Today is the first day of my life and the town elder tells me I have to leave.

I did a wrong thing, or was chosen, but I have to go away. People who I think are my parents are saying things to me. A lot of strange symbols come from their mouths and I do not understand them. I can look back on any mouth symbols people have said to me whenever I want but it’s not very useful. For the most part I say YES or NO. It works fine. Those are the only words I know but it’s very easy and I like that. The elder gives me ’$\/\/0RD’ and ‘l*07i0N’. One I can use to attack and the other I can use to ‘heal’. I think that word means the opposite of attack, which is also good? There’s another YES/NO option and I say YES and I leave the village forever. I know it’s forever because I bump against the entrance and it won’t let me back in. I guess this is what adulthood’s like.

Travelling is fun. It’s very dangerous and many animals (and sometimes people?) attack me but that’s what $\/\/0RD is for. If ’|-|l*’ is low I use ‘l*07i0N’ to feel better again. ’|-|l*’ must be how happy I am. When the ’|-|l*’ of something that doesn’t like me reaches 0 it leaves me alone which is good because I like being happy and when things attack me I get less happy. When I attack a lot of things I get to be tougher by exactly one in how strong, smart, or fast I am. I’m not very smart yet but maybe later I will be. I have already learned many things already but not what ’60lD’ is yet. It has been a long time since I left the village but there is another up ahead! Maybe I get to stay for longer than a day.

It is very pleasant here, although my first day was very tough. I managed to figure out the secret all by myself! You must give a lot of ’60lD’ to people and they give you gifts even if they don’t know you. In a building filled with beds I said NO to a man the first time we spoke and nothing happened but then I said YES and it made me happy. I gave a lot of ’60lD’ to a man selling things to put on your body and he gave me ’|-|4T’. Wearing it makes some numbers go up and makes me feel safer, which is a good thing. No one in the village is attacking me, though, which is also a good thing? I can stand close to small animals and they make sounds but I don’t understand the sounds. I hope they are saying nice things about me or the people that live here.

There is a tree in the square that’s very tall and pretty. There is a group of people underneath it making music and dancing. I want to join them but I don’t think I can move my body in more than two ways. The dancing boy has a lot of animations which makes me a bit upset even though ’|-|l*’ is still the same. He makes weird signs appear and I say YES and suddenly I am dancing with him. We dance until night happens and suddenly it is morning and the boy is there. We now are together which is very nice. I still don’t understand his mouth symbols so I just say YES because he is very smart and knows what to do. He does not need ’$\/\/0RD’ to fight and instead uses ’/\/\461C’. Maybe I need to get smarter so I can do that too. We talked with the village elder – well, I just said YES – and now we are headed for a cave. This is the second time I’ve been sent me away but I don’t think I mind because ’|-|l*’ is all the way full.

The cave is very dark. Thankfully there are many glowing drawings on the wall. They look a lot like the strange symbols that pour from people’s mouths so I guess I learned another thing but I still don’t understand. The dancing boy and I attack a lot of things which makes the both of us tougher – I secretly put ones into being smart because I want ’/\/\461C’, too. At the end of the cave there is a very strong animal that makes the dancing boy unhappy. He is lying on the floor which is no place to sleep (I know this because a bed is where you sleep!). I give him the last ‘l*07i0N’ but nothing happens so I attack the animal until it leaves us alone. I get tougher again.

Thank goodness: the dancing boy gets up again after the fight. He says something and I say YES and he opens the treasure chest the animal was guarding. He grabs what’s inside and turns to me, holding a very strange device. Now we can go back to the village. But, for some reason, I suddenly become a lot less happy. The dancing boy is happy, though, which is good, and he walks away. I can’t move. I can’t ‘heal’. I can’t make myself happy. I put another one into smart. The glowing symbols on the wall – I understand them now. They read, “BEWARE THE BEAST THAT GUARDS THE TREASURE, BUT BEWARE THE TREASURE MORE…” I think this means I can understand mouth symbols, too.

I think I will take a look at what people have said to me.



You made a mistake.

Red stains on an icy floor, you are biting your bloody nails. When an antagonist says “now it’s your turn,” you’re usually used to an accompanying murderous intent. But the only things here are chilling silence and a notable lack of villains. Your nails are running out. You grind the old blood from underneath with your teeth, sharpened by the rocks and sand you use for sustenance. The blood not yours mixes with a solution of spit and hate deluging from your wizened mouth. Rinsed clean of proof of sin, you are slightly less disgusted by your own hands. About two units of disgust less. That’s 48 more to go, to be precise. Precision has always been your forte. It has killed many women.

A fragile man, a pile of assorted bones, had tasked you with the destruction of a place hated only by him. “The cold is bad for my bones. Ice can turn into water, which is bad for my bones. Rid the world of ICE DUNGEON PLUS and I will reward you with SKULL TREASURES.” You were reluctant at first, having so many good memories of refrigeration. Your dog lasted long hours longer, thanks to the cold. But the promise of SKULL TREASURES convinced you, the exact tier of treasure you care to make an effort for.

ICE DUNGEON PLUS was full of traps, but those can’t hurt you. You only take action when it is necessary. There is no room for error, no room for mistakes. Death is unnecessary; you don’t take any action towards it. It’s surprising how much time you spend staring at blank walls, listening to the crackle of your own skin. A lot of the things you do can lead to death. All this inaction hasn’t done much for your body heat. You once froze a dog by petting it.

Entering the final room of ICE DUNGEON PLUS, you expected a boss, certainly. You had it all figured out: how to kill it, how to escape, how to inform the pile of bones it was done, how to spend hours telling yourself it was necessary. But you did not expect her. Unlike the bosses you’d encountered before, she did not try to kill you. Not a single action performed was towards your death.

This was the first time nothing tried to kill you; you felt less cold. Instead of ICE III, she cast you a look like transparent icicles, sharp and clear with intention. Your lips and fingers knew exactly where to go. Dry, cold skin can be surprisingly warm when acted upon. This was necessary, she was necessary. Then, a low chuckle scared you. “Now it’s your turn.” Fear, panic, health bars running low, no action can lead to death.

This was necessary, you tell yourself, biting your bloody nails. It has been hours and you still don’t believe a word of it. You eagerly activate pressure plates, expecting to be skewered; you can’t help but dodge the cold spikes jutting from the ground. You unintentionally dodge the boulder rolling towards you. You dance through a fire trap, hoping that flames can melt a body as cold and barren as yours. None of it works.

You made a mistake and you can’t help but live with it.


A# – glide to A. “Joshua. Joshua. This is your new father,” is what the words meant. A smile like Orion’s belt: askance, far away. A touch on my cheek – calloused palms, unintended chafing. “Indeed, your new father.” Words I already knew were repeated. I was told he is my father. I am told things to remember. He brought money. Animal skin suitcase, father never hunted before. Seven paper stacks bound by paper strips. I am paper, I was told; a document. Ink cascades down my forehead, down my face – an ovoid blank. Words appear, words I remembered: “Stars” “Heavens” “Orion’s belt” “Beautiful” “Fuck!” “Shit!” “HELP” “Help” “help”

G. Breakfast table, new father, five men, one woman, me. Velveteen covers, embroideries of flowers I saw in the forest. Don’t know the names. I know their occupations: flower. They are laughing, yelling, roaring, cannonfire. Woman has pink lips, a ruby choker. Expensive throat slit. Scar on her lip, she smiles at me – no laugh, yell, roar, Howitzer M109 – I feel the exact same. A plate is given to me – toast and eggs, one strip of bacon. The television family ate this once. I saw them do it. They had a lot of problems. Father was abusive but laughing people made it okay. Woman was not real, couldn’t have been, fantasy on paper. Children should have been happy with a home. “Pretty quiet, that one.” Five men laugh at me, one points. I tense up. “Whoa. Relax, kid, you’re with family now.” No defence ready, but no defence necessary. I am with family. I wish I was quiet. I wish it was quiet. Loud, like hand grenades, like exploding stars. That happens, I remember it being told. Will that happen to the sun? M67, frag. Ka-BOOOOOOM! Table falls silent. “Jesus. Where the fuck did that come from?” “Where’d you even find this kid?” Silence after a bang is a good thing, I was told. ‘That’s how you know it’s safe, Joshua,’ is how I was told.

F to E. Two months ago, 0300, new father set up equipment. Not for spotting, but looking at the sky. Night raid? No. Too dark. No lights on in camp. Radio silence. “There are more stars out in the heavens than guns, Joshua. Or so I’d like to think.” The desert is cold and dry. My skin hurts when I drink. I want to drink but I don’t want to hurt. I am thirsty. “On clear nights like these, you can see Orion’s belt with the naked eye. But looking at it through a telescope is even better. Isn’t space beautiful?” I close one eye and peer through the scope. Emptiness and lights, all above me. The lights make me readable: the Joshua paper, document 77. Joshua is a part of this family, belongs to this father. Bang. C14 Timberwolf, 2500 yards northeast. No silence. Bad. “Fuck!” “Shit!” “HELP” “Help” “help”. Silence. Good.

String snaps. Another bang. I scream; I have been killed, but I don’t want to be. Silence. Breathing. No silence. Screaming. My lungs are filling with air. My blood is my blood, not a stain on the ground. Good. Mother rushes into my room. She knows what has happened. I was shot, in my head. Not a real bullet. She takes my guitar, used to be father’s, and wraps her arms around me, but not a chokehold. She makes me live again, warmth and humming. I put my arms around her and I become silent again. Not a target. Silence again. Better.

The number two

The number two holds a place in my life. There should be an adjective there, but I have two to pick from: “good” or “bad”. I’m not sure which one it is.

I have two of many: two ears, two arms, et cetera. Just one nose, though, but there’s two nostrils I get to use. There’s two valves in my heart that cough up blood. They spew that nasty liquid – who knows where it’s been? – into two chambers; chambers like abandoned music halls where the ghost of good times still resonates. Cobwebs and dust cover a lone drum set in the left corner of the stage, almost hidden by a curtain. Its red-stained rhythm reminds me I am alive, which is good or bad. I’m not sure.

I have two hands, the right of which I don’t like to use. My left I reach out with. Its clawy form grasps at the window, opened slightly. There is a breeze today, an ocean. My hand goes unanswered and I understand completely. When it comes to those two things: yes or no – help me or help me not – I’d go with no, too. Two angelic shapes carry me through that window – I’d successfully squeeze through, because it’s my dream – and they take me to the beach. Two towels are waiting there for me; well, just one. The other one keeps waiting, and so do I. I wait, and I feel. Or maybe I don’t, I’m not sure.

I have two eyes and I don’t like looking at myself. I avoid looking in front of me, only up and down. When I look up, I see a sky that’s wonderful. Beyond that sky lies something I enjoy thinking about. I imagine myself as a space hero with a powerful blaster gun, performing opportunistic mercenary work and hunting aliens. When I look down, I see two hands that have touched two things. I have held two mugs. One I fill with green tea and honey, the other I filled with coffee – no milk, two sugars, my gratitude. I clasp the tea with my left and I clasped the coffee with my right. There are two names on them. One mug isn’t used anymore, one name isn’t said anymore.

I have two lungs and they stop working. The air I breathe comes in two: dead space, and the air that carries my name. There’s so much that whispers me. Space, for instance, calls out to me pretty much all the time. I go there constantly, either visiting planets based around a single thing (my favourite is Planet Food!), or making lengthy jumps on the moon while a synthesizer plays noises I can only describe as “space sounds”. In space, I use both of my hands, look straight ahead, walk.

But that stops when I breathe in the dead space. I choke, because violin strings form in my lungs, the antechamber to the music hall. When struck, they play a melody a bit too solemn for my tastes but one that suits the mood. The dead vibrations remind me I am not alive, which is. It just ‘is’, I’m not sure if it is good or bad.

Unlike the number two, dead space does not hold an ambivalent place in my life. It is hated. Dead space is the space on the towel next to me, the space I no longer carry coffee to, the space in my air that no longer carries your name, the space you no longer occupy.


Nakanaide is the name I was given. It is the one word that defines my existence: it is my word. Like every word, it has meaning. One that I have to live by, that I have to realise. I want people to say, “your name fits you.” I want them to mean those words. I want them to keep saying those words. I don’t want to disappoint my existence.

On an afternoon missing even the wind, with the sun in full burn, was when I first realised my name. A friend from another temple had come to visit. We were placed in a chamber together, forced to sit on our knees. We were surrounded by candles and were not allowed to move until each had extinguished itself. The shimmering haze of heat was the only thing that ever moved even an inch. We both knew this was necessary. The screaming men of our temples said that to appease the alien creature known as God, we had to endure it. I have been told God lives 15,000,000 light-years away, sleeping inside of a dying star in the M83 galaxy. The burn scars on my head and the trouble I have walking were given meaning by this God. I do not know what God means, but to me the word means bad news.

My friend always brought an abandoned fish tank along with him. It once contained a pet as well. He placed it on his lap and allowed his tears to fall into the tank. On our eighteenth time inside the chamber, my friend simply stood up. Sad water spilled into the chamber and did not wait for the candles to extinguish themselves. The screaming men burst into the room and took my friend away. I did not want to disappoint, so I did not cry. We had never once spoken, but I had given my friend the name Saiken, which means ‘bond’.

I remember another time I lived by my name. I had been gifted a pet for a birthday. It was small and frail, and I loved it for those qualities. It would lick my face whenever it was happy or when I was sad. During the day, we would play in the woods near our house and stay away from that building for as long as our hungered stomachs allowed it. During meals, I held it dearly as the cacophonies crashed down on me. In the evenings, we would stay huddled and hidden and shivered together until day arrived. We did not sleep. The stomping on wooden floorboards and the angered voices of those who did not love kept us awake.

It was in the leafless season that we escaped into the forest again. The sounds of snow trampled underfoot gave both it and I a sense of joy. Our one-sided snowball fights and games of hide-and-seek had given meaning to the snow. I was very good at hide-and-seek and was always able to reunite with my dear pet, no matter how well it managed to hide. The last place I would ever find it was inside of a hunter’s camp, on a spit roast. I did not want to disappoint, so I did not cry. I had named it Hatenaku, which means ‘forever and ever’.

I once loved a woman. She took me away from the screaming men and the candle room. She carried me on her back to the first house I would call a home. A house does not have to be a home; my first house was not. To me, home means warmth. The woman taught me how to read, she taught me how to write, she taught me how to talk. She taught me about the words in the world and how each word has meaning. She told me her name was Hakuchuumu, which means ‘daydream’.

It did not take long for the screaming men to find us. Hakuchuumu spoke to me: “Do not cry,” and so I did not. I asked her the meaning of those last words, raising my voice like the lost child I was. All she did was smile, a word that still means nothing to me. The screaming men took me away from my first home and brought me back to my first house.

Nakanaide is the name I was given. It means ‘do not cry’.