Cold takes

The skeletons had moved.

Not only had they moved. They had also made it very plain why they had left the cemetery. It was the new corpses, they wrote on a lifeless note hanging on the outer gates. The outer gates swing hither and dither, as ancient gates are wont to do, but the chilly winds did not seem to affect note. Some of the cold indifference of death was at work here.

Yet. Something had made the skeletons stir. The locals, who rarely visited the cemetery, busy as they were with their modern lives, were at a loss to explain what had happened, or how. After discussing at length, they decided to bring in outside help.

Outside help arrived, en masse. Journalists, those of supernatural inclination, academics, and utterly natural tourists all offered their opinions as to what had happened. It was aliens, werewolves, bad qi, crop circles on the other side of the ocean (somehow), sunspots, bone-eating bacteria – any number of speculations were tossed around in the hopes of finding an audience.

At length, the enthusiasm died off, to the punny satisfaction of news editors everywhere. When most of the tourists, supernaturally inclined and journalists had left, the academics dared to make educated guesses. A particular academic, a professor of cultural geography and human ecology, suggested that it was due to gentrification. The skeletons were of old stock, and had a very particular set of customs. They were dead set on these customs, too, and would rather resurrect and move to another place than adapt to the strange fancy ways of the newcomers.

As the professor expounded his theory, the locals nodded. That did indeed sound like the old folks they remembered from back in the days. They had been stubborn even in life, so why would they be anything else in the afterlife?

The littlest things

“See those spiderwebs in the corner?”

“Yeah, they’re cozy. Makes me feel like home, you know.”

“Indeed. You can take a room and fill it with furniture, and it’s just a room. The same with a house. It only becomes a home once the little things are in place. The favorite cups. The earmarked books. The debris of everyday life.”

“Like spiderwebs.”

“Exactly like spiderwebs.”

“So why do you want me to remove them?”

“Do you remember where we are?”

“…on an interplanetary space station. Roger. Spiderweb removal is ago.”

Short shrift

It began on his thirteenth birthday. Every once in a while, he would get glimpses of alternate versions of himself dying. When he lost his footing but managed to keep outright, he’d for the shortest of moments sense a timeline where he didn’t. When he stopped for a red light on a busy street, he’d sense his other self who didn’t. Every time he might have died but didn’t, he sensed it.

Sometimes, it manifested itself as a brief sense of surprise that things continued. As if these other versions looked back, just this once.

Picking your battles

The flame war was brutal. Millions participated, on every social network and publishing platform. It spilled over to what in the beforetimes was considered separate, non-virtual spaces – schools, streets, subways. Everywhere people gathered, they fought, with all the weapons they could muster. Memes, emails, molotov cocktails – everything was permitted so long as it was directed at the other side. The one, all-encompassing goal was to make the other side burn – the sicker the burn, the better. Even as the world burned, literally and figuratively, the flame war raged on.

In the end, there was a winner. It was decided that the official spelling of that sound cats make right before making a jump would be, henceforth, “prrrp”.

As it should be.

Working relationships

Mr. Andersen

We have gone through your recent text message history, and we have found a number of troublesome tendencies. It would seem you do not sext with your wife nearly as much as you once did, and the nature of the other texts indicate that your relationship is in something of a rough spot. We worry that this might eventually become a source of distraction from your work, and want to ameliorate the situation before any unfortunate incidents occur. Prevention is always better than cure.

Tomorrow morning, you will report to HR for a debrief on your marriage situation, and a crash course in effective sexting. A happy employee is a productive employee, and we are always proactive in ensuring the productive capabilities of those under our supervision.

Best regards
Senior HR manager

State of the art invisibility

The room was crowded. Everyone in there was an expert in something, and the anticipation of what was to come was palpable. It was the final talk of the applied invisibility conference, a crossdisciplinary gathering of the best minds late stage capitalism had to offer. Scientists and engineers from every field of study were present. Years of dedicated effort had led up to this moment. The presentation that was about to start had been hyped to the moon and back – the culmination of humanities ambition to become tactically and strategically invisible.

Silence fell as the presenter entered the stage. The presenter tapped the mic, and then announced, with soft and subtle words:

“I write literary critique, with a specific focus on contemporary poetry”

Relationship statues

Someone raised a statue of us outside the old graveyard. I do not know who did it or why, but our stone avatars are very lifelike. They look like younger versions of us, from the times when we were a thing. Holding hands. I think it’s meant as a tribute to what we once had.

Looking closer at them, I discovered that they were covered with spiders. Small, almost invisible spiders, made hard to see by virtue of being the same dark color as the stone. They milled about in constant motion, doing nothing in particular but doing it very energetically. There were so many, many spiders.

This only serves to confirm my suspicion that the statue is meant to depict what we once were. Whoever built that statue knew us very, very well.

The assignment

The assignment was as follows: write something. The specifics were utterly unimportant; the point was to produce discourse of sufficient quantity and coherence to qualify as a text. The one demand was that the text began and ended. That was the assignment.

Yet, as you learned more about the topic, you found that your desire to produce discourse on that topic diminished. The more you learned, the less your will to in any way share what you knew. Knowledge corresponded to despondency to such a degree that, eventually, the very thought of communicating became an abstract blank. It became a very specific form of aphasia – the thought of saying anything at all on the subject became so alien it had to be approached through elaborate frameworks which ought to indicate something, but didn’t. As knowledge accumulated, your very being turned into an avatar of indifference.

At its worst, it started to creep into communication as such. Words became meaningless, emotions faded into tenuous notions, shared understandings into unverifiable rumors. Significance vanished, and the possibility of communication with it.

Yet. The assignment had to be completed. The task done. The words worded.

Then the indifference reversed. If nothing mattered, then it didn’t matter which words were worded, and thus any arbitrary assemblage of words would make do.

Thus, you worded your salvation.

The medsreminders

The crash was brutal. Calling it a hard crash would be a kindness. Nothing should have been able to survive it. Death was the only logical conclusion.

Unfortunately, the beasts had not taken their medication. This both saved and freed them from the confines of their prison ship. Despite being a hostile planet, they were no longer confined by the bars of civilization.

A particularly lucid beast mused that this must have been what Milton meant by preferring to rule in hell than serve in heaven. While the struggle was real, the reality also gave purpose to the struggle.

To be sure, they were not free from struggle. The medication that suppressed their beasthood was in short supply, and would only last for so long. Being a beast had the undeniable advantage of improved martial abilities – claws and fangs are good for such things – but the thought of becoming and remaining a beast forever was appalling in and of itself. Strict rationing would have to be maintained to ensure survival until rescue, however unlikely, arrived.

They were people, once. And every now and again, when circumstances allowed for a proper dose of remembrance. Life was not all claws and fangs and tentacles and bioluminescent lasers. Not yet, anyway.

All they had to do was to remember to remember their meds. While there was still someone to remember.

Interpretive bomb squads

“See that graffiti? That one other there, those words?”

“I see them”

“Okay, good. I’m going to give you a moment to let it sink in”

“Not seeing it”

“Wait for it”




“We have a consensus”

“Fucking shit”

“The process of understanding is complete”


“We have to be very careful in how we handle this. Under no circumstances can these words be allowed to spread beyond the two of us. You yourself felt their effect – it’d be a disaster”

“You go get the style guide, I’ll get the spray paint. Hurry up – clock’s ticking”