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.”

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!

Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology Features Our Man Fred by A.F. Stewart

Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk AnthologyBOOK PREVIEW

Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology

Synopsis

Amid a cacophony of cranking sprockets and cogs, in chuffs of steam and soot, comes the expansion of classic literature into alternative Steampunk masterpieces. Follow nine skilled authors as they lead old friends and new acquaintances through Jamaica, Singapore, Cape Town, Denmark, Paris, London, and Geneva on a phantasmagorical Steampunk World Tour.

Tropic of Cancer: Edward Rochester battles the elements and Bertha Mason to save his brother and his own soul.

Sense and Cyborgs: Privateer Margaret Dashwood makes port at Singapore to get her husband back on his feet.

Micawber and Copperfield: Wilkins Micawber and David Copperfield create a legacy of loyalty in the Royal Dirigible Corps.

Little Boiler Girl: Power has a price, and one city unwittingly demands an enslaved child pay it.

The Clockwork Ballet: At the Palais Garnier, the Phantom trips the light fantastic with Meg Giry, the prima ballerina of his mechanical troupe.

His Frozen Heart: Jacob Marley saves Ebenezer Scrooge from robbing his wife’s grave and selling his soul.

Our Man Fred: Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, and his fiancé, Mary, protect the Empire from mechanized malfeasance.

Lavenza, or the Modern Galatea: Victor Frankenstein’s bride discovers more than his horrific experiments on her wedding day.

Book Links:

Xchyler Publishing:  http://www.xchylerpublishing.com/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CFT5658/

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mechanized-masterpieces-anika-arrington/1115181302 (you can read the book’s Forward and a part of a sample story, Tropic of Cancer by Neve Talbot here.)

A Quote from Our Man Fred:

“As they walked, it seemed almost every building had some similar contrivance as decoration, adorning the street in a cacophony of clangs, bangs and whirs. The street’s surroundings danced with steam and smoke, the scent of oil and grease its perfume.”

Bio:

A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, and still calls it home.  The youngest in a family of seven children, she has always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She is fond of good books (especially science fiction/fantasy), action movies, sword collecting, and oil painting as a hobby.

Ms. Stewart is an indie author with several published novellas and story collections in the dark fantasy or horror genres, with a few side trips into poetry and non-fiction. She has a great interest in history and mythology, often working those themes into her books and stories.

Learn more about A.F. Stewart at http://afstewartblog.blogspot.ca/

The mePhone by Boris Glikman

The mePhone illustration by Michael Cheval

Illustration by Michael Cheval

One of the best things about being on Facebook is the opportunity to get to know some really talented people. One of those gifted ones, is writer & poet Boris Glikman (from Melbourne, AU) who has graciously allowed me to share some of his quirky, fun, short stories here with you.  Here’s the first.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on this piece so please comment!

The mePhone

One day a new type of phone that you could use to call yourself appeared on the market. All one had to do was dial a certain number and one would be connected straight away with oneself. The quality of the reception was so good that the voice on the other end of the line sounded as if it was coming from the very same room.

Inevitably, there was some initial apprehension about using this phone, for no one quite knew what kind of a response they would receive when they rang themselves out of the blue for the very first time. What if their unexpected call was considered to be an impertinent invasion of privacy?

Eventually, these fears subsided as most found that they were greeted with warmth and enthusiasm and their calls were seen as a pleasant surprise. Talking with yourself was just like talking with a dear friend you haven’t seen for a long time and conversation flowed easily.

People rushed to purchase this new invention, which was marketed under the brand name of “mePhone”. Suppliers could not keep up with the demand and there were ugly scenes as customers fought amongst themselves for the last available mePhone.

For mePhone to work properly certain rules had to be followed, and these were set out in the Owner’s Manual. First, the reception only worked in particular areas, access to which required an extra fee. Second, there was a strict time limit on how long you could spend speaking to yourself. And third, when using the mePhone, one had to wear special, rather cumbersome apparel that was sold separately from the phone. Also, owing to the technical complexities involved in establishing a connection, the cost of a call was outrageously expensive, although some enterprising phone companies, hoping to capitalise on the popularity of the mePhone, for a while only charged it at a local call rate.

However, these inconveniences were more than outweighed by the benefits you gained from having a good chat with yourself, for no one had ever had the time to stop and take a good, honest look at their lives. Everyone was always rushing about, preoccupied with the mundane details of existence, trying to silence the nagging question of whether they were happy with their lives and if they were being true to their inner selves.

And so it was an enlightening experience to be able to have a deep and meaningful talk with oneself. The users of the mePhone could now catch up with all the things in their lives they had never had the chance to think about before, to find out the vital news that fell by the wayside as they were speeding along the road of life.

People found that talking with yourself was a lot like talking to an old confidant, with whom the most intimate matters could be discussed. Not infrequently tears were shed as truths one had been hiding from oneself for many years were conveyed in blunt and forthright terms. Conversations gained a confessional aspect as darkest secrets known only to oneself were divulged openly over the phone lines. Quite often, surprises were lying in store as people discovered what they were actually feeling inside. At other times, the voice on the other end of the line would remind you of your long-neglected dreams, of desires and needs you had suppressed for far too long.

Many found out they weren’t really happy in their places of employment. Some realised they had fallen out of love a long time ago. Others saw for the first time that they had deluded themselves as well as others into believing they had reached fulfilment, regardless of how they actually felt inside. Quite a few recognised that they had become so comfortable with being miserable and disenchanted that they shrank back in fear when contentment appeared to be within easy reach.

The world became a better, happier place because of the mePhone as people at last began to be true to their own selves, for they knew they could no longer get away with lying to themselves. The way life had been before the mePhone was just a distant, faded memory and no person could imagine ever being without one.