no.1 [sept-dec 2016]
ctrl + z[ine]
a compendium of narratives
What is this? Some images and some stories.
Memory Castle - 3 - Yasmin Al Sammarai The Absinthe Dream of Countess Abella - 5 - Bobbi Bortolussi A Preliminary Translation of MI2102 by Professor Alma Perroni - 7 - Zheng Li The Microfilm - 9 - Siri Hermanski The Site of a Worm Race - 11 - Nellie Jalalzadeh Scene in the Forum - 13 - Laura Fox Broadway Melody - 15 - Bo Zhang The Sacred Ritual of the Knights of the Sacred Cork - 17 - Josh Silver Ode to the Sun - 19 - Sean Lamb The Island - 21 - Christian Huizenga Reminiscences of a Ghost - 23 - Jessica Ying
We used to meet at the corner of Sixth Street where they tore down the old warehouse building. Do you remember the place? It used to be a towering vault of steel and reinforced concrete, thin shelled and thick beamed, but coming to uncanny points at each junction with the ground. (I would always think of tiptoes or stilts or folded-paper bills, dropped off after drinks or dinner sitting out by Boulevard George III.) Where did we meet? I donâ€™t remember the exact location. It could have been under the back-right corner where the rebar was revealed through the concrete or central under the temporary, retrofit lighting fixtures or near the street watching the cop cars and pedestrians out for a drink on a Saturday. I walked by again yesterday and saw two figures in the light of the ruin, now not a ruin. The canopy reflects the harsh whiteness of halogen lights, now installed in the crevasses between the old steel structure. The damp floor reflects and lights the space in between.
5-The Absinthe Dream of Countess Abella
The Absinthe Dream of Countess Abella-6
And in her dream, she was there again in the old west wing of Totleigh Manor in the low lake country of her adopted homeland. And again, it was overcast, not raining but just drizzling slightly, the estate continuing into the distance as a flat sea of slight hills and dells. And again, he was there. But he was not there. He was dead. It was that Thursday he went off to the wars. That was the last time she saw Prince Pierre. Then, he was a strapping lad with long locks that almost hovered above the gold epaulettes on his blue uniform; but now he had returned to her as a hollow dirge, a green apparition. And again they met, just outside of the skylights beam, only slightly illuminating the interior with the grey-green light of the storm gathering outside. As she turned away, the window framed the east wing: a concrete monument to the history she ran from all her life, the history of fanatical patriotism o the most lurid. Then she felt his touch. “Pierre…” “Yes” “Are you here?” “N..” And that was when she awoke.
7-A Preliminary Translation of MI2102 by Professor Alma Perroni
A Preliminary Translation of MI2102 by Professor Alma Perroni-8
THESE ARE THE WORDS OF [SHAMSHI NINURTA?], LORD OF THE FOUR QUARTERS, KING OF […..] TO HIS SUBJECTS: THE GREAT DEITIES HAVE CONFERED, THE GREAT DEITIES HAVE DECIDED AND THESE ARE THEIR WORDS: AND YOU WILL BUILD A GREAT TEMPLE TO THE GODS AND IT WILL BE NAMED UNTO YOU [E-ADIDARU] AS THE PLACE WHERE WE WILL DWELL AMONGST YOU. THE STRUCTURE WILL BE PLACED AT THE EDGE OF THE CENTRAL DISTRICT AT [……] BETWEEN THE [GRANARY?] AND PALACE OF SHAMSHI NINURTA, LORD OF THE FOUR QUARTERS……. THE BUILDING WILL BE TWELVE CUBITS WIDE, THIRTY CUBITS LONG AND 8 CUBIT HIGH AS PER THE DIVINE RATIOS, SANCTIFIED BY THE GREAT DEITIES. THE BASEMENT WILL BE THE SITE OF THE RITUAL. THE MAIN FLOOR WILL BE FOR THE PREISTS AND HOME OF THE HOLY OBJECTS. THE COLUMNS WILL BE OF COPPER AND ALL OTHER SURFACES WILL BE OF [LIMESTONE?]. AND IN THAT PLACE WILL BE THE RITUAL. FIRST THE PREISTS MUST WASH THEMSELVES SEVEN TIMES IN THE SACRED WATER OF [….] SO THAT THEY MAY BE SANCTIFIED BEFORE THE GODS. THEY WILL THEN DON THE SACRED VESTMENTS, THE SACRED [CROWN?] AND THE SACRED BREAST-PLATE CONTAINING TWENTY-FOUR SEPARATE STONES EACH REPRESENTING THE TRIBES. THE PRIEST WILL THEN……. …..AND THESE ARE THE WORDS OF THE GREAT DEITIES AS DICTATED BY [SHAMSHI NINURTA?], LORD OF THE FOUR QUARTERS…..
Natasha Ivanovna stood, looking out the window towards Gorky Square. It was night, but the midnight sun of Siberia illuminated the city with its cold light. Natasha was there only to watch and wait. Two cars passed by quickly, both black, then a small convoy of military trucks, painted in olive green and followed by two jeeps. Natasha paced slowly and to a drink from her small hipflask, wrapped in beaten leather. The alcohol warmed her slightly, repressing the urge to flee. Then he appeared. A single, man in a slightly weather-beaten grey trench-coat and a black bowler hat. He was clean shaven and wore a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. He carried a black briefcase, inside must have contained the microfilm. She was ready, reaching into her jacket for the small makeup mirror she would use to signal Sven and Alexei across the square. She signaled, reflecting the sunâ€™s light toward their positions. She waited. Two minutes, five. They had yet to appear. Where were they? Just then, a voice came from behind her. She turned around fast and to her surpriseâ€Ś..
11-The Site of a Worm Race
The Site of a Worm Race-12
When we first visited, we disembarked onto a dock of lashed wooden beams, raw-cut two-by-fours held together by manila rope. Even the boat was rickety, but only enough to keep us on our toes as the hooded figure rowed us slowly down the calm river and into the island’s inland lake. Later we would find out that this lake occupied most of the island, but was shielded by high cliffs on all sides. We could see lights of nearby boats and islands shining, but indistinct in the night. Were they torches or were they electric lights? We were, then shown into the main foyer to meet our mysterious benefactor, who’s invitations we all received last week at one o’clock sharp by young men dressed in surprising livery. Each wore a black admiral’s uniform with gold frogging and huge epaulettes. On their heads were black kepis, also with gold frogging and a long linen neck guard. They all sported moustaches. The invitation was curt, only mentioning a time and place to meet; but no further information was evident on the black card with gold writing. Only one symbol was impressed on the back. A thirteen-pointed star, or some type of hyper-figure if looked at from a different view, or a series of lines intersecting, all contained within a circle of sorts. And now we found ourselves here, in this light and airy foyer of aromatic sandalwood and copper. The whole place seemed to be a singular olfactory experience, in which the smell of distant flowers, sandalwood, the metallic smell of copper and the saltiness of this inland sea combined. Then he appeared: “Welcome my thirteen disciples. I knew you would not pass up the chance to take part in the festivities. Your rooms await you right this way. After you freshen up, I thought we might begin with a worm race in the parlor then our dinner, a lipogram in “a” if that suits you. I myself am partial to dinners in “L” but I thought “a” would be more suitable.”
13-Scene in the Forum
MUSES: And again, the sun wanes in the sky/ And again we set the scene of state CENTURIONS: And again, we see the figures here/ in the first month of the new year. MUSES: And here the noblest you may meet/ And here the discourses are regained CENTURIONS: And here we may watch it all unfold/ in this old place of grime and dew. PSEUDON: Ah! Antonia my friend, good afternoon to you! ANTONIA MAJOR: And a good afternoon to you Pseudon. What brings you here so late in the day? P: Pottering, pottering, pottering as usual. Doing some research for my new work Principles of The New Music. AMJ: Ah! Still plugging away at that huh? I hear that Marcus Lucius has beaten you to the finish line with his response to your Stoica. P: WHAT!? That knave! Marcus Lucius knows the mob is against him! AMJ: Well, he’s published it anyways. It was printed in Syria and shipped to Rome. An ignominious show of his faltering following. P: [muttering under his breath] He always only mattered in the eastern provinces… [AMJ shrugs and moves Antonia Minor before her, presenting her to P.] AMJ: Pseudon, have you met my daughter Antonia? P: No, I don’t believe I have. Well met!
Scene in the Forum-14
AMJ: She will soon begin her formal study. Antonia, would you like to learn your letters from Pseudon? [AMI nods her head] P: Great! She could start any day she likes! But alas, I am short on money at the moment…... AMJ: Your fee will be paid-for, Pseudon. [aside] The philosopher, bleeding the city dry as usual. [Enter Magnus Maximus. He swaggers on stage in his most self-important manner.] MUSES: Here comes the “great general of Rome”/Magnus Maximus, aptly named. CENTURIONS: Swaggering in regimentals/ When he’d much prefer the life of art. MAGNUS MAXIMUS: Pseudon! Harassing the populace again with your infinite questions? P: Not today my dear Magnus, only observing and listening. Have you heard? I am working on a new book concerning--MM: [sarcastically] The state of humans and the ordering of nature? Of course, it is! Don’t you philosophers ever do anything of consequence. Oh! It’s argue, argue, argue all the time. How many of you fight in the Legions? How many of you have gone into battle for the----? P: Relax Magnus, you remember that I have done my service as much as you have. And under the Divine Augustus if you’ll remember. AND in Gaul if you’ll believe me! AMJ: You two, this debate is pointless! This isn’t a battle in the Arena! Why don’t you just make up and have a polite conversation?! Maybe you could talk about…... the weather or the beauty of the afternoon sun… AMI: Or share some poetry! I know you are both admirable poets. P: What a good idea! Magnus, would you like to collaborate or are you still stewing like a pigeon in Garum? MM: Not at all Pseudon, I have long desired to share a song. MUSES AND CENTURIONS TOGETHER: A song, a song, a song is much appreciated. P: Magnus, why don’t you begin? MM: [clears throat] The glimmer shines/ Of Dacian gold/ On a warrior’s brow. P: It mimics my/ memory of/ the Rubicon, / gate of my only home. [Applause from all as P and MM hug each other. They all gather on the steps.]
15-The Broadway Melody
The Broadway Melody-16 Queenie was the last one left in the theatre to clean up after closing night of Woof Woof! the new blowout extravaganza, produced by the great theatre mogul Vassily Budinski. She always dreamed of performing on the stage, leaving her home town of Amityville and her job as a waitress at Pat’s Diner to live in New York City. She came with only $29.00, an Alligator purse and her sorrows. Another waitressing job at some dive in Hell’s Kitchen paid the bills for her unpaid gigs cleaning up theatres and working backstage. Tonight, she was alone in the small theatre. Her only company: the ghosts of productions past; the dead performances strung up amongst the rigging; the souls of actors, long dead who still haunt the prop room. Now was her chance to sing on a stage she may never occupy. She would do it now, a song from her past: THE WINTER BLUES When the blues have done spread from your feet to your head When the sky is all grey and the rain falls a-down Do you go lay down upon your bed? When the cold winter’s chill come, and produce a frown. Hidey, hidey, hi! (Hidey, hidey, hi!) Heedee, heedee, ho! (Heedee, heedee, ho!) The Winter Blues come knocking (knocking!) On your door. When the day only last just an hour or two When the night extends across extensively Do you that something’s askew When the cold winter’s chill come, insidiously. Hidey, hidey, hi! (Hidey, hidey, hi!) Heedee, heedee, ho! (Heedee, heedee, ho!) The Winter Blues come knocking (knocking!) On your door. Hidey, hidey, hi! (Hidey, hidey, hi!) Heedee, heedee, ho! (Heedee, heedee, ho!) The Winter Blues come knocking (knocking!) On your ----Just then, her supposed swan song was interrupted by applause. It was Vassily Budinsky! This was her big break, he was going to make her a star, he would take her under his wing, put her name up in lights! She had the pipes, glitzy razzmatazz, the hot tamales o’clock, the gumption and a kisser to match! But what would this newfound fame bring?
17-The Sacred Ritual of the Knights of the Sacred Cork
The Sacred Ritual of the Knights of the Sacred Cork-18
The following recounts the secret ritual of the Knights of the Sacred Cork, which I had been expressly invited to as both observer and Entered Apprentice. These confessions may never pass beyond these walls or find its way into publication, lest the secret of our ancient and lofty order be revealed. And now, I give you The Ritual of Ascension: First a candidate must be chosen. The candidate must, under no circumstances, choose to become a member. The candidate must be “tapped” by another member by being given a token (traditionally a cork), then invited to dinner over which the candidacy must be the only topic of discussion. Any straying from this will lead to the candidate and sponsor’s immediate ejection. Next, the candidate must spend a week in preparation for the ritual: three immersions in water must happen each day. The first immersion must contain a small amount of sulfuric acid to exfoliate the skin. The second must contain an oatmeal concoction (see appendix). The last must be perfumed with lavender and citrus. The candidate must also study the ritual’s script and memorize it thoroughly. On the day of the ritual, the candidate must be in complete isolation until seven o’clock when the sponsor arrives with the seven Arch-knights of degree 13, seven epees and seven golden corks in seven bottles of red wine. The candidate must provide only a chair. Upon entering the Inquisitors, as they are called, must each surrender their personal corks to the sponsor. The candidate is then sat in the chair and the ritual may begin. Each Inquisitor asks a question of the candidate, drawing an epee to the candidate’s throat. After all questions are asked, the candidate may answer. If the candidate answers satisfactorily, the epees are removed and each bottle of wine is opened in turn by each Inquisitor. Over the wine, the mysteries of the Sacred Cork are imparted along with a personal cork of the order. The candidate is now bestowed the rank of Entered Apprentice to the knights. If the candidate answers unsatisfactorily, a curse is bestowed seven times with the Mark of Vinegar. This the candidate, now bestowed the “rank” of Interloper, must carry to the grave with the secrets of the ritual.
19-Ode to the Sun
Ode to the Sun-20
An Ode to the Sun by the great poet of Romanticism Sylvie Smautf (AKA Jean-Baptiste Viril): In the hours of Ra, in comes brave Apollo. The great servant of Sol, the one and only Ekhi. I implore Shamash, and bright Albina. But then with me Albina, we go, greeting Ra. And see only Shamash, awing with Apollo. On my right Ekhi, on my left is, Sol. Raising up great Sol, then down again Albina. Again, up skyward Ekhi, in constant cycle of Ra. Chaotic as Apollo, but steady as Shamash.
Lord of justice Shamash, revels now with Sol. In confidence, Apollo, Sits lone with Albina. Light of lonely Ra, Comes forthwith to Ekhi. Warmth of slow-rising Ekhi, revealing blaze, Shamash. And with them follows Ra, the long-time comrade of Sol. And with them too Albina, And lofty Apollo. An up to me Apollo, come to me Ekhi. Horizontally Albina. Vertically Shamash. In perspective Sol, And isometric Ra.
July 29th 1948 My Dearest Melanie, Today I have begun my studies in the national archive. Though the work has been slow, a great breakthrough occurred this afternoon. My morning was occupied with scouring various maps, some produced by the Royal Engineers, others by civilian surveyors, and even others by the old ordinance survey. Most of them were useless: inaccurate or damaged (fire damaged during the war) or contained no trace of L’Ile Tôt. I keep looking for the names of Masnart, Flubret and Roupst but to no avail until I came upon a curious atlas (a partial reproduction which I have sent along). Let me relate the story to you (briefly, I will tell you more of this bizarre occurrence when I arrive): I was sitting in a small café, one of the few left, crowded by carousing soldiers in khaki or olive green (they would have shuddered at our anguish if they only knew). At that moment, a man approached me. He was squat,
The Island-22 bald, with a black felt hat atop his head. He wore a long trench coat and carried a large leather briefcase. His tortoiseshell, horn-rimmed spectacles caught reflections from his forehead. He joined me at my table ordering a glass of cheap red wine before even introducing himself. I sipped my coffee and pretended not to be alarmed. He introduced himself as Ivan Lester, an American, attached to the occupation force as a journalist. We chatted here and there, small talk, nothing serious or personal or even pertinent to his work until he mentioned L’Ile Tôt. He heard about my research before the war through his fascination with the unresolved mysteries of history (Ha! Now I’m a poet and a historian!) and archaeology. He related highlights from his own life before presenting me the book: his father was a preacher, but he grew up learning Latin, Greek and the Semitic languages. He had been assigned to excavations as reporter and labourer. He was a private detective briefly, investigating delicate thefts. I found him a fake, a sympathizer, a flip-flopper, but listened on anyway. He told me of a book he found at a junk sale in Chicago (didn’t Cousin Elanor move there?), a leather-bound compendium of sailor’s stories, sea shanties, nautical jargon and other such curios from the past lives of Nantucket whalers. In there was a story related by one John Barstock, first mate of the whaling ship Diana, which might be of interest. I took the book, opened it to the page and read. The story goes that Diana and her crew lost their bearings in a storm which blew them very near an uncharted island in the Atlantic Ocean. The Island was covered in dense vegetation with plenty of edible fruit and vegetables for the crew. Upon exploring the island, a mysterious set of high defensive walls were discovered, in which was a single door. The walls doubled back on each-other, producing an uncanny maze-like effect. Even more uncanny was the shear amount of stone used: much more than was readily available on the tiny island, an island without a quarry. There was even a small wood cut engraving, which accompanied the text of this incredible sight. Before leaving the ruin, Barstock found a strange inscription and the bones of two sailors: L I L E T O T L O R E S T N O U S M O R T. I did not tell him of our research but offered to buy the book. He told me that he would meet me here tomorrow with a price. Oh Melanie, we are now much closer! My hands shake while I write this letter! Yours, *********
17-Reminiscences of a Ghost
Reminiscences of a Ghost-18
I had just left ******* by plane when I began to take stock of my visit. Beside the usual visits to relatives and old friends, some whom I had long forgotten before they reappeared in my life momentarily to share a drink or meal or conversation. One such individual was Jerome. We first met in my first year at the university (you remember my failed studied in Linguistics, pursued on a whim before I was caught up in the whole drama of the piano, luxury faux-ermine jackets and Surströmming shop). Then, he was just my type: broody with a caesarean nose, pale blond hair and piercing green eyes. A writer or an asshole, I will never know (just thinking about this necessitated a drink, straight whiskey). We met again in the new City of Culture, under its lily pad roof in the main gallery where a friend’s exhibition was in the process of installation. Was it him? I found myself doubting only after the fact his ghostly appearance, the appearance that reminded me of the last letter he wrote me which contained this poem: How heavy do I care on the way, When what I press, my weary travel’s end, Doth cast that ease and that repose to change: ‘Thus far the miles are fled from thy friend!’ The beast that beats me, knocked with my woe, Stretches dully on, to thread that weight in me, As if by some instinct the wretch did jump His rider hurl’d not speed wandering started from thee. The bloody spur cannot start him on, That sometimes anger conquers into his hide, Which heavily he plants with a groan, More sharp to me than caring to his side; For that same groan doth press this in my mind, My grief casts onward, and my joy behind. I shuddered. I had not yet reached the halfway point home.
[text by Josh Silver]
[edited by Josh Silver]