Gone Away ~ The journal of Clive Allen in America

Accelerate - Part 1

It was a while before Lucky understood what was happening. At first, he put it down to side effects from the drug he was being given. He was not even sure that it might not be some form of placebo effect; after all, he had no way of knowing whether they were giving him the real thing or some harmless substitute that looked the same.

The one thing he was sure of was that any scratches he came by were healing much faster than usual. He noticed in the same way he had observed that slowed healing was a sign of getting older. For years he had lived with this as a fact of life and it was interesting but not earth-shattering when the process seemed to halt and reverse. It had to be the tablet he was given once a week down at the clinic.

Lucky had asked about the expected effects of the drug right at the beginning of the test. But, as always, they explained that it was important that he should not know. He heard the usual explanations about the possibility of placebo effects spoiling the test and he accepted that, once again, he would be part of the sampling without ever knowing what they were working towards. It was only a mild curiosity anyway; his main consideration was to get hold of that weekly payment, the guarantee that he might survive for another seven days.

Once he had noticed the apparent effect it was having on healing, Lucky made a few enquiries amongst his fellow subjects in the waiting room. He was careful about this as he did not want them to think that he was one of the few who was getting the real thing. But he saw that Sammy Jenkins still had that scab on the back of his hand and the Bagman's sores looked pretty much the same for weeks on end. After a month of watching, Lucky decided that he should try the doctor again.

That morning it was the young but balding Dr Hunford who interviewed Lucky. He asked the usual questions while he went through his inspection, blood pressure, temperature, a light in the eye and a peer into the ear. "How are you feeling today, Lucky? Noticed anything different lately?"

Lucky took his chance. "Well yeah, Doc, I think scratches are healing faster."

"Uhuh," said the doctor, pausing in his work. "And what makes you think that?"

"Oh, it's hard to say really. Just if I get a cut or anything, it seems to be gone in a few days."

The doctor looked unconvinced. "Can you give me an example?"

Lucky thought for a moment and then remembered an event from the previous week. "There's my arm, f'rinstance. Scraped it against a wall about a week ago and had a bad graze. But it's almost gone already."

He rolled up his sleeve to show the graze and the doctor bent forward to look. Lucky glanced down at his arm too and realized that the graze had disappeared. His arm looked as though nothing untoward had ever happened to it. "See, Doc, it's better already. And only yesterday, I could still see it."

The doctor straightened and gave him a patronizing look. "Nothing to be seen now, anyway. You been staying off the booze, Lucky?"

"You know I don't drink, Doc. Says so in my records." Lucky was slightly insulted that he should be classed with the rest of the winos in the sampling. "But the graze was there yesterday, I swear it."

"Well, it's not there now." The doctor bent forward to continue his usual investigations. "Open your mouth and say ah, Lucky. I'll tell you what; I'll take a blood sample today and you come back in tomorrow. We'll see if the puncture is still there. Okay?"

"Ahhh," said Lucky.

But he did not go back to the clinic the next day. Partly this was because he was still annoyed at the doctor's insinuation that he was an old drunk. Lucky had little enough to be proud of and it stung that his resistance to alcohol had been so casually ignored. If the clinic cared so little about his record that they did not believe his answers to the questions, then they could go whistle for anymore information, he thought. The fact that the puncture wound had disappeared overnight would remain Lucky's secret.

It was a strange day when Lucky next visited the clinic. He was feeling particularly good, better than he had for months, and yet the world around him seemed to be suffering from some sort of malaise. Everyone was sluggish and unhurried, as though the weather were oppressing them and he was made to wait much longer before the doctor was ready for him.

When he was called through to the examination room, he was slightly relieved to see that it was not Dr Hunford who was waiting for him. No explanations for his failure to appear the week before would be necessary. Dr Megana, the blonde lady with graying roots and thick glasses, gestured towards the bench. He lay down and waited while she conducted the inevitable tests.

She took longer than usual and seemed in no hurry to get through the questions. "Notice anything unusual lately, Lucky?" she asked eventually.

Lucky shook his head. "Nah, Doc, just the same old grind. But what's this tablet supposed to do to me anyway?"

Dr Megana looked at him for a while and then answered slowly, "You know I can't tell you that. There's a possibility of placebo effect, you see. A placebo is..."

Lucky cut in quickly. "I know what a placebo is. Spare me the pep talk. Just give me an idea of what I should be looking for."

Again the doctor seemed very slow to reply. "That's just it, Lucky. If you know that, your mind might reproduce the effects without you realizing..."

"Okay, okay, forget it." Lucky lost patience with the subject and turned his mind to the paycheck again. "How about if I come in twice a week? Then you can pay me more, can't you?"

Dr Megana laughed lazily. "Oh, Lucky, that's a good one. The dosage is one tablet a week; to give you more would ruin the test. No, I'm sorry but we can't do that."

Lucky grunted and scowled. For the rest of the examination he spoke only when asked to and left the clinic the moment the doctor had finished. Fine for them, he thought, with their fat research grant and doctors' pay, but he needed more money if he was ever to escape the trap he was in. He survived, that was all, but had no prospect of ever being something more than a low life, a guinea pig in the search for new medicines for the unhealthy rich.

It seemed a long walk back to his digs, a single room with peeling wallpaper and a rickety bed in one corner. He threw himself down and waited for sleep to close the doors on a desperate day.


To go directly to the second part in this series, click here.


I'm hooked and waiting for Part 2!
Date Added: 08/07/2005

This is of quite high standard for a rambling blogger who lives in huis son's website. ;)
Date Added: 08/07/2005

Gone Away
Part 2 coming up soon, I promise, Ken!
Date Added: 08/07/2005

Gone Away
Ah well, Glod, you know how it is - starving artists live in garrets, starving writers in websites... ;)
Date Added: 08/07/2005

This is very unfair. Keeping us in suspense. Do you sell popcorn around here?
Date Added: 09/07/2005

Gone Away
Funnily enough, I've been asked that question before. I opted for a coffee shop in the end as the demand for that was greater. ;) This one looks as though it's going to be quite long, John, so there was no way I could do it all in one piece - most people don't tackle posts that long in a blog. But, hey, it keeps the customers coming back... :D
Date Added: 09/07/2005

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