Mark A. Carter
 

BORG QUEEN, common cold, and reality

World famous Canadian Science Fiction novelist Mark A. Carter rants about alien invasion, Borg Queen, drugs, hallucination, and reality.

A few years ago, when the Staph Aureus infection of my right big toe transformed from Cellulitis to Osteomyelitis, and I was given a PICC line and dosed around the clock with Vancomycin, I hallucinated.

Does anyone remember the slimy mottled grey skin of the Borg Queen, played by Alice Krige, in Star Trek: Next Generation? Yes, Virginia, that is how I saw the night nurses at the hospital. They horrified me because I fully believed, at that time, that we had been invaded by aliens and the powerful medication I was on allowed me to see them for what they truly were; whereas, normal people could not see them. But scarier still, I wasn't sure how widely spread the alien invasion actually was because when the sun came up, these aliens looked human again. But I knew. And I dreaded the setting sun and the hallucinations that the night brought.

In my paranoia, I felt like architect David Vincent, played by Roy Thinnes in the two season 1967-68 Quinn Martin Science Fiction series made for CBS Television called The Invaders who stumbles upon a secret alien invasion, tries to convince people of it, and tries to sabotage it. A similar scenario of alien invasion and government conspiracy and cover-up was created by Chris Carter in The X-Files, produced by Ten Thirteen Productions, 20th Television, and 20th Century Fox Television, which ran from 1993 to 2002.

 

Alice Krige as the Borg Queen

Star Trek: First Contact © 1996 Paramount
 

Roy Thinnes in The Invaders

Quinn Martin / CBS © 1967-68

But unlike the futile paranoia of David Vincent and Fox Mulder, I did not warn people of the danger. I did not fight to uncover the conspiracy. Why? Perhaps it was because, in the midst of my hallucinations, the part of me that still held onto a semblance of sanity knew that I was merely having an horrific drug-induced waking dream. Perhaps it was because I was just too sick. Perhaps it was because I had become fatalistic. I didn't used to be. I once believed in fighting for survival. But you reach a point when fighting is no longer possible and seems quite hopeless. And if you're fighting the establishment and the establishment is alien, well, your human goose is cooked.

And a word to the wise, don't shout about people looking like aliens when you're in hospital, as I did on one particularly bad evening, when the hallucinations were dreadful and I phoned my wife repeatedly, begging her to take me home, and stumbled around in the visitor's lounge, kicking over plastic kiddie chairs and the like. You're immediately labeled a nut-bar and given sedation. I was escorted back to my room by security and put down with Chlorpromazine to have a good nap. And God knows my overworked brain needed the rest. As the Borg minions were wont to say: Resistance is futile.

I was in the hospital for twenty-one days and, all in all, was on intravenous Vancomycin for six weeks via my Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter. The hallucinations persisted for the entire time. And if I was going to summarize the experience of chronic infection, hospitalization, medication, surgery, and post-op recovery, I would say it was Hell. And as much as I would like to forget the slimy, grey, mottled Borg Queen skin that I saw various people wearing during that time, I cannot. The images are in long term memory. And they torment me still.

But nothing I say or feel can surpass the defeatist closing moments of X-Files Season Nine Episode 19/20 called "The Truth," where the aliens have taken over entirely and Mulder and Scully have essentially given up and gone to bed in a motel room in Roswell, New Mexico awaiting the inevitable end. Mulder utters a pathetic epiphany concerning his useless Quixotic crusade: "I've been chasing after monsters with a butterfly net." Duh? And the final words that end the original series are enough to make every good Science Fiction fan get on their feet and boot in their TV screens. Mulder says: "Maybe there's hope." Maybe there's hope? Are you kidding? Did you fall down and hit your head?

 

There are some days, even now, when I dream of the Borg Queen and the entire world taken over by these aliens. And when I awaken, the dreadful images and the fatalistic feeling of those dreams persist. It is as if I have seen behind the curtain and continue to do so. The least bit of medication rekindles the images. And I am enveloped with a deep-seeded feeling of hopelessness. When I look around, much like Neo in the 1999 film The Matrix directed by the Wachowski Brothers, I question whether the so-called real world is actually real. I hypothesize that it might actually be is a fabrication, perhaps computer generated, perhaps chemically induced, to keep human beings complacent and unaware, while the aliens walk nonchalantly among us. Perhaps, it is something more basic, as the Wachowskis suggest, and human beings are merely copper-tops used by the aliens to run their machines.

Even though I get the flu shot every year, I question whether it indeed really is a flu shot or whether the government is trying to alter my DNA, our DNA, and transform us into something other. The yearly shots remind me of a chilling scene in the fourth film adaptation of the 1955 novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney, followed by Don Siegel's 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Philip Kaufman's 1978 remake of the same name, and Abel Ferrara's 1993 Body Snatchers. In the 2007 remake, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel and James McTeigue, entitled The Invasion people are encouraged to get an immunization shot. But unknown to them, the shot doesn't immunize them. It insidiously infects them with spores and while they sleep it converts them into the aliens that we have come to dread. This represents the ultimate in government betrayal and gives me pause to wonder if our yearly flu shots are possibly invasion through immunization, as well. The only thing I have noted, thus far, is that, after years of so-called flu shots, my body temperature has dropped an entire degree Celsius or almost two degrees Fahrenheit. And it forces me to ask: what am I, what are we all being turned into?

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Walter Wanger © 1956

First Men in the Moon

Ameran Films © 1964

I am reminded of the 1953 film War of the Worlds directed by Byron Haskin based on the 1898 novel by H. G. Wells, as well as the 1964 film First Men in the Moon directed by Nathan H. Juran based on the 1901 novel by H.G. Wells. In War of the Worlds, the superior technology of the invading Martians appears to doom mankind. But the aliens succumb to the common cold. And inventor Joseph Cavor, who journeys to the Moon and discovers a civilization there, inadvertently kills the entire Selenite race with the nasty cold he brings with him. Oops.

Just as a reminder: art imitates life. Wells was aware of how the Black Death ravaged Europe during the Middle Ages. And he was also aware of how the arrival of Hernán Cortés in the New World wiped out the Aztecs not with advanced technology and military might but with Smallpox.

Michael Crichton, in his 1969 novel Andromeda Strain and in the 1971 film directed by Robert Wise by the same name showed that, potentially, we too, could be wiped out entirely by a virus from space to which we have no immunity.

I wouldn't be at all surprised to awaken from this bête noir in which I find myself to discover that I am trapped in a nightmare within a nightmare, the subject of an alien experiment, like Nicole de Boer in the 1997 Canadian Science Fiction psychological horror film called Cube directed and co-written by Vincenzo Natali. As some physicists have suggested, perhaps our so-called reality is all a simulation like The Matrix or the 1999 film directed by Josef Rusnak called The Thirteenth Floor where levels of reality exist simultaneously.

Perhaps, one morning, I will discover that my world is upside down like Virgil's epiphany at the close of Dante's Inferno. Much like Norma played by Lois Nettleton in Season 3 Episode 10 of The Twilight Zone called "The Midnight Sun," I will break from my fever and see reality for what it is. In "The Midnight Sun," Norma imagines that the Earth is getting hotter because it has been knocked out of its orbit and is travelling closer to the sun. But she discovers, when her fever breaks, that the opposite is true. Likewise, when my fever breaks and I awaken, I may well look into the bathroom mirror, and see grey, mottled, slimy skin staring back at me. And I will have the epiphany that I am a Borg and have always been an alien who, amid my febrile delirium, dreamed he was a strange and inferior monkey boy called a human being on an equally strange and insubstantial water world called Earth located in the boonies of the galaxy. Now that would be a true nightmare. Wouldn't it? It all depends on your perspective.

Yikes.

Now you know.

from the imagination of Mark A. Carter - novelist

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