On his way back from the appointment, he looked out of the rain-streaked tubetrain window at a giant airliner taking off from a runway beside the track. It appeared hardly to be moving; to just hang there. Knowing all about the theory of aerofoils somehow didn’t help it look at all real. He’d never sat in a kite made of linen and string and felt the upwards suction that might have allowed him to really ‘get’ what was going on. He imagined the white knuckles of those strapped into the hovering 747.

The woman sitting opposite him was extremely attractive. He prided himself that he was never influenced by advertising of other kinds but even when he mentally discounted the fact that faces are almost completely transformed by the application of a few spots of strategically applied colour, he couldn’t stop himself from feeling the usual, inexplicable responses (the weirdness of sex itself seemed entirely to have escaped the rest of the world). His reaction was especially odd since he’d recently been feeling a bit cut off from things, not ‘himself’, a little unreal.

Bicycling the last leg home into an icy headwind, he glanced down at his Nike Air Blaze trainers and wondered what had happened to the last few minutes of his life. The route was so familiar that he’d been riding without even consciously navigating -but neither had he fallen off. He’d never quite shed the magical feeling that it was possible to stay upright at speed on two tiny patches of rotating rubber, and so easy to topple off when they stopped revolving. The sphere of rock that formed their incredible road rolled on.

As usual, when he got home, he downed two quick gins -just to take the edge off -there would be some wine with dinner, so he’d restrict himself to just another couple before having a quick lie down. He had lately developed a strange dragging pain in his large intestine. Obviously nothing to worry about, at his age. Almost certainly it was nothing nasty. So why was his body letting him down so badly? How come he had no insight, no internal instructions about what was going wrong, no mental picture of what he even looked like beneath the surface? That poster the doctor had shown him with all those yellowish-brown organs made no sense whatever. It wasn’t just that he didn’t understand the obscure terminology but that it didn’t reflect how he felt inside about his own insides. Certainly, that his mind was somewhere within that lump of wrinkly pink meat at the top seemed unconvincing.

The Doctor had said that he knew that he knew that it was not altogether completely clear that a second opinion would be contraindicative. Those whitecoated polysyllables had somehow made him feel better: one small success for medicine that day.

The idea of needing something so badly that your whole life centred on it was foreign, absurd. Outside now, a storm of unimaginable ferocity was in the making. He poured himself another one, gulped back his prescription and thought, with no understanding, about his chances.