It’s a pulsing just under the skin, like soup boiling. Or I guess more like soup simmering. A little rising pressure from the blood inside my head: a headache warning. It’s the body saying, You’ve reached your nearly-harmless-computer-screen-radiation quota for the day. But it’something else coming off the screen that is most poisonous: boredom in the form of a deadly mist of my own breath bouncing off and back into me, day in, day out.
Don’t look anymore!
But it’s my job. I’m lucky to have a job, you know.
I start to say blahhhhhhhhhhhh in my head because I’m so bored it’s the only sound I can think to make, though I’m not brave enough to actually say it out loud, the other human-bot workers might hear and twitch, their mindlessly unproductive rhythms disturbed like a pebble tossed into a puddle. Anyway, it would do no good. The blahhhhhhhhhhhh would just sit there in the breezeless air in the middle of the room like dollop of dog-shit on the carpet. And then I’d have to explain myself, ashamed, tail between my legs, sorry.
Suddenly I have an urge: to chop my finger off. I see it, a clean shiny cleaver and I hear the clop of it falling down through the bone. I look, thrilled, at my finger not connected to me anymore. A little flourish of blood on the silver blade. And then, Ow. I pull my hand to my lap and squeeze my fingers into a fist. All ten of them shout roll call in order, no absences.
That was too much. I scold my wandering mind because now I feel unsettled.
I readjust my sitting position and return to feigning work: clicking on emails, X-ing out of windows, pulling up files, looking at them with as much earnestness as I can fake, rearranging items on my desk to create a more hospitable environment. And then while I’m moving the stapler a few millimeters to the left, more moving images drip into my mind again. This time, my finger is reattached. I stretch out the fingers, anxious, and then my right hand begins to hover toward the left. What is it going to do?
Then, the strike: my right hand pinches my left forefinger’s nail with a firm grip and then rips the left forefinger’s nail clear off. The throbbing red nail-socket of my mind stares up at me, and I lurch in instant reaction: pressing the nail of my left forefinger down tight onto the nail bed so that it can’t flip off or bend the wrong way or move at all. I want to make sure to keep it connected nicely to my skin, perfectly pale pink and harmonious. When I start to lose feeling in my fingertip, I let go.
I snap at myself, Are you dangerous? The thought seduces me. You better watch yourself or somebody better watch you because you seem a little unstable with all this finger chopping/nail ripping.
But then, I think, people do much worse things from boredom every day. I decide to Google “people who chop their arms off from boredom.” When I type it into the search bar it must really look like I’m doing work. Stuff comes up, but I’m too afraid to click. I do click on one link about a Karaoke singer who was followed by a man after she refused to share her table with him and he chopped her arm off. She looks calm and armless in her photo and very bored.
Natalia Kochan is a screenwriter from Los Angeles. She writes horror movies and love poems and just graduated from USC with an M.F.A. in screenwriting.