Category Archives: Experimental Fiction

Overture, Pt. 1

No matter how long I stare at it, the ceiling doesn’t change. This must be what it’s like to be a corpse.

* * *

There are too many people in this apartment and no one knows anyone else, but that’s the way it goes when the club empties out and someone announces to no one in particular,

Hey, I’ve got synthemesc back at my place.

Not even sure whose place it is, if it’s anyone’s, if the proper tennant is out of town or asleep in another room or cut to pieces in a bag in the fridge. Probably not the fridge thing. That’s where they kept the wine, and you’ve seen the wine. You’ve seen the synthemesc too, but you opt for the wine because it’s one thing to be in a strange environment, surrounded by unknown quantities, intoxicated to the edge of reason, but if you popped the pills and your eyes rolled back and you started seeing funny little green ghouls, too? Well, shit, that’s just reckless.

And besides, that’s not why you came here anyway.

You came here because she came here. You came here because you’d been dancing together. One in the morning on a Tuesday night, not exactly a sensible hour to be out. Folks got work in the morning. Kids got school. People got girlfriends and boyfriends, husbands and wives they ought to get home to.

But not you. And not her.

She takes a pull of wine and stands up and announces she has to go to the bathroom. No one pays her any mind, occupied by other things or other realities, but you hear her and you watch her and she’s watching you. Her statement was both an admission and an invitation. She’s making eye contact when she turns. You give her a few minutes to take care of whatever she’s got to take care of, and then you go exploring. The bathroom door is unlocked. The bathroom door is ajar. The light is off.

She’s sitting on the counter, a cigarette in her hand, her eyes staring out the open window. Outside, the city murmurs, tossing and turning in its sleep. You close the distance, put your hand over hers, your fingers on the cigarette.

May I?

I’ve got more.

But I want this one.

The cigarette carries her lipstick with it. Iris. You can’t tell if you taste it or if you smell it, but it’s there. It’s her. She’s there. Ten minutes later, the bathroom door securely locked, her lipstick smeared, your hands on your belt, she tells you,

I’m married.

The words don’t even make sense to you. They don’t resolve into anything meaningful in your brain. She might as well have told you that purple is the cubic root of eleventy-spleen.

You’re what?

I’m married.

What to do with this information. How to process it. You have no answers. Your hands fall limp at your side, your belt still buckled. You have no answers, but you have questions.

Are you happy?

Yes. No. I don’t know.

Where is he? Or she? Or whatever?

He. Business trip. Out of the state.

What are you doing here?

I don’t know!

There are tears in her eyes. You’ve been in the bathroom far too long. Even if no one’s curious about where you went or suspicious about your absence, sooner or later, someone’s going to need to use the facilities. And if she starts moaning, if she starts sobbing, there’s going to be suspicion.

So what are you going to do?

I don’t know. What do you want to do?

It’s a Hell of a question, you think. But then, you know there’s a difference between desire and reality.

I don’t know either. How are you getting home?

I don’t know. I went to the Salarian with friends, but they went home. I could call a cab. Or call them.

Too far to walk?

I live in San Solano.

You laugh. Oh, yeah. Way too fucking far for her to walk.

Well. I’m going to leave.

What? Why?

Why? Why would I stay?


Five Interpretations of the Story of King Eglon the Moabite, Pt. 5

V

Once upon a time, there was a fat sack of shit that ruled over a land he had no business ruling. He thought he and his allies would be able to do whatever they wanted forever, but the people of the land pointedly disabused him of that notion.


Five Interpretations of the Story of King Eglon the Moabite, Pt. 4

IV

Cyrus II of Persia, known as Cyrus the Elder, but principally as Cyrus the Great, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Although he himself would only rule for roughly 30 years, his empire would endure for over 200 years. At its largest size, under the rule of Darius I, known as Darius the Great, the Achaemenid Empire stretched from modern day Libya to Ukraine to Kazakhstan to Pakistan.

The Achaemenid Empire was overthrown by the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great. Although smaller in overall size compared to the Achaemenid Empire, Alexander’s armies were able to conquer the empire that took two-hundred and twenty years to build in ten.

King Eglon of Moab is attested in only a single chapter of the Book of Judges. If such a person even existed, he is known for the following: his armies seized a foreign city thirty miles away from his capital. He ruled for eighteen years. He was fat. He soiled himself when he was assassinated. He was apparently so prone to defecation, that it took his servants some time to realize he had died.


Five Interpretations of the Story of King Eglon the Moabite, Pt. 3

III

Imagine a man, physically unimpressive and at best average of intellect and reason. Through accident of birth, this man possessed an inordinate amount of wealth and political power, far more than was ever his due. Now, such good fortune can breed disconnectedness in anyone. There’s a certain subjectivity to reality, and being born into a life where one’s needs are serviced and one’s whims are catered to necessarily informs and affects one’s perception of what the nature of the world is. Eglon the Moabite, unremarkable in every way, had the good fortune to be born the son of a king and a queen, and this is what doomed him.

For a man of his time, he had all that anyone could ever have wanted. Servants. Women. Food and drink in abundant measure. But such was Eglon’s personality that nothing in the world was enough to satisfy him. The nation of Moab was roughly twenty square miles in size, but Eglon wanted a kingdom that would encompass the entire world. In particular, he desired the lands of the Israelites, whom he believed had slandered and mocked him.

While Eglon himself may have lived and died doing nothing more than talking without taking action, the ruler of Ammon to the north and the chiefs of the nomadic Amalek peoples were more ambitious. They saw in Eglon a puppet that could be easily manipulated, a narcissist that could be controlled with carefully applied flattery and criticism. They whispered into his ear, “The Israelites think you weak, O King, but we know you to be great and wise and strong. Surely the Israelites could not stand before the might of the Moabite army. Surely they must be paid back double for their insults and their crimes.”

Manipulated by foreign leaders, Eglon marched his armies across the River Jordan. They captured the city of Jericho and Eglon began demanding concessions from the Israelites, tributes. The Israelites blistered under Eglon’s demands, his inconstancy, his bullying and his egotism. Centuries after this period, the Israelites would welcome foreign intervention with open arms, as when the Persians warred with the Babylonians and in so doing Cyrus the Great liberated the Israelites from Nabonidus’s rule. But Eglon the Moabite was despised, and a plot was enacted to assassinate him. An Israelite leader, Ehud, stabbed the king to death during a tributary, and lead an Israelite army against the Moabite army.

So ended the life of Eglon the Moabite. His kingship was a footnote, and he is remembered mostly as a pawn in the machinations of other rulers.


Five Interpretations of the Story of King Eglon the Moabite, Pt. 2

II

That the king of Moab would come to rule over Israel was, in retrospect, as foregone a conclusion as if it had been ordained by God. The ruling factions of the land had fostered a sense of disillusionment in Israel’s lower class to further their own ends, and this latent tribalism soon gave way to open animosity. The Israelites saw themselves as a people divided and under siege from within, every family and neighborhood and village believing itself to be the “real” Israel.

Into this maelstrom stepped Eglon, a strongman who even though he was an outsider promised to return Israel to an earlier, better era. His propaganda arrived ahead of his armies, and under his direction, the combined forces of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Amalekites seized the city of Jericho. Roughly a fifth of the Israelites were only too happy to deliver their nation into the hands of these conquerers.

Eglon’s reign lasted for eighteen years before he was killed by an assassin and the Moabite army driven back across the River Jordan. The Israelites were able to keep their disparate factions together for eighty years before things once more degenerated to the point where another despot was able to seize power.


Five Interpretations of the Story of King Eglon the Moabite, Pt. 1

I

Because the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, the Lord sent King Eglon of Moab against them. Allied with the Ammonites and the Amalekites, King Eglon warred against and defeated Israel, and together he and his allies took possession of the city of palms. So the Israelites would come to live under the rule of King Eglon of Moab for eighteen years. But when the Israelites cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up for them a deliverer: Ehud, son of Gera the Benjaminite, a left-handed man.

The Israelites sent Ehud with tribute to King Eglon. Ehud made for himself a double-edged blade, a cubit in length, and he hid it on his right thigh under his clothes when he presented the tribute. When Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent the people who carried the tribute on their way. But Ehud himself tarried and said to Eglon, “I have a secret message for you, O king.”

Now, Eglon was a very fat man, gluttonous and greedy in equal measure. So the king said, “Leave us!” and all his attendants went out from his presence. Ehud came to him while he was sitting alone in his chamber, and said, “I have a message from God for you.” Ehud rose from his seat, reached with his left hand, took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into Eglon’s belly. The hilt also went in after the blade, and Eglon’s stomach fat closed over the blade, for Ehud did not draw the sword out of his belly, and Eglon soiled himself as he died. Then Ehud went out into the antechamber, and closed the doors of the chamber on him, and locked them.

After he had gone, Eglon’s servants came. When they saw that the doors of the chamber were locked, they thought, “He must be relieving himself.” So they waited until they were embarrassed for their king, and when Eglon still did not open the doors of the chamber, the servants took the key and opened them. So they found their king lying dead on the floor.

During all this Ehud escaped to the town of Seirah. When he arrived, he sounded the trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, a signal for the Israelites to gather to him. Together they went down from the hill country, Ehud at their head. He said to them, “Follow after me, for the Lord has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand!” They seized the fords of the River Jordan from the Moabites. During the battle, they killed about ten thousand of the Moabites, all strong, able-bodied men; none of Moab’s army escaped. So Moab was subdued that day, and Israel knew eighty years of peace.


Premonitions of a Coffee Shop Conversation

If it even happens, we’ll sit in silence, my tongue numb in my mouth, and yours locked away in the same place you keep your heart secret and safe, and in the end we’ll just get up and leave.

Or maybe we’ll confess our sins, and there will be tears but we’ll feel better about things. Everything will be different, nothing will be the same, but at least we’ll feel better.

Or unlikeliest of all, we’ll talk and see eye-to-eye, and we’ll smile and laugh, and our hands will touch, and in time so will our lips.

But I doubt it.

I’ve spent my life torturing myself with imagined words. Why stop now?


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