DamnAlchemyThere follows an extract from my forthcoming book, TickTockTwo.

It is the 10th of October 2010 and I have three heart attacks over a period of six hours. The opinion of the cardio-thoracic consultant is that I should undergo emergency surgery. The chance of survival is about 5%.

I have been brought to the operating theatre where a screen hangs above me, dividing two worlds.


On the side furthest from me are my feet, legs, groin and stomach. It is the kingdom of science, ruled by surgeons and technicians whose white coats lend them an angelic air. It is a place of crystal sharpness, of calm unflappable precision where one action triggers a chain of different but equally precise procedures. Where ceremonies are conducted in almost total silence because each of them knows what each of them will be doing next leaving little reason for verbal communication. Commitment to the rightness of their occupation is tangible and belief in their abilities, unshakeable.

However, the world on this side of the screen, containing my head, chest and arms, is vastly different.

It is a tellurian province created in an alchemist’s be-sooted phial; one part made from a magnesium flash stoked by inhuman conspiracies whispered into the sleeves of crimson cloaks. Another part produced by a lusus naturae, a trick of nature, sparked into life by forced inhalation of maiden breath siphoned from the lips of a thousand spermatic fantasies.

In this place, legends are born and die, heroically but far too young. A place inhabited by characters of childhood – Batman, Popeye, Pinocchio and Pooh. A place where the mechanics of every-day living are barely studied because there is no anatomical connection between the corporeal body and the soul. A place where the death of one creature is the life’s blood of another, where human privilege is celebrated in ceremonies of casual human disposal.

On this side resides every manifestation of the human condition mixed in a chaotic soup of care and ignorance, thoughtfulness and thoughtlessness, self-obsession and selflessness, conflict and empathy, humility and infliction, contrariness and understanding – the landscape of its calamity stretches back decades into the last century, from the very moment God, with the help of Bill Haley and his Comets, gave rock and roll to us with one benevolent hand, and with the other gifted us mind bending drugs, Ann Summers, mind eating machines, genocide, soul deforming celebrity, oh, and the moon. The latter only as a measure of humanity’s insignificance.

On this side too are the headlines celebrating mortal enterprise. Those endeavours which have coloured the palette of imagination and punctuated history during the entire span of my life up to and including the day my heart attempted to murder me.

This is the side where Real Life exists.

As for the consequences of Real Life and the preoccupations and obsessions of the human species, take a look at the bullet points of our era; contemplate and despair:

  • Prejudgement
  • Intolerance
  • Species self-hatred
  • Wilful inequality
  • Continuous conflict
  • Globally complicit genocide
  • Man hating
  • Woman hating
  • People hating
  • Drudgery
  • The only species ever to preside over its own extinction.

I could go on, but I am about to undergo lifesaving surgery on my heart. Something I didn’t ask for, I don’t deserve, and which has put almost everything I have come to rely upon for its permanence into awful perspective.


> Pictures: #1  Alchemy: a digital creation by Professor Virgil Wong    More
> Websites:
Professor Virgil Wong    P J Harvey
> Listen:
P J Harvey – The Moth (featuring Lily James)

I hope TickTockOne will be published and released before TickTockTwo, but in these times of paradox, paradigms and paraplumptitums, it may not be expedient to do so.

TickTockTwo will be published by Barre Meunier Publishing in the autumn of 2019 and fills in the gaps left by TickTockOne.

Other works by Rod McRiven: Swell

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