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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Dan

Hapax

“Know what ‘hapax legomenon’ means?” he asked me.

“When your word only shows up once over the entire work, er, corpus, whatever?” I say.

“Yup. Wouldn’t it be weird if we could have a long conversation, never repeating ourselves?”

“Seems almost impossible.”

“Still, imagine writing stories intentionally like that.”

“Hardly possible for natural prose, then. But which would be trickiest? The multiple ‘the’s and ‘a’s gotta be tough.”

“The’s definitely rough. Fine, articles allowed. And awful hard without saying ‘be’, just hit ‘be’ twice in one go!”

“How about tenses or homonyms? Can ya reuse them? And abbreviating? Cheating by way of styling, slangifying?”

“Nope. Pretty sure the whole thing’d fall apart, fast. Couldn’t communicate honestly… anything valuable anyway.”

“Dunno, dude. Humans are sometimes super damned sneaky.”

“So? Uhh… why you even getting at, here?”

“Zipf’s law. Information compression. Maybe we’d realize some bitter fact on language affecting thoughts. Finally run outta words. Be forced to really speak the truth.”

“Yeah, right. Get real, man.”

 

cat writing/short/hapax | tr '[:space:]' '[\n*]' | tr -d '[:punct:]' | tr '[:upper:]' '[:lower:]' | grep -v "^\s*$" | sort | uniq -c | sort -bnr | head
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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

Sea of Glass

Well, how do you say, dear old diary. Jin’s gone crazy and my phone finally ran out. I think I will practice my English one last time on this notepad of stupid. I sat and worried about my mother and my father long enough. That was the bad farewell I ever had. Kind of like parting with a dying person, but not wanting to say it.

I’m not sure yet if we are going to die or what. But they didn’t want to curse things. By saying it out of loud. I guess that is why I write in English. It feels less clear. Less real?

Don’t worry, dear old reader. I’m not giving up or any thing. But there were people who happened to be put in the cube with drills and hammers around. I watched them try, before my phone ran out. And it is clear (ha ha ha good joke huh) that this isn’t really glass we are all stuck on the in side. It does not break. It does not move. I don’t have my any tools. So I bashed it with flashlight. All that did was break flashlight. At least emergency light are still on to write.

Continue reading

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Dan

Afterimage

when I close my eyes I just see the void

Haha. Well consider yourself lucky

what do you like to do for fun??

I’m big into horse hairstyling.
And also making fun of people who ask me that question as an opener

damn gina
sue me, I can’t tell much about you from the bio, sheesh
do you like it when robots fight?

Uhh. No.

okay good
we are on the same page on that one at least

Okay, better.
What do you do to fill that void with fun?

ive been working on a self-referential poem
that destroys the mind of whoever reads it

Cool. Send me a copy?

nah I think I’d rather take you out to dinner and then go protest a robot fight
no need to erase your mind juuuust yet
that didn’t come out like I meant
sorry sorry

I know you’re joking and all this satire and cleverness is just what the dating apps require but
I would actually pay good money for a mind eraser

understanding is cruel the monkey said as it launched to space

???

sorry I bet u haven’t had lyrics quoted at you by a boy in quite some time

Truly true
You may be fulfilling the “desperate nerd” portion of my requirements

wow jeez girl
would you go into space if they asked u?

Heck yes
I love the sky, it’s one of the few stable things for me.
When I look at it and then close my eyes, I just see black or blue… Sometimes gray.
That would be so comforting to be out there.
Simple. 🙂

wait
i had to go back to ur bio
“when I close my eyes I see the fate of everything like an afterimage”
you are running with that
like, for realz

Oh yeah. Too literal for you?
I figure I better get my deep dark secrets out of the way right away

okay now you got me intrigued
(back in the day I had to remember how to spell that by saying INTRA GOOED to myself but now my phone does it, yay)
anyway your dark secrets dont scare me
want to meet up this week for that roboprotest?

I don’t want to see you yet.

o because then you will see my futures
shit, right
got it sorry

That’s… part of it.
But don’t worry, I won’t have to see your future if I keep my eyes open.

my future is probably pretty dang horrifying tbh
can I ask some qwestions? I have many

Sure. Fire away.

what happens when u blink

Fortunately my brain can’t keep up
Like both our brains just edit out the blinks
Mine might have shit, yours might too, you just don’t notice…
and I’m pretty used to ignoring the brief flickers.

i just tried it in the mirror to confirm
but I just see me, no you between the reflection

Ha ha.
It’s not really that powerful.
But no that was a good question

so hmm
is the time distance equal?

Huh?

uhh this is confusing
is the time you see, fast forwarded, like
the same amount of time all the time
or if you look at a fruit can you watch it rot

OH. Great question
No it’s even more unnerving because I see things shuffled.
Like, sometimes only minutes into the future. Sometimes years.

like uhh

Once in a while, more time has passed than I know how to comprehend.

give me an example
of that last one I mean

Oh you know, like suddenly the sun is a giant overheated red ball that fills the sky
With all these weird little black marks on it
And earth is just this cooked-up magma land

whoa dude

Or sometimes the sun is gone entirely
and there’s just a sea of this dark gray
sometimes with speckles in it sometimes not

that’s dark
i think you need a hug
maybe keep your eyes open during, tho

Ha ha

so yikes this is so detailed that im starting to actually believe you now
how do you ever fall asleep

Oh that’s actually easy.
But sometimes I have to blink a lot because it shifts every time I close them
And sometimes it’s awful
So I shuffle through the futures until I find something that’s dark (lol)
or just me lying in my bed not too far from now
Which is pretty hard to differentiate.

so have you ever seen me in your bed

Haha. Would I tell you if I had?

i dunno, im not the one with the mental abilitiez
what happens when you put something over your eyes, like a hand, instead of eyelids
you there?
sorry if my dumb line offended you
im not usually like that i swear
well then, how about this:
just keep your eyes peeled for me behind your lids,
and message back sometime if you do spot me

<2 WEEKS AGO>


Hey, how’s the roboprotesting going?

oh snaaaap it’s the scary psychic
i haven’t made much progress on convincing anyone robots are people too 😦

I haven’t seen you in my afterimages yet.
But maybe I need to make a move first.
Want to make some protest signs and maybe catch a dinner after this weekend?

of course
i can’t see the future but i got a good feeling about this
you’re sure it’s not something like…
you saw a tableau of you murdering me for my crappy jokes
so now you have to follow through???

Nope. Your jokes are dumb, but I haven’t seen anything like that…

good

YET!!! HAHAAA
<3:02 PM>

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Dan

Escalation

The woman sits on the bus, like the rest of us. In strained silence, watching the sun leak out of the clouds and rehydrate our shadows as they flicker on the dirty rubber floor.

Then her phone rings. We all get to hear some terrible Billy Joel song I didn’t know existed, and will be very thankful to forget. Everyone like me who doesn’t have headphones blocking their vision scuffles their feet and looks around. Nasty looks. Nobody knows whose phone it is.

It keeps going. Jesus. It’s still going.

But it’s her phone. She answers it.

“You are a bad baby,” she says. No hello. Then, “You are a very bad baby.”

We’re wondering if this is just a warped term of endearment. I giggle a little, imagining a guilty baby calling his mom. “It happened again. The death brown, Ma. It happened. I’m sorry.” But we don’t get to hear the other side. She sits and listens for a while, and we sink into the mystery of it. A bad baby. Or a bad man.

“I’m very upset with you all right now,” she suddenly yells. And she does sound upset. Now we all think something the baby said made her very angry. Maybe the baby and his baby friends are all in trouble, now.

But she yells that so loud that the bus driver turns around and hollers, “Hey. No yellin’ on my bus this mornin’, alright?” And the alright manages to encapsulate the sound of a man working split shifts and eating cheap pre-packaged food to support his family. Maybe he has a bunch of bad babies, too, we think.

So she puts a hand over the phone, and very theatrically mouths a big “SORRY” to the people around her. Nobody looks her in the eye. We’re all still puzzling it out, and it’s about to get worse.

Before the woman puts the phone back to her ear, we hear a loud squawk from it. It sounds remarkably like a baby crying. But her voice goes into a parody of stern, like she’s heard on daytime TV maybe, and she tries to talk over what I still imagine is a crying baby, but can’t be. “Does your husband know about this? I said, does your HUSBAND KNOW ABOUT THIS?” And by the time she gets to the end of saying it the second time, she’s shrieking, holding the phone at arms length like it’s going to bite her, and her face is turning red.

We’re starting to get legitimately worried for her and the baby or whoever’s on the other end of the line, but the bus driver just doesn’t give a shit and pulls over to the side of the road. “Candy. Get out,” he orders. That must be her name, we realize. Even though it sounds like a curse when he says it.

Candy ignores him and the rest of us, fuming at the phone in her hand. “You are still a very bad baby.” Somehow it becomes clear to us that she’s somehow indicting the driver when she says it.

He stands up out of his seat, and sighs as he walks into view of the camera that’s recording all this for some poor person to have to watch back later. “I’m sick up to here with you riding on my bus trying to start shit. If you don’t hang up or get out the bus, I’ll have dispatch call the cops and have them at the transfer point.” The rest of us don’t have to watch it later. We’re all watching it now, missing our damn transfers because of Candy’s very bad baby.

So finally, Candy stands up. She looks me straight in the eye, and says, “I’m very upset with you all, you know.”

Then she walks past me and looks at some old woman across the way. “Does your husband know about this?”

As she steps off the bus, the driver lowers himself back into his seat gingerly, shaking his head. She turns around as the door closes, and points the phone at him, violently flipping him off with the other hand. “You are a very bad baby!”

“Sorry folks,” the driver says over the intercom. “I don’t know how Ma found out what route I drive. We’re gonna be late to the transfer point.”

Someone up front derisively yells, “You a bad baby!” We all laugh a little. Not a lot… just enough to try to forget that it all happened. But I can’t get that god damn Billy Joel song out of my head.

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