11 Jul

When she was little, just out of nappies and full of curiosity, Tina put her hand too close to an electrical appliance and contrived to flick her fingers past a live wire, and as a consequence she howled at the shock she received as 240ish volts found their way through her little body.

Electrical shocks can kill.

Electrical shocks can burn.

This one did neither, but it did do something unexpected. In the microsecond that it jagged through her body it rearranged something inside her head, and the rearrangement was possibly permanent.

From that moment on, and just out of nappies and curious, she found that every colour she saw was a sound and every sound in her environment was a colour. And it was very annoying, especially as she couldn’t explain to anyone what had happened to her because, in all truth she didn’t know.

When the wall clock, an old mechanical beast that her father was inordinately proud of, struck the hour with a resonant gong as far as she was concerned it was a resonant green that flooded in waves from the damned thing and filled her head like a dirty great pasture. And when her parents proudly took her to the park to have a go on the swings, the grass that they ran and walked on wasn’t green but a vibrating b flat. It wasn’t that she disliked b flat or any musical note, but it was annoying none-the-less.

So Tina’s childhood was far from normal and didn’t get any better as she approached the age to start school.

Her biggest problem came with speech because, not matter how hard she tried she couldn’t produce the right shade of beige to describe life, and everyone needs to be able to describe their experiences. She produced fawns and browns and ochres and even primrose yellows, but none of them said I’m alive like she wanted to say I’m alive. She could point to a paint palette in utter frustration because her own set of paints had but twelve colours and she wasn’t allowed to mix them because when she did she produced an ugly series of diarrhoea browns all of which looked positively hideous even thought they did get close to describing her own experiences of being.

Her parents might have questioned why she didn’t seem to respond to sounds and sights like other children, but they put it down to a special talent she had, one that time would nurture, and she didn’t want the expertise of experts to wipe it out like experts can. They wanted their Tina’s special qualities to be enhanced, not reduced, which probably shows how little they really understood them.

The school had a special and very smart uniform even for little ones, and hers was a blue blouse and grey skirt with pleats. That would have been perfectly fine only grey was an annoying note. It was rich and bold and almost as annoying as black. Tina could quite enjoy a few brief notes of grey but when it was there all the time, in her face and round her legs, it became a torment and she wept.

Her parents assumed that it was the skirt that hurt her, and changed it for another one made in a softer, more tactile material, but that other one was equally grey and doleful, and when little Tina howled because of it they began to wonder what might be wrong with her.

The school was light and modern and the classrooms gaily coloured in clean pastels, and this where Tina won out because her classroom was a delightful shade of pastel green, almost white but discernibly green as well, and she loved b flat. So she sat there surrounded by a twenty-three other children humming the colour of the walls to herself, and the twenty-three other children thought there might be something wrong with her.

Some thought she might actually be touched in the head, and being little and innocent they said so.

The message got to their homes, that there was a mad child in their class, that she was a dangerous lunatic who displayed every quality that a psychotic killer might show when that psychotic killer was of infant age.

Questions were asked and bit by bit Tina’s handicap (if that was what it was) came out and a doctor was found who claimed to understand her kind of sensory confusion. He said it was perfectly all right, that she would either grow out of it or be educated out of it and then would show the world what a clever little girl she was. And he proceeded to try to educate the problem out of her.

His motive was selfish. But then, most motives are, but his was selfish to the extreme. He wanted to make more than a name for himself, he wanted to be awarded all manner of honours, university degrees, various prizes with a monetary value attached, and all for demonstrating how little Tina could be made to hear sounds and see colours for the first time under his skilled tutelage.

After a year or so he was dismissed. The education authority couldn’t afford to pay for an expert who wasn’t, apparently, very expert because he made no significant difference to the sensory life of little Tina who was slowly becoming a bigger Tina. But he wrote a book about her, and that sold a few copies and made him feel worthy of his doctor’s degree.

The years passed. They do, don’t they? And Tina became a delightful but confused teenager who had learned music by copying paintings by Constable with consummate skill. The Haywain was, to say the least, a symphonic masterpiece even though there were some, mainly musicians, who said it was a cacophony of nauseating sounds. Little did they know.

She was promoted to secondary school, a special secondary school because of her inability to communicate without squeaking, and at that secondary school she did a whole range of subjects, including physics.

F sharp became the girl’s eventual downfall.

F sharp was the colour of the electrical plug that provided power to the computers in the physics room.

And you’ve got it before me, haven’t you?

Switch the computers on, Tina,” asked Mr Robertson.

Something inside her head flashed blue and puce as she acknowledged the instruction. And one of the plugs was loose. And her fingers ventured accidentally behind its plastic case and touched something metallic at precisely the same moment as she depressed the switch with her other hand.


That hurt!” she yelped as 240 volts jagged through her and touched her brain and in a moment all the delightful music of the world became a dirge devoid of light and shade and anything beautiful.

© Peter Rogerson 10.07.17


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