Type 2 Amber Brains | Runner Up Mars Short Story Competition

During Space Week this October we called for entries for a short story competition based on Mars inspired by the NASA Visions of the Future poster series (pictured above). We received some fantastic entries and it was a tough choice for our judges Literature Editor Conor O’Donovan, Science Editor Neasa McGarrigle, and Space Expert Niamh Shaw.The winner will be posted on HeadStuff on December 25th but, in the meantime, we’d like to give an honourable mention to Camillus John and his entry Type 2 Amber Brains which you can read below.


Type 2 Amber Brains

‘You’ve got amber brains Fred, amber brains. You’ll never be able to play that smoky piano.’

‘But if I practice long and hard enough, surely Doctor Michelle? Malcolm Gladwell, ten thousand hours and all that jazz. Yes?’

‘Sorry Fred, no. I’m afraid we’re not as mentally flexible as the first Mars generation of earthlings. Too much machines and internet means we’re not red-hot in the old head department any more. Read my lips Fred – you’ll never be able to play that smoky piano. Never. Feel free to smash it up with a hatchet and swallow all the virtual keys, inhale all the smoke, please, please do, because you’ll never be able to play a decent tune.’

‘But what if I get out into the open air more? Go for long runs in the Phoenix Spark of an evening?’

‘Fred, you’re afraid of people you don’t know. How are you ever going to run around a Martian Spark flooded with people queuing at all the food banks? Eh? You won’t do it.’

‘Yes, I will.’

‘Ok, go out your back door over there right this minute and walk to the shed at the end of your garden. Go on, do it now.’

‘Ok. Ok. Fuck it. You’re right Doctor. I’m scared shitless of outside. I admit it. Is there no way back to red though? Surely the bots are working and creating a path there for us as we speak?’

‘You must be joking. It suits the botties just fine this way. It’ll be their excuse to ship us all lock, stock and Colin Farrell to yet another planetary shitarium.’

‘But Doctor Michelle, how did this all happen?’

‘It all began when people started to use their phones when they were on the toilet. Trousers ’round the ankles. You can’t blame them really. You can see who’s calling you and if it’s your boss or a botty you better answer quickly or get fired mate. Chop, chop, chop. Straight out the door and a rocket ride back to flooded earth before you can say Ziggy played guitar. A life or death situation no less – that phone has to be answered no matter which way you look at it. But it’s not hygienic Freddy in the long run, talking and defecating at the same time. Trousers ’round the ankles. It spreads disease. Amber brains. Type 2. To be precise. That’s what you’ve got. Welcome to your diagnosis.’

‘Bloody hell. I can’t believe this. Type 2. I’m mad as hell Doctor and I’m gonna do something about it. Be proactive. I’m gonna go on Twitter right this minute and abuse someone, preferably a woman. That’s what I’m gonna do. I’m not taking this sitting down, trousers ’round the ankles, anymore.’

‘How did you guess Fred? That’s exactly what I’ve written on your prescription. Look! Are you a doctor? It’s bloody unheimlich.’

‘No, Doctor Michelle, but I could be you know, if there was a little less disease in the world.’

‘Keep your chin up Fred, sure it won’t be long now until you get all your red-hot brains, vintage Martian, growing back again in luminescent bunches like bananas.’

‘I can’t wait doctor.’

‘Neither can I Fred – and I’d answer that call coming in, if I were you, because there’s no smoky pianos in your future at all. No smoky synthesisers either. Not even an old-skool smoky Casio keyboard. It’s all binary opposition from here on in – impassive.’

Fred picked up a smoky flute and put it to his lips. The sounds and undulations of the Martian Mohorovicic Discontinuity plumed out forcefully and smoked his entire body from view. Well almost, you could still see his trousers ’round the ankles.