My Little Amygdala by Tyler Tristao

A man who hears pain as musical notes longs to experience an entire symphony; by Tyler Tristao.

I bring the hammer down onto my finger. It is not an accident.

What should be pain is sent to my brain as a confused signal and I hear the fragment of a song; a note suspended in thin air. I pull the hammer back to hit my thumb again, wanting still to hear more of the strange music, when I am interrupted.

"Hey what did I tell you, huh? Hit the goddamn nail and not the one on your finger," my boss says. He walks over. His name is Rick and he is currently shaking his head. There are goggles pulled up onto the top of his head, pressing flat his long blonde hair. "Look man, it's a liability. Stop with the black fingernails. Please. I'm not going to ask again."

"Sorry Rick. I understand."

That's not true. Of course I understand Rick's dilemma: an employee of his comes to work with mutilated hands, bruises, cuts, scrapes, abrasions of all manners and depths, and it looks bad when the homeowners come by to see the progress of their house and see a cretin such as I hammering nails into what is to become the framing of their new home. Sure, I get that.

But I'm hammering my limbs and cutting my arms with tools held by burnt fingers because I do not feel pain. Not in a traditional sense, anyways. Certain smells cause reactions in my nervous system that I assume is physical pain, but those scents are rare and usually lost in the gap between my synapses.

What should cause pain only elicits an auditory sensation. A note.

"Take a fiver in the truck," Rick tells me. That's code for The Owners Are Coming By.

I hand Rick my hammer because he clearly does not want me taking it to the truck for my break. It's his truck, and Rick is okay with me smoking a couple of his cigarettes during a work day. I spark up a Pall Mall and inhale.

Honestly, I do not know what tobacco tastes like or smells like. Inhaling a cigarette to me incurs the experience of being at a beach in late November; some mixture of wet sand and cold salt. There is part scent, part sound, and a mixture of feeling that is intangible in that sensory moment.

I really like the beach.

They call it synesthesia, my condition, and being at the beach in essence when you smoke a cigarette is no stranger than tasting colors. I'm really not that different from you. I still know what the color purple looks like, even if it's through a hot cup of coffee, so what's the difference?

Besides, it's not as if everything is something. Hearing an A chord is the same between us; I have no sublime experience when I lick an envelope.

I wonder sometimes what tobacco really smells like. What if none of us know? I wouldn't be shocked to find that our sensations are singular and altogether an illusion. That would wrap up a large bundle of my own questions neatly enough.

Those are the kinds of dreams and thoughts I have; about reality and the intangible. When I'm not thinking about the music, that is.

The music is the only part of my disease that feels cohesive, like there is meaning to it, and not just the backwards fucked up meaning that things have for me and me alone when I taste cranberries during an orgasm or feel the texture of velvet on my fingers when I look at neon lights.

The music is real, trapped beneath the twisted lines of my synapses, always echoing in the vistas of neural transmissions between. Thinking about it makes me think about the hammer, how I want to hear the note again and the rest of the notes, the entire symphony.

I see a gunsmoke grey Escalade pull out of the newly paved driveway; Rick waving me over.

We finish the work day and I think about the music.

When I get home to my single bedroom house, there is little I can do to contain myself. I head into the kitchen after locking the door behind me and pulling the blinds.

It is not long after that I am naked and looking at myself in the mirror. A network of scars runs across my chest and arms. To me the scars look written there on my flesh, like a sheet of unknown music.

What does the music of our life sound like? This is what I wonder.

I pick up a razor blade and place it beside my nipple. The harder I press into the flesh of my torso, the louder it becomes.

A note.

And so I create a melody. Hours fade away, and the pit of my stomach burns with hunger, providing percussion to the piece. Blood slicks my palms and sweat mingles with my wounds in a corrosive way.

I can almost hear it. I bring a hammer up above my head and I must look like a mad conductor, leading instruments that are strung from the tapestry of our existence.

Blackened; silence.

When I was a child I spent time in and out of mental hospitals, foster homes, and what are incorrectly labeled as wards. These places in truth were bleak. One such as myself, an anomaly, is not accepted. Kids always discovered my inability to feel pain and found a challenge there. Some of my scars are memories of those places.

Some of my scars are my own.

I think it was as far back as my tenth year as a child that I had the thought: Would the pain of others empower a crescendo to the odd music which plays somewhere in my diseased brain? Can I hear the music of others too?

It was a thought sent from God, I thought. Today, I don't know what I think and I certainly won't be sharing that particular notion with a therapist.

Then, I was sure that I was special. Now, I'm not so sure. Now, I know what the music of others sounds like. I know that I should not think about that, that I should remain transfixed on the sounds from my own pain.

I know too that I must be careful if I am to go about that conduction again.

It could be done, I think.

For now I'm resuming consciousness on my kitchen floor in a thick pool of blood. It smells like chocolate to me. That explains my obsession with tasting blood as a child. But they never believed me.

Neither will Rick, no matter the excuse. I look up at the clock on the stove, see that it is eleven in the morning and I am already three hours late for work. It's okay, I'll find another job soon.

I have to keep busy or I will end up dead, thinking I am in a lake of chocolate.

My medical knowledge is advanced, and all self-taught. That, and I have read many textbooks.

They talk about synesthesia like it's fun.

Feel cloth and smell Christmas trees!

See green and hear Mozart!

The textbooks don't show a grown man torturing himself for sounds that only exist in his own illness. They forgot the chapter about psychotic fantasies showing a symphony of corpses playing wooden instruments that have rotted away like their skin and hair; their last sensations in life spent for my consumption.

Cleaning up blood is a simple task. You mix one part bleach with nine parts water, apply the solution to the mess for twenty minutes and voilà.

Complacency sets in. I know that my body needs rest before I am ready to conduct again.

I admit this: I want another person like a musician desires a new instrument. I want to pluck upon what has been strung tightly over the body of their experience.

My fingers are twitching but maybe it's because I hit them all with a hammer about ten times. I don't know.

There is a man I've been watching for some time; a man I am confident in as an instrument. As anything else, he has failed. Randall Darren is his name. I first found him while grocery shopping for items that, once combined, would be bizarre to most but make a decent-tasting meal for myself.

Randall had been yelling at a cashier over the apparent issue of six cents. In the end, after a semi-circle had formed around the cashier stand and after a lot of screamed threats, Randall snatched his pack of discount cigarettes off the counter and walked out.

I followed. It turned out that Randall lived within walking distance of the supermarket and I began to shop there more and more frequently, always taking time to walk a couple miles out of city limits to where the pine trees grew thick and tall and a crooked path broke away from the road toward a ramshackle home tucked away from the rest of us.

Secluded, his home would be a perfect place to capture Randall and listen to the music I so eagerly seek. I've spent entire nights out on that stretch of blank highway and black forest, outside his property, listening.

What I hear is a song in itself. Half a dozen mutts guard his collection of lean-to sheds, rarely-fed and half-frenzied by the unrelenting summer heat; baying, the dogs never cease.

To me, it sounds like music.

A couple days pass and my wounds knit themselves partially together. I never make incisions too deep, nor abrasions too devastating. A virtuoso knows that silence, what you do not hear, forms rhythm.

I decide finally to call a company named Fine Coat Painting because I have seen Randall get into a van marked so, often enough to suspect he is employed there, but barely. Perhaps I could fill in the slackened hours.

I find myself talking to a rough-voiced man that sounds annoyed when the call connects. "Yeah, this is Jim, and I have a brush in the other hand so..."


"Hi to you too. What's this about exactly?"

"Well I have seventeen years of experience in painting, both interior and exterior and I'm looking for work."

"Hold on." I heard some clanging around, a loud shuffling, then Jim's voice once more. "Seventeen, well that's a pretty number. Definitely sounds good. But my first question is why are you unemployed?"

"Just moved up from California. Modesto area."

"Mm. What's your name?"

"Blake Helmson."

"Okay Blake, and who can I call for a reference from Modesto?"

"You can't. My employer died two months ago, I ran out of work and moved up here. I live with my sister."

"Really. What happened to the guy?"

"He had lung cancer. Stage three, didn't know it, and the chemo couldn't save him in time."

"Tough break. Well I'll tell you what: come to 637 Pine Way tomorrow at eight sharp and we will see what you've learned in seventeen years. Maybe we can make it eighteen, but no promises here. You know where that address is?"

I lie and say no.

"Alright Cali, its two streets up behind the K-Mart. Take a left on Boone and you'll see it. Show up sober."

"See you tomorrow."

"Hold up, one last thing, I have a question. Now, you tell me you have seventeen years' worth of experience both inside and outdoors, right? And you're sitting at home just twiddling your talented thumbs when you decide to call me. Could have called any other company but you rang Fine Coat. Why is that, Blake?"

"The name, I suppose. I liked the sound of it."

"Huh, well alright then. Eight o'clock; sober." Jim hung up.

I put on a pair of jeans and a gray sweatshirt. I drove to Home Depot and stopped my small Toyota truck out front. Inside I bought four colors of paint: an off-white called Nearly Neutral, a beige called Woodland Cruise, a cream-yellow color called Soft Dandelion, and an earthy red called Mojave.

Each paint color registered to my fingertips, exposing them superficially toward a texture that varied in a non-descript way. The neon orange color used as Home Depot's trademark makes me think of feeling wet leather.

It sounds like everything is a jumble: some colors are felt, others are heard, and some are just plain seen; other sensations trigger a feeling that in turn does not relate to that sensation. My condition is bizarre and severe, I know, but I am curious as to how well the people around me have ordered their thoughts, their environment, and the music of their own tunes. I'm just curious as to how any human being can find cohesion. My own mess is easy to sort out, once you have been living with it for a few decades. I don't know about anyone else's.

I also purchase a pair of white canvas pants, a case of bottled water, a five-in-one multi tool, a putty knife, paint thinner, two rolls of duct tape, zip ties, and industrial garbage bags.

At home I spatter the different colored paints to my newly purchased pants, alternating between that and dirt from my driveway. After washing them four times and applying more layers of grime, they begin to look aged.

I spatter my sneakers with the Nearly Neutral white paint as well.

In an old backpack I stash the duct tape, zip ties and a dozen garbage bags beneath a sweatshirt and a baseball hat.

I'm ready for my new job, as a new man.

But before I go to sleep I walk over to the nearby gas station and buy a pack of Camel cigarettes, making sure to request they be of menthol variety. I throw four away, crush one into the pockets of my new pants and then roll the package in my hands carefully to give it a traveled look.

Judging by what was in Randall's trash, he loves Camel cigarettes. What the menthol flavor and effect provides for him, I'll never know.

I find 637 Pine easily and arrive two minutes before eight. I park my car three streets over and walk. My backpack is strapped on securely. My story is that I took the bus.

A painting van is in the driveway of a two-story home once belonging to the middle class that has seemed to recently evaporate. Three men are conversing in front of the van and I recognize one as Randall.

"Hey there fellas," I say with a nervous flick of my eyes first right, then left. I make sure to look at Randall last, the academic study of coyness on my face. "Sorry I'm late, bus running behind and - ah, fuck I just have the luck of a red-headed step child lately."

Randall laughed, high and nearly hysteric. "It's fine brotha! So long as you got a smoke for Randy here." I stared into his beady, bloodshot eyes. I can only wonder what the man smells like.

I do, in fact, have a smoke for Randy there. "Hope you don't mind menthol partner."

Randall darts his hand toward the pack, predator-like, and grabs three cigarettes. "Keep em comin'," he said and abruptly jerked his body in motion with a heavy, heaving hawk of phlegm. I caught the sight of it in air, gray-black."Sorry dudes, had to hack some lung butter."

"Jim around?" I asked.

One man began to speak but Randy cut him off. "Nah bitch-ass is always late. Has us doing all the grunt work like UGH!"

Even though it is eighty-seven degrees on this July day in the Pacific Northwest, Randall wore a long, threadbare sweatshirt with the hood up. A cotton beanie stained with paint is pulled down tight over his ears beneath the hood. His thinning tangle of hair is entwined with the rest of his face but I could still see the prison tattoos there.

One man spoke to me, "Hey Jim said we're trying you out today, that this isn't your first rodeo. I won't tell you what to do, that's Jim's job, but I'm thinking let's start on the back surface. The pickets are already done." I nod like that is quite sensible.

"You wanted the best!" Randall screamed, grinning with a shark-like mouth full of greening teeth. "You got the best! Fine Coat Painting! We all ready to rock?"

"Christ, Randy, shut the hell up. Let's get on that surface before the sunlight turns us purple."

Randy laughed again, high and giddy like a detestable child. "Shit! That don't scare me none. I'll take my shirt off and stain fucking naked how about that Greg? Huh? How about that? Did you bring any lunch? I'm hungry man, I haven't eaten in a couple days, fucking starving. I'd even eat some chicken even though they got all those GMOs or whatever in it so the breasts are the size of footballs or whatever. Really could do up some KFC though, mm hmm they got the best biscuits. Yessir."

We are all seeking higher sensations though not everyone seeks it in a Kentucky-Fried form.

"Randy, just grab your bucket and shut up today, will ya?" The man named Greg left with the other painter, leaving Randy and I to converse.

"Guy is a fucking tweaker man! Pffft fucking Greg," Randy said, cocking his thumb over his shoulder. I noticed that his fingernails were twisted, chipped things that quite frankly repulsed me. Yellow and cracked, they ended at unnatural angles, some halfway down his fingertip, others curling upwards and away from his gnarled fingers. His right index had been removed, not quite to a nub.

What sounds will this instrument allow me? The thought is more than curious.

It looked like chemicals had eaten though his fingers. When I'm done with him they will have eaten through everything, I realize, leaving behind only a dirge.

"Yeah my fingers got all fucked up doing fiberglass work. Met some cool dudes though. Hey, pal-o-mine, got another smoke?"

I was interested to see he'd already finished the three that I gave him. I handed him two more and put one in my mouth. I take a trip to the beach and watch him greedily suck his cigarette away to nothingness.

We grab our supplies out of the paint truck, slam the doors shut as Randy gibbered on about a band he liked, and I notice something. Printed onto the glass of the back windows is:


After they shut, I opened the right door only and read what was on the glass of the left window.



The labor of the job was of no consequence to me, with or without my supposed experience as a man named Blake. I worked alongside Randy and ignored the slew of lewd comments while he strutted around the jobsite, half-muttering, sometimes singing under his breath. I was a natural. Seventeen years of experience? Try thirty.

I breathed through my mouth, said things like motherfuckin' fucker when I purposely snagged myself a splinter along with a notable note, and guffawed at jokes I didn't understand. Randy "liked my style".

I noticed he never actually worked. Sloth is a sin, they say, and I pondered that as I laid gallon after gallon of stain onto the hard-scrubbed surfaces of the large wooden decks.

Lunch time came around, but I only drank a bottle of water I'd had in my backpack, which I stashed in the shade on the side of the house. Randy produced half a sandwich, presumably from a gas station, out of his own tattered backpack. "Ever had one of these? Whoa boy! Can't fuckin' believe it came from a 7/11 buddy. It's, like, the best fuckin' sammy you ever had." Randy mutilated the sandwich with his rotten, shark-like teeth. "How the hell did you end up without a lunch, B-Lake? Been hittin' the rock? Huh? Yeah! I bet you have! I bet you been on that ice, B-Lizzy!"

"I'll eat later. Don't get much of an appetite while I work." I ignored the comment about drugs. I do believe he manufactures methamphetamine on his property, and if he thinks I am interested maybe there's an angle there.

Randall rolled his eyebrows up and down, fixing me with his beady little eyes. They were like marbles sunken into a leathery face. I noticed he didn't move them much, he preferred to look straight ahead and move his entire countenance with its wholly hideous demeanor. He was staring at me, the undulations of his unkempt, disgusting eyebrows kept dancing on his sweaty forehead.

"Me thinks you ain't eating cause you hit one too many bowls last night. Am I right? Huh? Am I? Maybe I'm the one that makes you feel alright. C'mon, you can tell me if you need a teener or somethin'."

"Maybe I didn't sleep last night, brother, and I didn't bring lunch because food just ain't hitting the spot."

Randy jammed the half of his half-sandwich into his backpack, now excited. "'K look, toss me a couple smokes and I'll tell you a story brotha man." I gave him the cigarettes and noticed there wasn't many left. That's okay. I didn't need much more time or tobacco. Randy popped a match off one of his grotesque fingernails, lit his cigarette and inhaled. "That there's my match-lighting fingernail! Yep. So. Might be I know a certain Chef who could cook something for you. Way he cooks, you won't eat dinner for three days."

"Like I said, I'm not hungry anyways." Then I scratched at my arm for a few moments before saying, "Been lookin' to score for a few days. Can you help me out or what?" Randy ate the deception like processed meat, savoring the fake flavor.

"Well who in the Hell do ya think you're talking to here, brah? This is Randy! You wanted the best, you got the best!" Randy was screaming now, hopping around as he smoked his cigarette. All of a sudden he was close to me, tainting my airspace, confusing my senses and filling my head with a sense of the color black, deep and stygian. He begins to whisper. "I could see it in your eyes! Right when I met you I was like: blammo! That's my dude right there. Right? Riiiight."

"Let's finish up. I want to get high."

"Hells yeah! Oh, and by the way: I'm the Chef. We will be having Crystal à la Randy at my place tonight. Bring your cash. Smoke 'em if you got 'em!"

"Alright, you got yourself a deal. You'll just have to tell me where you live."

"Okay, I'm beat. Don't know about you guys but it seems like there was more deck than house here. We'll finish the details tomorrow, probably in for a good seven hours again though. You two have a good night," Greg told Randy and myself after we had finished staining two of three decks and had cleaned up the garbage and washed the tools in paint thinner. We loaded most of it into the work van which he drove away.

"Got a car?" Randy asked me, slapping me on the arm. "Cause we don't get to ride in the work van. It goes right to Mr. Boss Man's house, and we gotta have our own transportation. Bullshit man. Making me walk fucking miles everywhere."

"I don't have a car," I said. "I have to take care of a few things before I head over. I'll see you in a couple hours."

"Let me go with you to your house. C'mon man. I could really use a shower, the fucking thing is busted over at my place and like I said, I cook so you'd really be helping a brother out. What do you say? Can I come over and take a shower, bro?"

"It's broken. Haven't paid rent and the landlord told me to go fuck."

"Ah yeah, yeah, yeah, been there been there been there."

We walked to the bus stop and Randy talked on and on. I punctuated the conversation with things agreeable, such as yeah and oh or even haha.

What I'm really thinking of are the melodies, the song that half-forms when I cause and receive pain. I have no way to describe the notes, the structure, or the sound that they make. How do I even know if it is sound, what with the way my synapses work? How do any of us really know anything we experience is true at all? We take it all at face value, like I do.

For lack of a better word, I call it a song.

Any and all things I have described, felt, heard, smelled, tasted and touched could have been false, a lie, and all of my experiences may not be as accurate as I have assumed them to be. Everyone should at least consider that for themselves.

That's a plus about synesthesia: I know it's all false. I'm not in denial.

"- And then, get this dude, get this, and then there's this total LOL moment when I offer this dude, this Crip, a fuckin' ripe, red strawberry! He's just like whaaat. So prime, B-Lake."

I have no idea what the man is talking about.

Eventually, through bits of conversation, I decide not to go to my house. It's clear from Randy's blathering that he wants to go home, get high, and he wants to do it now, the shower all but forgotten. He will be high enough to touch God's hand by the end of the night.

"Ever feel like your blood is itching?" he asks me. I nod. "Like you want to get high so bad you aren't even the same person anymore? Like there's two Randys in there fighting to get out? The high one always wins."

I do know what he means. As the bus pulls up I can almost smell the warm scents of concrete and gasoline as they truly are.

Two middle-aged moms push their strollers away from Randy and I. He was talking pretty loudly, so that probably wasn't pleasant for them. They get on the bus last.

We got on the bus first; Randy has already pushed his way forward and yelled loudly enough to "cut in front of these fags" that I was most obliged to follow him through the angry crowd.

We sit in the back, me with my backpack in my lap and Randy with his on, squashed against his seat. That quarter of a sandwich is probably looking really good right about now.

The bus fills and an older gentleman sits a couple seats away from us. He leans forward, his wrinkled face twisted into a bitter look of disappointment. "You two should be ashamed of yourselves. Cutting the bus line; the way you swore." He shook his head.

"Fuck off," Randy says. "Tweaker."

The ride was most likely embarrassing. I don't know, it's not really something I have ever felt. What with my other maladies I'd say my hands are quite full for now so I just enjoy the ride and think of what's to come.

We get dropped off a mile out from the woods Randy lives in. Everyone on the bus looks at us as we get off like they are lucky we didn't hijack the bus and drive it straight into a brick building.

Randy talks as we walk. I think about the smell of pine trees as we pass tall thickets. They remind me of the color orange, but I can feel a separation in my senses. I can smell them, too. I like the way pine trees smell.

"- And my buddy, he did some cool drywall work at my place, but he's a tweaker so, you know. It will still look much bueno. Hey, ready chief? Here's my driveway."

It doesn't take long to traverse into the well-hidden clearing behind the curtain of sentinels. I fully see his home now: a smattering of sheds, tarp roofs, a trailer missing a wall, and a crooked pathway of half-broken wooden pallets. It is a repulsive mess; a patchwork of debris and sodden trash.

"Gotta grab a couple sets of keys. Be right out. Shut the hell up, ya old bitch! Stop your barking in there!" Randy screamed this last part at his door, fumbling through a ring of old, tangled keys.

He disappeared inside his trailer and I'm lost in my thoughts. There is an intangible quality to my senses here, in the filthy place which I have come to kill a man. How close I am to hearing the song...

"You comin'?" Randy asked me. Inside he'd changed into a poorly-fitting tank top (a wifebeater I believe they are called) and a paint-stained pair of basketball shorts.

"Just waiting for you to quit picking your belly button and get going," I say, because he is actually doing that.

Randy pulled his black finger out of his belly button. "Don't be cute, now." Then he started to laugh, cackling really. "Shut the hell up! Don't make me choke you out, ya old bitch!"

He yelled randomly at the dogs as he navigated the muddy and weed-riddled trail through his landfill. "They sure are loud," I called up ahead to Randy who was walking on the next wooden pallet.

"Hmm? Who?"

"The dogs." Their baying was starting to annoy me and I found myself with my wrist pressed against my nose. The stench farther back on the property was unbearable, like a mixture of dog shit and bleach.

"Just a few more hops and skips, buddy. It's that last shed up there."

Randy pointed toward the building that would become his tomb. Suddenly I found clarity in his scent, a hideous odor of decay and stale tobacco, cheese stuck to the roof of a microwave and fermented body odor.

The smell of tobacco does not bring me to the beach; I am here hidden within a black tree line. Randy unlocks the chain link door guarding the last shed.

It's a small room with a machine unknown to me, a wall lined with barrels, and some locked cabinets.

I light up a cigarette.

"I'm not even sure I have it," I tell Randy. May as well be honest with him. He deserves that much in these last moments. "It might just be me and my little amygdala."

"Huh? What? The money? Hey look, dude, if you don't got the cheese to get into the dance, you eat somewhere else -"

"No. Synesthesia. Maybe I'm just more messed up than that, Randy. I mean, I can smell wet dog and hear them barking; I can feel the humid summer air and nothing is confused, really, here at the end. I'm not at the beach and neither are you."

"Okay back up. Whoa. Back-it-on-up. What?"

"I know what you meant about being two people. The other person is here now, Randy and I think there is something really, really wrong with me." I hit him and his nasty teeth puncture my fist. In that moment, the pain is real; I feel it echo across all the wounds and old scars on my body. Pain felt as pleasure.

There truly is something wrong with me.

"It's not a song I hear. It never was. Can't you understand that Randy? It was never a song!"

I punch him again and again, feeling his uneven face smash beneath my swollen fists. There are cracks and the snap of cartilage is evident.

After the fifth blow Randy topples backwards to spill a row of plastic buckets across the floor.

"Oh I don't know Randy, the mind is a powerful tool." I remove the duct tape and zip ties from my backpack. He is rocking back and forth on the ground, hands covering a bloodied face. "Am I just lying to myself? I mean sure I hear the music, and what I am about to do to you over the course of this long, dark night will provide a symphony of pure ecstasy, but what I am really conducting is not a song. No, not truly.

"I am a virtuoso of pain, and with an instrument you will see I am excellent."

So the song begins, after the zip ties are on his ankles and wrists and duct tape has been twice-secured around his ugly head. I conduct him toward a place from which he will never return, all leading to a coda, an end that sings to your ears and all other senses.

It all ends here on the tip of a synapse, lost somewhere between.

If only poor Randy here had more control over his own brain, like myself, he could have escaped a night of misery. He could have escaped it all.

After a while, and the tools in my backpack are of no more use, the room begins to smell like chocolate. The chemical scents remind me of touching something coarse and thick, like beard hair.

Nothing is as it is anymore and that means it is all back to normal.

I'm me again.

I smoke a cigarette and take a trip to the beach before cleaning up. I made a mess and it will probably take the rest of the night to remove any trace of my presence.

There are tools around the property, of all sizes, shapes and makes. I find a decent saw and begin dismembering the body of Randall Darren. It's not the first time I've done this and it comes easily to me.

I think while I work.

There is something of an itch on the surface of my brain and I have no way to scratch it; like I'm torn between having a song stuck in my head and having no memory of its tune.

There is hydrochloric acid sealed in one of the drums behind Randy's workshop. I decide to submerge him there in pieces and re-secure the lid tightly. I lay it down and then roll it toward the black tree line nearby where a cluster of containers have been disposed of haphazardly, in a sort of pile surrounded by trash.

It only takes a few hours to finish cleaning up. I like it because the place smells to me like a bakery, what with my condition. My synesthesia has always translated blood as chocolate, so I'm not to blame for a taste or two along the way. A bready scent comes from somewhere else in my mind but I'm not sure where.

I'm not sure how I got here either; in this wretched shed cleaning the remains of a human body. I just know it's who I am, standing there in a bakery while scrubbing viscera from a concrete slab.

There is someone else there sometimes. A man who never goes to the beach or hears colors.

But I'm not that man.

I whistle while I work.

Home before dawn. Barely.

I toss my keys on the counter and stretch. I feel as if I'll fall asleep where I stand. There's no time to undress or wash myself free of the chemicals on my arms and hands; I do not brush my teeth.

In bed I lie awake because something bothers me. I can't remember the tune stuck in my head. It's like an itch or something.

Why should it bother me so greatly, that I cannot remember anything of a forgotten song but a singular note?

Of course, I call it a note; I call it a song.

There's no way to really know what I'm hearing and feeling is true in any way. That thought worries me out of bed, into the living room where I switch on the lights.

There is a hammer on my kitchen table. I pick it up.

I bring the hammer down onto my finger and through my backwards brain I hear a note.

It is the beginning of a song.


  1. Disturbed, disturbing and potent - the outer reaches of human disorder. Carefully constructed, meticulously articulated inner logic of the damaged mind. I could not say that I enjoyed this, but it was impressive in its reach into darkness. Well executed, (if you'll excuse the pun!). It might also be interesting to write a more nuanced exploration of synesthesia, without the violence. It is a compelling human experience and could yield a great deal I think?
    thank you,

  2. an excellent story. I had heard of this condition, but only vaguely.
    big plus point that Randy´s demise was not detailed. brilliantly drawn characters. I found this totally original and compelling.

    well done

    Mike McC

  3. A story that raises a lot of philosophical questions such as, do we all experience sensory sensations similarly? On a more personal level, as a musician if ever I feel the need to maim myself in order to hear/create music I'll know I have a problem - or perhaps those around me should be concerned about their health? A thought-provoking story and I'm now going to google to find out more about synesthesia; heaven preserve me from it!

  4. Makes one wonder about how others process info. I can't begin to imagine how severely autistic or demented people perceive. I'm so very happy that I have had very little experience with the Randys of the world. What little I've seen has been very unpleasant.