Karma
Hack

Karma
Hack

Karma
Hack

Karma
Hack

Grounded SF from
The Netherlands
and Flanders
no. 1

Grounded SF from
The Netherlands
and Flanders
no. 1

AUTHOR

PJ Pancras

PITCH

The arcade hall has a hot new VR game for you. Your deepest desires have never been so  easily within reach because Karma cab will take you to your dream destination. But sometimes that destination turns out to be a very dark place.

Grounded SF

Translated by: Joni zwart

The girl had unzipped him roughly. “I take you to your dream destiny, yes?” She skillfully closed her lips around him. Nothing happened. A minute later, she had shown him the door, high on drugs and giggling. “Next time I’ll pay you to do me, pretty boy!”

The girl had unzipped him roughly. “I take you to your dream destiny, yes?” She skillfully closed her lips around him. Nothing happened. A minute later, she had shown him the door, high on drugs and giggling. “Next time I’ll pay you to do me, pretty boy!”

The girl had unzipped him roughly. “I take you to your dream destiny, yes?” She skillfully closed her lips around him. Nothing happened. A minute later, she had shown him the door, high on drugs and giggling. “Next time I’ll pay you to do me, pretty boy!”

The girl had unzipped him roughly. “I take you to your dream destiny, yes?” She skillfully closed her lips around him. Nothing happened. A minute later, she had shown him the door, high on drugs and giggling. “Next time I’ll pay you to do me, pretty boy!”

The girl had unzipped him roughly. “I take you to your dream destiny, yes?” She skillfully closed her lips around him. Nothing happened. A minute later, she had shown him the door, high on drugs and giggling. “Next time I’ll pay you to do me, pretty boy!”

Back outside on the Old Church Square, a kid had—very old school—pressed a flyer into his hands.

“HONEY MNEMONK, THE WORLDS BIGGEST ARCADE HALL IN AMSTERDAM. The arcade hall has an epic new game in VR space cubes. Your deepest desires have never been so close. Karma Cab takes you to your dream destination. All you need to do is get in and get out. A good reason to go to church at last!” Perhaps exactly what he needed. But first a smoke.

“Jah, pass me that spliff, brother!” An old man showed him a plastic bag with a picture of a little elephant. Elephant tranquilizer. Carfentanil. “For you?”

“Why me?”

“Why not? Try, boy, try!”

That was exactly the point; he tried and tried, but he always missed out. A moment of hesitation. Oh, to be able to sleep. Deeply and forever. But the man had already put the bag away and pointed towards the Old Church with his stick. Was he saying goodbye or showing him where to go? It was hopeful either way.

The church looked like a club. They were playing Plastic Dreams, a house classic. Bells ringing and an organ adrift. The nave was filled with VR space cubes, painted in various colors. Red room, Orange room, Yellow room, Green room, Blue room, Indigo room, and Violet room. He wondered where they were, the confessors.  

“Did you know there are two colors people cannot see?” A woman had turned up by his side. Straight hair, bangs, brown eyes with a hint of gold. Honey?

“Infrared and ultraviolet,” he answered.

She nodded. “First time here?”

He noticed her lips were slightly parted, which made her seem both sarcastic and compassionate. There was a certain sadness in her eyes. Something was wrong with her.  

“Not at all, I come here often.”

“Picked your color yet?”

 “Shame you don’t have white.” He suddenly knew what the something was, because he felt it the exact same way.

 “White? All the cubes together.” She smiled. “Enjoy. We might see each other later!”

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

Above the entrance of the cube, a sign read Karma Cab. Inside indeed a taxi was waiting for him. A futuristic thing, Batman-worthy.

“Welcome, passenger.”

The ever so familiar sultry computer voice that seems to dwell in all devices.

“Please put on the suit with the helmet before you get in.”

He immediately did as he was told.

“Passenger, we will now measure your brain activity. If you like, you may now switch on the RBM-function, the Read Brain Memory tissue, inside your helmet. We will then use your own memories, or your own desires, as you wish. Desires are after all memories of the future.”

He liked the sound of that. He got into the car, but could see no driver.

“Hello, traveler.”

A woman’s voice, sounding vaguely familiar.

“Address?”

Of course, he was in a taxi. He could not think of any destination, completely blanked.

“You don’t know?”

“Wait, I know why I don’t know. There’s no chauffeur. That’s it.”

“When you close your eyes, you will see your driver.”

In that moment she appeared next to him. The hologram of the woman with the mocking mouth and the sad look.

“I know enough,” she said. “You know what they say: If you don’t know where you’re going to, any road will take you there.

His body relaxed.

“What’s your name, boy?”

He told her his name. It had been a long time since he’d given it to anyone.

“Alright. So, Jimmy, what have you been up to lately?”

She had a British accent, just as he’d hoped. Desires. Wow. Now he had to come up with something interesting.

 “Oh, the usual, you know.”

“Are you a computer boy?”

It was true. He was an IT expert who analyzed rays of light from stars extinguished billions of years ago. They only reached the earth now. Measuring the past, he was in the lab day and night. Being at home, after all, meant lying awake. Dark dreams.

“Are you living with someone?”

He shook his head. “Are you?”

Back outside on the Old Church Square, a kid had—very old school—pressed a flyer into his hands.

“HONEY MNEMONK, THE WORLDS BIGGEST ARCADE HALL IN AMSTERDAM. The arcade hall has an epic new game in VR space cubes. Your deepest desires have never been so close. Karma Cab takes you to your dream destination. All you need to do is get in and get out. A good reason to go to church at last!” Perhaps exactly what he needed. But first a smoke.

“Jah, pass me that spliff, brother!” An old man showed him a plastic bag with a picture of a little elephant. Elephant tranquilizer. Carfentanil. “For you?”

“Why me?”

“Why not? Try, boy, try!”

That was exactly the point; he tried and tried, but he always missed out. A moment of hesitation. Oh, to be able to sleep. Deeply and forever. But the man had already put the bag away and pointed towards the Old Church with his stick. Was he saying goodbye or showing him where to go? It was hopeful either way.

The church looked like a club. They were playing Plastic Dreams, a house classic. Bells ringing and an organ adrift. The nave was filled with VR space cubes, painted in various colors. Red room, Orange room, Yellow room, Green room, Blue room, Indigo room, and Violet room. He wondered where they were, the confessors.  

“Did you know there are two colors people cannot see?” A woman had turned up by his side. Straight hair, bangs, brown eyes with a hint of gold. Honey?

“Infrared and ultraviolet,” he answered.

She nodded. “First time here?”

He noticed her lips were slightly parted, which made her seem both sarcastic and compassionate. There was a certain sadness in her eyes. Something was wrong with her.  

“Not at all, I come here often.”

“Picked your color yet?”

 “Shame you don’t have white.” He suddenly knew what the something was, because he felt it the exact same way.

 “White? All the cubes together.” She smiled. “Enjoy. We might see each other later!”

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

Above the entrance of the cube, a sign read Karma Cab. Inside indeed a taxi was waiting for him. A futuristic thing, Batman-worthy.

“Welcome, passenger.”

The ever so familiar sultry computer voice that seems to dwell in all devices.

“Please put on the suit with the helmet before you get in.”

He immediately did as he was told.

“Passenger, we will now measure your brain activity. If you like, you may now switch on the RBM-function, the Read Brain Memory tissue, inside your helmet. We will then use your own memories, or your own desires, as you wish. Desires are after all memories of the future.”

He liked the sound of that. He got into the car, but could see no driver.

“Hello, traveler.”

A woman’s voice, sounding vaguely familiar.

“Address?”

Of course, he was in a taxi. He could not think of any destination, completely blanked.

“You don’t know?”

“Wait, I know why I don’t know. There’s no chauffeur. That’s it.”

“When you close your eyes, you will see your driver.”

In that moment she appeared next to him. The hologram of the woman with the mocking mouth and the sad look.

“I know enough,” she said. “You know what they say: If you don’t know where you’re going to, any road will take you there.

His body relaxed.

“What’s your name, boy?”

He told her his name. It had been a long time since he’d given it to anyone.

“Alright. So, Jimmy, what have you been up to lately?”

She had a British accent, just as he’d hoped. Desires. Wow. Now he had to come up with something interesting.

 “Oh, the usual, you know.”

“Are you a computer boy?”

It was true. He was an IT expert who analyzed rays of light from stars extinguished billions of years ago. They only reached the earth now. Measuring the past, he was in the lab day and night. Being at home, after all, meant lying awake. Dark dreams.

“Are you living with someone?”

He shook his head. “Are you?”

Back outside on the Old Church Square, a kid had – very old school – pressed a flyer into his hands.

“HONEY MNEMONK, THE WORLDS BIGGEST ARCADE HALL IN AMSTERDAM. The arcade hall has an epic new game in VR space cubes. Your deepest desires have never been so close. Karma Cab takes you to your dream destination. All you need to do is get in and get out. A good reason to go to church at last!” Perhaps exactly what he needed. But first a smoke.

“Jah, pass me that spliff, brother!” An old man showed him a plastic bag with a picture of a little elephant. Elephant tranquilizer. Carfentanil. “For you?”

“Why me?”

“Why not? Try, boy, try!”

That was exactly the point; he tried and tried, but he always missed out. A moment of hesitation. Oh, to be able to sleep. Deeply and forever. But the man had already put the bag away and pointed towards the Old Church with his stick. Was he saying goodbye or showing him where to go? It was hopeful either way.

The church looked like a club. They were playing Plastic Dreams, a house classic. Bells ringing and an organ adrift. The nave was filled with VR space cubes, painted in various colors. Red room, Orange room, Yellow room, Green room, Blue room, Indigo room, and Violet room. He wondered where they were, the confessors.  

“Did you know there are two colors people cannot see?” A woman had turned up by his side. Straight hair, bangs, brown eyes with a hint of gold. Honey?

“Infrared and ultraviolet,” he answered.

She nodded. “First time here?”

He noticed her lips were slightly parted, which made her seem both sarcastic and compassionate. There was a certain sadness in her eyes. Something was wrong with her.  

“Not at all, I come here often.”

“Picked your color yet?”

 “Shame you don’t have white.” He suddenly knew what the something was, because he felt it the exact same way.

 “White? All the cubes together.” She smiled. “Enjoy. We might see each other later!”

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

 Above the entrance of the cube, a sign read Karma Cab. Inside indeed a taxi was waiting for him. A futuristic thing, Batman-worthy.

“Welcome, passenger.”

The ever so familiar sultry computer voice that seems to dwell in all devices.

“Please put on the suit with the helmet before you get in.”

He immediately did as he was told.

“Passenger, we will now measure your brain activity. If you like, you may now switch on the RBM-function, the Read Brain Memory tissue, inside your helmet. We will then use your own memories, or your own desires, as you wish. Desires are after all memories of the future.”

He liked the sound of that. He got into the car, but could see no driver.

“Hello, traveler.”

A woman’s voice, sounding vaguely familiar.

“Address?”

Of course, he was in a taxi. He could not think of any destination, completely blanked.

“You don’t know?”

“Wait, I know why I don’t know. There’s no chauffeur. That’s it.”

“When you close your eyes, you will see your driver.”

In that moment she appeared next to him. The hologram of the woman with the mocking mouth and the sad look.

“I know enough,” she said. “You know what they say: If you don’t know where you’re going to, any road will take you there.

His body relaxed.

“What’s your name, boy?”

He told her his name. It had been a long time since he’d given it to anyone.

“Alright. So, Jimmy, what have you been up to lately?”

She had a British accent, just as he’d hoped. Desires. Wow. Now he had to come up with something interesting.

 “Oh, the usual, you know.”

“Are you a computer boy?”

It was true. He was an IT expert who analyzed rays of light from stars extinguished billions of years ago. They only reached the earth now. Measuring the past, he was in the lab day and night. Being at home, after all, meant lying awake. Dark dreams.

“Are you living with someone?”

He shook his head. “Are you?”

If you don’t know where you’re going to,
any road will take you there.

If you don’t know where you’re going to, any road will take you there.

If you don’t know where you’re going to, any road will take you there.

If you don’t know where you’re going to,
any road will take you there.

If you don’t know where you’re going to, any road will take you there.

“I live with my mother. We are very happy together.”

“What are you so happy about?” Finally, a real conversation.

She did not answer right away. There was that sadness again.

“Oh, we hold each other’s hands, sometimes she’ll sniff my hair. ‘Fluffy, I want to smell you,’ she’ll say. But most often she doesn’t recognize me, you know…”

A mountain appeared ahead of them, a curious sight in the land that had so far been flat. He looked at Honey who seemed lost in thought. Her aloofness caused a tear somewhere within his own tissue. “Music?” he asked.

“You choose!”

She drove the taxi into the tunnel. He switched on the radio.

Scratching noises. A trombone. The sound of…

“Sandie Shaw,” said Honey and she sang along. “I walk along the city streets you used to walk along with me and every step I take recalls how much in love we used to be. Oh, how can I forget you when there is always something there to remind me.”

He wasn’t sure if he could, but he tried. “And I will never be free. You will always be a part of me.” Even the sustained notes came naturally. How good it was to be able to sing. Together

The taxi slipped smoothly out of the dark into the light. They were surrounded by a familiar landscape—red sand, palm trees, single-story stone houses, everything bathed in a bright light. Morocco. It was quiet now. The glorious feeling from before slowly seeped away. They were approaching a city, and he could feel the resistance in his entire body. He did not want to get out of the car. He looked away from her, although his desire grew. The door opened and he got out. The driver’s seat was empty. If he wanted to see her again, there was only one thing to do. He walked towards the square shaped conveyor belt placed along the walls of the cube, put his feet onto it, and found himself in the parking lot of Hotel Continental, Tangier. The taxi was nowhere to be seen, and the sun was already setting. Should he wait for her to pick him up again? He decided to carry on.

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

The asphalt meandered up a narrow street. Flattened manure lying everywhere, men walking everywhere. He passed a sign that read JIMMY'S, WORLD-FAMOUS PERFUMERY, PATRONIZED BY THE INTERNATIONAL JET SET AND FILM STARS.

You look like a film star, mum,” said a fourteen-year-old boy walking in front of him alongside a slender woman dressed in a red caftan.

“Thank you, darling, that’s exactly how I feel,” the woman said.

He closed his eyes and smelled her scent. Mint with rose petals. Exactly that. She was a young mother, sixteen years older than the boy. Sixteen years older than he was. Her henna-colored hair hung over her shoulders in two long braids. Straight shoulders they were, the kind you’d think would never give up.

There it was, the killing moon. The wind rose, he could hear it, he could feel it. His heart skipped a beat and he began to sweat. Before him lay the gate of the medina. He quickly got lost in the jumble of alleyways. All around him the call to prayer sounded. He was moved by the singing. “Connection, connection, I want to connect, see me, talk to me,” the voice seemed to say. The other, that great unknown, did not answer.

He felt a sharp pain in his stomach, but realized he couldn’t eat anything. The loaves in the baskets outside the shops did not exist. The boy and his young mother with the braids did not exist. He saw them turn the corner they began to run. He wanted to get closer, but the faster he ran, the larger the distance between them became.

They reached the end of the medina and crossed towards the modern part of the city. A taxi stopped. The door swung open. Honey sat behind the wheel as if she'd never been away, but the light of her presence was less bright and it flickered.

“They’re safe, don’t worry,” said Honey, gesturing towards the back seat. Jimmy and his mother had red cheeks from running. They were looking out of the window. Relieved. He noticed they were holding hands.

“Where shall I take them? Just drive around for a bit?”

“Yes, just drive around for a bit.”

The quiet pace at which Honey drove out of town lulled the passengers in the back to sleep. In the rearview mirror, he saw their eyes fall shut. He remembered that night. They were traveling through Morocco together, his mother and he. His father? Never known him. Proper son of a bitch, he suspected. She never talked about him. He had learned how to look after her at a very young age. Chores, repairs, roll spliffs, he could do it all at the age of eight. “My little man,” she called him. But despite his status as a partner, he did not know her secrets. He had spent his childhood guessing “why she was the way she was.” He had listened at her bedroom door when she spoke out loud in her sleep, but he never learned a thing. Most of the time she withdrew into herself, and as a result they’d be together but alone. “Connection, connection, see me, talk to me.” The other never answered.

“We’re going to stay in Tangier, Hotel Continental,” she had said. Radiant, enraptured in a way he had not seen her for a long time. Her eyes were no longer sad, but hopeful. “Film stars, like John Malkovich, have stayed there.” It didn’t mean anything to him, but he was just as happy as she was.

“I live with my mother. We are very happy together.”

“What are you so happy about?” Finally, a real conversation.

She did not answer right away. There was that sadness again.

“Oh, we hold each other’s hands, sometimes she’ll sniff my hair. ‘Fluffy, I want to smell you,’ she’ll say. But most often she doesn’t recognize me, you know…”

A mountain appeared ahead of them, a curious sight in the land that had so far been flat. He looked at Honey who seemed lost in thought. Her aloofness caused a tear somewhere within his own tissue. “Music?” he asked.

“You choose!”

She drove the taxi into the tunnel. He switched on the radio.

Scratching noises. A trombone. The sound of…

“Sandie Shaw,” said Honey and she sang along. “I walk along the city streets you used to walk along with me and every step I take recalls how much in love we used to be. Oh, how can I forget you when there is always something there to remind me.”

He wasn’t sure if he could, but he tried. “And I will never be free. You will always be a part of me.” Even the sustained notes came naturally. How good it was to be able to sing. Together

The taxi slipped smoothly out of the dark into the light. They were surrounded by a familiar landscape—red sand, palm trees, single-story stone houses, everything bathed in a bright light. Morocco. It was quiet now. The glorious feeling from before slowly seeped away. They were approaching a city, and he could feel the resistance in his entire body. He did not want to get out of the car. He looked away from her, although his desire grew. The door opened and he got out. The driver’s seat was empty. If he wanted to see her again, there was only one thing to do. He walked towards the square shaped conveyor belt placed along the walls of the cube, put his feet onto it, and found himself in the parking lot of Hotel Continental, Tangier. The taxi was nowhere to be seen, and the sun was already setting. Should he wait for her to pick him up again? He decided to carry on.

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

The asphalt meandered up a narrow street. Flattened manure lying everywhere, men walking everywhere. He passed a sign that read JIMMY'S, WORLD-FAMOUS PERFUMERY, PATRONIZED BY THE INTERNATIONAL JET SET AND FILM STARS.

You look like a film star, mum,” said a fourteen-year-old boy walking in front of him alongside a slender woman dressed in a red caftan.

“Thank you, darling, that’s exactly how I feel,” the woman said.

He closed his eyes and smelled her scent. Mint with rose petals. Exactly that. She was a young mother, sixteen years older than the boy. Sixteen years older than he was. Her henna-colored hair hung over her shoulders in two long braids. Straight shoulders they were, the kind you’d think would never give up.

There it was, the killing moon. The wind rose, he could hear it, he could feel it. His heart skipped a beat and he began to sweat. Before him lay the gate of the medina. He quickly got lost in the jumble of alleyways. All around him the call to prayer sounded. He was moved by the singing. “Connection, connection, I want to connect, see me, talk to me,” the voice seemed to say. The other, that great unknown, did not answer.

He felt a sharp pain in his stomach, but realized he couldn’t eat anything. The loaves in the baskets outside the shops did not exist. The boy and his young mother with the braids did not exist. He saw them turn the corner they began to run. He wanted to get closer, but the faster he ran, the larger the distance between them became.

They reached the end of the medina and crossed towards the modern part of the city. A taxi stopped. The door swung open. Honey sat behind the wheel as if she'd never been away, but the light of her presence was less bright and it flickered.

“They’re safe, don’t worry,” said Honey, gesturing towards the back seat. Jimmy and his mother had red cheeks from running. They were looking out of the window. Relieved. He noticed they were holding hands.

“Where shall I take them? Just drive around for a bit?”

“Yes, just drive around for a bit.”

The quiet pace at which Honey drove out of town lulled the passengers in the back to sleep. In the rearview mirror, he saw their eyes fall shut. He remembered that night. They were traveling through Morocco together, his mother and him. His father? Never known him. Proper son of a bitch, he suspected. She never talked about him. He had learned how to look after her at a very young age. Chores, repairs, roll spliffs, he could do it all at the age of eight. “My little man,” she called him. But despite his status as a partner, he did not know her secrets. He had spent his childhood guessing “why she was the way she was.” He had listened at her bedroom door when she spoke out loud in her sleep, but he never learned a thing. Most of the time she withdrew into herself, and as a result they’d be together but alone. “Connection, connection, see me, talk to me.” The other never answered.

“We’re going to stay in Tangier, Hotel Continental,” she had said. Radiant, enraptured in a way he had not seen her for a long time. Her eyes were no longer sad, but hopeful. “Film stars, like John Malkovich, have stayed there.” It didn’t mean anything to him, but he was just as happy as she was.

“We’re going to stay in Tangier, Hotel Continental,” she had said. Radiant, enraptured in a way he had not seen her for a long time. Her eyes were no longer sad, but hopeful. “Film stars, like John Malkovich, have stayed there.”

“We're going to stay in Tangier, Hotel Continental.” she had said. Radiant, enraptured in a way he had not seen her for a long time. Her eyes were no longer sad, but hopeful. “Film stars, like John Malkovich, have stayed there.”

“We're going to stay in Tangier, Hotel Continental.” she had said. Radiant, enraptured in a way he had not seen her for a long time. Her eyes were no longer sad, but hopeful. “Film stars, like John Malkovich, have stayed there.”

“We're going to stay in Tangier, Hotel Continental.” she had said. Radiant, enraptured in a way he had not seen her for a long time. Her eyes were no longer sad, but hopeful. “Film stars, like John Malkovich, have stayed there.”

“We’re going to stay in Tangier, Hotel Continental,” she had said. Radiant, enraptured in a way he had not seen her for a long time. Her eyes were no longer sad, but hopeful. “Film stars, like John Malkovich, have stayed there.”

He could feel it again now, and he glanced at the back seat once more. But as always, those other feelings immediately infected his joy. As if his brain was hacked by the monster named guilt. To steer the attention away from himself, he focused on Honey. He asked the first question that came to mind.

“Honey, can I drive?” He was instantly holding a wheel. No more Honey. He stepped on the accelerator, quickly changed gears. 75, 100, 125 mph. He was tearing around like a race car driver. A car came straight at him. Oh, to be able to sleep. Deeply and forever. In the final moment he yanked at the wheel to avoid the crash.

He knew he had to go back to the winding asphalt. He got out of the car with his mother and they hopped towards the hotel. It was the perfect end of a perfect evening. They had gone out for dinner and had walked away without paying to save money for that beautiful carpet. “Our own carpet, Jimmy, we might be able to fly with it! Where would you go to?” She was beaming.

He followed them to the room where past glory was hard to find. A double bed in the middle, a foul-smelling bedspread. Yellowed walls with pictures of old men. As soon as they entered, her mood changed.

“And then?” asked Honey. She had come back to pick him up.

“Just look.”

He sees two figures in the semi-darkness, the mother moving agitatedly, the boy, all tensed up, watching her.

“She sits down on the bed, kicks off her shoes, and gestures at the photos. “Look, John Malkovich!” She begins to laugh. “Look, see, he still had a bit of hair then, what an idiot, isn’t he, Jimmy?” She grabs my shoulders and shakes me. “An idiot!” Laughter turns into crying and then there is only screaming.

I want to take away her pain, but I don’t know how. “It's that son of a bitch, he made you like this!” I yell.

My mother looks at me. Softly she says, “Your father was no son of a bitch. When you came, he was . . . If you hadn’t been there . . .”

I flee from the room, and for a moment I hope she comes after me. Outside I roam the streets of the medina, which feels grim at night; the beach below is looking dark and cold. When I return to our room, my mother is gone. I crawl underneath the bedspread and cry myself to sleep.

The next morning I am woken up by a knocking on the door. It’s the hotel manager. I can tell by the look on his face that it’s bad. They’ve found her body on the beach. She had gone into the water at low tide, and the sea had thrown her back on the land with the flood.”

He looked at the bed that was empty. No rumpled blankets, no foul-smelling bedspread, but neatly made as only chambermaids can.

“If I hadn’t been there . . .”

Honey caressed his cheek, and for the first time in all those years, he felt something again. It was sadness, the kind that comes up from deep within your bones, where it has been lying, frozen, for years. Rays of light from stars that no longer exist. At last he saw them.

“Do you want to go?”

“Yes, I'm going home.”

In his rearview mirror he saw Honey and Jimmy fade further and further away, until they disappeared.

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

Above the Old Church Square hung a buttermilk sky, clouds like sheep, his favorites, but too far away to touch. There she was. Waiting for a taxi? Instinctively he walked towards her.

“Hi, remember me?”

She looked at him from underneath her bangs and smiled. “The man who likes white. And? Did you reach your destination?”

“Yes, I hadn’t been there for a long time.”

“Will you be back?”

“No, that place no longer exists.”

“I’m sorry, I’m going to call a cab,” she said. “I have to go.”

She took her phone out of her bag and walked away from him. He saw she dropped something. A bag with elephants. He picked it up and closed his hand around it. You will always be a part of me.

“Perhaps I’ll see you again?” he called after her.  

She turned around and looked up. Lifted her hand up into the sky. Perhaps she could touch them. The clouds.

He could feel it again now, and he glanced at the back seat once more. But as always, those other feelings immediately infected his joy. As if his brain was hacked by the monster named guilt. To steer the attention away from himself, he focused on Honey. He asked the first question that came to mind.

“Honey, can I drive?” He was instantly holding a wheel. No more Honey. He stepped on the accelerator, quickly changed gears. 75, 100, 125 mph. He was tearing around like a race car driver. A car came straight at him. Oh, to be able to sleep. Deeply and forever. In the final moment he yanked at the wheel to avoid the crash.

He knew he had to go back to the winding asphalt. He got out of the car with his mother and they hopped towards the hotel. It was the perfect end of a perfect evening. They had gone out for dinner and had walked away without paying to save money for that beautiful carpet. “Our own carpet, Jimmy, we might be able to fly with it! Where would you go to?” She was beaming.

He followed them to the room where past glory was hard to find. A double bed in the middle, a foul-smelling bedspread. Yellowed walls with pictures of old men. As soon as they entered, her mood changed.

“And then?” asked Honey. She had come back to pick him up.

“Just look.”

He sees two figures in the semi-darkness, the mother moving agitatedly, the boy, all tensed up, watching her. She sits down on the bed, kicks off her shoes, and gestures at the photos. “Look, John Malkovich!” She begins to laugh. “Look, see, he still had a bit of hair then, what an idiot, isn’t he, Jimmy?” She grabs my shoulders and shakes me. “An idiot!” Laughter turns into crying and then there is only screaming.

I want to take away her pain, but I don’t know how. “It's that son of a bitch, he made you like this!” I yell.

My mother looks at me. Softly she says, “Your father was no son of a bitch. When you came, he was . . . If you hadn’t been there . . .”

I flee from the room, and for a moment I hope she comes after me. Outside I roam the streets of the medina, which feels grim at night; the beach below is looking dark and cold. When I return to our room, my mother is gone. I crawl underneath the bedspread and cry myself to sleep.

The next morning I am woken up by a knocking on the door. It’s the hotel manager. I can tell by the look on his face that it’s bad. They’ve found her body on the beach. She had gone into the water at low tide, and the sea had thrown her back on the land with the flood.

He looked at the bed that was empty. No rumpled blankets, no foul-smelling bedspread, but neatly made as only chambermaids can.

“If I hadn’t been there . . .”

Honey caressed his cheek, and for the first time in all those years, he felt something again. It was sadness, the kind that comes up from deep within your bones, where it has been lying, frozen, for years. Rays of light from stars that no longer exist. At last he saw them.

“Do you want to go?”

“Yes, I'm going home.”

In his rearview mirror he saw Honey and Jimmy fade further and further away, until they disappeared.

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

Above the Old Church Square hung a buttermilk sky, clouds like sheep, his favorites, but too far away to touch. There she was. Waiting for a taxi? Instinctively he walked towards her.

“Hi, remember me?”

She looked at him from underneath her bangs and smiled. “The man who likes white. And? Did you reach your destination?”

“Yes, I hadn’t been there for a long time.”

“Will you be back?”

“No, that place no longer exists.”

“I’m sorry, I’m going to call a cab,” she said. “I have to go.”

She took her phone out of her bag and walked away from him. He saw she dropped something. A bag with elephants. He picked it up and closed his hand around it. You will always be a part of me.

“Perhaps I’ll see you again?” he called after her.  

She turned around and looked up. Lifted her hand up into the sky. Perhaps she could touch them. The clouds.

He could feel it again now, and he glanced at the back seat once more. But as always, those other feelings immediately infected his joy. As if his brain was hacked by the monster named guilt. To steer the attention away from himself, he focused on Honey. He asked the first question that came to mind.

“Honey, can I drive?” He was instantly holding a wheel. No more Honey. He stepped on the accelerator, quickly changed gears. 75, 100, 125 mph. He was tearing around like a race car driver. A car came straight at him. Oh, to be able to sleep. Deeply and forever. In the final moment he yanked at the wheel to avoid the crash.

He knew he had to go back to the winding asphalt. He got out of the car with his mother and they hopped towards the hotel. It was the perfect end of a perfect evening. They had gone out for dinner and had walked away without paying to save money for that beautiful carpet. “Our own carpet, Jimmy, we might be able to fly with it! Where would you go to?” She was beaming.

He followed them to the room where past glory was hard to find. A double bed in the middle, a foul-smelling bedspread. Yellowed walls with pictures of old men. As soon as they entered, her mood changed.

“And then?” asked Honey. She had come back to pick him up.

“Just look.”

He sees two figures in the semi-darkness, the mother moving agitatedly, the boy, all tensed up, watching her. She sits down on the bed, kicks off her shoes, and gestures at the photos. “Look, John Malkovich!” She begins to laugh. “Look, see, he still had a bit of hair then, what an idiot, isn’t he, Jimmy?” She grabs my shoulders and shakes me. “An idiot!” Laughter turns into crying and then there is only screaming.

I want to take away her pain, but I don’t know how. “It's that son of a bitch, he made you like this!” I yell.

My mother looks at me. Softly she says, “Your father was no son of a bitch. When you came, he was . . . If you hadn’t been there . . .”

I flee from the room, and for a moment I hope she comes after me. Outside I roam the streets of the medina, which feels grim at night; the beach below is looking dark and cold. When I return to our room, my mother is gone. I crawl underneath the bedspread and cry myself to sleep.

The next morning I am woken up by a knocking on the door. It’s the hotel manager. I can tell by the look on his face that it’s bad. They’ve found her body on the beach. She had gone into the water at low tide, and the sea had thrown her back on the land with the flood.

He looked at the bed that was empty. No rumpled blankets, no foul-smelling bedspread, but neatly made as only chambermaids can.

“If I hadn’t been there . . .”

Honey caressed his cheek, and for the first time in all those years, he felt something again. It was sadness, the kind that comes up from deep within your bones, where it has been lying, frozen, for years. Rays of light from stars that no longer exist. At last he saw them.

“Do you want to go?”

“Yes, I'm going home.”

In his rearview mirror he saw Honey and Jimmy fade further and further away, until they disappeared.

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

Above the Old Church Square hung a buttermilk sky, clouds like sheep, his favorites, but too far away to touch. There she was. Waiting for a taxi? Instinctively he walked towards her.

“Hi, remember me?”

She looked at him from underneath her bangs and smiled. “The man who likes white. And? Did you reach your destination?”

“Yes, I hadn’t been there for a long time.”

“Will you be back?”

“No, that place no longer exists.”

“I’m sorry, I’m going to call a cab,” she said. “I have to go.”

She took her phone out of her bag and walked away from him. He saw she dropped something. A bag with elephants. He picked it up and closed his hand around it. You will always be a part of me.

“Perhaps I’ll see you again?” he called after her.  

She turned around and looked up. Lifted her hand up into the sky. Perhaps she could touch them. The clouds.

PJ-Pancras

PJ PANCRAS 

PJ Pancras, also known as Firma Tacker & Tape, is an Amsterdam-based writing duo. Pamela Pancras is a clinical psychologist specialized in the treatment of PTSD. Jeroen Pancras is an IT specialist at an academic medical center. As a couple, they are fascinated by the dialogue between the male and female perspectives that their writing partnership provides. Their style is at turns whimsical and astute, weaving the everyday with the tragic and the sublime in near gonzo style, extrapolating to a future that is both patently weird and arrestingly believable.

In 2016, their debut novel, Planet Paradroid, explored notions of conscious artificial intelligence and empathy and reached the number one position on “the SF most wanted list” of Dutch reader community Hebban. The book was translated into English in 2017. The sequel, Imojiman, will be released summer 2018.

Photo: Wiebrig Krakau

PJ PANCRAS 

PJ Pancras, also known as Firma Tacker & Tape, is an Amsterdam-based writing duo. Pamela Pancras is a clinical psychologist specialized in the treatment of PTSD. Jeroen Pancras is an IT specialist at an academic medical center. As a couple, they are fascinated by the dialogue between the male and female perspectives that their writing partnership provides. Their style is at turns whimsical and astute, weaving the everyday with the tragic and the sublime in near gonzo style, extrapolating to a future that is both patently weird and arrestingly believable.

In 2016, their debut novel, Planet Paradroid, explored notions of conscious artificial intelligence and empathy and reached the number one position on “the SF most wanted list” of Dutch reader community Hebban. The book was translated into English in 2017. The sequel, Imojiman, will be released summer 2018.

Photo: Wiebrig Krakau


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

© 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

© 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