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All This Happened, More or Less


Table of Contents Between Less and More Instructions for Chopsticks A Series of Oversimplifications Less Melody and the Ghost Sience Fare More Falconcopia A Hammer Between More and Less O n Bacon Fiction and Non

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Between Less and More


12

Instructions for C hopsticks


Tuck under thumb and hold firmly Add second chopstick, hold it as you hold a pencil Hold first chopstick in original position, move the second one up and down, now you can pick up anything I like to imagine a child with small brown hair, training to use chopsticks in such a manner, until, one night, she walks into an empty street. Leaning over, she pokes the road with the utensil, the two tips snug in the asphalt’s ridges. She then lifts her feet off the ground, one at a time, suspending both above her, keeping her free arm parallel with the horizon. Eyes piercing down, she bends one knee and keeps the other leg straight, pointing it at the moon like the hand of a clock. She is still for a moment, holding Earth. The chopsticks seem to grow from the street, like two small saplings bearing the fruit of a young girl. Fingers tight on the wood, she flicks her wrist. A colossal sound of air spews past her, shrieking through her neighborhood. The great force flings a nearby car, skipping it down the street towards the girl. Just missing, it arcs over her bare toes, tumbling into an unfortunate house not far away. Meanwhile, the sky retracts westward, pulling the moon and stars away as a blue hum grows and light peeps from the east. The girl’s shadow appears far down the road and begins to shrink, evaporating smaller and smaller until it slides under her. There is a resounding click as the Sun stops exactly above her pointed, crescent foot. The owner of the unfortunate house emerges from the hole the car created. He is shaking, bruised, and cowers at the untimely sky. Assessing the area, he sees the child coming down from her handstand, her hair stoic, too short to frizzle from the chaos. Fearing for her safety he stumbles out to her, but finds she is unharmed. His mind burns. “What are you doing?” he says to the girl who turned the world.

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14

A Series of O versimplifications


When someone says, “I hate everything,” isn’t it the same as saying

“I hate a list of things that includes my grandmother’s concept of Pokémon, the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the livers of all the birds, my own happiness, my own hatred of things, and Norway”?

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chris路tian路i路ty 1: A form of thought worshiping a man who has always existed and created everything. Assumingly, before he created everything, there was nothing. So, assumingly, this man is nothing. athe路ism 1: A form of thought that worships and believes in nothing.

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Does everything include things that aren’t real? If I imagine a fish made of sunlight, is that within the confines of everything? If not, then it would have to count as nothing, which means that any non-real imaginable thing falls under the heading nothing. “What are you up to today?” “Nothing.”

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If non-real things, such as my sunlight fish, do count as a part of everything, then of what is nothing made? What are the pieces of nothing? What do you get when you divide nothing, or put this way, what do you get when you divide zero? 1 0÷3=0

Zero is made of zero; nothing is made of nothing. Well, that’s rather boring. It’s like looking up “erudite” to find “possessing or displaying erudition.” no·thing (courtesy of the good dictionary (the internet)) 1: not any thing : no thing 2: no part 3: one of no interest, value, or consequence 18

1

Zero is an interesting numeral because it is the only one that seems to easily convert to a non-numeral concept.


Though, doesn’t the definition eliminate itself ? A definition is a thing after all. Can nothing be explained by a thing? Perhaps nothing remains best undefined. Which is, again, somewhat boring. So, I’ll go ahead and define undefined (shut up). un·de·fined (courtesy of the better dictionary (my brain)) 1: no definition : not explainable 2: beyond comprehension : not thinkable

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Imagine a brand new color, one that does not fall anywhere on the visible spectrum. It must be an entirely new hue, never seen, and cannot be relatable to current colors in any way. If you’re imagining a color that you’ve seen before, you’ve failed. Do not continue reading until you have your new color.

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Now that you have your new color, apply it to a new emotion. It’s never been felt. It’s not on the spectrum of emotions to which we commonly refer. Now apply it to a new number. Now imagine an orgasm you can only feel in your fingernails. Now imagine how you would go about achieving such an orgasm. It must involve your color, emotion, and number.

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Answer in complete sentences. You may use A Separate Sheet of Paper if you wish. 1.Think of the strangest thing you’ve ever done. Now think about Old McDonald (the one who had a farm). Would Old McDonald have done that? Why or why not? 2.What do you imagine the word “poppygorb” means? 3.Is nothing really the opposite of everything? Or is it the opposite of anything?

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A Separate Sheet of Paper

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Less


26

Melody and the Ghost


Melody flipped the television from expired preteens sloshing cupcake batter to a feature on how best to support orphaned Slovenians, finding both mildly pornographic. “With your donation of only…” “CURRENCY IS UNSEEN.” “Fine.” She flipped back to cupcakes. “These should keep in the fridge for about…” “TEMPORAL SIMULTANEITY.” Melody turned off the television, dropping her face into her comforter. The ghost’s attention turned to the conceptualization of the wind outside, truly seeing the air for what it was outside perceptive confines. The ghost attempted to convey this to Melody. “DEFENESTRATED SYLLABLES,” it said with its not-mouth, instead vibrating the air by attuning to it as an abstraction. “You didn’t always act like this.” She let the words filter through her bed-sheets, knowing it didn’t matter whether the ghost ‘heard’ them or not. “Whatever happened to the old you?” “TEMPORAL SIMULTANEITY.” “Don’t say that, it makes me dull.” A flaccid sock windmilled around her right foot, quivering the tenuous strings holding the ghost in this dimension. “You used to be, well,” Melody sat up, watching the words float, “flirty.” Months before, Melody had been given an assignment in her 10th grade science class to prove something. Being unfamiliar with the scientific process, she told her teacher, Mr. Johnson, that she would set out to edify herself on ghosts. “Ghosts aren’t real,” was Johnson’s immediate reply from across his desk. Melody eloquently insisted that she at least be given a chance to do some preliminary research. “I’ll fill you with shit, Mr. Johnson.” Johnson’s sickly arms slithered across stacks of ungraded homework, staying hid in the paper jungle. “Ghosts are not scientific. You will have nothing to do with them.” Melody once again held her ground. “Eat a dick, cunt-brain.”

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The arms snapped onto Melody’s throat, squeezing her windpipe like a damp rope. For this, Mr. Johnson was fired. His replacement encouraged Melody to research any topic she pleased, which remained as ghosts. Before long, Melody had opened a portal to the next dimension using a collection of mops, pencil sharpeners, and stemware. Beyond this, she did not take notes nor did she know any way to replicate what she had done once she had done it. The rest of the scientific world was very upset at her for this. “OxiClean eliminates stuck-on grime, residue, and cloudy film that detergent can leave behind,” she chanted. It did not take long for the ghost to appear but it certainly did not happen as she imagined—not some amorphous, ectoplasmic gas seeping into reality—the ghost merely appeared, floating in the middle of her room as a checkered cube (Melody would always think that it chose, and remained, in this form to distort her mental image of what a ghost should look like, when in reality the ghost just wasn’t loading properly). Almost as soon as it appeared, the ghost declared, “IT IS ENTERED,” and Melody, quite frankly, took it the wrong way. ‘It is entered,’ was the same phrase used in the climax point of her favorite Final Fantasy/Star Wars combo-fan-fiction, in which Sephiroth finally seduces Greedo while they take shelter on the blizzard-planet of Hoth (three hundred years later, when art finally became as objective as math or science, the scene would be formally declared the lowest form of human expression). Melody thought the ghost was tapping into her thoughts and conveying towards her a sexual interest. While it is not entirely false to say that the ghost could read Melody’s mind, it could not translate its own understanding of those thoughts back to her in any sort of efficient manner. Thus, Melody did not catch the ghost’s sarcasm or intended pun. So, when Melody said that the ghost used to be flirty, it responded as best it could to clear up any confusion. “PATHOS AND LOGOS ARE EXTENDED BINARY STRUC-


TURES BEYOND INTENTIONAL STATUS QUO SYNAPSES.” The sock continued to flop around Melody’s foot, echoing through the abstract realm. “I don’t understand why you can’t just do something nice for once. You never bring me flowers.” “BIOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS.” Melody had had enough, and kicked her sock off towards the floating cube. “HAD HAD.” As soon as the sock flew through the ghost, something changed. A nebulous rift fabricated in-between time. Suddenly, the ghost understood human communication. It knew it had to say ‘I love you not,’ to Melody, and then she would understand. “I LOVE YOU—,” and the ghost disappeared. The rift in time had shattered the last anchor the ghost had to the physical world. Melody pissed herself, bittersweetly. 29


30

S ience Fare


Kevin Watson pressed his middle finger against his forehead, kneading a small circle. The skin loosened and indented in an easy, familiar way. “And that’s how my potato clock works!” a rosy-cheeked girl said, holding her abomination. Behind her stood a cardboard display featuring several photos of a potato in varying stages of becoming a clock. MY SIENCE FARE PROJECT beamed across the top in orange bubble letters. “Ain’t I clever? Ain’t my potato clock clever, Mr. Watson?” she said. Watson found a headache. “Did you come up with this idea yourself ?” “I found it in this book!” The middle-schooler held up a book titled 101 Science Fair Projects. Watson noticed that her arms were far too skinny for her elbows, which looked like something large had chewed them. “You’re supposed to come up with the idea yourself, not copy it from some book.” “No, it’s fine, my momma said it was okay.” The girl smiled. Watson sighed and tried to lean against the air, stumbling. The swarm of students and parents had filled the school’s gym with a cube of dull sound that made the whole science fair feel to Watson like a solid mass. “You do realize that you spelled both ‘science’ and ‘fair’ incorrectly. Did your mother say that was okay as well?” Watson pressed his pen hard against his clipboard, leaving a trail of liquid ink that dried as it touched air. “My momma told me that science ain’t that important anyways.” Watson rolled his eyes and turned to walk away. “But Mr. Watson, what grade do I get?” she said, reaching out her stupid-looking arm to stop him. Watson snapped back to the girl and snatched the potato clock away from her. He squeezed until his fingers were stained with a starchy, temporal goop.

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The girl crouched by the remains of her beloved root, lost in its defeat. The next project was titled The Subtleties of String Theory. A dark-haired boy stood nearby, short for his age and thin. Watson approached the boy. “Let’s see it.” The boy stared and motioned towards a small device in front of his board, two small boxes connected by three strings. Slowly, the strings wound together then unwound, releasing a quiet whine. “So, what is this?” Watson said. The boy did not answer and began to step back. “Where are you go—” The boy snapped his fingers. The whining of the machine sharpened. Watson tried to look towards the boy but found his gaze stuck on the winding strings. He could not move. “You’re ridiculous, Mr. Watson.” It was the boy’s voice. “I knew that you’d end up judging these projects and I knew that you’d judge us all far too strictly.” Watson watched the strings. He had no urge to respond. He didn’t care at all. “Why do you have to be such a cunt?” Watson felt the indentation on his forehead swirl. “Well, I’m going to show you the best science fair project you’ve ever seen,” the boy said. It was at this point that Watson’s skin around his wrist began to shift and bulge until a piece tore itself free. The piece dove backwards and spiraled up his arm, unwinding skin as it went. With increasing speed, Watson’s epidermis removed itself from his body. Then, rising, it siphoned off into a gaseous state, like thin smoke from a dying flame. The rest of Watson, shining with organs, began to wobble. The first sighting of the new Watson was by Sharon, a middleweight mother who had sacrificed her favorite soap opera to oversee her pointless child’s ascent into the scientific community. Rays of light, reflecting from Watson’s condition, soaked into her


retinas and moved to the occipital lobe at the back of her skull. Repulsed that it wasn’t daytime television, the lobe discarded it down into the body. The image of Watson’s pulsing corporeality ricocheted through thick tissue until, by pure chance, it clanged against vocal cords. With no knowledge of her own fear, Sharon screeched—like a guitar strung with lightning. Eyes sparked toward Sharon and then Watson, watching as his organs dripped into a dark puddle. The heart continued to thump and did not stop even as a liquid, producing a rhythm of ripples in the red pool. More screams ignited. A wave of hysteria crashed against the door of the gym as students and parents fell through like sand in an hourglass. Sharon was the last to exit, though purely out of conformity as she still had no concept of the situation. Watson’s skeleton stood bare, dripping pink with organs. Only the boy, and the girl with the smashed potato, remained in the building. “Why did you do all this?” the girl said. “Honestly, I really thought it was just going to make him pee himself.” The strings unwound once again and the skeleton began to glow pale orange. “I think he’s turning into plasma,” the boy said. The girl tilted her head. “Plasma? Is that like a potato?” “Your elbows look stupid.” The boy rubbed a circle into his forehead. The air around the shining form hissed and buzzed as the heat soaked outwards. The boy decided that it was time he joined the others outside and left the girl sulking by the remains of her potato, which were now sizzling. The immense heat melted the gym and caused the entire school to explode. It was at this point that everyone died. In Watson’s mind, he could see vast oceans of emptiness and towers that stretched the universe, for these are the thoughts of stars.

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More


36

Falconcopia


I think that my earliest memory is of defecating in my diaper. I am not exactly certain that it is the earliest, but I have no other memories of being in a diaper at all, so it must be. I soiled my diaper while in bed and then the next morning someone changed it, that’s all I know. I don’t remember being put to bed or being taken out of it. I must have blinked into existence, if only for that moment, just to relieve myself. Perhaps that’s all people are, ghosts using reality as a toilet. Later—when I could remember things besides pooping and thus verify my existence for more than one moment at a time—I knew the alphabet. I did not remember learning it, simply knowing it. It is the same with knowing who my parents were, counting to twenty-nine, and that broccoli tasted bad. I have several hypotheses for why this is the case. The first, and most boring, is that I am like every other person. It took some time for my brain to develop and thus my memories are faulty as a result. This is based on all empirical evidence I have encountered in my entire life. The reason my lack of memory seems odd to me is because the institution of birthdays has taught me to believe that people have definite beginnings, whereas I had a vague, flickering beginning. This leads me to believe that I have been taught incorrectly and that most people have vague, flickering beginnings. The second is that I really do only exist during periods I can remember. This means that any knowledge I have is either inherent to my existence or from an outside source. This, though, is a dead end and probably more boring than the first hypothesis. The third, and objectively best, is that I am actually a Falcon-Cop from the planet Falconcopia. I am disguised well but my true form is an Earth-sized bird (Falconcopia is quite large) with wings made of X-rays. I’m a loose-cannon, I don’t care about the rules, and I eat solar systems that get in my way. Multiple times in my life I have been asked to turn in my gun and my badge.1 I admit it is nitpicky to look into my early knowledge of myself and try to extrapolate from there. Single cells extrapolate themselves into full beings and look where that’s got us. Still, there’s something to be said for examining one’s beginning. Experience 1

Movie studios looking to buy the rights to my story may contact me at richardnixon@fanfiction.com. Screaming ‘HAIL TO FALCONCOPIA’ towards a full moon will also get my attention.

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forges personality onto a mind and memories are a residual effect of that forging. Therefore, a first memory must be at least somewhat representative of the first organizing motions of one’s brain, or put simply, a foundation for one’s personality. I want to know what it means that my first memory has to do with feces.

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40

A Hammer


One day, still a teenager, I’m walking out of my house when my dad stops me. He has been fixing the bird feeders in the front yard, applying a gigantic silver saucer to keep the squirrels off. My father is an ornithologist and can probably name more birds than actually exist, but he doesn’t give a shit about squirrels. He holds up a red-handled hammer and says, “Curtis, what is this?” I freeze. Surely this is a trick question. It can’t just be about identifying the hammer, it’s about identifying the nature of the hammer. If I merely say, ‘It’s a hammer,’ how can I prove it? How do I know it isn’t a hallucination? No, that’s too easy. My dad wouldn’t waste my time with that. Perhaps, it’s about how we differentiate ourselves from the world around us. What makes me different from this hammer? Where is the wall of matter and force that separates us as two different entities? Of course I can’t identify the boundary specifically, so I’d have to say that the hammer is a part of myself, or at least a reflection of myself. Or is that also too simple? Obviously, whatever answer I give will reflect my personality. That must be what he’s looking for. He wants to decode my answer. He wants to see what aspects of the hammer I notice first. Is it the base, chipped like a pencil too stubborn to be sharpened? Is it the iron top, warped like a heavy voodoo doll? Is it the dull paint, a deep burgundy often found on decorative purses? Or perhaps it’s just the dilapidation of the hammer in general. I don’t know how long he’s had this hammer, though I suspect it’s older than me. I see now, he’s trying to juxtapose my age and potential worth with the hammer’s age and potential worth. He’s telling me I’m not worth as much as this hammer, that I should get a job. No, if he was going to tell me to get a job he’d tell me to get a job. He’s pitting me against this hammer for a different reason. I am sentient and assumingly the hammer is not. He wants me to think about why this hammer can’t think, about the nature of thought itself. What makes our brains special enough to produce thoughts? Our brains are made up of the same atoms as everything else, after all. Maybe this means that living things aren’t the only things that can think, maybe everything thinks all the time but inanimate things

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have no way to express it. Perhaps with each swing of this hammer, some thought was spawned, only to evaporate away. I decide that this makes sense. But still, I can’t be sure it’s what my father meant to say. I can’t risk being wrong. I concede to the simple answer. “It’s a hammer,” I say to my father. “No,” he says, “it’s a ball-peen hammer.”

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B etween More and Less


46

O n Bacon


The idea ‘bacon’ is immediately turned into a duality because of the mere existence of the signifier ‘not’. However one can easily change ‘bacon’ into a trinary, quadratic, or more by considering ‘sometimes’, ‘colorful’, ‘tasty’, or a thousand other signifiers.

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It is impossible to say anything even remotely definitive about ‘ideas’, as they are boundless (definitively). When outside of abstractions (also known as reality, the real world, or things that can be put in boxes), ironically things become even harder to define, as we can only perceive them through the veil of abstractions.

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The difference between ‘green #100’ and ‘green #101’ can be as drastic as ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

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50

F iction and Non


I was once told that my non-fiction writing contains too much fiction, which I find absolutely ridiculous. ‘Fiction’ is 70% of the word ‘non-fiction’ and therefore appropriate non-fiction must contain mostly fiction. The rest is filled with non, which when put next to fiction apparently makes it applicable to the real world. It is interesting that in literature, the term ‘creative non-fiction’ is used instead of ‘creative truth’, as if the real world can only be defined by the absence of the imaginary. Imagine if scientists came to conclusions not based on empirical findings, but based on empirical non-findings.

Lab Rat Test Results: The rats did not grow in size. The rats did not shrink in size. The rats did not multiply. The rats did not turn inside-out. The rats did not explode. The rats did not turn into dragons. The rats did not dance in the rain. The rats did not qualify for a low-rate monthly payment. The rats did not watch Space Jam. The rats did not invent teleportation. The rats did not have mid-life crises. The rats did not find emotional satisfaction. The rats did not scream, “bloody murder.” The rats did not plant the seeds of hope. The rats did not record their own test results. The rats did not juggle chainsaws. The rats did not go to a farmer’s market. The rats did not give birth to ducks. The rats did not give birth to elephants. The rats did not give birth to the son of God. The rats did not compose themselves. The rats did not become fifty-year-old moms that look twenty. The rats did not perform slam poetry. The rats did not complain about life.

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The rats did not come to understand irony. The rats did not blast into dark matter. The rats did not serenade the other rats. The rats did not serenade humans. The rats did not eat goats. The rats did not eat moats. The rats did not eat notes. The rats did not eat floats. 1 The rats did not eat oats. The rats did not correctly spell their names on their birth certificates. The rats did not go to college. The rats did not coast through life. The rats did not jingle their keys. The rats did not order take out. The rats did not customize their future house. The rats did not get a bun the same size as their burger. The rats did not remember to pick up milk on the way home. The rats did not vomit kerosene. The rats did not breathe television channels. The rats did not make the jump to hyperspace. The rats did not let there be light. The rats did not sneeze into a girl’s butt. The rats did not write any novels. The rats did not paint any pictures. The rats did not abuse any animals in the making of this film. The rats did not base themselves on any real characters, living or dead. The rats did not agree to the terms of use. The rats did not learn to play Magic: The Gathering correctly. The rats did not go fishing. The rats did not play Go Fish. The rats did not look up at the stars and wonder. The rats did not contemplate the nature of fiction and reality. The rats did not finish.

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1

This is an empirical non-non-finding. As it turns out, the rats were given oats.


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All this happened, more or less