Friday, 22 October 2010

The Cosmologist's Hangover - Friday Flash

He could feel his blood seething in his veins. Or maybe it was the alcohol coursing through his blood. As urgent as salmon to spawn. And flowing contra tidal to boot.

Yet he knew he wasn't returning to any birthplace, though he may well die once he'd reached wherever it was he was aplunging. Once his head had finished splitting in two. His grey matter hellbent on flying away centrifugally (and who could blame it for wanting to secede from him?) Only to be stopped up short by his temples. Jagging flippers on the pinball table of his cranium.

There was only one thing for it. He opened his eyes hoping to focus outwards. But the world registered 'tilt'.

The ceiling rosette directly above his head was whirligigging like a catherine wheel. Possibly without the flaming sparks, though conceivably they might have been dust motes. He blinked his eyes for perspective. They felt like glasspaper and he imagined hearing two great grainy scratches across his retinas.

He chanced gazing upwards again. Now the medallion molding was maybe gyrating like a frisbee. Or a giant chinese throwing star hurtling towards decapitation. He was inclined to duck, only his head was buttressed by the mattress. There was nowhere further down for him to go.

Besides, the curlicued plaster wasn't threatening any sharp edges. Now that it receded into an ebbing stream of menace, the resemblance was more like one of those spinning plates atop a pole, or in this case, the electric cabling of the ceiling light. Gyroscoping good, he could be reasonably secure that it was never going to come off its axis and crown him.

He averted his head so that his eyes were titled to the wall rather than the overhead. Staring right at his girlfriends' giant quilted hanging of the yin-yang symbol. As he blinked his swimming eyes, the curvilinear shape started throbbing and heaving out of the wall towards him. Like a piston, only this one was swirling like those jokey hypnotic patterns. Like a shield wielded by an imaginary Amazonian warrior. Only his Amazonian had deserted him. Which is why he had hit the bottle so hard this night. To stave off one sort of withdrawal, by inviting upon himself a whole set of other symptoms.

The whole room was starting to orbit around him. But he felt far from stellar. When he was a boy, he'd had a mobile of the solar system in his room above his bed. Properly modelled to scale and with the orbits correctly fashioned once you set the thing in motion. But the lie was built in, for there is no friction in space and yet sure enough there in his bedroom, the plastic planetary spheres would eventually cease their movement.

If that travesty wasn't bad enough, because the mobile was situated over his radiator, in the winter they were bristled into strange elliptical patterns by the rising convection currents. There's no heat in space. No gusts of breath. It was these calumnies that made him want to become a scientist.
He gingerly extended his leg, dangling it over the side of the bed seeking out the carpet. Hoping against hope that the floor wasn't awash in convulsions of its own. As he did so, his foot caromed against something harder than shagpile and he darted his head to see what he'd hit.

It was a glass tumbler on its side, revolving wildly about its axis with the force he'd unwittingly imparted it with. He noticed that there was maybe a thimblefull of scotch still in it, though with each turn of the glass carousel the golden nectar threatened to eject and deny him once again. He rolled over so that his head was hanging over the side of the bed. Held in thrall by the glass's perpetual rotation. Where was friction now when you needed it? This was as agonising a wait as for the roulette wheel in a casino to cease its convolution. Red/black anticipation. Each time the spirit eked its way along the flute of the glass, gathered its energies to leap the void, only for it to be whisked back away from the rim as the glass continued to veer round madly.

Finally the glass slowed to a halt. At its termination, the liquid dribbled down over the rim and on to the carpet. Zero, House wins. He flopped back on to the body of the bed and put his hand to his head.

Gravity is experienced as a force in three and four dimensions. beyond that, it is simple geometry. The local warp of space between two objects of large mass. Like planets. Like the headache he was toiling under, when one of the objects had departed the scene and gouged a big hole in his spacetime fabric. He would have a cosmological hangover in the morning.

20 comments:

Mandy K James said...

Oh my God I have a headache starting after that. I have been there quite a few times in the past and you describe every nauseating detail perfectly.

I love the analogy of the pin ball machine 'There was only one thing for it. He opened his eyes hoping to focus outwards. But the world registered 'tilt'- The room spinning is the worst!

When you are trapped in a hangover there is just no way out - you capture this beautifully. Never again...

Another great story Marc :)

shannon said...

oooo...I think I'm going to be sick :-P Every teenager should have to read this before they think about drinking! Wow. And now I have a new favorite word, "glasspaper" Yep. I feel it.

Sulci Collective said...

Not bad for a teetotaller eh guys? I must have a species memory of it or something...

Laurita said...

This made me feel a little queasy - but that's good in this case. The part about the pinball flippers, followed by 'tilt' was a nice detail. :)

David G Shrock said...

Sometimes I've been hungover from excessive research and felt just like this.

Gracie said...

Shannon's right. This should be delivered to all pubescent children with the birds and bees talk.

And my head's swirling a bit now, too.

Splendid description of a heinous hangover. More amazing after you say you don't drink.

Excellent flash, Marc.

Deanna Schrayer said...

"whirligigging" - I have a new favorite word! :)

I am truly dizzy after reading this Marc. It doesn't help that I took pain medicine a little while ago and started feeling a bit loopy right before reading this. :)

A favorite in this, dizzy or no, or maybe because.

ThomG said...

quite a mind-ripper of a tale here. I am sitting right now, and fear getting up - or getting up too quickly. Suck great prose here.

John Wiswell said...

Some out-there descriptions of physiological events, Mr. Marc. I agree with Deanna on the superlative greatness of "whirligigging."

CathrynLouis said...

Wow - that wasn't the hangover? He's in for a real treat tomorrow. I hope he can fix things up with his Amazonian. I may be off-base here, but sounds like he misses her. ;)

Cecilia Dominic said...

After orbiting too much pinot noir last night, I woke this morning with glasspaper eyes. Poor guy -- at least I was celebrating my anniversary! It sounds like he may be experiencing gravity as the "weak force" it is.

CD

techtigger said...

fantastic, i loved the roulette wheel imagery - red/black anticipation - very well done!

Kath said...

I feel giddy having read this and I'm only drinking tea!

The way you've used language in this piece is reminiscent of what one of my writing heroes, Neil LaBute, does with his writing: like yours here, it's often so sharp that I feel as if I might cut myself on it.

I love how you've made such great use of different verbs, some gentle, some distinctly more aggressive and even violent, to put across how the guy feels and some of the imagery is wonderful, from the "urgent as salmon to spawn" to "jagging flippers on the pinball table of his cranium" to his eyes feeling "like glasspaper". I really admire how you paced it, as well. At the beginning, it feels like it's spinning and then slows down to match the tumbler coming to a stop.

Brilliant, brilliant piece of writing. Thanks for sharing it.

alisonwells said...

Love all the spinning and the details esp of the ceiling rose and the tumbler. The Ceiling Rose and the Tumbler - very Poe-esque. I began to really be 'gripped' on a more human level from the paragraph where he reminisces on his boyhood but then I'm a sentimentalist. I love you doing your wordspinning thing but I also enjoy where you give us more breathing space to get to know a character. But a really great rendering of the sensations, fab analogies.

alisonwells said...

Love all the spinning and the details esp of the ceiling rose and the tumbler. The Ceiling Rose and the Tumbler - very Poe-esque. I began to really be 'gripped' on a more human level from the paragraph where he reminisces on his boyhood but then I'm a sentimentalist. I love you doing your wordspinning thing but I also enjoy where you give us more breathing space to get to know a character. But a really great rendering of the sensations, fab analogies.

Icy Sedgwick said...

I've never been drunk so I have no idea if this is what it's like to be so, but if this is indeed what it's like to be drunk, then I shall maintain my teetotal status!

Linda said...

You really get in the head of a drunk very well. I can't choose one favorite line -- way too many this week. I'll be reaidng this one again. Peace...

Bukowski's Basement said...

Gotta make this one a pamphlet and dump it over high schools war propaganda style ;)

Sulci Collective said...

That assumes the youth of today can read polysyllablic words...

Rebecca Emin said...

I barely drink, but this takes me way back to when I last had that one glass too many. Really well done.