The Nothing in the Wall

An essay by Felix Glerke, as provided by Christopher Lynch
Art by Luke Spooner

Three things run in my family: genius, instability, and unmanageable hair. The ratio of each of these to each other varies, but all three are always there. I believe that had my father had more unmanageable hair, or a less inventive barber, he would never have taken a hammer and a rail spike to his own skull and lobotomized himself whilst I was sitting on the floor in front of him, arranging my building blocks into a crude representation of DNA. Despite being less than two years old, I believe I understood what he was doing. I still wake in the night, the image of him looming over me with the hammer in his hand and the imagined warm splatter of his blood on my face fresh and vivid in my mind. My own hair, thank God, is an unholy mess and nightmares were to be the extent, for many years, of any psychosis.

Eight years after my father drove a rail spike into his own brain, he visited me at my private school. I had been there since the age of four. Contrary to popular belief, the school system is very good at noticing exceptional individuals and ensuring that they are educated somewhere where they can reach their full potential. The sad truth, for all those parents who think their gifted children are being failed by the system, is that their children just aren’t that bright. Not like me, or the other boys and girls in the special school. We were the future of everything; it stood to reason that the government would like us all in one place.

Secrecy was a part of it, of course, but as an alumnus, even a lobotomized one, my father was allowed some limited access. We walked in the grounds and I counted, with unerring accuracy, the leaves on the trees above us as I waited for his slow wits to conjure a sentence.

“Your mother is dead,” he said eventually.

“Suicide?” I asked. Mother was both brilliant and beautiful, which of course meant that she must also have been quite, quite mad.

“Yes,” he replied. He was obviously taken aback by how forward I was.

“How?” I asked.

My father frowned. I could not tell if my question displeased him or if his brow was furrowed by the effort of concentration to speak.

“Vaporised,” he said, after a short pause.

“Elegant,” was my only reply. “No mess.”

“Show me a genius, and I will show you a lonely man,” he replied sadly. His sudden candor took me by surprise, and I stopped walking, and counting, for a moment.

“I’m not sure I understand,” I said.

“I hope you never do, son.”

He left that day and was dead himself before the end of the year. I heard it involved another rail spike, but the details held little interest for me. By then I was almost eleven and hitting what I believed might be my intellectual peak. I had been recruited from my private school to be part of a top-secret government research project, and my work was everything now.

I had to know, you see, just how smart I was.

It was the only way to be sure that I wasn’t about to go mad at any moment. The cleverer I was, the saner I was, just so long as I didn’t brush my hair.

The Nothing in the Wall

“We’ve decided to close the project.”
“You can’t,” I replied, never taking my eyes off the latest set of equations that snaked up and off one of the chalkboards and across the wall. “I am so close. So close to understanding it.”

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2014 collection.

Felix Glerke is the son of renowned previous contributors William Glerke and Septima Glerke.

Educated at the prestigious Warroh Academy, his earliest contribution to the scientific community was at age eight.

Holding doctorates in mathematics and physics, and winner of the heavily contested Haggerty Prize, he is currently on retreat in Brightwalls Facility for the Impaired and Maladjusted.

Chris Lynch lives and works in Cardiff with his wife, two sons, and no cats. He would have fewer cats if this were mathematically possible.

Chris wrote “The Dark” for AAM/Markosia, a graphic novel, and co-created the seminal UK horror anthology Monkeys with Machineguns. Chris also edited the Red Cross genre-fiction charity anthology Hammer of Time.

Chris has also written for a number of UK and US publications including work for The Judge Dredd Megazine, Arcana, Metaverse, The Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel, 2026 Books, Accent UK, Something Wicked, The Sorrow, and Insomnia Publications.

Luke Spooner a.k.a. ‘Carrion House’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at

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