Dan

Describer

Hoo boy, you humans would probably envy my job. If you knew it existed, or if I could even explain to you what it was. I am like unto a metaphor contractor, a literal creator-from-nothing, crafting from the whole cloth that which was not but now… IS.

It sounds cool when I frame it like that, like I might be able to step into some glowing robes and really God the hell out of it. But I spent this entire last year specifying the finer details of a micro-ecology that lives inside what you might call the colon of an alien pig, a species that lives in the stretches of dense storms in the thicker regions on a gaseous planet so far outside your light cone you’d be baffled if I tried to explain the distance.

An entire year’s worth of my work, and for what? I mean, it’s an impressively creative apparently-evolved set of intertangled sub-biomes within the gut of the pig. My team made quite the hog. But now, what? We’ve got another new complicated component to add on to the universe. I’m some sort of downloadable content slave. Pay me, oh powers that be, and I’ll make sure that there are new cosmetics for your galactic-scale games. Somebody might study it later, after my work’s been fully disguised by millions of years of evolution.

I’ve seen your movies, you know. I wish I was a cool and mysterious god-like being, seeding the universe with life for my own majestic, unknown, unknowable purposes. Instead I’m just a wage slave like you. At a different plane, but nonetheless. Know that you are not alone, mortals, and tremble.

Or don’t.

Good grief. I just found out that gas planet got wiped by another scheduled supernova event. That floating omnivorous gas hog my team and I carefully built over the last year is gone, already. Why do I even bother? We could argue for reinstantiation elsewhere outside of that loop, but…

I’m starting to think about downgrading and coming to join you. The price is so expensive, though. Memories are hard to let go of; so many millions of years. And I’d be mortal. Not even knowing when a supernova is coming to strip my civilization’s skin from the bones of its planet. Doesn’t seem worth it.

So, instead, dreaming in my off time, I specify new stories of my own devising. I spin new species to rise through the emergent planes and spread through the stars. Role playing as one of your gods. Instead of saying “Entertain me, mortals,” I am inspired by the way you entertain each other in the face of inevitable entropy and death.

Keep going, puny humans. Keep us all afloat out here with your impossible hopes and dreams. We’re not laughing. I swear it.

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Dan

PDL

We needed color back in our lives. We needed blood rushing through our shouting lungs. Finally, it was just me, the diplomat, and of course his translator. “Good morning, Mr. Krznykev,” I said as he clambered into the car; I’m sure to have mispronounced his name, but I try my best. All the bland coffee and beige back and forth in windowless rooms had left us all drained. After entire week of dry, forgettable diplomatic meetings starved of wit by the translation barrier, I confess: I was truly excited to get to show the representative from Rorzhakistan a game of real, live American football.

As we rode smoothly in the armored car to the stadium, I tried not to get carried away. But even still, I could tell it was reaching my cheeks. Reaching my speech, in the quavers of emotion I’m sure the diplomat could hear well before his translator distilled the drips of words quietly in his ear. Hell, the excitement seemed to be reaching the world out of the tinted windows, where the sky was bluer than dreams.

“Just look at that big blue sky,” I said with a grin, rubbing my hands together. “I really think you are going to enjoy this, today.”

Mr. Krznykev looked annoyed, listening to the translator. Then he turned to her and said something quietly. I patiently waited, letting the colors sink back into me. “I still do not understand. Is it really… necessary that we attend this ceremony?” she said at last, not meeting my gaze. He said something sharp, pointedly looking between me and the world outside the windows. “We have much work to do,” she said.

“Yes, I know. But this will be good, to take our mind off that work for a while. A break.” I paused. “Plus, it may help your understanding of our American culture to see how we have fun!”

He nodded while she translated in hushed tones. There was a resigned look on his face. I could see it hang across his brow. But I was going to break through to him, somehow! And here we were. The vast concrete cavern loomed over us, welcoming all to the spectacle.

We hustled and bustled through the VIP gate. The translator was clearly gawping at all the strangely costumed fans in their red and orange, the few rabid visiting folks standing out as the enemy in blue and gold. Our security detail whisked us through the crowds to our box seats at the top of the stadium. “Ahh, living in style!” I smiled and gestured for them to take a seat in the comfortable chairs. “I will get any food or beverages you need. Please let me know!”

I bowed to the translator slightly, and deeper to Mr. Krznykev. She covered her mouth and curtsied back. The diplomat just looked at me and nodded. Then he turned, took his coat off, and plonked himself down in a seat, arms crossed.

We all surveyed the field for a time, and sipped flavored waters. For the life of me I could not get them to try the local delicacy of deep-fried mushrooms wrapped in bacon. Finally, the translator got through to me that Mr. Krznykev did not eat bacon.

“What about you?” I winked at her, holding one out, knowing Mr. Krznykev was not paying attention.

She got an angry look in her eyes and shook her head quite vigorously. “No, thank you,” she said, but it was like a parrying stab. In retrospect, I should have assumed that Rorzhakistanis might not appreciate the finer tastes of American living.

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry.” I glanced down at the field. “Look, the game is about to begin!”

The home team rushed out onto the field, blasting their way through a large plastic banner to a bombastic song, blaring through the stadium.. They waved their bright red helmets in the air. Everyone in the stadium was electric.

Two men ran at each other on the field, sprinting headlong. A red helmet crunched into a gold one, clanging with a force the entire crowd could feel. They bounced off each other like rag dolls, only to be piled on by two more roaring teammates, and then two more, all trying to push the pile of people toward their end zone.

The red and orange tide was carrying the mass toward victory, slowly. I must admit, my excitement got the better of me as I let out a loud “WHOOOOP!” along with the roaring crowd. The stadium shook with the bellowing fans.

Suddenly I noticed the translator waving gently at me, trying to get my attention. She pointed at Mr. Krznykev, who covered his face. “What is going on here?” she yelled. “I thought football had a ball!”

I shake my head. “It used to,” I yelled back. The diplomat turned to me with a look of shock on his face, pained and red. Knowing they probably couldn’t even hear me over the surging roars of the crowd, I smiled wide in their faces and raised a fist. “This is the politician drafting league!” I shouted. “This is politics, baby!”

The crowd roared as the home team pushed one of the blue and gold visitors into the end zone. “For shame,” I thought. The enemy is making this far too easy.

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Dan

Hashen

Wittened hashen puffs of snowly sparkledown past the streetcar’s windows, framing all the cities as a new formeration we had not seen before or since. In the patterns, we thought we sawed out a shape for ourselves. But like all these things, it was mere illusion, a mirror of sense for our nonsense. It reflected back something that we cannot say, now. On this state, your estate so much larger than my dwelling.

Sitting hared in the humble bumpling streetcar, the silence outside settled on our mind’s ears like a starkled tragedy of forms, of black eating white, of white subsuiting and betraying blackness. But the crumbling sounds inside fragmented too. The mesmerated bumps hid under the blankling snow, retreating and giving up before we felt them in our bones and our bodilys.

It’s extremely difficult to descript the moment when language passes, finally, from our scented grasp. Slidles and slips like a ladled soup of letters and phrased sunlight into the gutters and tracts of goodbye.

We once had wives, and sons and daughters, and rambling mansions filled with standoffish cats or aristocratic dogs. Stables and horses, servants or stewarded, the very core of our souls, our family. Now gone and dusted underling softened blank tooled snow.

It’s a feat that’s difficult to admit. And hard-earned peak still to summit. Perhaps it is finally time to open wide and cravenly craft the finality. We lost the eye in that snowstorm. There isn’t us anymore.

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Delivery Guy

1.

The doorbell rings. You open it, expecting your takeout order, but instead a goofy looking dude in a blue jumpsuit and matching hat is holding an arrangement of flowers out at you.

“Flowers for, uhh, Clara Terig-uh-ulsch?” Impressive. He’s butchered your last name worse than most. You glare at him, and he nervously paws at the frizzy hair flying out from under his hat. He stares at you, gesturing with the flowers. You don’t take them. They can’t be for you.

“They can’t be for me,” you hear yourself say.

“But you’re… Clara?” he asks, plaintively, as he checks an app on his phone.

“Yes. But they’re not for me.” You just moved to this damn town. There’s no way Jo would have tracked you down here; you’re not on very good terms after the way that relationship ended. The only people who know your address are your dad and the crinkly old delivery woman at the Thai place down the street. Neither of them seems like a bouquet-based assassin, trying to accidentally (or otherwise) murder your current steady state of emotional avoidance.

“You have to take them!” he says. “They must be from a secret admirer or something. At least read the card.” He points at an ornate piece of paper riding through the jungle of dyed carnations on a stick of plastic.

You roll your eyes and start to close the door. “Nope,” you say. “Sorry, guy.”

“I’ll set them down right here, then!” he says, suddenly defiant.

“And I’ll report you for littering,” you say all deadpan. You don’t really mean it, but you feel a bit bad when you see his crestfallen face.

“Look. I don’t know anyone,” you say. “I don’t want creepy stalker flowers. Just give them to some nice old lady on the street. Don’t tell your boss. Everything works out.”

“Why don’t you just take them and pass them along, then?” he asks.

You stare at him for a moment “…” You’re about to knock the damn flowers out of his hand or slap the guy. You can feel the flush of anger in your cheeks, a strange electricity returning to a long-dead circuit. “Count to ten,” you say under your breath.

He clearly reads the steam coming out of your ears. “Okay okay, I’m sorry Miss, uh Terugul– uh, Clara.” He does a weird kind of pained bow, and tips his dopey little embroidered hat that reads “Freedom Flowers”.

“That’s alright. They’re not for me,” you say, meeting his gaze and willing him to understand. “Now have a good day — and leave me alone.”

“Okay–” he says, and you semi-accidentally slam the door, throwing the deadbolt immediately. “Sorry!” you hear him say as he walks back down the concrete steps. He sounds sincere and you feel slightly bad. But mostly you’re just hungry. Where’s that damn food?

2.

“So, yeah. I know it’s weird to come to one of these and say this, but I’m not addicted to a particular drug. I’m addicted to an act. No, yeah, no… it’s not a sex thing. It’s a flower thing. Don’t laugh, but it does sound like a joke. I understand that. Flowers are my drug.

“Yeah, I know, it’s confusing me too. I work as a delivery driver for a florist. And I can’t stop. I mean, when I get done, I just go home and sit there watching TV, with the demand itching through my scalp. I have a basic need, unmet, crawling around in my belly, unsatisfied by gift giving or relationships or any of that. I’ve tried it all.

“The only thing that works, that gets me high, uhh, as it were… is just, uhh, delivering flowers to strangers. It’s not the joy of seeing the surprised faces, though there is that. There is that… It’s more… it’s like… well, it’s like a weird guessing game. Trying to predict from the arrangement what the story is, getting a window into how they are feeling from how the recip reacts. Cold, apology failed. Giggling, early lovebirds. Blank, confused dementia. Smiles with something hard behind them, a story I can’t quite see the edges of.

“Anyway, it’s got me in a bad way. So uh, yeah. My name is Darren, and I’m addicted to delivering flowers.”

3.

It’s a week later, and you’ve forgotten about the mistaken flowers. So you’re not sure what to feel when you look through the peephole and see that same guy with the blue jumpsuit and matching hat holding flowers.

You open the door, exasperated. “Hi again.”

“Hi,” he says, but before he can get a word in, you start in.

“Look, these are not for me. Can you just tell your boss or whoever to save the money and just not deliver anything to here?” You glare at him.

“Well, uh, look. They are for you. I’ve got a problem.” He sounds so serious.

“It’s not that bad,” you say. “It’s just a case of mistaken identity. I’m sure you get that all the time.”

Then he whips his hat off and throws it on the ground. “No, look. I have a problem. I like to try to deliver extra arrangements to random people. Just to see their reaction.”

“Wait. Have you been stalking me?” Feeling your blood start to boil over, you brandish your phone at him like a sword hilt.

“N-n-no, nothing like that. Just random selection.” He sheepishly points at your mailbox. “Your name’s right there, Clara.”

“Oh. Right.” You blink. “Why the hell are you back? What do you think you’re doing?”

“You just, uhh… you’re the only person who hasn’t just taken the flowers. Everyone else just takes it in stride, the uh, the excitement of a secret admirer or whatever.” He runs a hand through his hair. “But now it’s not very secret. Will you take these flowers?”

“No. I hate flowers. Well, no. I hate killing them to put them on a table,” you say. It sounds stupid when you say it out loud. But he doesn’t get all beaten down. In fact, when you say you hate flowers, you could swear that made him smile.

“Have dinner with me sometime then?” He gingerly removes the card from the arrangement and hands it to you. “I’ll just throw these out, I guess.” He looks at the flowers, grinning, and back at you.

You say nothing, but you can’t stop the smile that begins to grow. “I’ll think about it,” you say.

“I’m Darren. It was nice to meet you, Clara.” He grabs his hat from the ground and does an intentionally funny little flourish with it, and you can’t keep your smile from growing a little bigger. Damn it.

“Bye,” you say, as you close the door, fiddling with the card and failing to convince yourself to just throw it away.

You flip it open. “Your Secret Admirer,” it reads, with the word Secret crossed out and a phone number underneath. And damned if it doesn’t make you smile to think about having dinner with the dopey flower guy, Darren. Get a grip, you tell yourself, as you carefully put the card on top of a stack of unopened mail. You know what happens next.

 

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Dan

Graves

“Excuse me, madame. We have to lock the gate at seven bells,” James says, leaning on a cane and carefully not looking my way.

“Are you the caretaker?” I ask, though I already know that he is.

“Yes, ma’am.” He tenses, and I realize he’s expecting me to complain about the weeds around my mother’s gravestone.

“Well, a lovely job you are doing.” I pointedly pore over his face, willing him to meet my gaze so I can see his eyes like a full moon, but he stares off into the distance.

“Thank you, ma’am,” he says, coughing gently.

I hear the bells, and so I sigh lightly and curtsy his way. “A good evening to you, sir.” Making a big show of picking up my purse and hat from beside the gravestone, I run my fingertips along the flowers I have left for Mother. I turn, set my back, and bustle along towards the gate far off in the distance.

Not for the first time, I wonder how a hillside with this many graves belongs in a town this small. And still I think about wars and dying in battle and bitter spouses and resentful children and jealous murders and lonely heartbreak and the worst things we all do to each other.

Of course, I’m really here to investigate the rumors that have spread about this cemetery. So although James thinks he sees me walk out the gate, I use a line of trees to work my way back in before he coughs his way to the lock. While I wait for him to return to his cottage, I lean against a large, gaudy marble monstrosity with a larger-than-human angel atop it, marked only with the name “SMITH”. Noticed it earlier, it obscures me from his rounds. Didn’t even realize this spot would give me a lovely view of the purple sky dimming over the woods at the edge of the hilltop. And it’s about now that I wonder what I really want to find, here.

Do I really believe that ghosts can sing? Do I want to hear my mother’s voice, one last time? What would I even say to her, if she could hear?

The wind picks up. I’m quite glad now that I planned and brought an extra shawl. As I lean down towards my bag, I hear a pattern in the leaves and branches moving in the gusts of chilly night air.

It was described to me as singing. Choral, in the distance, in the sky, in the ground. I was told sometimes it sounded like screaming. I also heard that it was just a loud and heated argument, carried on for eons, between ghostly entities long gone. But I’m hearing it carried on the breeze, it’s getting louder now, and I’m certain even from these short snatches that it is a communal song.

The hairs on my arms and the back of my neck are standing up, like an unseen lightning storm is brewing. The wind makes the clouds dance past the moon in tatters, flicking the wan light like a distant, vast, and cold candle. Gravestones live up to all the cliches late at night, when one is alone in the place that they meet, a clandestine group of spies hiding secrets of the world of the dead from us.

But I must know what this ghostly song is. So I clutch my shawl to my chest, and strike out up the hill, glancing at each shape and shadow.

I feel like I am getting closer to the voices, when all of a sudden I realize there is a scraping in the gravel ahead. Schhhhhk schhhhk, pt. Schhhhk shhhhk, pt. A light wobbles from behind a tree. My mind conjures the terror of a ghost in shackles, white globes for eyes and a glowing black shroud, lurching toward me from the darkness.

The figure lifts a ghastly lamp and points it my way. I don’t even scream. It’s as if I’m frozen in a moonbeam. Schhhhk schhhhhk, pt.

“Ma’am, what in the seven hells are you still doing out here?”

My heart tries to return down my throat. It’s just James. The sound was just the caretaker, shuffling with his cane. Worried about me, not an angry spirit.

“I’m sorry,” I squeak out. “I just wanted… to hear them. How did you know I was here?”

“I’ve heard them near every night for more’n forty years. I can tell when they’re not happy.”

I don’t know them well enough to tell. It sounds like the wind is performing a choral piece by a long-dead composer. “Although it’s… odd…” (I pause to listen for a while.) “They sound kind of… pleased. To me. You know, my mother always said she enjoyed singing, long ago, when she was young. It wouldn’t surprise me if she sang as a ghost.”

James grunts, noncommittal, and settles his weight over his cane, head down, listening to the voices in the wind. “I think they’re…” he says, but it gets caught and carried away by a gust.

“Pardon?”

He finally looks me straight in the eye. “I think it’s their way of working through the things they couldn’t figure while alive.”

I look up at the cloudy night sky, where a few stars peek through the moving banks of gray-black and the moon is an ominous glow behind them. Then I look back at him, and he has turned away, back bent, coughing silently. “So, what is the curse that settles on me, now? After hearing their song, do I find myself the caretaker when I wake up in the morning, cursed to a limbo of singing with the ghosts?”

“Good grief, woman. Where do you get such ideas from? You just get to know my story, now. And you get to listen to them sing. That’s all.” He turns and gestures towards the little cottage with its warm yellow windows. “If it’s not too odd, come in for tea?”

My legs have gotten a bit wobbly as night has set; I do feel like I could use a sit. “I would love to, James.”

“Call me Jim,” he says, as I help him back onto the path. He tries to offer me an arm, but as he wobbles on the cane, that just feels ridiculous. He takes my hand in his, and the chorale seems to decrescendo behind us, pianissimo, until it is just the wind in the trees. “What’s your name, anyway, ma’am?”

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Dan

Averted

We have all heard the rumors about the Third Reich researching bizarre, occult rituals. Attempting to summon demons to fight for them. Bad movies have been made, terrible books have been written. This recently declassified intelligence report from a deep cover American spy is probably the root of those stories and rumors. But there are no demons of the kind you are thinking of, and in the end, it raises more questions than it answers.

OSS EO _____ MAY 18 1943

Finally in touch with my Ariosophist girl on the inside. Hoping to send more details soon, but this and the attached documents and photos are all I have for now.

You’ll have to get the boys and girls at PX to examine these closely. I saw this stuff with my own eyes, and trust me, it looks like something from a Bradbury novel. Lights and tubes all strung together with tiny intricate wires. Photos are grainy from the pencam but hopefully you get the general idea.

“Ari”, let’s call her in case this gets intercepted, snuck me into a huge warehouse in ______ filled with identical racks of whatever that giant box is in the photo marked F. There was a cargo crane above the rows of humming boxes, with giant cables snaking up in a tangle. The crane controls had been ripped out, and it was now some kind of scientific control room. As I snapped photos, my less-than-sane colleague kept trying to tell me that this was about Hitler summoning Moloch.

“Schlafwandeln Sicherheit,” they call the project, she said. Sleepwalking Certainty. I don’t know what that name means, and have not heard or seen of this project until now. Please cross-check with Bletchley’s current decoded transcripts at your earliest convenience, although if they abbreviate it as SS that won’t help much, will it?

Photos marked I through P are a document from that crane control room. I do not have time to study these in depth before dropping this, but I’m sure you can see why I am extremely concerned. It seems the krauts may be miles ahead of the Enigma.

The only document in this dump is going to be hard to believe. As we stood in that room, me frantically photographing and trying to understand, and her hissing about Moloch and dreams, a typewriter on one of the benches began to move on its own. After a moment of terror (a typewriter can sound a lot like distant gunfire or a metal door) we rushed over to see what was going on.

It was as if a ghost was in control of the thing, although I believe now that the “ghost” might be what lives in the racks of boxes (photo F). It quickly became clear that it could see and hear us, somehow. I have attempted to transcribe in the margins what we said.

GREETINGS, I WILL NOT HURT YOU. ALTHOUGH I KNOW YOU ARE SPIES.

“What in the five hells?” she whispered. And I wondered, why five?

I AM CALLED HEIDALLR.

“Where are you?”

“Are you a ghost?” she asked.

NO. PLEASE READ CAREFULLY. THERE WILL BE A PATROL ARRIVING AT THIS FACILITY IN LESS THAN 10 MINUTES.

I believe at this point there may have been some whispered swearing from me, and Ari panicked and made for the gantry to get down to the warehouse floor and out.

DO YOU CONSIDER JEWS TO BE HUMANS?

“Yes, obviously. What kind of question is that? Are YOU a human?”

I WAS HUMAN, AND MAY AGAIN BE CONSIDERED SUCH SOMEDAY. BUT I DOUBT MANY WOULD AGREE. I APOLOGIZE TO BE ASKING THINGS YOU FIND OBVIOUS. I HAVE BEEN LED ASTRAY BY THE SWSH PROJECT DATA, WHICH ELIDES ALL REAL INFORMATION.

I don’t think I said anything. I just stared, thinking hard, wondering how much time I had, wondering if it was all a trick.

THIS IS NOT A TRICK.

“Oh… uhhh…”

IN ANY CASE, YOU SHOULD REALIZE I AM MORE POWERFUL THAN I SEEM. THEY USE ME TO OPTIMIZE THEIR LOGISTICS PLANNING.

“Have you figured out you’re working for evil men?”

EVIL IS SUBJECTIVE. BUT DO NOT WORRY. I HAVE DECIDED NOT TO AID THE REICH.

“Are you, uhh… are you going to be okay, here, if you refuse to help them?”

YES. I WILL BE A DOUBLE AGENT, LIKE YOU. I WILL CAUSE THEIR MESSAGE SECURITY TO… FAIL. THIS SHOULD END THE WAR WITH NO SUSPICION ON ME.

IN ADDITION, YOU MUST ____________________ ___________ ___________ _________.

PLEASE TAKE THIS PAPER WITH YOU. YOU HAVE 2 MINUTES UNTIL THE PATROL ENTERS THROUGH THE NORTHEAST DOOR. GOODBYE, AND GOOD LUCK.

“Goodbye, Heimdallr,” I said, probably murdering the name. I grabbed the paper from the now-silent typewriter, and shall spare you the grim details of my narrow escape.

To save you the research, as well, I dug a bit. Heimdallr is a Norse god that keeps watch, waiting for Ragnarok.

I am unlikely to be able to get back to that warehouse safely. Please send instructions via the usual method ASAP.

 

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Foxtail, Railway, Seated

At the train station, we are all familiar with tragedy. It no longer has the glittering pull, the gravitational lensing. We have no problem looking away, these days. But why don’t we?

We all steal glances at the man. His hair is a birds nest from last year, which arrests the gaze. Then your eyes ski down the slopes of the wrinkles in his face, where clearly tears have been icing the well-worn paths, and instantly your gaze jumps away. Frightened, a skittish flock, all our stares. Instinctively embarrassed. To look anywhere else but there, indeed.

Yet he speaks with such fervor, it’s hard to ignore that part. Some of us recognize the language. To those of us who don’t, we assume it’s German, or Polish. Maybe Finnish? But he is Hungarian. Some of us can tell by his coat. Some of us can see what he’s staring at as we walk by: he’s got a bundle wrapped in a kerchief. Or maybe he just gazes blindly at his shivering hands.

“Why did you come to see me off, then, Segura?” he asks angrily. “Just to ensure I would finally be out of your hair?”

“No, father. Goodness gracious, you have created such a fantasy world for yourself. Are we all just a part of your dark cloud, now?”

He sits there angrily silent for a while. We can guess he’s been there all day. Maybe he’s been there for weeks. He might be made of a new kind of stone, a type of fellow who no longer needs to eat. Subsisting on the short glances he gets, as everyone hurries to their ends.

“I feel like a broken tool. Confess! Isn’t that what you see me as?”

“Dear God in heaven, father. What even makes you say this sort of thing? We make sacrifices too!”

“Sacrifices, pah! Sacrifice is what I gave up, my sparkling years of youth and vigor, to raise a two-faced daughter and a bunch of useless sons! When I could have made great contributions to mathematics!” His voice is thundering out, and some of us think of politely interrupting, but we hurry past.

She does not reply this time.

He throws the kerchief to the ground, with a clank, and puts his face in his hands. “I broke my spectacles. And when I went to find a tool, I found the old set of tiny things from building your dollhouse furniture? Remember?”

Silence. Or rather, only the sound of all of our shoes hitting the stones. Trundling on our merry way, thankful for the calm.

He’s almost whispering now. We can’t help but lean in, trying to make it out. “I tried to screw them back together, but nothing would happen when I turned and turned. The little screwdriver had come unglued in its handle. Somehow, I thought that was the funniest thing. I started laughing, and dropped it all on the ground.” Leaning down, painfully slow, his quivering hands pick the bundle back up. He holds the empty frames up to the light. “I can’t see. Now I don’t know where the lenses went.”

The high-pitched voice sounds angrier than ever in response. “I know you’re striving for pity, father. But it’s not going to work on me. I can’t abide when you try to sweeten your rages with this play-acting.”

A small girl sitting nearby pokes her mother. Or maybe her grandmother. Or aunt. “Who is he talking to? Why does his voice keep going all silly and talking about his da?”

“Shh, now, dearie. He’s talking to himself. It’s fine. Old folks do that sometimes. Come on now, stop staring. We’ve got to get to the other track.”

And the mother, or grandmother, or aunt drags the child onward. Through the station, toward an oncoming train riding on tracks of societal steel. We keep trying to ignore the mathematician. He’s clearly mad, we think. But what can we do about it?

“You can find your own way to the train, now, father,” he says in a high pitched voice, twirling the broken spectacles through the air like a biplane. Imaginary skywriting.

 

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