The Brain Tornado Inside My Head


Someone once asked me what it was like inside my mind. It was one of those laying-on-the-hood-of-the-car-out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-staring-at-stars kind of questions.

“It’s like the inside of a tornado,” I said.

“With or without the trailer park?” she asked, still looking up at the night sky.

“Well…instead of mobile homes it’s full of swirling and tumbling shipping containers.”

She looked over at me and arched her brows slightly, “That’s not a trailer park at all. That’s like a shipping yard or something.”

“True, but you know what I mean.”

“Not very concise for someone who calls themselves a writer,” she teased with a playful smirk.

brain-tornado-literalShe was, of course, correct. But she did know what I meant. Those shipping containers swirl around my head in that thought tornado at all times. They tumble end over end, careening in a whirlpool of static, slamming into one another with migraine intensity. Inside those containers are tiny worlds. One has an endless desert, shrouded in dust. It’s barren save for a single black spire that shoots up like a jagged, arthritic finger. Inside that obsidian spire is a lone wizard who falls to his knees as he grunts in pain. His hands go to his temples and he wavers like he might pass out. But he can’t. If he does, the whole world ceases to exist. Everything flickers for a moment, becoming statically incorporeal for just a moment. The moment of weakness is over and the wizard sighs.

In another container is a dark, rain-battered Victorian city. Hanging from a gargoyle rain spout spewing out a torrent of water is an assassin in a black cloak of waxed duck cloth. She slides a thin pry bar under the window sash and slowly pries the window open. She swings over and lands deftly on the sill, then gracefully slides inside the building. She stands silently for a minute. Rain slides down the cloak and pools into a small puddle near her dirty, bare feet. She pulls two delicate mechanical spiders from inside her cloak. They’re works of art – so finely crafted, and etched with filigree and esoteric symbols. She holds them closer to her mouth and whispers soft words to the spiders. The words are little more than sighs laced with flickers of blue sparks and the spiders twitch to life. She throws them at a man lying in a luxurious four-poster bed of deep mahogany. As the tiny spiders float through the air, threads of gently wafting silk trail behind them until those trails join together. The spiders land at the sleeping man’s neck and rapidly begin traveling around his neck in opposite directions. The silk wraps around and tightens, pulling visibly at his skin. Moments later the man jerks upright, eyes bulging and as he tries desperately but unsuccessfully to breath. He looks over and sees the woman, a wicked smile on her lips and somehow his eyes bulge even further. They know each other. She waves at him playfully, like a child, and then runs to the window and jumps. No ropes, no last minute acrobatic trick of grabbing on to the rainspout – just jumps and disappears.

In yet another shipping container, this one simply the dim interior of an actual shipping container, are two men in matching Edwardian attire. Tailored black suit jacket, fine black trousers, shoes polished like black mirrors. One short and slightly plump, one tall and fit but not necessarily brawny. The short one wears a bowler, a broad black cravat, and a monocle. The tall one has his hair parted to the left and heavily pomaded. He wears a crisp, black bowtie with a tight knot. They are standing side-by-side, stiffly at attention and swaying only slightly as the container swirls around the inside of the tornado. Their necks are slack and their heads hang down slightly. They are asleep – oblivious to the racket and chaos outside. There’s a thunderous crash and a piercing noise of metal shearing and rending against metal. The end of another shipping container rips through the far wall as the two containers intersect each other at awkward angles. Part of the sidewall of the intercepted container is ripped open and a pale blue light floods out. Snow swirls out of the rip, building up into a small drift on the floor of the previously bare container. The two men snap to attention, their eyes darting open with keen intelligence. They look to each other and smile.

“It’s time, Ulysses,” says the short one.

“I do believe you’re right, Aloysius.”

They flash each other malevolent smiles that show a flash of bright white teeth up to their canines and then turn in place with military precision to head for the world of snow.


Not every thought, idea, or world in this tornado is complete, fleshed out, whole. Some are fragments of ideas, settings with no story, characters with no place. There is no shortage of containers, though. The more the camera pans out, the bigger the tornado appears to be and the denser the population of shipping containers is. Many ideas come from the violent crashing of containers, some are ready and waiting to be written, some still need time to evolve and develop and are left to mature further. This, in essence, is the inside of my brain. This is what I would have tried to convey to that girl as we were stargazing in the middle of nowhere, but that playful teasing derailed that train of thought. I never did get a chance to explain the rest to her.

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