EMOTIONAL TREPANNING

Sarah had found out about this on the Dark Web. It was a procedure that was supposed to get rid of emotional trauma. The humiliations of wasted love, the dead bodies of friends, the memories of being wrong-footed,  the miscarried babies, the unuttered words, the appalling tactical errors, the paths followed for years that turned out to be cul-de-sacs. The pains of all these could, it seemed, be neutralised by one simple operation. She paid in advance. It wasn’t cheap.

 

She went to the building as instructed, and found a queue of people outside. Gradually they shuffled to the door, and the concierge said to her at last: “it’s your turn now.” Sarah sidled through the door. It slammed behind her and she tried to peer through the gloom. The ceiling was high and the lights were low. A small man stood by an operating table. His fingers were long and his nails longer, and he invited her to lie down. “This may feel a little strange” he said, as he picked up a large wooden mallet and a long metal spike. 

 

He explained that trepanning was an ancient technique for alleviating distress and that, by letting in a little air to the brain in the required spot, the patient would soon cease to feel emotional anguish. It was, perhaps, more crude than the chemical cosh favoured by the medical establishment, but wasn’t it worth a try? Her devils could all be let out. Sarah nodded.

 

There must have been some narcosis involved, as she didn’t feel a thing, except that she heard some far-off hammering in the Hall of the Mountain King. When she awoke, she realised that all the others - the patients, the man with the hammer - had gone, and she was left with an almighty migraine. She put her hand to the top of her head, and found a small indentation. She caressed it, and it made a whistling sound, like the wind howling across the Russian Steppes. 

 

But how did she feel? What of the emotional ills that had assailed her, the anxieties that had wracked her? They were certainly muffled. Perhaps this might be a comfortable way to live. It was the wind across the Steppes that was disquieting, and remained so. It made her think of a wasteland, with tumbleweed scudding across the plain like clouds in the sky. For Sarah, the wind signified emptiness and forgetfulness. And nothing could be worse than that. 

 

Ever a meddler, she decided to try and fill in the hole, which by now was emitting puffs of air and a hooting sound, and making her feel like a steam train of old. She went to the garden shed and found some bone meal. She took a tablespoon of it, and mixed it with water and some powdered chalk till it was the right consistency. Then, with the aid of a little mirror, she spooned it in. The vent was sealed.

 

Nothing happened for awhile. Then she started to feel the onset of her old malaise: “hello Darkness, my old friend”. But this time it was different. All of a sudden she realised that erasing her anxieties had also wiped out her past. It was not that she welcomed her mistakes back again, but that they had made her who she was.  And she could not live without her roots, without knowing how she had travelled from there to here. It was fruitless to try to forgive those who had caused her pain - why should she? Burial or burning was too good for them. But she ought to try and forgive herself. And that was how - by cooling and crystallising, by burnishing and glossing - the trepanning was undone. And she never thought of the man with the hammer and the spike again.

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© 2020 by Sue Harper

feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | supernatural | fantastic and paranoia | literary female gothic | gothic narrative | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest | portsmouth university | emeritus professor sue harper | feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | outstanding achievement award | british association of film, theatre and television | professor of film history at portsmouth university | film, media and creative arts | british academy and the arts and humanities research council | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest |