An interview with Patient Fe-K-1004, as provided by Andrew Openshaw
Art by Justine McGreevy
The following recording was found on a memory stick discovered during excavations in the west of the city five years ago. Dated 14th January 2019, and kindly lent to us today by The Museum of Science and Technology, it provides us with an insight into the deplorable actions of the state during the “chem-tech” period.
Escalating military activities by the world’s global powers, combined with advances in science and technology, meant that many, at that time, unbelievable breakthroughs, were on the verge of happening. Of course, knowledge of these developments was kept secret. Even those in Government knew little of what was taking place in the largely privately funded research facilities dotted up and down the country.
The “chem-tech” years are in fact considered the most clandestine period in our recent history.
This interview is between two people. The first voice is that of a woman, the interviewer. A second voice then takes over the narrative. This is the subject, who we believe could be the author of the famous “Brunswick Diaries,” although that has never been confirmed.
Anyway, we’ll begin. Please listen carefully, and make as many notes as possible. No written transcripts exist. We also disabled your devices when you entered to prevent copies being made. I’m pressing play now.
“OK, WE’RE RECORDING. PLEASE START FROM THE BEGINNING. WE DON’T HAVE MUCH TIME, I MAY HAVE BEEN FOLLOWED. TELL ME AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.”
“Right. Almost ten years ago, I left my foster parents’ home and moved into a flat in the city with Kayla, who was only sixteen. Her parents had thrown her out when she’d told them she was pregnant. It was just me and her, all alone.
“I was working in a local factory on the production line. It was low pay, I needed cash. I’d seen a poster in the job centre. It wasn’t a big poster; it looked like it had been there for a while, fast disappearing behind a horde of other things pinned on top of it. Anyway, it was advertising a drug trial at the University. You still see these things often. Ideal opportunity for those who need to earn a quick buck. And this was good money too, £100 per day.
“The number of days wasn’t specified, but it did state it was a confidential trial. Under no circumstances could you discuss your involvement with anyone.”
“AND, NO RECORDS OF THIS TRIAL EXIST TODAY?”
“No, nothing. I’ve searched online, made enquiries at the University, the job centre. Nothing. Yes, in retrospect, I should have been more cautious about taking part in something like this. But, hey, I was nineteen, my girlfriend was pregnant. We had no support from our families. I was only thinking about the money, nothing else.
“I called the number, got an address of a facility on the outskirts of the city and arranged to go in the following week after work.
“I couldn’t afford buses or taxis back then, so I walked. It must have taken me an hour at least, and it was dark when I arrived. An orderly greeted me and took me to a holding room. He didn’t have a name. No one who worked there had a name–only a four-digit number attached to their shirt. I was asked to read and sign some forms.
“The details weren’t important to me. Like I said, the money was all I was focused on. Plus, it was late. I needed to get home to Kayla. It all looked fine. This orderly made it clear to me, however, that I couldn’t discuss anything about the trial with anyone. Any indication that I had spoken about it would lead to me not being paid. So, I kept schtum, not even telling Kayla what I was up to.”
“OK, TELL ME ABOUT THE TRIAL THEN. WHAT DID IT INVOLVE?”
“It was simple. I was given a blister pack of tablets and asked to take two per day, at eight o’clock, before I left for work. Each pack lasted for the working week–Monday to Friday. On Fridays, I would receive a new pack but was told not to start it until the Monday. I was given a diary on that first visit too. They asked me to fill it in at the end of each day. How I felt, any subjective testimony that would illuminate my experiences–I think that’s how they put it. They said it was good that I walked to work and asked me to continue doing so for the duration of the trial. A normal day would ensue, then after my shift, I was always collected in a car that would park two streets away from the garage. It had blacked-out windows and a partition between the passenger and driver. I never saw the driver, not during that first week anyway.
“The car would take me to the facility where I would be subjected to various physical examinations, blood tests and so on. I would also complete a thirty-minute cardio workout in a small gym. There was always five or six people–doctors–monitoring me the whole time I was there. The car would then drop me back near to my home, so I wasn’t too late in getting in.”
“IT ALL SOUNDS VERY EASY. AND, HOW DID THEY PAY YOU?”
“Cash in hand at the end of each day. It was great. That first week, I felt amazing. More awake, more energy, better mood. I was in a good place, I really was. All this I recorded in the diary they provided me with. Abstract descriptions of thoughts, moods and so on, it’s all in here.”
“WHAT CHANGED THEN, AND WHEN?”
“Eight days into the trial, so halfway through the second week, I woke up at home as usual. Took the pills, which I kept in my bag, and left the house on foot. It was just over three miles to the garage, so a forty-five-minute journey. I recall making purposeful strides along the path next to the dual carriageway, then, suddenly I was standing in the forecourt of the garage. I looked at my watch, it was fifteen minutes since I’d left the house. Before I could comprehend what had happened, I was grabbed from behind. Two big guys, dark suits and shades. I was hyperventilating, shivering, trying to talk, but couldn’t. They bundled me into the car, one of them stuck a needle in my arm. The rest of the day I don’t remember. I woke up at home, in bed, the following morning.”
“YOU WERE GONE A WHOLE DAY?”
“Yes. I’d missed an entire day, but neither Kayla or the garage seemed to realise. Or they certainly didn’t mention it. I often wonder if they had been made aware of my participation in the trial, and warned never to discuss it, even with me. Instructions and a new blister pack had been left in my bag. I was to continue as normal, starting the following week, and they would monitor my progress.
“WERE YOU NOT AFRAID?”
A bit, yes. But curious too, excited even. This was unbelievable. I’d also made more money than I’d ever made in my life. I wanted to continue, so I did.
“The following week, at the same point in my journey, the drugs would kick in, and I’d find myself at the garage. The shivering stopped after a few seconds, so it never became an issue. Just an annoying side-effect. No one collected me, I just started work as usual. Although there were moderate fluctuations in my times, removing thirty minutes from my journey seemed to be the apex of the drug’s capabilities.”
“DID THEY EVER TELL YOU WHAT WAS HAPPENING TO YOU? HOW YOU WERE TRAVELLING AT SUCH SPEED?”
“No. Though, by the end of the third week, I’d began to control my actions better. Be present when I was travelling. It wasn’t a teleportation; it was a slowing down of time, which enabled me to move between two points quickly. How this was achieved was never made clear to me, but the people at the facility were very happy with the results.
“Another thing that happened was that my mind gained clarity– that’s the only way I can describe it. I felt liberated from the pressures of life. Long shifts in the garage, taking care of Kayla in the pregnancy, where money was going to come from next. It all seemed distant, separated from an existence I was leading on a higher plane of consciousness. Actions in my real life I completed in a machine-like way. I became an omnipotent God able to be many places, do many things at the same time. My diaries began to reflect these thoughts. It was a highly creative period for me.”
“DID YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PEOPLE AT THE FACILITY CHANGE AT ALL?”
“I’d like to say yes. The no-name policy remained, but there was a warmness. When I arrived at the facility in the evenings, I was greeted with smiles, pats on the back. Small talk would ensue; they’d asked me how my day had been, if Kayla was ok. It felt genuine at the time. I was made to feel important. I suppose I was, this was incredible, ground breaking stuff. It was like being the first man on the moon.”
“THIS ALL CHANGED, I’M GUESSING?”
“It changed very quickly. Towards the end of the fourth week, I woke up as usual at home but with a terrible headache. There was clearly something wrong, my head felt like it would cave in on itself, there was a build-up of pressure. Half blind, I stumbled down the stairs to the kitchen, began searching through drawers for painkillers. They’d told me not to take any other medication during the trial, but this was unbearable, I needed something to make the pain go away.
“I eventually found some paracetamol. By this point, my hands were shaking. A glass I’d intended to fill with water dropped to the floor and smashed on the tiles. This must have woken Kayla, who came rushing down the stairs. As fast as any seven-months pregnant woman could. She was shouting, something like ‘What happened’, are you ok?’ but her voice just mutated into this high-pitched squeal. Like guitar feedback. It made the pain in my head worse.
“I was crouched on the floor with my hands over my ears when it happened. I must have shot forward at an incredible speed. The pain and the ringing stopped. I was standing, face pressed against Kayla’s with my hands on her shoulders. I’d forced her back into the kitchen wall. Plaster crumbled away as I removed my hands. She slipped down to the floor in a crumpled heap.”
“WHAT DID YOU DO?”
“I didn’t get a chance to do anything. Before I knew it, arms were on me, dragging me away to the car. A needle forced into my arm.
“When I woke up, I was lying in a bed in the facility. Restrained, for safety. They told me it had been 48 hours since the incident. Their faces were sombre, serious. The warmth drained out of them. I asked if Kayla was ok, they wouldn’t tell me. Just told me to rest some more, that I was delirious. I blacked out again.
“The next time I awoke, I was in a different bed, no longer tied down. One of the doctors was sat on a chair beside me. He helped me to sit up, gave me a drink. Straight away he told me Kayla was fine, but she’d lost the baby. I was devastated, begged if I could see her but they said no. It wasn’t safe for me to leave the facility anymore. No charges would be brought against me, but I was their property now. A no-name like the rest of them.”
“A PRISONER, EFFECTIVELY?”
“I suppose I was, but at the same time, I understood that I had chosen to be part of this. And when things were going well, I’d been happy. Proud, even, to be involved.
“That first week, or maybe it was two weeks after the incident, I spent most of the time sedated, floating around the facility, being taken to different rooms for examinations further tests. They stopped the medication altogether, and I was given a normal balanced diet of food and drink. I began the exercise routines again, building up my strength. Press ups, sit ups, using a treadmill, lifting weights. They believed physical strength was important to the success of the drugs.
“The biggest change, however, was that every room where I was taken, as well as the group of doctors, there were guards. Military personnel, with guns, wearing fatigues.
“Another week passed before they were satisfied my physical strength had returned. They told me the trial was to begin again. This time, behind closed doors.”
“DID YOU NOT TRY TO GET OUT OF IT? SAY, YOU NO LONGER FELT COMFORTABLE TAKING THE DRUGS?”
“Absolutely, but they insisted I stayed. Said I would never have to worry about money again, compensation for what had happened the first time around would be significant. I would be reunited with Kayla, who they had placed in a safe-house overseas. I would be flown there, given a new identity once this was all over. I agreed, what else could I do?
“The routine was the same. I was awoken in the morning and given two tablets. Instead of walking to work, though, I was taken by armed guards to a huge warehouse, which was next to the research facility. A vast empty space. They asked me to ‘travel’ from one end to the other. A thirty-minute, two-mile walk. Within three weeks, I was covering the distance in five minutes. They’d improved their formula. They told me I had done my country a great service.
The trial would last another two weeks to ensure there would be no repeat of last time. Everyone seemed confident it wouldn’t.”
“THAT OBVIOUSLY WASN’T THE CASE?”
“No, it wasn’t the case at all. A few days into the second trial, while I was being led to the warehouse to begin the tests, the headache started. I fell to the floor, screaming for the pain to stop. A stretcher was brought, I was given an injection and wheeled back to my room.
“I’d had enough. I knew then they would never let me leave. It would just start again and again until they got it exactly right. I pushed the two orderlies trying to restrain me to the bed out of the way, grabbed the diary from the table and ran out into the corridor. The soldiers who had been taking me to the warehouse were distracted, being interviewed by one of the doctors. I ran in the opposite direction, my head still pounding with the pain.
“I burst through one set of double doors, then another. Alarms started going off, lights were flashing. The alarms had activated steel walls, which began closing off the corridor. I focused and sure enough, sped-up and through the diminishing gap, leaving my pursuers stuck behind the wall.
“Soldiers were pouring into the corridor up ahead though, so I barged into an empty office. Leapt at the window, smashing the glass and falling two floors down to the car park below. Uninjured, I started toward the ten-foot perimeter fence of the facility.
“I could hear shots being fired, bullets began sparking off the concrete around me. Again, I focused, this time looking upward. The next thing I knew, I was on the grass on the other side of the fence. About a quarter of a mile away from the facility. Blood was trickling down the side of my head. A bullet had grazed me as I’d made the leap. You can see the top of my right ear is missing.”
“I’LL GET SOME PICTURES AT THE END IF THAT’S OK?”
“Anyway, it had been a while since I’d been outside of the facility. I was disoriented, not sure where I was, what side I’d came out on. I just ran and ran. I made it to the homeless community that lives under the freeway. There’s an old guy there, Malcolm, he saw I was distressed and hurt. He found a tent for me, some blankets. Helped clean up my wound.
“I stayed in the community, too afraid to venture into the city. No one tried to find out my business, who I was. It was the perfect place to just disappear.”
“BUT THEY FOUND YOU, RIGHT?”
“Yes. A couple of months later I woke up to find a debit card had been pushed through the zip of my tent, as well as an envelope containing a pin number, an address, and a set of keys. They’d fixed me up with a new identity, found somewhere for me to live. They must have always known where I was. Monitoring me. Watching me scavenge in bins, making sure their drugs were wearing off, that I wasn’t revealing myself to the world.”
“DID YOU GO THERE STRAIGHT AWAY? TO THE ADDRESS, I MEAN?”
“No, I waited a few days. Thought things through, and then decided I didn’t have much choice. In the end, I went to a cash machine first. £5,000. That was all. Nowhere near the riches I was promised a few months earlier when I agreed to stay on for the second trial. My punishment for escaping.
“That was that. I started my new life, got a job on a construction site. Became a proper person again.”
“WHAT ABOUT KAYLA, DID YOU EVER TRY TO FIND HER?”
“I did go to our old flat, but she wasn’t there, and the person who answered the door had never heard of her. I’ve also looked online, but all her old profiles have gone. She’s been erased from history. I just hope she’s alive and happy.
“Over the last ten years, I’ve tried to forget what happened. Put it behind me, move on. I never went back to the facility. I probably couldn’t even find it anymore if I tried.
“Last year, I got a job working nights in a hotel. I’ve never been good at sleeping since the facility, and it’s easy work for me in the winter when the building work dries up. Mike was the night porter, and we immediately hit it off.
“I’d never been able to develop close relationships. The facility, the sleeping rough, turned me into a suspicious person. But Mike was easy to talk to.”
“HE’S A GREAT GUY.”
“Yeah, he is. I’m lucky to have met him. He said he was into music, played the guitar and was hoping to start a band. I told him I had no such talent myself, but he asked me if I could write. Lyrics, or anything he could turn into a song. Words, he said, were never his forte.
“I said no at first, but then I remembered the diary I had kept at the facility. I dug it out and read through it for the first time since my escape. It was all abstract stuff. It didn’t point to the drugs or the facility or anything specific to do with the trial at all. And it was good. Good writing. As I said earlier when I was on the drugs they changed me. I became more conscious, creative.”
“THAT’S THE DIARY IN YOUR HAND NOW?”
“Yes. Look, I don’t want to give this away though. I’m telling you all the important stuff you need to know. This is personal, my only connection to those events.”
“BUT, YOU GAVE THE DIARY TO MIKE, RIGHT?”
“I did. He’s persuasive. He took it to bed one night and the following evening, when I started my shift, he came bounding up to me all excited. Thought the words were great, he’d created two or three basic songs from them using music he’d already wrote. He was curious though. Wanted to know the stories behind the words, but also what the stamp inside meant: Patient Fe-K-1004.
“I tried fobbing him off, said it was just an old book I’d found. That the words meant nothing, just my stupid teenage scribblings. He was persistent though. Invited me to his room one night, said he wanted to play me the songs. He had whisky. I never really drank, but it felt good to have a friend and to be having fun.
“I got drunk and told him some of what I’m telling you now. I lied, though, and said maybe they were just dreams. It was so long ago. I had a rough childhood, this is how I dealt with the awful reality of my life. By fabricating a different, more exciting one.
“He didn’t buy it, he knew there was truth to what I was describing. And, yeah, that’s how we ended up here today. He told me about his journalist friend, that the world needed to know my story. Others ex-patients could be out there. These were terrible times, this could wake people up, get them angry about government secrecy and corruption.”
“YOU’RE NOT AFRAID OF POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES NOW THAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES?”
“I’ve been silent about this for so long. If it leads to any kind of actions that confirm what I’m saying, or helps others like me, I’d be happy. So, no, I have no fear.”
“THANK YOU SO MUCH. MIKE’S RIGHT, PEOPLE NEED TO HEAR THIS. IT WON’T BE EASY, BUT I PROMISE I’LL DO ALL I CAN TO GET IT OUT THERE.”
The recording stops there. Now, the female journalist supposedly disappeared that same day. Rumours circulating at the time suggested she was investigating a sordid sex scandal involving high-ranking members of the government. It wasn’t uncommon for journalists to go missing back then. It was a dangerous profession.
Of course, the sex-scandal was just a smoke-screen established to conceal the truth. We believe she was in fact killed by military officials involved in the drug trials, probably not long after she left the hotel that day.
The excavation site where the memory stick was found, is, of course, the location of one of the secret facilities, described in detail by the subject. So, it is assumed the stick was taken from the journalist, and to the facility where it was kept in storage. Her story, needless to say, never got out. The facility was then destroyed by a bomb two years later when war broke out.
Now, Mike is interesting. There’s a theory that he may have been a Russian agent. We know the Russians were spying on us at that time, they were spying on pretty much everyone. They knew about the drugs’ capabilities, they were developing similar drugs themselves, which were used by their soldiers in the war.
By tracking down an ex-patient and encouraging them to tell their story, the Russians were probably hoping to create instability in the Government. Maybe even trigger a revolution, things were so “hot” at that time. If Mike had succeeded, maybe the Russians would have invaded sooner. But I suppose we’ll never know.
That’s all for today, anyway. Please follow up this lecture by reviewing some of the texts on the reading list. There are more patient testimonies in Bradford et al., and the library’s special collection does have a copy of the Brunswick Diaries, which you can access for one hour. We will discuss this further at the workshop on Tuesday.
See you then.
Patient Fe-K-1004 (real name unknown) may be the author of the Brunswick Diaries, who took part in secret Government drug trials during the chem-tech period, testing medication later used by soldiers in the war. A car mechanic with a young family, according to his testimony he joined the trial after finding a poster in a local careers centre, promising lucrative payment for volunteers. He fled the research facility when his health deteriorated and lived homeless for a while, before receiving a small reward for his participation, allowing him to start new life.
Andrew Openshaw is an aspiring speculative fiction writer from Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK. An avid reader of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, he’s always keen to connect with other readers and writers on Twitter @moriskarass or via his website http://www.andrewpenshaw.com. Married to Josephine, he is a proud parent to the world’s noisiest cats: Maxwell, Molko, & Bodhi.
Justine McGreevy is a slowly recovering perfectionist, writer, and artist. She creates realities to make our own seem slightly less terrifying. Her work can be viewed at http://www.behance.net/Fickle_Muse and you can follow her on Twitter @Fickle_Muse.
“Interview with Patient Fe-K-1004” is © 2018 Andrew Openshaw
Art accompanying story is © 2018 Justine McGreevy