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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Neuroplasticine

by Terry Pearce


 

 

It was a miracle he survived; everybody said so. The cop who got the call wrote it off before he’d parked the car, and when the fuel tank went up that sealed it. He started writing up the report – no survivors – then had to do a second draft when Jed McGrady’s reappearance tore up that script. Jed had crawled away unseen and bleeding, but conscious. His ears were ringing with something between a tune and a tone that would never stop or repeat itself from that day on, and he couldn’t see a thing. Still, he managed to hole himself up in an alley nearby, only emerging ten minutes later, on cue to mess up the paperwork.
 
Already annoyed, the cop took even less kindly to Jed’s assurance that the last thing he remembered seeing before the accident was the smell of burnt almonds.
 
In fact, Jed’s last ever sight was the wall looming larger and larger as the brakes locked and the car flipped like a tiddlywink. The hit to his head took out his eyes and played his cortex like a jackhammer trying to extract Beethoven’s fifth from a piano. The neurologists had a hard time feigning sympathy; Jed could taste their glee at getting to play with his brain; a new and unique toy. All Jed knew was that where some guys’ lost senses were compensated by the others pitching in all the harder, his others just got mixed up and seemed to amble around bumping into each other.
 
With his sight lost altogether, tasting sounds and hearing smells was the last thing he needed. His sense of touch was the only one that seemed to retain its original accuracy; the only one he could trust. Trapped inside his skin, his screwy senses became his world.
 
It wasn’t quite true, though, that he couldn’t see at all. Two eyes would never work again, but the third, inside his head, began partying with his cross-wired senses. He could picture things vividly up there, but not so accurately, and his memories seemed mixed up in the whole affair, too. He couldn’t remember what his wife looked like, but every time the dulcet tones of her nagging and moaning wafted under his nose, he saw her in his head. An apple, with nails coming out of scores on its skin, like a demon he’d once seen in a horror movie; sweet to taste but disfigured and capable of lashing out and lacerating. As soon as she opened her mouth he could almost taste the chalk on the blackboard, making his tongue wince and shrink through the sheer screeching of the flavour.
 

The marriage didn’t long outlast the accident.
 
Friends were supportive, of course. His door always smelled to him like horses hooves when anyone would beat on it, and so when his friends called he would picture them as horses trotting around his lounge (which was now a potting shed). Palominos, greys, ponies, carthorses… all the pretty horses would come and visit Jed, and the cacophony of their braying would often remind him of a spice kitchen; Bill’s cumin tones and Sal’s broad paprika drawl gave him immense comfort.
 
When Jake’s cousin Audrey started to come visit with them, he saw her as a chrome and silver mare, towering over the others. The coriander and chilli in her voice were like music to his nostrils, and when he got to feel her skin, he was sure.
 
And so Jed stood at the altar for the second time, having divorced the spiked apple, happy to be marrying his towering Pegasus. The way a church looked escaped him completely, but his college days supplied an old computer-game scenario for a venue, and as the horses bayed and whinnied fragrantly in the pews, the pixellated yellow contour lines of the church surrounded the happy couple. The jolly voice of the vicar tickled Jed’s palette, and so he imagined him a giant red ball.
 
Jed stood proud in his black computer-generated suit with his shining equine beauty at his side, and said his vows loud and clear. The towers rang their bells, and the air echoed with the sweet sound of apple sauce.