When he awoke, pain rushed immediately to greet him, and he cried out, putting his hands to his head as the headache tore its way through his brain. He kicked out instinctively, knocking over an empty bottle of whisky. There were also empty bottles of vodka and cans of beer strewn around him. He lay on his back, staring at the ceiling, his vision slightly clarifying, but the pain remained.
It was an effort to move, and eventually, with aching bones and tender muscles, he turned over and kneeled up, hands still clasped to his head. He was in his living room, which looked like it had hosted the wildest of parties. Empty pizza boxes and foam trays containing cold chips covered in curry were on the sofa, as well as half smoked cigarettes stubbed out and strewn around the place. The television had been knocked skewif, and dvds had been thrown around, the discs no doubt used a Frisbees. He even saw a golf club lying amongst a smashed pint glass. The carpet, which was a light green, was stained brown with beer and tomato sauce.
Through his migraine, through his pain, he could not remember anything about the merrymaking. Nothing, except when he was leaving a night-club. There was shouting, arguments. He remembered somebody approaching him with the angriest face he had ever seen, and he saw that that person was clutching a jagged bottle-neck, and that was it. No more memories. He thought after that incident, he must have come back here to his house with his friends, and maybe their friends as well, and maybe some new friends they had made at the night-club, but something just did not click into place. He’d had many hangovers before, and within them he could always remember something about the previous night, and why wasn’t he feeling sick? he wondered.
A usual component of having a hangover is being bent over the toilet bowl coughing and spluttering up everything the stomach contains and usually more, but that feeling was not present. It was probably made up for by a more intense headache. Something wasn’t right, he thought. Between the mental image of the bottleneck in the man’s hand, and now, waking up, he guessed that obviously something had happened to him, something unpleasant, besides the hangover. Had he been stabbed? Is that why I can’t remember? he thought. Surely I would remember that.
He looked down at himself to see if there were any wounds, or blood. He was in normal, casual clothes, clothes that he would wear to a night-club. Yet, they seemed as though they had been put on for the first time, rather like he had been trying them on in a shop cubicle and left them on. That was when he noticed the backs of his hands. They were not scarred, or damaged. They seemed different. They were white, virtually bloodless. He tried to make fists of them, and after a second or so, they did. Alcohol, he knew suppressed the central nervous system, so reaction time was considerably slower. He now remembered three years ago when he had been caught and fined for drink-driving, but even so, in this case, two plus two seemed to make five. He had to find a mirror, and knew there was one in the hallway. He remembered that as well. He could remember, through his hangover, memories of things before his emergence from a night-club. Just everything but the previous night.
He tried to stand, and did so like a newly born lamb, his balance certainly off kilter. He didn’t fall, and eventually stabilised in the middle of the living room, his head in his hands, breathing slowly and evenly, the pain subsiding only slightly. Again, as with his hand, the command for his legs to move forward took a second or two to comply, and he did so, falteringly, as a drunken lamb would, towards the open doorway. He fell against the wall beside the door, composed himself again, and staggered out into the hallway. He saw the mirror, and the table beneath it, upon which was a telephone. Eventually making it to the mirror, and using the table like a zimmer frame, he stared at the reflection in the mirror. He could not comprehend at first what he was seeing.
His understanding took longer to comprehend than his actions.
“That’s not me,” he said to himself. “That’s not me. I don’t look like that”. His face was white, bloodless, like his hands, his hair sparse, in strands, unkempt. He noticed a dark red line about an inch above his eyes, and fresh stitches along it, as well as beads of blood. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed someone coming quickly down the stairs. Before he knew what was happening, a syringe had been sent into his neck, and before his vision hazed and unconsciousness met him, he saw reflected in the mirror, in the corner of the hall, a cctv camera.
The balding, rotund man who stood over him, watched as another man came down the stairs, slowly, with a satisfied grin on his face. He wore a cheap suit that looked as though it had been plucked from a bin bag outside of a charity shop. He was tall and elegant, suave, sophisticated. At least he thought he was. He acted that way, believing himself to be among the upper class in society, and indeed, he did have the credentials in order to apply for it, but like going for a job that required three GCSEs, he only had two. He aspired to something just out of his grasp, and he craved it. He craved attention, and most of all, he craved fame, and notoriety, and the look on his face confirmed that now he had achieved what he wanted. This will do it. This will bring him everything he ever wanted, and probably more.
“What shall I do with him, boss?” the man said.
“Shake his hand, he’s made us rich. Oh, and that was a good job you made of the living room, making it look as if there’d been a party”. Doctor Felton walked in there, amongst the empty cans. He stood in front of the sofa, looking through the net curtains out into the morning. He’d done it, he thought, and he had the proof. The other man came in.
“Turn the cameras off,” said Felton. “I have everything I need. Rewind it to just before you come barging down the stairs and erase the rest”. The man did as he was told.
Felton just stood where he was for now, for he wanted to do nothing else but bask in the knowledge of his impending fame. This was definitely a nobel prize winning occasion. It had been a long road to this destination, but it was worth it, to see for himself his creation, his masterpiece. It made the pain of rejection easier to take.
Doctor Felton had been a surgeon, literally on the cutting edge of pioneering new techniques. He had assisted in prolonging the lives of people who had had heart transplants, keeping the organ from being rejected by the body for much longer than is usual. Of course, in the end, the patient always died of heart failure, but he had received distinguished awards for his efforts. However, when he had tried to restore the sight of a convicted armed robber who had been in a skirmish in prison kitchens, with the eyes of a coma victim, who had had a 15% chance of waking, he had incurred the wrath of his superiors, who struck him off their registers, and took back some of his awards. His name was rarely mentioned in the echelons of the surgical world. The man woke, and the prisoner’s new eyes had failed.
Yet, Felton still craved notoriety, still desired that breakthrough that would mean his name would live forever. He would go down in history as the pioneer of the first brain transplant. The brain was of a man who had been leaving a night-club. He was no stranger to trouble. Often he was the cause. Inside the club, he had got into an argument that escalated toward violence. It was a case of: ‘I’ll see you outside’. When outside, his opponent had sent a jagged bottle neck into his throat. He had bled to death before he reached the hospital, so his brain was still intact, still fresh, easily obtainable from the morgue. The other man was another coma victim, and ironically, he was in an argument with his wife before he got so heated and angry that he swerved off the road, down a slope, into a wall at the side of a field. The woman survived, and had gone to recuperate in her mother’s up in Scotland, giving Felton the man’s house to use in his experiment. The operation itself had taken eight hours, through the night in the nearby hospital.
Felton still had his uniform, so could wander through the place without being stopped, especially not by porters and cleaners who did not question why a doctor was operating on his own in a basement theatre at night. It was one of those things that surgeons did, and that was that. Felton soon came to realise that in order to pull this off properly. In order to clear his path to notoriety, he was going to need help. He was quite amazed when help came to him. Felton guessed it was somebody who had wanted to walk along in his shadow regarding his failed experiment with sight restoration.
“If you want to try anything else like that, maybe I can help. I’m not a surgeon, but anything else you might need doing that I could help with I would be most grateful to be of assistance. You don’t have to pay me”. Cue a grin by Felton, followed by a handshake.
Felton knew that history wasn’t made by following rules. If you did as you were told throughout your life, kept your head down and didn’t cause any fuss, then soon after your death you were soon forgotten, simply becoming a smiling face on a fading photograph in the loft of your future grand children. Well not me, Doctor Felton had thought. My legacy has now been written in the history books. The pioneer of the first successful brain transplant. Doctor Felton, take your prize, he would be told. What would he say? he wondered.
‘I’d like to thank, er, nobody, because nobody helped me at all. No-one’s going to share my glory’. He knew who he wouldn’t be thanking. The people who had struck him off. He could see their faces now as he walked up to collect the nobel prize. Quiet, red-faced with envy. Maybe he would give them a wave as he passed their table. A screw you, look at me now wave.
He heard his assistant walk in and stand still, as though waiting for further orders.
“Nice view,” he said. Felton nodded.
“It certainly is”.
“It’s a pity my brother will never see a view like that, or see at all. That’s down to you”. Felton frowned and turned to look at the man. He was stood there with the golf club swung back, ready to strike.
“I was just waiting for the right time. I’m not deprecative of your success. It’s great that it worked, but your other one failed. You didn’t care that he might wake up, and you stole his eyes, experimenting on him to give them to a goddamned convict. A lot of people become famous after they die. Go and join them”. Felton held out his hands in a futile gesture, and the five-iron was sent smashing into Felton’s temple, cracking his skull, and lodging in his brain. He fell forward where his experiment had woken.
Out in the hallway, Felton’s assistant wiped the handle of the golf club with a handkerchief as best he could. With the experiment subject still unconscious, he pressed it into his hand, and pulled from his pocket a mobile phone. He wiped that as well and carefully put that in his other hand. He lit up a cigarette, left the house, closing the front door behind him. He walked away almost as satisfied as Felton had been. Almost.