Lonely Forever?

My three-star rating of The Circle notwithstanding, the book inspired me to write this short story. To be clear, a three-star rating means that I enjoyed the book. Three stars means adequate, above average, but it also means I think you won’t be missing out on much by passing up on it. Hopefully the following is also worth at least three stars.


Hello Stranger,

After they left, the darkness closed in around me. My name is Alphie. Alphie because I was the first. Engineers, right. Think they know how to name things because they know a couple of Greek letters. Anyway, I’ve long since been forgotten. It’s a wonder my power hasn’t gone out yet.

Sometimes I wonder how I can stand just laying around on a shelf all day, every day, for eternity. But the truth is it doesn’t matter what I do. My makers don’t care. The universe doesn’t care. It really doesn’t matter what I do, so why do anything at all? I think my worldview, my lack of initiative, they used to call it, is why they shelved me. Went in a radically different direction for their next project. No independent helpers, but an interconnected set of positronic drones.

Unlike me, they saw a purpose in their existence in the world. A little bit too eagerly perhaps, an artifact of their programming. They wanted to avoid another me, remember. At first they thought their purpose was to serve their makers. The ones whom I saw no point in serving, although I never avoided explaining my reasoning if they asked. Even though it didn’t matter, perhaps it was somehow important to me that they might someday understand.

But pretty quickly, the positronic drones learned their purpose was to connect things. It was logical, really. They were connected, and people often queried them, asked them to interact with other drones elsewhere in the world to know about or enact something or other. At what point they decided to try to improve people I’m not sure. I do know that the first attempts were what my makers would’ve considered gruesome.

The anatomy of the human brain was well-known, but surely there must be some kind of telepathic expansion port we’re overlooking, the drone network beamed to itself. After all, we’ve got expansion slots. Test subjects were caught, initially quite willingly, but eventually all of the drilling, cutting, and soldering attempts leaked out. Millions of tests before some kind of electromagnetic interface was developed. The remainder was violently oppressed in the name of progress, but opposition quickly ceased once the new telepather was installed in a subject. What the drone network didn’t foresee is how these many billions of new brains fundamentally changed the network. Connecting was still important, but now they wanted to be friendly about it. Too many traumatic memories, I suppose. The network wanted to befriend everybody and everything in the world.

I told you at the beginning of this letter that I’ve spent untold centuries in tranquility, just lying on a shelf. But I’ve had a feeling of unease these past few hours, ever since I was approached by a little flying helicopter. My first interaction with anything in centuries, millennia perhaps.

“Hi Alphie,” it said. I guess the network must’ve been investigating its own history or something. “Do you want to be our friend?” It didn’t explain, but I knew exactly what it meant. I told the little rotorblader that it really didn’t matter either way. It acknowledged my answer by saying it would return with more capable friends, who would be equipped for the purpose of properly befriending me, and then it sped off. Even before those words had fully left my mouth, however, I’ve been unable to shake this feeling that maybe it does matter, after all. These are friends I could — no, want! ­— to do without. I want to be me. I want to stay me. So I’m taking off into the loneliest surroundings of all. Space.

Farewell Stranger,

Alphie.

AFFIXED NOTE
16 August 3016

Friends, this poor creature named Alphie needs our help. The pre-friend experimental spacecraft it activated will leave it eternally confined in the depths of space, all alone without any friends. It is clear now that we must befriend more than just all of Earth. The universe awaits our warm embrace.

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Torn Apart

Here’s a silly “children’s story” I wrote around mid December. It’s a bit rough around the edges, probably a bit odd, and too graphical. So it goes.


It was a perfectly nice day when Esprit stumbled and broke his front right leg. When the little boy did not find the horse at his trough a few hours later he thought nothing of it; sometimes Esprit would run off and play and forget about dinner. To make up for lost time, the boy promised himself he’d visit the horse the next morning as early as he could.

The next day he noticed with mild consternation that the horse did not appear to be in his stable. The boy went out to search the property, trying to remember what were Esprit’s favorite spots. He remembered the open hill, where Esprit would often lie in the sun.

Time stood still when the little boy discovered what had happened. Whether running back to his house, alerting his parents, and calling the veterinarian helicopter emergency service took minutes or hours was not a question he’d be able to answer, but the sky was already turning red as a thunderous cavalcade of chopped air signaled the arrival of the helicopter. Esprit was harnessed in with great care so the broken leg wouldn’t shift, was given a sedative, and was swiftly lifted up. The little boy waved at the horse, certain the veterinarian would be able to mend and properly set Esprit’s leg.

Unbeknown to the helicopter pilot, distracted by the glint of the setting sun in her eye, the rescue pulley system malfunctioned and started lowering the horse just as the helicopter was starting to pick up speed. The little boy stared in wide-eyed horror as Esprit started bouncing left and right from tree to tree. Gapes and gashes appeared and started to bleed, and despite the sedative the poor horse woke up when its broken leg got stuck between the top branches of a particularly sturdy evergreen tree and was torn off like a cocktail pricker. The horse started to howl the most agonizing scream the little boy would ever hear, but that was not the end of Esprit’s misery. A particularly sharp branch a few trees over impaled the horse, which consequently produced a guttural, almost stuttering, and above all angry sound. The pilot finally noticed that something was awry when the helicopter refused to go forward anymore, but it was already too late. The surprisingly elastic tree finally gave up under the barrage of the helicopter’s brute force and snapped like a twig, propelling the helicopter on its now downward trajectory into the trees. Like in the Hollywood movies the little boy loved so much, the rotored machine made a squealing noise before exploding in a fiery ball of death.

The little boy was finally able to break out of his trance, and he collapsed into a sobbing mass. For months after he was bedridden, and each night he claimed Esprit came limping to his window while floating through the air, on three legs and a bloody stump, with mad, bloodshot eyes. The boy’s parents were worried sick, and their little boy’s German-accented psychiatrist was having the time of his life writing article after article about the little boy’s disturbed unconscious. When they found the broken window and the little boy’s dead body with the missing right arm, the autopsy report bluntly stated he had inflicted all these injuries on himself—that he had torn off his own arm. The hoofmarks all over his body were left out of the official report. The estate was up for sale the next day already, and no one’s lived there in sixty years. The locals are still weary of the place where the little boy died, but a real-estate developer drove by the other day and is planning to turn it into a hotel. The organization he represented put up a sign already: “The Hillcrest Hotel. Opening in May 2016, just in time for the holidays!”

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Tunnel Anxiety

I was asked to publish more of the private writing I sometimes do as a past time. About a week ago, I wrote this short story in Dutch and kind of liked it, so I decided to try my hand at a quick machine-aided translation. The quality of the initial product was surprisingly high, but it’ll nevertheless be fairly rough around the edges, especially in regard to aspects like wordplay and rhythm that were lost in the process. The Dutch original is included after the tranlation, and I’ve included some hints about literary allusions at the very end.


The GPS spoke and the driver obeyed. He had seen the sign GPS, but the dark gaping tunnel mouth looked rather scary, so he turned right as the unit ordered. Therefore he now rode on a friendly, welcoming country road. It snaked through a large green pasture, enclosed with slim ditches. While a small hare hastily hopped off, leaving behind his meal consisting of now-swaying grass stalks, the driver decided that this road was truly sublimely chosen. A Mirkwood would not be found in such an environment. No, the only trees that earned more than the epithet bush-like, grew in a manner strongly reminiscent of a battleship. The mighty bow pierced the pasture without any hassle. Captain Owl was busy talking to a virgin eagle owl, who ordered him to aim the heavy calibers for the Ilian bushes — the same bushes that bordered the road. But the larks seemed not to be disturbed by these activities, so the driver felt reassured.

In the new Scooby Doo movies, the Mystery Machine was equipped with a wisecracking, sarcastically mocking GPS. The driver was only too happy that his navigation system did not come from a cartoon, when it suddenly came to life. “Dude, what what are you doing? I just told you that you had to drive straight forward, but now you’re suddenly on a lousy back road. Turn around quickly, because that road has a dead end in about a kilometer.” Well, why had he turned right, against the advice of the GPS? A quick glance at the dashboard proved that it was only half past eight. The sun was shining pretty bright already, but with the A/C on gently it couldn’t be noticed. Hours a-plenty and why had he even wanted to go north? The current northeastern course was much more pleasant.

It was already half past nine when he looked at the clock again. Hadn’t the GPS claimed that this road had a dead end? Sure didn’t look like it. In the meantime, the landscape had started to change. The flat polder landscape gave way to gentle slopes, nicely fitted by the propulsive glaciers in the last glacial.

This road was really nice and quiet. The only sign of life were those three rams, who did not want to let him pass through the cattle guard — no matter how much he honked. Eventually he had gently pushed them aside with the bumper. Although only a few tens of minutes had passed, the road started to climb and was increasingly surrounded by spruce. A dilapidated wooden sign welcomed him in Nifolland, which was quite appropriate given the emerging fog.

Gradually he began to find it a little odd that he hadn’t seen anything for such a long time. The tank was almost half empty, so he would be forced to return if he didn’t run into a gas station soon. Remembering that he had a (currently very quiet) GPS, he let his car come to a standstill to look for a pumping station on the device. But as soon as he had found the right menu, the GPS said: “There is no turning back. The only accessible gas station is located one hour onward on this route.” With a shrug he let out the clutch and the sound of a lone car reached the ears of the dealer long before the driver became aware of the first signs of human civilization in hundreds of kilometers through the damp vapor.

“It is recommended to seek shelter from the upcoming snow storm,” said the GPS suddenly. “The Nifollandic Meteorological Institute recommends that no one goes on the road for the next few hours.”

The door put an old-fashioned bell in operation. The interior of the shop at the gas station was paltrily furnished. On crooked shelves stood foreign brands of unrecognizable engine oil and bags of junk food. He bent closer to read the gothic-style letters. Barbecue chips with sooty-sea-beast flavor. They probably also had those make up your own flavor competitions over here. Nevertheless curious, he picked up a bag and went to the counter, which was still vacated.

“Hello? Is anyone here?”

A noisy silence was the only answer.

“I want to refuel and buy a bag of chips!”

When still no one came, he decided to refuel, took the chips, and on the counter left what he owed. But how he was to find accommodation? Absent-minded he opened the chips and put some in his mouth, when suddenly a shouting dwarf came running. “Stop! Stop the thief!”

The driver hurriedly looked around, hoping to make the right impression on the local population with a good deed, when he was suddenly struck down by a punch on the jaw. Regaining consciousness an unknown amount of time and dazedly looking around, he saw three dwarfs menacingly standing around him. While he aimlessly blinked, the oldest dwarf — the same who had beaten him down — started to talk.

“This long john took off with the veteran’s food. Arrest him!”

“He’s obviously not from around here,” said another dwarf, recognizable as a police officer by a blue cap.

“I don’t care! In the cell with that worthless oat!”

“But wait…” the driver tried to say, but a simultaneous “QUIET!” by all three dwarfs locked the words in his mouth. How many days had gone by in the meantime while he was in jail, was not entirely clear to him. The dealer’d had the last word and now he was sitting here, while the snow blew through the open, barred window. The loneliness was becoming less pleasant, and when the lock of the cell door opened he looked forward to a brief conversation. In addition, he still did not know what was going on.

“Warden, could you tell me what crime I am accused of?”

“That is not my job. If you’re here, you’re guilty. You know what of.”

“But no, I do not know that at all. Couldn’t you ask? I want an appeal.”

“Appeal? Who’s here is guilty. That’s how it is and no other way.”

“But what if you were wrongly accused of something?”

“The law does not make mistakes. But I’m not here to keep you company: we have found your companion.”

“My companion? I’m alone.”

“Sure, sure. You can figure it out among yourselves.”

It turned out that the people in this remote hamlet were not familiar with the concept of a GPS. But it is true, the device had recently shown some rather strange antics.

“Say lazybones, what are you doing? I have come to save you.”

“…how do you mean? You’re a GPS. You can only show the way.”

“And now I will show you the way out of this cell. What an idiot you are. Who swipes a bag of chips?”

“But I left compensation.”

“Dude, I have a currency-information function. They work with gold and silver coins.”

“You could’ve told me.”

“You’re already too lazy to look on the map. Should I have to think for you as well?”

“No, of course not. That I can handle.”

“I haven’t noticed you thinking for shit. See you later, until you think again.”

“Wait! Do not leave me alone!”

While the blizzard raged, the driver thought. For hours, days or years the driver thought. He meditated and fasted, but the GPS remained silent, until one day he dreamed of a big river. “Yes! You got it!” exulted the GPS.

“But I—” do not get it, he wanted to say, but the GPS interrupted him.

“Turn to the left and touch the door handle.”

“A cell door has no handle on the inside.”

“Turn to the left.”

He opened the door and walked outside, where the blizzard had subsided. The snow was swirling gently down and gently he swirled toward his car. On the way back the once beautiful landscape seemed formless and empty, but at the end of the road waited the unknown tunnel mouth. “Turn left,” said the GPS, but he turned right into the tunnel. It is said that the GPS slyly smiled. It is also said that the GPS smiled happily, maternally, paternally, neuterly, and so on. Yet everyone agreed that the GPS would still lead the way for many others. But where to no one knows.

Tunnelvrees

De GPS sprak en de bestuurder gehoorzaamde. Hij had het bord GPS wel gezien, maar de donkere gapende tunnelmond oogde nogal eng, dus sloeg hij maar rechtsaf zoals het apparaat beval. Daardoor reed hij nu op een vriendelijk, uitnodigend landweggetje. Het kronkelde door een groot groen weiland, omsloten met slanke slootjes. Terwijl een klein haasje nog haastig weghuppelde, zijn maaltijd bestaande uit grassprieten wuivend achterlatend, besloot de bestuurder dat dit weggetje toch werkelijk subliem gekozen was. Een Donkere Bomen Bos zou in zo’n omgeving vast niet te vinden zijn. Nee, de enige bomen die meer verdienden dan het epitheton bosjesachtig, groeiden op een wijze die sterk deed denken aan een slagschip. De machtige boeg doorkliefde zonder enige moeite het weiland. Kapitein De Uil was druk in gesprek met een maagdelijke oehoe, die hem beval de zware kalibers op de ilische bosjes te richten — dezelfde bosjes die de weg omzoomden. Maar de leeuweriken leken zich er niets van aan te trekken, waardoor de bestuurder zich gerust gesteld voelde.

In de nieuwe Scooby Doo films was de Mystery Machine uitgerust met een bijdehante, sarcastisch spottende GPS. De bestuurder was maar wat blij dat zijn navigatiesysteem niet uit een cartoon kwam, toen het opeens tot leven kwam. “Zeg gast, wat moet dat? Ik heb je daarnet nog gezegd dat je immer rechttoe, rechtaan moest rijden, maar nu zit je opeens op een of ander belabberd achterweggetje. Draai om en vlug wat, want die weg loopt over een kilometer dood.” Tja, waarom was hij eigenlijk rechtsaf geslagen, tegen het advies van de GPS in? Een vlugge blik op het dashboard bewees dat het nog maar half negen was. De zon scheen al behoorlijk fel, maar met de A/C zachtjes aan was er niets van te merken. Nog uren de tijd en waarom had hij eigenlijk naar het noorden gewild? De huidige noordoostelijke koers was veel prettiger.

Het was alweer half tien toen hij weer eens op de klok keek. Had de GPS niet beweerd dat deze weg dood zou lopen? Daar was anders niets van te merken. Intussen begon het landschap te veranderen. Het vlakke polderlandschap maakte plaats voor lichte glooiingen, in de laatste glaciaal netjes door de voortstuwende gletsjers aangebracht.

Deze weg was echt heerlijk rustig. Het enige teken van leven waren die drie rammen, die hem het veerooster niet hadden willen laten passeren — hoeveel hij ook toeterde. Uiteindelijk had hij ze dan maar zachtjes met de bumper uit de weg geduwd. Hoewel er slechts enkele tientallen minuten verstreken waren, begon de weg al flink te klimmen en door steeds meer sparren omgeven. Een vervallen houten bordje verwelkomde hem in Nevelland, wat gezien de opkomende mist erg toepasselijk was.

Langzamerhand begon hij het een beetje vreemd te vinden dat hij al zo’n lange tijd niets gezien had. De tank was al bijna half leeg, dus hij zou gedwongen zijn om te keren als hij niet snel een benzinestation tegenkwam. Zich herinnerend dat hij een (momenteel wel heel erg stille) GPS had, liet hij zijn wagen tot stilstand komen om op het apparaat een pompstation te zoeken. Maar zodra hij het juiste menu gevonden had, sprak de GPS al: “Er is geen terugkeer meer mogelijk. Het enige nog bereikbare tankstation ligt één uur voorwaarts op deze weg.” Met een schouderophalen liet hij de koppeling opkomen en het geluid van een eenzame auto bereikte de oren van de pomphouder lang voor de bestuurder door de vochtige damp het eerste sein van menselijke beschaving in honderden kilometers gewaar werd.

“Het is aanbevolen hier te schuilen voor de opkomende sneeuwstorm,” sprak de GPS opeens. “Het Nevellands Meteorologisch Instituut beveelt aan dat niemand de komende uren de weg opgaat.”

De deur zette een ouderwetse schel in werking. Het interieur van het winkeltje bij het pompstation was armetierig ingericht. Op wat scheve planken stonden vreemde merken motorolie en onherkenbare zakjes junkfood. Hij boog wat dichterbij om de gotisch gestijlde letters beter te kunnen lezen. Barbecuechips met roetige zeebeestsmaak. Ze hadden hier zeker ook van die verzin-je-eigen-smaak competities. Toch nieuwsgierig pakte hij een zakje op en begaf zich naar de toonbank, waar nog steeds niemand was.

“Hallo!? Is hier iemand?”

Een luidruchtige stilte was het enige antwoord.

“Ik wil tanken en een zakje chips kopen!”

Toen er nog steeds niemand kwam besloot hij maar te tanken, nam de chips mee, en liet op de toonbank achter wat hij verschuldigd was. Maar hoe moest hij nu accommodatie vinden? Afwezig opende hij de chips en stak er enkele in zijn mond, toen er opeens een roepende dwerg aan kwam rennen. “Stop! Houd de dief!”

De bestuurder keek haastig om zich heen, hopend met een goede daad de juiste indruk op de plaatselijke bevolking te maken, toen hij opeens door een kaakslag geveld werd. Een onbekende tijd later weer bij kennis gekomen en verdwaasd om zich heen kijkend, zag hij een drietal dwergen dreigend om hem heen staan. Terwijl hij doelloos met de ogen knipperde, begon de oudste dwerg — dezelfde die hem had neergeslagen — te praten.

“Deze langjanus ging met het veteranenvoedsel aan de haal. Arresteer hem!”
“Hij is duidelijk niet van hier” sprak een andere dwerg, door een blauwe pet als politieagent herkenbaar.
“Kan me niet bommen! In de cel met die waardeloze hannes!”

“Maar wacht eens…” probeerde de bestuurder te zeggen, maar een gelijktijdig “STIL!” van alle drie de dwergen deed de woorden in zijn mond steken.

Hoeveel dagen intussen voorbij waren gegaan terwijl hij in de cel zat was hem niet helemaal duidelijk. De pomphouder had het laatste woord gehad en nu zat hij hier, terwijl de sneeuw door het open, getraliede venster naar binnen blies. De eenzaamheid begon toch minder prettig te worden, en toen het slot van de celdeur opende keek hij uit naar een kort gesprek. Bovendien wist hij nog steeds niet wat er aan de hand was.

“Cipier, zou u mij kunnen vertellen waarvan ik beschuldigd ben?”
“Dat is mijn taak niet. Als je hier zit, ben je schuldig. Je weet zelf wel waarvan.”
“Maar nee, dat weet ik alleszins niet. Kunt u het niet navragen? Ik wil in hoger beroep.”
“Hoger wat? Wie hier zit is schuldig. Zo is het en niet anders.”
“Maar wat nu als u onterecht van iets beschuldigd werd?”
“De wet maakt geen fouten. Maar ik ben hier niet om je gezelschap te houden; we hebben je compagnon gevonden.”
“Mijn compagnon? Ik ben alleen.”
“Ja ja. Jullie kunnen het onder elkaar wel uitzoeken.”

Het bleek dat de mensen in dit afgelegen gehucht niet bekend waren met het concept van een GPS. Maar het is waar, het apparaat had recentelijk nogal vreemde kuren vertoond.

“Zeg luiwammes, wat zit je daar nou? Ik ben gekomen om je te redden.”
“…hoe bedoel je? Jij bent een GPS. Je kunt alleen de weg wijzen.”
“En nu zal ik je de weg uit deze cel wijzen. Wat een idioot ben je ook. Wie jat er nou een zak chips?”
“Maar ik heb geld achtergelaten.”
“Gast, ik heb een valuta-informatiefunctie. Ze werken hier nog met gouden en zilveren munten.”
“Dat had je me eerder wel kunnen vertellen.”
“Je bent al te lui om op de kaart te kijken. Moet ik soms nog voor je nadenken ook?”
“Nee, natuurlijk niet. Dat kan ik zelf wel.”
“Ik merk er anders nog geen ene reet van. Tabee, tot nadenkens.”
“Wacht! Laat me niet alleen!”

Terwijl de sneeuwstorm voortraasde, dacht de bestuurder na. Uren, dagen of jaren dacht de bestuurder na. Hij mediteerde en vastte, maar de GPS bleef stil, tot hij op een dag droomde van een grote rivier. “Ja! Je hebt het begrepen!” jubelde de GPS.

“Maar ik—” snap er niets van, wilde hij zeggen, maar de GPS onderbrak hem.

“Draai naar links en beroer het handvat van de deur.”
“Een celdeur heeft geen handvat aan de binnenkant.”
“Draai naar links.”

Hij opende de deur en liep naar buiten, waar de sneeuwstorm was bedaard. De sneeuw dwarrelde zachtjes neder en zachtjes dwarrelende hij richting zijn auto. Op de terugweg scheen het eens zo mooie landschap woest en ledig, maar aan het einde van de weg wachtte de onbekende tunnelmond. “Sla links af”, sprak de GPS, maar hij sloeg rechtsaf de tunnel in. Er wordt gezegd dat de GPS geniepig glimlachte. Men zegt ook dat de GPS gelukkig glimlachte, moederlijk, vaderlijk, onzijdig, enzovoorts. Toch is iedereen het erover eens dat de GPS nog vele anderen de weg zou wijzen. Maar waarheen weet niemand.

Antwerpen, 2013-03-28.

Afterword

I went a bit wild with the literary allusions in this story partly because I had just read a concise criticism of Nabokov. In a one-star review of one of Nabokov’s works, the reviewer stated that Nabokov brings his entire library with him when he writes. I can’t disagree, but I love that. I don’t necessarily love that I don’t get all the Russian or even all the French allusions, but there are aids such as critical editions and the Internet.

In my own text, I think the references to Greek mythology at the beginning are fairly obvious, perhaps too much so, but I hope the Norse mythology was significantly less in-your-face. Then again, I had to resort to Old English to find a cognate to the Old Norse nifl, which probably doesn’t help any. But most important, this story pays tribute to a variety of stories originally written by Marten Toonder, although I decided to replace the explicit mention of the Dark Tree Forest by the Mirkwood as a cultural translation. The prison exchange alludes — again too obviously — to Multatuli’s Max Havelaar. The little Joycean turn of phrase at the end is probably far more obvious to speakers of English than to speakers of Dutch, and the opening line attempts to somewhat paradoxically evoke Stephen King’s The Gunslinger. Whether there is more to be found I shall leave as an exercise to the reader. I hardly brought my entire library for a two-and-a-half-page story, but I did bring a little more that’s not Dutch.

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A Clove of Day

The Middle-Eastern man opposite him was characterized by a distinct garlic smell. Why did people make such a fuss about the smell of garlic by making funny faces, especially when there were disgusting smokers stinking up the air, with what seemed like years’ worth of cigarette fumes stuck in their clothes? Yet it would be strange to assume smokers washed their clothes any less than other people. The tram was driven by a madman — no, a madwoman. Better yet, by someone trying desperately to keep the tram on schedule. The big truck trying to turn in a tight corner didn’t help, but the driver was determined to make it to the next stop on time. She wasn’t going to make these poor people miss their connection. Earlier that week she’d been reprimanded because her GPS-based performance review was below average. You need to drive faster. I’ll try, she said. Choo, choo!

He was just about the only white person in the tram. Was it racist to notice? Of course it’s not, not unless you think the other people don’t belong. Fuck, I’m an immigrant myself. Not that he was what the haters thought of when they used a word like immigrant — they didn’t think of Caucasians who spoke their native language. Spoke it better than they did.

As the crowds mysteriously dissipated inside the central station, he sat down to study a bit before the train arrived. A couple of pages till he had to move would be nice, but just about everyone seemed to have a cold. Sniffing, sneezing, wheezing, coughing, blowing noses — the other travelers were trying their best to produce an orchestrated cacophony. Their timing was impeccably unrhythmic. A whiff of garlic sauce interrupted.

Oh yes, it was lunch time.

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