- we all refer to the prime minister by their first name. we know them well, and they know us. all of us.
- there’s a man on the street corner who never leaves. “just waiting for a mate,” he says. you realise he is on every corner, of every street.
- you are swooped by a magpie in the same place, at the same time, every single day. “it’s swooping season!” says your neighbour. it has always been swooping season.
- sometimes you hear a woman whispering late at night - or early in the morning. “rage” she hisses. “rage”.
- the prime minister never seems to last long and often disappears through no discernible democratic process. one of them eats a raw onion in an attempt to assimilate. he is gone by morning, replaced by another.
You see a sentence
written in cyrillic. Some of the letters are familiar. You see the
meaning shimmering underneath the surface. You almost grasp it, but it slips away. The letters on the page mock you silently.
You know this Czech word. You’ve already learnt it in Polish. It is not the same word. It is a grave insult. Your slavic friends are shocked and embarassed for you when they hear you speak it.
There is a sentence in
Croatian. There is a sentence in Serbian. There is a sentence in
Bosnian. They are all the same sentence.
You have to write about your day in Slovak. You spend the night polishing the draft. You fail your assigment. It’s written in Czech. You don’t know Czech.
P is not what it seems. You have to remember that.
The Croatian sentence
does not mean what the Bosnian sentence means. They both mean the same in Serbian.
That word has a diminutive. The diminutive has its own diminutive. The diminutive of the diminutive also has a diminutive. Nobody knows what the final diminutive of a word is. Some say the knowledge had been lost in centuries past and matrioshkas are the echo, the tangible warning left for us to remember. No living creature should hold the means of diminishing something into nonexistence. Others say you may still find some of them in old soviet textbooks, if you dare to look in abandoned schools of Chernobyl.
Someone is speaking to you. Is that a he or a she? You aren’t sure. It’s an abstract concept. Why does it have gender.
You see a word in a
dictionary. It has seventeen letters and only one vowel. You close the dictionary very carefully not
looking at the phonetic transcription. The shape of it haunts you in
your sleep. You wake
up face damp with tears, a bitter taste on your tongue. The clock blinks 3:03AM. You do not dare look up that word again.
This word means the
same thing in the five slavic languages you’re familiar with. You use
it in the sixth one. That word does not exist in this language. It never
did. There is now a word-shaped void in the fabric of this language.
The natives look at you uneasily. There is a new quality to the silence and your palms start to sweat.
H is not H. H is not H. H is not H. H is not H.
One day you flip through your dictionary. A page is missing. What was the word? You can’t remember. There is pressure building at the back of your head. The clock blinks 3:03AM.
You write my name
is in cyrillic. There are shadows dancing on the walls. They grow
longer with each letter you write down. It is not cyrillic you’re
using. You keep writing my name is. The shadows now bleed from
the tip of your pen. It’s irrelevant. You need to remember the right
N is not N is not N is
not N is not N is not N is not N is not N is not N is not N is not N
is not… If only you could remember the letters. The letters are important. What was it, that wasn’t N?
There are nine different prefixes
you can add to a verb to change its meaning. There are fifty three different suffixes you have to add to a verb to make it
work. In the end the only thing left of the original is a vague shape
of one of its middle consonants.
You can feel the anguish radiating from the verb’s mutialted form. A desperate sob escapes through your clenched teeth.
You’re so, so sorry, you didn’t meant to. You didn’t. It doesn’t matter.
You now read a text in
Russian. You’ve never learnt Russian. Why are you reading that text? The words burn your eyes,
the meaning searing your mind.
There’s a shot of vodka in front of
you. You don’t drink alcohol. You don’t care. All existence is
meaningless, your soul’s in eternal pain. A broken matrioshka lays at your feet. There is no salvation, she says boring into your eyes. You open your mouth to answer, but there is only a burst of harsh rustle. It dies in whispering echoes a moment later. Your glass is empty again.
The pillow is wet when you wake up. Your hair is still drying. It’s always drying. You washed it 3 days ago and need to wash it again soon. It’s still drying.
All the hair balls in your room seemed to have moved into one corner on their own. You don’t know where they’ve come from or how they keep growing. They feed on each other. Soon it’ll be too big for you to escape.
You comb your fingers through your hair only to pull out a clump of hair. You do it again and another clump comes with it. You do this several times with the same result, but the number of hairs on your head is both constant and infinite.
“At least I’ll be warm in the winter.” You reassure yourself as the sun beats down on your head. Your scalp is melting off, every journey outside is a mistake. The winter will never come.
you’ve vacuumed the scene shop at least three times. there’s somehow more sawdust than before
the director puts you in charge of locking up and turning on the ghost light. you turn on the ghost light and lock up. as you leave the building, you don’t remember whether or not you turned the ghost light on
the arbors in the fly rail clang. there is no one in the show rail
the mannequin has been in the green room for too long. she’s always striking a pose. her hand is on backwards. where is her leg
the hair techs say they’re almost done but they keep brushing and braiding. you didn’t know you had that much hair
the director changes the blocking. the stage manager marks it down. the next day the director forgets the blocking changed. the stage manager looks down at their notes—there was never a blocking change
the lights are focused. everything is still kind of hazy
“sound s, go.” everyone forgets it’s a silent cue. why did we program a silent cue
the mic table isn’t where it should be
the props master is missing. the actors can’t find their props. all the props are missing too
an actor forgets their line. a single audience member claps softly
the asm waits for their cue but all they hear is static. the show closed two days ago
an actor misses their entrance. you can’t find them in the theatre. you check the cast list. they were never in the show
You stand in line. You rock gently back and forth to the beat of your own music. A person walks up to you and tells you to stop moving. You stare in confusion as they walk away. Why are they allowed to move and you aren’t?
You stand in line. Sunglasses protecting your eyes from the harsh florescent lights blaring above. A new person comes up to you, and demands you remove the sunglasses. They then walk outside, placing the sunglasses over their eyes. “It’s because it’s bright out.” they explain. You explain that it’s bright inside as well. They cannot hear you, you are in a bubble. No one can hear you.
You stand in line. A third person walks up to you, yelling at you to get out of line. You begin to move away, frightened by their anger, but they suddenly change their demeanor. “It was just a joke, don’t be so literal!” they laugh. You stare, unsure why they think yelling at you is funny. You stand in line. Seconds, minutes, hours, pass by. You check your watch - it’s been 2 minutes. Another few hours pass by - it’s been 4 minutes.
You stand in line. You want to sit down, but are yelled at for resting. “No one else is tired, you’re not tired either!” you are told. You tell them you are indeed tired. They cannot hear you, you are in a bubble.
You stand in line. You suddenly become aware that you have no idea why you’re in line or what it’s for. You’ve been there so long you’ve forgotten why. Or did you never know to begin with? Everyone else thinks the reason is obvious. They refuse to tell you why, and decide to laugh at you instead. You’ve been in line forever. It’s been 5 minutes. You suspect you will never leave the line nor get to the end.