Meeting the Creator

We went on a ride. The paddleboat reminded me of something like the Tunnel of Love that you see in movies but I don’t think ever existed. Why we were taking this ride together I don’t know because we normally don’t like things like this. It’s easy enough beforehand to tell yourself that nothing can harm you. That you’ll keep your eyes open for the scary parts because all you’re doing is sitting in a place that someone intended to be comfortable.

The boat stared slow and we bumped against the sides a few time. We entered a dark tunnel, and everything stayed black. Occasionally we’d look behind us to see the fading gray of the sky as the last pinhole of light vanished.

A dull roar like some large concealed motor grew in volume. We couldn’t tell when it started. The walls around us came to life. A tunnel of woven flesh. Something squealed and then there was a person. Or rather, a human figure with some kind of lizard head walking in front of us. Slightly to the side, clearly on the screen. The creature’s head fell backward, effectively ripping out of its chest and it felt the bloody muscle walls and became absorbed by them, squealing all the while.

We held hands. My hand was on top and something touched me. I didn’t dare move. The slimy claw rubbed back and forth around my knuckles before retreating into the water beside us. After its retreat, human hands grew out of the fleshy walls, writhing like creatures just birthed, a thin film breaking between their fingers. It’s a gimmick I’m sure everyone’s seen in haunted house movies and I started to think this ride was getting derivative already.

The hands would occasionally part to show us passing by rooms with more monsters in them. Human creatures with animal/alien heads, torturing themselves. A spinning saw through a lizard tongue, and slicing the head in half. Crossed arms being pulled in separate directions by chains, hanging the body over a pile of glowing ants who crawled ever upward. Then we came to the weird part.

All the walls around us went black but I didn’t notice when it happened. Too busy contemplating the torture of monsters. The boat didn’t feel like it was moving. In front of us, panels of a comic strip flashed like advertisements at a movie.

The dialogue was hard to read and the panels stayed too briefly to take everything in, but it told the story of a mouse with a gambling problem. The story took place along a dark and old-timey wharf. After each panel, the background lighting became more and more red, which implied to me that the mouse came to a bad end after continually pleading for mercy from a series of shadowy gangsters, species indeterminate. Eventually, the red covered up everything, and a short animation was shown.

It took place in the same location, but this portrayed a donkey standing up and masturbating. As he furiously climaxed making sounds like a trampled bicycle horn, he ejaculated a pair of rabbit ears which swam around his body before slithering onto his head and the donkey was now a rabbit. It was followed by a few shorter ones of animals metamorphosing. A frog turned into a sloth, and a zebra became an ape, but retained its stripes.

Once the cartoons ended, darkness returned along with that dull roar and the boat continued through the darkness. At this point, I didn’t want to see much more so I closed my eyes, then felt foolish, like somehow the ride operators could see me and are laughing and I opened them again and things seemed brighter.

We moved through a projected tunnel of flame which slowly ripped itself apart. Behind it was the vacuum of space. The stars and nebulae became more prominent, informing me that this is what really lies behind everything. The backdrop to all our earthly achievements is this unknowable darkness.

As my gaze lost itself among the stars, the boat thumped to a stop and I realized that the stars were actually reflections of disco-style studio lights. The front of the boat gave way. We were in a TV studio and there were lots of us. Other people on the ride, I assume.

The lights came up and the announcer at the front, a young lady with a team of others beside her, recited the rules and prizes for the upcoming dance competition. Then they announced the winner which was me, but she talked so fast and I didn’t want to be singled out in this way that I pretended not to hear it and at first succeed in convincing myself that she must have said something else. The logistics of this are impossible, I told myself. How could this ride be arranged that everyone gets their own unique ending? It’s nonsense. 

The lights got brighter and I was terrified for a moment that a spotlight was going to land on me but it didn’t, thus easing my fears. Of course, we all had to dance so that isn’t great either. Music started, and I looked at everyone dancing and it seemed that what they were doing wasn’t so hard and I fell into the pattern pretty easily. I didn’t even feel that stupid.

One of the producers came up to me and told me to come to the front of the stage because they called my name earlier and my heart sank. I took my partner’s hand and we headed down and the producers explained something to me but I wasn’t listening because all I understood is that I’ll never see my loved ones again. Even my partner didn’t get this despite my emphasis in explanations and I said goodbye like I meant it but it didn’t register.

The producers ushered me into a circular glass tube. It closed and another frosty layer slid on top of it, obliterating the transparency. Everything outside turned blue. I’m not claustrophobic but I worried that I might become so if left in here long enough. What they’re doing is kind of fucked up and in my anger I pushed on the glass, even knowing that I was supposed to wait.

It lifted over me quite easily and I was in the same TV studio but now empty. Daylight came in through some upper windows. I heard sounds of typing and other office activity coming from two doors in back of the soundstage. I looked the closer one and its floor was covered in fans nested in tangles of cords. Each fan had a few streamers of gray confetti on its grill. Maybe cooling off motors. I felt like behind-the-scenes somewhat. Somewhere I shouldn’t be. I  couldn’t enter this room because of the fans everywhere so I went to the other one.

Rows of desks with people in medical smocks working at them. Some of them wore masks. No one paid attention to me and I looked through some cabinets, feeling somewhat like a video game character exploring and no one will acknowledge me until completing a certain assignment. 

I walked down the lane between desks to the back of the room where the man who designed the ride sat. I’ve seen him on TV before. In interviews he thanks the various teams of actors, designers and psychologists he worked with to create this experience.

Love Potion Number 187 (Part 3)

After the rush of customers, James had to decide what to do with the cart. He didn’t like it in the hallway, nor could he leave it out back because if anything wasn’t nailed down, some band of bored and roaming adolescents would throw it off a building. 

Olivia told him to shove it in between the dumpsters. He hated the dumpster area and there were always hidden squirrels who seemed to go out of their way to chase him. Everyone found  this funny and when it became clear that he would not budge, Brock offered to put the cart away so that he could use it as an excuse to smoke as well.

He went upstairs and heard James talking to someone. It was Ruby, possibly another reason James didn’t want to take out the trash. But Brock and Ruby had been childhood friends growing up and he knew her better than most. He showed himself and then asked her to come out back with him. James glared.

Ruby asked what Brock was smoking, had tried it before, and declined. She asked him whose dumpster was whose, then begged him not to tell her. After narrowly avoiding a squirrel-in-the-face, she tore open a trash-bag and pieced together the journey of the refuse.

“This apple was brought by someone who never brings their lunch but is resolving to eat healthier. The fact that it’s barely nibbled on means that it sat in their house for so long it started to rot. 

“An Amazon box, now there’s a challenge but since this is a business trash . . . if I can just . . . there, it’s not a business address which means that the object is being used for business but the person doesn’t want to report it. For tax reasons,” she snapped her fingers, “got it. It’s a keystroke analyzer/collector that the person installed to get rid of certain computer activity. They just started doing something which they’re going to do regularly and which would cost them loads on taxes or regulations. And judging from the dumpster this came from, I’d say they’re buying underground helium.”

“Wouldn’t all helium come from underground?” asked Brock.

“It’s an endangered gas,” replied Ruby. “It’s getting super-expensive so balloon-shops are having to resort to the explosive hydrogen.”

“You’d think there’d be some no-smoking signs around here if that were true,” said Brock. “Which it isn’t. You can do better.”

“You see this paper plate?” Ruby pointed out. “It was used twice, then cleaned then used again all for the sake of proving a point. One of the employees next door really wants to be a comedian and his only line is ‘you seem like the type of person who would re-use a paper plate.’ He’s said it to every employee, totally out of context and never gets a laugh. So one day, they hid his lunch, then presented it to him on a paper plate. Fair enough, but then they emptied all the trash (hence these nearly empty garbage bags) and all the cans so that he couldn’t throw anything away, and they took all the break-room utensils out so that the next day he was forced to use the same paper plate and people took pictures from an actual camera,” she lifted up the disposable camera, “an entire roll, got them developed and posted them on the bulletin board.”

James poked his head out the back door and yelled, “Hey! The shopkeeper says hop to it!”

 

Alone with the professor, Olivia asked for his help with the dirt.

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean,” Irving Adwell said.

She handed him a potion and had him pour some into a handful of dirt and mix it together. She had him repeat a few phrases, unintelligible to him and which he had trouble pronouncing. As he did this, the dirt crumped in his hands onto the table. “Keep going,” she told him.

Brock and Ruby came back in and together moved the crate of dirt to the corner. The professor continued his mantra. Olivia went upstairs and told James to lock the door and put up the closed sign. He protested all the way down stairs and she assured him that yes this was the only time everyone could be together for this and yes it was serious.

“When did Julie get here?” asked James.

The professor dropped his dirt on the table. Julie noticed him staring and backed away to be by Ruby. 

“A moment ago,” said Olivia. “Pay attention.”

“Does everyone here know each other?” asked Professor Adwell.

“I don’t really know James all that well,” Brock volunteered.

“And no one knows who you are,” said Julie.

The Professor explained how he read something which told him to come here and he wasn’t sure why.

“The point is,” said Olivia, “one or more of you is breaking our pact. And I brought you all here to feel uncomfortable about it. I don’t know who it is . . .”

“What pact?” asked the professor, “surely you can’t expect me to know . . .”

“No one knows what she’s talking about,” said Brock. “Happens all the time. She knows something that we don’t, ourselves, consciously know.”

“That’s enough,” said Olivia. One by one she placed her new potions and pouches on the table while she continued speaking. “These are the next steps in our Equalization Studies. Your assignment. You’ll know what to do when the time comes. As for the betrayer . . .” she lowered her head so that anyone looking at her would just see her eyes, focused on nothing.

James opened the door to the stairs and ushered everyone out the back. He reopened the shop. Olivia remained downstairs for the rest of the working hours.

'Negligent Homicide in the Morning' Day

Twas the morn’ o’ th’ runeday when many gathered at th’ chapel in the morn’ for the worship of Rodite, the Rat Goddess. T’would be a long service and this brought the thinkin’ into the heads of the spouses left at home that twas a great morn’ to get drunken. Even though the pious spouses had seen this coming. They hid the booze in places only their cats knew about, they poured it into the houseplants, but lo, the spouses who stayed home all called each other and warned the rest of them of the hidin’ tricks. People tore out the plumbing to guzzle that hooch. Not their finest hour to be sure, but someone who’d break through the floor, dig up a pipe and suck down that sewage slurry because that is what sounds like fun when alone . . . their finest hour twas likely ages ago and they don’t plan-on bein’ in that way any time again soon. People downed handfuls of whiskey-oozing dirt and called their compatriots to thank them heartily, pulling a worm out o’ their teeth.

Durin’ the Rodite service, atonement is the game. Offer their children, standin’ front o’ the alter. A giant yellow tooth in between squid-black eyes. They offer the littleuns and say ‘have I sinned against thee in any way, I offer me only love to thee, to join the twenty-thousand tails’. For legend has it, Rodite sits upon a throne ‘a Swiss, but th’ holes’re’ll clogged with rat-tails, sentient tails possessed by misbehavin’ younguns doomed, doomed to live within the cheese and na’er take a single bite.

But why? - ye ask - do the parents offer the kids, if they’re the ones who’ve sinned? But that’s the genius o’ da ’ting! It’s kids who drive the parents to sinnin’. It’s how they’re raised. Parents were young once. They sees all these shoddy families. Think they can do better. So they do the dirty thing. Original sin stains them fore’er.

What’re they supposed to do? - ye ask. Die out? We’ll na’er know I’m sure. But come the future prophet’ll show us the way outta ‘riginol sin. So’s the books say anyways.

A’course nona’ the kids’s ever taken in the church. It’s a symbolic atonement thing. But they do hafta stand for a wee while, and they get tired, as the parents pray and offer sacrificial penance in the forma nibblin’ on their own arms. Not enough to draw blood mind ye, but enough to leave a mark.

Meanwhile, the neighbors dish it out in the street. They sit like at the salon, and riff ‘bout how boring their lives’er. The more brainy ones realized it all happened through a series of invisible compromises, while the rest’o’em blame the world and the wife. No matter their gender, it’s the idea of ‘the wife’ can fit any. We’re all the nagging hag.

This particular morn’ however, the tradition started, and none knew it yet. Ol’ Orr succumbed to the mania from drinkin’ outta the lead pipe first. Figgur he was just off’is rocker, the way he kept lickin’ the inner pipe. “Blo-bla-blo,” ‘e said in between spits. 

Next came Terry Hyulr, some plant found the contentsa’ ‘is colon quite pleasin’. He’d been a dirt-eater. Tradition really. Took a monster shite in the street. But as-it happened - this’s really gross but no-one could stop lookin’ - a few seeds half-sprouted fell out. Then ‘e shat a leaf. Followed by some leaves on a stick. By this time the screamin’ was a bit much as a small Bonzai burst through’is cheeks and he fell for’ard, dead. The tree nowadays’s’a pilgrimage but its just legend really. If anyone who claims they found it have, they woulda’ found the village too. At least brought a part ‘o it back for proof, ya know?

At this point Ol’ Orr felt hisself to be seein’ snakes in the wood on people’s porches. He banged his pipe on the ground to drive’em up, then banged on the decks to kill’em.

Course, twere no rats in the village. All the cats got’em all. Around this time, the cats all took their midmorning nap. While some slept through anything. Today’s proceedings was a bit noisy, so they stayed on the sidelines and watched with a wee interest, until something else caught their eye.

Margot Kref smelled like a sac’o’old apples after drinkin’ anything red which she figgurd ‘ad to be wine. Abyy Ghislnek took pity on’er and shared some fermented pickle vodka. After three monstrous gulps, Margot stumbled to the porch where all the bangin’ was afoot. At said point she let fourth such a roaring belch did she, that right afore Orr died a’fright, Abyy swears she saw the black mold double their property on the wooden beams. Such a festrous belch it was, that ‘er own stomach jumped out ‘swell. Her organ stuck to the mold on the wooden beam and she fell, slightly danglin’ from some intestine or oter.

Meanwhiles, at the church, parents and grans’s was getting through with the self-prostration and such. The kids was standin’ many of em fit to piss to burst. But they’d caused enough trouble so far by bein’ born. Ah, the rituals of childhood. We lose sight a’ them so quickly.

A ‘course, Rodite did notin’. ‘Er yellow tooth was kept that way by a secret society a’ cleaners. Why you need to clean a tooth to keep it rotten, we’ll never know. Course it wasn’t a real tooth neither. Size of a St. Bernard. Maybe they shoulda seen through that.

Barry Thelnumm was headed to the churchyard to give ‘is ‘ol wife the one-two, as he put it. No one knew what he meant. ‘Whatever,’ the townspeople thought. ‘He’ll just get in trouble up there, we’ll continue our party down here.’ Other townspeople thought, ‘we’d better get rid of this mold, or else our spouses’ll think we’re slobs.’

Out came de axes. A choppin’ at the pillars which held the roof of whoever’s house twas that Ol ‘Orr fancied was cursed with serpents. A’course, that’s what woudda happened had folk been seein’ straight. Quite a pile of limbs accrued afore the pillars came down along with the roof, splashing in the pool of blood.

So much blood in fact, that the piller itself: mold, Margot’s stomach + addendumbs, barreled its way down the hill, carving a stream and floating on it sametimewise. And just as the church service ended, the parishioners beheld the river of blood carrying signs of the town they’d left behind.

And leave behind it they did. But they also left us with tradition, as ancient folk often do. Its why, in any sane society, we should adopt the holiday of Negligent Homicide in the Morning. A special morning when we ‘forget’ to put out the preventative measures that keep all these people who seem so intent on dyin’ in embarrassing ways e’ry second from doing so. And thanks to ye lawmakers for hearin’ this plea.

A Summer at Shiloh Grove (Pt. 2)

Brother V got the job, went through the program and vanished from my life completely. When next I saw him, several years had passed. I had moved twice and started a family. On this particular night, I visited a hospital where a friend of mine was staying after a bad car wreck. His hip was shattered and the duration of his stay was uncertain. I returned from a business trip rather late due to weather problems and had picked up a set of books that he really wanted to read but had never had the time to. It was my motive to give them to him earlier that day but my late flight destroyed that notion, or so I thought. He texted that he was constantly up all night in pain and that I should bring the books whenever it suited me. Nights are calm on his section, he assured me. He had always been quite a Type-A personality, good at getting what he wanted, and he didn’t hesitate to make trouble for people should they get in his way. I had always known him as a decent man and dedicated father with an immature humor which endeared him to children but he would never show a shadow of it in the board room. I couldn’t help thinking that he may have been an unruly customer once who contributed to Brother V’s unease with existence. Strange, for me to think of Brother V at that moment.

 

At any rate, I went to the hospital and although I was informed that it was not visiting hours, when I mentioned the name of my friend the nurse’s faces dawned in comprehension (unflattering of course) and they let me see him. I kept my stay courteously short for the nurse’s sake although it was clear that my friend was quite lonely and bored. He understood that I was not used to being up at this time of night and would be jet-lagged for the next couple of days. He thanked me for the series of weighty tomes (his interest in early marine and sub-marine exploration was totally new to me) and I went on my way. Did you know there was a submarine in the Civil War? Imagine that!

 

Not knowing what would be in the fridge for a late-night snack, I decided to stop at an old supermarket I used to frequent during my twenties and early thirties. I had inhabited several apartments in this area of town and enjoyed the nostalgia kick. I grabbed the makings of sandwiches that we may or may not have had in the home and some dessert when I saw him.

 

He wore a dark-brown trench coat (although probably not as dramatic as the one you’re picturing) and his thick black hair had grown long and seemed to want to cover his face. The face itself had red patches and looked swollen as if perpetually scratched. We recognized each other instantly and made the awkward eye-contact that sent the social signals through my veins. You know the kind. It would be impossible to ignore this person after this energy has just passed between us. I walked up to him and he made an attempt to straighten his posture, but it didn’t really work. I waved and said hello. Brother V nodded and mumbled a ‘how are you’. I dove into an awkward tale about my delayed flight and midway through caught his gaze and realized what I sounded like. A middle-aged dad with nothing interesting to say except the weather, talking to someone clearly in the grips of hard times. I quickly dropped my story, paid for his groceries and asked if he needed a ride or if he drove. He gladly accepted a ride back to his apartment. He invited me up and then quickly apologized after seeing the quick look of disgust which crossed over my face. When did I become so judgmental? I used to sit on the steps of places like this. Eat food straight out of the wrapper. Flick cigarettes on the ground next to the trash can. His building was dark and I caught myself thinking that it would be more relieving should there be at least a few other people still awake.

 

Brother V’s room was a studio with a mattress by the window, a couch in the corner, and a small dining room table. A handful of books lay piled beside the mattress. These appeared to be his only possessions as I did not look in the closet. He did however, have two chairs for the table. They came in a set, he told me. It was hard, he said, to find the motivation to get a frame for the bed, since it clearly wasn’t needed, and he didn’t have much motivation anymore.

Why did he invite me up? He had nothing to offer except one of the beers I had just bought for him, but I partook. He seemed to be exercising muscles of social interaction which had long since gone dormant. Maybe it was the fact that my biological clock was so off-kilter at this point that I engaged in such up-front honesty.

“Brother V,” I said, “I remember you getting a job at the restaurant, being accepted to study? train? with Dr. Brum, and then you vanished to what I presumed to be a happy and successful life. What happened?”

Holy Books - III: Chapter YTQK

1 [Being a page from an ancient Sushypheran textbook with notes from our Holy Prophet AN

moments before his death]

 

 

CHAPTER YTQK: Inciting the Being-Function

 

2 If, for any value of Being we substitute (<>) we get a statement which immediately satisfies itself and thus has no need to ever be written. Striking all such statements from our systems of equations thus far, produces a simple and concise function of Been which, upon further examination, since it is only valuable in the past tense, we may also strike from the record.

 

3 (There is a warning inherent in this unholy pattern. Students are discouraged to compare notes because not everyone gets the same results and no one knows why. If symmetrical, the student is ‘graduated’ to the House of Circles - advertised as an initiation into the Meditations of the Deeply Sub-Particle having Holy Realizations Upon the Bubble-Borders of Pan-Dimensional Travel. In fact, the majority of them will spend the rest of their time digging caverns for the hoarded and stolen treasures of the Royal Sphere. A bubble-brain if there ever was one. This ‘Digging Meditation’ {one could almost say it with a hippie accent} is merely slavery under a religious guise.

 

4 Having kept a careful list of our struck equations with the substitution (<>), we have a list of seemingly obvious and unnecessary statements. However, their relation to each other, when graphed, shows a pattern worth further study. At this point, you must show your results to your instructor who will point you to the proper input program, should you have completed the above steps satisfactorily.

 

 5 If non-symmetrical, the student is ‘graduated’ to the Particle Plain - advertised as initiation into the Practical Applications of Interconnected Vacancies, and Their Cure. It’s a desert where the majority of them will become sand farmers. An exercise in futility aimed at eliminating the number of people (and their genes) who are so easily tricked. Of course, the people who run this system would be members of such a caste as well, making the entire system as self-defeating as all the struck equations listed above.)

 

6 There is no sense in working ahead unless given adequate persuasion by the instructor as the material will rely too much on information gleaned from the input program.

 

 7 Should such go-ahead have been received, the student is urged to continue in the vein of the problems listed below.

 

1. Describe the Being-Function with relation to the shape of Time.

 

8 (Yet another rote exercise, already performed several times throughout this book, in order to lull the student into a sense of security, and also to activate the sunk-costs fallacy. This is, the student has put so much time into this that they may as well throw in the rest of their lives to boot because . . . what else are they good at?)

 

 

9 - 2. In complex systems of Government, illustrate how the Being-Function is expressed, and then manipulated through large populations. (A labelled graph with a description of the shape of the function will suffice to demonstrate understanding.)

 

10 (This is the question which gets at the heart of everything. I shall be killed shortly thereafter writing these words. Most any student who understands this concept will become a leader. There are a few of us who survived with our morality intact to resist the tug of power which mastery of this problem presents us with. The euphoria is overwhelming along with a sense of security not felt since suckling infancy. Entire planetary systems have been slaughtered to maintain this feeling of innocence.)

 

11 - 3. Describe and demonstrate three ways the Being-Function may be tampered with and still maintain its integrity. (This will require extra time asked of your instructor. Advanced students should have no trouble asking for such exceptions at this point.)

 

12 GUARD Z*FS wuz here - (1-496-56)

so wuz I - GUARD (K*TO)

I got’em first

 

I gotcho’ back

 

Love Potion Number 187 (Pt. 2)

Up at the front, James Kaur eyed a befuddled old man who came in. Stooped and bookish, he was the last person one might expect in this establishment unless . . .

“Can I help you find anything, sir?” James asked.

There were several other clusters of young ladies in the shop. They did not notice the old man. A further testament to his uniqueness. 

“Hello there,” he replied, still staring at walls of merchandise. “I read somewhere about a specific product that might interest me but, now that I’m here, I wonder if there was a mistake.”

Taking a box of perfume from a rack - its case: a picture of a young woman, barely visible in black and white lighting, pressed against the wall while a distinctly masculine hand held a gun to her head, its logo “the red spray of excitement”. James asked the old man what he saw.

“I’m not sure what’s in it honestly,” said the man, “but there’s a picture of a turtle.”

James put the case back. “Right this way please,” he said, summoning the old man to follow him down the hall.

“You’ll forgive me,” the old man said, “if I appear hesitant to descend these dimly lit stairs to what appears to be a dungeon.”

James was about to gently goad the old man with some reassurances but then Brock’s large form clomped up the first few steps and rounded the corner. He stopped at the sight of the two of them blocking the door.

“Thought I heard something,” said Brock. “Who’s he?”

James gestured. This is?

“Oh, uh, Irving Adwell, is my name. I read something. Not really sure how to describe it. It sounds silly actually . . .”

“A bit of charred paper,” said Brock. “Left beside a tree?”

Irving came to life. “Yes that’s it! It’s the tree in my front yard. I thought it had been left by pranksters so I waited a few days, but it was appealing . . .”

“You’re right on time,” said Brock. “Come on down.”

A line at the front counter needed James attention but Brock called back up, “You see anything about the Green Lady?”

Clenching his teeth and putting on his best patience voice, James asked, “Which one?”

“Not one of your customer recommendations,” said Brock. “The bl-, I mean, she has a braid. You know. White braid?”

“Julie is not usually about at this time of day,” said James, “now I’ve got to help these people.”

Professor Adwell was entranced at the sight of the basement. Every medievalist’s dream. Potions in beakers, wooden walls (however did they get underground?) Old books with handwritten ledgers and recipes. Complete with the witch in the cape and her oafish friend. Not really oafish, the professor scolded himself, just, if one were to think of a dwarf and then make that dwarf an average grown man size, that’s what he looked like.

The witch turned to him and introduced herself. “So you’ve never met Julie?” she asked. “She was the one who left the paper at your tree. Long braid? Green eyes?”

“Doesn’t ring a bell I’m afraid,” said Adwell. “I’ve always been an early-to-bed, early-to-rise type.”

Most of the boxes were emptied and the professor helped with the few that were left. Some had bottles like the ones he’d seen on the shelf, others had piles of what seemed like thin strips of leathered animal skin along with bonelike pens. Also, tiny bags of aromatic powders. Olivia lamented the packing of these small bags, all jammed together. Hopefully the packer had made sure all the sacs were pulled tight. Spilled merchandise is worthless. “This must be Julie’s,” she said when there was only one box left.

Brock pried it open. The smell of dirt pervaded. Professor Adwell then noticed the absence of dirt on the floor. They were standing on smooth stone.

“That’s hers all right,” said Brock. He set the box in a corner. 

 

 

Night. Suburbia. An entire neighborhood of English majors reading 60s pamphlets in an overstuffed chairs by warm lamplight. The only thing missing is a pipe. Some even put on a beret. Their reading hat. Oh, what their students would think of them now. Stuffy professor by day, ideological anarchist by night. For the sake of their own children they should have moved to a gated community by a private school when prices were low. They told themselves they couldn’t affrord it then but they could’ve. Certainly not now. Ah the luxury of past mistakes and the ability to look down on others who didn’t make them as privileged.

The green mist is indistinguishable from the treetops. She moves through them, a feathered serpent. The vibrant interior life of leaves warming her as she passes, carrying a message to her forbidden. She does not recognize him at night. He would hide what he reads from his wife. Not because she’s afraid of his old counterculture ways influencing their children who had never seen it and moved out long ago, but because she wouldn’t care and she indulges his regretful reminiscing as a consequence of someone getting older. The mist-girl knows better. His mask is stone, but not immobile.

A Summer at Shiloh Grove (Pt. 1)

We have noted, in times past, that saying you are one thing, doesn’t necessarily make you that thing. In the olden days, when someone professed a deep religiosity, or an avocation in the priesthood, it was generally assumed that that person had morals above the station of ordinary citizens. Today, we know that is not true. Enough atrocities undertaken by the religious have assured us that, despite the good intentions, a person of faith is just as capable of being an embodiment of evil as anyone else, and some would argue more so, as their assumption of unquestioned personal virtue becomes a set of moral blinders.

For some reason, we seem unable to extend this pattern to people of the current day who now gran themselves virtue by nature of their political affiliation, psychological bent, or philosophical proclivity.

 

I will admit to being just as shaken as most, when the granting of virtue backfires and I must relate this story as happened to a friend of mine. Let’s call him Brother V.  Brother V had, for most of the time I’d known him, been prone to bouts of solitude and philosophical speculation. So much so that it would render him to the point of paralysis. Every moment presenting so many different moral conundrums with far-reaching short and long-term consequences that he would often languish for an entire day, head in hand in a state of utter despair.

 

I cannot take credit for his recovery, but must, reluctantly, give the credit to his disposition. His tirelessly whirring brain took him often to new websites, bloggers, YouTube ‘opinioners’ (I don’t want to call them ‘commenters’ because that is a totally different type of beast, but you know what I mean). At any rate, he began to change. He offered favors, for one, if someone was in a bit of jam. Simple things, that he could accomplish that very day that would make another’s life that much easier. He also started asking personal questions of others. Nothing probing or inappropriate. People who had not known of his previous habitual dreariness assumed he had always been polite and courteous, but I knew something was up. I brought it up one day as off-handedly as I could, and his face palled with the knowledge that this day would come. Backing off, I vehemently explained that I had not meant insult or complaint and that I was thrilled that he seemed to be less morose and taking an interest in the world.

 

Once he calmed down a bit, we went out for coffee and he showed me a blog, one prone to few entries but each one was long and in-depth, and a few YouTube channels that he had been watching due to this blog that made him rethink his former philosophies, or at least, his behavior in the world. He said that behavioral change was what made him snap out of it. He always thought that nice and kind people were naturally that way, and even enjoyed it. But lately he had entertained the suggestion that the qualities one admired in others could be worked upon in oneself and that it would take time. Having a naturally wandering philosophical mind, he decided to give it a go. The object is not to change your beliefs in order to conform with some Pollyana-ish notion of bribing your way into heaven, but to behave in a way that makes others lives easier without surrendering your own well-being in the process. Much of the resistance to new ideas comes from the human instinct to set itself in patterns and keep itself there. In other words, when challenged, we immediately take the arguments of our opponents and abstract them to the most absurd conclusion we can, and then imprint that opinion onto our opponent, rather than grant our opponent a shred of human common sense.

 

The next step in Brother V’s evolution was to work harder at his current vocation. His plight, like many, was that his vocation was not what he felt his true calling to be. He dreamed of completing a book of philosophy, but didn’t quite know what that was. He had plenty of ideas and material but had yet to find the thread that would bring it all together to make an engaging and enlightening read. He was, thankfully, familiar with the tedious bore that many philosophy books (popular and academic) end up as, and he didn’t want to rehash those old mistakes. He bore not bitterness to those already published and knew that he was just lacking the final cement and that, with time and effort, it would come. So his day job landed him in food service where he was a waiter. One of his new changes was referring to himself as a server. His job was to serve people what they wanted, and he got paid for it. Simple enough on paper, but we have such a tendency to take customer dissatisfaction at a personal level, and his next project for himself was to be less hassled by this inevitability of the service industry.

 

A spiteful customer can return as a memory years later, which is an insane amount of resentment to spend on someone who you’ll never see again. It’s very likely that this person does not remember you, and even if they do, it means they have negative spite problems of their own which you have no power to control or correct. Brother V wanted to be less concerned over things that were not under his control. The world is unfair and full of suffering and malevolence. This is not under his control, but he can help alleviate the effects of this state of being. 

 

This simple change of attitude and behavior quickly made it apparent that he could do more than serve at these low-end hipstery joints. Brother V procured a job interview at the coveted Shiloh Grove. An extraordinarily high-paying position, even not counting the tips. Government officials and politicians from around the world regularly held meetings in the conference rooms and even ate there casually while vacationing in the vicinity. It was adjacent to a luxury hotel and almost served as an extension of the hotel’s kitchen, although it was an unspoken rule that casual stayers at the hotel did not eat at the Shiloh Grove. 

 

Although politicians can be picky, they generally have things on their mind and it was their aides and assistants who had the reputation as being the hellcat customers. The ‘do-you-know-who-I-work-for?’ types. The answer being, ‘yes, but does the person you work for even know your name?’ was a common enough fantasized response to that question.

 

In order to even get the interview at the Shiloh Grove, Brother V had to pass a psychological and physical examination. In this, he was lucky enough (at the time) to be assigned to . . . we will call him Doctor Brun. Brun was world-renowned in the field of mental health and philanthropy. His videos on personal responsibility were always highlights on the news and the web, as well as his work with those with severe psychological problems and re-adapting them to society. Severe schizophrenics who became doctors themselves, violent criminals becoming fitness instructors or meditation counsellors. His ability to see a gem of good in what society deemed a totally spoiled individual and then polish it to near sainthood was legendary. When was his book coming out? - was a common question. He, like Brother V, was on the lookout for the glue to make his method into something empirically useable. Society, he declared, was very bad at figuring out what people are good at and letting them do that. The best he could explain was that he would let the person be themselves, and give them opportunities that their previous lifestyle or condition had denied them. His main regret was that those who went though his programs versus those who still needed to, made his ‘Brun Effect’ less likely than even winning the lottery. He claimed to be plagued by guilt for not having a book out but he could not, in all honesty release something which was lacking and incomplete.

CLOWNFISH

 

a play without words

(Deep blue background lighting. A continuous pile of rocks, five feet tall - a dark coral reef - extends from one end of the stage to the other. Along this reef are brightly colored aquatic plants. Both sides of the stage are bordered by wide and crumbling pillars.)

(Three DIVERS are present. #1 and #2 are close together center stage. #1 holds a whiteboard with a geometric diagram on it. There is a metal chest between them about the size of a microwave. #3 is stage left, behind the reef, revealing only the top of him. #3 performs his actions simultaneous with #1 and #2's exchange.

DIVER #1

(points out two locations on the whiteboard, then points to his own eyes)

DIVER #2

(looks to stage right and points, then looks behind him, toward Diver #3, and points in that direction)

DIVER #3

(produces two moss-covered jugs and sets them in front of the reef)

DIVER #1

(Nods and gives a thumbs up.)

DIVER #2

(takes out a flashlight and blinks it three times in the direction of Diver #3)

DIVER #3

(holds up a hand in stop motion and disappears behind the rocks)

DIVER #1

(opens the chest in front of him and produces some dynamite. Two sets of three sticks, wicks tied together. He hands a set to #2)

DIVER #3

(produces what looks like an old wind instrument with a deflated sack on the end of it.)

DIVER #2

(points again to the board and again behind him, but doesn't look this time.)

(From behind the stage-left pillar, a white-gloved hand grabs Diver #3 by the mask and pulls him out of sight)

DIVER #1

(nods affirmatively at Diver #2)

(Diver #2 pushes himself along the rocks stage-left and places the dynamite. Diver #1 does the same, only toward stage right. As this is happening, a pair of white-gloved hands emerge from the far side of the left pillar holding a chest similar to the dynamite chest, only this one is garishly colored red and yellow. The hands set the chest down with audible force. Hands quickly retreat. Both Divers stop what they are doing and behold the chest.)

(A diving flipper shows itself for a moment above the rocks, and then the rest of Diver #3's body comes into sight, resting on top of the reef. His suit has been shredded and is very bloody. His diving mask is covered with white paint and streaks of red and a clown wig has been clumsily strapped around his chin.)

(Both Divers push themselves away from the body as two pairs of white gloved hands emerge from the reef and grab each of them. Beneath the colorful plants, clowns emerge, rising from cracks in the rocks. The plants we saw were actually their wigs. Four clowns in total. Two holding the two divers, and two clowns on either end of them. The Divers struggle helplessly but are careful to protect their air supply. The clowns on each end of the reef - the ones not holding the divers - take a set of dynamite, and set them on the Diver's heads, like birthday caps. Then, the clown closest to the jugs picks them up and passes them along, each clown taking a swig. The clowns sway back and forth, as in an ocean current.)

(From behind the stage-left pillar, the Head Clown emerges, wearing giant red clown flippers. He shuffles slowly toward the colorful chest. He sets it in front of the Divers as the clowns on each end of the reef begin to silently slow clap. The Head Clown opens the chest and produces a bloody human heart with a single lit birthday candle in it. The clowns all make fish-faces, opening and closing their lips. The Head Clown kneels beside the Divers, and in the instant he blows the candle out, the lights turn up as bright as possible and cut to black.)

THE END

Love Potion Number 187 (Part 1)

The wheel of the cart caught on a root which Brock Hanson saw but assumed he was traveling fast enough to plow over. He let out a yelp of pain, more of embarrassment. Wooden boxes toppled into the dirt.

Brock got himself up. Although the town was in sight he was still too far away for anyone to hear his cries. He satisfied himself by rattling off every curse he knew and combining them in ways that even school children would find immature. After gathering up the fallen contents his stupid brain muttered to him ‘there, it’s like it didn’t even happen.’

Olivia’s shop smelled of smoke turned to powder. Most of her customers came in for their knick-knacks and left, not knowing the full potential of the existence of such a store in their community. They never noticed Olivia’s cape. That’s how one could tell whether the purchaser was serious or frivolous. Most customers saw a perfume store, or vintage clothing, or knock-off memorabilia, because Olivia traded in the underbelly of the psyche.

The employee parking lot behind her shop and the two adjacent lots had an elevated loading dock for small trucks which Brock never remembered as having a ramp, but he secretly hoped, hoped that he was remembering wrong. No such luck. Being far too nice a person to bother her for some help, he sat the cart by the side of the stairs, lifted its contents one by one to her door, then carried the cart up and reloaded it. ‘There,’ said his brain once more, ‘it’s like it didn’t even happen.’

James Kaur opened the door, young and bald. The two immediate impressions. He was the academically gifted son of her neighbors who helped Olivia mostly during the summer, but frequently during the busy school year too. Olivia’s voice rang through the back hall, “is that Brock?”

James yelled back that it was.

“Be right there, watch the counter!” she yelled, two conflicting directions at once.

Perfectly fine with James who guided the cart through the hall and to the doorway which led to Olivia’s tiny root-cellar-ish storage space downstairs. 

A moment later, Olivia arrived, black cape trailing like the wings of a ray. Sometimes, her eyes were the only part of her that could be remembered. She was not someone whose eyes drifted along people’s foreheads or chins while they spoke. Only a moment needed to a cast a line through the pupils into the back of your brain, the rigid wire telling her everything she needed to know in a second, before she decided what to do with you.

That was the price of seeing her shop for what it was. Those who saw her as an ordinary employee would not remember her and probably thought that her shop had a huge turnover. The upside to her gaze was that you never had to guess where you stood in her schema. She had a lifetime relationship with you in an instant. This skill also had to do with Brock’s cargo.

Olivia brushed a clump of dirt off the side of one of the boxes, then seemed to decide that it didn’t matter. Brock breathed an inner sigh of relief. The last thing he wanted was to have broken her stuff.

“You came just in time,” she told him. “Valentine’s Day is coming up and people are already losing their minds. Men coming in here and staring between pink and purple things. Never looking at the green until I suggest it. Because I know what they’re going to say.” She gazed at Brock like she does.

“Being of the male persuasion myself,” he said, stroking his beard like a stereotypical psychiatrist, “and you being however they see you, I’d assume it’s some sort of humble brag about their sex life.”

“‘Experimental’ is the word that comes up a lot,” she said. “Although it’s always followed by a question mark, like they think I’ll find it alluring or something. Then I ask if she uses the word ‘gender’ often and in ways that he doesn’t understand. There’s a pause, followed by a longer ‘yes’ with a more audible question mark. Then I tell him to go for the green, because most people like nature. And nature doesn’t tend toward light reds. Except in rare cases of sunset when the cloud tapestry is just right. That’s what pink is for. The tender side of an explosive display that you depend on for life.”

As she spoke, she opened the door to the basement and propped it with the front of the cart. “Unfortunately we’re going to have to haul these down one by one, but that’s probably how you got them up the back stairs, right?”

Brock followed her down the stairs with a box. Her cellar seemed something from hundreds of years ago - as would her shop to a discerning eye. All the modern products she sold took on an air of antiquity on these uneven wooden shelves. A space was cleared on her work-table and they set the boxes there. “I got time to help you unpack if you need,” offered Brock.

“That would be wonderful. Others are coming as well, for a little experiment. Nothing gross and sticky, I assure you.”

Brock coughed laughter into the crock of his elbow while setting the box down. As a laborer, he himself was mostly gross and sticky. However, the crudeness of some of his co-workers sometimes embarrassed him. Particularly the made-up things they bragged about. Not all of it was made up, probably, but none of it was brag worthy. Infidelity, young girls taken advantage of at parties. Cruising schools and supplying drugs in their off-time. Who is proud of such activities?

Holy Books - II: Nodegikelamsomeusoqrestfomcult

1 How impossible it is to explain the holy significance contained in the one word: Nodegikelamsomeusoqrestfomcult! 

2 It is said that stories from long ago have been polished over time - with so many retellings - that only the pure wisdom remains. Thus every sentence and every action, even if unintelligible, is symbolic of some deep human truth. 

3 Although further evidence suggests that embellishments and changes added by cultures with differing norms can change the story quite substantially. 

4 So, in essence, the one word ‘Nodegikelamsomeusoqrestfomcult’ is packed with meaning, and completely unintelligible. No known etymology reveals anything. Graphing the numerical relationships on a set of axis, even looking at the spaces between the relationships, quickly becomes a game of spot-the-shape-in-the-clouds.

5 Everyone knows the word, and the word contains everyone. Trace elements of its storied past can be discerned from folklore.

6 When exactly, did the civilization of the glass planet Lamestroisis, home to the Sacred Mountain Library of Maur, form the extra syllables in the word? It seems to be the most recent addition.

7 Once upon a time, King Frowm awoke, earlier than usual and even before many of the morning villagers, with a sense of unease. The light was all wrong. Reflections jagged and moving along the ground, like tiny schools of fish. Dancing along the pavement he saw outside his window. It was the wrong season for that, and many others would soon be awake and frightened. 

8 He summoned his servants and scientists. All were equally baffled. His only hope was the library. He held a public address and bade the village get on with business. He himself would give bi-hourly updates and comb the libraries along with the scientists.

9 Meanwhile, the proprietor of a local tavern asked the village drunk what he thought of everything. His name was Plothe and he was old, unemployed, and lived off charity mostly, along with a meager savings. His addictions had cost him everything and he was slowly trying to run out of life before he ran out of money or goodwill. He looked wretched but was known as friendly if you struck up a conversation with him. He would be expecting money out of it though, so he was avoided by most. 

10 Plothe mentioned something to the bartender about an astronomy teacher he once had in the far away land where he grew up. Plothe was an educated dropout of multiple subjects. His addictions making him unable to complete any task that may take longer than half a year. But he still had the textbook. 

11 This teacher had been trying to get the book published but refused to make any changes the publisher wanted, so he made copies for each of his classes and taught out of those. He mentioned the days when the glass streets would swim.

12 After many hours, Plothe showed his textbook to the king, the king showed it to his scientists who all agreed that it was an entry-level astronomy textbook. Pragmatic, but not revolutionary. They told the king that Plothe was taking them for a ride. Having many other things on his mind, the king did not formally banish Plothe, but sent him and his book back to the tavern with a small stipend. He thought Plothe had genuinely been trying to help.

13 Plothe reviewed his book, some notes of his in the back, and wrote a dedication to the owner of the tavern, who kept the book as a gift and stored it downstairs, in his lowest basements for premiere aging.

14 It was from these notes, discovered after the ruination of the glass planet, that the first complete mention of that most holy of utterances ‘Nodegikelamsomeusoqrestfomcult’ was to be found. The planet Lamestroisis had no contact with other civilizations, and thus, no way to have the partial word, much less a revolutionary addition. But its completeness cannot be denied. And its study remains a perplexingly life-consuming task, like a biologist becoming enamored with the folds of a protein, discovering limitless wonders within each perforation.

Wooden People

He began typing. His therapist, an overworked VA professional told him it would be a good idea. Any sort of expression can be therapeutic. Write in third person, then in first. If writing doesn’t work, try painting. Try coloring in those books for grownups. 

He would have felt like some living cold-case in an old folks home if he even considered looking at a coloring book. It was true that expressing his experiences worried him.

He tried first person: We ran across the field. Lieutenant Sinclair and myself. The enemy convoy had spotted us no doubt. But we took refuge in the side of a hill. Sinclair pointed across the open field to two other hills. ‘If we run,’ he said, ‘they won’t know which one to go to.’

I protested. ‘They’ll search them both sooner or later.’

Sinclair. ‘We’ll figure it out when we get there.’

He led the way and I followed. I had only been in the field for two weeks. Our base got bombed and we were under orders to proceed to the next one, since the first base was no longer salvageable.

It didn’t occur to me that this field may be a trap. Three similar sized hills in a perfect triangle. I felt the ground move under my feet like a giant snake. Sinclair flew above me and behind me. Despite the dryness of the day I felt droplets spatter across my face. My hands came away red. In the settling dust Sinclair was trying to push himself to his feet. One of his legs was missing from the thigh down. He held himself up diagonally with the other one. Red strands hung from his open leg like puppet strings. He hopped toward me.

‘We can make it,’ he said. ‘That’s the only one I saw. I activated it so those slowpokes’ll take even more time. What’s wrong?’

I gaped with horror at his missing limb. The skin hung around whatever bone was left like a loose tent.

Sinclair put his hand on my shoulder. ‘I’ll lead the way, we got time. My bones are made of wood.’ And with that, he lead us to the other hill where we had to stay very quiet. I wrapped his leg up with my jacket, more for my sake than anything else. But when a convoy of ours came by, he explained about wooden people. It’s where the term ‘stick figure’ comes from, if you can believe it. A skeleton of wood must be assembled just so, then buried in a place of death, preferably a battlefield. Some place not often visited, with a lot of corpse to pull from. The wood has this special pull and, no one knows really how long it takes, but a person grows around it and the skin hermetically seals itself so all the blood can stay inside. The blood lubricates the muscles in this case and keeps things moving. There’s no heart or lungs or other organs to speak of. The air they breathe just goes in and out. The food they eat decays in between the blood and muscle and becomes nutrients. Not like they really need them, but its nice to keep up appearances.

If the typing man ever showed this to his therapist, he would be sectioned for sure. Or at least blacklisted for not taking therapy seriously. To be honest though, this is where his problems began. When they got to base, Sinclair went to see the medics and he never saw Sinclair again. It’s quite possible that Sinclair was moved to another unit, but he may have been reburied also. The military is not fond of wooden people. It seems odd at first, due to their ability to keep moving when wounded, but war only matters if lives are at stake. And wooden people are enchanted sticks. Do they take on characteristics of people from the past? He never found out. It’s the present that’s worrying.

The typing man stays temporarily in the guest room above his brother’s garage. His brother does something for a giant bank. Works in an office in a giant building, one of many giant buildings that bear the logo of this bank. His sister-in-law works for a book distributer. The children come home on a school bus and he waits for them at the end of the road. They have an eight-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter. The school is private so the bus is small and the driver knows each child like the teachers do.

One day, I was fixing them an afternoon snack and heard a snap like a carrot. The boy pulled his index finger all the way to the back of his hand. I lost my breath and flattened myself against the wall. Looking at his finger like he would a puzzle, the boy went to the end table by the front door, opened a drawer and took out a pair of scissors. They were almost too big for him and I was feeling dizzy. I could not move to help him or I would collapse onto the floor. He let his broken finger dangle and sawed through the edge of his knuckle. The finger fell to the floor. A jagged piece of wood, the color of exterior bark, jutted out and blood poured from his hand. The skin around the area sunk in like a deflated raft. I pushed myself along the kitchen counter toward him but he just looked at his hand a little longer, then turned to me and held his wound up for my inspection.

‘It was really itchy,’ he said and in the stump of wood I could make out little white shapes crawling in and out of holes they had eaten through his wooden bones. At this point, I heard a sound like static in my ears and the world around me grew dark. When I came to, I was at the VA hospital, hooked up to a hydration IV. A nurse told me that my brother didn’t want to take any chances with my health. I asked about his little boy, the nurse didn’t know what I was talking about, but I wouldn’t really expect her to I guess.

The therapist asks about flashbacks. None, I tell her. I just have memories, like anyone else. I did lie to her about the cause of my fainting. I know what the cause was and that you’re not supposed to lie to therapists. Many of my fellow soldiers turned to alcohol and pills upon their discharge, but their doctors cannot help them if they lie about their intake, even though all the tests and their own bodies show signs of abuse.

My brother thinks I’m too unstable to stay with him. He won’t say that out loud, but I can tell. The kids are fine, he assures me. Nate is besting all the other boys in sports, and Molly is writing perfectly with both hands and drawing at a fifth grade level. He got me a job sorting mail at his office building. That’s nice of him.

In the mail room, we have to sort certain types of paper. A few types of mulch were never meant to be used as stationary so we have to send it back. There are bundles missing every week. Is this happening in offices across the world?

My therapist warns me against idle speculation. Some of these bankers are here before I show up and after I leave. Even on days when the mail schedule changes, they’re always there. They never eat, they never sleep, they will never die.

Holy Books - I: Don't Believe In Magic

It was as follows:

 

1 It has been said that those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. This is patently untrue. A child in a mask became a bear before his mother’s very eyes. Where was the crawling-cooing thing that held its arms up to her with a blazing smile? Untouched by questions of past injustice, all it knew was ‘Mommy.’ 

2 One may be forgiven for thinking this a cheap diversion into the poetic. Mary Klien was found in her home, mauled to bits. The kitchen in disarray, all the cupboards torn from their hinges. Open packets of crushed powder giving clear pattern to the giant claw prints and slimy snout trails along the floor.

3 The kitchen itself was clear of blood, as if the bear was interrupted by something. A woman, peeking around the corner, wondering what the ruckus was. Her suburban neighborhood was so quiet on a weekday afternoon that some of her retired neighbors heard the crashes several houses down. Peeking their heads out in caution - anyone seen outside not behind the wheel of a car or pushing a lawnmower was viewed with suspicion.

4 The crashes continued, unavoidable eye-contact was acknowledged, and retirees shuffled back inside to give her a call. No response. Some called her husband at work. He asked the neighbors why they hadn’t knocked on the door. ‘It’s a long walk.’ The husband called 911 while driving home and nearly beat the police. He gave them permission to enter the premises when Mary continued refusing to answer. On the outside of the house, nothing seemed amiss. But as soon as they opened the living room door . . .

5 Mary’s head was still connected, but just barely. The spinal cord being the only part left of her neck. Her stomach was slashed open and bore the wandering patterns of a searching snout, much like the gluten-free unsweetened cereal in the kitchen. No sign of forced entry.

6 The child was found, crying, underneath its crib. Full diaper. Change the baby as if nothing had happened.

7 In cases like these, the husband is initially a suspect, but since he placed the call, security card swipes at his work and camera footage all confirmed that he had left the house at 8:15am that morning and not returned. All signs pointed to a wild animal attack, but in the dead-center of suburbia, this was extremely unlikely. The nearest bears were all accounted for at the zoo, over thirty miles away.

8 Operating under the assumption that it was the work of a lone psycho, neighbors were questioned, but no one had seen any strange people or cars.

9 Stories like these fall under the file heading DBIM (pronounced, de-him) or Don’t Believe In Magic.

10 Most dictionaries define magic as being under some sort of human control. But people who experience magic tend to feel like puppets. 

11 On the morning of great legislative importance in the city of Stratwall, the mayor was set to veto a budget bill proposed by the ideologically-differing councils beneath him. Everyone knew it was going to happen and would plunge the administrations into an even deeper morass of non-action and delays. And their predictions came true, but not in the way they anticipated.

12 Upon unlocking the federal building that morning, the caretakers were overcome by a stench so repugnant that blisters formed along the throat of a man who threw up his morning coffee which he drank while still too hot. People on the streets fled as soon as the doors were opened. The morning breeze didn’t help matters either and the day was already warming up. Three entire city blocks were shut down in less than an hour. When the HazMat team arrived, they found, locked within several chambers, a large blooming specimen of amorphophallus titanium, the corpse flower, sitting in the governor’s chair. Littering the floor like mousetraps were opened tins of surstromming, a type if fermented baltic herring with such a strong odor that the tins are usually opened submerged in a bucket of water. Birds will fall out of the sky.

13 Budget talks were postponed, and the building was sealed and eventually demolished. All sorts of sales and import records were traced, with no link as to where the fish or plant came from. Unable to explain such a breach in security, the media immediately turns to the salacious headlines of ‘why’? Why such a large bomb for such a small target? Other radical groups lauded the attack as being either perfect, for shutting down a government institution without hurting anyone, or cowardly, for shutting down a government institution without hurting anyone. And once radical politics gets on the news, all relevant discussion of the actual event is dropped.

14 And when relevant discussion is dropped, the subject falls into the DBIM.

The Aristotle Transcript

   Q: Regarding the divisions of humanity, do people differentiate generally, or specifically?

    A: You forgot 'structurally.' In a said location, there may be four floors, each looking down upon the other. Despite the fact that the floors are similarly constructed – computer banks, fireside couches, game tables, and cafe area – the top floor is closest to the murals on the roof and hosts the best view of the city.

    Q: Particularly striking on a rainy day, when there seems to be an invisible wall between the patrons and the storm.

    A: Furthermore, in the game areas there are chess tables and tables with assorted board games going on. The personalities and looks, even between the two types of game player is clearly a group divide.

    Q: What of the readers?

    A: I can't get close enough to tell. The readers are engrossed in their books – no page-turners – and they all appear to be middle-aged and older white men. There are border groups, who hide between bookshelves and talk on their phones.

    Q: By 'not getting close enough to tell', may we assume that the area being described is not so hypothetical after all.

    A: I had reached the same conclusion with your comment on the rainy windows.

    Q: Is there a difference between who inhabits which floor?

    A: Not that I can tell. Maybe the border groups have a roaming pattern that fills up consecutively, like electron shells. The layout of the floors are all the same. Each floor hosts gamers, users of the computer banks, readers, and roamers.

    Q: What is their relation to each other?

    A: Some friends, no doubt. Maybe co-workers off the clock although that is a bit of a stretch. No family, though. This is the place one goes to escape family. The haven of other worlds be they digital, printed or painted.

    Q: So are all these people interchangeable then?

    A: From floor to floor, yes. The only real difference they share is presumably their various occupations, which are the only things about them that would be newsworthy in the event of their sudden demise, that is if anything about them were newsworthy at all.

    Q: Could any one of them move groups, or pretend to be someone else?

    A: Doubtful. Identity addiction is rampant, especially among recreational hovels such as this. If one were to pretend to be someone else, it would not be long before the initial identity would need some recognition of a congratulatory nature of its ability to play at being someone else.

    

– Transcript captured by::SO-fbhy4h:: Both suspects believed to be in Building {Code Bookworm}. Location, undetermined, continuing to monitor signal. Invisible Breach successful.

 

    Q: Do animals take pride in art and architecture, the way humans do? Surely, every spiderweb is as different as every symphony.

    A: Art nowadays is meant as pride for the individual. No longer is it an act of worship towards the greater being. And it has never been so in the animal world. Practicality and defense are the animal's only measure of success. Likewise, it could be argued that the architecture of humanity is best tested in warfare. Much of our science works this way. A chemist in the lab may spend hours mixing in perfect analytical proportions that will only be properly expressed in the explosive results.

    Q: How would one's chances of surviving this hypothetical explosion differ due to floor location? Would the chance of landing on top of the rubble be better than the chance of fleeing the initial fires? If I may be so bold, how would someone in your location be affected by such an event?

    A: The survival chance for anyone in the building is zero. Combined electricity, plumbing, and sanitation chemicals, as well as gas for heating and cooling, mixed with the contents of such a device, would create an impenetrable toxic cloud as well as the byproduct of continuous burning quite resistant to water. As for my location, you'll notice me only from where I am no longer. The suggested immanence of our personal contact grew uncomfortable to me. Scan your view for a newly empty space. You played your cards too early.

    Q: Do our movements matter at all? Is our life the concurrent addition of all our previous movements, or is there some circularity involved?

    A: Movement is the essence of time, and since time is running out, our movements are not cumulative but are assigned an arbitrary meaning, which is reliably inaccurate.

    Q: Isn't beauty created by inaccuracy? The things we work so hard for never satisfy as the unexpected does.

    A: By that logic, there is no reason to stop me. Delight in the orchestration of destruction comes from learning how many creative steps there actually are. Although I do admit to accomplishing much by accident.

 

– Signal located to 3rd Floor Computer Banks. Suspects may be using their own devices and hiding beneath Group Signal. Request Patch through to Backup. No Alert, repeat, No Alert. Just keep Patch Open.

 

    Q: There is always a remainder after any sort of destruction. Can this process be repeated ad infinitum?

    A: Only insofar as it's repeated by nature. A person cannot destroy forever because such a person would eventually have to destroy themselves, and such destruction would require the assistance of an outside party. In this instance, we have the universe which will eventually pull itself apart at near the speed of light. Getting back to the question of the attribution of art, since the ultimate nature of life, is death, killing is the oldest form of worship.

    Q: Isn't the creation and existence of a killer the negation of the killer's purpose?

    A: Only under the assumption that human conceptions accurately portray reality. Every language we create has limits which descend into paradoxes if breached. Mathematics and physics have the singularity. English has 'This Statement Is False'.

    Q: AFK.

    A: Morality and Philosophy have the problem of bettering our lives while dealing with the fact that our only guarantees are sickness and death.

    Q: Not very religious talk coming from someone who spoke so highly of worship not that long ago.

 

– Digital Surge detected. Headquarters and Field Unit unaffected. Surge Originated from Suspect Q. Perhaps half the Computer Banks on all four floors damaged. Customers lining up at Help Desk and Coffee Shop, demanding refunds. Possible riot immanent. This Agent suspects motive on Q to flush out A.

 

    A: Would this juvenile prank be an attempt to specify my location? The only damage in your effort was collateral. Was that a justifiable risk? Is this your definition of 'heroism'?

    Q: Since no one is leaving, it would have been a foolhardy attempt. Is there any possibility of agreement on what constitutes ultimate justice?

    A: As per my last statement while you were shocking the system, the whole of everything is a balance, the scales of which are horrendously unfair. Merely the slightest amount of contentment for one comes at the expense of tremendous suffering for a good many others. Every single being in that chain has a different definition of 'justice.'

    Q: What about you, then? Are you a good person doing one bad thing? How would you like to be known?

    A: Just as this. An unidentifiable series of keystrokes, forever lost in the whirlwind of endless typing which is all that modern life boils down to.

    Q: How do you know this is happening on your terms? What if I threaten to tell your story in the most sympathetic manner possible?

    A: Hypothetical. You can't. You don't know who I am.

    Q: I know you better than anybody.

    A: This is due to your assumption that your perception equals truth. Our extensive past conversations reveal nothing except those conversations. We could be anybody and we ARE destined to be expendable.

    Q: Why hasn't 'culling the herd' ever worked in the past before?

    A: Because getting rid of an 'undesirable' simply creates more 'undesirables.' An unpleasant by-product of morality. No matter how high the floor is raised, it's still the floor. You also misinterpret my motives. I am not 'culling'. I am killing for its own sake.

    Q: They why target the privileged population? Everyone here has leisure time and money and even the more desperate ones have phones. 'Killing-for-its-own-sake' would be more randomly spread.

    A: Because no one cares about the least fortunate. They die in droves every day.

    Q: Doesn't that statement make your current act a political one?

    A: Maybe, but it's also convenient. These are the spaces I inhabit. These are the people I hate. This act has significance for me.

    Q: Why does that matter?

    A: It doesn't.

    Q: Have you been noticing the decrease of the numbers of people who could be one of us?

    A: Most of the computer users are on their phones trying to talk to fellow gamers, and having a terrible time of it. The others are demanding some sort of severance from the Services desk due to losing their documents or game progress. I do admit to having a hard time believing you are still present, due to the immanent danger.

    Q: We are most definitely on the same floor. If you keep moving, we may never meet. But you're not moving.

    A: Where are you?

 

– Both Suspects Confirmed. Request Hold Off Backup. Repeat, No Emergency Vehicles to Building {Code Bookworm}. Presence of Such may arouse Suspicion and agitate Population. Field Agent will Apprehend personally.

 

    Q: Presumably, approaching the obituary section. Is missing your own spectacle an act of sacrifice?

    A: The danger of future pride is too great a risk.

    Q: Someone is already very proud of you.

    A: No one knows me.

    Q: I waited here because this is where you go to escape family. Your 9th-grade teacher told me that after those truancy letters arrived at the house.

    A: This is so goddamned dumb. How many years did this take? Why are you following me?

    Q: Oh, so you ask the questions now?

    A: Whatever. No one will ever know of this. You must be pretty unhappy at home.

    Q: Everyone will know. These transcripts are all out. My dying wish.

    A: Why didn't you reveal yourself sooner?

    Q: You would have run away and hid from me again.

    A: You're going to die if you stay here. Please leave.

    Q: I'd rather die during your greatest accomplishment than live with knowing how little love I was able to bring into your life.

    A: Are you at least going to show yourself?

    Q: I'm sitting next to you. Look up from your screen once in a while.

 

– Field Agent SO-fbhy4h: Moving in on Suspects. Only Two in the 3rd Floor Computer Banks. Gotta be them. And Headquarters? Once I thwart this major terrorist operation I quit working for you dumb fucks. On my hero fame, I'll retire and consult and never have t-

 

End of Transcript. Contact Lost.

Mr. Drumstick Claims His Own

(A stone lion against a blue backdrop. )

(ESTHER, 70s, sits away from the statue, staring complacently into space. She is wearing a flower dress and straw hat and colored glasses. )

(A grimy GRAVE-DIGGER drags a punk TEENAGE BOY and slams him against the side of the lion. ESTHER is on the other side, oblivious.)

GRAVE-DIGGER

How many degrees removed are we now?

BOY

It's just bills man, time passes.

GRAVE-DIGGER

You little fuck-head! There are two transactions here. I fronted you, then you fronted me. But both of us are still in the red with Mr. Drumstick.

BOY

Two more weeks, it'll be the middle of the month, I won't have shit to pay . . .

GRAVE-DIGGER

I am going to plow this shovel into your throat so hard it'll wedge in the lion and hold your head like a serving dish!

(ESTHER sneezes into her elbow, mouselike, takes a dainty rose-embroidered handkerchief, dabs at her lips, then resumes her former posture.)

(The GRAVE-DIGGER freezes while holding a shovel up to the boy's throat. He motions to the shovel with his head and the boy takes it from him, still keeping the point at his neck.)

(The GRAVE-DIGGER tosses his hat away, takes off his vest and tucks in his shirt with large fistfuls. He licks the hand he just put down his pants and slicks his hair back. Still a mess, he straightens his posture and approaches ESTHER.)

GRAVE-DIGGER (Continued)

Ah, good afternoon Ms. Esther.

(GRAVE-DIGGER tries to remove his hat but doesn't have one)

ESTHER

Afternoon, I barely recognized you without your shovel.

GRAVE-DIGGER

It's indisposed for the moment. Thought I'd take a little walk.

ESTHER

I'd like that.

(GRAVE-DIGGER helps her to her feet. They link arms, she turns toward the BOY and GRAVE-DIGGER turns her around.)

GRAVE-DIGGER

Hear a mighty winds a' comin'.

ESTHER

Don't hear, understand.

GRAVE-DIGGER

How's that ma'am?

ESTHER

Listen, listen. I suppose we all must start somewhere.

GRAVE-DIGGER

That's the only way I hear things, is by listening.

ESTHER

So don't listen for the weather, that's a waste of your young ears.

GRAVE-DIGGER

Much too kind, too kind.

ESTHER

When the sky is empty, like today, there's a ring. An echo in a hollow bowl, only it's not a sound but a reverberation and it bears news from as far as the sky is empty.

GRAVE-DIGGER

So it uh, reads you reports?

ESTHER

No silly. You don't read a ripple on a lake or a color on a leaf.

(The boy has lowers the shovel as they turn round again and he approaches the GRAVE-DIGGER.)

ESTHER (Continued)

Oh look, he's found your shovel. You must have left it by your last plot, sticking up like a flower.

BOY

Look man, I gotta go, we got a meeting with . . .

GRAVE-DIGGER

I've told you scum a thousand times to stay away! This is a place of grieving . . . 

BOY

It's Mr. Drumstick, you better be there man . . .

GRAVE-DIGGER

. . . not a dance house!

BOY

He'll come for you . . .

ESTHER

Such frightful clatter!

BOY

Whatever he does to me, he'll come for you . . .

GRAVE-DIGGER

Enough! You're upsetting the lady. My sincerest apologies Ms. Esther.

ESTHER

Such shouting, even for my old ears . . .

BOY

I'm warning you he'll let me go before . . .

GRAVE-DIGGER

How would you like the handle of this shovel sticking out of your guts like a cock from your belly button?

(snatches his shovel back)

ESTHER

Gentlemen excuse me, I would like one of you to hold my hat.

GRAVE-DIGGER

Of course ma'am . . .

ESTHER

Not you . . .

(warmer)

You've got a shovel. The young gentleman.

BOY

Gosh I - of course ma'am.

(ESTHER hands her hat to the BOY who placidly grins at the GRAVE-DIGGER)

ESTHER

(to GRAVE-DIGGER)

I think you're right. About the wind.

GRAVE-DIGGER

(to BOY)

Don't you have somewhere to be?

BOY

I think there's only one place where the wind won't get us.

(He draws their attention to the lion. The three of them move to its side.)

ESTHER

Now who is this Mr. Drum-Stick?

(BOY and GRAVE-DIGGER exchange glances)

BOY

Well, he . . .

GRAVE-DIGGER

Sometimes there's a . . .

BOY

What I mean is . . .

GRAVE-DIGGER

We . . .

GRAVE-DIGGER AND BOY

Don't rightly know ma'am.

ESTHER

Is that so? He seems awfully important.

(The backdrop behind them grows gray, like thunderclouds)

BOY

He's a man I do some work for. One of the many bosses in this world.

ESTHER

You've never met him though?

BOY

Can't say I have.

GRAVE-DIGGER

Today was the day.

(BOY grips ESTHER'S hat as the wind picks up.)

BOY

I'm sure he'll understand.

GRAVE-DIGGER

He's taller than life.

BOY

And roars to wake the dead.

ESTHER

I think you're both very nice boys. I'm sorry for the foul weather. You know, my Roy - he's who I come here to visit - although it's been so many years, my Roy used to get so angry about losing direction he became convinced that the world was trying to drive him insane. Or at least, the people who make the maps.

GRAVE-DIGGER

I do fondly remember his internment ma'am.

ESTHER

And yet we never seem to make it back . . .

GRAVE-DIGGER

Foul weather . . .

BOY

I've got a meeting . . .

GRAVE-DIGGER

Something always comes up . . .

ESTHER

I know it's around here somewhere . . .

(A crack of thunder silences them all and the wind picks up to unspeakable levels. Fade to black.)

Rules on the Composition of Poetry

It must be complete.

avoid starting lines With a capital letter

Every single time

.

italics should never be used especially

for the sentences one is

most                    PROUD              of

and please avoid typographical

tricks

in order to make your point

 

: The reader is giving you enough attention already without the need of feeling ‘talked down to.’

 

Never declare anything!

- (This-is-like-that-is-like-a-whale-is-like-a-breeze)

- or state that such a thing merely IS:

A noun is in a place with a phenomenon and therein lies some significance.

We get that!

 

Colors mixed with emotions are labelled ‘Shakespearian’ but are in fact dreary.

Especially when paired with -

Color                         Emotion                   Place

Red                              Ennui                       Meadow

Yellow                         Fear                          Sidewalk

Blue                             Surprise                   Bathroom

 

- shake with a generous helping of possessives =

 

my ennui yellows the bathroom mirror which reflects the sidewalk blue in my eyes, sidewalk because I fear the meadow outside, a surprising red meadow

Need we say more?

 

Questions become especially woeful. A plethora of nonsensical examinations 

intended to drag the gullible

to dark depths

of impenetrable

dream symbolism

mistaken

for insight

 

perniciously placed after examining a family artifact - like a trap door in an old house.

 

‘My great-grandmother’s spinning wheel

(as a child!) I always thought was used to steer a big ship

Why does the grass grow to a point? , as if to pierce the sky?’

 

We write to share [read: to impress] the unsayable exuberant joy at the heart of being [read: others that we are attracted to]

- with this in mind, any ((barely concealed, like a dancer in silhouette)) references to sensuality, bodies and sex in general is ((perfectly transparent, like your sick fantasies)) an attempt to entice the reader into desiring sexual intercourse with us -                        a delusional aspiration

 

our body-vines indistinguishable

the burning heart of earth, our rhythm, hers,

twin falling-flying sensations merge 

a tremble-shudder through the walls of time

 

(ahem: the reader is not fooled by your attempts to brag about a satisfying sex-life)

 

moving on . . .

 

Excessively strange punctuation is a tedious mess.

If you love apostrophes: write science fiction.

If you love parenthesis and brackets: Write mathematics.

Poetry needs not these ornaments.

 

Rebecca.

 

Inserting a name into what was a piece formally enjoyable by everyone

makes it a diary entry. No one cares about who you know.

 

({Please also avoid anything that makes the reader have to rotate the book or view things sideways this point should be so obvious it needn’t be stated but just for clarity’s sake if your words belong on a wheel then make a wheel and if they’re meant to be read sideways on rings like a laminated safety manual than make a laminated safety manual.})

 

And finally, this loathsome folly of saving the ‘punch-line’ the ‘ending twist’ the ‘turnaround’ the ‘revelation’ for the final line, thus forcing the reader

(whose patience has been infinitely tried to the limits already)

to reconsider the entire piece - 

 

You’re going to die and you don’t know when.

When I Am an Old Woman

When I am an old woman, no one will suspect that I am a vampire 

With a red tongue the color of a fresh victim’s heart. 

And I shall spend my days in apparent catatonic slumber 

like the rest of my fossilized companions

And say repeatedly the name of a long-dead acquaintance who wronged me so many centuries ago. 

I shall traverse rooftops by night 

And enter any club or bar I please while trawling for victims

And I appear differently from all angles 

And through the booming bass my voice pierces straight into the secret yearning of whomever I’ve set my sights on. 

 

I shall slip as a fog out of locked prison cells 

And taunt the police with lipstick letters upon each discovery of an angel-white corpse. 

Youth to feed mine. 

 

You can command vermin to mob the malls 

Towers of rats toppling the food courts, skittering under the skirts in department stores 

And all the dogs either fear or obey 

Tiny puppies in purses gnaw at the necks of their owners and form indomitable gangs that answer to no human agency. 

 

But now we must be careful in the carcinogenic sun. And subdue our appetites in public and set a good example for law-enforcement. 

We must have prayer groups and read the papers as if time matters. 

But maybe now I ought to taste a little blood among friends. 

So that people who know me will recognize my youthful demeanor at their funerals, when I am an old woman and a vampire.

Bog Stew

We call it Bog Stew because it always resembles the underside of a swamp. Mud soaked vines which have become flat transparent sheets the consistency of snot. We even put that in the recipe book. It’s a myth that there are any dead bodies in it. Corpses in bogs tend to mummify and would be much too large for a stew. We want those underground mushrooms almost powdery like compost potatoes.

You’re going to lose a couple during the organization of Bog Stew. The bog giveth and taketh away. Ingredients need to be hunted down and patiently stalked like skittish deer. It’s a wonderful antidote to the stresses of contemporary society, so I hear. There’s a berry with roots that extend beneath the layer of mummies. These berries can only be picked in a certain order, otherwise acid explodes from them at so much as a flick. When one’s face is melting, drowning in swamp mud seems as heaven compared to the present. Over time, the swamp swallows the body but seems to detest shoes. If you see a shoe in the bog when collecting stew, don’t pick it up. It’s still attached to a foot, and shifting that body will release layers of noxious gas that makes a hilarious sound, but when inhaled due to your laugher, disintegrates your bones in minutes.

Necter of the Bogs, some idiots have called it. The folklorist who asked for my recipe told me to use the word ‘vivacious’ when describing the stew somehow. She heard that people describe themselves as floating after eating a portion. Since she’s too afraid to go on an actual gathering expedition, what with the 30% chance of death and all, she doesn’t know that people actually float, and not just the bog mummies. 

Only a few of us hear the call in our veins after ingesting the stew. They wander into the swamp. You can tell they’re for real because the vines of the trees follow them and close behind them like curtains. Then they are gently lifted up to the canopy like a baby with birds that we only ever see the undersides of. Sometimes, the birds make nests in the person’s stomach and that person never comes down. There’s always a chance the stew might keep you. Most make it back down, wander home, pick up a book, nap or something. No one remembers the canopy. 

Like many old recipes I’m sure, Bog Stew is kept in the attic. No one really suggests it for family reunions, it’s more of an ambitious social thing. In the attic are grandma’s shoes. She never wore them, which is why they’re up there.

The folklorist told me that since all the professors are on strike, no one can send her money to return home. She gave up the idea of working weeks ago. Just thought she was collecting swamp recipes. She’s a little curious about how we live out here with no income or electricity. Never thought about it much myself. Occasionally, a child of our community will move to the city out of curiosity. That’s fine. People move around. But like the bog, the city givith and taketh away and we don’t ever see our children again after that. What the city gives us is occasional interest, like sneaky vines. Are there people who really live as we do?

I think it’s something to do with all that solid stuff they cling to. Window ledges, street lamps, steering wheels. A world of edges. When you’re that conscious of danger all the time you become afraid to move, thinking that you’re safe. It don’t make logical sense to me either, but that’s how people behave. I told that to the folklorist, but that doesn’t fit in with the mission statement of the book that she’s researching for her striking professor.

What a ‘self-indulgent’ paragraph that was. (That’s a term I learned from the folklorist) Anyways, Bog Stew is good eaten’. A little anticlimactic perhaps, when you realize that you and your friends just basically gathered up a pot of mud and set fire to it. Good god this is tedious. Writin’. Did it as a favor to the folklorist but never again.

Two Poems

Chiseled

 

Here lies the completed works of a trace memory

slightly hinting at a secret that probably

should never be revealed if one wishes to

enjoy it fully

               drawing pain

from the same lost moments

where fear offered just the right amount of safety

in exchange for a lifetime of

agonizing regret

                            relived with such succulence

that an outside observer may take us to be

drowning in bliss

                             regret is recycled potential

flushed away to avoid having burnt it up

in something so frozen as a book

 

 

 

Gang-Greenest

 

Green is a monster with witch-colored skin

it takes thousands of roaring beasts with rotating teeth

each week to keep it at bay - the world over

 

insects that drink our blood guard the medicines

hidden within its lushness

 

from afar, its orb pushes us faster to the moment of panic

fearing it will outrun us

 

the endpoint of all war - the world over

 

 we follow it in movies, investigations

the answer is always green

What does anyone want from a corpse? green

the earliest cells made sugar from the sun

strengthened their walls

and the factories still run

Rainbow Stalkers

We’ve all seen it even though we pretend to be okay with pretending it’s not there. I was once so close - simply one tree away on the adjacent hill, the rainbow ended behind it - but I was a child with my parents at the time, and they were having none of my running around. That’s the closest I ever got.

You’ll see that it ends a few city blocks away and wonder, ‘who is there right now?’

The truth is, the rainbow does end somewhere. But at the end isn’t a pot of gold, it’s the one being who’s always been closest to catching the actual edge. The Rainbow Stalker.

All Rainbow Stalkers are poets. Rainbows respond to respect. They are not just some twirling scarf of colors to be chased through the rogue wind. If you sing to them, they listen. Of course, they are also not some proud father demanding airs and graces to grant you any favors. The life of a Rainbow Stalker is a delicate dance.

You’ll find them at the base, if you hunt studiously enough. Chance encounters are rare. To be a successful Rainbow Stalker is a strange way of putting it. They love chasing rainbows, like tornado chasers, they will never catch one, or at least, no one has as far as we know. But secrets are revealed to those persistent and open.

Security guards know The Scar well. She stood by the bike racks one morning and all the spandex-clad commuters on their way to their tech-office jobs to sit on exercise balls all day were afraid to get their bikes. There was to be gates around the bike racks thus claiming them specifically for this apartment complex, but that had not happened yet.

She stood, in a black cloak like the witch in Snow White. The Scar had an almost sideways face. A dim, mars-colored circle ran around the edge like a circular lip. Like someone had cut off her face and put it back on askew. She sang to the sky, and every cyclist was on their phone to the grounds control. 

 “Ma’am, you need to leave the premises, these men need their bikes."

From inside her robe, she pulled out a scythe, the curve of it matching the hunch in her back.

The security guard reached to his side, but he had no gun, no taser. He was ornamental and nothing more. “Put the weapon down or I’ll call the cops.”

“Shoot her,” urged one of the cyclists.

The Scar turned to the side and lifted her scythe to the sky. With an audible thunk, it wedged into an invisible crevasse and she lifted herself three feet off the ground. She let out the screech of an eagle, pulled back the scythe and crashed it into an even higher ledge of sky. Translucent bits of blue dribbled down, causing headaches in all who witnessed it. She climbed into her hole and was gone.

This is a Wednesday morning in a young professional neighborhood and this event has never been spoken of since. Everyone was at work during the brief rain, after which the sun tumbled through the clouds like heavy paint in water, splashing on the ground and fueling the rainbows which were seen from every window. Some so close to the building that it prompted thoughts of leaving, just to see if it really terminated in the parking lot.

No one did though. Memories of The Scar may haunt us all without knowing it. We leave the rainbows alone, much of our early education working to convince us that there is nothing there.

Three Inspirational Mottos

The angel sat on the moldy bed, each creak accompanied by his breath, almost louder than the bombs dropping outside. Soon the Earth would be eviscerated. His cardboard sword lay limp, absorbing dampness from the humid morning. Screeches of impending doom shook the sky. Followed by a polite knock. 

The door to the bunker opened and in walked the Pilot Captain. Buttoned all the way to the tip of his neck, the only acknowledgment of dirtiness were his completely blackened goggles which he took off and wiped with his red scarf. Somehow, the scarf never maintained any filth from its objects of cleaning. The goggles left white circles around the pilot’s eyes, pointing to the fact that he may indeed have passed through some dust to get here.

“Agent Cupid,” he said, extending his hand. “Lovely to see you. It is here, I’m afraid that we must bid our final farewells.”

Cupid stood, the straps of his breastplate slipped off his shoulder and the plate hung sideways, not knowing which way to fall. He became uncomfortably conscious of a crust lining his nostrils. The sweat running down his face. His intense body odor. He had not maintained the habits of cleanliness of which the Pilot Captain was so obsessive over. Why should the Captain want to shake his hand?

“It’s over Captain,” said Cupid. “We lost. We’ll be remembered as the bad guys forever.”

The Captain guffawed, a belly laugh fit to divert the path of the falling bombs to the next site over. “Only here and only now, my angel,” said the Captain. “We must never forget the motto we took upon enlisting. Let it pass our lips upon our final moments together.” 

They stood together in a frozen handshake and repeated, “Conquered by none from the sea.” Smithereens!

---

If a celebrity never eats, it still means their shit becomes a watery silt which is time-consuming to mop up from the cages. Even with no visitors or mirrors, the celebrities keep up appearances. They all have specific dietary “requests” (not requirements) that the zookeepers maintain and still the food is barely touched. But no one has ever passed by a celebrity cage to find them sleeping with hair out of place. 

Some celebrities are night owls such as those on the Northern Passage. Darkness is nearly perpetual and many of them have mirrored tables in their cages. They sit back in chairs with sunglasses on and stare at the single bulb illuminating their dismal surroundings. Luxurious in their squaller. They barely notice the zookeepers sweeping the floor or stocking the fridge. “Art is life,” they would mutter, if anything.

The aviary housed those rarest of birds. For maybe an eighteen-month period of time, they were perfect and everyone fawned for their favor. The only role for them after this peak was a nagging mother, and then, a bitter widow. It pained the zookeepers to watch this continual fall, but maintained it must be. The most profitable of appetites are satiated only by these rare birds.

Walking down main street, the desolate stretch is dominated by cardboard fronts with the unpronounceable names of fancy fictional restaurants and clubs. Even the zookeepers take the maintenance passages rather than face this fare. Main street terminates in the front gates, the sign of which is only visible from outside. No one goes outside anymore. All shipping comes to the loading dock, and supporting the caged celebrities is a full-time job. The sign out front reads: Ever The Same, Ever The Different, None Shall Pass.

---

Starved and cold, dreaming of a deep-fried pizza topped with chocolate beside a fireplace, the group finally made it to the mouth of the frozen volcano.

The Expedition Leader: We shall descend into this beacon of the north, eat of its frozen ashes, and be granted eternal life asterisks.

The Team Leader: What did you say?

Sighing, as if he didn’t have time for this and after all, the air is so thin up here, the expedition leader again explained what they were about to do.

“Something about an asterisks,” mentioned a fellow camper.

“We don’t need to go over the contracts again,” said the expedition leader. “We’ve made it. Down you go.”

The group pointed out that they were all snow-blind anyway, and could no longer read the contracts.

“This is silly,” the expedition leader said. “You’re all hearing things. The contract clearly states that you are to be fed to the Volcano Goddess: Long may she withhold her fire from us and spread it in indiscriminate wrath upon our enemies.”

The Team Leader: You’re joking.

The Expedition Leader: Sure.

The group set down into the mouth of the volcano which had a handrail installed despite the so-called ‘virgin quest’ they were all upon. Things got a little warmer as they reached the base. A dull orange glow illuminated the walls and people felt life coming back into their bones. Some shed layers and felt easy breathing for the first time in weeks. Veins of gold crawled up the walls, reflecting the worming streams of lava below. 

The Expedition Leader: Pay no attention to the writing on the walls. Keep your eyes on the path.

The Volcano: Because You’re Yummy.