Thursday, May 13, 2010

Drug-induced hallucination week! Day Two: The Demon of Milton Abbey

Doctors told us couldn't have babies the "normal" way, so we had to do IVF. (I've written other essays about this. Here's one.) But back then, we were poor. Like, poorer than we are now. I was in grad school, Steve was working as a reporter for NPR ($24,000/year! woot!), IVF--$15,000 a cycle back then--was not really an option.

Until, miracle of miracles, John Bennion (who I didn't know) asked me to teach a writing class on a study abroad class in England. In England, IVF was $3000. Which was what I'd get paid for teaching.

But the catch:

This was not an ordinary writing class. It was a *wilderness* writing class. We wrote while hiking more than 200 miles, over seven mountains, in the space of six weeks.

And I did it while on IVF hormones.

I don't know about y'all, but my reactions to hormones are... extreme. So I was puking, fantasizing about killing people, generally feeling miserable, suicidal most days, and, of course!, I was hallucinating.

Well, one day we were hiking in the forest in the hills above Milton Abbey. It was a twenty mile hike that day (I think), and I was exhausted. I was so exhausted that I started to feel like my spirit had floated outside my body, connected only to my toes.

I hiked for awhile, staring at my disembodied spirit.

But then the spirit-that-looked-like-me started talking:

"You could be rich, you know," she said.

I had never really cared about being rich. But suddenly, it seemed like a really, really fantastic idea.

"And you could be famous." She was smiling. "People will adore you. There will be throngs of them. Cheering. Just because you're there."

She went on and on like this. And it was all seeming more and more appealing, everything she was saying. My insides were starting to churn with something I'd call... lust, maybe.

Just then one of the other hiking students accidentally bumped into me. (It could have been Jamie. It could have been Jessie or Elise, I actually don't remember who it was.)

The spirit who looked like me said, "When you're famous, no one will bump into you."

And I started to get really angry.

The spirit said, "You can make it all happen you know. It's simple. Watch."

Then I saw her standing at the edge of a cliff. Her face was filled with bloodlust and I felt the same thing, spinning around in my stomach. And she took that girl that had bumped into me and pushed her over the edge. And smiled.

I stopped.

"Who ARE you?" I said (in my head)(this whole thing was happening in my head, I promise no one really got pushed over a cliff). "Because you are NOT me."

And then the spirit snapped back and I felt almost like myself again.

But when we finally got to Milton Abbey, there was a pamphlet about how it was built.

A man named Athelstan was walking in the forested hills above the future Milton Abbey. When suddenly, he started to hear his own voice talking back to him.

"You could be great," said his voice.

"You could be the greatest king that ever lived."

Athelstan really liked the idea of being the greatest king that ever lived.

"It'd be easy," said his voice. "All you'd have to do..."

Athelstan believed his voice, though.

He went down and burned an entire village--with its people--to the ground.

Milton Abbey was erected in the empty space left by the destruction.

When I sat inside the abbey, sitting on its cold stones and reading that pamphlet, I wondered: was it a real demon who talked to me in the forest? One whispering bloodlust to kings and kerrys?

I couldn't tell you for sure.

But if I were you, I wouldn't hike in those hills while on hallucination-inducing drugs.

ps: Sam was conceived during that round of IVF. Just so you know. :)


Barb @ getupandplay said...

That is super duper creepy.

CSIowa said...

I really liked this creepy story.

I sent a friend the link to your essay. It's timely for her. Thanks for writing it and putting the link here.

Betsy said...

Holy Freak. So glad you didn't follow that inclination. It probably was me. I was nice and thoughtless and clueless like that.

Kerry said...

Naw, it probably wasn't you Betsy/Elise. :-) It could have been any one of y'all. I really don't remember. And you were one of the nicest ones to me anyway, so I probably wouldn't have fantasized about killing you. Plus, I don't think we were near any cliffs at the time, so you were safe anyway.

On the other hand, this one time they injected something into me and they warned me that it had a tendency to make some people homicidal. I sort of thought they were being drama queens, so I ignored them.

But then we were at a tube stop and these people were standing really, really, really close to the edge. And I got so MAD at them. How STUPID is it to stand so close to the edge?! I mean, what if someone bumps you? Then SPLAT you go, run over by the train. All because you were so STUPID.

But then, my anger turned into this intense desire to just go right up behind them and do a little poke. I wanted to do it so badly that my hands started shaking. I had to go sit at the back of the stop--my back to the wall, so I could keep a tangible sense that I wasn't going to actually do it. I put my head into my knees and closed my eyes.

But my hands didn't stop shaking until we were out of the tube stop.

So I guess they weren't being drama queens after all. ;-)

jes said...

my blog just track-backed me here and i have to defend myself, and elise. neither of us was on the hike to that abbey. we were both sick on the bus. obviously, this was god saving us from being pushed over the cliff by your evil twin. and thank goodness. because look at all the good i've done in the world since then.