Cookies, Cake and Pie

Cookies, Cake and Pie

The screams of delighted children fill the air. She sits up with the thought, Why am I sleeping in here? Seated upon a bed, to her right, a wall, the bed tucks away into a corner as she faces the one door in the room, and oddly enough, the door is made of glass with no curtain shielding her with privacy while she sleeps. The room, a mess, cluttered, clothes strewn about along with creepy little knick knacks she does not recognize, feels too large to be a bedroom. Wild sounds of many children playing, somewhere, penetrate her mind. Conscious now, she turns in the bed to search through the only window in the space. She’s not sure if “window” is the right word, since the “window” seems to be more like a glass portion of wall, from floor to ceiling, only slightly wider than the width of the bed. There, through the window, as she’ll remain to consider it for the time being, children play but not outside. Housed within a room with which her room presumably shares the wall that supports the window through which she looks into the adjacent room is filled with children, running, screaming, playing a sort of chase and freeze game. Kneeling now upon the bed, hands clutching the top of the headboard as she peers, confused, through the window at the playing children, one child spots her and runs toward the window. She sees and hears an adult’s muffled yell for the child. Rebellious, the child continues toward the window. Just as the child reaches a distance close enough to reach out and touch the glass, the child kicks the glass instead, laughs as she jumps a bit, and then bolts away toward the adult who called for the child only a moment earlier. She watches the children for an unknowable amount of time.

A person enters the room and breaks her transfixed state. The voice of the person registers immediately within her mind. No. She almost refuses to turn but to no avail, her mother moves to stand beside the bed, within her peripheral vision, she cannot refuse to see her mother standing there. “Attila,” the mother repeats; “Darling, you must return to your classes today. No one wants to cover your duties any longer. You’re putting undue tension upon the situation here.” Attila sits and faces her mother, head tilted down so as not to make eye contact. Confused still, Attila looks back toward the window that reveals the small children at play. The glass is but solid wall now. No longer feeling the feelings of confusion, Attila looks at her mother and states calmly, “Yes, mother.” The mother silently leaves. Immediately aware of this fold in reality that she’s experiencing, Attila rushes to get her bags packed.

Unsure of what items truly belong to her, she simply piles in a few of the things she believes she will need. As she stuffs piece after piece of clothing into a large duffel-type bag, another woman appears at the door. Friend or foe? The woman knocks on the door while glancing directly at Attila through the glass. She does not wish to open the door and so continues to gather some things. Helping herself into the room, the woman at the door cracks the door open, “Hey, Attila. I’m Ney Teacher. I was told to summon you for your cooking class with the attendant adults.” Attila bolts over her right shoulder to get a look at Ney. “What?” Ney begins to repeat herself, “You teach a cooking class that begins in a few minutes. I was told to fetch you.” “By whom?” “I’m sorry?” Ney asks, confused. “Who told you to get me?” Attila clarifies. “Manager Teacher,” Ney decidedly responds in truth. “Dammit,” Attila spits under her breath, and then speaks, “I’ll be right there.” “Okay, great. Thanks,” Ney confirms as the door closes. I cannot stay here, she thinks to herself, but she cannot imagine a way out. How did I even get here in the first place? One cannot travel without the other, and the probability that She ended up here is too small. How did this even happen? She decides that there’s nothing much else that she can do for the moment except to go along with however this goddamn day unfolds. But then she feels a sickening pain in the pit of her stomach. She begins to understand much about something she cannot quite understand. Uneasy, she grabs the bag she packed and resolves to go to the cooking classroom located somewhere she does not know. Fuck it, she thinks as she pushes the door to the room.

Her right hand crosses her body as she reaches for the handle of the door with that same right hand. As she opens the door, the door swings wide sweeping outwards and away from her through space as it creates a semi-circular motion allowing her to enter the new space. Immediately, she realizes that the door itself opens into some sort of industrial-type kitchen, large, rectangular, with three solid walls, the longest of which houses the door into the space through which Attila just walked, and its, the longest wall’s, parallel showcases a pattern of tall, slender windows broken by solid pillars that stretch the entire length of the wall. The wall of windows looks almost like the keys of a piano. Ah, this again, she perceives. She takes a deep breath, drops the bag to the left of the door as she enters so that it, the bag, may be easily grabbed upon her exit. Hands free now, she assesses the room filled with people she does not know, or maybe she does. The knowing eludes her at the moment. With only one thing pressing hard upon her mind, she knows that this time must pass quickly, as quickly as possible. She scans the faces for a superficial analysis, three women, who look like they’re related, tall, slender, blonde, and three ordinary-looking men, of various heights and widths. Couples? she wonders to herself.

Thus, she skips any sort of introductions, and begins, “What are we all learning today? Do any of you know, or was this class sold to you as a surprise?” The shortest of the three males is pale but attractive enough. He raises his hand but begins speaking before Attila acknowledges him, “We’re all under the impression that this is a class about how to make chocolate cake or some kind of dessert.” What the hell is this? she considers once more and not for the last time within only a moment.

“Very good,” Attila pretends while she searches for a clue. She manages to notice that she stands behind, what seems to be, an instructor’s setup and concludes that she must be standing in the right place. “Shall we begin?” she musters, and continues to scan the countertop, “Ah, yes, here are copies of the recipe we will be executing today.” Walking around the kitchen/classroom now, she hands each “student” a sheet with the recipe for, Who the hell knows, she mulls in her mind. One of the women raises her hand, “Ma’am. Aren’t you going to introduce yourself?” “It doesn’t matter,” Attila responds and then adds, “Call me whatever you’d like.” At this command, the widest of the three men pipes in, “This recipe’s called ‘Attila’s Fudge Fountain.’ Are you Attila?” “Like I said, it doesn’t matter, but if it makes you feel better to know who I am, then sure, consider me Attila,” Attila sighs as she makes her way back to the front of the kitchen-classroom. “Alright,” Attila begins; “let’s get started. Go ahead and read the ingredients aloud and make sure you recognize everything.” “Ma’am?” a different woman this time meekly asks. “Yes?” Attila attends. “Our recipe is not for cake. It’s some sort of pie?” “Oh,” Attila recognizes a twinge of some remembrance; “Yes, you are all making some different sort of dessert. So, go ahead and read the ingredients list, and then, if you know what everything is, go ahead and collect all of your necessary ingredients. Everything should be here within the kitchen. If you can’t find something, let me know. Ask a fellow classmate first, however. Begin.” The students, paired off into sets each including one male and one female, meander throughout the kitchen collecting everything they need to make whatever it is that’s named at the top of their recipe sheet.

Attila, uncertain and anxious, sits for a moment on the stool provided behind her instructor’s workstation. She feels the pull of herself against the air of time within the room. Slowly, the room begins to shift from its rectangular shape into a spherical dome. The students continue their task. Unknowing, Attila can hear the murmurs of the older woman but cannot hear what she says. Thus, she focuses her mind to see if she can read the older woman instead. Nothing. She is angry, Attila confesses. There’s someone else there now, too, but Attila cannot recognize the person. Harder now, Attila concentrates on the other presence, It couldn’t be. That would be impossible. And then the reality of her situation hits her again cold, Yes, of course, but then again, here I am. So then, what does the old man want now? Attila focuses in with all her might. Within the normalcy of the kitchen-classroom, Attila attends to the whims of the students.

After all of the students have their respective desserts in the oven for the allotted amount of time, they mingle amongst themselves, some even leave the room for a break. Eventually, Attila returns to the instructor’s counter and sits herself down upon the stool. After a short to medium amount of time ranging from a few minutes to more than a few minutes, Attila falls off the stool onto the ground. The two taller males rush toward her and try to wake her. Finally, Attila hears the words, The three have travelled together, but the one who remains arrived of his own volition. The old man, Attila immediately realizes, but then immediately remembers that this must be a fabrication for, I cannot know what she knows while she knows it. She wakes. Rectangular again, the room stretches itself back into its known state. Two males stand over her. “Are you alright, ma’am?” the taller of the two, although, really, they are basically the same height. “Yes,” Attila responds as she sits up; “I’m fine, thank you.” Refusing the help of the two males, she stands, repositions the stool, sits down upon the stool and returns her attention to the trite task at hand. “So, have you all gathered and collected your ingredients?” she asks as if nothing happened. “Are you sure you’re alright?” one of the women asks. “Yes,” Attila responds with a feigned smile; “I’m fine.” “Well, ma’am,” the same woman explains, “We’re all finished with making our desserts. Don’t you remember helping us? We’re just waiting for them to bake.” Attila takes this revelation in for a minute. “Ah, yes. Sorry,” Attila admits; “I must’ve bumped my head a little. Of course I remember. How much longer do your delicacies have left to bake?” The one woman who hasn’t spoken yet states, “Ours had the longest bake time, and we have about twenty minutes left.” “Great,” Attila states with an air that matches that of eye rolling. Once she hears the word leave her mouth, Attila clears her throat and attempts to mask her distractedness with a joyful tone, “Where are these delightful concoctions headed once they’re finished?” The students look at each other as if this lady’s crazy. Then, the woman who speaks the most answers, “Ma’am, we’re taking them all to the student banquet right after this class. Remember?” Frustrated and a little pissed, Attila rolls her lips into her mouth and gently bites down, “Yes, right, silly me.”

The first of the egg timers rings loudly and almost bounces off the respective students’ countertop. Attila feels the pull of her duties as the instructor and walks over to the oven belonging to the first set of students. “Ah, those look great,” Attila musters through a cheerful voice; “Gently remove them from the pan with a spatula and let them cool on the baking rack.” A few minutes later, the next egg timer rings loudly and almost bounces off the respective students’ countertop. The pang of repetition nauseates Attila. Nauseated, she takes a subtle, deep breath, walks toward the next oven. “Go ahead, open the oven. Grab a toothpick,” Attila instructs. The female of the couple grabs a toothpick. “Now,” Attila advises; “stick the toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, it’s done.” The female nods and enacts the instruction, “Clean,” the female states, excitedly and shows the toothpick to both Attila and the male. “Looks good, indeed. Grab the pan then and place it on the cooling rack,” Attila continues. “Once it’s cooled, you can pop it out of its pan and then place the cake itself on the cooling rack and glaze it with the ganache. You made the ganache, right?” Attila asks while looking around their countertop area for the proof. “Yes, it’s right here,” the male points out. “Excellent. You’ll probably have to wait another twenty minutes or so for everything to cool,” turning now to address all of the students, “You will all have to wait for everything to cool.” Attila points at the first couple, “You should be about ready now to frost those cookies,” and then she turns back to the cake couple, “You can set another timer or just wait.” Everyone nods in acknowledgement.

The third and final egg timer rings out. Attila’s stomach turns over. She almost hurls all over the second couple’s finished product. “Ma’am? Are you alright,” the same woman asks yet again. Attila waves a hand to abate the woman. Waiting patiently, the last couple stands, waits for Attila to instruct them. “Wait one more minute,” Attila instructs; “It’s an old baker’s secret. Do you have the melted butter ready?” The male and female who made the dessert both nod in unison, “Yes, ma’am.” A minute later, “Okay. Pull it out now, gently. Golden brown?” “I’d say so,” the male of the set confirms. “Perfect. Set the pan on the counter and then place just the pie pan on the cooling rack,” Attila instructs. The couple complies. “Excellent,” Attila congratulates; “Now, with the pastry brush, while it’s still hot, brush some melted butter on the edge of the crust.” Again, the couple follows the instructions enthusiastically. Once the couple finishes slathering their dessert in even more butter, all of the students wait and impatiently look at their delicacies for the final instruction. “Okay, now you all need to find an appropriate serving dish or platter for your respective desserts, and then I guess we’ll all just walk to wherever the banquet’s happening together,” Attila states aloud to the entire class. The students murmur back and to each other as they figure out the best way to transport their goods.

Liminal Illumination II

Liminal Illumination II

“Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to the GBC’s season opener! I’m Burke Doris here with Climpt Timothson in Big City, State, watching the Homes put on a show with the Aways. It’s a tied game, folks. So, it’s no surprise that the starters are back in it for this fourth and final quarter of this thrilling basketball game. Niece, Whitele, Gora, Brateck and Tacit are on the floor with Funne, Swind, Hopper, Phael and Chime. The arena is truly electric tonight, don’t you think, Climpt?”

“Why yes indeed, Burke, with these two great teams opening the season for us, it’s always great to watch such a close game.”

“Who do you think’s going to win it? Oh! And Niece easily throws one down for three. Swind takes it back down the court, and oh my goodness, it’s a lob to Phael! Oh, no good.”

“I think that either team has a good chance tonight, Burke. At this point, it’s anyone’s game. But, if I’m being really honest, the Homes seem to have a bit more energy as we enter this final twelve.”

“Yes, I couldn’t agree more. And Hopper’s posting up, but Gora is just too slippery. He lays it in. Even though the game has changed leads about every two minutes so far, it’s clearly the Homes who are dominating now.”

“Yes, sir. This is where the stamina matters a lot. Do you think the bench will get much more time or will the coaches not take the risk?”

“It’s tough to say, Climpt. If I were coaching, it’d be one tough decision. And there goes Swind again, running the length of the court. Will he dunk? Yes! And he throws it down hard.”

“You hate to be the guy under Swind when he jumps it up for a jam.”

“You sure do. You sure do. Now Niece sets up Whitele for another three … and … it’s good!”

“Wow, everyone really is playing like it’s the Finals.”

“Yea, it’s surprising to see this much energy on the first night, but boy, is it exciting.”

“Maybe it’s a sign for a nitty-gritty season.”

“Oh, look here, with the Homes up five points, Niece is coming out for a rest.”

“Interesting. Well, it seems like it’ll be alright for the moment. Funne for the Aways just missed his two free throws.”

“At two and twelve for the night, it might be time to sit Funne out for good. It’s not a good time for an off night, but his defensive skills can’t be ignored.”

“That’s for sure, and yes, absolutely.”

“Alright, well stick around, we’ll return after a word from our sponsors.”

. . .

“The Big Year, GBC season opener is sponsored in part by: Big Name Electronics, serving you and all your game-day needs, Big Name Sporting, gearing up all the greats, including you, and by Big Name Car, taking you the distance.”

“Don’t just watch the game, be part of it. With Big Name Electronics the Big Name TV of your dreams will come true. Watch all your favorite superstars from Davis Whitele to Marshall Funne. No matter who you’re cheering for, we’re cheering for you. Big Name Electronics, serving you and all your game-day needs.”

. . .

“We’re back at the Big City Arena! I’m Burke Doris, here with Climpt Timothson, and an odd little thing happened during the break.”

“It sure did, Burke. The officials had to consult the replay center on the foul committed by Davis Whitele on Marshall Funne. They are notorious rivals who played for the two Big College teams last year, who faced each other in the championship for the big win.”

“Yes, it was a tough time for them when they were drafted into the GBC, but everyone sort of thought they’d let the past die down now that they’re both in the big leagues, Climpt.”

“Well, no player ever forgets a big loss, but it would’ve been nice to see them work it out before the season began.”

“As competitors, though, I’ll say they make for some good basketball, am I right?”

“You sure are, Burke.”

“Getting an update now from the refs, and it looks like they’re saying Funne was actually fouled before the shot, but Funne missed those free throws anyway. They’ll just have to redact the foul against Whitele.”

“Can we just get back to the game? At seventy-five to seventy, the Homes are up by five with a healthy amount of game left to play. Do you think both teams can keep up this severe defensive strategy for the rest of the game?”

“Who knows. It’s possible, right? Anything really is with eight minutes left to play, but it seems like the Homes are getting into the Aways heads a little bit. I mean with Funne not shooting anything really, he’s taking a backseat to Swind’s shooting and the sheer power of Phael. If anything, Funne needs to keep supporting the team and making plays. You know, let the other guys finish.”

“Ha, yea, that would seem like the best thing to do.”

“Speaking of sheer power, Phael dunks it down again hard. Oh but an offensive foul. Whitele will take the ball down. Looks like they’re slowing the pace of the game down.”

“That’s what you want to do when you’re up.”

“But the question remains: Will the Aways push the pace? And Chime with the steal; he throws it ahead to Phael, but it’s knocked loose. Hopper’s on it. No, he throws it away.”

“Man, you gotta just lay that in when you’re under the basket.”

“I guess that answers my question. Doesn’t look like the Aways want to push the pace. Whitele again with the ball; oh my goodness! What a spin move with a hard pass to Niece with the reverse lay up.”

“Yeup. That’s how you finish. Doesn’t matter who’s got the ball. If you can’t finish, you can’t win against these guys.”

“That does seem like what the pre-season showed us. And a timeout by the Aways. Looks like no rest for the weary. But for us, we’re gonna take a break. Stay tuned! We’ll be back after this quick word from our sponsors.”

. . .

“The Big Year, GBC season opener is sponsored in part by: Big Name Electronics, serving you and all your game-day needs, Big Name Sporting, gearing up all the greats, including you, and by Big Name Car, taking you the distance.”

“Hey, aren’t you Jace Phael?”

“Sure am, kid. Who are you?”

“Uh, I’m …”

“Hey you don’t gotta be nervous. I’m just a regular guy. See look, we got the same Big Name kicks on, and I’ll bet you what…”

“What!”

“I bet we got ‘em at the same place.”

“Really? You shop at Big Name Sporting?”

“Yea, little man. Where else would I get these Big Name shoes? Nowhere else but at Big Name Sporting.”

“Wow!”

“So, see, be cool, kid.”

“Thanks, Jace.”

“Even the greatest athletes buy their Big Name shoes at Big Name Sporting. Big Name Sporting, gearing up all the greats, including you.”

. . .

“Here we are for the first night of regular-season basketball in Big City Arena. I’m Burke Doris, here with Climpt Timothson. Climpt, I think it’s probably safe to say that this game’s coming to a quick close.”

“Yea, Burke Doris, with the Homes pulling away with one hundred two points, it doesn’t look like the Aways are going to make up those fifteen points in the last two minutes, but who knows. They’re fighters.”

“Well it was a quiet night for the Homes’ big man, Kimber Tacit, so he’s still in while Davis Whitele and Solomon Niece take a quick rest. Marshall Funne and Jace Phael are still hitting the floor pretty hard, while Russell Hopper and Porter Chime sit out for an, assumedly short rest.”

“I guess, the safe question to ask is: What happened to the Aways? It was such a close game until these last few moments.”

“Well, all coaches know that the psychological aspect of the game is just as demanding as the physical. Maybe the Aways simply being on the road wore them out to the ferocity of the Homes. And Brateck easily lays one in. Swind slowly brings the ball down, passes to Funne, interception by Tav Gora whom we haven’t seen much of tonight except as a stealer. Apparently, though, that’s a serious contribution. Gora passes to Tacit who gently jumps that one in from under the rim.”

“It looks like the Aways have all but given it up to the Homes. What a shame.”

“Well, that’s all from all of us here at Big City Arena where the Homes lock up the first victory of this GBC season. We will see you all in two nights from now in the Next City Arena for, what should be an epic matchup between the Them’s and Us’s! Thanks to all our sponsors at Big Name Electronics, Big Name Sporting, and Big Name Cars. Good night!”

. . .

“This has been a presentation of GBC, brought to you by Big Name Cars.”

“Big Name Cars, taking you the distance.”

“What does it take to go the distance as a GBC player? Well, I’m Davis Whitele, and when I get in my Big Name Car, I’m full of confidence that it will take me where I need to go. Where do I want to go? All the way. To win it, you gotta go the distance.”

“Big Name Cars, taking you the distance.”

[continued here and on Medium most weekends]

Liminial Illumination

Liminial Illumination

“Hello, everybody! I thought that I would just check in with you all today with this video here to share my meditations on beauty and my daily regimen of the ‘Four Hs’ for sanity. I know that the world is a busy place that becomes busier with each passing day, and I also know how important it is to feel your best, to be your best self, and for me that always includes looking my best. If I don’t look good, I definitely don’t feel good. So, this is what I’ve done for all you beauties who want to succeed every day at life.

“First off, I’ve compiled a checklist of the ‘Four Hs’ that you must complete by the end of each day in order to find the balance that I have finally found after all these years of building my expertise on beauty and what that means. They are so important that not only have I outlined what each ‘H’ stands for along with its essence, I’ve also researched the best products that you can use in order to see the quickest results. The important thing to remember is that beauty belongs to you. Whatever you define beauty as is what beauty means to you. So, feel free to use this video as a guide to finding what you consider beautiful. Let’s get started shall we?”

“Hey, man, thanks so much for being here,” the host begins. “Oh yea, of course, it’s my pleasure,” guest one responds gratefully. “So, let’s just get started, shall we?” The guest nods in approval, “Yea, of course, why not!” “Great! So, I hear you have a concern that you’d like to share with all of us,” the host inquires. “Yea, you know how I’m sort of a big deal,” the guest sarcastically suggests as the audience laughs and cheers on cue. “Well, yes, I suppose you wouldn’t be here on my show if you weren’t,” the host complies. “Right. So, yea, I have this concern that has something to do with the color of your couches,” the guest continues. “Oh. I see, and what is it about the color of my couches that is of such great concern?” the host humors. “Yea, see look. I mean, your show is the only show I do watch on late-night television, and the thing I’ve sort of noticed is that a lot of your male guests wears suits that are very close to the color of your sofas, which sort of suggests that maybe the color of the sofas weren’t a great choice. I mean, it’s sort of distracting when a guest almost matches the couches. It makes the guest either look cheap, like, ‘Why does this guy own a suit the same color of sofas on a soundstage?,’ you know?” the guest explains. “Ah ha! I see what you mean. Yes, you, too, have fallen prey to the matchy-ness tonight,” the host jests. “No,” the guest clarifies, “I don’t lie, I watch your show, and look, my suit exactly matches the color of these couches. I even had my manager call your people to find out exactly what color these couches are so that I could buy a suit in exactly the same color. See, it’s like I’m part of your set,” the guest laughs forcibly. “Okay, okay. So, then what color are these couches?” the host asks curiously; “I genuinely don’t know.” “It’s cerulean!” the guest exuberantly states while cheering for himself. “Ah, I see. Well, I suppose there’s not much I can personally do about it, but I’ll be sure to bring it up at the next staff meeting,” the host concedes, and continues, “I’ve gotta say, you are the first person to mention this seemingly outrageous problem to our attention.” The guest feigns ignorance, “Am I really? Wow, that’s sort of incredible. Well, you know, I always just like to do what I can.” “That you do,” the host agrees, and directs, “Well, we have to take a quick break now, but maybe you can hang out with us a bit more and share more discrete observances. And then we’ll talk about why you’re really here. We’ll be right back, folks!”

“Later this year, if you don’t know it already, you know it now … the greatest movie of all time, featuring the greatest actors of all time, depicting the greatest moment of all time hits every big screen across and around the globe. Pay money to see it, or don’t see it at all! The Greatest Movie, Ever! Coming soon to a screen near you.”

“I always start my day around six-thirty in the morning. I usually wake up feeling relaxed and rejuvenated through the last step of each night, which will be the last step of this video. So, what I’m saying is that even though I wake up feeling so rested from my nightly routine, I don’t necessarily feel fresh and lively. Therefore, the most important part of my morning is the first ‘H’ — HYDRATION. Now, let me be clear, hydration is key throughout the entirety of your day, but hydrating fully, first thing in the morning, will change your life. I soooo totally promise. Since I’m such an avid supporter of keeping one’s self hydrated and well-lubricated to take on the day, I first sip water out of this Brand Name water bottle that sits on my nightstand after I fill it with fresh, filtered water the night before. When I wake up, I sit up in my bed and just drink as much water as I can. Sometimes I drink a little too much and then have a funny feeling stomach after my first cup of coffee, but that’s okay. I always feel much better after some breakfast.

“The next ‘H’ stands for HOLISTIC. When I think of holistics, I think wholeness, you know? Like I think of a full-body experience, and that experience comes in the form of a cleanliness. My favorite products come in a Brand Name set that includes cleansers and moisturizers for everything from my face all the way down to my toes. Obviously, the cleansing step needs to be gentlest on the face and strongest on the feet. So, this Brand Name set makes the whole, haha, get it, whole process really easy, which I think makes the system very holistic. There are six bottles included within the set, two for each area of the body. They’re color coded too, so the two face bottles are this gorgeous light blue, the body bottles are this incredible blue blue, and the foot bottles are this, almost like majestic, deep sea blue. Take the face bottles and just cleanse and then moisturize the face. Do the same on your body and your feet, and there you have it! A holistic cleansing system to start off your day while showering and maintaining a holistic sense of cleanliness.

“Now, as your day progresses, different sorts of challenges will come your way, and it’s important to set aside time to HEAL, the third ‘H,’ like right?, to my ‘Four Hs’ for beauty. You know, like how some days are just filled with toxic people or toxic situations? I mean, some days are just totally awesome, but still it’s good to heal from the constant giving of yourself throughout the day. No matter who you are, you give give give, all the time, usually without giving it much thought, you know? So, I think it’s really important to find time throughout your day to heal, and my favorite way to heal is to wash my hands. I love how washing your hands is like a metaphor for washing your sins or washing off the grime from your day. So, that is absolutely why I love Brand Name hand cleanser. I mean, just look at this perfect, purse-sized packaging. It’s just perfect and beautiful. So, I just keep this in my purse so that whenever I need a little moment of healing, I’ll find a washroom where I can wash my hands. Then, the best part is that I then use Brand Name lotion to really set in the rejuvenation. When I return to the world after washing and moisturizing my hands with Brand Name hand cleanser, I always feel healed, ready to take on whatever more the day throws at me. I totally know that it will help you too!”

“Welcome back to My Late-Night Spectacle. We’re here with one of the greatest actors of all time! He will be seen later this year in, The Great Movie, Ever. We have a clip from the movie to show all of you,” the host opens; “Is there anything you’d like to say before we roll it? Do you want to set it up somehow?” “No, not really,” the guest admits. “Alright, then. Here it is for your viewing pleasure,” the host introduces.”

“Later this year, if you don’t know it already, you know it now … the greatest movie of all time, featuring the greatest actors of all time, depicting the greatest moment of all time hits every big screen across and around the globe. Pay money to see it, or don’t see it at all! The Greatest Movie, Ever! Coming soon to a screen near you.”

“Wow!” the host congratulates; “That really looks great.” “Well, thank you, sir,” the host accepts. “I heard that this particular movie only came to be after a huge battle over something. Can you speak to that something at all?” the host asks. “No, not really,” the guest sternly states; “There are matters that ought not be shared in public. I will say this, though, the presumption was that this movie would be the greatest of all time, and so when the producers gave the task to the director to make sure that the movie would be the greatest ever, more than a few battles ensued, if you know what I mean,” the guest alludes. “Well, no we don’t know what you mean, but whatever. We’ve got to get to our musical guest for the night. Thank you so much for being here, man,” the host graciously excuses; “We’re gonna take a quick break, but stick around! When we return, So-And-So performs her new hit single, ‘Such-And-Such’!”

“Music makes the world go ‘round. Music is what makes life special. Access your favorite tunes from the hippest artists anywhere at any time with no fees, no suggests, and no commercials. STAUNCH provides everything you’d ever want to hear, even those songs you never thought you would ever love. Through the range of your device, STAUNCH brings every perfect harmony directly to you at no cost. Simply open your device to the STAUNCH service, and we’ll take care of all your data forever. No payments, no hassle, thank music! STAUNCH, we’re here to give you what you want.”

“Finally, the most important time of my day begins around ten at night when I cut myself off from the world as a small HIATUS. I think it’s important to not be so connected all day, so I usually take a bath, alone, with no distracting elements so that I can enjoy a nice little hiatus away from everything. The product I absolutely adore is Brand Name bath time soaps and suds. I just drop the Brand Name, wonderful smelling, bauble into the tub, and it transports me away from the ugliness in the world, into my own little sanctuary where I can feel beautiful and be beautiful. I mean, that’s the whole point of all of this anyway, right? I want to be as beautiful as I feel, and the Brand Name baubles do it for me every time I need a little escape.

So, there you have it, my ‘Four Hs’ to healthy living! Follow my regimen, and I know that you will find your beauty, too. You can have exactly this same luxurious day if you follow the links on my page where you can buy all of these Brand Name items for yourself. My ‘Four Hs’ for beauty have led me to where I am today. Without them, I don’t know what I’d do. I know you’ll love it too! Alright, well that’s all for this video. I hope you all have a great, beauty-filled day! Muah!”

“And now, please welcome the most popular single of the day on STAUNCH, ‘Such-And-Such,’ performed by the highest-rated artist on STAUNCH, ‘So-And-So,’ here to perform her most popular single.”

If you want to hold tight

Lovers in the moonlight

Givers from the highest height

Reach for something

Reach for anything

If you want to hold tight

Lovers in the moonlight

Reach for everything

[chorus]

Sometimes people never know

Sometimes people never know

What you say

What you say

What you say

You mentioned me out there

Over you my heart tears

Go beyond to face fears

Search for something

Search for anything

You mentioned me out there

Over you my heart tears

Search for everything

[chorus]

Sometimes people never know

Sometimes people never know

What you say

What you say

What you say

All I wanna do is make a move

All I wanna do is see the proof

To feel and share the love of all the world

All the world

All the world

[chorus]

Sometimes people never know

Sometimes people never know

What you say

What you say

What you say

If you want to hold tight

Lovers in the moonlight

Givers from the highest height

Reach for something

Reach for anything

If you want to hold tight

Lovers in the moonlight

Reach for everything

[chorus]

Sometimes people never know

Sometimes people never know

What you say

What you say

What you say

“‘So-And-So,’ ladies and gentlemen! You can access the single on Staunch! Have a great night! See you tomorrow, here in the same place at the same time! Good night!”

Yes, you can lie.

Yes, you can lie.

But not to her.

As if being pulled backward through a tight, spiraling tunnel, a free-floating hand touches pointer finger to thumb while the three remaining fingers spread like feathers, a square television, those strings of lights that people used to, unsafely, wrap around flammable trees after the trees are parted from their outdoor roots and dragged indoors to die, those twinkling lights, an escapade, image after image flies swirling by, at first, glimpsed within the periphery only to come into sharp focus, alive, mocking. She hears a lullaby. Far away. ‘Time.’ She feels what most others can only see. Out there. ‘Space.’ She wonders if the paper that tears sheds tears shed. Here over anywhere. ‘And the will to rebel against both.’ Who, she contemplates, believes a liar?

Whether or not she refers to herself or to others, there is only one thing she consistently confirms, “The only truths are lies.” Of the lies she tells, there are favorites, and a particular favorite of the moment goes something like this:

In a far away place at a far away time, a girl named So Jeong lived in a small village seated in a mountainous valley. The valley, flanked by steep hillsides covered in the sorts of trees unlike those that change hues with the seasonal change from warm to cold and bloom with the seasonal change from cold to warm, instead, glow like hot flames always, begins to split at a point where the three peaks meet. From the place where the three peaks meet, the valley opens slowly into unknowing lands covered in apathy and cordiality. Despite this slow opening, the valley remains compact for many distances, and within this treacherous narrow, rests this small village in which she lived.

All knowable things stem from the point where the three peaks meet, and of those peaks, the middle-most peak, confirming the obviousness, stands tallest, reaches highest, pierces beyond the clouds, into the bluest of blue skies. As if hanging like a large bell from the sky itself, the middle-most peak reflects the blending of the bluest of blue sky against the fiery red and orange trees in a luxurious hue of a rich purple. At the base of the three peaks a small lake pools and gently releases itself through the narrow valley to the unknowing lands below where fields are covered in a soft, groundless, green grass. Groundless, not literally, of course but rather, the green grass grows in such thickness that the dirt within which the grass must, presumably, grow cannot be seen. Thus, with the height of the three peaks to the west and the flat, unknowing grasslands to the east, the village sits in the middle of time.  

As the story goes, she lived in this village among people who refused to speak of the three peaks, for the beauty of the middle-most peak was such that to speak of it at all would diminish its truth. Therefore, nobody born within the village ever spoke of the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet, and most never even looked upon the face of the middle-most peak. Those who were caught looking in the direction of the majestic peak suffered great reprimands. Born, however, in some other far away land at an even further away time, a small boy, according to the villagers, she says, looked upon the rocky, snow-capped, ever-present, middle-most peak every single day for hours at a time, but even he held enough respect within himself and never spoke of the magic to which he bore daily witness.

This, of course, like all things, changed. Forced upon the villagers through forces unknown to them, strangers from the unknowing lands began visiting the village and speaking of the peaks, even the middle-most peak. The villagers, being the good citizens that they were, responded not to what these strangers asked. A stranger, she explains, would approach a villager and ask questions regarding the peaks, questions such as, “Which way is the fastest way to the middle-most peak? How do you reach the three peaks? Have I arrived at the place where the three peaks meet?” Being from the unknowing lands, these people, of course, knew not of what they spoke. Thus, most villagers simply ignored these unknowing strangers, while some responded with questions of their own unrelated to the strangers’ inquiries.

Of course, anyone who stood so near to the peaks as the villagers and the intrusive strangers could see the peaks for themselves, no matter, the villagers simply pretended as if they had no idea about what peaks these strangers spoke. For a time, the crowds of strangers plodding through the village grew and grew with no apparent reason. Since the villagers could not speak of the three peaks, none asked the strangers about the purpose of their expeditions to the three peaks. Within the shortest amount of time, she continues, the villagers could no longer stand the constant prodding, treading and overall disrespectful nature of these unknowing strangers through their immaculate, peaceful valley. What could be done, however? The irrationality of it all made no sense to the villagers, and so, within that first short amount of time, all of the villagers stopped speaking to the strangers all together. Message of the silent villagers traveled quickly, and soon enough, the strangers ignored the villagers in return. The problem of the strangers’ travels, nevertheless, still remained, and despite the strangers’ seemingly learned, new-found silence, the villagers’ anger began to grow in tandem with the growth in the number of traveling strangers.

Left within the conundrum as unwilling participants in the obvious cliche to refuse passage to any unknowing stranger but willing still to rise to action against these unknowing strangers’ flippant inattention to the villagers’ way of life and the calm of the valley within which they live, the villagers decided they needed to come up with a plan that would resolve this conundrum. What they chose might be of great surprise to those unfamiliar with the ways of the valley’s villagers, she confesses almost with warning. What the villagers decided could never be known for sure, since the pleasure of telling this particular story, she teases, revolves around the differing fabrication of the villagers’ decision during each retelling. Thus, in this account, the villagers agreed to do nothing, to continue ignoring the passage of each traveler who journeyed to the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet. Familiar with the terrain and the general hostility of the wildlands in the village and throughout the valley, the villagers soon gave no concern to the travelers, as the number of travelers who made the return trip seemed impossibly small. To their best estimate, perhaps only one in every ten travelers traveled back down through the valley toward the unknowing lands. Assumedly, the villagers thought that the few who seemed successful, those who were passed through the village on a return trip, were actually only those who turned around before even attempting to scale the middle-most peak. What the villagers did not know, however, was that, yes, most did indeed perish before reaching the summit of the majestic peak, but some were simply living at the top, waiting for some unknown thing.

How was all of this known?, becomes the next obvious question to which she gently reminds that a small boy, a foreigner himself, spoke frequently to each unknowing stranger about their travels, since, he, decided long ago, would look upon the middle-most peak and would thus, be willing to speak about the middle-most peak to those also willing to speak of it. Nevertheless, what he learned could not be expressed nor shared with the villagers themselves for to shed this sort of knowledge upon them would disrespect the very thing they held so dear. Thus, as each traveler passed, much was learned about the unknowing lands but was never disseminated through the minds of the villagers.

For an entire age the unknowing strangers traveled and made their way through the village. Soon, the small boy was an intelligent man, and an entire generation of villagers had known nothing else other than the consistent, burdensome flow of the strangers. As the story goes, in one iteration the unknowing strangers pass through the village until the end of time, silently traveling through the village on a quest still unknown to the villagers. In a different iteration, at the end of the age, an exodus took place when all of the surviving travelers descended the middle-most peak en masse over the course of just a few days, with not a single other unknowing stranger traveling through the village ever again. Either outcome holds a certain probability of occurrence, with an infinite number of other outcomes being equally possible, although less probable, which would all make sense to the villagers if they knew why the strangers journeyed. Thus, for the iteration wherein the strangers traveled endlessly forever, the number of travelers decreased greatly over time until only a handful of strangers were ever seen over the course of any amount of time, and life for the villagers resumed its usual pace with the ever so often sighting of a unknowing stranger who was consistently met with no attention at all. As for the iteration wherein the strangers descended en masse all at once, of course, the villagers simply returned to their lives, never reminiscing of the age when strangers routinely passed through the village.

No matter, the story that matters depends on the person who believes the lies that she tells, she tells. Thus, the story that matters, today, reveals a sojourner so interested in the lies that the truth shall fall upon eager ears, into a willing mind. When the iteration wherein the unknowing strangers travel forever through the village, becoming sparser in number as the age grows long, the excellence of this particular tale sheds light upon that wanton truth of this eager sojourner. Accordingly, she excitedly begins, that story was told to her through a woman born within the village, who not only knew of the event that happened so quickly and yet so unwittingly as the only witness, but also, the woman was privy to the particulars surrounding the subject of the story as [Name] held the prestigious title of friend. Luckily for the eager sojourner, [Name] willingly tells the story as such:

Near the beginning of the age of unknowing strangers who traveled through the village en route to the top of the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet but before the strangers began traveling, you would’ve seen a small boy, belonging to no one within the village, who appeared in the cool, damp, morning light of the sun that signified the change away from the warm season toward the cold. Impossibly small yet impeccably clean, the small boy went unnoticed for only a minute before a similarly small and clean old man stumbled upon the small boy. The possibility that the small boy belonged to someone in the village beyond the old man’s knowledge was small but there, you could see it. Thus, the old man walked the small boy into the village center where, within an instant, the majority of the villagers around the village center gathered to hear the words of the old man. Immediately, all of the villagers understood that the small boy was either lost or abandoned since not a single person recognized him. And so, being the small, narrow village that it was, a few villagers, including you, cautiously approached the small boy with a slew of questions only to be met with silence. As the world spun beneath the warmth of the sun, the boy sat in the center of the village center as villager after villager attempted to lure words from the boy’s mouth.

Unreasonably quiet, the boy sat, calm, studiously listening to the concerns whispered between villagers. Finally, the boy stood from his small perched crouch upon the ground and spoke that he lived there before some time ago in the future. You were confused by the words yet delighted to hear them, the villagers agreed upon a family, your family, who lived on the edge of the village where the hospitable grounds of the valley became treacherous hillside, to take care of the small boy, if only for the night until a more permanent solution could come to fruition.

To the small boy’s delight, the impermanence of the eventual situation became the permanent solution, thus, the boy lived temporarily with every household in the village, and over time, the small boy eventually grew to consider a small corner above the village laundry, where he worked for you ever since he curiously wandered into the space within the first week of his arrival, his home. Still attached to a handful of families around the village, the now young man popped in from time to time to share meals and share life, but the young man’s silence remained constant, never speaking unless spoken to or unless absolutely necessary.

Then one day, the young man began to feel something strange, a feeling with which he had never really coped. This feeling, this oddity wreaked havoc on him emotionally, and upon you as well. And soon thereafter, the young man, once impractically quiet became boorish and coarse, perpetually yelling almost screaming at things that were seemingly out of his control. When, for instance, the water at the laundry was either too cold or too hot to properly soak and wash an article of clothing, cries of agonizing frustration rang out throughout the village center. You were the only one who could console him. When, as another example, the seasons changed the young man felt hot during the cold season and cold during the warm season, the young man would strip down, bare assed, and throw his clothes into a heap and shout profanities of his disapproval toward the skies and at you sometimes. The small children merely laughed at the young man while you constantly, consistently attempted to shield the children’s eyes and ears from the hostility. This behavior, of course, caused tension between you and him and between the villagers who had raised the young man so selflessly and the young man himself. Fortunately, the angst and exhibitionism died as quickly as it had arrived, and within a short while, the young man was back to his usual, quiet self, although, according to you and some of the other villagers, something about the air around him had changed, but whether or not this was for the better, the villagers asked, but you could not say anything for certain. Nevertheless, the villagers remained warm and loving to the young man, and in return, the young man behaved himself in a highly respectable manner, ever trying to return the favor to you and all the village.

The strangest part to all of this, however, became the timing of the young man’s period of anguished outbursts, for within the same short while that the young man’s outbursts ceased, the beginning of permanent change within the village and its villagers itself was marked. Of course, only the smallest reminder could render the sojourner aware of such an event. Unbeknownst to the villagers, the first of the unknowing strangers were already making their way toward the top of the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet, and so, as you and the villagers settled back into life in the wake of the young man’s placated fits of rage, a new swarm of irritants traveled toward the village to disrupt all the villagers once more.

The arrival of the first group of unknowing strangers created an unease throughout the village, however, the villagers themselves could not speak to the unease as it spoke of the middle-most peak, about which ought not ever be spoken. The young man, astutely keen on the unease of the villagers knew not exactly what to do at first and so, paid close attention to the unknowing strangers. It was at this moment when the young man decided that he would, in fact, do the only thing that he could do, which was to speak to the unknowing strangers about the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet. In all actuality, being not of the village, never had a villager looked down upon the young man for gazing, daily, at the face of the most majestic peak. Instead, the villagers would oftentimes look upon the face of the young man, especially when he was a small boy, as the young man looked upon the face of the middle-most peak. Through the small boy turned young man, the villagers chattered, they could glimpse but the smallest sliver of the peak’s majesty. And so, when the moment arrived that the young man struck up that first conversation with an unknowing stranger, the villagers looked on with great anticipation to see how the young man would react.

Disappointingly, the young man rarely gave any physical gesture or emotive expression to hint at what these strangers from the unknowing lands were doing, and as the respectful young man he was, the young man never spoke of the strangers’ travels as it would incite the inadvertent participation of a villager in a conversation about the middle-most peak. Thus, the young man took great care to speak with the unknowing strangers when the villagers were busy about the village, and he took even greater care to keep the knowledge to himself. Consequently, the young man learned much about the goings on in the unknowing lands, but still, he remained, happily, within the village, that was, until the day he saw something he was sure could not be.

The day was hot, and when considering the valley’s extreme altitude at the base of towering mountains, the close proximity to the sun made clear blue days, in the middle of the warm season, almost unbearable to the flesh. Nevertheless, the young man sat in the protective shade of a tree as unknowing stranger after stranger continued to pass through the village on their quest to summit the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet. It was on this blistering day that the young man saw something, rather someone, glowing in a halo of the most soothing blue light. Contrasted heavily against the fiery red and orange leaves of the hillside trees, the glow burst out, almost blinding the young man, which made seeing whatever rest hidden inside the bubble nearly impossible. Standing now, the young man looked around to see if anyone else within the vicinity seemed to notice this thing, hot aglow. Alas, there was no one else. Then, as the soothing blue bubble came nearer to him, the bubble calmed to a light, translucent gloss, through which the young man saw the figure of a woman.

Just as the woman looked up, however, and saw the young man, the young man began to realize the soft red halo forming around his self. Reaching out to touch the hue, the young man could no longer distinguish the halo from the world around him; the world, now overlaid with a hint of red, blushed. After remembering the woman the young man saw, before the young man could look upon the face of the woman one more time, the woman was gone, running down the pathway from when she came. The young man, frozen in disbelief, soon watched as the blushing world faded away to the clarity of his clear reality. Stunned, shocked, the young man felt his beating heart race through all of the possibilities, but nothing revealed itself as reasonable. The situation as a whole, the young man reasoned, was unreasonable. Despite this less-than-reasonable situation, the young man continued to sit, hour after hour, time after time, protected under the shade of a large tree, waiting, watching as the unknowing strangers streamed by, seemingly with no end.

After quite some time, the villagers began to notice that the young man had abandoned his post at the laundry, and so, approached the young man about his absence. Guarded and concerned with what the villagers might think of his account with the woman aglow in crisp blue, the young man gave up his perch under the shade of the tree that lined the path along which the unknowing strangers traveled with no explanation and returned promptly to his responsibilities in the village. His passive return, of course, lasted only a short time before the young man’s fits started up again. This time, however, the fits were focused and attentive to a specific issue with which he struggled within himself. The young man attempted to attenuate the fits through vigorous exercise and sexual exploits, but eventually, the weight of the matter slowly wore him down into the quiet, small boy of his childhood.

Here, of course, the young man dwelled for an unknowable amount of time, tucked away into the small corner above the village laundry, sleeping heavily, dreaming of lives long passed and of those yet to be lived, waking only to sip from a glass of water that slowly emptied, only to be refilled from time to time by the old man who first found the small boy, and upon waking, the young man would cry; he would cry the sorts of tears that salt the oceans beyond the unknowing lands, and then eventually, the tears would run dry as the young man fell back into a heavy sleep, becoming all the wiser to a truth that he knew but could not recognize until now. Now, of course, being then, way back when he first arrived at the future. At this point, you must deduce for yourself the words that he spoke that are recounted here:

[begin transcript]

I was alive once before a long time ago not yet happened. It’s an odd sensation really to awaken into a space, a place unknown at an age unfamiliar. Memory serves no man, but especially a man who went to sleep only to wake as a small boy, not even sleeping, but standing alone in a world that knew him not. He, the boy unfamiliar, realized quickly that the life he lives represented not the life he lived. As that small boy, the things I forgot wrap cautiously around that place within my mind no man can reach. But why?, ultimately always ends up being the question, a question asked by the fool who believes that he could ever know such a thing. At the very least, I knew that there are some things about which I could never know, about which I could never speak. How, for instance, did I wake as a small boy when the moment just before waking I remember being a man, an unfulfilled man searching for something, no, someone. The scent of her lingers all over my body, but not because we ever embraced each other physically, but rather, in the haze where time disappears through the absence of space, where space disappears through the absence of time, we become one, always one, together. As one, we are thrust through the present toward that place where time and space take shape once more, but our oneness is lost. I alone and somewhere newly old; she somewhere else, also alone. Fearless, however, would be the best way to describe this person with whom I am unwittingly tied. Absolutely, I feel lucky to have this, what would one even call it? A gift? A skill? A curse? Sometimes the limitations of language limit the mind. Even still, I wake; I search, but sometimes I wake and forget. I forget the essence of myself, the thing that makes me me, but what could that ever really be. What does it mean to be me, if the me in me can never be unless I know who it is to be me while unaware or unable to be that me in me as the torment of being dragged through every place at a rapid pace strips me of the I that I cannot know as the I of me?

Why any of it matters matters if I tell the truth, but the truth is something that I cannot share. Like she who is the liar, the only truth is that she lies. I too live the lies, the stories told by those who think they understand or at the very least, those who witness my disappearance. The problem, from the start, obviously reveals how much understanding, knowledge these so-called witnesses lack. I do not disappear. We do not disappear. Whether or not an observer or a person within my immediate presence can or cannot see me exists beyond my control. I cannot force anyone or anything for that matter to see the things that he/she/it simply does not or perhaps cannot understand to know. Thus, the understanding about who I am collapses, and to the minds that cannot comprehend such an existence, I disappear, sometimes only for a moment, usually, however, for forever. And now, the ambiguous disambiguates, or does it?

It can’t, obviously, apparently, circumstantially; the ambiguous must remain as such to the observer or else, the story lacks its essence. And the question becomes something else entirely, but what the question is, no one can know. But I struggle to keep this knowledge about the question to myself. If asked, I would tell, but then, to keep this question hidden would salvage the despair that she feels yet cannot name. We will each forget everything at least once, the old man tells me. No, not the old man from my village, a different old man, The Old Man. Ugh, I shall not tell. When the forgetting happens, which it inevitably will, all that can be hoped for is that it doesn’t happen to both of us simultaneously. Oh, but there is something here now. Someone calls for me in the distance beyond the motionless river, a body suggests that the matter at hand depends upon my leaving this place. I cannot leave, though, until I find her. And so, I determine that the best course of action means that I must interact with the world I know not, must make the necessary steps to understanding the unknowing strangers who began passing through the village only a few moments ago. The unknowing strangers, unknowing set the course for this village not mine on a path that the villagers also know not, but the beginning of a new age has assuredly begun, and I must not be here upon its close.

Thus, I sit under the protection of a large, beautiful aspen tree, perched within its branches, shouting to and at the passersby from the unknowing lands, all in a futile attempt to see but one person with whom I must connect. The sun rises, and then it sets repeatedly, scorching the flesh through the thinnest of air, and I perch upon a branch with despondence, a lack of hope in seeing the one person I need to see. But obviously, I do not know any of this while I am sitting there, questioning the strangers as they pass. Until one day, I see the oddity emblazoned in a translucent sphere of blue that eventually reveals a woman standing within the halo. I, too, am slowly set aglow in a vibrant red, and then, just as the woman saw me hot, flaming, she ran. I was ignorant of such events, and so, just stood there, upon the branch of my tree. When my consciousness returned to me, I looked around, and that there was a girl from my village, [Name], a friend whom I had known for the entirety of my life in that village, stood staring at me as if she had seen what I experienced. The emblazoned woman, when I turned again to look for her, was gone. And when I turned back to [Name], she was running back to the village.  What choice did I have then but to chase after [Name] since immediate action would be necessary to keep her silent about what she saw. I was absolutely unaware in that moment why I needed to keep her quiet, but I knew that I must. [Name] was convinced by the severity of the situation, and so, she promised to keep this particular event to herself. I know, however, that no one should be trusted with such sensitive information. For here I am now, telling of this occasion since [Name] blabbed her mouth about it to anyone willing to listen. But it’s like I say, [Name] doesn’t know the full story, nor will she ever understand its implications.

[end transcript, recorded by Unknown]

He always spoke of the event as if nothing about it seemed odd; he even asked that the specifics never be told. Yet, there he went, as usual, sharing everything he’d always specified ought to be shared. Perhaps he just likes to tell his life the way he wants to tell it. There’s no knowing whether or not any of it is true, except on the rare occasions when someone witnesses the event, the way the aforementioned or pre-described situation transpired, materialized. You, for the sake of the story as a whole, really should just move on with it.

And so, [Name] refrained from elaborating on the words of the young man who apparently had nothing more to add to her account of this particular event. No matter, within this village [Name] continues to live to this day. Very little is known about her, especially when considering her lineage through the upper-crust, as meaningless as that may be in a community such as the village embodies, nevertheless, [Name] could not be reached during the most recent travels to the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet, but according to village legend, she could no longer resist the temptation to share the event regarding the young man. According to the remaining villagers who shrink in number with the waning of each new moon, [Name] told of an unbelievable occurrence that would explain the sudden disappearance of the young man. No one within the village, of course, believed [Name], and over time, [Name] grew tired and weary. Then, like the young man, [Name] withdrew from the world and eventually, the villagers assume, left the village in search of the young man.

The unknowing strangers continue to travel through the village toward the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet, and to this day, the villagers endure in complete ignorance of the unknowing stranger’s reasoning. Every once in a while, rumors will surface about how the unknowing strangers are being endowed with gifts of great fortune as the loud words of the unknowing strangers fall inadvertently upon the ears of some villagers. The villagers, however, have little to no use for great fortune, for what would a creature who has everything it needs possibly do with more than it needs?

And so, as tales unfold within the dreams of great dreamers, she dreams on about a life in a land unavailable to her now, but that she remembers in the fully lighted force of tomorrow. She, of course, must return to the life of the now, no matter how much she despises the company. The strangeness of all of this happens to be, however, the fact that Attila leaves her no choice but to hinder the thoughts that require deep thinking. Where?, she begins to wonder but soon realizes she cannot humor. Into sleep she must return, retreat into the unknowing darkness where the possibility that anything could happen may happen, but more importantly, there, hopefully, she may mull over the thoughts that press upon her, desperate, assertive, allegedly of the utmost importance. She pushes them from her mind.

Can she, she wonders, hear the voice of Attila’s mind? How would she know, she supposes. The inner dialogue speaks, How can you ever know what you do not know? She responds to herself or to someone else, she decides, That same old question. It becomes trite upon its constant utterance. The voice within her, or perhaps not, she considers, speaks again, The situation would suggest that you can, in fact, hear my mind’s voice, or at the very least, we can speak to each other this way, easily. She thinks, But how to distinguish between the voices belonging to the minds of others and my own mind simply speaking to itself. The other voice contends, You cannot know what you do not know. She feels that pang of frustration. She cannot contemplate anything here. She wonders, Attila’s mind can only follow me so far, yes? The voice refuses to respond. Very well, she decides; Leaving this place prevails as the only reasonable answer. And then the voice speaks up, Where will you go at this late hour? She laughs aloud, The lateness of a place signifies its reliance upon the constraints of weaker beings. The voice laughs a gentle laugh of surprised gleefulness, and then the voice forgets that she has forgotten and speaks again, You cannot make green until you find him, of course. She knows not where the next thought originates from, but she allows the thing to fill her mind, Or unless he finds me.

Simultaneously the revelation hits her and Attila both, and she feels frozen in time as she hears the fast-paced footfall of someone, Attila, streaming down the hall. To where she can escape there is nowhere. Frantic, she steadies her mind to the stillness of impenetrability as Attila kicks in the door. Each knows that the other knows that they know that escape is impossible. Thus, Attila stands coolly, calm, as steady as she as they face each other through impenetrable minds. She, being younger and less experienced in the matter, blinks. Attila remains exact. Wise, no matter, she holds strong and steadfast in her dismissal and continued resolve to push every feeling aside; nothing rises that Attila may use against her. Attila, as master, reveals nothing. Locked in a stalemate where the fortitude of the mind matters more than life itself, the two unwittingly begin to intertwine consciousnesses with two others who also, at this time, are locked in a similar battle of the mind.

Surprisingly, Attila allows the feeling of this connection to rise to the surface of her mind. She hears the rise within Attila but holds steady. Soon they both begin to glow in a halo of radiant blue light. They look at each other. Both minds collapse into utter confusion. “But how can this be?” Attila breaks first. “You are the one who is supposed to know!” she retorts. Another moment more and they are both fully encapsulated into a world of opaque blueness. A crack. The clap of enormous hands. Green.

Red (from Red & Blue Make Green)

Red (from Red & Blue Make Green)

Upon the stream of an invisible breeze, a small, pocket-sized, book-bound notebook flies by, flapping its green that green’s made of colored covers as it ambles along being cast to and fro by the rhythm of the splashing water at the place where ocean becomes land. Despite the shine of the sun, the notebook lacks a shadow. Every once in a while a single sheath frees itself from the treacherous flight, catches the visible breeze and takes off into the night. There is a point at which all things fade, never to return. She reaches a hand out to grab the notebook so that it may reveal its secrets to her. The neverending search for the things she cannot know until she knows them proves to be … inevitable. Out across the ocean, she looks into the shimmering glare of light from a sun that hides itself beyond … all knowledge. A tree rises up out of the waters. Tempted, she resists the swim. Can she swim? she wonders to herself. Suddenly, an aching sense for forgetfulness.

Looking down into her hands, she holds the green notebook. A single sheet of paper slips out from between the covers and flies off. In vain, she runs and runs and runs. As if in slow motion, she cannot make any gains on the sheet. A sound of laughter. The single sheet will not be caught today. She looks again to the notebook for an answer. What is it? she thinks again to herself. I’ve forgotten to … to … to turn in my assignment. That unbearable feeling of the academically-inclined, perfectionist-type school child who arrives at school only to realize that she has forgotten to either complete an assignment or study for a test. An unsatisfactory grade assuredly will follow, tarnishing the perfection toward which she has forever worked. She feels sick, overcome with the sensation of a history built so impeccably only to be ruined by a single instant of forgetfulness. Breathing heavy now, she rests her hands upon her knees to quell the nausea. What is it? rings throughout her mind once more. And then the truth dawns upon her like heartache. The sound of an alarm sears over the ocean in two ascending and descending tones and hits her in the forehead. She looks to the land. Lightning strikes. She looks to the tree. The tree, like all things, begins to fade. The sound of the alarm twice more. She feels comfortable, yet her breathing rises once again. She looks to the tree, nothing. She looks to the land, the light from the sun still hidden.

Her head aches with the dull, throbbing sensation of yet another headache. She rubs her eyes and feels the crustiness of dried tears, the evacuated bowels of the microscopic creatures whose universe is defined by her face. Itchy, she scratches her eyebrows. Warm, she rolls around in a soft bed. Whose bed is this? she wonders. “It’s no one’s bed and anyone’s bed,” someone responds. She sits up, startled, confused, looking around. A woman reveals herself within the doorway. “Who are you?” she asks. “It’s not important. What matters is that I know who you are,” the woman responds. What? she thinks to herself, and continues, Of course it’s important. “Thank you!” the woman shouts; “You have no idea how many people simply accept that certain things do not matter simply because someone else told them that they do not matter. Unfortunately, I cannot honestly tell you who I am, for that is a story far too long to tell as an introduction, however, I can tell you that my name is Attila.” Attila? she thinks again to herself. “Yes,” Atilla answers. This again, she thinks again now fully aware of the situation at hand. “Do you have a preference?” Attila asks. Yes, she responds. Ah, very well. I should have known, Attila accommodates.

Where have you been? Attila probes. She sits, mind clear of readable thoughts. What is the question? Attila asks knowing full well what she thinks. An unknowable amount of time passes. How do I know you can be trusted? she finally asks. I cannot be trusted. I know that for a fact, Attila responds. She sits, calm upon the bed. Attila, still standing, realizes this could take awhile and sits upon the ottoman that sits in front of a large armchair and completes the set. The room, lit as though clouds block the sun while rain falls from them, feels damp and cool. Of the utmost modern-looking, sleek-lined aesthetic, an oddity fills the space through the gauche decorum of a few pieces of furniture, with those pieces being the bed frame, excluding the bedding itself, the armchair and ottoman set, the two lamps, excluding the lightbulbs within, and the knobs on all of the drawers, excluding the dresser itself. She cannot decide if she enjoys the commingling of aesthetics, but eventually, she decides that the mix creates an interesting sensation of cleanliness and comfort.

I’m glad you like it, Attila confesses. Where am I? she inquires. That matters less than when you are. Do you know when you are? Attila wonders. If I am when I was before sleeping and waking here, then yes, I know when I am, she considers. Very good. Yes, you are when you last remember, Attila generously affirms. Am I? she warily wonders. Oh, even better. Yes, I promise, Attila states. But how good can your promises really be? she thinks. How may I ease your inability to possibly know my true intentions? Attila genuinely asks in as genuine a way as is possible with perceptible sincerity. She ponders this for a while. There is no way, since I have forgotten almost everything about everything, she realizes, and then she realizes what she just realized. “Shit!” she speaks aloud. “Yes,” Attila agrees. “Yes, what?” she tests. “You are finally right where we have all been waiting for you to be,” Attila answers vaguely. “Tell me,” she demands. “I cannot,” Attila begins; “No one can. Only you may speak the words for yourself as your new truth.” But then you will know what I know, she considers. Of course, but I already know. The point is not for me to know but rather, for you to know, Attila encourages, and continues, And now you know what you don’t know.

“What am I supposed to do now?” she asks. “You are supposed to ask the right question so that I may give you the answer,” Attila suggests. The faintest hint of a remembrance tickles the sole of her right foot. She must not acknowledge it, of course. Attila, no matter, feels the memory as well. “What is it?” Attila boldly asks. “What is what?” she responds coolly. “You remember something but are unwilling to share it with me,” Attila states. “Yes,” she answers in truth. “Interesting,” Attila observes; “Your truthfulness might be your greatest strength and weakness.” The two sit in silent observation of each other. She observes that Attila is of an older generation, but Attila cannot be considered old. Attila is beautiful but probably ruthless, cunning but probably deceptive, honest but probably withholding, patient but probably unpredictable, and … something else, she determines. She cannot put a finger on what’s missing when she looks at Attila. Attila, likewise, determines that this She is also quite unexpectedly beautiful and probably naive, cunning and probably reserved, honest and probably burdened, patient and probably uptight, and the piece of her that Attila cannot put a finger on reflects the missing piece within herself that she cannot put on Attila.

“Well, now that that’s settled,” Attila speaks aloud; “Are you hungry?” She thinks for a moment, considering her physical state. “I threw away the rest of your sandwiches,” Attila confesses. Disappointed, she responds, “I see, then, yes, I will eat.” “But you don’t know what you like to eat?” Attila points out. How … she begins to wonder, but then soon realizes, “But of course,” she speaks aloud while continuing to maintain the rest of what she knows to herself. “Very well,” Attila almost frustrated states. “If this is how you want it to be, there’s no changing your mind,” Attila huffs while exiting the room, and then speaking back into the room Attila instructs, “Clean up and change. There are clothes in the closet. The dining area is easy to find.” She feels trapped in this particular predicament of being unable to assess the situation properly. There’s nothing about whatever is happening that she can mull over to determine the best course of action. She feels frustrated. She feels … what is it? She feels … the feeling resembles loneliness, but of course, it’s something else … it’s … she feels … abandoned.

‘Leily’

‘Leily’

It’s always the thing that will crush you, she thinks to herself. The scent of … of … butter hits her deep in the back of her throat. Everyone always focuses on the thing that could crush them under a weight they cannot bear, the thought continues, but what is the practical application of this fear? She follows her nose toward the awful scent released when butter and flour come together, rise and bake into the delicacies that are various pastries. He, she remembers and reminisces; He, always, tempted by the subliminal combination of fat and sugar, succumbed to the soft, baked goods. And then an odd realization befalls her: About whom are these thoughts?

A twinge, pang of emotional distress, no doubt, accompanies these thoughts that she, almost fully, cannot understand, and yet, there, a soft comfort promises to envelope her if she can withstand the turmoil. In front, now, of a place labeled “Bakery,” she stands, motionless, as if peering into the window, but, of course, she is not really there. Somewhere far away, in a land within her mind, she mulls the situation, debates whether or not she can, no, ought to consider the … the emotions. There, something sits and waits, but she cannot understand the thing. She cannot hear the words being spoken by a figure she cannot name. Warm. How now. The discomfort the heat impresses upon her becomes unbearable, but somehow, she decides that indeed, This is nothing. She cannot walk toward the unknown figure. The figure seems to recognize this and waves. She waves back. They exist together in a place nondescript, a space void of descriptive qualities, a zone wherein she can feel her hand rise to wave at the figure, but she cannot see the hand. The oddity is lost on her, of course. She feels much about much.

A whisper, You can see me. “Yes,” she responds. Do you know who I am? She waits for a moment until an answer reveals itself to her, “Yes, I feel as though I must, but simultaneously, I know I must not since a name I cannot put on you.” Where have you been? “But who are you?” I cannot unveil myself to you. You must know who I am. She takes another moment for an answer. A name. A small name. When the mist clears from the horizon, what’s left is what must have been there all along. Barely audible, she speaks the chalky fragments collecting in her mind, “Mox.” Yes. Still a bit unsure, she asks again, “But who are you?” Time will escort you through this abstraction. For now, just listen. She considers the situation, “Why?” There are things that you know that you do know that you know. Everyone wants to know what it is that you know, but until you know these things, you cannot know them. Thus, they cannot know what you know until you know what you know.

Twinkling, a cool blue light beckons her, and of course, the cool relief draws her nearer. Mox whispers into the void, You must go back so that the future may unfold. She understands these words as some sort of truth, but there, something continues to nag at the hems of her sleeves. The recognition of fear does not the banishment of that fear make. “Back to where?” she thinks aloud. I do not know. I’m just the messenger. Another voice enters, Excuse me. She looks around to find the owner of the disembodied voice. “Who is there?” she asks. You cannot stay here any longer, Mox shouts as the figure of him begins to fade, and continues, They will find me, and when they do, you will no longer be safe. Find him! “Who?” she wonders aloud. Him! He’s looking for you! He will search first in the place you need to remember. The figure of Mox disappears completely, and just as she begins to feel something she recognizes, a loud, large clap rings through her ears as the twinkling blue light turns green.

Inside the place labelled “Bakery,” a staff member whose name tag reads, “Leily” keeps a constant eye on the girl standing outside the shop. After ten minutes or so, Leily decides she will confront the girl to find out what is going on. “Excuse me,” Leily speaks to the girl standing outside the window. Rigid but still blinking, she [the girl] does not acknowledge her. “Uh, miss,” Leily attempts again as she places a hand on the girl. The girl crumples into Leily’s arms at her touch. “Oh my god! Miss, are you alright?” Leily shrieks as she gently lowers the girl onto the ground. “Help!” Leily shouts into the place labeled “Bakery.” “Someone come out here!” Leily further commands. Within a moment, however, the girl blinks and sits upright. Seemingly unscathed, she reaches into her backpack and pulls out a sandwich and begins to eat it. Still shocked and now a bit confused by the girl’s immediate recovery and follow-up action in eating a sandwich, Leily attempts to speak with the girl once again, “Miss, are you okay?” She sits for a moment and between bites of her sandwich, considers her responses, and for a moment more, she considers whether or not she feels as though she is “okay.” Determined, she responds, “Yes, I am quite fine. Thanks. Are you okay?” Leily looks flabbergasted and when the girl makes eye contact with her when she asks if Leily is okay, Leily feels a pang of recognition, “Are you …” “Yes,” she responds before Leily can complete the real question; “Yes, I’m fine” she states flatly between bites of her sandwich. “No, miss, I think that I know you,” Leily insists. The girl looks at Leily and sees no one she recognizes, “I’m sorry. I cannot see who you are.” Confused, Leily responds, “But you’re looking right at me.” “Oh yes, I can see what you look like, but I cannot see who you are,” she clarifies. “Oh,” Leily breathes out. The two remain seated on the ground outside the place labelled “Bakery,” the girl sits crossed legged, still facing the “Bakery,” eating her sandwich, while Leily sits on the heels of her feet, on her knees, on the right of the girl, facing her.

The girl begins to feel something. She stops eating. Leily notices, “What’s wrong?” The girl looks at her, “Leily.” “Yes, that’s my name. Do you remember me? I can’t quite remember where I met you or how I know you, though,” Leily responds excitedly. “No,” the girl begins, “I do not know why I know your name.” The conviction of the knowledge of this person named Leily does not resonate with the girl. Perhaps, she thinks, Leily means something, but what that is, she cannot know. Then, the girl looks at the name tag on Leily’s shirt that reads, “Leily.” A rush of sudden disappointment hits the girl hard and she feels frustrated. As soon as the frustration hits her, however, a feeling of sheer bafflement pours over her in a sort of disbelief at the notion of whatever to-be-frustrated means. She decides to stand. Leily reaches for her and helps her off the ground. “Thank you,” the girl acknowledges as she bows a slight bow of gratitude. “It’s no problem. Are you sure you’re alright?” Leily prods. She takes a moment to consider the truth, “Yes, I am feeling quite fine.” “Would you like a drink to go along with that sandwich?” Leily offers. She considers this again, and decides, “Yes, that sounds nice.” “Okay,” Leily smiles, “What would you like?” She considers this now and nothing reveals itself. She waits a moment more. Leily begins to look at her with a concerned face, the girl notices the change. She waits just the slightest bit longer and still, nothing. “How about some water or juice?” Leily presents after seeing the concerted effort the girl seems to be making to decide or determine what might sound nice. “Oh, yes. Water,” she responds. “Alright,” Leily smiles as both of their faces relax, “I’ll be right back.”

You cannot stay here, rings through her mind, insistent. She looks around herself to see from where the voice came. With no person within sight seeming to admit to the words, she remembers Mox’s words. A remembrance. Run!, the voice rings out urgent this time. Time will escort you through this abstraction, she reminds herself as she looks at the shoes upon her feet. Yes, I will run, she decides as she determines that the shoes will allow her to run at a quick pace. There, she feels is where she ought to go. Thus, within an instant, she’s gone, running toward a large, glass, bubble-like structure off in the distance with trees poking out the top. Leily returns from within the place labelled “Bakery,” to no waiting girl. Instead, Leily looks around and sees only the half-eaten sandwich upon the ground. A bit confused still but not surprised, Leily reaches down to throw the sandwich away, and just as Leily grabs the soft mess, an event unlike any other experienced in this orbital before manifests itself throughout a world content with contentment. 

The Earth-Man | Kevin

The Earth-Man | Kevin

The two begin to walk away from the stream leaving W on the side not yet crossed, with V and U on the side crossed already. “Where are we going, ma’am?” Kevin asks yet again. “But you already know,” the older woman responds. “Yea, I guess. I mean, I know you said a ‘hillside’ or something, but where is that?” Kevin extends. “A hillside is lost on you?” the older woman asks. “No. I know what a hillside is,” Kevin scoffs with a crinkle of his nose. Stopping for a moment now, the older woman turns to face Kevin who follows all-too-closely and asks, “Then what is your question, Kevin?” “I … I just … I guess I just … you know … like where is this hillside?” “Look into the future, if but only a few minutes,” the older woman responds. “Ma’am?” Kevin stands up straight almost in defiance but something else entirely; “I’m sorry, but what? No one can look into the future.” “Can you not?” the older woman chimes. “Uh, like, no, ma’am,” Kevin speaks indignantly. Amused, the older woman already decided that this Earth-man will know some truth and begins, “Well, in what direction are we headed?” Kevin thinks for a moment, then points, “That way.” Still amused, the older woman further prods, “Excellent. Is there a hillside in view over there?” Kevin looks again in the direction he pointed only moments ago, and then, something dawns on him. He looks directly at the older woman, “That is where we are going.” “Yes,” the older woman affirms. Feeling excited now, Kevin begins to understand a semblance of understanding, “And so, we’ll like, that’s like where we’ll be, you know, in like a little while or something!” The older woman determines that the Earth-man looks all too excited and refuses to participate in his excitement, and instead, the older woman responds with an air of disappointment, “Of course, dear.” Unaware of the older woman’s indifference to his newly acquired knowledge, Kevin still feels giddy and proud. Silently, they walk on toward the hillside.

A little while or something later, the two reach the edge of a thick forest of aspen trees. The older woman stops and turns again to face Kevin. “We’re here. We’ve made it to the hillside?” Kevin asks. The question inflicts such obviousness that the older woman ignores Kevin’s inquiry and instead quizzes, “Do you know what kind of trees these are?” “No, ma’am,” Kevin responds; “Honestly, you know, I have, well, I don’t know anyone who has seen the kinds of plants and trees and such here that I’ve seen over the past few days.” “What do you make of all of these plants and trees and such?” the older woman continues. “Well, sure, like they sure are beautiful. I just sort of wonder though, if I’m like dreaming or like where I am, you know?” Kevin responds. Feeling the depth of Kevin’s impishness, the older woman concedes, “Yes. And yet you have not once asked where it is that you are.” “No, ma’am,” Kevin insists; “I definitely know better than to find out.” Surprised by Kevin’s open stupidity in that he lacks the curiosity necessary for intelligence, the older woman sighs a deep breath of seeming futility. What the older woman feels, however, is anything but. The older woman begins, “These trees are called ‘aspen’ trees. Come, feel the unique smoothness of the trunk.” Kevin walks toward one of the trees and complies, “Ewe. What is this sh-, stuff, that’s like all on me?” The older woman continues, “As a small child, my family lived in the high mountains of a place on Earth with which you ought to be familiar.” “Oh yea, like where?” Kevin asks. The older woman ignores him, “On this mountain hillside, aspens grew like grass on a lawn and covered every square inch of the valley.” “Wow,” Kevin interjects; “That sounds really beautiful. Do you miss it? I mean, it must kind of look, like, you know, right, here, right?” The older woman continues to ignore him.

“One day, while walking through the bright forest, my father informed that the aspens are very unique plants, that essentially, there are only a handful of aspens in the entire world. He further explained how every tree that is seen above ground actually just represents a root that shot up through the ground again to reveal itself as a tree. So, if you touch one trunk of an aspen, you’re really just touching one limb of it. One aspen tree can grow to cover an entire hillside or mountainside, popping up every few meters to reveal itself again, in another place in space while all of its roots connect each tiny leaf to every other tiny leaf across an entire forest. The aspen’s greatest advantage, however, also reveals its greatest weakness. For if, on the surface, one tree becomes infected with some disease, all of the trees of a hillside, which is really one tree manifested all on that same hillside, become infected with that same disease. This means, of course, that one tiny event can wipe out an entire, seemingly multiple, population. What has happened, obviously, is that one aspen tree has died, but the effect of this one tree dying is that an entire forest has been lost.”

Somewhat bored, Kevin says, “Okay. That’s sad, I guess.” The older woman, of course, had been gazing longingly into the forest of fall-like aspens whose leaves have all turned a stunning, vibrant gold and flutter in the synthetic breeze. Upon hearing the words spoken by Kevin, the older woman blinked hard and realized that the decision that was made about him long ago would, in fact, be the fate that she would now have to seal. Kevin, now, indifferently looking into the forest before him, catches the eye of the older woman who looks sternly into his face. “You are meaningless in this realm. You had no meaning from the time when you came. You are nothing in the vastness of time,” the older woman begins. “What the fu-, hell, no, what the fuck?” Kevin responds, defiant. “If time is like these aspens, where do you belong?” “Ma’am? I don’t know what you’re getting at, but I matter. I matter a whole fu-, no fuck it, I matter a whole fucking more than you do. Who the fucking hell are you anyway?” Kevin shouts now. “It does not matter. Everything here and now matters not, to someone like you,” the older woman answers.

“I just like woke up, and I like don’t know, you know, like anything about what’s going on. I’m real sorry if I like saw something I wasn’t supposed to see or something, but really, lady, I haven’t got a fucking clue. I thought, and you know, I was like real excited that someone important wanted to finally talk to me cause I thought, like, you know, like, you would finally give me some answers or something, but instead, I’m just like told all these ridiculous stories or stuff that like, you know, what’s the word, it just doesn’t matter? Like you say that all the time. ‘Oh, Kevin, it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. You don’t matter.’ How do you think that like makes a guy feel, you know? I’ll tell ya; it doesn’t make me feel good at all,” Kevin vents.

“Of course it does not feel good, but what good do your feelings do?” the older woman, unmoved by Kevin’s outburst, coolly responds. “It’s my feelings. It hurts, you know, like it hurts my feelings when you say I don’t matter. I matter!” Kevin yells. “How?” the older woman puts to him. Stepping back and away from the older woman now, feeling upset and hurt. Kevin, of course, cannot put into words his own worth or value. “I just do,” Kevin murmurs under his breath. “Proof to the contrary will be revealed,” the older woman states flatly; “There are people waiting back at the stream.” The older woman leaves Kevin in half sobs as the entirety of his worthless life flashes through his mind like small daggers that pierce the mind of the emotionally weak. For a moment, Kevin stares at the dirt path beneath his feet as he contemplates the words of the older woman. “I matter,” Kevin continues to whisper under his breath; “She can’t fucking know anything about me or my life. I matter. I’m good. I’m reliable. I do what I have to do. I show up to work on time. I work hard. I give my all.” Kevin hears the voice of the older woman whom he can no longer see as the older woman has passed beyond a small curve in the hillside, “Come along, dear. You do not have much time.” Kevin considers his options and then the voice of the older woman rings out again, “No, this is not actually the open wilderness. You know not where or when you are. Simply follow. Now.” Feeling hopeless and dredged slightly in sadness, Kevin relinquishes his resentment for the moment and walks in the direction of the older woman’s voice.

Some Fresh Air

Some Fresh Air

The distillation room distills water, not so much for drinking but rather, in the service of providing the synthetic rain within the orbital, which orbital researchers soon found to be not-synthetic rain at all. Being, essentially, a large-scale greenhouse, constructed almost entirely of glass and carbon-fiber-type materials, the orbitals, the researchers found, were actually quite proficient at condensing the moisture out of the air into a sort of mist. How to then turn that mist into rain as opposed to simply humidifying the place, Terraces were built with a sort of vacuum room to attract the moist air where the moisture would condense into a form that would then, ever so rarely, be cycled through the orbital as rain. Compared to the rest of the orbital and the Terraces themselves, the distillation rooms are quite noisy. Nevertheless, the room, if its function is unknown to a person, suggests nothing more than a storage closet, perhaps for a water heater or the system that waters and nourishes the foliage within the Terrace. The walls are of an opaque, frosted glass, where a person standing within the room could make out the shadow of a person standing outside the room, but the person standing outside would most likely not see the soft, grey cloud of a human form inside the room. And it is precisely within this type of room that the older woman stands and waits for [Staffer] and the Earth-man while the remaining three escorts, whose shadowy figures the older woman can see through the glass wall directly in front of her, stand in wait as well.

A gentle whirr of the distillation system rings within the older woman’s ears. The older woman, surprisingly, feels a slight discomfort from the sound and closes her eyes to focus the mind on the task ahead. What the older woman will speak to the Earth-man is already known well within her, of course, but no matter, the older woman considers a second option. The muffled voices of people speaking calls the older woman’s attention back into the space. A gentle knock. “Enter,” the older woman speaks aloud. The glass door puffs a puff of air as it glides off between the two panes of glass that make up the wall within which the door is framed. “Ma’am,” [Staffer] greets as he begins motions to introduce the Earth-man to the older woman. “Thank you,” the older woman cuts; “You may leave us [Staffer].” [Staffer] genially bows his head in recognition of an order. The Earth-man stands barely within the space. [Staffer] makes his way around the Earth-man and as the door slides to close the room off from the rest of the world, the Earth-man stumbles a step forward out of fear that he may be standing within the door’s way. Shy, a bit hunched, each hand clasping the other at about belly-button height, eyes darting throughout the room, slightly rocking back and forth from side to side on one foot then the other, the Earth-man looks certifiably uncomfortable.

“Relax,” the older woman suggests in the nicest voice possibly conjured for this moment. “I, ah, uh,” the Earth-man mumbles. “Hello, I am Kevin Voss,” the Earth-man speaks. “Yes, that is right, Kevin,” the older woman responds, and continues, “Am I pronouncing that correct? Keh-Vin Vah-Ss?” “Uh, yea, and you …” Kevin attempts to ask. “It doesn’t matter,” the older woman squints. Still obviously nervous, Kevin continues to rock from side to side. “Do you know why you are here?” the older woman begins. “Uh, I, I think so,” Kevin responds. “You think what, Kevin?” “I think I know why I’m here, but like, you know, it’s a little tough these days.” “Why is it that you are here then, Kevin?” “Well, I mean, I guess like, I thought that I was just like being asked about a really crazy thing that I saw happen, but now I think that I like definitely saw like something I shouldn’t have, like, you know, I saw something I shouldn’t have. You know?” Kevin blurts out a little anxious but with an overwhelming sense of confidence. This sense catches the older woman in a strange way that cannot be pinned down so easily. A whistle of a small wind. The older woman tilts her head slightly down and slowly closes her eyes to the sound. “Uh, Miss, or like Madam?” Kevin attempts again to ask. “Quiet,” the older woman conjures her nicest voice again, “Please.” Laughing. A warm breeze fills the tiny room. “Uh, wait, what is this?” frightened, Kevin asks; “Uh, Madam, or Ma’am, I really don’t like want to go through anything like weird or anything.” The older woman does not hear Kevin, of course. Instead, the sounds of a message ring through the older woman’s ears. When you live in the dark, there, much less is seen. The breeze ceases, Kevin, green in the face, about to vomit, begins to breathe heavily, one hand on each knee, bent in distress. “Please, Kevin. Calm down,” the older woman commands in a less-nice voice, albeit still pretty gentle. “Ma’am, I’m sorry, I just,” Kevin starts again. “Understood,” the older woman sternly responds. A strange moment goes by while Kevin suddenly appears to feel much better. “Yes,” the older woman speaks. “What was that?” Kevin asks. “It doesn’t matter,” the older woman informs. “What doesn’t matter?” Kevin asks again. “Your feelings, dear,” the older woman obliges.”But I feel fine,” confused, Kevin answers. “Excellent. Kevin,” the older woman calls; “Why don’t we take a little walk.” “Uh, okay,” Kevin agrees.

The two exit the distillation room, into the presence of the older woman’s three remaining escorts. To the escorts the older woman directs, “We will take a short walk through the hillside. Your accompaniment is unnecessary. However, please do follow us through the stream, and then wait for us there.” “Yes, ma’am,” escort V responds for all three. Kevin, feeling nervous again, states an awkward, “Uh, hello,” to the escorts who promptly ignore him. The five, now, walk through the arboretum toward the hillside-themed wildlife of Third Corridor’s Terrace. Silently, they make their way around a bustling group of facilitators who seem to be tending to an unruly bunch of vines that stalk an unwanting population of bamboo. Kevin seems in awe and asks, “Where the fuh-, uh, hell am I? I have, uh, like never seen any place like this before.” The escorts look at each other amongst themselves. The older woman, who leads the group, says nothing. Kevin, assuredly in awe now, continues to speak aloud, “Wow. Well, I’ll be. No, that can’t be. Is that a? Jeee-sus. Phew! What is that? This place is huge? How did that get here? Where did you find that?” For about fifteen minutes they walk through the arboretum until they reach a wide shallow stream, easily crossed upon stepping stones. U and W cross while Kevin follows. The older woman gently grasps the arm of W and instructs, “Kira ought to find you soon.” W understands this instruction and simply nods in acknowledgement. The older woman crosses the shallow stream to meet with the others.

On the other side now, the older woman instructs U and V to stay put, “After some time has passed, a return will be imminent.” “Where are we going?” Kevin interjects. “Up to the hillside,” the older woman entertains. “Why?” Kevin asks, a little indignant. “To get some fresh air. Doesn’t fresh air sound nice, Kevin?” the older woman placates. “Uh, I guess. Yea, sure,” Kevin resolves. “Excellent,” the older woman states with all her might to stay calm and pleasant while turning to begin the walk toward the hillside. “Ma’am,” V speaks aloud. “Yes?” the older woman replies while turning back toward the stream where Kevin, V and U still stand. “The path that breathes is the way that leads?” V asks. “Of course,” the older woman responds and then looks at Kevin; “Come along dear, you do not have all day.”

On Terraces

On Terraces

The six escorts stand at attention while the older woman rises from her seat and all walk toward the curved wall directly behind the older woman’s chair. Forming two lines of three, since the older woman detests the “hovering,” as she calls it, of a person immediately behind her, the escorts flank the older woman just behind each of her shoulders. Easily, the older woman may gently glance behind a shoulder and address or look upon any of the six. The lack of importance shed upon the place order of the six reveals the lack of hierarchy among them. Nevertheless, the escort, W, poised just off the older woman’s left shoulder instigates the process of transportation.

For most inhabitants within this orbital, the cost of travel is time. The vast distance between the older woman’s private quarters and the Third Corridor cannot be walked in one day. The distance can be traveled in a day’s sunlit hours by above-ground vehicular transportation or in a few hours by below-ground rail. For a select, unknown to the general population, few, the distance can and may be traveled within a relative instant. Familiar terms such as teleportation, backdoors, wormholes, folding, etc., fail to describe the process accurately. Thus, a specific report of exactly how this method of transport and travel works lacks verification. The exclusivity, of course, accounts for the elusive explanation. Such as it is, the older woman, along with her six escorts stand at the ready in front of the portion of curved wall that sits directly behind the older woman, if she were sitting in her centered chair.

The process begins quickly as the escort W steps forward toward the wall, lifts her left hand. A dim light marks an outline of a door in the wall. The escort presses her hand against the wall within the outlined space, a small puff of air. Separating now from the wall, a door slides backward, away from the group of travelers, then easily slides to the left and opens into a dark passageway. The group, still led by escort W enters the passageway, and as the door closes behind them, the space fills with a soft, dark blue glow. As quickly as the group disappears behind the door, they arrive in a glow of red at the Third Corridor. Of course, still unseen despite their arrival, no one within the Third Corridor takes notice of them, but in another instant, a flash of green reveals the seven travelers to the facilitators as the group appears all at once in the doorway between a greenhouse and a tropical arboretum. Again, much of the arrival process goes unseen by the facilitators with one facilitator recognizing the instantaneous appearance but soon thereafter writing off the improbability of the situation as a moment of lapsed attention, who then immediately calls [Staffer] to notify him of the older woman’s arrival.

Within each of the six corridors resides a place where most inhabitants of this particular orbital give little to no attention. Most, of course, as usual, are unaware of such a facility. Few, not including those who work within the facility, ever visit. Built with the intention to provide solace for the humans now living within a drastically fabricated, synthetic world, the six Terraces house a multitude of former Earth-dwelling plants, trees, flowers and grasses that may be enjoyed by any orbital inhabitant at no cost. Of solid glass, the Terraces each take on the shape similar to that of soapy bubbles piled on a countertop. The tops of each seeming bubble, of course, opens out into the orbital itself, and in some places, the tops of the tallest trees poke out and peer into the orbital. Populated not only by a garden for edible plants, a greenhouse for decorative flowers, a nursery for environmental trees and foliage, a hydroponic garden for medicinal herbs, and a landscaped oasis, every Terrace also houses a specific, themed garden, such as tropical, woodlands, etc.

Each Terrace, obviously, serves a practical, physical purpose of filtering and cleansing the air within the orbital, but they also serve the practical, psychological purpose of filtering and cleansing the minds of the inhabitants. What the Terraces forego is the purpose of education. In a reality such as orbital living, one no longer practices the sort of tangible forms of hands-on learning as was once the standard in days of old. For the first few revolutions, orbital customs required that each inhabitant spend no less than one hour per week within a Terrace. Accessible and sizable, the Terraces can easily hold half of its respective corridor’s residents in spacious comfort all at once. In the case of an emergency, one supposes, every inhabitant within the orbital could reside within their corridor’s Terrace, if only with the slightest bit of personal space. The requirement seemed irrelevant to the mental health of the inhabitants, and so, over time, the compulsory visitation remained law but went unenforced. Soon thereafter, with each new generation pouring in and out of each orbital, the Terraces nearly vanished from human awareness. Nevertheless, for the practical purpose of breathable air, the Terraces continue to do their duty, and their constant, consistent vacancy makes them greatly appealing to the older woman.

The older woman directs herself into the arboretum where she stands at the edge of the bamboo that grows en masse along a path that leads toward a shallow stream, looking beyond the thick forest of ribbed shoots. The six escorts disperse themselves throughout the garden. A few moments pass as a gentle whisper blows by the ear of the older woman. “Who,” the gentle whisper asks, “can see the things for which she does not look?” The gentle whisper continues, “Who can know that which cannot be see?” Unnerved, the older woman calls for escorts X, Y, and Z, “Please, find Kira.” “What, then, would you like for us to tell Kira?” escort X asks. “Upon seeing you, Kira will know what to do.” “Yes, ma’am,” the three respond in unison as they exit the arboretum. Once the three are out of sight, [Staffer] appears in the doorway between the arboretum and the hydroponic systems facility and makes his way toward the older woman who immediately turns to acknowledge him. “My apologies, ma’am, for the wait” [Staffer] begins; “The Earth-man has proven difficult to awaken after the presumably stressful day, yesterday.” “Yes,” the older woman sharply responds. “Shall I take you to him, now?” [Staffer] asks. “No,” the older woman instructs, “bring him to me. I will wait in the distillation room.” [Staffer] nods and excuses himself, “Yes, ma’am.”

On Lingering

On Lingering

“Please, come in.”

“ …”

“Please, have a seat.”

“ …”

“You looked concerned. About what do you hold such grave concern?”

“Well, the last time you called, I was unceremoniously dismissed, at which point I was sure I would be exiled off this orbital or worse, killed.”

“The fragile feelings of your kind must be … daunting.”

“It wasn’t a matter of my feelings, ma’am. I have a job to do, and …”

“And what? You felt as though a deep, evil hindrance prevented you from performing admirably?”

“Never mind.”

“Never mind, what? You are the self-proclaimed user of words in order to tell the story, are you not? Then, by all means, use your words?”

“I’d rather not.”

“Oh, by virtue of not feeling like doing so?”

“No.”

“Understood. Have you eaten?”

“Yes.”

“Who fed you?”

“Kira and one other whose name I never learned.”

“That seems rude.”

“Does it?”

“Be sensical.”

“For what purpose?”

“Your own dignity, if for nothing else.”

“Fine. I suppose not knowing the name of one person who silently delivers a meal could be considered rude.”

“Yes. Did you sleep?”

“During the night, no, but yesterday?, yes.”

“How was the garden?”

“Comfortable.”

“Excellent.”

“Ma’am, what’s going on here?”

“Where?”

Here here. What’s happening. Why am I sitting here?”

“Oh, goodness. Your existence is something about which no one can really speak, confidently.”

“No. You misunderstand me.”

“Unlikely.”

“Fine. If this is how you want it. What happened … yesterday?”

“What do you think happened yesterday?”

“Whatever happened does not matter to me, nor does it affect me directly.”

“It did, however, affect you, did it not?”

“What do you mean?”

“You ceased to exist. If only temporarily.”

“No. I was sitting outside, in the garden, waiting.”

“Were you?”

“Yes.”

“How can you be sure?”

“Ma’am, I can’t.”

“What? Be sure? Please, elaborate.”

“I just can’t deal with all of this … with you … with …”

“How all of this makes you feel?”

“No.”

“Individual choices will most often times be made based solely on feeling.”

“I feel nothing.”

“As a result of your inexistence without the need or approval of others.”

“No.”

“That was not a question.”

“No, this, this is exactly what I cannot do with you.”

“Oh. What are we doing now?”

“Ma’am.”

“Please, illuminate the situation.”

“Ma’am, you called me.”

“Very well. Your services have deemed themselves necessary. Thus, please proceed.”

“With what?”

“Your story, of course.”

“Okay?”

“Now,” the older woman commands, in no fewer words, at the curious being to whom she starkly speaks, who sits directly across from her; “Excellent,” the older woman encourages. “Where is it that you would like for me to begin this next account?” the curious being asks. “Wherever pleases you, dear,” the older woman condescends, and upon hearing the description of her tone chuckles in a snide hiss that furthers the condescension.

For the past three biases, the older woman called into question every inhabitant within one klick (or one kilometer, or 1000 meters or .62 mile) radius of her private quarters. Hour after hour passed as dozens of people streamed in and out of the cylindrical chambers of the older woman’s office. “No, please begin again,” the older woman interrupts. “Sorry?” the curious being asks. “Begin again,” the older woman repeats. The curious being sighs a sigh of frustration peppered with a little disbelief at the situation at hand. Mulling the happenings of the day before, the curious being sits and waits for the words to precipitate above and condense into the rightness of a thing. “Ah, interesting,” the older woman interjects again between the curious being’s thoughts. “What?” the curious being inquires. “The day weighs heavy,” the older woman responds. “Perhaps, ma’am, this would be easier if I were left alone or allowed to leave.” Pretending to give the curious being’s request some thought, the older woman instructs, “Indeed that may be easier, but your work here is not finished. When you are finished, you will be dismissed and freed to go about your lingering.” Indeed, the day weighs heavy upon the minds of the inhabitants who live near the older woman. The curious being looks again to the older woman for guidance or approval. The older woman stares back equally curious. Heavy, indeed, the words begin to fall.

Amidst the mist of mild and grey, the day, cold and long, but no longer, for the morning brought about the orbital’s nearest star’s beams of shine. Through the one circled, ceiling window of the cylindrical room, the light shines through and casts a spell of warmth. A soothing respite from the incident of a Bias long passed. Seemingly calm, the orbital settles into the routine of ordinary life. In the air, no matter, a restlessness lingers as the older woman knows a truth about the overarching circumstance. An Earth-man, lost, resides within a time unknown to him. He lives in a past unreachable. Understanding much, the older woman understands that someone is to blame for this occurrence. There lingers, a question, the much larger question, of course.

Few know the full story behind the incident, and even fewer understand it. All, nevertheless, know of the incident. Those who know the full story have yet to make the full connection between the incident and the Earth-man himself. Those who understand the incident, however, understand the implication. To the many, “Perhaps the Earth-man brought himself here, with purpose, but that seems unlikely. The possibility still remains. One cannot dismiss the possible, especially since to travel through time is no longer fantastic,” goes the gossip. To the few, someone is responsible, but who?

The list, of course, is quite short. Nevertheless, unless the inhabitants demand an answer, the incident will no longer be discussed in a few short iterations, the older woman is sure of it. Of what the older woman, no doubt, is unsure reveals the gap in her knowledge, the gap that cannot ever be known. Thus, a search must commence. “Excellent,” the older woman interjects, yet again. “Now, that search must assuredly commence,” the older woman continues as a small fleet of three men and three women orderly enter the cylindrical room through the door directly to the right of the center of the room where the older woman sits, facing forward, to escort the transport of the older woman across the orbital to the Third Corridor where she will finally meet this man from Earth.