You’ll breeze through this MRI scan. Isn’t that what your hypnotherapist, Sean, told you? That the 70 minutes inside the tube—the time it takes to jet to Bilbao―will fly. Unlike you, going nowhere; abdomen weighted with what feels like a suicide belt, arms strapped to your sides. So what if it’s placebo effect? Sixty pounds a session worth of placebo is mucho placebo. The hospital ceiling slides out of view. You find yourself wondering about etymological links between placebo and placenta, seriously, would you fry and eat a placenta? The radiographer asks through the headphones if you’re ready. Yes, you say to no one. Sean talked about reptilian brains, lizards. You think of crocodiles. Of how your mother used to buy you sugared donuts if you were brave at the dentist.
Be open to new experiences. You are a shaman. You are a shaman lying in your low white cave. The shamen lie still as they journey inwards. The machine starts to thrum and bang. You are so shamanic. You are dead still. You are a mummy in a sarcophagus; a dead still dead body bound in bandages torn from linen, organs removed. What will they find on your liver? Find a rectangle. That’s what Sean said. Find a rectangle and breathe; inhale three up the short side, exhale six down the long. But you can’t find a rectangle because you’re inside a white fucking cylinder. You move your eyes. You can do that. You are in the hole of a donut. You try to breathe without choking on the white icing sugar.
Don’t overthink it. If you can block out the phone-in radio show piped through your headphones, ignore that Gary from Swansea knows nothing about eighties music and thinks Kate Bush is Madonna, you’ll nail the visualization you’ve learnt: you won’t stop at the top of conjured marble steps and ask yourself how you’re supposed to descend into a room designed to make you feel safe and loved, when moments ago, those steps were outside, leading to a sea where you were set upon a canoe to gaze at an unbroken blue sky. You’ll descend those steps, albeit still wet from the canoe, and make it into your room, where your mother, alive now, will hold out her arms, tell you it’s going to be fine, and Gary will get his last question right.
Hear Kathryn Aldridge-Morris read her piece
Kathryn Aldridge-Morris has work in a variety of anthologies and journals including South Florida Poetry Journal, New Flash Fiction Review, Bending Genres, Pithead Chapel, The Phare, Ellipsis, and Flash Frog, and she was the winner of Manchester School of Writing’s QuietManDave Prize for flash fiction 2022. Tweets @kazbarwrites.