I had to soundproof the garage after the neighbours complained, and the police turned up, and the sight of me hosing down this half-naked librarian called Gina whilst Mussorgsky's A Night on the Bare Mountain thundered out of giant speakers at a volume that could strip the skin off a cow didn't create the kind of impression you'd really want local law enforcement to have of you. But once I explained the situation, calmed everybody down, produced Gina's signed consent form in triplicate, along with my PhD certificate and photocopies of my most recent academic articles, the cops agreed to let me off with a warning. On the condition, of course, that I soundproof the garage.
I got this company based out by the airport to do the work. A guy called Steve with bouffant hair and this weird tic that made it look like he was winking at me came out to do the quote. He asked a lot of questions about what I was doing in my garage that required soundproofing and giant speakers and a leather dentist's chair with arm straps. I answered him honestly, because I have nothing to hide about my work. I'm proud of what I do. I've helped a lot of people over the years.
"I call it Leopold Zarkoski's Sonic Trauma and Water Therapy," I told him, staring confidently, daring him to ask me to elaborate.
"And what exactly is that?" said Steve, after a pause and a wink.
I realised I had been holding my breath while waiting for him to speak. I exhaled, heavily and wetly, like steam leaking from a kettle.
"Well, Steve," I said. "You've got to understand that many people are very unhappy in this world." I noticed a hair on my lapel and brushed it away. "They feel at a loss, they feel confused." I reached out and touched Steve's shoulder. "They feel as if they don't fit in," I said, staring at him intently. I wanted him to feel uncomfortable for some reason, but he seemed unfazed, meeting my gaze and winking casually. "Anyway," I said, lifting my hand and turning towards the other end of the room. "These people are in some way degenerate...it can't be explained any more deeply than that. They are deficient."
I could sense Steve venturing to object, probably the usual line--don't these people deserve some compassion and understanding, don't they need to be nurtured and listened to?--the usual crap. "Steve," I said sharply, spinning round to cut off this potential interjection. "It's scientifically proven that madness is due to physiological deficiencies. They ain't right up here," I said, tapping the side of my skull to indicate that it was there, in the head, that these people were deficient.
"So...you try to reset the brain or something?" said Steve.
I whipped my hand forward and pointed directly at him. "Yes!" I shouted, and he winked again, which immediately destroyed my composure. "Yes," I repeated softly, retracting the hand to instead stroke my chin. I couldn't bear to look at him now. I was losing confidence. "That's what I do, Steve. I reset the brain."
"So it's like electroconvulsive therapy?" said Steve, and I winced because I'd heard this so many times before.
"No Steve, it's not. It's not ECT." I was losing interest in the whole conversation now. Why was I wasting my time trying to explain my work to this idiot? He looked at me dumbly, winked again, scratched his forearm noisily. "ECT is too invasive a therapy," I said. "I discovered long ago that one can achieve exactly the same results simply by overloading the senses. At a certain intensity of qualia, the brain resets itself, Steve." My voice was lethargic and low now. Steve was leaning in to catch my words. He winked again, and I felt as if I might vomit.
"So what?" he said. "You play loud music at them?"
I sighed and put my hands on my hips. I was aware that I was slumping, my head sinking down between my shoulders. "Yeah," I said. "And I hose them down with iced water, too."
Steve's eyebrows raised. He suddenly looked suspicious. Even his wink now suggested incredulity. "You do what?"
"You heard," I snapped, shooing him away with my hand. "Why don't you take off, Steve? Surely you've got enough measurements by now?"
"Sure," he said. "But it'll take a while to work out the quote."
"Never mind that," I said. "Can't you just fax it to me?" Steve winked again, this time at my right hand. I looked down and saw it was shaking, so I clasped it together with the left to steady them both. Steve looked up, his forehead wrinkled, his expression sympathetic – which made me feel disgusted.
"Please," I said feebly, looking at the floor. "Just fax it to me."
When he left I tore off my clothes and grabbed up the hose. I turned the tap on full and stood, shivering and blue, under the icy water for hours. I held the hose aloft with both hands, stretching my head up, my eyes closed, pushing myself into the hard jet, the liquid mixing with my tears and plummeting over my body in a fast, cleansing stream.
Wash it all away, I whispered, the airy words fizzing through the water as it babbled over my cheeks and chin.
Wash it all away.
BIO: N. God Savage lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he is currently studying for a PhD in philosophy. He can be found online at ngodsavage.com .