Hello Sister…

14642088_10210397076473928_5314000722223327251_n

She found the mask in a box in the attic while playing with her friend Sam. They had put together pieces of the past, photographs of her parents’ childhood and keepsakes from vanished uncles and aunts to make what they called all our other families.

It had started when Sam said that she would like it if they were sisters instead of just friends mostly because it was so far to bike whenever she wanted to visit. So they went through all those boxes of discarded memories and turned the forgotten relatives and the less celebrated moments from her own family into their secret shared families, complete with secret relationships, blood-feuds, illegitimate children and pets (she had insisted: there had to be pets – so the two of them had to dig for half an hour until there was a handful of potentially acceptable pet photographs to choose from).

In the middle of all this, while looking for a suitable lover for a handsome soldier uncle, she found the mask.

It was not pretty. Neither Sam nor she could say for certain what it was meant to be.

“It could be a fox,” Sam offered eventually, after she had turned it over in her hands. “Like one of those foxes from the Japanese tale.” Sam loved Japanese folklore but she had this annoying habit of referring to every single one of them as the Japanese tale as if there was only the one of them. “It’s ugly, though. I mean,” she corrected herself, “not really well made.”

“Yeah,” she was forced to agree. It wasn’t ugly, she thought. It really wasn’t well made but what she saw wasn’t ugliness but malevolence. Maybe Sam saw the same thing and just knew the word ugly for it.

If it was a fox, it was a very beastly fox. She didn’t find it ugly, she wanted to keep it.

She put it back on top of the cardboard box where she had found it and the two continued their game.

When it was time for Sam to bike back home she went with her, then pretended to have forgotten the key to the front door upstairs. The key was in her pocket but she ran back and snatched up the mask. She hid it under her sweater.

She unlocked the front door and waved Sam goodbye as she drove away down the forest road. For some reason she kept the mask hidden underneath her sweater, close to her skin, while she watched TV and played with her phone.

When it got dark her mom came back, kissed her and started making food.

The mask grew warm from her body heat and she imagined that it had started to grin down there.

Her mom made beans and tempeh that evening and they ate together.

“When is Dad coming back? I forgot it,” she said.

Her mom looked at her strangely for a moment. “Not until next week.”

When they were doing the dishes she became curious. She pulled out the mask when her mom wasn’t looking and put it on the table. It wasn’t grinning. It looked as evil as before.

“I found something in the attic today,” she said.

“A photograph?” her mom asked without turning around. “There’s lots of pictures of relatives you’ve never seen up there.”

“No, look.”

Her mom turned around. Sometimes she could feel other people’s emotions. Sometimes she could feel them as strong as the weather outside. Her mom, she noticed, was suddenly scared and it felt like little fingers of ice.

She also noticed that her mum pretended not to be scared, which was odd.

“I…”, her mom began and for some reason she knew that she wanted to say I have never seen this and that it would have been a lie. Her mom paused and said: “Did you have to find this?” She sounded resigned now.

“I don’t know. What is it?”

“I made it. Did you put it on?”

She shrugged. “No.”

“Do you want to?” Something in her mom’s tone made her feel scared.

“I…I don’t know. I wanted to take it, though.”

Her mom sighed. “Don’t keep it close when you go to sleep. Don’t put it in your bedroom at all. Best lock it away somewhere or you’ll want to put it on.”

“What will happen if I put it on?”

Her mom looked at her and she didn’t know if she felt sad or scary. “Well, perhaps he will come to visit you, too. I made it because I wanted him to come visit me and my mother had broken her mask, which she had let me use.” She paused. “It was a mistake…I think.”

She wonder briefly what had been a mistake. “You mean you had…grandma had…?”

Her mom nodded and wiped the last of the dishes. The mask lay between them on the table.

“Why? What is it? Sam thought it was maybe a fox?”

“Sam? She saw it too? She shouldn’t come for a sleepover this week.”

“We weren’t thinking of doing one anyway. So, is it a fox?”

“Yes, dear, it is a fox.” She turned around and looked her daughter straight in the face. “Do you want to wear it or should I put it away?”

“I don’t know. Why do you sound like that?”

“Dear, it’s important. Do you want to wear it or should I put it away?”

“Well…” She picked up the mask wondering if it was still warm from her own warmth. It was. “I guess I’ll wear it, then.”

Her mother shifted for a moment as if she was carrying some invisible weight. “Go outside to play, will you?”

“But it’s dark outside.”

“It doesn’t matter…” Her mom smiled and looked very old and tired. “Go play outside.”

“I don’t really want to play alone, mom. I’m a bit too old for that.”

“You won’t be alone, dear. Look.” Her mom took a pair of scissors and a piece of string from a cupboard. “Lift it up to your face. Make sure you can see through the eye holes. It’s important.”

“Ouch…you’re making it really tight!”

“You might have to run. Don’t complain. If you’re going to wear it, you’re going to wear it right.” Her mom fixed the mask. She knelt down in front of her and fixed her hair, too. She was very slow and careful about it and she seemed to find more and more things that needed fixing. Her mom was always patient with her but now she felt real tenderness. She was almost done, then found some last things around her collar and sleeves that needed attention. Underneath the tenderness she could now feel her mom’s worry, coiled like a snake.

She whispered: “He can be kind or he can be mad. Either way you must be quick. Never ask how long it will take. It will take as long as it will take. Say it.”

“Mom…”

“Say it. Please.”

“It will take as long as it takes. Can I go now?”

“Yes,” the whisper almost broke. “Go now…be back before you father comes home.”

“What?” she muttered to herself but was soon occupied with wearing a mask. She shook her head, jumped up and down. The mask sat tight. Through the eye holes she could see almost as well as she could without the mask. She could see the garden lit by two lights from the veranda. She could see the edge of the light where the woods began.

There was no fence or hedge where the garden ended and the woods began. Sometimes rabbits or deer came by, like lost travellers from another world. She sat down on the grass and stared into the darkness.

It got boring very quickly so she imagined that she was turning into a fox. Maybe that was the power of the mask? She figured the mask had some strange power or else why would her mom be scared of it? She wished Sam were here to talk it over. She looked back through the veranda doors but her mother was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps she had gone upstairs to sleep? She hadn’t been all scared of the mask, though. They probably felt the same thing, being scared and amazed at the same time. Perhaps grandma had felt the same thing before she had become weird.

She wished that she had brought her phone from inside so she could take a picture of herself wearing the mask. She would look really badass.

Something had moved, there at the edge. She looked closer. There were a couple of fireflies dancing between the trees – pretty – and something else moved behind them. A cat? Maybe a weasel? She crept closer and tried to feel badass and terrible and not at all scared.

When her eyes got used to the darkness she saw that it was a fox. What a coincidence, she thought, I am a fox, too. Let’s be friends. She held out her hand and made clicking noises with her tongue that sounded quite muffled and sinister behind the mask.

As her eyes got even better used to the darkness, she saw that it wasn’t really a fox but the mask of a fox, only much better than the one she wore. That made her feel scared and envious all at once. It looked friendly and almost lifelike, maybe a bit like a really good drawing of a fox but it was clearly a mask. There was no rest of a fox, no body, no paws or furry tail. There was just a restless, chaotic mass of shadow and shape that bent where it shouldn’t.

There were claws that clicked with a hint of impatience.

There were hisses and purrs that came from no mouth.

The mask raised itself from the ground. A sweet voice with a hint of darkness said, “Hello…Sister…”

This was like no game she had ever played. The lights from the veranda behind her were suddenly turned off. She wondered if she should run…

 

 

 

Image by Henriette Wiltschek

Text by Sebastian Buchner

Advertisements

Mirrors of the Force

Apart from journalistic, quasi-journalistic and photographic work, I’m also writing fiction.

A few years back, I wrote a Star Wars sort-of novella called “Mirrors of the Force”, about a jedi who cartographs the force at the edge of the known universe, is then blown to bits and still has to get the girl and save the day…you know, as you do.

I had an excellent illustrator, Barbara Sobczynska, who made a set of eerily beautiful illustrations for the story.

With “The Force Awakens” pretty much on our doorsteps, I thought it would be a nice time to share this story again.

You can find “Mirrors of the Force” by clicking on the title, or read an excerpt below. Enjoy.

Li, my brother, was sitting quietly. Tach, who took care of us, was talking and inattentive. He was often talking like this and nobody was listening. I didn’t know what the words he said meant until I found them again in one of the libraries of the dark monks. This speaks of their power. That they could stay in my mind, uncomprehended, only to reveal themselves at the moment I had enough knowledge to comprehend them. I know now that what Tach did was dangerous. I didn’t know then.

Then, twenty years ago, the words were many things to me. Lullaby, magic spell, words which hid feelings that I didn’t comprehend and which jumped out at me, unexpectedly, when I was listening to Tach’s singsong for too long. But above all the words meant Tach and all that he was to us. When they first met him, many people thought that Tach was an imbecile, one of the countless number of people driven mad by the loss of their homeworld, maybe one of the last of his kind – and there were many such people when I was a child. The empire had rampaged through the galaxy, destroying worlds almost at random with their world devourers. It wasn’t a strange thing to have lost a planet, it was as common as losing a toy or a parent. We lost both parents, but we had toys and we had a planet. Not that Li ever saw it, but I did. In fact I am currently sitting on a shuttle taking me from the surface of my own planet back into space, which belongs to nobody but is always being fought over. The interior of the shuttle is turned red and orange by the light given off by the friction heat. People around me look pale and lonely. There is much fear in this little shuttle. Much clutter, too, since the staff didn’t bother securing the refreshments too well. Even though the stabilizers have improved immensely in the last decade or so, it is still difficult to keep away the feeling that one is among many dice in a cup, shaken by an enthusiastic player, as one passes from air into airlessness. Streaks of flame and heat turn to blackness and it takes a while until the pilot decides to turn on the shuttle’s internal lights, so one races from fire into shadow. Everything becomes quiet with an inexplicable suddenness, as if some cosmic giant clapped his hands and so took all noise away. I become very still inside, feel myself flowing out, hoping against hope to fill that immeasurable emptiness that I am going to cross.

It is in these moments that I feel that which they call the Force strongest. Against the black backdrop of space all hopes, plans and fears become starkly visible. My own plans, my own hopes, my own fears are reduced to a single thread and it takes all my strength to keep following this thread, symbolic of my existence, as it weaves into the tapestry that appears in my mind.

Interested? Read the full story for free here

Choice in Storytelling

I’m currently writing a story that allows the reader to actively choose his or her path through the tale.

This is an uncommon struggle for me because a story is usually finished, polished and then told. By a single person. That’s how it is given to a reader. A finished thing that is nonetheless dead without imagination.

An active tale feels different.

Unfinished, somehow. Or like several tales.

This is a collection of thoughts – to get them out of my head and also as an offer to fellow storytellers or good readers to offer their own helpful, critical or inspirational thoughts.

choices

– The main character is, by necessity, an everywoman. I try to shape her by offering the reader little choices about her background…whether she comes from a healthy family background or not, whether she is interested in emotions, thoughts or actions etc. But it is impossible to define her much further than that because she is everyone who is reading the story.

– There are no thoughts or severly limited thoughts, because you cannot offer the reader any guesses as far as motivation goes…everything is a clue that she must decide to follow or to abandon. The writer can only describe outward things and must make the reader guess what is behind them and make their choice accordingly.

– The story needs to move quickly. Depth is hard to achieve, and only by action.

– The pacing is more akin to a video game or movie. I only decide when and where to cut. I try comparing it to various practices of how to cut a movie. Do you show the whole action…beginning – climax – result…and then cut or do you build it up and offer the decision, the climax of the scene, to the reader?

– Are there meaningful choices and can I allow a reader to make them? Do I offer moral choices? Allow the reader to choose sides? Can there be choices between different approaches? One emotional, another intellectual, a third physical? Is it possible to tell a story where I, the writer, make no choices myself and not have the story branch out into thousand unmanageable pieces?

– Is it possible to tell a good story without full control over the story itself? Or does one simply need to tell several good stories and stitch them together seamlessly?

– How much is illusion of choice? The reader cannot choose everything or she will derail the story. Stories work within limits. How much choice do you give someone to create the illusion of choice?

– Like in a conversation, “Yes and No” questions quickly lead to dead ends. Choices between obvious opposites soon become uninteresting unless one subverts them or mixes them up. Choices need to have a certain level of unpredictability.

Pattern Recognition

patternrecognition

It’s almost like a nervous tick. Check facebook – check your emails. Things are moving. If not, get them moving.

Moments devoted to oneself are considered unproductive, selfish isolation.

You are a hive being. Everyone is just one click away. You need to remain in constant contact with everyone or they will forget about you, eradicate you, take all value from you.

Do they like this? Do they like that? In the morning you stumble, bleary eyed and tired, to your computer. Coffee is a rush for your body, but online is a rush for your mind. You are no longer alone, no longer forced to watch your dreams, desires and failures play out in your head.

They are right in front of you, subsumed and mixed with the desires of everyone else. You can watch your dreams rise and fall in real time. How many people like this? How many people will come to my event? What is trending?
It’s always on your mind. Makes you itchy and restless whenever you enter one of those strange patches where your drug cannot be supplied and you’re forced to be offline. You are so meaningless in those moments.

You realize that your public persona – now it has a name again, thoughts rise, your own, not the hive thoughts…but everything will be forgotten again under the rush of incoming information – your public persona has forgotten your private persona. Severed itself from it. Cut the virtual umbilical cord. Your public persona is all that exists, apart from this…this madness. All those thoughts that you cannot write down, nor present in a clear light. Your unlikable side.

This darkness that needs a name. This is inside. Private. Private. It takes you on a dizzying spin…for a second.

Then wifi pops back up. You can connect. Rush. Facebook like a deluge of senseless information. Not nonsensical, but senseless, since none of your senses apart from the visual will ever process it. It numbs you once more. Makes you deaf to the voice of your private self. Feeling is reduced once more to little flickers of knowledge on the retina of your consciousness…your consciousness is now one big eye, of course…networks and synapses that mirror the networks you aim to build are inside of it.

Red likes and message numbers are momentarily mistaken for blood – but of course there is no blood here. A rush runs through you as they flicker up and up…you must have hit a virtual nerve. You ask a friend “Are you online” and need a moment to realize that he is sitting right next to you. Distances become meaningless, after all, even very short ones.

Your nervous tick now manifests itself in random likes and terrible spelling. I have no time, comes over you like a disease and you would never guess that it is simply your body momentarily remembering its mortality. Instead you rush even more, take on more tasks all of which you will leave half finished.

Your body is beyond tiredness already and claws the spirit back from the virtual world to envelop it with sleep. It tries to get it used to being corporeal in the several hours that the two spend together sleeping. You would never guess that your mind and your body are sharing a bed like two lovers fallen out with each other.

In the morning you wake up and it’s the spirit that drags the body to the virtual hole, jumping inside gleefully…

Lem the Immortal

stock-footage-glass-of-wine-on-a-background-of-fire

Lem was immortal and it was a bother. Not in the sense that he was a Byronic sort and depressed by the utter impossibility of committing suicide – he had tried all sorts of demises, most of them were rather fun if you liked that sort of thing.

It was a bother because Lem had an awful memory.

Sometimes, when he was particularly drunk, he boasted of his immortality to drinking companions. Sometimes they were drunk enough to listen to him with actual attention.

“So, how were the pubs during Napoleonic times? And the girls of feudal China?” they would ask.

Lem would scratch his head, struck by the acute realization that he had totally forgotten everything about the Napoleonic times and feudal China. He felt like a schoolboy in such moments. Lords and men, I must be the only immortal vegetable around, he thought to himself.

He wondered what life everlasting was good for if you remembered jack shit. He could have known the slow progression in taste while drinking each vintage of a particularly fine wine for centuries, could have heard the actual shift and change in a dialect through generations, could have experienced how the changing morals of civilizations affected the perceptions of passion during love-making.

But all he remembered was getting drunk and working a sequence of forgettable jobs. Truly, I must be the only immortal moron there is.

Usually, at this point of the story, a woman comes along. But there had been so many women and none – sorry! – had been so memorable to Lem that she would serve as a radiant beacon for his attention and memory.

After several millennia he had realized that the only thing he loved was strong drink. Hell, sometimes it was the only thing he remembered. He was convinced that inside drunkenness there was this perfect moment of ember clarity waiting for him…he just had to reach it.

I don’t drink to forget my failures…I drink in the vague hope that I’ll eventually remember them.

He had been working diligently to perfect his addiction.

Now you, dear listener, might be wondering why are we telling the story of such a bland man in the first place? Well, because he is going to save the world.

Of course, you say. It’s one of those stories. Saving the world…I’m out of here.

But stay. Just a bit longer. It’s not quite one of those stories. You could look at it that way: Only a man who has the capacity to completely forget what the world has been like, despite seeing pretty much all of it, would actually be willing to save it.

How do you save the world, anyway? This big lump of misadventures and things gone wrong? Certainly, it’s constantly tumbling down an abyss, but the good news is – that abyss is pretty much bottomless. Lem mused over this while he drank. So, the only way to save it would be to go on. To go on with all your failures, hopes and clear cold mornings.

He had seen endings. He remembered that. People reaching the end of the line…there was so much anxiety and anguish. So much horror, but then this was spent. There was an instant of…well, what was it? Acceptance, perhaps? No, acceptance is too active a word.

It was like a wave…but also like the moment you remember having seen a calm ocean. He moved his glass around and watched the wave of wine break against the concave side. Briefly he imagined the glass swelling to titanic size and breaking…the world drowned by a flood of rather fine Merlot. Then survivors, clambering to shore, too drunk to stand.

Is that really the best thing we managed? Lem wondered, but wasn’t too sure what he meant. The world is saved by tiny acts after all. As long as they mean nothing but what they mean… He got up, not particularly drunk, and walked out into the world to beget a child or two and to see what else was there to do and to forget.

Wolf and Balloon

Another old short story of mine…it was inspired by an illustration of the same artist as in the last story…unfortunately this illustration seems to have disappeared from the web entirely…instead you’re getting my own sketch of the main character (not a fair trade, really, but hey…)

 

Wilkolak_by_charonferryman

 

“I want to go to the moon,” said the balloon. Later, he said, “I will go to the moon.”

Wolf scratched his head, thinking about lice and how he hated them and ignored the balloon`s whiny and insistent tone. He was not exactly sure when the balloon had begun to talk to him, but it was an arrangement he found entirely to his discomfort. Wolf was very quiet by nature and he appreciated silence in others. He especially appreciated silence in things that were not supposed to speak at all. He had bought the balloon because it had seemed like a good idea, provided nobody rubbed it and made that squeaky, rubbery noise that made Wolf´s teeth tingle and his fur stand up like battalions of warlike soldiers. He had liked watching the balloon float across his cramped room and he had liked it very much to wake up in the middle of the night or too early in the morning and to see the balloon looming and turning like some indoor planet over his bed. Wolf remembered, he had been very sorry that one could not put a candle inside the balloon without melting it or having the flame eat up all the air inside. A floating light – such a thing he would have loved. A quiet floating light.

But then the balloon had begun to talk. The words had snaked halfway into his dream and upon waking Wolf had found his head swarming with words like so many ants, his skin crawling with them like so many lice. It was nonsensical babbling, so offensive to Wolf whose dreams were always filled with a clear and somwhat blueish silence.

“Take me for a walk,” the balloon said.

“No,” answered Wolf through gritted teeth. But eventually he did, hoping that outside, in the uncomfortable silence of the grey streets, the balloon would feel how misplaced it was, with its bright colour and its insistent voice lost in the fog and mortar, and be shamed into everlasting silence. When Wolf closed the door behind him, he felt himself swimming in silence, the streets were filled with the trickling moments when we consider a remark we never make and those moments lapped at Wolf´s fur like tiny waves. To Wolf, the silence seemed more substantial than the bricks and, indeed, if he could build a house from silence instead of bricks, he`d have done it in an instant. In this country, people called the wolf a melancholy beast, for its lonely howl it is assumed, but Wolf howled silence. He could open his mouth and scream silence across the world and for as long as his breath lasted him, all noise was lost. He screamed now and thought that even the snake-like slithering of the fog over the wet cobblestones fell silent. He was pleased with himself.

“Is it far to the moon? Do you think I could go there?”

The balloon floated above his head like a bright and merry offense. For a moment Wolf toyed with the idea of simply opening his paw, watching the nylon string slip through his claws and wishing the balloon a speedy end to his lunar voyage – at the beaks of curious birds, if he had his wish. But no, that was too simple a solution. Wolf was no coward. He shut his paw tight around the string and began to walk. He walked long, seething and boiling inside, the balloon happily bobbing in his wake, chitter-chattering from time to time. He walked long enough to reach that part of the city in which humans settled. Wolf disliked humans almost as much as balloons, but he thought that if somebody were to be interested in a mindlessly chattering toy, why, it certainly must be a human.

Wolf looked around. The houses here seemed more refined, the windows more glaring, the doors somewhat more shut that elsewhere. Everything seemed to be wearing a suit, even the mist that sauntered by, apparently ignoring Wolf who blew it away angrily. Wolf didn´t know it was possible to dislike mist, but he found he did. He disliked the very night around him.

“I have heard that you must cross a river if you want to go to the moon. Is that true?”

No human was on the streets, a fact that Wolf would have relished at any other time. Now he bit his lower lip. If he simply left the balloon here, he was certain it would return to him in mysterious ways. Caught by the drift of a passing plane and blown into a train carriage, caught by a little boy who gave it to a secret admirer of Wolf who then tied it to his doorknob, or something like that. Disgust is like a magnet.

There was one house that seemed less unsympathetic than the others, in fact the longer Wolf looked at it, the more he liked it. It was wedged between two big and haughty houses, small, a roof like a straw hat and tiles in wildly mismatched colours on the walls. It looked like it should not be allowed to dress itself alone. He looked up to where the balloon floated and noticed that the balloon seemed to look at that house as well. No further thoughts! Wolf loped towards the little house and hammered his paw against the door.

There came a clockwork sound from within, rattling machines, a metal cough, the crackle of electricity. Then the door swung inward and a tiny figure with an immensely heavy and immensely black frame of glasses and a goldfish bowl for a hat appeared. “You`re pretty hairy for a postman,” the figure croaked and blinked, eyes and lids magnified to fascinating proportions behind the glasses. “And pretty late.”

“This might coincide with the fact that I am not a postman,” said Wolf who was eloquent and soft-spoken whenever dealing with humans. He thought to see a huge and possibly wild beast speak in the mildest of manners might scare them more than bared teeth. “Would you, perhaps, like to have this balloon as an apology for my disturbing you so late at night?”

The man looked at the balloon, the goldfish in his hat pressed its side against the glass and stared at it one-eyed. “Is it filled with helium?”

Wolf was a bad salesman and seeing that his politeness failed to scare it failed him altogether. He stared at the man with disgust and grunted, “What do you care?”

“Well,” began the man, leaning back as though he had to inhale a particularly large amount of air. There was a pause. The pause went on longer and Wolf realized abjectly that it was meant for dramatic effect. He hated dramatic effect.

“Yes?” Wolf asked with badly faked interest.

“It so happens,” said the man, obviously happy that he was asked. “That I am building a rocket in my backyard. It is a good rocket, as you may well believe, but for a reason I have not yet discovered, it won´t fly. A helium-filled balloon, however, might help it rise a bit, just a bit, you see, until it has enough confidence in the thrust of its rockets.” He leaned forward, grubby fingers outstretched towards the balloon and whispered furtively, “It is a question of confidence, you see. It is a very sensitive rocket.”

Wolf snatched away the balloon just in time before the man`s fingers closed around the string. A second later he wondered why he had done it. “And where, dear man, do you mean to fly this sensitive rocket of yours?”

“Why, to the moon, of course!” The man sounded insulted.

Wolf was horrified. He looked up at the balloon which seemed to swell in size and grow deeper in colour. “The moon,” it said in a dumb, lowing voice. It sounded like a cow. “The moon.” The word was stretched out so long Wolf thought the balloon was emptied of all its air by the effort, but it kept on growing.

“Why, this is perfect!” cried the man, full of delight. “Come, quickly, before it has any second thoughts!” He snatched Wolf by the wrist, dragged him through a few cluttered and claustrophobic rooms into an equally claustrophobic yard, where the rocket stood. It seemed to be made from various kitchen appliances, scrap metal and assorted garbage. “I wonder if he doesn´t misjudge the situation,” muttered Wolf, “It must take an awful lot of confidence to hold something that frail together.”

“No time to waste. Hurry.” The man took the balloon, climbed up a shaky structure next to his rocket and knotted it fast on the rocket´s nose, which was the handle of an umbrella. As quickly as he had climbed up, he slid down again, grabbed Wolf and ushered him, through a creaking hatch, inside the rocket. “We must encourage it to grow more. You must help me.”

If that means I get rid of it, thought Wolf, I`ll play along with the lunatic. He was doubled over, surrounded by blinking lights and frayed wires. It smelled of burnt toast. The man took a piece of a garden hose and spoke inside it. “The moon. To the moon. To the moon. To the moon.” He took a break from his litany to explain. “I installed the speaker, in case I need to communicate with other rockets. If we speak through here, the balloon can hear us. We have to make it grow larger.”

Wolf took a deep breath. The man was excited, the damned goldfish on his head was excited, even the sensitive rocket seemed to hum with excitement – and of course the balloon who swelled and swelled. Its excitement could hardly be any greater. So Wolf bit down on his sarcasm and began to mutter, “The moon. To the moon,” along with the man. In his mind he already saw himself on a beautiful and very solitary walk home. The lunatic would be so smitten with the balloon that he would pay any price in order to keep it and Wolf would, after some deliberately exaggerated consideration, graciously give in to him and the two would sit next to their pile of rubble called a spaceship and low at the moon like dumb and stricken beasts. It was a pleasing image.

But then the cramped room began to sway, lightly at first but soon stronger. The floor felt very light and some feathery weight pressed on Wolf´s head. The lunatic gave a wild scream and hugged Wolf who simply coughed and looked away. His gaze fell on a bulkhead not larger than his head which, it seemed, had been the door of a washing machine not long since. Wolf was puzzled about this for a moment, but he was even more puzzled about the dwindling rooftops he saw through that window. He bit his lip, listened to the low chant, “the moon, the moon, the moon,” that came through the cardboard-thin walls. The thoughts that they had actually lifted from the ground and were rising, on an uncertain route, pulled by a monomaniac balloon, together with a man who built a rocket in his backyard, refused to enter his brain. He opened his mouth to say something and was unsure whether to be surprised when it turned out to be, “Say, when do we cross the river to the moon?”

The journey was, if such a journey can be said to be, uneventful. They reached the moon. The lunatic was blissfully prostrating himself on the pockmarked ground. The moon circled its way along the craters, driven by a slow and dumb joy that nevertheless was quite pleasing to look at and even Wolf found what he had always wished for – absolute silence, in the pit of a crater where the burnt and consumed piece of a meteor still smouldered as a source of light and warmth in what was to be his new home. Taking the rocket back to earth, proved to be impossible for, it´s confidence all used up, it fell apart while it landed, scattering kitchen appliances and household wares across the white dust. Wolf patiently picked them up and decorated his home with them. Sometimes, when he goes for a walk, he sees the balloon and the lunatic whose joy seems to be unending and then, when he is certain that they are not looking his way, he allows himself a little private smile and saunters on, often until earthrise or later.

Mab – A Story

Some of my older friends will remember – I used to write stories and I will again. Here is “Mab” –  it has a lovely illustration by a Russian artist named Oooli, who has – I believe – given up illustration in favour of design

MVjRsPwwK0

The child Mab was loud, quick to understand, flighty in her opinions and moods and astonishingly clever. Under her feet a stage grew and as she got older, she learned how to move and dance across it.

There were forty-six rooms in her parents` house and Mab ran from room to room and every doorframe was a portal and a gateway, and upon crossing it, Mab shed one role in favour of another and acted out forty-six different Mabs for her audience – furnishings, stuffed animals and an occasional guest of her parents´. Mab liked doors and soon she found it impossible to walk through a door without changing her posture, carriage, voice, demeanour, opinions or interests. Often the change happened mid-sentence, leaving her listeners confounded and irritated.

Whenever her parents wanted to speak to one Mab in particular, they had to lead and drag her all around the house until they found the corresponding room, where they had to keep her until they got a satisfying answer.

Mab`s memory was fabulous, albeit split. Friends had to win her over a hundred times or be treated as strangers. Whenever she did not like herself or the world, she walked through as many doors as were necessary until she could bear it again. When sickness visited one Mab, the other Mabs were seldom infected. When she reached a certain age, Mab fell in love and all the Mabs turned a little sadder.

After her parents had died, Mab redecorated the forty-six rooms in forty-six different styles, some very lavish, some exuberant, some austere and dark. Her love life grew rampant. At one point she entertained twenty-eight different lovers of both sexes (which worked out perfectly well, because it happened to be February).

One Mab got pregnant and managed to stay inside one and the same room for seven months, but then she got up quietly, smoothed her bed and ran across seventeen other rooms, screaming. When she stopped again, the child was gone.

At the end of her life – which seemed strangely short to her, but that must have been because memories took up so much room and made her life seem a bit cramped – she calmly crossed all of her rooms and lost her fear of death forty-six times over again. At last she dug her own grave under the tiles of her last room and stamped her grave shut.