the unseen moon wonders
why the crescent moths
never flew back.
the unseen moon wonders
why the crescent moths
never flew back.
Shortly after the rain season, I received a letter from Udalma. It was a one-piece envelope with no names or runes inscribed, just the seamless granularity of prematurely aged parchment. Real paper. I paid two drops to the fresh boy and made mental note of burning down the house before leaving. It was scheduled for repurposing anyway, and it wouldn’t be long until the Collectors showed up to claim whatever neglected limps or body parts I might have left behind.
The kid, his skin still untouched by plague or sin, grinned at me with pristine teeth and, as the two drops were absorbed by his immaculate palms, started towards one of the Black Alleys with the careless, uncalculated steps of a first body.
The fact that a fresh boy had been able to find me, even if Udalma was behind it, meant that half of the city already knew where I was. After collecting what little perpetuals I had, I severed the link with the house and I set off, ready to leave behind Chronos End once and for all. It didn’t take much time until the inquisitive mechanical whirring of the Collector’s scouts filled the darkness of the back streets. I waited for some minutes and, as I took what I swore to myself would be the last step on that lost corner of the city, I commanded the ironite within the sub-plastic beams of the house to ignite.
Leaving the district was not hard. It was dispute night and most of the patch-robbed monks that wandered the Street of Icons were in the upper tiers, wondering perhaps what new allegiances they would have to swear now. There were rumours, as always, that Gunga Din was losing influence and that perhaps his time was coming to an end. He was already way past his sixth rebirth, so maybe this time the rumours were right. One could never now. There are many voices down here, and not all of them have a mouth.
The station was at the end of the street. It was an old, crumbling piece of clumsy architecture hastily put together and later forgotten. Most of the wretched things at Chronos End had also forgotten its purpose. To them it was only another piece of inconsequential cityscape, a constant reminder of all the things that had been denied to them. Now, it was the home of some rusty addict with less than half a body that wasted away his days trying to hassle some drops from those careless enough to approach him. His left arm was a tangled mass of cheap ironite that burrowed into what little was left of his first skin. His eyes, shut close by layers and layers of accumulated rust, oozed a brownish liquid that streamed down his cheeks, leaving a trace of iron and blood that the Collectors harvested from time to time in exchange for a couple of drops.
It is often said that the only way in this city is down, and for a good reason: once you have been expelled from the upper tiers, the city stops recognising you as one of its kind. Doors that used to bow before you stand now as an impassable wall. Stairs stop working, materializers stop producing, and before you know it you are down here with all the discarded body parts from the previous season. No one is really sure how it works, but it does, and that’s all most people need to know. Until they wake up one morning and find out that they cannot get out of their own bedroom and the mirror refuses to show their reflection, that is.
The doors of the station opened before me with a sound I had almost forgotten. A gust of sterile, recycled air escaped from the station and mixed with the decay and rotting metal of Chrono’s End, generating an eclectic mixture of odours. The beggar, aware of the change, lifted his wasted arm towards me, eye-balls rolling so hard beneath lids long gone that I could almost hear them scratching against the small lumps of blistering rust. From the insides of his chest came a drowned sound that wanted to be a word.
“Drop? Some? Please?”
His face, cleaved in two by the attempt of a smile, looked at me from below. Under the repurposed light of the failing bulbs, it looked as if it was already part of the floor itself. I produced whatever drops I had left and let them fall on the man. He absorbed them one by one, his smile increasingly stretching as his synth registered the chemicals and sent impulses of unrestrained joy and boundless ecstasy through his system.
As the doors of the train closed, I saw him looking at me from beneath his impossible eyes, and for a moment there I was afraid that his smile would break his face in half.
Of course, it’s not far from here. You can’t miss it. Follow. The alley where the whores sell their hands to beardless men. It’s also the place to be if you want to find a new leg or hip. Yeah, the rates are crazy high these days, but what can you do when rain is now five a piece and local bottled thoughts run dry? Anyway, go through the alley and turn where the buildings bend their heads and bow to each other. No, not that way. Where they BEND THEIR HEADS, not where they shake their hands. That’s Ishana’s territory and you don’t want to go there, right? Unless you want to wake up with one head less and an unsurmountable debt to the Collectors, that is. Yes, that’s it. Yes. When you get to the Street of Icons, pay attention to the stalls with blinking eyes. What? Of course they are not real eyes! Are you bad in the synth? Who can afford those these days anyway? No, they are a mineralish composition made of mica and silver traces, I think. From before, yes. They should be hanging from the posts. They are tourist traps, but no one comes here anymore so they are just hanging there now. The blinking ones, yes. You’ll know because they blink. Well, most of them at least. Yes. Once you are there, avoid the Patch-Robbed monks. Don’t look at them, don’t talk to them, don’t even acknowledge them or they’ll know. What? I don’t know. I think Gunga Din has now the rights to most of them. Gnostic Zen, Buddhislam… The Talmodians and the Gotholics are still being disputed. Yes, those goatfuckers are having the time of their lives up there while we rot in here. Their karmic debt must be soaring the third sky by now. Yeah, whatever. Listen, this shit is important, ok? Alright. Accepted. Now focus. You should be almost there by then. You may think you are safe, you may think you have made it, but now comes the most important bit. Do not mention anything about her missing hand. Or her fourth nose. Or her last hair. And whatever you do, DO NOT LOOK HER IN THE EYE! What? Yes, I know she doesn’t have a face! I told you this was the most important part and you are not even listening. Whatever. It’s your soul, not mine. And judging by the looks of you, you don’t have many left. Yes. Exactly. Good! Now go. Just follow. It’s not far from here. You can’t miss it.
The entirety of the human population has woken up today to a deafening silence. Puzzled by the unusual nature of this stillness, authorities from around the globe have embarked on several diagnosis tasks in an attempt to determine what the hell is going on. Although experts do not seem to agree on the cause of this standstill, all their opinions converge, unanimously and unerringly, on the same point:
The world is dead.
The wind, ashamed perhaps of its now noiseless presence, has retreated into a millennia-long age of contemplation leaving only a bunch of rusted leaves and a paralyzed wind-swept hearth behind.
As a result, most migratory birds have been forced to stop all motion, afraid of their own useless, inconsequential wings. Perched atop the nearest tree, fence, railing, wire or post, they gape in silent frustration in a sort of motherless infant regression. Some have been reported to bite at their own wing joints in a mixture of primal rage and impossible confusion, trying to free themselves from their former evolutionary blessing suddenly turned burden.
Penguins, kiwis and other flightless birds remain unaffected by the world’s demise.
After a massive gathering of unprecedented proportions, all the seas, oceans, lakes, pools, swamps and marshes of the planet have decided, almost unanimously, to turn to stone within the next century. The Petrification Process will take place in stages, the first of which will consist of a series of increasingly violent storms with the goal of shedding all remaining waves and getting rid of the surplus of stored tides that most water masses kept within their depths. However, to show that there is room for dissident voices within the Flowing Realms, an agreement has been signed to preserve the last wave in liquid state somewhere beneath their stony surfaces. All oceans but one have sealed this pact with their own sea foam.
Meanwhile, the Dead Sea grins knowingly from its isolated corner.
Speech, the most basic and ancient for of human interaction, has been temporarily banned in most nations and countries for an unspecified period of time. Since the world’s untimely demise was declared, the population has grown more and more paranoid. The police keep getting emergency calls regarding “the scratching noises outside my window” and “that voice inside my head.” To appease and reassure the masses, governments around the globe are studying the possibility of banning rational thought and keep neuronal processes at the bare minimum necessary for survival.
In the meantime, the deaf are taking the streets with renewed faith in this promising new period for humanity as they intone chants of hope with booming clarity and joyful tears rain down their faces:
“Don’t you see?”
After the Direction and Contiguity Crisis (DCC) that occurred back in the days when the moon was still one, many things changed. There are many stories surrounding the events that led and eventually resulted into this cataclysmic happening, all of which are true and all of which miss the point entirely. What happened was this: during the 187th Convention of Wizards, Al-Beings and Other Entities from Beyond and Below (CWABOEBB), a discussion erupted as to the particulars of the compelling of a widely used, commonly known and pretty much menial spell. Although these conventions were ripe with these kind of disputes, an unavoidable thing when some of the most powerful, vain and generally mad beings in existence gather in the same space, this one got the attention of most al-beings and creatures with magical inclinations. Typically, such absurd conflicts would be mediated in a quick, flashy, and overly dramatic way, with lots of hand-waving, curse muttering and pseudo-magical rabble that would often result in one or more of the parties involved turned to dust. This time, however, the dispute was deserving of attention, for it was much more than a simple display of power or an excuse for a wizard to show off his brand new (and often stolen) spells. This time, the discussion was as apparently serious as it was real.
Varserius, the first wizard to be born from a red llama and an al-being with kiwi ancestry, truly believed that the spell that every student, master and sovereign of the arcane used to turn the pages of their spell books should be compelled with a final stroke to the left, since that was the natural flow of all things, as his mother had shown him when she used to clean the dirt of his fur with gentle, left-oriented strokes of the tongue. Although this gained him the sympathy of many adepts of the ephemeral arts, this declaration also earned him the instant hatred of another, up until that moment fellow powerful wizard.
Karbus, an al-being whose mastery over flightless birds and camelids of crimson fur knew no match, was disgustingly offended by such outrageous claim, since it was a matter of common sense that all things cosmically flowed to what, in all languages and forms of communication was understood and conceived as right. The al-being’s radically opposed and refreshing perspective quickly took root among young and twilight wizards, and conflict rapidly ensued.
While the wasteful notion of turning the pages of your spell book with the Page Turner spell was left behind many iterations ago in favour of the most cosmically economic action of using your hands to carry out simple tasks such as turning pages, back in the day, when the end of all things was not yet within sight, wasting cosmos with careless indifference was what distinguished great wizards from petty reality benders. This, coupled with the fact that arcane practitioners are by definition prone to fleeting logics and philosophies of the absurd, led to the most massive confrontation of cosmic weavers of all recorded history.
Spells, dead and alive, were flung in all directions, real and imagined. For every wizard that compelled his spells into existence to the left, there was another who did so to the right, so that the whole magical community was interlocked, for a few glorious and absolutely unnecessary moments, in a magnificent display of misplaced talent and wasted potential. Hust, renowned cosmo-historian and excellent baker, describes the events as follows: “It was the most beautiful thing one could hope to conceive as well as the most stupid.”
Exactly half of the wizarding community was bent on annihilating the other, and for a brilliant instant, both sides were successful. In a display of self-sentience and self-censure never to be recorded again, the cosmos, tired of the tugging and stretching of mutually nullifying and diametrically opposed spells, did the only thing it could do to prevent permanent deterioration of the laws of causality and ended itself.
Although for the most part the measure was successful, (most wizards and al-beings were erased from history and existence itself, thus preventing the conflict from ever happening), the cosmos was invariably changed in the process. Most of this changes are related to the practice of compelling, or more commonly known as magic. A great number of wizards and nearly all al-beings lost the capacity to compel events into existence and had to relearn how to do things for themselves, which led to a golden age of materialistic philosophies and a betterment of the relationships with the physical world. Another, less known consequence of this cosmic act of self-preservation was the absolute miss match between direction, causality and contiguity that involved walking through any kind of structure, physical or conceptual, that had more than one distinguishable side. That is to say, doors and thresholds. As a result, one moment you could find yourself returning to the bedroom after a morning shower in the bathroom, only to find yourself walking into your neighbour’s or some other random place in the spheres.
All of a sudden, the entire universe had become an intricate labyrinth of doors and thresholds connecting everywhere with everywhere, so that the concept of distance soon crumbled and vanished, wreaking havoc in the minds of scholars and laymen alike. Without warning, stepping into your living room had become an act of unforeseen and sometimes fatal consequences. Waiting in a corner of your room did not help, however, since every single threshold in the house was now an invitation connecting your safe-most space with the unknown perils of the outside.
In an attempt to fix the situation, a group of wizards, al-beings and arcane practitioners that had survived the self-inflicted eschaton of the cosmos decided to mend what little causality remained in the spheres and funded the Ministry of Doors and Thresholds. So, their quest to relink the sides of every door, gate and threshold began.
Although, thanks to them, nowadays walking through a door entails no more risks than making sure that there is no one coming from the other side, there are still some reports of malfunctioning doors leading to wrong places or very puzzled strangers (and sometimes other things) breaking inadvertently into other people’s homes. Should you encounter one of these doors, please inform the Ministry with all due haste. If you happen to see a shadow darkening the threshold, please, close your eyes immediately and do not open them, regardless of what you may feel or hear.
 The claims that Varserius and Karbus could have been siblings is still a source of debate.
 Some theorists of compelling believe that this may have happened before. For more information, see “Compelling and the Limp: Why the World is goin to end (yet again)”
 The information about the crisis of Direction and Contiguity included here has been obtained through various methods of crypto-induction.
 The original name was much longer: Ministry of Doors, Gates, Windows, Portholes, Keyholes, Thresholds and General Spaces.
”Hvem er det?”
”Jeg har ikke et navn.”
“Kan du hjælpe mig?”
”Det ved jeg ikke.”
”Hvad laver du?”
”Jeg taler det ordløse sprog.”
”Hvad siger du?”
”Jeg snakker med de døde.”
“Who is it?
“I don’t have a name.”
“Can you help me?”
“I don’t know.”
“What are you doing?”
“I speak the wordless language.”
“What do you say?”
“I speak with the dead.”
a cave without walls,
a grip without a hand,
a wound without blood,
a tomb full of time,
a childless cradle,
a godless shrine.
Like your hand