“It’s going to be a long one,” the nurse told Jack. “Over an hour.”

“I thought as it was just the head it was going to be shorter, like 20 minutes.”

“They want different scans,” she said. “Sorry, but don’t worry. You can listen to the radio if you like.”

She stuck a needle in his arm and inserted a tube where and IV could be hooked up to pump saline initially, then a contrast dye later to enhance the resulting images.

He took off his jacket and belt, and emptied his pockets of any metal as instructed, stuffing them into a locker. He kept his Converse on and wondered if the metal ringlets for the laces counted. It was just his head they were doing, so maybe his feet wouldn’t be inside anyway, and he was tall enough for them to be pretty far away.

Jack was a little disappointed that the machine looked more Blake’s 7 than Tron. The air conditioning to cool the machine was up to icicle, and he was glad he was wearing a jumper.

“Keep still and keep your eyes up. Best to close them, as eyes move around even when you try to stop them. Just try to relax.”

He hiked up onto the padded slab and they strapped his head down. They put ear plugs in, and headphones over The machine slid him into it’s tube and the humming began.

The radio was set to Southern Sound and he closed his eyes. Groove is in the Heart by Deee-Lite came on through the static. He loved that song, but inside the groaning, clicking womb the whooping made him feel sick.

He saw red, but it was not the red of his eyelids no matter what his brain told him. It was the veiny red of the great whale from Abraxas and the Earthman by Rick Veitch, from the much cherished and long forgotten pages of Epic Illustrated, and he was inside the belly of the beast floating through space. It was the red of the heroic skinned man, finding revenge on his crazed tormentor.

Then that flesh began to sprout foliage and change. His flesh was the green of the Swamp Thing now, deep in the dark sage amid the buzzing and clicking mosquitoes of the rustling Louisiana bayou.

Those marshes flowed with the brown mud, darkened into the brown of Giger’s industrialised flesh. Chocolate tentatcles lifted and carried him into an alien womb that flickered with the glow of decayed flesh and tarnished copper and hazel stone.

He kept his eyes up, he had to remember to keep them still, so the womb pulsed into a carnal tunnel. He flashed through Graham Parker’s The Great Trouser Mystery illustrated by Willy Smax and the joys of the pleasure dome, lit with the disco bright colours of Logan’s Run.

“Is everything okay Jack?” crackled the nurse, interrupting Climie Fisher singing Love Changes Everything, which Jack had been trying to mentally block anyway.

He opened his eyes. The off white of the inner tube. “Fine,” he said. “I’m okay.”

“You’re doing great.” The music returned and he gulped. He wondered if it was okay to gulp or if that counted as movement and would affect the scans. He closed his eyes again, and fell. Red, green, brown, blue – the sketchy lines of Frank Miller as Ronin jumped into the well, sword poised for whatever lived down there.

The colours dissolved but the lines stayed. The sharp, yet wobbly lines of Chester Brown’s Ed the Happy Clown, falling into that inter-dimensional hole where one world would pour their sewage to exit from the bowels of The Man Who Couldn’t Stop in the other world.

Jack didn’t want to come out that end, so he kept on falling. He washed the white out, so the lines become thicker, all-encompassing and there was only black that widened into Charles Burns’ Black Hole. The sharp noir characters morphed round as the teenager’s mutated, growing tails and animal faces after their first lustful tastes. And slowly colour returned.

Flat colours first, the browns and greens and reds still within their etched ink lines, within the thick bold boxes of Jason and his semi-silent dog heroes, heroines and villains, chased by the dead or trapped in a lustful triangle of their own design.

The colours brightened into the perfect landscapes of Herge that Tintin and Snowy raced across. The mountains of Tibet, the island jungle that Flight 714 landed on, the asteroid in the middle of the ocean.

Brighter, bolder, happier, the colours exploded into the psychedelic phantasmagoria of Gilbert Shelton as he guided his beloved Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers on a dope-fuelled global trek through the pages of Idiots Abroad. Hallelujahgobble!

“You’re doing great Jack, we just have to put the new liquid in your arm.” The slab moved him out of his carnal tunnel, but not all the way, just enough to reveal his arm to the nurse, and then he was moved back in again. He didn’t open his eyes this time. He stayed with the colours as they exploded into pop art sunspots. The punk grenade cover of Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles and a Scouse youth screaming as he hurled a Molotov Cocktail through the window of his school.

Then blood, a lot of blood in Geof Darrow’s hyper-real visualization’s of Miller’s Hard Boiled, as the car crashed through the ceiling scattering debris onto the caged orgies, hosted by goons with chainsaws wandering among the desperate copulators, who were marked for gruesome dismemberment when they slowed and their actions bored the lustful audience.

Clean, bright, visceral violence that could only be saved by The Bat. The blue of the original suit, and the clean yellow and black of that symbol. Along with Coca-Cola and Mickey Mouse one of the most famous icons in the world, recognized from the grandest cities to the sparsest villages.

And then it was over, and the slab drew him from the deafening womb for the final time. Jack jerked up, eyes opening.

“Hold on, lie back down,” the nurse said. “I have to take the tube out of your arm.” He did as he was told and she did what she said, and removed the restraints from his head.

When he did rise again his head was spinning, his ears were still humming and his eyes were even more blurry than usual. He put his glasses back on, but it was still blurry, and he lurched rolling against the waves of the hospital corridor. He had been about 80 to 90 minutes in the tunnel, and when they tore out the tube with the arm hair it was stuck to he again rose too quickly, and banged his head on a lamp. That meant a bit longer in the waiting room before they decided he was safe to depart.

The following day, Jack was relieved the images didn’t show a metal spike, a tumour or spider’s eggs hatching in his brain. The diagnosis was Idiopathic Orbital Inflammation Disease, and the headaches that punched a sword through the left side of his head was the sheer base pain of the optic nerve being stretched as swollen tissue was pushing his orb out of it’s socket. The cure was a week’s steroid binge, and within a few days the double vision and swelling had dissipated.

Whenever Jack couldn’t sleep or felt stressed he now had his own cure for such temporary ills. He laid straight on his bed, head to the ceiling, closed his eyes, and fell through the comic book clouds into his own illustrated landscape of calm.


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