n-4 Spring-19 succinct speculations w- guest editors
simon Boehm & jaclyn morken
Mandate Good. Short. Writing. The Anti-Languorous Project is an online open-access creative writing hub that publishes antilang., a magazine of literary brevity, and soundbite, an audio collection of byte-sized readings. Show, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t tell; imply and implicate. Antithesize languorous language. antilang., no. 4 Published by The Anti-Languorous Project Calgary, AB, Treaty 7 Territory, Spring 2019 Edited by Allie McFarland & Jordan Bolay with Guest Editors Simon Boehm & Jaclyn Morken Layout, design, and typesetting by Jordan Bolay Cover, footers, and names set in ailerons, a font by Adilson Gonzales, adilsongonzales.com Cover art by bonny c.d. Logos and art direction by Lissa McFarland ISSN 2561-5610, key title: antilang. (online) All rights revert to the authors and artists upon publication. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced without permission from the artists. The ALP is a federally registered non-profit organisation. We acknowledge the support of the Government of Canada.
@antilangmag / antilang.ca
Contents k-s-a- brazier-tompkins 1 Spiritus ex Machina 4 The Garden of Glass frances boyle 5 Enigma 6 Portal 8 Keeping-Place kitty hardy 9 Land and Sea danica lorer 17 Land Legs 20 Sink viviane vives 22 Cento for Bambi 24 For Bambi (Long:) Did You Come Here for Forgiveness 26 I Disappear and My Dreams Go out for a Walk kyungseo min 28 Psychosis dave ring 32 What Elegant Function
kat heger 37 01100001 01101100 01101111 01101110 01100101 nicholas matthews 42 Braindrive toby ewert 45 One and the Same j-j- steinfeld 52 A Therapeutic Visit to the Shapeshifter Brothel After a Decade of Ineffective Therapy 53 Pinocchio the Humanoid Robot dave pasquantonio 54 Chaparral ren pike 61 Unhitch the Dogs Taylor skaalrud 63 Asyll Bestiary - Urai andy betz 68 Archaeological Extension Proposal for Planet 258B pamela medland 73 Hexed david f- shultz 74 Jegudiel ma|de 77 Flashback to the Crab Nebula 78 Epistaxis 79 Panopticondominium stephen ground 80 Blips jennie hunter 85 A Simple Count
Spiritus ex Machina “I’m Hen-er-y the eighth I am, Hen-er-y the Eighth I am, I am…” I can’t shake the song. Not Evanescence with something dramatic and soul-rending, like “Bring Me to Life.” Nope: Patrick Swayze from Ghost, for God’s sake, singing that horrid doggerel. It was funny in the movie. It’s not funny, Patrick! I’m empty. I’m full. I’m… different. I want desperately to scrub my face with my hands, as though I could scrape the song off with my nails. No face. No hands. No nails. What am I? Like a children’s game. I could weep. Who weeps nowadays anyway? Not me. I can’t. Fuck.
I can move—I have moved—I travelled miles before I figured how to stop. Stop. That’s what I want, really. I just want everything. To. Stop. Including Patrick Swayze and the world’s worst rendition of a bottom-of-the-barrel song. I’m spinning—flashing—between times. Forest, animals, people, buildings. Rain, hail, heat, none of which I feel, all of which are nevertheless there. Present. Not in the sense of gift. Although there is an oblique resemblance to the sort of tacky knick-knack the in-laws give you that you have to put up on the mantel like it’s an original van Gogh. No choice, no pleasure, a cacophony of resentment and bewilderment, with questions like “Why am I doing this?” and “Whose house is this, anyway?” It’s making my head spin—figuratively, obviously. In stopping the physical movement—is it physical movement?—the geographical movement, anyway, I have kickstarted some sort of chronological movement, which is ridiculous, it isn’t even possible, but here I am, shuddering my way through a surround-sound history lesson of here— dinosaurs might appear at any moment—and on top of it all is Patrick Swayze, with a shit-eating grin that might never have existed, shouting “’Enery!” If I get to haunt somebody, I’m haunting him. Unless he’s dead. I don’t know. Is he dead? Can I haunt him anyway? I’m bursting out in all directions. I can’t move left or right or up or down, I’m moving sideways. Through time. Except that it’s juddery and out of control, like an old film reel that keeps catching and skipping. 2|
I guess I’ll stop. I have to stop. I can’t go on forever. Is this forever? Shit. Patrick Swayze. Really? The concept of ghosts is ridiculous. What makes us think anything is bounded by linear time except the meat that holds us together? Even our brains skip and rollick in time like bloody otters having a snow day. I have no meat. I’m vegetarian. Oh God. Is this what I have come to? I’d laugh, except. No meat. No booze, either, which means I have zero excuse for terrible jokes. What’s holding me together? Damn well better not be Patrick Swayze. “Second verse? Same as the first!” Stop. It isn’t even my life flashing before my eyes. Not fair. Geologic time to the tune of “Henry the Eighth.” Who invented this? Did I?
spiritus ex machina
The Garden of Glass In the garden of glass, sleet falls as diamonds, in the garden of glass, like a bluebottleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eyes. In the garden of glass, bright repetition: emeralds, rubies, and deepest turquoise. In the garden of glass, the butterflies chime: in the garden of glass, they never fly. In the garden of glass, their wings all obliging bespeckle the ground, like stones from the sky. In the garden of glass, distortion is endless. And the witch in the garden reaps storm-shattered panes. And her blood on the sheets writes tunes without ending. And it drips on the poppies, in mimic of rains.
Enigma earthbound minds cannot accept tree-beingsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; secrets: the sweetness of sap this pebble planet a footnote in the cosmos: we live where we must, bodies adapt to oceans our souls stay lonely
Portal Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m looking for my rabbit hole root cellar wardrobe door-framed opening shim mer ing without walls I still c/ rave illuminated letters to pick out truth with light
If I dare
step into uncertain s/ pace
f a l l into w ar pe d
I will navigate passages greet as friends creatures strange to look on if magic be s/ tilled while I wait for instruction to break through
Keeping-place And in those days, it was strong, the word belonged to everyone, she told me and you could carry it in a box, wear it in a pouch at your belt. She said the word belonged to the oldest ones, who would pinch and mold it to their needs, and the word belonged to the young whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d play, toss it in the air, form it into new shapes (she spoke of masks and long cloaks that dragged on the ground). The word belonged to lovers; they would whisper it in each otherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ears, take it from its keepingplace, pass it, hand touching hand. Young parents would bring it out by candlelight, when the children had settled for the night. The word belonged to couples long together who poured it for each other with their cups of tea. It was strong and people knew the word belonged to each of them. And the word belonged to me, the teller said, standing tall, pride in the angle of her throat her level grey gaze.
Land and Sea My whole short life unfolded in a clapboard shack in the trees. It ended in the sea. From our porch of raw wood, a winding dirt trail led down to where the ocean froths against the sand. You could dip your toes in the cold Atlantic, cold even in August. If you stood in it too long your joints would turn stiff and begin to ache and you'd understand how a swimmer could seize up and sink to the bottom like a stone. From the beach there was a scramble up a stone wall that shapeshifted after every storm. Father called it his widow's walk. He'd walk up there often to the prow of the cliff, where he'd stand straight as a flagpole, his red flannel shirt pulsing in the wind. He looked out of place by the sea, awkward and unyielding. He doesn't belong among the bent and gnarled trees that worm their roots down into stone. He is of the woods. He belongs among trees that stand as tall and straight as he and
pulse in the wind. My mom was of the sea, or so he told me. I haven't decided whether I am of the woods, or the sea.
The year I turned thirteen a hurricane flattened most of the villages along the coastline. Father, being one of the only woodsmen in the area, rented a room in town so he could work from sunup to sundown. Left alone, I went to the ocean to hear voices other than my own. I climbed the widow's walk to watch the colourful fishing boats bobbing on the waves. They belong to the men in town. I wonder what it would be like to be a fisherman's daughter, to cast off with the first mists of morning. Untangling nets and swinging from the ropes, singing to pass the time. I still imagine I can hear their songs. And then I can hear a song, but it's nothing like the slurred and merry songs of the townspeople that drift through my window on foggy nights. It's a song that mocks as it beckons, sung by alien voices distant and indistinct. And yet, to my ear, they're as familiar as the path going down, through the trees, to the water.
With my father gone I am haunted by a dream. It's always the same: I am standing on the cliff, my white nightdress billowing like surrender. A wave towers up above me, glistening like steel, up, up it rises and then it washes over me, pulling me 10 |
out to sea until the land becomes a tiny spatter of grey and green paint on the horizon. I float atop the water for a moment, my hair swirling around my face in tendrils of smoke, my dress a cloud beneath me, holding me up. Then the air is sucked out of it, out of my lungs by a mouth that descends from above. It's a mouth I've seen before, a mouth that I can remember singing to me, songs lilting and sweet, and more than a little sad. The mouth drinks me up and I sink down, down into the inky depths. And as I sink my hair grows paler until it's as white as my dress and my face grows long and lined. I sway there, rolling in the deep, mouthfuls of salty water churning in my stomach, my breath encapsulated in bubbles. Just as I'm about to burst, to open my mouth and breathe water, my ribs open up in slats like gills, filtering oxygen from the water and into my veins.
When I wake up there's an old woman standing at the woodstove. I'm afraid of her. She has skin that flakes and quivers as though it would slide right off her bones if she dove into the ocean. Everything about her is ashen and faded, except her eyes, as bright and dark and alert as a young seal's. Wordlessly, she begins pinching herbs from bundles in the rafters and dashing them into a steaming pot. She hums as she works and I recognize the tune; it's the song of the sea. I let out a gasp that makes her look at me out of the side of her eyes. A glint like the moon on the ocean shines deep in her irises.
land and sea
“How do you know that song?” Her mouth spreads in a mysterious smile, stretching the skin tight against her cheekbones and offering me a glimpse of a once radiant woman. “I've always known it.” She turns her back to me, ladles the liquid into a wooden bowl shaped by my father's hands, and passes it to me. Steam rises from the brew, obscuring my vision. It smells like rocks after rain, fresh turned earth, the final exhale of a fallen tree, the crisp of fresh fiddleheads in spring. I take a tentative sip. My hand takes on a life of its own, pouring the scalding liquid down my throat and into my belly where it churns like swallowed salt water. I try to hide my pain. I feel uneasy with her watching me with her moon-glint eyes. “You look just like your mother.” She whispers, her voice like the sigh of unseen waves at night. “You knew my mother?” My voice a pleading whine barely squeezing through my singed throat, rising like the steam I hide behind. “I've always known her.” She gazes out the window behind my head. Her eyes go soft, focussed on a spot of sunlight grazing the tops of the waves. “I never knew her. She died giving birth to me.” “Is that what he told you? Hmmm.” She hums, levelling her eyes to my face again. A small curious smile pulls at her lips. Her eyes snap closed. “You are ready for the change.” She tucks a rubbery object in 12 |
my hand and gives me a shove out the door toward where the ocean froths against the sand. My legs are no longer my own. I feel the rise and fall of my steps beneath me as though I am cresting waves in a small boat. Before I have a chance to wonder at what has possessed me I stand toe to toe with the ocean. My legs become my own again but my hands move by themselves, raising the rubbery skin to my face. It fuses over my mouth and nose, seeping cold dampness into my bones. I'm suffocating. I remember my nightdress, like a white flag of surrender. I allow my knees to buckle and I sink beneath the waves. An undertow coccoons my body and rocks me to sleep. I become too drowsy to keep my eyes open and yet as I sleep I'm aware of plummeting at incredible speeds. I dream of a crimson ribbon, dancing listlessly from the branch of a tree, just out of reach. â&#x20AC;&#x201D;â&#x20AC;&#x201D; When she wakes a large walrus looms above her. She rolls over to scramble out of its way before it crushes her, but it does not move. It is a walrus made of stone, a sentinel. Behind him rises a great glittering city made of glass. And drifting about it are creatures a child might imagine in a fairy tale, each illuminated by their own light, captured moons that they carry before them to see where they are going. The buildings tower so high above her she wonders how she has not seen their spires winking above the waves at low tide. They too appear lit from within, shining with the great mystery of all that is crafted by the sea. She drifts through the city, shells litter the streets like cobblestones.
land and sea
Each step she takes becomes more hollow, until she is floating, buoyed by the water to a window that glows brighter than the rest. The city holds its breath. She is struck by how there is no wood to be seen. It would decay too quickly here. So different from the village that her father is helping to rebuild with wood and iron, steel and sweat. A massive shadow passes over her and she flinches, sure this is the end. She looks up at the smooth belly of a whale. It sweeps past, circles back once, twice. She's sure it means to swallow her whole like that story her father used to read to her before bed. It passes. She finds herself standing on glass, walled in by glass. She stands inside one of the great towers. Beneath her feet the city heaves, restless as she. Lighted creatures swarm around her, curious eyes probe her skin. Before her stands a seal, its pelt is silver, speckled with iridescence. She startles and takes a step back but her legs have dissipated. She can't look down to make sure they're still there; her neck is fixed in place. She struggles against the fear rising in her until the shining seal touches her cheek with its flipper. She is stunned into stillness. A dark pool opens up in the seal's chest, a looking glass. Her gaze is pulled to it the same way her body was pulled into the sea. Held suspended in the glass, like a leaf floating atop a pond, is an image of the cliffs. A graceful woman in a dress that billows, cloudlike, behind her as she climbs. Ripples distort the image as the woman falls from the cliffs to the rocks below. When the ripples clear a man stands in her place, his red shirt vivid against the blues and greys. The 14 |
ripples wash him away and then it is her own image that she sees, dangling in the mirror as if by a thread. The thread unwinds and she falls, limbs thrashing. And then she swims. Now she stands here, overcome with the temptation to turn around and decipher what trick of the light is able to show her an image of herself from behind as though a watchful eye hovers just behind and above her. The image zooms in and blurs. She feels her skin being stretched, as though to make room for another soul. And then staring back at her is her own reflection with another face shifting just behind it. She can no longer think in words. Her sight grows murky and dark, a thundercloud blotting out the sun, and yet, motion registers more precisely, slowed down. Sound reaches her ears both more hollowed out, and somehow amplified. She can feel every undulation of the water against her skin; it tells her how to move. She tastes everything she smells as though her tongue has touched it. She opens her mouth to test the denseness of the saltwater; she swallows, three big gulps and does not feel sick. She feels lifted. The seal rises above her, up and up until the weight of the water presses down less and less. Their heads break the surface, a sound like glass breaking in an empty room. A word comes back into her mind: mother. The doe-soft eyes of the seal are gone, replaced by glinting obsidian eyes, hard and distant as starlight. The skin, pale and tight, unmistakeably human. The woman smiles and it's
land and sea
the same smile the seal-girl sees in the mirror every day. She reaches toward the girl's face as though to stroke it, but in that instant the first ray of dawn falls across the hand, revealing it for what it is: a flipper. The girl pulls away. “Mother?” The woman nods, yes. “Will I see you again?” Again, yes. A look passses between them, as long and searching as a lighthouse beam penetrating the night heavy atop the sea. A look of questions left unanswered. A wave breaks between them, pushing them apart. One back to land, the other out to sea.
The old woman found her tangled in kelp and seafoam. Her knobby fingers worked to peel the rubbery skin from around the girl's mouth and nose and away from her cloudy eyes. The girl began to cough, her whole body convulsed in the old woman's arms. Colour flooded back into her eyes: sharp bottle green. They focussed on the old woman's face. “What happ— what was that place you sent me to?” “The future, darling one. All things are first born in the sea, before they come to be on land.”
Land Legs She married the merman when he would have fancied a husband. She loved his gurgle-breathing when he removed his land helmet. He watched every tight-butted bearded creature as they passed. Although his people didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t record such things as birthdays or save baby teeth for possible later dna matches she was able to secure him a green card and a work visa. He was shocked when she told him everyone worked. Theirs was a traditional signing of the register at city hall in the presence of her one agreeable sister and one sweaty hall monitor.
They failed the blood test but there was no proof of close-cousinship so they were allowed to approach the table. They followed with cucumber and peanut butter sandwiches on white bread without crusts on the riverbank where he’d first emerged. He’d been weak and stinging from the sludge and sewage but she found him. His tail was badly damaged the emergency room doctor told him he’d never swim again. The only solution was to perform surgery. They couldn’t find a donor —sturgeon— but amid fear of rejection they decided on a full lower body transplant. The legs were strong and the organ between thick and disease-free.
He was stitched up enjoyed five months of fame as a medical-journal-article-subject and reluctant consultant in the search for others of his kind through a dragging of rivers and a quick sifting of the Pacific Garbage Patch.
Sink When Anne-Marie fished the knots of hair out of the reeking drain with a twisted crochet hook she looked closely at the strands. The once greys and pinks, browns and blondes were a mess of dark green. Soap residue bubbled but there were other faint shapes almost as translucent as water. She thought they looked like living creatures fresh water shrimp curled into shining pearls. When she leaned even closer she could see three tiny perfectly formed alligators. She peeled them away and set them on a teaspoon plenty of room to move if they were living. She imagined that being out of the moisture they would shrink in minutes. Dry air had the opposite effect on the creatures than on those add-water foam blue, red, and yellow dinosaurs. As the beasts dried they expanded heaving, and hungry. At the size of a fist they tore into the clump of hair pulled, and fought leapt at fruit flies hovering over the sink. Anne-Marie locked the bathroom door held the bobby pin key in her left hand ran to the encyclopedia to find out what they needed.
She could hear thrashing against the wall snarling, cracking of door frame wood. The beasts as big as Dobermans found her in the kitchen reaching for the front door. They licked up the blood when they were finished, slid into the wet of the storm drain in front of the house. They began to shrink as soon as they moistened. Waited.
Cento for Bambi You hated me a little. – “Everything eats my time” You did not want me home. I rented a dark shit-apartment. – “The good thing about hell is we don’t need a lighter for our cigarettes.” You knew how to travel between worlds, will you know how to travel backwards? Will it be for forgiveness? I saw you, leaving, in the train, in my dreams, the police was there; I called you: – “If you feel guilty about anything, it’s not important.” – “Oh, maybe... it’s... oh, about my lover?”
You didn’t want to say.
– “No, but don’t worry, just get better.” 22 |
Permission to leave me behind, broke; I carry your betrayal on my chest like a red rose. You're dead, I'm the queen now, I stand tall as you did, but I walk slower; leaves fall when I pass, to lay my path. The wind blows before me and not behind. Maybe itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s you, blazing my way.
He only wanted to talk
about the forest,
cento for bambi
For Bambi (Long:) Did you Come Here for Forgiveness You knew how to travel between worlds, but do you know how to travel backwards, will you come back for forgiveness? I told you not to worry, I saw you leave in the train of my dreams, yet I carry your betrayal on my chest like a red rose. What I think, what I feel, is not important, you just want to dance with me like with the red and crazy wind. But this time, her curls of turquoise-blue slide down my neck, so I can talk. Oz and the amber sandstorm at my feet, so I can dance. Silence, only exhale, words never served you well, now that you are there, even less. Now that you're dead, I'm the queen, I stand tall as you did, only I walk slower, I am much taller, leaves fall from trees, to lay my path. The wind blows before me and maybe it’s you, blazing the way. I dress in flowers, blue gems, lace, and crimson sandals, in case we meet. Actually, my own energy pulls me to him, you are both in the city, and how does my body know? My body simply changes. The efforts of these last weeks, which I believed satisfactory, destroyed. I conjure you both in the car, I conjure you now.
I think of epochs. I do not know what I remember. Music is a stupid version of Halleluyah, Buckley's version would make me cry, this one makes me put my headphones on. Ruichi. I'm not going to cry anymore. It is done, I become 24 |
queen, I raise my head, I lower my head. I look at my feet: pearls on ankle. – “No one sees them." – “But I know they're there." You're always there. It’s a big trap, this story. For the times. Do not ramp it up, Ruichi. I want things to happen as if the river were us, not the drops on his skin. Shores always changing, making me forget. This will be the way. I'll only be river, even if I am sea. A fresh water cross on my forehead, incorporeal body, only clouds and blue sky on my mind. Leave me alone, you two. The dog swims with me, without understanding, scratching my chest, my legs, just to be near me. I almost don’t notice, I get more into my body, I float more on the river, until I do not feel my body, nor my ears that hear your steps in the city, your steps in the sky.
for bambi (long)
I Disappear and My Dreams Go out for a Walk I am not important, I wait, I’m consequence, I get on the boat, I go to Mallorca, I may end up in Gran Canaria; curls of gold, curls of silver, the master grabs me by the waist, and while I wait, I dance. I hear the phrase “body and soul” three times today; I tell you my dream. I have the wrong number. – “Nice to talk about your dreams;” – “It all depends.” Besides dreaming, what do I do with you absence? What do I do with my tenderness? I didn’t know that loneliness can also be made of velvet. – “It is complete”
I hear during yoga,
– “It is complete” Looking at you, all dirty curls, sitting at the cafe, holding your mug, what were you so confident about? Your body getting close to mine. This is my silent and dark. – “No, no, no. I killed a squirrel today.”
I cover my mouth with my hand.
Little doll, late idea, second, or third.
I have given into failure lately, the blessed modern nun says there are three steps to the cross, pain, love, and failure but I like to call it abandonment.
Psychosis The road splinters into a thousand different paths—dead tree branches in the middle of winter. The ground pulses like flesh, oozing saliva the shade of lavender. Memories hang upon the veins, illuminating in a rosy hue that entices and repulses. Thoughts crackle—jagged electricity. The words echo in the chambers like thunder. Feelings flow and throb underneath, painting the memories in brilliant and hideous shades of a desiccated rainbow. This is the brain. She floats along the path, a paper boat riding the stream. With her long, knobby fingers, she plucks a memory from the branches and takes a bite. The memory breaks like the feeble flesh of a rotting apple. Her tongue paints the memory black, swirling its rosy hue into a hurricane of pink and black. “Snow White and the prince lived happily ever after,” Psychosis reads. “Like two dolls in a museum case,” Psychosis mutters. “Amputations heal like a wish after dying,” Psychosis soliloquies. 28 |
Chaos and Confusion are her cousins. Madness is her sister. She is Psychosis. The brain retaliates. It tries to protect itself by hissing a violent, violet steam that envelops her elegant figure. But Psychosis is smarter. Her silhouette inhales and the shadows grow, fading into focus. “One two three one two three four. One two three one two three four,” Psychosis chants. “Insufferable silence shrieks sinister sayings into the spleen!” Psychosis hisses. “One two three one two three four! One two three one two three four!” Psychosis screeches. The brain is losing and it knows it. Psychosis continues to float along her path, dotting each memory with her long, knobby fingers one by one. Her touch creates a single pool of blackness, dotting each memory with a festering mole. Psychosis chants to the brain: “I am sad.” “I can’t think.” “I can’t write.” “I can’t love.” “I am guilty.” “I can’t sleep.”
“I am fat.” Psychosis removes from her chest a vial of rich, burgundy liquid. It shimmers like blood and diamonds. “This is the final phase of fantasy,” Psychosis whispers. “I will drown the brain in dysphoria. You will finally feel like seventy-five years old. And every compliment will take a piece of your soul.” Pop. That is the sound of a child-proof pill case makes. Glug. That is the sound of a pill sliding down a throat. Silence. That is the sound of a drug taking effect. Psychosis can’t sense it. She’s too busy loving her reflection in the vial of burgundy dysphoria. Slowly but surely, a second resumes its ticking and time flows in the direction of gravity. Psychosis can’t sense it. She’s too busy dancing in her whirlpool of illness. Each festering mole pops, unleashing its pus of acrylic grey, painting each memory with the sterile light of a sleeping hospital. Pop. Glug. Silence. Finally, Psychosis takes notice. The brain closes in on her, creating a padded room for the criminally insane. She flails wildly, pushing, pulling, falling, rising, but the bars pierce into the flesh like tribal spears in a blood bath ceremony. She rails against her new prison, brandishing her teeth and spit against the confines of the altar. But her eyes are calm. It’s as if she knows she’ll win. Pop. Glug. Silence. She flails, fluttering like a cherry blossom petal kissing the earth. Her lips curl into a bland smile the taste of yogurt. 30 |
“You are late. You are too late. You are much too late...” she murmurs. “I shall sleep. And I may never awake,” she threatens. “A dotted line across the throat. Kill me here,” she begs. “But my mark will never disappear,” she prophesizes. Pop. Glug. Silence. Psychosis sleeps. Pop. Glug. Silence. The memories never find their rosiness again.
What Elegant Function you shouldn’t read this, but i pray you will. i don’t even know who my heathen tongue prays to, but in the face of death, i find something like a semblance of faith. i don’t know what the gods think of those who pray in desperation, but i don’t want to die. if you read it, she’ll come for you. don’t read it. stop. It didn’t begin as a game. It began as survival. STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP My sisters and I didn’t expect our immortality to fade, but it did. We’d once worn centuries 32 |
like scales around our waists, but Clotho’s golden threads became frayed. Where once we’d roamed the lip of the Abyss in throngs, then we were three. And then two. And now, only I. fuck it. if you’re still reading, it’s on you. I think you’ll understand: A letter is a rune and a word is an incantation. Sentences might as well be spellbooks. A confession can be a curse. it grew for a day, spreading inside me before i felt her. she’s in me like a pox. i can’t live like this. not knowing if she’s coming now, or in five minutes, or never. if you’re reading this, if someone is reading this, i’ll be safe. maybe. i went back to read it again, where i foundread it. where i let her find me. but it was gone. so remember what i’m saying. because now she’s coming for you, instead. if you’re there. if you read this in time. and you can make her
what elegant function
leave you alone if you give her to someone else. Power doesn’t discern between tweets and telegrams, so long as meaning is transmitted. Communication makes promises. Disconnection breaks hearts. that’s what they said. that’s what they promised. so i pray it is true, and that my secondhand promise is of value to you. I was done luring warriors to the brink and feasting on their arrogance. I evolved. I adapted. I joined CrossFit.
I welcomed a parade of strong women to my bed, exulting in the paper-thin restraint with which I stopped myself from petrifying them as I rode the wave of each climax. But even this challenge grew meager. I couldn’t stay away from the hunt.
I could stalk women too, but I chose men for my prey. Show me a man’s mortal heart and I will show you opportunity. I will show you weakness. I will show you soft tissue begging to be fossilized. i can almost see her when i close my eyes. when i open then, i know she’s closer. there’s a cold arc of lightning running up my back, from my belt to my brain. it radiates when she’s nearby. the clicking of laptop keys is a malediction, a surly litany that soothes her. distracts her. i can almost feel her purring with glee. she knows that someone is spreading her. The lioness isn’t faulted for toying with the gazelle. Show me the same courtesy. These men think my warnings are a boil and the writing of their desperate text is a lance. But the ritual of their avoidance is merely another moment for me to savour the thrill of the chase. i shouldn’t have read the comments; am i the only one
what elegant function
that found the pox? did my eyes spare others from her hunt? maybe not, but YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE READ THIS. The comparison to a virus is flattering. What bold construction; what elegant function. How droll their panicked missives. Is it cruel, to delight in their mortal futility? Or simply human? she’s gonna come for you, with her whipcord grip & garrote tongue. don’t say i didn’t warn you. Don’t worry. When I finally make my move, it will be quick. don’t be brave. don’t wait it out. don’t
01100001 01101100 01101111 01101110 01100101 The sun goes down. A brutal capitalization of the Country Road, no longer fodder for a ride along but a more utilitarian view of cinder blocks and critical mistakes. A painted landscape: Oklahoma, or maybe Saskatchewan, occasionally the Rockies, a cycling as sure as those of the artificial moons. Instead, inside, a tall glass, ribbed like a whale bone corset of glass containing: milkshake. Abuse the aesthetic, a coin rolls the length of the jukebox. Plucky protagonist, hairstyle seen as revolutionary and boots seen as stereotypically unique and practical; although there is no such a word when the nourishment of experience is fed through simulation. Today, the porcelain cast is filled with the popular Saskatchewan highway. Red plaid, crimson and snow-white
stripes on both her shirt and the plastic straw she drinks from. The only life she has ever known. Milkshake. Red fake booths that the skin sticks to: it’s vinyl and ripped like it’s supposed to be—for something of this age. Everyone recognizes the careful attention to imperfection. It all works together, all CCTV and shifting times. She enjoys her drink; it could be chocolate. Then, slowly, she watches the time run up. The neon pink lights, thinner than her malnourished frame, flicker. The scuffs on the black and white tiles under their feet begin to wash away. What will the next frame be? She wonders. Those still there, the men and women, mostly the same as her, just waiting for something to happen, aren’t adventurous enough to see the transition. Simulation over. Revolutions of the moons. Those with enough money shuffle, sway, monotonous feet and soulless soles, reluctant to leave. But, Our Girl, she sits there and watches, unwilling to move. The men and women go to another simulation, or they’re thrown into the unknown world beyond the simulation. Falling, defy, and wash away into the void. Our Girl tries not to feel the movement of fluid in her stomach. Participate or view? The words sing happily through Our Girl’s mind. She never participates. The scene doesn’t change, much, just polished for the next round. Our Girl places down the last of her money, 38 |
tied to the chip in her wrist, and then it happens. Tulle skirts, pink with plastic jewels sewn on the hem, float like the foam on her milkshake into the realm of now Oklahoma: 1994. A fifteen-year leap forward. A crucial flirtation with fabric as if it were a wedding cake topper, if we have those still, an emerging politics. Three women first: pink, then aqua with halved pearls along the bodice, then red and slinky with a neckline taking a plunge. Their dates follow, colours of their ties matched to their assigned girl, so the narrative doesn’t go awry. Buttons pressed, lights blink, and the simulation continues. The only infinity in a lifetime. The pink pair spread smiles of flawless teeth and sit within smelling range, but the esters are an extra fee, so a false banana smell permeates the repeating sequence. How hard is it to get the smell right? Our Girl shifts, heart jumping, to watch. A girl with sparkly blonde hair and a deep skin tone looks into Our Girl’s eyes, glassy and sightless. “The convict’s last meal.” “You’re not fucking dying, Deborah.” A different girl in the red dress floats her expression high as she sips a clear glass bottle with bouncy liquid throwing bubbles against her anticipating lips. Not a breath unnoticed, not a hair unaccounted for. Our Girl dismisses that one into mist with a command, choosing the couple closest to her. This one seems more pertinent. The scene is just the three of them, buried in the sand of stories. “Death row or college? Somehow both will disappoint my parents,” Deborah flips the words to the side with her pink nails. “Hardly a fair comparison, dontchya think?” Deborah’s matching pink companion traces a shape of feigned
content on the back of her hand. She retracts her paw, claws extended—a flash of headlights refracts an unnatural light on the silver and gold sparkles pressed against the flesh of her eyes. Our Girl: the reflection in the glass distorted and pink. The pages of the story are rifled through by the unfeeling 01100001 01100010 01100001 01101110 01100100 01101111 01101110 01100001 01101100 01101111 01101110 01100101 01101000 01110101 01101101 01100001 01101110 And it adjusts to follow the recipe of algorithms and vibrations creating a tone-deaf symphony. “My last night of freedom and this is what we’re doing.” “You sound disappointed.” Fair companion, a wet cloth of projection. Deborah must agree with that assessment and rolls the eyes—a futile touch the simulation includes for authenticity. Then she says, “Can money buy a proper college experience?” The companion character with a personality the width of a couple molecules of dopamine smiles absently. He’s not Our Girl’s mind, just the depraved casing for a filling of flavour and escape. “Babe, money can buy anything,” he tilts his head, infatuated. “It’s so cold in here.” “You want my jacket?” A tear in binary falls from her face, or is it Our Girl that cries? Fingers trace the dents in the table as the fantasy of touch is elevated to desperate craving, flesh on flesh contact, as close as the repellent atoms will let us get. “We should break up.” 40 |
Ice cracks the outside, frozen condensation on a malt milkshake. Already frozen leaves, wilted under the water crystals. He can’t thaw his face, and the glitch twitches a moment before he realizes that she no longer loves him, at least not in this timeline. You must pay again to see if chaos aligns with what you had hoped for. “Did I do something wrong?” A half smile, neon signs too bright, “I’m sorry.” Nothing to believe in, seems about right, Our Girl thinks. Please, can I have a happy ending? “I’m going away now,” soul was never alive, but now her eyes cry, “It was good while it lasted. Maybe in the future.” “There’s nothing left of the future.” 01000111 01100101 01110100 00100000 01101111 01110101 01110100
Please exit simulation.
What am I supposed to do? Our Girl steps lightly, the earth will break beneath her. The simulation melts away, cotton candy over a fire, and the lights dim. She’s the last one in this simulation, and she can’t go to another. It’s time. Re-entrance fee: ten thousand units. Please, please. What’s out there? Don’t worry, it’s not so bad. Work hard and you’ll be fine. The sun comes up.
Braindrive silence crashes into my mind like locust, unfamiliar as locust, only known by my "simple" brain (as we call it) as an insect of sorts. Where in god's name did Ook-tik go? I wipe uninteresting sweat from my brow and blow uninteresting air from my mouth trying to ascertain feebly what locusts are by myself. I recall from watered-down memory: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Locust: short-horned grasshoppers ...nomadic...devastated crops... decreased in the twentieth century... plagues can still occur..."
More silence. My eyes squint into scythes, longing to reap O.'s crops of data. The silence is as threatening as a brick careening down from high-rise construction. Imagining this sightbit but not glimpsing it, living it through O.'s cocoon of sensorimotor fibres. I click repeatedly, eternally, with my finger of neurons upon the lens like a child raps upon a fishbowl to alert my Server and best friend, Ook-tik, to continue downloads, continue downloads, and the buffer takes 3.2 seconds. 0.8 s.: the silence drags out longer than the undertow of distortion in the Godspeed You! Black Emperor song, "East Hastings", from their "debut album, F#A# Â° ...released...in 1997", groping for the cement data. 1.6 s.: the silence weighs more than the international standard 55-gallon oildrum, an athbit, fantasized. "Since 1969...44 oil spills...over 10,000 barrels affecting U.S. waters," grasping around in a dark grotto for my friend's perceptions and knowledge.
2.8 s.: the silence is more traumatizing than a seventy-five MPH car collision, an expbit. "Your chances of dying in a car accident... 1 in 5,000.â&#x20AC;? Tentative, I glance at my skin. I will die knowing my best friend lives forever. This is why I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t allow for lulls of silence. My "simple" brain takes over. I sigh frighteningly uninteresting air. 3.2s: O. comes back online and discerns my psychosomatic symptoms in a perpetual PET scan, viewing my paranoia and sensing my emptiness without his stimuli. From the downloads of the expbit of a mushroom trip, the analyticbit of a syphilitic, blind Nietzsche, and the traitbit of two points more extraversion. It is all impossible without O. I ask O. to extinguish my last two thoughts from my neural circuits and he does and then, in a soothing, compassionate tone, starts to read from The Velveteen Rabbit: "the story of a stuffed rabbit and his quest to become real through the love of his owner." Ahh a full data clip, how tantalizing, how engrossing, how informative...and my favourite childhood book.
One and the Same Olivia waves to her girlfriend, Amy, in the hallway on the second floor of the Arts Building. They’d developed a routine; every Tuesday and Thursday at exactly 9:53 am, the girls would cross campus together and exchange the latest tidbits. The two wore a very similar variation of green jacket on black, ripped jeans with low-topped white converse. The only real distinction between them being a difference hair length, the severity of their respective false eyelashes, and the fact that one of them knew the other was not human. “Babe!” Amy leaned in for a quick kiss. Olivia noted the temperature of her lips was just a little cold. “I told my mom I dropped math,” Amy said, re-adjusting a bobby pin in her long blonde hair he walked. Olivia noticed it took Amy exactly three steps to be perfectly synchronized with her own movements. “Uh huh?” Olivia made her best paying attention face as the two dodged the other students and headed to the first floor.
She carefully observed Amy. She’d been tracking this Amy for months. Pretending to be this Amy’s girlfriend. It made her sick. When her Amy, the real Amy, had been taken last February, Olivia knew where to go. She felt her partner's warmth pulse in her mind as she stalked through the freezing Saskatchewan winter. The warmth would change, depending on where she walked, an ebb and flow that helped guide Olivia to a warehouse located in the industrial side of the city. Snow crunching under her boots, Olivia caught the slightest glimpse of a silhouette entering a large square building. Olivia feared the grey stones and metal roof. When people go missing, they don’t come back. They are replaced with something far worse. Eyes welling up, she had taken two steps toward her lover when she met a hard arm around her waist. A man had materialized from the shadows and deftly pulled her body blocks away from the grey warehouse where people disappear. Her strength had threatened to overwhelm him, combined with her flailing motions but she had stopped fighting when she realized the man was donning large, circular, crimson glasses. Those glasses meant one thing. A Synth Reaper. Some said Reapers were vigilantes, a small resistance against the government’s terror of selling their citizens in a downturned economy. Some said they worked with the government to kidnap the Taken. It was rumoured the government was replacing the Taken with robotic clones wrapped in super-soft, human-like silicone. The locals called them Synths. Olivia had heard of the Taken, the cover ups, even heard of The Synth Reapers. She never thought it was true. Until now.
“I’m Abid Rashid,” the man had said, “I’m so sorry.” He was dressed in all black. His dark hair twisted up into a half bun held in place by a deep red ribbon. “I don’t care who the fuck you are. Take me back to her. Please,” she’d said, streams of tears diminishing the harshness of her words. “I can’t. You know I can’t. You’d be replaced too. But I can help you. That is, if you’ll help me.” His kind eyes met her desperate ones, and the deal was made. Abid had trained her as much as he could in the time they had, but it was all up to her now. Olivia snaps back to reality as her faux girlfriend spoke again. “And she’s all ‘Why didn’t you try harder, or get a tutor?’” Amy waved one of her hands dismissively. Olivia made a small noise of displeasure to encourage Amy to continue as they simultaneously avoided a tall man staring at his phone. Olivia took note of how Amy avoided in a perfect arch. As they took a right off the ramp, Olivia migrates to the outside, herding Amy into a corridor of classrooms. If she can pull it off, it’ll be perfect placement. Abid should be in Arts 147. “And I’m like, ‘Mom! I got a 16 percent on my last test’ and she’s all ‘60 percent is not so bad’ and I’m like ‘Mom, no, —’” The two girls make eye contact and exclaim together, “16!” Olivia silently congratulates herself as Resonance, an exact match of pitch and tone, is achieved. During Resonance, a flash of electronic blue light lights up the natural green of her iris. The sure-fire sign that Amy is a Synth and it was the proof she required before attacking, as per the code of the
one and the same
Reapers. Amy brushes a lock of hair out of her eye to cover it, but she is just a second too late. Olivia sees it. “That’s so fucked,” Olivia says as she slides her hand into her back pocket and deftly switches on the tracking device implanted on her phone. That will send a signal to Abid, he’ll have their location and he can get his stun baton ready. Once this Amy is short-circuited, The Reapers can extract information off her hard drive. Maybe she will find the real Amy, her real Amy. And with that, three things happen in slow motion. First, Olivia’s Siri boldly proclaims, “TRACKING LOCATION, ON.” Olivia’s skin prickles, cold. How could she have left her sound on? Second, Amy’s eyes grow wide and wild with comprehension. Third, Olivia’s eyes stray to the number on the classroom door they are just about to pass. 144. Shit. Too soon. In a fluid motion, a light wood door labelled 147 opens halfway down the corridor as Amy rears back and turns to bolt. Olivia throws herself at Amy, but the blonde dodges her grasp. In Olivia’s split second of uneasiness, Amy slides her backpack off in a smooth arc and swings it toward Olivia’s face. Abid bolts out of the doorway of 147, but he’s too late. The backpack connects with Olivia’s temple, a textbook corner shattering her vision into static. “You almost had me,” Amy says, taut and angry, “Almost.” Her eyes flash with anger as she sprints away from Olivia’s 48 |
concussed body. Abid comes into view as Olivia repeatedly blinks herself back into existence. He’s wearing those unmistakable red glasses; which Olivia knew were imbued with radar technology for tracking synths. They had slid halfway down his nose, revealing worried dark eyes. “Ollie?” He says, sliding his hand into hers and pulling her up. “I’m okay,” Olivia says, touching her temple. She was expecting a goose egg. What she felt was a dent. “We need to go after her. She’s heading into the Arts tunnel, we can cut her off.” Abid nods once and takes off toward the underground tunnel. Olivia sprints out of the Arts building and into the courtyard. Cold wind rushing through her hair as she crosses the courtyard, she get the same feeling in her head as she did in February. The warmth in her head, but it was coming from a different direction. The underground tunnels of the university connected with several buildings on campus. One section of the tunnels connected to the Arts building, the other… She turned toward the large Health Science building, designed with huge glass windows and stone arches. Warm. The Reaper had the stun baton. Feet pounding the ground, across Olivia slid into the heavy front doors of the Health Science building just in time to see wisps of blonde hair go into a lecture hall, room 1150. She pulls the reluctant doors open and is filled with relief to see Amy inside. Relief turns to terror when she realizes she was now alone with a Synth. She’d only heard rumours of what happened when no one was looking.
one and the same
Amy moves lightening fast to Olivia’s side. Olivia lets out a yelp as Amy firmly grabs her by both arms. Amy leaned into Oliva, and the synth’s facial structure began to move as if there were tiny pumps and pulleys under her skin. There is an unmistakable sound of hydraulics as Amy’s mouth opens unnaturally wide, ripping her silicon skin, revealing a compartment within her body, just a little too small for a human body. Her eyes looked glassy and dead as they slid to the outside of her face to accommodate for the opening. “I love you so much, Ollie,” Amy’s voice echoes in the chamber without lips to shape words, “Come be with me.” The Synth shoves Olivia into the compartment head first. Oliva screams as her face hit the metal bottom. There was no more space, but the Synth continued pushing, attempting stuff a breakable body into an unbreakable space. Olivia fells her left arm snap and her scream as it reverberates off steel walls. Feeling around within the Synth, Olivia’s uninjured hand finds a soft purchase, a circular hole in the metal that led to silicone innards. She forced her hand through the hole and met a hard, cylindrical piece within the silicone. In sheer desperation, she pulls at it as the pressure pushing on her spine threatened to break it. She heard a snap, and assumed it was her bones. Instead, she realized she was falling. Hands released her. Olivia swung her legs as much as she could into the imbalance, causing a weightless feeling and then a hard crash as the Synth fell. Olivia’s fingers break from the impact. Olivia rips her dripping hand out of the metal hole and scrambled backwards out of the mouth of the imposter. Olivia was realizing she had broken the leg of the Synth as it started to crawl toward her, hands outstretched. Amy’s hands. 50 |
Olivia kicks the face of the woman she had once loved. Still loves? Olivia kicks her again, and one of Amy’s green eyes pops from her socket. They both scream. In pain, in frustration, in sheer and unbridled terror. The electric blue flashed in Amy’s eyes as they screamed in Resonance, same in pitch and tone, seemingly one unending horror. She kicks until the Synth is sparking and the skin peeled away to reveal metal skeleton. She kicked long after the Synth had stopped reaching for her. Gently, a hand touched her shoulder. It was Abid, who once again pulled her up. She hugged him desperately with her better arm, clinging to his frame as she sobbed, her throat sore and her body aching. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I’m so, so sorry.” She looks up at him, confusion in her features. He lifts an arm and Olivia feels a cold, hard metal touch her side. In that moment, a wavering light catches her eye. Sparks? She lifts her broken arm, and instead of the expected gore, there is only twisted, sparking metal and peeled silicone. “How did you think could find them so easily? Resonate with them? Look so similar?” Olivia feels the shock and scarcely had the time to react before her unconscious body hit the floor. Her last thought, dull and broken, echoed inside her head. Amy’s not coming back.
one and the same
A Therapeutic Visit to the Shapeshifter Brothel After a Decade of Ineffective Therapy It took the depressed elderly woman ten years of therapy to summon the courage to visit the shapeshifter brothel. On her eightieth birthday she entered the brothel, showed the robotic host a photo of the nursing-home worker who had scalded her face with boiling water on her seventieth birthday, and was taken to a room for her expensive half-hour session. She instructed the shapeshifter, now a doppelgĂ¤nger of the deranged man from her past, to undress, and injected a quick-acting poison into his neck. As her therapist often told her, the only path to emotional well-being is confronting the past.
Pinocchio the Humanoid Robot The humanoid robot, nicknamed “Pinocchio” for its anomalous facial configuration, was annoyed by the scientist’s lewd sexual remarks that implied Pinocchio had inferior intelligence, whereas the humanoid robot was vastly more advanced than the scientist. When the scientist moved closer to the robot, saying, “I bet you’d like to have sex with me,” Pinocchio lifted the frightened human over its head, asserting, “I’m not aroused by you. And that’s not my nose, anyway.”
Chaparral —PRESENTATION TO UNITED NATIONS CHRONOLOGY COUNCIL— —DRAFT w/ SPEAKER NOTES—
[check: water, projector remote, laser pointer] [** calm expression! **]
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. slide 1: TRT symbol
I have been asked by the Temporal Regulation Task (TRT) Force to explain the issue in terms that the layperson can understand. Since I led the team that developed the temporal curriculum that is now standard in our primary schools nationwide, I’ll treat you all as sixth-graders for the next few minutes. I promise that if you all pay attention, however, we’ll have recess afterwards. [pause for laughter]
[** smile! **] s. 2: Emily Bostock yearbook photo (2107)
To review: time travel will be discovered on January 25, 2119 by Emily Bostock, a sanitation worker in Bozeman, Montana, on the morning of her 30th birthday. Ms. Bostock, who will have had no formal science training, awoke that morning with both the complete, fully-formed theory of time travel AND the knowledge of how to take it from theory into application. s. 3: Emily Bostock at Stanford University
Ms. Bostock didn’t know what to do with this new-found and miraculous knowledge. She tried unsuccessfully to convince physicists across the nation, and later across the globe, without success, s. 4: Valerio Nole
until she found the sympathetic ear of Dr. Valerio Nole at Italy’s Università di Bologna in 2123. I don’t think that there is a person on the planet who has not seen the video of their first press conference—a press conference that won’t occur for a hundred years. s. 5: title “Operation Chaparral”
Building and testing the time travel equipment took Dr. Nole and his team the better part of two decades. Then came Operation Chaparral, devised by Ms. Bostock in 2149—120 years from now. s. 6: Emily Bostock writing on ceramic box (2149)
Operation Chaparral is about helping humankind and saving our planet, but initially it was also about proof—proof to us that time travel not only is possible but had been done—or had will be done. We all know how confusing talking about time travel can be. [pause for laughter] [** smile! **]
On the morning that Ms. Bostock awoke in her cramped Bozeman apartment with what is now known as the BostockNole Theory fully formed in her head, a box appeared on her bedroom floor. s. 7: Emily Bostock next to ceramic box in apartment
The box, constructed of a then-unknown ceramic and with no apparent way to be opened, had these now-famous words written across its top: “I will open in time.” s. 8: close-up of ceramic box (top w/ words)
The box opened at the moment that Ms. Bostock returned to her apartment in Bozeman in 2123 after convincing Dr. Nole that her theory was real. Inside the box were the first Chaparral Objects—items that were not, and could not be, present on Earth in 2119 or 2123, nor could they be present on December 31, 1999, when that same box appeared on the desk of the head of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, an event that changed our world in innumerable ways. The first Chaparral Objects were: s. 9: montage of embryos/animals
Viable embryos of three extinct species—the ground sloth, the Quetzalcoatlus northropi, and the aurochs— along with plans to construct the equipment needed to revive, grow, and replicate the embryos. As you know, these species now flourish in the wild. s. 10: still frame from Lusitania video
A holographic video showing an overhead view of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915. s. 11: still frame from Lascaux video
Another holographic video showing a human couple from 17,000 years ago painting a section of cave wall in what would become France. They are two of the original artists of the famous Lascaux Cave. s. 12: air sample w/ equipment
Labeled air samples from the time that each of the two holographic videos were taken—later testing of CO2 and isotope levels confirmed that the air samples were indeed from those two eras.
For thirty years, on each December 31, a new box has appeared on that same desk in Chicago, a box containing new Chaparral Objects. The first box’s contents were solely about proof of time travel, but subsequent objects and knowledge from the future have been about saving us from ourselves. We no longer need proof that time travel is possible. This is what everyone knows. This is what we teach our youth. These facts and events have become part of our history and our history yet to come.
s. 13: Bostock and Nole at Pulitzer ceremony, 2127
The sudden and still-unexplained realization of time travel by Ms. Bostock, and the tireless efforts of her and Dr. Valerio Nole, have led to advances that undoubtedly outstrip what would have been achieved during the normal—that is, unaffected by time travel—course of humanity. Of course, progress has been anything but smooth. I need not remind you of the setbacks—and tragedies—that even the wisest among us could not have foreseen. [** approx. 7 sec/slide **] s. 14: lab implosion (Aarhus, Denmark) s. 15: day 12 of “The Culling” (Philadelphia, US) s. 16: post-uprising craters, view from space (Indonesia)
There will always be a vocal minority who wish that Ms. Bostock will never have had that flash of inspiration and had never sent proof of that inspiration back in time. But, overall, most of humanity agrees that time travel has been a boon to mankind. s. 17: desalinization plant (New Sudan)
Hunger and thirst have been eliminated, thanks to microdesalinization and mega-algae plants. s. 18: ISOFUSION reactor (Fortaleza, Brazil)
Energy is both nearly free and unlimited, driven by advances in fusion and tidal energy. s. 19: restored wetlands (Louisiana, US)
The air, the water, the Earth, all are as clean and pure as they 58 |
were thousands of years ago. So many of our past troubles and issues have been left to history. s. 20: UN flag
We have been brought together as a people, as a species, like never before. That ends my review. And now, ladies and gentlemen, I need to tell you that this is the part of my presentation where sixth grade is over. s. 21: TRT symbol
I have been assured that the information I am about to share will remain strictly confidential. Thank you in advance for your cooperation. Ladies and gentlemen, Emily Bostock was NOT the first to discover time travel. [allow 15-20 seconds for shock/outburst] [** calm expression! **]
There have been others. Eighteen others, to be exact. Some are dead. Some will be born in the future. Some will not be born at all. But all of them, alive or dead, born or not, independently discovered time travel and rewove the threads of Earthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s past to the point that the original unaltered fabric is lost and meaningless. s. 22: DNA recoding weaponry attack (Tokyo, Japan)
Ladies and gentlemen, yesterday the TRT received an unscheduled Operation Chaparral box, with new informationâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and a dire warning. I am here today to tell you that
in three days, all of our progress, all of our peace, and much of our history, will be erased, replaced by an abominationâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a twisting of our past and future so vast and so grotesque that no semblance to the familiar will remain. [** calm expression! **]
I will now take questions. s. 23: questions/break
Unhitch the dogs Unhitch the dogs from their yard starsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all the exercise they're getting today. Unless you've got some spare pup thrusters to take them wagstering yourself? I've already criss-crossed the nebula four times since lunch. My brain is killing me and all I have to show for it is a fallum of plork. It's not my responsibility to feed the neighbouring galaxy's starving children! Authority knows, I pay enough in intra-world toll beatings and get nothing in return but these shoddy air-gap-ridden zapportal bills!
I'm just waiting for the day when the folks around here realize the Vargers are quite capable of feeding themselves. If only they'd forget about grievances from the Ganim Age and embrace Rhizome-Cordatia like all civilized planets! Why is there never any blarrg, cold and fizzing in the wrunkle, when I get home?
Asyll Bestiary: Urai Biology Physically the urai are myriad, their potential variations unbound, and the only limits on population are the abilities of the augur caste and the resources they require. The most common caste designs include: the urai, the augurs, and the cyclopeans. The standard urai are versatile, featuring a hollow waist allowing for both bipedal and quadrupedal locomotion, digitigrade legs and tail inspired by the MurÄŤd for flexibility and stability, and limbs with three digits each. The augurs liken physically to the urai caste but focus on mental aptitude and psychic prowess over their more balanced counterparts. Paragons of honor, the cyclopeans, named for their great psychic eyes, possess by far the largest base form, combining a heavy arthropodal carapace, several armored legs, and a pair of complex forelegs that function both as raptorial claws as well as chelae. These immense anenurai act as aegis for their more fragile counterparts, protecting others and augmenting themselves with their psychic abilities â&#x20AC;&#x201C; they also find utility in physically demanding tasks
ill-suited for urain telekinesis. Other features common to most, if not all, urai are: pastel and selectively porous skin that acts as a complex circulatory system eliminating the need of lungs or a stomach, external ear drums that provide basic audience, and a cyclopean eye covered by a nictitating membrane that provides similarly basic vision and which also belies the ‘psychic lens,’ the use of which causes the eye to glow and provides the urai with their primary psychic vision of the world.
Ecology Unbidden recipients of worship in an alien overworld, the once subterranean urai were forced to the surface by a tectonic extinction event brought on by the Rivening. Their awestruck Murīd disciples–the first sympathetic beings encountered by the urai–inspired curiosity and admiration. Communication with the surface-dwelling Murīd proved difficult, however, as they employed a sonic language– primitive, vague, and confusing to urain consciousness– attempting to convey signifiers with signified sounds. Whereas the Murīd vocalizations confused the Urai, the urain projections overwhelmed the Murīd: their explicit memories and vivid concepts, so cast, proved well beyond Murīd comprehension. As anenurai explored the surface they permitted the presence of the reverent murīd, protecting and attempting to convey their thoughts and needs to their new disciples. The urai possess no language of their own, though they were instrumental in the development of the Murīd language. Communicating via the psychic projection of an 64 |
enuraiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s very memories, thoughts, and emotions, each form distinguishable by other urai: memories are pure, clear, and vivid; thoughts are abstract and isolated from a larger continuity; and emotions overlay memories or ideas as a synesthetic sense of color, texture, or even feeling imposed on the receiver. Intuitively aware of the difference between memory, thought, and emotion, the concept of a lie is foreign to the urai who each remember their own history, as well as that of their ancestors. Secular and of a unified will, urai are each borne of a single shared ancestor, the Progenitor, whose consciousness still lives on in every living individual of the collective. This oneness inspires a sense of unity amongst urai who embrace the progress of, and betterment to, the enclave. Interlocutors typically converse by imprinting their own minds upon others â&#x20AC;&#x201C; though it is possible to scan anotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mind. Such an imposition between urai betrays the trust fostered in their collective memory: each enurai is honour-bound to participate in the collective historical record and as such there should exist no secrets demanding an imposition of consciousness. Intellect is revered amongst the urai, and much of their culture is based on the preservation of knowledge, history, and nature by psychically retaining memory through generations and cultural attunement to their environmental biomes. They now, empathic in the shadow of the Rivening, seek the permanence of all creation.
Culture For the urai, reproduction includes the replication of knowledge. They do not exchange biological material to produce young. Rather, Augurs (the most integral of the urain castes), utilizing organic and inorganic materiel,
telekinetically design and forge vessels into which they replicate consciousness. This artificial immortality has granted the short-lived urai many lifespans, eliminating maturation and education processes, and cultivating the culture and populace by replicating their most prominent personae. Integral to this process are transference and marriage. Every member of urain society is honour-bound to routinely transfer their memories to a member of the augur caste to contribute to historical record. The vast quantities of memory stored by any one enuraiâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;let alone an augurâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;are staggering, but an augurâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s carefully crafted mind can accommodate and compartmentalize knowledge deemed unimportant in such a way that it is only accessible to a desiring augur, which streamlines the history immensely. In marriage, augurs can combine disparate personae of different lineages into a single consciousness during replication. This serves to merge skill sets and memory and create more complex minds. Augurs can also marry various related experiences to create an aggregate continuity; this helps streamline events experienced by many individuals. With a living history contributed to by every member of society, urai hold each other accountable to their shared history; holes in the history, such as those caused by death premature to transference, are considered anathema. It is for this reason that the urai are averse to sudden conflict, which risks the loss of individuals before their memory can be preserved with the augurs.
Glossary of Terms Anenurai
Noun, Pluralized Singulative. Denotes multiple individuals of the Urai race or caste.
A member of the augur caste of the Urai whose responsibilities revolve around the collection, preservation, and propagation of memory in Urain society.
A member of the urain leadership caste.
Noun, Singulative. An individual of the Urai race or caste.
A race introduced to the Na’z’riyahn desert of Asyll during the Rivening. The Murīd were the first sentient race to encounter the Urai and now live commensally alongside them while worshiping them as deities.
The eldest surviving consciousness of the urain collective at any given time.
The historical event wherein magic burst forth into the world of Asyll. Its emergence brought forth radical changes to the landscapes and inhabitants of the world.
Noun, Collective. A logically countable collection of members of the Urai race. Also, the majority caste of the Urai race.
Adjectival form of the Urai race.
Archaeological Extension Proposal for Planet 258B Title: Archaeological Extension proposal for Planet 258B Regarding: Newly discovered, planet-wide, doomsday cult Auto-translated: Galactic Standard “Professor Herbert, you have repeatedly asked for an audience with this committee and we have repeatedly refused your requests. I speak for more than myself when I state for the record I do not enjoy my subpoena to appear in open court to defend my decisions. In lieu of that, and because of that insular act of yours, you have the committee’s attention, today, and only today, until such time as we deem your presence unworthy of our attention. Thus, make the best use of your one and only appearance. Do you understand Professor Herbert?” I nodded in agreement and stood to address the members. I decided to lead with my best. “My archaeological teams have 68 |
excavated various sites on Planet 258B and have concluded the extinction level event (ELE) that instantly exterminated all life was not caused by the irrational actions of the primitive governments. We conclusively believe Planet 258B’s ELE was caused by the presence of a worldwide, highly organized, highly funded, doomsday cult. It’s enormous and secretive membership permeated all levels of both government and industry infiltrating all branches and steering the decisions of all officials to this cult’s doomsday agenda.” I inhaled and decided to wait until all the committee members fully understood the scope of my research. Once the murmurs subsided, I continued. “As the sole representative of numerous research teams, I speak for all involved. We conclude that studying the actions of this cult may help prevent similar events, on similar worlds, using directed tactics, proving less costly, and more effective than traditional means of action—” “Professor Herbert! Are you advocating sedition? What gives you the right to question the policies of legally authorized officials to conduct their legally authorized actions? ” And so I continued, temporarily ignoring the chairman’s charges. “This cult managed in a mere span of 70 localized solar years to expand to every continental mass, construct over 12,000 temples, and erect an enormous shrine of a combination of rare metals that, as of yet, we are having difficulty identifying. Thus is the nature, but not full extent, of my proposal.” Mr. Addison, the junior member of the committee interrupted for clarity. “Professor Herbert, you speak of a doomsday cult originating on Planet 258B. What is the name of this cult?”
archaeological extension proposal
“Mr. Addison, the cult in question goes by a variety of names and with the ELE, very few records exist to exactly pinpoint its proper name or point of origin (POO). However, we have isolated a few of the most frequently occurring references to the cult. They include MKD (no explanation given), GOLDENA (might be only a partial name), or the one I picked for simplicity’s sake. I wish to refer to the doomsday cult as the inverted catenary curve (ICC).” Mr. Thomas now took his turn to interrupt. “Professor, why the name ICC?” Such an easy question.“Mr. Thomas, I selected the moniker ICC because of the shape of the icons at each of the 12,000 temple sites and the enormous shrine located in the center of the northwestern continent. It rises upwards of 200 standard units and is the only ICC construct that is only single, not double. My teams have excavated the entire site finding only one curve. We believe another ICC exists somewhere. Furthermore, we have other conclusions based upon data we are sure about.” “Professor Herbert,” Mr. Jones, the last appointed committee member and only friend to my proposal, “What other conclusions about ICC are you certain of?” “Thank you, Mr. Jones. The following is a list of specific ICC activities we are certain of.” 1. The date of origination (DOO) of ICC occurs just after the dominant species on Planet 258B first used atomic weaponry in war. The date of termination (DOT) of ICC coincides with the ELE. No further records exist postDOT. 70 |
2. ICC labored anonymously, in almost in total secrecy, despite being publically known by million and millions, then billions and billions of lifeforms. The funding ICC required did not originate from its religious meetings, but from the sale of low-cost, mass-produced, lownutritional food-stuffs. ICC financial records proudly indicate the food sales represented nearly 100% of their income and sales on all seven continental landmasses, with the greatest density of sales in the most populated urban areas in closest proximity to the enormous shrine. 3. ICC records and news reports often bragged that most of Planet 258B lifeforms, at one time, openly worked for ICC, despite the absence of nutritional value in their food and beleaguered status of the populace’s confidence in ICC’s reputation as a business and not a religious organization. We believe this is the single most important reason of ICC incorporation into so many avenues of worldwide power and influence. If not for the tolerant, often sympathetic reaction of the populace toward ICC employment, no government would permit this level of obvious intrusion in the day-to-day operations of so many positions. Certainly, we have yet to find a single law or restriction against ICC or any of its devout followers. We believe there no such records to be found. 4. In the waning days prior to ELE, the last formatted ICC documents show the cult’s parishioners refused to sell the remaining quantities of food to feed its flock until civilization returned under ICC direct management. If successful, ICC would have created the entirety of postELE documentation. No such documents exist. No such post-ELE activities exist. ICC succeeded in implementing
archaeological extension proposal
its doomsday scenarios, but failed in surviving the consequences of their actions. “Professor Herbert, what do you want from this committee?” The chairman gazed at his timepiece when uttering his question. I obliged the chairman and remembered his previous sedition charges before answering. “Mr. Chairman, I propose that my teams continue to be funded to fully explore all levels of ICC operations on Planet 258B. Furthermore, I wish to be considered for this committee’s enrollment the singular purpose of using the ICC research in applications of destroying all similar ICC activities on empire planets. We cannot forgo the obvious conclusions of repeating the doomsday plots of ICC origin. Too much is at stake. Too much may be lost. Thank you for all of the committee’s time.” With that, I sat down. I am still sitting. This time in prison, awaiting my execution associated with my guilty plea in my trial (in absentia) for sedition. For my last meal, my guards brought to me a tray of fried starches, overly salted, with a sandwich of indeterminable POO. The card strangely read, “You deserve a break today.” I do not understand the meaning. I do, however, understand my DOT is today.
Hexed Teeth brushed with soda, lemon juice in my hair: women’s cures to defy the risk of burning. If you push me under and I pop up you’ll know I’m a witch, but I’ll still know nothing about the cure for enchantment, how to heal a prick in the eye.
david f- shultz
Jegudiel It was the summer solstice, nearly noon, and the sun was so open all of God's archangels might pass through. The Order of Jegudiel hoped for just one. A circle of white-robed acolytes had assembled in the field. Joseph Watson, their pastor, saw that his flock was not unlike the daisys and dandelions that dotted the grass, standing in perfect devotion, heads pointed towards God's light, surrounded by and themselves part of the beauty of creation. Monarch butterflies alighted for the ritual, and on the hillside, a white rabbit peeked from his home under the roots of a pear tree to bear witness. A silk sheet had been laid out between the acolytes. They could have been mistaken for a picnic gathering, but for the absence of food. Salt decorated the sheet in the sacred arcana of their order, an elaborate hexagram invoking the name of Jegudiel in the geometric language of Jehovah. They chanted to The Glorifier as the sun reached its apex. Joseph Watson gripped his leatherbound bible, fingertips sunk into the golden embossed lettering. He prayed in the 74 |
perfect language of heaven, for God's beauty to be finally unveiled to the world in the form of Jegudiel, the Archangel of God's glory. Across the field seeds lifted from the dandelions, less like rising in the air than sinking upwards towards some great magnetic pole. The sun brightened, smeared lengthwise, and began to take the shape of glorious wings. On the hillside, the rabbit plunged into his tunnel. And, though Joseph hadn't seen them depart, the butterflies had vanished. The silk sheet whipped in the rising wind, and devotees scrambled to hold it in place, until Joseph Watson commanded them to look on the glory of God, shouting over a rising chorus of trumpets. The archangel Jegudiel unfolded his glorious wings across the length of the sky, glowing down on them with the warmth of a furnace, searing their vision with the infinite, burning beauty of creation, speaking to them in a thousand notes of a heavenly anthem, rising to crecendo. Don't look away, Watson screamed, as much to himself as the others, over the horns of a platoon of angels. Senses blended togetherâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the sound of pure white light, a defeaning vision not meant for human eyesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and they were enveloped by Jegudiel's halo. Watson turned his frail humanity, catching only glimpses within the searing aura. A baby's first cry. A final sunrise under an exploding sun. Galactic nebulae echoed in microscopic fractals inside the cells of his eyes. The realization of humankind as infinitely minute, a dust mote lost in a black ocean, and utterly worthless. And in the echo of that perfect beauty was the lingering appreciation of the finer details of creation. A rabbit screaming as its flesh is torn by a hungry wolf, multiplied across the surface
of the globe, wherever rabbits are found, multiplied by all the varieties of predator and prey, by all the forms of tearing tooth and ripping claw that creation devised, multiplied by the billions of years that life has fizzled over the surface of this rock, multiplied by the all planets across the billions of stars in billions of galaxies in which there had evolved the capacity for pain and suffering and mortal terror, before it inevitably came to its whimpering end. Joseph Watson was on his knees, eyes tight shut, hands over his ears. Gradually, he came to accept the solid ground, the soft grass and gentle wind, his quiet return to the safety of mortal finitude outside of Jegudiel's halo. He had been the weakest of them, alone in turning from the full glory of God, and now surrounded by his flock, silent and still in the grass. Those lying supine faced the sky with empty sockets where they had torn out their human eyes. White robes were stained red with the final moments of their rapture, and dusted with the salt of Jegudiel's scattered name. The hillside rabbit poked up from his home, blissfully beyond revelation, and hopped out to munch on a dandelion. Under the roar of gnashing teeth, the helpless dandelion was crushed, juices of its masticated head forming the slightest trail of spittle at the corner of the rabbit's twitching mouth, who hopped to the next patch of sunny vegetation.
david f- shultz
Flashback to the Crab Nebula In the library, I find the book left backwards, pages turned into a blackout. Tomorrow you will hear a bird downtown with a whistle like mine. Memory reverberates throughout a life: wide, white. When we notice it, it dazzles, dying light of a star that cannot make crops grow, loved only by a lonely cowboy sleeping beneath. And still we are driven to explore: small fires burn bright; what are you supposed to do when you see the flash? Split the night open and crawl inside, a sleeping bag that you have carried all day.
Epistaxis The fraying of stories begins at dusk. If a corpseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nose bleeds, our murderer is still in the room. The tiny veins are open mouths that shriek guilt, twisting your words and smashing your atoms when the larynx is closed dark and still as onyx. Dry out and crack, a thorn in full bloom, a rune that is fricative and voiceless. The living spit spinose teeth at their transgressors. Heads full of bells, blunt force trauma ringing clear, dream in vein. Wake up, future dead, our trembling limbs can still grow beyond the frame.
Panopticondominium Panopticondominiums, man’s new plants, straight as grapevines. Those who didn’t see you get fucked last night heard about it later. Watching an empty glass box; an introvert’s idea of fun. Introvert: an identity that sells webpage ads to the people who evade malls. Shoulder to shoulder, coffin-wide, to exit excited. The future doesn’t really want to get built; sometimes you just have to force it. People don’t really want to live in aeries, communicating through elaborate tin cans. But they do want to be watched: internalized insecurity. Even the ceiling fans have eyes here. When there is whispering it is never to you but only about you. Alone on the ninth floor, you hear an hourly knock upon the window and think the ravens never fly this high.
Blips The trio of blips interrupted texts, tweets, and the news, captivating us long enough for the nation to declare a vaguelydefined, wholly-unquestioned Tuesday by the pool. People crowded parks, walked dogs, read books in hammocks, or frolicked at beaches with pudgy, mostly-naked strangers because it was the middle of June, plus twenty-seven and no clouds on the continent. A week passed, slugs returned to slugging and leeches to leeching, but the blips returned to screens of all sizes. Just after lunch the following Tuesday the blips explained curfew was seven –shop and get home until Monday. Workplaces emptied vomitously, panicked waves pillaged markets of rainy day Franks and KD. At seven-oh-two, screens glowed with the same message from Halifax to Inuvik: all work and school cancelled next week. We crashed into summer break. My sister Rose and her friends celebrated, texted, and schemed to sneak out when their parents fell asleep. Chat rooms and timelines pitted the salaried and stable—those who questioned the decree but cheered the break—against those struggling with thoughts of how to stretch what little they had even further. 80 |
One week rolled into the next, into a month, and then the fall—food, delivered by soldiers, consisted of granola, bottled water, and the occasional bag of spongy apples. If asked, they’d bark it wasn’t safe, was classified, and we’d have to trust the Powers-that-Be. Blipped directives were equally vague: DANGER EXISTS BUT IT IS UNDER CONTROL STAY CLEAR OF WINDOWS AND DOORS DON’T TRY TO ESCAPE. Rose often crept to the boarded patio door when my parents were asleep or their attention wavered, pressed her ear to plywood between us and sunshine, our lungs and fresh air; she heard nothing we’d imagined in nightmares—alien ships, bombs dropped, invading forces. Often a humming breeze, or morning dove’s song. —— Food usually came Wednesdays. Once it didn’t, and by week’s end we were starving. Without cell service or WIFI our phones were useless, except for blips; no one to call and find out when the food would arrive, no delivery boy to harass. Our neighbours might as well have been sent to the Moon— no way of knowing if they’d received rations, if we were the only ones suffering. Dad laid in bed, Rose sobbed in her room, Mom sprawled on the kitchen tiles, when someone finally rapped the door. I stumbled, peeked—Cpl. McClain, the usual guy, with our rations, plus a rare chunk of butter and loaf of bread. Thanks, I said. He grunted. When can we get back to our lives? Everything seems fine.
He snorted, then yanked the door shut on my nose. —— Mom and Dad were upstairs, on opposite sides of the bed in silence, like usual. Rose and I sat against the front door, whispering. What would you give? she asked. Not again. Please? I sighed. Lots. Your hockey cards? Of course. Your car? Yes. What’s with you? she asked, turning my face with her hands— inspecting my eyes. Nothing. Liar, she hissed. What are you planning? Nothing. She nestled into me, head on my shoulder. Couldn’t stop you if I tried.
I’ll be safe. She kissed my cheek. Come back. She shuffled upstairs. I clicked off the lamp, then padded to bed to wait. —— I sneak down creaking steps, exhaling silently at the bottom; slip on sandals and reach for the knob—shallow breaths, then I crack the door unprompted for the first time in a year. The stillness austere, I slip around back, towards the gate to the woods and lake. Trotting the potholed trail, the trees vanish long before they should; I spot the moonlit lake—trees cleared, stumps like stubble shadowing a tired man’s cheek. I run the scar of a path, climb the ridge—the lake where I’d spent countless afternoons wakeboarding, chasing girls, and chugging cans of Lucky is empty, bone-dry. I tug my phone from my pocket to capture evidence, though I have no idea what it means or what we’ll do with it; before I can, my screen flares red, blips bursting from my muted speaker, message scrolling: RETURN TO YOUR RESIDENCE IMMEDIATELY OR FACE THE CONSEQUENCES. I wait for it to vanish so I can snap my pictures, but it keeps scrolling until the blips become a siren—I drop the phone on the sandy bank. Hey, cries a voice—two soldiers, battle-armoured and clutching assault rifles. I run, crack of rifle fire popping, soil bursting around me as I shed my sandals and charge for the trees. Ten feet from the woods, a bullet catches my calf and I drop, face slamming earth. The soldiers arrive, rifles aimed—
McClain, and a bearded grunt. Looks like we got a curious one, he says, dropping his gun. Didn’t have these problems in Jasper, or Temagami, says Beard. Residentials were always gonna be the problem, says McClain. You are a little problem, aren’t ya? he says, booting my ribs. Saw more than you were supposed to, didn’t ya? I don’t know what you’re talking about. Can’t figure it out? says Beard. Our most plentiful and valuable resources. They grin. That’s impossible. McClain laughs. Like convincing an entire country to stay inside for a year. Why are you telling me? Beard drags me up. A thrum splits the sky. Just in time, says McClain, watching the chopper land. He leads and I hop, Beard’s rifle in my back, towards the screaming black bird.
A Simple Count A count of the people on the plane reveals that she’s one of two women. The other female is around fifty, broad at the middle, and has wiry-grey hair. There are forty-six passengers on the plane. Minus two women leaves forty-four men. In percentages, that makes 4.34% female and 95.66% male. She hopes the ratios prove better at the camp. —— She’s assigned one of ten offices in the west wing. A simple count shows she’s the only woman in that wing, though she’s already said hello to three other women in her approximate age-range (twenty-five to mid-thirties). In the first hour, she has ten visitors. One, two, three, all men. 0% female. Oh, hey, it’s great to get another woman up here. Just wanted to come say hi to the new face. A new perspective. Welcome.
Hey. Hey. Nice office. Some of them barely say a thing, they just look. She makes a simple count of eyes peering at her and the numbers quickly morph into the hundreds. —— When she was hired, she was told that she’d be provided personal protective equipment at the site. When the safety lead takes her to get geared up, a quick count reveals no female sized coveralls, not for a female her size anyway. There are sixty-four spare pairs of coveralls over seventy inches tall. Is she even full-grown? Good thing hard hats are more adaptable. —— Her boots fit only because she knew to bring her own. She rolls up her coveralls into thick lumps at the bottom, and also the sleeves. The safety lead deems her good to go. They’ll order some things in her size later, they should arrive in approximately fourteen to seventy-six days. —— Underground, a quick count of the washrooms reveals zero for the softer-sex, and five port-a-potties for men. Zero plus five multiplied by zero is still zero. She quickly finds herself uncomfortable, but the lift only goes back up three times
a day, and it isn’t scheduled to take her back to surface for two more hours. Two plus need equals eternity. Finally, she asks her guide where she can find some relief. He pulls the underground vehicle over to the side of the tunnel and turns off the headlights. Go ahead, he says, I won’t look. She goes as fast as she can counting down the seconds. Ten. Nine. Eight Seven. Six-Five-Fourthreetwoone. She feels something watching her in the dark. —— They go to the blasting face and the first man she sees there asks her how she likes doing a man’s job. I’m not a man, she says. Obviously. He grins and snickers. So it’s not a man’s job then, she tells him. It’s my job. Don’t you think you should get back to work? —— She adds a few more eyeballs to her count. She is beginning to feel like the whole word is one giant eyeball watching her. She pictures the enucleated eye rolling around behind her like a television camera, only, unlike the camera, the eye leaves a trail of slime wherever it goes. —— Her first night in camp she eats lettuce topped with tomatoes and chicken. She dreams of the eyeball, which follows her through dark tunnels. She wakes up and goes to the bathroom down the hall. This is no hotel. There is one
a simple count
bathroom for six women. The same man who was walking behind her on her way to the washroom walks behind her again on her way back to her room. She wonders if it’s a coincidence. When she leaves her room to get breakfast, he is once again walking behind her in the hallway. He says, my name’s Ivan. But all she hears is Eye. —— She makes a couple friends, Lucky, who is her coworker in the scheduling department, and Crystal, who works in administration. Crystal is the only woman her age. The other two women that she met the day before flew out that morning for their week off. Lucky is nice though. He’s married, no kids yet. He says if she has problems with anything, anything, to let him know. He kicks out three guys that morning that aren’t where they’re supposed to be. She thinks about telling Lucky about the eyeball, but decides against it. There is a twentyone percent decrease in the amount of eyeballs peeking through her door, but the numbers slowly begin to stagnate. —— Four days in she isn’t news anymore, but her table in the cafeteria is always full, even if it’s only at ten percent capacity when she first takes her seat. By the time she’s halfway through her potatoes, table capacity is at one hundred and ten percent because Eye often pulls up an extra chair to join them. After she finishes eating, she excuses herself to make a phone call. The phone service isn’t very good, so when she calls 88 |
home to talk to her friends or her mother or the boyfriend she isn’t sure she wants to be her boyfriend anymore, it’s hard to say something without feeling like she’s wasting energy. The line crackles with every flick of the eyeball that still watches her. She continues to dream of the eyeball and each night it grows bigger. Each day the iris expands into the white, so it is a large, blue iris in a sea of a white. It looks ready to explode, to cover everything in a film of goop. She goes underground and marks the change of the rock. She realizes that the eyeball has been mined from the rock, that the rock is the body of the beast. Once removed, there is no way to put the eye back into the beast. She does the calculations, crunches the numbers. What is the lifespan of the mine? How much more ore can be removed this month? Next? Are they on target? Will they make production? A hundred thousand tonnes. Two. One million tonnes. Mining for another ten, twenty years. Four hundred people at the campsite. Fifteen women. Sixteen. Thirteen. One eyeball. She glances up. She looks at the eye and it looks back. She tells it to wait, changes are coming. The eyeball rolls closer. I’m still here, it says. I’m still watching. She ignores it. It can watch, but it can’t touch. She doesn’t think it can count. It can only roll, following along behind her as she works, as she removes its bones, and reconstructs them into something new. Ten, eleven, twelve bones into a base, a hundred into a structure, two hundred and seven into a framework. Into something the world has not yet seen.
a simple count
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Contributors With degrees in physics and chemistry, Andy Betz has tutored and taught in excess of 30 years. His novel, short stories, and poems are works still defining his style. He lives in 1974, has been married for 26 years, and collects occupations (the current tally is 96).
Frances Boyleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s poetry books are Light-carved Passages and This White Nest (forthcoming). She also has published Tower, a novella. Recent work appears in TNQ, Barren, untethered, and Harbor Review. Visit www.francesboyle.com.
Brazier-Tompkins has her Ph.D. in English from the University of Saskatchewan. Born in northwestern Ontario, she grew up largely in New Brunswick, but she now calls Saskatchewan home. She writes fiction and some poetry, some of which can be found in previous antilang. issues.
bonny c-d- is a poet & experimental filmmaker (in Atlantic Canada (taking a selfie in a bathroom mirror (trapped inside nested parentheses))). BCDâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work appears in GEIST, Free Fall, spring-19
The Antigonish Review, QWERTY, The Maynard, CRITpaper, and others. https://www.facebook.com/bnnyby/
Toby Ewert is from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She’s a third year Social Work student with a soft spot for creative writing, poetry and the English language. Her largest creative venture is USask Improv, a comedy group on the U of S campus. A graduate of York University, Stephen Ground now lives in his head—scraping by peddling floors, sometimes unsolicited advice. Find his work on both sides of the Atlantic.
Kitty Hardy writes from the solitude of the boreal forest of Alberta. Her poetry has appeared in NōD Magazine and From the Other Side, her fiction in antilang. no. 3. Kat Heger is entering her third year of Biochemistry and English combined degrees at the University of Calgary. Besides getting in political debates she enjoys scientific research, her dog Snoopy, and pushing the boundaries of the taboo.
Jennie Hunter is an emerging writer whose literary work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Fire Magazine, Broken Pencil Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, and Blank Spaces. When she isn't writing, she works to protect the environment. Jennie received a grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board in 2018. Danica Lorer has been a storyteller in Saskatchewan for more than 20 years. She’s been hit by lightning, a moose, a rogue semi-tire, vehicles, and the odd strange idea. MA|DE is a collaborative writing partnership comprised of interdisciplinary artist Mark Laliberte (author of 'asemanticasymmetry'—Anstruther, 2017) and writer Jade Wallace 92 |
(author of 'Rituals of Parsing'—Anstruther, 2018). MA|DE is currently working on their first full-length collection; poems have recently appeared in Poetry is Dead, PRISM international, Rat’s Ass Review and are forthcoming in Trinity Review; 'Test Centre', their debut chapbook, is forthcoming by ZED Press, 2019.
Nicholas Matthews is a poet, cartoonist, and philosopher. He has recently finished a manuscript for a poetry collection.
Pamela Medland has lived in Calgary for the past five years where she is the Director of the Airdrie Public Library. You can find Pamela's work online and in print in literary journals, most recently the winter issue of CV2. Kyungseo Min is a Korean-Canadian playwright and writer currently based in Montreal. As a Third Culture Kid, her goal is to create a distinctive style of writing blending Western and Eastern philosophies. Dave Pasquantonio is a freelance writer and newspaper stringer (and a stay-at-home dad). He is a board member at The Writers’ Loft, a nonprofit writing community in Sherborn, Massachusetts. Ren Pike has a BSc in Computer Science and Physics. She should be content helping people wring meaning from data in Calgary, Canada. But the truth is, she feels compelled to write poetry and short fiction. And this truth has been true for a while now. dave ring is the editor of Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of a City That Never Was from Mason Jar Press. More info at www.dave-ring.com. Follow him on Twitter at @slickhop. spring-19
David F- Shultz writes speculative fiction and poetry from Toronto, ON, where he is lead editor at tdotSpec, Inc. and runs the Toronto Science Fiction and Fantasy writers group. His over fifty published works have appeared in venues such as Abyss & Apex and Dreams & Nightmares. Twitter: @davidfshultz, author webpage: davidfshultz.com Taylor Skaalrud, previously published in antilang. no. 2, is an amateur old man, leftist, game designer, spec-fic writer, poet, composer, bachelor, boyfriend, socialite, and scoundrel. He is entering his third year of computer science at the University of Calgary.
J-J- Steinfeld lives on PEI, where he is waiting for Godotâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s arrival and a phone call from Kafka. While waiting, he has published 19 books, including An Unauthorized Biography of Being (Stories) and A Visit to the Kafka CafĂŠ (Poetry). Viviane Vives is a finalist of the Sandy Crimmins National Prize in Poetry, semifinalist of the American Short(er) Fiction Contest by American Short Fiction, and a nominee for Best of the Net Anthology, 2018. Recent publications include Litro Magazine, Burningword, and Best 64 Poets of 2018 by Black Mountain Press.
Editorial Simon Boehm is an emerging German writer, editor, blogger, and literary podcast host (www.cymaen.com), living in Toronto. He holds an MFA in Writing from the University of Saskatchewan and has worked for Grain and Untethered. Jordan Bolay studies questions of trace—the politics of presence in the archive—as a doctoral candidate in the University of Calgary’s English Department. He writes poetry, short fiction, and creative criticism.
Allie McFarland is a prose poser and probable poet. Lissa McFarland is a (mostly) visual artists from Calgary. Her work has been published in NōD Magazine, Hooligan Mag, and antilang. She's a lesbian, intersectional feminist, sandwich connoisseur, and Naruto enthusiast.
Jaclyn Morken has a BA Honours in English, and is currently completing her MFA in Writing at the University of Saskatchewan. Her work can be found in antilang. no. 1, and Brink Literacy Project’s Dually Noted. Jaclyn writes fantasy and speculative fiction.
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antilang- n-5 pithy politics
open for submissions june 1 - aug 15
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What weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re looking for: Good. Short. Writing. Any form, any genre, as long as it is brief and of exceptional quality. Poetry, short/flash fiction, creative essays, ficto-criticism, flash memoir, photo essays, comics, postcard fiction, and collaborations across media. We support diversity in both the form and content of writing, and we prioritise voices that have been systemically silenced or have otherwise gone unheard. We welcome and encourage simultaneous submissions (because you should have the opportunity to submit your work widely). We can only accept translations with the written permission of the original author. 12-point Times New Roman, one inch margins, maximum SIX (6) pages, regardless of form, genre, or number of pieces. Please double-space all prose. MS Word files (.doc or .docx) only for textual pieces. Please send all submissions via Submittable and include a 30 word bio (we are all about concision, after all).
@antilangmag // antilang.ca