A Lingerer Lingers

A Lingerer Lingers

…because the world is flat, again.

[This is a portion of a completed first draft of a sci-fi manuscript titled Bromides and is the sequel to a self-published work titled Red & Blue Make Green, and it is the next installment of that sci-fi manuscript, which is uploaded as an ongoing work of serial fiction here on medium &elsewhere whenever the author feels compelled that you are about to begin reading now…begin, alternatively, at the beginning, or read in whatever order you find suits you best…✌]  

The world is flat, remember?, and everything within it lacks depth. I have never been here before, but I have read of its description. One would think that all of this seems strange, but really, it’s not strange at all. I see the person for whom I have been searching. Here? In this place, at this time? The location seems odd but not too odd when considering how she operates. She must have been here not too long ago, I assume. “Mox,” I gently whisper, disguised as a windstorm. “Not only can you not stay here forever, but also, you cannot stay here much longer,” through the wind I continue. Sprawled among the prickly points of the flat, slices of grass, watching as fluffy clouds in the distance retreat, transform into thin sheaths as they fly overhead, “Yes, yes,” Mox speaks aloud in a tone that would suggest his accepted acknowledgement. Awe, look at him; he looks so happy rolling around in this seemingly safe timescape. “Obviously,” Mox continues; “I shouldn’t have been able to be here at all.” He rolls around a bit on the grass, winces at the sting of the pointy grass. “This place is unreal,” Mox thinks aloud to himself in sheer enjoyment of the oddity that is this flat world. Of course, the world is not flat in the sense that the world is not a sphere, instead, everything within this world lacks depth, meaning that, despite the three-dimensional planes of existence, each independent object lacks a third dimension, like a pop-up picture book for those relegated to references from the days of yore, but all of this has already been explained. The idea of a thing, most oftentimes, proves itself to be difficult to relate to for those who exist within, for the lack of a better term, linear time. Nevertheless, to understand the world within which our dear Mox survives, requires little to no imagination. Here, within this flat world, however, Mox relaxes, feels indestructible. The question, of course, soon becomes, “How did he get here?”

According to some, Mox holds the ability to hide here within himself. To a privileged few, the matter is more or less annoying and rather banal; although the irritation of the reality weighs heavy on the privileged few. For those completely unaware of this reality altogether, the matter presumably deems itself quite curious, fascinating, perhaps even exotic to some extent. I, of course, am of the privileged few, but despite this privilege, I cannot know everything, no matter how hard I wish that the truth were not true. The matter of Mox’s arrival seems trivial, when considering the basis of all that is being said and developed through page after page of sheer nonsense. For if I were to tell of the specifics, this chance encounter would deem itself … what’s the word?, … irrelevant?, … meaningless?, … frivolous. Yes, to tell of the specifics would deem this encounter frivolous. A small frustration or perhaps the reality of the worthlessness of this entire endeavor precipitates and drizzles itself upon the minds of the unknowing.

The problem, first and foremost, is that you do not know who I am. Therefore, whether or not I can be trusted diminishes any truth I may or may not tell. Hmmm. Perhaps I could divulge that I am a liar, and so, my lies are true because I have forthrightly told that I am a liar, which means that when I lie, I am telling the truth, supporting my admittance of being a liar. Thus, if I, a liar, lie, then I tell the truth, and then the truth becomes that there is no truth, only lies. But then, when the mind of the receiver of the lies and/or truth believes the lies and accepts the deceit, then the mind builds its response(s) under the false pretense of the knowledge given as truth. And then the real question arises, What is truth? Well, it [truth] cannot philosophically be fact … because … people lie, to themselves and to others. But I’m telling you that I lie, and so you can be freed from the burden of trying to figure out what is the truth.

Okay, I’ll put it this way. If I tell you something [it will be a lie] and you accept that thing as truth, then your mind reacts to the said thing as truth. Your mind then builds upon that acceptance of the truth to form its responses. Then, you respond accordingly. What happens, though, when, say, the truth is made known to you. What you believed was true was actually false. This newfound realization/revelation does not now simply deem your original response as a lie. You responded in truth, according to the information/knowledge that was shared with you as truth. So then what? The onus just ends up being upon each person as an individual to determine what is true and what is false?, that each person must seek and search for the infallible truth before responding to or creating any new thoughts? That seems, what’s the word?, … daunting?, … arbitrary?, … cruel? Ah, yes, that’s it; that seems cruel, at best. But remember?, I am a liar. So do you still want to know the truth about Mox and what he’s doing here in this timescape? I mean, your guess is as good as my lies. I will say this, nevertheless, you can always believe the words of a liar, since they [liars] will undoubtedly lie, and that’s the truth.

“Mox,” I whisper through an even gentler wind, again in an attempt to get Mox to stop rolling around all lax and comfortable, but my attempt to grab his attention so that I may explain to him the truth of his situation is foiled by the implosion of the flat world. As the flat world shrinks into itself, everything within it begins to funnel around and through a point the size of the tip of a pen. To the Circle’s Corner, then. And Mox seems unbothered. Everything collapses, and then with the faintest popping sound, all is lost. Slingshot through space and time, Mox traverses the infinite. Someone has traveled again.

Shivering upon the slick, shiny black floors of the orbital, a stranger approaches, kneels down to check on the incapacitated person, “Sir? Sir? Are you alright?” Nervous, I feel a bit frozen. “Sir?” the stranger continues. Sure enough, Mox begins to stir a bit. Looking disoriented, Mox hurls and spews vomit all over the stranger. “Uh,” Mox coughs; “Sorry.” Oh, gross. The stranger looks disgusted, “Uh, ah, it’s alright. Is there somewhere I can take you? I think I should take you to the hospital.” “Uh, I,” Mox starts as he tries to sit himself upright. The stranger, all too generously removes an outer layer of shirt and begins wiping himself off a bit. “Maybe some water?” Mox asks, looking a little pale. Honestly, this is the first time Mox has looked this bad after a bit of … uh … say … bad dreams. The stranger enthusiastically accommodates him, “Oh, yea, sure, I’ll be right back.” Mox looks as if he’s spinning a bit. It’s a little strange. Obviously, I could just ask him how he’s doing or feeling, but that’s not really my job. The stranger quickly returns, “Here you are. Maybe just a small sip to start off.” “Wow,” Mox genuinely states in surprise; “Thanks a lot, man.” “It’s Hauberk,” the stranger offers. Mox looks at the stranger as if confused. To my surprise, the stranger picks up on this, “My name. My name’s Hauberk.” “Oh, thanks, Hauberk,” Mox corrects. “It’s no problem, uh,” the stranger states while dangling encouragement for Mox to state his name. Mox sips some water and then notices the implication of the stranger’s pause, “Oh, I, I’m … It doesn’t matter,” Mox responds casually with a dismissive wave of his hand. And then Mox suddenly, violently spills water all over the unfortunate stranger. “Fuck! I’m … I … I’m … Shit!” Mox yells suddenly knowing better than to share his name with this Hauberk stranger, and then he furiously asks the stranger, “Where am I?” “We’re quite near the central fountain of Coax Six,” the stranger so kindly answers. “On the Orbital?” Mox further begs. “Yea, on one of the orbitals,” the stranger confirms. “No, THE ORBITAL!” Mox demands. The stranger looks a bit confused, “Uh, I’m not sure which The Orbital you’re thinking of.” “Shit,” Mox spits as he comes to a stand. “Hey, look man, I think you should take it easy,” the stranger suggests as he also stands to balance Mox by the shoulders. “No, I’m good,” Mox mutters; “I just need to know which orbital I’m on.” “It’s Orbital mmphsk [something I can’t make out from this distance],” the stranger softly states as if scared of Mox’s next reaction.

“Fuck,” Mox whispers, and then he sort of looks around as if looking for me, but of course, he cannot be. Nevertheless, Mox tries and speaks to me by simply speaking aloud while looking around as if speaking to a ghost, “I didn’t mean to come out of hiding.” The stranger takes a small step back as the tell-tale signs of fear cast a shadow over his face. “Uh, you look like you’re doing a lot better now,” the stranger observes as calmly as he can; “I guess I’ll just be on my way now.” Mox turns now to look directly at the stranger, “Who are you again?” The stranger contemplates whether or not this stroke of fortune that this man has forgotten his name already is good or bad, “Uh, I. It doesn’t matter. Just a good samaritan trying to help a guy out, ya know?” Hauberk starts to inch away slowly. “Hauberk,” Mox remembers; “It’s Hauberk, right?” Hauberk hangs his head low, disappointed, “Uh, yea, that’s me, but I should just be on my way now.” “No way, man! Please, you gotta help me,” Mox pleads; “If we are where you say we are, I’m in big trouble.” His turn to now turn pale, Hauberk attempts to excuse himself, “You know, I’d really love to help you out, but I’m already late for something. You’re looking a lot better, so really, I gotta go.” Mox looks reinvigorated, intent, “Look, Hauberk, I’ll either follow you around and force you to help me, or you can help me willingly.” “Shit man,” Hauberk responds; “That’s not fair, man.” “Suck it, asswipe,” Mox asserts; “What the fuck kind of name is Hauberk anyway? You’re coming with me. Now!” Mox whisper-shouts. Hauberk, unaware of the fact that the two of them exist within similar circumstances, arriving here at Orbital Didn’t-Catch-The-Name due to forces beyond them, begrudgingly follows.Mox and Hauberk silently make their way through Coax Six of the Orbital. They pass this and that and travel through here and there. Honestly, I am so freakin’ tempted at this point to abandon them and find Ladybug. But wait. What’s this? Hauberk begins to lag behind a bit. With Mox slightly unaware of Hauberk’s presumed attempt, I feel obligated to help the poor guy out. “Mox,” from a position behind him, I whisper. Mox turns just as Hauberk takes off in a full sprint in the opposite direction. “Motherfucker,” Mox spits aloud as he too takes off after him. With a spoke tunnel in the not-so-distant distance, Hauberk’s objective becomes clear. “Goddammit, Hauberk!” Mox screams in a desperate attempt to catch his man; “There’s nowhere to hide! They’ll find you! They’ve seen you!” Hauberk reaches the doors to the spoke tunnel that enables the transport of people and things, I guess, that can figure out how to use the spoke, in and around the Orbital. Quickly, Hauberk waves a call signal. Only a few steps behind, however, Mox reaches Hauberk just as the doors swing open and pummels Hauberk onto the floor of the capsule. Wrestling on top of each other within the capsule preparing to launch them to some other location within the Orbital, Mox screams, “You fucking fool!” The doors to the capsule seal shut. The pull of the vacuum blocks the information I need, and I can no longer see nor hear them. It looks like the capsule will transport them to … let’s see … Coax Three. Okay, then.

Tale of Two Squirrels

Tale of Two Squirrels

[if this were a print publication of this book, two blank pages would exist here…if you’d like to begin at the beginning of this online expression of a sci-fi manuscript written many years ago about time travelers and travelers of time, read Ladybug & The Lingerer {also on medium dot com}, and you’ll eventually read yourself here, or read whatever chapters you’d like in whatever order you deem best…*peace sign emoji*]

[begin chapter]

“Have you heard the Tale of Two Squirrels?” the older woman, again, asks aloud, seemingly to nobody. “Yes, very good,” the older woman congratulates; “If you have heard the tale, well then, please do tell of its meaning. No? To know of a thing while lacking the intelligence to understand the thing may always be forgiven, however, knowing of a gap in one’s knowledge without taking the necessary measures to fill that gap ought never be forgiven. Nevertheless, to know a thing for certain reveals the fool. Thus, do you want to hear the Tale of Two Squirrels?” The older woman walks toward the center of the cylindrical room where a plush armchair sits, accompanied by a tiny side table barely large enough to hold a drinking vessel. Seated, the older woman sits in the plush armchair, “Excellent.”

“At the edge of a wooded forest, a few trees extended beyond the sprawling tree line, inhabiting that strange boundary where the edge effect creates visible, understandable chaos. Here, two trees grew, spread apart by random brush, multiple grasses and varied wildlife. In each of the trees, a single squirrel lived, happy, healthy, hopeful that the life that had been given was a life worth living. How each arrived at their respective tree does not matter, thus, let the presumptions fly free. One day, one of the squirrels, a male, spotted the other squirrel in the not-so-near yet not-so-faraway tree. Excited, he jumped with excitement in an attempt to catch the other squirrel’s attention. For days the other squirrel, a female (or another male or make the other squirrel a female also, the details hardly matter for the purposes of a tale), failed to notice the pursuits of the male squirrel. No matter, he did not give up. Resilient and resourceful, he created large fans to wave and catch the light of the daily sun. Then, finally, the most glorious day arrived when the other squirrel recognized the efforts of the other squirrel. Curious, the female waved back and the two struck up a friendship. The trees, separated by treacherous terrain that made the distance ever too far to jump, provided adequate vantage points from which each could communicate with the other. And so, for a period of time, the two squirrels laughed and shared life from a distance.

“Then, one early morning, the male squirrel woke to the tingling sensation of longing. Even though he had never spent any time in the physical presence of his friend, he missed her. Skeptical of what the female squirrel might think, he worked up the courage to ask if she would be interested in having him visit her in her tree. Perhaps they could live together in the same tree. Before he asked, however, a ray of good fortune came his way in the form of her asking about whether or not one tree could sustain two squirrels. Thus, for an unknowable amount of time, the two squirrels discussed and theorized about one tree’s ability to sustain the both of them. Eventually, they decided that one tree could in fact provide for them. Delighted, the male squirrel finally asked if he could come live in her tree with her. She enthusiastically obliged and communicated that his presence would make her very happy, but being the strong, independent squirrel that she was, she proffered to be the one to make the dangerous journey through the treacherous unknown between them. The male squirrel honestly considered her offer. And so, for another unknowable amount of time, the two debated who was best suited to make the journey. Designing and challenging each other with various tasks that could be fulfilled within each of their own trees, the squirrels underwent a rigorous test of physicality and compared their performances. In the end, they came up with a plan that would utilize both of their strengths.

“The female squirrel (again, which squirrel is assigned to which attributes does not matter if the tale is changed for a reversal of genders or a homogenous-gender retelling) was larger, and so, they thought maybe she would look more appetizing to predators, she was also smarter, in that earlier in their relationship, she had taught the male squirrel how to stockpile food more efficiently. The male squirrel, being smaller, was quite quick, which made him a better candidate to run the distance between the two trees. And so, the plan unfolded in such a way that the two worked together to design armour out of tree bark that the male squirrel would wear as he journeyed through the treachery. Just as the male squirrel descended his tree, the female squirrel would jump down onto the ground on the side opposite the side toward which the male squirrel would run as a distraction. During the hottest part of the day, the two would practice jumping down and running up their respective trees, the male in his armour, the female in an attempt to see if she could draw the attention of hungry predators. Over the course of a few days, the female would make suggestions about flaws she saw in the armour, and the male would make suggestions about how she could scale the tree even faster. Then, the day of the traversal finally arrived.

“Both squirrels woke early in the morning to go over their plan. They had not really worked out a plan if either were caught and taken away seeing how that would merely be the end of all this nonsense anyhow. Therefore, they focused on what they each could do. After a long, loving conversation about the time they had already spent together, the sun sang its midday song. The two squirrels danced a short little dance together, apart, in their own trees. Feeling excited for a new chapter of their lives yet nauseated by the fear of death, the two carefully climbed down to the lower portion of trunk. At some point, they could no longer see each other through the thick brush covering the ground between them. Just as they reached this point, they waved and spoke words of optimistic finality. Then, they each jumped.

“The male squirrel ran faster than he had ever run in his life. He did his best to keep the top of the tree to which he was headed centered directly in front of him, but then he heard the tell-tale sign of a predator. Immediately, he came to a halt and froze. The tiniest swishes of movement pierced his ears. He could hear his little heart beating faster and harder. Then, he recognized the sound of the female squirrel screeching as if injured. His predator bolted away, unseen. He made another run for it. Meanwhile, the female was writhing and making all sorts of commotion at the base of her tree until she too heard the approaching predator. Waiting until the last possible moment, she feigned injury and screamed as loudly as possible. As her spine began to tingle to the point where she knew danger was imminent, she waited a split moment longer and then blasted up the trunk of her tree, just in time. A small cat caught a glimpse of her and chased her right up to the tippy top of her tree. The cat, being larger and heavier, could only scale about halfway up before the limbs of the tree became too thin to support the weight. The cat batted and scratched at her as she hung on for dear life. Luckily, the distraction was working. The male squirrel had made excellent progress and made it to the base of the female’s tree. A new problem, however, developed. The female was trapped at the top of the tree; the cat kept close eyes on her from a branch in the middle of the tree, and the male remained in danger upon the ground. Each squirrel resisted the temptation to communicate another plan.

“Then, the female executed an extraordinary feat. Knowing that the male squirrel had safely reached the base of the tree, she knew that he could perhaps hide along the very base of the tree, camouflaged by his tree-bark armour. Carefully, the female squirrel mimed a little mime about how he could hide and potentially look like part of the tree. The only problem was his tail. After so much time miming to each other from their respective trees, he understood what she was saying and then tucked his tail into the top of his back armour. With the cat’s attention still fixed upon the female, the male was free to gesture that he was ready, and then he began to do a short countdown with his toes. ‘Three, two, one,’ he gestured, and then he crouched tight under his tree-bark armour as she jumped from the top of the tree onto the ground. Immediately, the cat reacted to her movement and also jumped from the tree. The male, safe from the view of the cat, ran up the tree and began to peel off his armour. Running furiously around on the ground, the female quickly grew tired. Luckily, the male squirrel began throwing the pieces of his armour at the cat. Confused and a bit distracted, the cat stopped but for only a split second to look around. It was just enough time for the female to split and make her way safely to the tree. The cat, however, recovered quite quickly and saw the female scrambling up the tree and followed. Seeing the female and the cat rushing toward him, the male too ran up to the tippy top of the tree. Again, with a stroke of good fortune, the cat could only make it about halfway up the tree before the branches began to bend under its weight. Frustrated at being foiled twice, the cat slowly climbed down and jumped out of the tree, turned back to look up the tree, hissed and made its way through the treacherous brush. Exhausted yet exhilarated, the two squirrels embraced each other in a long overdue hug. They made their way down to the female squirrel’s nest and rolled around until the day grew dark. That night they slept like babies, each in the comfort of the other.

“The next morning seemed like the most glorious day. They woke to a bright sun-filled, cloudless scene, filled to the brim in ecstasy. In fact, they were so happy, they failed to see the impending danger of a bird circling overhead. Through the course of the morning, they chased each other up and down the top portion of the tree, shared a meal together, and talked ceaselessly about the adventures of the day before. Then, suddenly, without a hint of threat, the circling bird dove down to the top of the tree, just as the female squirrel ran up the tree from a playful chase and snapped up the female squirrel. The female reached out while screaming in defiance. The male squirrel ran furiously up the tree in an attempt to jump up and reach the female to no avail. Unbeknownst to them, this particular bird didn’t eat squirrel, and so, as the bird flew over the former tree of the male squirrel, it dropped the female who landed quite safely within the branches of the male’s tree. Relieved to still be alive, the female squirrel’s emotions soon flooded with bewilderment. After checking if she was indeed free of injury, she positioned herself near the top of the male’s tree and looked out beyond the treacherous ground below to see that the male squirrel seemed safely within her tree. They communicated that they were each fully intact and safe.

“Fearful and confused, they spent a few days not talking about how to reach each other again. Eventually, however, they decided to enact the same plan as before, and again, the male successfully reached his old tree. Delighted and excited, they forgot about the misery of being separated, and again, chased each other up and down his old tree, now their new tree. And again, after a few days this time, another bird circled, snatched the female and returned her to her original tree. For an eternity, the two squirrels lived in and accepted this harmonious discord.”

“Kill this Lingerer,” the older woman commands a nearby subject.

“But, Ma’am. A deal was made.”

“The liar always prevails in the end.”

“Then what is to come of this position?”

“A replacement.”

“But Ma’am. The conditions of the knowledge known by each version of tellers has been discussed. How will the story unfold in its entirety?”

“Enough. End it now.”

[The sound of static]


…tap the category Bromides to read all of the chapters related to this writing :)

The Listmaker

The Listmaker

The Listmaker feels the pull of the list urging him to take a look. Unwilling to reveal his list to the stranger, he ignores the pull. Picking up on some new discomfort within the Listmaker, “Something wrong?” Cinoa asks. “Oh, no, I’m fine,” the Listmaker lies. “So, say, where did you used to live before?” Cinoa cordially prods for the sake of consistency. The Listmaker no longer enjoys the small talk with the stranger and attempts to shrug off the stranger’s cordiality, “Oh, you know, here and there.” “I see,” Cinoa responds as he takes a sip of his coffee while maintaining fixed eyes on the Listmaker. Unwilling to look rude in front of the stranger, the Listmaker feigns a trip to the pantry in order to get a feel for his wristwatch, “Would you like something to eat?” Cinoa keeps sharp tabs on the Listmaker, “No, I’m fine.” “Sure? I’m famished,” the Listmaker pretends and continues to the pantry whereupon opening, he steals a quick feel of his wristwatch. Of the analog variety, the watch lacks a glass covering so that the Listmaker may feel the hands of the face without looking at the thing, thereby allowing the Listmaker the option to know the time, when necessary, without having to remove his eyes from his list. The attentive person, however, can witness this action and deduce that the Listmaker wishes to know the time, which ultimately, in the Listmaker’s mind, makes him seem impatient, rude, otherwise engaged. Thus, with both arms in the pantry now, the Listmaker gets a good feel of his wristwatch while his head remains visible, beyond the pantry door, as he looks to the stranger and offers, “I have crackers or cookies, if you’d like.” Almost vertical, relatively speaking, while the other peers down and a little to the left, the long and short hands of the watch, respectively, reveal that the time is very near 1900.

Knowing that the clock in his study will soon chime out, giving him an excuse to check on something, the Listmaker returns to the eating counter where the stranger sits, “Do you enjoy being a stranger to so many people?” “What do you mean?” Cinoa asks, entertained, chuckling. “Your line of work seems to force you into the lives of strangers,” the Listmaker extrapolates. “Oh yea, I see what you mean,” Cinoa admits; “It’s not so bad. I actually like getting to know new people.” “What is it that you do exactly?” the Listmaker asks. Cinoa glances away from the Listmaker as he responds, “Oh, yea, so I make sure that people know that they are entitled to a new roof whenever something happens to a roof that damages it. The tricky part is that most people have to file a claim with their insurance within a certain amount of time after the damage happens or else they lose out.” Familiar with this particular set of circumstances, the Listmaker nods, “Sure, I see. People can be really stupid.” Cinoa begins to look uncomfortable. The Listmaker watches the stranger fidget within himself a bit until Cinoa eventually breaks and reaches for the sheets of paper within the back pocket of his jeans. Looking even more concerned, Cinoa strokes his hair with his right hand. “Everything alright?” the Listmaker inquires. “Oh yea, I’m …” Cinoa begins to respond when the clock in the study chimes out. “Sorry, excuse me for one minute,” the Listmaker apologizes as he walks by the still-standing stranger through the living room, into his study adjacent to the living room.

The Listmaker furiously scrolls through the receipt roll to find what’s listed there within the day’s list, accounting for 1900 on through to at least 1930.

1900 – 1901 Don’t let the stranger see the list

1901 – 1906 Evade the stranger

1906 – ____ Run

Heart pounding now, the Listmaker feels trapped, and just as he turns over his shoulder to shout out another lie to the stranger about how he needs to check on something outside, Cinoa grabs the Listmaker’s shoulder. “Say,” Cinoa impedes; “Are you alright? You look tense. I was having a nice time, but you look awful. Why don’t we just sit back down and relax?” “Were we sitting? Oh sure. No it’s nothing,” the Listmaker almost shouts aloud in an attempt to seem calm, and then he continues, “But actually, you know, it’s getting late, and really, I should get back to my work.” With a hand still on the Listmaker’s shoulder, Cinoa feigns complicity, “Yes, yes, right. I’ve overstayed my welcome, haven’t I?” Feeling bullied, the Listmaker remains calm, revealing as little emotion as possible. Stepping away from the Listmaker a bit, giving him some space, the Listmaker takes a slow, steady breath. “Say, what is it that you do? I’m sorry I never asked before. That seems so rude now,” Cinoa jovially states, ignoring the tension. “Oh, you know, a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” the Listmaker evades. Cinoa, feeling frustrated and understands the evasive tactics of the Listmaker, changes his tone, “Now look here, kid. I can see through these little games you play.” Kid? the Listmaker thinks to himself, and then aloud asks, “Who you calling a kid?” Lost in the confusion of being called a kid, the Listmaker forgets to evade the stranger, or did I? But it was more of an emotional evasion as opposed to the physical that now seems more relevant, although the distinction was not detailed on his list. Stern and angry, Cinoa becomes impatient and quickly lurches and grabs the Listmaker by the throat, “Give me your list!”

The tiniest of tiny little buzzes buzz by. 

Gasping for air with only toes left on the ground, the Listmaker wriggles and grabs at the stranger’s hands that wring his neck. Unable to speak, the Listmaker has no choice but to focus on staying alive, somehow. Cinoa, however, outsizes the Listmaker in height and weight. With no hope in sight, the Listmaker does his best to make a gesture of some sort that he desperately hopes the stranger reads as a concession. “What?” Cinoa mocks; “What? I can’t hear you.” the Listmaker blinks hard, moves his mouth as if trying to speak. “Say, are you trying to tell me something?” Cinoa continues on in his mockery. Batting at the stranger’s hand now, the Listmaker attempts to nod. “Oh, very well,” Cinoa feigns as he drops the Listmaker from the grip. Something moves beyond one of the windows that catches Cinoa’s eye.

“Careful!” Ladybug whisper-shouts upon its return to the Lingerer waiting outside.

Coughing and writhing on the ground, the Listmaker feels lost, but then suddenly remembers his list. Knowingly, the Listmaker rolls over so that his body hides his list from the stranger. He clutches his side as if in agony and wraps a hand over the list in an attempt to either fling the thing or conceal it in a pocket. “Say, you were trying to tell me something, kid!” Cinoa yells through the Listmaker’s wheezing and violent coughs. Fuzzy, dry, the Listmaker chokes out a raspy, “Khi ont no-owe hat khour kalking ah-bhowe-hut.” Frustrated, Cinoa begins to pace the floor back and forth in front of the incapacitated Listmaker. At this moment, the Listmaker feels a bit of strength return and decides that the time has come, according to his list, for him to run. Nimbleness is essential, and so, the Listmaker gathers himself in his mind and in one dynamic action, he clambers to his feet in an attempt to take off for the front door. Unknown to the Listmaker a small unrolled portion of his list sticks out from beyond his grip of the receipt roll. Cinoa catches the smallest glimpse of what must be part of the Listmaker’s list. And so, being bigger and faster, the stranger lurches forward and reaches for the slip of paper sticking out from the Listmaker’s hand. As the Listmaker plants a strong foot on the ground, ready to take off into a full sprint, the stranger grabs the slip of paper, forcing the top edge of it to tear from the rest of itself.

The Listmaker, aware of the lost portion of list, immediately wonders at what time does his now-torn day’s to-do list end; how much time does he have left? With that thought, the Listmaker’s world grows cold and damp, and with the remainder of his consciousness, the reality of the situation weighs heavy upon him, since, having been distracted earlier in the day, the Listmaker knows that he will not wake, as per the usual, already written, command of the next day’s list remains unwritten. All he can do, his consciousness consoles, is stay calm and rest within the lost, dark hinterlands until, as he remembers, per the next day’s list, she arrives. And as the Listmaker cools to a chill, a small buzz buzzes by, “She’s coming. Hang on. She’s coming.” A soft, wet nose gently nibbles on the underside of his face at the soft flesh where the jaw becomes earlobe. 

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.

She & The [Old] Man

She & The [Old] Man

Landfill. Yes, she thinks to herself as she climbs over a large pile of, what seems to be, garbage toward the archway of the front door through which she needs to enter; landfill seems like the right word. The heap never lets up. “Excuse me?” she calls through an outstretched neck while still atop the trash mound. Rustling. A man pokes his head around a corner just far enough to catch a blurry glimpse of red hair. “Excuse me, sir?” The man cannot see her very well at this distance, but she does not know that. He can, however, tell that she is a she, by her voice, of course. “Yes? What is it? I think that you are quite late, my dear,” the man shouts from behind the wall, unseen. She begins to clamber down the heap. “It’s not ready anyway,” the man continues on, “A message was sent to you days ago regarding this exact delay. Why are you here?” She stands silently. More rustling. The man emerges from beyond the wall around which he was hidden and slides into the less cluttered room in which she stands. “Oh,” the man states in surprise after now having a look at her. He takes a step back and examines her from a safe albeit oddly close distance. “Hmmmm,” he murmurs. She feels the urge to take off her shoes. “Not yet,” the man instructs. “How long have you been here?” “I only just arrived,” she answers. “No, when did you arrive here here,” the man urges. “Yesterday,” she responds after understanding what the man was initially asking. “Oh, yes,” the man sighs, “Your arrival does make some sense to me now.” The man stops pacing, makes his way to a dusty, darkened window sill, sits and crosses his left arm over his torso as if hugging himself while simultaneously propping his right elbow on the arm so that the fingers of his right hand may stroke his face.

The sounds of another person ring through the corridor beyond the garbage heap. She turns to see who approaches. “Ah,” says the shining face of someone she does not know although she does feel as though she must know him, “I’m so sorry that I don’t have any work for you this session,” the shining face laments. “May I, at the very least, take you out to dinner. I really do wish I could’ve given you the work. I love to send my money into the hands of people I love,” the shining face exclaims a little too loudly. Confusion. “I,” she begins, but the man cuts her off. “She doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter,” the man shouts with a dismissive flick of his wrist. “Well, just come on by for dinner whenever you have a chance,” the shining face blurts out over the heap as the face continues its ascent up the stairs. The man, still perched on the dusty sill, wonders aloud, “Is she supposed to be here now?” “As opposed to when?” she whispers. “Where were you just before you arrived here?” the man asks, and then finally corrects, “the old man.” “I was walking through a dark corridor with …“ she starts, but the old man cuts her off again. “So you did receive my message!” “I received a message. Then I went to go pick up the package, but when I got there …” “That goddamn corridor!” the old man shouts. She knows that this old man has the answer to the only question for which she needs an answer, but she does not know the question. “Yes,” quietly now, the old man speaks gently, “I do have the answer, but I cannot help you until you know the question.” “Do …” she begins. “No,” the old man replies.

They share the space of the cluttered room, the old man still at the sill, she standing on one of the only bare squares of floor. Through the dusty window she can see the glittery sunlight force its significance between the tiny cracks where the dust has not infected. She looks down at her shoes; they are of the dirty sort with which she is less comfortable. She watches the old man think. The realization that she will, unfortunately, have to wait in this … filthy place for an unknowable amount of time dawns on her. “Yes,” the old man states. “There is a room over there that is less, as you put it, filthy. Come.” She carefully follows the old man into a much nicer room that’s filled with ancient technology and plant-based materials. The only pieces of furniture are a bright purple velvet wingback chair, a piano stool unaccompanied by a piano, a large dining table unaccompanied by chairs, and a small table barely large enough to house one large lamp. “No, there is no bed in this place,” the old man answers, “but there is food. Are you hungry?” “Yes,” she responds with curiosity.

She thinks about what it is that she even wants to eat. “It’s difficult to know such a thing at this point,” the old man interjects between her thoughts. “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think ‘food’?” Sandwich, she thinks softly in her mind. “A …” she begins. “Ah yes,” the old man concludes, “Good choice.” The old man leaves her in the velvet chair with knowing eyes. She feels … she feels …

It’s warm. Mox’s tree stands alone, distant in a grassy field lit by the sun’s evening glow. Air rushes by, caresses her face in a swirl of comfort. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath of the fresh air. Exhale. Clouds form. With the flash of cracking thunder, a storm billows instantaneously over her. The sun, darkened, retreats. Her eyes burn. The stream of a familiar voice reverberates throughout the field. Muted, faded, the green of the grass turns pale. She runs toward the tree as it, too, loses its vibrant saturation. Colorless, the grey-scale off of which everything now no longer bounces the sun’s magnificent light strikes her with a vomitous ache. She stops and keels over. “You cannot know that which cannot be known,” the wind whispers as it blows through her hair. She blinks a single tear from her searing, watering eyes.

Cold and stale air hits her face. She opens her eyes to see the old man standing before her with a plate and cup in hand. “How,” she mutters. “It’s only been a few minutes,” the old man answers, “Relax.” “I …” she begins again. “Mox cannot remain hidden for much longer,” the old man responds. She feels something. With a little understanding that her words mean nothing to this man (old man), she begins a thought, Why am I here? “I cannot know that which cannot be known,” the old man replies. “Focus on what you do know, without doubt,” the old man instructs as he hands her the plate with a rudimentary sandwich made of flat bread, an orange sauce and something else she prefers not to know, “And eat this.” But what is it?, runs cooly through her mind. “Bread and cheese,” the man states flatly. Oh, thank you, she thanks in thought.

“Now, tell me about this tree,” the old man demands ever so benevolently while making a seat out of a stack of books and other plant-based materials. It’s not a tree. “What does it represent then?” I’m not to tell details to strangers. “I am not a stranger.” I have doubts. “Very well, then. Does it have a physical location?” Mind clear, she sits silently and eats her sandwich. Then she wonders how she can keep her mind so free of thought, but wait, this is a thought she is having now. The old man chuckles amicably. “Interesting,” the old man speaks aloud. Silence. “I’ll tell you if you really want to know,” the old man offers. Tell me what? “How it is that you can keep your mind so clear.” Does it matter? “Of course not.” Silence.

“If not the tree, then tell me about the boy who brought you here.” What? “The boy you followed into the dark corridor.” But … “It’s okay, I’m very familiar with him. He is why you’re here, in my presence.” Then tell me his name. “Why should I? You don’t even know his name. It was a faulty test of my trustworthiness.” I followed my feet and ended up at his door. “He was upset.” Yes. “You were expected much earlier.” Yes. “What was the delay?” I have doubts. “Where were you before your feet brought you to him?” My home. “And before that?” But you know. “Her presence haunts all, not just you. Could you decipher the contents of the capsule?” Yes. “But I am a stranger.” But you already know. 

The room begins to expand as if it were a balloon filling with helium. The old man’s thoughts make wind and disrupt every particle of settled dust. Calm, she sits. Noisy, every plant-based material rips violently throughout the space. And then, silence. When the mind works at its optimum level, time stands still while every tangible object floats in the limbo between being known and unknown. Through the window now free of dust she can see the glistening sun through the outer glass of the orbital. This place the (old) man lives in, she thinks, rests at the edge; there’s nothing but a cold, dark vacuum beyond these walls.

The room again as it was before the old man’s mindscape, “Interesting.” I feel like I’ve never been here before. “And.” And yet, I do not feel lost. “Do you know who you are?” Yes. “Who are you?”

The He

The He

[New Chapter Sketch for the manuscript, Book II: Bromides]

“It smells like bread proofing,” I state in a soft whisper. “Shhh,” Ladybug shushes gently with a smile that could melt the heart of any cat lover. Looking around, I realize what it means. Of course, we could not have found ourselves in such a place of luck so as to be in the presence of freshly baked bread. Dreams need to be dreamt, nevertheless. We press on, slowly, through the immense downtown library, among the shoals of homeless who, forgotten or left behind by the system, are left to the only institutions within that same system that allows their presence. “It’s not so bad, though,” I attempt to clarify, relating back to the comment about the smell. “But to comment on the smell at all admits that a smell exists, which ultimately, at least here among those who hold this particular sentiment, means that the smell is bad, unless of course, among the company of those hunting for the perfect scene, eatery, with the same intention of being thusly able to consume the delicious thing smelled,” Ladybug explains. “That was deep,” I express, in genuine awe as Ladybug often finds itself within the throws of … cynicism. “You don’t need to understand everything to understand what is good, what is right,” Ladybug states, this time with a pointed finger directed at me, just below the brow between the eyes. I feel a bit cross-eyed. “Now, where is this damn kid?” Ladybug asks aloud to no one in particular. “I am asking you,” Ladybug rectifies. “Oh, well, how am I supposed to know?” I ask. “Cause you are why we are here. Je-sus, fuck-ing, christ, man!” Ladybug whisper yells. “If the Librarian sees you, you will die,” Ladybug warns. “Then we need to get up somewhere high so that if I am seen, the Librarian won’t be able to get me,” I offer. “Yea, sure that might work. Outside,” Ladybug instructs. We head back out into the cold.

Carefully, we find a series of trellises and steps up and around the backdoor, service entrance, and atop the HVAC system, we easily maneuver the totally mod, unfinished, exposed urban interior of the mid twenty-first century post-modern aesthetic. Ladybug stands atop the tip of my nose looking down, fluttering from side to side from time to time to reach a view from an angle I cannot supply. “There he is,” Ladybug whisper-shouts with a point toward a window on the far wall from where we are. “There, in the window, sitting with his manny,” Ladybug laughs; “Manny. Ha!” “I’m not sure if I can make it over there,” I admit. “No problem. I can easily fly,” Ladybug shrugs. “Just head on back toward the front door. I’m sure I’ll manage once I’ve convinced him. Or maybe just hang out here and watch out. And come a little closer. If I don’t come back up here to get you, then he’s made a run for it, so meet me at the front doors. If I come back to get you, then obviously, I’ll be here, and I’ll tell you what’s up. Okay?” Ladybug suggests. “Yea, sure. It’s no problem, except that your plan leaves me completely out of it, which means,” I begin. “Yea, they won’t know, but they don’t need to know everything,” Ladybug points in the vague direction of “everywhere.” “Fine, well then you’re going to have to tell Attila, or I will,” I counter. Ladybug feigns suffering, “Fine.” Just as it begins to flutter away, it looks back at me and says, “If he makes green, run toward him.” “What?” I ask but Ladybug either doesn’t hear me or pretends not to.

Carefully, I make my way atop the silvery, metal air vents toward the far wall where the windows ensconce comfortable, bench-like seating. I can easily see the boy in the window, and he seems upset for some reason. And he storms off. I try to follow from above, but there seems to be little to no way to make it all the way across to where the restrooms are. I hear the flutter of Ladybug, “He’s real mad about something. I wasn’t close enough to hear, but he’s gone.” “He’ll be back,” I state. “How do you know?” “He just went over to the bathroom.” “Oh,” Ladybug nods, standing upright in front of me now. “This is just me standing,” Ladybug clarifies. I nod. “Go back,” Ladybug demands. “Oh,” Ladybug nods, standing in front of me now. Ladybug gives me a stiff look. “There,” I point, seeing the boy emerge from the doorway into the bathrooms. “Excellent,” Ladybug jumps as it flutters away, back to the window where the boy will inevitably sit himself back down.

I feel like I have been sitting and waiting for quite some time now, and I cannot hope to see Ladybug from this distance, and the boy just sits there in the window, reading. Perhaps, Ladybug sits atop the book’s pages. I cannot know for sure. There really is little to nothing left to say about the situation at the moment, and I cannot know how much time will pass until something does, so I will sit here and wait, and as soon as something happens, I will let it be known, I say/think to no one and everyone.

The boy makes green. Made green. Is making green! I jump from the top of the air vent onto the top of the book shelves, and run along the top until I can jump straight at the boy as he attempts to vanish. Just as I fling my body onto the boy, grabbing him around his torso as tight as I can, I hear the shouts of Ladybug as it flutters into a safe tuft of fur between my front arms, “You’re a Lingerer, now!” As quick as we turn to light, the boy appears, as an adolescent or young man, in some … garb … of the kind you would find a person in while in a hospital. “It’s a psych-ward for the mentally ill, and I am a young man,” the boy-man clarifies. “Don’t mind her,” Ladybug interjects. “She is why we are all here,” the boy-man clarifies. “And where is it that we are?” Ladybug asks. “When,” the boy-man clarifies. “Right, of course. Are we on Earth?” Ladybug asks, in utter excitement. “Yes,” the boy-man answers. “Oh. My. God!” Ladybug exhales with a strong squat and simultaneous flexing of its upper legs upwards, while its middle legs flex inward, and its head screams upward through both blessed and cursed excitement. “Yes, both blessed and cursed. Did you hear that?” the boy-man asks. “Of course I heard. I hear everything,” Ladybug warns. But we still do not know when we are.

“Yes, right. So, when is it that we are?” Ladybug asks. “The Numerical Years, which roughly translate to the hundred years between 2020 and 2120,” the boy-man defines. “The now,” I accidentally whisper aloud. “Yes,” the boy-man supports. “How is it that you came by this Lingerer?” the boy-man asks. “It’s a long story, but it is why we are here. You, of course, know why we are here, yes? Please. Please know,” Ladybug pleads. “How would I know. I didn’t send for you, and if you weren’t sent here, then how did you get here?” the boy-man clarifies. “Is our arrival a signal?” Ladybug inquires. “Good question,” the boy-man thinks for a moment. “When were you before now?” the boy-man asks. “The middle-most peak where the three peaks meet,” Ladybug answers. “Oh, that’s impossibly far away,” the boy-man states with little to no actual tone of being impressed; “How did you get here?” “Through the corridor,” Ladybug answers incorrectly. “How then?” Ladybug asks. “We traversed through the corridor to find ourselves atop the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet,” I answer. “There’s a gap,” the boy-man offers; “You must be in the past or the future from whenever you were, but not yet at the moment right after when you were occurred.” “Why does this keep happening?” Ladybug laments, full diva, atop the surprisingly soft linens of the boy-man’s private sleeping quarters. “What has been happening?” the boy-man asks. “What hasn’t happened? I was late in delivering Dei,” Ladybug begins. “What?” the boy-man nearly whisper-shouts. “It was fine, but then immediately after that, the lorikeet, oh shit, where is that bird? Dammit! Well, first we were trapped in the circle’s corner, but now, it seems I’ve lost it all together,” Ladybug explains. “What else?” the boy-man asks. “Uh, well, then we’re here now, and we don’t know why!” Ladybug sighs as it rolls over onto its shell, distraught, burdened. “The why of a thing rarely matters,” the boy-man consoles.

Sniffling, teary-eyed, Ladybug rolls itself over, “What?” “What?” the boy-man asks, and then he turns to me, “He is fine. Just use he or him.” Frozen in the beauty of his IS-NESS, my heart races. He smiles, and rubs me behind the ears. I want to die in this moment right now. He chuckles. I will die now. He returns his attention to Ladybug, and I’m jolted alive. “What did you just say?” Ladybug reiterates. “The why never matters,” he states, when really he stated that “The why of a thing rarely matters.” Ladybug sits on its haunches. “So then what do we do?” Ladybug asks. “We wait,” he answers, with odd swiftness. “For what?” Ladybug asks, desperate again. “Who knows,” the he shrugs as he lies back on his bed, arms poetically crossed behind his head, feet crossed at the ankles, looking upward at the cloud-printed wallpaper that lines the five sides of the cube that is his personal living quarters. “Are you going to sleep?” Ladybug asks. “No,” he states. “What should we do?” Ladybug asks, again. “There’s no way of knowing for sure,” he states; “For now, you can familiarize yourself with this spacetime, or whatever, just chill.” “Ugh,” Ladybug exhales, exasperated, falling back onto its shell. “It’s not a shell,” Ladybug insists, palm atop its forehead, anguished.

“You wanna rest?” Ladybug finally asks. “Yes, please,” I lie. “Fine, just go be whatever. I’ll stay here with him, and if anything bad happens, I don’t know. Just, I don’t know,” Ladybug dismisses, on all sixes now, heading toward his (the boy-man’s) head, hoping it will get a chance to really talk to him. “Shut up,” Ladybug suggests with a wave of its hand. I curl up at his feet, although they smell an awful lot like another set of feet I’ve smelled, but that seems irrelevant. He’s warm, and he snugs me deeper into his knee pits.