased hobgoblin, grinning from ear to ear, spiked places where bone was closest to the surface, pick, pick, bloody pick.
That morning, my face frozen in a picture of grim fascination, beaded with sweat, I witnessed the final onslaught of an invasion that had been fermenting for days. The sheer weight of foreign bodies had tipped the balance, my nervous system was under siege and although they remained attached my legs began to die. What remained of nerve endings waved forlornly at any passing antibody deployed for one last stand which, mistaking them for the enemy, ripped out their roots for their trouble. In the carnage millions of nerves died, and while stragglers were remorselessly dispatched, less and less feeling remained until pain was replaced by stillness, torpid territory where the muffled buzz and rustle of the waking household was detached and only continued far, far away beyond the frayed edges of consciousness. I had become desensitised to the ebb and flow of life in the same way my legs, unfeeling of touch, were incapable of sensing the earth, the drift of air, the warmth of carpet and floorboard.
During the first few days after the devastation I felt remarkably clear minded and moved about the house tentatively as if treading broken glass, supported by furniture. I fell over perhaps ten or twelve times. My mother and father, dazed beyond hope, helped where they could. But not good old uncle B though, he sat motionless in his chair with all the troubles of the world floating in his tumbler of whiskey. Doctors, for their part, pored over X rays, administered innumerable injections and performed biopsies. Nurses meanwhile, swabbed and probed, swished and joked. A few days later, my legs stopped working altogether.
Both my parents were out at work when they delivered my wheelchair so uncle B scribbled his spidery signature on the docket and propped it by the front door. That same day he decided the time had come for him to follow his dream and emigrate. California, I think it was, where he built houses for hippies and died horribly of cancer.”
The rest must remain unsaid until the tale is told in its entirety.
“I hope you have enjoyed the trip and will give me the opportunity of appearing for you.”