Mr Ben

“Well Mr Ben. I can tell you why you always feel like an outsider.”

“Why is that Doctor?”

“It’s because you’re an alien.”

“An alien?”

“Yes. Or at least. There’s an alien inside your brain.”

“That means I’m not an alien. I’m a human with an alien inside him.”

“Not quite.” said the doctor. She took off her glasses and wiped them with a napkin. Then she wiped her forehead.

“You see. There’s very little human left in your brain. Very little brain at all. Most of what is in your skull is somewhere between crustacean and mollusc.”

“Oh.” I had often wondered why I shouted to myself when nobody was looking. Why I spent my life in books and television shows and could never quite see myself as in any way sexually desirable. I imagined I was more extreme in these respects than most. That this might possibly be related to what doctors call a disorder or abnormality. It seemed entirely plausible that the cause of that disorder or perhaps the disorder itself could be physical. But an alien? That was more than just unlikely. That was extremely improbable.

“Are you sure it’s an alien in my skull?”

“Yes.”

She poured herself a glass of water.

“Or a very rare slug.”

She offered me a glass. I realised I was frowning.

“An alien is more likely I’m afraid.”

I drank.

“Look I know this is frightening but there’s a lot we can do for you. You can still live a perfectly long and healthy life as long as you keep both your human body and alien brain in good shape.”

“But I don’t want to be an alien.”

“I’m afraid we can’t change that.”

“Not even a bit?”

“I don’t want to give you false hope.”

“Could you pass a tissue please?”

I wiped tears from my face.

“Thanks.”

We looked at each other.

“Has this happened to anybody else?”

“Never.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“How is it possible?”

“It could be the result of a near infinite number of simultaneous quantum events. Or God may have done this to you.”

“Who is that?”

“God?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t describe God. He’s a bit like a ghost.”

“A ghost?”

“Look, I’m a doctor. I can’t explain God to you.”

“But why has this happened to me?”

“No reason at all I suspect.”

“But that’s not fair.”

“Have you ever been made redundant Mr Ben?”

“No.”

“Dumped?”

“What’s that?”

“How do you not know what ‘dumped’ means?”

“I don’t know.”

“Has anything ever happened to you for reasons outside of your control?”

“Well I- I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it really.”

“What do you think about, Mr Ben?”

“I’m not sure. Before this diagnosis I suppose I thought about ordinary human things like breakfast and legal systems. But this heat. It’s brought something out in me. Something confused. I’m not really sure what’s going on any more.”

“Mr Ben-”

“Do you think it has something to do with the creature in my head?”

“Your nose is-

“Oh yes, a nose bleed. That often happens to people when it’s hot doesn’t it?”

My arm reached for the napkin but slammed into the table instead.

“How clumsy of me. I seem to have completely lost my balance.”

I could feel something slipping out of my nose and I blocked the movement with my left hand, which seemed to still be working.

“So sorry.” I said.

The doctor leapt out of her chair and left the room. I tried to stand up but fell over and bashed my elbow. She locked the door behind her. I could hear her talking in panicked tones. I couldn’t think what was upsetting her. She wasn’t bothered that I was an alien twenty minutes ago. The lights were so bright. My clothes were drenched.

I slowly climbed back into my chair. I could feel there was something tentatively crawling out of my nose.

I reached up, very slowly given my extreme dizziness and lack of limb control, and touched it very softly. It darted back inside and I sneezed violently. Suddenly everything exploded and went black.

I remember crawling on my stomach using my teeth (or were they my arms?), climbing out of a shell onto my back legs and scurrying into the smallest darkest hole I could find. I lay there, dehydrated and lonely, bristling, all eyes wide open, and waited motionless for as long as I can remember.

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