Saturday, February 25, 2006


The phone rang five times before it was answered by a woman’s voice – a no nonsense voice.

“City Surgery, Jan speaking”.

“Hi, ah, this is Matthew Dalton. I had some tests done the other week and I was just wondering if the –“

“One moment”

Several long moments later. “Mr Dalton?”

I detect a change in the voice - a note of suspicion?

“We need you to come down to the surgery.”

“Was there something wrong with my tests?”

“You can discuss that with Doctor Nivan when you come in. How is Thursday at 1:15pm?”

It’s pretty inconvenient – but I’m assuming this is the soonest I can get in. I say I’ll be there and hang up.

At 1.20pm on Thursday I’m waiting to see my doctor. The knitting pattern I’ve been reading has a picture of an attractive woman wearing the most awful sweater.

Dr Nivan shows up at this point and asks me to follow him. He closes the door to his office and asks me to have a seat by his desk. He sits, taps a few keys on his computer and then looks at me over the top of glasses he’s not wearing.

“Matthew, I have your test results.”

“Right.” That is why I’m here after all.

“You remember we tested your iron levels.”

“Yes, was there a problem?”

“No – your iron levels are just fine, bang on the median for someone your age.”

“Right – that’s, ah, good.”

“Yes – there is a problem though. I ran another test while you were here and we got some disturbing results back.”

“What sort of tests?”, I say, feeling a bit worried.

“Well, when you came in to see me you said you were feeling as if you were removed from things around you in some way.”

“Am I dying?” I blurt this out in a rather idiotic fashion - the suspense is making me feel anxious.

“No - not exactly. We have a new piece of equipment that allows us to take a picture of you 1 trillionth of a second in to the future and one trillionth of a second in to the past. The results suggest that you don’t actually exist.”

“Arrrm, doesn’t that sort of apply to everyone?” I don’t want to tell the doctor his job but this seems a little odd to me.

“You would think so wouldn’t you?”, the doctor chuckles. “Let me show you something on my computer here”. He tilts his computer screen around so I can get a clearer view.

“Here are some photos of a normal person.” I dislike the use of the word ‘normal’ but nod my head to indicate I’m with him so far.

“This first photo is shot one trillionth of a second in to the future.”

The photo looks over-exposed. Everything is light and I can only just make out the form of a person sitting in a chair with an expectant look on his face. The person appears to be my good doctor.

“The next photo is taken one trillionth of a second in the past”, the doctor continues.

The doctor is clearly visible in this picture. In fact, everything is clearly visible; the photo looks like it was taken on a golden afternoon in autumn. The expression on the doctors’ face is one of peaceful calm.

“Okay, so now here are your pictures.”

Suffice it to say – I don’t actually appear in my pictures.

“Normally everyone is travelling along at the same speed”, the doctor explains. “In your case it appears you’ve speed up and, well, you simply don’t exist."

I struggle to keep my voice level as I speak. “But you can see me well enough now. How do you explain that."

“That’s quite simple really we’re seeing a pre-shadow of you from a different time line. Here’s a brochure for you to read, it explains everything."

The Doctor hands me a booklet titled ‘Coping with non-existence'.

“I’ll write you a prescription for some lead weights. Carry these with you at all times – they’ll slow you down and stop you slipping any further out of time."

I walk out of the surgery feeling shell shocked holding my script.

The nurse at the front desk says. “That will be $70 thank-you Mr Dalton."

Apparently you still have to pay the doctor - even if you don’t exist.


Anonymous said...

A clever combination here of the sombre and the sardonic, the apprehensive and the funny.
To get to this level of control and sharp detail from what must at first be a vague notion takes persistent work. But the story is arresting and shows signs of careful pacing and subtle breath control.

I laughed. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

a bloody good piece.