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The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases (Jeff Vandermeer and Mark Roberts, eds.)

My old Clarion classmate Jeff Vendermeer asked me to write something for his anthology of fictional, fantastical diseases and I came up with this — a twenty-first century illness that speaks to our ability to inaccurately sense our environment.

The first diagnosis of Pathological Instrumentation Disorder (PID) will be made on May 12, 2006, in Toronto, Ontario. The patient, a Mr. Gary Warren, presented symptoms typical of extreme mental distress — elevated pulse, perspiration, acute abdomen, dilated pupilsÑat the Queen St. Mental Health Center, where a preliminary diagnosis of acute stress disorder was made. The patient’s serotonin levels were normalized through quick trepanning, and he was entered into a course of group therapy sessions in the newly installed microgravity chill-rooms. Mr. Warren’s symptoms worsened, however, despite daily trepannings. The only visible relief came when in close proximity to diagnostic equipment (EEG, e-meters, MRI/CT Scan apparatus). Even a wall-clock, a PDA, or a thermometer seemed to help.

Mr. Warren was moved to the Bertelsmann-AOL-Netscape-Time-Warner clinic and into the care of Dr. Jojo Fillipo, a specialist in media disorders. Under clinical observation, Mr. Warren was presented with a variety of diagnostic tools, beginning with those found on his person at his admission