11 | julianne sylvia

mary callahan before her pills kick in — monday

At 8:30 PM exactly, Mary Callahan took her pills with soy milk instead of water. On the generic sticky label, whose sole purpose was to designate the owner of the disorderly mind, the text stated to TAKE 1 BY MOUTH EVERY NIGHT AT BEDTIME. The label did not say with what kind of liquid. Soy milk, apparently made from beans, served as a confusing substitute. Mary started up her computer’s search engine to research the science of soy milk. The results were too many to be motivating. 2,850,000 results. She decided to keep the science of soy milk a mystery to be spoiled later. The first yawn was coming. 8:34 PM.

It could not be worse than cow’s milk, which she could not drink. Lest her leg become a vise of pain. Mary Callahan, current age of nineteen, had been accustomed and allergic with that kind of pain since the days of Nick Jr. The best description was a vise with an old handle that creaked with each notch. The notches leveled a growing intensity too much for a four-year-old. Mary thought back to her early years. The recollection consisted of the little girl essentials: ballet lessons she got too shy to finish, pretending to be a mommy and then complaining about the authentically crying plastic doll, hanging upside down on the bed in order to be put into stockings for Easter, and almost bleeding to death in a dental chair. She hated that hand-me-down sailor suit. She feared the dentist. At the end of the botched drilling (all she remembered were her restrained limbs and the agony of misplaced Novocain), the dentist had the audacity to give Mary a Certificate for an Excellent Patient! A truce of some sorts. 9:01 PM.

Mary closed the Internet browser and went through her other childhood fears in alphabetical order: Christopher Lloyd, Disobeying Authority, Movie Theaters, Sharks, The Dark, Worms. They appeared as capitalized on paper as in her own mind. She opened a new composition notebook to explain the six, but realized that no one except her would care for an explanation (no matter how witty it was). Possible publishers would fail to give a damn. She might commit the idea to paint. The second her other painting series reached completion and personal satisfaction, she would do it. A triptych multiplied by two suited the idea. Not tonight of 9:28 PM. She looked at her closet door, which was where the painting series hung in progress. Instead of canvas, the paintings came to supposed life on cardboard salvaged from cereal boxes and yarn scraps. Only four more planets to go. If they truly did have life living on them that was beside the point.

Mary attempted to discover the artistic point as she doodled an outline of a swampland in the wide-ruled lines. The one science fiction story she read about Venus was written in the 1930s, collected thirty-nine years later by Isaac Asimov, and proven wrong by the return of Venera 9. Stanley predicted Venus as a wetland lush in otherworldly vegetation and extra-terrestrial rain. Ray took it to a psychotic level fifteen years later. What she got from those two were long rain and parasites. Mary drew rain with a surrealists intention. All that came out were thin diagonal lines. What yarn color would suit Venusians? Probably emerald green. 10:04 PM.

She did nothing in particular for the next sixty seconds. In the following sixty seconds, Mary found herself plagued by the second yawn. It signaled the pills finally sizzling, bubbling, or whatever gerund applied to them in her stomach. The gerund gave off the sense of sudden hunger, if you are curious. Mary often purposely misconstrued it to satisfy the gerund. Recently, she recognized that this constituted over-eating and something that would definitely make her fat in the future. So, Mary continued to sit cross-legged in her desk chair and the gerund remained a gerund rather than becoming the adjective obese. As the wave of introductory drowsiness occurred, Mary’s damaged attention span rebounded with a barrage of anxiety she had experienced that week. There were very little in-between fantasies.

What if I succumb to post-traumatic stress disorder in college and have nothing but flashbacks of when I was eight and nothing made any sense? Mary ransacked her pencil cup for a quick utensil. What if I’m all wrong? The scrap paper box was scraped out from under her desk. What if the End of the World is the title of tomorrow? Her stumbling started and the felt tip missed the ripped index card. What if I really am deteriorating as we speak? Her handwriting entirely skipped the lines. What if we really are addicted to the lullaby of the digital screen? Mary folded each scrap into a square. What if my ineptitude at video games is a sign of ineptitude at life in general? Mary stuck the squares into the jar painted and marked: Seeds for Science Fiction Short Stories.

In the amount of time left for her raging thoughts, Mary wrote some science fiction. She had to be ready for the magazines by February. The seven stories that she was preparing for publication represented themselves as a collected secret mission scrawled in several notebooks. Not particularly nice notebooks. Only those black-and-white tokens of nostalgia that were known to fourth graders at a lunch money price. Mary could not help connecting the worth of her words with the notebook’s monetary value. Her latest one cost her 40 cents. This would probably endanger her later. 10:12 PM.

For now, she sat at her crowded desk with her crowded mind and wrote with a pen in a crowded notebook. She flipped it over to see the taped and stained print-out of Rod Serling. His guidance did very little outside the zone that he created. A part of Mary had hoped that Mr. Serling somehow would narrate her through this cheap school supply. The third yawn commencing, Mary wrote exactly 100 words:

It wasn’t a crime to weave, at least not for them. ‘Controversial‘ is a good way to define it. Things were good in some minds and bad in others. Sparks of documentaries, lessons for children, and intergalactic debates were ignited from the subject of weaving. One of which ended with swift static after a Martian threw a chair. Controversial is also a good way to define the universe.

The fact is: whether it was sane or insane, good or bad, criminal or hobby, a new division of the 1512 Galaxy Force had to be organized.

“Perfect job we have, huh?

The story left her in another sweep of forceful theta brain waves.

Rapid Eye Movement to commence in twenty minutes.

The fourth yawn commenced in two seconds.

Her thought wave pattern died to a trickle of mere fragments.

Just as well… the story aired its plot holes to her in the third paragraph.

Supposed to write 750 words about her actual future.

The student loan inspired one.

The due date was in March.

Its exposition performed with rightful urgency by her mother.


The very month she wrote her first book.

Five years ago?

Maybe six.

The milestone only initiated from 750 words.

The words explained her intended study…

Life experiences that prepared that study…

Her core interests…

How she could accomplish the study in an interdisciplinary curriculum…

…and the transfer of her credits.

What credits did she own?

Apparently, living nineteen years accounted for even less than she thought.

The clock read 10:17 PM.

Her future depended upon an application, school credit, and a fee of twenty dollars.

Not at all a seed for possible submissions to the great Asimov and Clarke.

Wait, they were dead.

Her eyelids gained the weight of titanium sheets.

What else to do?

Marys latest novella needed editing.

Marys latest chemistry lesson needed figuring out. Zn (s) + NOi>3 (aq) = NHi>3 (aq) +2n (OHi>4)

Mary’s comprehension of romantic poetry had three more days to be completed. The language is simple in images and not so surreal that it requires knowledge of surrealism or a background in poetry writing. It is even accessible to me, someone who loathes poetry and is reading it half-heartedly

The demanded application for college should be done and easy. My name is Mary Callahan and I want to go to college because

All of them due tomorrow, three days after tomorrow, and several tomorrows after tomorrow.

Double vision matched with tunnel vision destroyed all chance of last-minute focus.

She stumbled as she rose from her desk to get to bed.

The application should start less traditionally and more creatively.

I’ve happened upon a lot of fictional accounts of teenagers applying to college. Most of the coming-of-age stories, if not all of them, had the teenagers realizing how stretching the truth in their applications would cause a rejection by default. One story in particular depicted a board of a college torturing the applicant by making him do everything he claimed to do in his application.

Her Delta brain waves surged forth, eliminating the racing thoughts with the usual medicated victory.

The gerund died and the various adjectives of the Exhausted arrived too soon. Mary Callahan looked at the digital clock.

10:48 PM.

It all could wait until tomorrow (if the End of the World was not the title). Her pills had kicked in.

julianne sylvia has been known to be silent for long periods of time before indulging a bystander with Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know lifted from her commonplace notebooks. Currently, she is trying to understand the human lot and why there is no space exploration program anymore. Her credits are nil. Her anxieties produce science fiction instead of ulcers. Think of her whenever you happen upon yellowed Campbell Era anthologies.