Christian Hayden lives and writes in Chicago, IL. He is the winner of the 2013 William Richey Short Fiction Contest. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Word Riot, Yemassee, and Forge Journal.
If you have not exploded I do not recommend it. I can smell my own blood. Olfactory perception, if you do not know, is the physical settling of invisible particles of matter on the nasal epithelium. In other words you are not only smelling shit or death; there are microscopic fragments of shit or death landing in your nose.
What is odd about smelling my own blood is that my nose has of course exploded also. I can only conclude that a few airborne, exploded cells of nasal epithelium met a few airborne, exploded red blood cells. They embraced. If that is too sentimental for you then you can imagine they struck each other like male long-horned sheep desperate to mate.
At any rate it hardly seems to matter how they collided. The point is that even though I have no nose and no intact brain I am able perceive the smell of my own blood. In other words I am still receiving information from the far-flung elements of my body.
There is a great deal of pain, obviously. Now my default physical reality is pain, much in the way your default physical reality is air and room temperature. I am pained the way you are likely slightly too cold or slightly too hot at this very moment. In other words it does not bother me overmuch. I do not have any fancy metaphors to describe the pain because it is not fancy. It is just there.
I feel the need to defend myself. I am in a laboratory. I am not in some Marxist’s brownstone. I am not on a military base. I am not lighting my shoes on fire on a commercial airliner with sweat on my chest.
I am in a laboratory. I will be honest and tell you that I do not recall what I was doing immediately prior to the explosion. My gyri have been pulled taut like an accordion and my sulci have been smoothed over like sand in a rock garden. And yet I am still receiving sensory input. Where is this sensory input coming from, and for that matter where am I receiving it? These are two wheres I cannot account for.
From one of the wheres a screwdriver with a yellow handle appears. I am capable of calling up this screwdriver again and again. When I try to think of the events preceding (and almost certainly causing) the explosion I can summon only the screwdriver. I would say it taunts but that would be exaggerating for dramatic effect; it does not taunt. It is just there.
Other things are not so easily recalled. My profession, which surely involved a screwdriver, a laboratory, and some explosive material. My home and family. Was I married. Did I have children. Was I gay or straight or black or white or male or female. None of this is summonable.
But much of me is complete. I have the use of my letters, as you can see. I have a social security number, likely mine or my spouse’s: 947-62-3303. I have the capital of North Dakota, which is Bismarck. I can tell you that the capital of North Dakota is Bismarck with the same clarity and light-flooding joy that some individuals experience when they tell you that Christ is Lord.
I must tell you I am not a victim. I am sure of this. At least, not a victim of human spite or malice. A victim of an explosion, certainly, but I do not blame the explosion.
Besides I am sure that the explosion was my fault. But I am not a suicide. I would like to be very clear about that. My warm memories of friends and family have fallen out but I know that there was love in me at some point. I have every reason to believe I was loved and enjoyed. Having exploded I am likely dead, I suppose. But I imagine that I’ll be mourned.
I cannot recommend it. But at least afterwards you will realize that much of what contained you contained you because you let it.