My bedroom was rocking like a freaky funhouse. I prayed for it to stop, but it never did, because life wasn’t that kind. Cruel, actually, as I suffered from disembarkment syndrome. It all started with a sin, of sorts, when I met a married woman named Bobbie. She wanted me to take her on a trip, so we boarded the ferry in Liverpool and crossed the Irish sea. On the way, the waves rocked the boat from side to side, and Bobbie sang that old nursery rhyme row, row, row your boat…
All I wanted was to be free. Not a tree. The technical term for my illness was epidermodysplasia verruciformis, better known as tree man syndrome. I grew up in the hamlet of Wickenby. My father worked at the Royal Air Force station where he designed light aircraft. My grandfather flew in the RAF. My great-great-grandfather, Ernest, was a carpenter. It was reported that Ernest Wood died due to complications associated with turning into a tree man. Through my genealogical research, I established that my rare and recessive disorder had skipped two generations.
I lost my head when my wife died. My dearly beloved Barbara. She was buried in All Saints Church in Saltfleetby, a village surrounded by defences from the second world war: shelters, pillboxes, minefields. I’ll have you know I served in the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment.
When I was born, both my big toes were deformed — they were short, bent, and curved inwards. This turned out to be an early sign of FOP: fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, commonly known as stone man syndrome. I never learned to crawl, I just sort of shuffled around on my bottom. Walking wasn’t easy, either, and I never got my gait quite right. My folks — God bless ‘em — thought I was lazy, when in fact, my bones were fusing together.