What if you listen to the whole Lou Reed Metal Machine Music album?

I heard about Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music,” and that it was one of the worst albums ever on several websites, and that the maker himself did not ever even listen to the whole thing in one sitting, so I decided it would be proper to challenge myself to listen to the entire album. I wasn’t really aware of how crazy that idea would be.
It was a bit scary to press the play button. (I would have preferred to throw the needle on the vinyl but alas, that’s not possible right now)
Here’s my log of what happened during this hour-long auditory torture session:

Minute Number:
1: It’s noisy guitar feedback loops at different frequencies. Kind of cool. Kind of boring.
2: This is going to be hard. It’s so repetitive.
3: Gosh this is weird. There’s way more variety than I originally anticipated. It’s like he suddenly threw in a bunch of random stuff, which I’m very thankful for, if things stay on this track it might not be so hard to get through the whole thing
4: Really strange and quiet sounding. Weirdness. I just thought of robots.
5: Thought I heard a national anthem for a few seconds. There’s this really grating noise that just won’t stop, above the variety of all the other loops. MAKE IT STOP
6: Horrible tinnitus and helicopter sounds. A bit of insanity and old video game connotations. I just heard one snippet of jazz piano. Then nothing. Then another piece.
7: I need some water. I don’t even know what to this of this music… no, it’s noise I guess. I don’t know what it is. 
8: OWW THIS INFERNAL BEEPING. Almost got to song quality before fading into oblivion. There’s the Apache overhead again.
9: [Walk to get a bite of celery. Bump into the counter] I can’t make any remarks right now. Brain not functional. A monocled minimalist head with a top hat pops into my head. [The dog runs by from around a corner] AHH I’M SCARED [someone walks in the room and I internally scream]
10: I just hallucinated the dog or some face behind the kitchen table then he ran from the left to right, far away from my hallucination. I can’t tell which was scarier. My nerves are pretty messed up.
12: damn that was a creepy out of place sound. And the cursor on my computer–NO THERE”S SCREAMING IN THE ALBUM, STOP!! the sounds of bombs exploding and a man laughing.
13: I thought the tea kettle just looked at me.
14: This reminds me of Jimi Hendrix’s version of the Star Spangled Banner. This record is way more interesting than I originally expected. It got quite pleasant for ten seconds, much more minimalistic. 
15: crap I’m only 25.25% done with this. I have no idea what will happen. I hope my sanity stays intact.
16: Calm down, don’t get nervous. It’s OK. NO STOP SCREAMING
17: Crap, an ad happened which was just as scary as this messed up screaming sound. If the beginning of this album was this insane I would have probably stopped immediately. I’m compulsively checking the minutes to when this will end. I really expected to have more thoughts. This seems more to work like that middle school story about the dystopian society that nullifies smart people’s thoughts so everyone has the same net intelligence level. It’s like the noise is merging into my thoughts.
19: How can there be so much variety in something that’s simply just noise? Finally the torturing animal/screaming sounds are done. Or are they? Heard a few bright moments of an actual guitar solo. I feel a little more sane than before. What would happen if they played this in Guantanamo Bay?
20: I hear tinnitus again. Not from me. Things in the corner of my eyes are jumping slightly, creating a marginally jarring effect. A particularly cacophanous ephemeral clang arises. That’s old news I guess, the sounds are always changing and they’re not worth explaining too heavily.
23: Longest stretch without checking the time so far.  🙂  Woah, it almost went quiet. That was a relief. Why didn’t Lou Reed hear the damn thing? It’s not THAT bad. I guess he was more afraid than me? Or just wanted to guarantee the safety of his brain? Why would you make something and not listen to it? I hear my own compositions 50-200 times for God’s sake. There was just a very pleasant little riff. This would be surprisingly good musical inspiration for an EXTREMELY subtle-eared musician. Cool patterns can occasionally be plucked out of the chaos. 
25: Thought I saw a phantom after I opened my eyes after keeping them closed a while. Not afraid though. My brain seems to be in a sense accepting this ruckus as normal except when something like that morse code sound happens.
26: I really want to do something fun. This is making everything else seem better. It must  be rock bottom in the record world.
27: Why did I sign up for this? But it’s too late to stop now. Even the screaming and terrible morse code sounds are beginning to feel normal somehow. I wonder if I’ll keep hearing this crap in my head until I go to bed. I wonder what I’ll dream about. 
30: Heard The Marriage of Figaro. Will Metal Machine Music have a positive or negative result on a composer like me? Or is it just a waste of time? [90’s cheesy film trailer voice] Only time will tell.
32: How many other people have even done this? It’s crazy people actually listen to noise on purpose, although in some bizarre way, I kind of get it. It’s absolute randomness. (* or at least something vaguely similar)
34: I’m even used to that screaming sound. It doesn’t seem super expressive anymore.
35: quietness, please get stronger. I need you. Against the backdrop of this sound my humanity feels much more concrete and beautiful in a sense. I’m a meaningful pattern compared to all this auditory chaos.
37: This is quite a while to sit down and just write. But somehow I managed to make it more than halfway through. It seems I can, at last, make a few observances: #1 I’m not going insane. #2 I was going a little insane temporarily, earlier on. #3 It will be nice when this is done but it might circulate in my head more. #4 I took a lot of B12 for brain function today and if this sound somehow messes up my brain instead of helping it, and uses the power of the B12 to make a larger impression than it otherwise would, then damn it and I would really regret this experiment.
39: Few notes of a song again. What if someone listened to this in headphones at school to drown out the teacher? It would work better than white noise.
40: Up until now, not too much of the album has actually been repeated. I have a lot of respect for this guy, because instead of looping the same noise over and over he actually put in the effort, although maybe talent isn’t required, to make something that is quite varied. Not that the average person would notice all the variety. It’s pretty subtle.
41: I’m turning the volume down slightly so my ears don’t get damaged. It seemed like a big difference at first but now it sounds about the same. This would not be the sort of thing I would consider getting tinnitus worth. Is that a sentence? Can I English?
42: Thinking about life a bit.
44: My brain’s gone pretty quiet again. I seem to be aware of everything I do and every movement I make on a much more sensitive level. It’s interesting. It really wouldn’t surprise me if some unforeseen side effects occurred from this.
48: Longest stretch without a comment. I feel pretty peaceful. Music is so subjective that I feel like a culture could consider this music. It seems to be meshing with my brain, after 30 minutes. It took 15 minutes for Trout Mask Replica to, and only a few minutes for The Shaggs. So it seems that the more noise something has the more alien to the nervous system it is. But anything will become normalized with sufficient time and effort, depending on the resistance of someone to it.
50: It’s not that I’m actually tuning the music out, but it just isn’t producing much of a response. I actually feel quite calm and happy to be writing. I wonder if I would feel that way if I wasn’t listening to any music at all, probably. Is this music? Lou says so.
52: Thankgiving’s tomorrow. That’s exciting. I’m excited about life. That rarely happens. Is the music part of why? Wow.
53: Those things you hear on TV test programs, a low sine wave followed by a high one, I just heard one in the music. Why is this called Metal Machine Music? Heavy Metal? Not check. Machines? Sorta check. Music? Not check, not really.
Metal Machine Music, combined? I guess it kind of qualifies but I probably would entitle it as “feedback: the album”
54: I don’t know what would happen to my sanity if I didn’t check the time. I think it would be 5x harder an experiment. I challenge you to try. It’s almost the only thing holding any of this together. It’s almost done! Finally!
55: Just heard a quite pleasant section. Thought I saw something billowing in the window curtain. Shouldn’t think too much about it. Probably from the heater that may have just turned on, I couldn’t hear the difference with this sound playing anyhow. I have the feeling that playing Metal Machine Music is causing a bit of split personality in me.
58: It reminds me of Purgatory. It’s so neutral that this album is like an unaffiliated place in which you can think about other things fairly. I have a slight headache. This would be a bigger issue if it had happened a while ago, now I’m almost finished.
59: How can I possibly consider this normal? It dawned on me freshly. This is truly bizarre.
61: I like when this sounds like music but I still dislike the screaming. He should have taken it off if he didn’t want people to get freaked out by this album. And the bomb sounds. And the abrupt starts and stops.
-END-
My review: 2/10. It has some interesting possible side effects from horrible to good, roll the dice if you want to. Listening to the whole thing is pretty crazy, but YOLO.

Thank you!

AJ

 

 

 

 

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A Strange Employment (Gothic novelette)

A Strange Employment (novella)
Azure James

a Gothic mystery


I had one loaf of unsliced white bread in the fridge that was supposed to last the whole month, my only way to get anywhere was to ride a half-broken bicycle, and a leak in the roof made the bucket I had placed under it overfill every hour on the dot.
But those problems did not feel particularly important, because my rent was extremely overdue, and I was about to be kicked out of the house and sent to live alone on the street in the heat of day and the freezing cold of night.
After I had submitted resumes at nearly every business in town and been rejected, it felt hopeless trying to find a job. In desperation, I checked the employment papers one final time, not expecting to find anything.
Scarcely able to believe it, I saw a new ad that actually looked rather promising. The only problems were it was also short, vague, and extremely bizarre:

Handsomely-paying Industrial Factory Employment Available!
We are offering a high-paying factory job offered for a candidate with the following characteristics and items: Superb mental skills, a good temper, a spark, and a sharp knife.
Further details upon personal application to Mssr. Frost.

Below the listing was the address for where to take a job interview.
I took a deep breath and rolled the matter around in my head for a minute.
It seemed I may fit their criteria, and I had no better options, so I rented a car with my last bit of savings, in order to look a bit respectable, and drove off in search of the place where the interview would occur.
Driving on and on until I reached the far edge of town, I found myself in a mysterious and desolate section of industrial factoryscape. There was not a person around. I passed through street after street of concrete and smokestacks, took a few wrong turns, and after a long time trying to find a familiar road, I noticed the building I was looking for was right in front of me.
It was a enormous, typical-looking concrete factory building with the same sterile but dirty, spacious but repressive feeling as any other similar building in the area, or perhaps the world.
Surprisingly, I saw next to it a Gothic, Edwardian style two-story house. It was constructed from mixed ruddy brown and dark rust bricks, hand mortared, and the structure was in rather unrepaired condition. Vines crept up sections of it and two of the windows had cracks in them. Otherwise, it seemed serviceable at first glance. The roof was chocolate-colored and steeply upswept, with a lonely window peeking out of the middle of the top floor. I doubted anyone was inside it.
I had a vaguely apprehensive feeling about this job in the pit of my stomach as I drove around the back of the buildings and parked the car in the parking lot.
There were not any other cars back there.
Walking around to the front, I double-checked that the address was for the factory and not the house (it was), then walked up a few metal steps to a door on the right side of the factory. The left side had a large shipping bay but I did not see any normal sized doors anywhere else.
I hesitated for a moment and then knocked three times.
There was no answer. I do not know what possessed me, but for some reason I felt to try the door handle. It was not locked. I cautiously opened it up and looked inside.
The door opened up into a rather normal looking office room which connected to the main factory room at the far end. Inside was a clock, a calendar, a filing cabinet, a table, some notebooks, and a few other trinkets and items. A first aid kit stood out of the far wall protrusively.
As I surveyed the room and decided not to go any further, I heard a quiet sound from, I guessed, the factory room. The footsteps got louder and a moment later I saw a man turn round the corner.
He was about 60, with a wrinkly face and a few strands of grey hair. He looked agitated and wore a green canvas shirt and khaki pants.
A quizzical expression darted across his face as he took notice of me.
“You’re here for the job,” he asserted abruptly.
“Yes,” I replied hesitantly.
“Good,” he replied straightforwardly. “Do you have a sharp knife?”
I was stunned for a moment.
“Umm, yes,” I said. I hoped it would fit his definition of keenness.
“Let me see it.”
I pulled out my pocketknife, which I carried quite often, but not nearly all the time. The man motioned with his hands the opening of an imaginary knife, and just from seeing it I could tell he had experience opening knives. Waiting a moment yet again, I obeyed him and opened up the knife blade.
The worker slowly approached me, and suddenly his hand darted up and closed around the knife blade.
Instinctively, I pulled the blade back to retain control of it. I heard a ghastly cutting sound and blood spattered on the floor.
“Oh it’s sharp all right,” the man said, holding his injured hand. He walked quickly over to the first aid kit and, in a rehearsed fashion, took out everything he needed from it and began to treat his injury.
I did not know whether to run away or apologize, so I stood there stunned. In a flash, the man was back in front of me, not looking more unnerved than when I first saw him, which was quite unnerved anyway.
“I apologize. I didn’t mean to–” I sputtered.
“No apology necessary,” he said back, “It’s really the best way to tell if a knife is truly sharp.”
My eyebrows raised. I had no idea what to think.
“And by the way, you passed your first assessment. Now follow me,” he said, squeezing past me and opening the door. We went down the steps and made it onto the porch of the Edwardian house. The man knocked on the door with his unbandaged hand.
“And what’s your name by the way?” he asked me. I told him, and asked what his name was in return.
“Mr. Knife,” he replied, grinning.
A moment later the door opened up a crack and I saw a sleepy-looking bespectacled man hiding behind it, his face peering out at me. He was younger and less rustic in appearance than Mr. Knife, with a blue suit coat and tie.
“Oh, hello,” he muttered. “Come in.”
I felt slightly more safe with this fellow. Mr. Knife waved goodbye to me and I entered the house. The suited man scuttered back to a large table in the dining room in front of me. It had six place settings. Looking around the house for a moment, I saw many pieces of old furniture, a grandfather clock, and a phonograph. I even saw the wheel of a bicycle poking out from a corner far ahead of me.
“Seat yourself,” he said, pulling out a chair. I sat down and noted the comfort of the seat, and my acquaintance took a place across the table from me and slightly to the right. He cleared his throat.
I heard a slight metallic clicking sound and saw a rotund butler appear from around the corner on an old bicycle. He was dressed in black and white and sported a waxed mustache. He stopped at the table and put up the kickstand on his bike.
“What a shame I haven’t introduced myself,” noted the seated man. “I am Mr. Fraust, and this is our butler Mr. Crause.”
The butler nodded politely, hands behind his back.
Mr. Fraust leaned forward and stared intensely into my eyes. I tried to hold back my thoughts.
“Ahh,” he wheezed. “Crause, go fetch the– you know what.” he added. Mr. Fraust ceased looking into my eyes and instead stared at the salt shaker. The butler mounted his bicycle and disappeared.
“It’s interesting, the bicycle,” I said, attempting to make conversation.
“It’s not a bicycle, it’s a velocipede,” he replied, sternly.
“Yes,” I said, unsure. “I suppose.”
We sat silently for a few moments, then Mr. Crause returned on his velocipede holding a tray and glass of water in one hand. The water did not spill. He placed them down on the table in front of me.
On the tray were three cookies. The first was a circular thumbprint shortbread cookie with brown jelly in the center, the second a green mint cookie shaped like a pine tree, and the third a shell-shaped one of an indeterminate substance.
Mr. Crause sat down next to Mr. Fraust.
I saw a red and black mark on the butler’s hand as he took a sip of tea.
“Oh, just a burn,” he said, as if reading my mind.
“Take some sweets,” invited Mr. Fraust. “Oh, and I have some news. According to my observations, you have it; you have The Spark.”
“Thank you,” I replied, rather coldly. I had no idea what The Spark was, so I deliberated on which cookie to eat instead. I chose the green one and took a nibble.
“That’s an interesting… velocipede you have there,” I said to Mr. Crause.
“Thank you sir,” he replied. “I am quite proud of her.”
“Yes…” I said. I took another bite. The ticking sound of the clock emanated around the room softly but fully.
“Mr. Crause has been here quite a while, haven’t you?” commented Mr. Fraust.
“Yes,” he agreed. “I have.”
They talked amongst each other, saying something about Mr. Fraust’s fainting spells a long time ago.
I finished the cookie. It had a marginally bland but generally agreeable taste. I did not particularly want to eat any of the other ones.
“Pleasant day, isn’t it?” remarked Mr. Fraust.
I took a sip of water.
“Yes, I suppose,” I said. “Better than yesterday.”
“Completely,” he agreed.
Mr. Crause twiddled his thumbs. Mr. Fraust’s expression lifted inexplicably.
“You won. You passed the test,” he said seriously. “I can’t believe it.”
“How?” I asked.
“You ate the right cookie, and you drank correctly as well.”
“So?” I asked, agitated.
“You are clearly well-tempered,” congratulated Mr. Fraust. “The shell cookie was a bad choice overall and the jelly thumbprint was of questionable taste. You clearly chose the superior specimen. And you did not ask for superfluous drinks, or eat too many cookies, which would prove a lazy and excessive temperament. You passed the third assessment by having both a good temper and excellent taste.”
“Thank you,” I said.
After a moment, however, an uneasy feeling hung in the air. They were anticipating something.
“So…” ventured Mr. Fraust. “There is another test ahead, and it may be even more difficult than the last ones. We should go upstairs. You must meet our chief executive officer.”
“Who is he?” I asked.
“Mr. Frost,” replied the man nervously.
“Of course,” I said, chuckling quietly.
We stood up, Mr. Crause mounted his velocipede, and I followed behind the butler further into the house. It seemed larger from the inside than the outside. We approached a staircase on the left. Mr. Fraust waited at the side of it and Mr. Crause stopped his velocipede several feet before the stairs began.
It was astounding to me that instead of the staircase simply consisting of stairs, this one had the stairs interrupted in the middle of their width, by a ramp as steep as the stairs and as wide as one’s hand. Before I could make any sense of the situation Mr. Crause made a sound like a bull bellowing and put a Herculean amount of effort into pedaling. In an instant he was halfway up the steep staircase, riding the ramped section.
Then he was at the top, staring down at us as if nothing had happened. Mr. Fraust glanced nervously at me and we walked the stairs in a moderately normal fashion.
The top of the house, just as it looked from the outside, had only one room, which was Mr. Frost’s office. It was decorated more seriously, with darker colors, than any other room I had been in. A drafty chill entered the attic, presumably through a hole in the wall somewhere. I shivered.
A noise of pen scratching emanated from the desk, which overlooked the lone window. Mr. Frost sat there, his back to me. I could not make out any of his features.
“You may be excused, Fraust,” he said, in a smooth and cool voice. Fraust obeyed.
“It may get rather confusing when he is around,” added Mr. Frost as a side note. I took a deep breath of the cold air.
Mr. Frost spun his chair around. He was about thirty, with black hair and dark glasses, and looked very learned and completely somber. He wore a well-tailored tailcoat and I saw a silk top hat hanging off a hook two feet to his left.
“You have come for a job interview, have you not?” said Mr. Frost, his voice hitting me like icicles.
“Yes…” I stuttered.
“Cool,” he replied. “Crause, has he passed the Three Tests?”
“Yes,” affirmed the butler.
“We shall start the final portion now. I have simply one question for you.”
There was a pause.
“What is five thousand four hundred and thirty eight multiplied by four and then divided by sixteen?”
I had no idea what to say. “Umm, do you have a piece of paper?”
“No,” he replied coldly, “this test is for your mental skills, not for your penmanship nor for your paper calculating proficiency.”
“So I have to solve it in my head?”
“Yes.”
“What is the question again?”
“What is five thousand four hundred and thirty eight multiplied by four and then divided by sixteen?” he repeated.
I had no chance so I simply guessed.
“1500?”
Mr. Frost shook his head.
“No, you are wrong. It is 1359 and a half.”
I frowned. Why had I come so far just to fail the last test?
“So have I lost?” I asked, afraid to even say it. Mr. Frost glanced at me mysteriously.
“Not completely. Actually, you have not failed the assessment at all. We have tested three hundred and fifty two people and only four have ever made it up here to this frigid room in the first place.”
“What were their answers?” I inquired.
“Significantly more wrong than yours,” he replied. I saw his breath cloud up in front of him as he spoke.
“Thank you, sir,” I said timidly.
“It is nothing.”
There was still a barrier between us.
“Crause,” he commanded softly.
The butler silently commanded me to follow him and rolled a bit towards the stairs. I went in front of him.
It was even more difficult to descend the stairs than it was to go up them originally. I managed by making gratuitous use of the handrail and my balance. When I was at the end, the butler abruptly rolled down the staircase. The brakes squealed loudly but did not slow the bike down very much. Mr. Crause and his bike forcefully slammed into the wall.
Upon further inspection, however, it was not a wall, but instead a very thick mattress colored to look like the wall. Crause and his bike went far into it and then softly rebounded back. He was generally uninjured.
I gave the butler a disappointed and confused look and shook my head. I sighed. Nobody said anything.
“I was wondering why you… ride that velocipede everywhere instead of walking,” I stated, trying my best not to sound too tactless.
“Do you know about the properties the wheel in regards to angular velocity and the efficiencies of centrifugal momentum?”
“Not particularly,” I replied.
“What about the force-converting functions of differently-sized gears?”
“I suppose I know something about that.”
“Those are the reasons I ride this velocipede everywhere I go. As you can see,” Crause said, tapping his tummy which made a thick sound, “I am not very efficient when it comes to walking. Therefore, I use to my advantage the myriad benefits of this beautiful invention called the velocipede.”
I thought about specifically asking about the staircase but decided it would be a ridiculous idea.
“One moment,” he said, riding over to a nearby cabinet which was full of dozens of brake pads. In a moment, he quickly removed his worn out brake pads with a fresh pair and put the old ones at the top of a stack at the corner of the cabinet.
A moment later we were standing in the dining room.
“I don’t quite understand; did I pass the tests? Can I start working?”
I regretted the second question as I was not sure if I wanted to work there at all.
“Well, Mr. Frost said you did better than anyone else, so I suppose you could begin,” spoke Mr. Crause.
“Would I be working with Mr. Knife?” I asked. The prospect was terrifying.
“Come with me,” said Mr. Fraust, pushing me a bit on the back and leading me out the door and back to the factory.
It felt strange being outdoors in the air again, and I sensed some sort of change from when I was last outside.
We entered the factory. Just as last time, the office was deserted.
“Sign this,” said Mr. Fraust. He handed me a piece of heavy paper and a metal nibbed dip pen which he had already dipped for me.
The contract was written in a very archaic and extremely calligraphic script. Try as I might, I could not make out more than a few very common words.
Mr. Fraust hurried me on. I signed reluctantly. He took the paper back and hid it away in a locked section of the filing cabinet.
“Since today is your first day, we are only expecting five units. Typically we would aim for ten.”
“What are… we… making?” I inquired.
“Magnifying glass handles,” replied Mr. Fraust. “I’ll leave Mr. Knife to explain the rest. Goodbye. I hope you enjoy the rest of your day. And perhaps we’ll have some tea tomorrow.”
Mr. Fraust left and locked the door behind him, somehow. I sat on the chair to kill some time, afraid to be in the vicinity of Mr. Knife. Slowly, I realized that they would probably realize that I had not worked at all if I were to stay there the whole time. Reluctantly, I raised myself up and explored the factory floor. There were several large hefty cast iron and steel machines at approximately equal intervals to each other, each painted a different color. I saw a few chairs and numerous hand tools laying about on the floor. There was a noise of scraping far off.
I spotted Mr. Knife, carving away at some wood far away in the corner, facing the walls. There was a table with other magnifying glass parts: lenses and the metal tangs which became thin and encircled the lenses at the ends so that they could be attached to the wooden handles.
At the northern edge of the area there was a pile of what I took to be magnifying glass handle blanks. I picked one up and felt the heft of it. It was a quite small piece, but still larger than a finished handle, and it was in a long, vaguely rectangular shape.
Taking it over to a chair, I pulled out my knife and found a small handsaw nearby. Fervently against associating with Mr. Knife at all, I went to work on the blank and did my best to try to make it look like a finished product.
I kept on working and working and Mr. Knife never really seemed to notice me. He certainly did not help.
At one point, about two hours later, I saw Mr. Knife on his knees as if he were praying. It was hard to make out exactly what it was speaking but it was very repetitive and had the words “great” and “deliver” in it.
When I had worked for as long as I could, and was not sure how many hours had passed by, I heard footsteps and realized that Mr. Knife had seen me. He approached.
“Do you know why they were hiring? Because they want to get rid of me, poor old Mr. Knife. I have been an absolute failure.” I heard notes of rage and despair in his voice. “Every day they laze about in their bourgeois mansion, drinking tea and playing phonograph music. The only reason they have any of those things is because of me!” His voice was hitting a crescendo.
“I pay their bills, I make their living, and they don’t even let me SLEEP in there!”
“Whoa, calm down, Mr. Knife,” I said. “I’m not them, you don’t need to get mad at me. I understand you.”
“Yes I do need to get mad at you!” he yelled. “You are my replacement! PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE!” he screamed. He was right in front of me, knife in his hand, quivering with rage.
“It’s alright, I’m not replacing you, they just need workers,” I said. I had no idea if I was there to replace Mr. Knife but I did not want him to be angry.
“I’m the worker here!” he burst.
“Yes, you are,” I agreed.
“And do you know how sharp this knife is?” he asked, holding it up to the light and licking his lips.
“It’s pretty sharp?” I guessed.
“Yes! Feel it!” yelled Mr. Knife. He jabbed the knife at me but I backed up and dodged it. I stood up, my own knife in my hand. Mr. Knife took a step towards me and stabbed at me again. I jumped out of the way.
“How else will you know if me knife is sharp?” he asked grimly.
“Try it out on a piece of wood!” I exclaimed. He took a swipe at one of my handle blanks and then set his sights on me again. The next cut barely missed my shirt. I took a swing at Mr. Knife and hit him in the shoulder. He recoiled back and put his hand on the wound. I saw a dark spot under the shirt.
“That’s a pretty sharp knife,” he said, impressed. He applied pressure to his shoulder.
I heard the sound of a door opening.
“Wait, Mr. Knife,” I said. “I think Mr. Fraust is coming.”
“Yes he is,” replied Mr. Knife.
I wiped the blood off my knife blade onto the bottom section of my pants and folded the knife up, placing it in my pocket. I was extremely nervous of what Mr. Fraust would think of the altercation.
Suddenly, along with the sound of metal clicking, Mr. Crause and his velocipede appeared around the office corner.
“The shift’s over!” he said. He coasted over to us. “Would you like to come over for some tea?” he asked me.
“What about me?” interrogated Mr. Knife, angry. Mr. Crause noticed his injury.
“What happened to you, Mr. Knife?” he asked, not sounding overly surprised.
“He tested his knife on me,” said Mr. Knife.
“No, he tried to stab me,” I retorted, trying to defend myself.
“Settle down you two, I know you both have sharp knives,” scolded Mr. Crause.
I went back with Mr. Crause as Mr. Knife looked on jealously.
The table was set for an elaborate tea. I took my place across from the other two and inquired where Mr. Frost was.
“He’s in his room. We have tried to bring him down here for tea before but his mere presence would always chill the tea in a matter of minutes. You fancy hot tea, do you not?” remarked Mr. Fraust.
“Of course,” I replied.
The tea tasted like a very nice Ceylon, or perhaps something a little bit different. I poured a splash of milk in it. I looked at the china in the cabinet and the paintings on the walls. Nothing seemed out of place in the slightest.
“So I see you have figured out the rudiments of the trade,” said Mr. Fraust.
“We’ll hopefully only be seeing improvements from here.”
“I think so,” I said, nervous thinking about anything even connected to Mr. Knife. I tried to bring up the bravery to ask my next question.
“Have you ever had green tea?” Mr. Fraust asked Mr. Crause.
“I don’t believe I have. Actually, no, I have once.”
“How did you like it?”
“It was beautiful.”
I cleared my throat.
“So… am I here to replace Mr. Knife?” I inquired.
“Actually, well,” stuttered Mr. Fraust, “I believe that was the purpose of our job advertisement. He has not been the ideal worker, in all honesty.”
“Why?” I asked, certain I was becoming too curious for my own good.
“He… injures himself quite frequently, and he is simply obsessed with knives. In fact, he has created a belief system centered around them. Fancy some sugar, Mr. Crause?”
“A belief system?” I asked, astounded.
“More sugar, Mr. Crause?” repeated Mr. Fraust.
“Please,” replied the butler.
“I believe we have something that you may enjoy,” said Mr. Fraust. He excused himself from the table and walked over to the phonograph by the wall. In the bottom shelf of it sat a number of blue wax cylinders in colored tubes. He carefully removed one from its tube and placed it in the cylinder holder. There was a brass crank with a wooden handle, possibly made by Mr. Knife, and Mr. Fraust vigorously wound it until the spring was at full pressure. He dropped the needle onto the cylinder and a noisy crackling sound filled the room.
I watched intently.
The noise transformed into a jolly song about Mr. Frost.
“What do you think?” asked Mr. Fraust.
“Wonderful,” I said.
“It’s getting quite late, isn’t it?” remarked Mr. Fraust.
It was already past ten.
“Why don’t you pass the night on the couch here so you can be ready for your early morning shift? And here is your payment,” he added, pulling a very small golden coin out of his pocket and handing it to me.
It was genuine.
With some reservations, I agreed, and the men headed to their separate quarters as I lay on the couch looking out at the sky through a gap in the windowshade.
How had I ever obtained this job? Had so many people really applied before me? Who was Mr. Frost? And why was he so cold?
The next morning I was awoken by the shuffling about of Mr. Fraust and the clicking about of Mr. Crause.
“You may wish to wear these,” he said, placing a pile of Victorian-style clothes next to me. They fit perfectly.
I washed my face, prepared for work, and went out to the factory.
The air was chill and moist outside, and I felt a rural energy infringing upon the industrial landscape in an unseen manner. There seemed to be less factory buildings in the distance, too, somehow.
I looked around the office a bit more and tried several of the filing cabinet drawers, finding them all locked.
Overall, the factory building was several decades more modern than the house.
Apprehensively, I entered the workroom and found my supplies. I could not see anyone else in there.
I scraped away at one of the blanks, shaving long strips away from the edges of it. They fell softly to the floor. A voice directly behind me boomed.
“What are you doing? How was the tea?” it asked.
“Good,” I replied, trying to maintain my composure.
“They didn’t invite me!” shot back Mr. Knife.
He yelled a bearlike resounding roar and spread his arms out to his sides.
“And the tea was good! You need to get out! Let me be at this job!”
“If I had known I would be replacing you I wouldn’t have taken this job in the first place,” I replied calmly.
“You ARE.”
Mr. Knife picked up a wooden mallet and approached me with it. I backed away.
“Do you know what happens after death?” he said.
“I would like to believe so,” I replied, knife in my hand. There was enough sweat on the handle to make my grip unsure.
“You go to,” he pointed upwards, “that great big knife up in the sky. That’s what I want. It’s what you need.” he said in a surprisingly soft voice. He stood still.
I shook my head.
“You don’t agree?”
I took a deep breath.
“Uggh, look!” he swung the mallet at me and I blocked it with the knife blade. The two tools connected together. Mr. Knife threw the mallet away and the knife went with it.
“I’m gonna throw this at you!” he said, running over to a gigantic iron machine and pitifully attempting to pick it up. I grabbed a handsaw which was under a nearby table.
“Go back to work,” I scolded.
“No!” he bellowed. He charged me and collided into me. We fell to the floor.
“Replacement!” he yelled. I backed away and regained my footing. Mr. Knife threw a piece of wood at me and I batted it away.
There was a sound of a door opening.
“This knife looks sharp,” he said, eyeing a very long cutting implement nearby. He threw it up in the air and it spun one and a half times. He caught the blade and then turned it around quickly to cover up his gross inadequacies in coordination.
I backed up more and he started to follow me, menacing with the knife. I saw Mr. Crause approaching. Mr. Knife did not notice since his back was to him.
The butler put in a burst of effort even greater than that required to climb the stairs and headed directly for Mr. Knife at a blazing speed.
“That’s enough!” boomed Mr. Crause with surprising vigor.
The velocipede slammed into Mr. Knife, both men being flung a great distance and smashing forcefully into the ground. Mr. Crause’s bowler hat rolled away under a table.
“You! Crause! It’s all because of you!” said Mr. Knife. He crawled to Mr. Crause’s bike and bit the tire, deflating one of the wheels.
“Damn you, Mr. Knife!” Mr. Crause screamed in agony.
He approached the worker and pounded on him with his fists. The two began a brutal ground fight.
I could barely watch. They yelled obscenities and insults at each other related to production efficiency, choice of clothes, and transportation methods.
Mr. Crause elbowed his adversary brutally in the face several times, and Mr. Knife bit his hand in return.
The woodworker stretched his arm out and tried to grab the nearest object, a small hacksaw, but Mr. Crause sat on him and stopped him from reaching it.
“There is no knife in the sky!” shouted Mr. Crause, pulling his wallet out of his pocket and pushing it into Mr. Knife’s mouth. Mr. Knife made gurgling sounds.
Mr. Crause stood up and jumped repeatedly on Mr. Knife. Horrible noises emanated from him. Mr. Crause was so heavy that every impact was colossal.
The worker was running out of energy to fight. With his final burst of life, Mr. Knife found the hacksaw and attacked Mr. Crause’s ankle.
The butler screamed and retreated from Mr. Knife.
“Why don’t you help me?” he pleaded, referring to me.
I couldn’t stand it any longer.
“No, Mr. Knife is crazy but he doesn’t deserve to be murdered,” I said. “He should be…”
Mr. Knife spat the wallet out and then held the hacksaw to his own throat.
“sent to a mental hospital…” I finished.
“I see The Knife!” yelled Mr. Knife gladly. “It’s up there! The great big knife!”
“Don’t!” I argued, “There is none!”
“No! It’s really there!”
I looked at the ceiling.
“No it isn’t!”
Mr. Crause looked at me.
“You are right. Why am I doing this? Give me that!” Mr. Crause ordered to Mr. Knife.
Mr. Crause decided that his adversary should live. He lunged at Mr. Knife and tried to take his hacksaw away.
In the ensuing struggle, Mr. Knife received a terrible wound.
Mr. Crause held up the hacksaw and looked back at me.
“I stopped him from killing himself!” he declared proudly.
“Look at him,” I retorted. Mr. Crause was horrified to see Mr. Knife dying right in front of him.
“The first aid kit!” he yelled, hopping onto his velocipede and riding it at a snail’s pace with one flat tire and a damaged foot.
I ran to the kit but wasn’t really sure what to get out of it, and by the time I returned, Mr. Knife was dead.
Mr. Crause and I dug him a grave behind the mansion with a small wooden marker to mark his 17 years working for the company. The air outside seemed much fresher than before and the landscape more sparse.
The butler called Mr. Fraust and Mr. Frost down for his burial.
As they came to the backyard, they talked amongst themselves of the altercation and the reasons for it, and mentioned a lot of information from the past that I could only get a general sense of.
There was no priest. We went around in a circle, or a square rather, giving short eulogies. Mr. Frost began.
“Mr. Knife worked hard here for seventeen years,” he declared, giving only the cold facts. “He was, at times, an excellent worker. He produced a lot of magnifying glass handles.” Mr. Frost opened his mouth to say something more but decided against it at the last second.
Mr. Fraust went next.
“Mr. Knife was unique. He had his own lifestyle, his own beliefs, and he would never give any of them up for anything. I suppose that’s what I appreciate most about him: his steadfastness till the end. Yes, he did things like sharpen his knives on pieces of glass or any random object, and collect four hundred and thirty eight of them total, but that was part of his charm.” Mr. Fraust’s voice cracked. “You will be missed, Mr. Knife.”
I saw tears rolling down Mr. Crause’s face. He sniffled and wiped his eyes with his red silk handkerchief.
“I… killed him!” he bellowed, voice breaking. “He… Mr. Knife killed himself! No!”
Everybody was silent for a moment.
“Mr. Knife… you were the sweetest, the best… gosh… Why?” said Mr. Crause through a fog of ears. “He was so… kind and caring…” Mr. Crause faded behind his tears and stuffiness.
“Your turn,” said Mr. Frost to me.
“Well…” I could scarcely think of anything to say. “Umm… I guess Mr. Knife was good at what he did and it’s too bad he didn’t get treatment before it came to this. Umm… yeah. He was a character. I just wish he wouldn’t sharpen his knife on me–“
“What?” said Mr. Crause. “That was part of his charm!”
Exasperated, I shook my head. We stood there in vigil for a bit more and then broke off to our own separate things.
There was no work for the rest of the day and a heavy feeling was evident in the air. After a few hours, I became quite restless and wanted to go home, so I asked Mr. Fraust when I should work next. He looked quite grim.
“I am afraid that may not be possible,” he told me.
“Yes it is, you can’t keep me here,” I brushed him off, “There’s no work today anyways.”
I started towards the front door.
“Try if you want,” lamented Mr. Fraust.
I opened the door.
“Look, I’m going,” I asserted.
I looked outside. There were no other factories, just fields and forests in the distance. The air was fresh and clear. I saw no other people. Curious and amazed, I headed towards the back of the factory where the parking lot and my car used to be.
There was nothing but rolling grassy hills. Far off in the distance, I saw a faded split rail fence encircling a large swath of meadow.
I explored the landscape. It felt so free, so uninhabited. There seemed to be less noise in the air, and the silence was so obvious that it almost felt like a noise in itself.
Over the next hill, I could see a stone farmhouse with smoke billowing from the chimney. I approached it, but after coming quite close I felt afraid to go further, turning around.
It was all so new, and so old, at the same time. All I knew was nothing about this landscape was normal.
I was overcome with curiosity about what was happening on the way back. What was in those filing cabinets? What was Mr. Frost working on? I burst into the factory office and tried the filing cabinet drawers again. They were all locked. Was there a key around? I checked the desk and the upper cabinets behind it and did not find any. Most probably, Mr. Fraust or Mr. Frost had one, but it would be very difficult to get it from them.
Was there any way to get into the cabinets? I could use brute force. It would definitely leave evidence, but it still seemed like the best idea. Perhaps it would be possible to break into the back of the cabinets and then replace them to make it seem, at a cursory glance, like nothing had happened. Perhaps the hammer and a hacksaw would be sufficient.
Right when I was preparing to find the tools, I heard something breathing behind me.
“Yes, I bet this is quite surprising,” Mr. Fraust intoned. “But have you not noticed that every time you go out of this house, something changes?”
I was frightened.
“Yes… I believe so.”
“Why would that be?” he led me.
I put the pieces together in my head.
“Either I am going insane, or time… is unstable.”
“Precisely,” replied Mr. Fraust. “and that is why we do not have vehicles, excepting Mr. Crause’s velocipede. They would not be reliable.”
“But how come nothing in the house changes?” I asked.
“We have pinpointed the extreme range of this effect as being the year 1898.”
“But… what about the factory?” I added.
“It seems to follow different rules. Everything from about 1965 and on disappears at times from there. Is your knife still in your pocket?”
I checked. “Yes. But it is very old…”
“And the clothes you were wearing…” we began to return to the house. “They were on this sofa, and now there is nothing.”
I took a glance at the house. It looked brand new; all the windows were fixed and I saw no ivy on the walls.
We entered the house. I heard whistling upstairs from Mr. Frost.
“Where is the far edge of this effect?” I asked, curious.
“It only happens to these two properties and a bit of land surrounding them. We have became quite used to this effect.”
“But… why does it end at those years?”
“We may need to do some research for that…” replied Mr. Fraust.
We went back to the factory and he unlocked one of the filing cabinets. After rifling through many documents in them, he pulled something out.
“Why are those always locked? What’s so secretive about these documents, anyways?” I wondered.
Mr. Fraust sighed, not excited to divulge such information.
“It’s all very sensitive information, about various topics. Some of it is about… an adversary of Mr. Frost.”
“Adversary?”
“Shouldn’t have said that,” muttered Mr. Fraust to himself.
“But this time effect, anyhow, appears to have something with temporal differentiation… invention of the flashlight and paper clip… the population of the world at two and three billion respectively… death of Winston Churchill…”
He read amongst the documents.
“There seem to be a number of reasons. And there is Mr. Frost.”
“But who is Mr. Frost?” I asked, a bit impatiently. “What is Mr. Frost?”
“Shh,” he said, gesturing.
I heard a terrifying loud banging on the roof. It sounded like something slid off onto the ground. Suddenly, the ambient temperature seemed to increase slightly. Mr. Fraust’s eyes showed a stunned gaze, and his mouth hung open.
“What is it?” I asked. He did not respond.
Despite my fears, I marched towards the front door and opened it up. There was a cloud of black and grey smoke in front of the factory, hovering above the ground and apparently originating from it.
I did not see anything else unusual, except that the world in 1898 looked very different from what I was used to. Still, there was a queasy feeling as I went back into the factory to check on Mr. Fraust.
“What is out there?” he asked me urgently.
“Smoke,” I replied.
“Mr–” he whispered. He fainted and collapsed to the ground.
I heard a frantic knocking on the door.
Had Mr. Knife come back from the dead?
Terror paralyzed me. I could not manage to move a muscle.
Mr. Frost barged in.
“You! Get the fire extinguisher! Hurry!” he ordered, pointing at me. My paralysis breaking, I ran around the factory room desperately, neglecting to ask where the fire extinguisher was.
It was nowhere to be found.
“Hurry!” yelled Mr. Frost from the office.
It was way off in the farthest corner of the room. The fire extinguisher was more like a large red and yellow pressurized can, being from the 1950’s or 60’s. It was quite heavy as I lugged it back.
Mr. Frost was waiting impatiently by the door. He snatched the apparatus from me and jumped out the door. Smoke poured in from outside.
Covering my mouth, I took a step outside and saw the house and factory surrounded on two sides by an inferno of fire. Mr. Frost combated the blaze by shooting a stream of water at it. The door of the house swung open and Mr. Crause ran out with a bucket and dumped it onto a section of the blaze, which crackled and smoked as it went out.
The gigantic fire had been reduced halfway, but Mr. Frost’s extinguisher was running out and it was encroaching even closer to the house.
“Get the other one!” he yelled.
I frantically searched through the factory workroom again but could not find it. Hopeless, I returned to the office and was about to tell Mr. Frost the news, when I glimpsed another extinguisher right under the desk, next to the wall.
I brought it to Mr. Frost. Mr. Crause readied another bucket.
Just as the fire was about to reach the far wall of the house, Mr. Crause put it out. On the other side, Mr. Frost finished off the last of it.
I heard coughing from the butler. It was even smokier now than before.
There was some refuge back in the safety of the workroom. Mr. Fraust came to from his fainting spell, slightly disoriented.
I knelt down by his side and reassured him, not telling him about the fire, although its existence was obvious from the smoke that had poured in in no small quantity from the opening and shutting of the door.
Mr. Frost appeared and placed the empty fire extinguisher cans on top of the desk in the office.
“What is all that smoke?” wondered Mr. Fraust.
“Nothing,” I replied, clearly lying.
“No!” said Mr. Fraust to himself, unbelieving. He struggled to his feet and headed towards the door.
“What’s going on?” I called out to Mr. Frost. He headed towards me.
“I’m afraid to tell you the reason for the fire,” he said, his face cold and expressionless.
“I am quite sure, however, that it came from the being known as Mr–“
A scream from outside interrupted him.
“We have to go!” he said.
Not interested in missing anything, I sprinted past Mr. Frost and left the building.
Mr. Fraust was nowhere to be seen outside, so I supposed he therefore had to be in the mansion.
“Is anybody here?” I called, opening the front door. There was a noise from upstairs.
Cautiously, I approached the stairs.
“Stop!” yelled Mr. Fraust from Mr. Frost’s office. There were scuffling noises. Strangely, I felt a strong sensation of heat as I climbed the staircase.
At the top, an insane sight awaited me. Mr. Fraust was cowering in front of a red-haired suited man whom I had never seen before. His face was covered in pimples and his presence felt immediately annoying. He was about the same age as Mr. Frost.
“Ahh, it’s about time we met!” he grinned evilly. It was almost like his body was burning. The temperature of the room had skyrocketed.
“I suppose you can guess what my name is,” he said, warmly. Still, I detected a streak of fire behind his eyes.
Silenced by the awkwardness of the conversation and a hunch to keep my mouth shut, I simply stood there.
“Well,” he said, his temper starting to simmer, “no words from you?” His mouth contorted.
“Why doesn’t anyone ever talk to me?” he shrieked, his voice reaching a boiling point.
“Well what is your name?” I asked, giving up.
“Mr. Heat,” he replied, smiling.
“You have one decision: either follow me or follow Mr. Frost. So, will you join me or are you going to leave me out in the cold?”
I was getting sick of this.
“I am not joining you, and I’m not a huge fan of Mr. Frost either, honestly, but how would I possibly trust you?” I said, exasperated.
Mr. Heat’s body increased in calorificy rapidly.
“If you are not going to help me destroy all of Mr. Frost’s documents, this guy will die!”
I was disappointed he did not know Mr. Fraust’s name but it was not surprising.
“No!” protested Mr. Fraust.
“His name is Mr. Fraust!” I said defiantly, grabbing the nearest object to me, an historical compendium, and launching it at Mr. Heat.
He shrugged off the large impact and the book set ablaze as it ricocheted off his body. It crackled on the floor next to him.
Using some sort of telekinesis, Mr. Heat sent the book flying towards Mr. Fraust and it collided with his head, sending him sprawling on the ground.
I was stunned.
“Why are you even trying to fight me?” he asked. “You know you will fail.”
I had to admit, he had a good point.
But what about Mr. Frost? Perhaps I could pass the time until he showed up to help me. I had to think of something.
“I can find you a great document to burn,” I said, trying to backstab him. I rifled through the bookshelf for the least important item. Mr. Heat seemed patient for a few seconds.
“Here it is,” I said, holding up a biological treatise, “burn this!”
Mr. Heat sent a fireball at it and the entire book combusted in one second.
“Good, you’re helping me,” said Mr Heat. “Now we can get rid of winter once and for all! Now get me another book, or maybe I should just set the whole bookcase on fire.”
“No!” I said, unable to restrain myself.
“Yes,” he replied, discovering my ruse. He held out his hands and began to materialize a fireball. Instinctively, I charged him and we crashed to the floor.
“Damn you, Mr. Heat!” I yelled, infuriated. His aim was upset and the fireball hit the wall next to the bookcase, charring it.
I was starting to burn, so I crawled away from Mr. Heat as quickly as I could.
“It’s your turn! Feel the burn!” he said, preparing to blast me. There was a small mirror right in front of me, next to Mr. Frost’s desk. I took it and pointed it towards Mr. Heat just as he shot the fireball. It bounced back at him and only burnt my fingertips slightly.
“That doesn’t work!” he said as the fireball collided with him. “You can’t fight fire with fire!”
“Shut up!” I yelled.
He fired another projectile at me, which made the mirror drop out of my hands and shatter.
“You’re done!” Mr. Heat declared, in a burning rage.
“No he isn’t,” countered the cold voice of Mr. Frost, who stood at the top of the staircase. Mr. Heat shot a fireball at him but he dodged it, advanced, and swung his fist at Mr. Heat.
Mr. Heat cried out in pain and dealt Mr. Frost a blow in return. They pounded each other mercilessly, and with each blow the former’s’ heat diminished and the latter’s frozenness became more temperate. Mr. Frost swung his foot under his adversary’s leg, tripping him. Descending on his injured opponent, Mr. Frost slugged hit after hit on Mr. Heat’s face.
I stared wide-eyed.
“Go back to where you came from!” said Mr. Frost venomously. Mr Heat’s face became mangled and unrecognizable under a layer of frozen blood.
Doubts entered my mind.
Mr. Frost started to elbow Mr. Heat unremittingly.
I was disgusted.
“Stop!” I yelled. “Don’t kill him!”
Mr. Heat lay silent under another round of crushing impacts.
“Give me your knife, now!” implored Mr. Frost, looking me right in the eye.
“No,” I replied, placing my hand over my pocket protectively. Mr. Frost dealt Mr. Heat another kick and advanced towards me.
I backed up and found my back against the wall.
“Give it to me,” he repeated. “It’s the only way.”
I shook my head.
Mr. Heat’s body began to warm up again. I saw him convulsing.
“Now!” said Mr. Frost urgently. I dug the knife out of my pocket and handed it to him. Mr. Frost took it, and Mr. Heat, regaining consciousness, sent a huge inferno at Mr. Frost’s back. He collapsed.
Mr. Heat smiled an unrecognizable smile at me.
“Join me!” he said, preparing yet another fireball.
“No.”
I looked my immanent death in the face. Mr. Frost was out cold.
The fireball was nearly ready.
Then I saw the window on my left.
I climbed onto Mr. Frost’s desk and jumped through the window without thinking. It smashed and everything raced past me in a blue as I freefell towards an inevitable impact.
Everything was black.

I am laying on grass sideways with no recollection of the past.
There is a factory in front of me. Everything is blurry but it slowly comes into focus. I try to stand up but my ribs are broken.

Slowly, at a pace that would make a snail jealous, I raise myself up and hobble one foot at a time towards the factory. I remember that I left something around there.
I look behind me and see an old Edwardian house with nobody in it, consumed by ivy.
Gradually, I make it in back of the factory, where there is a large parking lot containing only my car.
Perhaps there is a bit of fresh dirt behind the main house, I cannot tell for sure.

I hobble towards the vehicle and wonder how I got here.
The keys are in my pocket.
There is a severe pain in my fingers as I pull them out and unlock the car.
Putting the key in the ignition and starting the engine, I finally take a look at my hand.
My fingertips are black and the skin is severely burned.
I remember.

 

my new album

I have created my first music album— an experimental piece featuring analog Moog synthesizers among a few other instruments.

“Raw music played on Moog synths and other instruments. I am to create a unique world in every song and try to use the rough, limitless and somewhat imprecise nature of analog synths to that end.”
released March 31, 2017

Description & Analysis of musical intervals (third/sixth/second et c.)

Interval            Consonance/Dissonance       Waveform                        Character
Unison             perfectly consonant                    simple                     plain
Second               dissonant                            quickly pulsating       wants to be resolved
Third                 consonant-                                pulsating            pleasant, richer
Fourth               consonant                                 stable                 pre-classical connotations,  sound slowly cycles
Fifth                   consonant+                              stable         classical connotation, halfway between tonic/dominant
Sixth                  semi-consonant                  pulsating     less frequently used, harder to identify, not simple like 5th
Seventh            dissonant                       pulsating quicker              wants to be resolved, unusual interval
Octave          perfectly consonant      more complex than unison,stable               richer than unison
Ninth            semi-dissonant                       pulsating                                   more pleasant than second
Tenth            consonant                                   stable                                     complex, somewhat similar to third, happy

Tuning Ratios for Just Intonation:

Unison= 1:1 Second=9:8 Third=5:4 Fourth=4:3
Fifth=3:2 Sixth=5:3 Seventh=15:8 Octave=2:1

My new ASMR Youtube Channel

Link

–ASMR is the term for a genre of relaxing videos, such as Bob Ross painting, which can relieve stress and induce a pleasant tingling sensation in the viewer–

So I have made an ASMR channel, and not really told anyone yet, but it already has around 20 videos. I have worked hard creating different characters and making different situations and playlists for the videos, such as a series taking place in Rolling Hills Asylum, and one I am just starting called The Bookkeeper taking place in a post-apocalyptic world.

I hope you get some relaxation out of them!

Until next time,

Azure James

Youtube —>  azuur asmr

 

the quiet cave (experimental polylingual language)

Back in those days I was zheetin’ in the desert wid me n’ me droogs. It was real hot back in them dyeny.
The entieh weld had bin hit by a sun flayah.
Then visyo started gettin’ real insan. Insand as all heck.
Moy boge!So vi was zheetin’ in dis heah deset just tryin’ not to get smerted or kilt. There was dis malyenky little cave wheh we could git some shad from the old Sol. (the sun)
Well, the Sol was dis real wead oringe all day ee the sky had dis coating of chorny ugly black all o’er herself.
Moskay, it made me a malyenky bit queasy observin’ it.
Things was a little bit cooler because of all dis no it didn’t really help us all too much, in pravda.
So we had at first this vintovka that we would load up wid a couple slugs. Five I think. N’ we would shoot roos or whatever animalia would be zheetin about, out in the back. Vi would pyot ’em all and save some a their measa n’ salt it and brulee it fine.
Apray a while this pyotin’ and walkin’ and sleepin’ about in dis cave was too dam much and vi was real bored and chompin at the bit to do somethin’ else.
But we wasn’t sure how the weld was goin’ or anything because vi wouldn’t just be plompin around this cave for fun, it was seeryis business.
So we left out and walked in a sure direction and apray a good nacht’s journey we ended up where dis little ville was that we’d been to before back when we was malyenky boys.
The Sol was gettin high so we hid in the shad a’ dis wooden buildin’.
And Boge knoweth not but I saw my eld friend Tom walkin’ down the rod and I said hey and he was real scared but seed that it was just us and re-cognized us and all that and he started snakkin at us.
“It’s been a long tom! Where in the weld have you all bin, mine ven?”
“We was zheetin’ in a cave…”
“Sheetin’ in a kev? What?”
“Yep. Measa and sunlicht and hotness. Vi er all sick of it.”
“Well I don’t recco yall stayin’ out on this rod any longer ‘tween the Sol and the freezers and allah dem.”
“Freezahs?”
Tom harrumphed and laffed.
“They’ll rip the om rot off a muzh.”
“Well den.”
Tom stared blank.
“Yep.”
“So what should vi do?” I ask.
“Hod,” he said.
“N’ where are these freezahs,” I ask.
“Dey hod in holes,” said Tom. “Look out fer ’em.”
“Thunks,” I says.
“No problem,” said Tom. “See you next tom.”
So vi found dis buildin’ that was uninhabited n’ stayed round there for the day.
Then vi started snakkin with each other and tryin’ to deduce the beste way to get somewhere.
And I was just taenkin’ to myself how it is getting real boring in this weld waitin’ for something to happen and nothin’ going on at all. Except running into Tom.
No anyways we had wek to do.
So vi figured out to go, moskay, to a city where there might be some fodd to eat that’s better than the sach vi were getting so terribly sick of. I reckon I’ve pyoted enough snake and roo meat to last a couple lifetimes.
Well the nearest city was, like, real far away. Vi needed a plan.
“But we only got about seven slugs left for the vintovka,” said Leigh.
“Dam the vintovker!” I yelt.
“Then what’ll we use?” inquired Franz, shakin ‘is head real sad.

untitled no.1

I am driving with my mother somewhere in the south or the mid-atlantic.
Not really the south or the mid-atlantic, somewhere that bears an energetic resemblance to the aforementioned but is unique in its particularities.
Quite unique, I will find.
In the back seat is a blanket covering a BB gun and a giant cap rifle, food, and various other nonessentials.
We go down the somewhat traffic ridden road and I know there are police almost everywhere, but still my mother fails to correct some sort of vague illegality that is sufficient to get us pulled over. I am disappointed.

Blue and red lights.

Crap.

We roll the windows down. A cop dressed in olive drab walks up to the back window and instantly pulls the blanket off the guns and gives me a severe look.
He knew! I am amazed.
“Why do you need these?” he accuses, handling the BB gun roughly and with an almost utter lack of gun safety.
“That’s a BB gun and the other is a cap rifle, they’re not very dangerous,” I clarify.
He eventually seems to arrive at the conclusion of what they are. I have the feeling I did not even need to tell him.
“We could have taken real guns but I thought that would be a bad idea. I’m sorry. Please.”
I am nearly on the verge of crying. I do not desire to go to jail or pay a large fine for something as typically trivial as this. My pleading is followed by silence for a few seconds.
The cop rolls the situation over in his head and seems to deduce that we are not particularly dangerous people.
“It’s not a big deal; I’ll let you off this time.” he says casually. He replaces the guns over the blanket.
“But do you know what’s up there on that hill?”
An air of mystery descends. On our right side is a large, dark hill covered with thick forest and grassy cattail marshlands leading up to it, as may be seen in parts of Pennsylvania. There is no path leading up to it and it seems exceptionally isolated from the rest of the world.
“No, I have no idea,” say I.
“I can show you,” he says, mystery thick behind his voice.
My mother is not at all interested in coming. She stays behind.
I do not know what pulls me towards the wild but it is an irresistible force and whatever is out there seems much more fascinating than the highway, and more dangerous.
We start off. The policeman begins to descend the ten foot slope directly beside the road and I follow him. He makes his own trail amongst the knee-high grasses that undulate for two-hundred feet until the more severe section of the slope upwards. After traveling increasingly far from the safety of the highway, we approach the trees and walk through them, in the midst of the dark and subconsciously-attuned woods native to this part of the country. The noises of broken sticks and crushing leaves sound.
However, I feel some sort of break in the solidity of the forest. I see light through the other side of the vegetation. The policeman smiles.
We break through the forest to a concrete ramp guarded by a chainlink fence. There is a hole in the fence that we step through. To the direct right of the slope is a large brick apartment building with faded yellow window casings on its myriad windows.
The building is clearly not being used.
I feel very apprehensive at the bizarre and monolithic feeling caused by such an object in the middle of the woods, but curiosity propels my feet nevertheless.
After mounting the incline, we turn to the right side and see another building that was being hid behind the first as we were on the ramp, and to the right of that one is yet another smaller version of the same, so that the three combine to make a U shape which we would have been on the left side of a minute ago.
We make it to the middle of these structures. They look at least seventy years old. There are stairwells down to possible entrances underground but we worry not with them.
Suddenly the policeman takes a pistol out of his holster and starts shooting at the wall and windows. 
“What are you doing?” I ask, startled. The gun seems inexplicably quieter than a real one. His aim is very specific. I am not used to policemen breaking the law.
“Look in those windows.” he says. I feel a dirge bell ring.
I can see clearly inside each of these windows. As I walk, in awe, down the side of the apartment building, I see room after room of people, motionless, going about their lives or simply sitting and staring out at whatever is in front of their windows. Young people, old men, all sorts of different inhabitants.
They are all stuck there, silent, but look as if they could suddenly move if something in the atmosphere shifted. It is so nearly like they are still alive.
“There was an accident here,” saith the policeman gravely, “A bad accident. Something happened nearby and everyone in these apartment complexes was frozen in time where they stand. It happened decades ago.”
The gravity of this dawns on me and I feel a strong sense of melancholy. It reminds me of a similar event somewhere else in the world.
“Here, take this rock lobber,” he says, out of the blue, handing me an underpowered or modified pistol. “Shoot some of them.”
I don’t know what comes over me, or if I am simply afraid to not obey, but I fire at a few of these ephemeral personages and small holes seem to appear in them where the slow rocklike projectile hits them. It is like a bizarre target gallery.
I give the gun back, wondering if I should feel guilty or contented with ending their ceaseless vigil. I cannot tell if I killed them or not, but nothing about them essentially seemed to change after being shot. 
Either way, the policeman’s habit of coming out here and regularly using this hideous place as a target gallery makes me feel nervous.
“I am going to leave,” say I.
“You should go up that path to the new civilization,” he advises. I nod. East of the apartments, further into the wilderness, lay a concrete path with a gate partially blocking it. I pass through the old gate and continue along. Rocks litter the way.
The policeman leaves and goes back to his car.
After putting some much-needed distance between me and those awful apartment buildings, I find myself curious as to what is ahead. I walk another five hundred feet.
My curiosity is satisfied as I see, far away, a small village built on top of a huge slab of concrete. A minute later I am there.
The terrain is generally somewhat flat, and the town is hemmed in by forested wilderness. The town is on the top of a hill, though, so the highest parts of the trees barely manage to rise above the settlement.
There are people here!
I find some young teen boy, somewhat overweight, and we walk along the main corridor of the town, talking about it. He seems so bored that we become friends quickly, as I am the only new thing to happen at the town in quite a while.
I ask him how the town was founded. He explains that some of the original residents from the apartment buildings managed to make it over here to start a new civilization. Now there are at least forty people in the area. I wonder how anyone could have escaped the accident.
The buildings around here are but small, blackened plank structures, but they give off a comforting if archaic energy compared to the brutalist Eastern European ambience of the last ones. I see some work being done in the area, dirt and gravel being moved, and there are several bobcats and excavators going about, doing their jobs.
Due to its remoteness, this settlement does not feel boring in the manner of some locations, but it does feel difficult to actually do much nonetheless.
We get off the beaten path and explore a fairly large cabin surrounded by woods. It has brown shingles and a single medium-sized window.
I walk up to it and peer in the window. There are many pots and pans, primitive darkwood furnishings, a few old books, and an icebox in it. But something is sitting in the chair close to the window I am looking into, on the right. A man-sized insect, a cricket or spider, or some unholy combination of man with the aforementioned. Its giant brown hairy legs splay out of myriad directions.
The thing is sitting there motionless.
“Let’s get out of here,” I say, very nervous.
“Oh yeah,” replies the boy. “Those are dangerous, we should go.”
We head, surprisingly slowly, back up the path separating us from the mainland of the town. My new friend and I mess around with gravel piles, look at construction equipment, perhaps go in a small cabin or two, and try generally to pass the time in any way we can. Sometimes we can see many people in the town and other times it looks nearly abandoned, but no reason is ever made clear as to the volatility of its rugged inhabitants.
After a while it becomes difficult to play around any more, and I do not want to retrace my steps and go back to the highway either. I feel that chapter of the adventure is over with and I am spooked still by those frozen structures.
Night is beginning to fall. It is not blurring the colors of the landscape or turning everything to black, but the carefreeness of the start of my voyage, if there ever was any, has faded away.
We are bored and feel the irresistible urge to explore more, dangerous as it may be.
Past the section with the bugman house is another turnoff into the woods, which has evidently been traveled before. We walk down the path, which heads downwards off the plateau of the town.
We come to a section where the grassy path ends and is replaced by a large square mass of concrete, fifty by fifty feet, with different rectangular shapes layered on top of it. It nearly seems like a children’s playground except for the vague eeriness and mystery surrounding its purpose.
We use it, however, for its supposed purpose and climb about on it, finding it a respite from the last events.
Then I hear something a ways behind us. Fear is in my friend’s eyes. I turn around and see, on the path coming from the town, another one of those horrid creatures. It lurches towards of with many light-brown hairy hairy arms and I don’t know how many legs.
We try to hide behind a concrete rectangle, but I hear it coming around the side and run to another shape before it sees me.
It is even more terrifying up close. I lose my friend at some point, and although I can deduce that he was not killed, I am never quite sure where he goes. My best guess is into the dark surrounding woods.
I play cat and mouse with the thing through different shapes until I eventually end up and the far end of the slab form the town. The pathway continues on further past that.
It sees me and has me cornered so that my best choice is to continue down the path.
I run.
Quickly the woods and trees go by me, for I am at top speed and jumping over logs and turning corners with an emergencial exhilaration I have rarely felt hitherto.
But it is yet behind me, and I find with horror that it is a tiny bit faster than me and is gaining ground at a tortuously slow rate. I need something to save me and at the next turn something does. An oak tree stands in the middle of the path so I barely brush by it and then put it between me and the thing as I continue running.
It smashes into the tree and falls. I look at it for a moment.
It is not dead but needs to make it off the ground before it can continue its pursuit.
I wonder what terrible accident could have caused such an abomination. The one at the apartment buildings or some sinister de-evolution from the surviving town? Or were they always in the surrounding woods?
At any rate, I continue as fast as I can and note the path’s curvature to the right. Perhaps it will eventually make a semicircle and join up with the rest of the town.
But yet again the thing is gaining on me and I run, filled with terror that I will trip up at some point and make a mistake. I am lucky, but it is only ten feet behind me.
I dodge under a branch and go around an S-bend, and see the path raise up. Five seconds later I am nearly on the level of the town again.
The creature is overrun and I make it, panting and happy to be safe again, onto the foundation of the town. The thing, evidently, is fearful of the area, for I never see it again.
And there is my friend, far away, on the top of a mound of dirt.
Finally, we are reunited, and I hope that my trials are over.

 

 

 

 

The Battle between Flea People and Mosquito People

The Flea People had always lived in relative peace, jumping about from their job to their house and back again, and then jumping wherever else they desired to go. Valuing space and privacy, they lived far from each other but in a jump or two could go visiting with their neighbors. They always had many friends. But north of their kingdom lay the desolate swamps of the Mosquito Men, vicious flying pests who spent much of their time managing blood banks, running emergency blood drives, and invading other nations in order to steal their alizarin, ferrine nectar.
Of course, the Flea People had always known they would be targeted at some point.
It was only a matter of when.

Corporal James Fixen gave his commanding officer a tour of the facility which was producing their most secret weapon.
“It’s completely classified– we’ve had psychologists, engineers, electricians, and inventors working on this thing for months. It will be the most powerful mosquito-destroying device in history. And it’s finally near completion.”
“It is impressive, all right,” replied the commander, in awe of the machine, a hundred-foot-tall glasslike rod surrounded by a sturdy metal grate with holes large enough for mosquito people to fit through. It had a few large sacks of aromatic materiel hanging at various points from the grate. He had the feeling it would be awesome when turned on.
“But do you know that it will be ready in time? I have heard bad news from the North,” said the officer somberly.
“I am not sure,” the other man was forced to admit.

A hundred miles northwards, in the diminutive town of Fleafersson, the villagers slept in damp, musty beds, windows open to the humid sanguine air. One of them, Carl, stirred in the midst of a bad dream.
“Something feels wrong,” he thought to himself, hearing a very low-pitched droning off in the distance. “But it doesn’t really sound like mosquitoes…”
The town was only twenty miles from the beginning of mosquito territory, and in it, small outgrowths of swamp fought aggressively to usurp the drier land.
Carl noticed the sound getting louder and nearly overhead.
He was afraid. Carl blinked in nervous anticipation.
A noise like a glugging of a fifty five gallon bucket sounded and the flea man watched as a veritable sea of water fell from a titanic mosquitoan airship above. The water danced slowly, beautifully, swirling into every curve and crevice possible on its way down, then it crashed with reckless force onto the flea houses and destroyed the pristine dryness of the landscape, flooding it almost instantaneously.
Carl saw the aqueous substance invade his house quickly, climbing up foot by foot until it was at his neck. He escaped out of his bedroom window and swum vigorously until he had conquered the depth of the water, his head emerging soaking from it as an idol of his bravery.
“But what about my wife…” he thought, as she had been sound asleep the whole time. A few tense moments later, she emerged from the house as well, waterlogged but alive.
Luckily for that little family, it is nearly impossible to drown a flea.

The flea army deployed a large guard to the northern border after the unsuccessful mosquito water attack.
But the enemy was not finished yet. They had a secret weapon of their own, and it was already primed for use.

A small division of guards waited in the grimy northern trenches. Their job was to observe the no-man’s-land between the two territories.
Mike shot the breeze with his friend most of the time but now he suddenly was silent. There was a noise, more vibratory and sharp then the sound of the previous attack. Mike froze, and forced himself to use all of his will to muster a cry for help.
“Anti-air! I hear planes!” he shouted. One by one, his comrades noticed and the gunners jumped into their two powerful flea cannons. They at last found the opposing assault force, no less than five large bombers.
“This is serious business!” someone yelled. Mike grabbed his gun and fired several times but the mosquito planes had so much agility they were nearly impossible to hit. They came closer and closer, but did not fire upon the fleas or drop any ordinance.
“Wait!” yelled Mike. “They’re not trying to attack us at all!” He ran towards the commander. “They’re coming for another city! If they were going to bomb us, they would have dropped them already!”
Nobody listened to the lone guard, however, as they were all too busy panicking and firing.
Before long, an anti-air gunner dialed in the sights properly and sunk one of the mosquito bombers. Greasy black smoke poured out of it as it sank slowly towards the ground, crippled. The gunner had not intended for it to be landing right on top of them.
The disabled ship fell closer and closer to the ground with screaming velocity.
“Run!” yelled Mike. He leaped two hundred yards out of the way, to safety, but some of the other soldiers were too barricaded-in or too afraid to move. The once monolithic plane shattered into bits upon contact with the ground and its payload exploded outwards in a gargantuan chemical bubble.
All the flea men hit by the chemical “medicine” were killed instantly. Mike and a handful of others looked on in horror and realized that they were the only survivors.

Far from the dangerous backwater hinterland of the northern territories was the capital of the kingdom. Leer, Most Honorable King of Fleas, sat on his brown throne and discussed public transportation with several members of his advisory board.
Suddenly, news came in of a skirmish on the northern border.
“Send reinforcements to the area,” replied the King.
“But they are coming further south. It’s not us that need reinforcing– it’s you.”
“Pah! We’re sufficiently reinforced. I told you once and I shall not tell you again, I am sending you help. Now be satisfied with it.”
The officer on the other side of the radio grunted from dissatisfaction but stayed silent to preserve his job. The King resumed his colorless conversation about various transport-related practicalities, number of collisions per year, (1375) amount of jumps required to travel five miles (the average distance to get to work, 126) and the state of air transportation. (very poor)
King Leer looked out the Royal Window and saw four giant mosquito bombers headed towards the city.
“Tell the army to man the cannons!” he commanded. King Leer knew it was already too late, though. At most they would only down half the planes before they emptied their payloads on the city. He was correct, and even worse, the planes that did get shot down did their share of damage as well.
Gigantic gravity-powered projectiles fell smoothly towards the ground in an increasingly-steeper logarithm curve. Upon contact with the ground, they deployed huge clouds of toxic smoke which overtook the streets instantly and suffocated thousands upon thousands of flea people.
“Lock down the palace!” cried the King. An assistant pressed all the emergency buttons and the windows and grates closed just as the shockwave of chems reached the grounds.
“Just in time,” whispered the King, relieved but still terrified.
A minute later, the final bomber was shot down, but the fleas had payed a terrible price; a tenth of their national population had been decimated in three short minutes.

Riding off their previous momentum, the mosquitoes buzzed towards the town of Fleafersson in myriad numbers.
The local guards and police had set up a few mechanical defense mechanisms in order to try to stem the tide, but they were obliterated by the mosquitoes’ giant superiority complex, a huge rolling machine which fired cannons and lasers and several other indescribable weapons in unfailing succession. The fleas were slowly overwhelmed, and Mike and his wife looked in at the carnage from the edge of the woods. Their enemies were breaking into houses and finding people on the street in order to stick them through with their terrible bloodsucking probisci.
The screaming was awful, and pale bloodless flea bodies littered the street.
“We have to go,” intoned Carl, and the two fleas fleed as quickly as possible, just in time to avoid becoming two more victims of the slaughter.

Wave after wave of flying terrors invaded the land, crushing the border outposts and pouring down further into the riper, less guarded cities of the central province of the kingdom.
King Leer sat pensively on his throne, and there was a knock at the palace door. They let in a very strange-looking flea, who demanded to speak directly with the king. He was escorted over forthwith.
“Who are you?” demanded King Leer.
“I am a messenger of the Most Gallant and Brave Mosquitoes, and I have come to negotiate terms of surrender, for we have already taken over nearly half of your kingdom.”
The creature handed King Leer a piece of two hundred pound weight cream paper engraved with elaborate script. The King read it over, to the dismay of his advisors.
“I do not agree with these terms, and I must speak to my advisors.”
“I am not allowed to give you much time to make you mind up. I need a decision in two hours,” replied the pesky messenger.
“I will tell you by the close of the deadline,” replied King Leer. “Now go.” He shooed him off. The King and his panel argued over what to do, whether to surrender with high benefits or fight to the bitter end or compromise. They received news shortly of yet another city being overrun and sacked by the bloodsuckers. King Leer rubbed his aching head and sighed.

At the appointed time, the flea/mosquito messenger arrived for his second visit.
“Have you made up your mind?” he inquired.
“Yes,” replied the King. “We will accept surrender with heavy beneficial provisions. If you do not agree with these terms, we will keep fighting until we cannot fight any more.”
“And what are these terms?” asked the messenger, irritated. The King and his panel explained them all, and was countered by opposing propositions. Slowly, they worked through the details and ended up with a tolerable document.
The messenger slid the paper to the King and handed him a pen.
One last time, he read over the words, and the started pangs in his heart. But reluctantly, he began to bring pen to paper.
Then a man recognizable as the research-and-development corporal appeared at the front door and ran in an urgent rush towards the King. He stopped signing.
“King Leer, sir! We have completed the project!” he said, smiling.
“I do not believe it!” The King stopped the pen instantly.
“Yes, it is ready for deployment right now. Who is this fellow here?” he asked, meaning the strangely-dressed messenger.
“He need not be here. He is a vassal of the Mosquitoes.”
The corporal’s jaw dropped. Knowing he had no other choice, not about to wait around for the others, he pulled out his pistol and fired three times at the messenger, who tried to jump away but was executed promptly upon landing by the palace guards. The King tore up the surrender document.
“Give ’em hell,” he ordered, grimacing.

The gigantic secret weapon was rolled out by a thousand fleas onto the largest public park in the capital. It was difficult finding a 480-volt plug to conduct the power, but with the help of creative thinking and a dozen extension cords, the corporal was able to pull the power lever. The machine turned on in a beautiful hazy purple light. A frenetic electrical pulsation began. Already, nearby mosquitoes found themselves attracted to the machine.
“So what exactly does it DO?” asked the King, who could see the faraway device from his throne room.
“I’m not sure,” replied an advisor.
Then the King observed a wispy little mosquito moving closer and closer to the device as though it was on autopilot. when he finally hit it
CRACK!
he was electrocuted and fell hopelessly to the ground, dead and shriveled up by the grievous shock. The bait pouches were working perfectly; before long every enemy in a ten mile radius was on their way to certain destruction. The King smiled widely and joy welled up inside him every time he heard the telltale clamorous sizzling.

An infantry counter offensive was created and the rest of the enemies were pushed back and eliminated a day later.
The fleas had won, and the Kingdom was free, due to the all-powerful bug zapper.

And far to the north, Carl and his partner observed, from the wilderness, every occupying mosquito be pulled by some invisible stimuli or order towards the south.
Knowing it was now safe, they entered their town, which was a ruin from all the fighting and maiming that had occurred so recently. Bob, Jane, Tristan, Larry, Peter, Paul, Rob, and Wendy were all dead, laying there in lifeless piles. And those were just the ones Carl could quickly identify.
There were just as many crushed, limb-filled mosquito corpses.
Carl shuddered.
“All this so they could feed their kids,” he said wistfully.
There was a moment of silence.
“That is the cost of war,” replied his wife.

 

The Gamer

Azure James

 
In the depths of a dark video game cafe, sharp sapphire light illuminated the recesses of towered hard disks and shelves of computer accessories, and the gamers Kim and Joel sat two chairs away from each other. But they were better known by their game names, pocketmaster1345 and xxxxxKIMPTxxxxx. They were in the midst of practicing for another competitive tournament at some point in the future. There were many other players in the room who did not have the sophisticated and cool atmosphere of true gaming veterans, and Kim and Joel looked down on them as casuals.
It was eight at night.
“Headshot!” Kim said into his microphone, and Joel heard him through his headset. Joel jumped around a building corner, dove to the ground, and noscoped three enemies in a row. Dead bodies piled on the ground. Joel got up and ran into cover, throwing two grenades incredibly far into some random location in enemy territory. He saw Kim out of the corner of his eye enter the building to the right of him, about to go in deep and cut around the enemy’s flank.
Kim and Joel communicated much better than most Insane Warbattles VI players, and used myriad strategies to help them in their pursuit of gaming infamy.
They had been in countless tournaments together, and though Joel entertained some thoughts of getting married and having a life outside of gaming, Kim lived for it and almost never did anything else.
But they were indisputably both extremely skilled.
Joel’s armament was usually a SCAR with extended barrel and green 2x magnification sight and a USP extended mag for backup. His comrade used a bolt-action sniper rifle and dual M9 pistols. But on occasion, as a joke, Joel would pull out his difficult-to-use middle finger cannon that he had got as a prize for prestiging eleven times. That was a long time ago.

Time had passed, but the players scarcely noticed. They were now the only people there except the absentminded store clerk, as it was three in the morning. Joel tried to recollect when they had first entered the cafe– it was perhaps a day or a day and a half ago? They played on.
“Stay behind that door, and I’ll cover the other exit,” said Kim, his voice sounding weaker than usual. They hadn’t been communicating as much lately.
An enemy went through the door and was in the process of spinning around and shooting at Joel when he took two slugs to the chest and collapsed.
They had won. Patriotic music played and the soldier with the most kills was displayed.
Now there was a loading time between battles, and they were going to be on the Soviet side. Joel took a swig of Mtn Dew, which used to be Mountain Dew, when they had first picked up their controllers.
Memories of some of their earlier tournaments suddenly flooded Joel’s mind, all the fun they’d had and how difficult it all was. How exciting it had been to prepare, and the thought that all of their enemies had spent just as much time getting ready as them!
Joel worried a little that Kim wasn’t eating much. He never ate a lot and often lost a lot of weight before a competition.
Joel’s character’s head exploded and he fell to the ground. He was getting way too distracted. The young man promised to himself to focus more from then on. Suddenly, Kim’s voice came on again.
“I’m getting tired, maybe we should close this up at the end of this battle.”
Kim was always subtle and a little bit submissive. He sounded exhausted.
“I don’t think so,” replied Joel, “I’m three quarters to level 176 and I should get there before the weekend. What do you think?”
“I’m not sure…”
“Come on,” replied Joel, brushing it off.
“Ok,” said his friend.
They continued on, playing on top of ships, on the roofs of tall buildings, and even in the inside of submarines where stray bullets caused flooding. Their battle orders and general chatter had slowed down and completely stopped a while ago. Joel was skilled enough that he could still play very well, however.
It was eight in the morning and a small but increasing amount of light poured in from the alien outside world. It took Joel’s attention away from what he was doing for a few moments. He actually enjoyed looking from a hole in the curtains at the orange sunlight. He detected a bad odor, surprisingly it was even worse than the typical stink of the place, and wondered where it had come from. After looking around the source was still not evident. But Kim seemed pretty still.
Joel was getting very close to level 176. His heart rate increased and every headshot and triple grenade kill moved the experience bar ever closer to that lofty goal.
Across the room, the store worker played around on his phone and ignored everyone as usual.
The gamer noticed that while he was starting to get tired, and no matter how much Mtn Dew he drank, there was not much he could do about it. His reactions were slowing down and his killstreak had went from 2.64 to the despicable ratio of 1.32! It was terrible.
But Kim, somehow, had not just stayed at the same level of mastery, but actually gotten slightly better and moved around with even more grace as he hopped fences and ran through dusty Middle Eastern towns. Joel was sure, one time, that one of the animations he went through did not even exist at all.
And all this without them even talking.
He didn’t mind, as his throat was sore anyways. At the end of the battle the experience bar was so close to its goal that Joel could not even believe he had not leveled-up yet.
The next round took place on a huge jumbo jet, and if enough windows were broken it would suck players out of the plane, so sometimes players used that effect as a strategy to win. Kim did three times better than Joel, but finally, after shooting some dude’s feet six times in a row, twenty five more experience points were added to the bar and the golden letters
CONGRATULATIONS: LEVEL 127 REACHED!
appeared. Joel gave out an audible shout. The store worker actually noticed him and stared condescendingly for a moment. It was ten in the morning now. The smell was getting horrible, and Joel thought it was about time to go home and take a shower, so he turned the game off and slowly re-acclimated to the real world. After pressing the computer power button and brushing the chip dust off his chair, the young man took a step towards his friend to remind him that they were finished. Not noticing it, he still had his wireless headset on.
Joel touched his friend on the shoulder. It was cold. He shook Kim, but the latter did not resist the movement at all. His face was much paler than usual and he smelled much worse than usual.
He was dead. And he had been dead for a long time.
And then Joel had the horrible thought– how was he still playing?
A low, creaky voice suddenly appeared on Joel’s headset. His heart nearly stopped.
“Hello,” it growled, “Shall we play another round?”

Letters from Irina 10

Dear Friend:
A war has started close by to here I have been watching on the news and seen some of it firsthand.
The footage needs no comments. It is a human rights violation playground.
One of the documentary men said “We have  to show it all and much leftovers about how people live on water, what they think about, what is happening in them.”
The vast majority of this city is gangs.
There were preparations for half a year.
The insurgents were practicing throwing people and technology in order to skip people on concrete and when they figured out how to do that, they attacked.
A very stupid unknown gunman fired upon a helicopter  pad 3 kilometers from a boutique. An atheist was wounded.
In  another attack, riot police were ambushed and the gunmen killed more than ten including the dog person Oleg Rumizhak.
They interviewed a Russian general who said:
“I am pleased with my unit. But not only do they not discuss the order but they do not violate the
instructions either.”
We have had one victory at least. Our forces captured militants in a picturesque valley but
young lieutenant commanded a direct fire and shot them all against his permission.
‘Tis fine with me.
I still managed to write a poem:
I heard you and your Golden Opera
well some things speak for themselves
deepening is completed.
Like all your relationships.

I am going to leave the city tomorrow.
We will see if I can manage another letter.
Wish me luck.
Love,
Irina