I was lying on a hospital bed under a spotlight, dressed in a pale green shift, open at the back, that allowed chill breezes to play over my arse. A doctor and his nurse were concealed behind a screen, like prompters at a play.
“Is there a sensation of a voice?” inquired a voice.
“Not mine. Like mine?”
“No. A man’s.”
“Is there a sensation of something seen?”
“Yes; an archangel.”
“Pardon. A what?”
“An archangel. You know, an angel of high rank. A field marshal in the army of angels. Or, in Swiss terms, a colonel de division.”
Muttering; then the voice coldly resumed its interrogation.
“Is there a sensation of something felt or touched?”
“How long have hallucinations been present?”
“Hallucinations? You mean visions.”
“I mean hallucinations, Mr. Termi. That’s why you are here, isn’t it?”
“I thought I was here to find out if I’m sick. If I’m not, we might have to conclude that my visions are genuine. And it’s Dr. Termi, by the way.”
More muttering. Then:
“When did these hallucinations or visions first appear, Doctor Termi?”
Aha, I thought. A minor victory.
“Last September 18th. And another two days ago.”
“Were you falling asleep at the time?”
“No. Very much awake.”
“Has there been a recent death or other emotional event?”
“What medications are being taken?”
“Is there a sensation of insects crawling upon the skin?”
“Only when they are.”
“Is alcohol used regularly?”
“In what quantities?”
“Could you be more specific?”
“Approximately a litre of Fendant dry white wine every two days, plus a cannette or half-liter or so of beer daily, but never before lunch. Whisky in the evenings before dinner, double, single malt. Red wine on weekends or with strongly seasoned dishes. Occasionally a schnapps or grappa. On feast days a cognac, invariably Napoleon three-star.”
“Is there vomiting or excessive looseness of stool?”
I yawned my way through a loud No.A nurse appeared, severe, sixtyish, holding a clipboard. I sat up. She placed her broad peasant hand on my chest and gently but firmly pushed me down.
“Lie back, please.”
I recognized her voice as the interrogator’s. Lines of disapproval criss-crossed her brow as she slid me into the gaping maw of the CAT scanner. Inside, lights pulsated, a motor thrummed. I re-emerged, feeling slightly giddy. The nurse took my pulse and blood pressure and after what seemed like a eon or two blood was drawn, urine sampled, eyes probed. Then I was allowed to dress and sit in the waiting room, where well-thumbed copies of Swiss Highways and Helvetic Cyclist awaited my perusal.
The doctor was a young Indian named Gupta.
“You have a mild case of limited-access porphyria,” he said, looking down at his notes through fashonably narrow tinted eyeglasses. “A condition of the blood and urine common to alcoholics.”
“And,” he spread his hands, “this is causing your, ah, visions.”
“But nothing. You should stop drinking.”
I laughed. He frowned.
“Or at least less whisky.”
“And if I do, the visions will go away?”
“And if I don’t?”
“They may continue. Or they may not.”
“And the rest of me? Physically?” "Blood pressure one forty over seventy. Not bad,
not good. Pulse regular, mostly. I recommend also low-carbohydrate diet. Oh yes, avoid
sun exposure. And eat carrots and greens. Like a big bunny, yes ha ha? And I will write
a prescription for glucose pills. You can get it filled at the pharmacy downstairs."
Big bunny, indeed. I picked up the pills and went home, where I celebrated with three deciliters of Fendant and a return trip to the cozy yet ghastly world of Stefanie and her Adolf.