Bodies

Bodies

Bodies

Bodies

Grounded SF from
The Netherlands
and Flanders
no. 2

Grounded SF from
The Netherlands
and Flanders
no. 2

AUTHOR

Gina Hay

PITCH

Ian and Joni, introverted twins in their early twenties, are convinced by their parents to partake in a world-changing study. Through new neurological technology, generally consisting of audio and electroshock therapy, patients get therapists planted in their minds. The treatment is thoroughly discussed in the media. As Ian comes to love the voice in his head, growing increasingly affectionate to the outside world, Joni rejects it, attempting to think up ways to kill it, but both spiral into a diff erent breed of personhood. Reflecting on the theme of the human body, and how one defines its link to the mind. 

PITCH

Ian and Joni, introverted twins in their early twenties, are convinced by their parents to partake in a world-changing study. Through new neurological technology, generally consisting of audio and electroshock therapy, patients get therapists planted in their minds. The treatment is thoroughly discussed in the media. As Ian comes to love the voice in his head, growing increasingly affectionate to the outside world, Joni rejects it, attempting to think up ways to kill it, but both spiral into a diff erent breed of personhood. Reflecting on the theme of the human body, and how one defines its link to the mind. 

PITCH

Ian and Joni, introverted twins in their early twenties, are convinced by their parents to partake in a world-changing study. Through new neurological technology, generally consisting of audio and electroshock therapy, patients get therapists planted in their minds. The treatment is thoroughly discussed in the media. As Ian comes to love the voice in his head, growing increasingly affectionate to the outside world, Joni rejects it, attempting to think up ways to kill it, but both spiral into a diff erent breed of personhood. Reflecting on the theme of the human body, and how one defines its link to the mind. 

Grounded SF

Grounded SF

 

You’ve got the hiccups. And the 40°C summer is reminding the bus of its skin; a thick hunk of metal that traps the heat slipping in through its pores, its laminated glass windows forced open by the masses of commuters in a chain reaction like one domino tumbling, tipping over the rest in a cascade. 

You’ve got the hiccups. And the 40°C summer is reminding the bus of its skin; a thick hunk of metal that traps the heat slipping in through its pores, its laminated glass windows forced open by the masses of commuters in a chain reaction like one domino tumbling, tipping over the rest in a cascade. 

You’ve got the hiccups. And the 40°C summer is reminding the bus of its skin; a thick hunk of metal that traps the heat slipping in through its pores, its laminated glass windows forced open by the masses of commuters in a chain reaction like one domino tumbling, tipping over the rest in a cascade. 

You’ve got the hiccups. And the 40°C summer is reminding the bus of its skin; a thick hunk of metal that traps the heat slipping in through its pores, its laminated glass windows forced open by the masses of commuters in a chain reaction like one domino tumbling, tipping over the rest in a cascade. 

You’ve got the hiccups. And the 40°C summer is reminding the bus of its skin; a thick hunk of metal that traps the heat slipping in through its pores, its laminated glass windows forced open by the masses of commuters in a chain reaction like one domino tumbling, tipping over the rest in a cascade. 

June: Bass
You haven’t said anything today. Not yet. Sometimes, on your days off , night will fall and realizing no words have fumbled their way past your thin lips, you’ll turn on the bathroom light, peer into the bathroom mirror. Hair cut short, uneven, unwashed. Eyes sunken, deep in their sockets. A round face that manages to swallow up your cheekbones, leaving your face young and sweet-looking with its innocent shapes; its rounded button nose, its stretched lashes. You’ll sigh your name to yourself. “Joni.” You’ll clear your throat, turn off the light, then try to fall asleep in your wrinkled sheets, tugging at them so that the bits pouring off the sides of your bed can climb back up and collect at your feet.

The bus brakes, and you lurch forward. A hiccup gets caught in your throat. Your fingers get caught in the handgrip, tearing your pinky nail, which you bring to your lips, furrowing your patchy eyebrows and gnashing your teeth.

You hear the noise again. They put a noise in your head, and it sounds its chorus. All other sound is absorbed into a vacuum, sucked up into nothing. The one noise you can make out is this belligerent combination of wind chimes and pan flutes, reaching a crescendo. You study the commuters and imagine being one of them, hearing maybe the rustling of plastic bags on the tarmac, some woman cracking her knuckles one at a time, or phones set on silent, vibrating in pockets lined with silk.

In May, a doctor told you to lay back in a white leather chair in the initiation room; to settle your head on a pad of foam and listen to two distinct audio samples through white cables that ran from the back of your head to a white, furnace-shaped chest. The chest hadn’t looked the part. You hadn’t been able to imagine it in any movie you’d seen. There’d been no switches or blinking lights on its outside surface; just two slits running across the top, revealing its contents to be pitch black. It was noiseless and didn’t even appear to be functioning. Ian had picked the gong audio sample, you’d been told, so you’d picked the wind chimes. The two of you had always made a point of your differences. Despite being his twin sister, you are harsher, and colder. You’re chronically depressed, a desperate insomniac who doesn’t see much appeal in carrying on a conversation. He didn’t belong in there, like you did. He has OCD, but despite your mother’s grave concerns, he has the disorder under control, and only went because she asked him to. During his stay, he’d played Monopoly with the nurses, making sure that there’d be four people playing, each owning four properties from the get-go, taking two dice out of a different board game box so that they’d be playing with four.

You’d spent the week leading up to your final day in the research facility watching its employees scrubbing the gleaming white floors with green sponges, or staring down spotless rubber aloe plants stagnant in white ceramic pots, or laying back on the white rec room couch watching the light drilled into the white ceiling’s temperamental flickering, until three men dressed in white came, unscrewed it, and carried it away someplace.

The insomnia managed to dig deeper into your skin at the facility. You can’t shake this eerie feeling; you feel like a ghost haunting a past vessel, one with too much space below its skin, a house filled with uninhabited rooms stacked atop one another: the body that’s left, skulking around, ripping its fingernails by accident, and tugging at its sheets with its glossed-over eyes shut, pretending to be asleep. Two weeks into your stay, you’d woken up at night to the sound of wind chimes, writhing in your bedsheets as a sedative was wearing off, clawing at cables running from the back of your head to the machine, being met by a surgical flashlight pointed by a man who didn’t appear to be wearing a doctor’s mask but rather, a sheen of white over his entire face. Like a coat of paint.

At any sign of distress, the pan flutes pipe up in your mind, and the wind chimes rattle; every other sound is wiped away. A voice sounds. The only thing it’s taught itself how to say is, “It’s time to come clean,” which it whispers to you. Every other sound, it sucks up, spits back out again as more of that sentence, garbled and inhuman.

---------------

You sit at your dinner table facing an empty plate. At almost ten o’clock at night, the sun has disappeared behind the endless office buildings and apartment blocks circling your fourth-floor studio apartment. You’ll spend the night awake in bed, once the night settles at eleven, growing gradually more awake.

You hear the chimes again, let your head pour onto your arms that are laid across the table, fingernails clipped down to their nail beds, pointing to the window. Your hands get clammy, and leave a hand-shaped wetness on the wood. You feel some switch inside your head turning, and the sound of your refrigerator running, a kind of congested humming, gets stripped down to nothing.

When you lift your head again, your window overlooks a freshwater lake spread out in between two strips of mountain plains. The mountains are browned and blued by the distance, coated with trees and foliage, some topped with cloudy patches of snow. The water lies still, undisturbed by the woman walking onto its shore, one hand holding a blood orange fishing rod, the other stored in her pocket. She appears almost as an incomplete statue, stripped bare of the sensuality of human flesh. More like a prudish Michelangelo, facing the water, then casting the fishing line in an effortless motion. Her shirt is off, and ripples in her torso cast shadows in unnatural leaf-like shapes spanning her back, as though Matisse had painted palm leaves on its pink surface, all pulsing with energy. She wears white pants and a black leather belt. She adjusts her feet. You can see something tugging at the line, and you can hear the clicking of the reel as she reels something in, until her catch is hanging from the end of the fishing rod, swinging from side to side like a pendulum. She turns the fishing rod to the other side of the cliff, unwinds the reel until the fish spasms on the ground. Once it stops moving, she lifts it up by the string and you see a bass over thirty inches long suspended from its hook. She turns her face to you, almost as though she is demonstrating her ability, or trying to establish a kind of dominance, to reflect your dependence on the passing of time back at you. You are fastened to it, and can’t manage to drop your head back down again, and close your eyes. Her face is stern and blank, her features like those you’ve seen in Renaissance paintings, though appearing unfinished or incomplete. She doesn’t move her lips, but when you hear it again, “It’s time to come clean,” a human voice infused with the refrigerator’s humming, you recognize it to be hers. “Bass can’t adjust their eyes to sunlight,” she says. “Sleep.” You close the blinds as far as they go and take two sleeping pills instead of one. Light continues to pour through the gaps in the blinds, and sound remains sucked into its vacuum. She repeats the word “sleep” and drowsiness hits you like a brick.

You wake up the next day as the sun is starting to lift itself up, painting the sky from black to azure. You untangle yourself from the bedsheets. You make your breathing heavy, so that you can hear yourself panting like a dog until your forehead starts to throb, when you let the tension in your neck go loose as a rag. Your head drops, your chin touches your collarbone. You lay back on the bed, sheets collected in a pile at your feet, head shaping a new dent in the pillow. You breathe in once more, and by the time you breathe out, you’ve drifted off, eyelids heavy, fast asleep.

June: Bass
You haven’t said anything today. Not yet. Sometimes, on your days off , night will fall and realizing no words have fumbled their way past your thin lips, you’ll turn on the bathroom light, peer into the bathroom mirror. Hair cut short, uneven, unwashed. Eyes sunken, deep in their sockets. A round face that manages to swallow up your cheekbones, leaving your face young and sweet-looking with its innocent shapes; its rounded button nose, its stretched lashes. You’ll sigh your name to yourself. “Joni.” You’ll clear your throat, turn off the light, then try to fall asleep in your wrinkled sheets, tugging at them so that the bits pouring off the sides of your bed can climb back up and collect at your feet.

The bus brakes, and you lurch forward. A hiccup gets caught in your throat. Your fingers get caught in the handgrip, tearing your pinky nail, which you bring to your lips, furrowing your patchy eyebrows and gnashing your teeth.

You hear the noise again. They put a noise in your head, and it sounds its chorus. All other sound is absorbed into a vacuum, sucked up into nothing. The one noise you can make out is this belligerent combination of wind chimes and pan flutes, reaching a crescendo. You study the commuters and imagine being one of them, hearing maybe the rustling of plastic bags on the tarmac, some woman cracking her knuckles one at a time, or phones set on silent, vibrating in pockets lined with silk.

In May, a doctor told you to lay back in a white leather chair in the initiation room; to settle your head on a pad of foam and listen to two distinct audio samples through white cables that ran from the back of your head to a white, furnace-shaped chest. The chest hadn’t looked the part. You hadn’t been able to imagine it in any movie you’d seen. There’d been no switches or blinking lights on its outside surface; just two slits running across the top, revealing its contents to be pitch black. It was noiseless and didn’t even appear to be functioning. Ian had picked the gong audio sample, you’d been told, so you’d picked the wind chimes. The two of you had always made a point of your differences. Despite being his twin sister, you are harsher, and colder. You’re chronically depressed, a desperate insomniac who doesn’t see much appeal in carrying on a conversation. He didn’t belong in there, like you did. He has OCD, but despite your mother’s grave concerns, he has the disorder under control, and only went because she asked him to. During his stay, he’d played Monopoly with the nurses, making sure that there’d be four people playing, each owning four properties from the get-go, taking two dice out of a different board game box so that they’d be playing with four.

You’d spent the week leading up to your final day in the research facility watching its employees scrubbing the gleaming white floors with green sponges, or staring down spotless rubber aloe plants stagnant in white ceramic pots, or laying back on the white rec room couch watching the light drilled into the white ceiling’s temperamental flickering, until three men dressed in white came, unscrewed it, and carried it away someplace.

The insomnia managed to dig deeper into your skin at the facility. You can’t shake this eerie feeling; you feel like a ghost haunting a past vessel, one with too much space below its skin, a house filled with uninhabited rooms stacked atop one another: the body that’s left, skulking around, ripping its fingernails by accident, and tugging at its sheets with its glossed-over eyes shut, pretending to be asleep. Two weeks into your stay, you’d woken up at night to the sound of wind chimes, writhing in your bedsheets as a sedative was wearing off, clawing at cables running from the back of your head to the machine, being met by a surgical flashlight pointed by a man who didn’t appear to be wearing a doctor’s mask but rather, a sheen of white over his entire face. Like a coat of paint.

At any sign of distress, the pan flutes pipe up in your mind, and the wind chimes rattle; every other sound is wiped away. A voice sounds. The only thing it’s taught itself how to say is, “It’s time to come clean,” which it whispers to you. Every other sound, it sucks up, spits back out again as more of that sentence, garbled and inhuman.

---------------

You sit at your dinner table facing an empty plate. At almost ten o’clock at night, the sun has disappeared behind the endless office buildings and apartment blocks circling your fourth-floor studio apartment. You’ll spend the night awake in bed, once the night settles at eleven, growing gradually more awake.

You hear the chimes again, let your head pour onto your arms that are laid across the table, fingernails clipped down to their nail beds, pointing to the window. Your hands get clammy, and leave a hand-shaped wetness on the wood. You feel some switch inside your head turning, and the sound of your refrigerator running, a kind of congested humming, gets stripped down to nothing.

When you lift your head again, your window overlooks a freshwater lake spread out in between two strips of mountain plains. The mountains are browned and blued by the distance, coated with trees and foliage, some topped with cloudy patches of snow. The water lies still, undisturbed by the woman walking onto its shore, one hand holding a blood orange fishing rod, the other stored in her pocket. She appears almost as an incomplete statue, stripped bare of the sensuality of human flesh. More like a prudish Michelangelo, facing the water, then casting the fishing line in an effortless motion. Her shirt is off, and ripples in her torso cast shadows in unnatural leaf-like shapes spanning her back, as though Matisse had painted palm leaves on its pink surface, all pulsing with energy. She wears white pants and a black leather belt. She adjusts her feet. You can see something tugging at the line, and you can hear the clicking of the reel as she reels something in, until her catch is hanging from the end of the fishing rod, swinging from side to side like a pendulum. She turns the fishing rod to the other side of the cliff, unwinds the reel until the fish spasms on the ground. Once it stops moving, she lifts it up by the string and you see a bass over thirty inches long suspended from its hook. She turns her face to you, almost as though she is demonstrating her ability, or trying to establish a kind of dominance, to reflect your dependence on the passing of time back at you. You are fastened to it, and can’t manage to drop your head back down again, and close your eyes. Her face is stern and blank, her features like those you’ve seen in Renaissance paintings, though appearing unfinished or incomplete. She doesn’t move her lips, but when you hear it again, “It’s time to come clean,” a human voice infused with the refrigerator’s humming, you recognize it to be hers. “Bass can’t adjust their eyes to sunlight,” she says. “Sleep.” You close the blinds as far as they go and take two sleeping pills instead of one. Light continues to pour through the gaps in the blinds, and sound remains sucked into its vacuum. She repeats the word “sleep” and drowsiness hits you like a brick.

You wake up the next day as the sun is starting to lift itself up, painting the sky from black to azure. You untangle yourself from the bedsheets. You make your breathing heavy, so that you can hear yourself panting like a dog until your forehead starts to throb, when you let the tension in your neck go loose as a rag. Your head drops, your chin touches your collarbone. You lay back on the bed, sheets collected in a pile at your feet, head shaping a new dent in the pillow. You breathe in once more, and by the time you breathe out, you’ve drifted off, eyelids heavy, fast asleep.


A voice sounds, which whispers to you: “It’s time to come clean.”  Every other sound, it sucks up, spits back out again as more of that sentence, garbled and inhuman.

A voice sounds, which whispers to you: “It’s time to come clean.”  Every other sound, it sucks up, spits back out again as more of that sentence, garbled and inhuman.

A voice sounds, which whispers to you: “It’s time to come clean.”  Every other sound, it sucks up, spits back out again as more of that sentence, garbled and inhuman.

A voice sounds, which whispers to you: “It’s time to come clean.”  Every other sound, it sucks up, spits back out again as more of that sentence, garbled and inhuman.

A voice sounds, which whispers to you: “It’s time to come clean.”  Every other sound, it sucks up, spits back out again as more of that sentence, garbled and inhuman.

August: Salmon
Ian knocks on his mother’s front door. Someone’s got to fix the fucking doorbell, he thinks to himself. A gong sounds, a voice pipes up, the rest of the world is mute. Is it the doorbell you’re angry at, Ian? He’s standing outside his mother’s front door, on the third floor of the apartment complex. The doors to all the other apartments are racked up like a line of dominos or a set of shiny teeth lined up in a great big mouth. A long stretch of off-white tiles covering the floor, an iron railing running opposite all the doors. Ian grumbles to himself, “Angry isn’t the right word, Clarice.” He says this to his hands, in lieu of having a face to speak to. Then why are you angry? He shakes his head. “It’s not working. Nothing’s working. I knocked three times, couldn’t stop myself, knocked again. Then there’s Ma . . .  Shit . . .” he stops, scuffs his feet on the doormat. “She means well, she cares, she just tends to, you know, miss the mark and all. She’s off doing her own things, then a psychiatrist names some disorders, some friend of hers mentions a treatment, and everything that isn’t black and white from there on out just turns to white noise, and all. Maybe that’s why I’m getting a bit heated, is all.” He feels a sudden warmth envelop him, a sense of comfort. Ian, this is a leap in the right direction. The hesitation in between the third knock and the fourth suggests that you’re already adapting. You understand her good intentions, her maternal protective instinct, but regardless, you are an individual; you are free to point out your mother’s mistakes. Salmon change the color of their bodies on their way from the ocean to the freshwater habitats during the mating season, from gray to pink. As salmon adapt to their environment, so will your mother adapt to the modern psyche. But it will take time. “Thank you, Clarice. Really.” She fades out, leaving a reminder to pick up his medication refill at the facility planted in his membrane, a hand-shaped warmth left on his shoulder, feeling heavy in the best sense of the word. He reminds himself how he is constantly carrying this person around, Clarice, with him.

His mother, Maude, is a well-off socialite living off the inheritance from her past marriage to a rich hotel proprietor. She retired after his death, back when she was fifty and he’d been nearly seventy-five. It’s been twenty years, give or take some, and she lives out her cushy retirement on the city’s outskirts, splurging only on the occasional diamond necklace and her children’s therapy treatments. Ian pictures a salmon, its scales turning from a stern silver to a pinkish red, as it navigates underwater. He shakes the thought as sound creeps up again, and his mother answers through a crack in the door.

“Oh, come in, come in quick,” she tells him, shuffling to the left and opening the door all the way. He shoots her a sheepish smile and pushes his hands into his pockets as she looks at him through unclouded eyes, glowing. He fixed himself up a bit before coming. Ran a comb through his curls, which are overgrown and dropping past the nape of his neck, amassing knots. He’s wearing a white turtleneck, a thick black leather belt holding up his black pants at his hips. They’re two sizes too big. Their pleats fall loose over his legs and knees, which have been thinning out over the past few months. He’s been running every morning. He’ll let his mind go blank and sprint down to Joni’s apartment building then circle back. It has turned his legs into toothpicks and weathered his face. He is tan now, and he looks like an older version of himself.

He hugs his mother with one arm, using the other to close the door.

“How’ve you been, Ma?”

“Oh, I’ve been just fine!” She gushes and titters. Her curls have been heated into place. She looks like a stereotype in her pink cashmere cardigan, her white rubber slippers, her pearls. Even more so when her stare is oozing a doting affection and an old DVD of The Price is Right is playing on her old television set, with the volume turned up all the way and the subtitles turned on.

“Sit! Sit, go on. Would you like some lemonade?”

“Water will do, Ma.” His mother shuffles out of the room, within a minute shuffles back in, still beaming. She sits down, and Ian can see the tiny tremors in her hands as she places their drinks on the coffee table. As soon as she’s taken a seat, her hands reach out to Ian’s hair. She fixes a wayward strand back into place, then grabs at her lemonade, bringing the straw to her wrinkled pink mouth.

“Ma?”

“Yes?”

“I came to talk to you about Joni.” She drops the straw back into her cup, sets it back down on the table, her face blank.

“Talk to me about how you are.”

“That’s the thing, talking. Joni hasn’t talked to me. She hasn’t been trying to. I just think things might have gotten really messy during her psych implant. I heard her from my bed, screeching at night a room over. Must’ve been around three in the morning. I think the doctors might have made a mistake in there. I mean, I’ve passed by her apartment building, the blinds are always closed, she never answers her door, her phone rings but she doesn’t answer.”

“Doctors don’t make mistakes.”

“Ma, I –”

“No more of this, Ian.” She reaches for the remote and switches it to cable. There’s a soup commercial for some new canned bouillabaisse, then an ad for a real estate company. Ian looks at his mother whose gaze is fixed on the screen.
Ian fidgets in his seat. “She wasn’t talking to me before.” His mouth is dry. “She should be talking to me now, you know? After the facility and all.” His mother reaches for his shoulder, a sly smile toying at her mouth.

“It wasn’t you, Ian,” she tells him. “You two were the first subjects. One was bound to come out damaged, and it was her, it wasn’t you.” She rubs his shoulder with her hand, gaze fixed on the screen, summer homes and timeshares for sale. “It could’ve been. Thank your lucky stars.”

August: Salmon
Ian knocks on his mother’s front door. Someone’s got to fix the fucking doorbell, he thinks to himself. A gong sounds, a voice pipes up, the rest of the world is mute. Is it the doorbell you’re angry at, Ian? He’s standing outside his mother’s front door, on the third floor of the apartment complex. The doors to all the other apartments are racked up like a line of dominos or a set of shiny teeth lined up in a great big mouth. A long stretch of off-white tiles covering the floor, an iron railing running opposite all the doors. Ian grumbles to himself, “Angry isn’t the right word, Clarice.” He says this to his hands, in lieu of having a face to speak to. Then why are you angry? He shakes his head. “It’s not working. Nothing’s working. I knocked three times, couldn’t stop myself, knocked again. Then there’s Ma . . .  Shit . . .” he stops, scuffs his feet on the doormat. “She means well, she cares, she just tends to, you know, miss the mark and all. She’s off doing her own things, then a psychiatrist names some disorders, some friend of hers mentions a treatment, and everything that isn’t black and white from there on out just turns to white noise, and all. Maybe that’s why I’m getting a bit heated, is all.” He feels a sudden warmth envelop him, a sense of comfort. Ian, this is a leap in the right direction. The hesitation in between the third knock and the fourth suggests that you’re already adapting. You understand her good intentions, her maternal protective instinct, but regardless, you are an individual; you are free to point out your mother’s mistakes. Salmon change the color of their bodies on their way from the ocean to the freshwater habitats during the mating season, from gray to pink. As salmon adapt to their environment, so will your mother adapt to the modern psyche. But it will take time. “Thank you, Clarice. Really.” She fades out, leaving a reminder to pick up his medication refill at the facility planted in his membrane, a hand-shaped warmth left on his shoulder, feeling heavy in the best sense of the word. He reminds himself how he is constantly carrying this person around, Clarice, with him.

His mother, Maude, is a well-off socialite living off the inheritance from her past marriage to a rich hotel proprietor. She retired after his death, back when she was fifty and he’d been nearly seventy-five. It’s been twenty years, give or take some, and she lives out her cushy retirement on the city’s outskirts, splurging only on the occasional diamond necklace and her children’s therapy treatments. Ian pictures a salmon, its scales turning from a stern silver to a pinkish red, as it navigates underwater. He shakes the thought as sound creeps up again, and his mother answers through a crack in the door.

“Oh, come in, come in quick,” she tells him, shuffling to the left and opening the door all the way. He shoots her a sheepish smile and pushes his hands into his pockets as she looks at him through unclouded eyes, glowing. He fixed himself up a bit before coming. Ran a comb through his curls, which are overgrown and dropping past the nape of his neck, amassing knots. He’s wearing a white turtleneck, a thick black leather belt holding up his black pants at his hips. They’re two sizes too big. Their pleats fall loose over his legs and knees, which have been thinning out over the past few months. He’s been running every morning. He’ll let his mind go blank and sprint down to Joni’s apartment building then circle back. It has turned his legs into toothpicks and weathered his face. He is tan now, and he looks like an older version of himself.

He hugs his mother with one arm, using the other to close the door.

“How’ve you been, Ma?”

“Oh, I’ve been just fine!” She gushes and titters. Her curls have been heated into place. She looks like a stereotype in her pink cashmere cardigan, her white rubber slippers, her pearls. Even more so when her stare is oozing a doting affection and an old DVD of The Price is Right is playing on her old television set, with the volume turned up all the way and the subtitles turned on.

“Sit! Sit, go on. Would you like some lemonade?”

“Water will do, Ma.” His mother shuffles out of the room, within a minute shuffles back in, still beaming. She sits down, and Ian can see the tiny tremors in her hands as she places their drinks on the coffee table. As soon as she’s taken a seat, her hands reach out to Ian’s hair. She fixes a wayward strand back into place, then grabs at her lemonade, bringing the straw to her wrinkled pink mouth.

“Ma?”

“Yes?”

“I came to talk to you about Joni.” She drops the straw back into her cup, sets it back down on the table, her face blank.

“Talk to me about how you are.”

“That’s the thing, talking. Joni hasn’t talked to me. She hasn’t been trying to. I just think things might have gotten really messy during her psych implant. I heard her from my bed, screeching at night a room over. Must’ve been around three in the morning. I think the doctors might have made a mistake in there. I mean, I’ve passed by her apartment building, the blinds are always closed, she never answers her door, her phone rings but she doesn’t answer.”

“Doctors don’t make mistakes.”

“Ma, I –”

“No more of this, Ian.” She reaches for the remote and switches it to cable. There’s a soup commercial for some new canned bouillabaisse, then an ad for a real estate company. Ian looks at his mother whose gaze is fixed on the screen.
Ian fidgets in his seat. “She wasn’t talking to me before.” His mouth is dry. “She should be talking to me now, you know? After the facility and all.” His mother reaches for his shoulder, a sly smile toying at her mouth.

“It wasn’t you, Ian,” she tells him. “You two were the first subjects. One was bound to come out damaged, and it was her, it wasn’t you.” She rubs his shoulder with her hand, gaze fixed on the screen, summer homes and timeshares for sale. “It could’ve been. Thank your lucky stars.”


“It wasn’t you, Ian. You two were the first subjects. One was bound to come out damaged, and it was her, it wasn’t you.” She rubs his shoulder with her hand, gaze fixed on the screen, summer homes and timeshares for sale. “It could’ve been. Thank your lucky stars.”

“It wasn’t you, Ian. You two were the first subjects. One was bound to come out damaged, and it was her, it wasn’t you.” She rubs his shoulder with her hand, gaze fixed on the screen, summer homes and timeshares for sale. “It could’ve been. Thank your lucky stars.”

“It wasn’t you, Ian. You two were the first subjects. One was bound to come out damaged, and it was her, it wasn’t you.” She rubs his shoulder with her hand, gaze fixed on the screen, summer homes and timeshares for sale. “It could’ve been. Thank your lucky stars.”

“It wasn’t you, Ian. You two were the first subjects. One was bound to come out damaged, and it was her, it wasn’t you.” She rubs his shoulder with her hand, gaze fixed on the screen, summer homes and timeshares for sale. “It could’ve been. Thank your lucky stars.”

“It wasn’t you, Ian. You two were the first subjects. One was bound to come out damaged, and it was her, it wasn’t you.” She rubs his shoulder with her hand, gaze fixed on the screen, summer homes and timeshares for sale. “It could’ve been. Thank your lucky stars.”

December: Canned Anchovies
The fisher doesn’t talk to you up close. She talks to you from the river which has risen up to swallow part of the cliff that she fishes from. The cliff has been moving closer to your window. When she fishes, the water reaches up to her ankles, where it lies still, seeping into the fabric of her pants. She doesn’t show up every day, but still, you keep the blinds drawn. She has spoken to you, croaking short reflections on feeling and emotion, thoughts that are starting to shape into coherency, hinting at your commitment issues and your constant need for closeness; how you always put your loved ones up on a pedestal, then fade out of the picture once they struggle to live up to the reality you’ve painted for them. Ian for one, when he picked your mother over you. The fisher encourages you to relive your detached childhood, when you’d spend your afternoons alone in the yard behind your house, picking at leaves and twigs, unearthing worms with a plastic shovel, or trying to catch salmon and lake trout with your bare hands at the stream half an hour away from your house, uphill, pull up your hands, which would be caked in mud. It would drip down your arms and dirty your white Sunday clothes. Ian, four years your junior, would watch you plunge your arms into the water, cheer you on as you grabbed at the fish, unresponsive.

The fisher stays silent more often than not. She has looked at you through clear eyes, and her shape has changed to look more human. The shadows that used to sway across her back now lay still. Her skin has become thicker, tanned by the sun, and you’re convinced that you’ve seen ashy spots forming on her elbows, resembling your own.

Anchovies can be eaten raw as an aphrodisiac. Raw anchovies may cause parasitic infections. You’ve let your food stores deplete down to the bare minimum – the preservatives, the canned anchovies that time is finally catching up with. They expire in a month. Today, you toast bread in a pan, pour the fish over the toast, spread out the tiny anchovies with your index finger. You lift the bread up to your mouth and eat in big bites. Usually, you season your food with hot sauces, cumin, pink salt, and not bothering has made you feel like a caveman. It makes you feel hungrier than you are, standing there in your briefs and a T-shirt, daylight slipping in through the slits in the blinds.

You are well rested. This sleeping schedule has been drilled into your body. At ten o’clock, your mind goes numb and you’ll fall asleep as soon as your head hits a pillow. You’ll dream. Usually about the facility, or about your mother, or faces passing by, all coated with a thin layer of white paint, glueing their eyelids closed. There’s another dream, in which your mother, face paint peeling at her jawline, holds your cupped hands and whispers an apology into them. When she closes them, your hands will stop feeling like hands and start to feel like a time capsule your body carries around with it.

At six, your eyelids will open and you’ll find yourself wired.

Today is the second day of snowfall. You’ve seen the snow hit the lake as you have seen it pile up on the streets, flurry, and fog up your kitchen window, pedestrians making their way downtown, faces buried in knit scarves. The fisher has been getting closer to your apartment, her face reminding you of a cat creeping up to a fishtank. When you woke up, the first thing you did was push the dinner table to the other side of the room, along with its two chairs. You’d held your arm outside your window and felt the snow float down onto your skin. 

---------------

Sound gets swallowed up. The pan flutes sound, and you rub your hands together until all the crumbs have been shaken off, wipe the fish oil from your mouth with your fingers, and walk up to the blinds with your arms folded. You’re practically naked despite the winter cold. It is just after seven o’clock in the evening, but the daylight floods in through the blinds, and you can hear the water falling from some faraway stream. In one pull, you yank at the blinds’ cord and the entire thing lifts up to reveal your kitchen window frame, overlooking the river. The fishing rod is bobbing up and down in the water, abandoned, and the fisher is at your window, her torso glimmering in the light. Expressionless, she faces you. She lays her hand on the window frame, and then lifts it up until her arm is stretched out and her hand meets your cheek, which she cups almost romantically. You remember the doctors, faces painted white, and it starts to feel like a kind of divine intervention. One of a malevolent nature. The doctors are starting to seem more like ancient foreign beings, giants probing at your head, making it so that you are now absorbed by this clingy feeling of dependency. If the fisher is gone, you are gone, regardless, you are grateful.

“It’s time to come clean,” she tells you again.

“I don’t understand,” you answer. Her voice has become her own. It is low and patient.

“Name me.” She says.

“I can’t,” you tell her, shaking your head.

“You can.”

You wait a second before lifting up your freezing bare feet, bones cracking as they move, inching forward until your knees are up against the wall. Her hand rests on your cheek.

“I’ll name you Mary. Until you find your own name.”

She nods, then reaches for your hand with both of hers, bringing it to her face. Its texture changes. It feels like wood, then like paper, then skin, still pulsing. Her cheeks turn rosy. The snow is still falling in delicate flakes, coating her shoulders with its whiteness, quiet and vulnerable.

---------------

January: Lake Trout
Ian used to mumble his words. He enunciates now. He stresses the syllables. You meet him at your door, and he stands tall. He looks tan, healthy, there are tiny wrinkles at the sides of his eyes that weren’t there before. Your face is still oily from all the sleep, and the snow that has piled up nearby has started to turn gray, dirty from the mud buried beneath it. He hands you a ceramic pot with half your mother’s ashes. She didn’t choose an urn, she chose two ceramic containers coated in white mosaic, identical copies. He settles it into your cupped hands, a time capsule. Your fingers go numb in the cold, Ian rubs his neck.

“It’s Clarice. She’s trying to get me to say something,” he explains, pointing at his head. “Yours?”

“She doesn’t talk much.”

“Ah.”

Trout are late to mature, Mary has explained. You look at Ian. Adulthood suits him. He runs past your building in the mornings in his ironed track pants. He’ll strike up a conversation. You can’t talk much yet. You’re late to mature. In December, Mary would hold your hand, wrapped up in both of hers, asking on end whether she helped you fall asleep. You’d felt really old, then. By now, you can string together skinny sentences to tell her in monotone. You can describe your nights, the image of paint peeling off your mother’s face, leaving her shoulders coated in dust. It’s time to come clean. You don’t. You should be getting back inside. You can feel Mary standing at your window, which you never open anymore since she climbed in. Though you know she can’t, the thought of her leaving in the night and leaving you alone, unfinished, scares you.

You smile at Ian as he jogs in place, “to keep a steady heart rate.” You don’t eat fish anymore. Mary sits at your side when you watch the news, her hands holding one of yours in a tight grip. The news host sounds more like a person, a man wiping the sweat off his brow as the world caves in, Adam’s apple bobbing as he speaks of earthquakes and gunfire. He is less like an emotionless mouth without language, making a crackling white noise, and you are more like a person, learning to be better.

“Young brothers,” continued the vicar, “raise your right hand. Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Come forward, young brothers, come forward.”

The boys, to their surprise and excitement promoted to the Levites of the village, shuffled through the neatly formed rows of folding chairs. The adult brothers and sisters rose en masse from their seats. To give them space and an encouraging pat on the shoulder. They reached the aisle, still somewhat uncomfortable, where they waited until all the young men, about twenty in total, were gathered together and they could walk forward as a group. The vicar received them with open arms.

“The Lord God desires a sacrifice,” he said. “The sacrifice of your service to the congregation. You will pair up and take turns to keep watch over the church tower. Every night. Until the construction is finished. You will defend the House of God and the dignity of this congregation against the destructive powers Satan is unleashing upon us. Tooth and nail. The Lord desires a sacrifice...” Out of nowhere, the vicar produced a big, steel dagger. The light of the lamps, shining in the religious shed, reflected beautifully on the white metal, making it look like a torch. “Young Brother Van Bestevaer,” said the vicar commandingly. Christiaan van B. took a step forward, not knowing what was wanted. Carefully but decisively, the vicar handed him the knife. Christiaan held it as far from his body as possible, instinctively fearing he might hurt himself with it. He examined the blade, the frightful point, the ribbed, ebony handle. Was this the weapon the vicar wanted to use in attacking the desecrators? Up to this point, all conflicts with the sand kaffirs had been fought bare-knuckled. Once or twice someone had thrown a stone or threatened someone with a piece of wood. But the people of Klein Amsterdam as well as the native villagers were gravely aware that the introduction of a serious weapon would lead to an escalation of violence. A consequence no one dared to think about for too long. While Christiaan van B. was trying to imagine the blade of the dagger disappearing between someone’s ribs, the cut creating deep furrows and blood bubbling up like seepage, the vicar took a few steps back to untie the rope that bound the little goat to the crucifix. The vicar stepped over the animal, as if he wanted to ride it, and took it by the horns. With confidence, he forced it to turn its head, while sliding a deep, wooden bowl beneath it. He nodded at Christiaan van B.

“Young brother Van Bestevaer. . .”

Christiaan looked at him, startled. “What?”

“The Lord God has entrusted you with performing the holy sacrifice.”

Christiaan was starting to sound nervous. A slight tremor in his voice told the trained ear—his father, mother, Mem and Willem iii—the penny finally dropped. Suddenly, the destructive power of the sharp knife no longer was a theoretical exercise, no longer was it an abstract thought he could bring to life in his head, but a reality tempered only by time. The other boys formed a horseshoe around Christiaan van B., the vicar and the billy goat, whose bleating had turned into the long-drawn-out wailing of a crying baby.

“Go on,” said the vicar, “you searched for the cross. Now do as the Lord God commands you.”

December: Canned Anchovies
The fisher doesn’t talk to you up close. She talks to you from the river which has risen up to swallow part of the cliff that she fishes from. The cliff has been moving closer to your window. When she fishes, the water reaches up to her ankles, where it lies still, seeping into the fabric of her pants. She doesn’t show up every day, but still, you keep the blinds drawn. She has spoken to you, croaking short reflections on feeling and emotion, thoughts that are starting to shape into coherency, hinting at your commitment issues and your constant need for closeness; how you always put your loved ones up on a pedestal, then fade out of the picture once they struggle to live up to the reality you’ve painted for them. Ian for one, when he picked your mother over you. The fisher encourages you to relive your detached childhood, when you’d spend your afternoons alone in the yard behind your house, picking at leaves and twigs, unearthing worms with a plastic shovel, or trying to catch salmon and lake trout with your bare hands at the stream half an hour away from your house, uphill, pull up your hands, which would be caked in mud. It would drip down your arms and dirty your white Sunday clothes. Ian, four years your junior, would watch you plunge your arms into the water, cheer you on as you grabbed at the fish, unresponsive.

The fisher stays silent more often than not. She has looked at you through clear eyes, and her shape has changed to look more human. The shadows that used to sway across her back now lay still. Her skin has become thicker, tanned by the sun, and you’re convinced that you’ve seen ashy spots forming on her elbows, resembling your own.

Anchovies can be eaten raw as an aphrodisiac. Raw anchovies may cause parasitic infections. You’ve let your food stores deplete down to the bare minimum – the preservatives, the canned anchovies that time is finally catching up with. They expire in a month. Today, you toast bread in a pan, pour the fish over the toast, spread out the tiny anchovies with your index finger. You lift the bread up to your mouth and eat in big bites. Usually, you season your food with hot sauces, cumin, pink salt, and not bothering has made you feel like a caveman. It makes you feel hungrier than you are, standing there in your briefs and a T-shirt, daylight slipping in through the slits in the blinds.

You are well rested. This sleeping schedule has been drilled into your body. At ten o’clock, your mind goes numb and you’ll fall asleep as soon as your head hits a pillow. You’ll dream. Usually about the facility, or about your mother, or faces passing by, all coated with a thin layer of white paint, glueing their eyelids closed. There’s another dream, in which your mother, face paint peeling at her jawline, holds your cupped hands and whispers an apology into them. When she closes them, your hands will stop feeling like hands and start to feel like a time capsule your body carries around with it.

At six, your eyelids will open and you’ll find yourself wired.

Today is the second day of snowfall. You’ve seen the snow hit the lake as you have seen it pile up on the streets, flurry, and fog up your kitchen window, pedestrians making their way downtown, faces buried in knit scarves. The fisher has been getting closer to your apartment, her face reminding you of a cat creeping up to a fishtank. When you woke up, the first thing you did was push the dinner table to the other side of the room, along with its two chairs. You’d held your arm outside your window and felt the snow float down onto your skin. 

---------------

Sound gets swallowed up. The pan flutes sound, and you rub your hands together until all the crumbs have been shaken off, wipe the fish oil from your mouth with your fingers, and walk up to the blinds with your arms folded. You’re practically naked despite the winter cold. It is just after seven o’clock in the evening, but the daylight floods in through the blinds, and you can hear the water falling from some faraway stream. In one pull, you yank at the blinds’ cord and the entire thing lifts up to reveal your kitchen window frame, overlooking the river. The fishing rod is bobbing up and down in the water, abandoned, and the fisher is at your window, her torso glimmering in the light. Expressionless, she faces you. She lays her hand on the window frame, and then lifts it up until her arm is stretched out and her hand meets your cheek, which she cups almost romantically. You remember the doctors, faces painted white, and it starts to feel like a kind of divine intervention. One of a malevolent nature. The doctors are starting to seem more like ancient foreign beings, giants probing at your head, making it so that you are now absorbed by this clingy feeling of dependency. If the fisher is gone, you are gone, regardless, you are grateful.

“It’s time to come clean,” she tells you again.

“I don’t understand,” you answer. Her voice has become her own. It is low and patient.

“Name me.” She says.

“I can’t,” you tell her, shaking your head.

“You can.”

You wait a second before lifting up your freezing bare feet, bones cracking as they move, inching forward until your knees are up against the wall. Her hand rests on your cheek.

“I’ll name you Mary. Until you find your own name.”

She nods, then reaches for your hand with both of hers, bringing it to her face. Its texture changes. It feels like wood, then like paper, then skin, still pulsing. Her cheeks turn rosy. The snow is still falling in delicate flakes, coating her shoulders with its whiteness, quiet and vulnerable.

---------------

January: Lake Trout
Ian used to mumble his words. He enunciates now. He stresses the syllables. You meet him at your door, and he stands tall. He looks tan, healthy, there are tiny wrinkles at the sides of his eyes that weren’t there before. Your face is still oily from all the sleep, and the snow that has piled up nearby has started to turn gray, dirty from the mud buried beneath it. He hands you a ceramic pot with half your mother’s ashes. She didn’t choose an urn, she chose two ceramic containers coated in white mosaic, identical copies. He settles it into your cupped hands, a time capsule. Your fingers go numb in the cold, Ian rubs his neck.

“It’s Clarice. She’s trying to get me to say something,” he explains, pointing at his head. “Yours?”

“She doesn’t talk much.”

“Ah.”

Trout are late to mature, Mary has explained. You look at Ian. Adulthood suits him. He runs past your building in the mornings in his ironed track pants. He’ll strike up a conversation. You can’t talk much yet. You’re late to mature. In December, Mary would hold your hand, wrapped up in both of hers, asking on end whether she helped you fall asleep. You’d felt really old, then. By now, you can string together skinny sentences to tell her in monotone. You can describe your nights, the image of paint peeling off your mother’s face, leaving her shoulders coated in dust. It’s time to come clean. You don’t. You should be getting back inside. You can feel Mary standing at your window, which you never open anymore since she climbed in. Though you know she can’t, the thought of her leaving in the night and leaving you alone, unfinished, scares you.

You smile at Ian as he jogs in place, “to keep a steady heart rate.” You don’t eat fish anymore. Mary sits at your side when you watch the news, her hands holding one of yours in a tight grip. The news host sounds more like a person, a man wiping the sweat off his brow as the world caves in, Adam’s apple bobbing as he speaks of earthquakes and gunfire. He is less like an emotionless mouth without language, making a crackling white noise, and you are more like a person, learning to be better.

Gina Hay

GINA HAY

Gina Hay (1999) is a writing student at the University of Victoria in BC, Canada. She was born in Amsterdam, and came of age on Curaçao, a small island in the Dutch-Caribbean. She writes fiction, poetry and the occasional short screenplay. In her body of work, Gina veers into a surrealist perspective, often exploring the connection between animals and human vulnerability. Her writing has been published by the Literary Review of Canada, an Ontario-based publication featuring critical essays and poetry, and The Warren, an interdisciplinary art journal based in Victoria.

GINA HAY

Gina Hay (1999) is a writing student at the University of Victoria in BC, Canada. She was born in Amsterdam, and came of age on Curaçao, a small island in the Dutch-Caribbean. She writes fiction, poetry and the occasional short screenplay. In her body of work, Gina veers into a surrealist perspective, often exploring the connection between animals and human vulnerability. Her writing has been published by the Literary Review of Canada, an Ontario-based publication featuring critical essays and poetry, and The Warren, an interdisciplinary art journal based in Victoria.

GINA HAY

Gina Hay (1999) is a writing student at the University of Victoria in BC, Canada. She was born in Amsterdam, and came of age on Curaçao, a small island in the Dutch-Caribbean. She writes fiction, poetry and the occasional short screenplay. In her body of work, Gina veers into a surrealist perspective, often exploring the connection between animals and human vulnerability. Her writing has been published by the Literary Review of Canada, an Ontario-based publication featuring critical essays and poetry, and The Warren, an interdisciplinary art journal based in Victoria.


Published twice a year by Lebowski Publishers
© Lebowski Publishers  |  Amsterdam

For international rights please contact:
Oscar van GelderenTracy Fisher, Jill Gillett or Sylvie Rabineau

This literary magazine for Grounded SF
from The Netherlands and Flanders is
published twice a year by Lebowski Publishers.
© Lebowski Publishers  |  Amsterdam

For international rights please contact:
Oscar van GelderenTracy Fisher , Jill Gillet or Sylvie Rabineau

This literary magazine for Grounded SF from The Netherlands and Flanders is published twice a year by Lebowski Publishers.


For international rights please contact: Oscar van GelderenTracy Fisher, Jill Gillet or Sylvie Rabineau

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele, Gina Hay, Joost Devriesere

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart, Paul Evans

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens,
Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens,Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

EDITORS Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson, Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design

EDITORS Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson, Maaike Pleging



DESIGN
 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design

EDITORS 
Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson, 
Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman
uncanny.design

EDITORS 
Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson,
Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design

EDITORS 
Oscar van Gelderen, Jasper Henderson, Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design