Have you ever had a friendly crush? Someone you meet one day, by chance and after 5 minutes, you might as well have grown up together. I consider myself a bit lonely and gruff. It takes time to tame me but when I met Mitch, it was as if he had walked into the fortified enclosure of my friendship with all the keys. There was no resistance. One moment I’m ordering a drink at the bar next to a stranger, and exactly 4 minutes later I’m screaming with laughter at the table with my best friend. That was 8 years ago and since then, not a week has gone by without us seeing each other, nor a summer without us going on vacation together.
My wife Carole gets along very well with his girlfriend Stephanie and we see each other as one big family. Our children are like brothers and sisters. And incredible vacations, we took some, Hawaii, New Caledonia, the coral reef in Belize, the sea atoll in the Maldives… You see the theme here, I’m an avid scuba diver and Mitch is my instructor. Every year we look for a place where we can leave our little family on the beach and where we can explore the depths of the ocean. I made phenomenal progress with him. We are starting to make deep spots. This year we are going to Egypt, on the edge of Damascus on the Red Sea. We will dive in the Blue Hole, a 120 meter deep basin nicknamed the divers’ cemetery. Not a corner for beginners but I’m not stupid and I’ll have the best of the best with me, my old Mitch. So there is no danger.
Arrived on the spot, the show is up to par. We are floating on the bluest, most translucent water I have ever seen. The sea goes from bright turquoise to dark navy above the tank without losing its transparency. Mitch reminds me of essential security measures and adds:
“Okay man, let’s go. I’ve been here before and I’m really not kidding, it’s sublime but extremely dangerous. If you walk away, there is a kind of arch at the bottom which is a death trap. Above all, you don’t even try to go there. I’ll be right behind you but we stay careful. »
His fatherly tone makes me laugh. I solemnly pledge to be his obedient little disciple and not to let go of his hand, then we get ready.
It’s like floating in space. I have never seen anything so beautiful. We have incredible visibility. I see other divers tens of meters away, small particles suspended in the rays of the sun and schools of fish passing like silver rockets around us. Mitch has pulled out his amphibious camera and is taking pictures. As he bustles around the fish, I begin to circle a little wider, that’s when I see the light a little further down. There is a huge arch and sunlight filters through. This must be the thing Mitch was talking about. We are very close, I tell myself that I will move forward a little. While staying at a very careful distance, I swim for a while and stop to enjoy the breathtaking spectacle. It’s gigantic, I miss the adjectives. I find myself in front of what seems to be the entrance to another world. Imagine being floating in the heart of darkness when suddenly, a monumental arch opens in front of you from which emanates a soothing blue light. It is an unreal spectacle. In width alone, it must be around 25m. I stare at her for a moment.
There is something that stands out from the place, a feeling of serenity, of fullness. It makes your head spin a bit. I hear something, it starts slowly, like harmonies in the dull rumbling of the water, a kind of musical breath that gradually increases in intensity, like an orchestra tuning up. I don’t know if it’s a phenomenon related to the shape of the structure, but it’s absolutely incredible. This music from the depths makes me want to laugh with happiness while bringing tears to my eyes.
I know it’s not necessary but I want to get a little closer. I have air reserves that can last a little over an hour, I risk nothing as long as I stay at a distance. I walk a little further and the music becomes louder, more catchy. Do I hear someone sing? Sounds like a woman’s voice.
My reverie is interrupted by a repetitive noise above my head. I look and I see that Mitch is back up, he is very high above me and he seems to be tapping his knife on the side of his bottles. As if to get someone’s attention, he gestures. He must try to communicate with the group of divers from earlier. Maybe they are in the field of his photos. It’s a bit painful to look up after long minutes staring at the soft light of the depths. The sun through the surface is like an unpleasant spot in the eyes, it hurts the head.
Well, I promised Mitch to be careful, I decide to check my monitor. The sun blinds me, I struggle a little, I feel dizzy. I finally reach the box which beeps continuously. I didn’t pay attention but on the screen there are big letters flashing:
G O U P G O U P?
Goup? It means nothing ! “Goup” is the funniest thing I’ve seen in my life. Goop when I tell Mitch that…
I try to focus on the numbers, but they fly by and I still chuckle at “Goup.”
OK better go back up. I head towards the light, I swim quietly, but the current pushes me aside, it’s more and more painful. The opening seems to be shrinking more and more. It’s weird.
The music is still there, louder. In the light I finally see her, the one who sings. She is a woman, she is naked and extremely pale. Her long hair floats around her like a huge halo. She’s so beautiful it feels like my heart is going to implode. I feel my eyes swell with tears. The current continues to pull me away from her, to the side. She holds out her hand, her eyes are sad, I start to panic. You shouldn’t panic. Panic drastically reduces oxygen stores.
Nothing make sense anymore. I realize that I, that I don’t think normally anymore. It’s getting harder and harder to fight. I feel like I’m swimming in thick mud and my aching brain is full of cotton wool. I have a flash of lucidity, I activate the emergency button of my safety jacket to go back to the surface. I know it’s dangerous, that we have to take steps, but I will react in due time. For the moment the urgency is to go up quickly.
I hear the air filling my jacket but nothing happens. I don’t go back. The current continues to push me sideways. A shock ! I hit the side wall, I’m stuck against it. Holy shit, why won’t my jacket work? Why is there current in a closed basin? I keep pressing the button with all my might
“Inflate you fucking inflate yourself! »
My monitor is screaming, I don’t recognize the sounds it is making. The screen flashes. The scrolling information might as well be written in Chinese. I do not understand anything anymore. The sound of air in my jacket slowed. I breathe harder and harder. I close my eyes.
” Nope “
I refuse to die like this. I think of Carole and the children. I want to find them. We have reserved a restaurant for this evening, there will be seafood, we will watch the sun go down before returning to the residence. Up close there is the sun, Up close there are people who love me. There is music, smells, life, what am I still doing here in the depths of darkness sleeping against stone?
In a last superhuman effort, I start kicking my legs as hard as I can. My muscles screaming in pain, I try to propel myself through this molasses. Each breath is more and more difficult, more and more painful. The sides of my field of vision darken. I scream in rage and frustration at my gear. I hit the wall again. I am incapable of making the slightest gesture. I wait. A faint blue glow appears. She approaches. God she is beautiful. How can she be so beautiful? She caresses my face.
I realize I’m not wearing my gear anymore. I’m naked too. I am breathing normally again. She opens her arms and I snuggle gratefully. Mitch must have come back up now. He will explain to Carole, Everything will be fine. They can go to the restaurant without me. I’ll just rest a bit, just a minute or two and then I’ll join them. Everything will be alright. Everything will be alright. With a big sigh, I close my eyes.
As far back as I can remember, He’s always been there. When I was at the park with my parents, he was standing on the hill, when I was looking out my bedroom window, he was under the lamppost at the end of the street. He was very small because really far away, but I knew it was him. Mister Fog.
I don’t know at what age I gave him that name but it stuck. When we were in the car, I saw him several times along the way, always standing, always in grey, always far away. He was doing nothing but standing there, at a distance. I had called him Mister Fog because when I squint to see him better, his outlines became blurred and hazy.
One day while I was on a school trip, I told my friends about Mister Fog. The teacher heard me and told the class that I was making up stories. I got angry, I wasn’t making anything up, he was there, standing on the low wall at the end of the park, but everyone pretended not to see him and I got punished for telling a lie. My mother is worried, I had to go see a shrink who spoke to me as if I were a baby and I then decided to stop talking about Mister Fog, but he stayed. When I entered primary school, when Grandpa died, when I entered college… He was there every day of my life. If I looked into the distance, I knew that he would be faithful to the post there. Which was oddly both frightening and reassuring.
It took me years to realize that he was getting closer. It was really subtle, a few centimeters a year I think. I was in high school when I realized that when I looked out my bedroom window, it was no longer under the lamp post at the end of the street but under the one before. It’s crazy that I didn’t hit it earlier but it was so progressive that it escaped me. I should have succeeded in distinguishing it better but its contours were still so blurred so that day I decided to go see it. I left the house and I walked towards him with a determined step without taking my eyes off him but without realizing it, arriving under the lamppost where he was standing when I crossed the threshold of my door. , he always stood at the same distance from me, at the level of the church square. I tried again to join him but again, without my understanding how he had maintained the distance between us, he was now on the other side of the cemetery so I gave up, contenting myself over the years to see that he was approaching very very slowly and then one day there was the accident.
I was in the car, tired from my day, on the way home that I knew by heart, I mechanically crossed a crossroads. When the light turned green, a blinding light and a horn made me turn my head to the right and there, a fraction of a second before the driver who had fried the game ran into me and everything went black. , I saw him, on the passenger seat, was sitting Mister Fog.
I woke up days later in a bad state, I couldn’t speak or move but I could see him, at my bedside standing by my bed, day and night without anyone worrying about it, nor the nurses , nor my family. Gradually doctors became more reassuring. I slowly recovered my motor skills and day by day, Mister Fog regained some distance, first one meter from my bed, then in the corner of the room and finally in the hallway.
Today I am 82 years old. He’s been standing in the room with me for several years. Although he never answers me, I talk to him like an old friend, knowing that the day he will be close enough to take my hand, it will be the last of my life.
Here is a little story that touches me a lot because there is a lot of me in it so I hope you’ll like it.
A shadow. Suspended above the void, I freeze. Breathe slowly, don’t move, don’t let go. Expect. Do not make noise. Behind me, Elton has stopped too. One minute, two, three, four. The shadow has not returned. Slowly, millimeter by millimeter, I advance my hand along the cable. I grab the next handle, then slide my whole body forward. The friction of my clothes against the metal causes slight vibrations that reverberate throughout the structure. I feel them under my skin, right down to my bones. Elton follows me. The platform is not very far away. The palms of my hands are sweaty, I need chalk. I tighten the grip of my legs then, feeling my way, I look for the bag attached to my harness, slip my fingers into it, grab some fine powder. It clings easily to the calluses and roughness of my hands. A few more meters before security. I see the edge of the plateau, so close. With a contortion, I throw both my arms at him, grab the sharp edge of metal, and pull myself up on it, oblivious to the pain. On my knees, I catch my breath while Elton clings to his turn before collapsing next to me. A moment of calm, during which we both contemplate the great void that makes up the majority of our universe. It wasn’t always like that. I still remember very well what the city looked like before. Before my mother, before the creature, before fear, before death. Before secrets.
It is cloudy today, humid, and the mist is dense. The silhouettes of tall towers of corroded metal surround us, ghosts of the glory of the Hanging City. Rusty cables disappear into the gray of the sky, the remains of bridges sway gently in the cold, gloomy wind that glides over our skin and makes the hairs on our arms stand on end. The Hanging City, so beautiful, shining in the light of day, is nothing more than a rotting corpse, rotting at the slow rhythm of fear. Elton pats me on the shoulder to make me turn to face him.
“Night will soon fall,” he signs. “Let’s hurry home. »
I nod. We get up, legs a little wobbly, then we approach the opening cut in the side of the tower. A bay window, surely, when the glass hadn’t yet shattered and disappeared, reduced to sharp dust. Cautiously, I step inside, Elton on my heels. Not much of the furniture remains, but the apartment must have been comfortable. Now it’s mostly depressing. And unsanitary. We sink into the bowels of the building, far into its depths, where the light is only a memory. I light my torch, with which I sweep the shadows around me. The atmosphere is thick, the smell of humidity invades my nostrils, but I still prefer that to the mask. The walls, bare and dilapidated, torn in places, reveal their metal frame. Elton waves at me and points to a door to our right. We enter.
The apartment is not very big, in a surprising state of conservation. Most of the walls still have an identifiable color, which I hadn’t seen in a long time. I put my bag in a corner, scan the place of the eyes, before returning to Elton.
” So ?” he asks with gestures. “It will be very good. » He smiles at me, brushes his hand against my cheek. ” I will bring food. “
I nod and watch him walk away, then disappear into a narrow opening. I then begin to activate myself. I set up our meager possessions, the tent, the mattress, the blankets, the electric stove. We should be able to stay here at least a few days. I frown at our stash of batteries. It has never been so low, we will have to make an expedition to the towers of the northern zone. And the northern area is dangerous. In the evening, we heat up one of the cans that Elton has brought back. Vegetables, no doubt, maybe ratatouille, it looks like it anyway. Elton cleans the pan while I make sure our bedding isn’t on a piece of ground that might collapse overnight. I slip under the covers and Elton joins me. He settles against my back, caresses my hips with his hand, goes under my sweater to grab one of my breasts. I feel his hot breath on my neck, his erection against my ass. I shift, just enough to be able to take off my clothes. He kisses me, everywhere, on every piece of me that passes within his reach. I feel his lips burning on my skin, drawing marks of fire and making shivers of desire hatch in me that go up along my body. Well, we’re both naked. I spread my legs and I feel him entering me, slowly, as he knows I like. I sigh, close my legs around him to pull him closer, arch my back, digging my fingers into his back. He accelerates, he always accelerates too soon. Never mind. I let myself be overwhelmed by the pleasure that I feel growing deep inside me. I scream. I bury my face in his neck and close my eyes. I can live like this until the end of time, with Elton inside me, forgetting the world and the fear.
A moment later, Elton is sleeping, his arms around me and his head in the crook of my shoulder. He always falls asleep like that, as if to protect me from the world, or maybe for me to protect him from what’s outside, I’m not sure. I stare at him for a long time. I wonder about him, about me. And as always, my mind drifts and ends up returning to the past. To my mother.
I was born deaf, a genetic anomaly whose name I have forgotten. It never really bothered me, because I didn’t know what I was missing, so I turned down the hearing aids. But my mother did not accept it. At that time, the Hanging City was at the height of its glory and its laboratories were state of the art. For years my mother worked on crossbreeding and genetic manipulation of guinea pigs to try to find a cure for my deafness. It did not work. And then one day there was an accident. One of her creatures mutated in a way she hadn’t expected, in a terrifying and destructive way. My mother was his first victim.
I don’t know exactly what species she encountered, but the result caused the downfall of the entire city. The creature fled and hid in the cloudy depths of the city. No one ever saw it, or no one lived long enough to tell. A shadow was just a shadow, impossible to find, impossible to eliminate. On the other hand, everyone heard him. And his cry became the nightmare of all that lived. For that scream was so horrible, so strange and monstrous, that it drove everyone who heard it mad. Most people preferred to die. Many are those who have jumped into the void. Some began to kill others. Madness or mercy, opinions are divided. They called her banshee, because nothing could protect her from her cry, that cry which brought death. In the end, those who remained preferred to pierce their eardrums. In a few months, the Hanging City, the pride of men, a marvel of technology clinging to an endless cliff, sheltering several million souls, had become a ghost town, populated by a few hundred deaf people surviving as best they could. I might have laughed if it hadn’t been so tragic.
I feel Elton’s steady breathing against my ribs. He’s the only one who didn’t abandon me after the disaster caused by my mother. He had already learned sign language for me. When he took out his hearing with a few drops of acid so he couldn’t hear the banshee’s screams, he told me he didn’t see it as a sacrifice. I almost believed him. To fall asleep, I think of my memories of the Hanging City, as it once was. Its sparkling towers, its white, wispy clouds, its air bridges that sway gently in the breeze. No one knew what was underneath and no one wanted to know. My mother said that the sea was there, I had chosen to believe her. As for knowing where above our heads the sheer wall on which we were clinging finally ended, everyone also did not know. Perhaps our ancestors knew this a long time ago, but this knowledge had been lost. Our world of metal and wind was enough for us. Some elders claimed that our people had come from the stars in the distant past, but these stories only served to make the youngest dream. I think of the reflection of the sun on the chrome, of the slow swaying of the bridges under my feet, of the smell of snow on winter mornings. I think of things more easily than of people. It’s been two months since we’ve met anyone in the City, and I’m beginning to wonder if there’s only us left. Just Elton, me and the creature.
I must have fallen asleep. When I wake up, Elton is no longer with me. He must have gone to search the surroundings to see if there are still objects that could be useful to us. We haven’t found much lately. Almost five years since the creature invaded us, perishable foodstuffs are becoming increasingly rare, and equipment in working order is beginning to look extraordinary. Yet we were good builders, I really would have thought our creations would last longer, at least long enough for the monster, fear, hunger or loneliness to kill us all. I straighten up when a figure frames itself in front of the window opening, letting the covers slip off my shoulders. Elton raises an appreciative eyebrow, walks over to me, leans down to brush my lips with his.
“Get dressed,” he signs, “I think we’ll have to go to the northern zone. » ” I say. We’re almost out of batteries. “ “That’s not the only thing we’re missing. And the northern zone is the only one that has been almost spared since the disaster. “ “Because it is his territory. “ ” Yes. “
We look at each other for a long time. We both know it’s dangerous, as we also know we have to go. Our survival depends on it. The northern zone scares me. She scares everyone, but my reasons for fearing her are different. She scares me because of my secrets, she scares me because of the truth. And above all, she scares me because of Elton. But I can’t tell her, so I get dressed and, with a shiver, strap on my harness. We are going to the northern zone, we need it. In the pale morning light, the City seems to have changed during the night. The wind has calmed down and the chrome of the towers shines in the sun like the torn chrysalises of oversized butterflies. The air is fresh, crisp, the cold grips without the rays of our star warming us up. I take a deep, almost painful breath, I hold my breath for a long moment before exhaling slowly. I check the straps of my harness, plunge my hands into the chalk bag. The shortest way will probably be to go through the lower floors.
I go first. It still is, I’m a much better climber than Elton, I better be the one testing our route. I’m very good at feeling good grips under my fingers and I have a good eye for sections of cables that are in danger of breaking. With caution, I venture onto a piece of bridge that is still intact. With my toes, I test the solidity of the ground in front of me before moving forward. After a few tens of meters, the bridge disappears to make way for a maze of large rusty cables. Some are in better condition than others, I have to choose well. I run a hand over one of them, up to a huge rivet that I cling to. My other hand follows the same path to another rivet, on the other side of the cable. I secure my hold then hoist my legs up and wrap them around the steel rope. So, slowly, I drag my body along this uncertain line of life. Below me there is nothing but endless emptiness. I can’t afford any mistakes.
When I have progressed a few meters, I wave to Elton and he takes the same path after me. We move slowly, to the slow rhythm of our fear, the sweat running down our foreheads and into our collars. I regularly plunge my hands into the small pocket at my side. Magnesia is one of the things we’re starting to run out of and hope to find in the northern zone. Because without magnesia, there is no climbing, and if we can no longer climb and move along the cables, we will remain stuck on one of the towers, doomed to starve in a long agony. Our progress is facilitated by the absence of wind and, a quarter of an hour later, we reach the next tower, a few floors below. With any luck, we will have reached the northern zone for lunch. Around noon, we almost reach the goal. We crossed eight towers and descended a few hundred meters into the City. Here, the clouds are permanent and the sun’s rays struggle to pierce the thick misty layer to illuminate the sad surroundings. I look at the dilapidated tower in front of me. The northern area is just on the other side, past a new chasm. I shiver, then jump when Elton’s hand lands on my arm.
“Ready?” he signs.
I nod and he shakes my hand briefly before walking past me. We step over a pile of rubble to get inside the building. Despite the lack of light outside, my eyes take a while to get used to the darkness. I don’t prefer to light my lamp here, not unless it’s really necessary. It is an old hydroponic greenhouse. Its large windows are drowned in greenish mold. The automated systems must have survived for a while since some rows of plants are still green. The others are just cracked skeletons, some crumble into brown dust at the slightest touch. Elton has already stepped forward to pick those that can be eaten. It’s a valuable find, but I can’t help but find this display of half-dead plants gloomy. Roots ventured out of their domains in search of nutrients they couldn’t find, but that didn’t save them. They hang from the bins above our heads, brown and withered, making the place look like a huge spider lair. It is however not the only greenhouse nor the first that I see. Devoid of any solid soil and cultivable land, the Hanging City subsisted exclusively thanks to greenhouses like this one, with others favoring agriculture by aquaponics or aeroponics. We cross quickly, recovering on our way all that we find edible. I’m uncomfortable, I feel like hundreds of phantom eyes are looking at me and judging me. I am responsible for the state of the City, responsible for the dead who populate it. Me and my mother’s madness.
I focus my attention on Elton. I didn’t realize I had stopped. I have the impression that this is not the first time that he signs my first name without my reacting. I give her a smile and set off again, no need to worry her with my stories of ghosts and guilt. The cable that should lead us to the northern zone is slippery, the descent is difficult. Every time my hands grip against the metal, I feel like I’m going to let go and fall into the void that awaits me like a voracious being below. Finally, we arrive. I straighten up on the platform that I have just reached, look around me. It’s even darker here, the humidity clings to my skin, which no wind comes to dry. I don’t want to be there, I feel naked, exposed. We move forward with caution. This is banshee territory. Elton wants us to split up, to cover more ground, to stay shorter. I hesitate, I’m afraid. He reassures me with gestures that make no sense in my blind fear. He moves away. I remain alone, alone with my secrets. I have to pull myself together. I have a part of the tower to explore, if I want to be able to get away from here as soon as possible. I start moving again, walking slowly towards the back of the hall in front of me.
Suddenly, something moves, on the periphery of my vision. A form, which appeared then disappeared. I freeze, my heartbeat echoing in my head like the pounding of fear. Wide-eyed, I wait. Another movement, perceived out of the corner of the eye. And then, a cry, echo of the dead it contains, tearing of an endless agony. Then she is in front of me, still far away and yet so close. She doesn’t look much human anymore. Her long hair forms a shroud around her slender, pale limbs. She looks wet, as if her skin is oozing thick liquid. Even at this distance, its smell is strong, the smell of the sea, of fresh iodine. The yellow-green tint of his skin gives him a sickly appearance, the darker green of his hair makes one think of a sheaf of seaweed torn by the tide. She looks like a drowned woman, come back from the dead to take us with her. The creature didn’t kill my mother, I always knew that. I was in the lab that day, the day of the disaster. I don’t know what she injected. She had no human guinea pig other than herself, no other choice in her obsession. It didn’t work out the way she had planned. My mother became the banshee. I never told anyone. This secret, I kept it deep inside me for all these years, certain that it would be my downfall, the end of everything. I ran away from the laboratory, I told that my mother was dead. Then I fled, as far away from her as I could. Far from the truth.
For a very long moment, we remain facing each other, separated by the large empty and dark room. We look at each other. In some of her features, I still recognize my mother, the one who raised me, who watched me grow, who loved me. And what does she see when she looks at me? Does she even recognize me? She doesn’t move, seems frozen, anchored to the ground, her bulging eyes with huge pupils fixed on me. Footsteps behind my back. Elton. I feel panic rising in me. No no no ! Not now ! They grabbed me by the clothes to pull me back. I let myself go, eyes still riveted on her. Elton drags me to the outer platform and then starts shaking me, his eyes full of storm. He then lets go of me so he can sign violently, his face twisted. “Sin! What is that ? It’s the banshee, it’s her, isn’t it? It’s your mother, I’m not blind, it’s her! You knew it ? Tell me you didn’t know that! » I don’t answer. What could I tell him? He will forgive me, he has always forgiven me. He continues to gesticulate, screaming silently with his hands. I am watching him. He’s no longer afraid of the banshee, now that he knows the truth. No longer afraid of her scream either, since he is deaf. He’s not scared anymore, but he’s angry like I’ve never seen him before. A doubt grips me. What if he didn’t forgive me this time? A howl rings out behind me, so mournful, full of unspeakable pain, like the song of the end of the world, the sound of the victory of death over life. I turn quickly. She is there, at the entrance to the tower, looking at us with her shark eyes, cruel and soulless. She seems to be waiting for something, or maybe someone. Maybe it’s me she’s been waiting for, she’s always been waiting for me.
I turn to Elton again. He’s calmed down, he’s looking at me funny. His eyes go from me to the creature, then to me again. I’ve never seen that expression on his face. Very slowly, he raises his hands and asks the one question that shouldn’t be asked. “Sin, you hear, don’t you? You heard her scream, that’s why you turned around. You couldn’t know otherwise. » I don’t know what to say to him, but he doesn’t need to. He understands that it is the truth. I’ve been hearing for five years. Five years since the scream of the banshee gave me back my hearing. From my mother’s first scream, that scream that drove others crazy gave me back the sense I was missing. I’m the only one to hear beauty over death. She wasn’t so insane, my mother, after all. His experiments eventually paid off. She healed my ears, as she had hoped, even though it didn’t happen as she had planned. Elton stares at me, as if seeing me for the first time. As if he didn’t know me. As if he didn’t like this stranger in front of him, this stranger lying to him. I don’t like his look, I don’t like what I see in his eyes. That hurts me. His eyes always said he loved me. Now they say he’s gonna leave me too. I raise my hands, caress his cheeks, place them tenderly on his chest and smile at him. Then, with force, I push him. He doesn’t let out a scream as he topples over and falls into the endless abyss, as if he’s forgotten how to use his voice. His eyes no longer seem to want to leave me, they only express surprise, the immense astonishment of death. It’s better, better than the eyes that leave me. And very quickly, it disappears in the clouds. I stare into space for a moment, staring at the slice of mist in which I lost him. My eyes then return to my hands. They don’t shake, it’s strange. I turn to my mother. She is still waiting for me. Very well. At least I won’t be alone.
In the early morning, the nightclub had nothing of its superb. Lieutenant Hansen pushed aside the protective strips that barred the entrance, clumsily placed by a policeman who was unaccustomed to crime scenes. He hadn’t had time to drink coffee, having been woken much too early by the sergeant’s call. He’d just put on his clothes, grabbed the car keys, and arrived on the scene as his watch hand hit six o’clock. Not an hour to start the day this way, he thought, rubbing his eyes at the remnants of his hangover. Once through the anonymous doors, in front of which a nonchalant cat had replaced the line of revelers waiting their turn to enter, it took him a few moments to adjust his gaze to the semi-darkness that reigned in the room. Under the gray light falling from a ventilator, the track looked seedy. Lieutenant Hansen moved quickly towards the back of the room, without lingering on the bar on his right and its mirrors, which only reflected emptiness. Hard to believe in the silence that weighed on the place, that a few hours earlier, a crowd of people moved in the middle of the track, moving to the hypnotic rhythm of techno hits, while others came and went from the bar with a drink in hand, after yelling their order to the bartender who nodded his head to signify that he had understood. A discreet door opened at the end of the room on the spaces reserved for the personnel. Brigadier Andersen was waiting for Hansen:
«Hello my lieutenant. It’s this way. “Hello Andersen. – I warn you, it’s not a pretty sight. »
Hansen made a vague wave of his hand, to signify that he had seen others. The two men entered a corridor which led to several doors.
« It’s at the bottom, my lieutenant. In the boss’s office. He had finished closing, and he went to look for his car keys in his office, like every day. That’s where he came across… the corpse. »
The door was ajar. You could hear men talking behind. Hansen pushed open the door cautiously. At the same time, three gendarmes turned their gaze towards the newcomer, and greeted him briefly, as if conviviality could have no place in such circumstances. The lieutenant’s gaze was immediately drawn to the figure lying on the ground. A woman, as the brigadier had told him. Still, his heartbeat quickened as if he hadn’t expected it. With her sequined dress pulled up to the top of her thighs, her cheap shoes with oversized heels lying on the floor and her hair dishevelled, she looked like a stranded wreck, thrown up by the sea like trash.
Hansen closed his eyes for a moment. A flash. The same woman dancing with a greedy frenzy in the middle of other dancers. Men pressed against her, irresistibly attracted by her provocative swaying, her eyes full of innuendo, her seductive mouth. The lieutenant chased away the image. The woman now had her eyes half-closed, with a frightening stare. Purple markings marbled his pale neck.
« Strangled?” Hansen asked in a voice that sounded weaker than he wanted. – Affirmative, my lieutenant. »
Andersen, who had remained in the background, took a few steps towards him. “We have started the surveys. The body should soon be taken away for examination by the coroner. The team should arrive soon. We didn’t touch anything, of course, but in my opinion, it’s strangulation, we have no trace of blood.
« And the boss, asked Hansen with a dry throat. Where is the boss? – To the gendarmerie, my lieutenant. Fergusen takes his statement. – Good,” Hansen said. Then, not knowing what to say, he repeated, “Good, good.” »
To keep himself in countenance, he took a few steps towards the victim. The headache that had been smoldering since he woke up now rumbled furiously between his temples. Hansen wondered again what had gotten him such a hangover. He really had no memory of his evening. It was happening to him more and more often lately, and if he had never ended up in the salad cart of his colleagues, he had to thank the lucky star that was watching over him. I have to stop my bullshit, he thought, looking at the woman who had gone too far, there was no turning back. Mechanically, his gaze went around the room, and he immediately noticed discreet but very real traces of struggle. Papers had slipped on the floor. An ashtray was overturned not far from the victim.
«The boss of the club is our main suspect, of course,” continued the brigadier, who did not seem to have noticed his superior’s slight discomfort. Or an employee who would have had access to the premises.
Was the office locked?
I don’t know, Lieutenant. You will have to ask the owner the question. “Let’s go out,” Hansen said. There are five of us suffocating in this room. »
The two men retreated onto the dance floor. The blind walls, without the illusion of the play of lights, were squalid, coated with a dark paint peeling and stained with various splinters. The broom that had been used to clean the floor sat in a corner, next to the pile of dust that no one had bothered to pick up.
«I wish I had a little black one,” Hansen said, feeling his legs wobble.
– What’s wrong, Lieutenant? Anderson asked. You are quite pale. »
Hansen gestured that he wanted out. The room revolved around him. Dull shocks hammered his skull. Boom, boom, boom. He put his hand on the sergeant’s shoulder for support. He closed his eyes again. A new flash. The woman was there, right next to him, laughing lasciviously. Around her, the other dancers melted into an indistinct blur. The deafening music stunned Hansen with its repeated pounding. The woman had grabbed the lapel of his jacket, and was pulling him towards him. The cool early morning air made her open her eyes. Andersen watched him with worried eyes.
“Are you all right, my lieutenant?”
– Yes, Andersen, it’s better. A moment of fatigue. The night was short, I believe. »
Today I am posting a somewhat special text. I lost my grandfather earlier this week. He was a pillar for me so I had to do something to honor him. I hope you’ll like it.
Grandpa died last night. Dad and I drive towards Jørlunde, eyes moist. My father hits the steering wheel every time the traffic slows down, grumbling: “What a jerk! What an idea he had to go up on the roof! Images from my recent vacation come to mind: colorful kites tearing through the gray sky. I wipe my nose again with my soaked sleeve and shout silently: “ Grandpa ! Why ? »
Dad drops me off in front of his childhood home, a tall, five-story building that survived World War II. He asks me if he can leave me, the time to go “ do what is necessary ” for grandfather. I accept, of course, without realizing that for the first time I will be alone in this house where I have spent all my summers, as far back as I can remember.
As soon as I walked through the door, the smell of waxed wood brings a few tears to my eyes – I imagine my next vacation away from this soon to be lifeless place. In the living room, I linger over the photos placed on the sideboard: grandmother; grandfather and her, little piece of woman, hand in hand on the beach; my father on a racing bike; me, very young, all smiles in the middle of a huge sandcastle. I fix these images and engrave them in my memory. Standing in front of the large library, I take the time to recognize the books that I have seen a thousand times near the armchair next to the fireplace. A book with a golden cover, which I had never spotted, caught my eye. I climb on a chair to grab it; the title surprises me: How to age well – not the kind of reading for this house. I open the manual, a feather falls. I pick it up, and notice the wet ink on its end. After a few seconds, I finally sit down in front of the thick wooden table to read these tips that will no longer apply to my grandpa. All pages are blank. Not a single sign, not even a date, nothing. What good advice, congratulations! In rage, I take up the pen and almost engrave my recommendation to myself, on a random sheet: “ Do not walk on a slippery roof ! I slam the book shut and put it back in place before running upstairs to throw myself on my mattress.
Dad comes home a few hours later, dejected. Little talkative, we dine quickly then go up to bed to put an end to this cursed day. From my bed, I hear the wooden floor creak – my father is approaching. The creaks stop – short pause behind the door. He finally comes in, draws the curtains of my room and wishes me good night without looking at me.
The next morning, rays of light stream through the new shutters and wake me up. I hear my mother stirring the kitchen utensils down the hall. Strange sensations, feeling of having braked suddenly, that my memories collided with the walls of my skull. I slept at my house, not at my grandfather’s. I tumble in pajamas in front of my mother, my eyes still glued, and ask her:
— Where is dad ? — In the garden,” she replies. I do not understand. — And grandpa Michel? — Grandpa, I don’t know. At his place, or at the beach, I imagine. Call him if you want. I sit up abruptly, afraid my legs will wobble and let me fall.
At noon, I insist with my father throughout the meal: I want to eat at grandpa’s this evening. He gives in – the privilege of being an only son of an only son. My grandfather, always very happy to receive us, simmered his famous roast for us. After dinner, while my parents are washing the dishes and tidying up the kitchen, I take out the cards to play belote. When I close the drawer of the sideboard where the photos are enthroned, I turn around and ask my grandpa a question, without thinking: — Do you think of grandma sometimes? — day. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. — And are you talking to him? — Nope. Not directly. I talk to myself, and since she is etched in my memory, she may hear me. — What was the disease that took her away again? — A hereditary filth, banal and sad, which left him no chance. — Could we treat her today? — Quite a question! I do not know. I do not believe. Do you have any funny ideas tonight, big boy… Shall we play? My parents arrive at the same time.
Restless nights for two weeks, intense reflections, I think I know what happened, without obviously understanding. I alternate between fear and joy at having brought my grandfather back. I didn’t tell my parents. I often have a headache. Dead, not dead, that’s a lot of emotions.
Rainy Saturday, dark gray early afternoon. I’m trying to solve a puzzle when the phone rings. My mother picks up and wipes her hands on her apron. I see her become livid, she cries to me: — Go get your father, quickly!
Grandfather died this morning in a car accident. Dad and I drive towards Jørlunde, eyes full of water, like the road. My father hits the steering wheel every time the red lights of the vehicles in front of us come on, grumbling: — What a jerk! What an idea to drive in such weather! Images of beaches, kites, roofs and feathers cross my mind. I blow my nose in the crook of my elbow, my head is spinning – want to vomit.
My father stops in front of grandpa’s house. He tells me that he will “do what is necessary” and that he will be back soon. Raining cats and dogs. I walk across the yard, go around the puddles, protected by my yellow raincoat. I slam the door, drop my jacket on the tiled hallway, and rush into the living room. The golden book has not moved. I take it gently this time – I don’t want to damage it and make it unusable. I open it to a page drawn at random, and with the quill already inked, I write diligently: “ Do not drive in torrential rain ! “.
My father arrives a few hours later. I come to meet him in the hallway; we hold each other in our arms. We don’t experience the same emotions and he doesn’t know it. During dinner, I chatter a little more than the circumstances would require, but he notices nothing, haggard.
The next morning, my mother comes to drag me out of bed with the promise of hot pancakes. The sun pushes aside the curtain of clouds with vigor. With my mouth still full, I ask if we can eat at grandpa’s tonight; my mother replies that it is already planned.
In Jørlunde, when I set the table, I hear my father talking low, but with intensity, with my grandpa. I only catch snippets of the discussion: it’s about degeneracy and relentlessness – I don’t understand a thing. The evening ends with a game of cards; my grandfather and I, with a smile on our lips, we beat my parents to the hilt.
Another week passes. I fell back to sleep. I feel like I have a super power. At times, that scares me.
Sunday noon, my father comes into my room with tears in his eyes. I can’t believe him when he tells me that grandpa fell off the roof. ” Still ? I want to say, biting my lip. Three accidents, including two falls from the roof in one month, that’s not possible. I curse all the gods I know, and get in the car towards Jørlunde.
My father drops me in front of the house and I run into the living room. When I take the magic book and open it, a postcard falls on the ground. The photo looks like an advertisement for Lake Filsø: a black and red kite crosses the azure sky. I recognize grandfather’s handwriting. He left me a note, very short: “Big boy, I know it’s difficult, but please let me go. I am very sick and I prefer to leave alive. I put my atoms back into play and I join grandma. I like you. Grandpa. »
Last night grandfather died for the last time.
Jeg savner dig så meget bedstefar. Hvis jeg blev den kvinde, jeg er i dag på trods af mors fravær, er det takket være dig. Du vil altid være i mine tanker. Jeg elsker dig rigtig meget.
Take care of yourself and your loved ones, tell them you love them and see you soon!
Wednesday night with Priya and her boyfriend, we watched old movies including Modern Time with Charlie Chaplin. I love this movie but I was exhausted and I fell asleep in front of it and I had a funny dream which inspired me to write this story. It deserves to be a little more worked but I hope you will enjoy it anyway!
I had just taken my service, behind the machine, as usual, like everyone else. On my right, in place of John, in front of the machine, stood another machine, this time sophisticated. An android. It had been a good two months since John had been at the factory. Unfit. It could no longer keep pace and the experts who had come some time earlier to improve space management for better performance had been unable to do anything. The diagnosis was clear: “ Performance disorders ”. From now on, the health services took care of him. Take the chicken, turn it over, remove the giblets, put the chicken on the conveyor belt, take the chicken,…, eight hours a day. John receives the chicken on the chain, hangs it on a hook. He cuts thighs, wings, fillets, thighs,…, eight hours a day. With John, we were able to adapt to the rhythm of the channel. Sometimes I slowed down, didn’t send the chickens too fast. It was only a few seconds gained, but over eight hours it was felt especially when the pain appeared. But that day, the android was going fast, very fast. He was waiting for the chickens. Each time, for a moment, he stared at me with his eyes like cameras. The same as those suspended from the ceiling. When the siren announced the end of the day, I returned home. The android stayed. An immense anxiety came over me. His gaze had something strange. The next day he was still there. The chain started, he came to life, turned his head, looked at me, waited.
— 35 years in the shop and 75% organic matter, John regularly threw at me with his smile tinged with a slight bitterness.
He was a funny guy. Still a little angry and a little disillusioned. It seemed to belong to another time. He often spoke to me about a guy from the beginning of the 20th century whose name I have forgotten. It’s called an artist, I believe.
— You see Louis, this film tells our story. The guy, he screws bolts on an assembly line and the line goes faster and faster. So he accelerates, but he can’t keep up. Suddenly, he finds himself caught up in the cogs, turns inside the system and comes out mad. This guy was a subversive genius. But you see, he was also a comedian and we only remember that, comedy. So everyone laughs, everyone applauds, and everyone goes back to screwing their bolts. But shit, that guy was an anarchist!
A loud beep snapped me out of my thoughts. It was off again for eight o’clock. This android was going really fast. The channel is the boss. She sets the pace. It’s hard on the body. John said that it was called Taylorism around the middle of the 20th century and then Toyotism at the beginning of the 21st.
— The right gesture in the right space. Make the gesture as precise as possible, the most effective, avoid useless movements, limit the loss of time, limit space, erase the singularity, eradicate the error, adapt to the chain. But do you think Picasso could have painted all his work on a chain?
Artist ? Anarchist? Picasso? Taylorism? Toyotism? Where did all this come from? I tried to find out about the web. Since I couldn’t find anything about it on the official corporate websites, I wondered if John was going off the rails a bit. The buzzer sounded again. The android was waiting.
— Louis. May I call you Louis? Our studies show a drop in performance in your job. It looks like your pace has slowed down a bit. In front of me, they were three. Malfunction department agents.
— But don’t worry, we’ll help you find your initial skills. We see in your file that you have already received treatment for your knees.
— Yes, I started with the orientation of the goods. The knees, it was from bending down to lift the boxes.
— Hmm, I see. We have spotted that the failure would now be located in your wrists. You will be received by the health services so that a diagnosis can be established.
With my new biotechnical wristbands, I thought everything would be better. But I kept thinking about a discussion I had had one day with John, at his house, after work.
— I don’t understand John. The guys when they work, they yell at the bosses and when they don’t work anymore, they still yell at the bosses.
— I’ll tell you Louis, it’s very simple. They yell because they are morons. Yes morons. Frankly, to spend eight hours a day with your nose in a chicken’s ass really has to be a moron. But the worst is when they get fired. After all we’ve done for this factory. I spent thirty years of my life there. And now ? Which ass am I going to put my nose in? No, but what do they believe? That we’ll roll out the red carpet for them for service to the Corporation. Yes you are right Louis. When they work, they yell at the bosses. When they don’t work anymore, they yell at the bosses. I’ll tell you. It suits them. Like that, they tell themselves that they are not responsible. But you know, to put your nose in the chicken’s ass, you have to lean forward a bit, sometimes you even have to squat down, and there generally you don’t get a nose. Can you see the painting a bit? At first it hurts a little, and then you get used to it, maybe you even end up liking it. But there is something that really hurts them. That’s when it stops. Because there they find themselves alone in front of themselves. Forced to make the sad statement of their miserable condition. And that is unbearable. So they look further. A guy sticking his nose in the ass of a cheaper chicken. And there it’s even more unbearable, because he has at least an ass he can stick his nose in. So they choose a leader. A manager who will save them. They even vote for him. That way, if the manager doesn’t save them, they can always say it’s his fault. So Louis! Ask yourself! Whose ass do you stick your nose in?
John stood in front of me, his elbow resting on the table, his forearm vertical. In his hand, a life-size, wooden, carved rump.
— Take it, it is for you. And do not forget. The truth is in the chicken’s ass.
On my way home, I looked for this rump. I couldn’t remember where I put it, but I found it in the back of a drawer. I took a hammer. I typed sharply. Inside was a gigamax hard drive. Quite rare and rather expensive. I slipped it into the plug provided for this purpose, behind my right ear, and there: An infinity of data, an immensity of knowledge for which a thousand lives would not be enough to go around.
I no longer have the heart to work. The buzzer sounded three times today. — Louis. Allow me to call you Louis. The corporation has decided to offer you a “ Performance Rehabilitation Program ”. The health services will come and get you. I went to the workshop to pick up my things. As I left, I turned one last time to the android. We looked at each other. It seemed to me that he was crying.
Today I just wanna wrote an horror story for changing a bit of what I wrote generaly. (There is no Blood and no Gore if you are triggered by this). It take me more time that I though but I hope it will please you.
The last rays of the day
It all started with an explosion. A flash of light, and a rain of brown dust. They told us not to panic. That these particles were harmless, and that we could go on living as if this extraordinary event had never happened. They were wrong.
I bend down to pick a new wildflower and bring it to my face before adding it to my bouquet. Mom will love it.
At first, no one really noticed the changes. People, stuck in their routine, blinded by their problems, had better things to do than be moved by the amazing growth of shrubs or the flowering of dying plants. Days gradually turned into weeks, and everyone forgot about the explosion, the light and the specks of dust. At least, until the animals start to change too.
The tall grass scratches my calves. The wind whips through my hair and softens the sunburn on my weathered skin. But apart from this breeze which stirs the leaves and shakes the tops of the trees, all is calm. Accustomed to this supernatural silence, I barely remember that there was a time when I liked to listen to the chirping of birds, the barking of dogs, and even the hum of traffic on the main road. Now, only the sound of my breathing remains, and the creak of my footsteps sinking into the thick carpet of wild grass.
Neighborhood animals have become aggressive. Their owners no longer dared approach them. Then the birds started falling from the sky. One second they were flying gracefully through the clouds, the next they were lying crushed on the asphalt. Even my cat was different. He ran away from our company to hide in dark places, refused to eat and sometimes disappeared for days on end.
I plod along on the way home. I have crossed these fields and wandered in this forest so many times over the past few months that I could walk there with my eyes closed. My passages ended up forming a path in the thick vegetation, even if this tends to regain its rights now that my walks are becoming rarer. I find it increasingly difficult to walk, but I wanted to make this bouquet and choose the most beautiful flowers. Although not much else has mattered lately, I won’t give up trying to smile back at Mom. She suffered so much.
My cat is dead. We buried him under the chestnut tree, mum, Theo and me. At that time, Dad continued to go to work every morning, but we all knew that something was wrong. The gardens were fallow. The roots of the trees created wide cracks in the road, as if trying to come up to the surface. A sweetish scent of flowers and humus lingered in the air. The dogs were no longer barking. Scientists could not explain these phenomena. They began to invent outlandish theories that only fueled general terror. One after another, people packed their bags and left, leaving empty houses behind. We decided to stay. Here or elsewhere there was the same anxiety-provoking climate, and Theo was ill.
I have to stop to catch my breath, sitting on a stump in the undergrowth. The pain in my muscles is unbearable. My chest is burning. My tense fingers tremble around my bouquet. More than a few minutes. Only a few hundred yards, and I’ll be home. So I grit my teeth, swallow back the sticky tears that have started rolling down my cheeks, and push myself forward. One step after another.
The neighborhood has taken on the appearance of a ghost town. People hunkered down and locked themselves in their homes, with whatever food supplies they could find. An armed militia has taken to patrolling the streets, on the tree-torn pavement that once lined the road. Freed from their concrete cage, they blossomed to dizzying heights while humans walled themselves in alive, holed up in their basements. I heard gunshots. Dad stopped pretending that the world was round. Theo stopped leaving his bed.
Long cracks crisscross the asphalt. Scraps of cars lie along the rutted sidewalks, some half-swallowed by ravenous nature. In the abandoned alleys, I come across trunks with almost humanoid shapes. Their branches lean over me to greet me, but I can’t stop. Not yet.
They cut the electricity. At night, we gathered in Theo’s room, Mom hugged me while Dad whispered that everything was fine, the flame of our last candles casting shadows on his bloodless face. Nothing had been going well for a long time. Outside, a war has finally broken out. People were hungry. Those who could still move emerged from their burrows, armed with clubs, knives or guns, and began to fight. We had nothing left to eat and mom had caught the disease that was eating away at my brother, so dad resolved to join in the chaos. It was the last time I saw him, through the planks that barred the windows, his slender figure moving away in the darkness.
I absently scratch the scabs that cover my forearm. A thick, syrupy liquid flows from my wounds. My bones crack like twigs as soon as I begin to move. I’m close to home now. I’m going to find mum and Théo soon. They are waiting for me in the garden, as always. As I drag myself to the rusty gate, I repeat these words to myself over and over again, until they form a bulwark against the pain that blocks my breathing.
The streets have regained their calm. An abnormal, implacable calm, cut only by the whistling of the wind. The plants have invaded everything, and the bodies have disappeared, replaced by young shoots. The seasons have passed without my ever encountering any living beings. It didn’t matter, as long as I didn’t lose Theo and Mom. I learned how to manage to find food, and after a while I realized that my body no longer needed to eat to regain its strength. All I had to do was lie in the sun, my bare skin pressed against the earth, to be satiated. I lost track of time.
I collapse at the feet of Mom’s motionless silhouette. When I find the courage to stand up, the sun is already low on the horizon. I brush against his rough hand, slip my bouquet between his frozen fingers, sketch a smile that makes my cheeks crack. Then I sit down, my back glued to his statue-like legs, calm. Already, I feel the climbing weeds clinging to my body and the pain fading. I am ready to join them. Mom, Theo and all the others. I close my eyes, and the last tear coagulates before reaching my chin, a drop of amber with golden reflections under the last rays of the day.
On this mild spring day, Jacques was spending the afternoon in his garden digging. Gently, he prepared the ground for the planting of potatoes while leaving the poultry cackling at his feet. Without the slightest caution, the hens dived under the spikes of his tool to swallow the visible earthworms and fought for the biggest ones. Sometimes the gardener had a few seconds of respite, when one of his poultry decided to run away with a particularly appetizing worm. The other beasts, bad ones, then set off in pursuit to steal from its beak without worrying about the insects left behind. At the other end of the garden, wasps were already circling around the first raspberries and trying to leave as little as possible for humans. And as Jacques was returning home to enjoy a well-deserved lemonade, a tiny ship crashed among the magnolias, petunias and hydrangeas.
The craft bounced from leaf to leaf and shook its occupant unceremoniously. Fortunately, the thick grass was enough to soften the fall to allow the machine to land without significant damage. A few minutes later, an alien set foot on Earth for the first time. A full suit surrounded him and completely hid his body while revealing a humanoid figure. From the top of his two centimeters, Qzar rushed to conquer this new land. Equipped with a recorder in his helmet, the alien described his environment in detail by trying to compare each thing to an already known object. The yellow, round flowers were therefore mussratts, the small red speckled with black dots were ivirs, and the green tufts were grsazs. A few surprises still awaited the newcomer. The flower petals were inedible, the earth had a strange brown color instead of the usual yellow, and strange eight-legged creatures wanted to eat it.
The first time Qzar encountered such a creature, he simply noticed the presence of shlarks on the planet and continued on his way without paying any more attention. Although the color was, of course, slightly different and the beast a little bigger, there was no doubt that he had come across a peaceful creature. He was even thinking of the shareholders who were delighted to see a new breed of the most popular pet in the entire Znays system appear. This discovery risked bringing in a small fortune, except for him, a miserable explorer paid for with a slingshot. Could he at least hope to give his name to this discovery?
After a quick turn, a walk of well five meters, he decided to return to the ship to explore a more distant area. However, on his return, his gaze was caught by a strange wire sculpture hanging at the bottom of a hedge. The latter, quite fine, represented a sort of slightly imperfect circle. Pure white, Qzar remained a few seconds admiring this astonishing spectacle. Was it a work of art? Without a doubt. An intelligent species must therefore already be living on this planet. The alien decided to take the time to explore the surroundings to try to find the creator of this incredible work and thus take the first step with the locals. Unfortunately, instead of encountering any living beings, Qzar only found dead insects and works of art. Many sculptures linked leaves and tall grass to create different shapes. Circle, square, oval, triangle and rhombus jostled and mixed to give ever more unique works. This little patch of land no doubt served as an artist’s studio, but the remains of corpses sometimes even stuck in the white sculptures seemed to indicate that the place had been deserted for a long time. Qzar heaved a small sigh of discouragement, but continued to search the work area all the same. He even inspected the tips of the legs and the remains of the wings to verify that they were indeed bodies. Certain that the studio was deserted, Qzar allowed himself to inspect the sculptures themselves and couldn’t resist touching them. Gently, very cautiously, he grabbed a thread and, startled by the sticky contact, he tried to pull his hand back immediately. Without success. The alien then understood the deception and forced more and more on his arm. What creature could be cunning enough to lure innocent people with such beautiful traps?
Quickly, a new shlark arrived near the small alien. The latter ignored him and continued to tug on the wire in an attempt to pull it out. He was, however, forced to pay attention to this eight-legged beast when it bit him on the shoulder. Surprised, he hit her with the back of his hand without even thinking about it and the creature, furious, threw itself on him without waiting any longer. Its mandibles clacked close to Qzar’s face and the image of the peaceful shlarks immediately flew away. In this struggle, the beast broke many sculptures and freed the alien who, without worrying about the damage, fled as quickly as possible to join his ship.
And the earth shook. The leaves stirred, the flies flew away, the ants fled, and Qzar kept running. Seeing his ship, he couldn’t help but smile, but a huge rubbery green thing crushed his precious vehicle in one fell swoop. Stopping dead, the alien contemplated the few remains of the ship without believing it. More slowly, he moved forward to get a better look. The front door, under pressure, had been kicked out to smash against a salad and a few shards of unbreakable glass lay strewn across the floor. Unable to leave this planet and even unable to warn his colleagues, Qzar simply admired the rubble without paying attention to the huge feathered creature near him.
Was it an insect, a worm, a seed, leftover dough or even an eggshell? The hen was unable to tell so, in doubt, she swallowed it.
I visited a theatrical costume museum recently, unfortunately the guide was a pretty boy but bearded, always from behind and we were in a group so I didn’t dare to mention that I was deaf. I didn’t understand anything but I had a good time staring at his posterior! Seriously, I saw pretty old sewing boxes there. I never had the patience to learn sewing but I am always fascinated by the dexterity and meticulousness of the seamstresses and their attention to the smallest details. In short, these sewing boxes inspired me this little story which I hope you will like.
Naïa’s grandmother was a fortune-teller. She braided the threads of lives that she bound for eternity. She embroidered the frayed beards of the fabrics of fallen heroes. She sewed rosebuds on faded bodices and veiled taboos to patch up couples. His shop was famous. All the pains of the heart that the canton counted thronged there. And then, one fine morning, as spring was approaching, she died.
When she died, Naïa inherited her sewing box, a cherry wood box whose wood, polished by years of handling, was as soft as a castle banister. It must be said that the object was transmitted from grandmother to granddaughter for more than two hundred years. When his mother gave it to him, she also handed him a cloth envelope, closed with an embroidered seal, but she specified: “First take the time to observe what the box contains, Naïa. Your grandmother, by her gesture, designates you as heiress of the gift, but you must do your scales to begin. For that, you have to familiarize yourself with the tools, the materials, that you appropriate them, that you discipline them and when you can sew with your eyes closed an envelope similar to the one I am giving you, then you will be able to look at what ‘it contains. Not before. » The tone was solemn, it called for no questions, no answers either. Naïa took the envelope, put it aside and gently opened the box. This had five compartments: that of wool, cotton, silk and linen threads, that of braid and sequins, that of buttons and staples, that of pieces of fabric and that of pins, needles and hook guarded by a silver thimble. For several weeks, Naïa scrupulously reviewed the contents of the box. She analyzed it, inventoried it, classified it. Finally, when she knew the box by heart, she got down to sewing. She began with small jobs, the first of which was the making of a black, opaque headband, to learn how to sew blind. Gradually, she became more complex. She systematically did everything twice, once while watching, once blindfolded and, in case of error, started again and again. She trained for two months before becoming interested in the envelope. Then, she listened to it patiently and tried to reproduce it by choosing her needle carefully. She copied it, several times, looking, applying herself. Finally, when she had acquired perfect control of her gesture, she adorned herself with her blindfold. She often pricked herself, but insisted. It was the embroidered seal that was the most difficult to achieve, but, at the end of June, the envelope was made, identical to that of her grandmother. So she opened the latter and found an enigmatic letter inside.
“Naiah, The gift does not exist. In reality, none of us have ever actually possessed it. It comes from the thimble. For him to reveal himself, you will have to choose a knight. To do this, follow these instructions: First, go to the cemetery. Find a grave that holds a brave man, one of those who died in battle – no matter what war they were fighting. Do not choose a deserter, this one will never help you. Find out about his past. Choose a man who loved, without being afraid and without counting, as one throws oneself into an abyss, one needs a passionate being. Choose well, Naïa, you can’t go back, you can’t start again. As soon as you have found the grave, dig the earth with your bare hands, collect the one that remains hanging under your fingernails and fill the thimble with it. Press well, nothing should fall out when you flip the dice. Filled flush. Water this soil with orange blossom, every morning, for a week, at a fixed time. Then, slip the die into the envelope you just made. Seal it up, put it in the sewing box and wait to hear it wiggle. At this time, you will open it. »
Naïa went to the cemetery, she noted on a paper the names of the possible pretenders to the title of knight, she searched, in the archives of the city, their feats of arms, their history. She questioned the families, eliminated little by little those who were not suitable, then made up her mind. She followed her grandmother’s instructions step by step and in the month of November, on the third precisely, the envelope was shaken. Thus was born the knight Lord Emeric of the thimble.
It was tiny: two legs of midnight blue wool, two arms of braided yellow cotton thread, black sequins instead of feet, others, gold, instead of hands and, for a helmet, a press stud; all emerging from his thimble armour. Barely out of the envelope, he seized the spear hook and proud of his new gleam, in a surprisingly thin voice, spoke to Naïa:
— Good day, lady, what can I do for you? Naïa was surprised by the tone and the formula which contrasted with the sudden familiarity, but probably that was how a knight spoke. She was not disconcerted: — Hello, Lord! I will call you Lord, it will be easier. In reality, I don’t know yet what you can do since I don’t yet know what you can do. What can you do ?
Lord then declaimed: “I am the anti-heartbreaker The Tailor of Woven Fates The ardor mechanic The healer of wounded loves! »
What lyricism, boastfulness! Naïa told herself that she had not chosen the most humble of knights… “Perfect, Lord, but, in practice, how does it work?”
— I do not know, Naïa. By crowning me a knight of the thimble today, you awaken great powers that I have never before been confronted with. But do not be afraid, my dear, I nobly carry out the tasks, which with honor, they come to entrust to me. — Okay… let me think. — My devotion will be as it always was: flawless. No one can claim that in the past I fled before the slightest obstacle or that I refused to face… — Shut up, Lord, please! I said, “Let me think”! — Certainly, I consent to it, but when Lady Fortune unites, as here… — Lord! — Damn, but if… — Stop! — If it suits you.
Naïa had, until then, followed her grandmother’s instructions, but it was clear that she was coming to the end of her roadmap. Sitting in the workshop that had served as a shop, in front of her sewing box, associated with an elf hungry for archaic words of which the tomb had deprived her, Naïa began to doubt the relevance of her choice. She was proud of the hopes placed in her and wanted to prove herself worthy of them, but it had to be admitted that the situation was funny. She was going to have to discipline Lord whose verve exasperated her, but above all find how to use her “powers” to work for the happiness of all.
Naïa thinks that her knight needed a mission that would serve as a trial run to test his abilities. She knew that the Tellier sisters were angry, she told herself that reconciling them could constitute a first challenge whose consequences, in the event of failure, would be limited. However, she preferred to act in the shadows. So she submitted the idea to Lord and waited for his instructions. This one, perhaps offended by the fact that she had molested him, was, this time, concise: it was necessary, to begin with, that she bring him back a few hairs from each of the Telliers. Naïa therefore waited, hidden in the thickets, in front of their home and as soon as they left, broke in, inquired about their brushes in the bathroom and took her loot there. As soon as she returned to the workshop, she handed her treasure to Lord. He seized it religiously, settled down cross-legged on the table and began to weave. He metamorphosed thus concentrated. Naïa looked at him, fascinated. A ballet was a ballet, there was so much grace in his gestures. He worked in silence, skilfully mixing brown and blond hair with cotton and silk threads. When he was done, he handed Naïa a one-centimeter square that she detailed on the count. She then discovered, in the intertwining of fibers, a complex pattern of great finesse that looked like a cabalistic sign. The next day at the market, the Tellier sisters laughed together in front of the fishmonger’s stall. It was time to reopen the store.
Naïa saw a lot of people marching by as soon as trade resumed. The division of labor between her and Lord was simple. She received customers, served them tea, made them sit down and questioned them. Lord, hidden in the sewing box, was listening. Then they debriefed. Lord then drew up the list of what he needed, then, after Naïa had provided him with the necessary material, sat down on the table – like the very first time –, the open box at his side, and began his work. . On the weekends, when the shop was closed, Lord gave Naïa sewing challenges and Naïa gladly played. Lord was still winning, but Naïa was constantly improving. Years passed like this, many conflicts were settled, one would have thought that the region was a huge game of go where dark designs were followed by the return of white innocence. The reputation of the shop no longer stopped at the borders. So, six years after Lord and Naïa met, Ludmila entered the shop. Naïa, barely arrived, had just opened the box to say hello to the knight when this beautiful sixty-something Russian entered. Dumbfounded by her beauty, Naïa did not have the reflex to close the box in time. The damage was done…
This woman was a doll with white hair and high cheekbones, rosy with the coolness of the air. In his intelligent eyes, of a blue “heart of a glacier illuminated by the sun”, there was a strange mixture of firmness and softness. Her clothes of splendid fabrics, from the dress to the coat, were only shimmering. Naïa, captivated, welcomed him with deference, as one welcomes a princess… And Lord came out of his box declaiming:
— Madam, I have been looking for you for so many years. That’s when it all went wrong… Ludmila pocketed the thimble with everything it contained and ran away. Naïa could not catch up with her.
Despite her efforts to continue to treat pain, restore souls, quench sorrows, without Lord, Naïa could not repair everything. But she didn’t lose hope and bought a thimble…maybe the gift would come back.
Naïa died six months ago. Today, I managed to make, with my eyes closed, an envelope identical to the one she gave me. My mother told me her story. Tomorrow, I will go to the cemetery, I will look for a knight and then, we will see if the gift accepts to manifest itself again.
Today I offer you a science fiction story inspired by the latest IPCC reports. It’s not very optimistic. For me it is high time that we move our ass to act but I have the impression that most world leaders do not give a damn because it won’t affect their generation. I promise I’ll try to be in another mood for the next story.
A single tear that will never fall clearly stands out on my right cheekbone. My name is Tear. At least, that’s what the inhabitants of the Burrow call me. I have long forgotten the first name chosen by my parents, perhaps I never even knew it. — Tear! Tear! Bring your butt, we found something! It’s Cio’s voice. I wonder what they could find this time. I take off at a run. I descend the steep slope overlooking the Burrow. A mixture of sand and loose stones rolls under my feet, I will soon have to think about getting back on the road. Cio is waiting for me at the bottom of the drop and leads me towards the crowd. I jostle the pock-faced twins Rari and Tul. They let me pass without flinching.
— What is that ?
— We do not know. We thought you would know. I lean over and look at the metal box pitted with rust, it almost crumbles to dust. “How did you find that?” — It’s little Marr, he fell to the bottom of a crevasse. We tried to fish him out, but it was too late, he was in bad shape, his legs where his arms were, if you know what I mean. I nod in silence, I’ve seen too many bodies dislocated by the fatal falls that are repeated at each bivouac. Rari continues by cutting Cio off: — At the bottom, we discovered a kind of very hard piece. Half of it had collapsed, but we were still able to get in. There were plenty of empty boxes except one, and inside was this. Another box. I look again. They have just opened the small chest. Cio protests: — I’m the one telling! It was me who found the box, so it’s me who tells… Do you understand? Rari and Tul start laughing.
— Ok, chief, it is you who tell. I really like both boys, they live by their own rules. They follow the Walkers, but rarely mix with the Pack except when rescuing one of our own. This time, unfortunately, the rescue came to nothing. Petit Marr went there, like many. Cio is carefully taking out a rectangular object wrapped in a sort of dry, cracked skin, and opens it very slowly, as if he was afraid that the inanimate structure would suddenly come to life. — Oooooh! marvels little Lota. A book, a real book, as old Roy described it to us. This one is different: instead of the words we can’t decipher, there are color drawings. Everyone tries to see over their neighbor’s shoulder, the jostling begins, and it’s still the twins’ turn to calm the little band gathered at the entrance to the North maze. Cio places the book in my hands, a proud smile on his chapped lips. I open to the first page, a few words are drawn on the top of the document, I squint, we don’t know how to read this, nobody knows. I continue, the rest is easier, these are images. I know what it is. Old Roy, before he died, explained everything to me. That’s why others respect me, I’m the one who knows.
Our history is oral, we no longer write it. Each Pack has a Storyteller, guardian of memory. I am a Storyteller, I have the memory of the world. I sit on the ground, in the dust, and look at the orange sky. Our lookouts have not sounded the alarm, we still have a little time before the rains arrive. I raise my arm and show the first image.
— It is a tree. I hear “oh” and “ah” all around me. One after the other, the band settles on the ground. — Is a tree what feeds the planet? asks little Lota, the smartest of the group in my opinion. She has not reached the age of eight and I hope she will survive a few more years. I’ll teach him the history of the world like old Roy did before me. — Yes, Lota, the trees fed the earth and the earth fed us. — I would like to see one for real, exclaims Cio, the dreamer. Everyone nods. — We are the Walkers, one day our steps will take us where the trees still exist. — Is it true that trees make clear rain? I nod and turn the second page. Another tree. — Plants create clear rain and offer it as a gift to men. — Why aren’t we allowed gifts? It’s Sven’s voice, I didn’t see it coming. I can’t take my eyes off his dirty face, his blue eyes shine fiercely, he is my rock, my stability, my reason to go on and on. — The elders have decided otherwise,” Lota answers tit for tat. Definitely, this little one surprises me from day to day. Sven sniffs and drops to one knee before whispering in my ear: — Come on, I need to talk to you. I get up and give the book back to Cio.
— Put it back in the box to protect it and bring it home, with the rest. Has anyone notified little Marr’s mother? The twins nod and I smile sadly at them, then join Sven who is waiting for me a little further. — What is it ? — We have to leave. — When ? I never question Sven’s common sense. He is not mistaken. He knows the stone, he guesses the moment when it will no longer hold and will end up burying us all. — Tomorrow, the day after tomorrow at the latest. — The Trackers have found a location? — Yes, but the walk will be difficult. We are going to lose people. I sigh and lean my forehead against his chest. He says nothing, but uses me against him. — We’ll take Lota. The twins and Cio will follow. Sven rests his chin on the top of my head.
— As you want, but in case of rain, it will be every man for himself. The law of the strongest, as always.
The watchmen’s horn sounds. A long hoot followed by a shorter one. This is the signal to warn of impending rain. Sven sits up and grabs my hand before running. I check in passing that the gang is no longer outside; they must have bolted at the first warning. The northern maze is ours: Lota, Cio, Rari, Tul, Jay, who has found his place among the Trackers, Sven and me. This is the most dangerous part of the Burrow, we are used to it, we always choose the least easy, the least livable. Over time, we became strong and independent. Others fear and envy us. — The lookouts have shit in their pants again, laughs Cio. Lota interrupts him: — Better too soon than too late. — Well, it’s not as if we had ever narrowly failed to dissolve the mouth. We all have a scar to prove it. His gaze passes over the tear that digs into my flesh and makes me look nostalgic. Forgotten memory of my childhood. I don’t know how it happened. My parents died a long time ago, I have always carried this symbol of sadness, this mark that nature engraved on my face.
Acid rain began hundreds of years ago. It all started with the disappearance of oil. The last stripe sucked from the bowels of the Earth left the world in total disarray. Other energies were put in place to fill the gap, but the demand was too great. The wind turbines did not produce enough, the nuclear ended up being abandoned during the last accident which made Japan and Korea disappear unified. Tidal and solar power was used until the last moment, but the brown cloud definitely put a stop to any future attempts. The earth is turning in slow motion. The sunlight hardly reaches us anymore, we die slowly, drowned in a muddy chiaroscuro. Old Roy told me all that, and even more. At first, American researchers had the brilliant idea of melting our waste to reproduce the lost fossil energy. For a few years, the world regained its former flamboyance. Planes flew in the sky, machines worked for the well-being of the population, trade had never been so flourishing. Then the Day of Tears came. The first acid rain took everyone by surprise, ravaging cities and countryside, killing animals, crops, people. During the first decades, scientists were hopeful that everything would stop and that the water in the sky would become pure again. Unfortunately, the years passed and the land turned into a desert. The survivors became hermits, protecting themselves in the caves, the only ones capable of resisting the acidity of the sky. Water and food soon became a problem. There was no shortage of acts of barbarism, the strongest survived. We are piss children, as Cio says. We learned to distill urine. I never drank anything else. Life expectancy has been halved. We don’t have many old people among us. Their urine is too ammoniated, they live together and die together, poisoned by their own fluids. We feed on insects and anything we can find edible and smart enough to avoid the rains. We have become nomads. The rock protects us, but wears out quickly and we need to find something stronger day after day. The Trackers locate the habitable places, it is up to us to make them our home for a few weeks before the inevitable march which will not fail to arrive sooner or later. Pregnant women are the most protected, if we don’t want the human species to die out, we must reproduce ourselves in sufficient quantity. Sven is ready, he thinks we should try. Everyone is free to choose their partner, but sometimes gangs of Reproducers arrive, they only target women of childbearing age, we have never found any of them. Old Roy only divulged the history of the planet to his successor: me, in this case. He said it was no good taunting survivors, that if we understood what the planet had once been like, jealousy, anger and disappointment would destroy what little hope we had left. I do not envy our ancestors. My limited imagination cannot envision the extraordinary.
We find Cio and the others in the northern maze. They have all heard the news of the imminent departure and are already packing up their meager possessions, except Lota, who remains motionless in the middle of the dark excavation.
— What is it ? Cio stole your rag again? – this piece of ageless fabric that she drags everywhere. She shakes her head negatively.
— I do not want to leave. — We must leave this cave or we will die, you know that very well. — What if the rain stops? — What if she didn’t stop? Lota sighs, she has no choice, she has to walk. Sven pulls me into our corner, his gaze serious, his jaw tense. — I spoke with Jay, the Stalkers who returned brought with them a Walker. A rumor is circulating. He stops and tests my face with his eyes so blue.
— A rumor ? You know rumors have killed more men than the rains. — This time it’s different. The Walker comes from the West, he says the rains have almost stopped there. He has made it his mission to transmit information as far as the Russian republic. Sven raises an eyebrow, he doesn’t know what the Russian republic is. The Walker is a Storyteller without a doubt. I explain in two words where the place is located and ask: — What does Jay think? — He says it’s the first time a sane traveler has come to us. He speaks coherently and can answer questions without rambling. — What have the Stalkers decided? — That we would go west. — Do you really think the rains will ever stop? — No, but we’ll go west all the same. — What will we find there?” A toxic ocean that we can never cross. We know it, you and I have seen it with our own eyes. The world stops at the seas. Do you remember the swamps? How many died? Ten, thirty, a hundred? Sven grabs my face between his two hands and follows my motionless tear with his fingertips. It has a strange delicacy that only I can see. — Lota needs to believe it. Cio says nothing, but he’s scared. The twins told me that they had heard him cry in his sleep. And you… I sigh. My eyes, accustomed to the darkness, spot a gray bat, with thick fur and fangs several centimeters long. She will not hesitate to attack. It too must survive. I push Sven to the side and throw the stick I keep in my belt. He twirls around and catches the animal’s wing, which falls heavily to the ground. Sven picks it up and snaps the back of his neck without flinching. We will have meat tonight. He faces me now and resumes as if nothing had happened:
— And you ? Wouldn’t you like to feel safe? He raises the poor animal which hangs limply at the end of his arm and continues: wouldn’t you want to eat your fill every day?
— And if we fail? Sven points to the cave with his hand. — We’ve failed before, we just have to start over, doing better this time. I nod slowly and meet his gaze. I read there the determination and the fear too. Lota joins us, she drags behind her her travel bag ingeniously equipped with wheels, an idea of the twins. The little girl’s eyes are circled in black. Concern can be read on his young face.
— Everybody is ready. We are the vanguard, we will lead the way and if we survive then the Pack will follow. Sven ruffles her hair. — Go find Jay and tell him we won’t be leaving until tomorrow, we’ll be walking at night when the rains are less frequent. Lota walks away, her steps lightened by this respite of a few hours. My eyes betray my incomprehension.
— Why tomorrow ? ‘Because this will be our last trip. My heart squeezes painfully in my chest. We will only travel west once. Our group is dying. — We will create our own world, better and wiser. We will live in the open air and the trees will watch over us. You have told us so often. I want to see the earth as it is described in the books you jealously guard. I want to have children and I want to grow old, he explains to me with new seriousness. I nod without being able to say a word, my throat tight. Hope is foolish, we shouldn’t get attached to it and yet… Tonight we will sleep in each other’s arms and tomorrow, with bellies perhaps full of new life, we will walk.