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News & Features » July 2018 » “Protosensory” by John P. Bourgeois

“Protosensory” by John P. Bourgeois

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, a sleep-deprived father suspects that his one-year-old daughter has extrasensory abilities. 

by John P. Bourgeois

“I think Scarlet is psychic,” I blurted to my partner as we lay in our dark bedroom. “It sounds crazy, and at this point it might be pareidolia, but something weird has been going on.”

She didn’t reply, so I kept going.

“The first occurrence was three days after her birth while Scarlet roomed-in with us. She was swaddled in her crib, asleep though I was awake, too tired to get comfortable, too uncertain why the hospital had let us leave with this fresh life. I started to have negative thoughts toward baby-girl—nothing drastic, like throwing her in a canal or our garbage disposal. Just like leaving her at a fire station. Anyway, as soon as I started having these thoughts, she begins to cry. I get out of bed, frustrated and hateful. The intensity of her crying increased proportional to my anger until I’m standing right over her, looking down on our beautiful, strong daughter.

“My love for her takes the breath from my lungs. I’m standing there gasping. All my anger dissipates, and in that instant she stops crying. Scarlet knew my thoughts; once my anger left, so did her fear, and she slept peacefully.

“You could say she was just shitting, and sure, babies are always shitting but not always crying. Plus she beats the cats in staring contests all the time, to the extent that both of them avoid her eye contact. Seriously, she just sits there on the floor and stares closed-mouthed at them when they enter the room. The cats veer around her. Neither looks at her while she is looking.

“Another thing—a couple of months back, I picked up Scarlet from daycare. Driving home, she was silent in the backseat. There was a news bulletin over the car radio about the royal prince being born. She suddenly started laughing and laughing and continued laughing as long as the piece aired. Then, when the commentator moved on to another story, she went quiet again.

“If it were only these examples, I agree with what you’re thinking, that it is highly circumstantial and that there are logical explanations for all of it. However, for the last two or three months, things have started moving. Well, even at four months old when we were practicing assisted sitting, Scarlet’d reach for toys just out of her grasp. She’d stare at them and continue reaching. Either her arm extended or the floor contracted because she always got her item. Then there were things up on tabletops—like books and mugs. From the floor, she’d glare at them. Moments later, they’d fall to her. Anyway, yes, all these anecdotes are purely coincidental too. I could’ve just placed books and beverages too close to the edge of surfaces.

“Except that she waves at nothingness. We’ll walk along and she’ll reach for the void, smiling the whole time. When she started crawling, Scarlet would stare at blank spots and smile before going toward the area she’d just been looking at. She chases shadows and plays in dark corners, which leads me to a recent event that cinches my theory about her abilities. I just observed it yesterday.

“I was watching Scarlet while you were finishing up at work. Baby-girl likes to play ball. She’ll roll it to me, and I’ll tap it back to her. We can go on like that for about five minutes before she gets bored. Scarlet rolled the ball but not toward me; I was in the other corner of the living room. The ball got caught on the base of a floor lamp. As I was about to go over to fetch it for her, I reconsidered. If Scarlet wanted the ball, she could waddle to get it herself.

“But she didn’t do that. She sat and glared stubbornly, with consternation. She got this furrowed brow and just stared. Finally, she points to the tile right in front of her. Next thing I know the ball is slowly wobbling back to her. She giggled and rolled the ball on toward me. I couldn’t make sense of what I’d just seen.

“Before you say it, a low spot in tile would not have been so dramatic that it could dislodge a ball from the lamp’s base.”

My partner rolled over. “I’m tired, OK?! Fuck off and go to sleep.”

Immediately, an unfathomable and forgetful drowsiness overtook me, and soon night closed my eyes. Over the monitor,  Scarlet cooed sweetly from her crib.


JOHN P. BOURGEOIS is a health sciences librarian who lives in New Orleans with his wife and their daughter. His written works include The Christmas Croc, published by Unsolicited Press, and Knotted Fables, excerpt published in The Linnet’s Wings. John’s other pastimes include playing the glockenspiel, knitting mythical creatures, and gardening loofah.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jul 12, 2018

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , ,