published by New Pop Lit - February 27, 2018
FICTION: WRITING OF THE MIND
"THE LARGEST TOPIC for any writer– the greatest expanse of territory to cover– is the human mind. BUT WE ALSO live in a time with a dystopian vibe. Combine the two elements and you create fearful possibilities for the reader.
Our newest feature story, “Unraveling” by Tianna Grosch, is a plunge into the depths and memories of the mind– at the same time it’s a commentary on the contemporary age, on a kind of soullessness consuming everyone. Writers and artists seek metaphors for what’s happening. Zombies, pods, androids, robots. Loss of affect. Of emotion, depth, mind. What does it mean? Where are we going? Where have we been?
There’s much to be discovered in this thought-provoking tale by a talented young writer."
The doctors’ infinite, empty eyes peered out above crisp white masks. Masks shrouding the remainder of their faces so the crown of heads surrounding him became nothing more than a sea of irises ranging in color and depth, but never in emotion.
by Tianna Grosch
The morning after Dex’s unraveling, he awoke with the taste of copper on his tongue. Not just the taste; there was something perfectly round and cold stuck there with his spit. He couldn’t think of any reason why seconds later, he pulled a shiny new penny from his mouth.
When he tried to lift his body from the bed, he could tell something was amiss. His limbs tingled. His whole body had gone numb, but the feeling returned with a stark rapidness close to pain. It started in the tips of his toes and flowed through him like a rising tide, reaching for his heart. A sensation like what he imagined cold mercury would feel like settled in his veins. He shivered, sparking a tidal wave of jitters.
Once he regained motor control he sat up, letting the sheet fall from him and onto the floor. He felt like a caterpillar splitting open the outer shell of his cocoon and climbing free, emerging into the same world as a new creature with wings. Except he didn’t have wings; all he had was the mystery of a penny in his palm and the feeling that everything was askew of how it should be, internally.
He lifted himself, arms shaking with the effort. Had he always been so weak?
A memory, perhaps a dream, came to mind as he dug deep. A man in a long white coat sat calmly across from him, a desk wedged between. “You may remember certain things,” the man had explained. “Things you’ll need to get on in the world. But everything else will be gone.”
There wasn’t much to the room Dex was in. The bed he lay on was more like a metal slab in the middle of white-washed walls. There was a counter on one side below a row of glass cabinets holding medical supplies. It smelled like antiseptic.
The last thing he could call to mind was being wheeled into surgery and there was an intense, burning pain. Something important was happening, something life-altering.
He just couldn’t remember what that was.
Dex had taken the subway to the procedure. It was in Lethe, a small city directly south of his apartment. He normally dreaded long subway rides, but he whistled to himself as he walked that morning. Soon he felt sure he would never feel any sort of burden again.
The day was bright and there were many people milling about, all dressed in fantastic clothes. That’s the thing about the city – everyone dresses like they have somewhere important to be, even if they’re just headed out for a bite to eat or to the shop. Everyone had something to prove in the city. In the whole world, Dex imagined. But here it was more evident in the tight jaws and forced smiles. Their gaudy faces and clothes, ears and arms covered in jewelry that seemed to sag with its weight.
He wondered how many of them had gone for the procedure. If it might cure that insatiable feeling of loss, always missing something, never able to fill the gap.
Dex took the stairs two at a time, focused on the bright tile leading down to the platform. He had to hurry. The memories would rush back soon. They
always did. It was impossible to keep them at bay.
Keep her at bay. Elizabeth.
Other passengers waited on the platform, still as statues. When they looked over at Dex, he saw their faces were blank, their eyes like deep, black holes, outlined and indented above their sloping, high cheekbones.
Strangers bored their eyes through his skull as if they could look straight through him and see beyond what he would ever see.
He wondered how many of them were taking the same path as he, journeying on toward Lethe. The destination shone in metallic letters on the subway token which he’d relinquished at the gates.
There was a ringing, echoing hollowness to the tunnel awaiting the subway’s arrival. None of the other passengers spoke and Dex suddenly wished to connect with someone, anyone, in these perhaps final, fleeting moments of being himself. The man he’d known all his life would disappear and nobody would miss him. Nobody would even notice.
He pictured somebody trying to reach him, the phone ringing to an empty house endlessly, each time the ringing becoming more frantic as the tune played. Receiving only the full voicemail box of a man long gone.
Now was not the time.