Medical Microfiction: Synesthesia

The Amazing Synesthesia Man, Vol 1

When Synesthesia Man arrived in Malburg, evildoers feared him for his unusual ability to convert ambient text in his vicinity into sensations. After he overcame the Grammar Nazi with an assault of killer B’s, crime virtually ended overnight.

One rare letter in the alphabet caused him nausea, but he didn’t see it often.

It was all well and good until the day he chased The Booby Trapper into what appeared to be a pet shop. The vomiting began immediately. Synesthesia Man realized he’d been lured to his doom inside an adult bookstore.

Clearly his arch-nemeses, the XXX-Men, had planned everything.


Cover of
The Green Lantern: another superhero with synesthesia?

Today’s story came out of a conversation on the Drabblecast forums sparked by another forumite’s excellent 100-word story on a synesthesia theme. Since I write this medical microfiction blog, someone asked if I planned to write on this word too. Confession: the other story was vastly better. Really, the puns in mine got out of control. Killer B’s? Really, what was I thinking?

But we’re here to talk about synesthesia, which is when a person experiences a subjective sensation based on a stimulus of another type. To put it another way, it’s when you hear music and taste it, or when you read a word and the word has color.

This condition comes in any conceivable variety you can think of, but certain types are more common than others. The most common type of synesthesia is grapheme–> color synesthesia. This is when a person sees the letters of the alphabet (graphemes) and experiences them in shades of color. In today’s story, Synesthesia Man demonstrates something akin to this version. Maybe we’d call his variety grapheme–>tactile synesthesia since for him, letters result in textures or sensations.

I’ve met two synesthetes in my life. One had grapheme–>color synesthesia as described above. The other one was my medical terminology professor, who clearly gets credit for this blog. He experienced grapheme–>sound synesthesia. He’d say things like, “When you see the word helminthiasis, don’t you just hear the most beautiful strains of Brahms?”

I think it’s a misnomer to call synesthesia a disorder. It’s just too cool; I’d sign up in an instant if they were handing out synesthesia genes.

Regardless, watch out for adult bookstores. The XXX-Men might get you.

Have you met anyone with synesthesia, or experienced it yourself?


6 thoughts on “Medical Microfiction: Synesthesia

      1. Whoa! Your tumblr is awesome! I am going to waste hours on it. I’ve added it as a link to my post so other people can discover it as well. 🙂 Okay, I’m curious: what flavor of synesthesia do you experience?

      2. I project:

        Musical Pitch->Color
        Musical Chords->Color
        Musical Instruments->Color

        And I associate:

        Sequences->Spatial locations
        (Sequences such as numbers, weekdays or months)
        But I can see time in color, not like how far it is from me, like how much time left before I go from college to my house is avocado green

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