He felt bored one day and decided to go see a movie, no matter which one. So he walked down Martín de los Heros street, entered a cinema and chose a random French film. This was the most important decision in his life: almost instantly, he fell in love with the actress. She was young, pale-skinned, hair black as night, eyes like a universe. When the film ended he already felt a missing piece inside his heart.
He realized he was unable to express that love in words; so big, so overwhelming, so eerie. He had no alternative that to keep living his life: lost some friends, met new others, found a job in number crunching, as he liked to say.
Years passed and he missed no new movie featuring her; he saw great stories, mediocre films and crappy flicks just because she was there. Every time the screen showed her face he felt like a delightful rendez-vous: how is you life, are you doing well, missed you so much. And every time he felt his heart breaking into peaces. Sometimes he even cried, his face covered by his hands, warm tears in the dark theater, always surrounded by strangers. Because love hurts, love is like a sickness, love is a strange and silent death.
One day, on one of that occasions when disappointments pile over each other, he decided to travel to Paris. Once there he felt he also loved the streets, the corners, the chimneys; it was a world that was a bit like her, a bit part her. He also felt the sadness of loving something that is almost not there, a mirage, a trompe-l'oeil. The bittersweet feeling of a life wasted loving a ghost.
And then he saw her. It happened on those tiring stairs in Montmartre, no less; he was sweating and panting while she moved almost like having the wind in her sails. He recognized the crow-black hair, the pale face, the glittering eyes now surrounded by little wrinkles, more beautiful than ever. Twenty-five years ago he saw her playing the grieving spouse of the great composer Patrice de Courcy and that day he started living. He smiled her and she smiled back.
Jean-Loup Lamarc was no moron: he knew very well who were his bosses. He was the manager of a small hotel in the lakes; as he used to joke to himself, the manager of the only hotel owned by the mafia that was not used for money laundering. Everything was clear as a summer day in his business; no tricks, no cheating, no nothing. He slept well and loved the flavor of a good cigar in the evening.
But one night someone knocked at his door. Lamarc was still wiping the sleep from his eyes while he let his visitor in; Elijah Blumenthal, the accountant, a bug-eyed, lizard-thin guy from Boston, was pale as if he just had seen a ghost.
"We're screwed, Frenchie. Yes, man, we're screwed.", said in a trembling voice.
Lamarc didn't like to be called 'Frenchie', but that time he let it go. "Sit down. What's the matter?"
"The numbers, Frenchie. The numbers. They are false. And they will know."
"What are you saying? The numbers are fine. Nobody takes a buck. Everything is clean as my mother's kitchen."
"No, no, no, Frenchie, they will know. They have people, you know, they will check the accounts and they will know."
"Stop that 'Frenchie' thing, Eli. And I swear that the fucking numbers are right. There is no dollar out. Everything is fine. What the fuck is wrong with you?" Lamarc draw a fist and the accountant acknowledged the threat by opening his hands.
"The numbers are tweaked, Jean. They do not obey Benford's law."
"WHAT? What do you mean? Who the fuck is Benford?" He shoved Blumenthal onto his chair; the accountant shouted, covered his head with his hands and said: "I... I don't know who he is. A mathematician, I guess. He wrote... a method. A method to check if a set of numbers are fabricated."
"WHAT?" Lamarc felt as if his head would explode. "Are you fucking kidding me?" he took a lamp from a nearby table with both hands and crashed it into the floor.
"Ah!", shouted Blumenthal, "Please! Please! Don't hurt me!"
"I'm gonna kill you fucking weasel if you don't stop all this bullshit."
"No! No! Frenchie, listen to me. Please. The numbers look fake. I checked them. They look fabricated. Believe me. Have you...?"
"No! No! I see. I see. They are for real, no trick. I believe it. I do. But they won't. They will apply the formulas and they will suspect we are cheating on them. And they will come after us. They will come, Frenchie. They just WON'T believe these numbers!"
Lamarc, who was no moron, calmed down and thought.
"So you say", he spoke to the accountant while scratching his head, "that these numbers, being real, look fake, am I right? AM I RIGHT?"
"Yes! Yes! You are right. The number 1 must appear as the leading significant digit about 30% of the time and..."
"STOP! I don't want to hear it, motherfucker. We will just... we will just make them look right."
"Are you deaf, dumb or both? We'll make them look right."
So they took a deep breath and sat down to rewrite the numbers so that they obey Benford's law. It was a very long night. Elijah Blumenthal looked like he was the survivor of a flood when he walked down the street in the morning lights.
"Putain..." said Lamarc, closing the safe box. "So we have this bag full of money, real money, clean money, that we must take from their real owners because some fucker wrote a formula... This is fucking crazy."
Days passed and everything went back to normal. One evening, while Jean-Loup Lamarc was delightfully tasting a glass of whiskey and remembering the stupid thing about the briefcase full of bills in his safe, somebody knocked at his door. It was an old man, iron-grey hair, in an old-fashioned suit.
"Who the fuck are you?" said Jean-Loup.
"Hi. My name is Benford. I'm here to take my money."
Ambrose Bierce used to say that the hardest decision for a honorable man was choosing between raisins and radishes. Ambrose Bierce said many more things; for example, that a cradle is a trough in which a human infant is agitated to keep it sweet, or that an opportunity is a favourable occasion for grasping a disappointment. We cannot guess what was the fact about the raisins or the radishes that kept him in displease, he probably found them terrible or somewhat (I don't personally find raisins terrible, but this story is not about me).
In the year 1913, the day after Christmas, Ambrose Bierce was heading SW when he met Nathaniel Ebenezer Hickox. He is long forgotten now, but he was a hard-boiled bandit and also a very bad tempered motherfucker.
"Stop there", said Hickox, drawing his gun. It was an impressive object.
Bierce obeyed silently. His horse, a somewhat old but still good-looking male, found Bierce's lack of words disquieting. Silence was not common in his presence.
"What are you doing this far, old man?", said the bandit, almost without opening his mouth.
"I'm going beyond the border to join Pancho Villa's army", said Bierce.
Hickox hummed. "And why would you do such a stupid thing?".
Bierce took a look at the bandit's animal: it was a strong stallion with a very singular white mark on its forehead.
"It's what I have to do", replied Bierce, arms crossed.
"Mmmmm. Do. Mmmmm. Do.", said Hickox, and then: "What do you have on that bag?".
The wind blew for a second and nothing was to be heard.
"Tell me, my friend", said Bierce, "If you had to pick one, what would you prefer, raisins or radishes?".
Hickox scratched his filthy beard with his free hand. Suddenly, he realized that he didn't want to answer stupid questions from a bizarre man, nor breathing dust from the plains, nor bearing the annoying pain in the back that was there for days, nor thinking about raisins nor radishes: he remembered a warm place in El Paso, a site full of music and señoritas and whiskey and with a delicious smell of recently made beef steak.
Then, without a word, he left, leaving Ambrose Bierce alone. The beloved writer and notable bigmouth observed the bandit's figure as he disappeared towards the horizon.
The traveler wipes the sweat from his forehead. He carries a heavy, battered case full of forgotten samples, useless memorabilia and fistfuls of sorrow. His mind wonders endlessly because he lost his grip with life so long ago. The panels in the station are starting to be meaningless to him. But he tries, and tries, and despairs.
The traveler no longer knows where he goes nor where he comes from. He has brief glimpses, yes he does, but they are more and more blurry every time; all is like a mesh of milky lines, pale lights, paths to destinations that have no meaning to him. Sometimes a kid asks him what does he do: "I travel", he says, faking a smile while his eyes try to fix a point and fail.
His life is a hollow pit of departures; here, there, anywhere. He tries to recall his past but a curtain of headache lies in front of it: he barely remembers a loving mother, a cozy blanket, a puppy gone too early.
But soon the traveler is back again in endless corridors, all similar, all white, all convergent to a hub that links to another. He only hopes for one trip more, the one that finally erases him from existence, because he is starting to feel like he's slowly disappearing, mirrors not bothering to reflect his wasted image anymore. "Only one trip more", says to himself while trying to breathe an air thick as mud, blinded by light, almost defeated.
When we lived as kids by the sea, my sister and I found a body washed ashore. She thought that we had found a mermaid; she immediately felt sad and horrified about it. I, older and wiser, realized that what we had found was a dead fisherman. His beard looked like seaweed, he had no eyes and lacked some limbs.
First, we agreed to leave him there; we were no one to decide on what the sea had decreed. But soon we understood that rotting under the sun and becoming food for the seagulls was not a good way of finishing what probably had been a life of bravery and courage, so we moved him among the rocks and covered his head with a shelter made of planks and ropes.
My sister thought that he needed some eyes and she filled the scary holes that led to his long gone brain with branches of lilies, small blots of blue and violet.
Our life went on and we almost forgot about the sailor. There were long days of light, rain and storm. My sister grew on and became a woman; me, I don't know very well what I ended being.
One day I returned to that beach and found it very different. I visited the rocks where he rested: he didn't look like a fisherman anymore. A sense of apathy and ennui filled by heart. Upon my head, a flock of birds flew in circles chasing each other.
- ~ascii is just the words in the page (or something else?).
- ~beau likes seahorses.
- ~berkeleyblue is green phosphor screen beauty.
- ~brownpau is a sea of tildes.
- ~danielzarick is like a game of life or death.
- ~ford started it.
- ~jonbell has links to wonderful places.
- ~julia may be in love.
- ~max is a Sandman appreciation page.
- ~penissex has a message to finn.
- ~v21 is an Unicode garden.
- ~zan wonders about anonymous faces in old images.
Coughing, the professor retired the dusty piece of cloth. The mistery was revealed:
S A T O R A R E P O T E N E T O P E R A R O T A S
"This is the oldest magic square known to mankind", said the professor, "It's something that has been written on walls since the early days of Rome. It was somewhat like a talisman."
"Like a HOME SWEET HOME crappy banner?", said Fabrizio.
"Not really. It's a palindrome; whatever direction you read it, it reads the same", said the professor.
"Well, HOME SWEET HOME is also a palindrome in a word-by-word basis", said Fabrizio.
"Shut up your fucking mouth", said Franz. "So, what does it mean? Is it really what we were looking for?".
"The meaning is not clear; it may say 'Sower Arepo keeps the wheels working' or 'Sower Arepo maintains the work with effort'", said the professor while wiping his glasses.
"Who the fuck is Arepo?", shouted Fabrizio.
Franz sighed. "Can we do anything with it? Is it any kind of meaningful message for us, or it's just another red herring to keep us busy while the creatures from the deep get closer, another pompous but inane pseudo-cultural reference that keeps the plot stalled?"
"You don't appreciate the hidden meaning", said the professor, somewhat offended. "This is very notable, you can even read it boustrophedon and it keeps the meaning. It's really magic. It's like the even older greek text ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, the one that means 'You are our father'".
"I bet on pompous but inane pseudo-cultural reference, Franz", said Fabrizio.
"I'm about to kill you two fuckers and keep moving alone", Franz said.
The practice started among the billionaires, rock stars, social network influencers and other scum that had everything. It was a sticky mix of old traditions, new technology, stupid crap from television preachers, blotches of mud and hallucinogenic mushrooms sold by gurus and their sex slaves. The process was long and error prone and involved blood, goat cheese, flesh and twins. After doing it over and over its practitioners entered into some state of trance that changed everything for themselves. It soon became a public health problem.
It has been said that the bass player of a famous band started everything; he found himself bored and frustrated and with tons of money to expend. He bought a special kind of needles from an uncertain origin, specially thin and resistant, that he started to apply to himself and others. Friends and groupies soon got involved and everything went apeshit. TV moguls, IT CEOs, football players, autotune singers, all became crazy, and that took many lives, usually from the poor and the forgotten. The power obtained by the practice was exponential or, as some nerds uselessly affirmed, logarithmic. What's the fucking difference. The alleys soon were found full of tortured flesh, dismembered dogs and the carrion of twins, lots of twins, famous twins and anonymous twins.
Then a young woman, known worldwide by a stupid television show and specialized in exactly nothing, was abducted into a torture spree by a barely-mentioned sport star for a long and agonizing number of days. Time ticked. The news on this caused consternation to the whole world and that happened to infuse an unexpected energy thrust to the 𝕔𝕠𝕣𝕖, which saw its power increased by many levels and made its behavior much bizarre and hard to control. Someone even brought a man from the future and applied the practice onto him. He suffered in a special and unique way. His ultimate words in his inscrutable language were broadcasted in many media and became famous:
"ökkruôïshima îxpköokmosaa ökhohôkurohzaaz ikkophyphy ïnaanma, ö-phÿmnoethïshimasaazaaz. ïsaamaïgirmaokkoïzaazma ïnaanma okkokuroh uk 'sikgirgir imaïhwmasaaîxpköïkooma ikkophy îxpköokmo. îxpköokmo ö-whamnokuethhoh ikkophy îxthköökusuôsaarohzaaz, îxpköokmo îxzzkökuzaaz ikkophy 'wakkruethhoh. naanup ïhfmaikkohfïgirma 'usukgirgir ïsaamaïhwmakuïjhima."
And that was the beginning of the end. The message was a curse and also a cry for help that eventually was heard and a response to the practice was received from beyond as a storm of pain and fire. The innocent and the damned were punished the same. Nothing is as it used to be anymore.
It was like 1987 and we were in that dark and seedy club inside the alley below the mall, the one with the cheesy name, kissing and cuddling and doing business as usual, probably drunk. Then U2 started singing.
"This is exactly how I feel", I said. "Feel about what?", she said. I took another sip of vodka. "I still haven't found what I'm looking for". The bar was noisy as fuck.
"And what are you looking for?", she said, visibly bored. "That is the problem, I still haven't found it", said I. "I don't think that's the meaning of that phrase", she replied, "They know what they're looking for, but they still haven't found it. You're one step behind, if I understand you correctly". I shrugged and then kissed her, her breath tasting like tobacco and beer.
I started feeling sick and depressed like many other times. She lit a cigarette. Depeche Mode started singing I sometimes wish I was dead. I said "Don't you hate when all songs talk about yourself?".
She wasn't what I was looking for, though those days I wished she was.
Johannes said once:
"Sometimes I have very repetitive dreams. Yeah, those loopy nightmares on drunken nights and so. A useless and numb thing happens, I don't know, like somebody saying me the same thing over and over or a present lace being tied and untied or whatever. In my dream I am aware that this is repetitive and annoying, and I usually comment this to other characters there (sometimes you are one of them, by the way). What I cannot assure is that these repetitions really happen. Do I dream the same thing many times, or do I just dream that a given thing or situation has repeated, without needless re-imagining inside my brain? Do I even dream it the first time, or do I only have the flash of something that repeated ad nauseam?"
Lola says Johannes is a very weird person.