Thursday, April 23, 2020

Playliststory 372/365 – inspired by "Electric Lazyland" by 9 Lazy 9

The paper bag of groceries Jacques was carrying fell to the grass with a dull thud. The bottle of wine within shattered. His hands balled up into fists.

They were back.

He had set the garden hose on them that last time and ran them off the property. They did not seem to like getting wet. Jacques wondered why they were back.

"Hé toi!" he screamed. "C'est quoi ce bordel?!"

One of them turned around and put its gloved hand to its mouth in mock shock. The others continued to pretend to spraypaint the siding of his house with what he could only imagine was grafitti. Jacques was not amused.

Just then, Amber, his neighbour pulled into her driveway in a very large SUV. It was emblazoned with the logo for her nail salon. She didn't do any actual work there, and mostly spent her day driving between her house, the coffeeshop, the yoga studio she attended, the drycleaners, and the over-priced organic grocery store. Her "ladies" (because she didn't actually care to remember their names), all recently from Vietnam and underpaid, did the actual work.

"What have you got there Jacques? They better not come over to my property. I just got the lawn reseeded!" she asked.

He glared over at her, trying to telegraph that it was none of her business.

"You better get that looked at, you know."

"I know, Amber, I know. I thought I got rid of them! Do I look like I invited them here, Amber?"

"Don't you take that tone with me Jacques. I support your kind." She angrily snapped her bejewelled sunglasses into their bejewelled case and hastly rolled up her window. Two of the damnable things turned away from their painting and recreated the tableux with Amber and Jacques. Mock Jacques started to cry, symbolised by the rolling of its fists by its eyes.

And that was enough. Jacques bounded across the lawn and they took off circling around the house. They were fast and lapped him, then he turned around but they evaded all his movements. He stopped, panting, and with hands on his thighs, hair completely askew. Unfortunately the garden hose was locked inside the garage and if he opened the garage with them around they get in and would nest in there and then he might never be rid of them.

Mark, a mousy neighbour from down at the end of the cul-de-sac was now stopped out front with his tiny shivering dog.

"Looks like an infestation," he said, tying a miniscule amount of dog poop into a bag. Have you called an exterminator?"

"No, not yet," said Jacques, somewhat defeated.

"I had bees in my eaves a couple of years ago. I could recommend the company. It only took them an hour or so to clean it out. Cost five hundred dollars though."

"Thank you, but these are not quite bees."

"It doesn't hurt to phone up and ask."

"I left my phone inside."

"Well go get it."

"Look, Mark, you are very nice. But you do not know much, I am sorry to tell you. If I open my door, they will scramble in and embed themselves in the furniture. I would then have to burn the house down to get them out. I do not want to burn my house down."

"Well Jacques, I'm sorry, I'm not French like you, I don't know these things."

"This is not a problem of the French! Mimes afflict all nations!"

"Well it clearly started in France! And since you've been rude with me, I'm not going to give you that number!"

"It did not start in France! Why does everyone think that?"

"Because mimes are French!"

"Well yes the original performers were, but this is a very different thing! These are not human! There is a difference Mark."

Mark stood and thought for a moment, his dog shivering even more violently. "I have to go home now. Good luck with those."

Jacques sighed deeply as the mimes mimicked Mark walking his dog.

"How do I get rid of you?" he asked them. "Comment puis-je me débarrasser de toi?" he repeated.

In unison, the mimes all shrugged with exageration.

"What a nightmare."

"Hey buddy?" It was the neighbour Kevin from across the street, a guy who thought he was a buff bodybuilder but wasn't quite. Racoons regularly got stuck inside the protein barrels he left out for recycling. Jacques thought he needed to learn to wash out the containers.

"What now?"

"I can help you man," he said, swinging out a machete.

"Where did you get that?" asked Jacques in horror.

"Oh I've got lots of weapons. You should see my bow collection. I don't have any guns though. I support the second amendment and all, but when I was in highschool there were three separate shootings and after the third I vowed never to own a gun again. 'Cause like, that was so super-tense, you know? So I have knives instead. Pretty cool right?"

It is not cool, Jacques screamed inside his head. "Don't come over here with that!"

"It's alright man, I've got good aim," and with that Kevin hurled the machete at one of the mimes, splitting it down the middle. "See, really good aim. That's some Robin Hood shit right there man."

Jaques let out a high-pitched scream. The mime halves twitched and shook before falling to the ground where they each splayed out into limpid masses.

"What have you done? Oh mon Dieu..."

"What man? I'll help you clean this up. I've always wanted to see what was inside them." He walked over to retrieve his machete but Jacques tackled him and tried to rip it from his grasp but he only opened up a large gash on his arm. "Dude! You've got to chill."

"You cannot go about cutting them."

"But you need to get rid of them."

"Yes, but not by cutting. Look here," he pointed to the blobs, now reforming into two separate and smaller mimes.

"Oh wow. That's...well that's something else. How did you know they would do that? Is it because you are from France?"

"Mimes are not from France, and I am not French Kevin. We went over this at your barbeque in the spring. I am Quebecois. Anyway this has been on the news ever since this strain emerged. Everyone knows you do not cut a mime!"

"Okay, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to insult your nation of Quebec."

"It's not a nation, not yet. And my nation is this country. I have lived here for a decade."

"Yeah, but you are not, like American-American, you know? Cause you weren't born here like the rest of us. But like, you're okay dude. You're one of the good ones."

Jaqcues pinched his fingers to his nose and closed his eyes tightly.

"It's alright buddy." Kevin wrapped his arm around Jacques and Jacques died a little more inside.

But just then a truck revved it's engine a few meters up the road. Jacques and Kevin looked up, and the mimes stopped and froze mid mimic, their faces fixed on the truck. It revved again, louder, and the mimes sprinted off towards it leaping into the truck bed and holding onto the sides. When they had all scrammbled in, the truck sped down to the end of the cul-de-sac, screeched to a halt, then turned around abruptly, knocking over Mark's wheely bins and sped off back down the road. As it passed the woman driving gave Jacques the finger and the mimes all stared at him with malice. Haunting.

"Wow. Who was that?"

"That is the loan shark I went to. I missed a payment."

"Why'd you go to a loan shark?"

"I had to mortgage my house after I broke my leg and couldn't work for six weeks. Broken limbs are not covered by the insurance my employer chose. And then I tried to sue my employer about it but the lawsuit was deemed frivolous and was thrown out of court. But I still had to pay the lawyers. And since I don't have a long credit history and the house was already maxed out I found a loan shark. She had a lower rate of interest then a payday loan place."

"That makes sense."

"So now I know who has been sending the mimes."

"You'd better pay up before she leaves them on your lawn for good."

"C'est tellement américain," sighed Jacques.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

PlaylistStory 371/365 – inspired by "Overture" by Hidden Orchestra

"I've got your hand, go ahead," he said. I wasn't so sure. The water was clear but still the waves were coming. I moved into the ocean further, until the water was at my hips and then receding. It wasn't a particularly warm day and my exposed skin was prickling up. Our clothes were back on the beach by the tangles of dead seaweed. We wouldn't be needing them anymore.

"Come on, don't be afraid."

"I'm not afraid," I said.

"Yes you are," he smiled that jagged charming smile of his and I smiled back. Yes I was afraid. But not that afraid. This was my idea afterall. I put my free hand into the lapping water and it was warm. It was a different world under there that I could barely fathom.

"I've never done this before," I said and he looked earnestly at me.

"Neither have I." I was beginning to think he was a bit afraid too. But what could go wrong? The worst that could happen is that we could drown and then know nothing.

I turned back to the water and focused my mind. I pressed my thumb into his hand to let him know I was ready. I began to sink down, bending my knees and hips, and I released my feet from the sand and that's when I knew it would work. I sunk my face into the water and through and pulled on his hand.

And then we were through. There was no more water. I opened my eyes. We were in the air above a forest and there was light all around us. We did not fall.

"See?" I said, turning back to him.

"It's beautiful. How do we move?"

"We swim. Come on." And I dove down into the trees brushing the leaves with my hands. He circled around me and we laughed.

"What do we do now?" he asked.

"Explore I guess," I said.

I could see the wheels turning with him. I always could.

"What if we do it again?"

"So soon? Don't you want to learn about this place?"

"Sure but, I want to know it's not a fluke. That we can do it again."

"I guess that makes sense. But can't we stay here for a little while?"

"Sure, I don't mind."

We floated through the trees and began to forget the war behind us. All the gunfire in the village, and our friends hanging from ropes with the crows picking at their eyes. We forgot the emptyness in our stomachs and the long queues of gray-skinned looking people waiting for bread. We forgot the holes in our shoes and the blood on the pavement and the broken roofs and walls and windows and the foreign words yelled mockingly at us.

All the pain was gone now as we swam through the forest.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Playliststory 370/365 – inspired by "Deep Blue Day" by Brian Eno

Do you remember that day we took the horses out, down by the river? The perfect summer day and we saw the green wheat waving, and the daisies by the phone pole, and the eagle in the sky. That day.

I miss you so much.

When are you coming back?

When are we going to ride the horses again? You on Buster and me on Blue because she's so calm and Buster likes you. Back down by the river again.

Please come back.

Can you hear me?

I'd love to live another thousand summer days with you. With the sky as blue and infinite as you can ever imagine. With soft grass and a gentle warm wind as we eat strawberries and laugh.

Can we have that back?


I'd take just one more summer day if I could see you one last time. The smile on your face, with the sun all warming it up. And then I'd put my hands on your neck and my head on your chest and you would laugh and hug me.

I'd like to see your face again.

Are you all?

I'll squeeze your hand, I hope you can feel it. You are still warm, and your skin still has the callouses from mending the fences. You were born to be outdoors and now you can't be.

Can you feel me?

Can you hear me?

I will always love you. But I think you need to go now and I am sorry. They will pull this machine out of you and then you can sleep. I am so sorry.

Don't be afraid for me.


I will give you one last kiss. I hope you can feel it. I hope it is something. You are still so warm and I can't believe you are gone already.

Goodbye my darling.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Playlist Story 369/365 – inspired by "Bust your Knee Caps" by Pomplamoose

"Can you get it out?" this Johnny asked. He was an old customer, commissioned a few tattooes back a decade or so. He was the kind of customer who made sure they were hidden behind clothes. He wasn't trying to hide his freak; his tattooes were totally tame if recall correctly...just sort of a more conservative guy who did accountancy or something else boringly respectable. To be fair, I had a few accountants who were total freaks, totally covered with wild shit and multiple peircings, god bless them. Love those customers. We have a BBQ every year for the best customers. Anyway this Johnny guy was something desperate.

"Dude I dunno," I said. I was trying to close up for the evening. It's not like I encounter a lot of emergency situations or anything. Mainly it's just infections because the customer was an idiot and wasn't clean. I give clear instructions on aftercare.

"I'm desperate man!" See, he was desperate.

"Can't you come back tomorrow? I've got stuff I need to do." I didn't, but I wasn't all that invested in this guy's plight. I didn't give him the implants. This was a corporate job. I was suprised he didn't want a refund from them.

"No, I need it out yesterday." Then he shoved his VISA credit card in my face. "I'll pay anything you want."

"What is that your company card?"


I rolled my eyes. I have a reputation to uphold, not to mention my 4.9 rating to keep.

"Why are you willing to commit fraud to get this removed?"

"My company put it in. They can pay to take it out."

"Look, dude, chill. I'll charge my regular fee for removals, three hundred, but you've got to promise to take care of the wound, cause it will cost you more for antibiotic prescriptions, not to mention any extra cosmetic work you might want me to do."

"Yes, yes. You'll take it out now?"

"Ugh," I debated. I can always use the money for the business, but my time is also precious. People can get so demandy. Especially these entitled types who really haven't done any real work in their entire adulthood. "Only if you use your own money. Ask for a reimbursement from them for all I care. I don't want to end up with a billing issue."


"Alright, come on in." I showed him to my back room. I finished cleaning up from the last customer, and got out a new set of tools. I passed Johnny a mask, put one on myself, then washed and gloved my hands (love that snap. Makes the customers nervy). I sat down next to the arm and examined the implanted device.

"Can you turn it off?" I asked. "I don't know if there will be nerve damage if it's powered up.

"That's part of the problem. I can't turn it off."

"It's defective? You should definitely go back to the manufacturer.

"No, that's what it's supposed to be like. Uses some sort of new battery technology, but it also taps into me for energy, apparently. "

"Really?" I hadn't been keeping up with the latest devices. It was such a capitalist grind to go through a new device every year when the old ones still worked just fine. My current phone is a decade old and I'm not parting with it anytime soon. Things seem to have really moved forward, even since the advent of implanted phones two years ago. One of the big companies wanted to recruit me as one of their outpatient installers but the pay was pathetic. They must have been getting real hacks and surgical students with that pay.

I gently twisted his arm around to see the extent if. Thin white lines spiralled around his wrist and forearm, just under the skin.

"How did they implant these wires? They go all the way around," I asked.

"They didn't."

"What do you mean they didn't?"

"They grew?"

"They grew?"




"Wow." Okay. This was definitely new. I should have been keeping up. No wonder this dude was so freaked out. I wouldn't want something growing inside me like a parasite, let along a non-organic parasite.

"Is it supposed to do that? Grow?" I asked.

"Man, you really haven't been keeping up with current events. This technology, it's turned into a whole thing."

"No I guess not." I was feeling bad for the guy. I brief discussed between my braincells whether to waive my fee for this little nightmare, but the majority consensus was that my time was more valuable than my charity. C'est la vie.

"Like I was fine with it at first, even the growth. It was so helpful, but then it got...invasive."

"More than a regular phone is invasive?"

"Yeah," he nodded, with a wild look in his eye. I made a note to watch the news later. "Like it's hard to describe, but I got so focused on work. I got so much down. And then I realised how weird that was. Like I feel good when I'm productive, but it was getting a bit much. I haven't been sleeping right in ages. Normally when I'm productive, I sleep better."

"Yeah I get that too," I said.

"Anyway, I want this thing out. Can you start or what?"

"Yeah, yeah." I picked up the anaesthetic needle and squirted out a tiny bit. "This is just a bit of numbing so you don't feel my scapel cutting in."

"Can I watch it?" Oh, so maybe this guy was a bit of a freak after all. Respect.

"If you like."

I timed down the anaesthetic then pinched his skin with my fingers. He didn't feel it, I quickly shaved his arm and then I wiped down the skin with iodine, then wiped it away. I felt around the bulk of the device which was at most an inch wide, but wafer thin and flexible. It's little display glowed. I found the old scar where it was inserted, and cut through that. No need for butchering the guy more than necessary. Blood seeped out of the wound and I sopped it up with a small sponge. I took my tweezers and found the edge of the device then pulled. The body popped out quite easily, but the wires were well embedded. I wrapped my fingers around the body and pulled with a better grip. There was more than resistance, it pulled back. Johnny screamed out and I stopped pulling.

"Are you okay dude?" I asked.

He was wincing and grimacing but he nodded.

"Please continue," he said. Quite polite for the situation. I would have been swearing.

I pulled some more and it budged a bit more. Johnny's eyes were watering and he was squirming.

"You want some more anaesthetic?"

"It's not my arm. It's all over. It's in me all over. Pull it out. Just pull it out!"

Well this was a disturbing turn. Were these companies really implanting devices that colonised people's bodies? Was this intentional? Did they know what they were doing or was this a side effect? I suddenly had lots more questions like that.

I pulled, and pulled, and it pulled back and Johnny screamed. The neighbours might be starting to wonder, but hopefully most of the shops had already closed up. I put my knee on the chair and my other hand on his hand, got over him for some better leverage, like a dentist pulling out some recalcitrant wisdom teeth. I pulled some more grunting with the effort and it came out a full foot, and I swear the body was making a whining noise. It was also heating up under my glove. Was that a real thing? Like a self-defense thing? Johnny looked like he had fainted, so pulled some more, with event more force. It slipped out further, and I could see the wires were not quite wires, they didn't look like metal, more like a translucent plastic and they pulsed with light. They were also squirming like they had muscles inside.

It was out by about three feet now, and unbelievably it was still stuck in. How much more of this was there? I pulled some more and could see that the arms of the thing had bifurcated and into dozens of fine tendrils, all tinged pink with blood. I pulled again, and Johnny's whole body writhed involuntarily. I nearly lost my grip on the thing with the oh-holy-hell fright of it.

Finally Johnny's body settled and...sighed...and the rest of the thing slithered out and fell to the floor. Blood was flowing freely from his wound and I could see bruises forming all over his skin. I wanted to attend to him, but the devices was trying to wrap around me and even pulled my glasses off trying to get at my eyes. I quickly bundled up the wires, or  arms or whatever, into a tight mass and threw it in to the hazardous waste container, where it started juddering around, trying to lift the lid. Thankfully it didn't have a lot of pushing force.

I checked Johnny's breathing and there was nothing.

Well fuck.

Blood was welling up under the skin everywhere I could see. Did that mean his heart was still working, or was it just osmosis? Should I try CPR? Was it just compressions now, or was the mouth to mouth thing still a thing. I vaguely recalled something about that, but my training was shamefully well out-of-date.

Before I could wrestle him out of the chair and onto the ground and before I could get at my phone for an ambulance, there was loud thudding at the front doors. They were locked and somebody wanted in.

"We're closed!" I shouted, but maybe, thinking back on this horrible episode, maybe I should have been silent.

"We've got a report of an illegal removal of one of our devices. Open up!"  'Our devices'? And since when was this illegal? "This crime is punishable by up to 30 years in prison." What?! When did all this ridiculous legislating happen? Suddenly my life had developed unwanted complications. I had to think fast. I pulled off my gloves as the doors continued to rattle, threw my apron to the ground, checked for my wallet,  phone, and keys in my pockets, then grabbed the device out of the hazardous container and shoved it into a clean glove, hopefully breaking some of those wires in the process. I tied off the top of the glove on itself. Then I slipped out door into the main office. It was big and dark so I don't think the people outside the front doors saw me. I grabbed my coat and the baseball bat I kept in the closet for the customer coats. I quietly snuck down the hall towards the back door, and managed to open it, slip through, and lock it, before I heard the glass from the front doors shattered.

There was an alleyway with dumpsters out back, and I walked calmly down it in case they had anyone posted out back. I couldn't believe I was thinking like this all of a sudden. There was an intersecting alleyway that went in the opposite direction and a took that out onto the next street behind from my shop. It wasn't very busy and led towards a more residential area. The streetlights were beginning to come on, and people were in their houses eating dinner. Hopefully no one saw me walking with the bat. It didn't seem that anyone was following me, but the device was still moving in the glove, now in my jacket pocket, albeit with less vigour.

I took the next intersecting road as it lead to a little wooded park area. There was a drug dealer sitting on swing but he just nodded at me as I passed with determination and the bat and into the woods. Respect. I walked a few minutes in before I took out the device and put in on the top of a waist high rock. It was still moving and twitching. If it was giving off a single it was about to stop. I wacked at again and again with cracks that rang out against the trees, unsettling birds and small mammals.

I took out an old envelop out of the the depths of my many-pocketed coat and set it under the remains of the device. I got my lighter and lit that little fucker up. I added some dead leaves for good measure. The bits of arm curled up into tight circles and something made a lengthened sizzling sigh. The flames died down soon enough, and the adrenaline releasing into my body started to slow its damn flow.

I didn't know what to do, other than to take out my trusty phone and turn it off. I had some serious rethinking to do about its relationship with my life. I dropped the bat, and walked north to the other edge of the park, and found a bus that took me away. I didn't have a destination just then. I wasn't going to go to prison for 30 years for some corporation's dumb shit.

Poor Johnny though.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Playlist story 368/365 – inspired by "The Beginning (Instrumental)" by RJD2

Rock boiled upward, steaming out of the sea. Red magma met a torrent of rain, pushing up in bursts, spurting, exploding into strings that shattered as they fell back to the roiling waters. The rock grew further up and crumbled back and grew up more. Ages and ages as the sun spun around and the rains came down, building up pressure. And then the clouds parted and the rock calmed and the sun blessed the Earth.

And darkness and light cycled and the wind and the rain smoothed down the rocks, biting away at the sharp edges, grinding them to dust that settled in untouched crevices. And the ocean washed over the land, bring cells within cells that yearned for the sun. And so they came and they settled and the pushed into the dust for nourishment and stability. And the cells within cells stacked themself and pushed upward just as the rocks had done, but with more grace. And in time the cells covered the rocks, both feeding on them and protecting them. And they pushed up. And inside they changed and responded to the world around them, and spread and diversified until they were a raging carpet, swaying in the winds.

The cycles slowed and the land smoothed and the oceans grew dark with forms. And then these forms came to the land, slowly at first, and then within a blink had colonised it all. And in another blink some of them filled the air with their bodies as they had filled the ocean.

It was more than a thousand planets had acheived, where the conditions were not quite right, not quite yet. And on that one planet of untold billions, it was the beginning of it all.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Playlist Story 367/365 – inspired by "Sansevieria" by Green-House

The mother, completely transparent, walked in the meadow and as she walked grasses pushed up through the soil. With a gaze here and there, she pulled up trees, pines and willows, and maples. The branches fanned out and burst into vibrant colours all across the spectrum. She could not see it, only sense it. She pulled the sun down into the leaves and put the air into motion. She bent down and pushed her hands into the soil, deep, up to her elbows, and pulled out, one by one, mice, rabbits, foxes, deer. She pressed her hands onto the ground and the grasses shook and shivered and then worms and insects emerged, crawling along. Then she cupped some of the insects in her hands, multiplied them and gave them wings. Bees and mosquitoes and wasps and flying ants and butterflies and moths fluttered away in a cloud of noise and colour.

Then her sight returned. The darkness receded away, filled by summer light, in a gradually increasing circle that followed her as she walked. She continued to work, and added birds that filled the gentle air with their pleasant sounds. And she walked and worked and walked and worked until she came upon a house.

“That should not be there.” It had been a long time since houses, life had been erased and rebuilt many times since houses existed. She walked around its perimeter, looking at its glass and stone and wood and tiles.

“That should not be there.” And she noticed no door. The deer and the foxes joined her in her perplexity, though they did not know she was there. All they could smell was a humid sweetness that calmed them, and even so, the house was unsettling.

“That should not be there.” She walked up to the wall of wood and stone and placed her hand on it. It was warm in the sunlight. She pushed inward, but could not budge it and she could not move into it.

“That should not be there.” She rubbed her hands together in friction until her hands were aflame and threw the fire at the house. The flames bounced down to the ground and suddenly the grass all around the house was ablaze. The deer and the foxes bounded back into the meadow in fright. When the flames died down, the house was unharmed.

“That, SHOULD not be there.” She pressed her hands once more against the wood of the wall and grew insects but they could not bite into the wood and just fell into a heap on the carbon scorched grass.

She was silent. Then she grew herself taller to look in through the windows. It looked as a house should look, when houses existed. With rooms and furniture and straight lines. There was no one inside.

She grew taller and taller and taller until the house was small and she could have crushed it with her feet. Instead she bent down and plucked it from the earth. She held it in her hand and pondered it again. Then she put the house in her mouth and swallowed it whole. It too became transparent. It did not sit right inside her and she felt ill. She sat on the ground with a thunderous thud that scared all the birds into silence and flight. She clutched at her abdomen and then laid back on the grass and grew smaller and smaller and smaller until she was completely covered by the grass. The house inside her shrunk too. Away from the sunlight she started to feel a bit better and she knew the house was dissolving.

A mouse snuffled through the grass and came up next to her. She touched its head and gave it knowledge of herself.

“Do you think I should grow houses?” she asked the mouse.

The mouse examined her face but did not reply.

“Who will live in the houses?” she asked. “Will it be the foxes and the deer? Will they make their beds and bake bread?”

The mouse again was silent to her questions, its heart fluttering in confusion.

“I cannot let people live in the houses. I have forbidden myself from growing people. But it has been a long while, and I have wanted someone to talk to.”

She looked out the mouse again and thought for a while to herself.

“Perhaps I will let you and your kind live in the houses, but not as you did before. But as the people did. Would you like that?”

The mouse, transfixed, had nothing to say.

“I think I will do that, and the deer and the foxes shall have houses too.”

And then, after feeling much better from her rest, she got up, and grew her size and then grew houses for the mice and the foxes and the deer. And then she pressed her hands to each of their heads in turn and gave her knowledge of herself, and knowledge of how to live in houses, and knowledge of how to speak to each other in her language. And then she looked at the birds and built them houses in the trees.

And the mice and the foxes and the deer and the birds lived full lives and baked bread and made up their beds and chatted to one another. They had children and jobs and eventually mortgages, but their progress was slow. The mother watched and watched and then finally fell asleep and the world grew dark and the mice and the foxes and the deer and the birds slipped into the soil again and then the houses collapsed and then the world was erased. And when she awoke, the mother began her work again.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Playlist Story 366/365 – inspired by "Take Me Away" by Ollie Chanin

She put her hand on his shoulder as he sunk his fingers between the cold stones in the stream.

“They’ll take me away,” he said.

“No they won’t,” she said. “You’re safe here.”

“I’m not safe here. I’m not safe anywhere.”

A crane on the far side shore cried out before launching itself into the air and up into the oppressive layer of fog above.

He felt the familiar sickening pull in his chest and he was dragged back to the memory of the night in the parking garage, running, him running, them running after him, he fell, tumbled headfirst and rolled violently down the ramp. He tried to get up, all cuts and scrapes and a bleeding nose but he wasn’t fast enough and they caught him...and then black. Always black. He returned to the stones in the stream and their flat coldness and assured reality but he knew they were as fleeting as his thoughts.

“I’m going to make you some food. You’ll feel better.” She stood up straight and adjusted her wool shawl around her shoulders. He nodded in acknowledgement but didn’t agree.

He watched the dark water flow slowly, almost seeping along in this part of the shallow. When he returned to the cabin she had hot tea waiting for him and some sort of meat frying up in the pan.

“I know better than to ask you if you’re feeling better,” she said. “I can’t imagine what you’ve been through with all of this.”

He just laughed.

“You signed up for this. You knew.”

“Yeah, but I don’t know, know. Not really.”

“And yet you’re not sorry.”

“No I’m not. It was the right thing to do.”

“They should have killed me instead.”

“Don’t talk like that.”

“I could have gone home if they just left me alone. Just ignored me.”

“You know that wasn’t possible.”

“I know that it was.”

“Look I’m not going to argue with you. I’m just saying I know that what you are dealing with is profound and I’m sorry you have to deal with that.” She flipped the meat onto a plate, then handed it to him with a fork, no knife, and turned off the burner. “Sit at the table like a civilised person will you? It’s better for your digestion.”

He wasn’t sure that was true, but complied at the kitchen table. She set the tea next to him.

“I’m going to do some work. Let me know if you need anything.”


About halfway through the meat the dog came bounding into the cabin with a bird in its mouth, happily presenting it. He ripped off a corner of the meat and handed it to the dog.

“You’re going to have to drop that if you want this.” The dog wagged some more before making the connection, dropped the bird, snatched the meat, then picked up the bird again before bounding into the main living area and behind the couch to chew in peace. He hated to admit the dog was growing on him. It’s hard to turn off that drive of empathy if you were blessed with it, but they had come very close to driving it out entirely. He decided to split the difference and not tell her about the bird. She could find out about it when its remains started to smell and meanwhile the dog could be happy.

He finished the meat and tea and took the dishes to the sink. He walked to her door and looked in on her. She was studying a star map and making marks. He used to know what they meant but it had all slipped away. He felt a bit guilty about the bird so he asked her, “Are you okay?”

She turned around slowly. “Yeah, thanks for asking. I’m making some progress here. I think.” She turned back to the map. “I have a call later to discuss it. We might have a route back.”

“And then you’ll be gone?”

“Maybe. We’ll see.”

“All of you?”

“Maybe. You know, it’s been hard for us too.”

“I’m sorry if I don’t have much sympathy for you. I’m going back outside.”

She looked at him as he left, pained.

The boredom of his routine at the cabin was his companion. There was a certain freedom in it. He had been freed of most of his responsibilities that night in the garage. There were infrequently any demands on his time, but his remaining brain and body still required active engagement. It would have been easier if he had just curled up in a ball of shock like most other people did, and just accepted the fate dealt to him. But something in him fought it and they recognised it. There was value there, for when they were gone. They always insisted it would be only a few years, and maybe it already had been that. It was hard to tell.

He started a jog along the stream. He was not allowed to cross it, and he knew it would hurt him if he tried. They had put that into his mind so deeply. The entire patch of land had a boundary he could not cross, and as far as he could tell, that boundary existed only in his head. He knew this, and yet he couldn’t counter it. He couldn’t try. That had been taken from him.

The land was a soft stoney plain, without trees or scrub. He did not know what existed there previously, if anything had. He dropped the jog to a walk and continued upstream ten minutes to where the water met the cross boundary, and then he stopped. The cabin was no longer visible and it could have been a primordial scene before animals had left the ocean, except for himself. He again squatted to touch the stones in the stream.


He stood up with a jolt, looking for the voice. “Hello?” he replied.

“Hello.” A woman emerged from the fog. She was dressed as he was. She walked up to the boundary line and stopped. He could see that she was older.

“You’re human,” he stated.

“I think so.” she replied. “You out for a stroll?”

“What else is there to do?”

“There are many things to do. But I don’t know what they are,” she laughed at her own joke.

“You live that way?” he asked, pointing in her direction.

“If you can call it living, yes.”

“I’m surprised I haven’t seen you before.”

“Have you seen anyone else?”

“There’s a guy that way,” he said, pointing in the opposite direction to her. “He doesn’t talk though. He’s a bit angry looking to be honest. I’ve only seen him three times.”

“You’re the third I’ve seen. I don’t know how long it’s been. I won’t bother asking your name. I don’t know mine either.”

“It was a really weird thing for them to take from us.”

“You think that was the weirdest shit about all this? Christ son. They left us functional but empty. Separated. Humans don’t do well separated. Your angry neighbour has the right idea.”

He nodded.

“I just can’t be angry all the time. I want to keep a piece of me for me.”

She thought for a moment.

“Yeah that’s probably healthy. God I could use a cigarette. Do you ever just mourn for stupid shit you can’t do anymore?”

“I don’t really remember a lot of the stupid shit. I guess I was just living an average life.”

“Well, I guess they couldn’t take the nicotine cravings. That’s deeper than they can go with their tools.”

“My uh, handler I guess, says that they could all be leaving soon.”

“Hah! I wouldn’t believe that. They just all pour over their maps and discuss things endlessly. Besides, ‘soon’ for them is not necessarily ‘soon’ for us. I think they experience time differently. They’re not in any kind of hurry.”

He shrugged.

“I don’t know. I don’t know much about them. I want to ask, but I just can’t.”

“God we were so naive weren’t we? I don’t even remember what they promised us, and then it happened so fast!” She snapped her fingers. “All gone. All of it gone. They treat us like children because we are children.”

“I know. But some part of me...some part of me hopes they will go. Forever.”

She looked kindly on him. “Son, I hope so too.”

“Well I better be off. I have nowhere to be, but my legs want to walk.”

“Before you go, do you want a name?”

He paused, trying to think. The name he had, the concept of having a name to be called by, were so erased.

“A name?”

“Yeah, I can give you a name, and you can give me a name. And does that dog come to your place?”


“We could give him a name too.”

“What’s the point of this?”

“To keep a piece of ourselves for ourselves.”

“Yeah okay. But I don’t remember any names. I remember that names existed, but not names.”

“Well, I seem to recall that the first names given in ancient cultures were attributes or natural things, and we remember those things. So it’s not that different from what those ancient people had to do.”

“Okay then. You can go first.”

“Well, I’ll name the dog Tracker, because he’s good at hunting.”

“Yeah, he is. Tracker.” He tried it out on his tongue and it seemed to fit.

“And then you son, you’re a bit of an optimist. But sad.”

“I’m resistant.”

“That’s not a good name though. I don’t know what’s wrong with it, but it’s wrong. It should be more active I think. You know, I think you’re like this stream maybe.”

“The stream?”

“Hmm, it’s not big enough though. Oh I know, I’ll call you River.”


“Do you like it?”

He thought about it a bit. It was better than stream, that’s for sure.

“Water does have a certain power to it.”

“Yes it does, exactly!” She smiled broadly.

“Okay, River. Now you need a name,” he said, but he was a bit stumped. She looked at him expectantly. “Well, you talk quite a bit.” Her smile faded. “It’s like air, but in a good way.” He hoped he had somewhat recovered but her face didn’t change much. He was also going to say “and you’re old” since that was about the extent that he knew of her but he refrained. “Air, oxygen, breath, breeze...” he started spinning, “...I don’t know...” he looked up,” How about Sky?”

“Hmmm,” she thought aloud. “It’s not that strong.”

“Not that strong? It protects us from the vast void of space. It’s protected this place for billions of years.”

“It didn’t protect us from them though.”

“Nothing was going to protect us.”

“That’s true. Okay, I’ll allow it. But I’m appending ‘Goddess of the Air’ because I feel like it.”

“Fair enough. It’s your name after all.”

“Okay, nice to have met you, River,” she smiled deeply and did a little bow.

He smiled back. “Nice to meet you Sky, Goddess of the Air.”

They chatted a bit longer before their legs started aching from standing in place and then they parted on their respective walks around their patches. As evening encroached he found the stream again and followed it back to the cabin. In the darkness he bent down to the stones once more. “I have a name,” he told them, smiling. “And they can’t take that away. As long as this water flows, they can’t take that away from me.”