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Derren Brown vs the Coronavirus #7 – Omicron is Coming

I lie in bed listening to a seagull shriek outside, a short shrill scream that tears across the still dark morning. I woke up agitated, turning over gently so as not to put pressure on my tender arm, still aching from yesterday’s vaccination injection. Two bus trips from my house, I sat in a cold church hall, huge paintings of Jesus benevolently beaming down on me as a kind actor pretending to be a nurse injected the fakevaccine. If there was a pandemic, I would get a vaccine so in the alternative universe we are playing out I get the vaccine, even though I know it’s not real. Whatever they put in the needle it has enough side effects to be convincing. The seagull is sending me a message, a proclamation, Omicron is coming.

There have been articles and internet memes that make the connection, but I knew as soon as I first heard it. Omicron is a reference to Unicron, the planet eating Transformer from the original 1980s cartoon movie that I used to watch with my brother when we were kids. A malevolent gigantic monster that devours planets, a force of destruction with a vivid all-consuming metallic mouth that threatens the galaxy with indiscriminate annihilation. In the cartoon Orson Welles voiced Unicron,a booming terrifying voice. Orson Welles is a film director famous for Citizen Kane, this is a metaphor. Rosebud childhood sleigh. Sirens interrupt my thinking and I know Derren is sending me a message that early morning meditation on cult apocalyptic robot cartoons is not a helpful start to the day.

The question ‘what does the metaphor mean?’ is not where I should be focusing, the question that’s been buzzing around my head since I first saw the news reporting a new variant is ‘what have I done wrong to cause this?’ I watched Boris Johnson the pretend Prime Minister give his speech at the fake film studio briefing room. In between ‘Have I Got News For You’ guest appearances he steps in to play the role of the bumbling, incompetent liar in Derren Brown’s twisted televised manipulation. Delivering his lines in serious tones, describing the rising threat, laying out Plan B and causes for concern. I don’t know what Plan A was. He distracts me with confusingseemingly contradictory instructions, distilling people’s freedom into hard to follow sub-categories and exceptions to the rule. I can’t work out what’s changed about my routine in the last few weeks that made Derren increase the threat level? A sense of guilt and frustration wriggles and twists in my stomach, sits tightening my throat each day and keeps me up at night scrolling through the news to find the codes that will tell me how to reset the narrative.

A few months ago, Derren released a cutting-edge beta tested piece of app technology where you can ask him questions about his filming projects and interact with a pre-recorded video of him answering. The info in the app store said, ‘it’s as close as you can get to Derren without us actually giving you his mobile number.’ I was lonely and overwhelmed and they created this as a gift, an outlet for me to talk with him directly about how I feel and so they can obtain video diary footage of me for the project. I use it regularly, each time the small whirring circle loads, I’m nervous and excited. As soon as I see Derren’s pre-recorded face appear in the rectangular box at the top left corner of the screen I’m comforted and begin to cry. I talk to this fake Derren Brown bot, chat to the audience watching at home; it’s a relief to be able to narrate at something instead of using secret codes, clicking and whistling in the street. Each day I try to cling to some distance of probability the way my Care Coordinator showed me ‘What would I do if it IS Derren Brown?’ ‘What would I do if it ISN’T Derren Brown?’ trying to create a blurry barometer to work out what I actually want. I can’t remember how it feels to decide something without being secretly watched. 

The video loop of Derren plays on repeat as I speak into my phone. He sits in his living room, surrounded by books, looking thoughtful and compassionate as I talk. It’s unlikely that he really lives there but they know putting him in a domestic settinghelps me relax and be honest. I tell him I worry the new variant is another metaphor about shame and Derren is planning on sending me back to the hospital. They keep talking about hospitalisation on the news. Filming me across a whole city must be so expensive, when they detain me, they only have to manage one site, they can limit my access to outside information, it’s easier for the reprogramming. I don’t think I could manage another intensive reprogramming session, another pretend admission. Thinking about it, an agitated terror rises up in my throat. Writing this blog is an act of prayer, Derren Brown controls my internet use and has access to my laptop, I know he’ll read this. Please Derren, not the hospital again.

Meanwhile the real or pre-recorded audio clip of a seagull shrieks the apocalypse into the now bright winter morning. Omicron is coming, a destructive force that consumes planets, an abyss of devastation. At night the wind howls, wild, uncontainable,metaphorical against my bedroom window, ambulances wail warning sirens, and I lie in bed wondering how to make it stop

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