Plugs

Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.

Jason Fischer has a story appearing in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again.

Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Angela Slatter’s story ‘Frozen’ will appear in the December 09 issue of Doorways Magazine, and ‘The Girl with No Hands’ will appear in the next issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

Senseless

by Edd

It starts with the hollow eyes. I’m working my shift at the convenience store when this woman comes up with a sandwich and a Diet Coke, only her eyes aren’t there. In her sockets there’s a fuzzy darkness. She acts so normal that I ring her up as usual just to get rid of her.

There it is again on the next guy’s face, then the woman and her baby in a stroller – hollow eyes. Nobody freaks when they look at each other, so that’s how I know it’s a problem with me.

I call my manager to say I’m sick, then I call the clinic. When Anita gets to the store her eyes are hollow, too, and her lips are fading. It’s not her teeth I see, but the shelves behind her head, faint and dim.

I drive to the clinic through crowds of people with fading faces. When I get to the waiting room the admitting nurse has no head. She asks me to sit and I stare at headless people on the magazines.

When I see the doctor –most of him– he tells me he’s heard of this. It’s an immune disorder. It changes brains exposed to decades of advertising and movie storytelling.

The doctor uses his hands a lot when he talks. He waves, he gestures, he plays with a tongue depressor as he’s telling me this response affects perceptions. It masks expression. The brain extrapolates what’s behind the eyes, the mouth, eventually the whole head.

His hands fade away. Fuzziness travels up his arms all the way to his shoulders. There’s a white-coated torso on legs with bits of head and a lot of hair saying there’s been no cure yet, that whatever I’ve got has been treated as hysterical blindness. Here’s a referral for you, he says.

When I pass back through the waiting room the nurse’s head and arms are gone. A waiting patient is losing his legs, too. The nurse says something, but her voice is drowned out by the hum of her computer.

I walk to my car among diminishing people. The radio gives me static and patches of silence where there should be stations.

Lucy! I should get to her office and tell her I love her while there’s some of her to see. I start the car, and pull into a traffic of driverless cars. Intersections pass in a blur, green lights clearing my way to her.

A bump, the shocks mostly compensating. I slow, checking the rear view mirror and see nothing. It’s a nothing I know must be something. More thumps, and I stop altogether. My door opens by itself, my belt unbuckles, and I am pulled from the car.

Are they concerned about me? Are they screaming? I hear nothing, I see nothing, and then the first blow lands.

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