CALIXIAN // The Hangry Woman

The bell tinkles so hesitantly that at first I pay it no attention. But then it tinkles again. And again. So I put the magic tweezers down in my dream, and shake my head awake. I bet I know who this is.

“Do you always visit people’s homes at the butt crack of dawn… whatsyaface?”

He mumbles something that’s supposed to be a name. I’ve had no complaints in regards to my hearing but the only thing I can catch is Zra. That can’t be right. I say the first silly word that comes to mind in the full conviction that this dolt will repeat his name and I’ll get it right the second time.

“Fizra?”

Why is he gaping at me like a fish that’s dropped its keys outside of its water tank? That was a good guess! I scratch under my arm as he mutters something and shuffles in. Okay, what’s this now? The suitcases. Are they fucking big enough? Are they even real? When he opens them up, can I expect a seventy piece orchestra to step out and entertain the neighbours? Jesus.

“Where the hell are you going to put all of that?” I point up the hall. “I don’t want any of your shit cluttering up the place, you hear?”

He mumbles again. Yup. I’m ready to suffocate the guy, good and proper. Or give him a royal kicking. At least I’ve understood him this time. Something about leaving his precious clutter outside. Such a boob.

“No, you boob, just put it in your room.” Oops. It appears I said boob out loud. Well, I don’t care. May as well complete the thought now that it’s dangling between us like an unsightly knob. “I don’t need to be tripping over your junk is all.”

Puffing and panting, he drags the suitcases along the hall. I decide not to waste time. I’ll quickly show him the rest of the flat on our way to his room. Then I can get back to some sweet, sweet shut-eye.

“Toilet.”

He glances in its general direction. Fuck that. I’m going to make a thing of this. Make him really take notice.

“I hope you’re a seat lifter when you’re doing a number one, otherwise I won’t be held responsible for what happens next.”

I study his face carefully. I want to see how he’ll react. He doesn’t. He seems to be going out of his way to remain scrupulously silent. Whatever. The tour shall continue.

“Kitchen.”

What I really want to say is: “Fucking kitchen.” I’m a tad pissed off. But I also have no desire to burn through my quota of fucks so soon in our dealings. It’s best to space these things out, so I keep my fucks up my sleeve.

Suddenly he says (suspiciously loud and clear), “Fascinating.” What? Is that… sarcasm? I don’t believe my ears! Well, if that’s how this smug little goofball is going to play it… then hell, I’m going to wrangle me a chance to have something better than mouldy pizza for breakfast. One question preceded by a slightly menacing pause should do the trick.

The thought of finally getting a decent meal cheers me right up by the way, and my stomach starts to growl in anticipation. Trying to stifle this treacherous sound, I open my mouth and ask Zra… Fizra… whatever his name is… if he can cook. All my fingers are mentally crossed.

“Well, I’m not exactly Heston…”

The rest morphs into a mess of blah blah blahs, the essential point being that he can cook… after a fashion. Good enough for me. As long as I damn well don’t have to do it. I conduct him to his room in a timely manner.

Yep, my plan has gone over easy… like an egg! The quicker he drops his fucking suitcases, the quicker he can cook me breakfast.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020

DARWINIAN // The Key is Under the Mat

So, I’m standing on her doorstep, trying to recall details of my dream from the night before.

Carl Sagan was in the dream. I remember that much. He was living in a cardboard box in Buckingham Palace, and was a high level warlock with no access whatsoever to the Queen. This depressed Carl Sagan, so he created a Twitch stream to play Portal 2 while reciting poetry. The stream was very popular. It made the Queen very jealous.

This is all I can remember as the door opens.

Calix looks pretty sleepy. Actually, I’d go so as far to say she looks quite sour too. Early mornings certainly don’t appear to agree with her. And one strap of her singlet is twisted. My eyes can’t focus on anything else. My brain is telling me to reach out and fix it. Of course, I resist. No one needs to be killed at such an ungodly hour.

She yawns and steps aside, waving me in. “Do you always visit people’s homes at the butt crack of dawn… whatsyaface?”

“Ezra,” I say helpfully. Because, you know, I was raised to be polite. Even when others were mangling my name. Which they did. A lot.

“Fizra?”

I gape at her for a moment, wondering how someone with such an odd name herself could be so cavalier with mine. I shrug this off.

“Erm, yes.” Curse my politeness.

Calix scratches her smooth underarm as I shuffle in, a suitcase under both of mine. She’s clearly goggling at the hugeness of said suitcases—almost in awe in fact. My stupid imagination quickly jumps to a conclusion it oughtn’t. She’s thinking that I’m an eligible bachelor of substantial means. Can’t wait for her to see the mountain of boxes I’ve got stacked on the kerb!

Anyway, the next moment kills all of that.

“Where the hell are you going to put all of that?” She points down the short hallway. “I don’t want any of your shit cluttering up the place, you hear?”

“I… I’m sorry!” I’m stammering now. “I can… I can just leave it out… outside?”

Calix scowls at me. I’m coming to an understanding that she’s the master of looks that humiliate and wither before swooping in for the kill. If I wasn’t such a sad excuse of a man, I’d be feeling emasculated right now. Thank heavens I’m not much of a man!

“No, you boob, just put it in your room. I don’t need to be tripping over your junk is all.”

She leads me to my room, poking her finger at different doors along the way, commenting on this and that with the tone of a hungover museum guide with a pathological hatred of visitors.

For my part, I’m carrying my suitcases with pathological ease. No way am I going to let this ill-mannered wench see me as some weedy, pathetic cookie pusher! I’m a man of freaking muscle!

“Toilet.” Yup. It’s a toilet. “I hope you’re a seat lifter when you’re doing a number one, otherwise I won’t be held responsible for what happens next.”

I want to ask if I can at least shit with the seat lowered—you know, to avoid putting my bare arse on the cold porcelain rim. It’s a sacred process, the shitting. Just saying. But I don’t say. I maintain a discreet silence. We keep walking. She keeps pointing.

“Kitchen.”

“Fascinating.”

Calix stops dead in her tracks. Fuck. Have I said that out loud? Panicked, I nearly drop my suitcases. But her voice suddenly softens. “Can you… errrmm… Fizra, yes? Can you cook?”

“Well, I’m not exactly Heston,” I respond nervously. “I’m not in the habit of serving up broiled harp seal snouts in exotic amphoras filled with Namibian pygmy batter or anything. But I get by.”

I’m ready for the worst, but for some reason well, Calix noticeably cheers up. The rest of our ‘sightseeing tour’ breezes quickly by, and is almost… friendly. As it turns out, there’s not a lot to show actually. Near a shabby white door, Calix slaps me on the shoulder and says, “Welcome home, Fizra!”

I cautiously push open the door and step inside.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020

SCHEHERAZADE’S 1,001 BYTES // Extinction 101

The end began with being told to talk amongst ourselves.

I guess the lecturer had had enough of coaxing a classroom of unruly trilobites to settle down and pay attention. Farrier science is a pretty dry subject, so was it any wonder?

We hadn’t counted on him being preternaturally good at his job. He knew exactly how to tame our youthful sass and steer us aright. Instead of admitting defeat, he drew a circle and square on the blackboard. He then jabbed a very pink forefinger at it, saying to the class, “Listen up, you obnoxious little tackers. This here is what you’re going to discuss.”

We gawped at these shapes as though they were arcane symbols of a bygone age. They reeked of a certain geometric mysticism. Or cabbala. Both options were frightening. As was the lecturer’s toothy grin.

“So, geniuses, what do your sparkling minds make of it?”

“The Deathly Hallows?” ventured one student.

“A manifesto for making horseshoes?” piped another.

“You’re getting warm, Ms. Satana!” The lecturer winked. “It has something to do with shoeing horses.”

That was a relief. My parents hadn’t paid a shedload of college fees for me to end up sitting in the wrong classroom.

The lecturer cast a bemused look over us. He poked the aforementioned pink finger at someone in the second row. “Mr. Pups. Tell me, what’s the shape of the head of a horseshoe nail?”

The student looked completely trapped, as though he’d been asked what kind of death he’d prefer. Hanging? Toxic injection? Students on either side shrank away, as if to remove themselves from the lecturer’s line of sight.

“Cir… circle?”

Someone snickered in the last row. The lecturer turned his head. “Do you wish to add something, Mr. Fernsby?”

“No, sir. Sorry, sir.”

“I’m not interested in your vacuous apologies, Mr. Fernsby. What shape is it?”

“Don’t know, sir. A square, I suppose.”

“You suppose? Come on, Mr. Fernsby. You can do better than that.”

“I only need to hammer ’em, sir. The shape doesn’t matter, does it?”

“An honest answer, Mr. Fernsby. There may be hope for you after all.”

Another voice chimed from the sidelines. “Nail heads come in different shapes, don’t they? They could be round or square.”

“True,” the lecturer shot back. “Even triangles, yes?”

The rest of us kept our silence. We were leery of provoking a new torrent of devastatingly oblique questions.

“Mr. Pups. Mr. Fernsby. I challenge you to a discourse. You, Mr. Pups, shall persuade us that a round shape is the only acceptable shape for a nail head. Mr. Fernsby, you are adamantly opposed to the idea, and ready to prove your point of view that it should be square. Clear?”

They looked at him, slack-jawed and pop-eyed. The rest of us were doing this too. I think we’d expected this lesson to be a cruisy one. So far, it had been anything but.

“Will this be in the exam?” asked someone from the row in front of me.

“Mr. Yelchin, your exam has already begun,” smiled the lecturer, one eyebrow diabolically arched. “Life itself is an exam!”

I hunched down in my seat, making myself as small and unnoticeable as possible. No way was I going to get caught up in this odd little game. I was a trilobite, not a philosophy major.

“Well…” Pups looked distressed. He always did have a slight stutter but now it was quite prominent. “The shape should be cir… circular because… if we compare a squ… square and a circle with a similar pe… perimeter… the squ… circle area will be bigger…” He frowned at his own timid assertion. “Or smaller?” The poor guy closed his eyes and muttered something under his breath. Obviously, he was trying to do the math in his tiny trilobite mind.

“Oh my god!” interjected another student. “Listening to you is making me dumber!” I think his name was Hermes. “It should be a square! A fucking square! Stop embarrassing yourself and sit the fuck down!”

An odd request to be sure. Pups was already sitting down. He hadn’t stood up in the first place.

“Shut your mouth, Henries!” Okay, it wasn’t Hermes. “Someone should remove the bullets ‘cos you keep shooting off with it!”

Henries’s face reddened—quite a feat for a trilobite. Our faces aren’t exactly there, if you know what I mean. “At least I don’t shoot blanks, coffin stuffer!”

A girl from the fifth row—I didn’t remember her name—squeaked, “Leave him alone! If you can’t add two and two then you need to shut up and listen! And anyway, it’s round because circles are sacred. Perfect. A heavenly shape! Everything should be circles!”

Another girl’s voice countered from the sixth row—sweet, yet acidic. How are girls able to achieve such a combination? “Yeah, Dafna, we can see that you strive for this perfect shape. You keep stuffing yourself with perfectly shaped donuts and pizzas!”

That’s when all hell broke loose. A furious shriek was followed by the scrape of chair legs on polished wood, then the sound of slaps. Everyone jumped up and started punching hell out of each other. I dived to the side, and made a beeline for the lectern. I hid behind it, watching with dismay total trilobite warfare!

The lecturer’s face broke out in a malevolent smile. He sauntered to the door, opened it, and let himself out. I followed at a discreet distance, baffled. Why hadn’t he broken up this massive fight? I observed as he sauntered down the hall, opened another door, and let himself in. Huh? I tiptoed to the door and peeped through the window to see what he’d do next. He was casting his eyes over a classroom of young dinosaurs—clearly idealistic, full of ambitious dreams, with plans for a brighter tomorrow.

I watched in horror as the lecturer went to the blackboard, took a piece of chalk, and wrote on it the dullest topic one could ever imagine…

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020