Verbal Medicine is a product of the collective ‘Writing Game‘
Stephen Steeplton speeded his relatively new dark silver Volvo V70 along the S23.5 country lane. Wildlife scattered in his wake (or perished), cyclists shook their fists in vain as the Nordic automobile insisted upon their fairly rapid exit from the meagre road space.
A man of fifty plus years, he didn’t feel the need to pay attention to the speed limit and so he exceeded it whenever he could. Volvo’s are not made for speed as such but their powerful engines are more than capable of it, furthermore their quality handling means they take corners far better than you might think they would. The speed of Stephen’s driving was due to the urgency he felt to get to work a.s.a.p. Stephen worked as a medical herbalist or ‘Phyctor’ as the corporation called his type. He wasn’t particularly keen on the name or at least not the way some people pronounced it, but still, those were the rules. He was currently dealing with a very difficult patient at the clinic and following a dream he’d just had, felt he needed to get back to the patient quickly. They were suffering from quasi-ethereal brain tumours (his diagnosis) which were increasingly becoming more solid. Scans had born this out, sometimes there was nothing but low grade inflammation, other times fairly large masses were visible in the prefrontal cortex, later again these would fade, later again they would return, often worse than the previous time. The man was sick and time was running out.
In the dream a man with odd legs came up to him and showed him a curious way of walking. ‘Ya gotta do it just like this!’ he exhorted as Stephen watched transfixed. Then the odd legged man walked in a circle in long low strides with his body leaning slightly forwards and his arms drooping in a strangely tensile way. As Stephen watched the man he began to feel a strange sensation just below his umbilical region. The dragging strange walk made him spasm internally, he felt he would be sick. The man grinned across at him, clearly understanding the effect of the odd gait. Stephen wanted to tell him to stop but was weighed down by the repetitious pendulum swings of the mans legs as he plodded his circuit in front of him. In a motion that he didn’t understand, Stephen had managed to shout, or at least he seemed to. However the word ‘stop!’ as it should have come out, only emitted in the form luminous orange vomit that shot out of his mouth with force. ‘Attaboy petal!’ said the man as the orange liquid hit the floor near his feet. The man stopped his walk, looked Stephen in the eye and said ‘That was very humorous, but now for tea!’ upon which he vanished.
Stephen had awoke in a sweat and quickly jotted the dream elements down and sat pondering over them. There had to be a message here. He then recalled the patient at the clinic. When they’d come in, they’d had two different shoes on, at the time dismissed as an artefact the confusion of the illness. Odd feet, odd legs he thought. Humorous, but now for tea? Tumorous surely? This was too easy he thought -god damn those allies were good. But the remedy? The orange vomit, petal. The final piece of the puzzle fell into place. Stephen hurled his clothes on. Messaged the clinic to say he was on his way and went to the car. It had to be said that the dramatic alacrity of all this was somewhat truncated by the fact it was already daylight and whilst he would be early, he would only be so by about an hour.
Now the V70 swung up the leafy drive to the clinic. He fair screeched into a parking space, leapt out of the car and strode purposefully to the clinic staff entrance of the converted stately home. ‘Morning Grinzo!’ he said politely as he card swiped his way past reception. Entering the clinical back office, he hailed a nurse over. ‘Hey Martha!’ ‘Morning Stephen, you’re in early1!’ ‘No time for that Martha, how’s the guy with the odd legs?’ ‘Stephen, which one do you mean? I’ve got three odd legged patients in at the moment?’ ‘Gah no sorry, not odd legs, the shoes, the guy who game in with the odd shoes!’ ‘Oh you mean Gary Hyle, he’s had a bad night as it happens, tumours came back at 3AM, had to dose him heavily with Papaver Somnif; they started to fade a half hour or so ago.’ ‘Let me see his Rx please Martha.’ Martha tapped on a keyboard and brought up the current script: Taraxacum, Calendula, Rosmarinus, Betonica, Viola. ‘Martha, switch the Rosmarinus for Citrus Aurantium and give him a dose now!’ Martha looked somewhat shocked at the adjustment, but knew better than to doubt Steeplton’s intuitions, especially when he came in with this intensity. ‘I’ll get it done straight away Stephen.
At this moment a harried looking official came in to the room. ‘Stephen, just the man, you’ve got to go talk to Gary, he’s losing his marbles!’ ‘What are you talking about Flip, I just changed Gary’s script and he’s flat out on the Papaver at the moment.’ ‘Sounds to me more like you’ve been on the Papaver, I’ve just come from Gary’s office and he’s one pissed off animal.’ Martha interjected ‘He means Gary Sabatier Stephen, not the patient.’ ‘Sabatier, oh, what does he want?’ ‘I’m not really sure Stevo, but you’d better go see him pronto, he’s not in a waitin’ mood.
No one was quite sure what Gary Sabatier did, part phyctor, part lawyer, part manager, part anal onanist, you name it he had his fingers in it. Only thing people were sure about was that Sabatier was powerful and you weren’t wise to get on his wrong side. Stephen wanted to grab coffee but thought better of it, sighed, and walked off towards the lift. You would never have known the clinic was a converted stately home from the interior. There had been no attempt to preserve the décor or the feel, the house was basically gutted by Phytocorp and re-equipped with their standard shiny sage white interior complete with sentiently enhanced philodendrons around the building. These smart-plants (or smartie-plants as some people liked to quip) were hooked up to the central network and could answer simple requests and operate some building functions. Stephen got one to bring the lift down in pre-emption of this arrival at its entrance. Smooth as, the lift door opened and Stephen walked in. Moments later the lift pinged and Stephen found himself facing Sabatier’s office door. A quick check in with the allies for support and he opened the door.
Sabatier’s office was long. Pointlessly long, almost like a wide corridor. Vast expanses of sage white walls stretched on for nearly six meters before reaching his desk. Nothing adorned the walls either side except one small painting of a plant by the surrealist Ithell Colquhoun and two (also sage white) doors, one on either side the end nearer the desk. At the distal point Sabatier sat centrally at a large mahogany desk with two comedically outsized monitors on it. The mahogany clashed badly with the sleek minimalist interior like a piece of the old house erupting into the clinical corporate décor. Sabatier himself was a well groomed man in a suit. A darkly handsome man of forty plus years, he liked to look his best. In his expensive suit and handsome features Stephen was reminded of Metzger from that Pynchon novel, the small one, what was it called again?
Sabatier’s voice rang out suddenly ‘Come in Steeplton, sit down, stop staring man!’ the voice partially echoed around him owing to the long acoustics of the room. Stephen picked up his pace and took a seat opposite Sabatier. Sabatier continued to stare at one of the large monitors intently. ‘Aha!’ he said after a moment ‘That should square ’em.’ ‘You wanted to see me Gary?’ ‘Yes I did Stephen yes I did. What do you know about Yuggoth?’ ‘Err not much, it’s a planet isn’t it? I once dealt with some influence from near there, a patient named…’ he paused to remember ‘Edith I think, yes Edith Powell. Astragalus had to orgonically energise her neutrophils against a kind of spectral fungus.’ ‘What do you know about Derleth Mckenzie?’ ‘The shipping magnate, specialises in fruit transportation?’ ‘That’s the guy.’ ‘What about him?’ ‘He died Stephen, he died badly.’ ‘Err that’s sad, but what’s it to do with me, with us?’ ‘Stephen, Derleth Mckenzie has certain, ah, connections to Phytocorp leaving us in an interesting position with regards to his will.’ ‘Oh, is it to do with the probate?’ ‘Probate my ass!’ Sabatier shouted, getting irate.
At this shout though, one of the sage green doors opened and a muscular clinical male operative strode sprightly in with odd long shaped carry case. ‘For chrissakes Marcus! I said probate! Pro-bate!’ Marcus’ face fell at his obvious mistake, and nodding politely to Stephen he retreated back through the sage green door. Unflustered, Sabatier continued ‘No it’s not that, someone else handles that. It’s to do with the fruit, or the flowers anyway. Phytocorp gets most of it’s fruit flower blossom’s, the exotic ones at least, through Mckenzie’s haulage. A disruption in the haulage could be a big problem for us.’ ‘Okay, so why tell me?’ ‘Stephen you’re our best operative at that spooky shit, we wondered if there’s anything those pals of your could do to help out here?’ ‘Who, you mean the allies?’ ‘Yeah those things’ ‘You think there’s some manipulation from Yuggoth, is that the connection?’ ‘Manipulation my ass!’
Sabatier was just about to continue when the sage green door cracked open again and out strode Marcus with a different shaped case. Sabatier’s eyes flashed red ‘Marcus for Chrissakes! I said manipulation, I am having a conversation here!’ Marcus’ face crumpled and he beat a hasty retreat back through the door, the odd shaped case caught briefly on the handle as he tried to close it, there was an awkward clunk and the door shut again. ‘No it’s not maniplulation, it’s goddamn coercion, those goddamn whatever the fucks from Yuggoth killed Mckenzie and took over his brain, Derleth Mckenzie is dead and yet he lives controlled by the goddamn fungus in his brain.’ ‘I’m lost Gary, you said there was a problem with his will, but now you say he’s not dead?’ ‘No Steeplton, I said he is dead, he’s registered as dead but now he say’s he’s still alive and wants his business back, they messed up Stephen, he wasn’t supposed to die die, the fungus was supposed smoothly transition the brain takeover and make it all look smooth, but he died, and then the fungus brain kicked in and now he’s back and he wants he company chair back. The will delivers the entire Mckenzie haulage into Phytocorps hands, or at least it would do if that fuck Fungus Mckenzie wasn’t all back from the dead and wanting his business back. Maybe you could get your pal, what did you say the name was ass-tra…?’ ‘It’s pronounced Ass-tra-galus’ Stephen intoned in helpfully. ‘Ass-tragalus!’ Sabatier resonated triumphantly back.
At which the sage green door opened again, in walks a sprightly Marcus with the weirdest looking bespoke plastic case you can imagine. Sabatier turns, apoplexed beyond the ordinary ‘Marcus, what the fuck?! A I’m talking here about fighting Fungus Mckenzie with some spiritual plant shit and B what the fuck is even in that thing even if I had said ass? I mean what the fuck?! Get out! Get out!’ Confusion, disbelief and distress all go over Marcus’ face as he once more is force to withdraw back through the door. It clicks silent once again. ‘So yeah…’ Sabatier continues ‘See what you can do with Mckenzie, get the file, have a…’ he pauses and side looks at the right hand door before saying in a more hushed tone ‘…probe about. If you can de-fungus him at a distance do it. Stephen nodded and set to thinking what he could do. Sabatier opened the lid off a steaming tall takeaway and took a swig. Upon taking it he immediately spat it out over the desk ‘What is this horseshit?! Green tea cinnamon fuckshit. Coffee my ass!’
Right on cue the sage door opens and out comes Marcus again. This time he’s got a jug of black liquid, a thin plastic tube and a towel. Sabatier turns slowly round, the anger and incredulity palpable on his face. He looks about to explode. ‘Marcus!…’ He begins loudly, but then, his expression softens, his quick mind darts across the array of objects in the hands of the muscular operative and a kind of subtle nod passes through his features ‘…that looks like a damn fine idea.’ An awkward pause follows. Stephen isn’t sure what to do. Marcus looks at Gary. Gary looks at Marcus, then they both look at Stephen. ‘You want some coffee Steeplton?’ Sabatier’s handsome face looks half sincere. Stephen looks at the tube, the towel and the jug. ‘Err no Gary, I’m good, I’ll go check on that file.’ ‘Attaboy Stevo! You’ll be in touch yeah?’ ‘Will do Gary, see you later, see you Marcus.’ They both nodded, then Stephen got up and walked what felt like a long time of heavy silence as his exit was watched from the end to end. Finally the door shut behind him.