by Disa Turner
Reviewed by Jack Nelson
Published in Issue 4 of Razor Lit Mag, Disa Turner’s short story “Mouse Trap” affords meaningful insight into the nebulous world of depression and dissociative episodes. The story reads as a sequence of vignettes that connect to form a cohesive and yet rather ambiguous narrative that blurs the line between the real and the imagined. The narrator recounts relatable experiences that culminate in some sort of a mental breakdown and subsequent emergence from a state of dissociation.
In the afterword, Disa Turner explains that she identifies herself as a poet rather than a story writer, and “Mouse Trap” certainly benefits from a poetic sentiment. Images throughout pop as vivid pieces of color in the story: white in fur and bones, red in fruit and lips and the moon. Color is used sparingly and to great effect, jumping at the reader with the violence of a snapping mousetrap.
Turner’s writing style is confidently blunt, in a good way, and is punctuated throughout with excellent turns of phrase. Lines such as “I wake in the dark, stiff and congealed” and “blinded and whimpering, palms stinging from the thorns, I hear their naked tails sliding through the grass” demonstrate Turner’s strong and starkly illuminating style.
Through the perspective of the narrator, we are supplied with a series of vignettes: short pieces of plot that jump forward in time, which creates a sense of disconnectedness and makes for a lurching ride. This manipulation of time serves to give the reader a sense of the experience of the narrator- an experience where time doesn’t have the same meaning as it does to the reader- without being jarring.
One notable example of the narrator’s perception of time is illustrated near the end of the story: One notable example of the narrator’s perception of time is illustrated near the end of the story:
Summer feels eternal until the first cicadas sound their death rattle mid-July. I stop laughing to try to remember if I have a cat. If I have ever had a cat. I’ve entertained the notion, at least, surely?
The passage of months is compared with the act of remembering, which gives a sense of a state of mind otherwise difficult to describe.
On top of the narrative itself, Turner deftly paints a character not just as a mentally ill person, but as a person who is experiencing mental illness. The narrator doesn’t fall prey to tropes regarding mental health and manages to convey an experience that is both completely alien and yet somehow very much human. Turner’s afterword adds a layer of depth and authority to the story. She writes:
Frolicking on the cusp of dissociation in the midst of a severe
depressive episode piqued my curiosity on the following subjects:
•the characteristics of dreams, specifically their frequent tendency to
seem more defined and vivid than reality
•return to waking life after such a dream being comparable to having
one’s glasses knocked off in gym class dodgeball
•the tenuous and subjective nature of consciousness in general,
resulting in amorphous and multifaceted truths
The knowledge that this story was written concerning the nature of perception and consciousness helps the reader puzzle out some of the more ambiguous aspects of the work. I have read this piece several times, and each time I find something new. Ultimately, “Mouse Trap” paints a stark and unrelenting vision of an experience, of a consciousness, and though a ray of hope may shine through, we are left at the end with only a grim reality.
The moon is rising like a ghostly peach, speared by the evergreens that line the drive. I am due to see the specialist tomorrow morning, I think mechanically. The hallucination, while disturbing, is surely a common symptom of my condition. The specialist will prescribe me a medication.
“Mouse Trap” by Disa Turner was originally published in Issue 4 of Gustavus University’s Razor Lit Mag.
Click here for a link to the original story.