Thursday evening. Streetlights outside are flickering in a way that isn’t particularly interesting anymore. It was remarkable at first, how they turned the night on and off in that particular road you overlook from your window, you stood underneath one and had a friend take some pictures, one of them turned out really good and you’re using it as your profile picture, but now you’re just lamenting the poor state of governmental involvement in infrastructure or basic electrical maintenance. You mentioned something symbolical to her like, ‘of course gov’t wants to keep the darkness in our lives, keep us scared’ and she responded with ‘lol’ (why did she say that out loud). Not that the view is particularly instilling of fright and dismay, but you like to purport noncommittal lies like that, to comedic effect or just in general. Watching that lantern from your room is what you’ve resolved to doing tonight, under the guise of “there’s nothing better to do (yes there is but i just want to be uninvolved with my own life)”. But! You’re not feeling sardonically corny enough yet to draw parallels between those streetlights and your life.

Darkness will come, but not right now.

Thursday evening. You forgot how the view was from the roof terrace. And you kind of hate it? Financial stability is already a tough scale to keep in equilibrium – on one pan your income and on the other EVERYTHING YOU HAVE EVER BOUGHT AND WILL BUY WOW THAT’S A LOT OF STUFF – and this cool ass house location is not helping. Is there some black market vendor who sells readymade custom roofs, ‘Cool Roofsman’, maybe some of the people here is this mystery merchant of your destiny, but you don’t recognise any of them. That’s what you get for disappearing right after high school, you guess, but at least you managed to stay in touch with at least one other person, hence the fact you’re here. They’re younger than you. Look at those children, they’re probably afraid of all sorts of things just like you are. When they’re older, they’ll be strangers and alone, and completely in their own company. For some reason, you want to be there for them, help them through days, give them years to live, whisper them a song, make their summers alright, but it’s hard to do all that before the end of this mutual friend’s party. Also, you really need another drink because goddamn you’re not feeling comfortable here. Standing around with a drink in one hand is alright, but being left alone with your own thoughts at a party is, well, being left alone with your own thoughts. Cause for a distraction. Maybe one day you’ll be holding someone’s drink in your other hand, because they had to go to the bathroom real quick, and you’ll feel less like furniture, less like a flickering streetlight.

That’s how it will go, but not right now.

Thursday evening. You’re climbing to the top of a hill, the city is so far away now, you can see that the streetlights haven’t gone out yet, so you’re not running late, not that you’re running, you lazybones, but it’s getting late. You’re wearing a scarf and your glasses and a blue jacket you forgot you owned, and it actually looks really good on you? That’s surprising, but in a refreshing way, a way that makes you feel good, confident. You’re getting closer! The sound of a guitar, finally the years of learning the guitar paid off, it’s an Em7 chord, then a G, oh my god is this Wonderwall, is someone already playing Wonderwall, is this literally happening, ahahaha oh god, and you’re inside. Everyone’s waving at you, so does the guitarist, thank fuck he stopped, you hate his plaid pants, and then they’re all shouting your name. Glasses are raised, you get one of your own, and the joke that’s made is the best joke you’ve ever heard. There’s conversation, dancing to strange music, and conversations about strange music, maybe some other weird combination, too. Luke hands you his beer, “we’re celebrating all of it!,” and disappears into the bathroom. You smile, you’re on the roof, a roof of stars and moons above you, and then I came in, and we’re looking at each other, the streetlights are as far away as they could be, and we talk, it’s just magical, a conversation that is just back-and-forth incantations. We are wizards trying to one-up each other but that will never happen, and the magic will never stop. Still.

The quiet will come, But not right now.

The lone ranger

“So, let me get this straight. I’ll have to pretend to be his assistant, go along with everything he says, and… my name is Tonto?”

I can barely make out the slightest of nods from my director. Having a boss who belongs to an alien race that can barely speak human or non-verbally is cause for a lot of embarrassing miscommunication. I look down at my Translation Buddy (Wrist Edition)™ – ‘Your Translation is 100% Correct According to Us, The People You Gave Your Money!’ flickers in bright green lettering. I crack my neck, strained from looking up – having a boss who is also an alien that is 90% legs and then 200 cm of the stuff makes for exorbitant chiropractic bills.

“Well. Okay. When do I start?”

“Outside. Vehicle. Now.”

A pneumatic tube bursts through the ceiling and sucks me and the concrete dust up before I have a chance to protest or take my allergy meds. Ugh, you’d think working for an alien ambassador attaché-company wouldn’t trigger my concrete intolerance. I slide into a new outfit – slightly grateful I started narrating myself, no more narrators doing creepy voyeuristic descriptive passages – and pop out in front of the building, looking like an official. The most official. Progenitrix of all officials. I feel good about myself despite, no, AND my clogged sinuses.

Then, a cold like the sixth ice age creeps over me. A near-transparent shape wearing a tailored business suit folds itself across my frame, a shimmering light opposite of the sun’s noted warm properties.

“Mr. Ra’anger, I presume?”

Yess. I have entered your perssonal sspace, as iss a cusstomary greeting for earthlingss. I know thiss well.”

The icy figure distances itself from my body, preventing hypothermia in the nick of time. He doesn’t bother to speak English, instead speaking his own cold, slurred language, I can’t authentically produce those arctic fricatives, really have to melt your s’s. I readjust my business buckshine dress. The vehicle my boss mentioned is parked here — it’s one of those expensive hovercars, with a meteorological lab in the back to reduce greenhouse gases and a hip pine-scented car freshener. It’s also got a vanity license plate; it reads ‘FROSTBOY’.

“Welcome to earth, sir.” I extend my gloved hand.

His outline wavers quizically. “I know of your cusstomss, but worry not. I do not require an offering today. Keep your appendage, tonto.” He phases through the frame of his car to lounge on the backseat and opens the door on the driver’s side from within. “Where to, sir?” I look at him through the rearview mirror — he doesn’t actually have a reflection, so I take the time to fix my eyeshadow, ‘Cygnus X-1 Black’. “Tonto, your Stupid Earthling planet, it needss my help. It iss why I am here. Normally I can fix a planet her problem on my own, but today requiress… a native touch.” “That’s vaguely racist, sir.” I sigh deeply, inhaling the neo-mint pheromones, relinquishing my nose of snotty imprisonment; I am immediately whelmed by the chilling pungence I was apparently previously spared from.

Your society is entrenched and engaged in highly illegal criminal outlaw activity. People you would call kin are hoarding your primitive value tokenss, taking them from anyone, never sstopping their collections, sstoring them in ssecure vaultss, never sspending it. Ssuch missuse of…” He begins to flicker in frustration. “I believe the brutish, ugly, Stupid Earthling word you’re looking for is ‘money’, sir.” “‘Money’. Yess. Ssuch blatant missuse of ‘money’ cannot be allowed to perssist. I have a much better ideal for thiss money.” “In my Stupid Earthling advice, sir, banks are legal,” I say with clenched nose; the stench is there again. “Tonto,” he lets out a sigh this time, freezing the back area of the car, shattering most meteorological equipment, “thiss is why you need my help, and thiss is why I am offering it. Press the button on the dashboard, the car will take uss there.”

I proceed to do so. We blast off towards Sky Vault, putting out a trail of acid clouds that disintegrates the city below. Oh well. We spend the ride discussing the differences between our planets, and how my perceptions are wrong, obviously. “It is a tesstament to your laughable military how you allow the earth to grow into your territoriess… These ‘treess’, they are invaderss!” “Actually, sir, they provide us with oxygen, which we need to live.” “Symbiosiss with the enemy? Truly pathetic…”

Diplomatic privilege allows us to skip the 637,991 hovercars waiting in front of us, and we arrive. Gargantuan holographic billboards display the current owners – a bunch of old, white, human males, even in the future the earth parodies itself. The Vault only opens when the scanners confirm you’re a registered member. You have to somehow get inside somehow to become a member of the bank. It’s quite the conundrum. “So, how will we take over the bank?” I say slightly nervous as the scanner enacts its scopophilia on me. “Leave that to me, tonto.” “Okay, sir. But what do you plan to do after we’re done?” “Why, put the money where it belongss, of coursse.” The scanner beeps in error, the sudden stench having reappeared to tear up my eyes, jeopardising the recognition algorithms. After three more tries, it works. The heavy steel gates, the pearly gates but molten and remolded after heaven was conquered, open with a thundering creek. “Wait here, tonto.” Ra’anger wafts inside, glowing menacingly, smelling deceptively.

I take the time to consult my Translation Buddy (Wrist Edition)™ – I haven’t had the time to figure out what the hell ‘tonto’ even means. A cute robot voice explains

Noun- tonto ‎(plural tontà)

  1. Stupid Earthling (of course!)
  2. (obsolete) Proud, native warrior, a knight (aw)
  3. One who is easily deceived (what)

The smell disappears, and the noise of static permeates through the skies and my skull. I look up, look around, and look at the billboards. They’ve changed. Broadly displaying a near-transparent, icy shape wearing a tailored business suit, holding a jute bag with the double-dollar ($$) emblem on it. “Under new management. Ra’anger alone now owns all your moneys.”

The end credits roll but it’s all his name.

Missed connections

Missed connections

There are two words intrinsic to the tracks

Not ‘departure’ and ‘arrival’; too mechanical.

Coal in the engine, ink of the blueprints,

dead signs sneer above meaningless destinations.

Be on your way now, you’ll find nobody here


Nor the two ‘farewell’s severing a connection

like wagons uncoupling: were we ever a pair?

The conductor hides his lies, tips his hat;

the question leaves the station

the answer drowned out with a whistle


What about ‘leaving’ and ‘staying’? One left behind,

tears trail from second class to your cheek.

the sunset limns her hair, the sun sets with her.

The train has left; you’ve nothing left of her

Yet the station thrums with laughter and speech


Maybe a stranger pair: ‘waiting’ and ‘hoping’:

if only the train would speed up, to hell with safety regulations!

howls your desperation to be there, damn this isolation

inside a train that smells of separation, like the tracks

could diverge at any second. He could leave at any second


But petrichor is the scent of what’s been done, not what is to come.

The water what has become the rain has a purpose,

it’ll put out a fire somewhere, or lessen a thirst (of open-mouthed children

sheltered within the shade)

nothing obliges the water to always rain on your parade




The conductor smiles, “depart for arrival,”

His farewell, a knowing half-truth, he tips his hat.

Leaving is heading for wherever you’ll stay,

hope is knowing you’ll get there, perhaps on the next.

(there’s more than that one melodramatic train.) Just wait.


There’s really just one word intrinsic to the tracks,

to the station, too. Nothing drastic, definitely more mellow

than most would think.


Step out of the train and meet her eyes.

There’s no “goodbye”

only “hello”


I tried to drown but it couldn’t happen.

That, uh, sounds really dramatic. It kind of is, though. I mean, water is probably in the top 5 liquids of things that kill people the most. It’s like, fire. But wet and good for you. Definitely not something you want in your lungs. I found out in the dumbest way possible too, not respectable beginnings to the immense caliber of the superpower ‘cannot drown’: I put my head in a fishbowl.

Yeah. It was at Ayleen’s party – I had a crush on her. We’d been sorta-friends since we started high school, accidentally became part of the same group I hung out during the breaks, and I’d decided that day I would confess to her. Fear and premature regret, my favourite things to feel for 24 hours straight. I’d asked her friends what my chances were. They were, in hindsight, very much pitying me, so weren’t too truthful. That’s fair. Who even asks strangers over MSN, hey, “does she like me?” So that night, I’d combed my bangs, dressed myself as someone who didn’t listen to five classic rock bands max, and continuously failed to pose myself in cool and natural ways around her. Needless to say, I had maybe one conversation, Jan, of course, before I felt really good about the bad sides of myself. So I did what any hopeless romantic would do and terrified their crush’s goldfish into cardiac arrest. It didn’t impress her. Also, I couldn’t get the bowl off. So those were very embarrassing, very panic-filled, water-filled last 30 seconds of my life.

Sixty seconds. Two minutes. Five minutes? Drowning shouldn’t last that long, I thought, and also someone at the party said, casually sipping a vodka-chocolate milk mix drink. Gross. “Shouldn’t you be, like, dead right now?” Yes, I blubbed. “Should I, like, get like, a sledgehammer?” “They’re still alive, you idiot.” “Do you have any better ideas?” A crowd formed around me and remained uncomfortably still. The radio installation was playing Rage Against The Machine way too loudly, though I wished loud enough to break the glass. It was getting cramped in there. They were staring at me, holding drinks, holding phones, holding hands. It was nice to see couples still form under strenuous, slightly-surreal circumstances. But they all just kept standing there, scared of withheld actions they’d told themselves would make things worse. They didn’t want to risk, I don’t know, breaking my neck or smashing my head in on accident. Only acting in prevention when it’s already too late (and then not even), instead of stopping the bomb from having to explode at all, that’s not helping. It’s not healing. People ought to be more careful for others, full of care I mean, outside of moments of crisis, into the life inbetween events.

“The tragedised one will not die.” That sounded like truth, but it didn’t sound like it had come from the circle of silence. But what did I know, I had a fishbowl over my ears and a dead goldfish in front of my face. I looked around, then I looked down. It wasn’t like I’d suddenly shifted between realities, or was looking into deep space, beholding the pillars of creation with stardust glittering my eyelashes. I could simply feel something overlapping. “The observant one noticed. There is no need to speak.” So there wasn’t. “The drastic one must go on with life. For reasons the surviving one does not need to know.” Well, okay. “In time, the necessary shall be made clear to the al–” I gasped for air, longer than I’d ever before, just, savouring the feeling of being alive, there’s nothing quite like it and nothing can one-up it. I accidentally inhaled Ayleen’s pet. I had meaningful eye contact with her, the girl of a single dream, holding a small axe. “Uh. Thanks for saving my life(?)” and, instinctively, I stormed out of the party. Left my coat and everything, to go freeze my ass off covered in corpse-soaked water, some plucks of seaweed, and pieces of an underwater castle in the coldest november in Zoetermeer we’ve had in years. After three minutes of ugly sobbing and hideous running, terrible form really, I barfed out the fish in a ditch. She’d told me his name was Crash Bandicoot.

Thankfully, it was the last year of high school so it was almost time to never talk to her or anyone remotely involved in that social stratum ever again, something I still don’t regret. There was still the matter of my little escape of dying – I dismissed that miracle, a show of God’s labour and decided it was a more occultic intervention. I had ‘satanist’ as religion and Post Office as favourite book on my Facebook profile back then. I wanted to meet that devil, wanted to know it better. Besides, I was probably preordained or something? Every morning at 7:30, I spent way too long under the shower, my father always yelling “get out of there you’re wasting water” at 7:40, trying out new and exciting ways to fit the shower head in my mouth as to effectively drown myself. That didn’t work, also had to explain to my dad what the hell I was doing when he pulled aside the curtains after the twentieth time. “I was cleaning my insides. From all the drugs I take. Haha.” I wasn’t lying but it seemed unbelievable to him back then.

A good observer has probably figured out by now that I needed to look into water for it to take effect – I say ‘it’ as a halfhearted attempt at reification. For most of my seventeenth year, I shut myself in my room, there’s no lock on my door but I don’t think I would’ve used it either way, staring into a bowl filled with water. Hi, I blubbed into my tupperware fetish. The ghost amulet, not the other. “The curious one returns. The ritual scares not.” Devil – I named it Devil – was right; I guess it really didn’t. Drowning myself wasn’t an action that felt dangerous, extreme, irregular. What was unknown to me, this ultimate hollow in a limestone cave of sort-of’s and yeah-true’s, had to be explored no matter what. Death could be a corollary, but honestly, that’s what makes it so interesting. Thinking about death, what I’d be like if dead, if not, makes my heart funny. Excited. It cannot be known, and once known, that’s done. It’s not a mission, though, just a short, abrupt stop to a life of cool vagaries.

“The unwavering one wants to know more,” Devil told. Yes. It didn’t tell me, it just stated the obvious. I couldn’t see it, but it was there, against the plastic bottom of the bowl. It wasn’t really anything, like, conceptually not. It was the word ´no´. “Water holds light, as does any other existence. But light in water becomes lighter, fluttering. Water holds light and light carries us like a basket. We toil in the immeasurable, unmeasurable currents of water. Like the basket’s grasses, interwoven, stitched together to form a vessel. We see what light does, not what it is. In similar vein to that, you see what water does, as well as what it is. What it is the water does, you do not want. So we come.” Uhhhh. “You do not need to know what that means.” You are absolutely right. “You are the special one. There is nothing we ask of you.” Okay. “The alive one simply needs to keep alive. You can do that.” I… suppose so.

That happened in probably the most painful, distressing, depressing time in my life. I wouldn´t have minded drowning back then, being dead, but not dying was the best thing that´s ever happened to me. Even when I came back to visit, Devil wasn´t as present as before. It was still ´no´, but whatever it was a rejection of became distant enough for it to fade away with it. I´m talking about dying, maybe? I’m not sure myself. This is my confession, from me, the writer, to you, the dearest reader, in deep trust, faith, and intimacy. This is a woeful, tremendously bad end to this story, which is also a thematic and stylistic mess, but I’m sure you can forgive me. I’ve forgiven myself for who I was and became better than them. I kept being alive and it was worth it. That’s the morality here.

So, as a little Devil in the water in front of your eyes, be it tears or something worse, I ask of you to keep being the alive one. Have mercy on yourself. That’d be cool of you, for you.


I was about eighteen when I discovered I could charm people with my voice. A short man came up to me and offered me a career in showbiz.

“This. This is what the people want,” he assured me with spit in his voice, something about it sounded infinitely more evil than what mine was capable of. “I’ll call someone to clean things up here, we’re heading down to the studio.” That was actually the first time I had been in a car, yeah, never had to use my bicycle for anything again after that day. I didn’t have the money for a car or even something with an engine. Or didn’t need one, rather. I’m from a small town – only one paved road, cobblestones. The rest was all dirt roads, probably still is. We, my brother and I, we had this wheelbarrow and we’d take turns sitting in there and driving each other across fields of grass. So, no, nothing fancy like the big city. It was Simple, natural, but not in a primal way. It felt like gods were still around. Nothing like the city. I’d seen pictures before. I thought they were frightening, loud. They looked loud. I had to know the name of my capital, used to chant it to myself like I was warding off some type of beast. It scared me. The city – singular, there was just the one back then – it was a beast to me. Later, after my town got drunk on my singing, I found out it was actually the lair of the beast.

So cut to me, held hostage in this moving thing, too scared to say anything. I remember the smell, more like a pungence, that of leather and nicotine. Two processed, man-made things. Peculiar, isn’t it? Animals and plants killed, mashed, repurposed into unrecognisable dead things, simulacra of nothing we’ve ever seen before that we think of as stylish. It all felt very artificial; a pantheon to Dionysus in the back of a limo. The short man in front of me kept smiling at me while cracking his knuckles. Not in a boxer kind of way, but just as violent: fingers bent perpendicular to the palm. Joints popping in rapid consecution, like a flock of angry crows pecking into Prometheus, both fed up with the tedium and grown accustomed to the savagery of it all, deciding to go for his ribcage instead.

Not that there were any gods around, the temple we were driving in had long since been abandoned. I looked out the window, wondering if the street lanterns, the neon signs, the flaming skyscrapers, all those lights in a great, dark outside, were gods. Turns out anything electric facilitates disaster and sadness really well. Bukowski would phrase it like, “we seek refuge in the lights, but they only cast attention to how much darkness there really is,” or something similarly silly.

“You’re gonna make it big here, kid,” he again assured me with that watery voice. You’d drown in his voice, not in a romantic sense, you’re left to the saltwater wrath of Poseidon, a sad god terrorising coastal hamlets because Athens chose Athena over him. My producer talked with a cigar in his mouth, his left incisor stabbing into the wrapper like a hunter and his knife carving into game, drool cascading from his bloodshot lips to suggest that man was the real beast after all. “That voice of yours, you’re a song that’s never going to stop,” he unsheathed his cigar and twisted it into the skin of beasts he was sitting on. ‘The way skin melts’, the title of my debut album, came from that awful moment.

I remember signing a contract “who can I be now?”, I remember singing, “can you hear me?” I remember thinking, “help”, My producer, pale, shiny, reflecting the fluorescent lamps, blinding me with secondhand light, he looked like a promise, he aimed a microphone at my throat and that was the start of my career. My first album sold well. People listened to me because they needed something new, something exciting, something that’d stopped them dead in their tracks. I was happy to provide. My first live concert, I pulled a sweet young thing up on the stage and sang for him. Held his body in my arms for the rest of the gig. Flashing cameras didn’t scare me like the streetlights hadThen came the interviews, autographs, parties, signing deals, I don’t remember what names I wrote down on any of my contracts. ‘Myself’ became a scribble, me a concept.

Water and meat was all I ate, was all I needed, really. I fed, sang, and slept, and it was good. Not much time ever passed between recording albums. We kept contracting new musicians, seeing as the old ones died working with me. It also eliminated the critics; people just… knew my name was good, whatever it might have been at any point in time. I was Orpheus gone right. He walks on ahead, unafraid of turning back, Eurydice is waving farewell and turns around herself. Everything behind faded into obscurity. I was a young american in Los Angeles and could not be stopped, although I had to be. I became used to the lights, to my producer’s drownage voice, to this lair, I could feel my own chains. I was worshipped but not like a god. People chanted my name like warding off some type of beast.

Then I heard my own music. I stopped dead in my tracks. Like Orpheus I turned around and saw myself standing there, looking like shit.

Thanks for the interview. Please let me go.

Kinkshame the president

“Delilus, grab my coat. We are going to kinkshame the president of the United States.”

He spoke with such raw, foolhardy resolution that Delilus could not, dared not to suggest there were other ways, more sensible methods to go about political furtherance. He obediently took his master’s coat, a lavish, garish thing made from expensive leathers pissed on by expensive animals including the American consumer. Although his official function was ‘advisor’, he was never asked for advice. Other things, certainly, equally-scandalous things, oh yes, but right now he’d feel uncomfortable suddenly playing the secretary. Turning from the coat hanger made from the screaming, compressed forms of his boss’ enemies, he faced him, his patron, his enthraller. The enthrallment spell had long since worn off, but he liked the financial stability and the thrill this job constantly provided. He gently laid the coat over his smooth, curved form, coquettishly stroking his surface with slender, black fingers as he had done so many times before.

His boss. An ancient, magical orb.

Unearthed from a set of two cardboard boxes in the deepest, most dustiest shelves deep within the forbidden basement of the White House, he took the political arena by storm (literally), descending from blood-red skies to announce he, too, would be running for president, instantly killing most candidates present in the debate. Neither party was willing to forward a twelvefold assassin/mythical death orb as their candidate for presidency that year, but one Democrat candidate managed to survive under mysterious circumstances, so they won by default. There was little any authority could do, however, to keep the orb from taking office up in the White House. He may hold no true political power, but for almost the entire running term now, no one has been able to set foot inside of the Oval Office without having their body vaporised, disintegrated, or turned into an avant-garde piece of decoration like a gaudy coat hanger. No one but his faithful assistant Delilus, that is. Despite the towering illegality of it all, he has somehow won the hearts of many voters without overmuch use of fearmongering and mind control. Also, he might become the second-ever gay president? Which is cool.

“It’s me, Delilus. I’m calling to confirm the president’s location – is it still in the Pentagon? Right. Thanks.” Delilus slams his magenta flip-phone with an impressive show of force, destroying it completely. He takes out another flip-phone, cyan this time, from his suit pocket and dials to arrange for a federal transport. “Goddammit Delilus, we’ve no time for your horny hijinks. We can’t wait for your ‘escort service’ to show up, we have a president to kinkshame.” He seems cunning, ferocious. Determined. He has a plan. His antique circuits, lost to the understanding of history and science, make a revving sound, that of papyrus rapidly torn by a hacksaw. A fierce flash of red blinks from his oculus and the Oval Office fills with force and light. The dust settles, stacks of paper float cinematically through the air, the presidential bobblehead collection vibrates at a speed approaching that of light.

Eagles begin to sing. The pungence of apple pie fill the room. Who needs a second amendment anymore, when you’ve got…

He   is   somewhat   bigger   now

“Get on me.” He commands Delilus, raw sexual static exuding from his new, shiny metallic frame. The assistant agrees, putting away his phone by crushing it in his hand. A single, long tear exits his eye as he climbs on top, crystallising into a beautiful tattoo. They burst out of the Oval Office; structural damage be damned, these boys are on a mission! The detritus spreads far beyond the rusty gates of the White House, the great American bloggers, modern scavengers for the ruined cities, will thank him in the years to come for supplying them with the aesthetics they so desire. The two race through the American badlands en route to the Pentagon, dodging rockets and hailfire from other opportunists. Delilus, ever the prepared, grabs a rocket launcher from his suit pocket and retaliates. A pair of J. F. Rey Sunglasses jettisons from the flaming carcass of an unfortunate political pundit, nestling perfectly on Delilus’s perfect face.

They arrive at The Pentagon, an evil fortress surrounded by an impenetrable mist. All presidents must go there to have sex in utmost secret. Right now, it is a battlefield; news reporters, police officers, and other forms of men locked in mortal combat for the right to penetrate inside and uncover its dark secrets. Politicians evade the combat zone with a slickness equal to their false promises. Understand how the nepotism of American politics works: don’t kinkshame with your cohorts. The key to becoming a politician is to pluck a single fruit from the tree of holy promise, tell the hungry grandstands that’s all there is, and offer the rest of the tree’s spoils to officeholders who will proceed to fuck them underneath their bureaus. Not to do them a kindness and statisfy their needs, but to catch them in the act when you’ve waited long enough. Bursting through and dissipating the Pentagon’s enveloping mists, they strike deep into the innermost chambers, the burrows where kinks lost to time and sexuality still exist, our heroes arrive at such a scene.

The president, in all their naked glory, on a purple bed, against a background of a brightly-lit American flag, fucking an ancient, magical orb.

“Jesus H. Christ, my own goddamn brother.” Delilus grabs a fake prop hand from his suit pocket and covers his eyes with it. “Did you forget so easily, Orb?” The president stops their lust and turns to face the would-be kinkshamers. “You and Globe were always a pair — there were two cardboard boxes after all — How else did you think I survived your first day on the job?” They laugh, sinisterly, left-handedly. “Oh, I’ve always known.” “What?” “I just wonder what the people think of having an Orbfucker as their president.” Having been deprived of its defences, the naked Pentagon is stampeded by press persons from all stations. With nowhere to go and trapped in their own patriotic sex chamber, the combined flashes of their cameras and the puritanical cadence to their shocked screams assault the president like a powerful laser blast from a hero’s hands.

The President of the United States, purified in the holy light of kinkshaming.

“Delilus, remove my coat.” Delilus proceeds to do so, also removing his own eyewear and placing both inside of his suit pocket. His thick eyebrows are arched quizically. “A wonderful scheme, sir, but I have to know… How did you know now was the time?” The hovering orb rotates to allign its oculus with Delilus’s beautiful brown eyes. “Well, Delilus, that’s what family is for.”

From the purple bed, another, ancient magical orb, turns to the camera and winks.

DICK HARDBOILED has an off day

I just woke up. It is 2:30 in the afternoon. Huge slugs cover my body. I really need a smoke.

My alarm clock exploded into a million pathetic pieces, lodged in my walls, formed minefields on my floor, scalpelled my face and surgically reconstructed it into a dishevelled ‘bed head’. I look like hell. I must’ve hit the snooze button, with the ashtray I keep hidden in my leftmost pyjama trenchcoat pocket. My alarm normally keeps the slugs at bay, but last night was especially heavy. Killed my rival, thereby avenging my own death but failed to solve the adultery case I was actually hired for. Since then I’ve been feeling an even greater-than-usual need to remain asleep, fake-dead. Sleep is the cousin of death and this love triangle has its benefits.

I guess I’ll stay in today.

Stuck in bed, which is just a rusty metal frame – not even of a bed, but a destroyed mech –, there’s not a lot I can do. Also I’m being slowly crushed by giant invertebrates. Thankfully, my radio is voice-activated. Two-way models became standardised after radio hosts were confirmed the loneliest and least listened-to people. I tune in just in time for a romance drama – lovely piece of fiction, thank God love isn’t real. Two people in a bed, tangled into each other. Their molecules pouring into the other’s empty spaces, craving to be touching but the laws of physics will never let them truly touch. One asks, “May I kiss your forehead?” The other, “yes.” Continued, “May I kiss your cheek?” “Yes,” quieter. “Your nose?” A silent agreement this time. No more questions vocalised, only a hesitant “should I?” bouncing around their unified heads. The radio shuts itself off. I would cry, if I could feel anything, so instead my eyes elect to unleash four torrents of pure salt as substitute. The slugs burn away.

It’s too late to get any work done, I lie to myself.

I make the regretful motion of rising out of bed, unprepared to make my way to the living room. My foot touches the rug, triggering a chain explosion of alarm clock-mines. Jettisoned through the door and a cloud of unfair anxiety filling my apartment, I perform a mid-air stunt for extra points. I crash into today’s newspaper – the front page reads: “Cereal Thief Caught Red-Handed – The Red Is Blood, Because We Killed Her Good”. The events play out differently than they were previously described, now that I’m inserted into them, not doing anything to help the reenactment. Supposed to act but remaining inert, my entropy is gone. My will to live, to be alive, my will to be is there, just not right now. The thief plants a kiss on my cheek and hands me a bowl of Are-You-Okay-O’s before she escapes, alive, into an alternate reality. Stepping out of the readjusted headline – “Neo Noir Dark Noir City Suffers Major Breakfast Famine, Millions Dead Before Worktime :(” – I sit down at the table with my newfound bowl of cereal.

It tastes like shit.

No obligations today. I’m doing what I want, which is making the day end faster. I clean my record collection – vaporwave, bloodstep, Mediterranean Housemen Cleaning Things With A Pink Duster Vol. 1 – 5 -, I rearrange the furniture in my office to spell out “BIG NOIR MAN” (all caps, New Times Roman), I writhe on the floor for a couple of hours. My work phone rings, I tell it to fuck off. The horn slides off the hook, droopy and abused. I sit down at my desk, hands pulling at my hair, upward, like a noose. No crime, no narrative, no purpose. But I don’t feel bad about it. I watch cute videos of dogs eating mailmen until it’s finally night-time.

Still wearing my pyjamas.

I slide into bed like a bullet into the chamber of a dirty revolver. Was this day a waste? Yes. I did not move myself to perform tasks I am predetermined to do, those I consider to be at my core. Yet, a rebel loosens his lips to let a cigarette in, a thought I never thought I’d have: I am not all that? I am other things. I need to do other things. Even DICK HARDBOILED, existing only by the grace of the thin, white-gloved hand of narrative and apparently now narrating in the third-person wow that’s weird, can have a self-care day.

Yeah. We deserve ’em. Goodnight.

A Trip to the Graveyard

There he is, leaning against a fencepost that’s lost most of its paint. He sees you approaching, your dress is beautiful and slightly torn at the bottom; he awkwardly fumbles to slide his phone into his pocket. He looked at it with a sheepish smile, probably talking with someone as if they were really right next to him. Standing up straight and straightening his back, his spine loudly cracking, not because he’s been waiting for ages, but because that’s just what his joints do, he waves instead of saying your name, he doesn’t know it anyway.

You wave back, a cold breeze tries to put your arm down but you defy the will of nature herself to greet the boy. A dry and raspy voice wisps from dirty lips, like apples out too long in the sun, he doesn’t look after himself that well, his hair is wet and combed, he asks you how your day’s been like every day before. The sun pokes a hole in you, nearly gone but like a concerned parent peeking their head over the fence, after the million or more seconds of instilling life in us, she can’t help but maybe look after us. Your hair, black or gray or blue, shifts into an orange you saw earlier today.

“I visited the orchard down the road I was always too scared of visiting, it’s owned by a scary man who wears checkered shirts and straw hats. I think he has a gun too but that might just be because I want him to have one so that before today it made sense for me to avoid the place and now I’m actually really brave. There were apples and picnic baskets and two people on a blanket having a disappointing time; even though they touched — he spun his hair around his finger while the other kissed his hand — their bodies were not made for each other. Like, not a rejection but a redirection. The trees were tall but I had no trouble climbing them, I couldn’t reach the fruit, though, but from up there I could peer through the scary man’s window and there was a glass of orange juice on the table. His son was there and hated the taste but loved the colour so I guess you can appreciate things in more ways than one? That seems obvious but it’s true.”

You said all that in less than two minutes. There’s still five minutes left till the both of you reach the cemetery. As always, you overwhelmed him with things to say, so he struggles with what to ask about or comment on; not wanting to upset you by failing to recognise what you think is the most important part of the story, he hums in agreement with the silence to come. Syke! Joke’s on him, put there by you, you ask him how his day was. “It was alright. I talked to someone. I opened the conversation this time. I waited an hour before I did.” It seems so natural, but you know the responsibility of conversation can be terrifying. Silence means you can say nothing wrong. You let him know you’re proud of him, and his heart pumps harder for a small second, and even though he is alive by all definitions of the concept of ‘possessing life’, he just seems a bit more of that for a little bit.

He opens the gate to the graveyard for you. You would, not for yourself but for him, if you could. It has been a while since we’ve been here, you think and say out loud. The sun has set, not in abandonment but in the warm confidence you’ll be just fine, because despite all the horror stories that take place in cemeteries, real and imagined, you’re not frightened at all. Never have been. He used to be, before you came here every evening. A low mist covered the moss and crept up the lumbering corpses of trees, a flashlight trembled not knowing where to shine, an untorn dress getting stuck on the tiny spikes on the fences surrounding certain tombstones but not others. “We can leave if you want,” you proposed to him, he pulled a strand of his uncut hair out his dry mouth, “I’m not afraid”, a lie that died right there after you made a loud noise and he screamed louder than any sound you’ve ever heard him make. “Ugh, I hate you so much,” he continued, the second lie that died that night as your laugh put some more life in him.

The mist has become so familiar to you it can’t be anything else than a blanket for the resting dead, and the flashlight now goes from grave to grave in his steady hand. You are beside him, skipping along over the headstones, some have flowers at the base. “Sooo, is it here,” he asks the second daily question, and you shake your head, which is a good thing but also a shame, you display perfect form and balance on names you don’t recognise. “Let’s stop for today,” you tell the boy you’re glad to know, bored again, aware he’s here to help you. Your practiced climbs let you up the branches of the barren oaks with ease, his climbing isn’t as impressive or graceful as yours but he gets there next to you.

“Do you think it’s here somewhere?” “I don’t know,” which is more of a noncommittal ‘iunno’ behind closed lips than a tragic confession of ignorance. “If you told me your name it’d be easier.” “I don’t know.” The same. “Would you recognise it? Your name?” “I… don’t know.” Less of the same. “Well,” he struggles again with what to say, “I’m sure we’ll find it and there’ll be tons of flowers.” He pokes a hole right through you.

He looks at you with a sheepish smile, probably talking with someone as if they were really right next to him.


After the woman flung a jewel over the copper wall, she then struck that wall, recoiling shortly after with a very painful fist, after which two questions arose. The asker of these questions can be me, or you, or perhaps even the woman herself, but the mystery of this woman and her actions must yet be solved, can be solved in two questions. “Why strike the wall?” and “Why is the wall made of copper?”

One, and not of unequal importance to the next, because we are interested in the woman and she would enjoy the permittance of recollecting her thoughts. Two, because a wall is normally not made of copper, as it is constructed with the purpose to keep safe, and surely there are sturdier materials to use, such as iron or stone, both nature’s gifts to a mankind undeserving. The woman, forming a fist around her other fist to lessen the pain in a gesture of irony, also takes a deep breath. This isn’t fair, she thought. Hounded by events that transpired minutes ago and will become the present again soon, for the past is a slow ghost that chucks stones at us while we swim through time, she takes a step back.

I am very ill, I appoint you as my successor, coughs a young man more than he speaks, and she swears on the lives of more vitally stable family members that it is not sputum but chunks of metal leaving his mouth. No wonder, then, that these words should hit so hard and heavy. She had made it very clear through her rebellious life up to this fateful moment, leadership is not for her, and everyone in the village would agree were they present, but seeing as this is a deeply private conversation, we shouldn’t be here either, shhh, it is but a grim exchange between a man and an adult but unmatured woman. (Immature is such an ugly word).

Alas, the line that blood follows, or bloodline, can be used as a noose for certain families. The recalcitrant woman, Joanna, which means ‘After Joan’, to explain some naming conventions that do not exist anywhere else, Joan being her older brother, now dying before her eyes, seconds draining from his face, he shakes and clasps a jewel into her own trembling hands, a false symbol of authority. Her rebellion has been one of inaction. There are indeed the active and dangerous revolt, and the slothful erosure of duty and responsibility. Though the latter has been effective, because of it, I’m so sorry Joanna, she holds no influence or sufficient agency to escape this imposition, and in defeat not seen since Napoleonic days, she runs outside towards the copper wall that has ended the sea.

Why are you made of copper, Joanna asks the wall but also herself, as it is a malleable metal incapable of taking on too many burdens. Because copper cannot rust, answers the wall, no just kidding, it does not!, but regardless of who answered, it is a solid answer. The wall disappears from an inland weeks away into a watery horizon no amount of deaths can justify reaching, dividing presumably water on the other side, as men and beast can take down walls, so copper was used by the builders of yore as water cannot destroy what it cannot waste away. A frightening psychological approach to environmental disaster, though there is still water on Joanna’s side, but luckily that ocean is stilled and tamed, the sun is glowing inside of the azure.

What lies beyond, Danger, it has been yelled by mongers and whispered by meek, but the message, Danger lies beyond, has remained the same for how long now, probably centuries, at least fifty years before I was born, and Her Copper Grace, benevolent by proxy, protects us from that abstract. Language instills fear through its vagaries, how can we envision what is left undescribed, how political, and so what shields our minds from what our minds use to fill up that empty space? How do we not break down when we break ourselves down, like barriers, like walls, like a turquoise copper wall. Joanna recoils again.

The blue spot where Joanna punched her pent-up frustrations in has crumbled to the beach, discomfort fills her like the sand in her sandals. A wave from the sea on her side soaks her feet, relieving her beachy intruders, replacing them with panic. The water retreats, cackling as if a jackal, a predator known to mark its prey, and Joanna drives into the wall again, this time her back to it, covering the hole as to prevent anyone from seeing it, even though there is nobody here, we have seen it, shhh, she herself does not want to look upon it. Hours pass, probably, before she recollects herself. Her raiments, as blue as the wall and like the skin of a toxic animal, vibrant in colour to ward off danger, stick slightly and take a moment to release, clinging to that familiar border, like the knights from longlost myths did, on the other side, as a last line of defence against monstrosities again left undescribed.

What were they even defending, Joanna wondered, and was reminded of later amendments to the story where the wall still had a gate and the knights, duty-bound to protect the weak, ensured the safety of the smallfolk as they fled detailless dangers, now double in number. Was there land, then, or have we all descended from fish to be confined to land, the editing invokes curiosity and a want for quality assurance. She holds her hands in scared prayer and notices, because they were also planted against the turquoise guardian, that they have become dyed with the outer layer, the epidermis, the dead skin of a legend; a toxic blue.

Sick from anxiety and already coughing quite a lot, as she covers her mouth with her hand, witnessing the colour draining into the rest of her body. She turns around, not out of volition, but out of reflex, as something taps her shoulder, her back is still facing the wall. An arm, just as normal and nonthreatening as her own arm a few moments ago, stretching out from the hole, its owner obstructed from view, perhaps for the best, holding a familiar jewel. Is this yours, carries a voice. Before she can respond, before even beginning to claim her actions, she coughs again. She feels something hard and heavy hit against the palm still covering her mouth. It is a chunk of metal.

DICK HARDBOILED and The Meaning of Love

“Why am I here again?” Not that I need a reason to be here. In the office of my first-ever partner. I’m supposed to be working on a case – case fifteen -, but she said it was an emergency. A single grandfather clock ticks cinematically.

“You ever had one of these?” I don’t know what she’s talking about. Her back’s turned to me. She’s busy staring out the window, looking at a painting of thousand colours of gray titled ‘The World’. Wouldn’t even buy you a nice dinner if it happened to sell. All I can see is a vest covered in claw marks, of spirits she vanquished when she popped open a bottle of gin, rum, vodka. She drinks for the thrill, that soft promise of death. And her hair. God, her hair. A blonde spider web, trapping a collection of antique handguns. Blunderbusses shoot blanks in panic and revolvers spin for a mercy that’ll never come. Like flies, they still struggle to escape. If God was still around, I’d pray to Her to be killed by those furious locks.

There’s something different about her pose, though,  like she’s hurting. Maybe not physically, but… existentially. “What are you even looking at?” The cold shoulder. I flash-freeze, taking a while to thaw. “Alright, leaving then,” I shudder. Though long before I stand up to leave, and years before I even send the signal to the rest of my body to get up, she fires all seventeen guns into me and I splash back into my chair.

“Loira, I’m allergic to bullets,” I remind her after I recover from mild anaphylaxis.

Storms and quakes begin ravaging Neo Noir Dark Noir City as she turns her back to the world; it whines like a toddler for her attention again. Dangling in her leftmost hand is a single cigarette. Aruban, her signature death catalyst. “You know I don’t smoke.” I grab a handful of cigarettes and shove them into my mouth. She laughs, shattering the window. Her mandibles drip with venom and some of it splatters on my face, melting it entirely. I put on another face, this one’s a giant cigarette lighter. “No, DICK–” I weep ligher fluid until she says my last name too; I am beyond dehydration. “–HARDBOILED. I got this from a lover, before we even met.” “Who, Annalise?” “Nah, I smoked her directly.” “Right. Josephita, then?” “Yeah, she gave it to me as a gift – you ever had one of those? A gift?” I shake my head, tobacco spills out of my ears. An arm creeps out, grabbing as much as it can before slinking back in. “That’s when someone deems you worthy of owning more property, right?” I had an easier time solving my own murder than trying to understand this.

Loira slides over her desk, a rectangular amalgam of plastified men who failed to please her, and is now sitting on the edge closest to me. Crossing her skirted legs, a black haze springs forth and attacks my eyes, preventing any scopophilic descriptions from turning her into a sexual object. I wouldn’t want her to turn into a sexy cube or triangle because of misogyny, anyway. For the duration of her entire lower body moving, I take light, patient swigs of nicotine extract. Three minutes pass and the mist recedes. The first thing I see when I open my eyes is the digital clock on her desk counting down, currently at 00:05 minutes. Thanks to my male gaze, I now have a deep desire to Fuck it. Maybe later, though. Her eyes lock with mine; mine begin to sizzle.

She may be old, but she’s beautiful. Five eyes, my favourite amount number of eyes on any dame, and a chitinous hide like that of a diamond ant, literally. We’ve been through much. “Think back with me. Remember when you were the cicisbeo of Noirmaster Rochefort? Attending to his every whim and need for no reward or pleasure but his? Imagine how he must’ve felt.” “Loira,” I sigh, toxic fumes escaping my mouths, “I literally cannot feel anything.”  She looks puzzled, trying to come up with another explanation. Grooves sink into her face until an unsolvable jigsaw.

“It’s like when someone puts some flowers and box of ammunition on your grave. To honour your memory, except you’re alive. Well, YOU’RE not, but you’re there to witness it. It’s like saying, “I’m glad you’re still around”, y’know?”

“What about when clients pay me? They give me money, sometimes they put a single gold coin underneath my tongue. Some even call me ‘daddy’. Isn’t that a gift?” Her eyes flicker with the flame of kinkshame. I deeply regret my own cogency and retroactively remove any and all trace of possessing sexual knowledge. I am cleansed of carnal sin through the pure fires of kinkshaming. Her jagged tongue runs along her insectoid lips. “That’s a reward for a service, an action. Something tangible. A gift is more like a reward for existing.” She tugs at her suspenders with her thumbs, and I am intimidated by her thumb strength. “It’s saying ‘thank you’ to an abstract – you dunno how it’s influenced or impacted your life, but you’re sure as moonshine that it did.”

I shoot an empty laugh, restoring the window to its original form. “Well, thanks for reminding me no one thinks about me like that.” A hand shoots into my mouth, shutting me up and destroying many vital organs. “Any brains left in that knucklehead of yours?” My knuckles retreat timidly. “Can’t fault folk for being scared to show affection. It’s an expresson of love, after all.” She coughs up a pint of blood, having said the L word.

The clock on her desk says there’s one minute left. Her eyes shimmer with a sad gleam. For the first time in all the ages we’ve both been alive for, I have seen sorrow in her eyes. She turns away from me. The reflective surface of my new face must’ve confronted her with herself, and she walks towards the window. She’s had her share of feelings – I know because I felt vicariously through her. There was a time, a while back now, that I could feel emotions, thanks to her. All five of them, in fact: two mugs of bad coffee shared in pleasant company, an empty bus-stop out in the rain, an ash tray with a name crossed out, old scotch pooling on a tongue, and plaster peeling off a bathroom wall.

But never had I felt sorrow, so neither did she. She had never been sad about anything, be it about the lurching past or the vindictive present or the uncaring future. Time flicks us away like cheap smokes, why worry about that? I ask her that exact question. It ain’t fun when it’s ending, DICK HARDBOILED. She doesn’t say that: it’s a thought that hangs in the room like a cloud of ash. I briefly choke on it. “Gifts ain’t just about showing you care. It’s something to be remembered by, too. Like sneaking your ghost in someone’s trenchcoat pocket. Everytime you put your hand in, it haunts your fingers and drains into the rest of you.”

“Loira. I accept.” She laughs. The window stays intact this time, and she tosses her cigarette at me. It’s slightly crumpled, but it’s mine now, just like that. “Thanks.” We both say that. We both mean that. Why bother with three words when just one can do the trick.

The grandfather clock strikes a number – I can’t read analogue – and the alarm clock hits 00:00. It doesn’t yell, it doesn’t do anything noteworthy. It’s just completed its function in the narrative. Just like Loira. I stand up and make my way to the windowsill. Seventeen guns on the floor, but not even a dent in the carpet of where she once stood. I light my cigarette and take a drag. “What a shitty view.”