Catalyst Fall 2019

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Fall 2019 Vol. 26 No. 1

Editors in Chief Tiffany Lin Richard Li Staff Writers Henry Dawson Sydney Lo Deanna Moorehead Naomi Shammash Megan Slusarewicz Iris Wright Alexander Young Sophia Zheng Writing Editors Stephanie Carrero Priya Chohan Kate Cobey Rakia Islam Kyoko Leaman Richard Li Tiffany Lin Anja Hendrikse Liu Moe Sattar Leticia Wood Alexander Young Sophia Zheng Jacob Zimmerman

Design Editors Nova Chen Yuna Lee Alexandra Pourvali Brooke Skinner Megan Slusarewicz Caroline Troy Jacob Zimmerman Staff Artists Nova Chen Priya Chohan Caroline Dai Ruth Schlenker Caroline Troy Emily Zhang Cover Art Untitled, by Caroline Dai Outreach Coordinator Yuna Lee Social Media Coordinators Julienne Chaqour Katherine Unger

Table of Contents 7 11 12 14 17 22 23 24 29 32 33 36 37 44 46 48 49

Superposition, E.L Meszaros Squid Chromatophores, Priya Chohan Under My Skin, Alisa Caira The Ancestors, Claire Bekker Evolution, Ciprian Buzila Hadopelagic, Sydney Lo Duckling, Priya Chohan In an Undrained Marsh off I-440, Alexander Young Goose, Priya Chohan Hive, Caroline Dai Burning Caramel, Henry Dawson Brain to Hand, Nova Chen Grayed, Iris Wright Idea, Nova Chen Self-Propagation, Naomi Shammash Heart, Maisy Meyer Sensation of a Spine, Alisa Caira

52 54 61 62 64 65 66 69 72 73 74 75 84 86

Schizophrenic Cartographies, Ruth Schlenker Hyperthymesia, Megan Slusarewicz Two Cells, Manuel Camarillo New Rind, New Soul, Carder Jones Experiment 10.3, Sydney Lo Judgment, Emily Zhang Flood, Ruth Schlenker Fragments, Alexander Young Random Sentences, Sophia Zheng Architecture of a Pepper, Yuuni Cho Hydra, Yuuni Cho Star Children, Katherine Xiong sensorial.lib, Yuuni Cho Due North, Deanna Moorehead

Superposition E.L. Meszaros

The forecast called for sunny skies today. So the rain against the window was not only unexpected, but also unwanted. The astronaut sits in civilian clothes, leaning languidly against a table over an untouched cup of coffee. In her hands, her cell phone was opened to the patient portal of a local doctor’s office. Her stats, lab results, appointments were displayed in an easy-to-navigate, friendly interface that seemed off-color for the information it contains. She reloaded her page. No new messages. She thought about how funny it was that for her, so much hinged on the results of this biopsy, but that her big news would just be one message of a thousand that her doctor’s office would send out that day. She imagined refreshing her phone and seeing the notification: “One (1) unread message.” Her future split here, one path 7

leading away from this table, this cup of coffee, this rainy morning as if nothing had happened, an unchanged future that saw her boarding her spaceship and continuing her work. The other path was filled with fluorescently lit doctor’s offices, nauseating treatments to fight a disease that she couldn’t see and had yet to feel. Each future felt so real to her—each conjured up a universe that obeyed the laws of physics and logically resulted in an absolutely possible life. She let her mind wander down each, waking up to her first sunrise on Mars and to a nurse checking her vitals as she emerged from anesthetic slumber. Lights flickered overhead from a mercury light bulb at the end of its life in a hospital ceiling and from power lines shaken in a red dust storm. Both futures saw her reheating meals in a microwave oven, each saw her sitting down to eat on her own. She was living two lives at this moment, one where she lived out her dream and her goal and her training, and one where her identity revolved around “sickness” and nothing more. Each ended with her alone, one by choice, and the other by circumstance. She refreshed the screen on her phone, her cooled coffee fighting valiantly to give off any steam, now ignored for long 8

enough to be tepid. Nothing changed. In her mind again, in her future, she’s lying down, lassoed to a gurney by tubes running from her nose, her arm, the port in her chest, each tube leading to a different bag, some life-sustaining, others designed to indiscriminately kill without remorse. Or she’s strapped to a table not with medical supplies but multipoint seatbelts, designed to survive the multi-G descent to the red surface. Claustrophobia and fear grip her, but she can’t move, from the gravitational forces at work on her body from acceleration or weariness. She sits up and looks out of the window at the two-moon sky on a rust dusted landscape, or on a deserted parking lot lit by a lone moon. Same desolation, same void, the difference only meaningful, only visible in what’s left behind: her dreams or her home planet. Time passes in each universe; each solitary timeline filled with moments of fast-paced action but hours of waiting—waiting for experiments to finish (on Martian crops/on new cancer drug trials), waiting for her new directives (from mission control on Earth/from new specialist doctors), waiting for the sun to rise 9

(on sol 34/on radiation day 12). Her futures run parallel in monotony. Her body sits still in a chair, simultaneously worn and vinyl, squeaking against a linoleum surface, and new and metallic, bolted into the Mars hab floor. In each reality, each truth, she sits, slowly sickening with radiation. In her bolt and metal future it’s the lack of Martian atmosphere and years of space travel that exposed her, but it was all worth it to see such a foreign sunrise and set her boots on non-terrestrial soil. In her linoleum and vinyl future it’s self-inflicted, in the hopes of seeing just a few more terrestrial sunrises. Each future sees her slowly poisoning herself to live—to live in the self-actualized self-help self-esteem motivational sense or in the very literal sense. The astronaut/civilian refreshed her phone again, but this time the screen updated. “One (1) new message” it told her, shouted at her. Her future, tenuous and multivalent, fractured into innumerable possibilities.


Squid Chromatophores Priya Chohan



Under my Skin Alisa Caira

There must be another layer between myself and my organs Because it would be silly to assume otherwise. I am quite certain. Quite certain because I can’t feel those things beneath and, If they were under my skin truly, They would tickle the same way fingers on my feet do Or be as familiar As my hand in my own. My own being to my own being Shouldn’t feel just on The outside. It should feel to the inside of my lungs, Sensing my own transfusions.


I am half-hearted, Half-spirited, Half-locked out of what I would Like to believe belongs to Me. I am skin deep, trying to navigate a way in. Or. I am attempting a compromise With some other force that, I hope, Wants to feel some Of the Thing I call myself, too.


The Ancestors Claire Bekker

Maya sat huddled in the cozy window seat, cradling The Color Purple against her stomach. The delicate morning sun streamed through the glass panes and warmed her left cheek. It was another lazy Sunday morning—like so many others in which Maya spent languid hours in her mom’s quaint San Francisco apartment. Right about now her mother, Melinda, would be arriving at the farmer’s market near the Ferry Building. With her eco-friendly bags in hand—her eyes resolute and shoulders pushed back, she would scour the stalls for fresh bok choy and strawberries. It was the same expression she bore at corporate meetings or when she was reprimanding Maya for staying up too late again. Even then, her daughter could admit that she was steadfast, though sometimes uncompromising, but ready to face any challenge head-on. As a single mother, Melinda was determined to do the job of two parents— never mind her demanding career in publishing. And Maya for one didn’t feel that she lacked anyone or anything in the parent department. She almost took the story of her adoption for granted. In her mind, her biological parents were reduced to a few sheets of paperwork and disembodied voices answering questions from a cassette tape. Still, she couldn’t ignore the curiosity that squirmed inside her, creating a dull, pulsing ache in her chest. Who 14

were these people who looked like her, maybe talked or thought like her? Where did she come from? She couldn’t help but wonder. And when she walked down the busy city streets, she studied each person’s face—searching for green eyes, dark, wavy hair, and dimples like her own. In Maya’s high school biology class last week, her teacher had given a lesson on epigenetics. She learned that not only did she have DNA from two strangers, their life experiences and decisions affected which of her genes were expressed—turned on or off that is. If her birth mother grew up next to a congested freeway or if her birth father ate too many hamburgers before she was conceived, well, she was screwed. She carried their histories inside her and she wasn’t sure if that was a burden or a gift. Maya sighed. She could think about that later; now it was time to get started on her homework. She wiggled out of the window seat and jumped up onto her feet—only then her vision darkened and stars glittered at the edge of her field of vision. Startled by this sudden bout of dizziness, her hand grasped for the wall beside her but it wasn’t there. She sank to the floor. The room was going completely black before her eyes. Even the familiar sounds of their next-door neighbor rustling around in his kitchen and slamming the cupboard doors, the cars rushing by on the street below…disappeared. Crumpled on the floor in complete darkness, Maya felt only suffocating stillness—void of any sound, sight, or sensation. Then maybe a minute later, there was a soft tinkling in her ear. 15

It was definitely the sound of water dripping. But from where? The sky had been perfectly clear outside and none of the faucets in their apartment were leaking. She thought she was about to black out but her mind was still racing; she hadn’t lost consciousness. Yet the world around her was lost; all of her sensory organs were malfunctioning except her hearing. The dripping grew louder, more insistent. It was interspersed with high-pitched voices: “Mammy, Johana’s wet the bed again!” “Then go downstairs and fill the bucket with water outside to wash the sheets. There’s a bit a soap on the counter too.” “But Ma, it’s raining outside!” “It’s raining inside too, my dear. Can’t you see the pails sittin’ on the floor to collect all the water? You’ll be just fine.” The world was coming back to her. When she opened her eyes, she expected to see the stark white ceiling that overlaid her apartment as she lay prostrate on the floor. But suddenly she was standing upright in an entirely different room, illuminated by a small lamp in the corner. Light trickled across the raincatching pails scattered about the wooden floors, over two rumpled beds, a makeshift sewing area, and a counter covered with potato peelings. There was a woman hunched over the counter, holding a knife in one hand and a potato in the other. Her hair hung long and ragged around her face and her ankle-length dress stretched over her pregnant belly. She looked worn and tired. But she was not alone. Children streamed through the door from the adjacent room; there were five 16


Ciprian Buzila


girls—the youngest about two years and the oldest on the cusp of puberty. Where was she? The woman at the counter addressed the eldest girl: “Margaret, if you won’t wash the sheets, then just gather them up and leave them in the basket for me to wash. Oh Lord, if only it would stop raining, I could get you girls outside and out of my hair!” “Yes, Ma,” Margaret sang and rolled her eyes, giving one of her sisters a knowing look. She swept past the thin sheet in the doorway and walked off with a huff into the next room. Now seemed about a good of a time as any to introduce herself. “Umm...Excuuuse me,” Maya stuttered, “I’m sorry to barge in on your home like this but where am I? This isn’t San Francisco, is it?” The mother’s gaze stayed fixed on the potato she was peeling and the girls didn’t look up from their game of marbles either. No one heard her or even saw her. Shouldn’t they have noticed her by now anyways? She could breathe in the smoke from the coal burning oven, coughing as she did so, and feel the grooves of the wooden floor beneath her feet but her physical presence went unnoticed. She could see without being seen, hear without being heard. Just like her San Francisco apartment, she could hear people bustling around in the neighboring rooms: pots and dishes were clattering and stomping boots shed droplets of water like dog fur. Turning to the tiny window, she saw that they were on the top floor of a dilapidated five story building. In the alleyway below, men, women, and children, all holding newspapers above their heads, waited in line for 18

the outhouses while others crowded around a faucet. “Girls!” A voice boomed from inside the room. “I’ve got to head out to work soon—those tunnels aren’t gonna dig themselves, are they? You better be good to your mother today and try not to drive her crazy with your antics, you hear me?” Maya turned back to see a lanky man with dark, thick wavy hair addressing the girls who were sitting at his feet. “Yes, Da,” the older girls chanted with their heads cast downward and their eyes fixed on their father’s shoes. The two youngest girls clambered for their father’s attention, clinging to his legs and beseeching him with their big green eyes to pick them up. He happily swung both girls into his arms, smooched their chubby cheeks, and then released them back to the care of their elder sisters. The woman at the counter gave her husband a tentative smile, her eyes cast down demurely. As he approached to give her a quick peck on the cheek, her smile wavered. “Goodbye, Kate.” Her expression hovered between adoration and fear as she watched him depart. As soon as his footsteps disappeared down the stairwell, she breathed a whispered sigh of relief. Maya felt equally bewildered and enthralled by the scene she had stumbled upon. Still standing next to the window, she watched the family settle into their daily routine: the three eldest girls mended a heap of clothing with surprisingly deft fingers; Kate hauled water upstairs to boil potatoes; and the two youngest rolled clay marbles back and forth, not quite old enough to replicate their sisters’ more complex game from earlier. 19

Outside, the rainclouds thinned and moved capriciously across the sky, occasionally letting snippets of sunlight through the window. Despite the family’s busyness, the cacophony of sounds from the alleyway, and the stifling air in the cramped room, Maya felt oddly peaceful. This was so different from her other dreams, which usually involved stressful situations at school like missing class for a week or showing up to a test without having studied for it. A knock at the door jolted Maya awake from her musings. “Helllloooo. Kate, it’s me, Rosa.” “I know it’s you, Rosie. You can let yourself in, of course.” A squat woman with carefully pinned dark curls entered the room. “My darlings!” she cried and gathered the youngest girls in her arms, “You’re always growing, aren’t you?” “They really haven’t grown since you saw them two days ago, Mrs. Bianchi,” Margaret quipped. Her mother shot her a withering look. “I mean, good morning, Mrs. Bianchi.” Rosa smiled appreciatively and turned back to Kate: “How are you doing, my dear? That baby truly is growing every day.” “Well, I thought it would get a little easier since I’ve done this five times already. But I’m getting older too and I’m exhausted. At least I didn’t lose my breakfast every day for two months like I did when I was carrying Margaret.” Rosa and Kate continued talking about their pregnancies and the trials of motherhood. When the topic of their husbands came up, Kate glanced surreptitiously at her daughters and leaned in towards Rosa. “Sometimes I wonder if we did the right thing, coming to New 20

York, I mean.” Kate whispered. “Certainly it would be worse in Cork, but Patrick’s fallen off the wagon again and I can’t keep it from the girls anymore, not in this tiny hovel. I keep thinking...the older ones, they don’t look at him the same no more.” She wrung her hands and looked mournfully at the bruises speckling her forearms. As her friend rubbed her back and whispered to her in soothing tones, she continued, “What am I to do? I know he doesn’t really mean it…” Maya was so involved in their conversation that she didn’t see one of the younger girls scramble onto a wooden stool and reach up to the pot of boiling potatoes on the stove. “AIIIIIIIEEEEEEEE,” the girl yowled as soon as she touched the metal surface. She sent the pot banging to the ground in a flourish of scalding water, which jumped onto Maya’s bare feet and shins. She jumped backwards and yelped in pain and surprise. “Addie, what have you done?!” Kate hurried to grab her child out of the mess and dry the floors with her skirt, her friend Rosa close behind her. But then Kate promptly sank down next to the dented pot, the pool of hot water, and the potatoes fleeing across the floor. She calmly examined the mess around her and then broke into a fit of uproarious laughter. And there, reveling in the chaos and her futile attempts to thwart it, Kate’s glorious dimples and sparkling green eyes caught Maya’s attention. She’d been searching for her reflection in so many strange faces and here it was.


Hadopelagic Sydney Lo

In the future, when all else is forgotten, how long will it be to find Pseudoliparis swirei again, its pale, scaleless body propelled delicate through Hadal depths in the Mariana Trench, pectoral fins like wax paper through pressure that crushes fossils into sand, a theoretical edge of life fed on crustaceans and lack of light, a question of if it refused to leave the hydrothermal vents where the earliest microorganisms precipitated, created a before and after, in some indeterminate timeline the mind cannot reconcile—loose billions of years and ways to consider them— or if it evolved downward, settled like a memory to be lost. Deep-water traps, baited with mackerel, were used to collect its discovery only in the last decade, an autonomous research vessel, a single specimen, photos resembling tadpoles, a given name, a CT of its skeleton, and even if it was an excerpt of an article, a reference, a filled gap and we put it in a fish tank composed of parenthetical citations and we didn’t think much of it after that it existed. It existed. 22

soundwaves Yereem Chun


Priya Chohan 23 19

In an Undrained Marsh off I-440 Alexander Young


I. In an undrained marsh off I-440 there are scorched longleaf pines standing guard in a ring around what Mr. Evan Davidson of Rebcor Co. has appraised as “the prime-est [sic] piece of real estate in central Raleigh” against the incessant roar of man and its 2001 Honda Accords. For if we gently tease aside the brittle of last season’s growth we can see - Oh! Those two are here again. He seems to be having a conversation with an eastern wood peewee about why its parents gave it such a funny name - hwee-hwee! it chirps from atop a gallberry bush, tracking a passing gadfly, and he commiserates, not at all maliciously, with a whistle that comes out more like a chwee-ha-chwee! She is delineating the borders of a newfound empire with a defensive battlement of fallen leaves. Today they are walking inside, inside this patch of tangled sedges and pocosin muck piled high where the US Department of Transportation’s jurisdiction ends and the rule of iron fists and peewees atop gallberries reigns absolute. The marsh does not make squelching sounds underneath their rubber soles like the -sh syllable of the word would suggest, but instead goes pit-pat 24

on the dark, loamy peat. There was a documentary last night on the National Geographic channel about how anthropologists have found the bodies of prehistoric humans preserved in marshes like these, so naturally he is imagining, now, what it would be like for, oh, an undead sea serpent to rise from the soil, shaking off the dried needles and cracked foliage with a sound like a great tinkling chandelier, and how he would leap onto its spined back and strike it on the snout until it heeled to his command. To make his point, he shouts “Hiya!� and swings a fist that almost takes her nose off. She shushes him. It feels almost sacrilegious to interrupt the not-silence of chirps and tweets and cracks and whirrs. Besides, marshes are freshwater - there wouldn’t be any sea serpents buried here. Obviously. #

II. In an undrained marsh off I-440 there are fat dragonflies with pale bottoms chasing each other about the lily buds and patches of waving grass as high as her knees, her knees now water-deep making waves that lap at his lap. This is not what a marsh is like. In fact, they have fallen into a pond. When they get back onto solid land they take off their socks and pick their way around the floating mat of Scorpidium moss that masqueraded as a solid platform but gave way the moment their right feet left the bank. It is not uncommon to step on sundew seedlings like this - far away their glistening mucilage looks like morning dew, and after she steps on them they are as the morning 25

dew, broken and smeared all about. Today they are walking to nowhere at all, because here in the marsh there is nothing to do, and this is the happiest they have been in all their lives. He points at a gopher frog squatting along the bank, which scientists say is an endangered species but is only classified as “nearthreatened” by the IUCN Red List. In the time it takes for her to focus her vision on the patch of borderless umber, their eyes meet on the surface of the water. Then a backswimmer emerges from the mud and a swipe of its furred legpokes her reflection in the eye. “Spring, pose, splash. Spring, neat-o, splash, Spring, aw fooey, splash.” It is gloriously freeing to be able to laugh and pout at nothing but a little water bug, this beady-eyed drifter which hides in rusty browns and pokes eyes and is the lord of the upside- down puddles - and in that short amount of time his eyes have unfocused and the gopher frog is long gone. #

III. In an undrained marsh off I-440 there are a hundred thousand cranberries dropping from their runners and littering the ground with pale whites and pinks, like sprinkles atop chocolate ice cream (today he missed lunch for the marsh and is seeing food everywhere.) Unfortunately, they are too tart for eating, but the two discover to their delight that cranberries bounce. And so the kingdom beyond the longleaf pines sees its first bout of internecine strife when he starts pelting her with these little bouncing bullets, and she responds in kind to this brazen 26

revolutionary, their cries and laughter echoing down the palustrine. Today they are running to-and-fro about the loblolly pines and hopping from one cypress knee to the next in a duel to the death and brandishing fetterbush flowers in their hair for knightly plumes and scaring opossums back into their dens until he takes a cranberry to the nostril and is executed for crimes against the state. Now they are sauntering together all comradely-like. At school she read how in The Sign of the Beaver the little Indian boy pops a piece of tree sap into his mouth, says, “Chaw!� and chews it like gum, so she tries the same with some fat amber globules dribbling from the bark of a pond pine. It tastes rotten and bitter. She spits it out immediately. Gross. Naturally, she deduces that Elizabeth George Speare must have been a damn liar, but had she tried it with, say, the sweet gum tree twenty meters to the right, the two would be chaw!ing away. The sun is setting in an hour and forty-five minutes, and she has just gotten the wonderfully stupid idea to pick the cattails and bring them home to roast over a fire like sausages on a stick. #

IV. In a draining marsh off I-440 there are solid green plates of algae swirling and clumping about on the pond but when he pokes them with a pinky the finger breaks through the powder with ease. The water table has dropped and they are digging through the exposed sediment using a rusty spade and a hand tiller she 27

brought from home with a plastic handle shaped like a smiling green frog. Scattered in the core are ivory-colored feldspars and quartz and micas like peeling calluses and diatomaceous shells that prick at their hands, and it is like they have uncovered treasure from the tomb of an extinct patrician line buried right under their feet. Today they are walking somewhere very fast. And by very fast I mean that they are strolling at a half-casual pace, because something odd has appeared in the marsh where dragonflies bloom and knees are water-deep. There is a film of iridescent sheen - no, not of sundew leaves, though they saw a full- grown one earlier which had a mosquito with its feet caught in the droplets like a man on superglued stilts, or an upside-down marionette - there is a film of iridescent sheen winding its way along the surface of the very, very still water like a shimmering Bifröst. They are trudging through the water now to follow this rainbow, because surely it leads to Asgard, or, because they do not know any Norse mythology, a pot of gold. But there is neither. Instead the slick golden luminescence which clings to their fingertips and does not wash off until Mom adds three squirts of dishwashing soap seems to end at an overturned field of bright orange flags. They take a couple home with them. (Later at the library when he is reading aloud about the sediments they have dug up - “radiocarbon dates by Bliley and Burney, Mixon and Pilkey, Thom, and Kaczorowski range in age from 440 ± 50 to 27,700 ± 2,600 BP” - oh, she fell asleep again. Here comes the librarian to kick them out for having open baggies of “dirty little crystals” out on the table.) 28


Priya Chohan 29 54


V. In a draining marsh off I-440 there are great puffs of yellow pollen drifting down from the coast redwoods as the ground trembles and the two sneeze. From mounds of sphagnum which by the way is the most wonderful smell in the world because it is moss that is dead but does not smell like death but rather like the hope of new life in split seed pods and fragmented root cuttings emerge waternymphs and curly-leaved pondweeds which she thinks are poorly named because the one dances more like the other. Oh, we mustn’t stay for too long. Today they are hurrying, hurrying to each of the most precious places of the marsh: the hollowed trunk where they keep the rusted spade and the trilobite impressions they found last week and a (working!) bow made of two branches and a shoelace; the creekbed where the anoles squirm and nip at each other; the nest of towhee eggs they saw being bombarded by a pair of ravens yesterday, oh, I hope the parents managed to drive them off; the stacks of marbled stones they piled to divert water into a pool of hatching tadpoles; the borders of their kingdom, that defensive battlement of fallen leaves . . . Oh, dear. Her parents are here. The adults have parked their car along the side of the interstate and without any care are pushing aside the longleaf pine branches and stepping on and over the sacred boundary of leaves instead of through the clearly-marked entrance gap. They are saying something scolding-like; I can’t hear, exactly. It is an awful feeling, to have the veil torn so abruptly and so pitifully 30

by these round, concerned-looking eyes and arched brows and mouths with sweet words dribbling. How did someone word it? “It was like running one’s face against a granite wall in the darkness!” #

X. In a drained marsh off I-440 there are whirling bluebottle flies and flickering scarlet arcade lights and booths with laser-printed phone cases lined up and an Abercrombie & Fitch that does not smell at all like sphagnum moss but rather something strong and fragrant and dead. Water is nowhere to be found unless you would like to slurp at one of the mall’s two lukewarm fountains or enter the rancid white restrooms or buy a glass bottle of VOSS for two dollars and ninety-nine cents. Today it seems like there is one of every kind of person from the ages 7 to 78 walking not on loamy peat but on bright ivory tiles. The tiles are very hard and very clean and go tap-tap when they walk on them. Today everyone is here except him and her. He is working as a cashier at a pet store with frogs in glass tanks that stay where they are. She is a line cook in another state entirely making sausages with bad casing. It’s funny how things work out so. And when in six years the mall is empty and the tiles dirty and the fountains broken and he has not seen or thought of her in just as long, unbelievably, unbelievably the marsh does not fill itself back up.



Caroline Troy 32


Burning Caramel Henry Dawson

There’s a bakery in North Norfolk, England, called Pastonacre. They are near the harbour of Cley, where a windmill looks out from low, wet grass to the vast grey-blue North Sea. Cold winds sweep in from the sea, over the grass between the blades of the windmill and through open windows in the bakery to swirl and coddle loaves of bread as they proof. When Pastonacre slides their dough into the oven, it is creamcolored and flecked with spots of grain. It emerges shining black and brown and gold — a spectrum from night to dawn to day. Once exposed to the oven’s heat, the cream color shifts to a radiant orange-gold, which in turn deepens to a shining molasses brown, and finally a gleaming black, deep and heavy as tar. Bubbles trapped in the skin of the bread glisten dark chocolate brown and honey-gold, pebbled over one another and mottled to gleam like dragon scales. The ear of the dough, cut with a razor before the dough is fired, rises, pert. It is pitch black, yet still shines like ink. This bakery has won the World Bread Awards for Sourdough for the past two years. The blacks and browns and golds of their crust shine like 33

treasure — they taste malty and toasted and slightly sweet; they crackle and crunch between your teeth, and the crumb within this crystal crust is fluffy and rich and sour. I showed my dad a picture of these globally acclaimed loaves. “Those look a little burnt, don’t they?” he said. My dad likes his bread light and fluffy; with colors ranging from pale milk to light toffee brown. The sugar in the skin of the Pastonacre bread has drastically deepened its color — as if dipping into the night, entering a visual territory recognized as inedible. Although blackened, they are not burnt. Cooking, elementally, is the application of fire to food. A myriad of chemical reactions occur over the flames. Two in particular, burning, and the Maillard reaction, can lead to darkening of food. Despite the apparent sameness, they are polar opposites. One destroys food; immolates it. Another works wonders to create the savor of grilled steak, the allure of fresh cookies, the complexity of coffee, and the glisten of bread. There’s a near violent aversion to blackened food in American cuisine — for good reason. When burning, high heat dries the food; steam flies out as moisture leaves. Hydrogens fly off organic carbon chains, and carbon binds to carbon binds to carbon binds to 34

carbon, forming a brittle, inedible lattice. This reaction grants cooked food, like bread, the color black. Burning is reductive — complexity is lost, molecules scatter into the air, and the end result is a honeycomb of networked carbons — barren and bone-dry and ashen. This is why my dad had an instinctive reaction to that bread: black means burnt. But that isn’t always the case. Pastonacre’s bread illustrates this — you can have blackened food and still have it be delicious and edible, with the right control over heat and acidity and moisture. The Maillard reaction achieves this. The term refers to a broad array of chemical reactions, the mingling of proteins and sugars in food leading to browning and caramelization and the production of aromatic compounds. These sugars and proteins clash and bond and separate and reform. Reactions cascade, flavor proliferates. Even my dad would like it.


Brain to Hand Nova Chen


Grayed Iris Wright

“I just don’t find it, um,” she brushed her bottom lip with her acrylic nail. “Accessible? Of course, I know that isn’t the point, but does anyone here connect at all with this exhibit?” Her arm curved down the length of her torso and unfolded so her painted hand hovered by her thigh as she pivoted to the room. Her companion also pivoted; together they were double doors. Others in the white-walled gallery searched for meaning in the pieces, some pretending to find it. Anastasia’s feet struck the polished floor. She approached a man who may have been a statue gazing at the wall. “Excuse me, but could you tell me what this piece makes you feel?” The man turned to her, not seeming at all disturbed out of any thought. “Nothing.” His hand fell from his chin to his side, one knee straightening as the other bent. “I feel nothing.” The wall nearest to them read in smudged text I am trapped outside my body repeatedly. It resided on the edge of their idea of aesthetics and beyond the outskirts of the colorful works that reproduced joy and youth. As the two gallery guests faced each other, the words filled the space between their figures. 37

Anastasia went back to an apartment the man slept in, leaving her companion to find a new companion. They slept after wrapping their muscles together like wire and untangling them to heat them back to their original shapes. When the earth completed a half-turn around its axis, the man from the exhibit dressed. “Where do you work?” Anastasia rotated, the stiff sheets ignoring her form. “The harvesting lab downtown.” He slipped a sock over his hairy foot. “I hate thinking about the harvesting labs.” “Do you have a job?” “Yes, but I don’t feel like going today.” She propped herself up on an arm, her wrist bending under her head. “What are the harvesting labs like?” “You want to see?” The man navigated her to the building from muscle memory, neither having ever learned a street name. The building was gray with carved words neither Anastasia nor the man knew. Their calves flexed and relaxed as they mounted several flights. When they reached the sixth floor, he turned a doorknob, slid a key into a lock, felt the lock release, and opened the door to a room with blue light. “We’re looking for number 667.” 38

They strode through rows of rectangular vats, each separated by black frames. Their feet released echoes when they hit the metal floor. Anastasia’s fingertips stroked the handrail between her and the vats. “Are the bodies preserved too?” “No,” he turned a corner. “All the other tissue has been disposed.” “What happens when a brain shuts down? Or do they never?” “They’re preserved perfectly and fed all the proper nutrients, so they don’t shut down unless we want them to, and we’ve only shut down one.” “I’m sure people ask this a lot, but since we have machines that make art, what do we need the brains for?” He slowed down as he traced his hand over the identification numbers. “We haven’t yet developed machines with the same creative capacity a human brain once had. We need these for art that can hold another human’s attention; computers just can’t generate texts that make you think long enough to make life enjoyable. You wouldn’t sit through movies anymore if only computers wrote and directed them. Machines execute the work, but brains generate the ideas.” “I see,” she remembered a painting she loved where a machine repainted it slightly differently every ten minutes; it must 39

have been a brain’s thought. “Why this brain?” He had stopped in front of brain 667 and was pushing his fingers on a keypad. “It invented the art exhibition we saw last night.” “Oh?” “A group discussed the exhibit and its lack of merit.” He typed more numbers, and the blue light in the tank diminished. “We’ve decided to shut this one down.” “But you just said only one has been shut down.” “This is the second.” He stepped in the direction they had come, and she followed. “Where do the brains come from?” “They were artists.” He answered as if having memorized an excerpt from a history book. “Most were dismembered around fifty years ago before overstimulation and disconnection led to a reduction in art making. The harvesting labs were founded by a group who anticipated the shift and thought humans wouldn’t prosper without the ability to consume new art.” After he led her back to the stairwell, Anastasia left for work, assuming she wouldn’t see him again. She arrived at the dance studio before noon, and no one cared she was late. She guided the dancers in learning a new routine, but after a few counts or so, she told them to take a break. She watched the computer-generated animation of the routine, but it was wrong. 40

Feet were flexed, fists punched the air, elbows jutted at the tips of decompressed arms. She did not understand it. It was not beautiful. She sent a message to the harvesting lab asking them to examine the routine and send her a new one. Some weeks passed after the exhibit before Anastasia was leaving a theater partway through a movie, and at the same time she opened the door, the man from the gallery opened it, ushering in a moment of “excuse me” and avoided collisions. She pivoted back toward the door. “Don’t bother going in there,” she held the door before it closed so he could walk back into the outside. He showed no commitment to walking into the theater. “Is the movie bad?” “Oh, I’ve met you. Yes, the movie is awful; you should shut down the brain that invented it.” She vibrated a laugh in her chest that sounded only of forlorn hope for social success. The movie theater door closed. “We’ve shut down twelvehundred brains just this week.” She abandoned her smile. “We think there might be a virus or something—but the brains don’t share any fluids or air; we don’t know how to explain it.” “What happens if all the brains shut down?” “It won’t happen.” He shifted his weight and rubbed one 41

finger in his other hand’s grip. “It’s improbable.” Anastasia’s dance company was pressed for time before its spring show, so they gave up sending back routines. When the costumes arrived, they were devoid of color or elegance. Even the slippers were charcoal. The performances were cumbersome and suggested the dancers had never walked on land or felt their faces. On opening night, Anastasia sneaked into the crowd during intermission, only expecting a handful of pushovers to stay for the second half of the show. “Hi,” she said when she recognized the man from the gallery, and she hoped he recognized her, and she wondered if she had ever before hoped someone would recognize her. “Are you also leaving?” His face said nothing. “I worked on this show, but I guess I don’t have to stay.” “No one has to stay anywhere.” His tone indicated an obvious statement. Anastasia’s chest hollowed. “How are the brains?” He looked around the room, put a hand to his forehead, and leaned toward her. “We’ve shut down ninety percent of them, maybe more since I was last in the labs.” “And tomorrow you’ll shut down the ones that made this show?” “Yes; we don’t have any other ideas.” “Maybe they want to be shut down,” she whispered. “Maybe 42

it’s about escape.” He didn’t seem to hear her, and he turned and left without an obligation to parting words. She thought of following him out of the building, but her limbs forgot how to move, and she lacked the experience to know what to do when her limbs forgot how to move. She held her position for several minutes. Outside, billboards were gray, and shop windows framed monochromatic clothing made for the shape of fog more than for the shape of a body. Anastasia wondered what the man’s name was. She circled back to the theater and entered through the back, passing the numbered dressing rooms, and she wondered what the dancers’ names were. She watched what remained of the show. One dance involved a dancer shouting “beauty is easily understood” while other dancers twisted their faces at the audience. For the finale, the dancers lied on the ground, a blue light illuminating their still legs.



Nova Chen



Self-Propagation Naomi Shammash

Here, there is saltwater rolling over and around the tongue, filling the caves of the non-mouth, teeth clacking hard against each other. Here, our brains are frugal with us. Tiny packaged vowels leaden in their weight. Stenosis of the throat– The jaw welds shut. You are becoming secondary to yourself, sensory input distilled, scattered and wanting. those calloused feet below you twitch in the seagrass and the junebugs


take up the pacemaking of this night as it unfolds into mumbles and a pervasive jerking of the strings crisscrossing the silence, painstakingly stitching together those phrases of timidity one by one and melding and it is slow, the battle against cells that have betrayed their maker, the prescription of a stern rebuke that flits about the seaside– Eventually it will sink into the silt in the third person.



Maisy Meyer 48

Sensation of a Spine Alisa Caira

I want to know how my blood feels when it leaves my heart. As in I’m asking the question, Is that as disconcerting as stepping onto cold tiles After a hot shower? I like the way when I breathe nowadays I can feel the tickling sensation of Osmosis (if that’s the word I mean). Veins in wrists, wrinkled knuckles, shaved legs, and abundant skin. Those things I can see. But still. I wish to know where my kidneys have been residing. If they have a summer cottage they keep for My many off-seasons.



I am not so dumb, Not so out of touch. My spine reminds me of its presence with an internal phone call And an appointment at noon for lunch. My brain twists with reminders and sensation until Dancing itself to fatigue On a Saturday night out (more often in, dancing by ourselves) A body puzzling itself together with veins and muscle tissue, Telling me now this many years in, How to map them all together when I sit alone with myself Like in those high school biology classes And like all the valentines cards I should have written to myself.



Schizoanalytic Cartographies Ruth Schlenker

This artwork was inspired by Schizoanalytic Cartographies, a 1989 work by French philosopher Felix Guattari about social theory in the era of rapid globalization. The oceans are a collaged literature review of the work and the land masses are collaged notes on topics like national service and development assistance. Guattari used cartography as a metaphor for how we should understand the world, and this artwork is a visual investigation of this idea. I used wire to symbolize connectivity and pen to symbolize population density. I inverted the colors on Photoshop to create a diptych with a similar visual to that of a nighttime satellite image. 53

Hyperthymesia Megan Slusarewicz

Individuals who have Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM) demonstrate the ability to recall accurately vast amounts of remote salient autobiographical events without the explicit use of mnemonics The first person diagnosed with hyperthymesia described it as living life with a split screen: on one side the present, and the other 3 54 an endless cycle of memories triggered by the present events.

The woman next to me won’t stop humming. In my peripherals, I can make

11/15/2005: [My mother taught me piano. Correction—tried to teach me. I was

out her outline. Dark, rosy features. Tufts of black hair that twist around her face into a

wearing the t-shirt my brother got me. Shitty cotton, size medium. Spongebob on the

wrought iron halo. Her eyeshadow blushing mauve beneath immaculate eyeliner. Our

front. Fourth day wearing it. Mother’s lipstick was fading, mauve seeping out at her lip

eyes meet, and my craning pupils dash away to the window, to the uniform rushing blur of line. I couldn’t leave until I played E major. A moth darted around the lamp.] 4/5/1999:

trees in the weeks after their leaves fall but before snow does. I press my cheek against the

[I was eating an orange-colored lollipop that didn’t taste like citrus. Its serrated edges

chill glass and bite my tongue. My knees push against the seat in front of me, two moun-

scratched my tongue. The doctor told me I would grow very tall one day. My father looked tains forced to fold to make room for more patrons.

down at me with pride. And an eyelash on his cheek.

Mountains are because of capitalism. I smile to myself.

“…I’m just saying, if she’s too afraid to confront me about it, she should just get

“I make them strong like mountains.” He smiled.]

7/29/2007: [The girl behind me wouldn’t stop clicking her pen. My paper was

over it.” My ears adjust to the conversation behind me. smudged. Too many problems, not enough time.]

“I don’t think that’s fair. You’re both paying rent. That means you both deserve to 6/4/2010: [I was going to confront Mother today, but then she knocked over the


feel comfortable in your home.”

ginger jar. Eggshell-floor home.] An exasperated sigh. “Well, what about me? I’m allowed to invite people over, too. 10/14/2003: [I found a cat and invited it home using ham slices from my sand-

It’s not like we barge into her room at all. And the band doesn’t have anywhere else to

wich—a gift from my mother for the cat that, unbeknownst to her, I’d keep under the bed. practice since Jason had to move back to Texas.”

The porch light flickered. And the cat wouldn’t go I glance at my watch but already know the time. 5:49. The train is nineteen minutes through the door.] 4/23/2011 [The cop had a dust bunny caught in his scruff that

later than schedule. Better than expected, but maybe I should expect better. Rushing to-

wobbled as he talked. My watch said 2:15 AM but my bag said never again. Mother was all wards the hospital of my birth, I watch the seconds hand eat away time on the watch face

thanks and tears and “have a wonderful night, sir”s. Her face was pale as a clock’s and she

on my skin on my bones. My mother’s. Dull pain shoots through my hips, so I readjust.

coughed as she spoke. Once I closed the door, her hand cracked against my cheek.]

The man ahead of me twists around to catch me in his tired eyes. His hair is that of

9/4/1999: [Father spilled soda on the rug and howled with laughter. He was silly,

someone who cared, once. “Would you please stop kicking the seat? I’m trying to get some but Mother looked tired. Me, French braids. Her baby hairs pasted to forehead. I asked to


have Coke, too. 56


down at the worksheet. “You have your whole life ahead of you. What’s a little math?” I’d

estly, I’m jealous of you, sis. All that height gives you some oomph in this world. I always 7/28/2007: [“Honestly, I’m jealous of you, sis.” He shook his head. I was glaring

The woman shakes her head. “They don’t build these trains big enough. But, honI split the Oreo in half.]

“It’s okay. I’m used to it.”

my tongue. “Why…” He handed me a cookie. “It’s not your fault.” woman’s face is warm with eyebrows furl in indignation.

snuck in, Oreos in his arm crook. My thoughts wouldn’t spill out fast enough for

“You can’t help having long legs! You’re just trying to be comfortable, too.” The


stopped. to nothing. Behind my eyes, I kept replaying manatees from the aquarium. Then

“That was rude of him.”

I glance down at the woman next to me. I hadn’t noticed her humming had 9/5/1999: [I listened closely

while now.] releasing.

hugged my arm and guided me upstairs.] 9/5/1999: [I’d been staring at the ceiling for a

to my seat. The man sighs heavily and turns back, thudding into his cushion. I sigh too, “Go to sleep.” I wanted to ask again but she looked at me with her daggers. Brother

I whisper a muffled sorry into my hoodie and pull my knees to my chest, feet


over and over and over and over and over and over...] And then him replaying over and over and oover and

and everything went dark. some sort of misty dark.

in the top left cabinet until ants got to it.] 4/22/2011: [I found his note,

approaches what I’ve come to accept that people see on the backs of their eyelids: asked for cotton candy. “Only a little before bed.” She gave me four bites and saved the rest

is limping towards the horizon, but it’s obscured to dimness behind thick clouds. The sky 6/5/2002 [At the fair, Mother got me a pinwheel. It and the sky shone purple and red. I

heart monitor. I watch wind turbines rise from hills and trot on air. Somewhere, the sun

my cheek. Vanilla lingered from her hesitation. Humming something like I’m sorry.]

natural conclusion. I turn my attention back to the window. The seconds hand tick like a 4/22/2013: [Thinking I was asleep, Mother crept in humming. She almost brushed

The woman begins to hum again, signaling that our interaction has reached its the covering my smirk with a cough.]

I cover a grimace with my knees. “I guess so.”

peacoat. To them, a normal Monday. Then, the saying goodbye,

“But I never considered trains. I guess the grass is always greener.” stained number seven with peanut-butter grease.] 6/7/2015: [I hid the train ticket in my

wanted to be tall.” The woman stares thoughtfully into the headrest in front of her.


4/21/2011: [“Don’t worry. It’ll work out.”]

“No! I’m sure it’ll work out.”

line. It was 1:18 AM. Father stared at the wall.]

ways just stay at Mom’s for a bit. Portland is nice.” 4/22/2011: [“How hard can he be to find?” My mother was wailing into the land-

“Are you gonna be able to do that? It’s not easy to find roommates. You could al-

I’m fine.”] she’s not.”

4/22/2016: [In the call, Mother coughed sixteen times before hanging up. “I’m fine,

“I should just move, find another roomie. I’m sick of her saying she’s fine when

night.” My left shoelace was untied.]

fortable ride.” For a moment after, no sound.

time is 10:32 PM. We will arrive in New York City at around 12:30 AM. Have a wonderful

6:30 PM. We will be arriving in Portland at around 10:00 PM. We hope you have a com-

6/7/2015: [“Hello everyone, we hope you’re having a wonderful journey so far. The

“Hello everyone, we hope you’re having a wonderful journey so far. The time is

the milk, he’d barged in with a frantic look. And cereal.] change the course of this track or its destination.

brother’s product-stocking job. He was babbling. Fourteen minutes prior to me pouring coupon. I check my watch, but hands aren’t hearts that stop. No amount of looking will 4{/21/2011: [We had Cinnamon Toast Crunch that night. Contraband from my

Rifling through my backpack, I find the doctor’s name I scrawled on a cereal


7/20/2016: I fell asleep to humming.

“Okay. Enough, enough.” And Mother lifted me.]

But sleeping’s less a slipping and more a shift.


made to be closed. [“They tried.”] 11/15/2005: [My fingers wouldn’t play anymore. So tired I thought I’d col-

like low tide, and the man takes a swig of something that smells like sleep. Eyelids were

head against the window. I was sitting on the bus. Mother on a hospital bed.] 4/21/2011:

the place I swore I’d never call home again. The woman’s humming ebbs through my ears

ditioning ripping through the aisle. It was 8:15—no, 8:45, no… No. A moth slammed its

turns to the glass as the sun returns to the horizon. I’m 3 hours and 27 minutes away from 7/18/2016: [Father called as I dozed off. I can’t remember his voice, only the air con-

I check the watch. 6:33. Despite my best efforts to stay alert, my cheek re-

Two Cells Manuel Camarillo Two cells, intertwined Spiraling down Sharing only a medium, Flowing from one

but never connected onto each other. a chemical messenger, to another

But not reciprocated A one-way relationship that only ends in my excitement. But would this electrical force you instill onto me Ever be felt by you? Maybe someday I could be Strong Enough to reach you; to be felt.



New Rind, New Soul Carder Jones

mixed media (acrylic on canvas, 48” by 48”, digitally edited)

This work shows an acrylic fortress modeled after a known misfolded protein linked to schizophrenia. Wisps of its amino acid sequence float around after having been turned into a musical transcript; the score is based off of the polarity, charge, and presence of heterocyclic compounds. The notation defines itself by the spatial conformation of DISC1 in the form of mixolydian pentatonics. 63

Experiment 10.3 Sydney Lo

In the basement labs lit by white concrete and outdated poster board displays we swabbed our palms and spread it on agar plates to see what would grow, to show we were unclean or maybe just lived on—forty-eight little continents tired of the cold, touching black countertops and lab goggles, gray nitrile gloves and labeling tape. Days later we saw bubbles of white mold, pink and yellow bacterial colonies like freckles across a face, poking holes in sterility in a way that was almost miraculous, like we had born the uncountable spots like babies in hospital boxes, all this time pregnant and we held our hands up to the half-broken fluorescent lights and felt the motion of carrying infect our skin, the living we harbored and it did not feel wrong but afterwards we all went to the bathroom in the hallway, washed our hands in the dirty sink.


Judgment Emily Zhang


Ruth Schlenker The juxtaposition of abstract forms and collaged elements was inspired by artist Vernon Fisher. The collaged elements are a linocut print of an ambiguous android figure and cutouts from two National Geographic magazines one, from the 80s, describing the new Apple computer, and one, from 2016, addressing issues from climate change to war-related PTSD to American demographic trends. The viewer is encouraged to reflect on the connections between these concepts. The background, resembling a troubled sky or sea, evokes Fisher’s visual style.





Fragments Alexander Young

Fragment 1a. From the fonte of last summer’s bubbles Sick cats [ ] ] profligate ] ] ] two undercooked steaks tungsten-tipped ICBMs at twenty-six miles per hour.

Fragment 2d. Sleeping to time’s hurdy-gurdy we wake to the deep slopes of Paradise, tossing our will to the sand-whipped winds. In the light of the 69

sun eclipsed our faces look etched from [ ] copper, [ harsh palladium prints illuminated in a flash of black powder - a dead man’s version of life. [ ]

Oh, bless you! - [ Fragment 18r. ] two green wood hoepoes gently pluck at one another’s feathers [

Fragment 287f. It is not shameful to forge money, or to shit oneself in public! Why, 70

even Diogenes [ ] ] for a cold stroopwafel [ ] ] in the Grand Unified Theory of particle physics we can postulate [ ] just stamp it down the shower drain [




Random Sentences Sophia Zheng

I’m drinking water you drank some time ago; I ate a banana that was cloned from yours; I am made of the same elements as you, but matter is not all that makes a man. The girl and her friend where whispering on the opposite side of the bush from where I sat, and the rustling leaves could not contain their distain towards the person who called the girl unoriginal because she was made the same as everyone else. The baker threw the bun away because the mold cherished it more. One day, a dead apple fell on my head, and my head fell on my shoulders, and my body crumpled to the ground, and I became an inanimate object, moved by inanimation. It’s a mystical world where rocks are in motion, flying up and down the sky, trying to convince us that rockets are modern shooting stars. The wind is our friend who tries to blow away the stress, the frustration, the responsibilities and expectations that cling so tightly onto us, it seems we are the ones refusing to let go. There’s a field of people who grow green when the seasons change. Onions are cold and scared and afraid of crying alone Sometimes stars are like people, pretty from afar. 72

Architecture of a Pepper Yunni Cho


Hydra (2019) photograph Yunni Cho 74

Star Children Katherine Xiong

For the first time in ages, I have Davie’s attention long enough to stump him. “They were this British band,” I say. “Mom and Dad might’ve played them once or twice.” “Rock?” “More alternative, actually.” “Timeline?” “1996 to 2022.” Davie nods, craning his neck over his guitar as if he’s hoping it’ll sound normal if he just gets close enough. It doesn’t. The walls of the One Love III are filled with water for insulation, but by now, most of them have sprung tiny leaks, and much of the runoff goes straight into the air. The result is that Davie’s guitar—this imitation wood monstrosity with Dad’s faded vinyl stickers fused into the neck—always gets choked up. “Maybe you’ve heard of ‘Viva La Vida,’” I say. “It was huge in the late 2000s, had this really famous cello bit?” He shakes his head. “Or ‘Clocks’? The one with the eight-note piano progression?” His eyes never leave the tuners. “Okay, maybe those were bad examples. All you need to know is that they used real instruments and wrote all the music themselves.” But the more I think about it, the less unique that sounds. All rock bands worth studying wrote their own songs. It was the aesthetic. The one that 75

said, we crossed the country in a station wagon with our guitars strapped to our backs; we slept in wheelbarrows, dumpsters, alleyways; we played for crowds of ten and twenty until one day, one wonderful day, the right connections walked into the bar. That was rock music as Davie learned it from our parents’ fairy tales. As he’s trying to recreate now, with the first extraterrestrial cover band in history. Davie finishes tuning, skims his finger down the front of the guitar. It leaves a clean trail in the condensation. Like tear tracks. “I can’t believe you’ve never heard of them,” I say. “They’re all over the Archives.” That’s an understatement, actually—alongside the scattered recordings of Mozart and Bob Dylan in my mainframe is every Coldplay song ever written, including the B-sides, plus a few dozen old interviews and tour clips and screenshots from their long-forgotten website. I wait for him to justify himself—to say he already has, or that he’ll listen to them soon. Instead, Davie just nods down at his guitar and starts to play. It used to be the norm for children born in space to ‘discover’ their own names. Something to do with hope—that’s how our parents justified it. It represented the new generation, claiming the future as its own. So when Davie first learned to crawl, they placed a tray of objects—a defunct astronaut’s helmet, a broken Archive monitor, a vase of paper flowers—in front of him. Like every future rock star, my brother went for Dad’s guitar. Now his name is Davie, for early star-man David Bowie. The perfect origin story. 76

Except naming a child after David Bowie makes it seem like he was part of some long family history. He wasn’t. I’ve trawled through our parents’ listening records and they were never David Bowie fans, only played his music once or twice for research purposes. It worked out, though—Davie grew up loving that guitar. He’d plant himself at Mom’s Archive workstation and play the few scattered clips that remain of people’s fingers on the frets. Even if his hands were stiff from working with Dad in the greenhouse sectors, he’d copy their motions over and over again, mumbling instructions under his breath. Later, after our parents passed and there was no one left to teach him, he clung to those five-, six-second bursts. He said that the music came from somewhere inside him, that it was echoing around his soul. How a name can make a person. Some people, at least. Not me. I was named for Yoko Ono, but even my New-Age parents could only handle so much scribbling on the table. But for better or worse, now we’re Davie and Yoko, farmhand and archivist, true artist and older sister. “We’ve set up a concert,” Davie says later, his work boots tracking foul-smelling mud and blighted plant remains across the Archive floor. “Can you get the word out?” “Sure,” I say. I’ll tell everyone I know: my parents’ portrait on the wall and the other nine archivists and maybe Mirai, the head of our sector, if she’s not mildly annoyed about the work I’ve been skipping. “When is it?” “Soon,” he says. 77

“Soon meaning two cycles or two lifetimes?” He rolls his eyes. “It’s not set yet, ok? We can’t just rush this. The music has to come.” “Sure. Fine. So why tell me now?” As if a ship of 500 people, the last generation born before the fertility sector went dark, needs to know his business that far in advance. But it’s important, Davie will say. So is not wasting other people’s time, I’ll say. Are you calling my band a waste of time? he’ll say. If I keep pushing, he’ll probably spend a week living in the greenhouses again, tossing and turning and possibly crushing our dwindling harvest in his sleep. “Have you at least decided on a setlist?” I ask instead. “We’re getting there. Thinking some Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, something a little edgy.” “The Beatles, edgy? They were literally heartthrobs, Davie.” “Yeah, yeah,” he says, maneuvering around me. “What’s your password again?” He shuffles through the screenshots and site archives on my monitor—audio clips from Coldplay’s third album, the one no one really loved or hated; old interviews with the lead singer, a scruffy man with buck teeth, alternately too cheerful and too grim—to the music library. “Can’t you do this later?” “Not my fault your Mainframe is the only one left with music files,” he says. Otherwise he wouldn’t even bother with me, he means. 78

One silver lining is that my playing hooky has aligned with another reduction to work hours, which freed up a generator to keep the greenhouses warm overnight. “You’ve gotten lucky,” Mirai says. “But don’t think I won’t drag you back to work myself next time.” She winks. Her lenience makes me feel bad for dragging my feet through my mother’s job. It’s not even that hard: I listen to music, I read through saved reviews, I write up a report geared towards our generation, born on board. So I come in the next cycle to stare at the screen, trying to decide where to begin. Maybe I shouldn’t have started with ‘Viva La Vida.’ Sure, it’s Coldplay’s signature hit, but it does tell such an archetypal story. Same with ‘Clocks.’ Even someone like Davie, who still believes in stories, might see through it. But then again, it always takes patience to get past the lonely wobble of the lead singer’s falsetto and all the illusions of pure heart. A lot of patience. There’s nothing to do but open up the third album, I guess. As always, it starts on the wrong note, a distant synth waver that sounds like it was squeezed out of a broken computer, then explodes into its drumline and the faraway whine of its electric guitar. Put together, it sounds like a signal for help all the way from Earth: strident, steady, but hollow. When they actually get around to performing, that’s how I imagine Davie’s band might sound. When the world was ending, this is what the earth generations thought to save.

Davie’s been coming home just before the lights go out and 79

leaving as soon as they turn on. By the time he walks through the door and sets his guitar down, I’m on the verge of sleep. “Now have you decided on a setlist?” I ask, squinting through the dimness. “I have my ideas,” he says. I prop myself up on my elbow from the bed. “Are you going for a theme? Any specific genres? You could do an all-Bowie set. Like your name—” “Yoko, no,” he sniffs. “Music is about representing everyone.” He flings his arms out to his sides like he’s trying to give ‘everyone’ a hug. “Anyway, I have to talk it out with the guys.” I find that hard to believe. The band might need every member to play, but the one people remember is the lead singer. He’s supposed to be the one with the voice, the face, the charisma. That’s the story. Davie loves a good story. “Alright, what’s your band thinking?” I ask. He thumps down onto his bunk and rolls over to face the wall. The lights slowly fade away, leaving the porthole open to the sight of distant stars. All that’s left is the faint glow of my parents’s smiling portrait, taken on the launchpad from the day they left the earth behind. When I wake up, Davie’s hovering over the sink, already in his rotting, hand-me-down boots. “I’ll be out nights from now on,” he says. He looks me right in the eyes as he says this. “Don’t come looking for me.” “You drama queen, you make it sound like the world is ending,” 80

I say. The door, heavy with moisture, doesn’t slide so much as stutter shut. The outages get worse. The plumbing shuts off for cycle after cycle. The lights fall out of sync with the clocks. “Come in when you can,” Mirai’s notes say. But everyone else has interpreted ‘when you can’ as ‘rush over when the lights come on, pray that your research is intact,’ or ‘sleep at your desk, stay up when it gets dark to keep your work alive.’ I don’t bother. I stay home, sweeping up the dirt that lingers in Davie’s absence. I go for walks around the open sectors, but it’s like moving in circles—every sector looks the same. We pull the plug. Mirai makes a ceremony out of sealing the Archives by pressing our hands against the door. I don’t stay to watch. A door is just a door, at this point. It almost seems wrong to miss the past so little when there’s nothing else to do. But Mirai disagrees. “Let it be,” she says. Over cups of lukewarm water—the closest we have to tea—at our kitchen table, she tells me she’s taken to meditating. To browsing old family albums once tucked away for the distant future. To staring out at the stars like Davie and I did as kids. It’s hard to fill the time, she confesses, now that everything she used to do is gone. “My brother plays the guitar,” I say. “He’s got a lot of the music files memorized. Maybe—” “Maybe he could be our archive?” She laughs. “He’d better not be a Coldplay fan too.” 81

“I’m not a fan—” “I know, I know.” Her hands go up. “What music does he like?” I think for a moment. There’s David Bowie, and I know there’s the Beatles, but what else? Do his tastes follow any rules? I should know this. “Mostly sad music, I think. Older stuff.” “Nowadays, it’s all older stuff,” she says with a wave of her hand. How is she so calm? Mirai’s from the last earth generation, the one with something real to hold onto, not just a pale copy of the past. There might as well be a thousand years between us. “Let it be,” she says again, and pats me on the arm, as if I’m the one who needs it. I think about inviting her to the concert. I don’t. By some miracle, it comes together. We find ourselves under a broad set of floodlights. By the time the concert starts, the musicians tuning their junky instruments on the scrap-plastic stage, there are only ten other people in the room. Davie’s glancing at the doors, waiting for something, maybe a confirmation that he belongs in the story of a rock star. “Hi, everybody,” he says. “Thank you so much for coming. We’re—” A burst of feedback. Everyone covers their ears. He tries again, and again. Finally, he turns off the microphone and speaks at normal volume. “That’s the universe telling us to get on with it, I guess.” They start with a David Bowie song, one of the faster paced ones, then jump into Green Day, the Beatles, a few things even I can’t recognize. Davie’s guitar swings back and forth as he sways his way across the stage, Dad’s stickers on the false wood less like decorations 82

and more like bandages holding severed limbs in place. Behind him, another guitarist trips over his fingers and the drummer fumbles the base lines. The others have nothing but their voices, which blast through the air and fizzle like cheap fireworks. Still, Davie keeps the group moving so fast that he charges out of tempo on every song, and the small mistakes pile onto each other and turn each number into something foreign and frantic, never heard before. Finally, Davie pauses for breath. He stares out at us, eyes skimming over me in favor of the whole, or what’s left of it. By now, half the people have snuck out of the room, but he flashes a smile out at us like we’re a crowd of thousands.




sensorial.lib Yunni Cho

85 85

Due North Deanna Moorehead

The other day, a man in an honest-to-god sweater-vest told me that the North Star is a lie. You think you know something, y’know? The North Star is called Polaris, I thought I knew, and it floats overhead, skewered right through by the North Pole as it extends for forever into the distance, marking True North on the heav’nly Celestial Sphere. Not always, He says against my “forever.” Do you know what he says next? He says “Once, Some 5,000 years ago, The North star was this star over here,” He points, in a direction most definitely not Northward “Thuban.”


Thuban. Can you believe? And in 13,000 years, When I finally finish my degree, Polaris will fall off the crest of the sky and Vega will take its place, Burning bright at center stage. When North is South and the only constants in a sky of swirling maybes aren’t even true What can you do? I dropped the class, But not before that honest man in his god-given vest of a sweater told me To give it time, Because things have a funny way of coming back around. It turns out that like a spinning top The Earth precesses. It traces circles around the stars as it swivels around itself around the sun around the sky. And in 26,000 years, When I at last pay off my student loans, I will look up to the night, to True North, And Polaris will be back. 87

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