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The empathiser machine

He was led by the hand through a small door way. The drugs had started to take effect and his weak legs were grateful for the support. As he entered the room he could just make out the blurred outline of the Empathiser Machine.

‘Take a seat here Minister and we’ll be with you shortly.’ He shuffled himself back into what felt like a large leather armchair and picked at the stickers on his chest, he was tempted to peel one of them off but thought better of it. Around about him other users were already hooked up, and with closed eyes and covered heads they formed a tight unconscious circle around the machine.

‘I’m just going to pop this on,’ said a reassuring voice. One of the attendants placed what felt like a cool leather strap over his head. ‘If you could just hold onto the two handles in front of you we can make a start’. He was offered a smooth plastic pellet to bite onto but he waved it away, it was his first time and he didn’t really know what to expect. He thought back to the cabinet meeting when he’d argued that losing touch with the electorate meant that their health reforms simply wouldn’t work. The windows at Number Ten had become smaller and smaller and after enough time spent in the office they blocked off the light from the common man entirely. It was then that he’d hit on the idea of the machine.

He felt a small hand over him and then an almost audible vibration from the handles.

‘Deep breaths now Minister, and remember you can take your hands away at any time’

The chair and the circle slipped away and he dissolved upwards, echoing into the void. The room had gone and out of nothing came everything. He found himself lying flat in a bed, his eyes filling with blood and his thoughts merging with another person.

‘Please, not again’  

‘Why? What is it?’

A group moved around his bed, a shadow theatre bumping along the outer edge of the curtain. He tried to cover himself up but he couldn’t move and he felt a tug as a bag full of his own urine was hurriedly lifted up to the light. ‘We’re short today so if you can’t get any bloods just go for his groin’. He tried to tune into thoughts that weren’t his own but they swirled around like bile sluicing down a drain. It was then that he saw the needle and a white hot pain jolted him forwards.

‘Oh, did you feel that too?’

He dropped the handles and flooded back into the room, angrily peeling off the stickers.

‘I’ve felt enough,’ he said

Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen.