‘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.

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.

Kira’s (sounds like ‘ear’) Staffer

Kira’s (sounds like ‘ear’) Staffer

“Where have you sent him, Kira?”

“He sits in the garden.”

“Very well.”

“Ma’am?”

“Yes.”

“[Staffer] arrives with haste. Shall I send him in?”

“Of course.”

“ …”

“Please, be seated.”

“ …”

“A message is what you deliver?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Who sent you.”

“I sent myself.”

“How is it that you’ve come by this information?”

“I stumbled upon it myself.”

“By chance?”

“By circumstance.”

“Of course. Where is it that you are stationed?”

“The twelfth exit of the third corridor.”

“Excellent. And what do you make of your superior?”

“The favor that you show toward her must mean she is of the utmost competence.”

“Yes, Kira certainly has trained you well. And the superior of your superior?”

“I cannot honestly say.”

“Make an assumption.”

“ …”

“ …”

“Since I was allowed direct entry just now, when word of my message was made known, I assume that I am proficient.”

“Your name?”

“[Staffer].”

“Very well, [Staffer], please deliver your message.”

“Ma’am?”

“Yes.”

“I am in a place of confusion as to exactly what to say.”

“Ah, yes. Who intercepted you?”

“How did …”

“It does not matter.”

“I do not know him.”

“Very well. What did he say?”

“He requested that I not inform you, ma’am, of the information I acquired.”

“Understood. And the threat?”

“Ma’am?”

“This person must have threatened you, or else, there would be no need for your confusion in whether or not you ought to deliver your message, no?”

“No.”

“Ah. What did he tell you?”

“He told me …”

“Quiet.”

“Ma’am?”

“[Staffer], silence!”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“Do you understand the options before you?”

“I believe so, however, would you, ma’am, be kind enough to shed light upon them.”

“No. You may ask one question, if you know what that question should be, and the truth will be spoken in return.”

“ …”

“ …”

“What is the likelihood that I will remember who I am?”

“Strong, most remember. You, however, are under completely different conditions. What needs to be done will be done, but if your messenger finds you first, there’s nothing to be done. Understood?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Very well. Have you decided?”

“Yes.”

“Excellent. What is it then, [Staffer], that you know?”

“A man has arrived within the Orbital via a displacement.”

“When is he?”

“The Numerical Years.”

“Earth?”

“Yes.”

“Where is he?”

“The station at Third Corridor.”

“There is no protocol for this, [Staffer]. How did you contain him?”

“Dream capture.”

“Did you wipe him?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Your reasoning for this?”

“The incident.”

“Excellent.”

“I’ve already questioned him, and he remembers much.”

“Yes. These conversations are known. Action has already been taken.”

“But ma’am …”

“You cannot know what cannot be known, [Staffer]. I, however, am not you.”

“Yes.”

“Do tell, nevertheless.”

“The last thing he remembers is watching someone disappear. He, allegedly, witnessed someone disappear on Earth. The next thing he knew, he was sitting in the station being questioned.”

“No, that is not all. Tell everything.”

“But ma’am, I thought you already know of this occurrence.”

“The occurrence is understood. Tell me the how.”

“Nobody knows how. The witness does not even know he is not from this world.”

“He still does not know.”

“Yes.”

“That was not a question.”

“I am sorry.”

“It doesn’t matter. When was this witness found?”

“Shortly after the last Bias.”

“You found him?”

“Yes. He was walking along the pathway that leads out of the twelfth exit, looking strange. I approached him and immediately knew he was not from now.”

“How did you come to this conclusion?”

“His clothing, the overall look to his face, and he, uh, he smelled of a certain, uh, uncleanliness.”

“Of course. Then what did you do?”

“I sent him into a dream and walked him toward Third Corridor’s station.”

“What was he like when he woke up.”

“Seemingly normal. He did not seem confused or unsure of where he was.”

“He sees only what he knows, of course.”

“Oh, yes.”

“What did you ask him?”

“I just had him talk about his day. He seemed a bit shaken about seeing someone disappear, but not worried about his current state of existence.”

“This is your message?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Please rephrase the entire thing and speak it in one concise package.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Begin.”

“This morning, shortly after the last Bias, I walked my routine rounds around the twelfth exit of the third corridor. While walking, I saw an unfamiliar-looking man who I instantly knew was not from this time or place. I knew this because he was dressed in unusual clothing and emanated a certain stench. Not knowing what the proper protocol is for this sort of situation, I enacted, what I thought to be, the safest mode of conscious suspension and dream captured the foreign man. Shortly thereafter, the foreign man was sleeping soundly in one of the Third Corridor’s station rooms. The foreign man did not seem bothered, nor did he seem as though anything was unusual to him. After an hour or so of questioning, I learned that the foreign man is indeed from the planet Earth sometime during the early Numerical Years. According to the Earth-man, the last thing he remembers is a man disappearing before his eyes. The Earth-man’s full account has been visually recorded and documented. The disappearance seemed to have lasted no longer than a few minutes, at which point, the Earth-man does not recall anything else about what happened next. The most recent thing that the Earth-man remembers is waking to our knocking on his door a few hours ago to wake him. That is when I questioned him and learned that he perceived of our knocking on his door as the knocking by friends back on Earth to remind him of work. I’m sorry, to remind him of his responsibilities to his employer. No one can account for the Earth-man’s time travel. So far no one has come forth as a witness to the Earth-man’s arrival on this orbital. It is possible that the Earth-man has been here for some time, unnoticed, but this is unlikely. My conclusion is that yesterday’s incident must be related to the arrival of a man from Earth’s past. I do not have any idea how this man could have arrived here. I also make no presumptions about why. I must then also conclude that there is a chance that this Earth-man arrived yesterday, having only been found today, but again, I do not think this is likely. Further action is recommended, but I do not know what that action should be. Thus, after concluding my initial round of questioning with this man, I made my way straight to you, ma’am, to deliver this message.”

“Understood, [Staffer]. Thank you for your efforts. Everything you say reveals truth and nothing more. You are dismissed.”

“Ma’am?”

“Yes.”

“I cannot help but wonder how it is that this man arrived here. Please, if you would be so kind, tell me what you know?”

“There is no possible way for you to know what is known by those who know the things that cannot be known. Kira!”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Please escort [Staffer] through the door.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“And [Staffer].”

“Ma’am?”

“Be careful.”

“Yes.”

“Kira, return to me when [Staffer] has safely departed.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“ …”

“Ma’am?”

“Bring the physicist from the Numerical Years here, immediately.”

“Which era?”

“The last upload.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Continuance Not Clairvoyance

Continuance Not Clairvoyance

“Sir, look, I know your story; I’ve read what you saw; I just want to hear you speak the narrative yourself.”

“I told the guy like a hundred times what I saw! Like, what more can I say? I just feel like I’m in all sorts of trouble or something. I mean, I was like in my house, then there was knocking, and it all goes foggy, and I can’t remember. I don’t know what I did or what I saw. I just feel like I’m being interrogated. I mean, I know that I’m being interrogated, but nobody will fucking tell me what’s going on. I thought you were here to tell me what the hell is going on!”

“Sir, I’m sorry, but I don’t know what’s going on either. I too just woke up here to a non-stop round of questioning.”

“Who are you?”

“I’ve been instructed not to tell you, but if you can stay calm, I will tell you.”

“I’m like not going to fucking stay calm! Do you even know what I’ve been through today? I mean, you must know what I’ve seen or something, and I like wasn’t supposed to see it or something, and now I’m going to be killed or something! You don’t get it!”

“I do get it. I just don’t get all of it.”

“Then who the fuck are you?! And are you going to like fucking tell me what the hell is going on?!”

“Sir, you just need to stay calm. How about you have a seat. Sit back down. Just relax. Do you want something to drink or eat?”

“What is this like good cop now? I mean, that like other guy already scared the shit out of me. I’ll say whatever it is or do whatever whatever like I need to do or say to get the fuck out of here and back home!”

“Honestly, I think that’s why you’re here. I think they’re trying to get you back home.”

“Fine.”

“So, is there anything you’d like? Coffee? Tea?”

“I’ll take any soda and yea, I’m like hungry. I’ve been here all day.”

“Alright. Just sit tight. I’ll see what I can do. …

 

“Excuse me. Is there any way we can get something to drink or eat in here?”

“Maybe.”

“Thank you. …

“… See that was easy.”

“Yea, we’ll see.”

“Alright. Please, sir, just start from the beginning, and tell me everything that happened from the time you left work until you found yourself here.”

“Yea, fine.”

“Thank you.”

“So, I like work the night shift, and so I guess I left the factory around five in the morning.”

“Was it dark out?”

“No, not dark, but the sun wasn’t up yet, I mean, as best I can tell. There’s not much sunlight these days.”

“Yes, I know what you mean.”

“And I like walk toward the inlet, there’s like this small stream that runs through the far end of the main downtown area of the city.”

“Okay.”

“I always walk along the sidewalk that like runs along that like little stream every single day on my way home.”

“Every day?”

“Yes. Every single ephing day.”

“Okay.”

“But like this time, I’m like walking, and I see this guy like walking across the bridge, Sprouts Bridge, that like crosses the inlet to the west side of the downtown area of the city, and it was a little like strange.”

“Okay. Why, what was strange?”

“Like seeing a guy in the early fucking morning just walking that bridge.”

“What’s significant about that bridge?”

“Well, I mean, it like crosses the inlet to the side of the downtown area that’s basically deserted. There isn’t like nobody who lives over there anymore, so usually, there are like kids who want nothing but trouble on the bridge late at night and whatnot, but an adult man in the early morning? No way. I should know. I walk by that bridge every single day at exactly the same ass crack of dawn. You know?”

“Yes. I understand you.”

“So, since there was that guy there, I like noticed him. I saw him, so I just sort of stood there and look at him. I don’t think he saw me cause we were like walking different directions, but then he kept looking back like someone was following him.”

“Was someone following him?”

“Not that I could tell.”

“Okay.”

“So, then I like keep watching him until he stops on the middle of the bridge, and then he looks like he’s about to jump.”

“Okay.”

“And that’s when I decided I’d like get the hell out of there cause I don’t want to be like part of someone like, you know, killing themselves.”

“Alright.”

“So, I turn around and try to convince myself that I’m just going to mind my own business, but then everything like gets all colorful.”

“Colorful how?”

“Man, sorry, miss…Lady or whoever you are, I mean, you said you read the thing. This is when all the rainbow colored shit started happening, you know?”

“Sir, remember? I need to hear it from you.”

“Agh, ugh, uh, yea, fine. Okay, so yea, it’s like … it’s like … looking through a rainbow, you know?”

“No, I don’t know. That’s why I’m here.”

“Ugh. So, like picture a rainbow, and you know how you can like see through them cause they’re just like light and shit.”

“Okay.”

“So, yea like that, but like everywhere.”

“Okay. Then what happens.”

“So, yea, it was all like crazy, so I turned around to see if that guy was still on the bridge.”

“And he was?”

“Yea. He was still just standing there.”

“Did the colorfulness look any different around him?”

“What do you mean?”

“Did the way the world looked through the ‘rainbow’ as you say, look the same near the guy on the bridge?”

“Yea, I guess. I mean, I think so. I don’t really know if I’d know the difference.”

“Humf … Yea, I alright. Then what happens?”

“So, he’s just standing there, and since we’re like the only two people who could possibly be experiencing this crazy color shit, I decide that I’ll walk toward him to see if I can like chat with him about it or whatnot.”

“Okay.”

“And then as I’m like getting closer to the bridge, there’s this loud crack through the air, like thunder but sharper or something, louder, like a tree branch snapping or something.”

“Are there trees in this area of town?”

“Hell no. When was the last time you saw a tree, outside, on Earth, man! Sorry, lady, ma’am.”

“Okay. Alright.”

“So I look up for a moment, like up to the sky, you know, but I don’t see nothing, so then I look back at the guy, and he’s like looking back at me. So, then I just sort of stop dead.”

“Were you close enough to hear each other?”

“Nah. I don’t think so.”

“Was there anyone else on the bridge by that time?”

“Nah. No, I don’t think so. I mean, maybe, but I don’t think so.”

“No one else? Are you absolutely sure?”

“No, I’m not ab-so-lute-ly sure. But I’m pretty sure.”

“Okay. And then what?”

“And then he just disappears.”

“But how? What did it look like?”

“I don’t know. Like picture someone sitting here. Or yea, like I’m sitting here, and then the next moment I’m gone.”

“Was he there and then you looked away, and then he was gone?”

“No. I was staring right into his face, and he was staring back, and then poof, nothing.”

“Then what did you do? Did you go examine where he stood?”

“No. I mean, now that you say that, I think that’s probably what I should’ve done.”

“Okay. So then what?”

“So, then that’s when everything gets a bit foggy.”

“Alright. Then what’s the next thing you remember?”

“I was like sleeping, and then my work buddies were pounding on my door to like wake me up for work.”

“Did you tell your friends about what happened then?”

“Wait.”

“What?”

“I think I don’t know if the people knocking were my friends cause I don’t remember seeing their faces.”

“What do you mean? What happened then?”

“I don’t remember. I just remember waking up to pounding on my front door.”

“Were you in your own bed?”

“I think so.”

“Are you sure?”

“Well, no, now I’m not.”

“Where were you?”

“Well, like, I mean, the next thing I remember is that I’m like walking through some forest, garden place, but that can’t be right cause there aren’t no trees on Earth.”

“Where did you go after you walked through the forest garden?”

“I like entered a room full of books and stuff or something, it looked like old from like, you know, old history books of like when there were kings and queens.”

“Then where were you?”

“I was sitting in some small room with a big couch and like no ceiling or something, and then that guy came in and started talking to me and asking all sorts of questions.”

“Do you know what day it is?”

“Yea, sure. Well, no not exactly. But it should be [day, date] like an R-day.”

“What year?”

“[Year]”

“Alright.”

“What? What’d I say?”

“Nothing. I just. Wait here a minute. I need to talk to someone.”

Not Her, But She’ll Do

Not Her, But She’ll Do

“So, are you saying that the story was of an apocryphal nature?”

“Well, yes, it is.”

“Ah, apologies, yes, the story is still widely heard or told or seen?”

“Heard mostly. I never knew a written account existed for years. Well, I guess it was most of my life, thus far.”

“Understood.”

“People speak of the events as true. That was what drew me to the subject in the first place.”

“Speak to the first part, please.”

“What?”

“How people speak of the events, etc.”

“Well, there are a lot of people who believe that they’ve seen these, I don’t know what to call them except like, maybe disappearances?, but that’s not how those who speak of them talk about the, uh, event.”

“How do the people speak of the event, then?”

“Sort of … magic or some sort of sighting.”

“A sighting of what?”

“Alien beings or people from other dimensions.”

“Do you know what happens during these events?”

“Yes.”

“You’ve seen it?”

“No. I read about them.”

“You believe the written accounts to be true?”

“I’m not sure if I’d say I’m a ‘believer,’ but the situation as a whole fascinates me. You hear the tale or a rumor about a sighting, and then everyone’s interested in what it was exactly. You hear things.”

“And that was what drew you to the subject?”

“Yes, absolutely. I was absolutely fascinated by these accounts of people ‘disappearing’ and the flashes of light and all these different images of color and rainbows, and everything just seemed so, so, intriguing.”

“How is it that you came to read written accounts of these ‘disappearances’?”

“Various books stores.”

“Sorry?”

“Bookstores.”

“Oh, right. Yes. Apologies. And are you fond of this antiq … this form of media?”

“Media? I suppose. Yes, I like books.”

“Do you remember how you got here today?”

“ … ”

“Sorry. Let’s continue with what you read of these accounts.”

“Alright.”

“What was it that you found so fascinating and intriguing?”

“Well, I assume you know of the events; that is why I am here, yes?”

“Of course. The events are known by everyone.”

“So, don’t you find them fascinating?”

“You find them fascinating, and that is what is fascinating. Please, answer the question.”

“Geez, alright. I thought this was a simple sit down to discuss my research on the disappearances, but that’s fine, I’ll just get to my point.”

“Yes, it is important not to have hurt feelings.”

“I’m sorry?”

“When one’s feelings get hurt through a clear lack of revelry, people feel emotionally wounded.”

“Um, no. I don’t feel emotionally wounded.”

“Then why take offense to the directness of this situation?”

“I wasn’t offended.”

“Then why say, ‘Geez’?”

“It just seems rude to have all of this discussion be so one-sided.”

“This is a one-sided situation, however.”

“Is it?”

“Of course.”

“So, I’m being interrogated?”

“More or less. Remember, though, you came here of your own free will.”

“Did I?”

“Of course. How else would you be here?”

“Well, now I’m not sure.”

“Well, if you’re no longer sure about whether or not you want to continue stating answers to the questions asked, you are free to leave.”

“So, you don’t want to know about my research?”

“Do you want to speak to your research or do you want your feelings to feel good?”

“I don’t know what you’re getting at, ma’am, but I’m here because someone called me.”

“And you showed up.”

“Yes. I’m here, aren’t I?”

“Why?”

“Mostly because I need the money, but I also think that these stories aren’t just stories. I think that these disappearances are true. I think that every account is so similar that they cannot simply be brushed off as radical obsession with fill-in-the-blank affiliation.”

“What is the motivation behind the conviction?”

“That the stories are true?”

“Of course.”

“The motivation … I am motivated by the consistency.”

“How often do these disappearances occur?”

“No one can know for sure because there’s a good chance that every event hasn’t been reported.”

“When are you?”

“I’m sorry?”

“What is today’s date?”

“[date/day]”

“Year?”

“[Year]”

“Give a ballpark estimate based on your research.”

“There have been roughly fifty recorded incidents over the past thousand years or so.”

“Meaning what?”

“Meaning, I’d assume that an event happens maybe every ten years, but there’s a low probability that every event would be seen, and then who knows if the witness would be compelled to record the incident in writing. Therefore, I feel as though …”

“Enough with the feelings.”

“Jesus, fuck. I … would … es-ti-mate … that there’s no way of knowing exactly how many times or how many different people have not only seen the event but also, how many different people have disappeared through an event.”

“Ah. Very good.”

“Thank you.”

“No.”

“No, what?”

“No, thank yous. You have no idea where you are.”

“Within the scope of what these disappearances are or mean? I know! That’s why I’m here!”

“No.”

“No, what?”

“Physically. You have no idea where you are currently located.”

“Yes, I do?”

“This doesn’t matter. What matters is what are you researching now?”

“Well, I read about a hundred different books by people who have either documented as a witness or for someone else who has witnessed a disappearance and learned that there is ever only one witness to the event, even when the witness speaks of other people directly within their vicinity.”

“Yes.”

“Yes, what?”

“Please continue.”

“So, usually, the witness undergoes some sort of mental trauma wherein they feel … they think that they are crazy or have seen something they weren’t supposed to see, and then, they begin to fear for their own safety. Everything basically goes downhill fast, as far as mental stability and mental health is concerned.”

“For the witness.”

“Yes.”

“Understood.”

“Then the witness eventually forgets about the event and when people approach them about it later, they fail to understand its significance. So, if a witness doesn’t speak up fast and loud enough, there’s a really good chance that the witness will forget or write it off as ‘crazy,’ which means the only documented, known witnesses are the ones who really believed what they saw, believed it so much, despite being amongst other people who should’ve also seen the disappearance happen, that they raved about it until someone was willing to listen. Or in a few cases, the witness was prominent enough to write about it him/herself, and the written account was read.”

“So, what is it that you research now?”

“Sorry. I get excited and lose my train of thought.”

“Is it a train?”

“Figuratively.”

“Speak in the literal, please, no more ‘magic’ or ‘downhill’ or ‘trains’ that are not trains.”

“Jeez-us. You are one tough nut.”

“One last time, please.”

“You are impenetrable.”

“Yes. Continue.”

“Alright. These days, I suppose …”

“This really is your last warning. There’s no use for you if you cannot find confidence in your own action.”

“What?”

“You suppose?”

“What the fuck, lady? Nobody just talks so perfectly and ardently in conversation.”

“Try.”

“Jesus-fucking-christ.”

“Are you religious?”

“Fuck no.”

“Why is that?”

“Are you crazy?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Are you religious?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Well, if you are religious, you’re crazy. If you’re not religious, then you know why I think you’re crazy.”

“You only think that, though. How does that matter?”

“My thoughts?”

“Yes.”

“Because your thoughts matter.”

“To whom?”

“To you, the world, to everything that you wish and hope to be.”

“How?”

“You can’t be or exist without having the thoughts you have. Your thoughts are what makes you who you are?”

“Typical.”

“I’m sorry?”

“It doesn’t matter. Continue if you please.”

“I don’t remember the question.”

“Then sit there until you do remember.”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“Shit.”

“Yes.”

“Oh, something about no one speaks so impeccably in real life.”

“What is real life?”

“Goddammit. Do you want me to answer the question from before?”

“If you can remember it.”

“Shit, my research.”

“Ah, very good.”

“Yes, so my current research revolves around figuring out what exactly happens during these disappearances.”

“How can you, of all people, figure such a thing out?”

“I’m a physicist.”

“Are you?”

“Yes, I thought that was part of the reason why my work meant something to you.”

“Of course. Are you any good?”

“One of the only prize-winning females out there.”

“Prizes mean something to you?”

“Okay, just … you’re … what was it?, impenetrable.”

“Please.”

“Yes, fine, I will continue. It must be a matter of physics or at least something that has to do with the relationship between matter, humans, and space, time, and a transference or anomalous change in or of energy around those humans.”

“Must it?”

“Yes, absolutely.”

“Theories?”

“Of your demanded definitive state? No.”

“What is knowable?”

“Nothing.”

“Yes.”

“The obvious problem, for me personally, is that I have not encountered a witness myself.”

“Never?”

“Correct.”

“Never spoken to a person who was close to a witness?”

“I have spoken to people who have directly heard a witness speak of the event witnessed.”

“What would you ask?”

“Everything.”

“Where would you start?”

“Are you telling me there’s someone here who has recently witnessed a disappearance?”

“No. With what question would you start if you were to encounter someone who believed they saw a disappearance?”

“I’m not sure.”

“You have never given this any thought?”

“You said my thoughts don’t matter.”

“Of course they do.”

“Why?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Fuck, lady. Stop shit … just … just … stop … with the … word dom-i-nance.”

“Ah, very good.”

Ladybug & A New One

Ladybug & A New One

“Mother-fucking fucking-fucking christ,” Ladybug screams while storming about. “I am not screaming, and you did not use an exclamation point,” Ladybug sternly explains with its middle two … arms … rested upon its … hips? “Yes, hips will do for the sake of, what’s the word?, the, oh right, the imagination,” Ladybug nods, this time, with its middle two arms crossed across its … chest? Ladybug rolls its eyes as its middle two arms fall loosely by its … “Sides goddammit! Sides!” Ladybug shouts. “Yes, thank you. I am shouting now,” Ladybug thanks. “You totally suck at this, bee-tee-dubs,” Ladybug enunciates. “You’re allowed to speak,” Ladybug speaks. Curiously, Ladybug brings this to the attention of no one in particular and contemplates the validity of its perception of … reality. “What is it with you and your linguistics?” Ladybug asks, and continues, “Why do you not know anything?” A squirrel appears in the distance. “Yea, you can wiggle away this time,” Ladybug scoffs … “It’s more of a huff. That’s how the other one used to put it; I liked them better,” Ladybug huffs. “No, I’m not huffing now. Ugh, why do you suck so much?” Ladybug asks, this time, as it flutters off toward the apparent squirrel. “I don’t flutter!” Ladybug shouts as its distance grows closer to the squirrel.

“Sup, Lady,” the squirrel greets with a lift of the chin. “What’s with this one?” the squirrel points, with a thumb over its shoulder. “It’s Margaret,” the squirrel … “Margaret,” Margaret introduces, although one would never be able to guess the gender of a squirrel just by looking at them. “She/her is fine,” Margaret admits. Ladybug rolls its eyes and perches itself atop the acorn in Margaret’s … hands? “Yea, hands are fine where universal descriptions are concerned,” Margaret approves while waving the acorn around in one hand as Ladybug flutters to stay on top of it (the acorn). “Where did this one come from?” Margaret asks Ladybug. “The older woman off’d the last guy,” Ladybug shrugs. A lie. “What?” Margaret wonders with great concern as she, too, rolls her eyes. “The main problem with this one is that it won’t speak,” Ladybug gestures with feigned exhaustion. “Oh,” Margaret sighs. “Well, what’s this all about?” Margaret finally asks. The two glance over at nowhere in particular with an … impatient? … look? “Can it just shut up?” Margaret asks. “Unfortunately,” Ladybug begins, “I do not possess such power.” “If I look, I’ll stare,” Margaret admits. “Yea, this one’s a cutie,” Ladybug flirts. The two continue to stare.

More than a few minutes pass. “When were you last?” Margaret wonders, seemingly aloud. “It’s such a long story,” Ladybug laments with another big huff. “Very well, have you seen the Listmaker?” Margaret offers. “Oh. My. God. Yes. This was when everything started to go wrong, but nobody seems to know what’s going on,” Ladybug explains. “That seems about right,” Margaret states while stroking her chin with her left free hand as the right continues to gently toss the acorn up into the air with Ladybug still fluttering to stay atop it. “Okay, I know where you need to go,” Margaret concludes. “Thank Bromide,” Ladybug shouts … “Ugh, you forgot the exclamation point,” Ladybug corrects; “Here, I’ll do it again. Thank Bromide!” Ladybug’s excitement reaches its normal high as all of its flying apparati deploy, and Ladybug does a little happy dance. “Where, Margaret? Tell me, where do we need to go?” Ladybug asks, huffing and puffing for air after exerting itself beyond its normal daily physical movement. “Shut up,” Ladybug scoffs, at no particular one. “No, I’m talking to you,” Ladybug states with an over exaggerated eye roll.

Margaret clears her throat, “You need to find her” Ladybug plops itself down onto its … butt? “Haunches, the other one used to call them my haunches,” Ladybug offers as Ladybug plops itself down onto its haunches. “What’s the problem?” Margaret asks. “Obviously, we know this. Well, not this one, the other one and I, ‘we’ know this,” Ladybug states while leaving out the obvious that everything that needs to be known will be known by those who need to know. “Oh, well, that’s what I know,” Margaret admits. “That’s what everyone knows,” Ladybug explains.

The two sit in silence for a moment, a bit discouraged. “A bit?” Ladybug whisper-asks, greatly discouraged, nearly suicidal. “Alright, watch it,” Ladybug pleases as if in threat. “Yea, I am your greatest threat, Lingerer,” Ladybug threatens, for sure, this time. It becomes increasingly difficult to know exactly what and how it is that ticks off Ladybug in just the right way to make it intolerable to be around. “It’s you,” Ladybug points; “It’s always you.”

As Inquisitor

As Inquisitor

“I do not know why Mox lies so readily, ma’am, but in his defense, at least the lies are part of his overall character or lack thereof.”

“Of course. You do seem to be right about that. Where is he now?”

“I’m not sure, and none of the others have seen him in some time.”

“How much time is some time, dear?”

“I believe the last person who saw him was Uldin during the Bias.”

“How do you know of this?”

“A guarantor requested … ”

“Of course. Who is the most-capable person to find him?”

“Ma’am?”

“Yes.”

“If Mox is hidden, there is no way to find him.”

“There are ways. He has been found in the past, and this will not be the last time he hides, of course.”

“Who would you like for me to send?”

“Do not send anyone. Bring someone to me.”

“Right away, ma’am.”

> . . . <

“Do you know why you are here, Lingerer?”

“To tell the story, I believe.”

“How is it that you know the story?”

“Many years ago, I stumbled upon a different story that seemed to have no end, and so, I began my search to find its end.”

“And that is how you found yourself here?”

“Yes, ma’am. The story is being told as I watch it unfold.”

“Do you not know the end?”

“Yes.”

“I see. Please, proceed.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course.”

They sit in a lofty room, circular, cylindrical actually, and above their heads a large, round stained glass window spreads wide and fills the ceiling completely. Directly centered in the circular room, the older woman sits comfortably upon a rod-iron chair, facing one of the four doors that are equally placed around the circle’s wall, and in front of her sits a small loo table that supports a small, pink, carnival glass plate of crumpets, a stack of old-Earth tea cups and saucers and a glass, self-sieving teapot.

The day seems strange, full of tension as various individuals swarm in and out of the older woman’s office chambers after being called in, one-by-one, to be interrogated about yesterday’s incident. The older woman, of course, understands all and thus knows the cause of said incident, but the repercussions are what concern her, and the only way for her to understand what will be is to figure out the reason the incident happened in the first place. The older woman, feels the intensity in the air, a shift, the clouds no longer sway in a misty formation of carelessness; they know something. “Please, Kira,” the older woman shouts aloud throughout the room despite the fact that Kira stands outside the room. Immediately, the doors to the older woman’s left open as Kira ushers in the next person in question as the current person in question grabs a crumpet as the older woman abruptly dismisses the person with a wave of the hand and a, “Good. Don’t come back.”

For hours, people are summoned from every turn within walking distance to sit and chat with the older woman. Some have a small idea about who the older woman is, but most have no idea who she is or why they are there. Those who know of the older woman easily comply and follow the person who approached them. Those, however, who do not know the older woman, despite the oddity of the situation, do not know whether or not they have the right to decline the offer, if it even is an offer. Thus, all arrive into the office a bit scared, fearful, confused and sometimes quite resistant and demanding. The older woman flexes a certain amount of power and nobody seems to know how it is that she is able to do so. Nevertheless, the vast majority of people within the Orbital do not know the older woman, but for some reason, everyone seems to know of her.

The questions are simple enough, and everyone who arrives usually ends up feeling proud of their own competence. They, of course, have no idea for what the older woman probes, since great pains have been taken to keep the questioning reasonable and plain. Little effort, though, is made to comfort the fearful person in question. The older woman usually begins with a minute or so of pure silence, which ultimately leads to the offering of tea and crumpets to break the silence, “Tea? Crumpets? Sugar and cream are unavailable.” Once the person in question seems to calm down a bit, not to say that all ever calm down, and in fact, there were, on quite a few occasions, those who refused to even acknowledge the older woman’s demand that all be questioned. Eventually, however, they all comply because, “Frankly,” the older woman states as she casually sips some tea, “you must.” Once all of the niceties are established and the person in question realizes that the interrogation revolves around the incident and not around them personally, the older woman decides to make it about them, “Who are you, and where do you live?” Most, of course, begin to feel uncomfortable again as the older woman probes ever deeper into the personal lives of those being questioned. Some, of course, like the attention. Despite the overall consensus that the people in question are answering the older woman’s questions honestly, the older woman feels frustrated at the people’s overwhelming lack of insight and information, since, “For to know anything, one must first know one’s self; it’s no wonder that all of these people have wasted my day.” Angry now, the older woman takes a deep breath, exhales, stretches her neck as she sits up tall in her chair, “Kira, please.”

A moment later, Kira appears before the older woman. “Perhaps,” the older woman states, “since hours have been wasted, turns of a farther distance ought to be searched as well.” “But ma’am, does everyone who potentially understands the incident need to be interrogated?” Kira asks shyly. “Of course not, dear,” the older woman states to obviate further discussion. Kira knows better than to press the matter, thus, with this instruction, the older woman’s staff quickly sets out in an attempt to find out to what extent the incident is known.

“That’s enough,” the older woman commands with a raised hand, and continues, “No, that … Please, that’s enough.” The older woman looks at me. “Stop it!” the older …

“That … Stop it!”

“Ma’am?”

“Must the command be repeated yet again?”

“I’m sorry. I just don’t understand what it is that you want.”

“What is it that you do understand?”

“You want me to stop telling the story?”

“Of course.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Leave us.”

“But ma’am …”

“The daggers that stare hear the words of each whisper that fuels the flame of the conceited.”

A Man … From Earth

A Man … From Earth

“Yea, of course I remember. I remember like it was yesterday. I mean, come on man, it’s not every day that you watch some guy disappear before your eyes.”

“Yes, that’s good, but what do you remember? Exactly?”

“I was just walking down the street, and there was this kid. Well, I guess I’m not sure if he was a kid; it was hard to tell.”

“So, you don’t remember every little detail, now do you?”

“Come on, man. Do you want my help or what? You called me. Remember?”

“Of course. I’m so very sorry. Please continue. Please try to be as detailed as possible.”

“Okay. Thank you. It’s like I was saying. I was just walking down the street, you know, leaving work …”

“Where do you work?”

“At the Q, P&R factory.”

“Where is the factory located?”

“Downtown. The far side of the inlet.”

“Please continue.”

“So, yea. Okay, so, I came out the backdoor of the factory and walked along side the building toward the inlet. I like to walk along the water because, you know, it’s hard to come by and whatnot. So, there I was, and I thought I’d just take a little break and sit or something cause I’m tired and going home didn’t sound all that exciting.”

“Sure.”

“And then, on the Sprouts Bridge, I see this guy just walking along. You know, there’s nothing strange about a guy walking, and it’s not like I’d never seen another guy walking before. So, but then he was looking a little, uh, like concerned, you know?”

“Sure.”

“Like, he was looking all worried and maybe like he was up to no good or like running from someone or something.”

“Yes, okay.”

“So, I started to walk to the bridge to get a better look at him and to see if there was anyone following him.”

“What time of day was this?”

“I mean, I just got off work, so I guess it was like five in the morning or so. I don’t really hang out at work, so it must’ve been like right after five, maybe like five fifteen or so.”

“Was the sun out?”

“Yea, but just barely. I mean, it wasn’t dark, but you know how it is around here. When was the last time you saw a sunny day?”

“Five AM then?”

“Yea, sure.”

“Great. Please, continue.”

“So, I’m walking to the bridge now, and there’s no one around, so I’m just thinking maybe this guy’s just tweakin’ or something. No biggie. But then, when he got to the like the middle of the bridge, he stood and looked over, you know, with that like look, like he’s gonna jump.”

“Sure.”

“So, I’m like, I don’t know what to do, so I just kind of start to walk away. I mean, I don’t really want to get involved with that sort of shit and nonsense.”

“Sure.”

“So, I decide that I’ll just turn around and start walking back home.”

“Sure.”

“But then, everything started to get all bright and like colorful, like I was inside a rainbow or something, you know?”

“No, I don’t know, but please continue.”

“So, I turn around to check on the guy, and he’s like standing there like he’s going to jump and there’s all this swirling rainbow shit nonsense all over the place, and I’m like trying to figure out where all this light and shit’s coming from, but I can’t figure it out.”

“Sure.”

“And then, there’s like this crack, sort of like lightning or something but like louder, and then the guy’s got his arms up to the sky and then everything like turned upside down or something, and then when it all turned right again, I saw the guy. He was looking at me! So, I sort of like waved or something, and then he just vanished. Poof.”

“Have you ever seen anything like this before?”

“What? Are you shitting me, man? Have I ever watched the world like go all crazy and then see a man disappear? No fucking way, man. I mean, have you?”

“What did you do after all of this?”

“Well, I mean, that’s when it gets all foggy. I don’t really remember how I got home, but like later that night, a friend of mine’s all banging on my door cause I’m like late for work and shit.”

“I see.”

“It’s possible, then, that none of this really happened, yes?”

“I mean, it’s possible. I guess. But, man, I know what I saw. Like I saw it all happen with my own two eyes.”

“None of this seems unreasonable to you?”

“What do you mean by unreasonable?”

“You believe what you saw and believe that what you saw is actually possible?”

“Well, I mean, I don’t know about all that and whatnot, but yea, I mean, I know what I saw, and I believe the shit I see. I mean, I saw it all happen.”

“Sure. Perhaps, just imagine for a minute that none of that happened? How are there no other people who saw what you saw that day?”

“I mean, it was early, and the factory’s not exactly in the middle of town. There’s not much else out there, you know?”

“Let’s just say the event did not happen. What would you say then?”

“Uh. I mean. I guess I’d just have to think that I had a crazy-ass dream, you know?”

“You tell other people, many other people, otherwise, however.”

“Yea, I gotta tell everyone who will listen?”

“Why is that?”

“Because it was just so crazy, man!”

“Can you explain the ‘rainbow-effect,’ as you put it, one more time, please?”

“Yea. Like, I was standing there, like watching the guy, and all the sky and world around me looked like all colored but with the wrong colors, like I was looking through a rainbow.”

“Have you ever seen a rainbow?”

“No. No one has, but I know what a rainbow is.”

“Do you know how they form?”

“Yea, it’s like when the sun shines through the rain when it rains, and the light’s all colorful through the water or something, right?”

“Sure.”

“So, yea, it was like that but all over, not just like over there in one stripe like in the pictures, you know?”

“Sure. Then what happened?”

“I told you, man. Everything got all cold and dark again and like the world turned upside down.”

“How is that possible?”

“I don’t know, man. I thought that’s why I’m here. I thought you wanted to hear my story cause you would like explain all this shit to me, you know?”

“Sure.”

“So, like, is that what you’re going to do? Like, I told you what happened, and you’ll tell me what it all means.”

“No one can tell you what anything means.”

“What? What the hell’s that supposed to mean. Why the fuck am I here, then?”

“You’re here because someone heard your story.”

“Yea, everyone, man. I tell everyone.”

“Why?”

“Cause it’s crazy man!”

“It’s unbelievable?”

“No, I believe it.”

“Do other people believe it?”

“Sometimes. But sometimes people just look at me like I’m the crazy one.”

“Are you?”

“No way, man. I’m not crazy. I’m like the opposite of crazy, just all straight-laced, and I go to work, and I pay my bills, and I just don’t do like crazy shit, you know?”

“Sure.”

“So, is there anything else you like need? I feel like I’ve told you everything I know.”

“Yes. You’re doing a great job. Please explain, one more time, the disappearance.”

“Oh, come on man, I’ve told you like ten times already.”

“ … ”

“Ah, fine. He was standing on the bridge, and then there was like this loud crack or something, and then he just disappeared.”

“A loud crack or something? What’s the something?”

“I do not know.”

“Sure.”

“It was like, I don’t know how else to explain it except it was like maybe when something breaks? You know, that sound, like that but really loud.”

“Sure. And then what happened?”

“Goddammit! He. Was. There. And. Then. He. Wasn’t.”

“Yes, but what did it look like? Was it fast or slow or something else?”

“Gah. It was like he was there, and then he was gone. Just, poof!”

“Did the disappearance occur at the same time as the loud ‘crack’?”

“No.”

“Which came first?”

“The loud noise.”

“How does all of this make you feel?”

“Well, right now, it all makes me feel annoyed as shit, cause I’ve like told you this same thing like a hundred times, and you keep asking me the same fucking questions. So, I guess I just don’t know how I feel about all of this. It’s just getting old.”

“No. How did the event make you feel?”

“Oh, I mean; I guess it makes me feel like wow, you know?”

“Sure. Anything else?”

“Well, like, I guess I’m not so sure about whatever it was that happened or something. Like, you’re all making me feel like I’m crazy. But I’m not crazy. I know what I saw!”

“Sure. How does knowing that you saw what you saw make you feel about seeing what it was that you saw?”

“Come on, man. What?”

“If someone else told you this story, what would you think?”

“Oh shit. I mean, yea, I guess I would totally think that person was crazy as shit, you know?”

“Sure.”

“And I don’t know if I’d believe them either, you know?”

“Sure.”

“But I did see it, so I guess now, if someone else said some story to me like this, I’d have to believe them.”

“Great. Come this way.”

Entwained

Entwained

Both standing now, the old man stares into the face of the young man who stares into the face of the clock. “She came to you willingly?” the young man finally asks. “It was an accident,” the old man answers. A small revelation falls upon the young man, “You haven’t come here with a message at all.” The old man smiles the largest smile he has ever smiled, “Yes.” “How much time do we have?” “She searches for Mox.” “Mox?” “Yes.” “Why?” “No one knows for sure.” “Jesus fucking christ, man!” “Yes. More or less,” the old man states, and now that he feels entertained, he sits back down at the table. “How did she find you by accident?” the young man, too, sheds his initial contempt and brings the chair back to the table and sits. “That goddamn boy, what’s his name?, Darby?” the old man answers. “That fucking corridor. Shit. Fucking Darby. Who still sends him?” “It was not that kind of scenario.” “What? She just showed up there, too?” “Yes,” the old man whispers, nearly inaudible. The young man feels another small revelation, “The message. Tell me now.” La salle de manger begins to fill with the sounds of meal preparation. The old man leans back in his chair and assumes his resting position, right arm hugging himself while the left elbow rests upon the arm as the left hand strokes his chin. You will be angry, the old man warns.

Understanding this, the young man stands and exits la salle de manger toward the outdoor courtyard. “Fresh air is good for the crazies,” they say, “It helps them feel normal.” Impeccable, the grass and foliage that surround the outdoor grounds of the facility are the responsibility of four full-time employees. Watered by hand, every dawn the four walk the two-acre property and spray the grass and foliage with water from a water-tank-on-wheels setup. Surrounding the entrance to the facility through the front doors rests a large garden full of blooming, brightly colored annuals. Around the facility, large, lush flowering trees grow and provide shade, branches for wooden swings, and the overall sense that this is a place for relaxation. Just outside the wall of large windows that line the fourth wall of the common area and stretches all the way through la salle de manger, another, larger garden of muted, flowering perennials require constant tending. Beyond the trees that line the facility and the expanse of flowering gardens, a reflective fountain sculpted of a luminous metal settles itself between a rockway and the stretches of velvety green grass that reach all the way down and around to a small stream. Fearing the innate danger of running water near a place where, often times, sufferers come to avoid that self-inflicted permanent rest, the landscape designers opted for a wide, shallow mirror of water. For the stream as well, a wide, shallow trickle makes its way through the outdoor grounds of the facility, where its source begins beyond the fence of the property and pools much farther down, almost a mile away from the facility’s entrance gate. In general, the outdoor area creates the semblance of calm, the serenity against which the profound nature of the sufferer’s suffering becomes obvious. Few sufferers ever venture out into the outdoor area, and most believe this lack of appreciation is mostly due to the overwhelming beauty of the landscape’s design. This, arguably, is the failure of the landscape designer who, sadly, refused to understand what a sufferer may want as opposed to whatever it was that the landscape designer decided a sufferer needs.

Beyond the flowering gardens, upon the rockway, the two men assemble. “Speak your piece,” the young man demands. The old man feels surprised at the hesitancy he feels in hurting this young man. The young man feels the old man’s hesitation. The old man pushes the feelings from his mind for there are greater risks in sparing the young man’s feelings. “Of course my feelings don’t matter,” the young man states. The old man looks at him, and with no feeling finally delivers his message, “She does not remember.” “She doesn’t remember what?” the young man asks a little disappointed, lacking the enormity of the old man’s words. The young man continues, “She wasn’t supposed to remember.” “You fail to understand. She does not remember anything,” the old man clarifies, and reiterates, “If you had seen her, you would’ve known, and I wouldn’t be here.” “But this message was not the motivation behind your visit today,” the young man begins to grasp. “Yes, as you realized a few moments ago,” the old man responds. “I won’t,” the young man asserts. The old man sighs as if knowing that the young man would resist so resolutely, “Then your words mean nothing, and if I see her again, I will keep her hidden no longer and will reveal her to the one you refuse to see on my behalf.” “You motherfucking shithead,” the young man retorts the futility, the disdain rising up yet again. “Yes, but no matter what I may seem to you, the truth still remains. Then, what will become of you?” the old man responds, confident, almost wishing for the defiance of the young man.

The young man thinks for a minute, caring no longer about what the old man might hear. “She will not be difficult to find because she does not know that she needs to remain hidden,” the old man answers. The young man closes his eyes to see if he can see her. The old man answers again, “Yes, but we now know the consequences of you playing savior.” The young man, eyes still closed, rapidly fires through thoughts about the answer he needs, now. The old man listens very carefully as the young man filters through the options. Finally, the young man opens his eyes and looks directly at the old man who, unflinchingly, looks directly, deeply back into the young man’s eyes. The old man decides, in that moment to help, “Yes.” Knowingly, the young man asks the question, “What happened when this happened to you two.” The old man, being who he is, answers with a question as he gestures to his own bodily self, “Have you ever known yourself at this age?” Confused, the young man responds, “Of course not.” “Exactly,” the old man speaks with congratulations, and then continues, “How is it that you think I’ve come to be this old?” The young man mulls over a few options, then finally concludes, “You both wanted to stay.” “Wanted? No.” The young man thinks for another second; he feels a horrible, sick feeling in his gut and whispers, “No. You couldn’t leave? But that’s …” “Fully possible,” the old man interrupts. “But that means you must be …” the young man attempts to guess. “You will lose your mind and your stay here in this facility will be compulsory rather than arbitrary if I tell you the truth,” the old man warns with his left hand, palm toward the young man, raised as if to stop the young man’s wonderings. “So, you’re here to save us?” the young man wisecracks, and then realizes, “You’re here to save yourself.” “The situation could unfold in a beneficial way for both of us,” the old man consoles. “Fuck you,” the young man spits. “Unfortunately,” the old man begins, “your fate sealed itself the moment she showed up at my house. My fate, fortunately, has shifted, and now, I have only opportunity. You have only to experience permanent absence.” Defiant, the young man squints, “Is that a promise?” “It is my guarantee,” the old man states as he leans in toward the young man for emphasis. “Unless I do your bidding,” the young man reasons. The old man smiles, “Yes.” “Fuck.”

The analyst  pokes her head out of the entrance/exit door of la salle de manger, into the outdoor area, “Hey you two. How’s it going? It’s dinner time. Would your visitor like to join you for dinner? It’s been quite the visit, if I may say so myself.” “Thank you kindly for the offer,” the old man begins, “but I should probably be off and leave this poor kid to his own devices. A day spent with an old man can oftentimes be strenuous and unpleasant.” “Well there’s plenty of food and space for you if you change your mind …” the analyst pauses again to allow the old man to interject his name. “It’s fine. Remember? It doesn’t matter,” the old man responds comically patronizing while commenting to the young man, The idiocy that is the Fear of Rudeness. I really do not know how you tolerate this. “You must be hungry. You didn’t eat any of the lunch the chef saved for you,” the analyst suggests at the young man. “Yes, I’ll eat in a minute. Thanks,” the young man responds genially. “Alright then. Please come visit again anytime!” the analyst offers the old man. “Oh, yes. I will be back,” the old man smiles disingenuously. The young man rolls his eyes at the old man and stares him down for a moment while the analyst excuses herself.

“I do not wish to return here,” the old man finally speaks. “I do not wish to visit the older woman,” the young man mocks by imitating the old man’s tone. “Such is the unfairness of life,” the old man explains. “Gah the gaul,” the young man begins, but just before he can spell out his rant the old man separates the young man’s thoughts from his words, “You know nothing.” “Take your leave. I will not do your bidding,” the young man decides. “Do not be an imbecile. I have already sent someone your way. Do not leave this place until you encounter him,” the old man instructs. “It should only be a few days,” the old man continues. “And what should I do until then?” the young man pouts like an infant. “Do what you already do here every day … nothing,” the old man punctuates. Still feeling defiant, the young man touts, “I make no promises.” “Yes, but I do,” the old man whispers, and as he moves to see himself through the doorway into la salle de manger so that he may check out at the registration desk at the entrance to the facility, the old man stops with the door hanging in his hand, turns to the young man and evokes a whirlwind of disaster, and just as the young man waves off the disruption the voice of the old man lingers within the back of the young man’s now burning hot right ear, Wake up! Profusely sweating again, he sits up straight in his bed, curls in agony and vomits on the floor in front of his nightstand.

He reaches out to the control panel to call for clean up. Someone, a male—since there are males, females and the like who clean the facility, specifically of hazardous materials and bodily fluids, males are sent to clean the personal spaces of male sufferers, females are sent to clean the personal spaces of female sufferers, etc.—who goes by the name “Kace,” which he reads off the front of “Kace’s” cleaning smock, comes up to clean his personal space of his bodily fluids. The task seems to him to last forever, but the efficiency of the cleaning staff results in the clean up taking less than two minutes. Nevertheless, he is alone.

Alone, again, appeased, he thinks to himself, but this time, not lonely. Before this day had come to an end, he remembered the lonesome feelings with which he was constantly bombarded simply because of the “lack” of the person upon whom his own existentialism rests. He lies naked on his bed, staring at the celestial design of the wallpaper. The one wish that penetrates his mind revolves around being alone. Being inextricably tied to another definitely has its problems, burdens, sufferings, and so, he wonders, all too often these days, what life must be like when all of the responsibility placed on a being who depends upon another falls away, disintegrates into the nothingness of meaning nothing to everyone and everything to no one. Those are the truly crazy people, he thinks to himself as he recalls the supposedly sad stories of all those unloved women, rejected men, the trite romance of needing a witness to their lives so that their lives hold meaning. No one ever thinks about what it means or what it must be like to be forever tied, forever joined, forever involved with just one other being. Of course, he knows he cannot live without her, and the mere thought of her makes him weep deep down in his soul, so deep in fact, that he usually ends up vomiting or shitting himself senseless, drawn into a deep sleep where he may see her but he cannot see her nor feel her. The endless betrayal of finding that person who, quite literally, fulfills you. Betrayal, he thinks, is not the right word. He longs to see her. He aches to feel her. The forgetting was a known effect. The forgetting was temporary. The forgetting was … was … necessary. He cannot bear to think of her any longer. All he wants is to be alone.

He relives the day that unfolded the day before. In an attempt to catch the minutiae of the old man’s words, movements, tells. The old man knows the secret. The old man holds the answer. Mother. Fucker. A slight, calm, gentle ring interrupts his thoughts as his control board dings to call his attention to a notification. The small screen blinks forth a message: “Breakfast will be served in five minutes.” He rolls over and decides that he will not eat fucking breakfast. Someone shouts up to him from the base of his ladder, “Are you dressed?” “No.” “You cannot skip more than two meals in a row without consequence.” “What is the consequence?” “ … “ “Exactly. Go away please,” he whines. “We’ve received a call for a visitor who has requested to be named on your Approved Visitors list.” He sits up, mildly curious but knowing of whom this someone speaks, “And?” “Don’t you want to know who it is before we approve him?” “I didn’t know last time.” “Very well then.” “Tell the chef that I only want the meats today.” “Tell him yourself,” the someone cajoles as he walks away, toward la salle de manger. Fuck. He looks to his control board and taps out a short message, “Chef, just meats please. Thnx.” With a deep breath, he lies back down on his bed, closes his eyes. Another slight, calm, gentle ring dings from the control panel. His body flails around the bed like a toddler. He reaches the control panel, “Fuck you, man. No more special requests until you show up for ten meals in a row, on time. The Lady Doc’s orders.” Shitfuck. A response of any nature he deems irrelevant and unnecessary. No breakfast it is then.

Where are you? he thinks as he clears his mind of every, single, tiny, little thing. He feels warm. He feels excited. His sleeping quarters turn a violent green. He knows that she, on some level, tries to find him. A stroke of warm sunlight. He blinks as he raises a hand to shield himself from the rays. The world is flat; it is indeed, and everything within it lacks depth.