I am pleased to have a short piece of fiction published in the online journal Mannequin Haus.
You can read ‘The One’ in their 7th issue.
I am pleased to have a short piece of fiction published in the online journal Mannequin Haus.
You can read ‘The One’ in their 7th issue.
– Ok. Here’s what we have. A ladder, a pair of shears, bandage, alcohol and a megaphone.
– What are we supposed to do with all that?
– They told me we need to sterilize the sky.
– Say what?!
– You know, remove its testes.
– You gotta be kiddin’ me. How the hell are we going to emasculate the sky?
– Well, we gotta get up there and figure it out.
– Are you serious? Get up where?
– There, between the sack and the butthole.
– Come on now, are you delirious?
– I’m just trying to figure out what the megaphone is for.
– Listen to me, there must be a mistake. It’s ludicrous, how are they asking us to…
– Ah! I get it, it’s to warn the people below when the nutsack is about to fall.
– Are you really buying into this? It must be a joke!
– Yeah, there’s not enough bandage in case we get massive hemorrhage.
– Here comes the manager. Let me have a word with him.
– Gentlemen, something preventing you from working?
– Listen, my buddy here says we have to castrate the sky. I believe there is some kind of mistake.
– Yes, there’s not enough bandage there in case you get massive…
– No wait, sir! That’s not my point. Could you be so kind as to indicate where does the sky keep its private parts?
– Mr. Kobket, I don’t have time to lecture you on the anatomy of the heavens. I am certain it was a requirement in your studies to read Copernicus’ work on the heavenly spheres.
– Unfortunately I have not, but it’s plain common sense that the sky lacks sexual organs. Am I missing out on something?
At this point the conversation enters anomalous levels of absurdity. We will not make preposterous demands on the credibility of the reader. Any educated person will recognize that Mr. Kobket was the only sane, one could as well say, grounded person of the pack. No one has ever observed, much less imagined, the sky swinging two gigantic azure balls over the horizon as it makes its way from daylight to twilight. No one has ever seen a rugged celestial bulge shrinking in timidity when exposed to the chilly currents of a winter gale. No one has ever seen two brilliant disks twitching as the sky ejaculates lightning and moans in thunder. No one has ever smelled the musk and sweat of glands rubbing day and night against the thighs of clouds. No airplane has ever become entangled in a web of ethereal filaments proceeding from the pubescence of the firmament. Not one, not in a thousand years, not in a thousand years.
(photo by Ryan Moss)
The day began like all others. With a loud quack coming from my mouth– the refusal to leave the ecstasy of profound sleep. The clock ticked with its usual indefatigable persistence as I stole the last dreams from the reservoir of Morpheus’ cave.
My laziness was sensational. I remained in bed worrying about how little I had to worry about. I had no plans, no obligations. Blinking my eyes was my sole responsibility. Had inertia won the battle today my relaxed body would have remained in bed all day – my mind contemplating empty thoughts.
But my body broke wind so violently and repulsively, I could have fainted from its deadly smell!
I stood up resolutely and began roaming about. What could I say, what could I do? Everything has already been said, everything has been done. What is left in a world that had exhausted all its possibilities?
There was one and only one unobjectionable conclusion. Trash. I was utterly convinced that I could find something new in the rubbish people left behind.
I thought, ‘Everything has been documented but trash’
And so I began,
What a pity! Dozens of humans walking up and down the street and this poor half-eaten pear laid in agony while a battalion of bacteria was slowly devouring its entrails. I watched it as if it were a bird that had been shot and there is nothing to do but wait for its inevitable death. The tender white sweet flesh tempted no one to have another bite, its seductiveness had been mutilated by the carelessness of… who?
11.00am/a Tuesday/1933 – Niels Bohr approached slowly the door of his old beloved. He had struggled to make each step, as he knew it was the last time he would see his long-time lover. Had he become a devil? Sacrificing the love of a woman for the pleasure of knowledge? It didn’t really matter. He was a scientist– isn’t science immeasurably more important than love?
Such thoughts were crossing his mind as he passed by Grundtvigs Kirke. He gazed up at the monstrous church,
And these were his thoughts:
‘They should have made the arrows point downward. The electron emits light when it goes to a lower atomic orbit, not to a higher one. If they are looking for the light of God they should find it here on earth – not in the ethereal space of their imagination…’
Mr. Bohr had always a propensity to mix his scientific genius with philosophical and theological issues. For thirty five seconds he was distracted from his frightful destination. Once he reached it he told Helle he would never see her again.
Why am I telling you about this? Because Helle almost commited suicide that night. She called on Jens, a boyfriend of hers before Niels, and he came over and they made love all night. Helle became pregnant and bore a child, Morten. By 1963, when Morten was nearly thirty he opened a fancy vegetable shop in the neighborhood. In 2007, at the age of seventy-three, he was still behind the counter selling fruits and vegetables. He was a kind old man and would give out free fruits to the kids that came to the shop. A young immigrant boy from Iraq had purchased three kilos of onions today and Morten gave the boy a complimentary pear as a treat. The boy took the gift without excitement, had three or four bites of the pear and then threw it to the ground thirty seven minutes before I walked up this street in search of neglected things.
By one o’clock in the warm afternoon of May 21, 2007, I entered upon the gardens of the museum of art. What did I find there. Two things:
A plastic straw with a red stripe. I know how it got here, but I won’t bore you with such details. I will only say it involves a bicycle, a hooker from Ethiopia and the pearls of Margrethe II (current queen of Denmark). But more importantly I began to notice something as I made my second insignificant encounter of the day. The small neglected garbage of the streets had something peculiar. It was charming—how sad and beautiful a straw under the open skies could be. It was sad and beautiful because it was unnoticed. It remained undisturbed in the nothingness of the ground. The world around it had some value, some purpose, but this straw now useless under the blades of grass had nowhere to go, nothing to do…
I could not bear the weight of my thoughts any longer. I was at the verge of weeping senselessly for wastes. What sort of foolishness had taken hold of me?I walked up to the tracks. Ways, paths, journeys and returns.
Immediately my vanity came parading into the scene and twisted the meaning of my words. Foolishness? Senseless tears? Of course not, it is sensibility, aesthetic appreciation for the small realities of life. Out of pride or vanity my mind conjured up justifications and arguments to validate my behavior. Yes, indubitably, doesn’t it happen to all of us? But I was tired of flattering myself. Was it of any consequence to think all these things, to become aware of all this emptiness?
Everything’s said, Everything’s done
They go and they come.
Do they know what for?
Out the window they stare
Out of boredom they glare
What is this mirage,
They call life –ignored.
Certainly much comes from nothing. If it hadn’t been for a visceral explosion this morning I would have remained in bed. I got up decidedly to invent the purpose of a new day. To reveal something new that might have been irrevocably lost in the dark domains of oblivion.
At last I made it to the beach. In company of flying birds I stared at the calm waters as the fading light of the sun wrestled in the small crests and troughs of the seawater.
I often think that I think too much. My kindred float passively in the mellow currents of the water whereas I spend my days in search of something more profound than the shallow depths of the shore. My relatives reproached me for coming too near to humans, ‘that beastly parasitic race’ they call them. But I’ve found much that is agreeable in the human world, and although I don’t belong to it I hope I can visit it without impertinence. I see much more of their world down here at one foot from the ground. I hope my words will be received as something more than mere quackery. A duck has much more to say than just QUACK.
I will retire now. Those that will like to visit me can do so every afternoon at six o’clock at the small beach in Hellerup. I am a Mallard duck, with a metallic green head and neck separated from my purplish-brown breast by a white ring. Do not fear to wake me from my deep trances when I stare out into the open sea. I do often for I am in pursuit of something, something I cannot yet come to define.
Brave, defiant Contristo walked under the sharp but harmless leaves of the gloomy jungle. The ceiling of the forest was completely covered with thick branches of trees and the dense population of their leaves. The tenebrous darkness made the journey the more frightening, the unknown waiting for him at every corner. A beam or two of light would pierce the great darkness with its blaze as the wind opened a tiny slit in the heights. These arrows of translucent light reminded Contristo of the world he left seven years ago. At the age of twelve he was forced to enter this labyrinth, to follow an aimless course, to hunt after an unrevealed destiny. But the world he had left so many years ago was still bright in his memory, those endless hours of play and spontaneous happiness. The intense winds of adolescence had thrust him into this dark adventure. The old world had come apart, his new life was nothing other than wandering through the inextricable dangers of the forest. It was a difficult journey as strange gruesome animals threatened his survival, challenged his sanity.
Contristo’s world is not an ordinary world. A human could never recognize this world, not even in his dreams. The creatures that constitute this world are beyond the imagination of the wildest fantasies of fiction. The corruption of their forms would be the most painful sight, a holocaust for our eyes. Their voices would enter our ears like molten rock down the auditory canal, their shrieks worst than a thousand cries of despair coming from Dante’s Inferno. The sting of their fangs more deadly than any earthly creature. Poor and lost Contristo had to face numberless dangers on his way, when forced to leave the joy of childhood to meet the dangers of advancing youth.
Towards the end of the seventh year Contristo started to notice a change in his environment. Patches of sky would appear more often and the nightmarish insects were fewer and fewer. Until finally, exactly on the last full moon of his seventh traveling year, he came upon a valley. The jungle was left behind and he could observe at the distance a huge ominous castle, majestically sitting at the center of the valley. Certainly, he thought, this is my unforeseen destination.
Contristo approached the monumental structure and at the foot of the tall gates there stood two gigantic trolls, weapon in hand, guarding the entrance from any intruder. As Contristo came closer to these beastly creatures, he became sick and repelled by the dripping pus of their bodies, the green drool from their mouths and their stink of decaying meat. “HALT, you shall not pass!” thundered the voice of both guards. Stupefied and trembling, Contristo spoke:
For seven years the winds of youth have blown
In maze and confusion I have not known
What distant goal was set for my life
Woe, my journey’s been nothing but strife.
In your castle some great good I must gain
Open your gates so all won’t be in vain!
The giant monsters gazed thoughtfully at this wretched creature. Then, in obedience to their duty, replied:
The gates of Veritas are out of reach
For those that cannot breach
The ancient riddle we now recite
‘This thing all things devours;
From the farthest suns to the nearest flowers;
The powerful king too must one day know
Defeat and loss against this invincible foe’
Answer correctly or retreat in fright.
Swiftly Contristo retorted:
Experience, mother of knowledge
To you I now pledge
If my answer be in the right
I will forever trust in your light
Guards, the riddle is sublime
My answer is: TIME.
The gates opened for Contristo, who was too well acquainted with the expanse of time. In the echoing solitude, his steps marked the ticking of the seconds as he gazed the high towers inside. At the heart of the castle a lofty dome shone with precious gold and crimson gems. Contristo gathered that under that huge vault his secret fate must lie.
He stepped into the glorious building and surveyed the ornamental complexity of the walls, patterns of exquisite beauty. Then, at last, his long journey reached its summit when he saw under the colossal dome a sight he will never forget. From the ceiling hanged an object he had never seen before, faintly glowing with a sort of musical flow. He approached it, but he was not alone. From the other end of the room he could now see another creature too was approaching the sacred object. He slowed his pace but continued to come nearer until he was face to face with his silent companion. Contristo then spoke to him but the other would only mimic his own speech. Then he moved to one side and the stranger did exactly like him. In an initiative to be kind he extended his arm to salute his companion. His partner was too quick and the tip of their hands would always collide, never allowing him to take the other’s hand. Contristo was paralyzed by a sort of fear and just gazed at the stranger. He looked into his eyes and he could see nothing but an abysmal sadness, a look of despair, a cry for help. He saw a fragile and feeble creature, lost and confused, joyless, utterly joyless…
It was then that he realized he was looking at a reflection of himself. And his thoughts began to weave the path of his future, treading the first steps in the unending journey of self-discovery.
‘Tis this sadness I saw reflected
And merciless was my despair
This brittle body so dejected
Home of the burden I will bear
In these eyes of crystal sorrow
Lies the grand secret of tomorrow
To understand the elusive mystery
The whole of my wretched history
Let today mark the beginning
The essential for all the living
To glimpse and savor the question
How to find one’s true expression
Finding myself always in travel
Among the marvels of existence
As the smoke of time will unravel
What is at an approaching distance.
As if a long dreary dream had vanished like a dark cloud blown away by warm winds, the dim and vague dome of winter skies was lifted and fresh vivid rays from the sun basked the city with a joyful promise: a blossoming Spring was on its way. That long dream of darkness and chill was receding slowly into the past and along with it the sad and gloomy emotions that had conquered the lives of the creatures imprisoned by the cold and abysmal dark. Springing from an unknown source, like tiny white flowers peeking out in an ocean of green grass, words rose afloat in the consciousness of Mr. Vår, provoking him to hum the melody of his poetry as he strolled along the crisp blue sea. The awareness that sprung from the warm radiance of the sun was confirming one of Mr. Vår’s most optimistic assumptions; life was dear and enjoyable. Sea gulls suspended in the air, dogs playing in the sand, newcomer infants free to discover their new planet, Spring allowed earthly creatures to roam freely without the sting of winter’s cold. Hour and minute needles made their rotation round the clock’s axis and Mr. Vår aimlessly enjoyed his leisure. A cup of Chai tea, a fluffy white cloud, and the quivering of leafless tree branches were the pleasant impressions that struck deep in Mr. Vår’s perceptions of the day. As if the frightful command of daily duties was a forgotten myth of ancient history, the first part of the day was spent in trivial activities that far from emptying his spirit enriched it with new vigor. The complexity of life was reduced to the sipping of hot tea, taking deep breaths, rubbing a smooth pebble within his palm. The brief conversations with amicable strangers flowed like short pieces of Debussy’s piano preludes.
As the day progressed Mr. Vår fell into a lazy reverie. Rejuvenated by the richness of the sun’s light his steps seem lighter, closely resembling the hops of a small Goldcrest bird. He found his way through the city’s plaza, brimming with cheerful people and lost in the tides of idle pedestrians he gave rein to his memory. Transported through time in the lucidity of unclouded remembrance – Mr. Vår alone in the attic, smoking from his pipe, drinking his chilly whiskey, reviewing papers of bygone years, wind carrying unbearable temperatures, hail disturbing the sound of silence, alone in the attic, Mr. Vår.
Winter, slayer of light and color, had blurred the gay images of a warm autumn life. Trapped in the small confines of a wooden attic, restless as he poured all his weakened strength into completing his memoirs. In his most dejected moments he suspected the effort was in vain. A life, one in piles of numberless generations, one life recorded – for what? But Mr. Vår trusted the evidence of his years, the heights of his passion for life, the fathomless cliffs of his suffering, his message of hope to his people, his nation, his world. How urgent was the need to preserve his experience as an anonymous man, torn by the cruelty of solitude yet endured by his relentless attention to the question: what is life? His doubts were brushed away, guilt of pride withered away. It mattered not who had lived it, but that it was lived. Fully, totally.
Mr. Vår picked his memories of wintertime like fallen apples on a country field. The torture of writing his reflections on life, of reliving the pain and despair, the fear of death and the misery of lost loves, was observed from a distance- like standing on top of the pharos of Alexandria and making out the ships that came from other civilizations, bringing with them rare riches.
Fire crackling, the cold in his veins and a rough blanket covering his fragile old body. The years had swept away legions of dear faces, happy moments, and astounding dreams. What was left was a near carcass enveloped by the cold dark air of a winter’s night. But still a faint light glared in the menace of dark extinction, his memory, though severely battered by time, retained the core of his experiences and as the last ticking second of the clock of his life came closer, his passion was poured out through the tip of his pen. The candle on his desk flickered to and fro resisting its death when a strong breeze came gushing down from the chimney. The light of his memory similarly faced extinction, battling with the ailments of old age and fatal disease.
Mr. Vår found a resting place under the oblique shadow of a big Beech tree. The sun had traveled more than half across the dome of the sky. The memories of this winter’s past resumed. They were lonely nights. Uneventful. Searching for elegant words as you would search the beach for shiny pebbles. Retracing the steps of his life, reviewing old notes and unlocking repressed emotions. Then finding the words to express all of that. All of that which is inexpressible. Why? Mr. Vår had no definite answer. As futile as it was to record the fluidity of his experience with the rigidity of words he had no other choice. Language can at least communicate, however imperfectly, the inward life of any person. What no eyes can see, no hand can touch, the true experience of life as felt by everyone inside the dome of the skull, the moment of life – what no word can describe but merely point to it.
Before the sun set in the glaring sea, before the final light of the day revealed to human eyes the variety of color in this world, before the starry night came sliding over Mr. Vår, he walked back to the shore, in search of a last moment of tranquility. The great body of water in motion. A chaotic yet comforting spectacle. The sun drawing near to meet the distant arc of the earth, to sink behind the gigantic mass of this rotating orb.
Mr. Vår struggled through those last freezing nights to rise from bed and continue his project. Life was leaving his body, draining with each sentence, with each memory. But as Spring approached an unknown force reappeared in the marrow of his bones, a new vitality was felt as the final apothegms were being inked. He remembered those last days when he was closer and closer to finishing his work, he felt a second opportunity to live, to savor the fullness of life before he must submit to his ultimate departure.
The sun gliding down like a droplet of water down a window pane. A satisfied day. A satisfied life. He had finished his work after all, he was free just to live the new springtime. The memory of previous Springs came to mind but the moment refused comparison. It was the beginning of a new cycle, a new journey. When the last brim of the fiery star could be seen, Mr. Vår closed his eyes, abandoned all memory of himself, utter no thought to himself and in a profound silence experienced something he could never describe.
THE HAPPY TRAVELER
(A short story)
I was a very fortunate young individual. My upbringing is a cluster of joyful memories as far as my historical sight can recall. The turbulent and violent times of adolescence were for me but an ongoing spring in which I found here and there only beautiful flowers and never one vile weed. My propensity to melancholy and distress is so insignificant that I cannot remember anything in my life that has made me stumble to the ground in fluent tears. The sky of my life has always been clear and bright and never one dark cloud has disturbed the happiness that fills me. I have always felt like the wind, so light and free that no Wall of China could put a halt to it. Having such a fortunate condition I made the best of it. I decided to travel around the world to discover the glorious joy that envelops our planet.
My travels were extensive and meticulous. I persistently endeavored to cross the smallest village as well as the most monumental metropolis. I saw the great variety of habits that consume the hours of men and women, the wonderful imaginations for constructing their homes and monuments, the delightful multiplicity of languages, and the different shades of faces that belong to each race. Not long after my departure I was convinced of the richness of life in this planet and this strengthened my belief that the world is a beautiful place.
What I loved most of all was to talk to the people. Of all the long list of topics that was the matter of my discussions the one I enjoyed the most was Religion. I found all religions equally beautiful; they had such a wealth of poetic visions and profound meanings. The most startling thing was that the religion would change even after a day’s walking distance. It was evident that mankind has been everywhere and at all times an artistic creature wont to express the deepest mysteries of the universe in an arabesque of images. I learned about gods that are kings, gods with more than one head, gods as big as the whole cosmos and others as small as pebbles! All this fascinated me profoundly since in my childhood and early years I never was acquainted with any imaginative representation of the world. In my land people did not attribute any sort of personality to the workings behind the universe. Everything was explained by the blind, brute, irrational forces of nature that had no attributes like those of the other gods. I never heard of the sun being carried by a chariot or of a reptilian deity that sends down the rain. All the facts of my natural world were a lackluster picture without any charm or mystery.
I remember once I had a heated conversation with a believer of a god that was monarch of the whole universe. This god created the world out of nothing and brought to life all that we see around us. The old man told me this god was involved still today in the affairs of men and women. The god had given us codes of conduct and we were to obey these laws otherwise we could end up in a dreary place. However, the god promised wonderful treasures to those that obeyed him and loved him. I asked him how did this story originated and the old man told me of a book inked by men who were inspired by the wisdom of their god. The book contained the word of his god and it spoke of a human-god that once visited this earth and delivered the whole world from the perpetual state of sin. I could not swerve my eyes for a moment as I heard with inexpressible wonder the intricate and aged history of this poetic vision of the world. After some attempt to convince me that this should be my belief also, I simply answered that I would carefully remember all that he said and when my travels are over, recall with joy his story and tell it to my friends. My new friend was a bit frustrated with me because he wanted me to accept this as a universal truth. At this moment, I could not very clearly understand what he meant by truth. All I knew was that this religion was as rich and profound as those I have heard of a universe without beginning or end in a perennial cycle of destruction and creation, or as the religion that claims that it is not a religion at all!
Since my return I have shared all of my experiences with my dear and close ones. I speak for nights on end about the jewels buried in the multifarious laughs of each country, the majestic landscapes gilded by the touch of the sun, and of the delicious creativity that goes into the food of all of the world’s strange and amiable people. My friends insist that I should record these adventures in a book so future comers will profit from my experience, but I feel this is not a wise choice. Instead of asking these newcomers to be readers stuck to a chair I would exhort them to open their sails and navigate through all of the furrowed land this tiny but lovable planet has to offer. Dear people of the future, do not read about the world – rise from your seats and explore the lush curves of our rotating orb!!!