One Picture, One Story
Bruce stared at the candle light dancing slowly on the walls. He was mesmerized by the warm colour as it whisked about the room like an owl moving silently through the air as it stalked its prey. He returned his gaze to the candles he had lit on the old, worn oak table in front of him. He reflected on his day; the successes, the failures, the good and the bad. He ran his hand slowly over the tops of the flames, holding it just long enough to feel a touch of pain before moving it to the side. He continued this practice for hours as he catalogued the minutes of the day gone by. He wrote down the thoughts, the feelings, the smells, the tastes, the sounds and the textures of the day on his yellow, lined paper pad he kept in the small drawer in the weathered table. He always began with his favourite part of the day because it flowed easily from his pen to his paper. It helped to raise his spirits enough to get through the mundane details of some of the other happenings of his day. He kept track so meticulously because he thought the only way to experience life to its fullest was to analyze it and dig at it in an effort to suck every last piece out of it. He never admitted it, but the practice seemed to cause more misery than it did joy. Bruce was known to view life more as a long, painful science experiment so maybe he just assumed that it was meant to be miserable. Bruce broke from his writing and stared at the palm of his hand. The flames of the candles had stained it black and it was quite warm to the touch. He smiled slightly when he noticed a small blister forming where the flames had burnt him; he poked at it, lightly at first, and smiled wider with the pain.
I burnt my palm with my candles today, he wrote, and the resulting pain was euphoric. I never knew that such a feeling could be attained from three small flickers of flame on a string embraced by wax. First I felt the heat for a moment and moved it to the side, but felt nothing that I cared to report. I continued writing as I kept up the practice, staying briefly over the flame each time. Still nothing. I began moving my hand to the point of touching the flame; the first time caused me to pull back rather quickly, but the slight rush of excitement enticed me to try again, only this time I would hold it there for as long as I could. The pain became intense, but I held it there all the same. The different sensations that arose were intense and wonderful! I must do this again; maybe with a larger or hotter flame.
Bruce continued to poke the blister as it grew, stopping only to examine it in the dim candle-light. His white skin bubbled as the puss filled in; it was such a perfect dome that he couldn’t imagine popping it. He pushed harder every time until it finally burst, causing small droplets of puss to land on his cheek. At first he was disappointed that something so perfect had been destroyed, but as he watched the liquid draining out of the wound he began to smile. He blew lightly on the now open wound, cringing briefly with the shot of pain that always followed. He smiled, satisfied with his experience, and placed the pen and paper back in the worn out drawer. He sat back in his chair and watched the dancing candle-light a little longer, allowing his mind to wander to and fro, from reality to fantasy, and from the future to the past. He didn’t try to stop it or linger too long on any certain topic. He merely let his mind do what it wanted as he enjoyed the journey. He listened to his breathing and counted the seconds it took to inhale and the seconds it took to exhale wondering just how best to experience the action. Nothing was too mundane to analyze and experience and nothing was too small to ignore. Some nights Bruce would count how many times he would blink in an hour; other nights he would count the hairs sprouting from his arms. Bruce never entertained the idea that what he was doing was strange or eccentric in any way and assumed that others dealt with life the same way he did. Maybe that was why he never talked about his record keeping or why he didn’t feel at all guilty when he finally crossed into the realm of experimenting on others. He assumed everyone had done it and couldn’t come up with a reason why it was in any way wrong; especially if the data could be used to better the lives of the larger populace. It was merely just data for the furthering of science was what he had written in his journal. He stood and surveyed the cages that surrounded the room, each one holding a test subject and each subject heavily sedated to stop them from injuring themselves. He checked the water and food levels in their cages, writing down the figures with the time as he did. People would thank him for his wonderous work, he knew they would.