I am making this up. Except I’m mixing reality with fantasy. I am not prepared to reveal what is real and what is decidedly false. So here I go.
The light beige liquid is cold. Try as they might, the producers of the stuff could not completely mask its chalky characteristics. Instead, they tried to conceal them by disguising the barium mixture behind an artificial taste vaguely reminiscent of a sweet coffee drink. The pharmaceutical grade liquid, which looks a bit like congealed, viscous cream, comes in a plastic bottle. The instructions command me to consume half the liquid two hours before the procedure. I am to drink the remainder an hour in advance. As I drink the first half, I get the distinct sense that this liquid mocha “treat” is heavier, by volume, than molten lava. I feel it—though it might be my imagination—racing down my esophagus and into my stomach, the speed of its descent enhanced by its weight and by the fact that the stuff is slippery. I hate to even think it, but I cannot help but feel like barium has a consistency very similar to phlegm; with that thought in mind, drinking it is not as easy as I had hoped. I manage to get the first half bottle down, in spite of the sensations that surround my consumption of the radioactive slurry.
And, after that first half bottle, I wait for an hour. I sit and wait to see how my body reacts to the heavy liquid attempting to fill me with nuclear…something. Did I consume isotopes, I ask myself? What is the half-life of the stuff I just drank, I wonder? Will the magical atomic flood enable radiographers to see through me? To make the subterfuge worthwhile? Or is this entire process simply a diversion, a way to distract me from something strange and sinister? I cannot allow myself to think such things. It is unhealthy to attribute malevolent motives to radiographers and the technicians who manipulate their patients. What possible reason would they have for tricking me into believing all these processes and procedures are legitimate if they are, in fact, unnecessary? If I try hard enough, I am confident I could con some QAnon adherents into believing the doctors and nurses and techs who surround me before and during and after my CT scan are political operatives. People whose objectives are immoral and dangerous to life as we know it. But the idea of confusing QAnon simpletons has very little appeal. It would be too easy, I reason. I should do something more difficult. Like convince people who have known me for eight or ten years that, despite the stories I have told to the contrary, I retired in 2011 as a CIA field agent. The boring story about my association management career, I could tell them, was just cover. My claims about living in Dallas were just part of the plan, I might say. In fact, I lived for five years deep in the Bolivian forests with an indigenous family. There, I carefully watched drug lords oversee the cultivation and harvesting of opium poppies. I monitored the transition from vegetation to potent drug. And I fed false information to Mexican and Columbian cartels, courtesy of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Ah! Those were the days! Living in the jungles of Central and South America, wearing only a loincloth and clenching a bone-handle knife in my teeth and carrying a deadly weapon—a spear carved from a tusk of a now-extinct sabre-tooth tiger.
Only 18 more minutes until I am to consume the second half of the bottle of coffee-flavored phlegm. Time is creeping along slowly, as if speed is the enemy of distance. Perhaps I should explain that. But I cannot find the words. The best I can do is this: “as if speed is the enemy of distance” Those words just sound right, as if they were designed to convey a sense of hallucinogenic confusion. They are up to the task. They work. They deserve the Distinguished Flying Cross for “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.” Except they were not involved, directly, in an aerial fight. Instead, they sent unmanned drones into battle. The world changes. We adjust and adapt.
Time to drink more goo.