About The Science Fictional Grotesque

The Science Fictional Grotesque

SCI-Arc Instructor – Claire Phillips

Spring Semester 2011 – Student Works

In response to readings and film ranging from 19th century gothic horror to 80s body horror and present day “new weird”, students are asked to perform a number of short informal exercises and longer formal works. For the first formal writing assignment students are asked to create a work in which a “grotesque object” gives rise in some way to a “grotesque interval,” a gap in perception shared by the object and the perceiver. For the second, students are then evaluated on their use of an experimental writing strategy.  This might include non-linear narrative, pastiche, substitution, formal constraints, or any number of poetic devices. For this writing assignment students translate the inorganic — a rendering, model or work of architecture — into the organic. In order to qualify as grotesque, formal boundaries and categories are to blurred or infected. A special emphasis is placed on excess.

Blog Coordinator – Julian Brummitt

Below are full story listings, for short exerpts, click “Excerpts” on the left


Erin Lani – Force This Evolution

The ground quakes and quivers as it gains on the panicking prey. Below the surface, the resonating tempo of an animal running, paws furiously beating the ground, obviously hindered by a lame limb. They salivate: An amalgamate swarm of indigenous moles and manipulated DNA.

Hardened mud bursts like a new stream swallowing territory in a used and forgotten landscape. This subterranean topography populated has been turned and wasted by the ravenous experiment. The animal’s skin absorbs and digests the soil it swims in, the rocks it no longer circumvents, and the roots that scent their world sweeter than sugar which have disappeared in its relentless hunger. Everything is theirs and this animal is no different – the delight of the hunt runs fluid through its body – extremities squeeze viscid mucus from sebaceous and sudoriferous glands moisturizing thousands of mouths on every facial node in motion – mouths leading to absorbent membranes digest life and vomit death.

Mucus projects from the first facial glands above the surface, the searing pain of sunlight on its skin restricts glands and orchestrates the first movement in a perfect symphony of torturous death. Every drop landing on the hind legs of the frightened animal provokes primitive cries of agony. Skin exposed from below its protective fur, bright red and steaming in the wind as mucus spreads, burrowing into exercising muscles exposing the bone to chilled air. Marrow seeps from the quickly aerated bone, flying from hysterical limbs wetting its many lips with the taste of basic life, an amusing tease for the ferocious beast.

A cry is heard and a loud bang succeeded by three more, rings out. The beast quivers in carnal ecstasy as pain masochistically coincides with the crescendo of the hunt. Mouths wrap themselves around an exposed paw as the animal tumbles in defeat – one limb liquefied, absorbed and savored from the hip still in motion. The prey turns to ravage the repulsive accumulation of an experiment gone wrong, and to some more invested, an experiment gone right. The prey snarls and screams, gums deteriorating with every attempt to free its dismembered torso from the thousands of quivering mouths, sucking the warm mass, instantaneously digesting it. From the moment the prey’s heart no longer beats and its neck no longer turns to save itself, the thrill is over and the meal becomes dessert. The brain with the texture of a mushroom, squishy and warm, seasoned by life’s homeostatic perfection is savored in orgasmic slow motion: ecstasy.


Zachary Teixeira – Hornet Legs

Even the impossible thinness of the hornet’s legs are too much for her powdery skin to withstand anymore.  The first needley limb that pierces her flimsy outer layer starts an avalanche of her once-supple flesh cascading.  The bug can’t be blamed for trying, none of them can, the delicate overgrowth that covers her is an irresistible buffet to them.  They don’t even see her there behind the green, which was what she feared when she first sensed the overgrowth starting to cover her.

But it was so gentle, so pleading in its attempts to be with her, that she did not resist, and it now obscures every inch of her grey skin. Its jealous tendons tricked her, drained her of even the final drop of wet between her layers, hurrying her demise and making her skin so fragile the wind could almost shatter it.  The hole left by the onslaught of the tiny bug is nothing new or extraordinary, letting another careless shard of light cut through her insides on the slow cold march towards nothing.

The spreading blank stiffness had been the first undeniable sign, when she could no longer lie her way out of the anxiety.  Patches here and there where dry turned to itch turned to burn turned to blank.  Once dead, the skin transmitted nothing to her anymore, which was both a relief and a horror.  Creeping in from all sides at once toward the center, the searing pain as skin slumped from warped joints was the only indicator of death’s rambling progress.

It had set in upon her the first day that no one came back.  She felt hungry, the wet cool fluids stopped filling and stretching her skin.  The warm rush of clean new air that welcomed each morning didn’t come, and she slowly slumped towards the ground.  The tingling constriction around her joints, where her bulging flesh usually pressed, melted away slowly.  She couldn’t fight the morning’s cold or midday’s bright heat.  Exhaustion and loneliness led her mute into the slow decay she barely had the energy to even acknowledge anymore.

Instead she floated somewhere between unconscioussness and the buoyant spring of her youth.  She had loved to suck all of them in, their hands stroking the oily slick of her insides, the reliable hush as they were confronted with the pulsating frothiness of her endless cavities.  The dizzy lull of her whispering pierced by the rolling tolling of their satisfied anticipations.  The noise and color of everyday was something she never took for granted, and now gave her some place to rest her mind now that it was gone.

The first day they came, she’ll admit, it was nerve wracking.  To have all those seething, sweaty people pressing into her, against her, seemingly trying to tear her flesh off her bones. She screamed in pain, but to them it was an inaudible whisper.  Once she realized they’d never stop, she got used to it, to enjoy it, even to crave it.  Now she missed it.  When they stopped coming, her skin itched and ached for them.  Itched for their touches, and caresses.  The tender and curious way first-timers would reach out at her skin with a shaking, timid finger and slowly let it press into her flesh.  Only one time, just once in all those years had someone gone too far and actually injured her.  She could still see the brute, a teenage boy of course showing off for his friends.  He had something dangerous in his pocket, she knew that almost right away, but she assumed he wouldn’t.  But she knew she was wrong when she felt that blade rip into her skin.  Since it had never happened before, she didn’t even know at first that it hurt, but when the sensation sunk in, her whole body writhed against it.

She thought about death enough back then, who didn’t, but not morbidly.  She pictured herself, whenever her time came, a fluttering, shimmering, clearly aged yet still beautiful version of herself.  Wisened, slightly hardened perhaps, but stuffed full on a life a joy.   Ready, she saw her irridescent flesh pressing harder against the tethers that bound her to earth.  They would snap and slide away one by one as she flounced at first into her flight. Up she would go with everyone watching, cheering, as she slowly faded into the blinding white of the upper atmosphere, her soul slipping out of its shell finally as the vacuum of space sucked out her insides.  Her deepest disappointment, maybe, was to have been robbed of this scene.  Instead, she had been left to whimper into oblivion unwatched, uncelebrated, forgotten even by herself.


Zachary Teixeira – Horsehead Nebula

Bud initiates the space program and engages the holographic feature on his Lenticulax IFD for the first time. Images of the Horsehead Nebula shimmer and peel out of the screen. He groans delightedly. The wispy nebula cloud emanates in waves around him, and he can actually feel it on his skin. He’s inside now, the rough fibers of the recliner are the feeling of his physical world to recede. He floats through the brilliant nebula, then towards a nearby star approaching nova.

The light suddenly shifts. It burns so bright Bud can barely see his hands. The screen pulls at him violently, and air rushes past him into the screen. He tries to access the interface commands but nothing responds, his hands grope for the sides of the screen but he can grasp nothing. He screams, but like in space no sound comes out.

Louder than anything he has ever heard, the word explodes through his mind: COME. Without hesitation he screams yes with his whole body, but again no sound. But that’s okay, his acceptance is communicated. We initiate transference on specimen 00.00.00.01.10.

The skin of Bud’s fingertips, nose, cheeks, forehead begin to split and melt. He feels a numbing burn as his human body whithers into hot gel. Part of him still feels intact though, almost like a bubble, freeing itself of the molten flesh. This bubble gets buoyed by the rushing air, squeezes through the threshold of the screen, and flutters into the grid.


Julian Brummitt – Lawnmower

For Hubert, in this static state he had adopted for the past few hours there was one thing he was certain of, that the next thing he did would start a continuing series of events that would lead to an outcome which had been preordained according to this next move.

For several hours, he had stood planted on the kitchen counter where she had left him a note pinned to the new vacuum cleaner he had purchased for her birthday.  It read quite simply “No thank you.  Unlovingly,  – Diane”.  Hubert had held the note in his hand for several minutes, wondering of its intent before he turned it over.  On the other side read a similar, yet more precise message:  “In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m leaving you Hubert, this is your clue.”

He had discovered it at approximately 8,654 seconds ago and was beginning to lose count, or at least in the very least he had grown unsure of his accuracy in counting seconds.  His thoughts were beginning to drift again.

The clock now read 10:32, and he had been awaiting her return for one hour and 16 minutes longer than he felt he should, and the longer he waited for her, the more he gained a sense that this was not some silly sort of a trick being played upon him, that she actually might not be coming back.  Hubert did not like this sense, and in the 8,654 seconds he had been awaiting her return he had searched deep within his fishbowl head for some rationale for his current state of affairs.  The only thing that came up was a personal groan, one intended specifically for himself, but not intentionally produced.

He began to take note of his place.  Being a man of a practical nature, Hubert found it fortunate that she had chosen to leave the note in the kitchen.  The kitchen had given Hubert a full view of the neighborhood performing thier activities from the point where Hubert, the vacuum cleaner, and the note had been fixed for this unfortunately long period of time.  Hubert watched his peers as they went about their duties as good, useful citizens; positive influences on society to which he could look to for support and advice.  Happy, content people that aliens might even select as proper specimens to start a new world.

At that moment, as had been happening for at least 14 minutes now, Charles with the curled mustache who lived across the street was mowing his lawn, as he and many others did on Saturdays.  Charles had a lawnmower which he could proudly sit upon and drink lemonade as he went about his monthly lawn chores.  Charleston always seemed to have managed the American dream quite well.  He knew how to do things in style, and there was a certain je ne sais quoi about him that gave a particularity to kind of person he was.  Even the way he could swing from Charles to Charleston made it seem as if he had a superior knowledge of matters of style and fashionable living. Old man Bob, though he was not currently mowing his lawn at this precise interval, was a man true to his period and he had a very rare machine, an old push blade lawn mower with counter rotating blades that chewed through the fiber of his lawn with the tenacity and precision of a surgeon hard at work.  Zero carbon output and it seemed to do a fair job of keeping the old man in shape.  Now that was a machine to be reconed with.   Jarrod across the street hired a service to keep the lawn for him.  On Saturdays, you could see him too, working on what appeared to be important stuff from his office as the Dave’s 17-year old son Steven passed by the window, lawn mower in tow.  Even Steve, at the young age of 17 seemed quite the entrepreneur.  He mowed lawns for at least a dozen others in the neighborhood and now drove a rather new truck.  Just seventeen years old and he seemed to have it all together.

Hubert retracted his gaze from Steven as Steve, bareback and muscular and exchanged gazes with Jarrod’s post pubescent beauty queen daughter.  She was growing into a fine creature, one who would always be far beyond his own reaches.  Hubert never had and never would taste the fruits of a beautiful woman, and it was this last tidbit that forced Hubert’s gaze away from the goings on of the neighborhood in which he lived, back into the solace of his own home.

Finally having gained the clairity of thought that his next task would require, Hubert turned his gaze toward his own lawnmower.  Indeed, therein lye an answer to his problems.  Huberts mower had no style.  As a reflection of who he was, it failed miserably.  It was an orange electrical device.  In past days, Hubert had run over its cord while stumbling through the lawn with the weightless machine.  It now had 5 places in the cord where it had been reattached.  Hubert though about those 5 times in which the machine was entangled by it’s own extensions.  Those 5 times in which the overall flaw of the design brought the machine to a screeching halt and it brought him to absolute misery, misery which a great inventor cannot afford.  See a problem, offer a solution; that was Hubert’s motto.  And it just so happened that at this juncture, that lawn mower was creating all kinds of problems.  It was time for Hubert to make his next move.  The seconds were waning down and the sun was lofting higher and higher in the sky.  It was important to get started before noon.

 It was a simple step, laying the note back down on the counter and lifting his right foot from the ground.  The simplest of actions led by an impulsive urge.  Hubert followed a crack in the doorway through which light shone heavily.  The door leading to his garage never opened completely.  It was like a beacon light guiding him to the harbor and he followed it and across the cord that belonged to the vacuum cleaner, finally coming to rest and bringing the left foot off the ground as well.  A venture had begun.  The next step had been taken and what was to come after had been led by an unavoidable instinct, he had little choice, simply instinct, his wits about him and blind trust.

Before crossing the gateway to the garage Hubert stopped short and turned around.  His eyes fell on the cord, that thing that threatened to trip him, for just one last laugh.  He wouldn’t have it, not right now, not in this mood.  His arm reached into the garage, that place of his own where things were left exactly where he planned and grabbed his shears; just to the inside of the wall beyond the light switch and set them upon the cord, cutting it off before it could get to him.  Hubert rolled the cord up and went into the garage.

Inside the garage was an array of machines.  Parts that he tinkered with or took from things to put to other uses.  Hubert had quite the collection of things, things that spoke of him, of his own particular assets.  He glanced around and took a look at his own lawnmower, not that junky electric turd that Diane had purchased for him, claiming it was “environmental”, during her do-gooder phase, but the Lawn Boy mower.  Hubert purchased it several years ago from a garage sale.  It was a bang for his buck at the time, a 4-clyinder internal combustion 6.5 horsepower engine with manual pull crank, 6 speed throttle control and adjustable height variation.  It was a great purchase, something he could be proud to own, but soon after, the mower would reveal to him that it had suffered a bit of neglect.  Neglect that Diane did not wish Hubert to pay for.  Its neglect had continued on the basis that mowing a lawn had never been all that important to Hubert.  He had other responsibilities.  Responsibilities which now seemed far less important, and relieved by one less mouth to feed.  Hubert decided it was time to take care of his own needs.

He set about to the back yard with the electrical cord in hand, returning shortly with a sheep in tow, electrical cord wrapped around its neck.  The creature was so docile, such a simple creature it seemed almost domesticated, like a dog for a minute.  It took guidance so well Hubert believed the task would require minimal restraint, perhaps a bit of coaxing, like trying to bed with Dianne, a task which required restraint, until the task was in process.  Hubert hoisted the sheep up onto a table and untied the cord from its neck. then wrapped it around the feet so as to prevent it from getting up and walking away.

The problem with the sheep was that its mouth was too small and too slow.  Perhaps not even necessary if one could perform the necessary task of mulching the feed for the animal.  With the sheep on the table and restrained, Hubert set the knife to the mouth of the sheep and pressed into it.  Piercing the knife into the cheek of the sheep produced thick pulse of dark red.  The contrast of red to white produced a discernable line across the neck of the sheep.  He thought of her lipstick, that line where the edge of the lipstick clarifies an immediate transition between membrane tissue and epidermis.  The docile behavior of the sheep came to an abrupt halt as the sheep kicked in response to it.  It squealed and squirmed, knocking over a can of nails and smearing blood all over the table.  Splashing some across Hubert’s cheek.  Hubert found the wrathing and turning of the sheep a plausible concern with the work he was about to perform.  He had not expected such resistance from such a docile little creature, but it was reasonable that this would continue throughout the operation.  He decided further restraint would be necessary.  Perhaps if he knocked the sheep out, that alone would be restraint enough, but the question came to mind, how hard do you hit a sheep to knock it out?  And with what device.  He had a hammer, but it seemed plausible that the sudden impact of the hard metal might fracture the skull, or rupture it to a point which might take months to repair.  Perhaps a rubber mallet might do better, but the same risks were involved.  Was it even possible, do sheep get knocked out?  The more Hubert thought about it, the more difficult the answer seemed to be.  He didn’t want it dead, the sheep would have to remain alive.  This task would require further restraint.  So he went about it.

There was an old crate in the garage which seemed just about perfect for the job, perhaps a bit smaller than he would like, but that would simply mean a tighter fit.  He knocked the sidewall panels out of the crate and opened the framing so as to fit the sheep inside.  Legs through the bottom, head through the front and sides bulging out of the left and right.  As Hubert closed the framing on the sheep, the true smallness of the framing came into play, compressing the ribcage of the sheep.  There was about 3.5 inches of gap between the claming latch at the top of the frame and it’s closing device, as he pressed against the body of the sheep with the framing he though about how it might limit the lung capacity of the animal and it occured to him as a happy accident, one of those design flaws that improves the design of the thing.  If the sheep couldn’t breathe quite as well, it would tire more easily and exhibit less refusal.

Reaching into an old closet for some more rope to hold the sheep’s head firmly in place, Hubert noticed the blood on his hands.  When handling the crate it didn’t matter, the crate was an old dusty tool, but on the closet door, this wouldn’t do.  He couldn’t have random misplaced splotches of red scattered throughout the garage.    He turned to the sheep and began inspecting it for some sort of leakage pattern examining it’s fibers for absorbency, thinking perhaps they would act as another happy accident, but, as he had suspected, their absorbency factor was not great enough.  Here the sheep had bled through all the absorbency its fur had to offer with a simple cut to the cheek.  The fur made it difficult to see muscle composition as well.  The fur would have to go, and the liquid would have to drain into a pan from a smooth surface.  The hair of the animal was an obstacle if nothing else, so he set about to the bathroom to begin shaving the fur.  Zero advantage to fur he thought.  Again, she came to his thoughts.  Diane would know what to do with it.  She was a woman and she could turn the wool into a blanket or something.  Maybe he would keep it just in case, in the end maybe he could fill an old pillowcase with it and offer it to the sheep so that it might have a comfortable place to rest.  He left to the bathroom.

Hubert returned with an electric buzzer and a single blade safety razor.  The buzzer made short work of the sheep.  In a mere 486 seconds he had shaved off 99% of the wool, finding that he didn’t really need the single blade safety razor at all.  The musculature of the sheep was plain as day without its fur the sheep was a veritable diagram to its own internal structures.  It was so thin it appeared emaciated.  This disappointed Hubert as he had sought out the biggest of the herd specifically because he wanted a strong animal.  No matter, this was the best his herd had to offer, he would proceed.

Breaking the jaw of the sheep seemed like it would be resolved with a simple lever slid into the mouth and turned sideways, however the sheep turned its head with the lever.  He turned the lever clockwise from a 3 o’clock position all the way to 10 before the neck would turn no more.  He lurched onto the lever, turning it a bit further before achieving no results.  He couldn’t tell if the neck would break first or if it would be the jaw, so he resolved to breaking the jaw with a chisel and hammer.  He had avoided this as it would naturally cause the sheep to bleed to some degree and blood loss was not only messy, but it also had risks and was not cosmetically pleasing.  However a broken neck just would not do.

Hubert went to his tool drawer and pulled out an old rag, a 2lb chisel with a 2” blade and an 8 lb sledge hammer.   He brought them to the sheep and wrapped the rag around the sheep’s mouth.  Placing the tip of the chisel to the lower right side of the sheep’s jaw, he reached for the hammer.  Feeling the weight of the hammer, a sudden sense of preparedness came about him.  There was something about the forceful impact of hammer to chisel through rag, skin, and bone that came into his own senses.  He could feel the weight of the impact, the suddenness of it.  And braced himself for it, balancing the hammer in it’s hand and performing the initial bounces that one makes prior to impact when they want to complete a task in just one swing.  It is a sort of blind aiming process mixed with a bracing for impact.  It’s an aiming to readiness, aiming for a relief of empathy, aiming for determination; the sort of determination that Hubert had always been lacking.  He closed his eyes, thought of Diane for an instant.

The sheep squealed, producing a noise not unlike that of a bird’s squalk.  Its body writhed, stressing the members of it’s tiny prison, tensing the rope that held it’s head in place.  It’s face grew an expression and it’s eyes had widened, expressing a desperate kind of fear that went beyond panic.  Hubert watched as the crate torque slightly and the ropes that held the sheep in place tensioned and he grew a smile of satisfaction; proud of the sturdiness of his contraption.  Now that he had gone halfway, there was no turning back.  He reached toward the sheep to pet it lightly on the head, but the sheep had lost all of it’s former obedience and familiarity with Hubert.  Forcefully, he examined the left side of the jaw and found that the break on the right had disfigured the jaw so that he should be able to bend it out without the need for another break.  Reaching into the front of the jaw he tucked his index and middle finger behind the lower front teeth and under the tongue with his thumb pressed hard under the chin.  With his other hand he placed his palm over the nose and his thumbs and fingers just under the upper row of teeth.  With a powerful jerk the jaw popped open entirely so that it could now be folded backwards and tied against the neck of the sheep.  To fold it back entirely required two incisions, one which had been made earlier on the left cheek, and another on the opposite cheek.  Using the knife again, Hubert performed the two incisions and tied the jaw up against the neck.

With the throat fully exposed, Hubert noticed that he would need to slowly widen the passage.  He would need several pieces of PVC pipe to shove down the cavity to keep it open.  This would make for a chute in which to feed mulch to the sheep.  Over time the cavity would expand and be replaced with ever wider chutes, and as he used the sheep the size of the stomach would expand too.  Hubert felt strong promise in his newest device.  He had watched a video in the past which illustrated the use of fistula on a cow.  He thought of how he might be able to put this to use as an overflow hole while the stomach was in the process of expanding.

The next task was to attach the motor of the lawnmower to the sheep’s back, like a saddle.  This was very easily done with a few straps using the motor mounts from the lawnmower.  The blade was to go underneath the neck and chest of the sheep, requiring an extension arm leading from the motor, around the body of the sheep.  For this he used the sleeve and drive of a plumbing router which was plugged into a mounting bracket holding attached to the body of the dismembered lawnmower.  The sheep would essentially push the body of the lawnmower in the direction it needed to go.

After about an hour of tinkering with connections, changing fluids on the motor and lubricating parts which might create friction, Hubert was ready for a test run.  He brought this latest invention to his front yard; ready to test it out.  He had planned it well and his expectations were great.  The clock read 1:56 and although it was later than he had wanted, it wasn’t too late to involve himself in neighborhood rituals, 2 o’clock was a fine time to mow his own lawn.  He opened the garage door and guided the machine to the front yard.  A quick pull of the starter and device was up and running.  Everything had gone as planned except for one stupid simple thing.  The sheep did not know what to do or where to go.  It just stood there, gazing.  This was not the cooperative sheep he had expected.  Hubert felt he had gone through a lot of trouble to improve upon the mower, to improve the sheep and it’s lack of cooperation served only to anger him.  He nudged the sheep a few times, then he tried pulling it, pushed it, and thought to offer it food, but looking at the yard and his tall grass, the thought to himself that there was probably enough food already around it, so that wouldn’t do much good.  After staring at it a while, he yelled at it, which attracted the attention of his neighbors.

From across the street Jarrod’s daughter let out a shriek.  Perhaps she had become an expert window gazer in her years of enticing Steve’s gazes and staring the neighborhood down through her glass frame.  The sound generated a turn in the neck of Old Man Bob who never minded turning his glance her way.  His eyes traced her long skinny finger along her thin smooth arm to her shoulder and up her delicate supple neck to a wide vibrating gap of white teeth and pulpy pink membrane tissue which released from it a perceptible E minor chord.  His eyes forced his head to follow her gaze, and her voice to Hubert, across the road, yelling at a sheep in his front yard.  His eyes quickly returned to her lips, still vibrating, now with laughter.  She had a way of doing that, of making precedence for her laughter with violent shrieks.  She always found Hubert to be a laughable sort of fellow, but the sight of him yelling at a sheep in the front yard seemed to her simply hysterical.

Hubert would have lamb chops from an aged lamb that day and for weeks thereafter.  Failure is a dish best kept to one’s self.  Being a rather silent man, he returned to his previous state, that static stated he had released himself from earlier in the morning, and from this state, he thought of his next move.


Batliner Curime – Extensions // 2.0

Rattling, beeping, creaking, rustling noise of overlaying, interfering frequencies .. go go! The gate is open. “Zeros” dash through a maze of connections, and classes, in the search for the correct receptor. “Ones” on the hunt, an interplay of combinatorics. To the top, to the bottom, from the front to the back, they sort information in prospect for the match. Points get connected to lines, combined to form surfaces, building volumes emerging to objects, results of a higher logic, extensions of the human brain. Written down in numbers, thought in combinations, the elements “zero” and “one” transform to something that goes beyond.

By magical hand, emerging out of fantasies following rules of physics and mathematics, it forms a short clanking sound. Once just an idea, written scratched, programmed, it has found the connection, its partners ready for exchange.

Silently including the history of human evolution two simple numbers “one” and “zero” dance a choreography, forming a mystical matrix, which translates directly into our ears. Filling us with vibrations from within, it forces us to think … online!

Light fills the scene, touches our eyes. What formerly just was a shadow in our imaginations, codified, recorded, draws its figures into the room. Lines annex to surfaces, surfaces shape volumes, volumes evolve to objects. At first only abstractions, they dominate with their presence. Stone, flat, hard, cold contains the dust, penetrates our skin, sets the mood, shapes our mind.

Reflections and brightness raise the attention, divide the visible, laminate the silence A buzz cuts the picture. In the foreground, leaderless movement strokes the eye, but for the patient it unfolds what is behind — “ones” and “zeros” playing their game – choreography coy, playful, jokingly, precise.

Hundreds, even thousands in number, squeezed and aligned. An array of instances marching towards light and heat. Once released, under heat and pressure they form in small droplets. Pressed on steel, they draw paths, sketches of a diabolic plan.  Burning smell fills the space, clouds form themselves, harbingers of a new future.  What was once a part of a whole is now a serving, an ingredient of an organic formula, mixed in our minds, thought in our extensions, executed according a higher logic.


Keely Colcleugh – Goblin

Sulking in the corner. A flaccid belly angry in anticipation. Gathering, heaping, sifting and grinding at all this pillowing decay, she cuts loose. The stale old filth under this bed is soon sucked up with the rest of the rot. My old lady is never satisfied. Gathering speed, and with spasmodic binges, she just grows fatter.

Wailing and shrieking along a frantic route her brittle skeleton and turgid bladder dance together in a cloud of electrostatic rapture. Chattering teeth crunch the floor along their drunken path. With her great spread mouth and iron lips raked prized are sucked up through a narrowing lined in ancient crust. She begins to howl with delight.

The old gluttonous actress purges, then carries on. Tendrils of matted fiber, dried paste of yesterday’s suppers. All are devoured in rasps and scrapes licking at every remote crevasse and fissure, probing the dark dank depths of domestic space in ceaseless rotation. Her tired heart trolls on licking up the flakes and knots and leaving behind perfectly a swabbed and tidy abyss. For now.

With each turn of the wheel a growing void replaces the tasty soft traces of time.


Betsy Cole – Bound By Truth

She couldn’t remember exactly how long it had taken her to get to this industrial wasteland, only that it seemed a million miles from the bustling streets she left to come here. A blindingly bright forest of dirty white stucco overwhelmed any sense of direction. She struggled through the deafening silence in search of a truck engine, a voice, a birdcall. Nothing. Only a breeze, a soft sound she clung to gratefully as it sent a torn brown page of newspaper across her path. Looking up: not a cloud in the harsh Los Angeles sky. Looking down: dusty concrete, accumulated trash piles, desperate patches of grassy weeds fighting for space along the cracked pavement. The warehouses were closed up. Whatever mysteries lay dormant behind massive rolling doors would remain intact. Fantasies of lush gardens or priceless art gave way to the realistic imagery of rotting boxes filled with useless marketing material, tasteless clothing, cheap furniture, used tires. The place she sought was barely a memory, her data missing, it might not even exist, but she had to find out. Searching for clues, she peered into windows long since painted black, and read the remnants of homemade signs married to wooden electrical posts by staple gun.

A quick boom rang through the air within blocks of her. A gunshot? A backfire? A door slamming? Maybe this was the clue she was searching for. Proof that something, not nothing, lurked within this forgotten acreage. Careful to muffle the sound of her gentle steps, she proceeded, distrustingly glancing around each corner, fearing any perception of her would halt the movement she hoped to find. Find what though? She strained her memory. A slight glance to the street sign above her; Mission Street, a symbolic encouragement. Yes, a mission. Bits and pieces would return to her, their relevance to the mission unknown. Screams. Darkness. Secrets. Shame. Protection.

GUDDUSH. Another loud bang, this one multi-tonal. A door re-opening? Or, God forbid, re-closing? She had to find it. The noise was so jarring it felt as if the resonance continued to sound for minutes after its inception. She followed this feeling, sure it was leading her. Creeping along the sidewalk, hugging the sliver of harsh shadow along the building facades, she stopped. A cigarette butt, still burning, dropped just outside a gate, locked of course. Peeking through the widely spaced iron bars, the door beyond had been left open just a crack. Her slender body gracefully slid between the bars and through the door as if no one had ever been there. Inside, the darkness was thick, her retinas still burnt from the harsh mid-day sun. Her feet climbed cool concrete stairs as her eyes adjusted. A dim glowing shone from double doors at the landing, perceiving no signs of surveillance, she confidently and foolishly stepped through the doors into an open factory floor. Her body froze, her heart lurched, her eyes widened.

The rats. So many rats. Swarming, screeching passionately, devouring something. Bodies. Human bodies. Their heads covered to the neck, their gloved hands splayed out on the dirty floor. Their otherwise naked bodies laid out in obsessive grid-like perfection, equal spacing, straight lines, on black rubber tarps protecting the hard ground below them, and attached at four corners to wires dripping from a mechanical apparatus on the ceiling. Uniformed guards walked the aisles of corpses, overseeing the work. Her repulsion overwhelmed her and her stomach convulsed without warning as her disobedient throat seized in desperation. She was sure they would hear her fear, her panic. Suddenly aware her eyes were shut, she opened them, not wanting to, as she slowly backed toward the wall, her delicate hand searching for unseen obstacles behind her. The guards had not yet noticed her, she could still escape this orgy of death. But then something caught her attention and that of the guard’s simultaneously. One of the bodies; it moved. Not the swarming emergent movement of rodent competition, but a larger, slower, graceful movement. The body was alive.

She had heard of this in the old research journals. The restorative power of their saliva, but it was too horrible to imagine continuing the research. To subject oneself to the damage, the pain, the disgrace. They were abominations. Resurrected through the mutant rats, long abandoned by the military unit that had once occupied these massive architectures. The victims would be revived, yes. But mangled, disfigured, covered in the wounds of the vermin’s gnarled yellow teeth, permanent reminders of the revolting event which had transpired. Born anew, but a decrepit life, back from the dead, a shell of former self, disoriented, confused, vaguely aware of what it had been through, struggling to remember why it had been subjected to such terror.

Horrified realization swept over her contorted face, her mind raced. She screamed. The guards finally saw her and rushed her. She struggled weakly as they held her in place. She watched, captivated, as the ceiling mechanism engaged loudly and slowly, and raised the newly awake body up vertically, away from the rats, on its nightmarish sling. The guard overseeing the resurrection used his apparatus, a thin pole with a narrow net, to brush the remaining animals off the bleeding body onto the floor where they feverishly scurried to join the nearest feast. The body was erected, gloves and hood removed, and led past its peers to a brightly lit room behind a thick steel door.

No one had spoken to her, and after her scream, she had not uttered a sound. Her detainees felt no need for explanation as they tied her hands and placed her in a small holding cell, just off the factory floor, handcuffed to a cot, she waited. The images of the pain on the man’s shocked face as his hood was removed would not leave her eyesight. She felt as if he were still standing in front of her, begging her with his eyes for help, for an explanation. Time crawled in this room, her head felt swollen and her body icy cold. She longed for the calm bright day that she knew was just outside these horrific walls, but doubted she would ever see it again.

She heard footsteps at the door, her fear was mediated by the relief of something happening, anything, as long as she was not left alone with the images any longer. The guard that entered quietly closed the door behind him and unlocked her from the cot. Clutching her thin arm, he raised her up and led her out the door. Her heart raced, what was he planning for her? The rats? But she was still alive. An interrogation? What did they want to know? Torture? For trespassing? Panicked, she bolted. Back the other direction, past the holding cell door, left down a hall, then a right, a random door chosen in desperation. She stood upright, stiff and terrified in a dark corner, hoping her adrenaline had sufficed to outrun him, completely unaware of any next possible move. A full minute passed, the door opened slowly, a sliver of light fell directly onto her position past his silhouetted figure. He was calm, not surprised to find her there, as if it was the agreed meeting spot.

He closed the door and flicked on a dim light. He looked at her. He knew her. She couldn’t grasp why. She couldn’t remember how she had found this room among many, perhaps once used for questioning, but now littered with storage boxes and used wool military blankets. Or why her skin suddenly felt alive, itching, crawling. The guard’s gaze slowly moved down her body, as she had had men do before, devouring her with their desire without her permission. She followed his eyes and looked down at herself, her long sleeves had risen in her struggles and a multitude of recently healed tiny scars peeked out, reaching toward her fragile wrists. He spoke, “I knew you’d come back, you promised. No one knows it was me, who released you. You didn’t remember me when I did, but I knew you would eventually, and that you would return. It was the only way for you to be free.”

She looked in paralyzed shock at her scars as she remembered the rats. She couldn’t see them, but she could feel them, tearing her flesh. Taking her body. She couldn’t fathom it. The atrocity, it couldn’t be real. Her eyes glazed as the realization that she had been here before, with him, came over her. She was the one who had suggested it, they had planned it together. Freedom through death, through the sick resurrection. They had been in this room before, their passion fueled their insane plan, which had gone without a hitch. This poor soul, this wretched man who had allowed this to happen still looked at her with desire, undeterred by the process her body had endured, enlivened by her return. She was horrified, disgusted. He grabbed her, held her, began his familiar work of enjoying her. She must have loved it once, relished in it, what could she do now? Her hands still bound, she felt her whole body was bound, her whole life, her past, her future. Bound.


Ruben Alejandre – Wasteland

Gabino awoke; he rolled over in his bed and stared at the amber lights of his alarm clock blink in the dark. It was 3:55 AM. He no longer bothered to set his alarm. His body was programmed already (after years of following the same routine) to wake up at the same time, every night. He sat up in bed wrapped in layers of warm cotton blankets. Right away the cold started creeping in, first at his feet when they made contact with the cold wooden floor planks. He slid his bare feet around in the darkness trying to find shelter from the cold in his shoes, the moment he felt the tips of the shoe tops he slid his feet in to much relief.
Now he slowly pushed back the layers of bed sheets that were wrapped around him, almost like a bird unfurling his wings before taking flight. The cold swept in immediately and he felt it on every inch of his body. He got up and stretched his hands into the air while yawning and for just a moment he stood tall and full of dignity but slowly he shrunk back to his hunched back self.

Gabino now shuffled across to the other end of the room were he placed his hand on the concrete wall, the surface was painted a semi gloss white, so it was smooth but he could still feel the texture of the concrete as he slid his hand up searching for the light switch. When he brushed it on, the fluorescent light tubes above him flickered on violently, with spasms of light until they settled into a dim glow with a low humming sound. He squinted as his pupils adjusted to the light.

With the lights on you now got a better idea of what his living area looked like. It was one room about 10’ x 20’, rectangular. His bed was located up against one of the longer walls, to the left of it was a short counter and stove that served as his kitchen area. On the other end of the room across from his kitchen was a small bathroom and in the middle of the whole room was a desk. The rest of the space was filled with piles of blue prints, maps, schematics, and journals.

This day of all days was a special one in particular. He was very excited, the night before he had run across the parts he had been looking for to complete his wings. How amazing those wings will be he thought to himself. Surely they will be my escape from the darkness but after so many years he should not rush it. “Patience Gabino, patience, patience” he mumbled to himself as he hobbled over to his desk. On it were several items, on the upper left corner was an old National Geographic Issue, and the magazine was pressed open to an article on the albatross. Gabino was amazed by birds and his dream was to one day get to see an actual one in person but for now he just had to settle for the countless magazines, books and videos that he was able to collect on them. Right in front of him were two sets of blue prints one showed an axonometric of a flush head screw, the other print had all the technical data like head height, diameter and so on. He put on his bifocals and examined the prints then he grabbed a pencil from a small tin can on the upper right corner of the desk. He lifted it up so that the tip of it was right in front of his pudgy nose slowly he rotated the pencil and frowning with disapproval he sharpened the point until it was just right.

After spending some time making minor adjustments on the prints he heard his alarm clock start to buzz. As he looked over he saw it flashing 8:00 AM on its screen. He stopped what he was doing and moved towards the kitchen area, there he had several water bottles all placed in a neat row each one numbered, he picked up number 6, he twisted the cap off and clasping the water bottle with both hands he mustered up enough strength to lift it up to his mouth and press it up against his dry and blistered lips. Even drinking water was a painful ordeal for Gabino because his stomach was deteriorating at a quicker pace everyday due to starvation. But this was not because of any lack of food, Gabino was deliberately starving himself, after all how else was he going to be light enough to be able to fly? It’s a well-known fact that birds have a hollow skeletal structure and thus are much lighter, so in order to match them in lightness he had to shed weight in any way that he could.

After fidgeting with the prints some more he finally decided it was time to head down to the shop. He rolled up the prints and slid them under his arm, and then stepping outside his room into the hallway he realized that things were no longer as easy as before, now in his old age eight stairs felt more like a descent along a steep cliff. But he made it down stairs with no incident. At the bottom of the stairs he ran his left hand along the wall and flipped on two light switches. The Lights sprang on in rows all along the shop ceiling, 1,2,3,4,5…. the lights started coming on exposing the vast machine shop that was filled with every kind of apparatus, machine, and tool you could imagine.

He shuffled towards a large oak table on the far end of the room; and put down the prints at the edge of the table, behind where his wings, they were suspended on an elaborate system of ropes and pulleys. Each wing spanned about 5 feet; Gabino had spent 30 years perfecting his wing design. The right and left wing had an even amount of feathers, 3,500 each to be exact. Each contour feather, down feather, and semi plume feather was carefully hand crafted from paper-thin titanium sheets. The feathers were meticulously welded to a tubular titanium frame that formed the structure for the wing. Gabino’s work with metal was truly a work of art, the welds on the titanium tubes that connected each feather looked like frozen drops of mercury glistening in the light. Gabino took great pride in his craftmaship, treating each of the 7,000 feathers like delicate gems. He put on lint-free gloves every time he handled any of them because even the chlorine from the perspiration on his hands could cause localized corrosion on the weld spots.

Gabino was ready to add the final touch to complete the construction. The harness that would connect both wings and attach them to his back was missing the screws that would tie everything together. He had spent years trying to find the perfect size fastener and finally last night while scavenging in the wasteland he came across an old computer tower and stripped it of the parts he needed. Like a surgeon preparing to operate Gabino picked up his shop apron and looped the top over his head, it slung around his neck, he then wrapped the cords around his thin waist several times before using up all the slack and tying the loose ends in a small knot. He already had a metal cart set up with all his tools next to the wing harness; all he needed now were the screws. He picked up a small pack of cigarettes in the middle of the large oak table and scuffled back to the metal cart, pushed the top back with his thumbs and emptied the contents from the box onto a small red rag that was unfolded on the tray, out tumbled out the tiny screws.

He worked for hours and hours only pausing to drink water whenever his alarm would go off. When he finally finished he stepped back and looked admiringly at the wings but only for a minute for there was much work to be done and very little time to do it in, he did not know how much longer his body could hold out in the state he was in. He must check the weight now he thought, Gabino took off his apron and stripped every article of clothing that he had so that by the time he was done he was standing there naked in front of the wings, at this point anyone that could see him would be taken aback by how thin and frail he truly was. The skin stretched across every bone and tendon of his body, very little muscle mass remained, he was a walking corpse. Gabino stepped underneath the harness and slid each hand in between the harness straps. He tightened them across his chest and when he felt that everything was securely fastened he released the wings from the pulleys that held them in the air, the wings were light, very light, even for his frail body. Behind him was a scale so he stepped back onto it and tilted his head down to read the weight. There was a look of disgust and disappointment as he realized that he was still over the weight limit. The night’s success had been tainted by this minor failure but he would not let it discourage him.

He went back upstairs to do some more research on how he could solve this dilemma. He started reading through his books on birds and bird anatomy. Hmm this is interesting he thought as he read thru one passage “birds unlike humans have no teeth, they have evolved beaks which are more light weight” Gabino had no time to wait on evolution he thought, god knows how long that will take me. He put the book down and shuffled over to his small bathroom at the other end of the room. He almost didn’t recognize himself as he gazed into the mirror. His eyes were sunken in deep into his eye sockets, his cheekbones seemed to almost break the surface of the skin and his long beard was coarse and grey. He opened his mouth wide and prodded it around with his index finger, inspecting the few remaining molars and incisors he had left. They weren’t that many he thought but every ounce counts. Gabino decided the best tool would be a chisel, but since he no longer had the strength in his arms to swing the small lead mallet against the butt of the chisel he devised a plan. In his shop was a large machine called a flat-roller, it was made up of two large rectangular slabs of steel, each about the size of a park bench. One slab stayed in place and did not move, the other slab move back and forth over and over again parallel to the first one. In between the two large slabs was a small adjustable gap, you would place a metal rod that needed straightening in it and as one slab moved, the rod would be caught in between them compressed and rolled straight.

Gabino’s intention was to sit down next to the machine and position his head in the path of the moving block of steel so that as it moved towards his face it would strike the butt of the chisel and chip out the teeth. He was very excited he thought this was an excellent plan! He scuffled around collecting the tools that he needed around the shop. Chisel, soldering iron to cauterize the wound, rags, and a first aid kit. He brought it all over and placed it on a metal tray that he set on the floor next to the machine. He then turned the machine on and watched the block move back and forth, Gabino calculated the exact spot that he needed to be in order to be in the path of the moving block.

He turned the machine back off and sat down on the spot he had marked, He picked up the chisel, lifted it up towards his mouth and positioned it in front of the right row of teeth along his bottom jaw. He could feel the sharp steel blade digging into his gums just beneath the tooth, then without hesitation he turned the machine on. The massive block of metal moved away from his face at first in the opposite direction for a couple of inches than it stopped and with a small jolt it headed back towards him. The block made contact with the butt of the chisel just as planned, the sharp blade ripped through his gums and sheared away all the teeth on his right side, unfortunately for Gabino it also pushed the chisel straight through his cheek, piercing the skin and sending his head flying back as it also struck him in the face. All he saw was darkness.

Gabino did not know how long he had been unconscious for, when he awoke in a pool of blood and teeth on the cold concrete floor. As he tried to move his mouth he realized that the chisel was still embedded in it, he pulled it out and tossed it on the floor, then rolled over to avoid being hit by the swinging slab once more, since the machine was still running. He sat up and propped himself against the wall. His head was spinning and as he looked down he noticed that blood was trickling from his mouth. Gabino spit out two teeth that were still swimming around in his mouth, he stuck his index and middle finger in his mouth to lift the flap of cheek that was dangling and with a small mirror he inspected the damage. It was a mangled mess of flesh and exposed bone. At this point he didn’t know if it was shock but he had forgotten about the pain it was just a faint pulsing now that got stronger and weaker at different moments. His main worry was the bleeding so he proceeded to seal the wound with the soldering iron. Once the bleeding stopped inside his mouth, he stitched up the 4” slash left on his cheek by the chisel.

Several hours later Gabino now lied in bed staring at the ceiling his face bruised up, and his left eye swollen shut. His right cheek was puffed up mainly from the inflammation but also from all the cotton he had stuffed in his mouth to soak up the blood. He had to fly now regardless of the consequences, the longer he postponed the more he could feel his life slipping away from him. He sat up in bed and looked over the space that had been his home for so many years. Gabino steadied himself up from bed; it took a lot of effort just to stand up, his feet trembling beneath him.

He hobbled over to the hallway and shut the room door behind him, clinging to the railing he descended to the machine shop. He went through the usual routine of stripping every article of clothing, then he walked over to the wings, every step was agonizing. He got beneath the wings and slipped his hands through each of the harnesses. He ran the leather straps across his chest and securely fastened them. Tightening them just enough to pressure his upper torso slightly. He triggered the release for the pulleys that held up the wings and gradually the full weight of the wings descended on his body. He had to squat a bit in order to keep his balance at first but he eventually stretched his hands out to the sides and gripped the control mechanisms for both wings. Once he had a firm grasp on the controls he pulled them towards his chest and the wings followed the motion of his hands, wrapping around his body so that he appeared to have a metallic cloak over him.

The shop had an old lighthouse attached to it. He had access to it from a service tunnel that ran along the back. It was 95 feet high with a spiral staircase running along its interior walls. It was the ideal take off point. A rickety elevator transported Gabino to the top. Once at the top of the light tower he walked towards the edge of the platform. The wind was very strong at this altitude so he knelt down to avoid the gusts of wind that could knock him over before he was ready. He looked out into the vast wasteland, nothing but darkness deep and consuming, not another living soul in sight. It felt like he had been in limbo for an eternity, punished for some forgotten sin. But it would all be over soon thought Gabino to himself, as he squatted at the edge of the platform his silhouette in the dark looked like that of an owl perched in a tree top. His bare feet were numb from the cold and his naked body shivered beneath his metallic cloak.

He stood up once more, straightened his back and shook his hands a bit to un-ruffle the feathers on the wings. Then he closed his eyes, whispered some inaudible sound and stepped off the ledge.


Fabian Hutter – The Embedded Alien

[English translated version]
How did you end up here?
The yawning mouth wide open, no dread of neighbors, you have made yourself comfortable in the corner.
Stretched limbs, crowded your heavy mass. Cotton soft, you seem to be formed by exterior forces.
With projecting eyes, pupils continuous and clear, you hold contact with the outside world.
Contemptuous is your look towards your neighbors, these rectilinear inferiors of time.
Can you hear them? You don’t seem to care.
The pores widely scattered, distributed over your patterned garb, they give you air to breathe.
Arise, where you came from, the minds of the maniacs!