Violently washed up from the wastelands of outside civilisation, I picked myself up and trudged through the doors of ‘Umax Clinical‘ – a dystopian Mecca of mysterious allure that located itself in the centre of this vast world. Four days I was to reside here for – a time that may gratify my existence or render me defunct in this world of numbered citizens, drug-filled breakfasts and segregated communities. I am test Subject Number 265. My new name; my new identity – my everything.
Upon entry I was systematically approached by one of the wardens who shepherded me toward my residence ward that I was to abode in for the next few days. Becoming accustomed to the immediate solemn atmosphere, I chucked my bags down and stared around at the other souls in this cold enclosure of medical science. Subject Number 476 gazed back at me like a scared animal from across the room as it looked up anxiously from its book; Subject Number 837 lay in the bed asleep hooked up to all manner of scientific flashing machines; Subject Number 234 fixated his beetle-eyed stare down at its laptop, rarely moving a single muscle in his stoic face. Unearthly silence bellowed out across the ward, down the corridors and throughout my mind. Isolated from outside society, I was now the subject: a fully living, breathing specimen who was regimented and ruled by the doctor-police as they sought to use my mind and body for their drugs and thesis’. It was a scary world – a menacingly habitat of still life that I quickly went about understanding if I was to survive such consternation, tyranny and oppression.
The layout of this world was relatively simple: in it existed four communities, all of whom were segregated the majority of the time via the colours of their ‘Umax Clinical’ t-shirts. What colour uniform you wore denoted what study you were employed and utilised for; this apartheid-esque technique was implemented to aid the doctor-police so that they could effectively monitor and regiment any unauthorized movements out there amongst the corridor wastelands and other ward zones. After all, you were to be in bed for work strictly at set times so that your dose could be distributed, your blood taken, your heart-rate monitored and blood pressure analysed. Missing these essential times would see you extradited from this medical world without the pay you so bravely wandered in here to get.; £700 in my Populace’s case – a profound and traumatising loss, but perhaps not as much as the upper class Populace C who were partaking in a £3000 long-haul radiation study. They definitely weren’t going to get on the wrong side of the doctor-police. Why would they? Any good subject of course knew that the money came first and foremost amongst physical and mental health in this civilisation. Our bodies were commodities; our bank accounts were our heart-rates. Money was our survival.
Essentially the true survivors of this civilisation were the ones who made it out with their sanity, physical health and their full reimbursement fee. Of course, as mentioned, the most crucial and essential of these three to us subjects was the money; with procedure in place that affected these finances, I would make sure I worshipped all government laws set by the doctor-police and co-operate with them while they tested their drugs on my body so that none of my £700 wage was taxed and deducted. Amongst these state laws included:
- Subjects must always wear shoes outside of their bed
- Subjects must report to bed on time for bodily experimentation and analysis
- Subjects must not consume or use any unauthorized foods, drinks and toiletry products
- Subjects must provide the doctor-police with all blood and urine samples
- Subjects must be civil with their fellow subjects
- Subjects must always wear their colour uniform and name badge
I was determined to survive and be successful in this shady and daunting civilisation. I was to be a hardened, law-abiding subject and would seek to keep my sanity by working on my dissertation, watching the outside communication device and occasionally integrating into the social zones where consumer devices such as consoles and games were located. Healthy routine doses of daylight and fresh air were essential if I was to combat the cocktail of drugs that were being pumped into my bodily fluids; and let’s not forget regular walks around the corridor wastelands when permitted so my legs and muscles didn’t seize up.
I cast my authorised items out beside my bedside and prepared for the long days ahead.
So the title of this stay was called: ‘A DOUBLE BLIND, PLACEBO-CONTROLLED, RANDOMIZED, SINGLE AND MULTIPLE ASCENDING DOSE STUDY TO INVESTIGATE THE SAFETY, TOLERABILITY, AND PHARMACOKINETICS OF JNJ-24019222 IN HEALTHY MALE SUBJECTS’. I was still flicking through the contract of my residence in Umax Clinical civilisation when I realised I had no idea specifically what the government were requesting I do. I turned to face Subject Number 234 who had spotted my look of perplexity in reading the criteria of my stay here within the Ward A Populace.
“You a reserve or are you getting administered with the drug today?” he said inquisitively. I hadn’t heard the term ‘reserve’ as of yet so wondered what the subject was on about. “No idea; I was told I would be getting dosed today. I assume the ‘reserves’ don’t get promoted to the full study. I don’t want that – I need the maximum wage from these guys.” I said. Almost immediately he dismissed my concerns: “Ahh don’t worry – your bed number is the one after mine so I think we are getting dosed today. Look at me; I always get dosed. I believe it’s those two part-timers over there that are the reserves”. He pointed bluntly to the two adjacent subjects opposite the ward who were plugged in to their laptops.
Subject Number 234 carried on excitedly. “Yep, the trick is all in the veins my man. Look.” He pulled up his sleeve to show me his forearm. “Look at this vein – big and juicy so that the doctor-police can efficiently insert a cannula into it and extract my blood for analysis. This is my fifth study here. I think I must be the perfect subject for them – fit, healthy, no bad habits and BIG juicy veins.” He proceeded to let out a little squeal which I think was meant to be an awkward laugh but I couldn’t be too sure. “I’ve been the most qualified subject in here for a while now. Soon I’ll be on the way up to the big important trials! “I’m gonna be rich man! Rich!“ He certainly seemed a strange one. I was going to ask him more about the specifics of the trial but I instead turned away and pretended to be busy with my laptop.
After only a minute of procrastination I heard hard footsteps begin to echo throughout the ward which became louder and louder until they reached the bottom of my bed and stopped abruptly. I slowly turned my head up to see the figure that stood dauntingly in the centre of my vision. Stern, silent and still with an aura of authoritative, totalitarian menace – it was an agent of the doctor-police.
The doctor-policemen was staring at me vacantly; his beady-eyed spectacles reflected back my body that lay sprawled out upon this medical bed. There seemed to be a hovering, dark mist of blackness around him; it was subtle but it was definitely there if you looked closely. His stern face rarely moved, but if it did, it almost felt like some sort of illusion. Did he just blink sideways? I can’t be sure. I hope not. His nose twitched and he began speaking.
“Subject Number 235: you are here to partake in a study to measure the toxicity and safety of drug JNJ-24019222 – a pill component that will hopefully be used in the future to combat the seizures of epileptic people. Your blood, stomach, skin, flesh, brain and urine will confirm whether there are any side effects to this drug. You have been chosen because you’re a healthy male subject, aged 18-45, who doesn’t smoke and has the right BMI. For your time in this civilisation you will be financially rewarded. Your bank account is your heart-rate. Money is your survival.”
I opened my mouth to begin to quiz the agent some more about the specifics and dangers of this drug but I was sharply interrupted as the doctor-police agent wrapped up his speech fastidiously. “You will be administered the drug in tablet form in a couple of hours time. This tablet may contain drug JNJ-24019222 or it may a placebo containing no active ingredients. Placebo helps increase the accuracy and widen the depth of our studies upon you subjects. Please note that this is the first time the test drug has been administered in a human body. Remain where you are for ongoing analysis. Your bank account is your heart-rate; money is your survival.“
He promptly sped off across the ward to Subject Number 837 to no doubt repeat the exact same script that he had just lectured me with. I was watching him and subconsciously taking in the repeated information I had just consumed when all of a sudden a different being walked in the room. He stood tall, bold, in a grey suit; looking about 55 and standing upright with terrific confidence. I realised he must have been a figure of utmost importance as even the robotic agent for a second stopped his systematic speech upon Subject 837 to gaze his way. The mystery man and three other doctor-police floated seamlessly down the centre of the room and approached Subject 476 two beds down from me to crowd around him, lean slowly in and peer into his darting eyes. The doctor-police all wore a red tabard sporting the instruction ‘Dosing – Do Not Disturb’ over the front and back of it of it. This place was beginning to feel like some sort of zoo.
One of the doctor-police introduced the mysterious man. “Subject Number 476. This is Dr Kenneth – he has travelled to Umax Clinical from America for the purpose of this study.” Before 476 could get his words out, Dr Kenneth began speaking. “Hello there. Myself and my partner are from a chemist agency in the states and are sponsoring this study of drug JNJ-24019222. We’d just like to thank you for your co-operation in this system; without key subjects such as you at ground level, this company would never be able to operate and drugs such as this would never be proven to be safe – hence they would never be able help combat conditions such as epilepsy. How are you feeling this morning Number 476?”
The subject let out a forced smile. “Thank you sir, I’m happy to help. I feel fine today, really I do. A little bit drowsy but I think that’s just the lighting in this place.”
“Good” said Doctor Kenneth firmly. “Then you are ready to work; it’s time for your morning blood sample”.
Within ten seconds the team of doctor-police had crowded around him and wheeled over a stack of medical tools beside his bed. Amongst the clatter of metal and jargon dialect of the agents overlapping, I made out the phrases “..may feel a little sting” and “sharp scratch”. A gap in the doctor-police emerged and my eyes caught the dizzying sight of a needle tube becoming besieged with red liquid that rose up the length of it like watching one of those high-score amusement park machines hit a new record. Did he just sigh in pain? I think he did. The clatter got louder and louder and the other subjects in the room all began to look over anxiously, like livestock cattle fearing for their companion as he entered the slaughterhouse. The rate in which the doctor’s arms moved was unnatural and wondrous; there limbs moved in a blurred, engineered fashion that was giving me a headache just watching. As the clatter came to an end and the doctors unerringly disappeared out into the corridor wastelands, silence fell over the ward and I gazed over to see Number 476 laying there motionless, staring at the ceiling. The silence was deafening; the greyness and emptiness of the symmetrical room combined together with 476’s empty bloodshot stare to draw in an atmosphere that was melancholy, but simultaneously stirring with anxiety and stress.
The silence soon broke as one of the doctor-police appeared out of nowhere by my side.. “Subject number 265.” My neck had a spasm, turning it instantly around to face him. “Yes, you.”
“Please be in bed ready for bodily analysis and dosing at 12.00 sharp.”
I realised I was next.
It was the late afternoon and I had finished for the day. The morning was spent toiling in my workplace-bed as the doctor-police frequently took bloods, vitals and memory tests as the hours slowly and mockingly went by upon the clock’s surface. It began to become an obsession; seriously, has anyone ever sat and watched a clock hand move for hours on end – it has to be one of the top ten slowest things in this world, yet remains the most essential measurement in which our lives are based on. Time in this place stuttered on forever – something that was leading sleep to become my best friend as it took me on its time-travel journeys. Another friend I had gained in this civilisation to help combat the tediousness and terror of time was the outside communication device; this electronic box was provided to each Populace here and was currently providing me with a proliferation of cinema and exciting dramas that gave me a shiny vehicle in which to escape the squalor and harsh reality of this dystopian civilisation. The cannula device strapped to my arm that was used to extract blood was a constant branded reminder of my duties to the doctor-police and this company, but for a brief moment I could transcend this enclosure of medical science and become wrapped up warmly in the blankets of escape, gratification and identification that this media was nurturing me with. Yes, for a momentary lapse in time I was free and relinquishing the drudgery and depression brought on by this morning’s medical shift.
Whilst enjoying this outside communication device, I was situated in the Populace A common area zone eating my meal that was provided to me exactly at 5pm every day. The list of foods was put systematically in front of me soon after entry and I had to gaze through the hard text to pick out the most attractive options. Of course, there was nothing with any fruit juices, strong sugars or seeds in as they may interfere with my the analysis of my bodily fluids, causing the doctor-police headaches as they tried to sift through the data. Poppy seeds were completely out of the question unless you wanted to test positive for heroin seeing as the seeds contained trace extracts of opiates – a scenario completely outlawed by the doctor-police; only their drugs were legal here. The options were regimented but Spaghetti Bolognese with garlic bread was an appealing one upon the list’s surface when I choose my menu – an option I was glad I elected as I consumed its rich taste most eagerly. I consumed it along with a nice cup of coffee from the dispenser beside me. The coffee was decaffeinated of course; it just wasn’t feasible to have any drug such as caffeine raising my industrial heartbeat and clashing with any other drugs as they swam through my bloodstream. Subject 234 – aka ‘subject of the month’ – was again next to me ranting on about himself once more.
“This show is my absolute favourite!”. He let out another one of his squeal laughs. “I need to live the life that this guy is living. If I just get a few more trials here and provide the doctor-police with some more blood and vitals then surely I’ll have enough money to move to New York, rent a penthouse apartment and drive a fast car around town. Just a few more medical trials and I will be that man!”
Since our first encounter, Subject Number 234 had become increasingly irritating and insufferable. Did he ever listen to anyone? Everything I said flew over his head to echo down the corridors, off the walls and back into his ears for his own self-worth and gratification. Despite such instances, I tried once again to engage him in conversation. “You do realise this show is just fictional? To do all that you just listed, you would a hell off a lot more money than we can ever get here. You do realise that don’t you?” Again, my words went over his head; they didn’t just fly over in fact – they soared. His mind was a long way away in space and time as his bloodshot eyes stood transfixed to the outside communication device, almost as if under a hypnotic trance. Did he even notice that his arm appeared to be breaking out into a sore rash around his cannula? I don’t think so. I couldn’t take more of his presence so I finished my dinner, got up and went for a walk around the corridor wastelands seeing as I didn’t have any upcoming tests for a few hours. Three hours to be exact checking the patronising clock once more.
I was out there wandering the sprawling plains of those mundane corridors that expanded outwards forever into an abyss of coldness and greyness when I began to feel dizzy and light-headed. Out here, everything seemed to go on forever. The light-switches; the medical posters; the doors. Did I just walk past the same door twice? I definitely had done. I had just turned the corner when another being began to approach my way from the bottom of the corridor; it wasn’t the doctor-police or Dr Kenneth telling me to return to my populace zone, but instead it was a man of another colour and populace – blue and the high-paying Populace C to be exact. In an instant I could gauge that something wasn’t quite right with this foreign individual. The blue man stumbled slowly up towards me and darted his sight on me; his eyes were tiny dots that appeared to be lost in space and time, as if they last saw the burning colours of daylight many a lifetime ago. His body was frail, his skin pale and his t-shirt creased.
Silence ensued for a brief second as we stood facing each other in the corridor. He blinked suddenly a few times and stared intently into my eyes.
“I saw it you know. They say I’m crazy; they say I’m dreaming; they say I’m tired – but I, with my human eye, gazed its mischievous site. There was a glitch in the wall at the bottom of my ward. Something slipped; maybe it didn’t think I would see its revealing site, but I saw the particles of that wall become mangled, frayed and disjointed – like an old video game flickering and buffering as it attempts to work coherently. ‘This world isn’t real’; ‘This world is a lie’; ‘This world is not for me’ – the thoughts plaguing my troubled head.”
His immediate ramblings went in one ear and out the other. A few hours ago my vision went a bit blurry and distorted, which I think was what he was trying to point out, albeit in a weird manner. It was the lights in this place, coupled with the complete lack of daylight – that of which could only occasionally be found at the right time of the day when the sunlight dug its way down into the small garden pit in the centre of this dystopia. Before I could ponder what he was on about further, he barked at me and made me jump. His eyes swinging wildly, he repeated: “the businessmen drink my blood, like the kids in art school said they would; the businessmen drink my blood, like the kids in art school said they would..”.
Beginning to feel a bit intimidated by this blue man from Populace C, I tried to reason with him. “Erm are you feeling alright? If not, you know you can walk out any time you want don’t you?” I waited for a response before pointing up toward the end of the aisle. “The gate to outside civilisation is just there. Just a few metres away”. Again I pointed sternly toward the gate of freedom that currently had no doctor-police guarding it – at least only by camera anyway.
“How can I?” he said angrily. “Look at you; you mere Red worker, doing some low-paying study. I’m the one wearing the blue. Not the red. Not the yellow. But the damn blue. Without important higher-income subjects like me, this company would collapse. I’m the only subject qualified enough here to test these drugs and radiation – it is my purpose! Income is sanity; my bank-account is my heart-rate; money is my survival.”
Remembering that this blue subject was part of the radiation trial, I took a couple of steps back as we were told we weren’t allowed to have any physical contact with such test subjects. How did he even get out of his populace zone? They were meant to be quarantined. As he began to mumble on some more derogative comments, I stood aghast and perplexed at this individual as he stared patronisingly at me. I was just getting ready to argue back when two agents of the doctor-police came out of nowhere, grabbed the subject forcefully by the arm and escorted him off promptly, presumably back to his ward that he had escaped from. I watched his tiny eyes swing about wildly before they disappeared into the greyness and emptiness of this corridor maze. As I stood perplexed by what had just happened, I could hear his voice echo throughout this jungle wilderness of medical science. His last words again repeating in my ear before fading away: “the businessmen drink my blood, like the kids in art school said they would; the businessmen drink my blood, like the kids in art school said they would..”.
And then silence.
The clock had definitely stopped moving; I was sure of it. The harder I stared at it from my medical bed, the more it became frayed and disjointed – strangely like the wild blue man yesterday had said. I began to feel queasy; I began to feel light-headed. Ill. It was only the afternoon but already I felt like a whole day or two had passed. It had been the toughest one yet; I was scheduled in to stay at my medical bed-workplace all day so the doctor-police could take blood and vitals each hour following an increased dose of the test drug. The cannula that was sticking out my arm looked as ugly as ever, but I had gotten use to that spike being nestled in the centre of my vein sucking up the blood whenever the doctor-police saw fit to turn the tap on. It was now a part of me: an organ, a limb. Although my muscles were seizing up due to the containment of this room and my mind was astray with trouble and strife, I was accumulating a healthy pay-packet of money by now. I thought of things I could do with it; I thought about the things I could buy with it. £500 was a lot of money for just over two days employment in this civilisation and for a moment I considered just quitting the study and getting out before I was trapped in here forever like the feral blue man in the corridor wastelands. After all, the contract said I could leave when I want; it stipulated that there was no set obligation for me stay and be pumped with drugs if I didn’t see fit. I looked at the clock once more that was still blurred and distorted. It was time to leave. I shuffled up my medical bed and shouted over to one of the doctor-police.
After telling him I wished to leave the study, silence ensued for a good few seconds before the doctor-policemen blinked rapidly and repeatedly. His stare got more and more intense; the black mist around him grew darker. Finally, he opened his mouth. “I will go and get Doctor Kenneth for you Subject Number 265. Stay here.” He glided off quickly along the shiny floor, disappearing out the door with in a sudden flash. I lied and waited in anticipation, again staring aimlessly at the patronising clock which was beginning to look like some sort of demented clown face. Did the clown face just wink at me? I can’t be sure. I hope not. It was definitely time to get out here; whatever time the clown said it was, I knew for certain I was ready to storm out of the gate of freedom and back into beautiful outside civilisation.
There I was staring once more obsessively and intensely at the clown clock when the familiar sound of hard footsteps along the floor tip tapped their way down to my bed; this time however it wasn’t an agent of the doctor-police coming to strap some equipment to me and check my blood and vitals, but instead it was the big man at the top. The boss; the businessman; the leader. The man who caused even the robotic doctor-police to tread their cold, systematic operations carefully. I pulled my body up against the headboard of my medical bed to face Dr Kenneth at eye-level. He straightened his tie and began to speak.
“So Subject Number 265. One of our doctor-police tells me you wish to leave the clinic. Certainly this seems abrupt and quite disappointing. May I ask what your reasons are for this 265?”
I paused for a second, suddenly feeling a bit lost for thoughts. I coughed and overcame this pause. “It’s just the contract sir – it stipulates I can leave when I want. I’m beginning to get a bit sick of this place – not physically or anything, I feel fine, but you know, just a bit sick if you know what I mean?”
He looked at me puzzlingly. “No I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean Number 265. Obviously you are right that you are free to go when you want, but do you think you can afford to go right now? Certainly for no seemingly good reason?”
I bit back. “It says no where in the contract that I must state my reason for leaving; just that I can leave whenever I see fit – that freedom is still reserved to me. Clause 3 of the contract entitled ‘Do I have to take part’ reads: ‘You can withdraw yourself from the clinic at any time and keep your reasons confidential’. I was suddenly beginning to feel like some sort of lawyer. “I thank you for letting me take part in this important study, but I just want to leave. Thank you”
The surrounding doctor-police and subjects in the ward were beginning to look over at me as I engaged in conversation with Dr Kenneth; it was almost as they were incongruous of my attitude and just simply couldn’t comprehend that I was just so bluntly asking to leave – as if I had committed treason against this dystopian state. I rolled my eyes and shuffled further upwards in my bed, hopefully hinting to Dr Kenneth that I was getting ready to extradite myself from this oppressive civilisation. It was then Dr Kenneth cleared his throat with an almighty cough and began speaking.
“Certainly you are free to leave any time you want Number 265, but ask yourself this. You are making over £250 every night you stay in here; we provide you with food, comfort, shelter and most importantly, purpose. Out there what are you 265? Ask yourself really: Who Are You? Because in here you have a purpose – a reason to work; a goal to achieve; a civilisation to support. In the last few days you have contributed vastly to the field of the pharmaceutically industry; our tests on you have so far revealed that drug number JNJ-24019222 indeed looks to be safe to use within the industry. Our concerns about certain ingredients having adverse effects on the immune system have thus far been disproved, meaning that this drug will soon be ready to be shipped and treat people who have epilepsy. Do you really think you should stop now when we have work to do and further gains to make?”.
I paused, my mind vibrating and humming with the conviction of his words. “I guess not” I said. I looked up at the clown clock which suddenly began to look less demented.
“Good Subject Number 265. You must understand that you are as valuable to this company and civilisation as me and any of the doctor-police in here; without ground support such as you in which to monitor the effects of this drug on your health, then our whole operation would become defunct and our company would collapse. There would be no pharmaceutical industry receiving these first-rate drugs; there would be no patients consuming them over the counter; there would be no goals – no purpose. This is your purpose Subject Number 265. Out there, you are just another drain on society not contributing to anything; in here though, you have goals and aspirations and achievements. Some of the best test subjects in here started out like you: toiling in the smaller studies, asking to leave after a couple of days. They overcame such frivolous worries and are now the subjects we use in our most important and best-paying studies. A few more drug trials in here, a few more blood doses, a few more hours spent watching the clock, and then you’ll be up working in the £2000 and £3000 studies! Doesn’t that sound great 265!? Think of all the stuff you can buy with that. Think of the happiness. Think of your purpose. There are lucrative gains to be made and pecuniary procedures to follow throughout your life here you know. After this study is complete, another will be commissioned; and then another; and then another. Subject Number 265: you will never not have purpose here in Umax Clinical. Doesn’t that sound great? Doesn’t that sound beautiful?”
“In the end Subject Number 265, I think you find it’s all just common sense really. Don’t you agree?”
My head was spinning; I didn’t know where I was now. He made so much sense; yet I was sure I wanted to leave a minute a go? I did didn’t I? Wasn’t I feeling mentally drained and sick of this place? But why would I leave now? In here I have purpose; I have a goal; I have aspirations. In here I have freedom… My mind flickered some more and I stared back up at the clown clock which was now smiling at me, almost as if it was asking me not to leave him. The clock suddenly didn’t look so bad. Perhaps I could stay. Surely it’s the only way? I have blood to provide and an industry to keep running. What else awaited me outside in that desolate society. Purpose gratified my existence here. Out-there I was defunct; out there I was poor; out there I was unnatural. My thoughts swarmed about all throughout my head; I began to fade out to black when all of a sudden Dr Kenneth’s voice brought me back down to the surly bonds of clear, opalescent earth. Back down to where I belonged.
“So, do you still wish to leave Subject Number 265? Are you going to stay and help us?” he said with an endearing smile.
I didn’t have any choice. I was to stay here and work. “Yes Dr Kenneth” I said. “I will stay here and help us achieve our goals”.
“My bank-account is my heart-rate; income is my sanity; money is my survival.”