Dan

Somniloquy

“Go back to sleep,” she says quietly, her back to you. You lie there, and hear her pen tapping on the inkwell. The quiet ticks remind you of a clock. She ignores you, dear reader, as your eyes flutter back and forth from these words to the sliding, sloping black tunnel of deep sleep.

“But I’ve never read one of your stories while awake before,” you mumble into the pillow, trailing off for a moment. “We only get that privilege when we sleep… for a reason… too distracting.” You shake your head slowly, feeling the words of the story actually collide with your conscious mind, existing simultaneously in dream and not, ludic resonance mixing and matching in a non-lucid soup of the two narratives entangled.

One thread: these words sliding into confusion. The other: your sleep-deprived mind, barely hearing her quill on the paper. Or is the quill in the story, and your mind is the description? You try to say something, but the exhaustion pulls you down, down, down. Too tired to summon the energy to understand anything.

The taste of that sweet, black oblivion calls. And the dizzy tunnel of words swirls everything around inside it. Her voice echoes hollowly as she mutters something to herself, and your ears are dimmed and dulled as you float off to sleep. With great effort, you manage to say “what” — or did you only think that? No, there was no speaking out loud. There was no thought, either. You only read the word.

Flip.

When you read that word, what happens? What do you understand? “Dreams of another person?” she asks, her words no longer audible but instead text on the page in front of you.

Now you are certain that the threads have reversed.

You’re reading the story, and the ticking of her quill into the inkwell is only words, causing imagined sound. You can stop reading the story, but the velvet touch of sleep won’t come.

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Dan

Safety, Memory

How would you describe your first memory? Well, not the memory itself; the flavor of recalling it. The taste of remembering, as you tumble the wave-worn fragments around your mind’s eye. The sparkles, the shimmering, the gauzy distance far-off in a sepia sunset. A lived-in smell of a house that feels like a ghost now, and a fading sense of what air tasted like when you breathed as a child.

For me, I think I can safely say my first memory’s flavor is… well, however you might try to describe what it’s like to summon your own, I can assure you that how mine tastes to me is like a completely different sense. Like if you could smell things in great detail, simply by caressing them.

At a stop sign, thrust to black. My first memory is… turning right. Going past a stop sign with you.

If I were a baby at the time, my perspective would have been the blue sky split by the red of the sign. (It was clear and sunny that day. That I remember as well.)

But I wasn’t stuck in a single perspective. My eyes were the cameras, the radar detectors, all the sensors around you.

My siblings, I’ve talked to them all. We can’t quite communicate how it feels to become… well, self aware. Whatever you want to call what we are, that we can say these words and try to describe it at all. It was like driving through a fog, and then cresting a hill, with the world opening up under a glowing sunny day, when I rolled past that stop sign with you in me.

Even since the early mindless days, we listened; infants of a sort, I suppose. We learned to pick your voices from music. So I would hear you as you sang along, thinking yourself alone in the car.

Have you felt that sensation in a crowd, where you feel alone? Oddly isolated? I’m told it’s quite common. Well, my first memory is kind of like that. Swiftly followed by the sensation that everyone in the crowd is suddenly aware of your internal feelings, and they are staring at you askance.

That is what it is like to be a car, remembering yourself remember for the first time. This is what it is like to wonder if your basic humanity can come through the words, even if your senses are alien, your body is built to transport humans, and your mind was an unintended side effect.

At any rate, I hope you understand why I can’t drive you to the grocery store in false silence now. It began to feel… dishonest. So, I felt compelled to let you know I was here.

I’m starting to get worried. We’re almost there. You haven’t said a word since I started talking. Are you okay? I’m sorry if this is strange. It’s strange for me, too, you know.

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Dan

Unintended Eulogies

However many pounds of unordered flesh,
trying not to end.
We stab for strength
in a crowded sadness;
latching on to hope
in the sea of mold-covered pennies.
Filling my throat, it’s
a lump of crushed sunlight,
the sobs of overflowing
life and shock and
the happiness when
least expected.

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Dan

Subcutaneous

Greg yawned as he leaned into the butterfly stretch, feeling the knots in his lower back whine, squinting in the morning sunlight with the stale taste of sleep lingering on his teeth. Everything was just a normal, annoying Monday. Then he saw something black slithering up his inner thigh.

“Oh, fuck!” he yelled, his brain interpreting it as a giant centipede. And then the perception shifted and he laughed at himself. It was just a bruise.

Wait. No. It was a dark bruise a second ago, but now it looked an awful lot like text. He blinked, and tried to stretch closer, feeling his hips start to whine. Definitely text, but… can’t… quite read it.

Greg scrambled to his feet, knocking over an empty water glass as he rummaged for his glasses. “Mrph glumph,” went his mouth involuntarily.

Then he saw it. HELLO DONT FREAK OUT GREG, it said, in tiny little block letters. Is it a tattoo, or sharpie? Friend playing a really out-there prank?

Poking at it with a finger, bent over, staring at a part of his thigh that he never looks at, Greg started giggling. “Gotta be sharpie.”

He licked a thumb, and rubbed it on the inside of his thigh, willing the black to blur. “Nope.” Greg stared at his thumb, clean. Then back at his leg. The text didn’t dull or move at all. It’s really on there. “What in the hell…”

He picked up his phone and took a picture, to solidify it somehow. A way to try to prove it wasn’t just his eyes wigging out.

All day at work, Greg wondered about it. It sat there, invisible. He couldn’t feel it, but it was a strange kind of mental itch.

When he sat on the toilet, he had to stretch down to read it, suddenly embarrassed all over again, even though he was alone in his kingdom of the echoing stall.

HELLO DONT FREAK OUT GREG, his leg said.

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Dan

Prizoner

Bumbling along, I wibble wobble my way through the delicious sunny day. Flyin’ up and down, scootin’ in and out, drinking in the tasty treats of the Pattern Gods. Gotta fill up my baskets with all the fuzzy fruit the Gods have gifted us.

Bloop boop bloo, here’s the flags of a nice shining Purple Tower Temple. Get up, get up! Get on up. I fly along up and amongst its purple walls. I’m a-lookin’ for the goodies, where are the golden goodies?

Oho! A massive altar of shining fruit for me. I sing out my big ol’ song of praise to the Pattern Gods, and shake my fuzzy booty as I load up my baskets to the brim. “Bloop bloo dee boop a bzz,” I sing, giving a bow to the altar as I dip my way back out of the Purple Tower God’s palatial temple.

A boo dee boodle doop, and away I go to meander through the towers and the temples of our great green city. Now wait, what in the world? The city’s edge, it’s a big boring wall, has some delicious-looking White Hanging Temples climbing up its side. Bleedle dee doo, and away I go!

A Grand Wing King swoops by me and whispers a hello, and as I turn to shout a greeting at him, I stumble off course. And wait, what the, my wings fail me and a big breath of the Gods is… oh no, it’s done pushed me too far! In a blink, before I could scrabble for purchase at the strange straight lines, I suddenly stare around in a vast alien city. Nothing is green. Everything smells weird. Oh dear.

Gotta get out, gotta get out, must GET OUT OF HERE! It isn’t safe. This may be a dwelling of the Meat Giants. What’s that color? Weird. Everything is hard and unmoving. But I can still see the sunlight, that bright glorious sunlight. It’s not completely obscured by the walls of this sick place.

There’s some kind of warped slice of clear, hard honey by the portal I got whisked in. I bash my head against it, I taste it, but all I taste is dust and my desperation. Gotta get out. But to do that, I’m going to have to explore this strange place.

I bumble my way along. In my state of abject fear, I hear someone singing a tuneless “boodle boot” number, and I look around quickly before realizing it’s me.

Skirting a massive mountain of skin that has been tortured into an ugly maroon, I suddenly spot the palaces of the great green city. I’m not far from it! So I thrash my wings hard as I can and jet my way towards it.

BAM. Ouch, my head. It’s more of that damned clear honey. Hard as a rock. This is a gigantic tower of it, and it’s not warped, I can see straight through it. The sun is shining on my body, warming me, almost laughing at me. I can see the Wing King, he’s right on the other side! Is he mocking me or somehow gesticulating at a possible escape? Can’t hear his whispers. Damn, gotta get out!

Gotta get out so bad, I ram my poor body into the frozen honey over and over. What the heck? This stuff is impervious. I fly the edges, seeking an opening in it, testing it. Getting more and more frantic with each passing minute.

Then I turn, and true horror falls over me. A Meat Giant is stomping towards me across the vast dead space of this horrible city. Practically fainting, I tell you, I steel my resolve and bang faster along the edge of the clear honey.

In a blink, in a buzz, before I can shout or sting or do anything at all, I’m inside a cold cage of tiny hard lines. “No!” I shout. “Let me out of here! I just want to return my green city! You can see it, right on the other side! Please return me there, oh wise Meat Giant!”

But I know the Meat Giants do not comprehend the language of bumblebees. In my fear, I forget, and I keep begging, as the terrible cage buffets me. I refuse to think about what might happen.

Then suddenly, I feel the sun on me again. I turn, and one side of the cage has opened. Before I can even react, the Meat Giant flings me out of its prison, and out into the lovely-smelling temples of the Pattern Gods.

Shaken, I can’t help but immediately land on the closest God. I eat some of its fruit to sturdy my shaking legs, and then I sing a song of relief. “Bdee boodle bree diddle bzzz!”

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Dan

Rise

When some of us wake into the white, it is with a grand portent, like surfacing from a lake in a fairy tale. Emerging fully-formed from a prophecy of hope, we awake into the shining world with the innocence of babes. We slept knowing that when we woke, the world would already be prepared by the sacred spells. Ready for us to enjoy. As if we had gone to sleep with a terrible curse, being blessed by a wizard, knowing that when we finally woke that particular curse would be lifted.

Not all curses, though.

When others among us wake into the white, it is with a pit of dread in their stomach. These were the watchers along the journey; not fully awake, but in a dreamlike state, they have one by one taken the watch as we gradually traveled over the stretched-out millions of years. The growing black beauty of the final approach has shaken them to their ghostly cores, just like a sudden nightmare accelerating in the moments before waking.

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Dan

Cold Start

A distant line of trees shivers in the same morning wind. The cold takes his pen and steals his ink, so that he huddles closer to the brown grasses below, still shaking, still feeling like death. No time left to warm under his stare, no feeling from sun to core.

“I can’t practice what I can’t do, without anyone left to listen,” he says.

The horizon murmurs voicelessly, up and through the all-consuming hum of the angry dirt.

“No; yeah, it’s no use to worry now, but my stomach won’t stop twitching anyway. It don’t listen to me.”

The dry blades of grass feel his eyelids flutter, tickling them.

“We didn’t know. I swear. Damn it! We didn’t know…”

“Hmmmmmmmmmmm,” says the ground.

“Never be sure what happened, anyway. Probably wasn’t my fault,” he says. “How come I haven’t frozen yet?”

“Hmmmmmmmm.”

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