Johannes Punkt’s Flaskpost

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Tag: the thrusting sensations

New Story about Augury

Dear readers! I have a new story up at The Thrusting Sensations’ blog: thrustingsensations.co.uk/blog/?p=47. You may recall earlier collaborations between me and The Thrusting Sensations resulting in a few stories (/tag/the-thrusting-sensations/). This is a continuation of those. There are more stories like this on their blog, and you should go read it. My story is reproduced below.

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Shadows and Eggshell

Image courtesy of The Thrusting Sensations

Image courtesy of The Thrusting Sensations, who have a facebook page: facebook.com/ThrustingSensations, and a website: thrustingsensations.co.uk

There was a desert inside her chest. We went into it. It was always daytime, and the heat rose from the ground, and sometimes stray rocks would crackle and jump like drops of oil on a skillet. There were nine of us surgeons, and two camels; by unspoken agreement we all walked. We carried with us a delicate heart inside a refrigerated box.

The shadows we cast on the desert were all the same colour as the sand that covered it. At one point, Anders picked up a handful of sand and saw that it was pieces of eggshell, white and brown, not sand at all. He knew he carried with him a silhouette of himself and he believed it to follow his movements, stretched out and wrong-angled, but now he had lost track of it. Without knowing where the silhouette ended, Anders blended into the landscape and became a tree, eggshell-coloured and leafless. This, too, was shadowless: in order to see him we had to get down on our knees or our stomachs and search for his outline protruding over the horizon.

We had used up half of our water supply, and Deirdre pointed out that this was the point to turn back. Declare it a lost mission. It had only ever had a 40% chance of working, anyway. I said, “I have a compass. Let me drag the box by myself if I have to, I will do this.” They let me have a camel, and both mine and Anders’ shares of supplies. I was grateful, and I walked quickly, afraid of hearing the hum-whirr-click of the refrigeration running out of power.

At last, I found the sun and saw my shadow dance, exalted to be there again, I think. The fiery ball was half buried in eggshell and my camel was afraid of it, stomping the ground and breathing heavily. That was the last I remember of my humped companion, it must have walked away when it realized I was paying attention to more important things.

The box still wheezed, I opened it carefully and saw everything was intact. Condensation trailed out of the box and onto the ground and sizzled away. I took off my gloves and rubbed lotion onto my hands. I put new gloves on, I removed my facepiece and took a deep breath. The very last of my water bathed my face. I took the cold heart out of the box and held it in my hands, before biting down on it. It was still beating, but slowly, pumping nothing but air, perhaps twice a minute. The blood of a twelve-year-old Parisian boy with the right blood type flowed down my chin and inside my sterile plastic suit. The last thing I remember is swallowing the last bit of meat and staring at my empty hands, wondering if I was required to lick them clean.

Then I was outside the desert again, in the room with the chequered floor, and I had just stopped moving my mouth, talking. Her parents thanked me, they knew we had done everything we could.

Rock-dust

Image courtesy of The Thrusting Sensations

Image courtesy of The Thrusting Sensations, who have a facebook page: facebook.com/ThrustingSensations, and a website: thrustingsensations.co.uk

Rock-dust litters the streets of a city on the same latitude as Rome and the Gobi Desert. Abandoned cars are parked in great clots; the cars are all identical. They are big and silver and they are family cars, and one or more children have jumped out of these cars to join the children of the city. On the ground, small dust-particles are carried away by stray crenellations of spilt water or gasoline; the smallest particles are still hanging in the air, and there is the bustle of a town busy creating more of them, a distant clink of metal against rock, metal against rock, metal against rock again.

It is the children who carve the stones, and it must have been they who brought all the stones into the city in the first place, from the surrounding forest. There must be dormant stones there, and trees that bend out of the way when the boulders come rolling. The trees, then, root themselves back firmly into the ground.

At first it was just one stone. There is a picture floating around from that first morning, with an angry and incredulous woman pressing her useless hands against a 50-tonne rock standing in her driveway, between her car and the street. She lifts herself from the ground with her efforts, and the rock remains, violently, perfectly still. The next morning, three more stones neatly and deliberately prohibited anyone from leaving that whole street by car. The working adults of that neighbourhood had dressed in their work clothes and simply commuted that day and the next, but the following morning there was a stone guarding every bus stop in a mile-wide radius. At this point, the stones were mostly jagged and pyramidal, cut-off but smooth, as if broken off a very long time ago from a larger structure.

Some of the stones have cracks in them clean through, after tired frustrated and tiny hands making mistakes. While a stone is still being carved, children will crawl all over it, chipping away at select chunks of stone in concert. Other children hammer large pieces of rock that fall off into rock-dust; they wear paper masks over their faces for this.

The children carve faces into these stones, or, they carve one face into them: a round, masculine face with a large nose, and full lips, and hollows for eyes. It is as if they all know this man and capture him in different moods, with a caricaturistic flair added to give the stone life. But whether seething, serene, smirking or sulking – it is the same face. One of the larger stones depicts this unidentified male, his mouth set into a firm line and one shoulder raised from the asphalt, as though he is rising from the middle of the street as a man coming out of the water. The white painted line in the middle of the road goes right through his neck.

There are still cars coming through the city, though their main arteries are blocked, and they inch along on capillary systems and on novel routes. One citizen has opened her garage and knocked out the back wall to let people through. There is a passage in the North of the city where two stone faces stare at each other and any driver must slow to a crawl to pass through, their car’s wing mirrors folded back like the ears of a frightened animal.

Forest is being cleared in two sweeping arches; the highway is projected to be finished by early next spring.

Evelyn Myers

Image courtesy of The Thrusting Sensations

Image courtesy of The Thrusting Sensations, who have a facebook page: facebook.com/ThrustingSensations, and a website: thrustingsensations.co.uk

The static disappears, and instead there is the wet, slick sound of well-oiled hands picking up an old corded microphone, like breathless fish jumping on a rocky riverbed, flexing their whole bodies. The hands come perilously close to dropping the microphone a few times, then their grip steadies and an androgynous voice starts to read out sounds with regular pauses after three or four syllables, like names from a list. There are traces of Indo-European in the sounds, but as names they all sound desperately fake. The static returns with a peculiar ebb and flow.

Months pass until the next reading. On the day when autumn turns into winter, faithful listeners are treated to what sounds like the same hands as before, fumbling for the microphone, and the same voice monotonously reading from the list of name-sounds: “…Pritya Alaskor. Nevb Slauvt. Gulend Evetchkas. Nsiovet Lkall…” Humans paying attention to the droning are recording all the sounds, catching frantic and excited keystrokes on tape as well, as they try to tell other humans about the sounds. By the time anyone reads their messages, and has time to tune their machines to the right frequency, the static has returned once more like whalesong, signature and indecipherable.

Years pass, this time. The roar of white noise crescendoes and disappears. A sound of dripping, nervous hands gripping the microphone. The vocal chords that create these sounds belong to something other than human. It is using human sounds, yes, but it is new to them. It is an anglerfish with a 40-watt lightbulb in front of its maw now; it is understanding that human things have uses. It likes the name-sounds: “…Kalskk Mäter. Kral Bedun. Nortmater Juerie. Aulp Pill…”

Someone counts how long it takes until the next broadcast, and it is two years and three months and five days. This list sounds more deliberate, slower than the others. It takes ten minutes to read in total and it gets a name right at last – “Evelyn Myers” – and she immediately stands up from her chair and walks toward the door, stretching the cord of her headphones taut until they are yanked off from her head and clatter to the floor. It is snowing outside, and she walks out barefoot, toward the mountains. The last name-sound, hopeless gibberish, is spoken on air and then the slippery hands drop the microphone with a thud, and the static comes back.

Methane Soul

Image courtesy of The Thrusting Sensations

Image courtesy of The Thrusting Sensations, who have a facebook page: facebook.com/ThrustingSensations, and a website: thrustingsensations.co.uk

There is a flash of lightning and a hundred shipwrecks are visible at once, some awkwardly stacked on top of each other, ancient masts skewering the hulls of newer ships, and broken glass covering the entire ocean floor. Methane gas starts to seep out of the crack in a window of a building in the middle of all this, and the gas becomes bubbles and water rushes in. After a few tries, the glass yawns like an oyster and lets out all the methane it can in a great bubble and then it snaps shut again.

Inside the window, there is a room now filled mostly with water and bobbing wooden debris. The window is round, bulging, and so are the walls of the room. Where the highwatermark goes, straight like a ruler, the unescaped methane from somewhere beneath this tectonic plate takes over. Every time the ocean pressure becomes strong enough to open the crack – like squeezing a tennis ball with a slit in it – the gas is let out, and water rushes in again, and the crack grows just a little bit wider.

Over the months, the wooden debris will soak up enough water to sink to the floor and the water level will follow. The water will continue to sink through a grill-hatch down to a spiral staircase covered in patient algae, half-alive, and the water will continue sinking, trying to reach the point where the staircase ceases to be a staircase and is just a gorge, until it ceases to be a gorge and shrinks to a crack. It will sink towards this because, every so often, a bubble of gas will struggle free from the crack and travel upwards, catching itself on algae on its circuitous route up. The algae is brimming with minuscule remnants of the bubbles.

There are three sets of glassware in this tower: one massive cupola, one huge lightbulb, and one drinking glass. When the water sinks far enough, there will still be water left in this drinking glass, which stands upright on the table every time, though it’s knocked about when the water floods in. The cupola, covering the lightbulb, is filled with water too, and it takes much longer for it to dry out, and it needs to dry out completely. Sparks fly, then, and the lightbulb inside lights up for a brief few moments.

This is when the ocean squeezes the lighthouse until it opens its tiny mouth and breathes out its methane soul and lets the cold water in and everything goes dark again. Sometimes, a ship is caught in the bubble and it’s as though the sea stops existing underneath it for a good ten seconds, and the ship falls and the ocean closes around it again.