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Out of my Mind 

By Brittany Ahn 

  1. Untitled
    By Kayley Ulmer


You’re just sitting there.

In a tiny little box office – selectively adorned in extreme minimalist style -- with perfectly symmetrical, solid white walls – exactly one full arm’s length apart; as if the room was tailored just for you; as if a clawing machine had clasped on for eternity to the sensitive tips of your fingers and tortured and tugged, left, right, back and forth, slapping the palms of your hands in excruciatingly deafening, thunderous pounds to the bruised sides of each pale wall. But this makes you even more content. You’ve always loved those things – divisible numbers, straight edges, smoothed out crinkles, evenly measured spaces – that odd perfection.

You’re sitting in a tiny black office spiny chair strapped effortlessly to the ceiling. But you? Effortless? Not so much. In every weak desire to stand up and bolt, you’re stopped immediately. Pitiful little mechanical screeches and squeaks sound out from the filthy, rust-encrusted metal screws holding the fragile structure together. Every inch of movement straps you in tighter and tighter. Like an old goldfish, hopelessly swimming around in circles and circles, you’re slamming you’re pea-sized head and uncontrollably flailing tail into mockingly transparent walls, desperate for a single breakaway moment.

“I’m out of my mind.” You hope you’ll snap out of it.

But the walls of the office tower high. Infectious orange flames torch file folders in file drawers and a million flying stacks of stringy loose papers -- letters to yourself, scribbled one liners, sticky notes of smeared ink and led fingerprint stains. A hundred identical copies of the same book, stacked neatly in your questioning version of the alphabetical order, fall from falling bookshelves. And those solid white walls crumble slowly into a blackening pile of burning charcoal and erupting volcanic ash, radiating a punishingly putrid, foul, fleshy odor. You shut your eyes hard, to find comfort in the dark; you’re frozen still in a flaming room.

Hours pass like weeks, and days pass like years. You jolt and scramble and yelp in shamefully pitchy, strained off-harmonies, echoing the faded shrieks of the shrinking black chair. You’re utterly ballistic under incapable silence as you scrape your bony fingers down your frail arms and legs – only to realize that the holes you mistakenly punctured through your skin in painlessly familiar places have been rung through with hooks, attached to chains, and now dangle from empty, black holes in the ceiling. You shiver.

But suddenly, unexpectedly, the pounding silences. The heavy hooks are cut like flimsy pink doll hair ribbons. The burning walls reconstruct into a million white Lego bricks stacked carefully, one exactly aligned on top of the other, soon melting and mending into six new flat walls. In exhaustion, you sigh heavily through an unbearably stuffy nose; the cloud of sticky, moist air swirls faster and faster into a concentrated tornado, rebounding against every wall before finally slamming right in front of your petrified, glued eyelids. Blinking slowly, you glance straight-forward, noticing a giant, ratted hole in the wall, an endless trail of pitch blackness. An escape!

But in the split second after, you hesitate. For no reasonable reason. You double think everything, in utter oblivion to the rugged pit – contrasting pure white walls with the unknown depths of darkness – growing smaller and smaller with each passing thought. You struggle and manage to collect all your might, and finally, ripping your arms through bloodless strains and rattling chains, you dive in, head first.

But in the spur of the slightest movement, the trap clamps shut, cranking against gravity like a closing sinkhole, disappearing so seamlessly as if never existing. The every force wasted on propelling your broken limbs and crumpled paper skin into mindless wonders of sinful detachment, shoves you back in one simple push. Knotted split-end strands of hair fly forth, crisscrossing from the roots into blindfolding shields pressed against stunned, delicate sheets of crystallizing ice forming on the surface of your pupils. Waves of trembling chills pulse down your spine, slamming you up against the backboard of the tiny black office spiny chair, locking you in. Once again.

You’re just sitting there.