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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
A Felony of Birds

by Harris Tobias
The Greer Agency

by Harris Tobias
Assisted

by Harris Tobias
Hold The Anchovies

by Harris Tobias
Alien Fruit

by Harris Tobias
Peaceful Intent--Stories of human/Alien Interaction

by Harris Tobias
CHRONON--Time Travel

by Harris Tobias
The Stang

by Harris Tobias

The Man Who Lost His Head

by

Harris Tobias



Nathan Borokovsky woke up before the sun, before the alarm clock. He reached a sleepy hand out to silence the unnecessary alarm lest it disturb Hannah snoring softly beside him. He went to the bathroom for his morning ablutions. He turned on the light, looked in the mirror and almost fainted. The man looking back at him had no head.

Nathan could feel his head with his hands. He could see out from his eyes which reason told him must be located somewhere in his head.  He just couldn’t see it. All he could see was his body from the shoulders down. Of his head there was no sign, nothing but the room behind him. It was a stunning revelation.  He must have stood there for a good ten minutes letting in sink in. He had a head, he just couldn’t see it.

Alarmed, Nathan shook Hannah awake. “Hannah, wake up.” He shook her until her eyes opened. She looked confused, “What’s the matter? Is something wrong?” she asked. She didn’t say, “What happened to your head.”

Relief flooded Nathan’s brain. If Hannah didn’t notice his missing head then it must still be there. “How do I look?” he asked just to make sure she was seeing him.

Hannah was mildly annoyed, “That’s what you woke me for? You look fine. Maybe brush your hair. Come here.” He bent toward her. She grabbed his tie and gave him a kiss. “Have a good day at work.” Since she was awake, she put on a housecoat and went downstairs to make them both breakfast.

He was puzzled. His condition seemed to be entirely in his head. He checked in the mirror at the foot of the stairs. He saw a headless man looking back at him. He could clearly see the stairs behind him. He put his hand to the back of his head and waggled his fingers. He saw them plainly in the mirror. He fought down the urge to run back upstairs and hide. What was happening to him? He thought about telling Hannah. She’d think he was losing his mind and maybe he was. Who could say that this wasn’t the first sign of some mental illness? Maybe he’d end up like his aunt Ida talking to invisible canaries for the last years of her life. Hannah would make him call Dr. Marcus for an appointment. Marcus would know he was crazy. Better not to tell anyone just yet. Maybe it would go away by itself.

Nathan managed to get through breakfast. His mouth still worked. It spoke and chewed and swallowed just like always except he knew it wasn’t like always. How could it be? Always was when he had a head, now he didn’t. When he was through eating he put his dishes in the sink, put on his coat, grabbed his briefcase and went to give Hannah a kiss goodbye.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Hannah said handing him his hat. “I swear you’d forget your head if it wasn’t attached to your body.” Nathan laughed out loud at that tired old saw.

He made his way to the train station like he had done for the last thirty years and waited in the crowd of commuters for the 6:35 to take him to the city. He felt self-conscious on the crowded train. He felt every eye was on him. Look at the headless man he could feel them saying but in reality no one paid him the slightest attention. All that day at work he felt light headed, distracted. Every time he passed a mirror or caught his reflection in a shiny surface he would check to see if his head was there. So far it wasn’t.

At lunch he caught glimpses of himself in store windows. He could see his hat floating above the empty space where his head used to be. Probably still was although he couldn’t swear to it. When he couldn’t see his reflection, he nervously rubbed his face and scratched his head just to reassure himself it was still there. This obsessive behavior only served to draw more attention to him. His coworkers noticed his constant fussing and asked if he was all right. What could he tell them? That he was just checking to see if his head was still there? By the end of the workday, he was a twitching, nervous wreck.

He was convinced that he was indeed losing his mind. What if he woke up tomorrow up and couldn’t see his hands or his feet? What if his arms disappeared, how would he work?

When he got home, he could no longer hide his condition from his wife. She could see that he wasn’t himself. When he explained about his missing head she was concerned and sympathetic. “Maybe you’re working too hard. Maybe we should take a vacation. Fresh air, a change of scene might be just what you need.”

So Nathan took a few precious vacation days off from work and Hannah packed a suitcase. They drove to the mountains where they rented a cabin on a lake. The setting was tranquil the cabin was quiet. Hannah took down the only mirror and put it in the closet to prevent Nathan’s obsessive looking. She needn’t have bothered. His reflection in the lake told him all he needed to know. For three days they hiked and boated, played cards and fished and, while Nathan did feel more relaxed, when they finally packed up to leave, his head was still missing.

At Hannah’s urging, he made an appointment with Dr. Marcus. On the day of the appointment, Nathan brushed his invisible teeth and hair.  He would have shaved his invisible beard but shaving invisible cheeks proved risky so he let his beard grow. Dr. Marcus listened to Nathan's story with a mixture of sympathy and professional skepticism. The doctor checked his temperature which was normal; blood pressure which was high; heart rate, also high.

“Are you under a lot of stress lately at home or at work?” Dr. Marcus asked.

Nathan shook his head or at least he thought he did.

The doctor thought for a while and said, “I’m going to prescribe a mild tranquilizer. Something to calm you down. If this doesn’t work we’ll try something else. Now go home and relax. Your head is exactly where it should be, believe me.” Then Dr. Marcus gave Nathan a friendly pat on the back and showed him to the door.

For the next week or two Nathan took the tranquilizers. And while they did have a calming effect on his body, they did not restore his missing head.

Another week passed, and by then Nathan realized that he was getting used to not having a head or at least one he could see. Not only was he feeling more relaxed about it, he realized it actually had a few advantages. For one thing, he didn’t miss shaving every day. Hannah trimmed his beard into what she said was a handsome shape. People generally liked his new look. Being invisible to himself was liberating in other ways. By not having the same old tired face looking back at him each morning, Nathan was free to invent any face he wanted. He was a blank slate that could be anything he wanted it to be— as handsome as a movie star, a rugged outdoorsman, a sensitive poet. It had a subtle effect on how he faced the world. It gave him more confidence. He found himself expressing his opinions more. His coworkers noticed him for the first time and started listening to what he had to say.

Hannah noticed changes that only a wife could. He was a better lover, more ardent more self-assured. When he faced himself in the mirror he did not look into the same old defeated eyes of a loser. Instead he saw nothing but potential, the raw stuff of imagination. When a man can have any face he wants, it liberates him, lifts him from the ordinary and makes him a man of mystery even to himself. Somehow the absence of a head became an opportunity to re-invent himself. His anonymity gave him the courage to change. He had to confess, not having a head was a great relief.

When Dr. Marcus called a few weeks later to check up on him, Nathan told him, “I’m doing fine, Doc, just fine.”

“Have you found your head?” Dr. Marcus asked half joking.

“In a manner of speaking,” Nathan replied, “In a manner of speaking.”


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2012-06-09 10:46:44
ccubed98 - interesting premise. metaphysical solution

2012-05-21 08:19:00
I don't know I can comment in Chinese~ It means:"Your stories are good!"

2012-05-21 08:17:27
你的作品很好看!

2012-04-01 18:58:35
Kinda reminded me of magical realism, or maybe a Twilight Zone episode. Not bad.




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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
A Felony of Birds

by Harris Tobias
The Greer Agency

by Harris Tobias
Assisted

by Harris Tobias
Hold The Anchovies

by Harris Tobias
Alien Fruit

by Harris Tobias
Peaceful Intent--Stories of human/Alien Interaction

by Harris Tobias
CHRONON--Time Travel

by Harris Tobias
The Stang

by Harris Tobias


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