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.
Anaheim Ducks: You turn on a Ducks game. The screen is white. It must be Ryan Getzlaf’s bald head, you think. You’re probably right.
Arizona Coyotes: You accidentally call them the Phoenix Coyotes. No one corrects you. You’ve never encountered someone with them as their favorite team.
Boston Bruins: Chara checks someone into the boards. That someone disappears into thin air. You wonder if they keep a list of people Chara has made disappear like that.
Buffalo Sabres: You constantly forget about their existence. Would they be more relevant if they had won the draft lottery and had gotten McDavid, you think sometimes. You forget about them again.
Calgary Flames: A Flames game gets interrupted. Someone yells that there’s a child on the ice. It turns out to be Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau eats a Snickers on the bench, and scores.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Canes are down 6-0. Jeff Skinner smiles at a ref. The Canes are up 6-0.
Chicago Blackhawks: Chelsea Dagger starts playing in the distance. Oh no. You start running. The music gets louder. Someone yells: “3 cups in 6 years”. You’re crying. You can’t hide.
Colorado Avalanche: Someone on their roster scores. You must be dreaming. They get a win. This can’t be real, you think. The world must be ending.
Columbus Blue Jackets: You blankly stare at the TV. You’ve lost count of how many times you’ve heard the cannon by now. You stopped counting after 10. Your team still hasn’t scored.
Dallas Stars: There’s a fan crying. “Our goalie situation is shit,” they sob. Another fan rubs their back. “At least Tyler Seguin is still hot,” they say. You roll your eyes.
Detroit Red Wings: You hear someone cursing Dylan Larkin. “Why can’t he score,” you hear them say. Crying, they cuddle up to their Yzerman hugging pillow.
Edmonton Oilers: “McDavid sucks,” someone says. Ten Oilers fans and Milan Lucic appear from nowhere. “You suck,” Lucic says and punches them.
Florida Panthers: There’s a ceremony before the game. Jagr is turning 70. Jagr scores the OT winner.
Los Angeles Kings: You make eye contact with Anze Kopitar. He looks dead inside. You nod at each other. What is Kopitar losing fate in, you think. You still relate to him.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild has a 10 win streak. It ends in a 0-1 loss to an irrelevant team. They start a new 10 win streak.
Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price breaks all his limbs. Therrien doesn’t pull him. Shea Weber positions himself on the ice. Al Montoya tells Weber to take the shot while maintaining eye contact with Therrien. Weber shoots. They hire their rivals’ old coach. You wonder if god is real.
Nashville Predators: You meet a fan. They’re crying. “How are you?” you ask. They keep sobbing. You notice they’re wearing a Weber jersey. You understand.
New Jersey Devils: You watch a Devils game. You can’t remember the score after it. You’re only convinced that Adam Henrique is not real.
New York Islanders: John Tavares gives an interview. He’s more plain and boring than you remembered. You can’t stop watching though.
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist stops the game to have a photoshoot. The play continues. He’s not in the net. He makes a save. You don’t understand.
Ottawa Senators: “Ottawa Senators,” someone says. You have to think for a while. You remember Erik Karlsson. That’s it.
Philadelphia Flyers: No one has seen Jakub Voracek’s face in five years. His beard and hair just keep growing. No one knows how to stop the growth.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Someone accidentally says “Crosby.” In a minute, there’s someone with a peach emoji. You hear the words Phil Kessel is a Stanley Cup Champion at least once a day.
San Jose Sharks: Someone on their roster scores four times. Joe Thornton is somewhere, stroking himself. Despite the lead, Martin Jones sits on the bench with dead eyes.
St. Louis Blues: Tarasenko scores. Tarasenko scores again. You wonder if anyone else ever scores for them.
Tampa Bay Lightning: No one has seen Steven Stamkos in years. People wish for his return. No one expect nothing though.
Toronto Maple Leafs: “Matthews is better than Laine,” someone says. You keep quiet. It doesn’t matter if you agree. You’ll get attacked either way.
Vancouver Canucks: Henrik and Daniel Sedin have assisted each other in every goal they’ve scored. You don’t believe they’re two different people until you see them in person. Even after that you’re doubtful.
Washington Capitals: Ovechkin is in his spot. Everyone sees him, no one defends him. He shoots, he scores. In the distance, someone says: “Crosby is better.”
Winnipeg Jets: “Laine is better than Matthews,” someone says. You keep quiet. It doesn’t matter if you agree. You’ll get attacked either way.
- There are 14, 15 or 16 cases, depending on who you ask. One might be accusative. Accusative may not exist at all. It depends on who you ask. Who do you ask? You don’t know who to ask. You can ask nobody. The accusative case stares at you, accusingly.
- Imperative exists in three persons. Which three persons, you ask. Plural, they reply. Don’t forget the plural imperative. You stare at your textbook. Your textbook stares back at you. The negative active 2. person imperative has ceased to make any sense. Has it ever made sense?
- You’re learning the difference between the short and the long vowels. The short vowels are short. The long ones are twice as long as the short ones. But really, they say, they’re thrice as long as that. Even longer than that. Ä, you say. Ää. Äää. Äääääääääää- It never stops.
- The verb types are easy, they say. There are only six verb types. Six. Your text book lists only five. What is the sixth verb type? It’s in the next book, your professor says. There is no next book. What is the sixth verb type?
- The vowels come in groups. You don’t know why they’ve come or why they’re in groups. You learn their harmony all the same. You shed a tear when you’ve mastered it. But have you mastered it? The vowel harmony lulls you into a false sense of security. The vowels will strike when you least expect it.
- Consonant gradation.
- There is no accusative, your professor screams at you. It’s genitive! Or partitive! Or plural nominative, but only in the personal pronouns! The accusative does not exist! He is red in the face. Why does the accusative not exist? Do grammatical objects not exist in this language? you ask. (You shouldn’t have asked.) You are met with blank stares.
- In the future you would like to speak Finnish fluently. You make the mistake of saying this aloud. The ground opens beneath your feet and a terrible voice booms: THERE IS NO FUTURE! Silly you, you think. Of course there isn’t. You dutifully note down the three different past tenses.
- Sentence replacements replace sentences, your professor tells you. He does not tell you what the sentences are replaced with. You stare at the list of sentence replacements. There are nine items on the list. One is a quantum sentence replacement. You dare not ask.
- New words are easy to create, they say. So easy. What could possibly go wrong? You decide to create a new word. You have created an abomination.
- You’re conjugating -i nouns. There’s another group of -i nouns conjugated differently. These are very old words, your professor says. There’s another group of -i nouns. These are very old words, she says. Even older words. There’s another group of -i nouns. These are very old words, she says. They are ancient words. Blood and devil words, the past whispers in your ear.
- Some of those 14 or 15 or 16 cases are fossilised, so don’t worry about them, your professor says. Don’t worry at all. But you worry. You must worry.
- You watch a video on facebook. The Most Important Word In Finnish, it’s called. It becomes clear that it is possible to carry entire conversations using only this one word. Your smile stiffens on your face. There is only one word. There has only ever been one word.
• Every time I go in a Target, I become invisible. People can’t hear me talking to them even when I’m standing right in front of them. Waving in their faces doesn’t seem to work.
• I once walked up to an entire group of red-vest-wearing employees and had all five of them walk away from me mid-question.
•They seem to migrate from the toy section to the food section like soulless jellyfish.
• They don’t know if Target sells dish soap.
• I don’t know if Target sells dish soap.
• Once, a person walked over, picked up a fuzzy throw-blanket out of my cart, and left with it while I stood there telling them that it was mine.
• The always weirdly crowded shoe section that’s mostly sandals.
• Last month I stopped in the mini Starbucks area of Target and stepped up to a surprisingly empty counter (for the middle of the day). No one appeared for the entire twenty minutes that I waited, but the lights went off and on a few times.
• I once saw a man entering Target with a screaming child over his shoulder. She had an ‘Out of Order’ sign in her hand, and kept repeating, ’I don’t want to go here.
• Their clothing sizes are darkest black magic.
• The changing rooms. (Before they vanished.)
• I lost four people in the middle of the furniture isle. I found them a half hour later in Hot Topic.
• I once stopped at a Target for a bathroom break during a long road-trip. When I entered the store, half the lights were off in the back section, and someone was yelling, “STOP IT, YOU GIANT BITCH!”
• There’s always a questionable swamp in the corner of the Target bathroom.
• When they switch all the moving/talking Halloween items over to the moving/talking Christmas items.
• I’ve seen eight different dogs wandering around by themselves.
• The local Target has birds flying around inside all the time.
• When I was a teenager there was this guy who drove around the Target parking lot blasting the chicken dance and dancing with his shoulders.
• I’ve seen a thousand mirrors break in Target during ‘move into your dorm room’ season. Doubt anybody buried a potato.
• They owe me $20
• I keep finding children in the clothing racks. (I don’t keep them.)
• You can never return anything, ever.
• If you eat their food you probably will never be able to return to the human world.
• Every picture I take in there comes out weird. Blurry, too bright, smudgy, wavy, too dark, weirdly green???
• That last checkout lane at the end with all the ‘as seen on Tv’ items and a million creepy jugs of green liquid for kids.
• I have 14 year-old socks from Target that look brand new. (My clothes typically develop holes the moment I look at them.)
• The animal heads.
• Pit of Death (aka: the far back corner where seasonal stuff goes to die.)
• I once kicked one of the giant red orbs outside and it moved.
• I watched a guy causally glide out of the loading doors and into the parking lot on a huge dolly.
• The ‘Is This Actually Only A Dollar Or Is It Five?’ section.
• I spent a half hour listening to a guy tell me why I needed an IPhone or I can’t be a part of human society. This was before the first iPhone was even for sale in the store.
• It’s bigger on the inside.
• I found this hideous lump of a fur hat for sale last winter, and wore it around the store my entire time there. Still invisible.
there’s an old slice of pizza on the stairs leading up to the second floor. no one knows how it got there, nor where it came from. it blinks at you as you walk by.
there’s a menacing beeping, always present, in the back of your mind. cold sweats break out on your arm and you feel like running. you realize it’s just the pacer test, echoing from the gym.
the textbooks are falling apart. their spines crack in your grip and you pretend you can’t hear their screams.
the hallways are crowded. students stare at you, their eyes dark and fearful, refusing to move as you push your way to class. they stand silent, begging you to draw blood. you mumble an “excuse me” and move on.
you stand for the pledge and there’s no flag there. there are no flags anywhere. the teacher stands with her hand over her heart and looks to the wall, her eyes unseeing. the flag is gone, and soon she will be too.
it smells like tuna in the cafeteria, but when you enter, there’s no tuna. just the crushing weight of existence and the idea that your entire life means nothing. you leave with a milk and a sandwich.
the health curriculum is outdated. the teacher turns on a movie from the 80s and spits in an ancient tongue. you pretend to take notes and try not to feel the fire in his gaze.
the football players got new uniforms, but they have consumed their mass and energy already. they await hungrily on the field, chained to the goal posts, their mouths frothing. new uniforms are once again ordered and the drama club still has no funding.
college is on the horizon. it is a bloody red and it’s arms are already outstretched. run to it. you have nowhere else to go.
You buy you’re own copy of the brick. You read quickly, excited to meet the characters. You reach page 38. You have only met Bishop Myriel. Where are the other characters? You reach page 621. There is only the bishop. Where is Valjean?
You open a fanfiction by a writer you’ve never heard of. Three pages in you realize you’ve read this fanfiction. You’ve only read this fanfiction. There are no other fanfictions.
You see a post by @just-french-me-upand decide to follow her. You’re sure you’ve followed her before. You see a post by @just-french-me-up and decide to follow her. You’re sure you’ve followed her before.
Fanart appears on your dash. The character is one you’ve never heard of. You ask. “She is only in the brick,” they tell you. You cannot find her. “She is only in the 2012 film adaptation,” they repeat. She is not there. “She was added in the musical.” She wasn’t.
There are hundreds of posts about Jehanparnasse. “It is Jehanparnasse week,” they all tell you. It was Jehanparnasse week last week. It is always Jehanparnasse week.
Someone reblogs your post. Their blog is not a les mis blog. The post has 321 reblogs. None of them are for les mis blogs. You do not know why
Everyone loves Enjolras. He is the only one they post about. All the art is him. All the headcannons are for him. All the blogs are named for him. You wonder why you thought there were other characters.
You carry your Brick around to class with you. Your bag gets heavier and heavier. By the end of the day, Victor Hugo has added 200 new pages about the Parisian Sewer System.
(Inspired by a post by @mardisoir that I don’t know how to link.).
are in three classes that use bernoulli’s equation. none of the
equations are the same. your teachers do not know who bernoulli is. did
bernoulli even exist?
there is a problem set. it is not on the
syllabus. the first question is a blank page. you look through the
whole set. it is all blank, except for the last page. you think it says
“run”. you do not know. it is not written in binary.
an ethics class. you are not sure why you are here. you do not need
ethics. you have never needed ethics. “it’s a joke class,” whispers an
upperclassman. you do not understand why it is funny.
abet. the name echoes through the halls of the mechanical engineering building. no one knows what it means.
are studying the tacoma narrows bridge for the fifth time. your
differential equations professor tells you it is not an example of
resonance. your engineering professor tells you it is. you are not sure
who to trust.
there are six bernoullis. only four of them are related. they all look the same.
environmental science majors have to take a class to learn excel. you
do not understand. you have always known excel, haven’t you? you do not
remember learning it.
you solve a triple integral and stop, confused. it has become a ricotti equation. you have forgotten ohm’s law.
has done everything. there is a portrait of euler in the english
building. when you look into its eyes, something disturbs you on a
professor cancels class. you suspect a trick. when you arrive to the
classroom, your entire class is there, watching the empty space where
the professor should be. no one speaks. no one leaves.
the problem set is optional. the problem set is not optional. the problem set is about schrodinger’s law.
three different people have explained mechatronics to you. nobody knows what it is.
friend says they have essays to write. essays? you cannot remember what
a word document looks like. you have not written a paragraph in two
years. words are abstract concepts without meaning.
“you’re an engineer?” someone asks. “you must be smart.” you begin to laugh. you have them all fooled. you cannot stop laughing.
one is sure what systems engineering is. the lights in the systems
building are always on. you have never seen someone come out.
professors all do research. there are bloodstains on their lecture
notes. you do not ask what they research. the last person to ask
vanished at the start of the semester. your computer science professor hasn’t stopped smiling since.
when you attend career fairs,
you are surrounded by students you have never seen and companies you
have never heard of. “we’re an innovative start-up,” someone says.
“we’re an innovative start-up,” you hear echoed down the hall three
weeks later. the words have not stopped. you cannot sleep. you are an
You stop at the Florida border after hours of driving. There is a small welcome center where a blonde woman named Karen hands you a free cup of orange juice. You excitedly ask how much longer until you reach the Keys. Karen laughs.
There is nothing but farmland for hours on either side of the highway. You have been listening to the same classic rock station for three of them, with the occasional static of lost signal. You play a game counting as many Yeehaw Junction! billboards that you see. If you guess correctly, you win a prize. There are 80 of them.
Florida has two main cryptids, the Skunk Ape, and Florida Man. You are canoeing in the swamp and you hear rustling. Swatting at gnats and mosquitos you hold your breath, you spot the Skunk Ape. A moment or two goes by, the Skunk Ape reaches up and scratches his head. He removes what was a mask all along. Florida Man is the Skunk Ape.
You visit your grandparent’s condo that’s 20 minutes from the beach. Everything in Florida is 20 minutes from the beach. There is an alligator walking on the golf course. “Let him play!!” A nearby woman shouts, as animal control attempts to capture the reptile. There will be another. There is always another.
The more south you drive, the more north it becomes. One side of the street is pouring rain with flashing lightning, the other is dead grass from decades of drought. Everyone wears flip flops, often with long sleeved shirts or hoodies. No one questions this.
It is 8:42pm on a Wednesday night. You walk into Publix, where shopping is a pleasure. Chicken tender subs are $5.99 for a whole, the man at the counter asks if you’d like to make it a combo. You never make it a combo. Two aisles over, a sweet woman asks if you’d like a free chocolate chip cookie. You say yes, and promptly buy a dozen more.
The news tells stories of wild parties and drug scandals from one of the 3 major cities. You live in the suburbs, where the craziest thing that’s happened is an iguana went into homeostasis in the winter, and rose from the dead in the summer. You switch to the local weather, rain is in the forecast again.
You have just paid $20 to park at the happiest place on earth. You used to park at the resorts and take the bus over, but they found out, and now monitor the resorts. You do not have extra magic hours but you stay past the park’s closing time anyway. It is empty except for one cast member sweeping popcorn off the floor. They have been sweeping for 27 minutes now. You are in Frontierland, but can hear It’s A Small World. You will always hear It’s A Small World.