When Evelyn left because the pills failed him, he replaced the void with more pills, and now the pills anaesthetised him, sent him between states of extreme anguish and mild torpidity, and made him angry and resentful that they’d let him down in the first place.
MAOIs kept him awake and filled him with loathing, SSRIs made him sleepy and regretful, SNRIs made him nauseous, and tricyclics just made him feel like giving up. He hadn’t had much luck with pills and wasn’t hopeful.
But Dr. Barmer was so confident in Zing’s ability he prescribed it to all his patients as a precaution, ‘an antibiotic for the psyche’ he called it.
‘Without getting too technical,’ he said, ‘it makes the good bits better and the bad bits good. Good eh?’
‘What about side effects?’ asked Mark.
‘That’s the wonderful thing with Zing Mark! There are no side effects. You can enjoy every single second of life without any downsides.’ Mark reluctantly agreed to a two week trial.
Pills ruled his life, he set his clock by them, woke up with them, went to sleep and ate with them. Pills made him feel like a puppet in a glass box. He existed but not really, he walked but not really, he slept, and ate, and talked, but not really. Through these pills, that kept him in a suspended state, he became an indifferent observer of somebody else’s dream.
These absurd drugs with absurd names invented to placate an absurd condition made him despise and envy the world at the same time, made him feel both numb and pained. Depression was an absurd coping mechanism for an absurd world. But quitting the pills right now seemed even more absurd.
He woke up suddenly at 4 am from heavy, uneasy dreams. It had become a regular occurrence to wake in the middle of the night, but this time it felt different. This time it was different. This time something was scurrying around his pillow. At the corner of this eye he saw a small shadowy shape: a spider lying next him. He inched himself away and switched on the lamp.
‘Hey! Hey! There you are! I’ve been trying to wake you up for ages!’ it said.
Staring back at him wasn’t a black fury spider but a little blue and red Zing capsule that had broken free from its blister pack in the middle of the night. The combination of an upset circadian rhythm, bad appetite, and anxiety usually resulted in some surreal dreams. And looking at this capsule reclining his little blue gelatine head on the pillow, he thought this was one of those dreams.
‘Time to wake up buddy,’ said the Zinger. ‘Come on… wake up, wake up, what you waiting for?’
‘I am awake… I think.’ Mark found himself saying through the foggy confusion. ‘Leave me alone.’
‘I don’t mean wake up from your sleep dipstick! God! You’re such a idiot!’ the capsule shook his head, ‘I mean wake up from your life buddy! What’s the matter with you?’ he prodded his little blue head with little finger. ‘Are you really that chicken shit or what? Hmm? Hmm? Hmm?’, he started prodding Mark’s head now, ‘How much more time you gonna waste huh? Wake up for fuck’s sake! It’s time to breathe it all in buddy. This is your calling, right here, right now. Just me and you. Come on! Let’s do it! Come on! Take me! Take me!’
‘Seriously!’ said Mark, ‘This is not happening!’
‘Oh! I’m afraid it is Sonny Jim,’ said the capsule. ‘Brinnnng… brinnnng…’ he arranged his tiny hands into a shape of a phone, ‘Good morning’ it said, ‘this is the reception, this is a morning wake up call for Mr. Dipshit in room 101, you taxi is here now! Get a fucking move on! Come on! It’s time to really wake up buddy’ he moved in closer, ‘Do you smell that?’ he sniffed with his non-existent nose, ‘That my friend, is the finest coffee waking you up, freshly roasted and ground straight from the fields of life. This here mate, is the real thing not some cheap, freeze-dried version of your fucking life. So come on! Let’s do it! Take me! Take me! What you waiting for?’
Mark switched off the light and turned away from his bad dream.
‘Leave me alone!’ he said, ‘Shut! Up! Go! Away!’
The capsule became a woman and soothed Mark’s hair with her hands.
‘Come on baby, I’m sorry. I need you honey. Please, give it to me baby. I need you. I love you. I get so lonely without you.’ she breathed, ‘I wanna feel your tongue all over my body. Take me now! Do it to me baby! Oh yeah. Come on big boy. Take me, take me! Ooooh, ooooh.’
‘Go away! I don’t like pills okay!’ Mark shouted in the darkness.
‘Oh! Wow! Wow!’ it said. ‘You did not just say that! That hurts right here,’ the capsule beat her little hand across her blue and red divide. ‘Did you really just call me a pill? I’m not some cheap piece of floozy Prozac you can abuse you know! I’m the real thing honey!’ and with that she crossed her arms and turned her back.
Mark drifted back off to sleep in the silence to be woken up an hour later.
‘Pssst! Psst! Hey!’ he was back.
Mark opened his eyes to see the capsule standing next to him again.
‘Listen,’ it said, ‘I said some bad things. You said some bad things. Mostly, you said some bad things. We both got carried away. I’m sorry okay? But I care about you. Why don’t we start again, eh?’
Mark turned his back
‘Okay. I get it,’ said the capsule, ‘you don’t like change. Who does? But, this will be the best change you’ll ever have. I promise. Just give me a chance. Come on! What’d say? Come on man. You can’t do this to me now. Not after everything we’ve been through. You can’t back out now.’
Mark sighed at this little manic-depressive, antidepressant wake-up call staring back at him.
‘If I do it, you’ll shut up and leave me alone?’
‘Absolutely.’ he said, ‘So what’d say? Come on… You know you wanna. Do it! Do it! Do it!’ it chanted, ‘Do it now you piece of shi…’
Mark grabbed the little abusive, needy capsule and silenced it in this mouth.
For the next two weeks life became an unimagined bliss where he tasted the best food, slept the best sleep, dreamt the best dreams, and met the most beautiful women who had met the most incredible man, two weeks where he became the star actor in his own movie, feeling like he was simultaneously grounded and flying, where the sun radiated from his bones and drenched the world in a warm fuzzy glow and cleared away the fog.
‘So, how are we getting along with Zing then?’ asked Dr. Barmer.
‘Amazing. Really,’ said Mark, ‘just wow. I’ve never felt so good.’
‘That’s wonderful news Mark! It’s been a long time coming. I’m happy for you. I’ll write you up some more then shall I?’
‘Yes, but…’ said Mark.
‘Is there a problem?’ asked Dr. Barmer.
‘No. Well, maybe. I, I suppose it’s nothing.’
‘Well. What is it then?’ said Dr. Barmer, peering over his glasses.
‘It’s just the side effect I guess. Apart from that it’s great! Wonderful! Perfect!’ said Mark.
‘Side effects?’ said Dr. Barmer pushing up his glasses, ‘there are no side effects to Zing Mark. That’s the wonderful thing with Zing. What kind of “side effect” are you having?’
‘Well, how shall I put it? It kind of talks to me?’ said Mark, embarrassed to mention it, but for two weeks little manic-depressive antidepressants had woken him up and bothered and abused him until he silenced them and felt amazing again.
‘How do you mean they talk to you?’
‘They talk to me’ Mark repeated, he didn’t know how else to put it.
‘Well it’s good that you’re finally getting in touch with your feelings again Mark. I know it must feel strange after all this time, but you’ll get used to it.’
‘No. I mean the capsules, they actually talk to me. With mouths and arms that move and point and prod.’
‘Okay… Erm… Well… Interesting… What, what kind of things do they say to you Mark?’ asked Dr. Barmer.
‘That I should take them everyday.’
‘Well, that sounds like perfectly sensible advice to me. What else do they say?’
‘How my life is so much better with them.’
Dr. Barmer nodded in agreement. ‘Well, I can’t disagree with that. If this is the only “side effect” you’re experiencing Mark, and I must say it’s a rather peculiar one, maybe this will help.’ he wrote Mark another prescription, ‘This one is called Langour, take it at the same time as Zing and you should be fine. It has no known side-effects.’