The Ministry of Doors and Thresholds: An Introduction

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[1] 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[2].

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[3]), 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[4]. 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.

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[1] The claims that Varserius and Karbus could have been siblings is still a source of debate.

[2] 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)”

[3] The information about the crisis of Direction and Contiguity included here has been obtained through various methods of crypto-induction.

[4] The original name was much longer: Ministry of Doors, Gates, Windows, Portholes, Keyholes, Thresholds and General Spaces.

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Øresund

Every day before dawn the girl stood on the quiet shore by the bridge, staring at something beyond the dried seabed and scattered pools of muddied water that made up the Vanished Sea. It wasn’t a very safe place to be at. It was too close to the Øresund and within reach of the scouting lights, but it was also reasonably quiet and free of scavengers, which made the already dangerous task of krebsdyr hunting a bit more bearable.

With the passing of the years, Saga had learnt to identify the safest spots on the beach, if such a thing as a safe place still existed. It took her many warning shots from the bridge – although the scar on her left arm told her that the soldiers at the Øresund couldn’t really tell the difference between a warning shot and shoot to kill – but in the end she had managed to find some blind spots along the shore.

She was standing next to an oddly shaped rock formation which shielded her from the biting winds and the hungry lights. The stone was slightly warm to the touch and uncannily smooth at some points, even slick, which made her feel uncomfortable and weird. Saga wasn’t sure whether that stone had always been there. Sometimes, when she thought of home she saw the rock among faceless, common people basking under a clouded sun. It towered above all of them, casting a curious shadow over the unaware individuals on the beach. Some other times, the stone had never been there and there was only a blank, unoccupied space which cast a curious shade over the white sand, like a half-formed thought or a nearly forgotten dream.

It didn’t really matter. The rock had probably been unearthed after the Fennoscandia decided to kill the Baltic Sea with a series of dry detonations. It had been a desperate measure to prevent the Danish forces from reaching Malmö¸ and lock them down in Amager. They were in the wrong, of course, war always finds a way, but by the time someone tried to make some sense of what was happening, the sea was already boiling itself away to a pitiful bunch of exhausted puddles. The resulting mist lingered for almost a year and for that time something resembling peace but more akin to shock seized the countries. It didn’t last. War always finds a way. As soon as the fog lifted and the targeting systems in Danevirke were functional again, Gothard retaliated with a devastating attack that rendered the Øresund uninhabitable.

Saga remembered the lights and the mist, but they were gone now, like most of everything else

It didn’t really matter. Saga’s world had shrunk to a muddy shoreline and a watery hole somewhere deep below the sewers.

Dawn. Although the sun was trapped beyond an almost perpetual cloud-layer, Saga could feel the first rays of sunlight pressing against the overcast sky. The bridge would be opening soon, which meant that the hungry lights would go to sleep for a while. It was her chance to hunt some krebsdyr.

Saga reached into the depths of her dirty fatigues and found her stiletto. It wasn’t a very efficient weapon, but it was the best she had managed to get without killing anyone and it was extremely useful when hunting krebsdyr. Besides, it had proved more than handy against other human beings when necessary.

Saga left the relative safety of the rock as soon as the lights receded. Before her, the seemingly endless expanse of the Vanished Sea stretched in every direction all the way to what had once been Malmö. Bands of greyish sand rivetted the decayed seabed among the isolated patches of marshy, polluted waters and congealed mud. All along the dying sea, interspersed at seemingly random intervals, dark rocks of an almost spherical shape littered the swampy grounds. There was a trail of disturbed dirt behind every rock, as if a wind too slow to be perceived had gently been blowing the stones up and down the sea. After the mayhem that blew up most of the marine life in the Øresund, the krebsdyr were one of the very few species that had been able to adapt to the aftermath and now riddled the ever-diminishing sea.

Saga treaded carefully, negotiating a path among the treacherous puddles of murky water. Her steps, swift and sure, made the tools in her belt produce a low, tingling noise. It was a relatively clear day and Saga could see many discarded krebsdyr shells scattered around. It was becoming increasingly difficult to find an intact crab. Although their almost utter immobility made them an easy prey, they were very hard to carry due to their immense weight and the way they clang to the ground. Saga had had it relatively easy at the beginning, preying upon those krebsdyr closer to the shore, learning to find the right spot in which to insert her stiletto, considering the right amount of pressure to apply, so that the shell would finally give up the meagre piece of meat at its core.  However, as months and even years passed, she had had to walk further and further from the shore every day in order to find a suitable prey.

Saga was almost a kilometre into the Vanished Sea when she found the first krebsdyr. It was as tall as her knee, jet black and nearly completely round. The first time she had seen one she had mistaken it for a rock of strange proportions, but when closely inspected, one could see that the creature was no more than a morbidly overgrown crab laden with an arm-thick shell.

The krebsdyr was uncannily warm, as usual. Saga knelt beside it and put her ear against its surface. She heard nothing at first, but after a few seconds a distinct, suckling sound became evident. It wasn’t difficult for Saga to find the pressure spot. She looked around to make sure no one was near and then looked up at the bridge. The soldiers were probably busy scouting the trucks carrying supplies to Malmö. Saga introduced the tip of the stiletto in a tiny crack of the shell and made a swift, blunt move.

“Leave it alone!”

Shit. It was a woman’s voice. Saga glanced quickly at the bridge but saw no one.

“Leave the crab alone, bitch!

Saga stood up, eyes darting in every direction. She held her stiletto in a tight grip, ready to plunge it into whoever came too close.

“Get away from it or I’ll gut you!”

The voice came from somewhere dangerously close.

All of a sudden, a krebsdyr holding a makeshift spear rose from the seabed some ten steps away. It was impossibly big and incredibly fast, considering that its legs were buried beneath a thick layer of chitinous shell. The crab spoke again:

“Get away, you fucking moron!”

The creature was running towards her now, arms slightly raised, tumbling with empty husks and rocks alike. Saga had seen many strange things in her life as an outcast, but never anything as grotesque as a giant, talking crab. As the thing drew closer, Saga understood. The humanoid shape wasn’t made of krebsdyr but coated in it, like some sort of exceptionally cumbersome armor with a sturdy, little woman embedded in it.

“Shut up, fool!” Saga finally reacted, “the whole fucking bridge must be on alert by now!

The crab-woman lunged at Saga with her weapon, ready to injure and possibly kill. Saga jumped aside, barely avoiding the thrust.

“Stop it, you cunt. You’re gonna get us killed!”

“Leave it, leave the crab, leave it!”

The woman was ready to attack again when the first shot hit her in the head. There was no blood, only the sound of rupturing stone as the woman collapsed on the muddy floor.

“I downed the monster, Soren. That’s twice the points.”

The voice came from up the bridge.

“Oh shut up, it was impossible to miss that shot. The blond bitch is a much smaller target. Watch and learn.”

Saga could almost hear the soldier taking aim. The shore was too far away and there was nothing she could use as cover. There was still a way. She started to run towards the bridge. If she could reach it in time perhaps she would be able to run to the shore before they sent someone to look for her below the bridge.

“Leave it… leave the crab…”

The woman stirred.

“Oh shit not this, not now, not now!” But she couldn’t leave her behind. Although it was the logical thing to do, although that stupid crab-woman had almost got her killed, she simply couldn’t leave her behind.

“Oh shit, oh fuck.”

The next shot missed her by less than an inch.

Saga pulled with all her strength and started to drag the woman, but it wasn’t nearly enough. That damn, stupid armor was far too heavy.

“The crab, the crab…”

“For fuck’s sake, shut the fuck up!”

Saga drew a knife from her belt and cut the woman free from the chitinous toil.

The next bullet pierced the air where her head had been a second earlier and got lost in the mud with a muffled sound.

“And you call that aim? You are getting old, Soren,” laughs boomed uncomfortably close over her head.

Saga knew she had been extremely lucky. The soldier wouldn’t miss the next shot.

She had almost made it to the bridge when she felt something bite her left arm were the old scar was. It was a burning, familiar pain that ran all along her limp.

“See that? I told you I’d make it,” Saga heard a voice say somewhere above the darkness of the bridge

More laughter, further away this time. Indistinct chatter. Looming pillars. Walking krebsdyr. Suckling rocks.

“The crab… the crab…”

Saga collapsed.

Feeding on Echoes

Again I wear the bones
that in killing Time we found:
first we stole Its thrones,
then we broke Its crown.

(These are not my bones.)

Among leaves of anger
Its blood flowed like dust
as we clang in ecstatic languor
to our impotent lust.

(This is not my blood.)

At some point we fell asleep,
between cracks of ruptured space,
hanging like strips of desiccated skin
tied to mouthfuls of yawning Abyss.

(This is not my skin.)

Eye-lid blankets
Pillowed teeth
Bed skirt lips
Tongue-like sheets

Who will wake us up
when we no longer dream?
Who will wake us up
when we start to scream?

We killed Time.

(And now we’re feeding on echoes.)

Clockwise

I have this idea you know that there is a clock for everything we do, there is a clock for walking, for eating, for blinking a clock for everything do you follow? Yes? Well then these clocks are always ticking, always ticking, always ticking and when the time in a clock runs out the clock breaks the hour hand trips on the minute hand and both fall down and there is no way you can fix it do you follow? Yes? So when the clock breaks it no longer ticks and it can’t count the time so that thing you used to do simply stops happenning.

 

There is :

a clock for kissing

a clock for breathing

a clock for missing

and a clock for waiting

There is:

a clock for crying

a clock for dreaming

a clock for feeling

and a clock for wishing

There is also a clock for sex

a clock for touch

a clock for her

and also a clock

for everyone else

 

Of all of them the clock of life ticks faster,

the clock of death well it knows no master.

 

But don’t worry my friend

since nothing’s really at a stake:

in all the clocks it is already too late.

Time

The Witness stood on the grey, ashen cliff as the last line was severed from existence. After centuries of expectation, he was almost disappointed to see that nothing, literally nothing, happened when the creature exhaled his last gasp. He had always imagined some kind of eventful display, the horizon turning upside down perhaps, or maybe the sky crashing into the ground. Something, anything that proved that the universe still cared about what happened in it.

From the rocky cliff in which the Witness stood the sight was that of a grey, dusty carpet made of vaguely humanoid shapes hurriedly stitched together. Far beyond the battlefield, the remnants of what had once been a city stood against the horizon, oddly shaped buildings deformed by heat and shockwave. Silence crept over the dead landscape, wandering aimlessly among the thousands of corpses randomly massed. The very same silence he had experienced before in countless worlds, after the Hooded Ones had finished their job and before moving on to witness but another end.

The Witness started to turn when something caught his eye. Down below among the corpses, a Hood lay kneeling, holding the scarred body of a dead soldier. Slowly, almost tenderly, the Hood put the soldier on its lap and then turned its face hidden by cloth towards the dying horizon. It was not the first time he saw one of them doing that. Sometimes, in some worlds, they would just do that. When all the killing had taken place, when all the lines had been harvested (if that was what happened, for he still was not sure about anything) they would lie among the dead and hold them close.

The Witness observed the Hood as it lay still, its robed shape a black fold in a grey carpet. After too many centuries, he still didn’t know what moved them. He had been puzzled at first, but then, as worlds and extinctions succeeded, he simply had stopped caring. Like the universe, he didn’t give a fuck anymore.

The Witness turned and started his way back to the place he had been ported to. The Hoods always chose places like that, high enough so that he could take most of the landscape in with a single glance, but close enough to the events so that he would not miss a thing.

The Hoods were already waiting for him, silent among the sharp rocks. He knew that they wouldn’t move until he approached. The killing was over, the job was done, extinction was complete, and now it was time to move on. But still, they would not move a single muscle (or whatever they had under their dark robes) until he approached. They needed him. And he still wasn’t sure why.

“I am ready.”

The Hooded Ones stood still.