100 Days And Nights 1000 Years Ago

Rapidly written micro fictions accompanied by medieval motives found or created in the wayward course of researching a new novel about the dark ages—a part of the 100 Days 2011 project.

Headlines for the death of a garden in fall. The subterranean voices of spiders. The tragic musical of the year’s last butterfly dance. Married toads who pretend to be pretty frogs, because frogs have the fancier love life. The size of the mosquito-breeding swamps behind the house. What would the bugs do without our blood. What would god do without our endless complaining. And the flowers: do they care if we’re looking? Of course they do. At the bottom of a slimy pond lives an immortal asthmatic fish, who knows all about the end of the world and when it’ll come. He won’t tell anyone though. He’s full of hope himself: in his dimly lit mind, angelic trout let a ladder down into the water. They care about him and make sure that he climbs the heavenly ladder to freedom and safety while behind him firestorms rage through the bright night. He’s never wondered how he’d breathe out of the water or how he’d climb the ladder without feet. Details of his miraculous liberation are of little concern to a being that is privy to the grand plan of creation and destruction. The fish stretches his fins with glee. He feels the approach of a season: another year of waiting is over. The last butterfly stops flapping. The spiders are having a late breakfast on yesterday’s bug fest. I make the necessary blood sacrifice to the giant mosquitos and I wonder where my ichor will flow today. The toad has given up his disguise—it’s easier to survive the winter as yourself. 

#100/100 days 2011. Illustration: The Heavenly Ladder, from a 12th century Klimax manuscript. Published as “Winter Garden" in A Baker’s Dozen.

Posted at 12:14pm.

Headlines for the death of a garden in fall. The subterranean voices of spiders. The tragic musical of the year’s last butterfly dance. Married toads who pretend to be pretty frogs, because frogs have the fancier love life. The size of the mosquito-breeding swamps behind the house. What would the bugs do without our blood. What would god do without our endless complaining. And the flowers: do they care if we’re looking? Of course they do. At the bottom of a slimy pond lives an immortal asthmatic fish, who knows all about the end of the world and when it’ll come. He won’t tell anyone though. He’s full of hope himself: in his dimly lit mind, angelic trout let a ladder down into the water. They care about him and make sure that he climbs the heavenly ladder to freedom and safety while behind him firestorms rage through the bright night. He’s never wondered how he’d breathe out of the water or how he’d climb the ladder without feet. Details of his miraculous liberation are of little concern to a being that is privy to the grand plan of creation and destruction. The fish stretches his fins with glee. He feels the approach of a season: another year of waiting is over. The last butterfly stops flapping. The spiders are having a late breakfast on yesterday’s bug fest. I make the necessary blood sacrifice to the giant mosquitos and I wonder where my ichor will flow today. The toad has given up his disguise—it’s easier to survive the winter as yourself. 
#100/100 days 2011. Illustration: The Heavenly Ladder, from a 12th century Klimax manuscript. Published as “Winter Garden" in A Baker’s Dozen.

The general came from an old family of warriors who collected the tongues of their enemies. He preferred to claim the tongue when the victim was still alive. “The longer he’s dead the more precarious the constitution of his tongue,” he lectured. “You don’t want a stiff or a blue tongue. They’re just right when they’re fresh and pink.” We wanted to know, before we killed him, what he did with them. “They’re spiced and dried,” he said. “The drying process is akin to mummification. My Egyptian slaves, who trained with priests, perform it. It’s a ritual worth watching, because the tongue seems to come alive, as if it contained the soul itself. Whatever it is, it hangs on and writhes wildly. The tongue slips through the fingers of its handler, and when it falls to the floor it tries to get away, like a snake.” We were impressed. “You must think me a terrible barbarian,” he said, “but even if I wanted to, I could not stop severing tongues from the bodies of my antagonists. It’s in my blood.” When he saw that his last hour had come he began to talk quickly, like a madman. His last wish: he wanted to know how it felt to have your tongue cut out when you’re still alive and well. We didn’t do him the favor because we were trying to end the hewing, stabbing, impaling and other bad non-Christian habits. We didn’t judge him, we only wanted him gone. However, on the next day, we were told that the general’s body, when they lowered him in his grave, did not have a tongue. It was gone and with it his entire collection of hundreds of shriveled up glossae. Taken, we presumed, by one of his many relatives. To us they’d looked like stiff, fat slugs, but perhaps the general had been right and the tongue was the last station of the living soul before it went wherever souls go. 

#95/100 days 2011. Drawing by Taffimai: “The Tongue Collector”. Published in The Rusty Nail.

Posted at 7:07pm and tagged with: soul, tongue, Taffimai,.

The general came from an old family of warriors who collected the tongues of their enemies. He preferred to claim the tongue when the victim was still alive. “The longer he’s dead the more precarious the constitution of his tongue,” he lectured. “You don’t want a stiff or a blue tongue. They’re just right when they’re fresh and pink.” We wanted to know, before we killed him, what he did with them. “They’re spiced and dried,” he said. “The drying process is akin to mummification. My Egyptian slaves, who trained with priests, perform it. It’s a ritual worth watching, because the tongue seems to come alive, as if it contained the soul itself. Whatever it is, it hangs on and writhes wildly. The tongue slips through the fingers of its handler, and when it falls to the floor it tries to get away, like a snake.” We were impressed. “You must think me a terrible barbarian,” he said, “but even if I wanted to, I could not stop severing tongues from the bodies of my antagonists. It’s in my blood.” When he saw that his last hour had come he began to talk quickly, like a madman. His last wish: he wanted to know how it felt to have your tongue cut out when you’re still alive and well. We didn’t do him the favor because we were trying to end the hewing, stabbing, impaling and other bad non-Christian habits. We didn’t judge him, we only wanted him gone. However, on the next day, we were told that the general’s body, when they lowered him in his grave, did not have a tongue. It was gone and with it his entire collection of hundreds of shriveled up glossae. Taken, we presumed, by one of his many relatives. To us they’d looked like stiff, fat slugs, but perhaps the general had been right and the tongue was the last station of the living soul before it went wherever souls go. 
#95/100 days 2011. Drawing by Taffimai: “The Tongue Collector”. Published in The Rusty Nail.

«You, father in heaven, hallowed be your kingdom past; you gave me bread and bullets and helped me across minefields; you threw riddles at me daily; express yourself, express yourself, you said, hiding your own manhood behind thick glasses; keenly you looked in two directions at once and you had eyes in your back when I was little; you let me save my face many times over; you pointed a poetic finger at the jungle fever; sadness in your old eyes; I hunt in your footsteps silently, a ghost; I look up at the ancestral tree, the old tree and I stand on its roots firmly; that smile on your face is yours; do you see me still, you with the uninterrupted speech; rambler in heaven, antler for dames who sit by your feet listening open faced their jaws dropped all the way down beyond their sex; your fine hair, too; your cautious step and fear towards the end when you were afraid to leave the house; your tender hugs and, always, that scent of fresh flowers around your lion head; when I’m ill I feel your hand on my forehead, a blue veined cool palm leaf spreading calm; wordlessly I hunt in your wake with the holy harpoon that I sharpened for so many years under your tutelage; now I bend my head; I write.»

#91/100 days 2011. Drawing by Taffimai Metallumai: “Grandpa as a young man.” Published as “A Young Writer’s Prayer For His Daddy" by Sadcore Dadwave.

Posted at 7:34am.

«You, father in heaven, hallowed be your kingdom past; you gave me bread and bullets and helped me across minefields; you threw riddles at me daily; express yourself, express yourself, you said, hiding your own manhood behind thick glasses; keenly you looked in two directions at once and you had eyes in your back when I was little; you let me save my face many times over; you pointed a poetic finger at the jungle fever; sadness in your old eyes; I hunt in your footsteps silently, a ghost; I look up at the ancestral tree, the old tree and I stand on its roots firmly; that smile on your face is yours; do you see me still, you with the uninterrupted speech; rambler in heaven, antler for dames who sit by your feet listening open faced their jaws dropped all the way down beyond their sex; your fine hair, too; your cautious step and fear towards the end when you were afraid to leave the house; your tender hugs and, always, that scent of fresh flowers around your lion head; when I’m ill I feel your hand on my forehead, a blue veined cool palm leaf spreading calm; wordlessly I hunt in your wake with the holy harpoon that I sharpened for so many years under your tutelage; now I bend my head; I write.»
#91/100 days 2011. Drawing by Taffimai Metallumai: “Grandpa as a young man.” Published as “A Young Writer’s Prayer For His Daddy" by Sadcore Dadwave.

…On the second day after I regained my consciousness, I opened my eyes in that soft bed. I suddenly remembered that I’d been a boy from birth, not a girl, and that I had grown up to be a man. But why was I wearing a fluffy pink dress and a ribbon in my hair? Also, I could not move though I was not chained or tied to the bed. My limbs simply would not obey me so that I could not even remove the duvet to check for that part that would settle my confusion. Though, as I said, I wasn’t confused inside any more at that point, only confused about my situation. — In the evening, a man came to me. He sat in a rolling chair which was not a wheel chair and he silently operated a great number of levers. The levers were apparently somehow attached to me, because as he was applying himself at the apparatus, I moved, got up, walked, thrashed around the room, sat down, just as he pleased. I was so surprised that I didn’t even think about asking him any questions. After he’d had his druthers with me for a while, he sighed satisfied, brought me back to bed and went away leaving a smell of burnt rubber behind. He had not used my genital, so that I was still unsure if I actually was a man or a woman or if I only thought I was a man but looked like a woman. Oddly enough I could not remember anything else than the most elementary facts of my life. A long, long time before my waking up in the room dressed like an oversized doll stayed blank, as if whitewashed or covered with some opaque mental material…

#89/100 days 2011. Photo: Bacchus Fountain, Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy. Published in The Rusty Nail (in “Five Nightmares”). 

Posted at 9:43am and tagged with: Florence, Eunuch, Turtle,.

…On the second day after I regained my consciousness, I opened my eyes in that soft bed. I suddenly remembered that I’d been a boy from birth, not a girl, and that I had grown up to be a man. But why was I wearing a fluffy pink dress and a ribbon in my hair? Also, I could not move though I was not chained or tied to the bed. My limbs simply would not obey me so that I could not even remove the duvet to check for that part that would settle my confusion. Though, as I said, I wasn’t confused inside any more at that point, only confused about my situation. — In the evening, a man came to me. He sat in a rolling chair which was not a wheel chair and he silently operated a great number of levers. The levers were apparently somehow attached to me, because as he was applying himself at the apparatus, I moved, got up, walked, thrashed around the room, sat down, just as he pleased. I was so surprised that I didn’t even think about asking him any questions. After he’d had his druthers with me for a while, he sighed satisfied, brought me back to bed and went away leaving a smell of burnt rubber behind. He had not used my genital, so that I was still unsure if I actually was a man or a woman or if I only thought I was a man but looked like a woman. Oddly enough I could not remember anything else than the most elementary facts of my life. A long, long time before my waking up in the room dressed like an oversized doll stayed blank, as if whitewashed or covered with some opaque mental material…
#89/100 days 2011. Photo: Bacchus Fountain, Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy. Published in The Rusty Nail (in “Five Nightmares”). 

I saw a fox in the garden hide something. From where I stood it looked like a shoe with a foot still in it. I thought perhaps the fox wanted to hide the foot for his brood and he wanted it to rot a little because, who knows, perhaps foxes like their meat somewhat rotten. Or perhaps he liked the shoe and wished to wear it but being a fox he got four paws and needed four shoes and he only got one. And while he waited for more chewed off feet in shoes, he better hid the one he got already, because the bird in the hand was worth two in the bush, you know. While I was having these dark thoughts, a butterfly settled on the tree, a butterfly with green wings large as the ears of a small elephant. It was slowly swaying in the evening breeze and it dampened some of that darkness on my mind. When the fox was gone, I went out and dug up the hole. How silly I’d been! It was nothing but an apple or some round, solid vegetable matter. I couldn’t quite identify it yet because it was covered with black soil, wet from heavy rains. I wrapped it in a cloth and took it with me to the house. It was quite large and heavier than I thought. I put it in a pail and poured water over it to get it clean. It wasn’t easy, but I succeeded. And then I recognized that it wasn’t an apple at all, or a vegetable, or a root. It was the head of a child or a small person with its eyes closed and with short curly hair. I realized that the butterfly was probably an evil fairy or a nasty demon that made things appear and disappear at will to drive you crazy. I decided that I must have been hallucinating and I wrapped the round thing again, put it back in the hole under the tree and covered it as well as I could. I didn’t really have any tools and when I was finished, I breathed hard and my hands were all covered with black earth. It looked as if I’d never get rid of it again, like ever. It began to rain again.

#88/100 days 2011. Illustration: drawing by Taffimai Metallumai. Published in Necessary Fiction.

Posted at 5:44pm and tagged with: Taffimai,.

I saw a fox in the garden hide something. From where I stood it looked like a shoe with a foot still in it. I thought perhaps the fox wanted to hide the foot for his brood and he wanted it to rot a little because, who knows, perhaps foxes like their meat somewhat rotten. Or perhaps he liked the shoe and wished to wear it but being a fox he got four paws and needed four shoes and he only got one. And while he waited for more chewed off feet in shoes, he better hid the one he got already, because the bird in the hand was worth two in the bush, you know. While I was having these dark thoughts, a butterfly settled on the tree, a butterfly with green wings large as the ears of a small elephant. It was slowly swaying in the evening breeze and it dampened some of that darkness on my mind. When the fox was gone, I went out and dug up the hole. How silly I’d been! It was nothing but an apple or some round, solid vegetable matter. I couldn’t quite identify it yet because it was covered with black soil, wet from heavy rains. I wrapped it in a cloth and took it with me to the house. It was quite large and heavier than I thought. I put it in a pail and poured water over it to get it clean. It wasn’t easy, but I succeeded. And then I recognized that it wasn’t an apple at all, or a vegetable, or a root. It was the head of a child or a small person with its eyes closed and with short curly hair. I realized that the butterfly was probably an evil fairy or a nasty demon that made things appear and disappear at will to drive you crazy. I decided that I must have been hallucinating and I wrapped the round thing again, put it back in the hole under the tree and covered it as well as I could. I didn’t really have any tools and when I was finished, I breathed hard and my hands were all covered with black earth. It looked as if I’d never get rid of it again, like ever. It began to rain again.
#88/100 days 2011. Illustration: drawing by Taffimai Metallumai. Published in Necessary Fiction.

While I whittle my time away in idle thought and contemplation, empires are gained and others lost. When has this perspective on the world ever made anyone get up from their chair? It is too large a perspective. But what about this: “It’s sunny out. Let’s have a walk!” That will inevitably work. And it is only those interested in the gaining and losing of empires that mind. I knew a norseman who was one of them. He’d inherited a small kingdom and lost it together with the use of his manhood. When I found out about it, we talked through the night and he tried to impress me with tales instead, which did work, though it didn’t distract me from the issue of nonperformance at hand. His manliness stood in a stark contrast to his malfunction. Worst of all, he’d vowed to remain this way until he’d regained his kingdom. I never met a man so bent on self destruction.

#81/100 days 2011. Illustration: Olaus Magnus, History of the Nordic Peoples (from 1555), “On the election of kings.”

Posted at 4:05pm and tagged with: 81,.

While I whittle my time away in idle thought and contemplation, empires are gained and others lost. When has this perspective on the world ever made anyone get up from their chair? It is too large a perspective. But what about this: “It’s sunny out. Let’s have a walk!” That will inevitably work. And it is only those interested in the gaining and losing of empires that mind. I knew a norseman who was one of them. He’d inherited a small kingdom and lost it together with the use of his manhood. When I found out about it, we talked through the night and he tried to impress me with tales instead, which did work, though it didn’t distract me from the issue of nonperformance at hand. His manliness stood in a stark contrast to his malfunction. Worst of all, he’d vowed to remain this way until he’d regained his kingdom. I never met a man so bent on self destruction.

#81/100 days 2011. Illustration: Olaus Magnus, History of the Nordic Peoples (from 1555), “On the election of kings.”

…came out to the cabin & the sun came out after days of rain & suddenly everything was alright & i felt good again. i felt like yielding a hoard! luckily, a treasure map came my way & it looked real enough so that i dropped whatever i was doing at the time. the map indicated that the treasure could be found across the ocean. i found a boat just as easily as i had found the map in the first place—which shows you that sometimes all you need to get what you want is to focus your will—and i started out on what proved to be a veritable girl adventure. it almost turned nasty on me once when i encountered a mighty wave, but i was already so close to the island that even though i lost my vehicle, i could swim there. and there it was: the treasure sat in a chest on the top of a hill, just where the pirates who had assembled it, had left and forgotten it. or perhaps they had been hanged and taken their secret to the grave. there are so many ways in which valuables and information leading to valuables can get lost. the chest contained diamonds and rubies, pieces of golds and pearls, but most beautiful of all a crown with a curse on it: whoever put it on would have to brave even more exciting adventures than this one until she found true love. that was my cup of tea with a biscuit & i crowned myself & swooosh!! off i went like a bullet, like a whirlwind, like a caterpillar shooting out of its cocoon, just like that, just like me…

#73/100 days 2011. Drawing by Taffimai Metallumai “treasure hunt”. 

Posted at 7:01pm.

…came out to the cabin & the sun came out after days of rain & suddenly everything was alright & i felt good again. i felt like yielding a hoard! luckily, a treasure map came my way & it looked real enough so that i dropped whatever i was doing at the time. the map indicated that the treasure could be found across the ocean. i found a boat just as easily as i had found the map in the first place—which shows you that sometimes all you need to get what you want is to focus your will—and i started out on what proved to be a veritable girl adventure. it almost turned nasty on me once when i encountered a mighty wave, but i was already so close to the island that even though i lost my vehicle, i could swim there. and there it was: the treasure sat in a chest on the top of a hill, just where the pirates who had assembled it, had left and forgotten it. or perhaps they had been hanged and taken their secret to the grave. there are so many ways in which valuables and information leading to valuables can get lost. the chest contained diamonds and rubies, pieces of golds and pearls, but most beautiful of all a crown with a curse on it: whoever put it on would have to brave even more exciting adventures than this one until she found true love. that was my cup of tea with a biscuit & i crowned myself & swooosh!! off i went like a bullet, like a whirlwind, like a caterpillar shooting out of its cocoon, just like that, just like me…

#73/100 days 2011. Drawing by Taffimai Metallumai “treasure hunt”. 

Their ladies behave like peasants: they have no refinement. I thought I had hidden my disgust at their common manners, when Zora told me that my face did constantly reveal my true thoughts and that the ladies were offended but hadn’t dared to tell me. She told me that there was much more going on between them and between us than I knew. “There are so many signals,” she said, “and some of them even I don’t fully understand.” Apparently there are signals for the following: when to cast down your eyes. When to speak. When not to reply with words but to respond by levitating. When not to touch. When to bow almost imperceptibly, with a flutter. When to wave your hands. When not to cross your legs. And so on. As it turns out, while I was judging them, they were judging me just as harshly, which is a relief. “What should I do?” I asked Zora, and she said time would heal the rift as long as I kept an open mind. I didn’t know what she meant by that, “keep an open mind”. Was that a local pet? She laughed. Didn’t I know that the mind could be closed—she made a face and indeed, she looked like a smooth stone surface, impenetrable and indistinguishable. Then she opened her face: “Look at this,” she said.  Her whole demeanor changed, as if she stepped out of a dimmed room into the light. Now, her eyes said “I will follow you anywhere.” I saw what she meant and I tried it myself. When I unclose my mind now, it includes everybody and everything around me: there’s no space for judgement when I’m busy keeping the gate open.

#72/100 days 2011. Illustration: Philosophy Presenting the Seven Liberal Arts to Boethius (detail), miniature in a French manuscript of The Consolation of Philosophy attributed to the Coëtivy Master, about 1460–70.

Posted at 11:51am and tagged with: Zora, Gisela, Magyars, habits, signals, Boethius, ladies, court,.

Their ladies behave like peasants: they have no refinement. I thought I had hidden my disgust at their common manners, when Zora told me that my face did constantly reveal my true thoughts and that the ladies were offended but hadn’t dared to tell me. She told me that there was much more going on between them and between us than I knew. “There are so many signals,” she said, “and some of them even I don’t fully understand.” Apparently there are signals for the following: when to cast down your eyes. When to speak. When not to reply with words but to respond by levitating. When not to touch. When to bow almost imperceptibly, with a flutter. When to wave your hands. When not to cross your legs. And so on. As it turns out, while I was judging them, they were judging me just as harshly, which is a relief. “What should I do?” I asked Zora, and she said time would heal the rift as long as I kept an open mind. I didn’t know what she meant by that, “keep an open mind”. Was that a local pet? She laughed. Didn’t I know that the mind could be closed—she made a face and indeed, she looked like a smooth stone surface, impenetrable and indistinguishable. Then she opened her face: “Look at this,” she said.  Her whole demeanor changed, as if she stepped out of a dimmed room into the light. Now, her eyes said “I will follow you anywhere.” I saw what she meant and I tried it myself. When I unclose my mind now, it includes everybody and everything around me: there’s no space for judgement when I’m busy keeping the gate open.
#72/100 days 2011. Illustration: Philosophy Presenting the Seven Liberal Arts to Boethius (detail), miniature in a French manuscript of The Consolation of Philosophy attributed to the Coëtivy Master, about 1460–70.

The man who called himself the maestro had put eight performers in pairs on a wooden stage. A large banner announced “artifices magni”. Two of the people on stage looked asleep or dead, two others were leaning into each other and seemed to play for themselves more than for us. Two more were stroking each other’s red beards: ginger hair was rare and I knew that the children would have liked to touch it for good luck. The maestro stood behind the last two of the group, who were half naked and dressed as merpeople. It was easy to see that they weren’t actually fish folk. Their tails were tattered and the scales that had been painted on looked worn. Their upper bodies were engaged in slithering movements while they were shaking their tails and juggling small green and blue balls, six at a time. It looked impossible. Whenever one of them slowed down or began to struggle with the ball game, the maestro, a huge man with a golden tooth, who never stopped grinning or shouting to the crowd, nudged them, and they returned to their show strangely strengthened. It was as if the push from their master turned them, just for a moment, from large, mangy mechanical dolls into passionate performers.

#71/100 days 2011. Illustration: the Syrian goddess Atargatis.

Posted at 5:38pm.

The man who called himself the maestro had put eight performers in pairs on a wooden stage. A large banner announced “artifices magni”. Two of the people on stage looked asleep or dead, two others were leaning into each other and seemed to play for themselves more than for us. Two more were stroking each other’s red beards: ginger hair was rare and I knew that the children would have liked to touch it for good luck. The maestro stood behind the last two of the group, who were half naked and dressed as merpeople. It was easy to see that they weren’t actually fish folk. Their tails were tattered and the scales that had been painted on looked worn. Their upper bodies were engaged in slithering movements while they were shaking their tails and juggling small green and blue balls, six at a time. It looked impossible. Whenever one of them slowed down or began to struggle with the ball game, the maestro, a huge man with a golden tooth, who never stopped grinning or shouting to the crowd, nudged them, and they returned to their show strangely strengthened. It was as if the push from their master turned them, just for a moment, from large, mangy mechanical dolls into passionate performers.
#71/100 days 2011. Illustration: the Syrian goddess Atargatis.

I started crying and then the crying turned into a humming, which sounded like tribal song, though I didn’t know any tribal song, but when you go on your knees, look up and howl, you do feel connected to the Earth in a way that can make you cry, and my wife said to me: what are you crying about, and I said I didn’t know, but as soon as I knew I would put it into a story. She nodded approvingly and said that once I was done putting things into stories, I could put the putting of things into stories into a story. I wondered if this would be the last story, but honestly I don’t think so. All this writing is unwriting, too, putting down roads and tearing them up again, drawing and crossing out, and why would it ever have to stop as long as the sun shines and the stars turn? 

#70/100 days 2011. Illustration: Guidonian Hand named after Guido d’Arezzo (991-1050).

Posted at 4:44pm.

I started crying and then the crying turned into a humming, which sounded like tribal song, though I didn’t know any tribal song, but when you go on your knees, look up and howl, you do feel connected to the Earth in a way that can make you cry, and my wife said to me: what are you crying about, and I said I didn’t know, but as soon as I knew I would put it into a story. She nodded approvingly and said that once I was done putting things into stories, I could put the putting of things into stories into a story. I wondered if this would be the last story, but honestly I don’t think so. All this writing is unwriting, too, putting down roads and tearing them up again, drawing and crossing out, and why would it ever have to stop as long as the sun shines and the stars turn? 
#70/100 days 2011. Illustration: Guidonian Hand named after Guido d’Arezzo (991-1050).