The Light of Their Lives by Boris Glikman

 

The Light of Their Lives by Boris Glikman

“Delighted by Light” by Michael Cheval

It was perhaps inevitable that some bright spark in the Research and Development Department of a certain, internationally famous company would, during a brainstorming session, come up with the idea of a beverage consisting solely of pure light. The essential concept behind it was simplicity itself: Why, in these modern, fast-paced times, go through the lengthy and convoluted process of needing the Sun’s light to be photosynthesized by plants into chemical energy, which then has to be converted into carbohydrate molecules, which we then have to consume and digest in order for us to finally incorporate the energy from the Sun into our systems? Why not bypass all the intervening stages and just capture, bottle and imbibe the sunlight energy directly?

The management loved the proposal and supported its realization by all means possible. Thus, less than a year after the go-ahead was given, the product appeared in the shops: a soothing, delightful elixir of natural sunshine, free of any preservatives, added sugar or artificial flavours.

The drink provided an instant energy boost, sating hunger without any necessity for digestion, as well as immediately quenching thirst and making one feel warm all over. And, of course, it was suitable for all types of diets including but not limited to kosher, halal, vegetarian, vegan, raw vegan, gluten-intolerant and fruitarian. No one could take any issue with it, for it was pure light straight from the Sun. And, fortuitously, it was also very suitable for those dieting, for according to the famous E = mc^2 equation, even a tiny amount of mass released a tremendous amount of energy and thus one could quaff great quantities of this potation with hardly any weight gain.

Amazingly enough, apart from satisfying the most basic physical needs (food, water, warmth) in the hierarchy of needs, this beverage also enabled the consumer, and this was a completely unforeseen consequence, to become instantly spiritually enlightened once they have drunk it and thus fulfil the highest need in the hierarchy of needs –  the yearning for self-actualisation. (Perhaps it should not have been so unexpected, for, by ingesting light one, ipso facto, became illuminated within, which is exactly what enlightenment is, and also as the very morphological structure of the word “enlightenment” indicated its intimate connection to light.)

This serendipitous effect was perfect for the contemporary society, for given that the online world now provided instant information, instant communication, instant entertainment and instant gratification of needs and desires, it was only natural there would also be a great demand for instant self-realisation. And with this product, one no longer had to spend countless hours meditating and repeating the mantra, or sit at the feet of a guru, or clamber up the Himalayan mountains in search of monasteries. Instead, there was the convenience of immediate spiritual awakening in a bottle, accessible to all.

The advertising campaign was built around the slogans “Instant EnLIGHTenment™ in a Bottle!”, “Fast Food for Body and Soul!”, and “Let the Light DeLIGHT You!”. For once the reality corresponded exactly to the promotional claims, as it truly was a unique kind of an invention the likes of which had never been seen before.

And so, as was to be expected, everyone flocked to buy the new drink, for, apart from its obvious appeal to the general public, its attraction was also irresistible to a diverse range of people with specific needs, such as the athletic types looking for an immediate energy fix, the spiritual seekers looking for the truth about themselves and the Universe, and the weight-conscious dieters, who immediately added it to their fastidious regiments. Of course, children loved it too, given its novelty value and its almost-magical properties.

This unqualified success gave the company the freedom and the impetus to experiment with new varieties of the product. The flavour of the original sunlight brand was a mixture of melon and orange. Later on, many more flavours became available, as the company’s researchers went about capturing and bottling light from other celestial objects, as well as from man-made sources.

It was discovered that each planet and star had its own unique taste: Moonlight was cooler on the palate than sunlight and had an indefinable element to it one couldn’t quite put a finger on; Mars tasted a bit like tomato juice; Venus was quite tart and almost vinegary, and thus was best drunk in combination with light from other sources; Jupiter and Saturn, as befitting their gaseous nature, were like the finest bubbly champagne; and supernovas had a mouth-exploding, extremely hot chilli flavour that only the very brave and the foolhardy dared to sample. It was also found that the illuminations of every city had their own particular flavour, although the health-conscious preferred only drinks made from natural sources and scorned the artificial flavours of light globes, fluorescent lights and neon signs, which invariably tasted like cheap wine.

With this product on the market, many believed the world was surely heading towards a utopian existence in which humanity would finally be liberated from its burdensome, imprisoning dependence upon plants and animals for nutrition; and the common man, having become instantly enlightened, would see beyond the constricting confines of self-interest and self-preservation and realise everything is inextricably connected and we are all one.

Yet, those who were optimistic that an idealistic state of being would, at last, be achieved had forgotten all about a deep-rooted and paradoxical aspect of human nature, namely that anything that brought pleasure and enjoyment was open to abuse, misuse, and overuse. Consequently, the very source of gratification and bliss, like for example alcohol, could and did mutate grotesquely into a dire threat to one’s very existence. Thus, obesity and all the maladies it caused was rife in those societies in which food was in ready supply; alcoholism was the scourge of many a land; addictions to both legal and illegal substances destroyed countless lives.

Given the way this beverage immediately satisfied, in one neat package, a person’s needs on so many levels, it was inevitable some would become hooked on it. As is often the case with addicts, they found ways to bypass the option of legally purchasing a limited quantity of the product, instead consuming for free limitless amounts by staring directly at the Sun and letting the light flow both into their open mouths, as well as into their eyes. Imbibing light through the eyes was something non-addicts would never do, and that particular experience was likened to mainlining heroin, giving an even greater kick.

These addicts quickly became known as “sunkies” (a portmanteau word blending “sun” and “junkie”), and this word coincidentally had the additional connotation of “sinking” which was very apt, for no drug addict had ever sunk as low as these sunkies. Most of those hooked on narcotics could be rehabilitated and again become respected members of a community. The Sun junkies however voluntarily gave up their sight and their mobility, two of the most precious and vital features a human being possesses, and assumed a static, plant-like existence, remaining rooted to one spot. They cared for nothing else but to follow with their turning heads the Sun’s daily progress across the sky, using their sense of warmth to locate it, their retinas having been burnt out, and to drink in the light.

“In Sol Veritas”, in Sun all Truths lie, was their motto and guiding principle, believing as they did that the Sun is the portal to the ultimate reality and the sole source of eternal, absolute truths. Their proselytising spiel to the non-addicts was quite persuasive, claiming that once you started staring at the Sun, you would quickly realise how petty and drab are the affairs of daily life, and how overflowing-with-meaning and magnificent are the inexhaustible revelations and infinite beauty emanating from the Sun, the place where perfection, transcendence, purity lies. The sunkies also extolled the stability and the security their lives now possessed, for the Sun’s motion, perfectly regular and unvarying each and every day, scorched away the unpredictability and the uncertainties of their previous everyday existence.

One saw these sunkies everywhere one went, sitting, standing or lying on the pavements, roads, grass, in the mud, in puddles, in gutters, totally oblivious to their surroundings. Their limbs became atrophied from complete lack of movement and turned into something resembling gruesome, withered tree branches, further accentuating their plant-like appearance. The sight of these addicts was both sickening and unspeakably sad, especially as many of them were young people who had sacrificed all the promises the future held out for them.

The greatest tragedy was that the sunkies denied their lives had turned into an irrevocable tragedy. Not only did they become physically blind, they also became blind to the reality of their situation, convincing themselves into believing they were the superior beings living superior lives, and the only ones in possession of the ultimate secrets of existence. They saw themselves as part of an elite caste, the vanguard of an egalitarian utopia to come, for, before the Sun everyone was equal. These Sun’s Sons (as they preferred to call themselves, in reference to their claimed filial kinship with the star, for they felt reborn through gazing unwaveringly at the Sun, and also in reference to the brotherhood they felt they had entered into) were totally untroubled by their loss of sight and mobility, for there was nothing down on Earth they wanted or needed to see or do. Indeed, they considered their blindness and immobility to be a godsend, for not only did it stop them from being distracted from giving all of their attentions to the Sun, but, even more importantly, it prevented their minds and souls from being contaminated by the imperfections and iniquities that so marked and defined earthly existence.

Thus, light in a bottle, previously the greatest blessing to mankind, became its greatest curse, causing a calamity the likes of which could not be imagined before its arrival on the market, for who could ever envision healthy people willingly becoming immobile vegetables, sacrificing their lives just so they could stare at the Sun and feel its warm smile upon their faces. The sunkies were now completely lost to society, both bodily and mentally, and no kind of rehabilitation was possible for them. In the bitterest of ironies that occur so often throughout the course of history, mankind, having liberated itself from its dependence upon plants, and thus attaining the greatest freedom it had ever possessed, now found an ever-growing proportion of its population choosing to lead a plant-like existence.

But this unfolding global tragedy was of little concern to the company that brought the beverage into the world, for its technicians were busily working on an even greater creation which would undoubtedly trump the bottled sunshine for popularity. Inspired by instant coffee, the new invention-in-the-making already had the brand name of Insta-Life, and, once completed, it would allow a person to experience their whole life in an instant. This surely was, or so the management thought, the ultimate desire and goal in this instantaneousness-obsessed era, for by condensing all of your life into one single moment, you no longer would have to trudge through decades of endless drudgeries and tediously repetitive routines of daily existence, through all the banal and boring stretches of life, and instead get it over and done with in a jiffy. Additionally, you would gain an unbeatable upper hand over your rivals in the field of fast living.

With the lure of holiday profits in their minds, the management kept prodding its engineers and scientists to work harder and harder, so that Insta-Life could appear on the market around Christmas time. And so, it was only a matter of time before this new invention swept the world, and people would begin to live and die faster than mayflies.

 

 

Existential Prose: A Train’s Journey by Boris Glikman

Woman and man walk on train tracks

I live in a train. I have food, warmth, a place to sleep.

I feel certain that I am its sole occupant, for if there were anyone else on it I would know by now, as I have lived in this train my entire life.

Where it is heading to, I can not tell. On occasions, it stops entirely or even begins to move backwards, but I can never get off for all the exits are hermetically sealed.

In earlier times, I cherished the hope that the train contains something that would help me escape it, this unwieldy metal hulk, and separate my existence from its course. I searched exhaustively for a button that would throw open all the doors simultaneously or a lever that will allow me to prise open a window. Yet I dared not to go through every carriage and compartment, partly out of fear that I would find nothing of use and that thereby all of my hopes would be terminally dashed.

I can only perceive the outside world as it appears through the windows of the train. I know not how veracious my perceptions are, for it may well be that the windows are made of distorting glass. I often wonder what it would be like to experience life directly.

Occasionally, I see other trains go nearby and catch a glimpse of their solitary dwellers. My train might run parallel to theirs for a short distance but then the tracks diverge and I never see them again. There may be time enough to wave or shout out a few quick words but the words get mangled by the noise of wheels on the tracks.

Once, and oh, how the memory of that event heartens me still, my train travelled close to another with a young woman occupant for a considerable period of time, maybe as long as two minutes. I put my palms upon the window and spread my fingers and the girl did the same in her carriage. Our hands were perfectly aligned, and despite the glass between us, I was sure that I could feel her body warmth.

I can not jettison my dream that I will see her again, that our trains will run side by side forever and we will never be apart. In every train that I see, I continue to search out for her sublime features, yet at the same time I am wracked by doubts as to how I appeared to her, whether the windows of her train distorted her vision of me.

Does my train have a driver? Is there any purpose to its voyage? Is it moving of its own volition and choosing its own way through the land or has its journey been pre-planned by some unknown hand? Is there a Master Scheduler who has organised the timetables and the routes of every train? Shall I direct my prayers to him to allow me to see that girl again? These are the questions; the answers to which I am still searching.

With time, I grow to accept having one’s existence tied up with the train. The desire to leave the train now appears to be no less preposterous and unnatural than the idea of a foetus trying to make its way through the world, a walking miscarriage. Existence outside would be so precarious and haphazard, without protection from the elements and other vagaries of fate. The train gives me solid cover, carries me forward, brings certainty to my life.

There may be things in the unexplored compartments that would make my journey more meaningful and fulfilling, things that would allow me to grow as a person. For all I know, treasures and tools, placed there especially for me, might be waiting for my discovery.

But lulled by the rhythm of the train upon the tracks, I remain seated in my seat for hours, days, weeks, years on end. I look out of the window and watch the world go by, not moving, indeed afraid to move, so accustomed have I become to seeing things from this vantage point. In my deluded periods, I imagine that I can influence the train’s course and destination just by wishing for it hard enough.

Lately, I’ve been seeing vaguely familiar landscapes. Is the train taking me to the place whence it commenced its voyage and will my journey then be over? Will there be someone waiting for me when the train pulls into its last station, someone that knows where and when my train will make its final stop? Perhaps it will be the Master Scheduler himself and he will then explain to me the purpose of my voyage and why my journey took this particular route.

I live in a train. Although I have food, warmth, a place to sleep, sometimes a feeling comes over me that I have nothing at all, but I quickly push it away.

 

A TRAIN’S JOURNEY: Further Interpretations and Ideas by Boris Glikmantrain tracks to heaven

  • It’s true that the most obvious interpretation of this story is that it is about isolation and alienation from society. However, there is another possible interpretation of this story, namely that this is an extended allegory about physical existence, the train being a metaphor for the body and being stuck in it, the windows of the train (which are possibly made of distorting glass) being the unreliable senses that are the only way we can perceive the outside world, the unexplored compartments that might hold the tools needed for liberation are the unexplored areas of the mind and the journey itself as an allegory for life, not knowing if it has been pre-planned. etc.
  • So, this story actually works as an allegory on several levels, for not only is it an allegory about isolation, but it’s also an allegory about the deep philosophical problems of solipsism, the unreliability of our senses, of how we could ever be sure if there’s anything out there and it’s not our mind that’s making it all up, predestination, free will, the meaning of life, of whether there is a God who has pre-planned our lives, etc.
  • Train as a symbol of destiny that carries us forward, despite ourselves and over which we have no control, no control over its direction, the route it takes, whether its route has already been pre-determined and we are helpless to change it, its destination point, when it comes to a stop or how fast it moves.
  • One is destined to be forever alone, for we all just pass each other momentarily in our own trains and then continue along our divergent train tracks. The most you can hope for is a fleeting connection with another being. We cannot connect with anyone; everything and everyone just passes us by and we are unable to make any meaningful or long-term connections with anyone. People and things just pass us by in our lives, you can’t/don’t have any control over them and they are never seen again. Life just passes you by, you can’t stop or control it. Each and every day we are closer to reaching the terminus, the terminal/final station of the train.
  • “In my deluded periods, I imagine that I can influence the train’s course and destination just by wishing for it hard enough.” – an allegory for trying to affect, control and influence one’s destiny/life through praying, by wishing for it hard enough. Not by doing anything, but just by desiring it hard enough, deluding oneself that one can change one’s life/destiny just by wishing for it or praying for it hard enough.
  • “But lulled by the rhythm of the train upon the tracks, I remain seated in my seat for hours, days, weeks, years on end.”  – symbolises the acceptance and resignation that comes with age, just weariness and loss of desire to change anything or change one’s life.
  • “I look out of the window and watch the world go by, not moving, indeed afraid to move, so accustomed have I become to seeing things from this vantage point.” – being afraid of change and so not changing our lives or our perspectives because we have become so used to particular lifestyles and we take comfort and security from that stability and consistency and so are loathe and afraid to change it in any way, even if the life we have chosen leaves a lot to be desired, is not ideal or is actually harming us in some way.
  • The glass between the man and the woman represents the social conventions, the pride and the ego, the prejudices, the unfounded fears, the preconceived ideas and the pre-judgements, the non-caring and selfishness, the rush of life and all the other things that stop people from establishing meaningful, friendly, loving connections with one another. The fact that the glass is transparent (so that the woman and the man can clearly see each other), invisible and impenetrable only accentuates further the parallel to real life in which invisible barriers prevent people from making real, authentic connections with one another.
  • The empty train that the protagonist lives in can symbolise the emptiness of our lives, whether physical emptiness, i.e. isolation from others, or emotional/inner vacuum/emptiness. As the train can be a symbol of the body/mind as described above, its emptiness can clearly represent the emotional/mental/innert vacuum of our lives.

 

People walking on train tracksA TRAIN’S JOURNEY: Interpretations from Other Readers

“One other interpretation of A Train’s Journey could be that the narrator just died but doesn’t know it yet, as in the movies “Ghost” and “The Sixth Sense” and “The Lovely Bones.” So he lives between two worlds, life and death, and he crosses another train where there is a woman living in the same two worlds.”

“I read the Train story, and though I found it beautifully written, it left me with a feeling of great sadness and loneliness (probably the feeling you intended to convey). I feel that the existential philosophy conveyed by that story is one of futility and impotence in the face of an incomprehensible universe, over which we have no power and against which we are totally helpless.”

“My interpretation of the story is a long metaphor about life.  Why are we here? What sense is there to be here? What’s the purpose of our life on this earth? On the Universe? We are born knowing nothing and we will die knowing nothing. We are born owing nothing and we will die the same way. Even in the middle of millions of people, we are alone in our own self but we can sometimes connect with another human being, even if it is for a very short time.”

A Train’s Journey is such a great story. I catch the train regularly for work now, and always catch myself thinking of it as a metaphor for life’s journey and the choices we make.”

“Intriguing but sad as I feel this is a lost soul from an aborted fetus.”

“I believe, at one time or another, we have all felt like the train in this story, trapped in the vacuum, we call our lives.”

“Feeling like you’re different from others and trapped inside your own world in your head. Thinking you are the only one to feel this way and to be in this situation and on the very rare occasion meeting someone who is possibly just the same. But this ‘someone’ usually just comes and goes because they are following their own path, their own journey, in their own train.”

“Train tracks represent your path in life. Tracks can change, take turns and lead you to things you never experienced before. But if you’re not in control of the train, if you’re only a passenger, then your life is not in your hands. You can choose to let this train take you on a random journey or take your life in your own hands and lead the train. Stop the train when you need to. Change the tracks when you have an option to do so and take the path you believe is right at any point in time. The other carriages may also be full of other passengers in this story. But I don’t think so. I think it’s your own train. It’s your own personal journey through life. You are the only one who can take the conductor’s seat or choose to remain a passenger.”

“A Train’s Journey is surely a journey through life, highlighting the way we’re all inclined to become fixed in respect of direction and speed of travel, and the way in which we ultimately all find ourselves alone. At the same time, it drew attention to the dubious ‘reliability’ of our sensory information about the world through which we pass. I felt (as I often do with your stories) that there was a touch of the Aesop in it, though the comparison with Kafka is no less fair.”

“One aspect of the train journey I liked is that lately he feels like he is seeing vaguely familiar landscapes. That is a lot like life, like the first time you see cruelty or love, it seems so shocking, and then, as you get older, you see it again and again, it has an air of familiarity about it, still distasteful (for cruelty) or encouraging (for love) but some of the shock value has leached away. It does make you wonder if you’ve seen it all, but I guess the traveller on your train often feels like he hasn’t quite seen anything properly.”

“The story’s opening and closing paragraphs start with a simple sentence, ‘I live in a train.’ Food and shelter are mentioned next in both paragraphs – the basics. But there’s more to human life, of course. The following paragraphs explore the existential questions of our journey through life, from longing to escape the train from its predestined course, its conformity, to reach higher grounds with our dreams fulfilled to connecting meaningfully with other people and finding answers not only to the purpose of life but also to the existence of God and afterlife.

With maturity comes acceptance of conformity although the wish is still there to change the train’s course. The last two sentences leave me with a sense of sadness, but then, I need to push that feeling away too.”

‘I live in a train. Although I have food, warmth, a place to sleep, sometimes a feeling comes over me that I have nothing at all, but I quickly push it away.’

 

The Shadow of the Great Nebula of Orion by Boris Glikman

Orion NebulaOne day, the nebula in the constellation of Orion, already the brightest nebula in the night sky, started to shine even more intensely, emitting a piercing blue-green light. Its luminosity was now so brilliant that it cast shadows during the daylight hours too, something that had always been the sole prerogative of the Sun.

This caused great excitement, for never before had such a bright celestial body been observed in the day sky. Everybody rushed outside to see this new heavenly wonder and to gawk at their double shadows, the old familiar one and the new one created by the Orion nebula.

It was then that the world was hit by a very unpleasant surprise, for there was something quite peculiar about the shadows cast by the nebula. Instead of being mute, inert outlines of a person’s physical form, they revealed the shadow of a person’s character. Everyone’s inner anxieties, delusions and insecurities were now exposed for all to see.

No one could be found who did not possess a nebula shadow. Even newborns had a shadow accompanying them, thus, coincidentally, vindicating some psychological theories and theological dogmas, while demolishing others.

Naturally, the consequences of this new phenomenon were immense in their scope. Many lives were wrecked, relationships destroyed and careers ruined, as a person’s innermost complexes were revealed to their spouses, family, friends, work colleagues and complete strangers. The very structure of society was threatened, for its smooth running depended so much upon one’s true feelings and nature being suppressed and hidden, even from oneself.

The world was in a dilemma on how to cope with this situation. It certainly couldn’t dim or extinguish the nebula’s brightness. It could try to adapt to a nocturnal existence, when the shadows would be less distinct, but surely that was too radical a solution. Yet who could risk the shame and the burden of walking around with all their flaws showing?

Inevitably, cults arose that chose to embrace this new state of affairs. For them the Orion nebula was The Bearer of Truth, The Great Enlightener of Mankind. Just as the Sun brought outer illumination, so the Orion nebula was deemed to bring inner illumination to the world. The adherents of these sects took pride in letting others see their most intimate neuroses, and experienced catharsis in coming face to face with their fears and insecurities for the very first time. Having accepted their shadows, they felt more fulfilled and whole than they ever did before.

And then, just as suddenly as it flared up, the Orion nebula dimmed to its usual luminosity. It didn’t take long for people to re-adjust to having only one shadow again. Relationships and careers wrecked by the Orion nebula were quickly rebuilt and almost everyone resumed living their old lives, maintaining total silence about that awkward period when their failings were exposed, the way a faux pas is ignored in polite company.

The Caterpilion by Boris Glikman

The CaterpilionThere once was a Caterpillar who was thoroughly sick of always being stuck near the bottom of the food chain. All the other animals –  birds, moles, lizards, frogs and spiders – would hunger for his soft, succulent sausage-like body, licking their lips avidly in anticipation of a delicious meal. Even the tiny ants posed a mortal danger to his life.

The only option open to the Caterpillar was to mimic some inedible object like, for example, a bird dropping, but that would be such an ignominious existence. Not only would he have to remain motionless all day long, but, most humiliating of all, he would be forced to alter his appearance to resemble a piece of dung. Surely, that was a price too high to pay for staying alive, for nothing could be lower than looking exactly like the end product of the digestive process.

One day, full of anxiety and fear as usual, lest he be seen and eaten, the Caterpillar was furtively drinking from a puddle on the forest floor. In the reflection cast by the clear and still water, he noticed, for the first time, that his head was covered by a thick mane of yellow hair. It was then that the Caterpillar was struck by the happiest, most brilliant insight of his life – he realised that, given his looks, he could impersonate a lion! The advantages of such a mimicry would be numerous: amongst other things, not only would he be on the very top of the food chain, afraid of no other animal, but, even more importantly, he would be simply gorgeous.

All the insects scoffed at the Caterpillar, saying how ridiculous his plan was, but the Caterpillar just ignored them and, enclosing himself in a cocoon, proceeded confidently with the metamorphosis.

A certain time had passed and the silly Caterpillar with his crazy dream was almost forgotten about, until early one morning, there was a terrific thunderclap of noise that reverberated right across the woods. The cocoon that held the Caterpillar burst open and out of it emerged a perfect specimen of a flawlessly proportioned, at-the-top-of-his-strength, full-sized lion.

The insects were petrified as to what the Caterpillar-Lion might do to them in revenge for their previous jeers, but he haughtily disregarded them, for, after all, he now was the king of the jungle that wouldn’t even deign to notice such measly bugs.

Proudly, the Caterpilion descended from the tree and began to stride majestically, as befitting his new station in life, roaring at the top of his lungs and showing off his muscular, lithe torso and luxuriant mane.

No other animal dared approach him, of course, and the Caterpilion was very pleased with himself, feeling the kind of deep, pure contentment that only those who had tasted the very dregs of life and found a way to clamber out of the abyss could ever feel. Ahead, a whole new existence shimmered in all of its glory and the Caterpilion was eager to find other lions with which he would live out the rest of his days in joy, happiness and freedom.

And so, when he saw a pride resting lazily in the midday sun, he rushed blithely towards it, eager to make friends with those he now saw as his compatriots, being completely unaware that lions are territorial animals who are viciously protective of their domain. The incensed pride could not believe that a mature lion would be so recklessly stupid as to completely ignore the markings that they assiduously used to bound their dominion, and enter carefree into their land. They promptly tore him into little pieces and that was the end of the Caterpilion and his happy, new life.

Boris Glikman is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia.

He says: “Writing for me is a spiritual activity of the highest degree. Writing gives me the conduit to a world that is unreachable by any other means, a world that is populated by Eternal Truths, Ineffable Questions and Infinite Beauty. It is my hope that these stories of mine will allow the reader to also catch a glimpse of this universe.”

Boris welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at bozlich@yahoo.com.au

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bozlich/
Twitter: @bozlich
Previously published at http://omtimes.com/2013/07/the-caterpilion/

The Curious Story of Frank and His Friend Mr. Stims, The Hydrophobe by Boris Glikman

Earth without oceans…so anyway, like I was saying, I was sitting comfortably in this nice chair when Mr. Stims told me what he wanted to do with his invention. But please don’t interrupt me again, because I am going to forget what I was saying and won’t be able to tell you the whole story of what happened that day.

Let me begin again from the start, as I can’t remember now what I have already told you. My name is Frank. I finished school two years ago. I stay at home most of the time and watch TV. I live with my mum. I like her a lot. She is very smart and knows about everything. So I don’t see what’s wrong with saying, “That’s what my mum told me”, but the other kids used to laugh when I said that and called me a retard, which made me angry. Now I can’t hang out with them any more; my mum tells me I have a bad temper and could hurt them.

My only friend is my next door neighbour, Mr. Stims. I enjoy being with him. I love the brain games that he is so good at inventing. The game I particularly like is the one in which he asks me to guess what he is thinking of at that very moment. It is not an easy game to play at all.

Usually I spend time in his living room, where we drink tea, eat some biscuits and discuss interesting topics. But that day, Mr. Stims invited me into his study and asked me to sit in a comfortable chair beside his desk. He himself sat behind the desk, on which lay writing pads and folders, all neatly organised.

After staring at me in silence with an odd look in his eyes for about a minute, Mr. Stims started talking: “For the past five years, I have been engrossed in a fiendishly difficult task, as you probably have noticed Frank. I no longer need to be secretive about what I do, but I did want to apologise for being evasive and unpredictable in the past.”

He was right. He never told me what he did for a living, but it seemed to me that he was spending much of his time working on some scientific problem. All of his rooms were cluttered with books, whose titles I didn’t understand, and papers that were covered with calculations and formulas in his scribbly handwriting. And his strange ways did confuse me sometimes. I remember once asking him how he would like to be remembered, and it produced an odd reaction from him. He turned first red, then white and only replied that he had great hopes for the future. Another time I told him that even though we don’t live far from the ocean, we don’t know much about it, and that there could be big sea monsters and other curious fishes living in its depths. For some reason, he got all agitated and started going on about the chemical properties of water. Then, suddenly, he stopped mid-sentence and started talking about something completely different. But I still find him a fascinating person to be with. He knows so many things and can always answer my questions.

Mr. Stims continued: “You might remember from your school days, my friend, what a polar molecule is. Well, water just happens to be comprised of polar molecules. This fact is the linchpin of my work.”

I did not actually remember anything about those molecules. To tell the truth, I really do not recall much from my school days. I was always surrounded by people brighter than me, which made me afraid to speak up and say what I thought, in case I might say something stupid.  That is why I like Mr. Stims so much. He has never treated me as a fool and is always happy to listen and explain things to me.

“The fact that it is a polar molecule, does that suggest anything to you, Frank?” he asked. Not waiting for my reply, as he usually does, he continued: “I will get straight to the point. For your benefit, I will state it in simplified terms. The water molecule is a charged particle. Charged particles respond to magnetic fields. By creating a magnetic force of appropriate strength and by aligning it in the right direction, we can separate the water molecule into its constituent parts! We can turn liquid water into the gases of hydrogen and oxygen. The theory behind it is of course much more complicated than that, but what I have just stated is my work in a nutshell.”

He stopped talking for a short while, to give me time to understand what he had just said. But to be honest with you, I did not really see the point of it all. I thought it would be much better if you could go the other way and make water out of the invisible gases, so that people everywhere would have enough to drink, especially people who live in the hot deserts.

He went on to say, “The idea sounds simple enough. Let me tell you, putting it into practice was another kettle of fish; the years I have spent trying to create a functional apparatus, attempting to discover the right alignment. Failure followed failure. Many a time I was tempted to throw it all up in the air and just walk away. Only one hope kept me going. I cannot say it was a well-defined sensation, but it was something like…well, that by achieving my goal, all my past deeds would gain the meaning they were lacking.”

I looked closely at Mr. Stims’ face. Sweat had gathered on his forehead and there was a distant look in his eyes, but it quickly disappeared.

He then said, “Let me tell you a little of my past, as it will explain to some degree the present. I was a brilliant university student, majoring in chemistry. I was heading straight for a conventional academic career. But my personality did not sit well with the scholastic surroundings. The claustrophobic atmosphere and the daily routine were stifling my natural creativity; the imperiousness of the professors, the ceaseless competitiveness prevalent amongst the students. Once I left the university, there was no way back. To this day I remain an outsider to the scientific community. You, Frank, are the first person in the world to hear of my achievement.”

Although I was flattered, I still thought it would be better if water was made out of the invisible gases, so that people everywhere would have enough to drink, especially people who live in the hot deserts.

“But what are we waiting for!” he exclaimed. “Actions speak louder than words. Just one minute and I will show you how it works.”

While he was gone, I stretched my legs; they had almost gone to sleep. I also had an itch on my back where a mosquito bit me and I gave it a good scratch. I could not do that while Mr. Stims was in the room. When I am with him, I try to behave properly so he will respect me. I remembered dinnertime was coming soon and wondered what my mum had cooked for me. I hoped it would be fish fingers with mashed potatoes. That’s my most favourite meal in the whole world.

My friend wasn’t gone for long. When he came back, he was carrying a small, shiny box and a full glass of water. I thought it was really thoughtful of him to bring me water, because I was really thirsty. I was about to reach out my hand and say, “Thank you Mr. Stims, it’s really thoughtful of you,” when he put that shiny box over the top of the glass. There was a hissing sound and the water disappeared before my eyes. Well, it didn’t actually disappear straight away. For a second, it looked like the water was cut in half, like a fresh bread roll with a sharp knife, and then both halves vanished. I was a bit miffed, as I really did want to drink that water, but still the sight was so amazing I could not help crying out, “WOW!”

The room filled up with a funny smell, like a cross between rotten eggs and fresh pineapple. Mr. Stims must have noticed me sniffing for he said, “That’s nitrous oxide or laughing gas, as it’s commonly known. The oxygen released by the process has combined with the nitrogen in the air. You have to be very careful with nitrous oxide. It messes with your mind.”

I knew he expected me to say how impressed I was and I did say so. He didn’t reply for a while and then he started a long speech. I can only remember bits of it:

“I have great plans, great plans,” Mr. Stims said. “Imagine magnifying the strength of this machine a hundredfold, a thousandfold, a millionfold! Look at the map of the world, Frank! Look at how much space is taken up by the oceans. Two thirds of our planet is water. Two thirds! How much land is wasted because of it! So many regions are overpopulated. This leads to stress, stress leads to crime. And on top of that, the world population is growing at a faster and faster rate. What use is ocean water? We certainly cannot drink it. And in any case, many regions that are now ocean used to be land once. We need to reclaim that land. And we need not stop there. The time has come for the oceans to go! We will make them disappear, just like the water in this glass. Certainly, this might cause some climate changes, but they will be easily fixed. And just imagine…land, land, land everywhere! One great continuous continent! No barriers between countries! The whole world finally united as one, living in peace! Room to plant crops, room for cattle to roam! Spaciousness that, at present, mankind doesn’t even dare to dream of! Whole continents underneath the oceans are just waiting for us to populate them! The potentialities are breathtaking in their scope! Yes, there will be a price to pay. That price will be paid by the ocean inhabitants – but we need not concern ourselves with that. Intelligence arose on land and it is the land dwellers that will rule this planet. And I will go down in history as the man who made it all possible – the new saviour of humanity!”

Mr. Stims was getting very excited. Whenever he gets excited, he walks from one end of the room to the other and waves his arms around. Well, he was certainly doing that; his arms swung like the blades of a windmill and he shouted out, “Liberation from the tyranny of water! The time has come! The possibilities are endless!”

It was all very interesting, but I was getting rather hungry and kept thinking more about the fish fingers with the mashed potatoes. It was then that a terrifying thought startled me so much that I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. I realised that without oceans there would be no more fish, and without fish there would be no more fish fingers for me to eat. Fish fingers really are my most favourite food in the whole world.

I said, “Hey, wait a minute Mr. Stims. I really like fish fingers. You can’t kill all the fish. Give me that shiny thing! I don’t want you to destroy the oceans.”

“Fish, shmish,’’ he replied. “Who needs them? They don’t sing, you can’t pat them and they smell terrible.”

He refused to give me the box. A scuffle broke out between us, because I was getting a bit angry about not being able to eat fish fingers any more, all because of his stupid invention. I reached for the gadget and tried to take it away from him; it was then that I accidentally pressed the round red button on its top. What happened next was the strangest thing of all. You know when you blow up a balloon, and then let it go without tying it up and it flies all around the room, letting out air? Well, something similar happened to Mr. Stims. All this vapour started coming out of his eyes, nostrils and mouth and he was getting thinner and thinner and changing in shape before my very eyes. Then he just fell to the floor, or what was left of him, for by now he looked like a gigantic squashed raisin.

“I am very sorry about this, Mr. Stims,” I said to him, “but I really do like fish fingers. They are my most favourite food in the whole world.”

I then took the box that was lying on the floor and broke it into small pieces. You both know what happened after that.

The two detectives exchanged glances and one of them said, “Looks like it’s going to be a long night for all of us, Frank.”

The (Virtually) Real Life by Boris Glikman

The (Virtually) Real Life by Boris GlikmanI recall that day well. My friends and I were checking out an abandoned, run-down mansion on the outskirts of town and that’s when we noticed that strange, inexplicable things were beginning to happen… 

Every time we open a door to some room to take another look at it, the room and the things in it have changed and look completely different. The more adventurous amongst us explore the building more thoroughly, only to discover that it has an impossibly paradoxical structure. One girl gets spooked out and, in her hurry to get out of the house, jumps through the ground floor window. A moment later we hear a shriek of horror and bewilderment coming from the top floor – her senses refuse to accept that she ended up there and not on the overgrown lawn in the front yard.

Then someone screams out, “Don’t you see what is happening! None of this is real! This is all Virtual Reality! Someone is running this game and we are its involuntary, unwitting participants. So we can do anything; break all of society’s taboos, take any risks, shoot one another, because it is all a counterfeit, simulated world.”

At once I devise a way of putting this remarkable claim to the test. I speed off in my car and start driving along train tracks that ascend to a great height before ending abruptly in mid-air. My car goes for a graceful flight through the sky, spinning and turning, soaring up on the warm air currents, then gradually descending, rising again higher and higher, then stopping and hovering in mid-air.

Finally, I get tired of flying and crash-land on top of a high-rise building. ‘I wonder if I have sustained any injuries,’ I think to myself. ‘If this really is a virtual world, then I should be just fine!’

It occurs to me that if in fact my life has been virtual reality all along, then that would certainly explain a lot of things. I always thought this world and my life in it never made any sense – things were just too absurd and incoherent. Horrible, unthinkably terrifying events like massacres, famine, persecutions, injustices which would never happen in the real world kept occurring, time after time after time.

Now I could see why certain things kept getting lost and disappearing in my life, why my life never worked out right, why something always got in its way and ruined its forward progress. Now I could comprehend why I could never fit in anywhere and always felt at odds with the whole world, for this wasn’t an authentic environment, but rather an artifice of someone else’s mind; a degenerate, corrupt copy of the real reality.

No, this wasn’t the universe that the Absolute Being had created, according to His flawlessly sublime and ideal specifications, but rather a miscreation of some devious, impious, immoral human being. And so it contained within its make-up all the faults, deficiencies and imperfections that every human construction possesses, as well as being coloured by the particularly nasty character of the cad running this simulation.

It was also obvious that this contemptible creature held, for some reason or another, an intensely bitter grudge against me in particular. He obviously meted out the worst of his cruel tricks on me, judging by how my life has been just one senseless absurdity after another.

‘What kind of a person am I, really, outside of this sham construction? What is my life actually like in the real world? Who is the wise guy that created this diabolical game? What’s he got against me? Wait till I find my way out of this virtual world and get my hands on him! I’ll make him pay for all he has done to my life!’

And just then, an even more devastating thought strikes me: ‘What if I am the evil genius who created and is operating this game? What if it is I who has inflicted all of this misery, pain, suffering onto myself and the whole world? But why would I do that? Why would I torment myself so?’

The Day The Internet Died by Boris Glikman

Andy 7

Image by Andy Paciorek

It was widely known that Internet had been ailing for some time. Its poor health had made it rather slipshod in the execution of its duties. Some people had to endure days of frustration until an online connection was established, while for others the connection kept going on and off every second, like a flickering light globe.

For a while Internet hovered in a half-dead condition, with one foot in the grave, and mankind held its breath, fearing Internet would continue to deteriorate and then give up the ghost altogether.

And then the day came when Internet breathed its last and nobody could believe their ill fortune. It was hard to grasp that Internet no longer dwelled in the world, and that the burden of living would never again be lightened with the ever-present alternative of escaping into an online existence. No one would be privileged any more with the luxury of having two worlds to live in.

The most eminent computer technicians of the land were assigned the task of performing the autopsy. Their unanimous conclusion was that the Internet died of virtual causes. What nobody had suspected was that the Internet possessed a finite life span. Everyone had always assumed it would be around forever, yet it too carried within itself the lethal seeds of eternal offline-ness.

The next most pressing issue was the burial. Issues never considered before needed to be addressed urgently, for the sight of lifeless Internet lying prostrate on the ground was too heartbreaking for the world to take. Where should the funeral ceremony be held? In which language or computer code should the memorial service be conducted? Who should give the eulogy? Where to entomb it?

The matter of whom to invite to the service proved to be the most intractable issue of all. A certain number of tickets were reserved for those most deeply affected by Internet’s death – online pornography addicts, social misfits, ingrained introverts, Twitter-obsessed celebrities, Nigerian scammers and long-term residents in Second Life’s virtual world. Otherwise, it was nearly impossible to determine who was genuinely grief-stricken and who only wanted to attend the ceremony so as to be a part of this historic occasion.

Eventually, all of these matters were resolved, although not to everyone’s satisfaction, and the world gave Internet the sending off it deserved. Straight after the funeral, the world went into a shutdown, mourning Internet’s passing and remembering wistfully how it could answer any question; satisfy all emotional, mental and bodily needs; thrill the mind and the senses; provide instantaneous information, entertainment, relaxation and titillation; and even cure loneliness. Tragically, given the magnitude and depth of the loss, some could not bear to continue living in a world without Internet and logged out permanently from this world.

Once the unbridled, hysterical wave of grief finally subsided, people sobered up and gradually realised how the Internet had debased and disfigured their lives.

They recalled with horror and consternation the way Internet enabled people to dawdle their lives away in the endless morass of net world, leaving vital tasks undone and crucial issues unresolved; how googling had supplanted the wisdom that comes with age, experience, learning and, with instantaneous information always at one’s fingertips, the value of knowledge was lost; the way online reality became the only world and real reality was jilted and forgotten, just like the plain sister of a gorgeous girl; how Internet robbed life of its multifarious richness and beauty and reduced the world to a small, rectangular screen; the way online reality became a prison in which humanity willingly immured itself and then threw away the key.

Mankind recognised how fundamentally Internet had altered the nature of social relations and the nature of one’s relationship with oneself. Invented to facilitate communication and for bringing the world together, the Internet instead became the perfect tool for dissimulation, distorting the truth and separating oneself from the world, thus allowing people to not only misrepresent their true thoughts and feelings, but to falsify their entire lives and the very essence of their being, to themselves as well as to others.

People discovered that fingers were not just for typing and shifting mouses but had other uses too; that out of their torsos extended a pair of lower limbs which could be used for perambulating across the spatial dimension; that Evolution had equipped their bodies with tools perfect for conveying thoughts and feelings; that their faces possessed well-developed muscles which could be employed to signal emotions such as (amongst many others) surprise, annoyance, happiness, and frustration. Consequently, successful communication could be achieved without intermediary electronic devices. Most startling of all was the revelation that other people were not identical to their icons – flat and forever stuck in the same pose with the same smile on their faces – rather they were three dimensional beings, moving about and changing their facial expressions.

Having friends and partners in the physical world meant that you were free from the precariousness, uncertainty and unreliability of online friendships and relationships, and no longer subject to the capricious actions and decisions of your web pals, to whom, after all, you were just an ethereal, abstract entity that could easily be deleted permanently from their life with just a click of a mouse. Consequently, the constant threat of online friends and lovers inexplicably ceasing all contact and disappearing forever was gone for good.

“Back to Reality” tutorials proved to be very popular and helpful, covering such topics as  “Learning How to Single-Task”; “Becoming Acquainted with the Sun and the Sky”, and “How to Survive in a World that Cannot be Photoshopped”.

Life slowly regained its meaning as mankind clambered, one small step at a time, out of the online abyss it had dug for itself. Without the Internet, no one had to grapple any more with the problem of how to balance one’s life between the two worlds. Time started to flow more slowly; instant gratification was no longer craved; contemplation and patience revealed their true worth. It was now clearly seen that online reality provided only fleeting pseudo-meaning; that emotions felt in the web world were only ephemeral ersatz feelings; and that real self-esteem came not from social media popularity, but from within.

Each human being now experienced life directly, rather than through the distorting, diminishing and vicarious lens of a computer screen; facing the good and not so-good things in their lives without escaping into the net world and evading the reality of their existence; and being true to their inner selves, instead of hiding behind their icons and online identities. Only then was it realised how inextricably Internet had woven its fateful thread into every aspect of man’s existence and how much had been gained the day Internet died.

Boris Glikman – Underground Australian Celebrity With A Mind Like A Planet

Boris Glikman image(NOTE: This article was updated on May 24, 2016)

I’ve posted several quirky short stories by Australian writer Boris Glikman this year on my blog including The mePhone, The Day Death Died, America In The Sky (In Memoriam)and The Substitute SunNow I want to share with you an article about Boris that was published by Fantastic Books Publishing who recently welcomed Boris to their family.

Boris Glikman is an incredible guy. He’s smart, talented and is a prolific producer of poetry and short stories. He’d need about ten blogs to cram in all his achievements so here’s the edited version, we’ve done our best…

Boris is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia.  The biggest influences on his writing are dreams, Kafka, Borges and Dali. His stories, poems and non-fiction articles have been published in various e-zines and print publications. Boris has appeared a number of times on the radio, including Australian national radio, performing his poems and stories and discussing the meaning of his work. In 2008 his short story – The Clearness and the Impenetrability – was nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize.

Among his many talents, Boris is a mathematician and physicist of great prowess and has several mathematical proofs to his name. His network is one of pure creative talent and it’s a real pleasure to welcome him and his friends to the Fantastic Books Publishing family.

Boris has, for many years now, shared his work with the world. His beautifully envisaged story ‘the mePhone’ is a great idea but unfortunately was a little too adult for our short story competition. When we told Boris this, ever the Jedi, he promptly sent us a children’s version!

Here’s a link to the adult version of the mePhone. You’ll have to wait for the anthology before you see the children’s version.

Here’s a link to the Caterpillion, a wonderful Eric Carle-esque look at a different kind of hunger, also by Boris.

Boris continues to create today and his work has been performed live, set to music, painted about, spoken about, broadcast on radio and has even been displayed for 2 months on a giant screen in Melbourne’s equivalent of Times Square called Federation Square, as well as on other screens in Melbourne’s city centre.

He has two degrees: Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Philosophy and Linguistics) and Bachelor of Science (majoring in Mathematics and Physics). Since completing his degrees, he has pursued a writing career.

Dreams are also an important source of creative inspiration to him and many of his stories originate from the scenarios and ideas in his dreams.

Boris says: “Writing for me is a spiritual activity of the highest degree. Writing gives me the conduit to a world that is unreachable by any other means, a world that is populated by Eternal Truths, Ineffable Questions and Infinite Beauty. It is my hope that these stories of mine will allow the reader to also catch a glimpse of this universe.”

Boris used to be the philosopher of a spiritual community and many of his articles were given their premiere by being read out in public programs in front of 200 or so people.

Boris says that he has two life-long ambitions: to become a child prodigy when he grows up and to change the very fabric of space-time itself.

Boris uses the image above as his profile picture. Much like some of his deeper, philosophical work, it made our collective heads hurt so we thought we’d share it with you too.

Boris has also had one of his parables translated into the unique whistling language Silbo Gomero, traditionally spoken by inhabitants in the Canary Islands to communicate across the deep ravines and narrow valleys. Here’s a link to the video, where you can listen to the recording of the parable being whistled as well read the parable both in English and in Spanish.
In his bid to become, amongst many other things, the next Weird Al Yankovic, Boris also writes song parodies which are regularly performed live by professional musicians. You can find videos of their performances  herehere and here.
 
Boris is also working on adapting his stories to the cinematic medium with the Australian film director Peter T. Nathan. Boris contributed to the script of the film “Six Steps to Eternal Death“, written and directed by Peter T. Nathan, which won the Best Film award at the Deakin University Best Film & Television Honours 2015 awards ceremony.

Welcome to the family Boris!

Just imagine,

Daniel and Gabi

More from Boris Glikman:

“Science has always been my first love and I have been creative in the mathematics/physics fields since my teenage years. Until relatively recently, mathematics/physics/science fields were my first interest and it is to them that I devoted most of my time and creative energy, and writing was a distant second interest. Consequently, because I have always been interested in all those fields, I did two degrees Arts/Science at university, to pursue further my interests and learn more about those fields.

However, even before going to the University, I was already creating my own proofs and theories in the mathematics/physics fields, because I did a lot of self-study right from my teenage years. By the age of 15, I was already sending out my ideas in physics to university professors who were quite impressed by their depth and breadth. School teachers and university lecturers saw me as a very promising mathematician/physicist, right up there in the top 1%.

But, for a number of reasons, I became thoroughly disenchanted with science (which I always saw as THE path to the truth) and so instead started to devote all of my attention and energy to writing (which until then I pretty much neglected as a creative outlet), and for me now writing is the path to the truth.”

If you missed reading Boris Glikman’s short stories on this blog and are curious about them, you can go back to the first paragraph of this post and click on the story titles to be taken to them. I think you’ll be glad you did!

The Substitute Sun by Boris Glikman

The Substitute Sun by Boris Glikman

Image by Agnieszka

The world awoke one bright morning to find that the Sun was gone, replaced by a circular cardboard cut-out. The cut-out was roughly coloured in by a yellow pencil, with some of the colouring straying beyond the circumference of the disc and staining the blueness of the sky. Short cardboard rays were coming out of the rim and there was a smiley face sketched inside the circle. It looked just like a child’s drawing of the Sun.

After mankind had recovered from the shock of losing their beloved star, plans were made to locate it and put it back in its rightful place. Great rewards were offered to anyone who could provide information as to its whereabouts. Police forces allocated their best men to try and pinpoint who was likely to commit such an act.  Pressure was put on crime organisations to reveal if this was their doing and if so, how much they wanted for the Sun’s safe release. Clairvoyants were called upon to use their abilities to intuit where it might be held against its will.

Despite these exhaustive efforts, the Sun remained missing, although people still clung to the hope that it would be found alive.

With time’s passing, the pain of losing the Sun became less acute. The world slowly grew accustomed to the substitute and even began to appreciate its benefits. People understood how lucky they were that this impostor gave out the same amount of warmth and illumination as the original star. The physicists were pleased that the replacement exerted an identical gravitational force, so that Earth’s orbit remained unchanged; the workers were content that the stand-in did not increase their hours of labour, and the farmers were thankful that the cardboard disc provided an equivalent quantity of light to nourish their crops.

Eventually, it was seen as quite appropriate to have a bogus sun, given that so much else was phony in society: fake tans; fake smiles; fabricated, unnatural foods; artificial noses on artificial faces; living simulated lives on the computer. Many believed that the substitute was put in the sky as a sign of the divine approval of the world’s false ways. Consequently, it was concluded that unauthenticity is the true nature of man.

Centuries passed and there was nobody left on Earth who had experienced the glory of the original Sun. The crudely coloured cardboard circle with its cardboard rays and smiley face was now the only sun that the world had ever known. Lovers swooned under the warm beauty of its radiance; composers wrote symphonies dedicated to the perfection of its proportions; poets extolled the rich vibrancy of its colour in their sonnets and religious worshippers thanked their Maker for gifting the Earth with such a miracle of nature.

America In The Sky (In Memoriam) by Boris Glikman

Amerika in the Sky image by Rosa Seeyah

Image by Rosa Seeyah

Once again, I thank Australian author Boris Glikman for sharing this epic short, quirky, science fiction story with my readers!

America In The Sky (In Memoriam)

I recall  that day starting off ordinarily enough; there I was playing in the open field not that far from home, the sky azure with hardly a cloud blighting its face.

I was alone as usual, for my mother didn’t let me play with the other kids. I never really wanted to play with them anyway. I always knew I was different, I could see things that they could not and understood matters that they had no inkling of.

This disparity between my physical and mental development did cause me problems; there was always the inner conflict between the body’s desire to be a child, carefree and frivolous, and the mind’s desire to think deep thoughts, explore complexities and subtleties of the world, create abstruse theories.

That day the body scored a victory for there I was playing in the open field…

The lay of the land is so perfectly flat I can see unencumbered all the way to the horizon.

As the day proceeds, the heavens rotate slowly on their axis. Towards mid-morning something very odd catches my eye on the eastern horizon. It is something that I have never seen in the sky before but there it is before me, arising slowly from beneath the edge of the earth.

By some process, the continent of North America has become attached to the celestial sphere at the place where land and heavens meet and is slowly getting unravelled from the crust of the Earth.

America is now being carried along by the turning of the heavens. I can clearly see its unmistakable shape and the features of the land: the whiteness of Alaska, the mighty rivers, the mountain chains, the major cities, the wheat fields, the pine forests, the Mojave Desert.

At first, while the continent is still at a shallow angle in the sky, the North American people seem to be enjoying their unique experience, smiling, laughing, some even waving to me down below.

As the heavens continue their inexorable turning and the continent slowly approaches the celestial zenith, the fun and the mirth turns to panic and despair.

At midday the continent reaches the highest point in the sky, hanging precisely upside down and the Sun is eclipsed. Some rays are still able to sneak around the frayed edges of the landmass, but the diffracted beams are of a different hue to natural sunlight and create an eerily muted illumination.

The view from down below looks like a disturbed anthill on a gigantic scale, with millions of Americ-ants scurrying frantically in random directions, trying to save their colony from some uncouth hooligan poking at it with a stick. If not for the desperate gravity of the situation, it would be almost comical to observe the way that they are trying to cope with the catastrophe that has befallen them.

The people are now in their most precarious position, desperately trying to grab anything that is firmly rooted in the ground, to blades of grass, to soil itself. Even when they completely lose all grip on land, still they attempt to find some protuberance in the fabric of the sky that they can hold onto, to give themselves just one more instant of life.

Some of the people hold hands as they fall, others are kissing and hugging, while others still are engaged in more intimate activities. I look away, not wishing to intrude upon the privacy of their last significant moments together.

As the continent remains in the apex of the sky, buildings’ foundations start to loosen, roots of plants are no longer able to cling to the soil; the once mighty rivers empty their banks in cataclysmic downpour of unprecedented proportions.

After all the signs of civilisation and life – buildings, forests, houses – disappear, the ground itself begins to give way and disintegrate. The earth slowly loses its compactness and adhesiveness, dripping down in small spurts at first and then in great lumps. Here and there, the liquid magma substratum is peeking through the locations where the entire continental crust fallen off.

As the whole continent continues to break up, a colossal downpour of bodies, concrete, trees, mud, water, cars, houses, rock, soil all mixed up together into a terrible blend, threatens to engulf the world below and destroy our lives too.

Thankfully, some clouds appear and block these scenes of suffering and chaos, but then they quickly disperse and again I am unable to look away.

But what right do I have to look, God-like, upon the numberless agonies? Who am I, a small boy, to watch scenes of suffering so terrifying that even Death itself turns its bony face away in fright?

After an interminable span of time, the continent begins to move away from the zenith.  The Sun re-appears in the sky, whole and wholesome, able to shine again. For a moment it seems to me that the sky is empty and blue, with its innocence intact, just the way it appeared early this morning. But morning happened a million irreparable lives ago, in that innocent era when things like this could not be envisaged.

A fortunate few have managed to somehow survive the nearly total destruction of the landscape of North America and they are approaching the horizon and security of the ground again. Thank goodness they now will be able to land safely and be lauded as heroes.

Alas, my hopes are proven to be woefully inaccurate. For when this ill-fated continent reaches the horizon again, it collides sharply with the unyielding ground that is already there. Two continents attempt to occupy the same location at the same time and one of them has to lose out.

Northern Canada and Alaska are the first to go. Bit by bit they are torn apart as the stationary earth refuses to shift and stands firm its ground and those remaining alive, that I thought would be the lucky survivors, are crushed to dust.  A horrible grinding noise is created that resounds across the span of the land, like a million fingernails scraping together across an inconceivably large blackboard.

I cannot help but rush to their aid, to try to save at least some lives. Suddenly I halt as I remember that the horizon is an illusory point in the distance that keeps receding further and further as you walk towards it and so I would never be able to reach the doomed ones.

By now, more than half the continent has been ground into fine powder as the merciless process continues without ceasing. The major metropolises of the United States, the founts of so much knowledge, art, music and creative energy are being pulverised into nothingness.

Icy pieces of Alaska intermingle with the glassy shards of New York City and with bits of tinsel of Los Angeles. Would it ever be possible to reconstruct America from these clouds of dust?  Civilisations, cities, entire countries have been rebuilt from ruins before, but this is annihilation on a thoroughly unmitigated scale, from which there’s surely no coming back.

“Well, there goes the New World. ” I think wistfully.  “ No longer will we have America in our lives. It is all gone in the cruelest fashion, right before my very eyes.  And yet, its ashes and dust will settle all over the world, infusing every cell of the remaining planet.  Forever more, it will provide fertilisation for the world to go on growing and progressing the way America once did and we will be able to say proudly that we now all have a little bit of America in our very souls.”

Many years have now passed since the day we lost America.

The world gasped, the world cried, the world mourned, and then it went on living. For a long time afterwards, all our activities down on earth seemed insignificant and frivolous by comparison with what transpired up above.

Ships were forbidden from approaching the ugly scar that lay across what was once the New World. However, that didn’t stop the morbid sightseers from making their way there to gawk at what became known as Ground Absolute Zero or taking chartered flights over what was once a mighty country, bustling with life.

Every time that I look up, I see it all again: the chaos, the panic, the destruction, America writhing in its death throes, a thousand lives being cut short with each passing minute.

In the end, however, what I have written is only a crude and clumsy depiction. Words that I have used to convey what I saw and felt that day are now impotent, bloodless beings that have lost their vital life-force together with America. And so I will speak no more, except in that most authentic and most profound language of all – absolute silence.