Placebo, a story by Anna Marcelli Palmer


"They call me Ubik, but that's not my name. I am. Now and forever."
~Philip K. Dick, Ubik


-1-


Something dead wrong is happening to me.

Am I going insane, or is there something thoroughly amiss about this situation? I mean, look at me; I, the glorious hero Sonic the Hedgehog, cannot control my own legs.

Slightly nauseated by what is practically my own trademark, trying not to pay attention at the frantic interchange of colors and shapes all around me, I give them a sour look. They are moving of their own accord, heading directly for the northern end of Green Hill, one foot subsiding to herald the other, and way from the beginning, again and again; the recurrent motif almost hypnotizes me, so I reluctantly avert my look, turning my attention back to the surroundings.

...Grey. Blue. Yellow. Green. Blue. Red. Green. Yellow. Blue. Red. Green. Grey. Blue.

Up ahead in the distance, there is an indefinite blur. My first guess is that it's a robot-and it's coming closer and closer. Oh, wait! Wrong use of syntax; I am the one approaching, thanks to my stupendous, sprinting limbs.

This can't be happening.

This is a cruel joke.

...

...

...

This is me performing a homing attack.

My eyes instictively follow the comical pattern of the stalled machine, as it spirals on its own axis and collides against a rock. Smashing itself to shards.

Fuck.

What kind of freakish thing is taking control over my body? How on Mobius can it know what it's doing so perfectly? A slight tremor spreads across every acre of my flesh.

It's cold. It's blurry. It's confusing.

It's like I am an onlooker of my own life. Able to watch myself run, and jump, and dodge all kinds of obstacles and incoming missiles, but here's the twist; I can do nothing about it. Doesn't our brain define all this stuff? Is something wrong in there? Have the neurons stopped reproducing themselves, is the vortex damaged or something? Doesn't my body receive any signals?

But it does know where to go and how to protect itself. So some kind of signal does affect my route.

Only.

That I am not.

Emitting it.

The whole extent of this new surreal reality hits me. Something is controlling me. I am not independent anymore. But-

when...

when was-

When was I independent?

No. Nononononono. I am terrified, my heart is beating so heavily against the ribcage that I 'm afraid it'll break the bone and set itself free. Blood is frenetically pumping through my arteries, my lungs are void of air, my body is heavy, so heavy it's excruciating to carry it. A throbbing migrain is ticking the seconds away within the skull, and every step seems to be screaming the name of the only force I can feel anymore.

Gra-vi-ty. Gra-vi-ty.

GRAVITY.

I am tired. I am exhausted. And those legs aren't the least bit willing to reach a halt.

I think I hate them. Maybe I'll cut them off as soon as I have the opportunity. Never mind the blood; those things are insidious.

My legs are trying to kill me: I will run until I consume myself. Until my stomach declares war to my own heart and digests it for fliggin' calories.

Feeling; The perspective of death gives the subject perfect conscience of its body functions. Muscles in turmoil, stretching and releasing, producing galactic acid with every inch forward. Lungs void of oxygen. An incessant crashing sound of some invisible pendulum smashing against the head. Pain. Physical and emotional. The burning feeling of self-destruction.

Suicide on autopilot.

Perfect.

...Red. Yellow. Blue. Green. Yellow. Blue. Green. Grey. Brown.

Sky, bird, grass, ring, sky, enemy, enemy, enemy, wall, obstacle, sky, grass, sky, grass...

Music. My ears can distinctly make out some kind of zany melody echoing. From the woods? From the sky?

I hate my legs.

I'll cut them off if they don't assassinate me first.

Fear. Dread. Perspiration. Dilation of the retinae.

I hate my legs.

I HATE MY LEGS.

God, when is it gonna stop? I feel so tired. My mind is growing weak and sick from all of this. Why did I come to this place? I shouldn't have come. None of this would have happened...

Where was I before? Oh, I vaguely remember being at Tails' workshop, testing some new upgrade of-

Who is Tails?

...

...

...

Who am I?

...

...

...

Sky, bird, ring, enemy, enemy, enemy, enemy, ledge, pit...

What are those two doing? What the hell are they doing? I 'm gonna-

I am-

gap, chaos, darkness, death, death, death...

I am-

falling.

Oh, my God. OH MY GOD. The ground is approaching, an acute pain spreads its tentacles within my throat and I realise I've been screaming my lungs out, my arms are frantically trying to find some kind of ledge to cling on to, it's all a vertiginous sequence of-

THUD.


Eyes open.

For a moment, the whole world seems to have melted to an elusive blur; then, slowly, the optical nerve proceeds with a further analysis of my current whereabouts. There's a flat whiteness looming over me, that my tired mind recognises as a ceiling. Sunlight is penetrating the room-presumably through the curtains of a window somewhere near.

Texture. There's a soft, wet fabric underneath my fingers. It recedes with a screech of disgruntlement if they press themselves against it.

Sound. Faint music, voices, light curses here and there, sounds of the morning traffic.

I am on my familiar, obsolete bed. In my room. At Station Square.

I close my eyes again, and underneath shut eyelids I try to remember.

My name is Sonic. I am a hero. My best friend is Tails. My trademark is my speed. My legs tried to kill me yesterday, and I tripped and fell off a cliff.

But I am not dead.

Strange. I'd bet that when you smash your skull against concrete, you die.

I'd bet that when you die, you are dead.

Why am I not dead?

My mind concertrates on my right leg. It says, move out of the bed.

It obliges with pleasure.

Okay. Your turn now, you hideous freak of a left one.

Same here.

I hate my legs. They are trying to prove me wrong. Insane.

I will sew them off someday. Running is my life only when I can control it.

Otherwise it is my death- my death that doesn't kill me.

This horrifying headache is still devouring every trace of logical thought within my mind. And my stomach is empty. Oh well. Maybe I should just go down to the kitchen and fill myself with the contents of the fridge, before getting down to solving any kind of maze. Philosophy was invented after fire for a reason, after all.

As I slowly make my way down the wooden staircase, my eyes inquisitively roam the apartment, lingering on some petty details, here and there; a photo of me and Tails appended on the wall; a couple of books I never opened carelessly tossed on the carpet; a large coffee stain on my couch -that's probably also the cleanest thing about it.

All so peaceful, so tranquilizing.

So mundane and full of quotidianity.

I am Sonic The Hedgehog. Tails is my best friend. That absolutely temptational smell emanated from the kitchen is probably Amy that came to prepare me breakfast, as she usually does on weekends. My legs are the source of my fame. And yesterday was a bad dream. An irritatingly realistic bad dream.

"Hey there, sleepyhead."

I am standing on the last step, casually leaning against the wall. Across the hallway and through the open door, she has raised her eyes from the table to meet mine. And for a minute, the world is just green upon green.

Then, Amy smiles in that special way of hers, that makes her look just the way she is- a plain, imperfect, skinny girl rapidly moving from childhood towards adult life. It is my favorite smile in the world, the true essense of smile-ness, by all means; honest, and real, and funny, and infectious, for it always makes me smile back.

"Had a tiring day, huh?"

I confine myself to a mere shrug.

"Well, day, night. I am still trying to figure it out myself."

She is leaning over the table, neatly positioning napkins and plates. The left strap of her yellow dress has slipped to the side, leaving her shoulder bare- and there's this overmastering need bulging within my mind to put it right.

But I don't. I just stand there, motionless like a robot, standing on my two newly obtained enemies amidst a messy kitchen that smells of cookies.

Why do I keep running away from you, Amy?

Well, I realize, my legs do, I don't.

I really have to take care of those fellows. Or else.

"So, this is why I am here!", she cooes at her usual cheerful tone, giving me a childish wink that elicits a weak laugh from my side. "A chocolate chip cookie is the cure to everything!"

And so the poky room falls silent and remains this way for the following thirteen minutes and fifty two seconds. During which, the only sound to fill the air is Amy's rythmical breathing, as she sits on the opposite side of the table, staring at me with an indecipherable look upon that face of hers. It is a taciturn examination, a small disapproval.

Her way of letting me know how much it hurts to be rejected; the woman before me has tried hard to seem cheerful-and failed terribly at it.

Then, suddenly, the facade breaks. Like a stalled robot, she lets herself fall on the wooden surface.

Shoulders convulsing, hands trembling.

Broken.

I want to walk over to her, whisper an apology, a confession, a fucking joke to cheer her up, anything. But an invisible power keeps me tied to the chair.

Why do I keep running away from you, Ames?

"Look, I've tried, okay?", Amy's voice is thick with exasperation, eyes damp, vacant as they rise to look at the source of their distress. Her fingers cling on the tablecloth, so much so that I can distinctly see small veins popping out of her bare hands. "I chased you, I starved myself to death, I tried to become someone else- and everything to no avail -everything!"

"Amy, I-"

"I know you don't love me, Sonic, I am not a kid anymore. All I ever wanted was to take care of you- be it as a friend or something more. And for what? Never to receive the subtlest trace of recognition, of gratitude."

She seems thoroughly schizophrenic now, face traits having melted to a mask of pain, hatred, repressed passion; nothing about this specific face reminds of childhood, or naivety.

Amy. Where did our carefree selves go?

"You know what? Sometimes I get this weird impression-", she laughs, a rude, effortless, painstaking laugh of sheer madness. Then, her voice abates to an uncertain whisper. "Yes, this funny impression that this conversation -among numerous others- has been repeated numerous times between us, like -like those favorite movie scenes where you press PREVIEW and then PLAY and you see them again, and again, and again."

A crystalline fear is implanted within jade eyes.

Afraid.

We're both afraid.

"Amy- "

Words died.

"Do you believe in what the French call a Deja vu, Sonic? That moments of our lives are repeated in an incessant manner towards infinity?" she gives me another terrifying laugh. "But what am I saying -you're probably finding me too dense and hyper to mention such an elusive concept."

Words are flooding my lungs, my throat, my mouth, so much so that I am almost choking on their truth.

"Ames- "

"-My opinion on you is not even close to what you described.", Amy has just pronounced the exact words lingering in my mouth. "It's the third time since I started counting...that you're saying those exact words, that is."

I am staring at the woman I love and a weird impression has dawned on me.

And my legs start running away, so that, before I can actually phrase it to her, they have already dashed off.

As I said before, never mind the blood.


A/N: This is the first time I am actually experimenting on something entirely knew, concept, style, and development-wise. It is a study on my creativity, on the flexibility of writing, if you want. I am sorry for the overall craziness of this ;)

After all, I've always wanted to write something schizophrenic, and eccentric, and well, entirely mine.

~Anna