Fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gift of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.
-Neil Gaiman on the Introduction he wrote for Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Kama, who woke up with a start at a park bench in downtown Toronto, on a cold, icy morning in February. It took her five minutes to open her purse because her fingers were frozen solid in hues of blue. The screen of her cellphone was cracked, which was typical. She never had a phone that lasted more than a year, which was why cellphone companies loved her. They were always turning into vagabonds – running away from her no matter how hard she tried to hold on to them. Somewhere in the abyss of her apartment was a black hole that held all her lost things – 70% of which were old cellphones, that held inside them – text messages and forgotten narratives of old friends.
But today, Kama awoke – curled up in a park bench in downtown Toronto, her short skirt exposing her bare legs wrapped in fishnet stockings. Oasis was definitely packed the night before, and the last thing she remembered was ordering her fifth Long Island Iced Tea as a cute boy with blonde curls leaned in close to whisper, “Let’s go to the red room”. It was a manic blur after that, an elevated sense of being in which she was no longer a part of – slowly actions took over in which she had no say, words spilled out of a mouth that used to be hers.
The first thing thing that springs into Kama’s mind – even when she wakes in her own bed and not strange places – unfamiliar ceilings that began to multiply in number within the last months – is: You are you. You are still here. Her own personal declaration to a mind that was slowly but surely, betraying her. Kama had wanted to play it down – even though she wanted to ask more times just to make sure, she only asked once – once at a fetish party, as her boyfriend clasped the collar he had bought for her tightly around her neck, she gathered all her strength to ask: “Am I still me? Is this what’s happening now? Is this who I’ve become?”
He turned her around, smiled and said, “It looks great on you! Do you want a picture?” So she smiled as he took her picture.
Because what she was certain of, the thought marked on her face, forever immortalized by the picture he took, one Saturday evening, was that sometime in December, in the midst of an ice storm that rendered half the city without power, hundreds of homes immersed in darkness, shut all the way back to the Stone Age, a parasite born from the cold had crawled inside her ear and nestled in her brain. Feeding on her creativity and passion, it began to multiply, slowly making its way inside her body, through her veins, controlling her in every way possible: her mouth would talk for her, her hands would reach for her, her brain would think for her.
Kama was certain that there was something inside her mind that she could not take out. It was a physical entity – it had to be, because it having form meant it could be removed, she could be cured. Someone can open her brain, scoop the parasite out, put it in a jar so that it could be studied and just like that – she could be normal. She could have control over her mind and she could become certain once again that her decision were hers, because her mind could be trusted, was capable and empowered. It had to be something equally unbelievable as an alien parasite – because what’s science fiction is admitting to herself that her life’s achievements and decisions were the result of her own mental incapacity – was what’s ridiculous, was what’s truly unbelievable.
Kama finally managed to turn her phone on to look for the time. 7:36 AM. She began to ready herself for the long walk home. It had been such a long time since she slept. She hoped she had more than three hours sleep last night although she can never be sure. It didn’t feel like she just woke up. It didn’t feel like she ever slept. The parasite slept for her. It ate for her. It lived for her.
That lent her a touch of invincibility – having no power over anything that happened to her body and mind. All she could do was gaze from eyes that were once hers, and scream silently to anyone who would listen: “Am I still me?
Is this what’s happening now?
Is this who I’ve become?
A/N: Being a fan of science fiction, I am always on the hunt for interesting reads and graphic novels. One that I came across yesterday was a short story by Daniel Keyes titled, “Flowers for Algernon.”
It was recommended to me by a friend when I asked him for the most romantic story he has ever read, that isn’t a love story. Needless to say, it exceeded my expectations.
“Flowers for Algernon”, in my opinion, is a story about the romantic tension of emotion versus intellect. Admittedly, there are many times in my life in which I have knowingly drowned myself in blissful ignorance, as it allowed me to blindly accept inconsistencies, hypocrisies and wilful manipulations. Now that I’m more exposed to magic, I now understand that our need to deny, whether or not we are aware of it, is a defence mechanism to misdirect.
Read the full story here.
IMDb states that this movie is about, “a civilian team enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and face danger while encountering an aquatic species”.
Up until two weeks ago, I’ve never seen this film, which is strange considering I consider myself the rancor of all sci-fi: a collection of claws and fangs designed to devour every sci-fi material in existence.
My association with The Abyss, however, is unforgettable, and it goes back to my older sister.
My older sister was the absolute Queen of my childhood. Every word she spoke was sacred and holy. So much so that once, she convinced me worms were a delicacy in other countries, and only the rich and elite could eat them. In fact, eating them while they were still alive was considered a culinary experience in England.
“But won’t they get hurt?” I asked, panicking.
No. Worms are special in that they don’t have the skin that humans do. Therefore, they can’t feel.
Of course this led to an instant, uncontrollable urge to demolish as many worms as I could get my hands on. It wasn’t until my sister told me she was kidding, after seven sacrificial worms, did I even realize something was amiss.
With that preamble in hand, I can begin the story of The Abyss, which started when my sister went to our local Blockbuster by herself.
She returned with a smile on her face and The Abyss at the palm of her hand.
She claimed that an impossibly handsome guy (with glasses) came up to her to ask if she had seen the movie yet. A delightful, witty conversation then ensued. It was a short exchange, but enough to deliver the argument that my sister was beautiful and that somebody noticed.
For the rest of my life I would look at this anecdote with envy, making it the basis for every male encounter in the future. A charming, opening line—a delightful response emitted by I, ending with a common interest to jumpstart a relationship: a movie watched by both parties one cool evening, wrapped in blankets, legs curled on top of each other; dissecting and analyzing it to pieces, with characters they could relate to and plots that reflected each other’s lives.
As the years passed, the glory of my sister began to fade. We lived the rest of our lives as separate as two strangers who were once sisters, could live.
Until two weeks ago, when I decided to sit down in my apartment and watch The Abyss.
Halfway through the film, I realized my sister’s preamble for The Abyss was just that—a story: designed to awe and marvel—to delight an eight-year-old with spontaneous romance. And I, a willing audience member, succumbed to her fiction as gullibly as I devoured those worms.
Key point? Because I wanted to.
I guess the eight-year-old me knew it was better to adore someone unconditionally, than to lose faith in all your childhood heroes.