• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 08
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In those cruel, early months of treatment when they changed the toxic cocktail every few weeks and scanned me in slices from head to hip, sleep became a benign escape from the nightmare of serious illness. In dreams, I was visited repeatedly by the same image or, more precisely, I visited the image, for it seemed to me that I was alone in a gallery containing only one exhibit, an abstract of fluorescent bands of colour. With each successive viewing, my interpretation of the canvas altered although the picture itself remained unchanged, freeze-framed, on permanent pause.

I began by seeing it as a sticky bun, sickly-sweet and drizzled with high-visibility icing. It was the sort of item that remains unsold at the end of the day and is forced to languish overnight beneath a plastic dome before joining the ranks of "Yesterday's Cakes" and sold at a large discount.

On another occasion, whilst lingering of my distant childhood, it represented the strangely-textured sweets popular at the time: pink, papery flying saucers, white, rubbery milk bottles, or the fruit chews that made our jaws ache. Efficient tooth-rot at the bargain price of four for a penny.

Once, I hovered over members of a military band, all white helmets and cerise jackets and gleaming brass, as they marched in close formation across a parade ground. Then suddenly, that context melted away and was replaced by a freshly-plastered wall daubed with streaks of emulsion from a garish palette of match pots.



Often, I understood it to be something mathematical, perhaps graphs of linear functions, families of parallel lines, colour-coded to highlight points of intersection and lines of equal slope. Or a skewed matrix devised by those clever Japanese to develop the Sudoku to cunning new levels of complexity.

Eventually, this comforting, familiar image ceased to show itself and my gentle twilight zone was usurped by something far more disturbing.