Tomorrow I Will Kiss You

Tomorrow I Will Kiss You

Tomorrow I Will Kiss You

Tomorrow I Will Kiss You

Tomorrow I Will Kiss You

Grounded SF from
the Netherlands
and Flanders
no. 4

Grounded SF from
the Netherlands
and Flanders
no. 4

Grounded SF from
the Netherlands
and Flanders
no. 4

AUTHOR

Bertram Koeleman

PITCH

In a world where speech is forbidden, a marriage ends. How do you cope with grief and loss... when there are no words?

Grounded SF

Translated by: Jai van Essen 

I walked to the estate from the temporary room I’d been renting. At the field with deer, I stopped to admire the jagged tree in the middle and the large house behind. The city wall, a colossal grey shadow, loomed in the distance; in the late afternoon mist, the red lights appeared to float in the air, kilometres high.

I walked to the estate from the temporary room I’d been renting. At the field with deer, I stopped to admire the jagged tree in the middle and the large house behind. The city wall, a colossal grey shadow, loomed in the distance; in the late afternoon mist, the red lights appeared to float in the air, kilometres high.

I walked to the estate from the temporary room I’d been renting. At the field with deer, I stopped to admire the jagged tree in the middle and the large house behind. The city wall, a colossal grey shadow, loomed in the distance; in the late afternoon mist, the red lights appeared to float in the air, kilometres high.

I walked to the estate from the temporary room I’d been renting. At the field with deer, I stopped to admire the jagged tree in the middle and the large house behind. The city wall, a colossal grey shadow, loomed in the distance; in the late afternoon mist, the red lights appeared to float in the air, kilometres high.

I walked to the estate from the temporary room I’d been renting. At the field with deer, I stopped to admire the jagged tree in the middle and the large house behind. The city wall, a colossal grey shadow, loomed in the distance; in the late afternoon mist, the red lights appeared to float in the air, kilometres high.

At a fork in the path, a sign had been nailed to a pole. There was a picture of a smiling bridal couple and a large purple arrow pointing left. I took the path to the right. The day was a bit too chilly for walking without a coat, but also too warm to keep it on. I kept my hands in my pockets and my eyes on the path in front of me, especially when I encountered other people. I passed by a woman pushing a stroller and didn’t look at the baby, though I could hear it. When I crossed a high wooden bridge over a dry ditch, I heard rapid footsteps and paused. Two boys of about seven years old were running under the bridge. They were chasing each other, or running towards something, or they just felt like running. I watched them until they’d disappeared around a corner.

On my way back to the exit I once again passed the field of deer. A roe was standing by the fence. I walked towards her through the tall grass. I knelt beside her, and even now she remained motionless, seemingly keeping one eye on me. I reached through the iron wire with my hand and briefly touched her head. I pulled some grass from the ground and held it out in front of her. She unceremoniously pulled it from my hand and started to chew. I chuckled, stroking her neck, her ear. I called up images of expansive pastures and babbling brooks in pine forests. She opened her mind, and I saw murky images of a mother deer pushing a calf to its feet with her nose. I flipped the perspective, so my roe could see herself wobbling on newly born legs. She took another step closer and let me stroke her back. Then she decided she’d had enough and walked away. It took a moment before I decided to get up and keep walking.

A procession of wedding guests drew near: young men and women in their best clothes, with perfect hairdos and flawless skin. The woman in front, salon-tanned, in a yellow suit and a small white hat on a large blond bun, smiled at the man beside her, a cousin, and they sent each other sexual fantasies. They grinned, almost in love. Their footsteps on the gravel sounded like a promise of the future. You couldn’t tell from the others’ faces if they were picking up on their communication. They’d most likely blocked the family. Perhaps the family as a whole had agreed to block each other: no one wanted discord on a day like this, however unintentional.

As I left the terrain, I was sent a message. I stopped and nodded. It was a broadly grinning portrait of James Harris, my lawyer. I sighed, clenching my jaw. I opened the message: a courtroom. The image was clearly of Lilith’s making. She’d given herself a better hairdo, clothes from a brand she couldn’t afford, more regular facial features. For the occasion she had a look of smouldering cruelty in her eyes, which in real life was completely foreign to her. The figure beside my lawyer was an unsympathetic caricature of myself – ill-fitting clothes, unshaved, bags under my eyes, and a face pale from drinking. Not that I cared one bit how she saw me. I’d already moved past that stage. The message concluded with a clock and calendar: time and date, an image of the building, plus a fragment of Google Maps with a red pin and the coordinates. Two emojis had been added as a P.S.: one red-faced with angry eyes and a wide-open mouth; one with small waterfalls running from both eyes. Both faces were crossed out in red.

I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths. Then I called up two green check marks and a thumbs-up. I opened my eyes and nodded.

At a fork in the path, a sign had been nailed to a pole. There was a picture of a smiling bridal couple and a large purple arrow pointing left. I took the path to the right. The day was a bit too chilly for walking without a coat, but also too warm to keep it on. I kept my hands in my pockets and my eyes on the path in front of me, especially when I encountered other people. I passed by a woman pushing a stroller and didn’t look at the baby, though I could hear it. When I crossed a high wooden bridge over a dry ditch, I heard rapid footsteps and paused. Two boys of about seven years old were running under the bridge. They were chasing each other, or running towards something, or they just felt like running. I watched them until they’d disappeared around a corner.

On my way back to the exit I once again passed the field of deer. A roe was standing by the fence. I walked towards her through the tall grass. I knelt beside her, and even now she remained motionless, seemingly keeping one eye on me. I reached through the iron wire with my hand and briefly touched her head. I pulled some grass from the ground and held it out in front of her. She unceremoniously pulled it from my hand and started to chew. I chuckled, stroking her neck, her ear. I called up images of expansive pastures and babbling brooks in pine forests. She opened her mind, and I saw murky images of a mother deer pushing a calf to its feet with her nose. I flipped the perspective, so my roe could see herself wobbling on newly born legs. She took another step closer and let me stroke her back. Then she decided she’d had enough and walked away. It took a moment before I decided to get up and keep walking.

A procession of wedding guests drew near: young men and women in their best clothes, with perfect hairdos and flawless skin. The woman in front, salon-tanned, in a yellow suit and a small white hat on a large blond bun, smiled at the man beside her, a cousin, and they sent each other sexual fantasies. They grinned, almost in love. Their footsteps on the gravel sounded like a promise of the future. You couldn’t tell from the others’ faces if they were picking up on their communication. They’d most likely blocked the family. Perhaps the family as a whole had agreed to block each other: no one wanted discord on a day like this, however unintentional.

As I left the terrain, I was sent a message. I stopped and nodded. It was a broadly grinning portrait of James Harris, my lawyer. I sighed, clenching my jaw. I opened the message: a courtroom. The image was clearly of Lilith’s making. She’d given herself a better hairdo, clothes from a brand she couldn’t afford, more regular facial features. For the occasion she had a look of smouldering cruelty in her eyes, which in real life was completely foreign to her. The figure beside my lawyer was an unsympathetic caricature of myself – ill-fitting clothes, unshaved, bags under my eyes, and a face pale from drinking. Not that I cared one bit how she saw me. I’d already moved past that stage. The message concluded with a clock and calendar: time and date, an image of the building, plus a fragment of Google Maps with a red pin and the coordinates. Two emojis had been added as a P.S.: one red-faced with angry eyes and a wide-open mouth; one with small waterfalls running from both eyes. Both faces were crossed out in red.

I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths. Then I called up two green check marks and a thumbs-up. I opened my eyes and nodded.

At a fork in the path, a sign had been nailed to a pole. There was a picture of a smiling bridal couple and a large purple arrow pointing left. I took the path to the right. The day was a bit too chilly for walking without a coat, but also too warm to keep it on. I kept my hands in my pockets and my eyes on the path in front of me, especially when I encountered other people. I passed by a woman pushing a stroller and didn’t look at the baby, though I could hear it. When I crossed a high wooden bridge over a dry ditch, I heard rapid footsteps and paused. Two boys of about seven years old were running under the bridge. They were chasing each other, or running towards something, or they just felt like running. I watched them until they’d disappeared around a corner.

On my way back to the exit I once again passed the field of deer. A roe was standing by the fence. I walked towards her through the tall grass. I knelt beside her, and even now she remained motionless, seemingly keeping one eye on me. I reached through the iron wire with my hand and briefly touched her head. I pulled some grass from the ground and held it out in front of her. She unceremoniously pulled it from my hand and started to chew. I chuckled, stroking her neck, her ear. I called up images of expansive pastures and babbling brooks in pine forests. She opened her mind, and I saw murky images of a mother deer pushing a calf to its feet with her nose. I flipped the perspective, so my roe could see herself wobbling on newly born legs. She took another step closer and let me stroke her back. Then she decided she’d had enough and walked away. It took a moment before I decided to get up and keep walking.

A procession of wedding guests drew near: young men and women in their best clothes, with perfect hairdos and flawless skin. The woman in front, salon-tanned, in a yellow suit and a small white hat on a large blond bun, smiled at the man beside her, a cousin, and they sent each other sexual fantasies. They grinned, almost in love. Their footsteps on the gravel sounded like a promise of the future. You couldn’t tell from the others’ faces if they were picking up on their communication. They’d most likely blocked the family. Perhaps the family as a whole had agreed to block each other: no one wanted discord on a day like this, however unintentional.

As I left the terrain, I was sent a message. I stopped and nodded. It was a broadly grinning portrait of James Harris, my lawyer. I sighed, clenching my jaw. I opened the message: a courtroom. The image was clearly of Lilith’s making. She’d given herself a better hairdo, clothes from a brand she couldn’t afford, more regular facial features. For the occasion she had a look of smouldering cruelty in her eyes, which in real life was completely foreign to her. The figure beside my lawyer was an unsympathetic caricature of myself – ill-fitting clothes, unshaved, bags under my eyes, and a face pale from drinking. Not that I cared one bit how she saw me. I’d already moved past that stage. The message concluded with a clock and calendar: time and date, an image of the building, plus a fragment of Google Maps with a red pin and the coordinates. Two emojis had been added as a P.S.: one red-faced with angry eyes and a wide-open mouth; one with small waterfalls running from both eyes. Both faces were crossed out in red.

I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths. Then I called up two green check marks and a thumbs-up. I opened my eyes and nodded.

At a fork in the path, a sign had been nailed to a pole. There was a picture of a smiling bridal couple and a large purple arrow pointing left. I took the path to the right. The day was a bit too chilly for walking without a coat, but also too warm to keep it on. I kept my hands in my pockets and my eyes on the path in front of me, especially when I encountered other people. I passed by a woman pushing a stroller and didn’t look at the baby, though I could hear it. When I crossed a high wooden bridge over a dry ditch, I heard rapid footsteps and paused. Two boys of about seven years old were running under the bridge. They were chasing each other, or running towards something, or they just felt like running. I watched them until they’d disappeared around a corner.

On my way back to the exit I once again passed the field of deer. A roe was standing by the fence. I walked towards her through the tall grass. I knelt beside her, and even now she remained motionless, seemingly keeping one eye on me. I reached through the iron wire with my hand and briefly touched her head. I pulled some grass from the ground and held it out in front of her. She unceremoniously pulled it from my hand and started to chew. I chuckled, stroking her neck, her ear. I called up images of expansive pastures and babbling brooks in pine forests. She opened her mind, and I saw murky images of a mother deer pushing a calf to its feet with her nose. I flipped the perspective, so my roe could see herself wobbling on newly born legs. She took another step closer and let me stroke her back. Then she decided she’d had enough and walked away. It took a moment before I decided to get up and keep walking.

A procession of wedding guests drew near: young men and women in their best clothes, with perfect hairdos and flawless skin. The woman in front, salon-tanned, in a yellow suit and a small white hat on a large blond bun, smiled at the man beside her, a cousin, and they sent each other sexual fantasies. They grinned, almost in love. Their footsteps on the gravel sounded like a promise of the future. You couldn’t tell from the others’ faces if they were picking up on their communication. They’d most likely blocked the family. Perhaps the family as a whole had agreed to block each other: no one wanted discord on a day like this, however unintentional.

As I left the terrain, I was sent a message. I stopped and nodded. It was a broadly grinning portrait of James Harris, my lawyer. I sighed, clenching my jaw. I opened the message: a courtroom. The image was clearly of Lilith’s making. She’d given herself a better hairdo, clothes from a brand she couldn’t afford, more regular facial features. For the occasion she had a look of smouldering cruelty in her eyes, which in real life was completely foreign to her. The figure beside my lawyer was an unsympathetic caricature of myself – ill-fitting clothes, unshaved, bags under my eyes, and a face pale from drinking. Not that I cared one bit how she saw me. I’d already moved past that stage. The message concluded with a clock and calendar: time and date, an image of the building, plus a fragment of Google Maps with a red pin and the coordinates. Two emojis had been added as a P.S.: one red-faced with angry eyes and a wide-open mouth; one with small waterfalls running from both eyes. Both faces were crossed out in red.

I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths. Then I called up two green check marks and a thumbs-up. I opened my eyes and nodded.

At a fork in the path, a sign had been nailed to a pole. There was a picture of a smiling bridal couple and a large purple arrow pointing left. I took the path to the right. The day was a bit too chilly for walking without a coat, but also too warm to keep it on. I kept my hands in my pockets and my eyes on the path in front of me, especially when I encountered other people. I passed by a woman pushing a stroller and didn’t look at the baby, though I could hear it. When I crossed a high wooden bridge over a dry ditch, I heard rapid footsteps and paused. Two boys of about seven years old were running under the bridge. They were chasing each other, or running towards something, or they just felt like running. I watched them until they’d disappeared around a corner.

On my way back to the exit I once again passed the field of deer. A roe was standing by the fence. I walked towards her through the tall grass. I knelt beside her, and even now she remained motionless, seemingly keeping one eye on me. I reached through the iron wire with my hand and briefly touched her head. I pulled some grass from the ground and held it out in front of her. She unceremoniously pulled it from my hand and started to chew. I chuckled, stroking her neck, her ear. I called up images of expansive pastures and babbling brooks in pine forests. She opened her mind, and I saw murky images of a mother deer pushing a calf to its feet with her nose. I flipped the perspective, so my roe could see herself wobbling on newly born legs. She took another step closer and let me stroke her back. Then she decided she’d had enough and walked away. It took a moment before I decided to get up and keep walking.

A procession of wedding guests drew near: young men and women in their best clothes, with perfect hairdos and flawless skin. The woman in front, salon-tanned, in a yellow suit and a small white hat on a large blond bun, smiled at the man beside her, a cousin, and they sent each other sexual fantasies. They grinned, almost in love. Their footsteps on the gravel sounded like a promise of the future. You couldn’t tell from the others’ faces if they were picking up on their communication. They’d most likely blocked the family. Perhaps the family as a whole had agreed to block each other: no one wanted discord on a day like this, however unintentional.

As I left the terrain, I was sent a message. I stopped and nodded. It was a broadly grinning portrait of James Harris, my lawyer. I sighed, clenching my jaw. I opened the message: a courtroom. The image was clearly of Lilith’s making. She’d given herself a better hairdo, clothes from a brand she couldn’t afford, more regular facial features. For the occasion she had a look of smouldering cruelty in her eyes, which in real life was completely foreign to her. The figure beside my lawyer was an unsympathetic caricature of myself – ill-fitting clothes, unshaved, bags under my eyes, and a face pale from drinking. Not that I cared one bit how she saw me. I’d already moved past that stage. The message concluded with a clock and calendar: time and date, an image of the building, plus a fragment of Google Maps with a red pin and the coordinates. Two emojis had been added as a P.S.: one red-faced with angry eyes and a wide-open mouth; one with small waterfalls running from both eyes. Both faces were crossed out in red.

I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths. Then I called up two green check marks and a thumbs-up. I opened my eyes and nodded.

They grinned, almost in love. Their footsteps on the gravel sounded like a promise of the future.

They grinned, almost in love. Their footsteps on the gravel sounded like a promise of the future.

They grinned, almost in love. Their footsteps on the gravel sounded like a promise of the future.

They grinned, almost in love. Their footsteps on the gravel sounded like a promise of the future.

They grinned, almost in love. Their footsteps on the gravel sounded like a promise of the future.

In the city, I was stopped by a drifter. He drew up close beside me, put his hand on my arm, and sent me his entire past within seconds: from unhappy love to alcoholism and financial troubles to eviction. I swallowed my aversion, blinked three times until I was at my bank account, logged in, and sent him ten euros.

‘Thank you,’ he said.

I took a step back. I suddenly had a better understanding of him than I’d been able to gain from the stream of images. I sent him a clock running backwards rapidly, an image of the implant, and a question mark. He slowly nodded and grinned.

‘Only three months ago,’ he said, pointing to his head with a look of perverse pleasure on his dirty face. I felt sick. I shook my head and waved my hands back and forth, signalling him to be quiet. I sent him an emoji with a zipper for a mouth. He began to laugh. When I tried to walk around him, he grabbed my upper arm and began to sing. ‘Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart / You’re shaking my confidence daily / Oh Cecilia, I’m down on my knees / I’m begging you please to come home!’ I shuddered, yanked myself from his grip, and let a torrent of flashing lights and uniformed figures descend upon him.

0101010101

Around midnight, I opened my second bottle of wine. Shuffling clumsily, highly satisfied with my inebriated condition, I walked back to the sofa and flopped down onto it, exhausted. I unzipped my fly and closed my eyes.

Whenever I felt like wallowing, I had two moments I could always fall back on: our wedding at the beach, the blessed silence only broken by the squawking of seagulls, the moment our hands were bound in a white velvet shawl; and a fragment from the Amsterdam Light Festival, when on the canal we paused at a rendering of Van Gogh’s Starry Night made of lights, how we embraced without a thought in our minds, just us and Van Gogh’s lights.

But when I was horny, I would always call up our night in London. I fast-forwarded past dinner and the theatre to several hours later in the hotel room. I pulled down her top from her shoulders and sucked her nipples. She tilted her head back. In the present, I grew hard, took my cock in my hand, and began to jerk off. She pulled my mouth towards her pussy, and I licked her until she tugged at my hair, signalling me to stop. In one fluid motion, I entered and began to fuck her. Lilith had a flush on her cheeks, and I could feel her hot breath in my ear. She rested her hands on my chest with a mischievous smile. I slipped out of her pussy, and she turned over on her hands and knees, guiding my cock towards her ass. This moment, or actually the moment immediately preceding it, the mischievous smile, was enough.

I came all over my half-bare stomach, my hand, the bottom of my shirt. I grabbed the bottle of wine with my sticky hand and lifted it to my mouth. When it was empty, I dropped the bottle beside me on the sofa. That was how I fell asleep.

0101010101

I’m just barely old enough to remember conversations. My parents at the table during Christmas, that’s the most enduring one. I was about six year old and knew a few words, though I rarely used them. Mom and dad already had the implant themselves – I’d gotten it when I was a baby: at three months was the average – but dad in particular had difficulties with it. Mom and he had been born around the turn of the century and had needed to unlearn speaking. As with everything you pick up in your youth, he felt speaking went without saying (!), that it was a sign of civility, one of the things that set humans apart from other living creatures. I still remember how at a Christmas dinner he sent me an image of three cavemen silently, sullenly gazing into a fire. I don’t believe I had much of an opinion on the matter. I could be perfectly content to eat and drink, observe, and listen to them; I think they felt it was fine I didn’t say anything. By the time I was ten, I no longer knew how to speak. My parents had stopped doing it themselves by that point. Dad became depressed. Once, I entered his study, and he was weeping at his desk, and I laid a hand on his shoulder, and he threw his arms around my waist and pulled me close. I felt his hot face against my chest and his body shaking and quivering with distress. And then I could tell from his expression that he wanted to say something. He’d already opened his mouth to make a sound but then thought better of it. It seemed he was only just able to contain the emotion out of consideration for me and the silence I’d become accustomed to. I sent him hugs and hearts, thumbs-ups, and cheerful emojis, and this seemed to lift his spirits for a moment. But then this gave way to a new state of mind. I could see it in his head as a protective wall around all positive thoughts that was being torn down. A horde of panic monsters came galloping into his head, and then I had no choice but to temporarily block him: I was only ten and couldn’t yet handle grown-up thoughts. That evening, my mother put
me to bed. She stroked my hair and sent me a fantasy adventure story. Officially, it was for sixteen and over; I knew this because a friend of mine had already forwarded it once. But I knew she’d done it to console me for what had happened to dad, so I said nothing and let myself be swept away by dragons and elf wars until I fell asleep.

0101010101

In the city, I was stopped by a drifter. He drew up close beside me, put his hand on my arm, and sent me his entire past within seconds: from unhappy love to alcoholism and financial troubles to eviction. I swallowed my aversion, blinked three times until I was at my bank account, logged in, and sent him ten euros.

‘Thank you,’ he said.

I took a step back. I suddenly had a better understanding of him than I’d been able to gain from the stream of images. I sent him a clock running backwards rapidly, an image of the implant, and a question mark. He slowly nodded and grinned.

‘Only three months ago,’ he said, pointing to his head with a look of perverse pleasure on his dirty face. I felt sick. I shook my head and waved my hands back and forth, signalling him to be quiet. I sent him an emoji with a zipper for a mouth. He began to laugh. When I tried to walk around him, he grabbed my upper arm and began to sing. ‘Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart / You’re shaking my confidence daily / Oh Cecilia, I’m down on my knees / I’m begging you please to come home!’ I shuddered, yanked myself from his grip, and let a torrent of flashing lights and uniformed figures descend upon him.

0101010101

Around midnight, I opened my second bottle of wine. Shuffling clumsily, highly satisfied with my inebriated condition, I walked back to the sofa and flopped down onto it, exhausted. I unzipped my fly and closed my eyes.

Whenever I felt like wallowing, I had two moments I could always fall back on: our wedding at the beach, the blessed silence only broken by the squawking of seagulls, the moment our hands were bound in a white velvet shawl; and a fragment from the Amsterdam Light Festival, when on the canal we paused at a rendering of Van Gogh’s Starry Night made of lights, how we embraced without a thought in our minds, just us and Van Gogh’s lights.

But when I was horny, I would always call up our night in London. I fast-forwarded past dinner and the theatre to several hours later in the hotel room. I pulled down her top from her shoulders and sucked her nipples. She tilted her head back. In the present, I grew hard, took my cock in my hand, and began to jerk off. She pulled my mouth towards her pussy, and I licked her until she tugged at my hair, signalling me to stop. In one fluid motion, I entered and began to fuck her. Lilith had a flush on her cheeks, and I could feel her hot breath in my ear. She rested her hands on my chest with a mischievous smile. I slipped out of her pussy, and she turned over on her hands and knees, guiding my cock towards her ass. This moment, or actually the moment immediately preceding it, the mischievous smile, was enough.

I came all over my half-bare stomach, my hand, the bottom of my shirt. I grabbed the bottle of wine with my sticky hand and lifted it to my mouth. When it was empty, I dropped the bottle beside me on the sofa. That was how I fell asleep.

0101010101

I’m just barely old enough to remember conversations. My parents at the table during Christmas, that’s the most enduring one. I was about six year old and knew a few words, though I rarely used them. Mom and dad already had the implant themselves – I’d gotten it when I was a baby: at three months was the average – but dad in particular had difficulties with it. Mom and he had been born around the turn of the century and had needed to unlearn speaking. As with everything you pick up in your youth, he felt speaking went without saying (!), that it was a sign of civility, one of the things that set humans apart from other living creatures. I still remember how at a Christmas dinner he sent me an image of three cavemen silently, sullenly gazing into a fire. I don’t believe I had much of an opinion on the matter. I could be perfectly content to eat and drink, observe, and listen to them; I think they felt it was fine I didn’t say anything. By the time I was ten, I no longer knew how to speak. My parents had stopped doing it themselves by that point. Dad became depressed. Once, I entered his study, and he was weeping at his desk, and I laid a hand on his shoulder, and he threw his arms around my waist and pulled me close. I felt his hot face against my chest and his body shaking and quivering with distress. And then I could tell from his expression that he wanted to say something. He’d already opened his mouth to make a sound but then thought better of it. It seemed he was only just able to contain the emotion out of consideration for me and the silence I’d become accustomed to. I sent him hugs and hearts, thumbs-ups, and cheerful emojis, and this seemed to lift his spirits for a moment. But then this gave way to a new state of mind. I could see it in his head as a protective wall around all positive thoughts that was being torn down. A horde of panic monsters came galloping into his head, and then I had no choice but to temporarily block him: I was only ten and couldn’t yet handle grown-up thoughts. That evening, my mother put
me to bed. She stroked my hair and sent me a fantasy adventure story. Officially, it was for sixteen and over; I knew this because a friend of mine had already forwarded it once. But I knew she’d done it to console me for what had happened to dad, so I said nothing and let myself be swept away by dragons and elf wars until I fell asleep.

0101010101

In the city, I was stopped by a drifter. He drew up close beside me, put his hand on my arm, and sent me his entire past within seconds: from unhappy love to alcoholism and financial troubles to eviction. I swallowed my aversion, blinked three times until I was at my bank account, logged in, and sent him ten euros.

‘Thank you,’ he said.

I took a step back. I suddenly had a better understanding of him than I’d been able to gain from the stream of images. I sent him a clock running backwards rapidly, an image of the implant, and a question mark. He slowly nodded and grinned.

‘Only three months ago,’ he said, pointing to his head with a look of perverse pleasure on his dirty face. I felt sick. I shook my head and waved my hands back and forth, signalling him to be quiet. I sent him an emoji with a zipper for a mouth. He began to laugh. When I tried to walk around him, he grabbed my upper arm and began to sing. ‘Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart / You’re shaking my confidence daily / Oh Cecilia, I’m down on my knees / I’m begging you please to come home!’ I shuddered, yanked myself from his grip, and let a torrent of flashing lights and uniformed figures descend upon him.

0101010101

Around midnight, I opened my second bottle of wine. Shuffling clumsily, highly satisfied with my inebriated condition, I walked back to the sofa and flopped down onto it, exhausted. I unzipped my fly and closed my eyes.

Whenever I felt like wallowing, I had two moments I could always fall back on: our wedding at the beach, the blessed silence only broken by the squawking of seagulls, the moment our hands were bound in a white velvet shawl; and a fragment from the Amsterdam Light Festival, when on the canal we paused at a rendering of Van Gogh’s Starry Night made of lights, how we embraced without a thought in our minds, just us and Van Gogh’s lights.

But when I was horny, I would always call up our night in London. I fast-forwarded past dinner and the theatre to several hours later in the hotel room. I pulled down her top from her shoulders and sucked her nipples. She tilted her head back. In the present, I grew hard, took my cock in my hand, and began to jerk off. She pulled my mouth towards her pussy, and I licked her until she tugged at my hair, signalling me to stop. In one fluid motion, I entered and began to fuck her. Lilith had a flush on her cheeks, and I could feel her hot breath in my ear. She rested her hands on my chest with a mischievous smile. I slipped out of her pussy, and she turned over on her hands and knees, guiding my cock towards her ass. This moment, or actually the moment immediately preceding it, the mischievous smile, was enough.

I came all over my half-bare stomach, my hand, the bottom of my shirt. I grabbed the bottle of wine with my sticky hand and lifted it to my mouth. When it was empty, I dropped the bottle beside me on the sofa. That was how I fell asleep.

0101010101

I’m just barely old enough to remember conversations. My parents at the table during Christmas, that’s the most enduring one. I was about six year old and knew a few words, though I rarely used them. Mom and dad already had the implant themselves – I’d gotten it when I was a baby: at three months was the average – but dad in particular had difficulties with it. Mom and he had been born around the turn of the century and had needed to unlearn speaking. As with everything you pick up in your youth, he felt speaking went without saying (!), that it was a sign of civility, one of the things that set humans apart from other living creatures. I still remember how at a Christmas dinner he sent me an image of three cavemen silently, sullenly gazing into a fire. I don’t believe I had much of an opinion on the matter. I could be perfectly content to eat and drink, observe, and listen to them; I think they felt it was fine I didn’t say anything. By the time I was ten, I no longer knew how to speak. My parents had stopped doing it themselves by that point. Dad became depressed. Once, I entered his study, and he was weeping at his desk, and I laid a hand on his shoulder, and he threw his arms around my waist and pulled me close. I felt his hot face against my chest and his body shaking and quivering with distress. And then I could tell from his expression that he wanted to say something. He’d already opened his mouth to make a sound but then thought better of it. It seemed he was only just able to contain the emotion out of consideration for me and the silence I’d become accustomed to. I sent him hugs and hearts, thumbs-ups, and cheerful emojis, and this seemed to lift his spirits for a moment. But then this gave way to a new state of mind. I could see it in his head as a protective wall around all positive thoughts that was being torn down. A horde of panic monsters came galloping into his head, and then I had no choice but to temporarily block him: I was only ten and couldn’t yet handle grown-up thoughts. That evening, my mother put
me to bed. She stroked my hair and sent me a fantasy adventure story. Officially, it was for sixteen and over; I knew this because a friend of mine had already forwarded it once. But I knew she’d done it to console me for what had happened to dad, so I said nothing and let myself be swept away by dragons and elf wars until I fell asleep.

0101010101

In the city, I was stopped by a drifter. He drew up close beside me, put his hand on my arm, and sent me his entire past within seconds: from unhappy love to alcoholism and financial troubles to eviction. I swallowed my aversion, blinked three times until I was at my bank account, logged in, and sent him ten euros.

‘Thank you,’ he said.

I took a step back. I suddenly had a better understanding of him than I’d been able to gain from the stream of images. I sent him a clock running backwards rapidly, an image of the implant, and a question mark. He slowly nodded and grinned.

‘Only three months ago,’ he said, pointing to his head with a look of perverse pleasure on his dirty face. I felt sick. I shook my head and waved my hands back and forth, signalling him to be quiet. I sent him an emoji with a zipper for a mouth. He began to laugh. When I tried to walk around him, he grabbed my upper arm and began to sing. ‘Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart / You’re shaking my confidence daily / Oh Cecilia, I’m down on my knees / I’m begging you please to come home!’ I shuddered, yanked myself from his grip, and let a torrent of flashing lights and uniformed figures descend upon him.

0101010101

Around midnight, I opened my second bottle of wine. Shuffling clumsily, highly satisfied with my inebriated condition, I walked back to the sofa and flopped down onto it, exhausted. I unzipped my fly and closed my eyes.

Whenever I felt like wallowing, I had two moments I could always fall back on: our wedding at the beach, the blessed silence only broken by the squawking of seagulls, the moment our hands were bound in a white velvet shawl; and a fragment from the Amsterdam Light Festival, when on the canal we paused at a rendering of Van Gogh’s Starry Night made of lights, how we embraced without a thought in our minds, just us and Van Gogh’s lights.

But when I was horny, I would always call up our night in London. I fast-forwarded past dinner and the theatre to several hours later in the hotel room. I pulled down her top from her shoulders and sucked her nipples. She tilted her head back. In the present, I grew hard, took my cock in my hand, and began to jerk off. She pulled my mouth towards her pussy, and I licked her until she tugged at my hair, signalling me to stop. In one fluid motion, I entered and began to fuck her. Lilith had a flush on her cheeks, and I could feel her hot breath in my ear. She rested her hands on my chest with a mischievous smile. I slipped out of her pussy, and she turned over on her hands and knees, guiding my cock towards her ass. This moment, or actually the moment immediately preceding it, the mischievous smile, was enough.

I came all over my half-bare stomach, my hand, the bottom of my shirt. I grabbed the bottle of wine with my sticky hand and lifted it to my mouth. When it was empty, I dropped the bottle beside me on the sofa. That was how I fell asleep.

0101010101

I’m just barely old enough to remember conversations. My parents at the table during Christmas, that’s the most enduring one. I was about six year old and knew a few words, though I rarely used them. Mom and dad already had the implant themselves – I’d gotten it when I was a baby: at three months was the average – but dad in particular had difficulties with it. Mom and he had been born around the turn of the century and had needed to unlearn speaking. As with everything you pick up in your youth, he felt speaking went without saying (!), that it was a sign of civility, one of the things that set humans apart from other living creatures. I still remember how at a Christmas dinner he sent me an image of three cavemen silently, sullenly gazing into a fire. I don’t believe I had much of an opinion on the matter. I could be perfectly content to eat and drink, observe, and listen to them; I think they felt it was fine I didn’t say anything. By the time I was ten, I no longer knew how to speak. My parents had stopped doing it themselves by that point. Dad became depressed. Once, I entered his study, and he was weeping at his desk, and I laid a hand on his shoulder, and he threw his arms around my waist and pulled me close. I felt his hot face against my chest and his body shaking and quivering with distress. And then I could tell from his expression that he wanted to say something. He’d already opened his mouth to make a sound but then thought better of it. It seemed he was only just able to contain the emotion out of consideration for me and the silence I’d become accustomed to. I sent him hugs and hearts, thumbs-ups, and cheerful emojis, and this seemed to lift his spirits for a moment. But then this gave way to a new state of mind. I could see it in his head as a protective wall around all positive thoughts that was being torn down. A horde of panic monsters came galloping into his head, and then I had no choice but to temporarily block him: I was only ten and couldn’t yet handle grown-up thoughts. That evening, my mother put
me to bed. She stroked my hair and sent me a fantasy adventure story. Officially, it was for sixteen and over; I knew this because a friend of mine had already forwarded it once. But I knew she’d done it to console me for what had happened to dad, so I said nothing and let myself be swept away by dragons and elf wars until I fell asleep.

0101010101

In the city, I was stopped by a drifter. He drew up close beside me, put his hand on my arm, and sent me his entire past within seconds: from unhappy love to alcoholism and financial troubles to eviction. I swallowed my aversion, blinked three times until I was at my bank account, logged in, and sent him ten euros.

‘Thank you,’ he said.

I took a step back. I suddenly had a better understanding of him than I’d been able to gain from the stream of images. I sent him a clock running backwards rapidly, an image of the implant, and a question mark. He slowly nodded and grinned.

‘Only three months ago,’ he said, pointing to his head with a look of perverse pleasure on his dirty face. I felt sick. I shook my head and waved my hands back and forth, signalling him to be quiet. I sent him an emoji with a zipper for a mouth. He began to laugh. When I tried to walk around him, he grabbed my upper arm and began to sing. ‘Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart / You’re shaking my confidence daily / Oh Cecilia, I’m down on my knees / I’m begging you please to come home!’ I shuddered, yanked myself from his grip, and let a torrent of flashing lights and uniformed figures descend upon him.

0101010101

Around midnight, I opened my second bottle of wine. Shuffling clumsily, highly satisfied with my inebriated condition, I walked back to the sofa and flopped down onto it, exhausted. I unzipped my fly and closed my eyes.

Whenever I felt like wallowing, I had two moments I could always fall back on: our wedding at the beach, the blessed silence only broken by the squawking of seagulls, the moment our hands were bound in a white velvet shawl; and a fragment from the Amsterdam Light Festival, when on the canal we paused at a rendering of Van Gogh’s Starry Night made of lights, how we embraced without a thought in our minds, just us and Van Gogh’s lights.

But when I was horny, I would always call up our night in London. I fast-forwarded past dinner and the theatre to several hours later in the hotel room. I pulled down her top from her shoulders and sucked her nipples. She tilted her head back. In the present, I grew hard, took my cock in my hand, and began to jerk off. She pulled my mouth towards her pussy, and I licked her until she tugged at my hair, signalling me to stop. In one fluid motion, I entered and began to fuck her. Lilith had a flush on her cheeks, and I could feel her hot breath in my ear. She rested her hands on my chest with a mischievous smile. I slipped out of her pussy, and she turned over on her hands and knees, guiding my cock towards her ass. This moment, or actually the moment immediately preceding it, the mischievous smile, was enough.

I came all over my half-bare stomach, my hand, the bottom of my shirt. I grabbed the bottle of wine with my sticky hand and lifted it to my mouth. When it was empty, I dropped the bottle beside me on the sofa. That was how I fell asleep.

0101010101

I’m just barely old enough to remember conversations. My parents at the table during Christmas, that’s the most enduring one. I was about six year old and knew a few words, though I rarely used them. Mom and dad already had the implant themselves – I’d gotten it when I was a baby: at three months was the average – but dad in particular had difficulties with it. Mom and he had been born around the turn of the century and had needed to unlearn speaking. As with everything you pick up in your youth, he felt speaking went without saying (!), that it was a sign of civility, one of the things that set humans apart from other living creatures. I still remember how at a Christmas dinner he sent me an image of three cavemen silently, sullenly gazing into a fire. I don’t believe I had much of an opinion on the matter. I could be perfectly content to eat and drink, observe, and listen to them; I think they felt it was fine I didn’t say anything. By the time I was ten, I no longer knew how to speak. My parents had stopped doing it themselves by that point. Dad became depressed. Once, I entered his study, and he was weeping at his desk, and I laid a hand on his shoulder, and he threw his arms around my waist and pulled me close. I felt his hot face against my chest and his body shaking and quivering with distress. And then I could tell from his expression that he wanted to say something. He’d already opened his mouth to make a sound but then thought better of it. It seemed he was only just able to contain the emotion out of consideration for me and the silence I’d become accustomed to. I sent him hugs and hearts, thumbs-ups, and cheerful emojis, and this seemed to lift his spirits for a moment. But then this gave way to a new state of mind. I could see it in his head as a protective wall around all positive thoughts that was being torn down. A horde of panic monsters came galloping into his head, and then I had no choice but to temporarily block him: I was only ten and couldn’t yet handle grown-up thoughts. That evening, my mother put
me to bed. She stroked my hair and sent me a fantasy adventure story. Officially, it was for sixteen and over; I knew this because a friend of mine had already forwarded it once. But I knew she’d done it to console me for what had happened to dad, so I said nothing and let myself be swept away by dragons and elf wars until I fell asleep.

0101010101

By the time I was ten, I no longer knew how to speak. My parents had stopped doing it themselves by that point.

By the time I was ten, I no longer knew how to speak. My parents had stopped doing it themselves by that point.

By the time I was ten, I no longer knew how to speak. My parents had stopped doing it themselves by that point.

By the time I was ten, I no longer knew how to speak. My parents had stopped doing it themselves by that point.

By the time I was ten, I no longer knew how to speak. My parents had stopped doing it themselves by that point.

Fifteen years ago, a bill was passed to require blocking in court as a general rule. The immediate cause for this, of all things, had been a divorce. The future former husband and wife had so vehemently and incessantly bombarded each other with horrors that the man suffered a brain haemorrhage and died on the spot.

The court where Lilith and I would officially part ways was a round white room. There was a round table of two meters in diameter in the middle, together with six chairs: one for the judge, the court clerk, Lilith, myself, and each of our legal representatives. Two headsets lay on a moveable round table. They resembled stunned insects made of metal. There were no windows. A dead end, was my first thought. 

My absence had done Lilith good. She didn’t look as elegant as in the summons, but she was pretty enough to affect me emotionally, no matter how I’d resolved to control myself. From the moment the judge arrived to the minute it took to ratify the agreement, I quietly sobbed. Tears brought on more tears. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye, afraid of their indifference, their contempt.

The moment arrived. The lawyers stood up, and each took one headset. I just couldn’t stop crying. My hand covered my eyes like a bowl. My body felt old and overheated. I wasn’t ready for this. I couldn’t bear it. I didn’t want it all to disappear. All the good things, all the shitty things; I wanted to hold onto them. I turned towards Lilith, who was still perfectly sensitive to my gaze: she turned her head towards me, and I could see her trying to stay calm, which was something she’d always been very good at, keeping calm in difficult situations, so different from me in that respect, and she realised what I was about to do, a look of panic in her eyes, and she looked towards the judge, but he was keeping a close eye on the lawyers.

‘Li-u,’ I muttered. ‘Li.’

No, she messaged. A monolithic big black no. A NO as enormous and repellent as the construction encircling the city.

The metal insects were placed on our heads. I felt a stinger softly puncture my temple: delicate and laser-like, almost impossibly fine, like the threads reality is made of.

0101010101

I got up from my sofa, walked to the refrigerator, and grabbed something to drink. When I sat down, I was sent three messages. The first was a bank statement: the court had charged a fine without any further specification. The second was from Harris, the lawyer: a fine for speaking in court. The third was an invitation, a looping video of people dancing under coloured lights and a stroboscope, with thumping music, drinks, and couples kissing on sofas by the walls. Plus date, plus location, plus coordinates, plus dress code, plus gift idea.

I was met with a hug at the door. Someone handed me a cold Desperado. It was still early, and no one was dancing. People were sipping at their drinks and looking around uneasily: a singles party. The building was two blocks away from the city border. From a panoramic window, I could see the concrete blocks the wall was made of. Each and every time, I was taken aback by its gigantic proportions. Though what frightened me even more was the thought of what lay behind the wall. One day as a child, I’d accidentally intercepted images from my parents that showed a glistening black desert. The glistening black was melted glass and metal, and the petrified bones of millions of humans and animals. Mom saw me listening in and quickly blocked me, but dad was slower, and I picked up something else from him: an image of himself with bulging eyes and hands around his throat as the wall came moving towards him. And then receded. And then came towards him again.

An hour later, I felt myself loosening up a bit. The music had been turned up, and one or two had gotten on the dancefloor and soon were joined by more and more people. I walked around the dancefloor, Desperado number three buzzing in my brain, when I saw her. She looked bored. The wine in her glass looked like rosé, but it turned out to be white: it just seemed so because of how the lights shone upon it. I nodded and smiled at her, made a recording of the moment of my error, and forwarded it to her. She raised the glass up to her eyes, as if she’d forgotten what was in it, but held it at an angle, spilling a little wine down her hand and wrist. Right away, she was on it with her mouth, licking the wine from her hand, but then tipped the glass to the other side, causing its contents to spill all over the floor between our feet. With her tongue still out, she looked down from the glass at the wine she’d spilled, then up at me. We both had to laugh and sent each other crying laughter emojis; a picture of an ornamental frame; the shutter sound of a photo camera not heard on earth for a long time. I accidentally sent her an image of the two of us embracing, our wine-stained lips seeking, finding, ceaselessly finding each other. She turned her face away with a smile, but I could see she was flattered.

I sent her my name. She looked at me for a protracted moment, causing a fluttering in my stomach. Her eyes were of the deepest blue and spoke to me in a way that didn’t require language. She sent me her name. I nodded appreciatively, like an idiot.

At the darkest, most private hour of night, in a time and place as secret as the world has to offer, I will say her name.

Lilith.

Fifteen years ago, a bill was passed to require blocking in court as a general rule. The immediate cause for this, of all things, had been a divorce. The future former husband and wife had so vehemently and incessantly bombarded each other with horrors that the man suffered a brain haemorrhage and died on the spot.

The court where Lilith and I would officially part ways was a round white room. There was a round table of two meters in diameter in the middle, together with six chairs: one for the judge, the court clerk, Lilith, myself, and each of our legal representatives. Two headsets lay on a moveable round table. They resembled stunned insects made of metal. There were no windows. A dead end, was my first thought. 

My absence had done Lilith good. She didn’t look as elegant as in the summons, but she was pretty enough to affect me emotionally, no matter how I’d resolved to control myself. From the moment the judge arrived to the minute it took to ratify the agreement, I quietly sobbed. Tears brought on more tears. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye, afraid of their indifference, their contempt.

The moment arrived. The lawyers stood up, and each took one headset. I just couldn’t stop crying. My hand covered my eyes like a bowl. My body felt old and overheated. I wasn’t ready for this. I couldn’t bear it. I didn’t want it all to disappear. All the good things, all the shitty things; I wanted to hold onto them. I turned towards Lilith, who was still perfectly sensitive to my gaze: she turned her head towards me, and I could see her trying to stay calm, which was something she’d always been very good at, keeping calm in difficult situations, so different from me in that respect, and she realised what I was about to do, a look of panic in her eyes, and she looked towards the judge, but he was keeping a close eye on the lawyers.

‘Li-u,’ I muttered. ‘Li.’

No, she messaged. A monolithic big black no. A NO as enormous and repellent as the construction encircling the city.

The metal insects were placed on our heads. I felt a stinger softly puncture my temple: delicate and laser-like, almost impossibly fine, like the threads reality is made of.

0101010101

I got up from my sofa, walked to the refrigerator, and grabbed something to drink. When I sat down, I was sent three messages. The first was a bank statement: the court had charged a fine without any further specification. The second was from Harris, the lawyer: a fine for speaking in court. The third was an invitation, a looping video of people dancing under coloured lights and a stroboscope, with thumping music, drinks, and couples kissing on sofas by the walls. Plus date, plus location, plus coordinates, plus dress code, plus gift idea.

I was met with a hug at the door. Someone handed me a cold Desperado. It was still early, and no one was dancing. People were sipping at their drinks and looking around uneasily: a singles party. The building was two blocks away from the city border. From a panoramic window, I could see the concrete blocks the wall was made of. Each and every time, I was taken aback by its gigantic proportions. Though what frightened me even more was the thought of what lay behind the wall. One day as a child, I’d accidentally intercepted images from my parents that showed a glistening black desert. The glistening black was melted glass and metal, and the petrified bones of millions of humans and animals. Mom saw me listening in and quickly blocked me, but dad was slower, and I picked up something else from him: an image of himself with bulging eyes and hands around his throat as the wall came moving towards him. And then receded. And then came towards him again.

An hour later, I felt myself loosening up a bit. The music had been turned up, and one or two had gotten on the dancefloor and soon were joined by more and more people. I walked around the dancefloor, Desperado number three buzzing in my brain, when I saw her. She looked bored. The wine in her glass looked like rosé, but it turned out to be white: it just seemed so because of how the lights shone upon it. I nodded and smiled at her, made a recording of the moment of my error, and forwarded it to her. She raised the glass up to her eyes, as if she’d forgotten what was in it, but held it at an angle, spilling a little wine down her hand and wrist. Right away, she was on it with her mouth, licking the wine from her hand, but then tipped the glass to the other side, causing its contents to spill all over the floor between our feet. With her tongue still out, she looked down from the glass at the wine she’d spilled, then up at me. We both had to laugh and sent each other crying laughter emojis; a picture of an ornamental frame; the shutter sound of a photo camera not heard on earth for a long time. I accidentally sent her an image of the two of us embracing, our wine-stained lips seeking, finding, ceaselessly finding each other. She turned her face away with a smile, but I could see she was flattered.

I sent her my name. She looked at me for a protracted moment, causing a fluttering in my stomach. Her eyes were of the deepest blue and spoke to me in a way that didn’t require language. She sent me her name. I nodded appreciatively, like an idiot.

At the darkest, most private hour of night, in a time and place as secret as the world has to offer, I will say her name.

Lilith.

Fifteen years ago, a bill was passed to require blocking in court as a general rule. The immediate cause for this, of all things, had been a divorce. The future former husband and wife had so vehemently and incessantly bombarded each other with horrors that the man suffered a brain haemorrhage and died on the spot.

The court where Lilith and I would officially part ways was a round white room. There was a round table of two meters in diameter in the middle, together with six chairs: one for the judge, the court clerk, Lilith, myself, and each of our legal representatives. Two headsets lay on a moveable round table. They resembled stunned insects made of metal. There were no windows. A dead end, was my first thought. 

My absence had done Lilith good. She didn’t look as elegant as in the summons, but she was pretty enough to affect me emotionally, no matter how I’d resolved to control myself. From the moment the judge arrived to the minute it took to ratify the agreement, I quietly sobbed. Tears brought on more tears. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye, afraid of their indifference, their contempt.

The moment arrived. The lawyers stood up, and each took one headset. I just couldn’t stop crying. My hand covered my eyes like a bowl. My body felt old and overheated. I wasn’t ready for this. I couldn’t bear it. I didn’t want it all to disappear. All the good things, all the shitty things; I wanted to hold onto them. I turned towards Lilith, who was still perfectly sensitive to my gaze: she turned her head towards me, and I could see her trying to stay calm, which was something she’d always been very good at, keeping calm in difficult situations, so different from me in that respect, and she realised what I was about to do, a look of panic in her eyes, and she looked towards the judge, but he was keeping a close eye on the lawyers.

‘Li-u,’ I muttered. ‘Li.’

No, she messaged. A monolithic big black no. A NO as enormous and repellent as the construction encircling the city.

The metal insects were placed on our heads. I felt a stinger softly puncture my temple: delicate and laser-like, almost impossibly fine, like the threads reality is made of.

0101010101

I got up from my sofa, walked to the refrigerator, and grabbed something to drink. When I sat down, I was sent three messages. The first was a bank statement: the court had charged a fine without any further specification. The second was from Harris, the lawyer: a fine for speaking in court. The third was an invitation, a looping video of people dancing under coloured lights and a stroboscope, with thumping music, drinks, and couples kissing on sofas by the walls. Plus date, plus location, plus coordinates, plus dress code, plus gift idea.

I was met with a hug at the door. Someone handed me a cold Desperado. It was still early, and no one was dancing. People were sipping at their drinks and looking around uneasily: a singles party. The building was two blocks away from the city border. From a panoramic window, I could see the concrete blocks the wall was made of. Each and every time, I was taken aback by its gigantic proportions. Though what frightened me even more was the thought of what lay behind the wall. One day as a child, I’d accidentally intercepted images from my parents that showed a glistening black desert. The glistening black was melted glass and metal, and the petrified bones of millions of humans and animals. Mom saw me listening in and quickly blocked me, but dad was slower, and I picked up something else from him: an image of himself with bulging eyes and hands around his throat as the wall came moving towards him. And then receded. And then came towards him again.

An hour later, I felt myself loosening up a bit. The music had been turned up, and one or two had gotten on the dancefloor and soon were joined by more and more people. I walked around the dancefloor, Desperado number three buzzing in my brain, when I saw her. She looked bored. The wine in her glass looked like rosé, but it turned out to be white: it just seemed so because of how the lights shone upon it. I nodded and smiled at her, made a recording of the moment of my error, and forwarded it to her. She raised the glass up to her eyes, as if she’d forgotten what was in it, but held it at an angle, spilling a little wine down her hand and wrist. Right away, she was on it with her mouth, licking the wine from her hand, but then tipped the glass to the other side, causing its contents to spill all over the floor between our feet. With her tongue still out, she looked down from the glass at the wine she’d spilled, then up at me. We both had to laugh and sent each other crying laughter emojis; a picture of an ornamental frame; the shutter sound of a photo camera not heard on earth for a long time. I accidentally sent her an image of the two of us embracing, our wine-stained lips seeking, finding, ceaselessly finding each other. She turned her face away with a smile, but I could see she was flattered.

I sent her my name. She looked at me for a protracted moment, causing a fluttering in my stomach. Her eyes were of the deepest blue and spoke to me in a way that didn’t require language. She sent me her name. I nodded appreciatively, like an idiot.

At the darkest, most private hour of night, in a time and place as secret as the world has to offer, I will say her name.

Lilith.

Fifteen years ago, a bill was passed to require blocking in court as a general rule. The immediate cause for this, of all things, had been a divorce. The future former husband and wife had so vehemently and incessantly bombarded each other with horrors that the man suffered a brain haemorrhage and died on the spot.

The court where Lilith and I would officially part ways was a round white room. There was a round table of two meters in diameter in the middle, together with six chairs: one for the judge, the court clerk, Lilith, myself, and each of our legal representatives. Two headsets lay on a moveable round table. They resembled stunned insects made of metal. There were no windows. A dead end, was my first thought. 

My absence had done Lilith good. She didn’t look as elegant as in the summons, but she was pretty enough to affect me emotionally, no matter how I’d resolved to control myself. From the moment the judge arrived to the minute it took to ratify the agreement, I quietly sobbed. Tears brought on more tears. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye, afraid of their indifference, their contempt.

The moment arrived. The lawyers stood up, and each took one headset. I just couldn’t stop crying. My hand covered my eyes like a bowl. My body felt old and overheated. I wasn’t ready for this. I couldn’t bear it. I didn’t want it all to disappear. All the good things, all the shitty things; I wanted to hold onto them. I turned towards Lilith, who was still perfectly sensitive to my gaze: she turned her head towards me, and I could see her trying to stay calm, which was something she’d always been very good at, keeping calm in difficult situations, so different from me in that respect, and she realised what I was about to do, a look of panic in her eyes, and she looked towards the judge, but he was keeping a close eye on the lawyers.

‘Li-u,’ I muttered. ‘Li.’

No, she messaged. A monolithic big black no. A NO as enormous and repellent as the construction encircling the city.

The metal insects were placed on our heads. I felt a stinger softly puncture my temple: delicate and laser-like, almost impossibly fine, like the threads reality is made of.

0101010101

I got up from my sofa, walked to the refrigerator, and grabbed something to drink. When I sat down, I was sent three messages. The first was a bank statement: the court had charged a fine without any further specification. The second was from Harris, the lawyer: a fine for speaking in court. The third was an invitation, a looping video of people dancing under coloured lights and a stroboscope, with thumping music, drinks, and couples kissing on sofas by the walls. Plus date, plus location, plus coordinates, plus dress code, plus gift idea.

I was met with a hug at the door. Someone handed me a cold Desperado. It was still early, and no one was dancing. People were sipping at their drinks and looking around uneasily: a singles party. The building was two blocks away from the city border. From a panoramic window, I could see the concrete blocks the wall was made of. Each and every time, I was taken aback by its gigantic proportions. Though what frightened me even more was the thought of what lay behind the wall. One day as a child, I’d accidentally intercepted images from my parents that showed a glistening black desert. The glistening black was melted glass and metal, and the petrified bones of millions of humans and animals. Mom saw me listening in and quickly blocked me, but dad was slower, and I picked up something else from him: an image of himself with bulging eyes and hands around his throat as the wall came moving towards him. And then receded. And then came towards him again.

An hour later, I felt myself loosening up a bit. The music had been turned up, and one or two had gotten on the dancefloor and soon were joined by more and more people. I walked around the dancefloor, Desperado number three buzzing in my brain, when I saw her. She looked bored. The wine in her glass looked like rosé, but it turned out to be white: it just seemed so because of how the lights shone upon it. I nodded and smiled at her, made a recording of the moment of my error, and forwarded it to her. She raised the glass up to her eyes, as if she’d forgotten what was in it, but held it at an angle, spilling a little wine down her hand and wrist. Right away, she was on it with her mouth, licking the wine from her hand, but then tipped the glass to the other side, causing its contents to spill all over the floor between our feet. With her tongue still out, she looked down from the glass at the wine she’d spilled, then up at me. We both had to laugh and sent each other crying laughter emojis; a picture of an ornamental frame; the shutter sound of a photo camera not heard on earth for a long time. I accidentally sent her an image of the two of us embracing, our wine-stained lips seeking, finding, ceaselessly finding each other. She turned her face away with a smile, but I could see she was flattered.

I sent her my name. She looked at me for a protracted moment, causing a fluttering in my stomach. Her eyes were of the deepest blue and spoke to me in a way that didn’t require language. She sent me her name. I nodded appreciatively, like an idiot.

At the darkest, most private hour of night, in a time and place as secret as the world has to offer, I will say her name.

Lilith.

Fifteen years ago, a bill was passed to require blocking in court as a general rule. The immediate cause for this, of all things, had been a divorce. The future former husband and wife had so vehemently and incessantly bombarded each other with horrors that the man suffered a brain haemorrhage and died on the spot.

The court where Lilith and I would officially part ways was a round white room. There was a round table of two meters in diameter in the middle, together with six chairs: one for the judge, the court clerk, Lilith, myself, and each of our legal representatives. Two headsets lay on a moveable round table. They resembled stunned insects made of metal. There were no windows. A dead end, was my first thought. 

My absence had done Lilith good. She didn’t look as elegant as in the summons, but she was pretty enough to affect me emotionally, no matter how I’d resolved to control myself. From the moment the judge arrived to the minute it took to ratify the agreement, I quietly sobbed. Tears brought on more tears. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye, afraid of their indifference, their contempt.

The moment arrived. The lawyers stood up, and each took one headset. I just couldn’t stop crying. My hand covered my eyes like a bowl. My body felt old and overheated. I wasn’t ready for this. I couldn’t bear it. I didn’t want it all to disappear. All the good things, all the shitty things; I wanted to hold onto them. I turned towards Lilith, who was still perfectly sensitive to my gaze: she turned her head towards me, and I could see her trying to stay calm, which was something she’d always been very good at, keeping calm in difficult situations, so different from me in that respect, and she realised what I was about to do, a look of panic in her eyes, and she looked towards the judge, but he was keeping a close eye on the lawyers.

‘Li-u,’ I muttered. ‘Li.’

No, she messaged. A monolithic big black no. A NO as enormous and repellent as the construction encircling the city.

The metal insects were placed on our heads. I felt a stinger softly puncture my temple: delicate and laser-like, almost impossibly fine, like the threads reality is made of.

0101010101

I got up from my sofa, walked to the refrigerator, and grabbed something to drink. When I sat down, I was sent three messages. The first was a bank statement: the court had charged a fine without any further specification. The second was from Harris, the lawyer: a fine for speaking in court. The third was an invitation, a looping video of people dancing under coloured lights and a stroboscope, with thumping music, drinks, and couples kissing on sofas by the walls. Plus date, plus location, plus coordinates, plus dress code, plus gift idea.

I was met with a hug at the door. Someone handed me a cold Desperado. It was still early, and no one was dancing. People were sipping at their drinks and looking around uneasily: a singles party. The building was two blocks away from the city border. From a panoramic window, I could see the concrete blocks the wall was made of. Each and every time, I was taken aback by its gigantic proportions. Though what frightened me even more was the thought of what lay behind the wall. One day as a child, I’d accidentally intercepted images from my parents that showed a glistening black desert. The glistening black was melted glass and metal, and the petrified bones of millions of humans and animals. Mom saw me listening in and quickly blocked me, but dad was slower, and I picked up something else from him: an image of himself with bulging eyes and hands around his throat as the wall came moving towards him. And then receded. And then came towards him again.

An hour later, I felt myself loosening up a bit. The music had been turned up, and one or two had gotten on the dancefloor and soon were joined by more and more people. I walked around the dancefloor, Desperado number three buzzing in my brain, when I saw her. She looked bored. The wine in her glass looked like rosé, but it turned out to be white: it just seemed so because of how the lights shone upon it. I nodded and smiled at her, made a recording of the moment of my error, and forwarded it to her. She raised the glass up to her eyes, as if she’d forgotten what was in it, but held it at an angle, spilling a little wine down her hand and wrist. Right away, she was on it with her mouth, licking the wine from her hand, but then tipped the glass to the other side, causing its contents to spill all over the floor between our feet. With her tongue still out, she looked down from the glass at the wine she’d spilled, then up at me. We both had to laugh and sent each other crying laughter emojis; a picture of an ornamental frame; the shutter sound of a photo camera not heard on earth for a long time. I accidentally sent her an image of the two of us embracing, our wine-stained lips seeking, finding, ceaselessly finding each other. She turned her face away with a smile, but I could see she was flattered.

I sent her my name. She looked at me for a protracted moment, causing a fluttering in my stomach. Her eyes were of the deepest blue and spoke to me in a way that didn’t require language. She sent me her name. I nodded appreciatively, like an idiot.

At the darkest, most private hour of night, in a time and place as secret as the world has to offer, I will say her name.

Lilith.

Bertram-Koeleman

BERTRAM KOELEMAN 

Bertram Koeleman (1979) is a bookseller and writer. He debuted in 2013 with the novel De huisvriend, which was on the shortlist of the Anton Wachter Prize for best debut. His short story collection Engels voor leugens came out in 2016, and was nominated for the J.M.A. Biesheuvel Prize for best short stories.

His most recent novel Het wikkelhart was published in April 2018 to universal acclaim.

Photo: Jelmer de Haas

 

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 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.

© Lebowski Publishers  |  Amsterdam



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

© 2019 Simone Atangana Bekono, Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Joost Devriesere, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Gina Hay, Bertram Koeleman, Roderick Leeuwenhart, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele 

© TRANSLATIONS Anne Chadwick Wendrich, Jai van Essen,
Paul Evans, Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Suzanne Jansen, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2019 Simone Atangana Bekono, Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Joost Devriesere, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Gina Hay, Bertram Koeleman, Roderick Leeuwenhart, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Anne Chadwick Wendrich, Jai van Essen, Paul Evans, Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Suzanne Jansen, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2019 Simone Atangana Bekono, Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Joost Devriesere, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Gina Hay, Bertram Koeleman, Roderick Leeuwenhart, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Anne Chadwick Wendrich, Jai van Essen, Paul Evans, Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Suzanne Jansen, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2018 Simone Atangana Bekono, Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Joost Devriesere, Rob van Essen,
Jerry Goossens, Gina Hay, Bertram Koeleman, Roderick Leeuwenhart, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras,
Joost Vandecasteele


© TRANSLATIONS Anne Chadwick Wendrich, Jai van Essen, Paul Evans, Antoinette Fawcett,
Kristen Gehrman, Suzanne Jansen, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2018 Simone Atangana Bekono, Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Joost Devriesere, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Gina Hay, Bertram Koeleman, Roderick Leeuwenhart, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Anne Chadwick Wendrich,
Jai van Essen, Paul Evans, Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Suzanne Jansen, 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