Medical Microfiction: Encephalic

Fireflies

Lights on.

I awake remembering the fireflies.

Brief consciousness. It’s probing my memories again.

I would scream, but I no longer have lungs. Or a face.

I remember everything now. Fireflies on the lawn of the graveyard. Then it broke from the mausoleum: a horror in flesh, studded with the mismatched limbs of the dead. They were still moving. As it groped for me, I glimpsed the inside of its putrid flank: rows of human brains embedded in rot.

Now it wakes me only when I’m needed. Another node in its processor.

I remember fireflies flaring and fading.

Lights off.

———————————————————————————————————-

neuron fractal 4
Neuron fractal. (Photo credit: Anthony Mattox)

Last time we talked about disembodied organs, I gave you a few suggestions on what to do you if you ever get to hang out with your liver. Today’s word encephalic means pertaining to the brain (not to be confused with myeloencephalic). Etymologically, it’s a nifty word because “en” means “inside” and “cephal” means “head”. To the ancient Greeks, the brain was “that thing inside your head”.

Well, I’m not one to argue with the ancient Greeks!

This story’s my attempt to write H.P. Lovecraft-style horror in 100 words. The problem is that Lovecraft never said anything in 100 words or less. As a writer, he’s known for his dense, descriptive writing style designed to evoke the feeling of terror.

Since the brain’s the name of the game today, I chose the central image of fireflies to suggest how an electrical signal brings a neuron in the brain to life. I’ll spare you the complex description of how neurons fire–at least for today–and anyway, it’s best done in person, with a pen and napkin and lots of hand-waving. We often talk about the brain using analogies about “wiring” because, at least to some degree, this is how neurons work. When a certain level of voltage is created in a neuron (called an action potential), the neuron “fires” and sends a signal down its long axon, or tail, which can have a lot of different effects depending on the type of neuron.

Human brain - midsagittal cut
Human brain – midsagittal cut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this case, the poor narrator’s brain is being used by the monster of horror as a processor of sorts. Whenever an electrical impulse enters the now-disembodied brain, the poor guy becomes briefly conscious, just long enough to remember how he got there, before the monster switches him off again.

Fortunately, none of us will ever have to face such a fate. …I think.

Any other Lovecraft fans out there? What’s your favorite horror story or author?

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