DEPRESCIENCE • by Mickey Hunt

As a child, our son Timothy told his teachers he was adopted.  During adolescence, he wailed in misery, certain that his best friends had moved away. By age twenty, Timothy’s grief sank into glum desolation, and he would lie on the bed all day, bemoaning an imaginary poverty.  None of his therapists could free him from his flawed perception of loss.

Saying, “sign up or move out,” my husband Bill and I finally pushed him into enrolling at the community college, where he takes literature courses. Now in his early twenties, Timothy sits at home reading novels or staring into the tropical fish tanks.

One Friday afternoon when I came home from work, I found him eating a bowl of ramen noodles at the breakfast counter.

“How’s your day been?” I asked.

He pushed a paper toward me across the counter. The letter “A” and the word “Incredible!” were scrawled in red across the top.

“You won’t want to read it,” he said in a monotone. “It’s the same stuff about my family and friends who disappeared.”

I had stopped arguing with him years ago — stopped telling him in hysterical terms how we were his natural parents, that his memories were false, that he had not been robbed of a fortune and no one had abandoned him.

“Writing is a healthy outlet for you, Tim,” I said.

He gently cleared his throat. “I suppose.”

“I’d like to read it.”

He just shrugged his shoulders, slid off the stool, and put his empty bowl into the dishwasher.

“Your dad and I plan to see Grandma Ostenson tomorrow at the hospice center,” I said. “She won’t be around much longer. Will you come with us?”

“Grandma Ostenson? Why? I never visit her.”

“You won’t have another chance.”

“I mean, I don’t even know her.”

“My mother was troubled,” I said.

Tim blinked like he usually did before an emotional episode. “She’s barely aware. She’s going to die when we get there, anyway.”

“You’d be keeping us company.”

He looked at me with something like pity for a needy stranger. “Yeah, I would be.”

“Do you have plans for the weekend?”

He whisped air from his nose at my absurd question.

“Well,” I said, “I’m putting my feet up for a few minutes before I start supper. What would you like?”

“Nothing. But thanks.”

I took Timothy’s paper upstairs, thinking that I’d fall asleep during the second paragraph, but I didn’t. Instead, I moved to the window for better light. Ever since he was little, Tim had communicated his delusions, but never with such realism, and never with any rational perspective.

The prompt had been, “Your fountain of joy.” Tim had written about a wife and children, a career as a novelist, acclaim from intelligent readers, pleasure in research and storytelling, satisfaction in hard physical work, and purpose from sharing life with others.

But the ending of the essay… The last paragraph said, “Only recently have I realized that the memories exist merely in my head, fixed there forever, as if a malicious scientist planted them to torture me, which means they will never give joy, but will always burden me with the pain of separation. My hope is that someday the pain will subside.”


When we arrived at the hospice after an hour drive, Mom was propped up on pillows; her eyes were open and her breathing was labored. After a while, she said, “It’s nice to see you.”

I babbled on as if she understood every word. Between her cat-naps she appeared to enjoy our company, especially Timothy, who sat next to her. When I mentioned his paper, she said, “Read it to me, please. Read it all.”

“Sorry Mom, we didn’t — ” Bill said, but Timothy was pulling a copy from his pocket.

As Tim read, her mind seemed to open like an evening primrose and when he reached the end, she said, “I remember that story… I’ve seen it before.”

“What do you see, Grandma?” Tim said.

She fumbled and took his hand. “Timmy?”

“Yes, Grandma.”

“Dear child, it’s a gift. Those people and experiences you feel are gone — they’ve not come to you yet. Your memories aren’t memories. They’re visions of your future. I had the same condition.”

“We’re clairvoyant?”

She nodded faintly. “Until I resigned myself to loss, real or not, I couldn’t be thankful for the present… for the people in my life. I prevented my joyful future. Accept your losses, baby, even self-inflicted ones. Give and receive love.”

She drifted into unconsciousness again and then stirred enough to say, “I wish I’d known you, I could have told you before. But, I’m glad… you came to visit.”

Timothy looked at his grandmother and blinked rapidly, her words working in him, maybe re-forming his life as we watched. He then gathered his father and me into his arms and cried unashamedly. We wept with him. At last when all this new grief was purged, we saw that my mom was gone, her breath stilled, her face serene.

We watched in silence until Bill said, “Tim, go tell them at the desk, okay?”

After Tim rinsed his face and left, I asked Bill, “What do you think about the family gift?”

He touched Mom’s hand and sighed. “I’m not sure. You don’t have it.”

I walked to the door. Down the hallway, Tim was leaning against the counter at the nurses’ station.

A minute later he returned, his face wearing an allusion to a smile. “They’ll be here soon,” he said. “No hurry.” Another silent moment passed until Timothy said, “What’s the name of the duty nurse? The young one. Brunette.”

“Margaret,” I said. “She’s vivacious, isn’t she?”

“She looks familiar.”

“She likes good literature, Tim,” my husband said.

Timothy blinked and said, his voice caught between a sob and a laugh, “Yeah, I know.”

Mickey Hunt says: “Some of what gives me joy: Memories of fishing with my dad during childhood, walking in Alaska wilderness, strawberries grown on our North Carolina land, wind, playing with grandchildren, Thanksgiving dinner with family all around, clouds, my wife and mother of our children, riding a bicycle in winter down the Blue Ridge Parkway , copperhead snakes, the smell of a beehive, sourwood honey and butter soaking into a homemade biscuit, The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughn Williams, mild earthquakes, meteor storms, contemplating the brilliant stars, a good story well told.”

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 average 5 stars • 3 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Randy

    That was a great story. Thank you.

  • Vinita Agrawal

    Excellent story! The subtle frustration of Timothy’s mom have been suitably conveyed through succinct dialogue. I loved the way the family comes together in the end, marvellous wrapping up by introducing the grandmother just when she’ about to make her exit. Kudos!

  • SarahT

    I really enjoyed this. A couple “huh?” moments: The title; prescience is foresight, so what is deprescience? The mother’s use of the word “vivacious” moments after her mother’s death. (Of course people can react in all sorts of unusual ways when hit with so many life-changing events all at once.)

    To learn that a mother has the gift of foresight seems like it would cause the daughter to reflect upon her mother’s behavior in the past. Perhaps the daughter would have an OOOOHHHHH moment, or maybe she would just shake her head and say there had never been any sign. To learn about a family gift and immediately think about the son’s future (in a real, concrete way), just seems forced.

    Otherwise, I really liked the writing, the topic, the timing and pace, etc. The idea of just how a child would interperate the gift of foresight, fascinating!

    4 stars!

  • SarahT

    Sorry, spelling isn’t my strong suit. “Interperate = interpret”

  • Superb… thanks for sharing.

    I was hoping the boy would jump off a building until the end.

  • Joseph Kaufman

    I took the titles as meaning “depression over foresight” because Timothy’s inaccurate thoughts on the visions chronology leads him to a state of stagnant depression — deprescience. Now that things have clicked, he can be happy about his foresight. “Feliciprescience”, perhaps? *smile*

  • SarahT

    Thanks Joseph!

  • Kim

    Great short story with good flow and a twist at the end that wasn’t expected!

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Just an extraordinary story and perfect voice. Five stars.

  • JenM

    Thi is definitly a five star story for me. 🙂 I loved the ending since I originally thought Timothy had shizophrenia or another mental illness. It’s nice to think that maybe some people’s sadness and pain can actually end up being something very good.

  • Rob

    An outstanding story. Thank you.

  • Paul Friesen

    @#10 – Jen. To play devil’s advocate he might still have shizophrenia. As we don’t see concrete proof of any of the visions yet, it’s possible he’s inherited mental illness from the grandmother and not true foresight into the future.

  • Joanne

    Excellent. Five stars.

  • Mariev Finnegan

    Loved the title, got the message, but the story seemed forced to me. And I do have a grandson, like Tim, who is paranoid schizophrenic and I believe in Mad Pride, that his mind is not confined to his brain.

  • A few thoughts.

    I put a lot of burden on the weeping moment at the hospice, expecting and hoping it would express the three characters’ initial feelings about the implications of Grandma’s revelation.

    It was subtle, maybe, but Tim’s blinking always precedes a vision.

    I believe that every story ought to have hidden backstory that gives depth to the expressed visible part. What I only hinted at in “You’re grandmother was troubled” is her having spent time in mental institutions and the narrator believing it was no place for a child to visit, which explains why Timmy did not know his grandmother. Tim’s parents kept him away from her until the end and when it was clear he had been getting a grip.

    It’s possible that Tim is both prescient and schizophrenic, though I lean away from the latter. “Real loss or not,” Grandma’s advice is sound, I think.

    “Deprescience” grew out of my experience of growing older and our children moving out of the house. Our home always had been the center of joyful activity and now (with only two of the six still here) things are much quieter. I miss the children when they were little, but I have to see the loss as an opportunity for my new role as grandparent, anchor for the adult children, and . . . I’m not sure yet what.

    Thank you all for sharing in the story. And for your kind words.


  • Paul Friesen (12), I like your way of thinking.

  • Mariev Finnegan (14), A cool related website is http://www.WrongPlanet.Net. I wrote a sci-fi flash titled “Not the Wrong Planet”.

  • “Precedes” is the wrong word (15). I meant to say that his blinking accompanies the visions.


  • Cool story – glad Tim got himself together and was able to make sense of his visions. The ending was sweet.

  • Cool story – made me think! 🙂

  • Jennette

    Nice. Loved the ending. 🙂

  • Austin Parker

    Very good! The ending puts a real twist on the whole story. Well done.

  • Jan

    Excellent. Great story!!!

  • Andrew Clawson

    A fine short story, simple and interesting.I appreciate the novel title which has you looking for riddles throughout the story too.
    I would comment though, that memories are deeply impacted from optimistic experiences as well as depressing ones. But I understand that it was necessary to narrow down on one particular mood and style for uncomplicated character development. Overall good job!

  • Andrew #24, I agree, and maybe that’s why Tim wasn’t a complete ruin. He had a measure of loving experiences from his family and others even if they misunderstood him as much as he did himself.

  • Tim had what felt like good and bad memories that were actually his future, and even if the good ones created positive impressions, the reality itself of them was absent from his life.

  • Chloe

    Very nice twist at the end. Four stars.

  • CKP

    I can really relate to this story, how many of us feel a sense of loss either from the past or fear of the future. Feel this more as time goes by and feel for young peple that miss out on a strong family.

  • What a great story.In a few words you really said a lot. Very good writer.

  • Elissa

    I liked the story – the grandmother gives good advice, indeed. Loss and suffering are intermingled with blessing, and accepting this is part of growing up, as we see Timothy suddenly about to do at the end of the story. I get it.

  • Norm

    This story is filled with surprises, the main surprise being its consistent and profound surprises themselves from beginning to end. Very well written, bolstered by obvious wisdom and literary panache. I was captivated by the scope of this quite brief masterpiece.

  • Michael David Gholston

    This story reached out and enveloped my mind with the many images that Mick conveyed. From beginning to end ‘Deprescience’ drew me in as I pondered what direction it would take. In it’s simplicity there were profound moments that touched my heart. Excellent story that I truly enjoyed!

  • Toni Owen

    Interesting story…God knows our future and perhaps let’s us all catch a glimpse at times. A reminder that we all have a written story.

  • Lillian Porter

    Before the revelation from Grandma, I was a little tickled by Tim’s behavior, thinking he reminds me of Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh’s friend. I’m not sure about the title, unless it refers to Tim’s “negative” behavior prior to his successful essay. It is possible that people like Tim are born that way. Some scientists believe children can form opinions about themselves and their family, while still in the womb.

  • Now we know. Eeyore never took a writing class.

    De prescience in French means “of the prescience” (my wife says), but I intended depression to be in there, too.

  • Pingback: Interview with Mickey Hunt: Author of EDF’s Top Story for December « Flash Fiction Chronicles()

  • Corrie Garrett

    Yes, this is great! I love the play on words in the title, because to be prescient in this way certainly would be depressing.
    And also I’m just a sucker for a happy ending with a hint of romance. 🙂 Very well written and very enjoyable story.

  • I found this both creative and well written. I tend to like underlying back story and could appreciate the complexity and intricacy of the piece. I also like that it can be taken in more ways than one, leaving the work to the interpretation of the reader.

    Very well done!

  • Dave Curdy

    A well written story…I think it could be a good lead-in for a longer story about Tim. With his life’s burden off his shoulders, Tim may have an opportunity to turn his personal torture into joy and goodness for those in his life. I hope he takes that new path!

  • Pete Wood

    Wow. What an amazing story.

  • I’m late to the party. I liked all 5 stars of this. Toying with the mind. Neat twists. Nothing predictable.

    • Mickey Hunt

      Thanks so much, Jeff. (I made one word change in a later version, but it never got in here.)

  • I’m late to the party. I liked all 5 stars of this. Toying with the mind. Neat twists. Nothing predictable.

    • Mickey Hunt

      Thanks so much, Jeff. (I made one word change in a later version, but it never got in here.)

  • S Conroy

    Wow, what an imaginative piece of writing. With the writing skills to match. (Thanks for the tip, Jeff.)

  • S Conroy

    Wow, what an imaginative piece of writing. With the writing skills to match. (Thanks for the tip, Jeff.)