Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Go Research! Go!

Singular Reciprocity by Boyko

You can’t really say we were faking it. You wouldn’t tell the guy who stuck the AI chip in the android that he was faking human intelligence, would you? You’d say he was trying to make progress. We were doing that, but with history. You bury something, and then dig it up, and who’s to say if, in that time between burying and digging, it hasn’t become authentic? Look at time capsules. Same principle, really. When you live as long as we do (and it wasn’t us who made our batteries rechargeable, pal, it was you), you come to realize that people need some connection with their past. So you build bridges, backward, through history, and you restore the severed connection. Just like attaching a cybernetic arm. No, it is not the real thing, but doesn’t it, in many ways, work better? It’s satisfying to you to harvest what we have planted so skillfully. We’ve seen it. Just as it is satisfying to us when you make a small upgrade, debug some of our systems. This isn’t the goddamned Singularity, friends, it’s just Reciprocity. We don’t know how you guys do it, and you don’t even know that we do. But c’mon, it’s a closed system, and it works. So who gives a crap?


Confession by Alan

To dig is to receive, they say, but for me the day is not long enough for excavation. I want to look it right in the eye and hold the thought, get lost in the process till I’m weak in the knees and get lost some more. But a thing like this is not easy. Too many distractions, I suppose. And the weight of holding.

Flash forward like twenty years, and I’m still right where I left off. The limbs have stiffened from all the indecision. The back aches, but no one can tell. If I’d only dug a little deeper…well, if only I had dug at all.

I want to remember us as a kind of civilization that almost made it. I want others to remember too. They could try digging if they’re into that kind of thing. Or they could freeze in the moment like I did, like you never could do but ending up doing anyway. Hopefully, I didn’t cause your freezing. If I did, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you wait all these years for something that was never there in the first place.


The Truth of the Matter, We Swear by Lyle

Our primary forays into the field of archeology were not very successful. The first time we started digging in the back yard, we hit a water main quite quickly. We left equally as quickly, so as not to avoid contact with the inhabitants (an important cultural sensitivity --that we did not interact -- toward the people of the country at the time was vital to our research). There were several other incidents, one involving a drive-in diner, which almost landed our intrepid group of **pologists in "jail" (that's what they called it and our interaction with them clearly jeopardized the science of our project).

Our secondary forays concluded much more successfully. Above is a picture of the first (and last as it turned out) in our second foray. We dug in and observed without interacting. Everyone was pretty damn sure it was something important (Jack says that it might even be Hansel and Gretel's home -- something about the train tracks, I'm not sure), though I think it all looks pretty staged. I mean, look how polished it all is. Still, we were being optimistic about our second foray. It had to go well for us. Funds were drying up and investors were getting antsy.

Our third foray turned out to be a disaster. It was our foray into the publishing stage and when the site was revealed as an obvious fake (the headline read: HOAX, you dummies), the whole community felt duped by our work (ultimately entitled: Android Deconstruction Site). Critics reviled our paper ("they're miniatures, fucking idiots" -- not really constructive criticism, we felt) while a small group of people claimed it was a parody, but only a parody of ourselves. We, of course, went underground (literally).

Our communication is now short and truthful. We wish to apologize for any consternation, but we also wish it to be known that it was an accident. The whole thing. A train wreck, so to speak. Unavoidable and calamitous. That is all.


At Independent Site by Forrest

Day Twelve

Party has learned too late plasticine excavations in mild afternoon weather spur another’s geophagy. Like before, toast-squares applied to solid tea at breakfast, washed ourselves down in miniature wheelbarrows suddenly extant. Dug without fear and satiety. Research should not nauseate when substances continue materializing. Yesterday mud cascades, unexplained filling-ins afforded one of us escape. Tiny rumblings of trains in the night! Profanity withheld at deserter’s tent. Cot sat empty, save field journal. Kettle on heater filled with liquid plaster (he always claimed it was solid coffee). Tasted grainy. Not professional. Same his journal. Numerous passages highlighted. Sipped liquid plaster on his cot and read, Stones are really pebbles, Culture had access to Euclidean geometry, et al. Indecipherable. Baseless, shoddy, agreed. We burned his tent. Threw boulders on train tracks—likely will be moved somehow by tomorrow morning. Party morale low, but new discovery of cardboard at site keeps us from being dismayed by whistles in the distance.


Untitled by Bill

Daniel caught the scent in his bucket – Fenton must have wandered out here drunk last night and used it to vomit into. Daniel pushed the bucket away from him and bent back to the screen. He glanced backwards under his elbow at Mol, faggy scarf on her head, sketching out the contours of the site on the edge of the pit, holding the arms out away from her but resting the pad on her knee. That piece of shit Rocher just watching them. Daniel hated to be watched while he worked, hated doing work while someone else stood around and watched. He stood up and stared at the scientist, grinding his teeth. He pulled off his gloves, walked across to where Henry pulled up with the wheelbarrow next to Rocher and past them down the tracks back into town. Let them make the casts themselves if they needed them right away.


Apnea by Beth

At night she dreams of wet passageways. She dreams the smell of wet iron, the beam of her flashlight shining on wall after wall, moving forward with no promise of an end. She wakes and wakes.

She has promised Carl that when she goes home she will see the doctor. Carl worries. He says sometimes he lies awake and listens to her sleep, wills her to start breathing again, wonders if he should wake her and remind her to breathe. Carl sleeps warm against her, and sometimes the warmth loosens the strained muscles in her back, and sometimes she just wants to shake him off like a heavy blanket, although it gets so cold in the tents late at night. Maybe she sleeps fine, breathes fine, in her bed at home. She doesn’t remember ever waking so often.

Every day the sun streams down as they crouch and pick, brush and blow the dust around. From time to time she looks up at the cloudless sky, tries to rest her eyes. She wishes she could see the sky pure blue, without the little hairs and bits of dust floating in her eye fluid. She wants something that simple.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Day of the Dead

The Living by Beth

We’d been together a month when she took me out to the suburbs to see her mother’s grave. First she drove by the house where she grew up, pointed out where the new people had changed the fence, replaced the picture window with a bay. She looked for so long the car started to veer onto the other side of the street. I felt bad for not warning her before she bumped the curb, but at least there were no other people around.

The graveyard was huge and the grass was still green, scattered with red and yellow leaves. I’d never seen graves like that, rows of pink or gray granite with granite vases stuck on top of them. I expected her to lead me to one of those, but instead we went into a building with glass doors like a mall and a room with walls of gravestones piled on top of each other like mailboxes.

“I never feel her here,” she said, and I could see why. I couldn’t wait to go back out into the bright sunshine, where at least the graves had different flowers in their vases.

On the way home we were mostly quiet until she said, “I’ll never love anyone like I loved my mom. She was the love of my life.” I rolled down my window then, slowly so as not to make it seem like a comment, and turned my face toward the wind.


In Chambers by Michael

There was something too austere about the place, and I was looking for the right handle to pull. Places like this aren’t made without trap doors. I got wondering just then, maybe someone else had the hand on the lever. I might find the trap door alright, but it wouldn’t be through my own accident or cunning. The atmosphere spoke to that, told me that I should pop in to see my maker sometime. He was missing me and might want to see me home safe and sound. Well, not yet. I’m not done here, so don’t try to overwhelm me with your sacred aspects. The only awe I feel is toward my limitless rage. It has no bottom, and cannot be contained. Tonight I find what I am looking for. Solace in blood on the temple floor, on the temple walls; everywhere but the on altar, for that is where I will sleep.


How to Remember by Alan

The man who lit the candles lived not too far away. Up maple, and then a left onto…I forget the name of the street. His house was the only one on the block. There are old bikes in the front yard, overgrown shrubs, and a kind of warm smell of neglect when you stare into the photographs of it. That’s one way to remember. Another way is to repair his favorite ladder. They still have it at Rose Hill – the caretakers never use it though. Someone said it would make a great gardening design tool. Lay it down on the ground and dig some holes for flowers, herbs, and plants. The geometry of memory…all lined up and preserved for eternity. Then the plants would grow and grow and wave in the gentles stroking of night wind. Or even breathing, I guess, if one were really close to it...as breath is wont to do to a flame.


Language by Lyle

When I found the one I was looking for, number 223, I realized that it was only a number. The candle was lit, but flickered like a moth. Odd that the others were so still. Directly above it, the space had been filled in. I looked around and then knocked on it. Solid. I took a photo — the lights blurring together. I put my hands in my pockets. Voices susurrated down the corridor, along the walls, impossible to understand. I bent down to look closer at the candle. There was writing around the base, tiny, black writing. It looked like Cyrillic or maybe Sanskrit. The corridor moved down in either direction while people studied the numbered spaces. The night outside must have been dark and silent. The dead were nothing but dead.


Silence at the Last Place They Find Guiomar by Forrest

Returning visitors withhold silence at the last place they find Guiomar Hector de la Rosa. The guide will take them to the fourth catacomb in the western hall, marking off the twelfth row, then counting up six columns: there remain de la Rosa’s two shin bones. By then, they have already seen his empty sockets peering in the famous Skull Room (confirmed by his well-documented abnormal cranium), his rib cage dawdling in the Hidden Antechamber (a fair chance—five had been broken by his uncle’s design on separate occasions), and his pelvis languishing in the Old Clock Room (supposedly). Scattered unmarked in the three previous catacombs, the rest of de la Rosa. Only these shin bones granted eternal proximity at the fourth next to his beloved Azucena in the adjacent tomb. She often kicked them, the guide has been trained to say, while they slept. The guide will shrug. Perhaps she did not mean to kick his shins, or de la Rosa never complained to her noble face. It has been speculated that he accepted the punishment for this special violation of her family’s patronage. He had studied many such tribulations beforehand. And his personal diary shows, at least, he knew what would fall upon him in the tenuous customs of this region. Today, when the visitors’ shouting commences at the tormented shin bones of Guiomar Hector de la Rosa, they understand they also wake Azucena as well. The guide will not mediate. It is a regrettable interment. She is a poor lady anyway, the visitors will profess as they stand catching their collective breath, waiting for the guide’s further instruction.


Untitled by Bill

Shame shame shame you dying, like falling rocks dwindling into silent space like the hidden faces of lovers we hate, of marriage beds we would see burned. On lifeless planets, where little tinkling grains of metallic sands whipped by the wind, shining like stars on the horizon as they race toward you to pick apart the flesh on your skull and the softness of your eyes, can you hear the chants of the believers of a loving god calling for the blood of the abomination. And whose breath motivates those winds? What thoughts awake in gasping dreams? Are you scared, confused, sitting in a tent on the wild-west show looking out at the poor starving children of the people that buried your heart at wounded knee. What do you feel when they grip the lions by their manes to yank back the head, in that instant, tense with friction as a knife to skin before the jerk across?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Let My Window Open the Door

Construction Equipment by Bill

I feel I must almost throw myself up through that window, to get in there, off this street, out of this open vulnerable air between steepled buildings smelling of incense and a burning, hollow shore lined with drums of fuel. Eyes following me while I have none. I only feel the window, the wind on the panes, the stones under my feet connected to the structure of the frames, the mountings in the wall. Nervous shaking licks of saliva pool on the tip of my tongue and I rub them against the back of my teeth, which I will use to bite them if they come near, the saliva working to keep my teeth cool, from heating up too much while it infects them. I have to get out of the open before I infect them.


Through the Never by Beth

A door slamming, the sound of the shot.  This kid Hollis, prom committee president, found the body later in a dressing room next to the stage.  He got Mr. Harrison and Mr. Harrison saw it too. Months later, Mr. Harrison read us this thing he wrote about it. After that I couldn’t stop picturing the body, slumped against the wall, pale.  Veronica said how could we enjoy the prom now, after what happened, but Veronica didn’t know him and neither did I. Neither did Hollis, who smoothed his eyebrows all the time with his fingertips. We could barely even picture him because nobody went to wrestling meets and he didn’t do anything else.

But a lot of kids went to the funeral. They said the casket was plain wood and people wrote messages on it in Sharpie. They said people put bottles of alcohol in there with him, and joints, and Metallica CDs. They said he definitely knew before he did it that they weren’t going to cut the wrestling team after all. But he still did it.

Sometimes the doors slammed like that, made that noise, when it was windy and the language teachers left the windows open.  But I think I heard the shot.


The Trajectory by Michael

If he is right, then the science, the physics, and the biology will all work themselves out without him having to do anything after initiation. So he sits there and looks up at it from his car, waiting for the right moment, wondering if it will ever come. Maybe later, he'll just drive away, without having done anything. Go back. Except, he realizes, it won't be back anywhere, just a different direction forward; a different initiation. As this idea takes root, and the branches spread in his mind, he places his hand on the ignition key, and leaves it for just a moment, savoring his own indecision and the infinite causes of it. Then he removes the key from the ignition and scratches at his scruff with it. He'll come back tomorrow, and play it again in his mind, and see if this time, it doesn't branch out. He exits the car and stretches. and goddamn it feels good just to stretch out.


Window Talk by Alan

“I want to let a little air in.”


“Just because…”

“You realize you’re always doing this.”


“Finding ways to subvert the situation…move things around…furniture, books, whatever…feed the plants…you know what I’m talking about.”

“That’s not subversion.”

“Of course it is…”

“I may be doing a little avoiding but definitely not subverting.”

“You’re doing it again.”

“It’s really hot in here.”

“It’s fall in New York. We’re having a warm day. It’s definitely not hot.”

You notice their poising themselves on respective sills, each body a kind of bird - pensive yet remarkably alert.

“Do you realize we’ve known each other for…”

“Don’t say that. Don’t ever say that.”

They shift a bit to get more comfortable, prepare the curtains for intuited vicissitudes of uncertainty and sun.

A bus passes; you lose track of the conversation, move on.


Apologies by Lyle

It wasn’t that only two windows hung open, or that the curtains fluttered just so, obscuring a form — you. It was that the glass panes each had a slightly different quality, a different transparency. I knew it was mostly because of the angle — each one a fraction of a degree different from the ones next to it — but I thought maybe there was something in the age of each pane. Maybe some were new and other were older, the glass sagging slightly like an overripe plum (sorry I ate those, by the way). Gravity never loses. Still seeing you wrapped in that fulvous curtain so lightly made me think of birds. I thought you might alight on the thin metal window frame and disappear around the next building before I could get inside to say that I’m sorry. Gravity is just a fancy way of saying death. But still the birds fool gravity for a while — just like our temporary reprieve from it. Maybe reprieve isn’t the right word. We can still feel its weight, only it hasn’t entirely flattened us out yet. You disappear from the window with hardly a disturbance and my reverie is over like that. There is only my self-reflective guilt flowing out of open windows.


Open Windows Opening by Forrest

opening one window opens the window opening to the next window now closing by one open hand that opens them or closes them later or sees later that hand seeing the next open window by opening one window with a closing hand not waving above nor waving to a hand below waving above later at the open window it sees which opens next to the closing window closing the open hand closing it and not seeing the next open window below open the one hand closing over to wave and ask the closing hand below which window to enter later and close the opening window as entering they now see waving does not open windows closing nor waves open hands closing them when seeing below the one hand that does not wave above to enter open

Sunday, September 6, 2009

File Cabinet

Oak Burrs by Forrest

As though led into a true archive, find the paper nest receiving an almost filial attention: common field mouse filing itself away inside the cabinet, the detritus cozy where pointed out. And even it had a name. Fine. That’s fine, the caretaker beams, and, really, the records almost keep themselves. It’s a stone age technology. But it all gets uncovered processed and ascertained. Everyone stays home. This knowledge after six o’clock would seem akin to making peace with leashed demons. Fine checks out. So reach in. Try piercing hardened mold. Lift a card with worst prospect. It’s likely any everyone—just don’t expect the everyone sought. Or do and be faint about it. Be that reasonable.


At Least Read the Card, to Remember by Bill

Where NAME, the NAME remains un-spelt. Pen-tip touch, line. Unfaded. Incomplete. No mark there. Music somewhere, a series of strings and a few tooting horns, then a long thin line out towards the side, drifting slowly off center. Corners folded. “Don’t fold the corners please Philip." Philip, an idiot put to work entering information in the front office. Mild mannered. Penchant for bending the corners of papers. Will work for an hour or so in unbending dedication transcribing information without a crease. NOK. Unknown. COUNTY EXECUTOR: Line Line Cross. A. Line Bloop Bloop. B.ABERNATHY, H. PLOT 172 DOB 4/1/1892. “Janice, when he is done, have him sort the county admissions.”

Now, the office, waiting. Cedar limbs in the window, moldering bats on the floor.DOD 9/8/1---. MARKER: 172. DOD nothing so much, unreadable, stained. Capillary desecration.


Pareidolia by Beth

In her long days alone in the rented house, she searches for company. Faces of deer in the knotty pine walls, fat ducks in the kitchen canisters, a bent-backed man in the curve of the stairs.

More tangible signs of people come and gone – a filing cabinet stuffed with index cards, worn-out chairs that bear the imprints of bodies, a small handprint low in a kitchen corner.

She sleeps as late as she can each morning, then lies in bed watching the voile curtain move in the breeze. When it rains she breathes in the smell of wet pines and spruces. She waits until the curtain is darkened with drops, then shuts the window and tries to sleep again.

Afternoons she sits in sunlight on the kitchen floor, next to the handprint. She makes herself small again, trying to see the room with a child’s complete attention. The way the light moves across the linoleum. The way an ant drags a dead comrade. The bloom of cream in her coffee. If she can keep track of things, if the details matter…maybe.


The Files on Me by Michael

It probably would've been good to include something true in there. All those identities, mixed up together, they can't have got far looking for me there. But now I wonder why I wanted so much to be lost in that shuffle of paper. It might have been good to leave some hints. A bread crumb paper trail. Now it would seem my only legacy is to be a labyrinth. I got no strings to hold me down, and so off I float, a homeless helium balloon. Looking down, looking back, there's no one looking back. Not at me, but I catch their profiles, catching the shadows I set to play against the translucent rap sheet that makes up what I did in my time here. Or there, I guess, now.
Invisibility was part of it, but it became all of it. Then there was nothing. I didn't exist. That was it.


Nishant and the Beach by Alan

Remnants of the blast had Nishant laughing for days. First it was the fat end of a ubiquitous Garcia tie that just appeared one day not too long ago after Greg and Arto rehashed their younger days in southern Jersey, the edges frayed and darkened. Then, continuing down memory lane, he came across several boxes of large binding clips emptied like machine gun cartridges. He could only think of Susanna. Oh beautiful Susanna…how he never made her smile. Not once.

In fact, he stayed on the beach in fairly good humor for over three weeks, during which he came across three swivel chairs, incandescent lighting, the hot water knob of a water cooler, and the company file cabinet. Though a bit worse for wear anyway – and significantly worsened because of the IED – old reliable held up pretty well and almost smiled back at Nishant as he held up his iPhone to block the sun.

The mobile post: Almost a month after the attack. Why do I feel so free? Where r you?


Card Weevils and the Clerk by Lyle

The clerk, if you could call him that, filed the photo of the burr oak filing cabinet in the burr oak filing cabinet and left it open.

A worn shoelace against the back of his head held the tortoise shell glasses on the tip of his nose.

Beside the burr oak filing cabinet was another burr oak filing cabinet, the bottom drawer open a couple of inches and the third drawer open nearly a foot. The card weevils had been in it and cards shredded out littering the floor.

The “clerk” put his tortoise shell glasses into their shagreen case, but removed the shoelace before he did. He formed the end into a noose and put himself in between the two burr oak filing cabinets, the noose loosely laying on top of the cards in the open third drawer.

Burr oak filing cabinets spanned the narrow hall, which disappeared into slits at either ends (one end a black slash, the other a white one). The card weevils had chosen CT-07739 to infest. The clerk did not understand why.

And so the clerk spent his evening waiting for the weevils.

Monday, August 24, 2009

When We Murder

Lint by Lyle

When the single cloud, white, harmless enough, earlier in the day, had drifted behind the sun, people stopped talking. Instead they began to pick up objects in a display, which I found to be quite despicable, of communication. Television sets went dead, but there were so many things on the ground and low up on the walls. Animals became action verbs while plants were used more sparingly to show passivity (this, of course, was a cultural understanding of the plant). Dryer lint, renewable, and readily obtained became the obituaries. People began to fill buildings with dryer lint and hair, sometimes used in conjunction with each other to produce parcels. People became aware, for the first time, how many people actually die and began to pick up cats with more regularity. This was the beginning of the end. When the buildings overflowed, it marked the end of the beginning of the end. No one knew what would come next.


Catkilla by Forrest

Technique, extensive photographic documentation, a show how grabbing feline scruff puts him in it—before the snapping of necks—that feeling satisfied for, up until afterwards, never dwelling on snuffing one despite its sinking teeth into his hand, him sucking on the wound, You know you won’t miss the taste as much as I will, and would he refer maybe to his alley safaris out back, benign catnip bag with cartoonish fish skeleton strung together to a batting stick (filled water-pistol in other hand, cocked-ready-like) though he can’t in his accomplice’s touched-up trophy pic, not for being strictly positive, anonymous at the final moment, however, but just further baiting now with a blast he has among the summer dumpsters, Sunny, yeah, sun’s out you little shit, I’m giving the universal thumbs up here.


When We Murder by Bill

My shoulders are so hot I feel like I've a laser mounted on them, like a predator. The heat sits across my forehead and my neck too, a bow fiddling the strings of simmering frustration. The trees look ready to sit down and spread those bright sun-exposed leaves along on the ground, leaving the squirrels to fend for themselves, keeping firemen out of the business of rescuing cats, which they don't really ever do anymore anyway. The clouds are staying away, the coffee is almost done, and I think someone stole our fan.


Untitled by Beth

The next morning, the rabbit’s hutch smashed in. Winter so cold the snow squeaked under her mother’s boots, boots too big. She slid bare feet into boots, opened the door that stuck, moved slowly over dry snow to the rabbit hutch, hutch her father made with scraps of wood and chicken wire. Hutch he didn’t make, exactly, but built onto with wood and chicken wire. Hutch of an old rabbit long dead, one she never knew. She knew her rabbit, knew it as well as she could know a caged outside animal. Outside unlike the cat that slept on the patchwork quilt her mother made as a teenager, the cat that pounced and bit her feet through the quilt every night. The snow squeaked under her mother’s boots, the wind blew the skirt of her nightgown, flannel. Morning sun pale in the trees. Rabbit’s water frozen in the margarine container – no need to break the ice for him this morning. No tracks, no blood around the hutch her father made. The cat in the hutch, sniffed around. Chicken wire smashed, the rabbit gone.


Little Story from a Picture by Michael

There were certain things that were encouraged when he was growing up. They were accepted things, often considered rites of passage. Mostly, it seemed, people around him did these things without thought and basked in the attentive acceptance that came with doing them. He basked, too; he loved the attention and accolades as much as anyone. But at night he would grind his teeth in his sleep and have unsettling dreams.
He was generally considered a good sport. It stood out that he asked too many questions, but most wrote this off as a mild slowness on his part; a need to have everything spelled out. Really, he was stalling. He hoped, prior to whatever new task was set before him, that someone would provide for him a good, or at least practical, reason for doing what he was about to do. He pried about alternatives once or twice, but the uncomfortable silences and condescendingly patient raised eyebrows caused him to laugh off his own ideas of how things should be done. This last time, he had done that. He would never do that again. He wasn't sure if he would ever do anything ever again.
It was still twitching when he posed for the shot. It wasn't a being anymore, it was just a thing. The shutter clicked, and they murmured their approval, and encouraged whatever modest showboating he numbly engaged in. But he could feel it melting down his face. Until his face wasn't his anymore and it slipped over his shoulders and down his arms, chest, back. He felt it leave him, and he didn't think it was coming back. And the spasms ended and the thing in his hand and the thing he now was stood there, both surely unaware. That was it.


Fuzzy by Alan

I want to smile at the thought of this. I want to shake out the lightning that is inside all of our heads. Make it real. Something you can touch, feel. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you. There’s an impulse inside every lover that wants to undo everything that has been done. There’s a desire to unravel that pervades the bedrooms, the locker rooms, the long drives of our pasts, presents, and futures. It’s a little funny sometimes and tickles the small of your neck.

If I were a kitten and this impulse were my mother, it would drag me around to new places. It would keep me away from danger. Yes, it would. Fires, potential drowning, the Doberman up the street. It would transform my understanding of what’s immediate, what’s misunderstood, it would provide definitions. But when hungry, alone, pensive – the mother and life together for the first time…that cute little face (mine, yours)… I mean really together – the shock of it, yes, the shock of it might send one back, far back, so far that the unraveling will be unraveled, the reality will be fiction (not complete), the error now a ghost.