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

TATI’S TRANSLATIONS // Axis by Alice Munro (Excerpt)

Avie waited until they were comfortable to tell Grace about her dream.

“You must never tell anybody,” she said.

In the dream, she was married to Hugo, who really was hanging around as if he hoped to marry her, and she had a baby, who cried day and night. It howled, in fact, till she thought she would go crazy. At last she picked up this baby—picked her up, there never was any doubt that it was a girl—and took her down to some dark basement room and shut her in there, where the thick walls insured that she wouldn’t be heard. Then she went away and forgot about her. And it turned out that she had another girl baby anyway, one who was easy and delightful and grew up without any problems.

But one day this grown daughter spoke to her mother about her sister hidden in the basement. It turned out that she had known about her all along—the poor warped and discarded one had told her everything—and there was nothing to be done now. “Nothing to be done,” this lovely, kind girl said. The abandoned daughter knew no way of life but the one she had and, anyway, she did not cry anymore; she was used to it.

“That’s an awful dream,” Grace said. “Do you hate children?”

“Not unreasonably,” Avie said.

“What would Freud say? Never mind that, what would Hugo say? Have you told him?”

“Good God, no.”

“It’s probably not as bad as it seems. You’re probably just worried again about being pregnant.”

Эви подождала, пока они устроятся на сиденьях, и начала рассказывать Грейс свой сон.

«Только никому не разболтай», – предупредила она.

Во сне она была замужем за Хьюго – парень действительно не давал ей проходу в надежде, что Эви согласится стать его женой, – и у неё был грудной ребёнок, который плакал день и ночь. Вернее, орал благим матом, доводя её до белого каления. В конце концов она взяла младенца – это совершенно точно была девочка, – и снесла в тёмную подвальную комнату с толстыми стенами. Она заперла дочку там, чтобы не слышать её бесконечного плача. И ушла, позабыв о ней. А потом оказалось, что у неё есть ещё одна малышка, спокойная и милая, которая выросла, не доставляя родителям никаких хлопот.

Но однажды уже повзрослевшая дочь заговорила с матерью о своей сестре, спрятанной в подвале. Оказалось, что она знала о ней с самого начала – сломленная и позабытая всеми затворница рассказала своей сестре всё, – но теперь с этим ничего уж не поделать. «Ничего уж не поделать», – кротко повторила любимая дочь, отрада и утешение матери. Всё равно, её покинутая сестра ничего не знала о жизни снаружи, она больше не плакала и давно смирилась со своей участью.

«Какой ужасный сон», – сказала Грейс. «Ты что, ненавидишь детей?»

«Не без причины», – ответила Эви.

«Что бы на это сказал Фрейд? Ладно, это неважно, но вот что бы сказал твой Хьюго? Ты ему рассказывала?»

«Боже, нет».

«Возможно, всё не так плохо, как кажется. Наверное, ты просто опять переживаешь, что забеременела».

 

Original story by ALICE MUNRO
Translation by TETIANA ALEKSINA

© All rights reserved 2011

MMORPB // Tati & Tony in Raiders of the Lost Snark Part Nine (Moderately Multiplayer Online Role Playing Book 18+)

or: EPISODE 9 // Where Tati Battles Demonic Barbers and Tony Falls for a Bounteous Bouffant

 

In our previous episode, Tati threatened to drop Tony like a lead balloon, and demonstrated an unexpected knowledge of the Bible. And Tony? Well… Tony was just Tony (but with less hair and wearing a whale’s stomach).

“Tony!” Tati whacked another Acolyte of Beguiling Beauty on the head with her umbrella before sharply turning around. “Tony, what are you doing?! Throw away that bloody wig and help me, you fucking hamsters’ lick-spittle!”

Tony was just standing there. There were practically love hearts in his eyes for what looked like a dead rodent in his hands. How that thing could be labelled a wig was beyond her imagining. The Acolytes of Beguiling Beauty had them completely surrounded now, and all he could do was moon over this piece of shit!

“Call me what you want,” cooed Tony, stroking the ‘wig’. “But don’t be dissin’ this bounteous bouffant!”

Tati performed a head spinning, flying somersault and landed right in the middle of the group near Tony. Another second and the wig was swinging at the tip of her umbrella. She grabbed Tony with one hand and brandished the umbrella with the other, driving away the growling and hissing Acolytes.

“What the fuck are these things?” she grimaced. “They’re nothing like any barbers I’ve seen.”

“They kinda look a bit like Edward Scissorhands,” said Tony, almost in awe. “But more androgynous, and with more impressive hair. I just hope they don’t accidentally cut my bits off!”

Tony snatched the wig off of Tati’s umbrella and covered his naked willy with it.

“I don’t believe you!” Tati was furious. She grabbed the calamitous wig from him and threw it away, causing Tony to squeak. “We’re surrounded by an army of Johnny Depp zombies, and all you can think of is your silly doodle?”

“It’s not silly to me. I need my doodle!”

Tati smacked an Acolyte aside. It slid on its back down the wall of the barber shop, and ended up in a crumpled heap on the floor. She yanked Tony with her and cut a swathe through the rest of them, mainlining for the door.

“It’s kind of ironic that we materialised in this hellish barber shop,” added Tony, almost as an afterthought. “Given that we’re now, you know, bald.”

“No, it’s not ironic. You’re bald and a fool!” They were nearly at the door now. “It’s your wishes. The umbrella brings you to the place you wish to be at the most! And while I was trying to think of a safe spot your idiotic fantasies beat me to it!”

“But… but why would I dream of being at the barber shop if I have no hair?”

Tati shoved Tony through the door. He tripped and stumbled into the street, ending up on all fours.

“Just shut up and think of a better place!” barked Tati. She was trying to keep the Acolytes inside with the tip of her umbrella. It was quite sharp, and they seemed to heed this fact, cowering just out of its reach—though this didn’t stop them from clicking their scissor like hands in a rather menacing manner.

“From crater to a whale’s stomach—and now this! How is it that we end up in these ridiculous situations?”

“Stop whining!” snapped Tati. ” Just think! Quickly!”

She tried to barricade the door with her leg, her finger hovering anxiously over the button on the umbrella’s handle. Tony, still on all fours, looked at her horror-stricken.

 

Catch other episodes in this series:
THE PILOT // Where Tati Makes Tony Blush
EPISODE 2 // Where Tati Makes Tony Choke
EPISODE 3 // Where Tati Gives Tony a Fungus Face
EPISODE 4 // Where Tati Rescues Tony’s Suitcase
EPISODE 5 // Where Tati Grabs Tony’s Shirt
EPISODE 6 // Where Tati Supercalifragilisticexpialidociouses Tony to New Heights
EPISODE 7 // Where Tati Cocks the Hamster and Tony Watches
EPISODE 8 // Where Tati Refuses to be the Mother of Mutants and Tony Pouts

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020