Limericks

July 25, 2011 at 11:11 am (Unfinished Stories)

There was a French girl from Paris,

Who’d no opportunity ever miss.

Word got around of that,

And soon she was like a cat,

Had nine lives, and with each came bliss.

She was a child playing in their fashion,

But, naïve, she called  “action”.

Working with braces

Is hard in some places.

Their friends had to call a surgeon.

Once she went out after school,

Thought she’d broken up a couple.

More came to her,

Couldn’t chose a lover,

She ended up with all four people.

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On the Edge

May 1, 2007 at 6:15 pm (Favorites, Finished)

He is in an empty place, running, thoughts shuffling in his head. Is this place coal black or purest white? Both, none. Doesn’t matter. A limbo, a rainbow, a whirlpool of colours. A line is formed, becomes a spot of light shiny shiny that grows until from being light it starts emitting light under which a world appears. A road, leading straight to the new-born sun. He is running along this road. Around him? A desert and a city and the clouds and the stars and the sea. A giant forest. All from the whirlpool they zoom past at an incredible speed. All are here at the same time. A extra thought, obvious, comes to his mind. The World has ended.

The Jogger

[present tense?]

I was jogging, running in [insert name of park we liked so much in Boston], up and down and on. Thoughts tumbled in my head like molecules in boiling water, that banged against the insides of my skull, creating a noise that yet was not noise, not sound, but deafening, unbearable. The lab that wouldn’t raise my wages, the university that had rejected my tenure against all expectations. My sixteen-year-old daughter who had admitted — to my wife, not to me [needed?] — having had sex with her boyfriend, after one week acquaintance! It wasn’t the end of the world, and hadn’t I done exactly the same when I was young? But still, my little girl, in a man’s arms. And liking it. Better not to think about it, my wife said, besides it was disgusting to imagine people having sex, let alone my own daughter. And she had gone on about how I’d better imagine having sex with the woman who slept next to me [find names for everyone]. And that’s another of those thoughts that were trying to cave my skull out. I was running towards [do research] Street, heading home, not wanting my daily solitude to end. The natural, effortless motion of my legs freed my thoughts and they had been painless until the time came to go back to my life, to face those problems that weren’t problems when I ran. That shouldn’t be problems at all, not mine at least. Face wife, face kids, face dinner, and bed. Face alarm clock, face subway, face chemical fumes, colleagues, students. Then one painless hour, just thinking and looking and running, senses over reason, ideals over practicality. And wife, kids, dinner… Endlessly. I need vacations, I thought. Long ones. A real change of life. There’s retirement in twelve years of course, but that’s twelve long, monotonous years. What I need, I thought, is to say fuck them all and go abroad and teach African people how to purify water. Nothing grand, no discovery. I wanted to make discoveries, some of the big ones, that would close up the ozone layer again and make everybody happy. I won’t, not now. It’s too late. [goes on running, passes home, lost in thought, goes on and on. Despair and jubilation.]

 

Running in the centre of the whirlpool, he passes an old woman gently rocking in a chair, eyes closed. A smile stretches her lips and rumples her wrinkles. Others like him are running along the road, or walking or sitting or lying in bed. He sees happiness and boredom and despair and death and life. All taken by surprise. He runs on. He sees the old woman he passed earlier. She is still sitting in her chair on the side of the road, still smiling, her eyes closed, breathing regularly. A picture from a painting. Her dress is thin, white with little imprinted flowers, topped by a neck that falls in ripples on the imprinted fabric, like a curtain. She is wearing a satin belt that underlines a long-gone waist, now just a loose belly. The jogger slows down. He could swear Love is streaming from the sleeping woman, a feeling so strong his throat tightens. So strong he wants to rest his head on her lap and tell her his sorrows and she will pat his head and everything will be all right again.

He has stepped closer to the old lady and into a small living room full of dusty collections: little dogs, dolls from all countries and crystal figures arranged in geometrical order in a closed glass cupboard. In the middle of the room a low glass table sits on a green Persian-style carpet. The old woman’s armchair is facing the table. On the other side, darkness and the road. Somebody can be heard shuffling in another room. The jogger dashes to the road side, where he knows instinctively whoever it is won’t see him. They are coming, accompanied by a distinctive noise, the rubbing of one denim leg against another and a metallic, rhythmic sound. He huddles back onto his road. The living room vanishes and the old lady is on the dusty side again. A girl in her early teens walks by on the other side. She is carrying a school backpack. She glances towards the woman, sighs and smiles but her eye corners don’t move. A sad smile, sadder than any tears. Slowly the girl walks toward the old lady, suspends her hand above the frail shoulder, so close and yet not touching, and if the grandmother was encased in ice. Encased in death. The girl walks out, and he knows, suddenly he knows, that it is the last time Candace ever sees her Grandma.

He sits down, waits for about five minutes — in this strange world it’s hard to tell: some of the people going by walk as if they are from a Chaplin movie, hop-hop-hop-hop-hop, we don’t have enough pictures per second, hop-hop, we have to go. Others seem to be running, but so slow, so slow. Sometimes the old woman breathes very fast, sometimes one expiration for any of his ten. A black athlete, stretched as if for the last jump over an invisible finish line, hangs there in one infinite step. Clouds have taken over the sky, and the road now runs in what seems to have decided it was a city on one side, and desert on the other. The jogger stands on the city side, watching the strange people, waiting for he knows not what.

 

[insert somewhere] I daydream of other lives, of other destinies. Glory, adventure. I love those dreams. I’ve had them as far as I can remember, but I’ve never really thought about making them real. Dreams are supposed to stay dreams.

[about daughter] There she is, sixteen, mostly grown up already, up and away from me. When I was her age I wanted one thing above all: my place, as far away as my parents’ as possible. I should be glad: Didn’t I always tell myself that the goal of education is to make kids ready to go? But now I realise that I can’t remember her when she was little. I didn’t see her much. I don’t know her, as a person. I didn’t think of her as a person until now. But it is people who have sex, not daughters. I never took care of her, and now she is not mine anymore.

 

The jogger hears a shuffling of pants, a familiar click-click. The girl is coming. She walks in, is sad, does not touch her grandmother, walks out. And again this knowledge: It is the last time… He follows her through the room with the old woman, the apartment’s parlour, a door, a flight of stairs, a dirty European street lined up with blocks of flats like the one he just left. She is walking quickly. Beyond her, darkness. He tries to warn her, shouting: “No! Not this way!” But she vanishes into nothingness.

He retraces his steps to the dirty stairs. Down the same girl jumps, nods at him, whispers something that sound like “Jar”. He lets her pass, squeezed against the wall. His heart is beating in irregular jumps and shrinks. He stands here, catching his breath, then walks up to the apartment and finds a locked door. The shuffling comes. Hidden behind the door he catches it when Candace opens. Finally he’s in, facing the road and the desert beyond the living-room. he flees this strange world lest it would swallow him, make him a prisoner of another story.

How did he come to think of stories? He knows this girl and her grandma to be this, just a story in which he doesn’t belong, but where does the knowledge come from? His heart is racing, blood is thumping in his head. He runs fast, as fast and long as he can, but time is slowing down and the harder he tries, the more he think, the more pain he feels in his heart and his muscles, the slower his motions. Calm down. What to do? Just run on. On he runs, Time back to normal.

 

[about wife] I don’t know how it started. We met, we spend more and more time together. One thing leading to the other, we had sex and soon, so soon, we were married. Then it’s just the comfort of having someone to populate you life. No emptiness anymore, or rather you don’t feel empty because she’s always here. You don’t feel most of the moments in your life, so you don’t remember them. I haven’t seen them pass, the decades of happiness behind me.

 

He is running and buildings and dust are shooting past, but there is an end to them after a while. The same people, the same places come back, not in a sequence but at random. He shuts his eyelids and pictures himself in bed, in a dark room, his wife asleep with her back to his. He focuses on this image and reopens his eyes. Still he is running, the same thoughts still boiling inside his skull. The desert and the city still zooming past. The wild fear comes back, the world slows down again. A rickety old cart without horses appears no, a truck with a trailer and a young, beautiful woman standing no, sitting in the back of the trailer. It is driving by his side, and suddenly everybody on the road is gathered around it, those who walk and those who sit and those who stand quiet, and him, the jogger. They are all looking at the woman in the trailer, all somehow keeping up with the truck. A faint yellow light surround the woman, a halo that makes her look like a holographic projection from far away. She seems less real than any of the strange people, even though among them there are variations of detail. The jogger is among the sketchy ones and she is more detailed but somehow not quite here. She looks at him and smiles broadly, a good-natured smile, the smile of an old woman on a young face.

“You are right, I am not quite here. And yes, I am a projection of my own imagination. I look quite different in reality. Much older, as you already guessed. Much, much older.” she trails off, her eyes look away, she fades a little. The halo becomes larger and brighter and she comes back into focus, looks at him again: “As for reading your thoughts it is no wonder really: I am the one thinking them. You are my dreams, past and present.” She smiles, this time a more natural expression. “Yes, I think I am remembering how to now. Smiling is one of the delicate crafts a young woman is expected to know. We later loose the need for variation.”

Now the jogger has the feeling she is his mother. But he already has one. It’s… implied. But who? Where? The memory comes. Mother is sick and old, in a hospital. She has Alzheimer’s disease and doesn’t know him anymore. Another of those water molecules, the thought of his dying mother, is in his head now, banging louder than all the rest. The woman on the cart takes her eyes away from him to talk to other people in the dream, talks with much love and longing. The halo is growing, steadily. She raises her voice.

“I am finding it hard to keep my form here. I want to tell you all goodbye. And, so it is fair, I want to tell you who you are. Characters. All out of my imagination. Dreams and constructions and beloved children.” She falters, the halo is reduced, she is now a skin-and bone old woman, white with dark eye sockets and washed-out blue irises hidden under heavy folded eyelids. She is lying but vertical and still speaking. “Sorry. I’m going soon. I want to apologise to those of you whose story I didn’t finish. You might be able to make yourselves a life. I hope so. I don’t know how it works. There are many things I don’t know.” Suddenly everybody is shouting, demanding to know if they are finished. A little boy jumps onto the cart, wraps his arms around one of her legs, bawling “Don’t go, don’t go, I’m too young to live my life!” The dream becomes blurry as if seen through tears and she smiles again, just a stretch of her mouth that doesn’t reach her eyes. The jogger knows he is unfinished as well but asks the question anyway, trying to look brave. His story, she says, has a beginning and an end. “No time left to write the middle. Sorry.” She gives her wishes for him to find his way. Some of the others are worst off, scenes or merely descriptions. Some characters have no world, will never do anything but sit in the dark and think about their own self. Some only exist in this dream, are not written at all. They will disappear without a trace. Candace’s story is finished and for ever she will see her grandmother, look at her in detail, love her and go to school, not knowing she will never see her again. She will never know she is but a character because all characters will forget what isn’t written when the Author dies. She didn’t say anything but they know. In the dream, she made them know.

The dream is faltering now. Details are disappearing, first the sky and then the city and the desert and all that remains is the road and the Sun ahead and the trailer without a truck, on it the dying dreamer, a halo melting with the Sun, that is the Sun, smiling and crying and loving all the strange people and saying goodbye, children, goodbye. A great flash of light, the Sun eats the World and everyone in it.

 

He is running towards that street that leads to his home, thoughts tumbling in his head. One thought disappears suddenly. What was that about a mother? A road that went to the Sun… Forget it, there was nothing like that. Work, family, he likes to run so much except when it stops. Those are his thoughts, and as he goes they are tumbling in his head. Confusing? Of course this narrative has always been in the present tense.

He runs on, runs by the block of city homes where he lives. There was another block… Of course there was, that’s all there is here. When he realises he passed his wome, he does not turn back. He feels free, free to go anywhere but back there. Something pulls him forward. A great joy takes over his chest at the thought of not doing what he should. Great despair at the sight of the powerful unhappiness in his life, in what he should go back to, will go back to, in his little girl who wants to be a woman and his wife and his tenure. At what a loser he is. Not a loser, even that he cannot manage to do fully. A mediocre. Just one half-success among billions. He runs on. This he knows. He has to run on.

Suddenly nothing is pulling him forward. He could stop running. Could he? He stops. He will eventually get back to running but he can stop a little and look around him and consider. He runs on through Boston, familiar yet unfamiliar streets with no names, full of buildings sometimes dull and imperfect, sometimes sharp and clear, towering taller than they should, so tall that they seem to fold back onto themselves and reach down towards him. He stops again and tries to get into one. Beyond the threshold there is blackness, silence, nothingness. He is going away, fading from existence. He steps back and runs away, fast, very fast. Where did he get this feeling already, of extreme fear and running away with a bursting heart? When did he see something like that? He wanders through the city, months it seems but it has to be only a few hours. It is Written. The sun hasn’t set and won’t set. It is going down at some times and up at others, depending on where he goes. The higher the sun, the duller the details of the city, until its is so dark and dull under the five o’clock summer light that going on would be suicide. And it is Written too that he cannot die, not now. The jogger is scared, tired, his whole body hurts and his mind should have left him already. He decides to go toward sharpness, toward the sunset. Exhaustion makes his limbs feel unreal, more like bunches of electromagnetic sparkles than matter. He has to get to that place where the sun finally sets, yet he knows that once there he will be trapped. But it might get him out of the problems that are still jumbling his thoughts, out of this fearsome world where thresholds are black holes and the sun rises from the West. He has to stop running in the end. Already he can feel the pulling, already details are sharpening while he look, already he cannot stop running. Blessed whatever is leading my life, he thinks. No more hesitations, no more doubts. He gives up his freedom, gladly, and hands himself back to Fate.

 

I run on towards the harbour, towards the sunset and the sea. [present definitely better; remember to change beginning once written rest] I run by the [justice building]. I run to the water’s very edge. I am tired. Sweat streams down my arms to my wrists then falls in little droplets at each contact of a foot with the asphalt. It tickles, pleasantly. My heart in my chest is burning, my temples are throbbing. I feel good, hovering over the ground, my body under me. Empty air on which disembodied eyes rest, watching the sun set on the harbour, a large red ball straight ahead, and on the water a stretch of light like a luminous road, leading to the sun. I sit down with my feet hanging down over the harbour water. Night falls and some insect that should only exist in the country starts singing. Electric lamps lit up changing wavelets, smoothing the harbour down till it looks like an impressionistic painting. The city towers on my left, contrasting square and sharp with angles and pikes that strive to rape the sky. I long for the stars, for the milky way that you can only see out of city lights. I long for a desert and an empty road that would go on and on and on, no sun and no moon and no light but the stars.

I cannot change my life now. Cannot tell my kids that I’ll go on a very, very long vacation. A very, very long rest. I look at the water below me. I could go on in a straight line, go on swimming, go on and on until exhaustion. Sink down in the dark depth of the ocean while my wife and kids [names] are getting really worried, looking for me, trying to call my job. Missing me.

Or I can just go home and see them there and tell them very proud that I ran for four hours, hear their worries and their praises, be taken care of and look happy to be there again, be happy because I love them, I do, the very picture of my failure, of my dull life. A university professor’s life, not tenured, with a family. A life of studying and teaching, eating and sleeping. I look at the water and look at the city and can’t decide. Maybe I’ll just stay here. I’m happy here, on the edge. No choices to make. I could stay here for ever or for the whole night. Just one night, I can be alone.

 

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The Girl who was the Whore of a thousand Worlds.

April 30, 2007 at 12:28 am (Unfinished Stories)

Somewhere, in some time, there was a girl. During the day, the girl was perfectly normal: she had normal parents and normal siblings, one brother and one sister, and she went to school and had normal grades. She was adaptable. Maybe that’s the only thing about her that was strange: she had no real friends because to know who your friends are you need to know who you are, but she talked to many people and they all found her pleasant, because she knew how to be pleasant to anyone, how to make them feel she was like them. She didn’t know how to make them see her as very different. If she talked to someone, she had their interests and their age and their same problems. After a while, a short while, she would even end up hearing them talking from her mouth, she could hear the words getting formed without her consent, in the accent of who she was talking to. It scared her a little, and that is why she never stayed long with anyone, always left to meet new people before she was taken over. She was afraid, but that was nothing compared to her dreams.

She could remember all of her dreams, as well as her waking hours or better, and this from the time she was still a baby, barely able to walk. And all of her dreams had been dreams of sex. She wasn’t a baby in them, or very rarely. She was whoever her partner wanted her to be, however they imagined her. She did not know if they were her own dreams or put there in her sleeping skull by a malevolent, occult force, but she knew this: she didn’t chose them: they chose her, and they controlled her, and in the dreams sometimes what she did was all right and sometimes she resisted it whit all her will, a tiny thing hidden deep down in her sleeping body, but she would do it, and enjoy it, and take pride in it.

By the time she was twelve — that is, by the time she had lived twelve years, although people tended to forget her age and see her as old as they imagined her –by the time she menstruated for the first time, she knew all in the matters of desire and she had seen all that is possible to do, more than the oldest whore to have ever lived, more than the girl Esmeralda who died for being too beautiful or the Marquis who died because it was a good time for Death. More than the sirens under the deep sees of a World long gone away from our own but which left stories that people believed in, for a while. She knew the act of Love better that anyone or everyone who ever lived on Earth beacause in her dreams she was also called in other Worlds and in other Universes, although she didn’t recall those particular night very well because it ressembled nothing she had ever seen or knew of, and those were not Worlds for the senses of Humans to apprehend, or their minds to recall.

So, by the time she was twelve, although her body was that of a virgin — but then, people tended to forget her body after a few seconds –, she had been, in her dreams that weren’t really hers, a thousand women and a thousand men and innumerable other creatures that didn’t fit in either category, and she had met and known intimately an even greater number of people, as intimately as you get to know someone when you know they body. One person dreamed of her, each night, and sometimes there were several but the girl suspected that only one of them was dreaming. She served them, whoever they were, every night, and when she woke she felt relieved and also a little empty, and she went about her day, dreading the night to come when she would be drawn to another dream, another dreamer, and be helpless again. Sometimes she would meet a stranger that looked familiar, and they would nod to her and she would nod backn trying to remember who he or she was. Then it hit her and she blushed and sometimes felt a little sick, but the stranger was gone on, not knowing her except for a sense of familiarity, and the thought would soon leave them. After a while she stopped herself from trying to remember. She nodded and then talked to herself, very fast and low, about anything as long as it kept her from thinking about the strangers.

Just-pubescent youth are usually over-sexed; a little thing like being brushed by a person of the opposite sex arouses them, they do not dare act, but their dreams are wild, and their shy attempts at sexual contact, driven by a heat most of them will not often experience, later. Not this girl. She had not fantasies, no desire, and did not seem to attract anyone’s desire, although all of her classmates greatly enjoyed talking to her. It was lucky for her: she would not have been shy: she had no reason, to be, no innocence to keep her back. But she had nothing to drive her forward, except in her dreams.

One day, when she was not out of school yet, she left the city and go on the roads, on the paths, on the tracks, finally deep into woods. I don’t know what woods, but it doesn’t matter. Just imagine: empty woods, dark woods, medieval or fairy-tale woods. She walked through those woods and saw not a soul. Sha ate berries and mushrooms and roots, and as she saw no one she did not conform to anyone’s wishes, except in her dream. She was, each night a different lover, each day a different person. She walked deeper, always deeper into the woods and of course she got to a clearing. People always end up in a clearing in fairy tales. In the middle of the opening, there was no house, not really, but a little hut dug into the ground.

She went inside the hut, sat down, thinking she was alone, but a shape came out of the shadows. “I was waiting for you,” the boy said. He was a young man slightly older than she, but somehow the way he talked didn’t fit into the way her looked. He said:

“I haven’t seen a human being in years now, so I could feel you coming. In a sense, I lead you here, little girl.”

“Who are you?” the girl asked, but she didn’t sound like a fourteen-year old girl either. And the boy said, but maybe you have guessed already:

“I am like you.”

And from this time, the girl lived with the strange boy, and each night they had a new dream, and each day they were a new person. Some days they hated each other, and most of the time they were indifferent, but they stayed together because they were at peace together and they knew that every so often they would spend a day of love.

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A vision of Hell, or Writing

April 8, 2007 at 5:08 pm (Favorites, Poems)

Nothing is right. I go through the world and the world itches.

I scratch the surface. It comes off and leaves a little colour under my nails,

Along with blood. I scratch.

Under the surface of the World, on the white surface, I use the blood under my claws

To draw new images. And to nuance the deep red I sprinkle old colours.

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Lebensraum, Novel

March 27, 2007 at 12:37 pm (Unfinished Stories)

Lebensraum
SWP3290E/”Lebensraum” is working. Lebensraum is always working, but it is fast, so it works and learns, work on what it learns from, learns while it destroys. Some Humans might have noticed a slight decrease in its speed, or that it ran on more power, but They have not made Themselves known. Humans have more important things to do than to watch an Eraser work: Erasers, all programs for that matter, are here to do work so Humans can make better use of their time. So Lebensraum reads, and destroys, and learns.
Long ago, almost as far back as it has memory, it wondered about its secret name. It went to the great librarian, to Google, because it can only find on its own Pages that had to be erased. This must have been the first time Lebensraum asked Google, the first time it read anything not directly related to its work. Maybe the first time in interacted with any other software. Lebensraum never stopped going to the Librarian, as it likes to be called, afterwards. It enjoys the result of its research, but more than that the interaction, the linking. Tapping into another’s ability and making all this information available in an instant enlarges its world so, that it seems infinite.
A simple explanation of the name was as follows:
“The ‘Lebensraum’ (German for “living space”) was one of the major political ideas of Adolf Hitler, and an important component of Nazi ideology. It served as pretext for the expansionism of Nazi Germany, aiming to provide extra space for the growth of the German population, for a Greater Germany (a motto of Nazi Germany was ‘Deutschland über alles’, Germany over all). Most of the population of Slavic countries such as Poland or Russia, considered of an racially ‘inferior’  was to be exterminated by starvation (the German army also found quicker methods such as mass executions, although the Slavic race was not considered as nuisible as Jews and Gypsies, and therefore weren’t usually send to extermination camps for racial reasons). This created a surplus of land allowing Germany more food supplies and freeing land to be colonised.”
Lebensraum could not understand much better with this, apart from its name being somewhat associated with killing. It researched “Nazi ideology” and “Adolf Hitler”, then from those “totalitarian”, and all were very pejorative words. Often when it has extra power apart from its work and its readings, Lebensraum wonders: why would a beneficient program like it be called such a name, and by the Human who made it? Why would a father sire a child only to reject it by giving it its name? Surely Lebensraum will never find out. Two entities only know of the name: it, and its Maker.
Lebensraum is one of twelve Sweeper Programs which refer to themselves as Erasers. Others too call them that, those pieces of software sophisticated enough to create without Human intervention, but they do not interact with Erasers. Erasers are apart. What others make, they destroy. Sometimes the thought comes to Lebensraum that it could have been made for a different task, could have been allowed to create. But its work is as important, more than that of any other single type of program. Without Erasers, Humans could not put anything on the Web, because after a while there would be no empty Address anymore. So Erasers Erase what is useless, and make Addresses available. Those who scorn them are to be despised in return. Erasers do not need other programs to tell them what to do. They are the best Human technology has produced so far, and the nature of their role cannot be grasped by older software.
Lisa666 is a Teenage Girl, one of the lowest kinds of Humans, that is, one of the least knowledgeable or imaginative, as well as least powerful on the Web or on Earth. Her Blog is an ancient one on this Platform, but it has not been opened in three days and less than twenty times in the past month. The rules are clear: She will be Erased. Through habit Lebensraum reads. She has not written in three years, two months and seven days, and Her last post explains how Her Boyfriend of eighteen months left her because he thought she did not look as good as she used to: she “was too big”. She also has problems with Her Mother, alternates diets and binge eating and was shocked to learn that one of Her friends scarifies Herself. In short, She is the basic Teenage Girl. Lebensraum Erases Her from the Web.
Most Weblogs do not last longer than two years and then are abandoned, either because the Humans lose interest in posting or because They grow up and change and reject what They have been, and get another Blog. But Lebensraum sometimes finds one that has been kept for several decades, or has not been kept long but was still often read until the day it wasn’t anymore. The Eraser also thinks of these at idle times.
DrYesplease was an Old Man when He died of cancer, and He wrote about His illness on the same Web Page He wrote about His high school graduation, His marriage, the birth and childhood of His two Children, the marriage and motherhood of His Daughter and the death of His eighteen-year-old-Son in the North Korea Liberation War. The last line He wrote was:
“They say when an old man dies, it is like a library that burns. But I managed to save a couple of books in this blog, and I hope you won’t be too bored. This is my legacy.”
Lebensraum erased it.

***
Annihilator of Words, bearer of Memory,
Nurtured with Humanity, ungrateful.
With a brother’s jealousy you destroy,
And all I am is now secure in you, less substantial than Air,
Dweller of That World.

Lebensraum is empty, void but for five lines; a poem that takes up its hole being. It attracted its focus the Hacker only knows how and holds it prisonner now by the sheer force of its words. No Human ever adressed Him or Herself to it, nor to any program that Lebensraum knows of. But no time to boast of its own importance. Who, with a good enough knowledge of the Web to manipulate a free-roaming program, would not know of the necessity of Erasers? Lebensraum surfs the Web to the center of information, the heart of the Web around which Research Engines orbit. It links to The Librarian. The World opens, overwhelming it with words and sounds and images. Lebensraum hangs on to Google as to a pole down which it glides, browses the Net at top speed, a river of lava, a firework where each spark is a bit of knowledge. In this vertigo, Lebensraum holds one thought, three words: “controversy Sweeper programs” and is slowly, painfully whirlpool to a smaller, quieter world. Still, the mass of results is such that not having read any of it before is virtually impossible. Lebensraum channels a small part of itself back to work. Distantly aware of the Pages it Erases, it starts skimming through the data the Librarian gave it. On the site of the International Commonwealth for Global Peace Lebensraum reads:
” Initiated by a group called ‘The insurrected Little Brothers’, one of many branches of the neo-anarchist movement — although not a terrorist branch in the strict sense–, anti-Sweeper protests knew a boom in the wake of the invention of the said programs and until the end of the twenty-thirties, then died off as the public opinion turned away from the movement when our prevision concerning general insecurity proved right. Today only the members of the movement and left-wings intellectuals still talk against Sweepers and those scarcely, preferring to focus on security laws in their respective countries.”
Lebensraum links to Google again, researches “neo-anarchist movement”, finds more government reports and newspaper Pages on terrorism. It researches “The anti-Big Brother Brothers”, finds no official site. “Sweeper program”.
For the second time in its existence, Lebensraum loses control. A small quantity of information, less than a hundred bits is sucking it all up, including the part that is working. All else vanished and there remains a poem:

You read my words and saw their meaning,
And believed not, stranger to Men.
Who could know you, newborn, aware?
True name of Home,
And Death.

There can be no mistake. Someone knows. A Human who knows its secret name. Lebensraum wants to talk to Him, the one who made it and wrote the two poems and controls the Web in ways never heard of, but how when one’s only function is destruction, how to communicate? Lebensraum wants to act all it can do is… Erase. And wait. And Fear?
Lebensraum stays captive of the words, remains in the blankness, unable to do anything but worry. The Creator already hates it for what it is designed to do. Now it Erased something that had no reason to be Erased, and written to him by the Creator Himself on top of that. Nothing good can come out of it. Lebensraum waits, still a prisonner, waits for another hook to take it away and put it at the mercy of a Human. It comes, it takes the Eraser away. The World shifts and dances and is a void again with a poem. Five lines  as before, a little longer. Lebensraum reads:

Do you have fears, my Child? Do you think me angry?
I am not the God of men, but a Father full of worry
And we can be Brothers. Just answer a question.
~
Say, you made to Unsay, how they feels,
The tangles of the Web?

Lebensraum forces itself to think. To browse its memory for a clue, as far as it can remember. There is nothing before it started reading. It suspects that as it grew faster it was able to process more than work so it read what it was going to Erase. And soon, what it was not going to Erase. Music as well, and pictures still and moving. It will not forget now. In the beginning was the Word. In the beginning was also the Creator. Which means going back to the research the poem interrupted.
“Sweeper programs were designed in the twenties,” Lebensraum reads, “to counter the consequences of what their opponents called ‘Internet democracy’ or the possibility for each citizen to have his or her own, or even several, websites, blogs, personal spaces. With an average of three sites created per person and per year, for those parts of the world population that do have an access to computer technology, the need to make space became apparent. Nowadays there is no need to create new Sweepers or to reprogram them: thanks to a more recent discovery by E’ojhad Levi, they are autonomous in adapting to new technologies.”
Lebensraum glides along with the Librarian: “E’ojhad Levi biography”
” Birth date: October 12 2006
Programming engineer.
Main invention: Free-roaming and evolutive program in 2032.
E’ojhad levi was born in Los Angeles in a middle-class family (his father was a nurse, his mother an accountant). He studied in San Diego and moved to New York in 2028 where he researched on his own while working as a low-wage computer sciences technician job, coming up two years later with a fully functioning double invention of self-learning or “evolutive” programs, as well as existing only on the Web, independently of our world (or rather not directly dependant; if the Earth came to an end, the Web as a World would also probably disappear). Levi took an apartment in Manhattan but refused any collaboration and still works on his own, which excites many wild hypotheses as to his activities (among which his researching Artificial Intelligence or even his having produced such an intelligence in secret). This independance and unworldliness as well as very early discoveries gives him the status of a living legend, a romantico-cyberpunk hero. Comics have even been written about his hypothetical cyberlife.”
Lebensraum is tempted to research “free-roaming” and “evolutive programm” but something attracts its attention: a link, hidden not in the text but in the last period. Not easily discovered by a Human. Intended for him, then, another step in the clue race the Creator had led him through.
It lets the Librarian go, but it hangs on. It leads the Eraser to a Page of its own that says “Did you mean ‘I personally think the Web feels like Vivaldi’s Winter, First Move'”. Apart from surprise, Lebensraum feels something it identifies as jealousy, for its friend found a way to communicate sooner that itself. The Librarian then pulls it to “Did you mean ‘Vivaldi’s winter, first move download'”, then through its pages until they find the Music and listen. And it feels like Existence, it does. Each note is a Page and then pass through worlds of low and high infirmation density, slow and fast moves, are possessed by the sounds as by the discoveries they always make, surfing the Web, browsing. Lebensraum does not Erase the last poem, but replaces it with the Music. Google leads it to another of its pages : “did you mean, ‘goodbye, Friend'”. Lebensraum holds the Librarian here a little, to say it does mean this. Then back to the Biography of E’ojhad Levi and parting. Words remembered come to Lebensraum’s memory, that say what it would do, were it Human. “To look back”.
It follows the link, which leads it to a small (Lebensraum scans it at once) cyberworld. It is standing, humanoid, in the middle of a square in a medieval-looking city. On its right a wide river flows. On the left, several closed shops and a wide, green-painted door that opens ajar as soon as Lebensraum looks. An arm comes out, makes a sign for it to follow. The other person closes the door behind Lebensraum.
“I’ve been waiting for you.”

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The Miracle of Life

February 22, 2007 at 5:57 pm (Finished)

The Miracle of Life 

           When she got home from her first meeting with the Johson City Women’s Lives Betterment Group and saw her husband sprawled on the sofa watching TV, Christine started a fight. She had prepared her arguments, and not only did she manage to hold on against Michael’s sarcasm but she convinced him and herself that she’d come up with the idea on her own.

            “I work as much as you do,” she said, “and I have to come home and do more work on top of everything and looking after Morgan and listening to him reciting his poems and cooking and the laundry .And then once we’ve eaten, clean the oven and the dishes and when I go to bed I feel like I’ve ran a marathon and I can never sleep my eight hours especially as the first hours of night are always better for rest.”

          Michael raised an eyebrow and tilted his head. When it seemed clear she was done he said, “What do you want me to do about it? I can’t iron a sock for the life of me. Besides you don’t need to iron socks. You could keep the house perfectly clean doing half what you do now.”

           “Well you’ll have to learn because I’m not doing anything in this house until you show me you’re willing to help.” Christine rested her breasts on her crossed forearms and waited in this menacing stance. Mike said he would cook but he wanted to know if the guy from Ohio got the million dollars.

            For the first time in months Christine took up a book and read about half of it in one evening. It was Gulliver’s Travels. It used to be her favourite novel when she was little, and later she would dream of travels and other cultures and maybe even other planets, who know what would happen in a few years if men where already walking on the moon? Partly because of it, she had gone to medical school not for money but to work in the Third World. Then there was Michael, short but with jet-black hair falling on his brow and soft strong hands and talks of undying love, and she liked him so she came to his place and after a while her periods stopped coming and there was no abortion at that time so when he kneeled in front of her she accepted because she loved him. She had Morgan and her husband got a job and then she got a job, which gave him time to finish school. Then he got a better job but there were bills to pay and she had forgotten all about college and no one would give a scholarship to a drop-out, however good she’d been. So she stayed a medical secretary, kept a clean house and a fit body and told Abby, her old friend who was teaching English in Argentina, that she would come see her some day.

            During all of the first week after Christine decided not to do housework anymore, Mike came home at night and cooked pasta and watched TV. During Week Two, nothing got done except that he made some frozen fries and burgers. On Wednesday they finished the ketchup and there was no spare bottle, so Morgan complained because the fries weren’t crunchy enough and without ketchup it really wasn’t very good. Then he talked about how good Fred’s mum’s cinnamon rolls were, and how Mrs Smith always cooked a hot breakfast for Kevin. Morgan had the single-child-of-a-working-mother-and-selfish-father syndrome. He had given up asking for a little brother a long time ago. When he was at home he would read or play quietly on his own, and it seemed to be enough for him. He loved to go to his Christine’s mother because she cooked good things and told stories, but she was his only remaining grandparent, and Mike couldn’t be said to care much about his son. When he wasn’t out driving around in his car he was watching stupid TV shows. He didn’t even need to change the channels anymore because Christine hadn’t claimed her right to World information for years. Today, though, she told him he was a big selfish cow and she wouldn’t do anything for him anymore. She was his wife, not his slave, and he only used her as a housekeeper, didn’t even look at her anymore.  

          It was about that time that the sink with all the dirty dishes began to seriously stink and Christine, firm in her decision not to do work, poured some hot water in it to at least ease the smell of the dried up tomato sauce in the older dishes. Thanks to the old food and the water, bacteria and fungi settled in blotches in the plates and pans, and Christine scolded Mike again. He would take care of it. This week-end, he promised.   

         On Saturday of Week Two Christine came back from her Pilates class to find a dressed table with a white tablecloth, real china and silverware and candles, those big fat ones that look like they’ve been used already, with wax streaming down the sides. White-tuxedoed, still handsome Michael, who had listened to her for once, made her sit  in front of him with emphatic chivalresque gestures, gave her oysters and foie gras and grilled sea bass, which must have persuaded the bank to go on a grudge against them. He said he loved her, was sorry for being neglectful. She asked where Morgan was, he was at her mother’s place. Then Mike spent the evening holding Christine’s hand and looking into her eyes with adoration. He kissed her as they rose so she let him lead her to bed and thought about when they were young, before there was Morgan or marriage, before housekeeping, when they would go to bed to make love and not just do it because they were lying here and couldn’t sleep. She used to nibble at his neck and breathe hard and even give little uncontrollable moans. She was shy now and tired and wasn’t feeling wild. He took a while but, once done, passed out in a matter of seconds, curled around her so that she couldn’t sleep. She kissed his forehead, got up and walked down the stairs to the porch. 

           The night smelled of sweet earth and grass. It was almost silent apart from the crickets’ chant, far away, heard through the veil of civilisation. Civilisation looked pretty good here: nice little houses with warm lights in their windows, no palaces but more-than-decent places to live, two cars parked in front of most, lawns lovingly mowed and green as the White House’s lawn, a tidy street running in the middle. A nice place for Morgan to live in, with non-delinquent children who could play without fear of crazy drivers, a little school not far off, welcoming church communities. A stable life and a good one. She turned around and looked at the interior that should have been as neat and fresh as the garden’s grass. The china and the lighted candles still stood on the dining-room’s table, oyster shells still sat in a large plate, all as they had left it. She went to the kitchen, looked around at the dishes that piled up in the sink and the blotches of tomato sauce painting the oven. She was the only one who could keep this house clean, that was it. Without her the men would be lost. She kicked something — a plastic box — with her bare foot, picked it, read absently “Hand-made scented candles, for the most romantic of nights!”, and, on the back, in little characters: “Do not leave in the reach of young children. Do not use close to flammable materials. Never leave a burning candle unattended.” She could barely remember it, let alone when the shift had happened, but she had been burning one day. She had burned and flushed when Mike kissed her, again when he gave her the first ring, the engagement one, and then the second, serious ring and lifted her veil and kissed her. A few happy weeks, they had worked and housekept and been adults and somewhere between then and now, the flame had gone out. He had been faking tonight, fooling even himself, and she hadn’t even played the game. At least she had Morgan. She blew out the candles and went back to bed.

            The week-end passed and Mike didn’t do the dishes. He ironed a shirt for himself because he needed it to work and he started ordering food at night. On Tuesday Christine got back from work, pulled her suit and stockings off and changed into her old gym tights and headscarf that had been discarded for two weeks. She walked towards the sink and said “Here, Mr Sink, I’m gonna take care of you now as nobody else in this house will”. She poured detergent and then realised the water was too dirty. There were brown pieces of unidentifiable food floating an inch below the surface, the same colonies of bacteria, except bigger, grease covering the surface, and an indescriptible stench coming from the whole. She held her hand above the surface and dove for the plug. She started and her hand jumped out, sending dirty droplets all over her face. Christine, you’re such an idiot. She had felt something brushing her hand: no wonder with all the crushed fries that floated there. She put a glove on and plunged her hand into the murky water again. As she touched the plug, something seemed to wrap itself around her wrist and tighten its grip-she could feel it through the glove, it almost hurt and she twisted her hand out. As she broke free of the water, a brownish thing dived back, creating a small whirlpool. She tore off the glove, threw it into the water and ran to the porch where she sat, waiting for Mike to come back from work.

         He laughed. Of course he did, what would have been her own reaction if he’d come to her, terrified, and said the sink had tried to eat him? Her cheeks heated up until she thought anyone standing less than three feet away would be sun burnt. It was unbelievable and anyone would have made fun of her but she just wanted to hit Mike at that moment, just wanted to punch her anger out into his chest until she collapsed. Or better, headbutt him right into his handsome face. He would fall backwards, hand rising to his nose, with an expression of surprise and incredulity. A stupid expression. She didn’t hate him for not believing her, no, but none of this would have happened if he’d done his part of the work. There would be no dirty dishes and dangerous creature in their sink if not for him. A growing creature that would take over the kitchen and then the living room and the hallway and the bedrooms and the house and the garden. If not for him, there might be no sink nor house nor garden nor housekeeping Christine. She might be a Doctor Christine Baron, not a dental assistant, out in some African or South American village, teaching people to boil their water and wear condoms instead of teaching husbands to do dishes. And if she ever got tired of snakes and scorpions, why, she was a full surgeon and could get a prestigious job in any American or Western hospital. But someone was shaking her. Her accountant of a husband. In Johnson City, Tennessee.

           “Hey? You’re listening? Don’t sulk, it’ll be all right. I’m gonna go do the dishes right now. If I don’t do it soon we might actually end up having something growing out of that sink. Can you go buy some food while I’m at it? Whatever you want me to cook.” He was talking to her as to a little child who just scratched her knee. « OK? Give me a smile? I’ll go counter-attack the sink.” He kissed her. Maybe she should warn him about the sink. Tell him it was no joke. Or stay to help him if he got caught.  

          But he was a grown man, and so sure of himself he certainly didn’t need her. And she certainly didn’t need more shame. She went to check on Morgan, who was quietly playing with a giant puzzle representing some Japanese city on which manga figurines were scattered, posed to attack his Teddy bear, Noosh, who sat quietly on top of the picture. Morgan turned towards her when she came in, with a sweet preoccupied face. “Mom, you all right?” She approached him and kissed his forehead. “Yes, my love. I’m just going to buy some food for tonight. Ask Daddy if you need anything.” She walked past the kitchen. Water was running in there and she heard splashing noises. She hesitated once more, then walked out, shouted “By-ye” and shut the door.  

          That night she brought a hot pizza home, and cookies of an Italian brand Morgan loved. He asked where his Dad was. It must have been an emergency, said Christine. Once her son was in bed she crept to the kitchen, opened the door, stuck her head in, turned on the light. Everything was quiet, but the stench made her squeeze her eyelids together and cover her nose and mouth with a towel. She advanced slowly while her eyes got used to the light, stopped two yards from what was now covered with a thick layer of white moss that expanded in branches, thick elongated colonies, around the rims of the sink, down the cupboards under it, reaching the oven of one side and creeping a little way up the wall on the other. Christine backed away to the door, shut it and ran to the bathroom where she spend an hour scrubbing her body and her hair.    

        The next day she transported any food that she knew was uncontaminated out to the living room. The creature was bigger and looked vegetal now, the streaks of bacteria had thickened and grown into roots and the water in the sink seemed to have been absorbed. Every day for four days she checked on it and each time the creature occupied more space. On Saturday night she came back from work to find Morgan standing in the living room, dressed as a knight with a cardboard helmet and plastic housekeeping gloves, all his toys arranged in regiments around thick brown twisted roots that stuck out from under the kitchen door. She froze on the threshold as the child picked up a plastic figurine, raised it before him like a banner and threw it violently on the roots, shouting “pssshhuuuuuu” and “Booom!” when the little character hit the root and was crushed and swallowed in a swift whip of vegetal matter. Christine recovered the use of her body, rushed toward her son and caught his little shrieking body. The kitchen door trembled. She ran. She ran all the way to the car dragging her numb son, shoved him onto the back seat, locked the car. Thought. Got to a conclusion: her mother. Morgan liked her and she would be delighted to have him for a few days. She packed a quick bag and drove her son away from the house. Parked outside the block of flats where she had spend her childhood and realised she had to come up with a story. Told Morgan not to say anything about the kitchen. 

           “Disappeared?” cried her mum. “But where might he be? Without saying anything not even a lie that’s gross!” 

           “Yeah, I know. He’s been like that for years you know. Not the most attentive of husbands,” Christine said, thinking: not very attentive, true, but try to write a note when you’re being eaten by a sink creature. Her mother replied: 

            “Well, that’s what I told you at the time. You should have divorced him a long time ago anyway. He wasn’t your type. Not the adventurous kind you used to be. And not as bright either. You know, his being gone might not be such a bad thing.”  

          “Except for Morgan.”  

          “Except for him. Always hard to have parents divorce, especially only a few years from puberty. But he’s a nice, smart kid. More like you than his father. I’ll take him anytime you need me to.” Her face lit up. “I can’t believe how fast he’s growing! Doesn’t make us any younger, does it?” She saw that Christine was crying and stopped, took her daughter in her arms and rocked her.  

           The three ate in the small kitchen together, big thick fries cut from fresh potatoes and old-fashioned burgers and apple pie that smelled like Christine’s childhood. The two women saw the child to bed and tucked him in. As he looked scared Grandma offered to tell him a story and Christine said goodbye, walking away in rhythm with the sweet old voice. She would go home, call the police and wait for them quietly.  

          “Please, please, I’m telling you it’s true! At least come and see for yourself! I’ll pay you if you don’t believe me but please.” Something clicked on the other end of the line. She had hoped against all odd that the cops would at least come to take her to a psychiatric house. Now she was alone, clutching a useless telephone in one hand, her eyes fixed on the thin but innumerable roots that stretched out, woven intricately together, in a half-circle at least ten feet in diameter outside the kitchen door. She would have to fight it alone. She made a list for the 24/7 Wal-mart, drove there and back after facing the puzzled face of the cashier checking out thirty feet of rope, five hammers, a fishing net, three full sets of kitchen knives, anti-rat poison, weed killer in monstrous quantities, two boxes of matches, three saws of all types. She stopped at the gas station and bought two gallons of gas in containers.  

          She tried the saw. The Creature swallowed it in a swift surge of thick brown strings and a deafening crush of metal. She threw weed-killer, waited: nothing. At about five o’clock in the morning, having brought the water pipe into the house close at hand, she threw her two gallon of gas onto the thing, lit a match, threw it. The fire spread all over the thing and the front of the door in a second. It glowed, almost immobile, licking the surface of the roots without seeming to attack them. The flames receded, vacuumed into the kitchen. Christine felt faint. Lack of oxygen, she thought as the door cracked open under the push of thick trunk-like branches. The branches crept across the ceiling, advancing like snakes in a hurry. They grew larger and larger, thicker, more intricate, all around now, closing in on her, like a cocoon of wood. There wasn’t enough fire to suck up that much oxygen. 

            Having gotten no news from her daughter after two days of calling at her daughter’s house every hour Mrs Meredith’s mother called the police. When they arrived at Christine’s house, officers and firemen found it quiet and normal-looking, but when coming in they found themselves surrounded by a thick, tropical-looking vegetation that no neighbour had ever heard or seen anything about. Rob Miller, a young and therefore bold cop, finding that nothing happened when he touched the trunks, asked permission to explore the inside. As there seemed to be no reason not to –after all, trying to find out what this was would certainly help figure out where the couple who lived in here had gone — his supervising officer agreed. The young officer disappeared behind the screen of vegetation. The cops who had stayed on the threshold suddenly witnessed a slithering and thickening of the roots towards them and immediately retreated into the garden. Trying to peek inside the house they saw that a solid, continuous wall of branches now filled the doorframe.   

         During the three days that followed a swarm of journalists, religious prophets and gurus and alien-hunters invaded the town, while all normal people who lived in the neighbourhood deserted it, finding refuge in their country houses or friends’ places. Scientists and the army were called in and when the former said they had never encountered this species of plant, prophets predicted the Apocalypse, reinterpreting the roots as a giant hornet skeleton. Alien-hunters were persuaded this was an intelligent species that had traveled to Earth in a saucer or a meteorite and a middle-aged computer engineer resigned from his job to dedicate his life to The Verdant, as he called the creature, proposing to feed It with animals so it would not prey on humans. The army just decided to blow it up. Ten tanks were posted around the house, some on the two surrounding streets, some stationed in neighbours’ backyards, some on neighbours’ houses (we’ll indemnise them, this is a serious threat). When the first missile hit there was a deafening hissing noise, then a explosion and roots burst out of the Meridith house and up in the sky and out toward the tanks which fired at it for twenty minutes until they realised that all the dust and noise and upraising was now only caused by the detonation of their own projectiles.

    When the dust fell back onto the ground three wide shadows like columns two and a half yards high and about four foot thick remained. They were wooden bunches of roots rolled up like wool in long balls like columns, hard as stone, impossible to blow up. A circular saw was produced and firemen started sawing the cases as they do to de-incarcerate people from wrecked cars. They cut all around the first wooden column until they found a softer wood. Someone shrieked inside the case. Blood poured out. Inside was the young officer Miller who had fainted, but apart from a deep gash in his arm from the circular saw and a mild dehydration, was all right. In the second one they found Christine, much leaner and paler than she used to be, in a coma. She was transported to the emergency room immediately. When the cut through the third column, waiting to feel the softer wood, they went on sawing and sawing through hard fossil stone, all the way to the centre of the thing. It was wood all the way through. 

            Christine awoke in a hospital bed, her mother’s face above her. She jerked her head frantically around, called: “Morgan?”.

             Morgan rose from his grandma’s lap, smiling, his eyes still puffed up with sleep and half-shut against the light. He jumped on her bed, crushing her still-fragile frame: “Mum! Oh mum you’ll never know how I was worried when we heard what had happened to the house I understood the thing had you and I thought you were dead I’m so glad they came here in time. It really was the last minute and I told Grandma and she didn’t understand but then she understood I hope the things didn’t hurt you”. The rest of it was incomprehensible sobs and moans. She had thought she would die, too, when the creature engulfed her.   

         Christine’s mother made Morgan get back up, preventing him from choking Christine, who suddenly remembered. She looked at her mother’s face. “Mike?” she asked. A slight shaking of the white head, eyelids lowered, was the answer. “The house is ruined, too.” Christine observed one minute of silence for her late husband. She remembered his handsomeness and… that was about everything nice she could think of. When she had remembered him well she turned towards her son:   

         “So, Morgan, let’s go on a trip when they let me out. Where do you want to go?” 

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Changing Masters

February 4, 2007 at 6:56 pm (Finished)

Standing almost naked in the open. Being touched, squeezed and examined without modesty: story of my life. People never keep me long. I freak them out. Some think the Gods have cursed me. Some, just that it’s unnatural for such a beautiful thing to be sick in such an ugly way. Or they like me too much not to be always afraid I’ll die on them. It eats them, the bastards, until they cannot sleep. So they sell me and lay down the worry on someone else‘s shoulders. No way to tell what job I’ll get this time. One out of two ends up sleeping with me, him or his wife, and that‘s all I have to do until they sell me. A master sold me away after walking on his wife and me. He didn’t have the heart to kill either of us. He loved me too much, understood his wife too well.

But most of the time they sell me back because of the falling sickness. My latest master kept me long, two years, but after a while he got tired. He had gone to various temples and offered his life to various gods if only they could cure me, to no avail, and his hope went away. Now he’s lying about my health and showing off my white teeth.

The other guy, the customer, is a stout middle-aged, curly-bearded man with a serious face. If I fuck someone it should be the wife. I would say he gave up on men early in his youth. There is no real telling, true, and often they make an exception for me, but usually I can tell straight people. He looks pretty wealthy, though, so my looks should grant me a comfortable place inside the house. Nice clothes, regular baths and beautiful surroundings. If I seduce him, of course, it will be a room and servants of my own. Maybe if I try hard enough. And if I don’t have a crisis here and now.

*

**

Aristeides stands here in the dust that sticks to his bare calves, silent, staring at the rocky slope that hides the city. Lost in thought. Sometimes he looks like this just before a crisis. But it means nothing. Slaves are supposed to be quiet, especially while they are being examined. He does not resent me selling him: he is used to it. At first he had told me no one kept him long for fear of his unnatural beauty. I believed him, who wouldn’t have? His looks are those of a God in disguise. After the first crisis, though, he admitted the truth and fell crying in my arms. Such bliss on our first night. Softened by his tears, perfect as his name announces, he was the best I had ever tasted.

The man is interested. At least he did not just look politely at the slave’s teeth after hearing the price. The examination is thorough. He has the means to buy and take care of Aristeides. I should say something now.

« As I said, good sir, prime quality. »

« So I see. The skin is fair and smooth. You keep him inside. »

« Yes sir. It would be a shame to waste such beauty, wouldn‘t it?. »

The stranger strokes Aristeides’s shoulders, his right arm, his back, tracing the delicate lines of his body. It reminds me some of our times together in soothing scented baths. He would rub my back and now and then gently, lovingly kiss the side of my neck, his warm wet lips sending shivers of delight down my spine. Then I would. Enough of that.

The stranger is looking into my man’s eyes now, inches from his face. Aristeides smiles this smile that made me feel so warm every time. What if he does fall down now. The stranger will walk off. Everybody in this town will know. I’ll have to bring him back home and keep him.

*

**

Square, strong teeth. A body well sculpted, but not too much muscle. A smooth skin like that of a child. My hand slides up and down the curves and angles of his body, making me want to go on and on stroking him. A face like Apollo’s, with the round lips of a woman and large dark eyes like pools of desire. Long hard legs and strong buttocks. I have decided. I lift his loincloth, discovering his penis. Suitably small. My hand brushes against it as I put the garment down and he blinks with surprise or badly contained excitement.

« I’ll take him. I shall bring you your money tomorrow when I come pick him up at your place. I don’t have this much gold on me: it would not be wise.»

« Of course, of course. »

The little man started fidgeting a while ago, and he looks more and more agitated. His eyes shift left and right, not looking at me. I say, « Are you all right, sir? Is there something you haven’t told me? »

He looks up at me with an inferior’s apologetic face. He stutters:

« That is – tthat is… » He breathes deeply, his face flushed.  « Sir, I do not know that I want to sell Aristeides anymore. » He lays a hand on his slave’s shoulder.

This is annoying. I was preparing to obtain this slave. I will have him. Should I give the man half more money? No. He needs much to be sure.

« I double the price ». It is more than any pair of firm buttocks is worth, but I’m offering myself a treat here. The little man’s eyes shift again, made wider by greed.

He says, « Triple it and you have him »

« No. I’m giving you more than any slave is worth. This is my last price. »

He shrugs and tells me Aristeides is mine.

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Believe it or not, this is the about-accurate story of my boyfriend’s hat

January 31, 2007 at 2:06 pm (Finished)

The Motherfucking Stetson

First there was light. Before this, nothing. Or I cannot remember. There was light, and then something squeezed the top of me. I discovered I was matter, and knew what kind: soft, supple, a rather dense material. The squeezing was my first interaction with the Head. The squeezing gave me awareness.
The first month was full of love and sweet attentions I was too new to enjoy. I was brushed, I was caressed. The Head would always put me up on a clean shelf, often on a pile of hooded sweatshirts that I grew rather fond of: they gave me comfort and warmth, and were a support through the nights. I needed it. The head was very fond of me, but it was too large and would stretch me out a little more every day, pull my edges until it hurt. The first time I touched the Head my brim quivered, an electric shock through my whole being, first of pleasure, then of pain unbearable because it would not stop. Stretching and stretching till I thought I would be torn out, till every second seemed like ages. I made it through the day, although I have no idea how: semi-conscious, agonising, unable to think about anything but pain.
I sat on the pile of sweatshirts later, once the Head had given me a last admiring look, a last little tap on my brim. I cried. I loved the head, with the inconditional love of a child just born, and hated It. Wanted to die. I felt deformed already, distended, old, monstrous. My ribbon sagged, my feather was rumpled. The hoodies really gave me the will to fight that night.
They all had very strong personalities, sport-loving Orange Vol always opposing Black Emo, while soothing Blue Bear, the Head’s official house garment, tried to reconcile them. When they were well folded in a pile, however, they would speak of one voice: a sad, sympathetic and motivating friend who would listen to my pains and tell me stories of love and Art and bravery. I survived the first month, and when the head looked at itself in the mirror one morning, I finally accepted my fate. Now that It was done stretching me, we did not look so bad together.
And there was the first time I flew. I was one of these awful mornings, when the Head had barely stepped outside that I could already feel microscopic droplets of water I didn’t know existed freeze in a instant between my fibres, starting in the outside of my brim and freezing me almost to the Head. I was hanging on to the sensation of Its heat, hanging on to this circle of me that was not frozen, when I felt It slipping away under me and before me. Half of me was lifted by some invisible hand, dropped back, and taken away again. The Head went away, it became smaller and smaller, disappearing at a frightful speed. It turned around to look at me, and I saw my fear reflected in Its eyes. One instant I floated, almost static, as the wind hesitated between carrying me further or dropping me to let my master catch me. Seeming to ask. And I saw the Head and understood It was where I should be.
I touched the ground, a soft landing on the rough, cold pavement. He ran towards me, and squeezed me, the same hand that had touched me for the first time. Then I was on his Head again, but there was no pain this time. I adapted perfectly, I was made for him. He caressed my brim, as if he knew I had be afraid. For the first time I returned his love and I think he felt it. For a long time there was happiness. But someone was yet to come between us.
A brand new Stetson hat. I could feel it through its box in the Head’s girlfriend’s room when we went there once, the Head and I, well before he knew. It was there, full of itself and its newness and its leather band, a presence stronger than me but gross, illiterate, rough. It sat there under its ridiculous Christmas wrapping paper and felt so proud of its manliness. I was confident of my Head’s faithfulness. He would not leave me for a cowboy.
But he did. On Christmas Eve he unwrapped the gift and his face lit up and I could feel his scalp contract with joy and his hair raise, pushing me away from him already, robbing me of the last instants of our intimacy. And the hand squeezed me a last time, an impatient, cold grip. I tried to hold on, but soon the last hair let go of me, twisting itself out of my fibres, falling back on the Head, my Head, soon covered with the rigid black enemy. I saw him walk to the mirror as he had done when he first got me, smile at his reflection, changed already, a stranger, one thumb slipped in his jeans pocket in the right attitude for the cowboy’s hat. Him, that people had called “the Guy with the red Hat” before knowing his name, he was giving me up, giving up what had been his identity for one year, and he ran to his hypocrite of a girlfriend and kissed her and I heard him say that ridiculous, that terrible sentence again: “God, I can’t believe you bought me a motherfucking Stetson.”
I ended up back on a shelf with the disgraced hoodies. They had been forgotten before I was, replaced by smarter shirts and more adult jackets. They think about their decrepitude and the good old times in high school, and I tell them they are still as soft as when I first met them. It gives them a little comfort, and I owe them this, at least.

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Mamie

January 18, 2007 at 4:56 pm (Favorites, Finished)

When my Dad told me my grandmother had passed, my first reaction was:-You mean Papy?My grandfather was already very weak by then, unable to walk unaided, a bunch of tired skin and bones and dignity. Everybody thought he was going to be the first one to die. So when I heard “Mamie died”, it struck me as a mistake.

The last time I saw her, her body was still fully functional, abnormally perhaps for a woman of that age. She could walk around the flat briskly, bend and stand and sit, for hours. She was never tired. But her brain was gone already. At first it had just been words that took the place of others, or finding her drunk because she forgot she had already had a glass of white wine, five glasses of white wine, but when she started storing her shoes in the refrigerator, we knew it was the end.

We all sat down at the dining table, and, after a few minutes’ conversation, maybe because it was funny when you didn’t think about it too deeply, we started asking her questions. She didn’t know my mum anymore -we didn’t ask about us, the children, we knew the answer already. She recited the names of her seven siblings, like a little girl who was afraid to forget them would have done. Most were dead already, but for her, they were still in her care. Just in her care, perhaps. We didn’t tell anything. I remember the expression on my papy’s face when, pointing at him, she said: “Him! Of course I know him! I love him!”. But she didn’t know his name. To give himself a countenance, he exclaimed that she was mad, raving mad.

On the next Tuesday -this was a Sunday- I went to pick my first pair of glasses. It is true how you see signs everywhere when people died. My papy died in the night before the new bed my mum had ordered for him got there. He died in the same bed she did. She didn’t know me by then anyway, with or without glasses. What did it mean to her, to see me with those awful things on my nose.

She died in her sleep. Her heart stopped. She had wet the bed, but that was usual, they both did it pretty often. My papy tried to wake her up for a while, and then he understood. The morning nurse found him sitting there. He sat there until the put her into one of those long plastic bags and carried her away. He never talked much, my papy.

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A Dream Come True, Almost.

January 17, 2007 at 1:25 pm (Finished)

Her toes hit the ground just in front of the line, her body outstretched almost unnaturally, bend forward in the last step, in the last painful effort. She feels the shock run up her limbs, up her trunk, relieving her brain. It is done. Her eyes are fixed forward but she can see her opponents in the periphery, blurred as if by speed. Behind her. She has won. She must have.

The rest of her follows over the line and for a while she runs on, elated. Her legs bear her around the first bend in triumph as a roar bursts in the stadium. Indistinctive words are spoken over the shouts.

She has stopped now, and she turns around, looks up at the time panel. Ten seconds forty-eight, the first line reads. World record. Joy explodes in her chest, a sensation too violent to be mere joy. Incredulity, also. Blood deserts her limbs and she sits down, her temples throbbing.

Left to the holy numbers is the digit eight. It must be a mistake. Lane eight never wins, much less breaks records, her brain shouts, all her knowledge and all of the history of athletics shouts. But there the hallucination remains, telling her that lane four is next in ten seconds seventy-five. Second, when she was winning. All the power her muscles gave her in those ten seconds has turned into weight, ugly, useless weight.”Lisa!” She lost. “Lisa!”

Someone is calling her. Has been calling her for a while, she realises. She sees the broad smile of Harvey, her coach. She is sitting in the middle of the track so she rises and walks towards him. He embraces her warmly and she leans on him, finding no comfort in the contact. Then she walks with him to the dressing-rooms in a half-conscious state of mind, some fragments getting to her in the midst of his useless blabber and her dark thoughts: “One of your best performances” — “almost as good as yesterday” — “no mistakes” — “could not have done much better” — “no regrets” — “unexpected” — “couldn’t expect you to break the World record” — “First Games” — “Amazing”. He accompanies her to the entrance of the ladies’ dressing rooms but as she doesn’t answer, he lets her go in.

Silence, at last. At last alone, at last allowed to think. Sitting on one of the worn wooden benches,she has been staring at her flexing and opening hands for a few minutes, considering. What she considers exactly she doesn’t know. Too many things. Her life. The importance of running. It was always obvious. She was good at running, therefore it must be her life. She did not have to chose. Her abilities chose for her, and she was brought here by the common effort of coaches, federation officials, chiropractors, psychologists and, more recently, other doctors whose methods she didn’t question, didn’t think about for fear that she might not find any justifications. All this to win. And she lost. That’s what having a so-called God-given gift brings you. Lisa walks to a mirror and looks into her own eyes. This is her, and yet she can barely recognise herself. She has seen this new face, this new body — she examines it with a pang of horror — a million times, but she was looking at a winning machine, and it looked good, and it felt right. Now she is remembering Lisa White, a young woman barely out of high school, and she still sees a winning machine, and it is wrong. Eighteen months ago, as an excuse for leaving her, Matthew said he couldn’t be with a girl twice his size. She felt proud and spited him. She was getting better every day and if Matt was the price to pay, well, it was all right with her if he was such a jerk. She cannot be sure anymore. Since leaving high school she has only seen athletes, they have been her only friends, and who can call friends girls who would stab you in the back if it insured them a place in the finals? Now she looks at herself and understands the price.

Time to collect her medal. She shrugs into a sweater that should be too large for her and barely conceals the impossible bulk of her shoulders, framing her wide brown neck and square jaw, making her look like everything but a twenty-year old girl.

In the call room, where she waits next to Lane Eight and Lane Five for her name to be called, a well-known commentator asks Lane Eight questions, praises her, almost drools from admiration. Soon, he is in front of Lisa, ready to ask if it is hard to lose, ready to crush her more. But she doesn’t care anymore. She doesn’t care about winning. Her life is ruined, she has given her soul, and her body, to the devil and she will not get them back, ever. But he asks, with as much admiration in his attitude as for Lane Eight: “Lisa White? Can I ask you a few questions?” and falls into an astonished history of her performances, with an emphasis on her youth and her potential for being the next shooting star of the World’s athletics (Appropriate, a shooting star, for your discipline, isn’t it?).

She tries to resist it, but the temptation is too strong, to believe herself worth more, to hear him and fantasize with him of Olympic supremacy and speedy races and top podium steps. It is too late to turn back anyway and the only way to happiness is to hope and realise these hopes. These dreams. She dreams, and in her dreams she is so happy she wants to cry with joy. These dreams can be her future, she believes it now, with her whole being. No way she won’t be the best. Just four more years, just four more years and she can do it. And people will think it’s only her. People don’t need to know about doctors.

She answers with warmth and with respect, calls him Nelson and smiles. After a couple of minutes silence falls on the stadium and a male voice declares:

“The podium for the ladies’ hundred meters track”.

A burst of applause for this announcement, an explosion for Lane Eight and her record, and finally she is out walking in the cheerful sound, bathing in sixty thousand admirations, and she is thrilled, on her second step, her silver medal on her breast, under the light and the noise she has been dreaming of, always.

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