Play: At the party

Written earlier this year for the 24 hour play festival during Shakespear In the Port. About a 20 minute run time.

AT THE PARTY
Daniel is an Actuary, a bit of an introvert and awkward with girls.

ABLE is his introverted legitimate self.
CAIN The extroverted persona he’s creating.
CLAIRE, who is somewhat uncomfortable at this party
Scene opens at a party in some kind of nightclub. CAIN and ABLE are on one side of the stage. Claire is at the opposite end. Cain and Able stand talking to one another, whilst surreptitiously watching Claire.
ABLE
Oh my god, it’s carry on my wayward son. I fucking love this song.

CAIN
No we don’t. We do not love this song. We cannot dance. Do not dance. We need to approach the target and ASK her to dance, we cannot dance on our own.

ABLE
But this is my JAM.

CAIN
Please don’t say that out loud to her. Able. Don’t do it. I can tell you’re thinking of it don’t bloody…

Cain and Able dance at the same time, very very badly. In sync, singing CARRY ON MY WAYWARD SOOOON, THEY’LL BE PEACE WHEN YOU ARE DONE. LAY YOUR WEARY HEAD TO REEEST DONT YOU CRY NO MOOORE BA BA BA BAAAAM BA BA BAAAM BOOOM (please youtube ‘carry on my wayward son’ for reference)

CAIN
JESUS CHRIST I THINK SHE’S LOOKING AT US.

They both stop abruptly. Able puts his head in his hands.

ABLE
Oh my god, why didn’t you stop us.

CAIN
It’s okay. Stay cool bromeo. I got this. Arms wide, like you own the space. Shows the HB that you’re comfortable and stuff
puts arms out wide
Back straight
caricature of a straight back.
Now smile!
Ridiculous smile.

Able hides behind him, peering out at CLAIRE.

CLAIRE looks bored.

CAIN
Oh man, she has such a great ass.

ABLE
I bet she can sing. She looks like she can sing.

CAIN
Can’t sing with something in her MOUTH. HEYO!

Able leaves him hanging.

CAIN
Come on man. Give me some confidence.

Able gives him a weak high five.

Claire mimes as if she is then approached by someone, who makes her laugh awkwardly. He briefly grabs her hand then leaves. When he does her mask of exhuberance collapses and she returns to looking bored and uncomfortable.

ABLE
Oh fuck, Lance just started talking to her. Oh em gee she just laughed. Fuck. FUCK! It’s over man. We never should have looked at her. I bet they are going to go have sex soon.

CAIN
Wait. Look, he’s leaving, he…oh shit.

ABLE
What happened?

CAIN
Nothing man.

ABLE
YOU CAN’T HIDE STUFF FROM ME MAN. SHIT. He just touched her hand. He fucking dragged his fingers across her FUCKING PALMS. Fuck.

CAIN
But he’s walking away, see? He’s walking away. Okay. It’s all good. Maybe they are just friends. Maybe she…FRIENDZONED HIM. Okay. Look, I got this. I’m going to go do it. I’M GOING TO GO DO IT.

ABLE
singing the lines of the Pokemon theme song
You sure? You got this? Just remember man. I wanna be…

CAIN
THE VERY BEST.

Both
THAT NO ONE EVER WASSSSS!

Cain approaches whilst continuing to sing

CAIN
To catch them is my real test…to train them is my…

ABLE
SHUT UP!!! Christ. Use the opener. Use the opener. Use the opener.

Cain approaches Claire.

CAIN
Hey. How you doin? (said like Joey from the classic sitcom Friends)

CLAIRE
SORRY WHAT?

CAIN
I SAID HI. DID YOU SEE THOSE TWO GIRLS FIGHTING OUTSIDE?

CLAIRE
No.

CAIN
It was CRAZY, they were like, FIGHTING. Really hard.

CLAIRE
(sarcastically)
Oh really? It’s funny how you saw that considering you never went outside. You were just over there, leering at me, and…dancing? Was that even dancing? You looked like you were having a seizure.

CAIN
But the girls, outside, they are fighting…were…fighting…uh…

CLAIRE
Oh I quite doubt that. You’ve read all of this in ‘The Game’ didn’t you? Some kind of sad little pick up artist attempt? It’s an ‘opener’ right? A way of getting a conversation going with a random girl? This whole thing you are doing is such a bad act, you and your creepy fedora. Now Lance, over there, he doesn’t need to pretend to be a man. Unlike you. I bet you have a tiny DICK. I bet you still like POKEMON!

They all rewind themselves back to their original positions, like rewinding a casette tape. Walking backwards etc.

ABLE
And that’s what will happen if you say that.

CAIN
Really? Jesus Christ that was truly awful. Okay, okay, but what if instead, you know, I just be all confident, and maybe I’m just gotta be more, hrmm, you know. If I roll up my sleeves and just…

Cain walks forward

CAIN
Hey there.

CLAIRE
Umm. Hello!
meekly lifts up hand and waves

CAIN
So I couldn’t help but notice you were here. At this party. It’s the 21st century. No need to mess around, because going down, is like taking a shower. You dee tee eff?

CLAIRE
Dee Tee Eff?

CAIN
You know what I mean. How about we skip all the bullshit and get out of here, you and me. And I know I’m kind of short and I got no abs, and I may have not had sex in like, well, years. But like…wanna fuck anyway?

Claire slaps him.

They rewind back again.

ABLE
Maybe I should just be myself. Be honest. Yeah.

(a beat)

If its meant to work out then, I mean if it’s going to be more than just sex, if we’re meant to be together, if we can be together then I should start by being honest. If I tell her the truth, then she likes me or she doesn’t, what’s the big deal? I don’t know her that well, we’ve only talked twice before, directly. Maybe she remembers.

Able approaches her. He stands there, and she pauses, then notices him.

ABLE:
Clearly nervous
Hi.

CLAIRE
Hey there. It’s crazy right?

CAIN
Runs over to Interjects
NO MY NAME IS DANIEL!

ABLE
SHUT THE FUCK UP!
Shoves Cain away, Claire is unfazed

ABLE
What, this? The party?

CLAIRE
Well, what else?

Able stops. He looks around, then up and out, then to the audience. He sighs, as if psyching himself up to confess something. Then he confesses:

ABLE
How about all of this.
He motions wildly to everything, including the audience
We are in a room, filled with people, I mean this place looks…well…crowded, and all these people are moving. Even when they sit perfectly still they…are…moving. We are literally spinning through space- right now, you and me, and everyone here. We’re spinning.

He says it and looks at her woefully, like he’s worried she will not understand.

CLAIRE
Pirouetting through space.

ABLE
Pirouetting!
He lights up
Yeah, I like that. We’re pirouetting through space…hurtling around at like a million kilometers per second. Around a star, that’s being pushed, pulled and shoved, all over the place, by all the other bodies, and in the end around something else, in the center of the galaxy: a black hole. A super massive black hole to be exact. A rip in time and space, like a cosmic sinkhole. We’re circling the drain I suppose.

CLAIRE
And yet here we are. You and me.

ABLE
Separated by time and space.

A beat, and another confession

ABLE
You know I was thinking of talking to you for ages, but I didn’t because I was scared.

CLAIRE
Half-joking
And are you so easily scared?

ABLE
Oh yeah, I’m scared of loads of things, things that don’t even make any goddamn sense.

CLAIRE
I’m scared of spiders. And snakes I suppose.

ABLE
See, now that’s a good fear, those fears makes sense. Spiders are fucking poisonous, black widows, man, a single bite from one of those bastards and you’re dead. For millions of years snakes and spiders have been killing us and the only ones that were left were the ones who ran like hell. Who became scared of them. Spiders and snakes makes sense. But me, I’m scared of people. Which is the opposite, because it’s people that well…I mean…people…mating…that’s kind of the whole of life right there and I’m scared of…no…I’m uh…scared of people’s thoughts, the ones I can’t even hear but sometimes I think I can.

CLAIRE
Wait…you think you can hear people’s thoughts?

CAIN
ABORT. ABORT. EJECT MAVERICK, FUCKING EJECT.

ABLE
Able yells over his shoulder at Cain
NO.

CLAIRE
Like you are afraid that people are judging you? Of course they are judging you though, aren’t they? You judged me the moment you saw me, without knowing a thing about me you judged me, took one look and formed a consensus. I could tell you people aren’t judging you, but that’s not really true. I could tell you it doesn’t effect how they treat you, but it does. But most of the time they are more obsessed with thinking about themselves, stuck inside their own heads, they haven’t got any space for you left in them. Most of the time. You shouldn’t be scared of me though.

Claire freezes. Cain steps in.

CAIN
You need to stop Able. This is going to be Martha all over again, okay? You didn’t establish rapport and escalate. There is no attraction, you’re coming across as sad and pathetic.

ABLE
You totally get me, this is great. We’re going to be great.

Cain and Claire freeze. Able approaches the stage and narrates, like he’s telling a story to the audience.

ABLE
Then she asks me what my favorite movie is. I ask her what her favorite childrens TV show is. I am awkward but that’s okay because she is bored, and I talk about what I’d normally do on a night like this, which is watch Cosmos, (the Carl Sagan one first), and I make a joke about watching porn afterwards!

(Laughs awkwardly to himself)

She asks me what I do and I tell her I’m an actuary, and she makes a bad joke about how that’s ‘actuary quite interesting’ and I tell her that was awful and we both laugh. We leave seperately but I get her number so she can come play board games with some friends of mine at a cafe next week. She comes and we all have a good time, and afterwards me and her go get frozen yoghurt. We stay up till 2 am chatting at the pier and when we say goodbye it takes ages. I look at her profile photo before I go to sleep. We talk on Facebook, whatsapp, SMS, even phone each other at first, then start to skype instead because its cheap- we meet often, she tells me who she really is. She unloads secrets she’s never told anyone else, afraid they make her ugly, but they’re are the best parts of her- she undresses her soul to me for months until I crack and tell her, awkwardly, that I like her, maybe even love her. She freezes and says.

CAIN AND ABLE
I only think of you as a friend.

They rewind back to before

CAIN
Dude, that was really fucking sad. You got to focus on the real. There is a chain of sentences, that said, will make her take off her clothes and let us touch her. Look, let’s try together, how about both of us?

ABLE
It’s too risky. You go again man, remembering Martha was awful.

CAIN
No worries man. Remember, we haven’t even been out in ages. At least we are trying. This is progress. I’m going to go up to her again. All I need is the perfect line. Like…OH yeah. Yeah. I got it.

ABLE
Wait, what are you going to say?

CAIN
I lost my teddy bear. Will you sleep with me?

ABLE
Jesus.

CAIN
OH OH. How about: Was your dad a terrorist? Cuz baby, you da bomb.

ABLE
Nope.

CAIN
HEY ARE YOU A PARKING TICKET, CUZ YOU GOT FINE WRITTEN ALL OVER YOU.

They are so engrossed with talking to one another that they don’t even notice when Claire walks nearer to them and sits down on a chair, her back facing them. She hangs around near the stage and pretends to be smiling gregariously at the audience- the other people at the party. Cain and Able continue with one another, miming or otherwise. Meanwhile Cain mimes telling able more shitty lines, and Able continues to be disgusted and rejects them.

CLAIRE
Claire is addressing the room, like other people are interacting with her.

Motioning with a drink in her hand:

No thanks, I’m good. Yeah I’m fine, no, go dance! Shooing motions. She slumps forward.

Cain and Able freeze. Claire gets up and flips the chair, then yells, addressing the audience.

CLAIRE
GODAMMIT! We couldn’t even stop, and stand, and say fucking HI? We had to go PAST him. I wanted to say Hi, how hard can it be? It’s one stupid syllable. Hi, hello, salut, yo ho, howdy, yo, sup, heya, hey there, fucking HOW YOU DOIN (said like Joey from the hit TV sitcom, Friends).
But of course, no, nothing. Well. At least we are closer now. Maybe he’ll talk to me. I’m definitely closer now.
She starts to look over her shoulder then freaks out and looks forward.
That wasn’t subtle AT ALL. Fuck. This place used to have mirrors. No wonder clubs have mirrors. I knew it wasn’t just good feng shui. (She gets up). These shoes hurt like hell. I hate heels, I freaking hate ’em. My feet hurt. My freakin’ purse is too small. Why am I even out here? What am I doing? This was such a bad idea. I can’t even afford to have another drink. Probably a good thing too. Can’t afford a drink, and no ones offering. Not that I’d take it, yeah, I’m not like that. I am totally not the sort of person that spent half the freaking evening putting on make up and the other half psyching myself up just to go outside. I should have stayed home and watched Doctor Who. Rewatched the Satan Pit, could have seen parts one and two. I could go now. And ignore all the texts from Emma about how ‘I don’t socialize enough’. But Daniel.
(She turns and looks at him)
Maybe he’d remember me from movie night. He said he likes board games. Maybe I could tell him…to add me on Words With Friends! Shit, If I play Words With Friends, right now, facing just the right way, maybe he’ll come over, and he’ll be like ‘hey words…and with friends!’ and I’ll be all ‘yeah, too bad i’m playing with myself.’

She realizes what she just said
Fuck my liiiife.
She buries her head in her hands.

CAIN
The problem is you are too needy man, girls can smell it on you.

CLAIRE
To the audience
People scare me. I don’t know what to do at these things.

ABLE
I’ve never actually been in a serious relationship and I’m freaking 24.

Cain and Able freeze

CLAIRE
Oh what the fuck, why not. She gets up and goes over to him I’ll go up and be like “Hey Mike, it’s me, Claire. Remember? Your Fedora is cool. Have you ever seen Doctor Who? Personally, I prefer David Tennant to Matt Smith. Do you hate parties? I hate parties, a little. Not because I hate people though. People are great. So uh, what do you do? Oh what do I do? I’m a film editor. Which is to say, I’ve worked on one film. Even though I have a film degree from NYU, yeah I came back to Hong Kong because America was too expensive and I couldn’t get a job so I live with my parents here. Yeah my uncle got me onto the set. It’s pretty much unpaid but it’s okay because it’s only for two months and I’ve already got a job lined up as a PHP programmer. Yeah so I’m not really a film editor. But I love films. Maybe one day I’ll get to edit one? Fuck. Fuck. Fuck Fuck Fuck. I should just go back and talk to Emma. I’ll give it a few more minutes. Maybe he’ll just turn up and be like HEY CLAIRE, I FUCKING LOVE DOCTOR WHO AND ALSO YOU ARE REALLY BEAUTIFUL! REALLY! I love movies too, fuck yeah you’re going for what you love, that’s great, hey, let’s dance, come over here, no really, wanna go outside instead? She hangs her head, whines. God I just want to touch his hair…
She reaches out to them. Stops.

CLAIRE
To the audience
Can we just skip to the part where I touch his hair?

She freezes. Then when the other’s start she walks back to her original position whilst they continue.

ABLE
Cain, lets go back and watch Doctor Who

CAIN
Ooooh Yeah I like me some Capaldi. WAIT. NO. We should go talk to her.

ABLE
Yeah, I’m going to go over there and tell her all about my TARDIS mug.

Cain and Able share a look with each other. They both jump and search their pockets and get out their phones having both received the same text.

CAIN
Reading off the phone
How is it going? Winky face. Is it wrong that his winky face annoys me? He’s patronising us.

ABLE
Tapping on phone as well.
I’m going to tell him we’re done. We gave it a shot, got dressed up, walked in. And look- you aren’t even slouching. At least we tried.
Cain straightens up

CAIN
Yeah but we didn’t did we. Oh now what, he sent a fucking picture. It’s some self help bullshit.

ABLE
It’s a poem I think:

She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by-
And never knew.

CAIN
Christ thats depressing. Sean’s going. Says Sarah’s about to sleep. Must be nice.

ABLE
Wistfully
Maybe he gets to be the little spoon.

CAIN
Wistfully
Maybe she wakes him up with a blowjob.

They put away their phones.

ABLE
Let’s do it together.

CAIN
Saying Hi isn’t whats important.

ABLE
What’s important is what comes after.
They look at each other. Shake hands. Then they move towards Claire’s original spot. They search around for her but can’t seem to find her.

ABLE
Well that’s that then.
He goes and picks up the jacket he left on one chair. Claire picks up her stuff too.
They walk towards and just pass each other when they freeze.

CLAIRE
Claire turns around and says to them
My name’s Claire, you don’t even know me yet. You think you do, maybe, from across a room you see me and you think you have a clue. and after you first kiss me, you’ll think you’ll know me then. And after we wake up together I’ll think I know you.

ABLE
Turns to her and says: Ill learn to make breakfast for the first, time and you’ll pretend to like it.

CAIN
I won’t have to pretend to be funny, you’ll just think I am.
They then look at each other directly. For a moment, and walk away, towards edges of the stage on opposite sides.

CAIN
At least it’s quieter outside. My ears are ringing. We don’t have to talk so loudly out here.
Cain walks off stage

ABLE
I am so tired. Maybe we will just go sleep now. I know you can, at least.
Looks around for Cain. Can’t find him.
What a waste of time that was. Just another night, and it passed so slowly. Now it’s quiet outside, and we don’t have to worry. But we’re- I’m still cold. Fuck it’s cold. I should have gone to bed. Better to be alone where it’s warm then with company outside.

CLAIRE
Sarcastically
Maybe he was too quiet as well, and didn’t talk to me. Maybe he fell in love with me at first sight and was so intimidated by my mesmerizing beauty that he didn’t even bother. (Looks across at Able). Who’s that poor bastard? Well at least I’m not the only one going home alone tonight.

They walk off in opposite directions off stage.

1k words Short Story: A note found on the roof of an apartment building

A note found on the roof of an apartment building

Stories bore me, but I didn’t say that, instead I said: “They never run out of ammo in movies.”

When she looked away to exhale from her cigarette I glanced down at my phone to confirm the following fact:

“Even though, did you know, an AK47 can fire at a rate of 700 rounds per minute.”

She would not look back so I just read off my lap:

“Explosions, like in movies, would tear your body apart because it’s like 15 millions pounds PER INCH.”

I fucked it all up again, went imperial instead of metric. I bet she thought how weird that was, since I’m not American, since my profile said British, but no, she was thinking: “You are boring me, I should have stayed home and watched the new episode of OBLACK.”

So I said OBLACK and she gasped ,

So I asked OBLACK?

And her eyes strained away from her face like I’d named some urban deity and I asked if she’d ever heard of OBLACK and she replied between breaths that Orange is the new black is a show and that was the last time I saw her and first time I suspected I was psychic.

You see I didn’t tell anyone about my delusions because it was fun to be psychic, more fun than real life or boring stories. Even video games all started to play the same. Hellforged was the last one I looked forward to coming out, my digital salvation- I paid for a taxi just to get to the store ten minutes quicker but of course there was traffic.

During a red light I felt eyes on me. Saw by my side Nikki Hodgeson, through the window on a bus looking down on me, Nikki Hodgeson but only if she’d aged, her cheeks had lines, her hair has been reduced to a comfortable bun- if I had married her or at least kissed her she’d look like this in twenty years, her old eyes slapped me back to the windshield and I moved on.

On the escalators up to the mall, a chinese lady, shrunken the way asians get after menopause glanced at me as she passed, decending. She had Leela’s face, but with mellower eyes, aged; bored. Maybe we all share the same genes, maybe we’re all connected even if it doesn’t feel that way.

The shopkeeper thought I was rude because I took too long paying with coins. He also thought something about the number fifty three, fifty three- if I asked him back then I could have proved I wasn’t crazy, if I’d had the balls to say: What number are you thinking of? But I was scared he would ignore or hate me.

Instead, at home where it used to be peaceful, past the cellophane wrap, inside the package, underneath the game there was a second disk. Gold rimmed with assymettrical red veins along the top like it was infected. I googled it, checked the first few pages, found nothing so I knew it was special.

I didn’t install the game then.

It got worse with every commute. I saw Sam on the subway if he’d put on 20kg, Marco was the bus driver on Thursday- a scar on his forehead he’d never had, the color gone from his hair, his twin grandfather who wouldn’t even look at me when I muttered thank you.

Maybe you think I had so few friends since highschool that I was fixated on them. Seeing patterns that weren’t there. Like in a story, with the same boring patterns, like in every repetitive day. I tracked my thoughts like that, over the course of months; heard so few depraved sexual fantasies from any women I glanced at- madness is so disappointing.

I continued to date via the app, or at least tried. Kept swiping left in the hopes of seeing someone else from my past. But they only popped up when I was going somewhere else. I finally got so bored that I inserted the red veined disk. My monitor blue screened, then went green. Red symbols formed, streamed from right to left, they danced like tiny sprites I couldn’t make out till I thrust my head so close I could see three eyes, blue, red, and green.

Those colors set me free.

From all the tiny human fears- a gift left behind, or in front, there is no word in English for that direction, it can only be expressed with mathematics I now understand, but lack the jargon to expain. See I still can’t speed read wikipedia, even after they found my body, pulsating with red light, pooling around it- an elementary particule that I helped them discover.

I couldn’t solve war without killing, or watching too closely. If I gave the poor too much money it broke the economy. Hunger was still an issue so in the end, I just showed you all how to have nearly infinite energy, hoping it would lead to space travel, and maybe to me, then I peeked- a century in the futue and still you hadn’t broken the lightspeed barrier, still groped each other on this tiny world.

So I guess we never made the disk ourselves. And the difference between an alien and your God and Me is just theoretical. So I told them, I called everyone up, showed them how much I had become. I am a God and anyone who knew me was now special by proximity. So I gave them a gift.

To slip back into time and watch my whole life, stare at it like a screen. They had to be quiet, only allowed to walk past and notice how I had no idea back then how special I was, and am, till I got bored again. So I spent most of the rest of my time making the past versions of myself happy. I baked strange, positive encounters, whilst I, who am beyond time as you can see, supped on my newfound memories.

I ate myself up.

Till I made the mistake or pushing my past self away from the disk and onto the pavement. I fell from a great height and now all that is left is this story, and I never was.

2k words Short Story: Chain of events, The World Walker

World Walker

“You remember how we never even said hi to each other? ” Beccy told me. “Even when Keith threw the eight-ball at us, and we all played pool for the first time since your friends started drinking there, you didn’t say anything to me. In fact you spoke the whole time to whatshername.”

“Carmen.” I corrected her.

“Sandiago” she finished. I didn’t laugh and she didn’t notice, so I added a: “Wow that was lame.” But she only giggled like I was trying to be funny and not tell her that I found her unbearably annoying.

If she hadn’t lost her contacts on the pool room floor and I hadn’t been the one to find them by the bar, then we wouldn’t have ever started going to the gym, together, and there shouldn’t have been much of a chance the gym’s showers were under repair, that we would live so close to one another, and that I had made a move when she only had a towel on.

She squeezed my nose with her fingers, like a clothes peg. I wrenched my head away.
Said: “I moved house for you.”

She laughed even though I wasn’t making a joke. “We lived nowhere near one another. I had to segue into a parallel world where I lived in a smaller, dirtier apartment, stepped right through and away from a low paying (but money’s never a problem), satisfying job in a bookstore and you know what? Even with all the possible books that have ever been written I still haven’t got enough time to read what’s out there.

She laughed again, so to make myself clear I said: “And I did it because you are the most beautiful girl I have literally ever seen, ever, in all the places I’ve been, your body is a fucking private jet, a mansion, front row seats to every show worth watching, a blowjob from the most enthusiastic porn-star blowing like she’s about to go broke.”

Her mouth dropped open, which was coincidental, but because I was distracted I said: “That’s ironic.” She wasn’t smart enough to correct me. “I disgust you don’t I?” I said. “You know I only shower like twice a week? I can’t be bothered. It’s all deo.” Her face scrunched up. “Why are you saying all this?” She asked.
“Because I’m done, I’m leaving.” And I got up and started to put on my clothes. She went dead quiet. “It’s 4 AM.”
“I’m not leaving this house, I’m leaving this world, this universe. GG Beccy: I have always had the ability to slip into a parallel world. Or maybe it’s a new world. Or maybe I’m batshit crazy, hard to say. But anyway, I’m thinking this time, I’m going to be single. I’ve spent so much energy walking into desperate women who fall for me that I think I’m ready to do the old fashioned thing and plain old delude them till they fuck me.” I stretched. It was always a good idea to stretch first.

She threw a pillow at me. I dodged. Big smile.

She went for my phone.

“NOT THE PHONE.”

It connected with my nose. She was really good at pool.

“JESHUS.”

“IF YOU CAN LEAVE THEN WHAT HAPPENS TO ME HUH?”

It was a good question. I have no idea what happens when I walk out. Maybe I just disappear, which would be mildly traumatizing but also mind expanding- think of the implications! For a normal person at least. Maybe the whole universe ceases to exist, which if the universe was infinite would make me the biggest mass murderer of all possible times and spaces. But I can’t be the only one, so it’s not like I’m alone in this regard. Maybe a copy of me remains. If so, I feel very sorry for him, especially the me who talked shit to that guy with the knife that time in the alley. Either way, fuck it, I’ll never know.

“SO RUN THEN SAM! RUN LIKE THE WIND!” Beccy said, with this very rare, intense look in her eyes that I’ve only seen her have during a real orgasm. She picked up the other pillow. I blinked, so did reality, and she wasn’t there anymore. I blinked again, and there was my new coffin: maybe ten foot by ten foot, a sofa that was probably also my bed, a bookcase that had a series of thick books on the top shelf, plates, cutlery, wallet and phone on the shoulder height shelf, and stacks of books on the lower, taken from the middle shelf to make space for my life. A folding table glistened with chip packets turned inside out and tinfoil microwave dinners scrunched up within each other like blood covered Russian dolls.

The memories came afterwards.

I’m a fucking paralegal this time. Godammit it all to hell. Then the loneliness comes down on me and I’m reaching for the middle shelf with it’s half dead bottle, don’t even need the new memories to know that’s there. And what’s this, taped to the lip? A joint? Amazing. Upsides.

I spend my thirty first year single, in the same universe. Jacky throws a drink in my face at Sherry’s birthday party, which I only get invited to because I overhear her talking about it at work. The girl of indeterminate age at the 7/11 drives me crazy for awhile, has me borderline walking into another world where we get to be married because I’m certain the way normal people might be, that if I was with her the rest wouldn’t stink so much. It’s like a retreat, a monastery where I pretend to be a desperate prole for 365 days.

The breaking point wasn’t a woman, it wasn’t some new shiny crap I saw in a movie that I just had to try (like a G fucking Six), it was Roger Mckay, my boss. It was when he chewed me out for being late, again. He had to do it by my cube, right before lunch, so not only did everyone hear, but they felt awkward about leaving. I’m not a bad guy, I’ve never raped, murdered, hell even assaulted someone despite the fact that I could do it with zero consequences. I mean that’s some darkside shit, I don’t want to go down that path. And it was a close thing, between using the scissor, shoving him into Lee’s wall, and what I actually did: which was to stand up, slowly, adjust my tie, not answer his enquiry as to why, and then hand back, all the way like I’m flagging a blind bus driver, then turn my weight like a tennis serve, and palm open, full on, bitch slap. Goddamn did the fat man go down. I said, after the shockwave: “You incorrigible asshole.” And then it was TA!, one more for the road, and he went to his knees.

“Alright guys, I’m out. Fuck you all very much. Also, Sherry, your boyfriend cheats on you. He doesn’t even play poker. I can walk between worlds and I am leaving this one.”

And just for funsies I decided to full on run at Mckay’s glass office wall, leap sideways and leave. As I did I think I felt something solid. Then nothing. Then a bed, a freaking soft bed. It only occurred to me right afterwards that maybe I do leave something behind, and in which case, previous me just bitch slapped his boss and threw himself through his office window. If he gets medicated, do I get medicated?

What if I suddenly rubber band back to my other paralegal self in that parallel universe? Fucking awful thought. Of course it makes me wonder, almost, about the implication of time. I tried to read about physics stuff once. Thought about having a hypothetical what if conversation with a physicist once. Hell, I even tried to be a scientist, but I never really seemed to concentrate enough to shift into that kind of life. It’s like trying to remember something you just can’t, you’re certain that if you focused enough, if you found the right stimuli, then you’d have it again. I gave up eventually, figured that in the back of my mind was the fear that understanding what I can do would change my ability to do it, or maybe I wouldn’t want to anymore. Ignorance is bliss. Arbitrary is better than horrible.

Jana.

Jana ended me.

A fucking taxi driver. Never saw that coming. Never saw the accident either, literally- was stuck dozens of cars behind it. Like God had reached down and froze the traffic for two hours. I could have left. I could have said stop the meter. Instead I paid, I stayed, we talked for hours and it was completely out of my control. When I told her what I could do, she took it like it was some kind of funny story.

The line that did it for me was when she asked: “What if every time someone, or you I guess, ah, jumps- they create the world they want? So like, you make it, from nothing, like you are God.” That’s when I knew, I had to make it so we were together. That was cool, I’d never even thought of that possibility. Why didn’t I just skip to the marriage? I could have, but I didn’t? Because I guess I didn’t want to leave, it was such a perfect moment. If I jumped I could arrive in another moment, but it’s not the same, the memories would drip in, it would be artificial, even if I was God.

So I stayed. We found a favorite bench, we prevented her bed from ever getting made, I wrote her inarticulate letters on scented paper, she dragged me by the arm to shit I’d never like till I loved it. I loved her, obviously. I’d tried marriage once, but never a wedding. It was glorious, and I didn’t care about my new family, or my new friends, just her, she was fun, the wedding was fun.

Happiness is a funny thing. It’s quiet. I think that in the end, it’s quiet. It’s the opposite of running. Time is the only thing that runs, when you’re happy.

The odds of a plane crash are incredibly low. You could fly your whole life, I mean spend it all up in the air, and it’s still against the odds you’re going to die.

And now, why can’t I find her anymore?

I keep jumping. I keep going from world to world, looking for my Jana. She’s not there. Nowhere I go. It’s like, I don’t know. I’ve wanted things before, I’ve wanted things way less badly than her. But I just can’t do it.

She once told me that the number one reason she’d never believe I could do the whole jumping thing isn’t because it was impossible. She said it was because she didn’t think I’d ever leave people behind like that. That I could be that selfish. And I believed her.

She said: “I think a lot of people would, but not you.”

So I’m still looking. And I’m still getting older.

And I’m starting to wonder if I ought to just stop, and skip all the way to the end. But I’ve never tried that either, all I know is I can’t go backwards. But I reckon I’m going to do it soon.

Half a poem, half a flash fiction piece, mostly a fragment (800 words): The Smog

The Smog

On Wednesday she nuzzled me awake, like a puppy might,

Her nose cold as a kitten’s, in the air-conditioned cell,
I had rented for ourselves.
We checked the time too late on our phone,
Thought the tone of orange that sliced off one of her thighs,
Suggested 6 AM.
The haze outside had fooled us.
So we were both late for work,
On the bus I read, rather than looked outisde the window at the too thick orange haze,
I could not see through,
Disappointing; I had only just downloaded new music to try.

I had a headache till lunch.
Someone said: “It might rain soon.”

Someone else said: “No that’s just pollution.”

A VP came out and told us proudly that our stock price had gone up 12% today, I pumped my fist, hissed ‘yesss’ and counted two more years before I might get options.

I stayed later than the rest as usual. Except for a secretary who read me snippets of headlines from her phone, her tone perpetually quizzical, like she was discovering events that came as a suprise and that I ought to answer her perpetually rhetoricals: “Did you know that / Wow so / Apparentlies and According To BBC – a bomb exploded somewhere, killing some people, a billionaire did something, billions of dollars went somewhere, the progress of wars, less predictable than the sports scores- sometimes in the hundreds, when casualties crested thousands, that became interesting, though only if they were Europeans or something, Americans maybe.

It seemed that it took about 10 000 dead westerners to shock me as much as say, two hundred thousand blacks from some African country.

“Apparently there is a genocide going on.”

“Wow. That’s fucked up.” I said, and left out: “But I really need to finish this spreadsheet before tomorrow.”

Before temorrow I got to wake her up, pin her to the bed with two of my crab hands in hers, we made two fists, then love, rushed, forceful, racing midnight till we both came first.

I was at the airport Saturday morning. The haze hadn’t moved but we prayed for a typhoon on the train, to come and blow away the smog, at the cost of a few lingering villagers that had not yet moved into government flats. Across from us two mainlanders spoke, and she translated for me via text, writing messages on her phone, as quickly as she could, whilst I read over he shoulder and she never pressed send. The mainlanders were mules, sent here by unfathomably rich businessmen to purchase purses worth a years rent, the decadent, stupid fucking backwards assholes, even they were saying it was perfectly insane, how much money it cost to buy what they thought of as perfectly ugly shoes.

They wore nails flecked with glitter, painted a cacophony, they butterflied them in their mandarin patter, clicking against each other sometimes, a pool of gentle mellodic err shi’s and bou jyos, till a guttural bout of cantonese POG KAI’s invaded the car from an open station, quickly silenced as they noticed other people, and thus everyone bowed their heads politely, into their smart phones.

It was my first time flying business. There was no line at check in. I should have worn a suit, but I told myself that’s how casual I found going business. I asked for champagne twice, the second time as hesitant as when I volunteered my opinion at the meeting yesterday. The stewardesses, so much hotter than her, they took care of themselves, their make up perfect, skin so pale, tall as swans I watched their asses and tried to ignore the waste of a window seat- the orange haze reaching all the way up to the next nearest, waiting plane, obscuring half it’s tail.

The rush of taking off mixed with the distant joke of shot down planes, mad muslims, bad luck, bad weather, shit I’d have to leave behind in the event of an emergency god please don’t let me have to buy another Ipad I fucking loved that thing.

I put down my kindle when we we leveled out and suddenly, the orange was gone. A sea of blue dressed like infinity, above a plain of rolling ice tinged orange, like the cream that came with my berries for dessert. It just went on and I felt something new, up there, where I couldn’t go online, couldn’t message anybody, couldn’t leave my seat, had to stare at how blue, blue, clear it was, how far I could see, how I was not bored by the repetition of sky. Then below, distant through the smog, I saw the flecks of concrete towers, the ant like container ships, the steel, glass, and concrete fruits of progress, across a smoggy field.

And I wondered what the news will say tomorrow.

Flash fiction: Anxiety’s a bitch

Anxiety’s a bitch

Tapping me on my brain, crying ‘wake up, wake up.’ She always visits me at night, right before the morning; when dawn is a time bomb. She has wide, furtive, eyes that dance, with madness. Big glass globes that can’t focus on anything, rolling between the door, the window, the shelves, the books, settling only on my own eyes, like an eight ball into a pool table hole, she sinks right into me, hooks onto the rail of my neck, accelerating us both.

“Wake up, wake up, we have to go. We have to go, we have to go. We have to go wake up.”

One of these night’s shes going to grab my arm. Throw aside my sheets. She’s going to take me by the shins and drag me till I concuss myself on the edge of my bed frame. I’ve stopped saying “Go away.” There is no point, she won’t. Sometimes she stops shaking me. Stops cawing for me to run (Where? She never says.) Sometimes she’ll just sit on my bed. She’ll say “Okay. It’s okay. Go to sleep then.” Her skin is so pale, slightly yellow. I used to believe her. My lids would drop, guillotine the protruding nubs of her bony elbows, till, like lightning, she’d grab hold of my ribs.

Her nails bursting right through the heavy duvet, finger tips cold against my shirt, her nails scraping them upwards. Just hard enough to leave red marks, never sharp enough to break the skin but I know, one day, she’ll flay me with those nails of hers, reach inside and grab my kidneys, unfurl my intestines, she’ll reach in to massage the acid she regurgitates into my mouth when she kisses me awake, when she takes my head in her palms and tells me stories like:

“Yesterday, when you were in the lift, there was a woman. Do you remember her? Of course you remember her. I want you to remember her right now. She had lip gloss on and contacts. She had those wide eyes you really like. You stuttered. Really you did. You said “Good evenin'” and dropped your ‘G’ because you thought it sounded cool- yes you did, and she knew you did, she knew you were trying so hard to impress her. When you held the lift door open she was not grateful, your stringy arm got in the way, she was annoyed. She was thankful for her investment hedge doctor barrister sex god hard body that makes her laugh, makes her squeal, that makes her realize you’re a pervert and a creep, do you remember her now? I followed her home that night.”

Her palms are ice compresses on my ears. The warm strand of some dream slides inside my chest, so I bite out the words: “And why, old friend, did you follow her home? Where were you?”

She says she was in the frayed threads of the taxi’s leather seats, scratching her aching legs. In the fading battery of her phone, the empty inbox, the flash light reflection of the rear view mirror that accused her makeup of being too thick. She places her knee into my belly, so tenderly, leans down just enough that I want to throw up and says: “Baby, I was inside her, I saw everything. She went home and she laughed at you. Good and hard. You give her nightmares my love. I saw. I watched it play in black and white on the inside of her skull.”

I tell her to “Fuck off.”

Her eyes are filled with concern.

“You tried to cheat on me with her. Didn’t you? First that uptight bitch on the subway, the one who pretended to be so cute and cuddly, she likes to take mommy’s scalpel, the one she stole from work, she likes to take it and make small x’s on the inside of her thigh, she dreams of someone running their finger along the scabs, she’s sick like that. You wanted to cheat on me with her? I know her. I know you. Baby, we’re together till the end.”

It’s true.

I try to cheat on her all the time.

I rarely flirt, except with my eyes. My standard approach is to fill my face with a strained smile, pour desperation out of my eyes, slump and glance at the wavy haired information desk attendant, the two inches away from my arm high heeled party girl, the sad student with knotted shoulders crossed legs one shoe falling off soul mate, the photograph perfect long gone old best friend that’s engaged, I try to cheat with all of them, have rock solid dreams of lying in their arms, crying. Of shoving my face into their ears. Of watching time drip by on a clear day.

Of making up jokes together and moving away from Her.

“It’s just a matter of time.” One of us says to the other.

Till someone as desperate as me cheats on Her. So we can wake up, one of us before the other, and find her sitting by our bedside, watching us with a smirk, her index finger ticking left and right as she whispers: “I’ll be waiting for you after it ends, baby.”

“Till death do we part.”

Spoken word: Werewolves

Every week I read out some poetry and prose at this open mic place.

Recently I’ve tried to perform some spoken word. Which I think is more memorized than read. I still haven’t quite gotten it down, so this next piece isn’t really a story, or a poem, it’s meant to be read out loud.

There is a video of me doing it but I won’t share that because embarrassment.

I am toying with the idea of uploading a voice recording though.

Anyway:

Werewolves 

In highschool I rarely manifested as a werewolf except inside the toilet and when trying to talk to girls.

My werewolfness actually helped sometimes, boy those bullies ran, when I howled at them, or grew enough white hair that I could bypass the age restrictions on roller coasters.

Still,
If I could get away with I’d get a sicknote from Mom, I’d paw at her with my long claws early in the morning: “HEY MUM I’m a werewolf today, Write me a note..”

“Okay, just could you cut your nails?”

Couldn’t, they were claws.

Couldn’t go out when the moon was full. Kids didn’t didn’t like my long, loping stride, or the way I howled at the moon way past the point when everyone else was passed out. “CALM DOWN!” They’d say. Couldn’t, couldn’t stay as a man or wolf or werewolf it drove the girls crazy. I wanted to hunt them sometimes, wanted to run with them otherwise in a pack as a wolf and as a man was mostly embarrassed.

Never stayed the same shape.

Got on great with ghosts, ghouls, wizards, hated vampires because they always got what they wanted- at a touch, a dominating glance, they always managed to get invited in, practiced routines till it worked whilst I chained myself outside, just in case.

After high school I went to Europe for university because I saw in the corner of a campus brochure the green peaks of a real forest. Figured that would be perfect for me. It got worse and better. There were other shape shifters, trolls (I’d already met those online) and nymphs. Few werefolk though. Couldn’t get close to a nymph without going blind, though at least I could regenerate my eyes when I changed form so they didn’t have to cover up so much around me, thought nymphs were perfect for me, and me for them, and I was, I was the perfect friend. Getting friendzoned usually triggered a change so I tried to stay away from nymphs after that.

I got bitter.

Tried to find the others in London but it turned out the song lied.

No longer leashed, I would roam the cobble streets at all hours, but during lectures it was hard to hold a pen in these shaggy hands. I met a lot of people that had bad teeth, silver fillings, would bite me with their words, drew blood, the blood faded when I changed, invisible except for the memory of the hurt- that remained.

“You’re invincible.” They’d say.

‘So lucky to be a werewolf, most of us can’t change.” And they were right about how it didn’t seem like I was vulnerable.

The number one cause of death of werewolves are werewolves.

After university I was screwed. No werewolf looks good in a suit! I had to get three, one for man, wolf, werewolf and still I could turn on a dime, when someone’s mouth became a crescent moon, the werewolf would come out and ruin another jacket. That got expensive.

They blamed me for it. They always did. Just like the non-ghosts who accused ghosts of being transparent and ephemeral on purpose. That walking through walls and howls, were the same, were just cries for attention. They never blame the moon, or the blood I never chose. Even my family got tired when I’d change mid-dinner, break another plate and sometimes the chair. You can only own so much ikea furniture. “What did we do this time?” They’d ask. Tried to tell them it wasn’t them, it was the moon, I just change.

“Learn to control it!” They’d say.

“We can!”

It was a revelation.

“So wait, you’re all werefolk too?” They’d say they felt like wolves, that they thought of howling at the moon too, and then they’d do a poor impersonation of me. Frankly, it was kind of insulting.

They never grew claws. Never ripped apart objects, never tore apart relationships, get fired, get chained to their beds, how could they say they know what it’s like to be a werewolf? How could they say they knew what it was like to be me? How could they say I’m not strong enough to control it, that they were better than me, how could they claim to even be werewolves when they’ve never transformed into one it made no goddamn sense.

“Well, that’s because we can control ourselves honey. You should too. Cheer up. Go outside more. Get your mind off things. Look on the bright side. Ignore the moods, I mean the moon, ignore the moon, calm down, stop turning into a werewolf, stop it, it’s impolite, it’s awkward, of course she didn’t love you, of course you failed, you turned into a werewolf, just stop. Being. You.

The number one cause of death of werewolves are werewolves.

There aren’t that many of us. Most people only meet a few in their lifetimes. Or an occasional vampire to whom they recommend sun tan lotion. Ghosts who ought to stop talking to and hearing other ghosts because ghosts aren’t real despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that ghosts are real but most people don’t understand ectoplasmic chemistry or have even heard of ectoplasmic chemistry they just see Frankenstein monsters that need to learn to be human and not all the myriad, beautiful, frustrated, terrible creation that look like people.

But are like themselves.

They don’t like them they are scary and distracting and out of fashion. Sure the laws have changed. You can’t burn them at the stakes anymore so they’ll burn themselves burn off their hands their claws tear off their skin try to undo the costume everyone says they wear to find the human inside.

They never blame the moon. They claim to know the silver bullet and they shoot werewolves with it.

It’s a good thing therefore that werewolves don’t exist.

Just gays, obsessive compulsives, schizophrenics, lesbians and the chronically depressed

Short Story: Lucem Ex Tenebras

I was sitting at my desk arranging the desktop icons into the semblance of a middle finger when the chat window popped up. 
 
“Tony, are you there?”
 
I finished giving myself the finger and began to type: “Sorry, but this isn’t Tony.” and I was about to press enter when I read:
 
“I’m drowning in a sea of shit Tony, except I’m the sea. I could really use someone to talk to.”
 
It occurred to me that Tony might not be available to talk to whoever this person was. That is precisely what had happened to me, the day before, except her name was Michelle, and she’d gotten sick of how often I needed her help.
 
Besides there appeared to be no one else at any of their desks, anywhere on this floor.
 
I wrote: “Okay. What’s wrong?”
 
They said: “IT’S fucking stupid. I’m being stupid.”
 
“Whatever IT is, If IT bothers you, then it bothers you. And that’s okay.”
 
They didn’t type anything for awhile. 
 
Then they wrote: “On the subway someone’s phone went off. The ringtone was Don’t Stop Believing by journey and I wanted to cry because of it, but I didn’t want anyone to see so I picked up this newspaper and there was this stupid picture of a soldier upside down and he looked like an idiot so I started laughing but I was crying at the same time and then I realized I was holding the newspaper upside down and that everyone would know why I’d done it.”
 
I waited.
 
Typed “lol” then deleted it. 
 
They wrote “See, it’s fucking stupid.”
 
I typed “Why did the song make you cry?”
 
They wrote it all out. How their face had been scratched by the windshield of their car whilst they listened to what used to be their favorite song. How they had lost who they were and that reminded me qof how I’d lost Danielle, and how simple things that shouldn’t be, did. Like waking up. And breakfast,
 
Except Danielle was definitely still alive and waiting for me at home with the next episode of Game Of Thrones.
 
Later they wrote “Thank you I fucking needed that” so I thought it was time to type: “My name isn’t actually Tony you know. Though I am in tech support…” which is when I woke up from the dream, into an empty bed, on top of a duvet too large for one person because Danielle was still dead and I’d forgotten again. 
 
It took me sometime to get dressed and go to my real desk, out in the real world. It was somewhere around noon when I realized that I’d left my latest prescription at home. My supervisor let me go, told me to stay home, and I knew he meant well but why couldn’t he understand that I would come back the moment I took my pills and that the last thing I needed was to be at home. That auditing the accounts of a popcorn company was bliss in comparison. 
 
The pills didn’t seem to do anything except make day time TV somewhat more bearable. The romance, between an ancient concubine and some kind of half-man, half-bird creature was particularly enthralling, especially since I do not speak cantonese and so made up the words in my head. My stomach growled so I put some instant dimsum in the microwave and pressed some buttons. At some distance from the couch the microwave started beeping. I figured that now that it was cooked, that it would keep, for several hours if necessary. Later the washing machine started making noises. I remained on the sofa, listening with half-shut eyes to the nonsensical patter of another Chinese soap. 
 
Of course my phone had to go off right next to my head. An unknown number. I prepared to be polite. If it was all I going to do today, I was going to be polite to his poor, underpaid telemarketer.
 
“Hello.” I said, in my polite voice.
 
She said: “Hi there! I’m calling from tech support! Why so glum chum?”
 
“Excuse me?”
 
“What’s on you mind man! I heard you’re kind of down.”
 
“From who? Who is this?”
 
“Well, I got this memo, said you’re kind of down. Got it from the sysadmin. He assigned me to you I think. I’m not sure. But who cares, whatever, you sound like ass, you really do and for what it’s worth you shouldn’t bottle it all up. Let’s see here…Danielle…lovely name that. Come on man, tell me about her. I’m listening. You can tell me whatever you like.
 
I tried a few Well’s, some But’s and it’s just’s- she waited for me to finish one of my sentences but I failed to. I only breathed slower, and harder, till I was gasping.
 
She said “Danielle would want you to treat yourself well, I mean, that’s love right?”
 
“That’s…what the fuck…” And it just spilled out of me. In a babbling mess. I confessed about how I’d finally found someone that made me feel everything I’d ever dreamed of, right when I’d given up all hope, right when I was at my most overweight and tired, and then out of nowhere, just like that she’s gone and all the pills in the goddamn world weren’t enough. I told her how I hadn’t really been happy to begin with. How Danielle just accepted me and that was the definition of love.
 
The tech support lady said: “Self-acceptance counts too.”
 
And after that I poured the rest out. And after that I tried to thank her. “That was so much better than these pink pills I take.”
 
It turns out we took the same pills.
 
She had been swearing a lot. I asked: “Have you…ever been in a car accident?”
 
She said Yes.
 
“And do you have a friend, a good friend named Tony?”
 
She said What the fuck.
 
The line began to crackle. I remembered then, being transferred to tech support, the empty office, and a middle finger made out of desktop icons and: “LOOK, IF YOU’RE AT THE OFFICE TONIGHT, MEET ME AT THE PHOTOCOPY MACHINE!”
 
She managed to ask: “The pink one?”
 
“YES THE BRIGHT PINK ONE!!!!!” and the line went dead and I woke up opposite the TV and I made a mental, then a written note to bring all this up with my psychiatrist. Then I did my washing, ate the dimsum, and went back to work.
 
I was so excited that getting to sleep took ages.
 
It felt like I was about to go somewhere new. Meet someone new. It felt like my first date with Danielle and the debate I had about what flowers to buy. So I still thought I was awake even when I found myself at the bottom of a lift shaft, with only a ladder and the distant sounds whirring office machinery. I climbed and counted the floors, perpetually afraid I had lost track, that I was going to miss mine. It made me want to start all over again but my arms were tired and what if I wouldn’t be able to go back up? 
 
The silhouette of a head peeked out, far above me. “About time! I couldn’t find a single freakin’ photocopy machine anywhere. Its like the end of the world up in here.” 
 
At that point it became easier to climb, until I stood on the other side of the shaft from her, the gap in between too large to jump. “Jump it!” she said. 
 
“I’ll fall.” I replied.
 
She extended her hands and it occurred to me that if I ran really, really fast, then maybe I’d outrun gravity. So I did, and I was only a foot away from her when gravity caught up to grab me by my ankles, “OH HELL NO!” She yelled, then her hands clasping mine, pulling me up till we stood, face to scarred face. She kissed me and I didn’t ask why, or feel guilty at all despite the fact that she looked nothing like Danielle.
 
“I checked out the company directory, none of it makes any fucking sense, but I’ll tell you what- the sysadmin’s office is on the top floor. Come on, we’ll take the stairs.”
 
So we ran hand in hand up an interminable fire escape. Eventually we emerged into a white marbled lobby. At the end of it, large and imposing, were a set of double doors. One black, the other white, with a drop of the other color in each. Holding hands we shouldered both open together.
 
Inside the sysadmin dropped the dimsum he’d been eating. Then he tripped over a bundle of wires covered with what looked like unwashed clothes. He stuttered: “Who the…what the…you guys aren’t supposed to BE here! At the same time! Oh jeez, you’re even holdin’ hands.”
 
I gently disconnected from her.
 
The sysadmin sighed and circled us, humming and hawwing to himself. I said: “Excuse me, we would very much like to know how…”
 
“Shhhh.” He gently pressed one finger to his lips. “Shhhhhhhitttttt I see it now. Wow. You guys. The pills you both take. They messed with the system! Fucking PEOPLE!” His hands flew up, beseeching a red neon sign above him, composed of Chinese characters I did not understand. “Always messing around with the mind, like idiot children. Damn pills got side effects. Ought to put that on the label.”
 
“Look sir, is she real?”
 
She turned on me: “SAY WHAT? Fuck you, are YOU real?”
 
“YOU’RE BOTH FRICKIN REAL!” he said. “Look. Here’s the thing. There has been a teensy little screw up. You aren’t ever suppsoed to be together in the same place and time. The same place-time. That isn’t how it works,”
 
“How what works?” One of us said.
 
“The…buddy program. For broken people- not unlike yourselves. What happens is when one person is really low, like, down in the sewers low, then another person, quite like them, but- and this is crucial- not feeling the same way at that exact moment in time, contacts you, and you have a bit of a talk, to alleviate the symptoms of existence. Now you are both, if I may say so, HIGHLY QUALIFIED buddys in your own right. Seriously top notch traumas you’ve both sustained. But the algorithm’s screwed up, there shouldn’t be a recurring relationship. Not like this. There shouldn’t be anything tying you to together. Except for the goddamn pills your quack of a psychiatrist gave both of you. Same pills, same connection, and now you’re freakin HOLDING HANDS!”
 
He sighed again, said: “There is only one thing left to do now. Gotta reset the system.”
 
“Reset?”
 
“Yeah, turn it on and off. Works most of the time.”
 
“And then what, we just…”
 
“Wake up, and all of this is forgotten, and later on you help someone different instead.”
 
I asked him: “But wait, you mean, we go to the same doctor? We could see each other…outside of…work?” 
 
She asked him: “Hey dickhead, what if we don’t want to forget, did you ever consider that?”
 
The sysadmin paused, hands hovering over the console he had been typing at. “Sorry. Really am. But if I don’t do this you guys might end up perfectly happy, and then so much for balancing out the others. And you’ll know all about the backoffice. And you’ll start some frickin cult and invariably in a century or two it’ll all get fucked.”
 
I held her hand again. “What does it mean?” I asked.
 
I was pointing at the neon sign, which had changed from Chinese to latin. “Lucem ex tenebras; from darkness, light.” The sysadmin massaged the top of his forehead. “Even if I reset the system it won’t be over for you guys. You’re on your way up. The darkness, without it you wouldn’t understand each other. You wouldn’t care. Not as hard. Not as much. And for what it’s worth there are a lot of you guys out there, trust me.” He gestured to the stack of servers: “You’ll find someone else. Or you won’t. I don’t know. It’ll be like a dream- you’ll forget the details but you’ll remember the point.” He squatted and reached into a space between two servers.
 
She turned to me, her smile melding with the scar that traveled from her jaw to her forehead. “I’ll remember you.” She said.
 
And then he flipped the switch.
 
I woke up late on top of a duvet too large for one person. I was pretty sure I’d dreamt of Danielle. What little I had slipped out of my grasp, leaving only a few word that made no sense.
 
So I googled Lucem Ex Tenebras and went back to work.