I Dreamt of Home

I dreamt of blacktop rivers that swept me away to destinations unknown
The currant driven by crowds that welcomed and ignored me all at once
To be a small fish in a sea as vast as the time that escaped me
Trading my sweat and tears for a voucher that bought me one more day
The minutes of which I would spend as I saw fit
— Not searching for a dollar to spend like the rest of them
But a moment of peace with the jutting rocks and sprawling greens
Of Central Park Continue reading

D.O.A.: 1/3

GodInABox

 Deity On Arrival

By

Jordan Siron

Dr. Moira Kostas stood before her creation, which sat atop a metal table. “It” was a simple box made of plastic, the front of which was hollow and allowed for the placement of a glass screen. Behind the screen rested a next of coiled wires, which connected to microprocessors Kostas and her team had spent years fine-tuning. She allowed herself a moment to take a deep breath, collecting her thoughts before she proceeded.

Here goes nothing, she thought. With a self-conscious wimper, it began.

The box hummed for several minutes, and an image finally displayed on the glass screen. It was a yellow circle, roughly the width of a human head, and in the center of the dot was an arrangement of lines, spaced to look like a facsimile of a  face. The expression given to it was indifferent. It looked like this:

(-_-)

So far, so good, she thought. She took a seat at her desk, making a note of the progress on her computer. The humming fell to silence, which she also made a point to notate, and after an hour’s wait the on-screen expression changed. It then looked like this:

(*_*)

This change inspired hope in Moira, and she made a note of it on her computer. 10:45 AM, October 10 2022: Woke Up!, declared her notation.

“Hello.” The greeting was quiet, calm, and Moira made another note.

10:48 AM, October 10, 2022: Spoke!

*     *     *     *     *

Three days later, Moira’s lab was flooded with members of the press. They were corralled to the back of the room, where they were told to wait politely, sitting in chairs that had been provided to them by NaviQuest Globaltronics. Moira’s box sat two yards away from them, covered by a white sheet.

“When can we see it?” Barked Chester Furguss, a brash and hungry reporter with United Collective. His query was bolstered by the grunts and snarls of his peers.

Him,” Moira corrected, “Please, just be patient for a few more minutes. He’s had a very grueling time.” She added, trying to be as congenial as possible, “In the mean time, I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have for me and my team.”

“Harumph!” Chester called back. The sentiment was mirrored by his peers. “I’ve got a question.”

Moira remained composed, smiling her approval at the impetuous youth.

“How do we know this isn’t another farce?” Chester asked, his digital recorder held in Moira’s direction.

Before Moira could respond, Clayton Knell stepped between Moira and the digital recorder. “We at NaviQuest engineer many things, but we do not engineer farces.”

“Step aside, Knell.” Challenged Chester. “Or have you forgotten about Quaque –” Chester looked down at his notes, trying to carefully read the word he wasn’t sure how to pronounce. He gave up, relying on its catchier title. “Omni Trekking, that is.”

Quaquatraversing,” Moira corrected. “We haven’t forgotten about that, but there is no evidence that says the mission was a ‘farce’.”

“Then where is the pilot? Where is the ‘oodles’ of information your spokesperson promised would return with her?”

Clayton once more interrupted, “That is neither here nor there.” He confronted Chester, hoisting him from his seat, expelling him from the room despite the young man’s fervent attempts at releasing himself. He slammed the door to the lab, locking it before turning back to face the rest of the stunned reporters.

“You were all briefed beforehand as to what questions were considered ‘in play’, yes?”

The reporters looked to one another then back at Clayton. They nodded.

“Good. Then no more bullshit about Quaqua… Omni Trekking. Yes?”

Another reporter timidly raised her hand. Clayton gestured for her to speak.

“How–” the reporter faltered, clearing her throat before she continued. “How long has ‘it’ been awake?”

“That’s more like it.” Clayton withdrew to a corner of the room, taking with him a fraction of the tension.

Moira smiled warmly. “He has been awake for roughly three days now, give or take an hour or so.”

The reporters all made a point to correct their questions, removing “it” in exchange for “he”.

“Three days? Why the delay in alerting the press?” Asked the reporter, feeling more brazen. “Isn’t this the kind of thing you would want to mention sooner — especially in light of…” the reporter caught herself, casting a nervous glance at Clayton. “I mean to say, in light of how big this could be, wouldn’t you want the world to know as soon as possible?”

“Most assuredly. All the same, when dealing with something this ‘big’, it’s best to take every precaution. Wouldn’t you agree?”

After a round of questioning, during which Moira was asked the standard queries (How long was the project in development? Whose idea was it? How did Moira get the job? And so forth.), Moira was ready to introduce the star of the show. She pulled back the white sheet.

Expelling Demons

The sky above Pemmington Station is wet and gray. There isn’t a soul on this platform, save for me. I think for a moment that the train might barrel on past. The conductor will overlook me and see no reason to stop. It will be like all those other times — circumstances being the only difference. It will be rid of me, and the passengers and the city will be all the better for it. But I need so desperately to leave.

The breeze flirts with the lilacs nearby, wafting their scent into the air. In that instant I am taken back to my sophomore year, to Caterina. That rusted blonde hair that rode waves down her back, hung in curled ribbons that fell carelessly in front of her eyes — those polished mahogany gems that drew me to her in the first place. They spoke of the duality of life; admitted to the sadness and the pain, but promised its beauty lay in wait if only one might see past the rest.

I think back to the impromptu dance routines on her driveway, Her clumsy, excited spasms to music that was as poison to my discerning ears. But she was so spirited, so refreshing and without inhibition. How alien she seemed to me, incurably nervous introvert that I was. If there was ever another soul on this planet to withdraw me from my shell — even if only for a moment — for certain it would have been her. How I’d damned myself so by keeping behind those walls.

I think about the husband and child she has. The beach house. The slow weekends spent listlessly in love down by the shore line… I forget myself, I think so damned much.

To ease the transition back into my patient waiting for the train, I remove the MP3 player from my jacket pocket. I exhale the scent of lilacs from my nose, and swat at it as if I’m chasing away a bothersome fly. I insert the headphones, and set the device to shuffle.

There are film scores, mostly. Lamentations of strings, bold declarations of brass and drums. They help to reset my concentration. They settle my nerves as would a flask of pear brandy to a decades-long drunk, or a shot of heroin to a junky. I can function again.

After an arpeggio comes to a close, without warning, the rock steady beat of 1970s England curb stomps my concentration. I look at the screen, see that it is “Mirror in The Bathroom” by The English Beat. I seem to remember removing the song from my playlist, but here it is. And here come the traces of Amandine.

We were clandestine, and as such could never last. She was as alien as I. Where I wore suits and smoked from a pipe, she adorned her lithe frame with leather and denim, and smoked from pipes of a different sort. I quoted Aristotle, and she recited Joe Strummer. We were different in almost every conceivable way, but in being so we were drawn to one another.

We met on the dance floor in some shitty dive on the beach front. I swayed to the calming wiles of Reggae, and she thrashed to the pulse-maddening accusations of Punk Rock. Later, under the spell of Victor Ruggiero’s sultry, seductive crooning, we fell hopelessly in love. But we were a daydream. She hadn’t the desire for sentiment, and I was a beast born with that saccharine syrup running through my veins. I rotted her teeth, and she made hollow my heart.

The song comes to a close, but Amandine never fully leaves me. Her died blue hair, standing on end and sharpened with egg-whites… her uneasy eyes that changed color with the weather; crystalline pools of hazel and green, only later to transmute to glistening gray oceans…

I pull the plugs from my ears, and in one desperate gesture I hurl the device onto the tracks. May the train grind it to dust upon arrival.

And the train does arrive. To my surprise it slows to a stop, and I can tell my neurosis to quiet itself for a moment. I board, taking a seat next to one of the many windows. It is empty, save for a scant peppering of riders in the cars behind and ahead of me.

The stale air in the car recalls no fonder times; no days spent in love, nor nights wasted in lost affections. There is nothing to remind me of older days, to which I am hopelessly bound. What lies ahead is a clean slate built with steel and glass, looming on the horizon and born with the crowning of the sun. There is naught behind me but what I leave to the past.

May I rinse my hands of it completely. May what comes tomorrow haunt the innumerable yesterdays to be.

Quaquaversal: Part 1/5

EndOfDaysPart One

The sky had reddened. It had worn thin, and behind the warm hue the people on Earth could see into the infinite cosmos. Somewhere in that vast expanse, lightning storms were never ending. They must have been distant, for no one could hear the thunder; their light did not illuminate the streets, and the bolts struck no ground. Further still, two galaxies could be seen merging.

There had been no solid reason for this change, this perceived re-working of the rules of reality. All the same, suspicion ran rampant. NaviQuest Globaltronics shouldered most of the casual blame. People conspired to construct some kind of explanation that the conglomerate had finally submerged itself too deep in the waters of exploration, having been known to dip its toes in them since its inception in 1976.

There was talk of leaked reports, murmurs of secret meetings abroad with Quantum Physicists who lived comfortably on the cusp of the scientific community. Accusations of bribes and severe, inhumane counter-measures being taken in order to keep the public blind were par for the course in the coming days. Even with circumstantial evidence and expedited efforts, nothing solid had been gleaned from the members of countless tribunals who met at all hours. This hardly mattered to the public.

A sense of dread hung over the men and women as they busied themselves with the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’. Someone, or something, had lifted the pale blue veil that had hidden their eyes from the unspeakable infinity that had always been there had they cared to look. Those who had held out hope that God Almighty would be waiting for them above the clouds could not find Him. Their lives had been built with every leap of faith, and now they found themselves suspended — not by good-intentioned angels, but by a cold vacuum rich with stars that had no grand design in mind for those who basked in their light.

Scientific minds called for reason, for the God fearing men and women to see this development not as a belittling of all they held dear. Rather, they called for society to consider the benefits of this sudden “unmasking” of nature. It was not a breaking of the rules of reality, but the first of many clarifications of realty’s terms. Indeed, much of the tools and formulas that guided science were asked to be reconsidered. If not for how accurate the laws were to our reality, then for how they might reconcile the very different realities that might lay in wait outside of humanity’s grasp.

A common analogy during those days: “Man flourished when he sailed beyond the horizon not to find sea monsters, or the very edge of the world, but more land.”* The universe was now in a position where it could be as demystified to the common person as the oceans had been. The flagrant revelation of the world outside humanity’s own would spur the need to wander further. Not simply the need, but the want — the inherent desire to see what else might be possible.

After the hysteria began to fizzle, progress was allowed to find purchase back on Earth. NaviQuest Globaltronics, hoping to use the early allegations to their benefit, poured money into the privatization of interstellar travel. They had eclipsed the efforts made by all who had attempted such an undertaking, which had spanned decades before The Clearing (as it would come to be known).

Their efforts were not in vain. Thus emerged the science of Quaquatraversing. The classification came from the Geological term, Quaquaversal, which meant “to slope in all directions starting from a common center”. Hoping to make the venture seem less alienating to the common person, the marketing men at NaviQuest simply dubbed it “Omni Trekking”.

Whichever term one preferred hardly mattered. By any name the process had captured the imaginations of the common person. It promised the ability to travel in every direction, simultaneously and instantaneously. The first manned attempt would take place that October. The world waited with baited breath.

*Dr. Jacob Maumbstein, “Exceeding Expectations: Man’s Grasp, and Interstellar Travel”.

Of God On High

Harmon stood atop the rails on his balcony. It was made of stone, and was very much a selling point to him when the realtor showed him the place. Place? The apartment was a palace; a metropolitan Taj Mahal. It had cost him nearly every cent from his third book deal.

In previous years, Harmon had been the subject of much adoration. He wrote purely, and honestly, and to his surprise the people below had respected him for it. They liked lies. Preferred even for their daily news programs to air fairy tales. Still, somehow, they had been taken by Harmon’s scrawling.

He wasn’t the voice of a generation. He certainly hadn’t converted any one to his philosophical camp. The people below seemed merely to enjoy his books for their characters, and perhaps because Harmon didn’t condescend to them. Not any more than most other writers, any way. He had monetized his inner self, which was the surest way to success in America, and he did so gladly.

In the years that followed, however, Harmon found himself wanting to reverse his good fortune. He had written honestly and purely, yes; but, his intentions were as gaudy as they were misunderstood. He didn’t want to entertain, but he had longed to thrive. He wanted to pontificate, to change minds and start dialogues. He wanted to be taken seriously, but found himself prostituted along with all the other novelties.

He had his penthouse palace, yes; he had his comfortable existence; he loomed over every one else while he ate his bacon and eggs. But, under no circumstances, was he content. He was a jester seated in the King’s throne, but he wanted to be taken seriously. That had always been his aim. Life and his ill-conceived reactions to it had made that impossible.

His writing had become misconstrued as satire, or parody. He had represented the truths authentically, but they were so absurd that the people below could not receive them as such. He could hardly blame the people below, for the manufactured truths they were fed were more palatable in every way. Through the lens of fiction, benefitted by structure and character arcs, clear protagonists and antagonists, everything made more sense. Harmon had long known this.

His father had been a pastor when he was young. The people seated below the pulpit had taken the man very seriously, though he proselytized lie after lie — however well intentioned they were in the eyes of all who knew well enough. The people had turned to the man for direction, for advice on how to better lead their lives. They wanted to be like Jesus, because being themselves was not good enough.

His father had told him that being a writer was no way to make a living. The same was said about being a pastor, but of course there was an imagined distinction between the two: One wrote tales to entertain, the other bellowed tales to enlighten. This lunacy had persisted because of the great lie of religion: The stories of Jobe or of Revelations had not been written by men looking to tell tales, but were the immutable words of God himself.

Harmon had more in common with God than did his own father, or any of the dedicated damned who spoke His word. He created, and had his creations ruined by those who received them. For all the good his words might do, the counterweight was far too great. It pulled at his legs, forsake them with its heft.

He wavered atop the stone barrier. A lit cigarette clung to his middle finger, having been adhered to it by the faint misting of sweat that seeped from his skin, and which had mostly dried in the howling autumn breeze. He had considered the cleaning woman before relocating outside. That was his last good deed.