Handling the Contents of Consciousness

A case study by Goire Zatla, as provided by Soramimi Hanarejima
Art by Ariel Alian Wilson

Keeping this secret from you has become so taxing that I have to use the venom of sleep bugs to tame the eagerness to divulge it.

In the mornings, I apply this toxin to the region of my memory where the secret resides. A little dab of it spreads easily from my fingertip across that part of my mind, cool and thick, greasy until it dries to leave only a minty, vaporous sensation. It’s marvelously effective. This insect secretion from the local apothecary preemptively soothes the itch, which will otherwise inevitably flare up by the middle of breakfast, and the relief it provides lasts well into the evening. After a few days of performing this practice, it is assimilated into my morning bathroom routine, tucked cozily between washing my face and brushing my teeth. Like I’ve been doing this for years.

But after a week, I find that this use of sleep bug venom does have at least one side effect. It is numbing me to beauty. When I see a meteor shower or moonbow or quadrilateral triangle or northern pygmy owl, I merely note it as an exceptional phenomenon. No longer am I enthralled by that sense of ethereal, transient joy.

While this is concerning, the numbness to beauty does present one benefit: I will be able to converse with Qalixy without being in awe of her gorgeous personality.

So I arrange to meet her in conference room R, to provide critical, candid project feedback with a state of mind undistracted by her psychological splendor.

And indeed, within minutes of sitting down at the conference table, I’ve delivered all my comments on her work with pithy honesty. This leaves her plenty of time to ask follow-up questions, most of which are concerned with my emotional responses to key facets of her project, particularly metaphor repurposing and thought nucleation catalysis.

“But how does that make you feel?” she keeps asking.

Art for "Handling the Contents of Consciousness"

That won’t do at all. Beauty is a deep part of all this. I can’t believe you’ve been missing out on that.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2019 collection.

Having forsaken aspirations to join the intelligentsia, Goire Zatla is a metaphysiologist whose research focuses on memory, emotion, and consciousness. Goire’s recent studies have examined the properties possessed by a shard of shattered attention and responses to immoderate chronesthesia.

Soramimi Hanarejima is a writer of innovative fiction and the author of Visits to the Confabulatorium, a fanciful story collection that Jack Cheng said “captures moonlight in Ziploc bags.” Soramimi’s recent work has appeared in various literary magazines, including Panoply, Pulp Literature, and The Absurdist.

Ariel Alian Wilson is a few things: artist, writer, gamer, and role-player. Having dabbled in a few different art mediums, Ariel has been drawing since she was small, having always held a passion for it. She’s always juggling numerous projects. She currently lives in Seattle with her cat, Persephone. You can find doodles, sketches, and more at her blog www.winndycakesart.tumblr.com.

“Handling the Contents of Consciousness” is © 2018 Soramimi Hanarejima
Art accompanying story is © 2018 Ariel Alian Wilson

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