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Crashing into Life

Updated: Mar 30, 2022

February 2022, Issue 2 “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”
- C.S. Lewis
The Smelling Red Series is the neuroscience component of Shonkinite Sketches.

Headquartered in Montana, our brand emphasizes the scope of story from conspiracy theory and propaganda, to capacious points of view that synchronize. In addition to developing a multi-media slate of our own stories, we study the potency and power of story and how the brain functions in relation to story.


By Harper Klay, Shonkinite Founder

6 minute read

Click on the video below to hear this Sketch in the author's voice

Smelling Red Series is birthed from the Founder’s personal journey recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury. We begin with her story.

My default is hyper-focused intensity.

I once lived only in the space above the neck and drug my body through life as an inconvenient obligation. In the before, I found relief in the drive towards a mission and purpose. And in the after, the way home was into my physical body.

In the before, working in the controversies of international agriculture biotech trade policy, a mouthful also known as ‘gmo’, matched my ambitious nature. The job was everything. My lifestyle consisted of twelve hour days, working weekends, last-minute flights to Tokyo, and popovers to Paris. Exploring every major wine region of the world from Australia to South Africa, Germany to Chile was a bonus. I loved my life.

But something inside me hurt. It was the type of pain that was all consuming. The psychic suffering was the only existence I knew. The emotional pain was easy to escape through the mental discipline of work. But the physical ailments were more difficult to ignore. The pain that was physical was indicative that my immune system did not support me. The flawed physical container that was me, indicative of deficiencies in all aspects of my person, would reveal so much more in the years to come.

On one wet and rainy Baltimore Washington Parkway late night drive, I had a flash of dread. I no longer saw the red of tail lights on the highway.

In an eternal blink I had to make a decision. Do I brace and go into the dark thickness in front of me? Do I swerve off the road, not knowing which part of the road I was on or what was off the road? I went into slow motion and made the choice to brake and stay straight.

My broken seatbelt that I never got around to fixing now mattered. No airbags in an ’89 Ford Escort.

The right side of my forehead smashed into the steering wheel. I whiplashed back and the base of my neck and head wrenched into the metal rods that separated the headrest from the chair. Somewhere between the steering wheel and headrest I was sucked through a tube, high in the sky, not quite the sky but I was in an undefinable up there, looking down at my crumpled body. I experienced infinity in a moment that was later estimated at five minutes.

A gathering of entities convened. Conversations or rather debates as to whether I was returning ensued. Was it several aspects of myself or other entities that had a say in my life? It felt blissful. The I of me didn’t want to return. But something/someone/some other aspect of self with more power said I would be returning….they informed me that it would be hell, but I would be returning.

In a moment, I was sucked back through the tube, and instead of looking from above at the long wet road with a multiple car collision, I was back amongst it all.

I wasn’t quite back in my body, but slightly outside to the right. I was a puzzle, but all of the pieces of me no longer fit. How can I be numb and in excruciating pain at the same time?

I lifted my head off the steering wheel, brought my hand to my face, and felt the warmth of blood. My fingers were gooey and sticky. My emotions churning. I was angry about living and wanted death.

The thickness of the blood matched the thickening of my thoughts. My senses had shifted and fused.

My cousin was calling my name. It echoed over and over again.

She was at the edge of a cave, calling my name, asking me to come out. She said my name over and over again, but that wasn’t my name. I knew this but she didn’t. She was just doing her job, the job of getting me out of the cave. My name echoed. The reverberations annoyed me.

My brain felt like scrambled eggs. My brain was scrambled eggs. My forehead hurt. The base of my neck ached. I found myself analyzing the layers of my being. Physical split from ethereal, emotional separated from mental. And the operating system of me, my brain, was now different. I was in an argument with myself.

Sound was not sound but rather vibration. Smell was not smell. Sight was not sight but a repetitive collapsing and expanding. My hands came up in front of me to mimic the waves of sound.

I saw light images moving around and realized they were people.

From that moment forward, I smelled red.

And thus I began a very different, messy, life.

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