Multi-Sensory

Shama was curious about the word sensitive. Was it a combination of sense, meaning the ability to perceive, and –itive, denoting a characteristic? Someone inclined to be ruled by their senses and doing what felt right, rather than someone who ignored these subtle messages and always stuck to rules?

Whatever it was, it wasn’t all good, at least for Zadam. This strange man with reversed facial features, a nose where it should be, but upside down, and mouth and eyes reversed, was just too sensitive.

He picked up people’s finer feelings, often hidden – their beauty, love and kindness – but also their grosser feelings, buried deeper – their anger, stress and hate.

Their outing together to the museum had been a disaster. An old man’s pipe had caused Zadam to dwell on death, and after that he didn’t want to go out again.

Shama said, “Come on, Zadam, let’s meet up today. We can go for a coffee, or to the park. What do you say?”

He said, “I don’t say anything. I want to stay at home by my own. I have to, to keep my ten senses safe, and the other ones.”

What did he mean by his ten senses? Did he mean the five identified by Aristotle, plus five others suggested by science but not added to the official list? Or did he mean the five main senses, and their inversions?

Zadam sometimes called himself “Upside-Downy” because he could see, taste, hear, smell and touch things in a way that others couldn’t. He could perceive the stimulus, or outcome, of senses in a way negating their immediate message. Rather than a sensual experience, he knew origins and results.

Furthermore, what were the others ones?

Zadam took a while to feel comfortable with the outside world again. Shama supposed it was shock or a form of agoraphobia.

Time spent in the park seemed to work wonders. Zadam sat beneath a tree, like a modern-day Buddha, except with a mouth where his third eye should be. People kept their distance, but animals didn’t. At first butterflies and squirrels, and then cats and dogs, came and nestled around him. He played with them all day.

Eventually people stopped by too, but Zadam preferred animals. One day he mentioned his “infinite senses”. Shama asked “Which ones?”

“The animal ones. They know things first. Birds sense fires, fish sense earthquakes, deer sense volcanic eruptions. They can tell from air pressure, current direction, polarized light, and mechanical strain on things.” Zadam rocked back and forth.

He is getting fired up about this, thought Shama. Maybe he is picking up on the dark clouds rolling in, and humidity building. A storm is predicted for tonight.

Zadam began humming loudly. His sound seemed to bounce off trees in the park, nearby buildings, and around the valley.

Zadam began to spin around. It was like breakdancing, but smoother. It was hard to say how he did it.

Sparks flew from this body; Shama shielded his eyes.

Squirrels ran and butterflies flew, but dogs and cats stayed, and more came running. He was surrounded by a hundred at least.

Zadam began chanting. Words about the whole world becoming unbalanced by overpopulation, wealth inequality, fossil fuel depletion, water shortage, pollution, food inflation, climate change, media brainwash, unquenchable thirst for things, terrorism and nuclear war. He said he could sense these things. He was the upside-down hub of a world spinning and about to break.

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