Issue 47 – February 2024

The young couple decided nothing and they didn’t think about it first. It was instinctual, that is in part genetic, which sends causation down the branching fingers to habilis, and possibly beyond. It’s silly as it’s so unnecessary in the modern world. There are too many of us to even need to establish status among every one we meet. The subway car doesn’t need males jockeying for rewards that will never come. There’s no wealth to be gained from topping the hierarchy in a subway car, no followers to earn, no sex to be given. The imagined alpha exits the car and his status returns to norm among pedestrians. The status he’d just been fighting for evaporates already. Of course the quickly forgotten point he made to other passengers might soothe the dressing down his boss just gave him, but that doesn’t make his instinct meaningful. Yet he broadcasts it anyway, thus avoiding torment for a bit.

Credible music made the peninsula inside himself combine. Fingering his earpiece was the signal to attack. Many locals are amused after witnessing such beating. It lifts their spirits as they walk together home, so that they do not feel it when they separate. Companionship was the music of the day, before songs could be recorded, bought, and brought into the home. With no modern medicine, the folks could die at any time. So it was for the perceiver. They needed other singers. Perhaps there were some that matched particularly well with others. Those would be cared for that much more.

The next fad will be tattooing through garments, so the receiver doesn’t know how it will come out. Intricate linework and shading turns into abstract expressionism every time. Surprise results are guaranteed. Through sacrificing curiosity one can become a greater determinant of what is to be. Curiosity lets everything play out. It can also be a drive to act. It can enable manic motion. But that’s the sort of curiosity that demands an answer now, a deterring mindframe. As such it is rife with disappointment. This fuels the grand resentment the curious already felt, before all this new stuff started. Everything is a continuum for them. Nevermind that new people had nothing to do with their grand resentment. Just because they’re other people doesn’t mean they aren’t re-enactors — in fact they are. They just inflicted their maladaptive patterns on others in the sight of aforementioned judges, who sit looking miles across the scales when each applies to only one. They are immensely lost. Luckily the curious and judges’ generative organs feel to each other like the smooth side of satin, otherwise they’d never have gone near one another.

The hamburger bells toll ceaselessly. They always find new buyers. Most people’s definition of a catastrophe is the burgers running out. Children of the ’40s were frozen shivering because of the bomb. But the loss of the hamburger? Sheer dread.


“It is what it is.” This tautology has gained such traction because of the glut of individual fantasy lives broadcast out today. It needn’t occur via social media — one can feel it in the air anywhere there are groups of people, with the restriction that the groups must want to be there. One doesn’t feel the vibe of overlapping fantasies in the subway, for example, cause no one wants to be there, like on a crowded city bus, or an attack interview, or any terrible employment — basically any time one is forced into an obligation.

Light chords whicker in the mind and we keep on going. Straight away, things will surely be improving. It’s better to be an optimist, yes!, because they’re happier and thus more likely to help another, or an animal, or the environs. Also at times it’s akin to spooning one’s eyes out so as not to see atrocity. The threads of pain are large and dark. They stitch us up, as in confound us, with veterinary needles. The coldness is inveterate and gives reason not to act.

Here comes the quickening. One day something doesn’t work the same as it did before. A researcher discovers why, then other researchers test her method, get the same results. They report the cause. Alas to change now would be to ruin someone’s legal construct of a person. They denounce it confidently, repeatedly, and widely. The researchers are confused. “Here’s the proof.” No one gives a shit. “Wait,” they say, “You can run the experiment yourself. Test it. You’ll see you’ll get the same result.” No thanks. I prefer the corporation’s fantasy — it accords with my own.


An ambulance driver driver is mortared on the lanes. Brought to a field hospital, he convalesces under the care of a nurse native to this land. Though there are dozens of others in the beds, it’s his passion that stirs her. For the maimed she has lost count. The odors are appalling. Every time she reaches for a supply and it’s not there, it grieves her. Her slumber’s fitful — she works more hours than she should. Every trauma treated is a stressor. They combine and multiply, becoming a disorder. She tamps it down with love affair. It’s shouldn’t happen here in such a place, in war, in the midst of living carnage, but it does, as a weed blooms from a crack in the concrete. And the driver is quite handsome, devastatingly, just check his passport pic. The most intense affair of their whole lives is brief. Then they have to live in its wake another sixty years. They’d marry, more than once, to other people. Each time it seemed more and more like playacting. The time when it was real became ever more distant. What was left were the motions. And those were re-enactments, but they were played with real blood. They had consequence in family and money. They were significant, especially to all the people that they made, who didn’t understand because they didn’t know, and the only ones who knew were the pretend soldier and the nurse. When asked they could describe it, relate a few events, but there was no imparting the maelstrom of feeling, nor the meaning they created from sinew.

They might describe the charge of each crunching step as they make their way across the snowy ground to an ambulance he knows is broken down. A foot of hard-pack covers its windshield and side glass. They clamber in unseen and shut the door without dislodging their cover. They can watch their breath mingle in the moments when they blink open their eyes. They bare their chests and close them like bounded leaves together, their breath wrapping round their backs like turtle shells of warmth. Her skirts bunch up and he tears through the middle of her leggings. All the war that permeates their lives stops like consciousness. They rejoice in killing it. The sliding moments shock them back to life they had tuned out of. There is meaning now. This is what they’ve always been meant to do. This is how it always should be. The ground shakes like the ambulance, nobody reports it.

Restless people cannot hold a weapon. And these sleep-deprived malnourished tobacconists were in the fear. Their obsession over their guns was mania. They found moments of normalcy, insulting each other affectionately, writing letters to their best gal and their parents, gambling, searching for food or village girls, and passing Watch in daydreams and in chatter. But then the moment changed — the vibe worsened, a subliminal odor in the air, or a sound just out of hearing. Then it got loud, one or all of sirens, barking, orders shouting, rifle clacking, ammunition loading, engines screaming, doors flying to their abrupt destinations, EDC collecting in the pits, lines fallen into, yelling to be heard over, parasitic accoutrements, phenotypic adrenalin dumps, and then the munition, in crass variety, coming here to liquidate their childhoods, and likely their senescence. They’ll learn what dreams detail when dreams are taken from them.


The skies have different personalities and we say that stones support us. The ground rises to our feet. The river washes away the bad, our feelings and our deeds. Everything is like us.

Made up things are like us too. But not the advanced alien civilization, somewhere out there fifty billion galaxies away. They’ve already found us. They already know we’re here. In the last twenty years our telescopes have achieved sight of distant solar systems. We can see their planets well enough that we can measure their atmospheres. When the planet passes in front of its star, relative to us, the starlight that reaches us is changed in brightness and in color. We can measure these changes — starlight by itself vs. starlight that traveled through that foreign atmosphere. We know by example and quadruple-checked research which chemicals ought to be in that atmosphere and those outside that list. The latter are unnatural, added, emitted, or polluted — the evidence of industrial civilization.

We live in the waiting period before first contact has made its way across improbable light years to us. The starlight’s been on its way for 220 years, since our own industry began changing our atmosphere, making us detectable to them. In their cyclical scanning of planets in the goldilocks zone, they spot one on the western spiral arm of the utterly distant Milky Way that suddenly shows consistently increasing levels of carbon dioxide, that could not have been caused by plate tectonics. But moreso are the strange buggers, sulfur dioxide, nitric acid, and chlorofluorocarbons among them. These are the piercing garbage truck beeps that reveal industrialization.

The first contact will arrive whenever it’s completed the journey from billions of galaxies away to here, a process likely considerably more than a mere two hundred years. One hopes we still will have electricity, physicists, mathematicians, linguists, and cryptographers to receive and decode the first message. It’s reasonable that it may not be in a language at all, but in pure math, which works the same here as it must there. Sure they might have tech that’s sci-fi to us, but set that aside. They must have had their own Newtons and Einsteins who produced the same calculations. That is something we will have in common. And if they include a gadget that uses quantum entanglement to communicate instantly with us, then that will save the 10,000 years it would take our reply to reach them. The first thing they will say is pbbbbbt.


Imagine a being simultaneously waiting tense and knowing. Imagine deciding anything with certainty. The bloodiest wars are fought inside one person’s head. Good for us we have equations and verified, statistically significant double-blind and vetted studies to rely on. Otherwise the world’s the kind of magic anybody says it is. This does not describe the Middle Ages, this describes forty out of fifty US states. Their conjecture’s concentrated and sown around the world. Today we don’t have the Enlightenment, we have pockets of enlightenment. Progress doesn’t happen at a universal rate, another of the fleas we deal with.

A choice feels pretty good once in a while. It’s stunted down to wardrobe but it’s still alive. Privation shows there’s much less could be given. Three generations past, it still feels its effects. One has to wonder how much of financial ruining comes down to Let’s show them who’s boss.

The boss is the money and the ones who have it paper over everything way deep. They’ve gotten to the point of nyah-nyah, turning loose their most pathetic infancies. There are few laws on sheer behavior. If educations fails them, or it is ignored, there’s no private security who would act against them, nor enforce what’s beneficial to the plebes, in the sense of mental health and social harmony. Not the stifling of debate but maintaining harmony as a goal of discourse. The roots of dreams spread just into the edges of suggestion.

Every stone, through tectonics, is waiting to move higher, but some are destined for the bottom of the sea.


On the road trip from California to Nebraska to see our heroine, to reassure himself, and possibly retrieve her, and if need be rekindle what he thought they still had, our hero was driving into the country of red hooves. This is where fantasy trampled using group combat. Their revered ancestors had already wiped up the neighboring tribes, taking their lands, demanding tribute, bringing away anything or anyone they wanted. They’d huddle in their winter shelters, telling their children to behave or the Sioux would come for them. Mothers feared their sons would come of age and then become a trophy for what they called the savages, when they themselves were savages. Their prowess shadowed o’er the land. They earned victory fighting for some foreign traders and against some others. The real savages gained material, increased their wealth. With the without settled, they had only to face the within.

Mind tricks are how stakeholders execute control. They’ll try them for a while — generations. After that, if they still don’t produce results, they’ll break out the big guns, and the group combat trainees who know how to use them. The stakeholders kept them too exhausted to murmur, much less grumble or protest, for the right amount of weeks until their brains made these settings their new global default. Better weapons, better trained, better supplied, and more of them — the Sioux didn’t stand a chance.

Statehood did more than enrich the stakeholders and expand their power. It removed their homeland from the Sioux, of which they had another concept anyway. The land given by the Mother to them was no more. Stakeholders gave them enclaves the natives did not want or even have a need for from the way they’d always lived. The stakeholders took what they desired and, against even their own laws, whomever they wanted. They demanded tribute in the form of concepts that the natives did not have. in their winter shelters, huddled together, Sioux mothers told their children, “Behave, or the army will come get you.”


There is a hopelessness to being infantile and below that is annihilated existence continuing, the quantum state of living death. An authentic performance! Playing gets one to that wretched point but there’s no more acting once it’s reached. They are unexploded ordinance. In leaving all care they are put into the elements. Erosion will renew their bodies, not their selves. There is a peace in rest and they are at rest, though they feel no soothing. Every nerve’s against them. Gut bacteria get revenge by immolation. Pain receptors beat infantile foreheads bloody. Serotonin’s burning in napalm jelly and dopamine’s dissolving in hydrochloric acid. Bones are being chipped with hammer and chisel into dust that breathed in causes cancer. Muscles are drawn, quartered, eighth’d, sixteenth’d. And all through it the brain had wanted more — until now, until this place.

That’s its only plus, its only minuscule relief. At least the craving’s ended, but it erased the craving to exhale, sleep, swallow, and the ability to do anything to stop it, and indeed anything at all. They’ve passed into Bartleby without the moral stand. Theirs is not even an absence of morality but their own willful destruction of it, which occasioned a perversity. As with everything with them, they enjoyed it! While it lasted. When all of it was ended, they let go of initiative with it. Out went all the forms of touch.

Communication’s inorganic. The autonomous nervous system plugs away, multiplying torment, like space robots past the range of our control. Nothing registers. The screens of their minds are not just black nor broken, they have no light-emitting diodes. They are not black holes — they are without gravity. They attempt no snares and suck in no atoms. Photons pass around them. It takes a selfless human being to arouse them enough that their want kicks back in. Only after that can they want to get better. Most can be aroused. It happens at the level of instinct and the autonomous, where awakened apathy and clinical depression cannot reach.


Leontes made his wife into a statue. Of course, she brought out the prickly parts in him that made it possible to have that done to her, that calcifying. Another wife on discovering those parts would have resealed the tomb that held them. Hermione not only put them on display, she retouched and restored them. She deciphered the hieroglyphic curse and disturbed them anyway. She was culpable in her damnation. But he’d seen this in their early wooing, that she was a woman who had it in her to do such a thing. With the right emotional prodding, he could make her unleash his rabid shark-toothed cur, thus absolving him from blame in the agency of their destruction. She came in confident and cheery. He recoiled, judging it unearned. And there was an element of how-dare-she, for why should this person get to be unshakeably at ease? It was offensive to him. Of course, early in their wooing she’d glommed onto the fact that here was a young man who could only operate in fantasy. Anyone who doesn’t buy in and play along, to the letter, was cast away. And anyone with that psyche is the sort who’d cling to anything he could control, even if that fantastical demand could only be realized in the ugly side of things. If he could not control a relationship, he would control its ending — but as Leontes’ good guy state was crucial to his fantasy, he wouldn’t be the sort to hurt someone directly. He’d push whatever buttons would get the other one to do it, then be authentically hurt when she carried out her own execution, is what Hermione saw in him. Had she been self-preservative, she would have split before it got this far. But she wasn’t. She also chose a partner whom she knew could phenotypically activate her own antic desires.



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