The ageing man tipped his head back and necked a couple of codeine tablets, sixty milligrams in all.  He couldn’t kick the habit.  Now and again, he thought.  Just a couple now and again.  Can’t do me any harm.

Seventy year old Gerald had been taking codeine for many years, not in excess but enough to get high.  The drug induced within him a sense of well-being.  He could get higher if he wanted, but that would necessitate taking powerful opiates like morphine.  He had been addicted to morphine when he was in his forties, so knew the score.  Morphine made him feel like superman,  gave him unlimited strength and stamina.   It was a hard one to kick — really hard.  By comparison, codeine was fairly easy to manage.  Two a day for three days and then leave it alone for another three or four days before taking it again.  It was an affective strategy that prevented his mind and body building up a tolerance to the drug.  It also gave him comfort to think that he could pick and choose when to take it.  It’s all under control.  I’m not a hopeless addict.

An hour later he began to experience a mild euphoria.  Gerald switched on his computer and began to write.  Writing came easy when he was high.  The words tumbled from his mind, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph with hardly any editing necessary.

He recalled a book that he had read a long time ago.  It was written by Colin Wilson and called the Craft of the Novel.  He explained that the brain was split into two halves.  The right hemisphere was uninhibited and creative, whilst the left hemisphere was logical, restrained and obsessed with control.  Wilson likened the left side to a robot whose job it was to create order and keep the mind in a state of attention.  To allow the creative mind to flourish, one needed to put the robot to sleep.  He recommended having a glass of wine or some other drug.  Codeine was therefore permissible, Gerald thought as his fingers jabbed at the computer keyboard.  Maybe a smoke of hash, perhaps a glass of wine, but that would make me feel tired.  Might send me to sleep.  “Nah … opiates are my choice of drug,” he mumbled to himself.  Got to free up the subconscious mind, allow the creative juices to flow.

A sudden movement caught his eye.  He turned his head towards the window.  A wood pigeon had flown down and was now perched on the fence, its tail feathers ruffling in the cool wind.  It was the beginning of January.  The eucalyptus tree at the end of his garden was still in leaf.  About time the God dammed tree was trimmed, Gerald thought.  The sun was low in the sky and the quick growing branches were now blocking out its rays.  By contrast the branches on the cooking apple tree were bare.  It grew inside the chicken run, alongside the chicken hutch.  The fenced off patch of garden was now overgrown with weeds.  Glancing at the sky, he could see heavy clouds rolling in from the north-west.  Although it was cold, it wasn’t cold enough for snow.  It had been an odd year for weather, he thought.  It was forecast to be one of the warmest since records began.  Northamptonshire had had very little rain.  Even now in the middle of winter it was dry.  So far there had been no snow and hardly any frost.  Gerald wondered if the weather would have a sting in its tail.

His body glowed as the codeine coursed around his veins.  Here in the house he was warm, even though the heating wasn’t on.  Funny thing about opiates.  It’s like you’re wrapped in a radiator.  Wrapped up in a radiator.  He would be happy for a while.  Happy until the codeine filtered from his cells, leaving his body sensitive to the aches and pains of disability and old age.  Tomorrow he would take some more, and the next day.  But then he would give it a rest, leaving his mind and body to face the harsh realities of spinal injury and his environment.  Ah, such sweet bliss!  But it is all an illusion.  Happiness, sadness is all an illusion.  Life and time is an illusory concept.  One minute you are a child, full of wonder at the miracle of life, and the next you’re old and contemplating your demise.  We exist in a tiny bubble of life, surrounded by an infinity of darkness.  The bubble is shrinking ever faster, compressing us rapidly towards our doom.  Just as we are realising our potential, the bubble implodes.  Then we are back in our pre-existence, an eternity of nothingness.  Part of the cosmos.  No consciousness, awareness or knowledge.  “Jesus fucking Christ!  Forget the codeine and give me some Valium!”

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