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Tag: fiction

NEW STORY: The Bumblebee-Maker’s Kiss

Dear All,

I have a new story out, called The Bumblebee-Maker’s Kiss. You can buy the journal it’s in, Reckoning, for five dollars here: weightlessbooks.com/authors/benjamin-parzybok-authors/reckoning-1/

The Reckoning cover.

The Reckoning cover.

Out of things I have written, this is one of those I’m the most proud of. It feels a bit silly to write more than that but if you’re looking for me to convince you to buy this, consider: not only is my story really cool, the whole journal is cool. The stories and poems inside it all bear themes of environmental justice.

I don’t want to tell you what my story is about but I should tell you some of what’s in it.

The first time your worlds crossed paths you felt your fate short-circuiting.

I wrote a story where there are no bees anymore, and I know what happened but you don’t. Humans started creating mechanical or electrical bees to fertilise flowers. One of them devoted her life to it; it seems to be all she does. But her kiss is eponymous, so something must disrupt her routine. The story is about slipping, falling in love with this bumblebee-maker. This person who makes the bees that fertilise the flowers in the city.

If you like my writing — and your reading my blog seems to suggest that you do, thank you — you will like this story. If you like eco-punk or solarpunk or environmental speculative sci-fi, if you want your prose and poetry to acknowledge global warming and maybe give you an estimate of how fucked we are, you will like this journal. Will it unfuck us? No, the unfucking is a huge undertaking. But maybe it can unfuck your heart a bit and give you release, hope, all that good stuff. It is the first issue of Reckoning, hopefully the first of many.

Peace,
Johannes

Constellations

Your father told you about magic. About the stories hanging from the ceiling of the world like carcasses in a slaughterhouse. About astronomy and astrology. You learned to draw maps of places that didn’t exist. He told you it was okay to not know the names of constellations, because you can create your own astronomical phenomena and your own myths. Sometimes it might hurt seeing lines drawn by someone else hundreds of years ago. It doesn’t matter that things go missing, because you can find them again. Outside the apartment the whole hospital was quarantined. He was talking about himself.

Dogs Would Know

I thought I’d be good with animals, growing up. Just one of those strange kids who exerts no pressure on the surfaces he touches, and exudes goodness, something birds can trust. In the square by the cathedral they came to me because I paid a man to put seeds in my hands. I thought because I was broken in half there would be good inside me spilling out like a ruptured silo and that dogs would know.

You think the accident gave you superpowers. Like abuse has made you better as a person.

I thought that dogs would know. When I was homeless I slept in the bed of a woman who did not believe in evil; I think that must be the reason she let me stay there. I think there’s something foul in me. I slept in the corner of her mattress, like a dog. I took up as little space as I could and I disappeared from her life.

And someone else froze when I walked into the room. Jumped if I grazed her, walking past. And she was shaking when she said, I’m not afraid of you, attempting a reassuring tone and not a defiant one, ears perked like a fox in danger. I thought I’d be good with animals, instead I’m limping and shedding fur like an irradiated jackal. I thought from how badly broken I was, there would be recompense if not a reckoning.

Dogs don’t know, or they don’t care.

Any good that comes from me is what I’ve done. And any good that comes from you is you alone.

Across the Street

The family across the street have two sets of drapes, one seems to be made of metal. Perhaps it’s bulletproof. They hug their kid hard in the mornings, looking at her like she’s survived cancer when she gets into the school bus. I don’t know what their names were, but the dad was not called Pete, Simon, Mark, Matt, or Robert. He’s called Trevor now; I don’t believe that either. Sometimes when we are in our gardens simultaneously I shout male names to see if he twitches. He thinks I’m boisterous and on good terms with everyone who bikes past.

Changeling

after Cecilie K.

~

Every monster child goes through this. Changeling, they would correct me with boiling water in their voices: every changeling goes through this. Monsters are something different. It is the rite of passage at the edge of the woods (even in places where there are no trees for miles, there are woods). The changeling stands peering into the darkness, perhaps looking at her claws which she has filed down to be just nails, and she thinks with a clarity usually only found in orchestral flute music and cloudless nights at great altitudes: I am not the scariest thing in these woods.

~

Also a thing from the archives, although some other archives. Written after standing at the pitch-black mouth of a forest for ten minutes in the middle of the night, trying to get my eyes to get used to the level of light in there, eventually realizing that it didn’t get lighter than that. Inspired a lot by things Cecilie K. had written, also. You can read her excellent writing at this following link, for example: ceciliewrites.com

Anathema, Apotheosis

[Trigger warning: suicidal ideation]

You didn’t quite learn the right definition. The dictionary lacks the venom of it, the way it rises in your throat like the coming tide. But as you know, we take words and we make them our own. There is no such thing as language but there are a thousand tongues. And you swore at a young age that you would never become a god, not like this, not ever. Still the thought burned like a slow fuse in your periphery, leaving black lines along the perimeter of your eyes. There is nothing good about being a god: it is not like you sat around and fantasized about temples in your honour and the exquisite pain of four extra arms growing out from your torso. Although you do know how the sockets of such a skeleton would work with the ribs and when you were anxious you drew thin pink lines on your skin. You don’t bruise easily and that makes you a favourite. The fuse keeps burning. Every morning after you’ve not slept, you wipe the soot out of your eyes. There is so much soot in you still, you told yourself. This is good: when you stop having candles to burn you’re out of luck and out of time. So you picked it up from a broadcast half between two radio stations and in your childish mind you heard it as two words: “this is an athema to them.” You picture it as a kind of antithesis for someone’s character, a kryptonite, something not just forbidden but centrally taboo. Ontologically speaking, if I do this, I cease to be me. The dictionary does not corroborate your story but that’s how you feel about the word, and your usage is consistent with how everybody says it. That’s what your apotheosis would be, something you defined yourself against. And then there were the mandalas painted on the pavement on your way to school or work or tennis club. You took careful steps around them, but tried to make it seem like you just switched directions twice in rapid succession in a V. That’s how you cross the street, you look away and wait until the street is empty. You cannot live in a city anymore. There are too many places accidentally made sacred and you know that the people need faith. You cannot become their god. It is a process that involves cutting off your head and replacing it with the head of a statue of you. That is why all the statues of you left out in the countryside have no head anymore, so that any one of them could carry your real head. But you say: this is not me. And you define yourself around this concept until you have enveloped it entirely. Now this is you, some form of bent knife in hand, a basket in your lap, burning ember at your heels. Come on then, do something with your symbolism. Make it all alright. Ascend but let your bare feet full of light stay grounded and walk around headless in the fisherman’s village, won’t you? Let, as ever, those parts die. Let the fancy quotes from the diaries of men who were buried ten years after they died rest. Let the burning ropes of red sun from between your toes slither up and around your ankles.

You Wept

You wept. Who even weeps anymore? I bawl or tear up or cry, once I even blubbered, but you wept. This is exactly analogous to that time you caressed my skin when I thought you would stroke my chin or pet my hair. You’re from another time, another world. You called me dashing, when I’m nothing above handsome, am I? Am I? I don’t want to make love to you, I want blinding sex, I want a good shag, I want to fuck you, but you wrap your legs around me lovingly and I don’t know how to correct you.

~

More from the archives. Something about the spiderweb of connotations and me learning how to write, and how to love. They’re the same thing probably.

Mayfly

The whole, “you’re beautiful,” thing. You are. The only beautiful person I know and I don’t know why. Others can be pretty, hot, cute, sexy, gorgeous, jaw-dropping (you are all those things) but none of them can be beautiful, like you are. Some define beauty as perfection and some define it as perfectly flawed, and I don’t know, it’s not about that. There’s just something about the way you laugh and the way you kiss and the way you think. You’re a mayfly, bewinged and ephemeral, aren’t you? I would like to admire you, but, it’s okay if I can’t.

~

Another from the archives. I’m still fond of this declaration of love from a very stumbling mouth. (I’ve used that word and really meant it maybe three or four times after I wrote this. Sometimes it slips out of my mouth like a moth from an old abandoned wardrobe. Sometimes I write beauty in stories to mark lies.)

Before the Light Turns Red

Reposting this old drabble from 2012 because I deleted the old blog it was on in a fit of entropy. Might post more of these if there’s anything salvage-worthy. Anyway. This piece is based on a gorgeous song by Unwoman, called The Heroine: unwoman.bandcamp.com/track/the-heroine

I urge you to go listen to that. And when you’ve read my piece, to read this excellent post by @earlgreyhot, also inspired by that song: earlgreyhot.com/blog/the-heroines-demons/

~

Cross the street before the light turns red, arrive out of breath at your theatre. You’re playing someone who’s losing her love tonight again. Five hundred sirens blare to dampen the sound of the bombs. The play is in the basement, no-one’s here to take my ticket. Everything goes crimson and I hide in the dark behind a pillar. Fifty thousand pairs of hands grab me when I catch a bombflash in a shard of glass. I get thrown out. Remember me as more than the shadow I will glue to the wall. I hope you believed I would show.

(starK lightS underfooT)

Two and a half years ago in the chamber with the skylight underneath you and the sun warming the soles of your feet you fell apart as if sliced with a delicate instrument, something made of sharp strings. You reason it is important to have glass floors so as to not send visitors drifting off into the sky. At night the heads on the hanging uneven palissades all around glow like jack-o-lanterns because they have been fitted with five-hundred-watt lights which force their way out of their heads like epiphanies, and there are always stark lights underfoot. And you fell apart. And you told the man in the hazmat suit with the visor that wrapped all around his head like he had three-hundred-and-sixty-degree vision that you did not expect to live the year out. You’re still alive. He blinked inside his suit and told you where to go and you went, bare feet burning. You paused at a glass staircase with the middle bit missing and you had a conversation with a woman there, both your feet dangling in the air. She had taken your necktie and your kitchen-knife words to disarm you but she said if you jumped that she would tighten the noose because she was still holding onto it and you realized that she was not your friend. Your legs went still, you even stopped wiggling your toes. You have a wandering twitch that never goes away: at night you grind your teeth, in the day observers from far away can see your muscles tense like ghosts are always crawling through you and it never stops. At some point you heard a drum-beat as a kid when your heart was not even bones away from open air and got afraid that if you ever stopped hearing the music maybe your internal organs would turn to stone too. You walked across the courtyard where your shadow followed you like a kite you dragged behind your body and your palms bled when you got to the glass door because you had held on to the string too hard. They told you they would give you back your tie when you left the place, but that would be tomorrow. On a fundamental level they do not realize how easy it is to die. They wrap your swords in silver-tape so you won’t cut yourself but you don’t need the kitchen-knife words or any noose. You can whisper your millilitres into the machine it will kill you for it. You need no strong voice, just a whisper at most. But the best advice you ever gave was: every day write “kill yourself” on the bottom of your to-do list, never finish your to-do list. So you lay there in a suicide bed with your hands interlaced and told them you had to speak to one of the suits. The question in your mind was: how do I convince them I’m not here when they have three-hundred-and-sixty-degree vision? You were there of course, but you were not what they expected. It was all camera angles. If I am really here then why am I finishing my homework? Ergo, you have made a mistake. And you were not really there at all, they agreed, and they let you go. The woman threaded your head through the tie again and she put the knives back into your pocket. You told her nothing of how these were not your knives and she said nothing about how you were really there. You never really left. The empire never

and your body is falling aparT. you take the duct tape off your woundS. a month ago your friend taught you how to wrap a bandage properly and this is not iT. you need to make a V right herE. you don’t know how to repair broken glass at alL. it is not like thiS. you recently had strings of light installed in the bathroom floor and sometimes you lie there naked in wrinkles with your soles pointing upwards to the ceiling, your toes curled, arms outstretched, neck twisted like a TV murder victiM. you have whispered a number far below the LD50 but it will still hurT.