“Puzzle-Piece Blues,” original short fiction by Selene dePackh

*Ed.’s Note: click image to view larger size.

[harsh black and white comix-style cyberpunk image of feminine face repeating within itself from multiple angles]

Puzzle-Piece Blues

Case Study [delete]*

Bear in mind that I’m a suspect witness. Everything I say is subject to erasure. I make for deaf ears, pressure-popping like plastique in an airline cabin. I am a Someone Else not-quite-person, speaking in a M/Other Tongue from the far side of acceptable neurology. I’m a droplet in the AutisticTsunami®, rocking myself as I write this to the feedback of the blue glow on my screen. The real people on the other side of the web have credentials, so they are allowed to tell me and everyone else that the feelings I have are not real. My empathetic emotions are a clever construct, fooling me more than the experts. The experts know I am a shimmering network of lies, that my neuro-plague-defective brain lacks mirror neurons, and therefore cannot possibly reflect compassion. Believe nothing I tell you.


Humans are all over the flatscreen, huddling in reflective blankets, jaws shuddering from the latest shock. They are Somewhere Else, on some beach or street on the other side of the world, speaking unintelligibly. They are the trembling harbinger-birds of what’s coming, chattering, stunned by broken glass and shrapnel. They cluster or wander, waiting for some kind of safety. Their open mouths and hollow pupils threaten to migrate into our new world. Hard calculations must be made. This is the Homeland®, and its citizens cannot be wrapped in the butterfly-fragile protection of tissue-weight mirrors. Faith is not enough.

Remember though, as you peer in on me, with my small refrigerator without animal parts in it, without the packaged results of extraction machines that pump product from sentient bodies, that I’m the one incapable of empathy. My food choices are simply aberrant perseverations.

These people in their suits, speaking to the Electorate, these are good men, and they will protect you from aliens within and beyond the borders. I’m a different kind of alien, with my rocking and humming, my eyes that don’t meet yours, and my country of silence. I am a burden and a plague for which they will eventually find a Cure, if given enough money. In the meantime, if anyone finds caring for those of my kind too much to carry, and takes matters into their own hands, the good men will offer their compassion and make eloquent calls for mercy as friends of the court. There are never enough services because people like me suck up so very, very much from the responsible citizens of the republic. When we’re killed, we’re lucky if we’re mentioned by name in the coverage. We are the poor, stressed caretaker’s cross to bear. Our lives are meaningless, after all. We are suffering, even if we [don’t share that view.] Everyone says “don’t judge the poor mother until you’ve walked in her shoes…” We try [to say we have shoes too.]

[If you don’t believe me, Google Dr. Phil’s wise, compassionate interview of Kelli Stapleton, who tried to suffocate her autistic daughter Issy. Go to Kelli’s YouTube channel. You can still find her playful birthday video for Issy that shows Issy’s kittens being put in a microwave. Autistics are terrible at figuring out when they’re being played for a joke. They’re such downers. Read the comments. Google the autistic dead boy, Alex Spourdalakis…]*


I’m at the customs gate, ready to explode like Arnold Schwarzenegger disguised in cyber-drag in Total Recall. The gate is the point between Passing and Not Passing, and the Blue Puzzle Piece logo waves on the Autism$peaks® flag above my head. I must be adjudged High Functioning, or I will lose my passport. Genetics are not on my side. In my family, we’ve all failed eventually. The test is done every day, and one failure is all it takes. If I’m not a perfect TempleGrandin© model autistic, if my head explodes, I’ll have to go back to my room. And stay there. For years. Until.

My father died alone.


I pass so well at some things that some of the Experts put my head in the same scanning machine as the original TempleGrandin© autistic brain was scanned in, very clean and shiny in a secure University laboratory. Only autistics who were really good at pretending not to be autistic were worthy of being put in the machine to have their brain patterns mapped like foreign continents ready for the boots of the New Empire. Only autistics who might be useful are worth studying like that. The ones who don’t pass are only as valuable as what anyone’s willing to pay to take care of them.

[They gave me fifty dollars to have my head riddled with magnetic waves. It was more money than I’d made in a few years, but I recognize faces well for an autistic, so it was worth it to them.]*


A lot of autistics are considered ugly for our blank, flaccid, androgynous faces occasionally contorted by paroxysms of emotion, and some of us are considered beautiful for a slight variant of that expression. I’m one of the second group, for better or worse. Even as I’ve gotten older, I look detached, unreachable, pure.

I first made fifty dollars giving a rich college boy a handjob when I was fourteen, and then keeping my mouth shut about it. Not talking about things is something autistics are usually good at. That was money for taxis when my father would forget to pick me up from the bus stop. I did it a few times, because the money made me feel [strong and confident.] The boys made sure I knew they didn’t love me. That was [fine.] I liked girls better anyway, but I still [felt good] about the work, and I wouldn’t say one bad thing about any of it, even today. It was an [honest] negotiation, and I [understood] it. Love was a mess.

It’s getting hard to testify here. There’s a lot of static. I [can feel] your ears stopping up like the plastique has gone off in the cabin.


[So I’m rocking, murmuring poetry to myself. I don’t rock when I speak proper prose. The blue-glowing screen is my voice.] *

Selene dePackh creates innovative story lines that expand the science fiction genre of cyberpunk into an entirely new subcategory which she calls Neuropunk, which draws on her own autism to immerse the reader in a firsthand experience of institutional bias. She is the author of Troubleshooting: Book One, which demonstrates her command of the genre and her ability to subvert it. In addition to writing compelling books, Selene dePackh creates digital illustration and graphic design. She is a classically-trained artist in the European Academic tradition.

Originally published at NeuroQueer

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