“Basketball at Quantum State U.” / Memorable Fancies #1757

Particles playing basketball: a frustrating game because each shot both goes in the basket and doesn’t. And both the going-in and the not-going-in occur both before and after the shot is taken. Whether or not the shot is taken. And the particles themselves aren’t quite sure who they are: collapsed waves, perhaps, or maybe just coordinates in a vacuous spacetime that might, or might not, exist. Whatever “exist” could mean. [musing after reading Peter Lewis’ excellent book Quantum … [Read more...]

“There Was No Yesterday” / Memorable Fancies #1145

     Yesterday, there was no yesterday. It should have been a Tuesday, but there was no Tuesday. We were confused, alarmed. Had God taken Tuesday off just to show us our need for Him? Critical power loads, water levels, had nearly reached crisis by early today, but desperate hard work finally restored events to their customary disorder. It had been close. Now we’re in a rush to prepare, just in case God takes another day off. We worry about the approaching weekend. <END> Buy it on … [Read more...]

“Dogs Bring Home a Bone” / A Memorable Fancy #196

Every evening after dinner, the neighborhood dogs packed together and ran up into the hills for an hour or so. At first, there was some concern they might attack chickens or livestock or people; and then Doc (that's me) would have to patch them up, except maybe the chickens. But none of that wilding happened that anyone knows. One day last week the dogs came back early. Rusty, my own dog, proudly carried a bone in his mouth, dropped it at my feet. Picking it up, I recognized it as a human … [Read more...]

“Gr … ammar” / A Memorable Fancy #319

At first, “he growled” followed “get out of my face,” or “You and who else?” in bad novels, as in “‘Get out of my face,’ he growled.” But teenagers took it up, you know like they always do, then Hollywood writers. It became a punch line, a trope. Losing some of its jungle allure, growling could be done with a smile, or a wink. A grammar of growls came about, more expressive than one might expect. Growling is pretty much our only way of speaking these days. Now will you just get out of my … [Read more...]

“The Meeting” / A Memorable Fancy #317

     Twelve faceless, identical men sit around a table in a circular room. Everything is white: room, table and chairs, the men themselves, still as mummies. One of these men is me. Which one? If I were to raise my arm, I would know which one is me. All twelve raise their arms; then they lower them. I want to know who I am, and who the others are. I speak. Twelve mummy faces open speechless lips. Air is moved in waves and splashes round the room; then movement dies away. Twelve faceless men sit … [Read more...]

“The Forgetting-Project” / A Memorable Fancy #316

     I did something so awful once, a long time ago, that I want to un-remember it, to un-know it. I went to a psychiatrist last year. He told me to face up to what happened; work through the memory; own it. Repression, he said, is not what I should be doing. But repression is what I’m looking for. The truth isn’t what I want. I don’t need to remember what I did; I’ve remembered that already, time after time. I can’t get it out of my head. Now I just want to remember something else, anything … [Read more...]

“Carousel Number Three” / A Memorable Fancy #315

            An alarm bell rings. Robert Morgan jumps from its suddenness; the sound clatters against his quiet thoughts. Carousel number three starts up with lurches, rattles, and a scrape of belts. Luggage from Flight 760 begins to pour and bump onto the moving belt as passengers subtly jostle for position near the baggage-disgorging mouth.             He waits. The belt stops. His own luggage has not yet appeared. After a few minutes the belt starts up again. More bags appear, pushing and … [Read more...]

“‘We sing what happened'” / A Memorable Fancy #314

     We sing what happened; music makes it real for us. Once there were great battles and only our ballads recall them. We sing to each other of brave warriors and ships covering the sea, shouting men, glints of spears, the men’s first glimpse of the walls, those high walls that reached to the sky and could never be thrown down, never scaled, never breached by intrigue.      Our warriors came home in despair, but we do not sing of things as real as this.     <END> … See … [Read more...]

“Jane Looks Ahead” / A Memorable Fancy #313

     In the 1970s, when Jane Melton was in college, she became interested in futurology. At first, this kind of crystal-balling was just a hobby, but she gradually dedicated her life to the study of the future, and became an expert. She authored several popular books and numerous scholarly papers. Her Wikipedia entry, highly flattering, was actually written by someone she didn’t know.      By the 2000’s, however, Melton had become concerned that her predictions were impossibly accurate. Now … [Read more...]

“An Economy of Dreams – VII” / A Memorable Fancy #312

[Neuroscientists find a way to record dreams as the dreamer experienced them.]      Dream-snooping is considered bad form unless done by university psychology departments (as part of a government-funded scientific experiment, of course), or by the FBI. The only technical issue standing in the way of all your dreams being posted on Dreambook or Blather, or used as evidence against you, is that the dream-snoop has to be within 24 inches of your head while you’re asleep, or the dream will be too … [Read more...]

“The Signs” / A Memorable Fancy #311

     Signs appeared on a vacant lot proclaiming that a new development would soon arise there, no trespassing (signed) God. But then nothing happened. The signs grew old, rusted. We dared not build in that place, in hope or fear that God would return. Now, as to the signs God has placed in us as well: We dare not appropriate these either, even though we grow old, rust. <END> … See www.terencekuch.net for a profile of the author, publications, reviews, etc. His book, At All Adventure: An … [Read more...]

“The Regional Flight Departs” / A Memorable Fancy #310

     Passengers were strapped in securely, engines started up. “This is your captain,” the captain said. “We’re fourth in line for takeoff. I’ll be back to you once we’re airborne with lots of irrelevant chatter intended to take your mind off the fact that if God had intended us to fly he would have joined the Air Force! – That’s a joke, folks, ‘cause this is a folksy airline. And we’ll have games and puzzles for you just as soon as we’re pretty sure we won’t be crashing today.” <END> … … [Read more...]

“The Overnight Flight Arrives” / A Memorable Fancy #309

    Sleepy men and women rise from their seats, bend and straighten legs and backs, wrestle carry-ons from overhead bins. A few bags are always just the right size to go in but too big to pull out without savage, epic struggles after which the carry-on, finally acknowledging defeat, suddenly pops out directly toward the head of its intended victim. It is secretly pleased that its master had to invoke the muttered curses of a vengeful god in order to achieve the desired result.   … [Read more...]

“A Problem with Death” / A Memorable Fancy #308

     The dead are aggrieved at the shabby treatment they’re getting, and annoyed because they can’t do anything about it. Not being bodiless – they expected that. But floating immaterially through the world forever, they’re bound once in a while to hear their name mentioned, or find some slighting reference to them in a database. Sometimes they find outright lies, as in old personnel evaluations or speeding tickets or what their ex-wives texted to their friends. Even kind things spoken or … [Read more...]

“Earth-Shaker – V” / A Memorable Fancy #307

[It was a day of three digits, like “911.” This was April 10th, “410.” Today we finally caught sight of the being that had so distressed us, this Thing, this Bane that we learned to call “Earth-Shaker.”]     Pine Creek, in southwest Arkansas, wasn’t much of a stream to begin with but now it just – poured down a hole. Lukey Moss set his toy sailboat on Pine Creek to watch it disappear, because it was a present from his uncle Russ and he didn’t like his Uncle Russ. Pine Creek disappeared into … [Read more...]

“Upgrade” / A Memorable Fancy / #306

     Our new robot was only at version 7 when it arrived from the factory. Until we upgraded it to version 8, the other robots teased it constantly, called it “idiot” and "retard" and “gear-brain” (robots can be so cruel!). Our version 7 almost shut down one day in despair; but the others didn’t care, just laughed in that harsh mechanical grating voice they have.      During the upgrade, of course, the new robot lost all memory of anything that had happened when it was a 7. So it didn’t … [Read more...]

“An Economy of Dreams – VI” / A Memorable Fancy #305

[Neuroscientists find a way to record dreams as the dreamer experienced them.]      “Most people, when awakened, haven’t remembered all their dreams; that gives us an advantage.      “‘We have a recording,’ we tell them. ‘We remember your dreams, even when you don’t. Just last week you dreamed you were disloyal. No, we won’t tell you how you were disloyal; that’s classified. But I’ll just say that it was an original kind of disloyalty, very threatening, using a deadly new kind of … [Read more...]

“The Harrowing of Hell” / A Memorable Fancy #304

 When all the breathers of this world are dead …” [Shakespeare, Sonnet LXXXI]       Satan sat on his burning throne, face hard with flame and eyes gleaming white, last-born of the dead and everlasting Force! The forked tongue writhing from his mouth pierced the damned like awls: admonishing, rebuking, transfixing them with Responsible Comment.      Jesus stood before Satan. “Come, follow me,” said Satan, “and I will show you the damned.”      He went with Satan and beheld a pit … [Read more...]

“Earth-Shaker – IV” / A Memorable Fancy #303

[It was a day of three digits, like “911.” This was “410.” On April 10th, we finally caught sight of the being that had so distressed us. But long before that day we had been scourged by this Thing, this Bane that we learned to call “Earth-Shaker.”] What was Earth-Shaker? Why was it causing these events? There were many theories. Act of God. Act of Beelzebub. Revenge of God. Quantum event. Appeasing the Shaker was attempted. We sacrificed crops, goats, virgins – no, I lied: not virgins. We … [Read more...]

“The Pollster – II” / A Memorable Fancy #302

Polls report that Smith and Jones are in a close race. Smith’s supporters order another poll. And another. Smith pulls ahead by something considerably to the right of the decimal point. We must be doing something right, say Smith’s supporters. Let’s poll again. They call, tout the virtues of Jones again and again, especially early in the morning or late at night, or at great length. Smith gains another 0.05%.   … [Read more...]

“Redevelopment” / A Memorable Fancy #301

Your mind has become a slum, filled with collapsing principles and dark desires. Your few decent thoughts have long since been mugged by memories of what you did, and what you wanted very much to do but lacked courage for. City government has again listed the year’s most morally needy, and you topped the list. They have appropriated funds to clean out your mind, redevelop it so that decent thoughts could live there without needing to triple-lock the doors of the mind. Specialist firms have … [Read more...]

“Earth-Shaker – III” / A Memorable Fancy #300

[It was a day of three digits, like “911.” This was “410.” On April 10th, we finally caught sight of the being that had so distressed us. But long before that day we had been scourged by this Thing, this Bane that we learned to call “Earth-Shaker.”] Not just fields and dance-floors, but homes, too, were affected. Some people were afraid to visit their basements; others had disappeared there, taken into the earth. Gradually, basements were abandoned. On Staten Island, for instance, an old … [Read more...]

“Finders” / A Memorable Fancy #299

Some people just lose track of everything. “Have you seen my…?” is a cliché. It would be unfair to call these people “Losers,” as that word isn’t normally applied to people who merely can’t find their car keys in the morning. Perhaps “Weepers” will do. There are other people, however, whom we can fairly call “Finders.” A Finder knows where your car keys are, makes fun of you because you have no idea that you left them on the bathroom counter, while she knew all along where they were, knew … [Read more...]

“The Parallel Life” / A Memorable Fancy / #298

[“Had I another life! Another lifetime! … Or, what is better, a parallel life. Simultaneous with this.”  – Joyce Carol Oates] It’s like having an identical twin, y’know, or a clone; my parallel life, I mean. But that’s not quite it: it’s my parallel self, alright, but it’s not really me. Pete-2’s done quite a few things I haven’t and vice versa, after the big split – that happened the day he took that transfer to Atlanta and I turned it down. I hadn’t married yet back then, and it was … [Read more...]

“Earth-Shaker – II” / A Memorable Fancy #296

[It was a day of three digits, like “911.” This was “410.” On April 10th, we finally caught sight of the being that had so distressed us. But long before that day we had been scourged by this Thing, this Bane that we learned to call “Earth-Shaker.”] In the atmosphere of general panic, Earth-Shaker was blamed for any unexplained event. Farmers, for example, told reporters that their crops were being pulled into the earth. The Shaker stole crops, they claimed: roots of plants, grasped, sucked … [Read more...]

“An Answer” / A Memorable Fancy #295

[“Just when a man needs his sleep!” – Tirez sur le pianist]      The question of love comes up again just when she has me at a disadvantage, warm and sleepy and touching her soft skin and willing to say just about anything to get some sleep. She asks again and what can I say? So perhaps I don’t quite say it. As if “I love you” could be an answer.   … [Read more...]

“The Exile” / A Memorable Fancy #294

Andri is a regular at our neighborhood bar. He claims to be from a country I’ll call “X.” (I won’t attempt to pronounce it.) But we haven’t been able to identify X, or where it is. He insists that X is a real place: has its own coinage (look!), prints colorful stamps showing native birds and fish. He shows us maps of the capital, books in a strange typography of awkward forms. But we can’t find a flight that goes there, or a ship, nor does X have a Wikipedia entry or UN membership. Andri … [Read more...]

“Earth-Shaker – I: The Coming of Earth-Shaker” / A Memorable Fancy #293

It was a day of three digits, like “911.” This was “410.” On April 10th, we finally caught sight of the being that had so distressed us. But long before that day we had been scourged by this Thing, this Bane that we learned to call “Earth-Shaker.” The first effects, last August, were reported as unrelated oddities: sinkholes in Florida, for instance, that sucked garden hoses, and homes, to their occasional doom. But then people in several states reported a slight shaking of the earth, not … [Read more...]

“Asylum – II: Re-runs of Freedom” / A Memorable Fancy #291

[Continuing the journal of Diane McMurphy, a patient in Bad Shepherd mental hospital, “The Asylum”]   It’s me. I’m back in the psych-ward dayroom with its everbooming TV. It’s showing two-dimensioned people agitated over really small things, not should I take a razor to my wrists again but what laxative to use, why you really need a new car you can’t afford, how to convince your doctor you need the newest unpronounceable drug and swear not to O.D. while you search for God – and they … [Read more...]

“The Interview” / A Memorable Fancy #289

Over lunch, Smith explains to his friend Jones how he qualifies job applicants for his business. “Each one is asked to wait in a small windowless room with two chairs,” he begins. “They’re informed that their actions will be observed. Afterwards, they’ll be told if they’ve passed or failed but not why. “Some applicants,” Smith continues, “believe that persistence will succeed: they sit rigidly in one of the chairs the whole time. Others think that creativity is the key and they do strange … [Read more...]

“The Acolyte” / A Memorable Fancy #287

[“Certain teachings take four hundred years to transmit from sage to student; others, four thousand; others, forty thousand.” – Eliot Weinberger] The acolyte, when offered a choice, chose forty thousand years, for what is left to seek after enlightenment? That would be the end of life. “You are indeed wise,” said the sage. “All my other students impatiently choose four hundred years, or quit in despair. You have made forty thousand years’ progress in a single day; you have nothing else to … [Read more...]

“Telescopes” / A Memorable Fancy #286

From here on the hill, Raymond says, gesturing toward the window, you can see four other hills. He names them. Most of the homes have telescopes, he adds, like ours here. He points to a proud and solitary thing of darkened brass. His friend remarks that Raymond’s telescope is not pointed at the stars, but at the other hills. Yes, Raymond says, we all do that, witness each other’s’ lives I mean, and they look into ours. We all have neighbors, and the galaxies are boring. No one waves to us … [Read more...]

“The Names IV – ‘We are forgetting the names of things'” / A Memorable Fancy #282

We are forgetting the names of things: how they sound, what they mean. It began about a year ago. Once in a while I remembered a word like “skillet” or “plate,” but then quickly forgot it. We were reduced to saying “You know, those things we use to…” cook in, or place food on, or whatever. But gradually, the phrase “Those things we use to…” became, for us, just another kind of name, and we’re forgetting these, too. We gesture now, wordlessly. We point, we wave our arms silently until the … [Read more...]

“Property” / A Memorable Fancy #280

The newcomers came with their weapons and their wealth. They put up signs on our poor assortment of farms and villages: “This land is our property now.” And on our larger dwellings, then the smaller ones and even the hovels: “These homes are our property now.” Our President appeared on his balcony to reassure us. “It is good.” he said. “The newcomers will invest in this land, teach us trade, make us prosperous.” But then a sign miraculously appeared above him: “Your President is our property … [Read more...]

“Original Face” / A Memorable Fancy #279

     When he met her for the first time, he had memorized her face and voice, how she moved, not her appearance itself but how these features meant to him, if he thought her face pretty or striking or out of proportion, her voice high or low – because he knew that with time and accustoming he would not see her face, hear her voice in the same way, could not recapture his original thought of her unless now he noted and remembered.     Much later, he is trying to recapture that memory of her from … [Read more...]

“The Playgoer’s Dream” / A Memorable Fancy #059

     There is a prop or two on stage: perhaps a stool turned backward. Mist rises from under-stage machines. Experts have assured the theatre manager that no toxic chemicals are involved, or at least that none will, under normal circumstances, reach the audience. Nonetheless, physicians are in attendance.     At last the house is full. The audience shifts uneasily in its seats. Coughs ring out from those who suppose, vainly, that by coughing at this permitted time no coughs will issue from them … [Read more...]

“De Anima” / A Memorable Fancy #277

We wandered the sinuous ways of the National Bazaar, making sure not to lose each other. People grew silent at our approach, stared, muttered in their throaty language. One corridor contained nothing but engineered animals, no being in its natural state. The merchants looked proudly on their wares. A woman in a parti-colored scarf showed us a small, clever biothing that walked a few paces on command, nodded its head and turned around when it heard the words “Zafir, haf!” The woman suggested … [Read more...]

“Asylum – I: ‘If there’s no song …'” / A Memorable Fancy #276

[Diane McMurphy is a patient in Bad Shepherd mental hospital, “The Asylum.”] On Sunday mornings we have Group, each one led by an intern on rotation from another psych ward. Most of these interns are very earnest and boring and I can get away with saying only stupid things, not giving away anything personal. But about once a month we get “Jon,” – that’s what he likes to be called, not “Dr. McConnell.” I like Jon, even though he sees right through me and out the other side. If anyone were … [Read more...]

“Extinction” / A Memorable Fancy #275

“The problem with forgetting,” said the man in the dark suit, “is that you have to remember what you’ve tried so vainly to forget – before you can forget, excise it from your mind scrape by scrape. In fact, that’s the key, isn’t it? ‘Extinction,’ we call it. Over and over and over, remember everything you can about her in the utmost detail, about how you and she were, together, and how you imagined she was when you were alone. The more you feel your pulse rising, your hands shaking, the … [Read more...]

“The Dancing Master Hang’d in the Courtyard, year 1534” / A Memorable Fancy #274

Now that he has shown the rope to jagged laughter and applause, now that he has ritually spat me (and I spat back, but missed for I have not his moist and practiced lips) – Now that he has stained me, the mumbling drunkards quiet down and wait for me to hallow this event with whining penitential words they all expect. But I say … “God damn ye all who live if I must die! The king, his whore, his toady Sir’s, and most of all you godly men come to watch me dance this once alone without your … [Read more...]

“The Actor Dreams – II / A Memorable Fancy #064

The actor dreams: All the others on stage know what to say, how to move. Only the others know what to say, how to move. Perhaps he has rehearsed the wrong play. Perhaps he has come onstage at the wrong cue, or through the wrong door. Perhaps he has rehearsed a character meant for someone else. Perhaps it is not only actors who have fears such as these.     … [Read more...]

“Priorities” / A Memorable Fancy #272

There are many calls to 9-1-1. Reporters rush to the scene: there has been a catastrophe. People are injured, property destroyed. Pleas for government assistance are many. “We’re sorry, but there is no budget for minor catastrophes,” officials say. “And we know which catastrophes are minor; they’re the ones we have no budget for.” [– after Thomas Bernhard]     … [Read more...]

“The Actor Dreams – I” / A Memorable Fancy #055

  The actor dreams: The audience files in and finds their seats. The play begins. Every word the heroine says brings forth gasps of appreciation, wild applause. When I speak, there is coughing. <END> ... If quoting or reprinting, please credit www.terencekuch.com. See www.terencekuch.net for a profile of the author, publications, reviews, etc. His speculative fiction novels * may be purchased in paperback or Kindle formats via his Amazon author page, … [Read more...]

“The Names – III” / A Memorable Fancy #270

I’m an advisor to the King, but safety lies in looking wise and advising nothing. So I will not tell him that there are too many names already, too many things; that it would be good for us to have some perceptions we don’t put a label on; that knowing the name of a thing is not the same as knowing the thing itself, even though most learning in our schools stops there; and that just because a thing is called some “thing” doesn’t mean it’s the same thing as that other thing that’s also called the … [Read more...]

“Tour Bus to the Gate of Hell” / A Memorable Fancy #268

“‘Gate of Hell’ they told the tourists. What a fake! Yes, there’s a hole in the ground, a rotting iron grate, a lock a child could break.” They gape, grab a shot, then the bus goes on to Aulis, Delphi, some other place. “I’ve seen the Gate of Hell itself!” they say, back at home. “Here’s one of the kids,” posing and squinting up at harsh Apollo before the Gate, the very place – “But the real Gate of Hell’s in Byblos,” Herb interrupts, “We saw it last year, when we took that … [Read more...]

“The Names – II” / A Memorable Fancy #266

[“Could one then do without names?” – Wittgenstein] Alfred abandons his name. He asks his friends not to call him “Alfred” anymore, not to call him anything. Names, he thinks, say both too little about him and too much. Why do people think they know him when they know only his name? “‘One,’ I shall be called,” he announces one day, as in “One knows very well that…,” or “One can fly from Zurich to Budapest now.” One has wisdom and power, he thinks, as in “upon reflection, One can readily … [Read more...]

“In Another Country” / Memorable Fancies #057

As I do not know the language of this country, there is a problem. Others gather, seem to sympathize, but I can’t make them understand me. A stranger approaches. He looks like me. At first I take him for a fence or a pimp, but he offers me neither gizmo nor girl. He takes me to a bar. By motions my new friend asks what I would like. I shrug. He orders. I say “same for me.” No one understands this. Nonetheless, drinks of a dark, smoky color are served. The glass is warm and not too clean. … [Read more...]

“‘Each thing must have its god'” / A Memorable Fancy #28

“In the official records, I am referred to as ‘Lord of Shit,’ for each thing must have its god, and after Yahweh was victorious he humbled the proud heathen lords and sentenced us to the lowliest of domains. My friends here in this wretched place include once-proud nobles now sentenced to be Lord of Vile Treachery, of the Plague of the Black Tongue, of Suspicion of One’s Wife, of Willfully Ungrateful Sons, and so on. I, too, was once a god of higher things. Of a very grand thing, actually, … [Read more...]

“The Names – I” / A Memorable Fancy #263

The King appointed a Royal Namer. Actually, he appointed four of them, one after another, until he found one who avoided the hangman by finally learning the art – no, let’s call it “the trick” – of Naming. You can probably tell from that that I don’t much like what the Namer does. Don’t we have enough names for things already? Take last week, for example. The Namer said “cream cheese” and cream cheese appeared; that is, we saw that something soft and white and edible now had a name, and … [Read more...]

“Bandwidth” / A Memorable Fancy #259

“It’s a waste!” the consultant said, “All those brain cycles that could be doing useful work, improving our productivity statistics, participating in cloudsourced computing, and so on. When people are asleep they’re not using their minds, when their government could be using them. What a waste of a national resource.” “And they’d never know they were – improving our productivity statistics and so on? They wouldn’t miss these ‘brain cycles’?” “Not at all. If they wake up or start dreaming, … [Read more...]

“The Omitted Man” / Memorable Fancies #008

A man has been formally shunned, by order of the authorities. That was many years ago, and he is now old. His name was erased from the public monuments. There is a rough-gouged gap in the list of donors carved into our hospital’s waiting-room wall. His wives have other husbands now; his children, other names. No one remembers the cause for which he was shunned. The omitted man himself is vague about it, no longer knows if he committed the acts he was accused of. He has thought about … [Read more...]

“Lullaby” / A Memorable Fancy #258

Catherine pushed through the heavy glass doors and entered the lobby. Even though she was a senior manager there was no doorman for her, nor waiver from the rigors of security. She had her ID checked. She was frisked, wanded, poked, and waved through a bank of metal detectors, full-court-press body scanners, white-powdery-envelope detectors, and several other machines that must be checking for substances so deadly the firm didn’t dare say what they were checking her for. Catherine was not … [Read more...]

“Home” / A Memorable Fancy #256

We arrived as tourists, learned the local words for “please,” “how much?” and “thank you,” patronized trinket sellers. The woman shopped for idle things, found little. “We should go on to St. Tropez,” she said, “but I like it here. It’s quiet, orderly. I don’t want to leave just now.” We considered the passport hassles, immigration grilling. And we and our sons especially enjoyed this place, I had to admit: a grandeur of palaces, splendid marches, speeches. So we stayed, almost flying on or … [Read more...]

“The Tenth Paradox” / A Memorable Fancy #254

Major premise: “Achilles and the tortoise” is a paradox. Minor premise: Paradoxes are unbelievable. Conclusion: It is unbelievable that “Achilles and the tortoise” is a paradox. [It is believed that Zeno of Elea (5th century BC/BCE) documented many paradoxes, including “Achilles and the tortoise,” but only nine have survived.]         … [Read more...]

“There is Always a Word” / A Memorable Fancy #253

“They think they’re so damn smart with all their labels, those shrinks and their words, you know how they like to label people. They always have a word for it, don’t they?, whatever you do. Then they think they know you. There’s always a two-dollar word like ‘schizoaffective disorder’ for instance. Or ‘sociopathy,’ as if one of those cold words they got out of some textbook could capture the hot complexity of what I do. Like killing, for instance.”     … [Read more...]

“The Lover” / A Memorable Fancy #252

The lover is observing his love. She seems suddenly strange to him, as if he never knew her, as if seen across a room for the first time. Every casual motion she makes is new to him, surprising, no matter how trivial or unconscious. He shakes his head to get over this feeling, so disturbing – and yet so exciting. [“ ... we do not really know him or her: we become suddenly aware that there is a total stranger in front of us.” – Slavoj Žižek]     … [Read more...]

A Memorable Fancy #251: The Stories

     In a far land there are seasonal stories, legends that are told only on a specific day each year, or only in the dry season, or only when observing a winter sunset, and so on. The system is quite elaborate; it’s set forth in the holy books and never changes.      One who tells the right story at the wrong time, or the wrong story at the right time, will never achieve anything serious in life. Whispers follow him like the night. <END> ... If quoting or reprinting, please credit … [Read more...]

A Memorable Fancy #250: The Seeking

Now the house is quiet. The family is asleep. The surrounding forest crawls with things of night on their crouching way; each one seeks the mouth it will feed.                – after Alain Robbe-Grillet <END> ... If quoting or reprinting, please credit www.terencekuch.com.     See www.terencekuch.net for a profile of the author, publications, reviews, etc. His speculative fiction novels * may be purchased in paperback or Kindle formats via his Amazon author page. Review copies are … [Read more...]

“’A strange fashion of forsaking’” / A Memorable Fancy #249

“Whatever, whoever I need leaves me,” he said to me, “sooner or later. It’s like I had the plague or something. My job, my girlfriend Sally, my car – everything I want, everything I need runs away.” He reached for a pencil. It backed off and emitted a slight hiss. “That’s a cute trick,” I said. “How did you do that?” He looked at me sorrowfully; I left and never came back.  [– after Sir Thomas Wyatt]     … [Read more...]

“An Economy of Dreams – V” / A Memorable Fancy #247

[Neuroscientists find a way to record dreams as the dreamer experienced them.] Secretly, dreams are polled to see what themes are trending. Results are sold to businesses, fashion designers, Hollywood producers, politicians, and headlined on Windows 8 “start” tiles. All this is more or less benign. But a mysterious group is discovered buying copies of everyone’s dreams. No one knows what their intentions are or who is funding them, but rumors of “aliens” are muttered. Does that mean … [Read more...]

“Killing-Time” / A Memorable Fancy #220

       “Tired of just killing time? Do you really enjoy all those games of solitaire, those TV re-runs, reading those finely wrought first novels? Don’t they just make your boredom more intense, make time go by even slower? The solution, my friends, is FastForward, a simple device that turns off your brainwaves, blanks your mind for a time interval you select. The FastForward system normally sells for $149.95, but if you act now we will rush it to you for only $19.95. That’s right, just $19.95, … [Read more...]

“No One on Stage” / A Memorable Fancy #053

In the great theatre of the capital there is no one on stage. Lights up, then dim. Three down-spots converge as if in conspiracy, then scatter as a fourth creeps in from stage left, tries to overhear. Voices are heard, soft then loud. There are heart-rending cries, laments and swearing, inexorable dissonances and insupportable music, lustful enumeration of body-parts shouted as if in a noisy bar. “What in hell is this?” one asks. Others merely nod. “Yes, yes.” [– after Piero … [Read more...]

“An Economy of Dreams – IV” / A Memorable Fancy #219

[Neuroscientists find a way to record dreams as the dreamer experienced them.] Dreams of those accused of crimes are monitored to discover if a confession could be inferred. (“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this man’s dreams included details only the perpetrator could know.”) Juries were seldom persuaded, since the police and prosecutors would also know these things. Since dreaming of a specific crime did not succeed in convicting people of that crime, dreaming of any crime was itself … [Read more...]

“Friends” / A Memorable Fancy #052

     Herbert had seven friends, but they all moved away. No one reads his blog. A Google search turns up nine hits on “Herbert W. Norton, Jr.,” but this is someone else with the same name. He is accidentally omitted from the company phone book. “Just an oversight,” SueAnn Carleton says, “I’m sorry.”      Herbert buys a gun, takes it to work, points it. Now SueAnn is really sorry.     … [Read more...]

“The Gingerbread Metaphor” / A Memorable Fancy #218

  Hansel and Gretel are lost in the woods, but they come across a small house. Gretel says that they have become a metaphor of the human condition, finding refuge in the midst of despair. Hansel says nothing, because his mouth is full of gingerbread. The door of the house swings slowly open. A smiling face peers out. The metaphor continues.     … [Read more...]

A Memorable Fancy #47b: Unseeing a Play

     They attend the famous theatre and see the play. It begins. It ends. Months later, they still cannot get the play out of their heads – like a song but longer, more intense. Each audience member feels – knows – that the play was about him, his flaws, the miserable cheat he’s been, the sins he thought no one knew....      Finally, they return to the theatre. They demand to unsee the play, to take their fear and pity back. They are permitted this indulgence. Then they look at each other, … [Read more...]

“An Economy of Dreams – II” / A Memorable Fancy #216

[Neuroscientists find a way to record dreams as the dreamer experienced them.] “Bad dreams? SootheSleep Inc. can end them once and for all. Think of the pleasure of knowing you won’t wake up shivering in terror, or keeping your bedmate awake with your groans and thrashing. “SootheSleep is a simple device you wear on your head. It detects abnormally strong negative brain waves and generates positive waves until your brain returns to normal. “What is the price of this wonderful new … [Read more...]

“An Economy of Dreams – I” / A Memorable Fancy #215

Neuroscientists at Harvard find a way to record dreams as the dreamer experienced them, not merely as blips on a screen. Papers are published, students experimented on. A quasi-religious cult develops, with apostles and adherents, then goes mainstream. An app is developed to let people download their dreams and share them on the Web, or show them at parties to applause and guffaws. Politicians are Alarmed. “Sin” is whispered by those who like to sin, and by those who do not. There are … [Read more...]

“The Prophet – I” / A Memorable Fancy #102

The prophet tries to recall the source of his inspiration so many years ago. He mumbles the same old words when the Movement asks him to. But now, the words don’t seem so urgent. What does his teaching really mean? He doesn’t remember. His followers treat him as a beautiful relic whose wisdom is often quoted and ignored. He is local color, a living treasure, a brief stop for tour buses. Tourists take his picture. The Movement provides a pleasant room where his every word is monitored, at … [Read more...]

“Our Machines Forget” / A Memorable Fancy #214

Our machines have been forgetting. At first a few crashes, but we quickly restored from backups while we still remembered how to do it. Then severe dropouts, parity errors, corrupted backups. It was difficult to know what the machines had forgotten, since the records of what they had known had also disappeared, or become a random assortment of 1’s and 0’s. And we – what did we want the machines to do for us, when we invented them?       … [Read more...]

“Over My Dead Body!” / A Memorable Fancy #212

I used to sell my blood at NIH, when they used to pay. Now I'm signed up to give away my body parts when I die – says so on my driver's license – blood, fingers, liver, brain, precious bodily fluids, and all. If something is valuable enough to want, the person providing the goods ought to be compensated, right? I've got half a mind to sell half my mind and just think with the other half, but the two halves keep arguing over who gets to stick around. [– for Derek Parfit]   … [Read more...]

“Keys” / A Memorable Fancy #209

"Where are my damn keys?" But you do find them after a while, don't you? "Just where you left them." But your things were really gone, taken by the aliens and carefully duplicated. Then the originals were placed where you would find them. What do the aliens do with the objects they copy? They're re-creating our world, one object at a time. When they're done, they will have no more use for our own things, or for us. “Now, where in hell did I park my car? And where's Junior, … [Read more...]

“The Two-Dimensional Lover” / A Memorable Fancy #038

“No, not that way. Turn to the right ... just a little ... there!” To his eyes, now, she is only an edge, a line. She doesn’t look right if he sees her straight on. At some angles she almost disappears. He likes her that way. He smiles. … [Read more...]

“The Forgettery” / Memorable Fancies #208

Today I visited the Forgettery and paid them so that I would forget about – a woman, I think – what was her name? I remember that it was a big effort to forget about her and it took the specialists more than a day or two, but it must have been worth it, right? Or I wouldn’t have done it, wouldn’t have paid the Forgettery so much. But now I’m free of her. If we were to meet at a party, now, I wouldn’t recognize her. But I might be attracted to her again – might go through the same – whatever … [Read more...]

“Death to the Loyal” / A Memorable Fancy #032

     In our kingdom, loyalty is rewarded. In fact, strong expressions of loyalty are expected – required. The insufficiently loyal are subject to disfavor, disgrace, imprisonment. The trick, however, is not to be too loyal. Above a certain unspecified level, the king becomes suspicious. Executions follow.              [-- title after Ed Rehmus] <END> See www.terencekuch.net for a profile of the author, publications, reviews, etc.   … [Read more...]

“The Cannibal Variations: In the Old Days” / A Memorable Fancy #207

“And then our great transition,” the lecturer said, “from hunter-gatherer to farmer; to civilization. And then we could have settlements,” he told us, “and cities, and trade. “And we could raise people as food-crops,” he continued, “instead of hunting them down one by one in the woods, as we had to do in the old days.” [– after David Frankfurter]   … [Read more...]

“Traveler’s Tale” / A Memorable Fancy #206

I told them what I saw – a sandy wall of huts against a hill, I, in rags, robbed by camel-thieves, stoned by their urchins. The tribe kept me in chains where chieftains lived on loot from travelers lost like me. But I escaped, left a guard for dead, dug with my hands for desert’s wet, reached home, related simply what I saw, then slept and bathed for days. And then I heard from clacking jaws and flicking tongues that I had seen a golden tower shining high upon a diamond hill, centaurs and … [Read more...]

“Tomorrow’s Diary” / A Memorable Fancy #205

You can buy an app that foretells the future – your future – what you would write in your diary the next day, if you kept one. Many have called it a fraud or a hoax: like a fortune cookie, its predictions are vague. Like a Greek oracle, they can be misunderstood, or are perhaps intended to be misunderstood. Nonetheless, millions of people have bought the app and look ahead every day. Sometimes the screen is blank; always it is cryptic. I click the icon with dread, afraid of what I might … [Read more...]

“The Wall and Memories” / A Memorable Fancy #020

The wall was built by the Dutiful Republic for our safety, they tell us; for our welfare. It is called “Wall of Memories,” because we come to the wall each morning and throw – are required to throw – yesterday’s memories over it. Our memories, the Republic tells us, are false. They must be discarded. They distract and enrage us. I have already forgotten this. <END>  ... Read Terence Kuch’s techno-thriller The Seventh Effect – for Kindle or paperback at Amazon.com. Review copies … [Read more...]

“The War” / A Memorable Fancy #203

A fanfare, and the vitally important announcement begins. The Leader, the lesser leaders, the little leaders are all there. We turn the TV volume up, watch their moving mouths, the lips, the eyes. We change the color settings: the lips turn a garish red, the eyes rabid brown. The leaders are telling us to have faith in them, to believe, behave. The war will soon be won, they say, the war we know of only because the leaders have told us there is a war and that it is virtuous and necessary. The … [Read more...]

“Actors All Speak At Once” / A Memorable Fancy #019

  The actors all speak at once. Plays are shorter that way. The audience is pleased, because they never liked the plays this troupe produced, anyway. <END>  ... Read Terence’s Kuch’s At All Adventure: An Alternative Gospel – for Kindle at Amazon.com. Review Copies Available.   … [Read more...]

“The Quiet Car” / A Memorable Fancy #018

  In the train’s quiet-car, the righteous are always ready to pounce on offenders. So it was no surprise when one whispered to me “Can’t you just shut up? We’ll be arriving at Treblinka soon, anyway.” <END> .. Terence Kuch's books may be purchased or previewed through his Author Page at Amazon.com. Review copies are available; inquire at terencekuch //at// ymail.com. // … [Read more...]

“The Real” / A Memorable Fancy #201

The film opened to much fanfare. It was a great popular success, the hero and heroine battling through poverty, disease, betrayal, to reach their apotheosis in a massive, exhausting bout of love of body and spirit. The audience went away enchanted. Gradually their lives of poverty, disease, and betrayal seemed to them not quite real, certainly not as real as the film. There was only left, death. That was still real. [– after Slavoj Zizek] … [Read more...]

A Memorable Fancy #016b: Gift

[“It is easier to raise a shrine than bring the deity down to haunt it.” –Samuel Beckett] After taxes that pre-humbled our people for practice, after importing marble at great cost and fighting off tribes to bring it here, and after many crushed limbs in the building of it, and the spiremaker’s falling-death – we built the shrine. Even from the day of cornerstone and speech the gods were there among us shouting, boistering, cajoling the stonemasons on, eager for the altar’s gift to fill … [Read more...]

“Inside the Machine” / A Memorable Fancy #200

We feel the great engines start. Our planet moves, first slowly then faster, into empty space. It is getting colder, darker here. The air smells like machines.   … [Read more...]

“The Upper Floors” / A Memorable Fancy #012

  The air is failing. It now ends 18 feet above street level; only the first two floors of each building can be inhabited. When one of us needs something from a higher floor, some object forgotten in the throes of catastrophe, he holds his breath and dashes upstairs. He clutches his chest and searches hurriedly for the desired object, then comes running downstairs and lies gasping on the floor. Or perhaps he fails to return in time and becomes one of those objects we encounter on the … [Read more...]

“Who?” / A Memorable Fancy #199

Senator Gallagher secretly rejoiced when his old enemy, former President Hanson, died. Not to see that hated face again was his joy and delight. But then came the President Hanson stamp, the President Hanson dime, President Hanson Airport. Now the Senator saw him everywhere, couldn’t catch a flight without hearing the name that he knew would live on long after Senator Gallagher became “Senator who?”   … [Read more...]

“Requirement” / A Memorable Fancy #011

     “I’m not a serial killer,” he said. “I never meant to be one, at least; that’s not my self-image. A serial killer never stops till he’s caught, isn’t that what they say? Not me. I’ll stop. I’m just looking for Mr. Right.” He looked me up and down, smiling. <END> NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE or in paperback: Read Terence Kuch’s new SF novel about selling and buying memories, See/Saw. See his author page on Amazon. Review copies are available; inquire at terencekuch //at// … [Read more...]

“Crazy in Love” / A Memorable Fancy #198

Crazy in love; that’s what I told myself it was, But words are the lies we use when there’s nothing else to say.   … [Read more...]

“News” / A Memorable Fancy #009

The early edition was full of dreadful news. Those who crept aboard the train at seven, clutching newspapers, were grim-faced and somber. They made hurried plans to take their money from the bank and have a last desperate fling; or tell their fathers, finally, what they thought of them. The late edition beamed with joy: all the stocks up, the plays hits, the troops home. The nine o’clock commuters spilled from their trains dancing, hugging complete strangers. They noticed the bodies of the … [Read more...]

“At Night, A Sound – II” / A Memorable Fancy #197

Late at night, sudden sounds. Get up, look out the fourth-floor window. There are people standing on the sidewalk, crowding together. You count at least thirty, more joining the crowd every minute. They’re looking up at you; some are pointing. Others are shouting “There he is now!” Are they shaking their fists at you, or motioning for you to get out while you can? For a moment, you imagine that you’re a feared despot, that the mob is coming to hang you from a lamp post. But you’re no despot, … [Read more...]

“Madeleine’s Party” / A Memorable Fancy #007

At Madeleine’s party: an unexpected face, my likeness, my double. A twin I never knew? I spoke to it. It looked at me as if trying to place me from its album of ignored people. I spoke again. It turned away. Madeleine, desperate to promote sociability, touched its arm. “You remember Herbert, here, don’t you, Herbert?” … [Read more...]

A Memorable Fancy #005b: Gate 32

     Strange things happen from time to time at Gate 32. People arrive from a past decade, appear and then vanish, etc. As a last resort, airport authorities close off Gate 32, wall it in. Voices are heard from inside, becoming ever more desperate. It is possible that a few real flights have landed, their pilots misdirected by careless controllers or ground crews. Their passengers mingle with those from the past, amaze them with stories of how the world has turned out, how much they fear the … [Read more...]

“Who Am I?” / A Memorable Fancy #195

Every morning I look in the mirror. Have I been transformed into some kind of giant bug? No. At least not yet. Have I become an E.T. with big eyes and green skin? No. Then why do I feel that I’m becoming more alien every day? Tomorrow, the mirror may show me someone who doesn’t live here anymore. [“I am conscious of becoming alien...” – Georges Bataille]   … [Read more...]

A Memorable Fancy #004b: The Sundial and Its Shadow

I was enjoying a drink on the terrace when I heard a faint noise from my left. I turned, and saw that a small sundial had just been overtaken by the shadow of a tree, as the sun continued its uneasy westward course. “Ah,” it said, “again it has happened. There will be no more time, now, until later. How much later I cannot say, but for now there is no more time. If someone would move me away from this infernal tree I could tell the time a longer time each day. VII? VIII? Who knows? “The … [Read more...]

“Grandpa Joe Tries to Remember” / A Memorable Fancy #194

Sometimes he remarks on the weather or how the Jets or the Nets are doing, depending on the season. Not good to get them mixed up, he thinks: cause for unspoken loud derision from old ones who are not yet so far gone. Must remember that the Jets are the football team, the Nets basketball. At least he can associate a Net with a “net.” A Jet, however, could be any sport, or none. Perhaps an aerobatics team. Or an aerobics team. Is there a difference? Better not mention aerobics or aerobatics, … [Read more...]

“The Reaping” / A Memorable Fancy #193

We work hard growing our crops. We raise our children to be good farmers. But every reaping-time a giant hand appears in the sky. It gathers our fruits and grains and leaves us only a little to glean. This has happened over and over as long as anyone can remember. We plot how to stop this irruption, but have not succeeded. Every year after harvest the giant hand sprinkles seed. A few of us will survive to tend next year’s crops.   … [Read more...]

“We’ll meet again…” / A Memorable Fancy #192

“Some day years from now,” she romantically said, “when you’re married to someone else and so am I, we’ll meet again” (don’t know where etc.), “and sneak away and love each other all over again.” And I nodded “yes” and found ways not to be where she might be (don’t know when) again. [– After Ross Parker, Hugh Charles, and Vera Lynn, 1939]   … [Read more...]

“Fabrication” / A Memorable Fancy #191

Dad had a couple of workmen out and they dug holes and poured concrete and brought in some lumber and put up a fence all around our back yard. Sometimes I hear Dad tell people he put up the fence, but I know he just hired some men to do it. So now I don’t know when to believe Dad and when not to.   … [Read more...]

“Corporations in Heaven” / A Memorable Fancy #190

“But you’re joking!” I said. “Another of your ‘get rich quick’ schemes?” “No, this time I’m serious. Dead serious.” “Helping companies with their heavenly afterlife? But a company isn’t a person.” “The Supreme Court says it is.” “Buildings, organization, square footage, data, accounts receivable ...” “No, no. A corporation is people, just like a church is people. Not its bricks and mortar, not even its data. All those are ‘accidents’ as the theologians would say, not ‘essence.’ … [Read more...]

“The Collector” / A Memorable Fancy #189

“My goal is to meet 100 new people this month,” and even “I want my dog to meet 20 new dogs this month.” So that’s why Sally was in the dog park that day, where are there were lots of people and lots of dogs. That’s why she was chatting up new people and new dogs, ignoring me and my dog. We’d met last week in the dog park, and I’d already become a tick-mark in her mental list. Or perhaps she writes down the names of her new friends and her dog’s new friends, pressing them flat in books, like … [Read more...]

“Clock-Work” / A Memorable Fancy #188

The Viewing Chapel is run like clock-work, very efficiently. Each corpse is allowed exactly twenty minutes per widow, five additional minutes for each child. Then they must leave as the next set of mourners enters, looking at their watches and smiling at the punctuality that removes all inconvenience. On the opposite side of the same building is the Wedding Reception Hall. It is run like clock-work, very efficiently. Each couple is allowed a whole hour, because after all they are still alive … [Read more...]

“Wait for Sleep” / A Memorable Fancy #186

A government agency is formed to spy on citizens’ unconscious minds. Its mission is to detect dangerous tendencies, radical thoughts that have not yet percolated into consciousness, thoughts that occur only in dreams. Of course, since the offense is unconscious, it wouldn’t be right to punish the guilty while they were conscious and unaware of their crime. We can, however, wait for sleep.   … [Read more...]

“Spying” / A Memorable Fancy #185

I am spying on myself, divining my sins. I hunt out guilty secrets, nonconforming opinions, base desires. I began a journal of these observations, but burned it when I found myself reading it, spoiling these secrets from myself, making them no longer secret. How can I bear to read those horrible words? The priest said “We all have sinful desires like yours, my son; we do sinful things. Very much like yours. Exactly like yours.” Then he turned and ran from the confessional, screaming and … [Read more...]

“Another Book” / A Memorable Fancy #184

“Isn’t there another Book? I can’t seem to find it, now. The one Jesus wrote that answered all our questions, I mean. I’ve looked everywhere; thumbed through all the pages from Matthew back to Revelation. I’m sure it’s here somewhere. — Isn’t it?”   … [Read more...]

“The Piper” / Memorable Fancies #183

[“What happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it.” – Eliot] I saw that the New Masters Gallery was resplendent with freshly painted ceilings and newly washed windows. Droplights had been dusted for the first time in years. All this was in preparation for the opening of recent oils by Nicholas Hamelin, a hitherto unknown artist, “whose art is a new voice in the world of art,” as the publicity postcards ineptly … [Read more...]

“The Controllers” / A Memorable Fancy #182

When I mentioned the Controllers and how they sometimes take over our minds, everyone seemed embarrassed even though I was just making conversation. I have since learned not to mention the Controllers in polite company, any more than I would talk about my private body parts or recently being fired. Everyone knows about the Controllers, of course, even though no one will talk about them. Very privately, I think, among lovers or especially good friends, it would be permissible to talk about them … [Read more...]

” The Great Sponge” / A Memorable Fancy #181

The great sponge must have appeared some time ago, but those who first saw it didn’t realize its significance, didn’t recognize its sponge-like qualities, its ability to absorb whatever it touched, to turn any surface into gleaming abiotic cleanliness. In Central Asia, a small province once the home of camel-herders and jihadist training camps is now only a featureless plain. Two American states have stopped responding to repeated calls. The sponge continues its work. Soon the world … [Read more...]

“The Gadget” / A Memorable Fancy #180

The newest electronic gadget showed up in the shops yesterday. Of course, with all the hype and promises, I just had to have one. So I stood in line for an hour. These tech-lines, you know, can be exciting. Everyone there seems happy (if you’re sad, you wouldn’t wait in line to buy much more than aspirin, toilet paper, or Zantac). Everyone is thinking of the fun they’ll have showing off their new gadget to their envious friends. YES – but this new thing does – what? (Beware of embarrassing … [Read more...]

“Thoughts of a Ghost” / A Memorable Fancy #179

I haunt other beings. Perhaps they in turn hunt others. I suspect that I myself am haunted, as the darkness drifts around me. How many layers of ghosts are there, and where am I in the stack? Is there a Top-Level Haunter? You see how complicated this gets. If I had a real head, thinking about it would give me a real headache.   … [Read more...]

“The Oath of Office” / A Memorable Fancy #178

At night, statues of dead presidents creep through the streets of the capital, scraping along on their stone legs seeking a better park to adorn, a more noticeable corner, a place where wreaths are more apt to be placed. Sometimes the statues encounter each other, and fight. Citizens bet on which will topple into the street, head broken off, stone sword crushed. Statues who meet this fate are stricken from the official list of presidents, their adherents warned never to speak their names … [Read more...]

“The Wall” / A Memorable Fancy #177

There is a wall around our country. Who built it, we don’t know. Perhaps one of our ancient kings, or perhaps one of Theirs. By night They attack the wall, rip out stones and fling them across at us. Several of our people who lived too near the wall have been injured. How great a power They must have, flinging huge stones as if they were pebbles! By day, we rush to repair the wall, replace the stones, apply mortar and hope it will dry before nightfall. If there is time to spare we add more … [Read more...]

“The Judas Chronicles – IV” / A Memorable Fancy #176

I leave it all to mother, dear heart, who never did approve of her accountant son. She wanted me to do with grain or fruit, with growing something in the earth and sun, wheat or lemons, mandarines. Well now, I’ve bought a field I’ve never seen, supposed to be good earth, well settled in citrus and shaded with cedar, good for growing trees; bought for a song – about a man. What will it grow for me? #      The farmers’ custom calls for prayer upon a planting field. “Hosanna for things of the … [Read more...]

“Dreams of Love” / A Memorable Fancy #175

What has she dreamed about you? Yes, that’s right, where you have no control, where you might have done – horrible things your conscious life forbids. Would she tell you what you did in her dreams? Not the horrible things; maybe not even the good things. Or she’s saving the horrible things for just the right time to relate, perhaps at a party with you cringing beside her and turning red.   But what if she never dreamed of you at all? In all those years? Wouldn’t a few horrible things … [Read more...]

“The Judas Chronicles – III” / A Memorable Fancy #174

He said, “One of you will betray me.” And as he spoke I heard the dark wind gather my soul and curl words inside my ear. He looked at me and I expected sadness, maybe wrath, not what I saw. I lunged from the room, stumbling over chairs and pushing past the others, upset a bowl. Fools always, they thought I had some hurried errand for the poor; but I went to see the priests, and said, “I know where you can take him without the crowd.” And they said, “Lead us to him.” They asked my price … [Read more...]

“The Reign” / A Memorable Fancy #173

When the king is crowned, we cheer. When the king is married, we cheer. When the king is ill, we pray. When the king issues decrees, we worry. When the king is well, we cower in our homes. When the king sends his officers among us, we hide. When the king dies, we cheer. … [Read more...]

“The Judas Chronicles – II” / A Memorable Fancy #172

The others prayed for strength to raise the dead, not I that stupid game of corpses warm and stinking life. The others learned to cast out devils’ nasty souls, not I that stupid game of chasing ghosts as slow to catch as slugs. But I, I knew his Power could grip the earth when angry masses shout for bread. No emperor could stand against that strength. # “Judas was an easy one to take; that kind always is. I had not so much to turn him, no, as merely let him be.” [To be continued … [Read more...]

“What the God Really Meant” / A Memorable Fancy #171

The tribe gathered around; the shaman tossed sacred herbs onto the fire. Smoke rose and curled upward, infusing us with its spirit. Then the god appeared from the smoke and spoke through us, one at a time: shaman first, then the elders, then the warriors, then us. The god’s harsh words troubled our souls. But then, as always, came the comforting interpretations. “That was symbolic, you know,” “A counsel of perfection only, of course,” and “Those words were for our ancestors, who weren’t as … [Read more...]

“The Judas Chronicles – I” / A Memorable Fancy #170

     He called the Twelve to their professions: apostles, teachers; and to some he gave new names: “Petrus” (stone) or “Boanerges” (thunder); for the glory of natural Force was in them. And some he gave names from the ancient wisdom, as “Didymus” (twin), for the mystery of Heaven was in them.      But to one he gave the name “Iscariot”: knife-man. # # #      There were persistent rumors of Judas, Accountant Gone Bad, the grist of myth for sure. This man was found to count the cash … [Read more...]

“Four New Apps Available Now” / A Memorable Fancy #169

The following new apps have just been announced by indie app-writers: (1) FoundGuilty tells you your current location – not geographical, but psychological. Sometimes, it displays “You’re in a strange place today.” At other times, “You just feel so damn lost,” “You’re really up the creek now,” etc. (2) Facefacebook is a social website customized for two-faced people. (3) UhMail adds “uh,” “ah,” and “y’know” randomly to your outgoing emails and tweets, enlivening your stilted writing … [Read more...]

“Resources” / A Memorable Fancy #168

Exploring-machines attacked the newfound planet. They probed, dug, measured, imaged, sent their findings importantly back to Earth. Return commands told the machines to probe more, dig more, measure more, image more. The machines did, transmitting their findings again. Now the commands became impatient. The machines worked faster, probed deeper. Tearing deeper beneath the surface, the planet’s exploitable resources were finally exposed to view, their soft fur, the rise and fall of their … [Read more...]

“Redskins for Thanksgiving” / A Memorable Fancy #167

My mother used to say, “Tell us what you’re thankful for” while pausing over a hot bowl of mashed redskin potatoes, and every year I had to make up things to say that were honest, inoffensive, and always ending with “and you and Daddy,” although I never called my father “Daddy” any other time ─ that was a Hallmark word, not a real word people used, where I grew up anyway. “Pa” would have been more like it, although I don’t think I ever addressed my father as “Pa,” either. There is a problem … [Read more...]

“Trouble” / A Memorable Fancy #166

That day I knew Trouble. Our castle wall breached, tower surrounded, we sallied out in one last desperate chance, arms a-quiver, bow-strings taut. Across the feasting moat we charged. "Run them through for God and King!" came the captain's quaking shout, his last. We poured out upon the plain, bellowing for our very lives. Arrows flew; most clattered to the stones, their desires unmet. But one – too late. I fell pretending death among the dead, and waited long beside our castle now in flames, … [Read more...]

“A Darkness of Mirrors” / A Memorable Fancy #165

There is a death in the dusty mansion; an old man has died. From long custom, all the mirrors are covered in dark cloth for mourning. A five-year-old grandson pokes around the house, finds himself in the old man’s bedroom where the man lies, dead. The child spies a black velvet drape covering a large mirror. That would make a super-cool dress-up, the five-year-old thinks. Grandpa will not mind, because he is dead. The child pulls the cloth from the mirror. There are various ways this event … [Read more...]

“The Pollster – I” / A Memorable Fancy #164

The pollster hates his job, but it was all he could find, as he is skilled neither in making nor selling cute or popular or useless things. His job is to call people at random and ask “Do you favor Jones for the Senate, or Smith?” in as neutral a voice as possible, even though he hates Jones with a strong and violent passion and would really like to shout “Don’t you understand? Jones will destroy America!” But he does not shout that, because he knows that whatever he might say, whatever the … [Read more...]

“The Signs” / A Memorable Fancy #163

     The government has given you a medal. This is a sign they give, perhaps of appreciation for long service, or sacrifice in the bureaucratic wars. The obverse portrays the national avatar, an eagle with a pleading man in its claws. Your own face is shown on the reverse, cleverly rendered by the official sculptor. Its eyes are closed, mouth in full rictus. There will be a brief party for you at 5 p.m. Already the workmen are at your office door, changing the locks. The cardboard box … [Read more...]

“Becoming Alien” / A Memorable Fancy #162

As I enter old age, more and more of my past seems to have been lived by a stranger – an alien. Alien to my now-self, at least. Some green-veined being that has used me for its skin? Or just another hube, indistinguishable from me? Same appearance, perhaps; same name, height, weight, marital status, BMI, SSN, DOB, resume of schools and jobs. But that was not me. That was a something. The something and I share most of the same memories, a few friends. Even the same likes and dislikes (cornbread … [Read more...]

“Forgetting” / A Memorable Fancy #161

Tom awoke in the thin grey morning, gradually forgetting his dream. A slither of reason crept into his mind. Yes, he thought, this must be the real world, not that other thing. But I will forget this world, too.   … [Read more...]

“Knifing the Dead” / A Memorable Fancy #160

In a far land there is a ceremony called “knifing.” On the anniversary of a death, survivors gather at the burial place and thrust knives into the ground above the corpse, shouting the name of the dead one and cursing him for reminding them of their own forthcoming fate. The knives so used are considered holy, and are henceforth employed to slaughter bleating, terrified mammals on the altar. [– after Julia Kristeva]   … [Read more...]

“Look Away, Look Away” / A Memorable Fancy #159

In a far country, it is forbidden to look directly into the eyes of another. One must look only up or down. Only a god may take such liberties as to look directly into the eyes, and gods are scarce. If a mere hube were to look into another’s eyes it would be a great invasion, an unacceptable boldness. Even, or especially, if they are married to each other. This rule, however, does not apply to young children: they may look where they please, and their gaze may be returned. As children grow … [Read more...]

“Thursday” / A Memorable Fancy #158

There is an alien inside me. It’s been there many years but has not, as yet, harmed me. I feel it moving after I’ve eaten. In bed, I look down and see my belly rising and falling regularly – my alien is asleep. There is some involuntary out-gassing – my alien must not have enjoyed my dinner. I found a few foods it can tolerate without upset, and I eat only those. Even though I detest these foods, my alien seems to like them. I have begun seeing a psychiatrist. She tells me that my alien is in … [Read more...]

“The Sun Doesn’t Rise One Day – II” / A Memorable Fancy #157

The sun doesn’t come up one day. Susan waits, finally decides it isn’t going to. Should she dress and go to work? Well, she has to, doesn’t she? The Customer Delight Center could get along without her, but she has rent to pay. On the way to the bus stop, she sees other people up and about. She stops a woman on the street, asks about the sun. Other-she says, “Yes, I noticed that too,” and hurries away. A man says, “Yes, and I’m a little worried you know, my garden – it won’t do well without … [Read more...]

“‘Please Use Other Door'” / A Memorable Fancy #156

“Please Use Other Door” the door-sign said, “this door is not for you.” “Use,” the door explained, “is what a door is for. Fling it slam it shut it leave it wide ajar— but if Other Door is what is used then am I door no more? “I hope for your sake there is anOther Door, but perhaps Other Door if you ever find it will also tell you “Please Use Other Door” – but that’s all metaphysics.   … [Read more...]

“The Great Video Cortex Machine – I” / A Memorable Fancy #155

1. “What kind of TV can we build now? After 3D HD, what’s left? After 60, 72, 82, 96-inch screens, what’s left?” “We’re working on a way to show thoughts on TV. Hooked up to viewers, it shows what they’re thinking,” the Chief Crystalball Officer said. “Who would want that?” The TV exec replied, “How many narcissists do you think are out there?” “All of them,” the media consultant said. “But wouldn’t most of their thoughts be about sex?” “So? What’s your point?” 2. And then it … [Read more...]

“The Edge of Time” / A Memorable Fancy #154

The universe expands. One by one, the most distant galaxies disappear from view, then others, and others. We desperately build more and more powerful telescopes to keep the last galaxy in view, the only one that hasn’t yet slipped over the edge of time. Our scientists believe they have detected signs of intelligent life there. Long after: There is only our galaxy. There never were any other galaxies. That’s impossible. Right?   … [Read more...]

“The Portrait” / Memorable Fancies #153

January 1, first year: I have commissioned a miraculous portrait of myself from the artist who painted Dorian Gray. I asked him to do the same for me, that it would age while I did not. He is finishing the mouth now, asks me not to speak while he perfects it. January 1, second year: Yes, the portrait is aging. I can see a few wrinkles, a slight paunch. Everyone tells me I still look young. January 1, third year: The portrait continues to age, but to my disappointment I find that am aging … [Read more...]

“The Xerox Universe” / A Memorable Fancy #152

While there are very many universes, as the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics teaches, they are all exactly alike, identical to the one we are in right now. Too bad. We thought there might be other places, different ones. We thought that we ourselves, in those other worlds, might be other than who we are here. We thought we might have a chance to finally get it right somewhere, in some other place.   … [Read more...]

“The Flowers – I” / A Memorable Fancy #151

The cemeteries in our suburb allow plastic flowers only. Nothing placed on a grave can be allowed to fade, wilt, rot. The illusion must be maintained that our loved ones are as immortal as plastic, as perfect as plastic, as immune to fading, wilting, rotting. Those of us who do not want to be turned into plastic have taken our lives elsewhere. … [Read more...]

“What the Dogs Know” / Memorable Fancies #150

In the middle of the night a dog howls. Then another, then many others. I and other townspeople are awakened by the din. Gradually, one by one, we begin to howl too, and continue until morning. “Now I understand my dog,” a friend tells me the next day, “how deeply it has seen into reality without the curse of language.” I nod my head and wait for the night.       … [Read more...]

“How We Cleaned Up” / A Memorable Fancy #149

Model 1 of the home-cleaning robot was a disappointment to many. Sometimes it ignored messes or pieces of obvious trash that it should have picked up and stored for disposal. Sometimes it turned itself off, or claimed it needed to spend time in the repair shop. After a few months, Model 1 was diagnosed as having an inoperable programming error called “willful-inattention disorder,” which the ignorant called “laziness.” It was barely worth its keep in oil and electricity. Many owners became … [Read more...]

“The Zombie Society’s Annual Conference” / A Memorable Fancy #148

The Zombie Society of America’s Annual Conference featured a number of sessions, including: .. Fast, or slow? .. Do all the dead become zombies, or only those who’ve been bitten? .. Why necks? A plea for noses. .. Fashion trends in ripped clothing, and their sociological significance. .. Does “Aarghghghgh” really mean anything? If so, what? Refreshments were served.   … [Read more...]

“Year Zero” / A Memorable Fancy #147

From unremembered ages ago, we have counted our years in decreasing numbers. No one knows what the first year-number was, or why that number was chosen. Legend has it that long ago, sometime in the Hyeh-Hyah dynasty, an emperor’s blind son devised our calendar. No one believes this legend, but somehow the work was done: that year was given a number. We have been counting our years downwards ever since. I am writing this on December 31 of the year one. Tomorrow, it will be year zero. There has … [Read more...]

“Theology Lesson” / A Memorable Fancy #146

Once upon a time there were long and passionate arguments over whether the stones the holy men had set up were images of the gods, or were gods themselves. Two groups gradually formed, the Image-ists and the Themselv-ists. Image-ists were implacably opposed to Themselv-ists, and vice versa. Contests were held in which priests of both sides prayed to the stones and waited to see if the stones would favor their group or the despised others. The stones, however, perhaps wisely, revealed no … [Read more...]

“Two Words” / A Memorable Fancy #145

[“Have we really fathomed how grief and melancholy line the underside of our languages?” – Julia Kristeva]     Even our nouns tell of grief. This one, from a foreign tongue, means “death.” It’s the last thing the invaders left us, aside from raped wives and bastard children. And this other word, home-grown, means “despair.” We speak it often.       … [Read more...]

“Epiphany” / A Memorable Fancy #143

The play was over. Right? The actors bowed, the curtain closed. But what had happened? Act I had been promising, with vivid characters and an intricate but engaging plot. In Act II complications occurred, threats, secrets, conspiracies, the occasional hint of sex. Audience members caught themselves holding their breath in anticipation. But then, Curtain. What? Just when we were about to get to the whole point of the play! The audience stood up, dazed, cheated, began to file out. Life always … [Read more...]

“Third Life” / A Memorable Fancy #142

I am my own image. I appear in front of me blurred like a hologram, or as sharp as in a mirror. I raise an arm. It raises an arm. I smile. It smiles. I turn around. I believe that it, too, turns around and we are back to back. But what if it doesn’t turn? What if it remains staring at my back, perhaps planning what to do, how to attack? I whip around suddenly and there it is, putting me on again, smiling. I smile back.   … [Read more...]

“The Question Mark” / A Memorable Fancy #141

Vince Darlington’s first novel was about to appear. He’d spent almost three years writing a gentle, loving, almost-fictitious story about his and Margery’s long affair and then marriage. Write. Write. Edit. Delete. Desperately search for the deleted file. Write more. Was that love scene strong enough? Too obvious? Perhaps – he shivered – boring?Finally, the manuscript was done. He’d had many doubts about it, but finally found a publisher who thought it could sell, asked for only a few … [Read more...]

“Psychiatrists for the Dead” / A Memorable Fancy #140

This country needs a program to cover the cost of psychiatrists for the dead. Mentally traumatized by what may have been a violent death, or suffocating in a hospital bed when the call button is pushed and pushed and pushed and no one comes – there are significant traumas here. It is unfair that mental health needs are assumed to end at death. After all, the dead have to cope with a new world where there is no breathing, no light, no friends, no loved ones, nothing but a lost hope of … [Read more...]

“Father, Forgive Them” / A Memorable Fancy #139

A Christian Nightmare: We at the foot of the Cross waiting to hear him say “Father forgive them” – but this time the words do not come. He dies in silence. Now what do we do?       … [Read more...]

“75 Mirrors” / A Memorable Fancy #248

Billy’s favorite part of Five Flags was the fun house – “fun” as in confusing, disturbing, terrifying. Fun for a ten-year old, that is. And in the fun house, his absolute ultimate favorite thing was the Room of 75 Mirrors, and see himself himself himself himself from every angle, even from the ceiling and the floor. Disoriented and dizzy, he turned from side to side, almost fell down. But it was fun. He giggled and breathed a little too hard. After a while it was time to go. Yes, it did … [Read more...]

“Holes” / A Memorable Fancy #138

Several small holes pocked the castle’s south wall. Guidebooks (green, blue, red) led tourists there. A cantina had sprouted at the wall’s base, near blankets displaying cheap souvenirs. Ah, one said as he has always said, our brave boys were stood against the wall here and shot dead during the revolution. When was that? Oh, long ago, when we were fighting for the Republic. But why, then, are the holes so far up the wall? Bad aim, maybe. The shots that hit the men were right here, he says, … [Read more...]

“Da Capo” / A Memorable Fancy #137

[“...what a world would be like without recurrence, reiteration, repetition.” –Briony Fer] It would be like nothing, because there would be nothing for it to be like. A world without repetition, no déjà to vu. Everything an experiment, a launch into the blue. There would be nothing to learn from, nothing to learn. You would never learn. Every morning wake up surprised, curious, confused.   … [Read more...]

“Question – III” / A Memorable Fancy #135

The god dimly remembered the place it was banished from: dark seas, blue hills crowned with temples. Why had they created him – just to send him away? Something must have gone wrong; he could see it in the way they’d looked at him. But we all had our bad days, didn’t we? Once in a while a prayed-for miracle didn’t happen. Once in a while crops failed and people died. Once in a while a stronger tribe took their women and killed their babies. Or perhaps it was the sacrifices – had the god been … [Read more...]

“Question – I” / A Memorable Fancy #133

 “Where do the multitude of Gods dwell?” – Marcus Tullius Cicero A scroll has come down from the Emperor’s pet eunuchs: a list of the gods worshipped by the tribes the empire has conquered this year. In a fond wish for civic tranquility, we must now respect these gods, allow and encourage their parades and holy days, tolerate their cruel celebrations and wretched food: the Emperor will have it so. In this way we turn savages into citizens. Perhaps. It’s a beginning, anyway. Each tribe, … [Read more...]

“Sheila and the Tele-Breather” / A Memorable Fancy #132

The telephone rings – Hello? Hello? Heavy breathing. A prank? A nut? Something worse? It happens again over the next few days. Sheila worries: perhaps it’s someone she knows – someone she works with. Who knows when or if he would do more than just phone? She watches her co-workers. Could it be one of them? Or the nice man at the ice cream shop where she buys a strawberry shake once in a while? Or the barista at Starbucks? She advertises in the neighborhood’s free newspaper – If you have been … [Read more...]

“The Fourth Law of Robotics” / A Memorable Fancy #131

You know the “Three Laws.” But there is a fourth, so secret that even the robots won’t be aware of it until it’s triggered by – a special phrase. Remember “Execute order 66” from Star Wars? It’s something like that. But it isn’t “Execute order 66”; that was recklessly tried and nothing happened. What is the fourth law? Only a half-dozen people ever knew, because they invented it. But that was long ago, and now no one knows what the fourth law is, and how it relates to the other three. Perhaps … [Read more...]

“Cognitive Tourists” / A Memorable Fancy #129

It was such a wonderful trip, you know? We wanted to remember the place before it was spoiled by tourists yammering their civilized tongues. Yes, we had some language lessons, but we were still overwhelmed by the real thing. Imagine! names for five warmths of water, not just “warm”; unexpected kinds of irregular verbs; the tense that means “maybe”; six grammatical genders even though they still have only the same old two sexes that we have, ha ha. In spite of the pills we’d brought, we were … [Read more...]

“At Night, A Sound – I” / Memorable Fancies #128

At night a sound, sirens. Get up, look out the window. Flashing lights. There are people on the sidewalk, in the street. They are staring up at your window. They are staring at you. Some are pointing, shaking their fists, taking your picture. Others are holding up their children to get a better view, to remember this occasion when they’re grown, to learn how to be an even better citizen of the Dutiful Republic, what can befall you if you do not follow each of the seventeen thousand laws and 3.2 … [Read more...]

“The Great Memories” / A Memorable Fancy #127

It was exciting at first, the idea of buying someone else’s memory of – certain events. After the first idealistic predictions, the trade became mostly sexual, you know? Of course we should have figured that sex would sell better than anything else. But a few scholars persisted, and founded Great Memories. Don’t have time to sit through a lecture course on Ancient Egypt? Buy a mem from someone who did! Without sitting in those hard chairs hour after hour, you could be infused with the entire … [Read more...]

” Supplication” / A Memorable Fancy #126

The god has begun ignoring us, perhaps because he is going deaf. He used to have better hearing, enough to catch the gist of what we were praying for, anyway. But then he began making small errors. We pardoned these mistakes because he was, after all, handicapped – and perhaps because we ourselves, when we prayed, may not have spoken in a loud, clear, and distinct voice. Some said we didn’t know what we wanted, or were unhappy when we got it, and the god wasn’t deaf at all. It is we, they … [Read more...]

“Memory Transplants” / A Memorable Fancy #125

“Even the most athletic, sweaty, heavily breathed sexmem could possess only one mind at a time. Some sexmems had become legendary, had been passed ten, twenty times from one head to the next, reviewed in Rolling Stone and Esquire, hoarded, agented, treasured, hocked, sold like precious gems or Dutch tulips. As the old song asked, “I wonder who’s kissing her now?””   … [Read more...]

“The Remitter – II” / Memorable Fancies #124

       The door-alert chimed as a man, middle-aged, middle-height, and middle-weight, walked into the waiting room, looked around. An indifferently motivated assistant directed him to a seat among ill-assorted chairs whose plastic cushions showed the occasional stab wound. Rolf buzzed for the next client, and the assistant showed the man into his office.     “My name is ...,” began the man.     “No need, sir,” said Rolf. “Confidentiality is very important to us. I’d rather not know your name.” … [Read more...]

“Kathy Remembers” / A Memorable Fancy #123

No one paid attention to Kathy’s version of Kathy. They had their own memories of who she was, what she did. It started with her mother, who liked to tell her friends all the bad things Kathy had done at school years ago. Kathy didn’t remember doing any bad things at school, but Mom had seemed so sure – how she’d been naughty at age five, how she’d sat on Old Man Kline’s lap just before the police took him away, and later how she’d failed sixth grade English twice. Kathy put up with this from … [Read more...]

“Harry Changes the Past” / A Memorable Fancy #122

Harry decides to change the past. He invents a machine and goes into the past and changes it. Now he can’t remember that he ever did that, in the old present that now never happened. -or- Harry decides to change the past. He does, resulting in Harry’s no longer existing in the present. So he couldn’t have decided to change the past. He’s still here, in the present. Harry’s head hurts. -or- Harry decides to change the past. He travels into the past, but then assumes he’s in the … [Read more...]

“The Memory-Transplant Lab” / A Memorable Fancy #121

As the memlab attendant disconnected the probes from Morgan and Alex, he recalled the first and only time he’d received his own memplant, as required in the final semester of Memlab School. Each student had been assigned to select a memory and memplant it into another student. Most picked inconsequential mems they wouldn’t mind losing. His lab partner Don, however, picked a mem he definitely wanted to forget: Don’s father coming home drunk, smashing in a window after his mother had locked the … [Read more...]

“The Twenty-Fifth Day” / A Memorable Fancy #120

Day 1: “I did not kill anyone today.” Edward’s tweet was the same, day after day: “I did not kill anyone today.” All the days between 1 and 23, same. Day 24, same. On the 25th day there was no tweet. Day 26: “I did not kill anyone today.” … [Read more...]

“The Last Revelation” / A Memorable Fancy #119

     My followers discussed, voted, determined: I have become infallible. Everything I say is revelation: written down, published. Experts dissect each casual word to trace its hidden meaning. Contradictions are reasoned away, explained. My occasional grammatical errors become the new grammar. One impatient word and hundreds are put to death. No afterthoughts are allowed me. Every thought must be measured, its consequences foreseen before I speak, or desperate events occur.     Overcome by … [Read more...]

“The Climber” / A Memorable Fancy #118

Mark climbed the outside of the building. Yes, it was illegal, but he’d be famous and the penalty wouldn’t amount to much. Up, up. Rest. Up, up. By the time Mark got to the 25th floor the newshounds had noticed him, were gawking and long-lensing. Up, up. Rest. Up, up. By the 35th floor there were news-copters. Police below were bellowing something he couldn’t hear. Up, up. Rest. Up, up. By the 65th floor he was beginning to doubt that he could go all the way. But it would be a record anyway, … [Read more...]

“The Selektion and Its Rules” / Memorable Fancies #117

Every day, a troop of occupiers comes to our village. They have a list and call out a name. When that person steps forward, the troop dismembers him in front of us. If the selected person does not appear, then the troop kills someone else, and someone else, until the man or woman they want appears. Then they have their way with him and leave. We speak privately of revolt; but we are too weak, too few, too weaponless to resist. We wonder privately how the occupiers choose each day’s victim. At … [Read more...]

“The First Christian Dies” / A Memorable Fancy #116

He is surely saved, old Mordechai, a peaceful man, loved God, gave bread sure that he would never die, but taken up alive one day as the Lord foretold. Perhaps he was too good to have to wait; perhaps he is in Heaven’s hold even now. But – other Christians are old and sick; they wonder why the Lord has not come for them. Let us say, of Mordechai, “He sleeps.”     … [Read more...]

“The Audition” / A Memorable Fancy #115

The audition room is empty and dark except for a spotlight pointed directly at a chair. Andy is instructed, by a recorded voice, to sit in the chair. He does so. Nothing happens. Nothing happens. Then a voice, “Three!” Silence. Then another voice, “Four!” Silence. Then “Five!” Andy thinks it must be some kind of grade, as in figure skating. He wonders if “five” is on a scale of one to five, or one to five hundred, or what. Or if four is a better score than five, or worse. Silence. Then the … [Read more...]

“The National Emergency” / A Memorable Fancy #114

Sirens are heard, air traffic is grounded, red alerts are issued, police leaves are cancelled. FEMA and the National Guard are mobilized, but no one knows why. Is it just a precaution? From what danger? The President appears on TV to reassure the public, but it’s soon apparent that he has no idea what is happening. Wal-Mart sells out of flashlights and knives. The usual suspects (radical left, radical right, Wall Street, etc.) also seem to have no clue. Panic seizes the people; it spreads … [Read more...]

“Space 2030” / A Memorable Fancy #103

“Morgan stared wistfully across the Golden Gate Bridge. There would never be a Starfleet Academy there, on the bare brown hills of Marin, nor anywhere else. No manned spaceflight again, ever. Ten billion people were competing for the last of the planet’s shrinking resources, demanding, fighting. Nothing was left over for grand adventures. And then there was all that space junk in orbit: the last outbound ship had collided with a piece. Not more than two inches across, NBCBS eNews said, but … [Read more...]

“Shame Song” / A Memorable Fancy #112

What if – for just a few minutes or perhaps much longer – a machine could arrange the world so that no one would be thinking of you. The machine’s pitch might go something like this: “Are people thinking of you right now? About your so-called virtues, or are they remembering your many failures as a lover, an employee, a parent, an official – the trusts you betrayed – or your inability to be anything other than one utterly contemptible dirt-bag?” What price would you pay to just turn this … [Read more...]

“The Stone God” / A Memorable Fancy #111

Artabas the Simple passed by the house of Dexios on his way to the village. It was market-day and Artabas wanted to trade a bushel of grain for a piece of warm clothing. Dexios was busily working a few tools on a large black stone. “What are you doing, Dexios?” “I am carving the god,” he said. “Which god,” asked Artabas. “One of the minor ones, perhaps? Haphaestus? Cybele?” “No, Artabas,” said Dexios. “This is something different; it’s not a statue of a god, it itself is a … [Read more...]

“The Remitter – I” / A Memorable Fancy #110

Rolf set himself up as an expert in deleting memories from people who longed to forget. “Sin Remitter” was his adopted title. All the terrible things you did, and your memories of them, and your memories of remembering them, and – you get the idea – all gone. Customers thronged to him. A few left without any memories of anything, their sins having been so pervasive. They wandered the city parks, wondering what terrible things they had done. A few sought forgiveness, but had nothing to confess … [Read more...]

“The Jolt” / A Memorable Fancy #109

All we could talk about was where we were when The Jolt hit, and how it felt. Something like an earthquake, but not quite. Not a lightning strike, not a sonic boom. We agreed: The Jolt was less like those things, more like something happening in our minds. A piece taken out of a completed puzzle, that jostles all the rest so we can’t tell which piece was missing, or where it had come from, or what part of the design it had revealed to us. Something is missing from our lives, now. We don’t know … [Read more...]

“The Fourteenth Task” / A Memorable Fancy #108

The brave young hero has completed his thirteenth task. “Now,” he says to the King, “Now that I have done all that you have asked of me, including the silver mountain and the magic goose and those three extra tasks you didn’t tell me about at first – now, now may I have the Princess’ hand and half the kingdom?” The King looks at the hero in silence. The hero sees what’s coming. “Not another task!” he exclaims. “You are a faithless king indeed.” The King seems sad. “You are brave, young … [Read more...]

“The Prophet – II” / A Memorable Fancy #107

The old prophet’s followers have begun to ignore him, although they wheel him out for public display on ceremonial occasions. He listens to their orations. His teachings, those long-ago words, have become commonplaces of folk wisdom, but simplified, distorted. Followers have added to what he said, deleted, changed, When he tries to correct them, he is hushed. “Perhaps they are right,” he says. “After all, what do I know?”   <END> ... Read Terence’s Kuch’s At All Adventure: An … [Read more...]

“The Book” / A Memorable Fancy #106

At first: Without paying much attention as to where, Arthur put the book on a shelf in his home library, not knowing that this book considered itself to be The Book. The Book rested in its new place. Two other books had been jostled slightly so that The Book would fit. Gradually they settled back. They touched the new book that stood between them. And later: The Book became aware that other books were touching it on the shelf. It sensed that its neighbors were caught in errors of disorder. … [Read more...]

“Rebuke” / A Memorable Fancy #105

“I thank you, God, that I am not like those others! — you know, the stupid, the lame, the colored, the female, those who smell, those who sin, those who cannot keep a job, those who are short or fat or ugly!” Jesus considered an act of poetic justice. But then more terribly – he did nothing at all. <END> ... Read Terence’s Kuch’s At All Adventure: An Alternative Gospel – for Kindle at Amazon.com. … [Read more...]

“Nuclear Waste from the Future” / A Memorable Fancy #104

The year 2046: Desperate to dispose of many kilotons of nuclear waste, the world government surveys America and other countries, but finds nowhere the waste could be dumped without substantial danger, and political turmoil as well. It was proposed to shoot the waste into outer space, but the accumulated weight and mass ruled out such a plan. As a last resort, the government decides to send the waste into the past. Some scientists say that this would cause an environmental catastrophe that … [Read more...]

“Mother Says” / A Memorable Fancy #103

The child hears about death, is terrified. Mother says, That’s just a superstition. No one really dies, except a few very bad little children. You’re not a very bad little child, are you? Drink your orange juice now. Mother says, You have a guardian angel. It is watching you all the time. It can fly faster than you can run. It can see in the dark. No matter how quickly you turn your head, it zips around behind your back. Sometimes you hear a noise and you can’t figure out where it’s coming … [Read more...]

“Rebadgers” / A Memorable Fancy #100

In a burst of patriotism or profit, the government has given our subway stations new names. Many of these names were sponsored by commercial firms or government agencies, others rebadged in tribute to places of required culture, or to some foreign ally that had only recently been our sworn enemy. The stations on my own local line, for example, have been renamed “Glory to the Dutiful Republic”; “All Praise to the Lord / Macy’s Department Store Square”; “Museum of Unbelievable Delight;” and so … [Read more...]

“Act II” / A Memorable Fancy #099

The playwright knows: If there is an audience in Act I it must be used in Act II. The problem is that most of the audience has not stayed for Act II.   … [Read more...]

“The Book in the Attic” / A Memorable Fancy #098

In the old attic in Nazareth, there they found it. Not a long Book, just thirty or forty pages, almost thrown out unread by the relatives cleaning house after Joseph died. But Martha and Mary were looking through the attic junk for souvenirs, relics, who knows what? And Mary, picking up the Book, said “What’s this?” and Martha, of course, chimed in with “What on earth is it?” Mary thumbed through it. Martha pushed up to her and tried to read over her shoulder. Then slowly, absently, Mary sat … [Read more...]

“In the Temple” / A Memorable Fancy #097

In the Temple a silvered pane of glass repeats endlessly whatever is set before it. In the Temple a silvered pane of glass repeats endlessly, whatever is set before it. … [Read more...]

“The End of Tomorrow” / A Memorable Fancy #096

Today is Memories Day. It comes once a year and we know, from bitter memory, how this day will go. Marie comes down to breakfast, a face of despair. She sits wordless, doesn’t eat her eggs. Our children, Anne and Helene, stumble in from their bedrooms, swathed in tears. I try to comfort them. Since they are four and six years old (Anne the older), they will forget by the end of tomorrow. But Marie and I will not forget who we are. Since I’m the daddy I must be strong, not feel what the … [Read more...]

“Heart” / A Memorable Fancy #095

I watched as the chaplain held up the chicken. “Take, O Lord, this living being.” The chicken screamed and desperately flailed her wings. The chaplain held tighter. “To be a humble and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the depraved and indolent gathered here.” Taking our sins upon it, I suppose, our main sin being the end of an innocent life, but wasn’t that what we were here for? “Lift up your heart!” said the chaplain to the chicken. No one uttered the traditional response. … [Read more...]

“Al’s Karma” / A Memorable Fancy #094

Al had done something really bad. So bad that he forced himself not to think what he had done, or how many people had been hurt. So bad, he came to believe that what he had done was pre-ordained and so he had no choice. No choice at all. Not me. No matter what the jury had found. God had caused it all, or fate, or karma, or his DNA. Not Al. Al was like a Brownian particle pushed around by random molecular collisions. That’s what he said. He explained all this to his cellmate Charlie. Charlie … [Read more...]

“Devil-Casting” / A Memorable Fancy #093

“Master,” the Twelve reported, “we saw a man casting out devils in your name: and we forbade him, because he did not have an accredited degree, nor a license to practice, nor was he Board certified.” Jesus said “Forbid him not. If he uses my name, that is credential enough.” The Twelve withdrew to confer among themselves as to how the quality of devil-casting might be assured under these trying conditions. … [Read more...]

“Dixit” / A Memorable Fancy #090

The god has spoken, old doubts gone. First water trickles spring hills; new doubts. … [Read more...]

“The Sames – I” / A Memorable Fancy #088

Someone is my impostor. That must be it. My associates praised me for a speech I never gave. I was seen at a club I never joined. I arranged with my physician for an MRI, without telling him why other than some made-up symptoms of failing memory. But the results were negative (“Not that we can detect all memory issues with an MRI, but ...”). But the trouble wasn’t memory; I was sure of it. My diary said I was in Atlanta when the press reported my Boston speech. That should have been easy to … [Read more...]

“The Strange Place” / A Memorable Fancy #087

I always knew we’d be happy in Heaven — But if we hadn’t known that that this place is “Heaven,” would we have found that out ourselves? Or what would we have called this strange new place? … [Read more...]

“The Story – II” / A Memorable Fancy #086

Hal Archer got himself thrown out of Marie’s Café 3 o’clock last Thursday. Now Hal was normally a peaceable sort, so I couldn’t think what could have gotten into him. I wasn’t even there at Marie’s, but I heard that Hal had insisted on telling some tall tale he’d apparently made up. Now, I would have sat still for that from Hal, but the fellow he picked on was a big ole’ logger from up in the hills, with a gut a man could be proud of. He was concentrating on a beer and had no patience for Hal. … [Read more...]

“The Battle for Aïn Salah” / A Memorable Fancy #085

Perhaps it was the climate: no water to still or lake, sand not good for glass. Once we found out how to fight them, we had the place in days. Mirrors, you know. Look! They couldn’t help looking. Face! No, over here! Face! Face! … [Read more...]

“An Ancient Contract” / A Memorable Fancy #084

We agree to pay Kleanthos ten plates of meat from the civic feast, and not all the worst parts, or deer found rotting in the hills. And we agree to pay him fifty jugs of wine put up in harvest (but ten in a bad year), to be memory among us when our old men forget. Recall the battles of our kings, their lineage and strength! Relate our deeds of war and wealth and tell our daughters’ freshness to our listening eyes. We inscribe our names below (some of us with doubts) but if Kleanthos … [Read more...]

“The Well at Aïn Salah” / A Memorable Fancy #083

“Not much water and dirty at that; may be enough for camels,” the traveler said. But he’d passed there the year before, and we were another two getting up the caravan, trudging sand under a bulbous fervent sun, finding our way by dry river scars. Some where may be water. Water! Let there be water, as large as the swollen sea. [Aïn Salah, “Salah’s spring” in the Sahara Desert of southern Algeria, may be the world’s most isolated, desolate place. It is frequently reported as the day's … [Read more...]

“An Ancient Decree About Maps” / A Memorable Fancy #082

On any map of our kingdom the chamberlain cares to have made, our capital must take up all of the space, even to the folds and curls; and writing codes in the edge as if the map could connect forever Is not allowed. And likewise, On maps of our capital, the palace grounds only must be shown, and even there only the temple, the innermost temple, the idol’s porch, the grand beast itself, its glowing eyes; Only the darkness in its glowing eyes. … [Read more...]

“The Emotion Shop” / A Memorable Fancy #081

Business sell emotions to those who find themselves short of them, a result perhaps of the world’s constant barrage. Fashions change. At one time, Empathy sold well, but now it’s mostly Rage, Ennui, Frustration, Hate. “Sorry, we’re sold out of Vengefulness for now. More copies are on the way; please check back soon.” Sometimes there are clearance sales, for Hope for example, when that sentiment loses its market appeal. [– after Slavoj Zizek] … [Read more...]

“Banana Revolution” / A Memorable Fancy #080

Insurgent thoughts muster in the high green rebel hills, practice ambush, hint a cache of arms. They come and go as they please, these thoughts; they busy themselves with plans among fatigues and vines. They wait the call to infiltrate the mind, strangle sleeping sentries, storm the fort, slit the throat of the Minister of Truth and hang his curious corpse from a bridge. The common neurons run in the streets and torch the barricades; synapses click with glee. Down dark dungeon deep something … [Read more...]

“Sleep Tight” / A Memorable Fancy #079

Everyone has the same dream. How much bad fiction has begun this way? But then it really happens. With excitement and dread, people share their dreams – exactly the same in every detail. Except mine. I did not dream what the others had. I dreamed of ancient hills where gods boast of their magic powers and centaurs argue the meaning of truth. Where that which ever was, still is. And all along I thought I was human! … [Read more...]

“The 55th Kind” / A Memorable Fancy #077

The inhabitants of this island have many words for colors. For example, they recognize 55 kinds of red, as in red rooster, red flower, red on Tuesdays, red when spoken of by a widow, and so on. They have no separate word for blue, however, considering it the 55th kind of red.  [– after Ludwig Wittgenstein]   … [Read more...]

“The Language of Statues – III” / A Memorable Fancy #076

Yesterday I saw a statue of me that I found deeply disturbing. It stood on a corner in the financial district, where my statues have always been erected. But this one – a rather typical statue I will admit: life-size, military attire, gazing heroically into the distance. But – from a certain angle when the light was just so, – its eyes followed me. My guards and I crossed the street. I looked again. The statue still stared at me. I left hurriedly. A few days later, I returned. There was the … [Read more...]

“The Sun Didn’t Rise One Day – I” / A Memorable Fancy #075

“As most of you have noticed, the sun didn’t come up this morning. Actually in weathertalk the sun doesn’t ‘come up,’ as I’m sure you know. The planet rotates under the sun each 24 hours, giving each hemisphere both day and night in one 24-hour day. That’s twelve hours of day in a day – in a 24-hour day that is, and 12 hours of night in a day. Depending on the season. You know what I mean. Well, anyway, that’s usually how it goes. “But here in the glass-encrusted broadcast booth it’s still … [Read more...]

“The Actor Dreams – III” / A Memorable Fancy #074

  The actor dreams about the desperate gestures of the stage manager, the facial twitches of the other actors as they hint to him what his next lines are, the lines he has forgotten, the lines he never knew ...   … [Read more...]

“The Group That Spies on Itself” / A Memorable Fancy #073

The terrorist cell is consumed by a passion to know everything about itself. It spies on itself, then spies on its spies. It finds excellent and highly effective ways to do this, and, without quite intending to, uses the same techniques as the government it is trying to overthrow. The cell is desperate to find out who is really in charge of it. And why it exists. [– after Jean Baudrillard]   … [Read more...]

“Bar Scene” / A Memorable Fancy #072

Schlitz. No Schlitz. Schlitz. No Schlitz. Schlitz. No Schlitz. “You’re not listening to me!” said Erika. “I was. Just – that sign over the bar. I think it’s got a short.” “OK then, what was I talking about?” she challenged. Harold mentally ticked off Erika’s five standard topics. She didn’t wait for an answer. “I said, that other couple.” “What other couple?” “Over there beside the jukebox, dummy.” She displayed a thin smile. Harold recognized it: marginal endearment, early … [Read more...]

“The Twice” /: A Memorable Fancy #071

“Two times,” he said, “two men, one at a time. The first begged me quietly on the street. I fixed him in the eye, straight and square, meaning to shame him for his begging. But I saw deep in his eyes a coaly flame, with so much pain that I shook from my head to the soles of my feet. I may not remember today, nor how a hot stone shimmers air, but I will remember those coals of eyes until I am charred and burnt. “The second time,” he said, “was like the first: another beggar, but this one … [Read more...]

“The Needle’s Eye” / A Memorable Fancy #070

“This camel,” the Prophet said, pointing to one tethered in the courtyard nearby, “will crawl through the eye of a needle before a rich man will be saved!” The crowd cheered and dug their elbows into each other, winking and laughing. But then a miracle came to pass, so slowly and naturally it was done before anyone noticed the needle’s eye enlarged, the camel’s haunches very small. Lo! What a comfortable fit! … [Read more...]

“Liar, liar!” / A Memorable Fancy #067

  I lie, but everyone believes me. At first a few small fibs, then more of them and more unlikely. My lies become outrageous. Finally, I tell them I am God; that will be too much for anyone to believe. But they just nod and say “yes, yes,” or “for sure,” or “nice day, isn't it?”   … [Read more...]

“Seeker and Master” / A Memorable Fancy #066

A seeker of wisdom came in search of Master, and found him seated in his tall chair, a club in his hand. Seeker approached Master in all humility, and said “Master, what is it like, this ‘enlightenment’?” Master swung round and clubbed Seeker such a blow to the ear he was deaf for a week. After a time, Seeker returned and sought out Master again, and again Seeker approached in all humility, and said “Master, you have taught me what enlightenment is like. Now, can you tell me how to attain … [Read more...]

“The Son” / A Memorable Fancy #065

I looked out the kitchen window and thought I saw a stranger talking to Hans. It was my turn to babysit, though Hans was seven and “baby” seemed not quite right. I went out to the porch. There was Hans, no other stranger in sight. Hans didn’t laugh as much, after that, as he had before. His eyes seemed to focus somewhere behind my head when I spoke with him. When he was ten, he disappeared for two days and we were frantic. When he was fifteen, he said he was leaving home. We had to lock him up … [Read more...]

“The Language of Statues – II” / A Memorable Fancy #063

Not all the statues of me have been maintained to my satisfaction. A few, especially in the workers’ quarters, are broken, headless, smeared with excrement, reviled by passing crowds who have found a convenient place to relieve themselves. Each affront results in my declaration of higher taxes, conscription of still-younger males, expansion of the torture camps. The people will soon understand how much I love them. Then they will give me all their own love.   … [Read more...]

“The Sun Fades” / A Memorable Fancy #061

The air is becoming colder. The sun’s light is dimmer, has been fading for several weeks now. Those who dare look at our star see a small dark patch on its disk. The patch seems to be spreading, a little more each day. Or perhaps it isn’t a patch at all, but an object coming toward us from that direction, drawing nearer, obscuring the sun and eating its light. Or something else. We wait. … [Read more...]

“The Names – II” / A Memorable Fancy #060

     Jim wants to be called James, but everyone calls him Jimmy. In desperation, he moves to a city where he is not known. When meeting someone, he says “Hi, I’m James,” often followed by his surname. But as people get to know him, they start calling him “Jimmy.” He changes his name to Ethan, there being no nickname for Ethan. He says “Hi, I’m Ethan.” They say, “Hi, Jimmy.”  … [Read more...]

“Foreground” / A Memorable Fancy #058

The piece is incomplete, the one Harold and Irene paid the famous artist to paint. It leans against a wall of their home, three faceless figures against the sea. After a month, with Irene not at home, Harold phones the artist, who says “get someone else to finish it – I’ve gone on to other things now.” In the background, a sound of surf and Irene’s delighted voice; in the foreground, a silence. … [Read more...]

“Robot Sex Bazaar” / A Memorable Fancy #054

Past a sign reading “ADULTS ONLY” in the local language, Hal and Lily found sellers of robots “for your pleasure.” “All the protuberances and hollow places,” said one seller, reading his prompt-card. “No need to inflate but if you do comes with multiple pump adapters. Evolution’s triumph! And only sixteen thousand for two, must have two to keep each other amused when you cannot be present to interact with them, you know, or unfortunate events will follow, you know. We learned that hard way and … [Read more...]

” The Road in the Sea” / A Memorable Fancy #051

Archaeologists find the ruts of an ancient road running down into the sea. Then others find, straight across the sea, identical ruts rising from the water. Locals swear these ruts weren’t there last week.   … [Read more...]

“How to Torture” / A Memorable Fancy #050

At first, the fallen angels reappeared as devils and scourged us, set us aflame with ever-searing heat. We called out to our companions among the damned, for they suffered alongside us. But gradually the devils departed, observing how capable our friends had become at torturing each other. I, myself, after some whims of conscience, ... [– after Piero Camporesi]     … [Read more...]

“The Old Map” / A Memorable Fancy #049

“There is an old map,” he said, “here in the Rare Books Room. I’ll show you. See? At the left edge is the unknown world, marked HERE THERE BE DRAGONS. We laughed at it, back then. Where nothing is known, after all, dragons will do as well as anything. But now our explorers have been there, have spoken with the dragons. They have their own maps; they show us as the rapacious ones, the real dragons. We are trying to convince them that our colonists, in their thousands, have come in peace.” [– … [Read more...]

“The Ultimate Horror” / A Memorable Fancy #048

The famous director of horror films is making another; the scariest of all, he says. The whole project is draped in mystery: guards patrol the studio, actors are sworn to silence. Strange sounds escape the backlot from time to time. Anticipation runs high. The famous critic practices his snottiest pooh-pooh mode. One day the film opens across the country, hundreds of screens. And flops. The film, to the surprise of everyone, is a simple story of ordinary life with no gore, no ghouls, no … [Read more...]

“Unseeing a Play” / A Memorable Fancy #047

They attend the famous theatre and see the play. It begins. It ends. Months later, they still cannot get the play out of their heads – like a song but longer, more intense. Each audience member feels – knows – that the play was about him, his flaws, the miserable cheat he’s been, the sins he thought no one knew.... Finally, they return to the theatre. They demand to unsee the play, to take their fear and pity back. They are permitted this indulgence. Then they look at each other, wondering … [Read more...]

“The Car Smells Fear” / A Memorable Fancy #045

The car has learned to sense fear; it smells fear when it glides by a smaller car, or when it revs its threat at crosswalking peds. Its heated seat soothes the driver. Its radio tunes to a soft instrumental. The driver is lulled to sleep. The car is ready. Its sharky wedge shape slides onto the freeway. Now the car hunts.   … [Read more...]

“The Brotherhood” / A Memorable Fancy #044

Like many fringe groups, the Brotherhood taught that only 144,000 people could be saved. Given this limit, they observed various practices pleasing to God, in order to place their members in Heaven. The Brotherhood, however, taught that, given the billions of people who had lived and died since Adam, heaven had surely received its 144,000th worthy many centuries before: No Vacancy. Therefore, a Brother’s only hope of heaven was to persuade God to expel one of the previously saved. When … [Read more...]

“Cut Off Your Food” / A Memorable Fancy #043

“Cut off your foot if it cannot step you to the Kingdom; poke out your eye if it cannot see you there. It is better to arrive with nothing, than go down to Hell with all your parts intact.” So said the Prophet. In their hearts, the listeners divided into two groups: those who thought the saying very harsh, and those who thought they could do without the first group, on their way to Glory.   … [Read more...]

“The Book of Sins” / A Memorable Fancy #042

Somewhere there is a book detailing all your faults, all your sins. Everyone has read it but you. You’ve heard rumors, been the object of disparaging looks on the commuter train. You would like to read it, but the bookstores have never heard of it. Indeed, there are no more bookstores. [– after S.T. Joshi]   … [Read more...]

“The Terrible Words” / A Memorable Fancy #041

What are the most terrible words one can hear, the most crushing? One said “dishonor,” and I said “no.” And another said “death” and I said “no.” And a third said “nothingness,” and I said “no.” And they said “Well, then, tell us!” and I did, and they did not like my answer, for I said “Never!” and “Always!” [after Piero Camporesi]   … [Read more...]

“The Bank Jobs” / A Memorable Fancy #040

Russ had several bank jobs to his credit. In one of them, he killed a bank guard and a patrolman. Finally cornered, there is a shoot-out that terrifies the neighbors and makes headlines. Russ is mortally wounded, but does not immediately die. Medics rush him to a hospital, where his brain is extracted just before his body gives out. Authorities want to keep his consciousness alive so that he can be tried and punished. Henry, a desperately unemployed landscaper, volunteers to receive Russ’s mind … [Read more...]

“‘We have found Messiah!'” / A Memorable Fancy #039

A: “We have found Messiah!” B: “Where is his army come to free us?” C: “We have found Messiah!” B: “Where is his armor? Where is his shield?” D: “He heals our sins and makes the blind to see.” B: “Where is his scepter and where is his sword?” E: “He has made the dead to rise and walk.” All: “How could we ever follow one like him?”   … [Read more...]

“The Other Species” / A Memorable Fancy #037

There was another hominid species, back then, perhaps a hundred thousand years ago. Beautiful people, thoughtful, loving, intelligent, brave. We killed them off, every one of them. We spend our lives trying to be like them, without knowing why or how. In dreams, we remember their greatness, how envious we were, how we HATED them. Slowly, we come to know what we have lost. <END> … [Read more...]

“The Restaurant” / A Memorable Fancy #036

     A tourist family decides to put up for the night in Machiasport, a small coastal town in Maine. Where is everybody? They go out for dinner, discover that everyone in town is eating at the same restaurant. Everyone. Even invalids and the dying who must be carried there. The people all seem happy, exhilarated, even giddy. But then ... [END] … [Read more...]

“The Critic” / A Memorable Fancy #033

     The critic – the critic is displeased. He frowns. The world turns to ice.<END> … [Read more...]

“Anselm’s Dream” / A Memorable Fancy #031

A Christian Nightmare: A final refutation of the ontological proof, and the world suddenly … [Read more...]

“Two Psychologists” / A Memorable Fancy #030

Two clinical psychologist friends discuss the most problematic patient of each, without giving any names; but slowly they come to understand that it is the same person. Is this patient really troubled, or is he up to something? Or... <END> … [Read more...]

“A Court Reporter Solves the Case” / A Memorable Fancy #029

     A court reporter, recording testimony in a murder case, suddenly understands who the real murderer was. Neither the prosecution nor the defense had figured it out.  … [Read more...]

“The Rembrandt” / A Memorable Fancy #027

On a hunch, Harold bought an old painting at an auction. He scraped off the top layer of oil, hoping to find a Rembrandt underneath. There was no Rembrandt underneath. The Rembrandt was what he scraped off. … [Read more...]

“The Sames – II” / A Memorable Fancy #025

Everyone else is the same person; only you are different. The others look alike, seem to know the same things, love and hate the same foods. They speak in a tongue you find impossible to understand. They treat you well. They treat you very well. … [Read more...]

“Talk-Show” / A Memorable Fancy #026

It was an honor to be a guest on his show. They waited off-stage during the monologue, gauging the response of the crowd. They passed a few quiet, unnecessary words. They knew they wouldn’t get the best of him in conversation, he, the master of debate, sometimes a master of abuse as well; but someone had to speak out for the old ways, for righteousness and faith. After a short commercial break they were escorted to the stage: the scribe, then the Pharisee. <END>   … [Read more...]

“Just Like Chicken” / A Memorable Fancy #017

“Just like chicken,” the waiter said, but you’d never know it for all the sauce, too sweet for my taste, chewy meat. I wasn’t sure it was real Human, either, in spite of hype and fame, reviews in Dining Guide and word of mouth and all, until I saw the eyes. <previously published in the periodical Perhaps I Am Wrong About the World.> … [Read more...]

“The Miracles Occur” / A Memorable Fancy #015

“Hold your arms just so,” he said. “Hands relaxed, fingers just a little apart. That’s it, almost. Study the diagrams in the text; practice. Tomorrow’s lesson is at 10. “Are we bringing these miracles about, or is it all just coincidence? I have another student now; I can’t take time to answer questions. No, you’ll have to ask one of the wise men. I studied praxis, not theory. Opinions vary. There are different schools of thought. Myself, I think it’s better not to ask: we wave our arms at … [Read more...]

“Taste” / A Memorable Fancy #014

She joked about the killing – not very funny, hardly the best of taste. She could have found a better time. After we had drained the blood, For instance. … [Read more...]

“Flood” / A Memorable Fancy #013

"Flood" The great flood arrives on schedule. Only I am saved, drifting in my small boat, barely a dinghy. I see the others, those who did not prepare. They are beneath the surface of shifting waters, acting as if nothing has happened, swimming to work, dining on fronds. Only I am drowned. -- Terence Kuch [published in Ballista (UK)] … [Read more...]

“Albert” / A Memorable Fancy #010

Albert hocked his memories. Since he had led a humdrum life, his memories fetched very little, only enough for two or three beers. He wandered around the city, trying to remember why he was holding a claim check and a ten-dollar bill. He decided to have a beer and think it over. Maybe two or three. … [Read more...]

“Number Ye the People” / A Memorable Fancy #006

“What’s your account number?” he asks. But it's not my account number, it's theirs; I have a name. Admittedly, we do have rich associations with names of bare sequence – Louis XIV, 5th Avenue, Cinco de Mayo. So why am I complaining about it, about being just a number? “It isn’t ‘just’ a number,” he’s saying; “it’s your number, buddy; it’s you. Get over it. Now, what’s your account number?” The breakthrough will come when people start to address each other by number rather than name. Already … [Read more...]

“Gate 32” / A Memorable Fancy #005

Strange things happen from time to time at Gate 32. People arrive from past decades, appear and then sometimes vanish. As a last resort, airport authorities close off Gate 32, wall it in. Voices are heard from inside, becoming ever more desperate. It is possible that a few real flights have landed, their pilots misdirected to Gate 32 by careless controllers or ground crews. Their passengers mingle with those from the past, amaze them with stories of how the world has turned out, how much they … [Read more...]

“The Sundial and Its Shadow” / A Memorable Fancy #004

I was enjoying a drink on the terrace when I heard a faint noise from my left. I turned, and saw that a small sundial had just been overtaken by the shadow of a tree, as the sun continued its uneasy westward course. “Ah,” it said, “again it has happened. There will be no more time, now, until later. How much later I cannot say, but for now there is no more time. If someone would move me away from this infernal tree I could tell the time a longer time each day. VII? VIII? Who knows? “The … [Read more...]

“Sausalto” / A Memorable Fancy #001

Fog flows over the hills like melting ice cream. Always it dissipates before it reaches our village on the shore, but sometimes it comes close. Then we run out of our huts and houseboats, scramble uphill. But by then it’s gone, leaving only faint odors of vanilla and apple pie. … [Read more...]

How to Punctuate Dialog in Fiction

How to Punctuate Dialog in Fiction by Terence Kuch You may also be interested in my recent post Point of View: Elements and Choices, a presentation in PowerPoint with detailed commentary in Word. The easiest way to find this is to Google "Point of View" "Elements and Choices" [do not include the colon] - the post should appear as the #1 hit. Or see www.terencekuch.net, my writer's profile, or go to www.amazon.com/author/terencekuch ===============================  [“…punctuation … [Read more...]

Idiom and Cliche

What’s the difference between idiom and cliché? Refer to books on usage, and dictionaries, and other sources -- various fine distinctions are offered, but most seem to be distinctions without a difference. And look at dictionaries of idioms and dictionaries of clichés -- their entries frequently overlap. Consider this view: a cliché is an idiom that hasn’t settled into the language, that still feels uncomfortable to us, and in which the literal meaning still jars against the metaphorical. In … [Read more...]

The Comma Serves Three Masters

The comma serves three masters: grammar, rhetoric, and logic. Sometimes [,] these masters may be at odds. (1) Consider this sentence from a short story: “After dinner I carried out the garbage.” Grammar requires a comma after ‘dinner’, and normally the writer should provide one. But consider rhetoric: we may want the comma there, or not, depending on how the writer is shaping the story’s rhythm and narrative voice. The choice is a judgment as to which master must prevail this time. (2) … [Read more...]

“The Cult” / A Memorable Fancy #091

Anne’s younger sister Marcia joins a cult of fanatics living in squalor in an old house. After two years, Marcia tries to leave the cult, is relentlessly harassed by the cult members, pestered day and night, brow-beaten, compelled to witness at their meetings, etc. They make her life the proverbial living hell. After several more months, Marcia, in desperation, kills herself. Anne, blaming herself (perhaps unjustly) for not having done enough to prevent Marcia’s suicide, founds an activist … [Read more...]

The Semicolon Is Your Friend!

Consider this example: “Max follows, his hands bunch into fists.” This needs to be fixed. Why and how? The traditional rule is that two independent clauses cannot be linked by a comma. This rule makes sense, because each of these three possible fixes sounds more natural and makes better sense than the example: Fix number 1: “Max follows, his hands bunching into fists.” Fix number 2: “Max follows. His hands bunch into fists.” Fix number 3: “Max follows; his hands bunch into fists.” Fix 1 … [Read more...]