Yossi Faybish - hobbies - prose
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Neither Romeo Nor Juliet...

    My dream come true. Romeo, my first major Shakespearean role landed in my lap this morning, nine thirty-one sharp. When Johnson L, my midget agent (“don’t you dare call me crap like size challenged American or similar, or I’ll bust your balls... midget and proud of it...”) woke me up this morning with the news, my mood changed from the initial murder first degree to the following let’s have a party.

    “Johnson L, my sweet little charmer, if you were now here, by my side, I would have taught you right away how wonderfully beautiful the making of children could be...” ...to which she responded with warm honey dripping from that incredible sexy voice of hers...

    “Oh, my darling Roger, dying to... here... do you want to talk to Big JJ about it?...” making me slam the phone back on its cradle even before the final question-mark sign could have registered into my brain. Big JJ was Johnson L’s black, two hundred and fifty pounds heavy, six foot six tall husband, madly in love with her, and remarkably missing any trace of a sense of humor. Those two were a real perfect fit of extremities. And Johnson L’s agency Emerging Little Talents the best one for emerging newcomers like myself. Not that I considered myself little in talent, but based on my remarkable little success, I surely fitted in the emerging category. My latest major role was a talking tomato in a Heinz ketchup publicity video, and from Tomato to Romeo... I let out a scream which did not bother my deaf cat, Broadway. I looked at her, pissed off at my impossibility to share my sudden joy with somebody, be it even a cat. Not only deaf, but probably the only cat in the world able to sleep spread legged on its back. Certainly the proud owner of more than one, single deficiency, just like its master.

    I decided the event was nevertheless worthy of celebration. I had a wild shower to wake myself completely up, chose to sacrifice a new pair of socks to go with my worn out tennis shoes, pulled on my jeans, a tee shirt marked Big Black and Proud, Big JJ’s present for my birthday (“thin white boys need something to be proud of...” he said, and he meant it), and phoned Kitty, my latest blonde intellectual conquest, one year and running strong. She was trying to penetrate Hollywood with script writing and Johnson L was her agent too.

    “I love you...” I yelled into the mouthpiece, and after a short silence I heard the sound of a rusted file scrapping across pieces of cast iron, and somehow formulating the words...

    “Who the hell is that?”

    I clicked shut after the Who but I knew the rest of it by heart. I checked fearfully my different body parts, ensuring everything was in its rightful place. In my enthusiasm I had pushed by mistake the call-back and it was Big JJ who picked it up. I immediately formulated some generic prayers suitable for whichever God was on duty at the time, then dialed again, this time carefully checking each digit.

    “Kitty?...” and after hearing her blessed soft voice answering me, I allowed myself yelling again my I love you in her ear. I heard her giggle at the other end of the line.

    “That’s what happens when you smoke pot for the first time.”

    “Kitty, sweetie, you know I wouldn’t touch pot with a pole. Tell me, do you want to go dancing somewhere, I feel like dancing...”

    “Roger...” there was doubt in her voice, “it is ten thirty am, are you sure it was not something stronger than pot?”

    “Kitty, sweetie, pretty... listen good girl - I’ve got it! Romeo is mine!” I screamed the last part and I could hear her wild screaming at the other end of the line as well. When we both ended the phonetic show we decided to celebrate in style and spend all of the afternoon and the night at the Flamingo hotel downtown, a poor copy of the Vegas one but at least they had a suite with jacuzzi, wide screen TV, a copious breakfast, and a big, big bed. Of course, also the price was within my limited range.

    “Kitty, you know...” I confided as we were lying naked in bed after our fist love session... “you are almost as good as Johnson L...” to which she did not respond immediately. For a moment I was afraid her last encounter with Big JJ had proven his lack of humor to be contagious. Then she looked at me with those big, blue, beautiful saucer eyes of hers, got hold of some unmentionable intimate parts of my body in her left hand, and murmured in my left ear.

    “Roger, you know... Big JJ may tear you limb from limb even if this is a lie. I will tear just one limb off if this is true.” She smiled angelically and somehow I knew she meant it. Not that Kitty had any competition when it came to bed matters. Perfection still had things to learn from her.


    The stage test was a formality, still, it had to be passed. The audition was at 9am sharp, and I made sure I had at least two hours of undisturbed sleep before the waking up of the following morning. I paid the room bill with instructions not to wake up Kitty at any time before noon, mounted my coughing motorbike and zoomed to the Chinese Theater where the audition was to take place. My undefined prayers answered, Johnson L was there without her monster big black shadow, so there was no chance he might have linked my voice to the phone call of the previous morning. She sent me a loving smile, a wink, and made a V sign with her right hand. It was in my pocket, I knew it, but this time I refrained from I-love-you’ing anybody. I just picked up the text and skimmed through it. Not that I needed any text in my hand - I knew all of Bill’s characters by heart for all of his plays, since my raw age of fifteen. Inclusive the female roles. A kind of mania I had. I looked shortly at the title page just so the director would not think I was being impolite, and whispered in a barely audible aside to Johnson L.

    “Hey JL, are you sure these guys are serious? Look, they even misspelled poor Bill’s name, they wrote it Shakespeere.”

    She blinked in real slow motion these natural, exaggeratedly long, eyelashes of hers, and let out a soft sighing...

    “Ha, ha, ha. Real funny. I am sure even Big JJ would have had a fit over this one. Now, Roger, you go there and blast those guys off their chairs, or I come after you and blast you dead. Got me, my dear protégé?”

    “Got you dear master sex bomb.”

    She meant it and I meant it and we both meant it. I knew she liked being flirted with. As long as she had full control. It seemed to me she never had anything but full control.

    The audition was perfect. Actually it turned into a mini repetition of the play, and with the exception of one unimportant role, all the present candidates got the job. Juliet was a beauty, and I was glad Kitty was not around. Not that she had anything to worry - we tried a kiss that steamed the insides of the director’s eyeglasses, yet in my mouth it was as if I kissed a frozen lamp-post in mid winter. I considered myself lucky that my tongue didn’t stick to her teeth.

    Johnson L left shortly after the repetition started, all her candidates got their roles, now she was free to go and make some more money elsewhere. I rushed home, it was well after dark, I was hungry and thirsty for a chat with Kitty. She was in my apartment, having taken the day off at the shop where she was temping while waiting for the big break, and eager to hear about my first day as a real actor. I stormed into the room, picked her in my arms and kissed her till I felt blisters start creeping onto my tongue. I had to get rid of that frozen lamp-post taste. Then I let her down but kept my hands tight around her. She squirmed impatiently.

    “So, talk bastard or I will start banging your head with a frying pan,” she panted. I fed Broadway, then we went to a small pizza joint, ordered a giant size quatro-fromaggi (it’s always a mistake to order food when you’re hungry) and I told her everything while munching mouthfuls, including almost everything about beautiful Juliet.

    “They are professionals to their marrow” I told her. “Funny they have misspelled Shakespeare. They wrote it with e-e-r at the end.” She let out a short joyful laughter. “Hey, what’s there to laugh about?”

    “Well, guy makes joke, girl laughs, isn’t that the way it goes?”

    “What joke did I make?” I puzzled, and I think for a short second we were both serious.

    “You said e-e-r and complained about it. Not a big joke but it falls under the passing category.”

    “Sorry, I am still lost here. What’s the joke, even the small one?”

    She frowned, then decided it was not worth the effort to fight about it and kill a perfect evening, therefore she made her final statement.

    “Mr. Roger, that’s the way it is correctly spelled, s-h-a-k-e-s-p-e-e-r-e, and I don’t know exactly what goal you are following with this useless discussion. Because all I want is to finish my pizza, get five minutes of wild sex with you, and then go back to my apartment. I have to wake up tomorrow at 6am.”

    I knew it when it was pointless to argue any further, not to mention killing the open ended promise of wild sex, so I swerved into pizza talk, had my stomach filled, my five minutes fulfilled, and then I was alone at home, a bit perplex, but hanging it all on fatigue, starvation, sex drive, subliminal advertising and candid camera experiments. I sank into a satisfied exhaustion sleep, Broadway acting as a fur hat around my head, and the only dream I remembered at my late morning wakeup was the one of Broadway barking. I woke up with a shudder, shook awake my poor cat just to make sure it was not barking, filled up her bowl with milk (actually, I was still not sure, after having Broadway for three years, if it was a she or a he), and went to have my morning shower. There were no plans for the day so I decided in favor of a short visit to the gym. My growing belly needed some urgent mending. I opened the computer to check for any mail, then on a wild impulse I made a net search for ‘Shakespeare’. I got back a few hundreds of hits, which left me frowning and with a cold touch in my afore mentioned bit of outproportioned belly. After a countable few seconds of hesitation, I typed in a blind fingers flurry s-h-a-k-e-s-p-e-e-r-e on the keyboard, and before any regret had time to get hold of my senses I pushed the return key. Tens of thousands.

    If Johnson L was at the root of this practical joke I promised myself I was going to stretch her to Big JJ’s length and breadth, Big JJ or no Big JJ around. I went over to my library and took out my brand new collection of Bill’s complete works. The e-e-r spelling was on all external and internal covers, and even in the prefaces. Whoever did this job did it immaculately, I thought to myself, while pictures from the movie The Game kept rushing through my head. Followed my visit to the attic, where I picked up an old, dusty, untampered with suitcase frightening in the process some peaceful spiders out of way, opened it and rummaged inside. Two of my high-school notebooks were the treasure I was looking for, and which I found effortlessly. I was probably shivering a bit when I opened the first notebook, looked through its pages to my ugly handwriting covering most of the space, till I got to this one page where... holly molly... the same wrong spelling in my own handwriting? I believe that till this moment I knew it was a strange farce of some kind. And after this moment I knew it might not have been. And I started feeling the strange effects of sudden panic getting hold of me. What the hell was going on here, was I schizo or something?

    I didn’t try the second notebook, I knew by now what I would find. And as I was sure my sanity was intact, I jumped on my bike, rode into a village twenty miles away and stormed in an all night books shop. Absolutely no doubt about it, e-e-r all the way, inclusive in a Spanish version they had there. By the time I got back home I was shivering uncontrollably and did the only sensible thing I could do - went to bed. We started serious repetitions next day and this nightmare would certainly have a sensible explanation.

    I reached the Chinese Theater half an hour before repetition time. I didn’t lay yet any claims to stardom, thus didn’t want to start with late coming. Of course, it was not the only reason. I wanted time to think and I wanted to have the right inspirational framework around me. And what better framework than a theater preparing a Shakespearean play, thinking of course of the name in my kind of spelling. I had never been a sci-fi fan, never believed in ghosts, but I had this oppressing feeling that something happened which was so undefined, that I might soon become one. Unless if I woke up and found out it was a well designed dream. Which I knew damn well it was not. The other actors kept pouring in, my ‘cool’ Juliet being the last one (already star complex? I winced to myself).

    “Hi Juliet,” I shouted trying to unwind and sound friendly.

    “Ha, ha, ha...” was her dry response, and why did my blood suddenly run cold hearing her repeating Johnson L’s refrain from last night? I picked up my text, what the hell goes on here... Romeo and Ophelia?! The repetition went through flawlessly, we concentrated on the first act, mostly declaiming and little acting, and except for the need to have to use the name Ophelia, everything was fine. If seeing the world around you changing visibly was fine, that is... There was no need for me to research further, I guessed. I would find even in Shakespeare’s own handwriting in England the name Ophelia as Romeo’s partner. It seemed to me I was taking the changes quite well, the first moments of panic leaving place to adaptation... who was I kidding? I was scared like hell, and seeing Big JJ in the theatre all by himself waiting for someone, did not improve any my rapidly dwindling self confidence. I hung back as much as I could, hoping to see Big JJ go away with whichever person for whatever reason, probably at Johnson L’s request, but he waited on his chair and my belly started rumbling. Maybe he did recognize my voice on the phone? Well, I couldn’t delay my exit any longer and I tried to not see him on my way out.

    “Hey, Roger, I want a word with you.” The rusted file was grating my auditory system again, and I could either run or answer. I answered.

    “Hi, Big JJ. You waiting for me?” as if there was any doubt.

    “Yeah.” He stood up and came towards me, stopping one foot away, and looking me straight into the eyes with such intensity that I was afraid I was going to faint in three extra seconds. “JL told me something funny about you, and I want to check it.” That’s it, I was a dead man, she told him about my innocent flirt and my next acting would be as organic food for chickens. He put his hand inside his jacket and anything could come out of there - a gun, a knife, a baseball bat or even a bazooka. But... a CD? He shoved it under my nose and grated. “What do you see?”

    Well, I didn’t think I saw anything special, but being still alive meant she didn’t rat on me. It boosted a bit my confidence, and my trust in artistic agents and protective Gods. I took the record from his hand, since it seemed that’s what he wanted. It was a normal run of the mill jazz record, a mix of Louis Armstrong, Ella... I was going to give it back to him with sincere regrets, and apologies, and “have to be home by...” when I froze in mid motion. I looked at it again, more carefully this time. Yes, it was a jazz record alright, only that they somehow spelled jazz with one single z. I looked up at Big JJ and I could swear it was the first time in his life that this guy sensed something close to fright.

    “Why do you come to me with this thing?” I asked, still unsure if we were on the same wavelength.

    “JL told me about your spelling problem.” He took the record back and looked at it at length. “She KNOWS that jazz is spelled with one single z. And it seems to me that we are the only two in this world who know differently.”

    We went to a bar and I decided to do the honors. If it was the end of the world then who needed so much cash as I was carrying in the pocket at the time, twenty seven dollars and eighteen cents? I got myself a Budweiser, he took a double Chivas Regal leaving me with seventeen cents exactly, and we sat in a corner trying to examine the issue philosophically, rather than scientifically. Not that we were great at any of these disciplines, I the actor and he the bodyguard in love with the body he was guarding. But I felt some kind of brotherhood in misery, and I was surprised to find behind the awesome appearance and scrapping voice, a hidden teddy bear.

    “...and don’t you dare tell anybody or I’ll break you in two...” and he meant it. He opened the discussion with a statement that I found pretty interesting. “Listen Roger,” he said, “if this... hmmm... whatever, is limited just to one ‘a’ and one ‘z’ then the hell with it and I can keep on living. But what if we keep seeing changes appearing that apply to everybody else and only we two are left out of it? What if everybody suddenly has a tail and only we two don’t?” We were so tense that this remark caused a hysterical explosion of laughter on both sides, and the bar owner probably decided he could dilute the Chivas even a bit more. Big JJ certainly had a point there, or rather two points - does it stop or does it go on? And are we in or are we out? Of course we did not mention the third point of concern, this one being - are we both crazy or slaves to some mass hallucination, or is something really happening? We decided something was really happening, therefore we had to keep in touch and try some subtle investigation. We weren’t doing anything wrong, not yet, but we both had a nice relationship we wanted to keep, and didn’t want to risk it in any way. I got home around 10 pm and called Kitty.

    “Hi Kitty.”

    “Hi Roger. So, how was your first day? How was Ophelia this time?” I was going to ask her how does she spell jazz, but clearly it was not necessary. I refused her offer to come and visit me for an X rated encounter, raising an imaginary eyebrow on her face the way I sensed it in her voice.

    “Roger, are you sure Ophelia is only a lamp post?”

    “Kitty, I am sure YOU are only the sun,” this remark changing the raised eyebrow into raised mouth corners. I preferred it this way, and pretending I had to repeat some passages for next day, we parted for the night. I immediately attacked the internet. This was what I agreed with Big JJ to start with. I would try chatting rooms and he would try wild searches. We had no idea what we were looking for, but it did not make much sense that we were just two with this sickness. There had to be more, and maybe some may have had an idea of what was happening here.

    Several days passed. Now, that I was sensitized, I kept a watchful eye for other discrepancies, but it was very rare that I found any real ones. Most of what I thought to identify were just normal local variations, like that twenty dollars bill with Grant’s picture on it. Of course, it had to be simple counterfeit as it was a single bill of its kind, and I had to spend half a day at the police station answering hundreds of question as if I was the criminal. And on top, they confiscated it and I had to hitch hike back to the theater.

    The first physical materialization of the phenomenon, or at least one that pointed to much deeper changes happening, was fingerpointed to me by Big JJ.

    “When did you lately buy a music CD?” he called and asked, about two weeks later.

    “When was the last time I had fifteen bucks and a full belly?”

    “OK, listen Roger, go to a shop and imagine you want to buy. Tell me what you see?” I understood it had something to do with our “research”, so I went right away three blocks down from my place, a shop called SEE-DEE, and entered browsing around. I didn’t know what I was looking for, so I played shop, selected a few I would have bought if I had the money, and checked the prices. I stopped after the third one. The first was 15.01$, the second was discounted to 9.51$ and the third was a collection at 31$. I did not have to go any further, though I started looking at other prices, just for confirmation. With a few exceptions, all followed the pattern. I got out of the shop promising to come back when I would come into an inheritance, and looked at several close by shops - a fast food, a jewelry shop, a car rentals. Maybe till now I did not really get shivers, I was starting to for real. Then I went home, opened my computer and started looking up essays on the subject of pricing psychology and marketing. This was, my God, this was a deep one. Hundreds of texts supporting, based on researches, the pricing system of adding a least significant money unit to the round price, rather than deducting it. I remembered myself always laughing at 14.99$ and 9.49$ and so on, the philosophy being of de-emphasizing the big numbers. And here I suddenly read serious marketing texts supporting the approach of allowing the customer to bargain down, for the psychological effect, the price to its rounded value. Oh, my God, this was not a different letter or name, this was a different way of life. I suddenly felt like sex, who knows - like Big JJ said it - we might suddenly have found one day soon we were the only ones with no tails around. The change, even though we could not nail down when it started, seemed to gather momentum. Would it reach a steady state and stop? I was not in the mood of let’s wait and see, I was in the mood of let’s do today what I may not be able to do tomorrow. I called Kitty and asked her over. Poor girl, she worked a double shift to cover up for a sick friend, and I woke her up. But Kitty was Kitty, grumbling was a dirty word in her dictionary, actually she sounded keen to find what was so important to talk about (she asked me three times, a bit disappointed actually: are you sure it’s not sex you want?). She was even more intrigued once she got to my place, and found me waiting for her outside the apartment, where I took her hand, ushered her into the waiting cab... “...Hey, JL, Big JJ, what are you doing here...” then looked at me with a both accusing and demanding regard. I did not want to play it too mysteriously, but I did not want the cab driver to be part of the story, so I asked her to have a bit of patience. Actually she guessed from Johnson L’s shoulders move, that she was in the same darkness as herself, and this eased a bit the tension I sensed in her body.

    We got to a small, not fancy but high quality Italian restaurant (Johnson L’s choice, and I knew I wouldn’t have to pay), chose a bit of a more remote corner at my request, ordered appetizers and when the waiter left with our choice, Johnson L started with no introduction:

    “OK, guys, the first miracle happened - you two are buddies, and trust me, this is bigger than the parting of the Red Sea. Now I need a second miracle, this second one being - understanding the reason for this affection you two share. I doubt if this second miracle will happen, but... Roger, you are the actor, the scene is yours.”

    They all looked at me, the women amused, Big JJ impenetrable, and my weak reflection in the closed window... was it perspiring?

    I may have been a great actor, but I was a lousy story teller, so by the time I finished my short exposé I knew both of them, Kitty and JL, were on the verge of exploding in laughter. Only the waiter that suddenly appeared with mozzarella-tomato for all of us prevented the loudest laughter in history from erupting. Kitty attacked the food immediately, as if hesitating would maybe make it disappear in line with my story, however JL, after the first convulsions, stayed pensive.

    “If I wouldn’t know you two guys so well, I would just have a healthy laugh or ask for a barred-windows ambulance for you two. But with Big JJ’s imagination rating a zero plus, and with friendship between you two rating a zero minus, you get me here wondering. Not that I know what to wonder about. Let’s eat, I take disturbing news much better on a full stomach.”

    I couldn’t blame them for acting the way they did. Imagine someone comes to you one Monday and tells you it is actually Tuesday. You tell him - thank you, cross the street to the other side and hope the right kind of services will deal with the guy before he does some damage to himself or others. The food was excellent, and even Big JJ let out a few smiles over the pointless discussion that developed around ET and if there should be a part two, as rumors persisted, or better let it bask forever in its one-and-only glory.

    “I wish I could phone-home to get an answer to this riddle,” said Big JJ smiling, and I felt a chilling shiver run down my spine. Big JJ never joked, never in his life. And across the table, wonder of wonders, Johnson L seemed to freeze in mid munching hearing him utter these words and regarded him with the intensity of a worm turned cobra.

    “Big JJ? You made a joke? Is this the end of the world of something?” Of all the stupid irrelevancies that could have proved what we were trying to tell them about, it seemed to me that this one remark was suddenly some kind of temporary eye opener. To me it was even more, it was plain frightening. Was I losing my only other ally in this strange adventure I was living through, was he joining the “masses”? Did Johnson L really have for a moment this insight into something happening and would she keep it one day from now? Our regards crossed - Big JJ, Johnson L and myself, with Kitty mostly oblivious to the undercurrent and slave to the culinary temptation spread on the table.

    The waiter came with the bill and Johnson L, who liked to feel “real” money in her hands, paid with real dollar bills. With Big JJ at her side she was never afraid to carry this kind of money. The waiter was about to pick up the bills when I let out a shout and grabbed the wad from her hand. They all looked at me as if I had finally flipped for real. I kept looking fascinated at the top bill, a twenty dollars bill, and the mottled picture it carried was clearly not that of a beardless Jackson, but that of a cleanly bearded Grant.

    I told them my story when we left the restaurant. I did not include it in my earlier recount since I thought it was irrelevant. But now that meaningless event suddenly blew out of proportion, and the way it looked to me... did these changes happen around me before they happened for real, was I some kind of catalyst to the things happening, and same with Big JJ? We decided it made no sense to go and investigate what would the police report look like now, if we agreed that I was not crazy then it would probably have the story the other way around, with Jackson as the counterfeit twenty dollars bill. I wanted Kitty to come to my place after we parted company, and I sensed certain reluctance. I could understand her, crazy or not I was something weird to have around, and she started showing signs of fear. Somehow the events started catching up with her once her belly full, and with Johnson L seemingly starting to accept what we were saying, she started getting into it too.

    “Roger, I will be fair with you. I am frightened.” There were tears in her eyes, her beautiful eyes that I hated seeing under this kind of cloud. “For me everything is, well, normal, but it means that I am changing without knowing it. What the hell does it mean?” There was a plea there for an answer that I did not possess, and she knew it. In the end she decided, out of her own volition, to come to my place. There was nothing like good healthy sex to keep one’s mind off this kind of depression, a theory I wholeheartedly supported. I unlocked the door, Broadway ran towards us and started purring, pushing against my legs, asking for attention. Nothing surprised me anymore, now Broadway could hear, of all things. For Kitty, of course, this was normal, and I refrained from elaborating on this issue. The poor girl was mixed up enough already. Yes, this was the moment to forget it all, and a healthy tumble in bed was the preferred solution. We both agreed later on that it did not really help. So what? The sex was great.

    Next day I left early for the theater and Kitty called her work place playing sick. She stayed in bed for the rest of the day, brooding, reading, sleeping. She didn’t open the TV. “I’m afraid those ghosts will crawl out of the tube into my bed...” she said half joking. I was worried by the other half. When I got back in the evening she was just getting dressed and I helped her hook her bra. I kissed her neck, and since I left the computer on this morning when I left, I pushed on a conditional reflex the email button. There was a single message there just coming in, a one Lynn Bird, and who the hell was Lynn Bird?

    Dear Roger, in a few seconds someone will come to pick you up. Please do not be frightened, there is nothing to be afraid of. It seems we have something in common, which I suggest we discuss. Don’t expect answers, just theories. These may be right, though. And to make sure you know I am not some kind of crack pot, I will mention just one twenty dollars bill.” I was reading the mail a second time, Kitty reading it from behind my shoulder and all thought of sex a long way off, when a discrete knock at the door made us both jump. I opened the door, and I looked at the two mountains, one on each side of the door. The smaller with a swollen lip, both impassive, both as blank of regard as the door itself. I put Broadway in its cage and took the cage in one hand, took shivering Kitty’s hand in my other hand, and followed the big mountain. The small one closed the door and followed us. There was a thirty foot limousine parked in front of the building, as we neared the door opened and we climbed in. The mountains stayed outside. A seemingly sleeping Big JJ was probably the answer to the swollen lip I saw, and an angry, cursing Johnson L was holding his head in her lap and patted it lovingly.

    “The bastards gave him some kind of a shot. What did they expect, that he’ll greet them with flowers?” There were two more persons in the limousine, and I eyed them curiously. One was an elderly gentleman, elegantly dressed and who kept mumbling to himself continuously. The other a... well, certainly a whore, with the right physical attributes and relevant dress code. She winked at me, then closed her eyes and went on ruminating her chewing gum. We hardly felt the limousine starting. Only the occasional turn or bump in the road signaled the fact that we were not actually standing in one place, the motor was inaudible and the windows completely blanked.

    “Where did they get you?” I asked of Johnson D, and watched Big JJ start showing signs of recovery.

    “We were just unlocking the apart’s door when these apes appeared.” I thought that calling them apes was a bit unfair, but right now she was an aggrieved woman willing to slash at anything that hurt her man. Big JJ was already sitting up, only partly groggy, when we sensed the car slowing down, heard all kinds of whirrs and clanks, and then finally it stopped. The doors opened.


    I’ve never been in an alien space ship before. If I ever will, I imagine it will look something like what I saw there. Though it was clearly no space ship, and certainly the little woman that rushed forward to greet us was no alien. She was simply, well... I felt disappointed... a woman.

    “Oh, I am so glad you could all come...” She moved from one to another, shaking hands with the men and hugging the women, her eyes sparkling with real joy, her manner free and friendly like a human puppy. I estimated her age at less than forty, small, nicely shaped, a pale skin that clearly didn’t get enough sun, basic make up round the eyes and mouth, white blouse, red skirt ending above knee. Not your run of the mill crazy scientist, neither loony. She took Johnson L and Big JJ by the hand and dragged them towards the middle of the dome shaped room, the gray smooth walls glistening in the background with certain iridescence and the big egg shaped construction in the perfect middle of the room imposing in its smooth simplicity. She asked us to sit down on the chairs placed around the “altar” (as I started naming it in my mind) and then she sat on the outermost chair looking at us with some kind of undefined... love? Even Paula, the sex seller, seemed embarrassed by that look. I wondered how much was she paid for wasting her precious time on this kind of “assignment”.

    “One thousand dollars” she said, smiling big, and I almost overturned my chair. Kitty looked at me inquiringly, but I lost my voice for several minutes. Our host seemed unperturbed by the little show, and continued smiling genially.

    “My name is Lynn Bird. I am a genius.” ...and I am Donald Duck and let me out of here before I lose my mind, I thought, looking at Paula. She didn’t seem interested in me anymore, rather she seemed genuinely fascinated by Lynn. Lynn smiled at her. “Ladies and gentlemen, you are free to leave any moment you feel like. This is a government subsidized research center, however this is not a secret place. Just extremely valuable and extremely well protected. I hope very much that you will first listen to what I have to tell you, and then you can make up your mind. You will be compensated for any lose of time, and we assure you that your respective private activities will not suffer. We will deal with the need to justify your absence. And we never failed a person that was willing to help us. I would like to ask your permission to present my need, and then take your decision. May I?” I looked at her and tried to imagine Richard Kiel alias “Jaws” as her servant and an army of giant ants armed with deadly ray guns covering every corner of the complex. Somehow I failed, she was so much un-CIA and un-Goldfinger that it made it even boring.

    “Lynn...” Johnson L started getting control of herself, thank God. I felt happy she was with us there, with JL around, probably an army of alligators wouldn’t suffice to cause us any harm. I looked at her, expecting hell to pour out any moment from that pretty mouth of hers. “...fine with me and my husband.” She looked at me and winked and I had to use my right hand to push back in place my hanging lower jaw. “I believe the same is true with my two friends. I don’t know about your other two guests, of course.”

    “Thank you, JL. As a matter of fact my other two guests were here already, and they are familiar with the subject. I suggest I start my explanation, ok?” Never ending surprises. Okay, what the heck, if you can explain me what is happening then I will buy you a beer, Lynn, I thought generously. She smiled and pushed a button on a small box in her hand. The top half of the “altar” started rising up like a giant shell, uncovering inside it... a pearl? It looked like one, a perfect sphere as much as I could judge, smaller than a billiard ball, metallic silver colored, seemingly hanging on some hardly visible thread... was that all? I was disappointed. Big JJ was the first one to find back his voice.

    “Lynn, I hate to be at crossroads with my wife here... “he didn’t dare look in JL’s direction and I snickered making sure he did not see me, “... listen, you practically kidnap us, you drug us, or me at least, you greet us as if we are your closest friends, and then you show us some flying steel ball and you probably expect us to be thankful and understand what you are talking about. Well, we are thankful, we don’t know what the hell you are talking about, can we please leave now?”

    “Big JJ, can you please bring here this steel ball?”

    Big JJ hesitated a second, then got up, placed his big paw around the small steel ball and pulled. His hand didn’t move. He removed it and looked frustrated at the ball, then tried again. The thing didn’t budge. Big JJ frowned.

    “So what’s the big deal? You have some magnets holding the damn thing in place. What’s the idea?”

    “Harry, please?...” Lynn looked at the quiet personage that till now seemed to be the fifth wheel to our party, and he got up, clasped his hand around the ball and brought it over to us as if it was feather light. He let go and the thing stayed floating in the place he left it. I got up and tried to push it. It was like pushing a wall.

    “There is no trick.” Lynn looked at the question marks on our faces and continued. Harry sat down and she continued. “Let me tell you first a bit about Harry. Harry suffers from a certain strange form of autism. In his case it is called autism because of lack of a better definition. Harry talks to himself all the time. He was recorded and his part of the dialog makes complete sense if one imagines a second party talking to him. The doctors defined it as one person, Harry, talking for both sides but only one of them audibly. The funny part is that the dialog changes, and if at times it sounds as if he talks to another person, at other times it sounds as if he talks to animals, and many times as if he talks to objects.” We looked at Harry as he continued murmuring to himself, blank of expression. “One day he came to the institute, and was not allowed to enter. He turned on his heels, and left this sphere at the gate. When the guard tried in vain to move it out of the way, he was intelligent enough to get hold of Harry and call me. That’s how I came in possession of this item.”

    Against my will I started getting fascinated by the recount. I saw similar emotions on Kitty’s face. Big JJ kept an impassive face, same like Paula but probably because of different reasons. I looked at Johnson L. Of us all, she seemed transfixed. She shuddered.

    “Where did Harry find it?”

    “We have no idea,” answered Lynn. Based on various fragments of conversations that we recorded, it seems that the sphere just popped up one day close to him. He took it and came over. He has absolutely no idea how come that he can move it and why only he can do it. Maybe because he is the first one who touched it? Maybe because he talks to it?”

    I snorted sarcastically.

    “C’mon, the guy is crazy, he is schizo, you certainly can come up with a better story or explanation.”

    She didn’t mind my outburst.

    “And you too are crazy, and Big JJ too, aren’t you? You are persuaded that Shakespeere is spelled with e-a-r aren’t you?”

    We were finally getting there. I knew without a doubt that everything would finally link to my “strange” perception, though I couldn’t quite find how the strange ball, and Harry, and Paula, linked into it as well. I eyed her strangely and dared ask the question that was burning my lips from the moment we landed in this place.

    “Lynn, how do you spell it?”

    She returned my gaze, and my friends eyed her with sudden sharp tension outlining their body. It was the first time that she showed a slight hesitation, before answering.

    “With e-e-r, of course.” I let the air out, aware of a lack of breathing in the interval. I was terribly disappointed at the answer. “Which does not mean of course that I am right.” My neck tensed again. “I still owe you some information before we continue. I did not present Paula to you.”

    We completely forgot about her. Paula looked at us with pure indifference, a bit exaggerated actually. Probably the purity of the indifference act was not so absolute.

    “Paula gets a very strange capability, when she is within a certain radius of the sphere. She can, the way it is popularly called, read minds. I prefer to call it create a link.” By now I had guessed it, though my friends had this incredulity look on their faces. “And again we have no explanation to it. But her support to my research is invaluable. She can pick up information vital for me from any source I need her to, inclusive my own subconscience.”

    “So she can read Harry’s mind too?” I asked.

    “Unfortunately she cannot. What Harry talks we can record, however what Harry hears is in some kind of symbolism that she cannot reproduce.”

    I didn’t see it coming, Johnson L’s sudden change of attitude from pure excitement to pure indignation was as sudden as lightning mid of a sunny day.

    “Bullshit. All this is a pile of crap, and since I am a lady I do not have to ask forgiveness from any ladies present. You want to tell me that just like that, by pure chance, all these statistically impossible phenomena happened to pile up together in your courtyard, Harry the one who talks to the trees, and Paula the one that links to the skulls, and my crazy husband plus his friend that imagine the world is changing shape, and you the genius that somehow connects it all to this pebble that came from nowhere and refuses to move because it is in love with Harry? C’mon lady, I don’t know what your research is, or what crack is open in your head, but every minute I waste here I lose one thousand bucks of real green money, and if you don’t come up with something more substantial than this stone hocus pocus then I suggest you let us go back to our screwed but real world.” She stood up, the whole four feet of body plus four inches of spiked heels of hers, her eyes flashing with anger. She really thought someone was pulling our leg, and she had enough of it. Lynn was not taken aback.

    “Paula, please link us.”

    Johnson L froze. Twenty seconds later she looked at Lynn with blushing awe on her face and sat back down. Lynn went over and kissed her on the cheek, apologetically.

    “I let her listen to my thoughts. That’s all. Please let me finish what I was telling you. Then you are free to take your decision. OK? Johnson L?” JL nodded absent mindedly, squeezing Big JJ’s hand. I felt like in the middle of a science fiction tale, only this one seemed to be very real. And Kitty... I forgot about her completely and I realized that the reason for the cramp in my hand was the tight grip she was having on it. Lynn continued, and this time she expected no further interruptions.

    “I told you I am a genius. This is a fact. I found that I could learn much faster that any other person and at the age of eighteen I got my doctorate in the physical sciences. My thesis was not accepted by any other physicist in the world, yet nobody could refute it therefore I was awarded the title. And the only work position I could find in the market place was with the government, universities refused to accept me. Pure envy of staff.” She smiled. I think I really got a liking to her. “I won’t go into the complex mathematics involved, of course, however I will explain my thesis to you in layman’s terms. Please feel free to ask any question you feel like. It is composed of two main chapters. The first one is called the Time Zero Theory and proves that time is a one dimension vector and its size is zero. Meaning that everything that happens, happens at the same one instant. There is no such thing as today or tomorrow but everything is now. What we living things define or sense as time is only a perception of our senses. Physically speaking it has no meaning.” She paused for a moment, looking at our blank faces. “Don’t try to understand it, it’s a mathematical fact but humanly incomprehensible.”

    Kitty hugged my shoulders and kissed my cheek. Why the hell did she do that? All of a sudden I felt like proposing to her there and then.

    “The second one is called the Causality Theory, and it will be easier for you to interpret this one even though you will certainly not accept it. It proves that there is no free will in this world, at least in the theoretical scientific sense. In a closed environment, and our universe is one, everything that happens is the result of everything that happened the one moment before. And moment is an undefined quantity as proven by my first theory.”

    Big JJ cleaned his throat, though it still sounded like the same rusted file I knew.

    “Sorry Lynn, can you please repeat that. I fear you lost me there.”

    “Well, what my thesis has proven is that from moment zero, and let’s for a moment for clarity’s sake assume there was a moment zero...” ...for clarity’s sake? I thought miserably, I was getting more lost with every additional sentence, “... every thing that happened next moment was a direct result of that first moment zero. It’s simple, like the pool ball that rolls in a certain direction because a moment earlier the cue hit it with a certain velocity because a moment earlier the player had a glass of beer because years earlier he was born... and so on. Actually the link and the continuity are down to a time interval of zero. And the sum of all the events at this moment in time is the result of the sum of events at the previous moment in time. No free will, no statistics, no random, everything is the result of a hard mathematical and physical relationship. The statistical sciences exist because we are, practically speaking, impotent from the computing and analyzing point of view. In other words they are the result of us being unable to define firstly the accurate mathematical formulas involved, and secondly the exact status at moment zero. If we had these we could predict the future with an accuracy of one hundred percent. We will never be able to do it. But this is why the government pays me this huge salary and allows me to have a big lab of my own. They think it is possible. They are fools, of course.”

    “Let me see if I understand your story till now, “it was Big JJ grating again, this time pensively, like he was getting into it for real, “your theory says that if I get up and strangle you right away this is not because I am fed up with you but because this is the way it should be.”

    “You are almost right, and the almost relates to the fact that your feeling fed up is part of the same cause and result theory. Of course, you do not interpret it this way. The same can be said for anybody getting a heart attack, for a nova explosion somewhere in the universe, for which spermatozoid fecundates the ovule, for the way the wind blows and the dust settles. The road is fixed, immovable, the time it all happens is zero. Except that we have no way to find a definition of this road. And we have no way to understand or feel zero time.”

    Big JJ scratched his head, got up and tried to move the ball again, took off his shoe and hit it with the heel. Then he got a hold on it with both hands and hang on it for several seconds. The damn thing was solidly frozen in place. He seemed lost in thoughts, while Lynn added.

    “We estimate, based on several experiments, the mass of this sphere to be one million tons, give or take a few pounds. It is made of a material unknown to us, could be a collapsed kind of matter, like a mini collapsed star, however we have no idea which technology could create this effect in such a small unit of matter. We estimate it is alien to this universe. And of course, we have no idea how it got here, what makes it move, and what makes it stay fixed in one place with no gravitational effect on its surroundings. Harry may know but there is no way we can extract this information from him. Harry, can you please return it to its place?” Harry got up almost automatically, never for a second stopping his murmur, and moved the sphere back to the “altar”.

    “OK, Lynn,” Big JJ went on, “you, your team, the government, have found here a good excuse for spending the taxpayer’s money, you are all excited, a big riddle, you have your theories and formulas, a mind reader, a mountains mover... all is fine and we are all very happy for you. What are we doing here? I mean I, my wife, and our two friends.”

    She clearly expected this question, and probably was all the time wondering when it will come out. Clearly she had the answer ready too, however, surprisingly she said -

    “What about a good expensive dinner on account of uncle Sam, then you can go home and relax and tomorrow we get together again to answer your question? What do you say?” She asked everybody but was looking at Johnson L, whom she correctly identified as the leading character in our group. JL was not the hesitating kind.

    “OK, fine with me if I can choose the restaurant.”

    “No problem, the choice is yours.”


    I could never have imagined one could eat at three hundred fifty bucks a head, wines excluded, and still be hungry at the end of a three hours session. The wonders of French cuisine. All those veggie decorations round something that was mostly empty plate and very little edible stuff. The invention of the century, bet these guys made margins round thousands of percents. When back in the limousine I whispered in JL’s ear “...now what we need is a good healthy cheeseburger...” following which sentence I felt that the famous if looks could kill... saying was about to lose its if... I reverted to listening to my still rumbling stomach. Big JJ did not complain, the bastard ordered every time two of each whatever’s. Johnson L and Lynn were the highest spirited during all the interminable sessions between apéritifs, and appétissants, and hors-d’œuvres, and the rest of the French cuisine slang crap. Kitty, loyal to a well established tradition, wolfed down everything on the table that was edible and not allocated to somebody else, and our two new acquaintances ate each one in his relevant style - Paula munching the food while chewing her interminable supply of gum, and Harry talking apologetically to each piece of food that entered his mouth. I was about to order a Budweiser to help me kill the taste when JL’s sharp heel drilled a hole through my foot right down to the sole of my shoe, so I thought better of it and kept downing the tasteless vintage wine. My kingdom for a beer... as King Lear would have said it, and somehow it sounded wrong but I was much too drunk by the time to pay any attention to my own thoughts. I wouldn’t have called it a night to remember, though I was sure never to forget it.

    I fell asleep while still at the half way mark between the standing up and the lying down. Kitty undressed me, then crawled in with her arms around me and joined me within seconds. She told me following morning that before she fell asleep she could hear me mumbling several times Richard and then she didn’t give a damn and let sleep take over. We knew we were going to be picked up at ten so we woke up at eight, showered together making sure we were the cleanest possible in all hidden corners, and you are free to interpret it any way you want. Then I made the honors, preparing breakfast which consisted of canned orange juice, cereals without milk (the milk had gone sour), two cold boiled eggs and a few pickled tomatoes. Kitty didn’t get the opportunity to complain since when she opened her mouth it stayed that way for the next five minutes, following which she started sobbing hysterically since this was the moment I proposed to her and she accepted. The knock on the door found us locked in an interminable kiss (there are some things French which are not so bad, after all...), and Kitty was pulling her different dress parts back in place, blushing, while going to the car and throwing me promising looks that could have melted the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. We were alone in the car this time, seemed the others were picked up by other cars, and when we got to the lab they were already there. Kitty told Johnson L the news and the crazy midget punched me so strong in the stomach that I almost threw up my canned juice. Then Big JJ broke half of my ribs in his gentle loving hug and I wasn’t sure if I could return to theatre for at least a week of recovery time. Lynn showed up a few minutes later, with Paula and Harry, and we were ready to start. Start what?

    “I have the sphere for about a year, now,” Lynn picked up the thread of the recount after congratulating Kitty... why the hell was no one congratulating me? “I am today as ignorant of its meaning as I was at the beginning. But through Harry I connected to Paula, then later to Roger and to Big JJ. The five of us, I included, have something in common, and now I know with certainty it is unique.” She looked at each of us in turn, before continuing. “We all have an additional, till now unknown, chromosome in our body. I call it chromosome Z.” She stopped again for the effect to sink in, but I think the present population was ignorant enough to miss the weight of the declaration altogether. I thought it was safe enough to ask a question, so I did.

    “Does it mean we are not normal?”

    Lynn laughed.

    “It means we cannot exist. There is no such thing as chromosome Z, and the fact that we have it cannot be explained by any existing medical or evolutional theory. Yet it is a fact. And I personally have a theory of my own, and you can accept it or reject it. But it is the only one out there, and the only one that can explain both Roger’s and Big JJ’s perceptions of changing reality, and answer Johnson L’s question from yesterday - how come all these statistically impossible phenomena happened to pile up together in my courtyard? Thank you for the question JL, it gives a frame to my following theory. Which is: the Time Zero and the Causality theories had to be found, developed, discovered in this world, in this universe. Because of whatever reason. Thus our parents were “contaminated” so that we would result, we five abnormal people, saddled with the chromosome Z. And we are the vehicles for the introduction of these theories in this world.”

    “Ho, ho, ho, wait a moment, not so fast Lynn.” It was sweet silent Kitty, all of a sudden alive, interested, talkative... the effects a proposal can have on some women... “Your parents were contaminated by who?...”

    “By whom?...” I mumbled and her murderous look had nothing of a soft, loving, future to become bride...

    “... by whom?” she conceded, “and how does this exactly link you four into this vehicle you are talking about. And, without being any kind of super scientist myself, I certainly can ask myself the question - how come there is no back up to you five, what if any of you gets hit by lightning, or a bus, or dies of food poisoning? Could these super whatever’s you are talking about be so stupid as to risk human frailty to cut short their supposed to be universe ranging goals? And what does having this chromosome Z mean actually?” Great, my girl, words crafted in gold, I thought proudly, and I kissed her as she sat back down. She preferred to pinch my arm, as an act of retribution for my earlier remark. Why was everybody picking on me, stepping, punching, squashing, pinching?... It wasn’t fair. I felt like bawling. Lynn, as I guessed already yesterday, had all the answers ready.

    “I promised you theories, not facts. And my theory is that the “super whatever’s” are not part of our universe. And as far as I can guess, this universe may even be a small experiment for them and now is the moment of a controlling intervention. Or they may try to communicate in some way with us and my theories will in some way enable this communication. The sphere is probably a tool they sent over. For all I know it may even be an intelligent entity itself. I do not really know. The only things I am certain of are... “ she started counting on her fingers, “...one - my thesis is correct, two - it was a foreign intervention that created us five specifically, three - since these others probably can calculate the future they knew that nothing will happen to us before we fulfilled our intended mission, and four - ...” here she hesitated a second before continuing, “... the chromosome Z is a remote control tool of some kind, and I don’t know if it is manipulative or informative or both.” I almost jumped. Same reaction, seemed to me, with Big JJ. Kitty listened attentively, but was not yet entirely satisfied.

    “Please Lynn, let’s say that I understand your assignment - you invented these theories. And Harry’s mission - he made the link to the others supposed to be components of this puzzle’s solution. But what about Paula? And for God’s sake - what about Roger and Big JJ and their fantasies? Shakespeare with e-a-r of all things? That’s ridiculous.”

    “Kitty, this is as far from ridiculous as true is from false. Paula fulfilled a double function, actually, the first of which is finished. This was the function of allowing me to listen to myself, to parts of my brain I do not have access to, and finalize my theories. Paula’s second function is help me find proof to my theories, practical proof that can be documented, presented, checked, and accepted. Even though under all circumstances, such proof will be of an indirect kind. But it is necessary. And it need not be complicated, though the theory is extremely heavy. Einstein’s relativity principle, also an extremely heavy theory, was proven by flying around the globe a very accurate clock. I hope to find something similar by communicating with these two gentlemen on a level that is possible only through Paula. She will link me directly to their mind storages of information, where no manipulation, lying, forgetfulness and other human curtains mask the real data. It is my job to find my proof there and find a way to use it. I am certain I will find it.”

    “Lynn, “ it was Big JJ this time, sounding satisfied yet still a bit puzzled, “why two of us, I mean why both Roger and I? If these super entities could so accurately predict the future then why did they need a back up in our case?”

    “Big JJ, truth is you ask the only one question that really bothers me. For all the others I can easily say I do not know or I know based on my previously presented theory. This is the only one that somehow falls in between the two. Which means that I struggle to have it fit in, and I do fit it in, but I am not entirely satisfied. Actually you could ask a much bigger question - if they could compute our universe then they could have computed also our reaction and behavior and result of their contamination. Point is that probably the computing power needed is so out of reach that it took them thousands of our years to fully compute their own universe. They had only a few years to compute ours, once they found a way to access it, thus they got only a very good approximation, that’s all. So I think that even they had a problem designing the possibility for someone to be able to be part of this universe and flow with its events according to the Causality Theory, yet perceive the changes or at least part of the changes as if they were outside the events. Sounds like a paradox, and probably it is even to them. Therefore they designed two, each as backup to the other in case one fails, somehow both were successful. There are nevertheless some flaws, one of them being the fact that you actually influence the events outside the theory, and create in some cases unexpected changes in your close proximity, kind of predicting the future and creating it - like the case with the twenty dollars bill. Another flaw, more important for me, seems to be that you start losing this perception, both of you. And therefore it is extremely important for me to start working with you immediately.” She looked at us, really pleading. “I hope you accept.”

    We looked at each other, I and Big JJ, and there was a feeling of relief in the air. We were not crazy after all, we felt we were part of something “big”, our partners knew the truth or at least the theory related to this effect. I knew I was going to say yes, same as Big JJ, yet I had one last question burning on my lips.

    “Lynn, what is the real reality. Mine, or everybody else’s?”

    “Roger, you won’t understand my answer, but this is one of the conclusions of my Zero Time Theory. Both realities are real. Both happen at the same time, both take zero time to happen. They are the same. Remember I said that the Causality Theory applies in a completely closed environment, which our universe is one. The “contamination” I mentioned and which resulted in us five being born was an external input into this closed environment, breaking the fixed flow that started at moment zero. And based on the Zero Time Theory it immediately (whatever immediately means) resulted in all the past and all the future to be recreated. You are able to sense the differences between the before and the after. And both are real, happening at the same time, at Zero Time. However... if you ask me in our perception terms which was the reality before the contamination - the one you two perceive or the one the rest of us do, well I really have no answer. On a pure guessing base I would say that yours, the e-a-r, is the experimental, the changed one. But it is pure guessing.” She stopped for one second and turned towards Big JJ. “Big JJ, do you too have one last question before we start working?”

    “Yes, Lynn. Maybe a philosophical one, though God knows I am no philosopher, why did they actually do it?”

    She smiled, really happy, like a kid that has his opinion asked for, and then respected and acted upon. She knew she had won our trust and she was happy.

    “I wish Harry could tell us. My own personal thoughts are very simple. They know their future, to such detail, that life is meaningless there. Even sending this ball here was predicted. But not its contents if we succeed to find a way to feed information into it and if they can have access to it. It is with the right kind of information, which hopefully we can provide, that they are looking for the possibility to insert a random effect into their universe to make it unpredictable and livable. And they are asking for our help to find it for them. Maybe they are millions of years more advanced than us technologically, yet, this may be the very reason we could provide them with the suitable data. Because of the simple fact that we do not yet know what our tomorrow looks like. Certainly more now, that this external intervention changed the formulas of our universe completely. The sphere - this is probably the tool of change, and this is also the communication link through which we have to learn to start exchanging information. Wonder why am I so excited?”


    Kitty and Johnson L left, leaving us in the compound. JL didn’t like very much the idea of parting with Big JJ, but she had to follow her own “calling”. She just made sure of one thing.

    “…and Paula, you just keep your boobs off my man’s chest or I’ll scrap your name off the telephone book.”

    Paula smiled. I hated to admit it but when she stopped chewing and started smiling, well, she had this ravishing smile that cut right through a man’s heart. I don’t know exactly what it did to a woman’s heart.

    “My dear midget,” and Johnson L beamed, everybody was aware about the pride she took in her stature, “I go only by size, the bigger the better.” And when JL looked like she was about to cut her legs from underneath her, she added suavely, “By the size of the wallet.” She meant it. So JL went over and pecked her cheek. It was clear she meant it too.

    We worked with Lynn for three weeks continuously, till she got all the information she thought could help her. We didn’t understand much of it but she seemed satisfied. Inside several days the relations developed from pure business to real friendship. Big JJ adopted me as his Thin White Brother and he went as far as allowing me to call him my Big Black Teddy. I had to scrap the “bear” under threat of annihilation. Lynn was everybody’s friend, mother, sister and daughter, and even Harry seemed to have joined the fraternity and started “talking” to each of us in his own peculiar way. We called ourselves The Contaminated Five, feeling like some kind of teenage secret society dreaming of changing the world before going out and finally getting a job like everybody else. Only Paula was keeping aloof and impregnable, almost indifferent to anything happening there. For her it was a job like her other “job” only this one paid slightly better. She surprised me one time, when we had a break in activity and we remained alone in the testing room.

    “Roger, I have a confession to make.” I looked up surprised, and for a moment felt like informing her that I am no catholic priest though I knew a very good one around. But though sarcasm was second nature to me, being rude was no nature to me so instead, I just waited for her to go on. “In the session today I allowed myself to peek a bit around your mind, the first time and not too deep. You know, I envy Kitty, you are madly in love with her.”

    This time I was speechless for real. Not that I cared so much for my privacy, what could she find there that she didn’t encounter hundreds of times in her “professional” life? But even though I knew that I loved Kitty, being told that my love was actually so much deeper than I ever admitted to myself was a shocker.

    “Paula, do you have a boyfriend?” She laughed, and she didn’t do it too often.

    “A pimp, you mean. No, Roger, I am a hard working independent girl and all my money goes into a well stuffed pantyhose. I don’t wear socks, as you know, and my mattress suffers too many visitors.” She was talking freely, shamelessly. “And one day I hope to find myself a guy to love me just like you love Kitty. I know it will never happen.”

    “Paula, you may be very wrong.” She looked at me with a sudden penetrating regard, unable to decide if I was mocking her or what. “I know you didn’t dig too much in my mind. Because if you did, you would have found there this hidden thought bothering me very much, and telling me that when you smile you are one of the most smashing women I have ever met. And a man would be honored to have you by his side. Of course, it would mean changing jobs.”

    She was quiet. She sat on the couch in the room and kept her gaze fixed on me, locking me into an inability to move. I felt embarrassed.

    “Roger, knowing what you know of me and telling me what you have just told me, is simply so different than anything else I have ever heard that I must use a word I never ever used before with regard to a man. You are sweet.” And I was damned if I didn’t see a glitter in her eyes that she tried very hard to make disappear. I thought at that moment she too adopted me. And kind of joined our “private” circle for full membership.

    Days passed, and we got into a certain routine. We felt absolutely no embarrassment with each other, to a certain extent we even felt like family. And taken the damn chromosome Z into account, we actually were. Big JJ allowed us to uncover the secret of his naming, though it took some kind of expert handling to get it done. Seems his father named him after the great... white movie hero hunter Jeremiah Johnson, and the poor kid had to fight his way through a range of youth bands till he got fed up with breaking noses and decided instead to break habit and go for the JJ nickname. The Big was Johnson L’s loving later addition. Paula, well, I think she got a sudden unexplained crush on Harry that was obvious to all except probably Harry himself. I wondered what she might have read, uninvited, in his fuzzy special mind. As for Lynn, she was managing the tests, sometimes using me, sometimes Big JJ, and sometimes trying to work in parallel with both of us. She filled tens of tapes with recorded remarks, which later on she was going to sort out, edit, and feed to her Cray computer for analysis.


    “Yes, Roger?...” We were alone in the small kitchenette, I was at my second glass of orange juice and she just came in for a coffee. The silver ball was hanging in the air above our heads. Lynn insisted that it “joins” us everywhere just in case it “listens”, so Harry kept moving it from location to location. Most of the time it was stuck in the small kitchen, where, after banging my head against it one night, he moved higher above our head level. There it hung like a misplaced and mistimed Christmas ball. The only thing it missed was the wire to hang by.

    “Lynn, am I some kind of damn robot?”

    The espresso machine finished its classical whining and whirring, she took her steaming cup and sat across from my table. Big JJ came in as well, and she waited until he poured himself his (we never dared joke about it) big cold glass of milk and sat by my side. Lynn put her elbows on the table and let the bitter coffee smell and steam envelope her face like in a surrealistic Dali painting.

    “Do you feel like it, Roger?” I hesitated. “And you, Big JJ?” When none of us responded she went on. “No, I don’t think we are some kind of damn robots.” I liked the sound of the we in her sentence. “No more than a pupil thinks he is a robot because there is a teacher in front of him. Or her, if you insist. I feel myself, I feel good in my skin, I have been probably programmed in a certain genetic way, same like you, and same like every other damn creature on this planet - human, animal, or vegetal. So what’s the difference? I just got a bit of extra guiding, extra capabilities, like all of us here, that’s all. I see it more like a privilege to have some kind of remote training and, you know what, I am mighty thankful for it.”

    “What about Harry.”

    “What about him?”

    “Was it fair to have him programmed as you say it, to his autistic state?”

    “Roger, he was going to be born this way. The chromosome Z did not change any our basic genetic composition and predilection. It just added to our capability of expression. And, as I said, to the capability of absorbing the other side’s guidance. You know, our problem as humans is we think we are perfect and our ethics are impeccable. Who says so? We say it. Thus we try to export them even to our peers - families try to export their values to other families, religions their beliefs to other religions, countries their political systems to other countries.” Looked to me she was heating up to the subject. “Just let’s look at this world of ours closely for a moment. There are three basic rules that everything living, from human through animal and down to the lowest plant, abide by. Multiply, eat, shit… oops, sorry, didn’t mean to be rude, it just has the right sound…” she smiled.

    “And die…” I offered.

    “No Roger, die is not part of it. Die is the end of it.”

    “Lynn, aren’t you a bit too simplistic?” I insisted, basically guessing the path she was going to follow.

    “Yes, I am, Roger. Just to get my following point clear and unblurred. We, humans, invented something, in addition to the three rules, called ethics. Only we forget, or actually accept, that ethics are about our own well being. We experiment on other living things and use other living things with almost no concern because they are tools to our well being, aren’t they? We experiment on animals, don’t we? We cut and burn trees, don’t we? So what would you say if I would equate these other siders to us, and equate us to trees from their point of view? Do you think they would give a damn about us?” She sipped her drink and looked at our faces, our eyes several inches away from each other’s, all of us deeply in thought. “Not that I think they are this way.” That was it, she vented some deeply seated frustration to a band of friends, now she could cool down as fast as she flared. Though it was clear something else was coming, as she looked us both deeply in the eyes, each of us at a different time of course, and then she smiled like a kid unwrapping a Christmas gift. Yes, something else was definitely coming. She got up, went under the small sphere and looked up at it, fascination playing dirty tricks in her eyes. Paula and Harry came in meantime, and they were sitting with hot drinks in their hands, a strange kind of quiet settling in the room. I was so focused on her eyes that I almost missed the moment when she suddenly raised her hand and her index finger… oh my God, penetrated the sphere. We gasped, and I certainly lost a few heartbeats till she pulled it back. She turned to face us, a triumphal smile on her face.

    “I discovered it last night. Now I know we are getting there. I believe we can start concluding our sessions.”

    We left three days later. By that time I got in the habit of thinking in paradoxical terms, so the evening before parting I had to ask her again one of those, as Big JJ defined them, deep philosophical questions. I didn’t know if I could expect a meaningful answer, yet, as usual, she surprised me.

    “Lynn,” I started, “let’s assume for a moment that your guess was wrong, and actually it is I and Big JJ that represent the original way of things, and that this contamination you mentioned influenced the rest of the world. You gave it even chances yourself. That would mean that actually your perception and reality is continually changing and will keep on doing so. Therefore, the way the e-a-r changed into e-e-r, followed by other changes shifted later in time (at least what we perceive as later in time), your present investigation may, well, disappear. Did you think about it?”

    She regarded me with a regard nobody ever before regarded me with, respect. I think it was the first time in my life that I blushed.

    “Roger, my dear friend, this is exactly the reason I wanted these experiments with you two concluded the fastest possible. The moment we succeed to feed this information into the sphere and communicate it to the other side this information will be preserved. I hope, and I have no better word than HOPE, that once they have it, they will be able to initiate stabilizing this change wave that is passing right now through our universe. By providing another calculated alien input into it. And, tell you the truth, I hope our reality stays the way I perceive it now. I kind of like it, and since you are slowly fading into it as well, bet you will like it too. I think Romeo and Ophelia sounds so much better than Romeo and Juliet, but then, I am biased of course. You probably would be of the opposite opinion.” Which I was.


    One week later I started participating in the rehearsals to the play again, full of enthusiasm and passion for my role. I married Kitty the same week and she moved in with me and my cat. I was deeply in love with her and I kept wondering why I didn’t propose to her earlier. Maybe the inherent romance of the play was getting through to me. I called her for our first full dress rehearsal, I loved having her sitting somewhere in the back rows where I couldn’t see her, yet knowing that she had eyes and ears just for me. Johnson L and Big JJ came too. Our friendship blossomed and JL told us she was pregnant in the third month. Kitty promised to catch up, if possible, triggering waves of laughter from all of us.

    The rehearsal started. I waited for this moment all my life, now it was my turn to go out there, go and conquer the public with the power of my acting supporting the immortal words that good old Bill put in Romeo’s mouth. The curtain opened and I stepped forward, forgetting the stage, the public, the fact that it was a play. I was Romeo. This was Verona. And Romeo was asking the eternal question asked by so many generations of Romeo’s throughout the years: “To be, or not to be...”



    My eyes were red and swollen. She died three weeks ago in that terrible road accident and I was not yet on the point of accepting it. Since the moment she was taken over to the morgue, I spent my days working my ass off and trying hard to blank out my mind. The nights I spent challenging the laws of probability, rearranging her dresses, and crying my eyes dry if there was no one around to witness it. The most difficult to watch was the pain my son was going through. There was a special link between him and his mom and the news of her death practically shattered him. His pain was so intense that my own was inexistent by comparison. I could hear him now in the adjoining room, whispering with his wife. They came over for the funeral. The previous time they came over was for her birthday... I smothered a crying spasm.

    Suicide my foot. Those cops had to find something to justify their livelihood and they were good at either finding or engineering. True, she was a perfect driver, much better than I was. True there were no braking signs before the point of impact. Which meant absolutely nothing, the poor woman just fell asleep at the wheel. I felt anger replacing fast the pain in my over-crowded mind. I should have acted earlier, with much more determination. That damn computer kept her awake most of the night time, her friends and house chores kept her awake most of the day time, she was an accident waiting to happen. And damn me, I should have made my tough move earlier.

    At the beginning it all looked like a joke. Two years ago. She clapped her hands like a kid when I installed the damn thing in, then sat down at the keyboard and started playing on it like a piano addict. Right away. First it was buying things. Then selling things. Then buying, and selling, and chat rooms. Everything was still normal for a while, we had good occasional sex, mostly at her suggestion, we were visiting friends and getting friends over almost every weekend. I tried to reconstruct the change, but it was so subtle that I found difficulty in locating the accurate date. When was it?... about a year ago? We suddenly stopped having sex. It didn’t bother me too much, I knew it is some “female” temporary thing and I had to be patient. Nothing else changed much, she was still cheerful, food addicted, the fear of every male driver in town - there was no “chicken run” she did not win hands down. She just started spending more and more night time with her computer.

    Our first argument around it was barely half a year old. I told her clearly that I disapproved of her staying awake full nights and getting to bed just as I was getting out of it. So she just kept awake... longer, preparing my breakfast, sending me on my way with a kiss. I had a real problem finding arguments against the damn monster, and actually she was making quite good money selling things via the net and it seemed to be terribly important to her. We didn’t need the money, far from it. I told her so. She laughed.

    “Honey, the money is just the by product. It is the people I meet on the net that I love. You know, I was contacted last night by...” and there she was going on a tangent of her own that I couldn’t stop. I really started hating that blinking machine, it was stealing my wife from me. But I couldn’t do anything except getting more bitter and demanding that she dedicates more time to the family. At certain points we had real fights. She won all of them. Simply by ignoring my arguments, hiding in the computer room and hitting madly at the keys. She was not mad at me. She was mad at something that I couldn’t quite understand. At a certain point in time I even thought she was having an affair. Then I removed the ridiculous thought from my mind, she hardly left house, she simply did not have the time for it.

    I remembered specifically the one day when I got fed up with waiting for her to join me in the kitchen and I stormed angrily into the computer room. I think she hastily erased the screen. I think so since she followed me in an uncharacteristically subdued way to the kitchen and kept yawning while I told her about some events at my work. And her cheeks had a certain flush that I didn’t see in years. Was there something on that screen that I wasn’t supposed to see? The more I thought about it the more I found it hilarious, since I became persuaded she was visiting... porno sites. Well, wife, if that’s your wish, enjoy it.

    I did my move exactly two moths ago. She was out, shopping, when the buyer arrived, picked the computer and left. When she got home the blinking corner was empty - no computer, no printer, no screen. The anger choked her, she started screaming to me with such intense fury that for a few worrying moments I hesitated as to the wisdom of my move. But every woman had a price, and I knew the price I had to pay for mine, and it was ready. I brought out my two aces in one go, though originally I planned to do it one after the other.

    “Love, none of your data is lost - it was all dumped on CDs, so you can have access to it later. I promise to buy you a new computer in six months time. But during six months I want to find my wife back.” I handed her the six CDs, and then extended my other present in an open box - an all round diamond studded wedding ring worth twelve grand and bought at a mere ten... “Marry me again?” Her eyes shone. I knew my wife, I knew my moves. She took the ring, put it on her finger next to her small solitaire (couldn’t remember when I bought her that one), kissed me lightly on the lips, and without answering left the room. On her way out she dropped the six CDs in the automatic disposal bin. I heard the sound of crushing plastic.


    The ceremony was held in the small chapel adjoining the cemetery. The obituary was read by my son, tears choking his voice at times, yet his voice loud and proud in the praise of his mother. I scanned the small room, we opted for a small intimate ceremony and I knew all the persons present. Close family members, very close friends. My eyes rested for a moment on a man seated close to my nephew. He reminded me of my cousin Tom, but I was not sure if it was him and anyway we did not invite him. Maybe one of the cemetery stragglers that look for any occasion to join an “event”? It did not worry me any, let him “enjoy” if that was his kick. He looked concentrated, absorbing every word, from time to time nervously biting his lower lip. I returned my attention to the obituary, making a mental note to ask my son if he knew the guy.

    We followed the casket to the freshly dug hole and I followed its descent, crying bitterly. My son surprised me - he did not cry, and for a few moments I was afraid the intense pain was going to kill him. Cry boy, cry... I thought to myself, cry and relieve the pain. The Tom guy, if Tom he was, was standing erect a few yards back, away from the rest. His eyes following the casket too, his fists clenched, something wild playing havoc in his eyes. I felt terribly embarrassed. I returned my attention to the casket, threw a handful of earth in the hole and turned away from it. I couldn’t bear seeing her disappearing underneath the unforgiving layer of humid earth. I was shaking. But I decided to approach the stranger and ask to his identity. Something was amiss here, this guy was somehow out of place. I looked around. He wasn’t there. I looked nervously in other directions and couldn’t see him either. It was not the moment and neither was I in any mood to play detective. I hugged my son, his wife, and entered the big limousine that would take us back to town.

    One of the limousines behind us backfired and as I looked back I saw some commotion around the area where she got buried. I was beyond caring, I turned my head, hugged my son around the shoulders and was relieved to see tears rolling down his closed eyes. He will be alright. We will all be alright.


    They brought me the astonishing piece of news following morning. It all happened within seconds. The stranger that participated to the ceremony approached the grave, jumped in, kissed the barely covered wood and shot himself in the head. There were no identification papers found on him. Did I know the guy?... they asked me shoving various photos in front of my eyes. I knew I didn’t. I just kept wondering if there could have been someone out there, the day before, whose pain had been even more intense than mine.


Of Dogs, Cats, And Unicorns...

    I was not sure at all if this was a genetic flaw or simply a matter of education. Some called it training but I preferred education. Though, truth be said, I couldn’t see what education had to do with it. The fact that I liked cats. Any kind of cats. I never really had a pet cat for long, and this due to a terrible scratching allergy I discovered around the age of three when my nose started dripping lumps of disgusting stuff while I was busy investigating Sylvia’s cat’s hindquarters. I was madly I love with her. The cat I mean. Sylvia was just the unavoidable extra luggage, and it was my job to love her. As for Juliet, the cat, it was my heart calling the shots there.

    Just a sec, I think you are a bit mixed up by now since I forgot to present myself. Here it goes. My name is Joe Jr and I am a black doberman. Sorry for the misunderstanding, that’s what happens when one writes a story without an editor. And since dogs don’t get pocket money allowance, I cannot allow myself the luxury of one. And I don’t have pockets of course (poops... what you know... my first dog joke...). Now if you re-read the first paragraph I bet it is clearer, amongst others, why at the age of three moons I was sniffing someone’s hindquarters. Tradition, you know...

    The inspiration to this story came from my boss, Joe Sr, a poor deluded writer who tried already more than one hundred editors and got rejected more than two hundred times. There were always those attentive editors who wanted to make sure he was not going to write them a second time, thus were sending him two rejection letters, postage on the house. So attentive... Thus a frustrated Joe Sr started writing this fantastic fantasy book about editors, one chapter being about me writing them pleading letters in his name. Poor boss, if he only knew that I could understand every word he was writing he wouldn’t have read these chapters aloud to me. Surely not the recurring references to editors’ families, mothers and others of kin. I refrained from laughing, of course, no self respecting dog would ever laugh at his master. Besides, the food was good, eight year old Sylvia never pulled my tail, and Juliet - her cat - was adorable. It broke my heart when they gave her up to my boss’ previous wife (...Cruela DeVil I called her after watching the 101 Dalmatians for the tenth time and seeing her just once...). All because of me and my allergy. I knew Juliet was going to have a beautiful life with Cruela, since that dame loved cats almost as much as she loved chocolate pudding, but my heart stayed broken for two full sunsets. Recovery followed when I discovered that I loved cats also in other forms - puppets, candies, chocolate bars, poems dealing with cats, and even female humans called Catherine. With no allergy handicap attached. Weird, isn’t it? And even more so when I discovered two months later that beautiful, high nosed collie across the street called Kat. My god of dogs, did I fall for this one... Does anyone think Juliet would have minded that I compensated missing her with love for Kat plus cat shaped biscuits?

    BTW (yes... I do follow up my master’s internet keystrokes as well, LOL...) this story was never printed, it was simply memorized since I never got access to the computer. Joe Sr kept admonishing me every time I tried to lay my paw on the keyboard, and I did not know his password to try it when I was alone. But I have a great memory. And one day I will get my own computer... I hope. Okay, enough procrastinating, as an internet friend once commented on one of Joe’s stories, down to the business at hand. And you better pay attention since, whatever you may think, this story really happened and if it does not turn into a movie you may call me Lassie... Oh, yes, I did say earlier on I was inspired to write this story, oh, no, it does not contradict the fact that it really happened. Iron clad dog logic. Holly poop, since I am the only real talking dog in this world, the others being stupid movie tricks, you have no choice but to believe me.

    It started Wednesday, the day Sylvia was usually earlier home from school. This specific Wednesday she was late. Liz, Sylvia’s mother and Joe Sr’s new companion, waited till the thing called clock moved half a rotation beyond the position at which the girl usually appeared at the door, then went to the other human thing called phone and started talking to herself. Somehow this helped humans communicate better than real talking. I liked Liz from day one when my boss brought her to his lair, about two years ago. He probably also loved her a lot since he patted her even more than he patted me. As I was not of a jealous nature, I accepted her. It was through her that I discovered the cat shaped biscuits, and she also allowed me to chew her cat shaped slippers. A real educated human female. I was a bit aghast that Joe never called her bitch, as he did call Cruela at times, did he love Liz any less? I’ll probably never have a real understanding of humans. Who gives a poop?

    The more the clock needle advanced, the more Liz became agitated. When Joe Sr arrived home she fell into his arms crying loudly, and I did my best to stay out of their way since the issue seemed too serious to ask for my dinner. My stomach was rumbling but my attention was drawn to the small moustached blue clad man who came with Joe, and on whose back was written in big letters POLICE. I know to read, I knew police, and all this setting didn’t look good to me. I tried to listen in through the thick bathroom door where they locked me because the policeman was afraid of dogs (I, who never bit even a postman...), but they were too far away for me. I scratched the door twice, then obediently fell asleep. I was not worried, except for my dinner.

    It was some time later that Joe opened the door to the bathroom to let me out. The policeman was gone and I found my disgusting food in the bowl. I never understood what other dogs found in this kind of food, it was stinking and salty and looked like somebody threw it up. Since it was a matter of survival I had to eat, and couldn’t wait for the tastiest leftovers that usually Sylvia... Sylvia, I suddenly remembered with a pang, and before even taking the first bite rushed upstairs yelping. She was not there, I sniffed everywhere, under the bed, in the bathroom, in the cupboard... the smell present there was the old one and no new smell came to replace it. I didn’t like it at all. It was not the first time she came late from school, but it was the first time that she didn’t show up so late in her room. This, and Liz crying, and the policeman... I knew enough things about human matters to start feeling as well what ‘they’ called worried. I rushed back downstairs, rubbed my head reassuringly against Joe’s legs, then licked Liz’s knees, had a few bites and rushed to the door barking. Joe opened it to let me out, but first I rushed back upstairs to pick up one of Sylvia’s shoes in my mouth, just showing I knew what there was to be done, then rushed back down and ran out. I could hear Joe shouting admiringly after me “...damn dog, what does he think he is doing?...” but I was on a mission of my own, couldn’t wait. Except that, once outside, I suddenly found I didn’t know what was to be done. In the movies it looked so easy, how the hell did Benji always know what to do? Joe Sr was coming towards me with the leash in his hand for the last walk before they locked me in, but I was in no mood to be leashed. I bolted away, and Joe was in no mood for a walk either since he did some farewell sign with his finger and went back into the house. I started running through the neighboring courtyards, imagining I had to try to find Sylvia in one of her friends’ houses. Each time I reached one of these I stopped, dropped the shoe from my mouth and barked wildly for her. In vain, even Kat didn’t bark back at me, and we were supposed to be in love. She was probably tending to our kids, those hilarious sweet creatures humans call puppies. My chest swelled with pride at the thought, then I remembered I had a job to do. It was probably too late for all humans since only at one house someone opened a window and threw a shoe at me. I checked it, it was not one of Sylvia’s shoes, so I barked my thanks nevertheless and ran on. At the end of the street I stopped. I never went beyond this point and the rest of the world looked dark and menacing. I have heard neighboring dogs barking about frightening creatures called Chihuahua roaming the places over there, and I was reluctant to meet such a one without Joe Sr at my side. I let out a few menacing barks in the air, just for measure, peed a long one against Mrs Simpson’s prize roses bush, and rushed back home. On the way I saw a foreign hairy cat, and forgetting all about my allergies rushed over to welcome it in the neighborhood. But it preferred to climb a tree, disregarding my loud barked protests. So I left it there, picked back Sylvia’s shoe, and rushed home.

    The door was partially open. I entered and pushed to close it with my tail stump, a trick of which Joe Sr was particularly proud. He came near me, sat on the floor, hugged my neck and started sobbing in my fur. I felt uneasy, I never saw Joe crying before, and after all I didn’t damage the shoe too much. Then I heard him muttering “... where is Sylvia, Joe, where is Sylvia?...” and then it all clicked suddenly together in my mind. Click. It was the door clicking shut, but it symbolically fit the situation. Sylvia was not just away with friends, Sylvia was... gone? The worry turned to panic, the panic turned to pain, and suddenly I found myself letting out a howl like I didn’t remember myself ever doing before. Something wild was stirring in me, a feeling so new I hardly recognized it. I felt a new pair of hands hugging my neck, Liz, and as I was howling away I felt their bodies hanging to me and shuddering with sobs and pain. I never knew humans could hurt as much as dogs, and never knew I could feel their pain so intensely. We fell asleep on the floor in a pile of legs, and paws, and one single tail stump somewhere.

    Around the time the sun was about to shine I felt my humans stir, getting up and dragging their feet to the bed. Liz slid under the blanket fully dressed, and Joe fell by her side, on top of the blanket. He didn’t kiss her good night and it was again one of those first’s that this night was so rich with. I didn’t try my usual crawling into the bed when I thought they were asleep, somehow my mood was not into warmth and tenderness right then.


    The door bell rang, waking us all with its ugly ring. I remember when Joe Sr installed it and proudly called it “The Fifth...”. I couldn’t recollect the other four, but this one gave me the creeps. I hardly resisted snapping at it every time it made this awful noise. Joe got out of bed, and Liz went into the bathroom. I heard water running, she was probably freshening herself a bit. Joe opened the entrance door and there were two policemen in uniforms, and at their feet... I growled unhappily... a big smart looking asshole of a dog that looked straight through me as if I did not exist. I turned around, scuffed the floor a few times with my hind legs in clear sign of despise, and returned to my cot. Liz joined the party at the entrance and I heard them talking between them. Then I saw Joe pick up Sylvia’s shoe and give it to the policeman. This one in turn took it and gave it to the dog, who sniffed at it and barked several times. I recognized this type of bark - damn snobs, couldn’t understand one word of humanish and hardly could speak to other dogs, all they knew doing was barking and sniffing. Ha, even I could sniff better... I heard one of the policemen say “Search...” pointing to the door, but the damn animal started turning in circles and finally started going in... my direction. If I knew who Fellini was I would have said it looked like a scene from a Fellini movie. Human stupidity sometimes made me scratch. And unfortunately at times it rubbed off also on respectable members on my own species. Of course he was coming my way since he smelt me, it was the shoe I had in my mouth for a few hours last night. I got up, snarled at the damn mongrel and passed before his nose letting him see but not smell my hindquarters, then rushed upstairs, picked up one of Sylvia’s trousers and brought it down. I let it fall in front of the dog and returned to the cot. I’ve seen enough movies to know what was needed at that moment. The dog’s policeman looked at me with a hanging jaw, then finally getting the point, he picked up the trousers and let the dog smell them. Then he dragged him outside and commanded him again “Search...”. Well, good luck to you, I thought to myself, if you think she is hiding in the courtyard or at the neighbors then you are wasting your time. I tried it already last night. But of course, nobody understood me, and if they would guess I understood them I would have finished in some military lab with wires sticking out of my ears... I shuddered, remembering reading (in hiding) “Plague Dogs”. So I kept playing the stupid house dog as much as I could. Actually I probably wasn’t too bright, true, but at least I spoke foreign languages.

    The sun was high in the sky when they returned. The police dog looked haggard and tired, and for a moment I felt a pang of commiseration for him. After all he had to work for the poopy food he got, and he was never invited to join his masters in bed. And he had no Sylvia to... oh, I barked miserably just once, Sylvia... and rushed to hear what they were telling about their search. I heard the woman policeman ending the sentence:

    “...we succeeded to follow her traces from the classroom to the bus halt. There the traces disappeared or couldn’t be located. The other kids on the bus saw her waiting, but none of them remembers seeing her going away or getting into the bus. We are going to involve a unit specialized in interrogating kids, they will visit some of them this evening at home.”

    They all shook hands and the policemen parted. Liz hid her face against Joe’s chest and sobbed noisily and wetly for a few minutes. Then she blew her nose and wiped her eyes on his shirt and went to the kitchen to prepare food. I was not used to seeing her preparing food at this time of the day, she did it only when Joe happened to be home. After working a few days he always stayed home two days, and it was usually the days when we went with Sylvia to the park and played ball for hours. Poor Joe, he always had to fight with worried mothers that didn’t like seeing “black death” me running free among their kids. Every time Joe had to prove again what a nice dog I was by opening my mouth and sticking Sylvia’s head in. The hair was always tickling me but I suffered in silence, I hated being leashed when they were playing ball. His (and my) relief from this ceremony came when one day a pack of three fierce poodles cornered a little boy against a tree and were making menacing ugly sounds. His mother was screaming her head off, so high that even I hardly heard her. I went to the boy and pushed my head between his legs so that only my muzzle showed on the other side and showed my teeth. The cowards ran away before I even had a chance to growl. Joe got an official relief letter from the police and stopped making the “dog-not-biting-girl-head” show. Truth being, I kind of missed the show and the following kids’ hand clapping.

    They finished eating, and as an unusual gesture of comradeship, I was given a full steak portion myself (too much garlic, but who complains?...). I disregarded the salad and kept chewing at the bone till I fell asleep with my nose on the clean platter. I could see the level of distress they were going through because they put my food in one of the human plates, something as taboo as peeing in the living room. I woke up later with a start when I heard the key turning in the lock. Leftovers of a dream with Sylvia chewing a bone faded away immediately from my brain and I ran to the door to hear the news. I could see from their faces and slow moving around that there were no good news. Joe absentmindedly scratched my head and opened the door for me to get out. After a short interval of pee and poo I returned, and he was sitting in front of the open TV looking at a cartoons station. I wondered if he was actually looking since his eyes were fixed on the paper flowers on top of it. Liz was in bed, reading. I dared and jumped on the bed, laid my head in her lap and licked her hand. She did not shout me down off the bed as I feared she might have done. She accepted my hard tongue’s comfort and I could see a familiar kind of wetness in her eyes. Yes, I was getting too sensitive to my humans’ pain and I didn’t like it. The pain, I mean.

    Joe came up later, and neither he had anything to say about my being in the bed, my head on his pillow and my tail stump drumming against the bed’s frame. I jumped down by myself, drank some water, and after some hesitation went to Sylvia’s room where I jumped on the small bed and pushed my head under the rumpled covers. The familiar smell was comforting, but I had to change position several times till I finally fell asleep.


    I sneezed. Then I sneezed again. Something soft was tickling my face and an unmistakable smell was floating in the air. I jumped off the bed and started barking wildly, barking and yelping. Then I rushed over to Joe and Liz’s room, slid on the carpet and banged my muzzle against the bed frame, then jumped on their bed and kept on barking and jumping like a wild horse. I kept running in and out of the room with a bewildered Joe Sr and a frightened, dishevelled Liz getting out of bed and rushing after me.

    “My God, Sylvia...” I heard Joe groaning, kneeling at the side of the small bed and burrowing his head in the sleeping girl’s dress. I saw his shoulders shaking. I barely had time to rush at Liz’s side as she took the picture in and started falling into a faint, finally hitting her head on my stretched back. Ouch, that hurt... me. Those frail humans, who the hell decided they should be the masters of this world? If only dogs had fingers... I was busy licking her face into recovery just as Joe was taking Sylvia in his arms and carried her to their bedroom, with Liz getting up and following drunkenly. They laid her between them, hugging, and it was the first time they allowed me to sleep between them too, till morning. If dogs could smile then I was smiling in my sleep.

    It was a sunny morning. Sylvia had a long bath with Liz while a singing Joe Sr prepared breakfast. We all sat at the table, well, I sat next to the table, and the only ones eating were Sylvia and I. I got a big portion of fried eggs, something I adore, and Sylvia got almost everything that was in the fridge placed around her. Joe and Liz kept touching her, and hugging her, with me looking on with envy at the fried eggs getting cold on their own plates.

    “Sylvia”, it was Joe Sr this time, trying for the fifth time to get the girl to talk sense, “there is no such thing as unicorns, dear. Please, these were probably just horses, no? Do you remember who took you?”

    Sylvia nodded patiently her head again, having just finished a third glass of milk and looking funny with the white moustache on her upper lip. I licked it away for her. It was clear from her eyes that she knew grown ups have limited cerebral faculties and one had to explain things to them like to, well, grown ups...

    “Daddy. I was waiting for the bus. Then suddenly there was this nice smell in the air, and this little pink unicorn by my side, with saddle and all. So I got into the saddle and then we arrived to this green garden where there were so many unicorns...”

    “And how did you get there? By bus, by foot, did you fly? Were there more kids there? What did you eat?...” He was not losing patience but Liz kept pulling at his sleeve to make sure he goes soft on the child. Liz had a frightened look, I don’t know why. After all rhinoceros are some kind of unicorns too. Okay, so they don’t fly, so what? And if there are dogs that can read, why shouldn’t there be horses that can fly? Human logic had some terrible deficiencies; though, I had to admit, since they didn’t know about me, they couldn’t follow my logic. I started getting a headache. They should have been happy Sylvia was back, get on with feeding me and forget this thing about capricorns or unicorns or whatever. What do they care what happened at all?

    “Joe”, it was Liz, “the police should be here any moment now. I am afraid they are going to take her away for checks and interrogation. Maybe we should not tell them about these unicorns.”

    “Nobody is going to take my child away for any kind of interrogation. Sylvia, sweetheart, okay, let’s say there were flying unicorns, fine. How did you get away from school? Are you sure nobody gave you something to eat, some sweet, was there no grown up or other kid giving you a chocolate bar or something?”

    “Daddy, first of all I did not say the unicorns were flying. Secondly you told me not to take sweets from anyone. But I had some tasty things there where the unicorn took me.”

    “The unicorn took you... so you rode the unicorn to... to this place... yes?”

    “Yes, I told you. His name was Lodi.”

    The entry bell made its awful sound and I let myself an angry bark. Liz looked worriedly at Joe and went to the door. Joe and Sylvia went to the living room and Sylvia sat happily on the carpet drawing some senseless images in a white notebook. The man and woman that entered the room had this unmistakable police smell about them, and at Joe’s invitation sat down. I listened only half awake to the talk, humans had a habit of wasting so much time talking. I raised my head only when I started hearing their voices getting louder.

    “Mr Johnson, we must take the child to the station. You are welcome to join, but this is a kidnapping matter and we must take it seriously. Sylvia will be checked by a legally approved doctor, and then interrogated by an approved children’s interrogator. There is nothing to worry about.”

    Joe was getting angry too.

    “Listen officer. And I am telling you that Sylvia does not leave this house today, and we know she was not molested physically in any way, and we can find from her more than you do. The main thing is she is here and she is safe.” I was proud of Joe Sr, finally getting to a dog’s point of view.

    “And I am telling you that we must take the child or you will be charged with obstruction of justice and may spend the night in jail yourself. How do we know there is not some maniac running around? Next time it may not end up so nicely”. The two officers stood up and started advancing towards Sylvia. Joe shouted.

    “You don’t!” and advanced towards them with fury in his eyes, while Liz ran over to Sylvia and hugged her. The officers kept advancing. What the hell happened? To me I mean? I always remembered myself a nice dog.

    I leaped in front of the girl, feeling something unclear and uncontrollable stir inside me. It was my job to love Sylvia. I growled. Was it a growl or a roar? I just stood there, legs apart, tense, a narrow line of bristling hair running along my spine muzzle to tail, head slowly moving down and slowly turning sidewise, a vise fitted with a sharp line of white fangs uncovering itself like a wild tool of instant death, the sounds leaving my throat reminiscent of low rolling thunder while sticky long drivel drops stretched from muzzle to floor... Everybody froze, the policemen, Joe, Liz... The woman policeman brought out one of those things they call guns...

    Sylvia didn’t seem to take the picture fully in. She got out of Liz’s embrace and hugged my neck with both hands, laid her cheek on my fur and chimed...

    “Good boy, Joe, good boy Joe...”

    I fell to the floor on my back, Sylvia shrieking with pleasure on top of me, all tension gone from my body and just a terrible sense of shame lingering back. The police officers left without further word, and from my lying position on the floor I could see my masters hugging each other, uncertain if in fright or in awe or in admiration. It was gone... the wild calling moment was gone. I remembered partly the sensation but all I felt right then was just this immense pleasure at having the kid’s hands tickle my belly. I sneezed.

    “Good morning...” I heard a voice that seemed to come from inside my head and at the same time from a figure sitting in one of the living room’s armchairs, a young beautiful red haired woman, dressed in a white thin satin dress, white gloves on her hands up to her elbows, white silk stockings ending in small high heeled white shoes, big round transparent blue eyes, sharp pointed ears, a sharp pointed beautiful muzzle with a few dark red whiskers stretching each side of it... I rolled back onto my belly, my stump cycling like an electric fan and soft anticipation squeals happily evading my constricted throat. My nose went up into the air greedily sniffing and gathering in the unmistakable smell of... cat... Liz’s eyes rolled up to the ceiling then she fell down like a limp lump (hey, I’m a poet, I thought irrelevantly...) at Joe Sr’s feet. Joe himself looked transfixed and frozen, as I started crawling whimpering, drooling, and sneezing towards the figure while Sylvia shrieked with childish delight and ran towards her hugging her supposed to be neck and kissing her supposed to be cheek.

    “Kye-Lee...” she snuggled against the red haired... ahmmm... woman, “... is Lodi with you?”

    I reached her myself, and started scratching, then licking, then yapping and jumping like a demented owl... not even wondering why of all animals... owl? Joe Sr forced himself out of his stupor and picked up Liz, laid her on the sofa and sat there himself, taking her head in his lap and caressing her hair absentmindedly. I started running from the armchair to the sofa, licking this cheek, then this cheek, then this cheek, then this cheek... Sylvia laughing and trying to hang on to me while all she could achieve was getting dragged on the floor from one side of the room to the other, with me barking and sneezing wildly... oh, this wonderful, delectable, allergicable smell of cats... I was in dogs’ heaven.

    Liz started coming back to herself, her cheeks wet from my interminable licks, her eyes big and frightened, she gathered her feet underneath and huddled against Joe. I jumped on the sofa, squeezed against her, rubbing my head in her hair, my ecstasy slowly giving place to an immeasurable sense of happiness, then Sylvia came over, climbed on Joe’s shoulders and hugged his forehead with her hands.

    “Mom, dad, this is Kye-Lee, my friend. She will tell you about Lodi.”

    It was clear that neither Joe, nor Liz, were able to say anything, let alone ask questions. They just stared, waiting to wake up, and somehow guessing they would not. The... ahmmm again... Kye-Lee thing got up from the armchair, pushed it forward towards the sofa then sat down carefully arranging her dress while doing so.

    “I am sorry...” she said, in this voice that came both from her mouth and from inside my head.”I am here to apologize and to explain to you what happened. I hope you allow me to do it,” she added with a very shy, very human smile, not that there was any chance for either Liz or Joe to interrupt her. They looked more like two frightened kids than like two responsible members of the human race facing something which, to any and all opinions that may have been voiced, looked like somebody from another world. I almost laughed, then reminded myself that dogs are not supposed to laugh. So I sneezed instead. I, myself, had no problem believing in aliens, just look at me, I thought mockingly...

    “Joe Jr is, what you would call, an alien”. Poops... say it again lady, I thought, stopping for a moment that interminable snicker running through my head, forgetting even to sneeze. She did not repeat it but continued. “So am I”. Liz snuggled even more inside Joe’s chest, his one hand around her shoulder, the other holding tightly Sylvia’s foot. Kye-Lee smiled, small sharp teeth showing, then her gloved hand touched Liz’s knee in a reassuring gesture. Liz was on the verge of fainting again, she managed however a weak frightened smile. I just sat on the sofa, looking at Kye-Lee with millions of question marks running through my head, however never betraying my canine look as far as the humans were concerned. I was as curious as a dog could be hearing what I just heard. Kye-Lee went on. “There is nothing to be scared or frightened, please just listen open-mindedly, ok?”

    “How did you appear here?” Joe Sr finally found his voice, and I was proud that there was no tremor in it. I licked his hand and he patted my head.


    It took Kye-Lee two full clock rotations to tell the story. Sylvia fell asleep on Joe’s shoulders listening to all this boring grown-up talk, but stayed hanging on there, and I... it was for the first time that I didn’t fall asleep hearing humans talk for so long. Well, probably because it was not really humans talking.

    “I will tell it in very simple terms. Feel free to ask any questions you feel like asking. I am coming from earth.” Seeing the look of incredulity on Joe’s face, she smiled and continued. “A parallel universe, you may call it, though it is a misconception. The universe has multiple spatial dimensions, however we live in and are able to sense only three dimensions. You live in your own three dimensions. We live in ours. And the similarities are greater than the dissimilarities between our worlds, funny how the statistics finally lead to the same, or similar conclusions. One main difference is that while in your world it is a humanoid form that developed intelligence, speaking ability, and five fingers, in our world it is a feline form that developed these capabilities. There are no humans in my world, just monkeys, and funny enough - dogs fulfil similar functions in both worlds. Joe Jr was an exception.” I jumped down from the sofa and sat on my hindquarters close to Kye-Lee, sneezing from time to time, however my attention unwavering even for one second. Joe Sr looked worriedly in my direction.

    “Does he understand us?” he asked, looking sheepishly at me.

    “Oh, no...” laughed Kye-Lee, she had a pleasant purring sounding laughter, “...Joe Jr is special for us in another sense. A life and death matter sense...” she added, and suddenly her voice sounded grave, serious. She scratched my head lovingly, then looked at Joe and Liz, hesitating.

    “What’s the matter?” asked Joe, his voice echoing the tense atmosphere that descended on the room.

    “In order for you to understand better, I would like to give you a bit of background, is it ok?” Since there was no answer she continued. “Our worlds are very similar, however there are dissimilarities as well. A major one being unicorns. Lodi!...” she said softly, and suddenly there was some kind of haze in the air and at her size materialized (now, where did I know this word from?...) a small horse-like creature, horse-like feet, horse-like head, pink short haired hide, and in the middle of its forehead a small, conical, slightly curved horn. I didn’t know if the whimper from my masters’ direction was Joe’s or Liz’s. Sylvia was still sleeping, hanging on to Joe’s shoulders, so it was certainly not her. And it certainly was not the sofa creaking. “This is Lodi. There are a few tens of thousands of them on my side of the world. A few of them develop through life, and for a limited time, a unique capability - they can at will extend their existence into a fourth spatial dimension, and this allows them to travel from one tri dimensional universe into another. During this travel they are, what you call, invisible.”

    Joe Sr tried to say something, heard his constricted voice sounding like a young girl’s, so with an embarrassed look coughed and tried again. The second time it sounded much better.

    “So how many of these universes are there? And how come you succeeded to come over too?”

    “We don’t know how many there are, till now we are aware just of these two because these are the only two where we travelled with the unicorns. Maybe the unicorns can travel through others too, we don’t know. You see, the unicorn is a semi-intelligent animal, easily trained to perform a multitude of tasks, and actually their “travel” capacity was kept secret for hundreds of years. A unicorn that can travel through dimensions can take with it a limited quantity of organic material in its immediate vicinity. Like a rider. Only a few of the breeders knew of this capability and used it to... well, plunder your world. Mainly for ferrous materials which are a rarity on our world. It is only gold that we have in huge quantities. But not iron. Iron, and then steel, is priceless in my world. Our technology is therefore extremely different than yours.” She stopped to whisper in the horse’s - or whatever’s - ear something and the horse dematerialized. No whimper this time, my humans were getting used to the show. “Liz, Joe, my race is dying.” It was a simple, blunt, almost unemotional statement. I started whimpering, then I remembered I was not supposed to understand and changed my repertoire to further sneezing. Joe took Sylvia upstairs to her room and returned a few minutes later back to the sofa. Liz took a normal sitting position, and asked weakly.

    “Would you like to drink, or eat something?”

    Kye-Lee smiled.

    “No, thanks.” She waited for Liz to finish her glass of water before continuing. “What we assume has happened, is that during one of the ancient expeditions, a certain variety of a deadly cat virus, a variation of feline leukemia virus, was imported from your world to ours. Of course, many other microbes and viruses were “exchanged” between our worlds during the ancient uncontrolled travel. On both sides, you and us were probably getting naturally immunized against these by the mere fact of exposure. However this supposedly new one is of a type to which our bodies cannot create any antibodies and we have no other treatment for it. We think the virus was dormant for several hundreds of years. The first registered cases are dated about thirty years back. Now we have a planet wide epidemic. My race is doomed.” I could not help feeling the pain in the purring voice, I licked the white stockings and she scratched my head lovingly.

    “What is it about my dog? Why Sylvia? Why do you tell us these things now? How come you speak English?” Joe Sr shot further. I pulled back my head from Kye-Lee’s reach and lay down. I wanted full concentration and the tickling could wait, I thought to myself, proud with my mature decision.

    “The most advanced science on my side of the world happens to be genetic engineering. Our universities were busy for the last ten years experimenting and trying to create a medicine or a vaccine that would fight this virus. The result was full failure all along the line. This is true to this day. With one very specific exception - three years ago, a certain batch of one hundred forty three cloned dogs developed a random, unplanned, un-repeatable mutation, which showed extremely interesting anomalies. When the data relevant to their molecular structure (what you call DNA) was fed through computer simulation programs, the results were astonishing: a probability of 99 percent that around the age of two, for a limited period of about two to three months - a period we called transition, their blood temporarily develops suitable molecular structures that would be self replicating under certain conditions, and could be used as the basis of the vaccine we were looking for. It sounded complex, more fiction than science, but after checking the data for many months the results were indisputable, this was our saving path from annihilation. We were euphoric, all we had to do was wait two years, then take blood samples from the dogs during the transition period and start farming this molecule. With its forecasted growth rate, we expected to have enough vaccine quantities to cover the world in a few months. And even if something would happen to one dog... we had a stock of one hundred and forty three of them, well guarded, well fed, and all we needed was one single drop of their blood to get our molecule... We were saved.” She stopped for a second, eyes closed, like an actor playing on the spectator’s nerves, though she certainly did not mean it that way. Liz, widely awake by now and open mouthed, couldn’t resist a...

    “So?...” Kye-Lee opened her eyes.

    “Stupid, so stupid that a race making such a stupid mistake is probably worth disappearing.” I didn’t really agree with her, and I was no philosopher. But the yarn she was weaving was more interesting than any sci-fi movie I’ve seen on the TV, and I was as fascinated by it at least as much as my humans. I still didn’t see where I fitted into this story, so I kept playing dead, while actually I was all ears. I sneezed again, then moved over to the sofa and lay my head on Liz’s chewed up cat-shaped slipper. Kye-Lee went on. “Nobody bothered to check why 99 percent of probability of success. What about the one percent of probability to fail. It was there, clearly outlined, shouting look at me. Nobody bothered to check. The one percent of probability which finally slapped our sorcerer’s apprentice face - at the end of two years, and before any of them reached the transition period, all dogs died of respiratory ailments. What you may call asthma. You see, they were allergic to cats.”

    I jumped to my legs, startling all present. I smelled the story was about to stop being interesting and to start being linked to me. And I almost blew my cover. To recuperate their trust in my doggy stupidity and doggity I went to the door and scratched to be left out. I knew I might lose some important information there, but they all looked kind of funny at me when I jumped up at the right cue. Careful, Joe Jr, remember those wires sticking out of your head... I thought, shivering and masking it by shaking off invisible drops of water. Of course, I also really needed to pee, so why not kill two birds with one stone (liked this human saying, would have changed birds to dog food manufacturers thought to myself wise-doggish way...). When I got back I had the impression that Kye-Lee still looked at me in a strange way, and didn’t like it one bit. So I stretched, yawned, scratched my eye, then jumped on the sofa. The show must go on... (and here I went again with these human sayings, my goodness... I was getting more and more like them... disgusting...).

    “The lab’s research manager was my mother. I finished my high studies in genetics, where we studied amongst other things English, as many of our books were loaned from your world.” She smiled for a moment, a feline kind of smile. “I was her assistant for the last six months before she passed away. You see, she committed suicide two months after the last dog died.” I wondered if highly developed cats could cry, the way humans did, since there was this sudden shine in her eyes. She stopped, making the funny purring sound I remembered Juliet was doing, wondering if they did it also in moments of distress like Kye-Lee now. “One month ago I was going again through my mother’s entire written stuff, archived stuff, not looking for anything particular, when I fell upon a funnily named file. While all of the files carried test numbers and additional codes relevant to dates, this file carried just a number, 144. I almost skipped it, disregarding it as a mis-entry, then on a hunch I opened it, wondering why it was not password protected. It was a letter addressed to me. I translated it into English for you to read. Here it is.” She produced a kind of a rolled scroll, stretched it flat and pushed a button. A clearly visible text appeared on the screen. She handed it over to Joe, and I considered myself lucky for having jumped on the sofa and having by now my head in Liz’s lap. So I too could read the words.

    “Dear Kye-Lee. It is probably too late and most certainly a dead end. I am too weak and depressed to follow it and fail again. You are young and strong, you either succeed and become a heroine of our race, or you fail and die like the rest of our kind. So you have nothing to lose. There were one hundred and forty four dogs, Kye-Lee, one hundred and forty four and not one hundred and forty three. When the mutation happened and we started analysing it, I had this crazy uncontrollable impulse, call it maybe foresight, or intuition, and I arranged for one single male puppy to be transferred to the other dimension. It was a strange mutant, the only puppy that showed immediate allergy to cats and to a certain extent I was saving it from almost immediate death. I claimed that it died and that I incinerated it. Truth is I used Lodi to transfer it to the human side, and I kept a sample of its molecular structure in my safe. Just to have the ability to trace it in case of... what? As I said, on a crazy impulse. When we started losing our dogs I panicked and sent Lodi immediately to trace this puppy, on the crazy assumption that it was still alive over there in the other world, that we could trace it based on its genetic imprint, that we could find it before it was too late for ‘transition’. We did not find it. Now it is too late. You can still try, but I believe you will fail. As I said, you have nothing to lose. I love you. Forgive me.”

    Joe Sr looked up from the screen, together with me, his face a picture of bewilderment. He got it the same time as I got it.

    “And this puppy is...”

    “Yes, your dog. Joe Jr.” I was frozen, same as my master. We looked at each other, his state of mind so confused that he didn’t even pay attention to the fact that I was not supposed to look at him the way I did.

    “And Sylvia?”

    “We sent almost all the travel capable unicorns to your world to try to trace the dog’s genetic structure, the DNA. As said - we had nothing to lose. It took months till we got signs of a positive identification. However the trace was not a dog’s trace, it was a human’s trace - Sylvia. Simply, a lot of the dog’s hairs stuck to her clothing and focused the search on her. We did not know it, and we sent Lodi to bring the DNA’s owner without being too specific about it. Unicorns are highly intelligent but they need clear instructions. Obviously - we did not do it right and Lodi brought Sylvia over to our side. I am deeply, deeply sorry and I apologize. However, once there, I talked to her and found out about Joe Jr. This is why I am here now. We reconsidered bringing him over there, and decided the risk was too high that he would die immediately upon contact with us. So, instead, I decided to risk coming here myself, dressed in this isolating garment to prevent as much as possible a lethal allergy attack for the dog. I am sentenced to death anyway, I may as well perform a last act of bravado and face you, humanity, and probably our final tragic destiny. Because, unless a certain undefined set of circumstances took place, and I am only talking dreams not facts, the transition period is over and we lost our last chance to survival.” She opened a pouch hidden inside her garment and produced a needle and a little transparent tube. “We have a test, and I ask for your permission to perform it. I will take a drop of Joe Jr’s blood and insert it in this tube. If it turns green then the transition did not yet start and all we have to do is wait for it and we are saved. If it turns blue, then we are in mid transition and we are saved. If it stays red then transition is over or never going to happen. Then we are doomed. May I?”

    Nobody heard Sylvia as she tiptoed into the room, nobody, even dog me, heard her or smelled her or could say how much of the discussion she heard or understood. So we all started as she suddenly stepped forward from the stairs, and with undeniable kid determination came over to me, pulled me by the collar and said...

    “Good boy, Joe, come.” I jumped down from the sofa and followed her silently and obediently to Kye-Lee’s side. Sylvia looked up at her, no tears, no pain in her eyes, just some kind of silent prayer there. “I don’t want you to die, Kye-Lee”. Then she sat down by my side, waiting, her small hand around my neck.

    I hated needles, the yearly vaccines at the vet’s were a nightmare and the only way they could vaccinate me was by muzzling me already at home. Even then Joe Sr had to face my terrifying growls, but I was obedient enough not to bite my own master. However at the vet... I would have ripped the vet’s throat. Kye-Lee took my paw in her hand, and started feeling for a vein. Then she took the needle... Joe Sr wanted to shout a warning... but it was too late, the needle went in. I probably screamed like a mad dog in my mind. To them, I was a marble statue, a little girl hanging on to my neck, an alien pulling a few drops of blood from my body, my master terrified, misunderstanding, lost in incomprehension at this surrealistic picture that in his mind should have ended with somebody’s death. Well, you don’t know me well enough, I thought to myself, still terrifying growls echoing in my head but licking Sylvia’s hand to the outside world. Joe, my master, had this pale look when he regarded Liz, and if it wasn’t for her fainting already twice before, then certainly she would have fainted now.

    Kye-Lee held the little tube up to the light, stuck the needle in and let the few drops of blood soak into the mushy material residing inside. She waited a few moments, looking at it, we all looked as well, fascinated, watching the red liquid soaking into the mater, foaming a little, then settling down at the bottom. The color did not change. It stayed red.

    Nobody said a word. Kye-Lee hesitated for a moment, packed the needle and the little tube into the pouch, then got up and extended her hand, human wise, for a final handshake. I slipped gently out of Sylvia’s hold and started barking wildly. Sylvia tried to catch me, tears in her eyes finally welling up, but I slipped away from her and kept barking.

    “Sylvia, come here...” a frightened Joe called his daughter, caught her and held her in his arms. She tried to struggle her way out of his hold, uselessly. Liz and Kye-Lee watched my dance slightly frightened, moving back from my frenzied jumps over the chairs, the sofa... I didn’t have time to lose and I couldn’t control my temper, at any moment Joe could call the police to take away this dog suddenly got mad... I rushed upstairs, picked the box from Sylvia’s room in my mouth and rushed down again. Sylvia was in Liz’s arms and Joe was talking into his mobile phone. I dropped the box to the floor, the scrabble plastic letters spreading wildly around, jumped at Joe’s hand and bit him. His phone dropped and I smashed it in one savage bite. Then I started rummaging in the pile of randomly fallen letters. Joe rushed to the fire place, picked up the heavy metal poker and rushed back towards me raising it above his head.

    “Wait!” So soft, so commanding... I looked up at Liz, her eyes questioning, her command so powerful, looking at the single letter D that I just dropped before her... Joe froze, his hands up in the air, hypnotized into immobility by his wife’s whisper. I whined, advanced slowly towards him, rubbed my head against his trouser leg then moved slowly to the mess on the floor. I finally found the O and dropped it next to the D. Then I added G. Then I waited. They were all immobile for long moments, too long for me to wait for the meaning of that which just happened to penetrate their petty human or cat brains, too long for me to wait to see acceptance or denial of what they were witnessing. I picked up the D and dropped it over the G. Then picked up the G and dropped it where the D was earlier.

    I looked up again. Joe started shivering. He let the poker drop down to the floor and kneeled in front of the word, his gaze as fixed as a dead man’s. Liz let Sylvia down to the floor and kneeled at his right side, the girl sitting down on his left. His hands hugged their shoulders. Finally a shiny eyed, purring Kye-Lee sat down at their side. Their eyes glazed, glued to the evidence on the floor that was immovable, unequivocal, absolute. I started moving slowly around the floor, picking up letters, dropping them next to each other... first it was an M, then an A... at the end of several moments the combination on the floor said M-A-Y-B-E... I was concentrating, looking for T when I heard the unmistakable sounds, rushing, approaching... I let out a howl followed by a savage bark and jumped towards the bursting door... I saw a pink haze forming close to Kye-Lee and disappearing... I saw a gun... I jumped the first throat I found facing me... I felt the sting in my chest and the liquid pumping in bringing immediate paralysis to all my senses... I hate needles, I am going to bite your head off... was my last coherent thought before I faded away into absolute nothingness.


    I woke up in a small, dark cage. I wobbled slowly to my feet, feeling my head rolling and fell down. I tried again, this time I succeeded to stand up. Dim memories of the place, of the smells, told me I was probably in the city pond, last station in the life of so many lost or abandoned dogs. That’s where Sylvia fell in love with me and saved me from certain death, puppy impressions of this long gone time chasing each other in my mind. I lay back down, waiting, the way so many dogs spent so much of their life. The food bowl was full, I did not touch it. This is dog food, I thought to myself, and turned my body away from it. The other cages were empty, prison monuments to so much dog suffering. I did not feel like thinking, I did not feel like expecting something to happen. Except the inevitable. Any dog attacking a man is exterminated. Dry human laws, unforgiving, immovable. Like a curse patiently waiting for its victims, then following its inevitable path. I said I did not feel like thinking and there I was, thinking, I told myself. I stopped. For five days. I did not eat, I did not drink, I did not move, I did not think. The bowl of food somehow getting replaced everyday, the water refreshed everyday. I did not care by whom or how. I awaited death. One way or another.

    I imagined hearing voices, familiar sounds... my breath coming out in rasping sounds, my legs trembling uncontrollably, eyesight reduced to a blurred dancing haze that did not seem to coalesce into any meaningful shape... soft hands, a tiny remote voice calling with human pain sounds... Joe, good boy Joe, good boy Joe... somebody or something picking me up... I was floating...

    Warmth... light... my eyes opened again, wondering if I was going to be the first dog to witness the existence of hell or heaven. Then I wondered again at the unexpected coherence of my thoughts and rolled over onto my belly. I heard a shriek, terrible, sharp, long, terrifying in its intensity, then another one, then a mess of hair and hands and clothes and feet hugging me, rolling with me, kissing my fur again and again... the door bursting open... Liz came in, crouched down against the wall and started wailing loudly while Sylvia kept shrieking and laughing, shrieking and laughing, shrieking and laughing... my god of dogs, aren’t these humans simply adorably crazy?...

    For the following three weeks I was pampered like a Barbie. I was fed freshly prepared food, brushed daily, taken on hands to the garden for my body’s duties, then carried on hands back into the house... I hated it. I mean I wanted to live a normal dog life, eat poopy food, chase postmen, see TV.... Joe Sr was the worst. He kept telling me stories, uncertain if he was to be considered certifiably crazy or not, about how he got me out, discussing with me the latest stories he was writing, caressing me more than he caressed Liz... I thought he was really going insane, though the warmth in his eyes was unmistakable. Joe Sr discovered in himself a love for me he never thought possible. Almost like for a child. He even told me so one night.

    “You know Joe, I am really not sure if you understand or not, you are so quiet and unresponding, I hope this terrible week in the pond did not damage whatever spark of life you had previously. But, you know, if I ever had a son I would have liked him to be like you.” His voice was choking on tears and my throat was choking on repressed laughter. I believe I sensed the hilarity of the situation much beyond anything he was sensing, and I loved him at that moment more than at any time before. His poor poetic soul was sunk in this deep emotional state, I wondered how many humans could sense so much love so deeply for... a dog. I love you Joe, I thought to myself and licked his hand. He kissed my head.


    I smelled her, the unmistakable wonderful smell of cat softly sipping through my nostrils like the most wonderful of... of what? I thought to myself, of what? since we dogs do not appreciate the smell of flowers, the beauty of a sunrise, the charm of a butterfly... I read human poetry, liked it but didn’t understand much of it, mainly what they call metaphors. You know what, Key-Lee? Like the most wonderful of dishes... yeah, that’s something that speaks to a dog’s poetic mind. And, of course, I started sneezing.

    She appeared at dinner time, Liz was just setting the table when the pink haze appeared and Kye-Lee was there, the unicorn at her side fully visible, her eyes red, swollen. I rushed happily at her and she crouched down next to me whispering softly.

    “Hi there, little Joe, so glad to see you have recovered. I am so sorry for what happened last time, so sorry I had to move out of here. I could not stay, you understand that, don’t you?” She stopped for a moment, seemingly out of breath. “I still do not believe what I have seen. Do you really understand human talk?” She looked up at Liz who rushed towards her to greet her. Liz called Joe and Sylvia to the room, and Sylvia first rushed over to Lodi to hug his neck. Joe approached Kye-Lee and offered her a chair, sitting across from her. “Did he show any signs of human sentience since last time I came over?” she asked looking in my direction.

    Joe Sr was clearly distressed.

    “A lot of affection, yes, unusual. But no signs of understanding, of thinking. Each time I think back to that terrible evening I have the impression that we were all under the influence of some mass hypnosis drug. Yes, the scrabble was on the floor, but the letters got strewn all over the place... were they really arranged in some meaningful way before the arrival of the police or was it some kind of statistical event that we misunderstood. I tried to communicate with him...” he pointed in my direction... “...every day. Almost no response beyond that of a normal dog. I really don’t know what to think anymore. Any hope from another direction? And how are you?”

    “I spend almost all my time in the lab. So do all other researchers. We are at a dead end. In about thirty years my race will become extinct, we can already draw accurate graphs of the population decline. And there is not a damn thing we can do about it. My visit here was a last straw I tried to clutch at. Now we know it is gone. You were nice people, treated me like a friend. I came to say good bye.” She shook Joe’s hand. Then hugged Sylvia. I stood up before she had time to shake Liz’s hand and barked. The moment in time. Frozen. Visible on their faces. That bark... they heard it before. I went to the door and scratched it once. Joe came over and opened it for me, a certain bewildered look getting anew hold of his eyes, a certain question mark visible on his face. Now it was a real matter of statistics, I thought to myself, as I got out, crossed our garden, crossed the street to the other side and let out a short, loud howl.

    The house was lighted. I heard some scuffing sounds at the door before it opened and a joyful jumping Kat rushed over to me and started jumping all over my back yelping, barking, biting. I let her have her fun, then I moved over to the open door, Kat at my side constantly pushing into me, and entered their living room. Kat’s masters were in the kitchen and I could hear the sound of cutlery at work. Food was not on my mind. Neither love play, even though Kat tried to drag me into it. I moved over to the small room under the stairs, hoping I was not too late, stood up on my hind legs and opened the door handle. There were soggy newspapers on the floor... a sharp smell...maybe?... a small, furry, joyful bundle of fur attacked me with the vehemence of a real tiger, yelping, squealing, barking with tiny high pitched barks and trying to chew my front paw with needle sharp newly discovered teeth. He looked like Kat, a collie shaped mongrel, the only puppy left, my last offspring. All the others were adopted already. I looked at Kat, rubbed noses with her, I was asking permission, I was demanding that she allows me. She did. I clenched my teeth on the scruff of the puppy’s neck, picked him up and returned to my house, Kat running alongside me. I wondered if real dogs, those that cannot think my way, knew what “wondering” means. I wondered if Kat was wondering what I was doing with her puppy. The door was still open, Joe at the door, he let us in and closed the door behind us. Then he followed us to where everybody else was seated like statues frozen in time and watched me get close to Kye-Lee and place the puppy in her lap. Kat growled threateningly, but I pushed my nose against hers, assuring her all was ok, not to worry. She kept growling but lay down on the floor, unblinking, not leaving the pup for one single moment out of her eye. Kye-Lee seemed completely at a loss. She looked at the funny little creature as it was trying to pull a thread out of her garment, let it exercise its teeth on one of her fingers and started stroking its small head with her other hand, looking questioningly in my direction. The puppy sneezed.

    I think I clearly saw anticipation goose bumps run across Joe’s hands, with Liz getting up and hugging him, and Sylvia watching wide eyed and not really understanding what was happening. Kye-Lee’s hand froze in mid motion. Her eyes gained again that misty look I saw once before, and she looked again in my direction, as if asking for guidance. I squeezed into Kat, her growl continuous but allowing it to happen because of my presence, my contact, as Kye-Lee opened the small pouch, took out the needle and touched the puppy’s paw. The tiny squeal was replaced immediately by tiny angry growls as the pup was working his revenge on her pouch. She took out a new tube from the pouch, the hand holding the needle shaking, and dropped the few drops of blood onto the mushy material at the bottom. The red soaked into it, foaming slightly, finding its way to the bottom, painting the tubes walls and bottom a deep dark red. The slowly, visibly, the color started turning green.


    We adopted the pup. Joe decided to call him Joe Jr Second, in my honor, however they called him Joey. It was a wild pup, clearly my temper and his mother’s looks. A whole world’s fate hanging on one dog’s life, I thought to myself, how ironic could life be at times? I was turning quite a philosopher as of late, never providing Joe Sr with the final proof he was looking for, but letting them all know how much I loved them. Kye-Lee kept appearing every moon change, fearful of losing the transition period, fearful of a mistaken diagnosis. Pale, anxious.

    It happened at her eighteenth visit. The blue color painting the bottom of the tube screaming victory, Kye-Lee’s eyes shining with terrifying happiness, Joey happy in a young dog’s world of his own snapping continuously at Lodi’s impassive legs. It was her last visit. Exactly one week ago. She promised to return, and I knew she would. I lay in Sylvia’s bed, close to her legs, Joey stretched on his back snoring noisily close to her head, the rest of the house asleep, dark. No more taboos, no more don’ts. My house, my family, I thought as I slowly slipped away joining them in dreamland, visions of flying unicorns invading my mind...


Black Fairy...

    She came in through the bathroom window...

    Funny, I thought to myself, just like in Joe Cocker’s song only this time she really came or rather flew in, continued to my bedroom and sat across from me. Her hand cupping her chin, facing me, looking.

    She was black like coal on a moonless night at the bottom of a mine. I could hardly see her outlined against the window frame, stars shining around her head like tiny fluttering fireworks and only the white of her eyes reflecting the tiny reading lamp of my bed.

    “You are black,” I said after five uneasy minutes, just to say something.

    The white of her teeth joined the sparkle of her eyes as she flashed a huge smile my way.

    “Thank you.”

    “Thank you for what?” I insisted on my meaningless comments path, not yet sure if I was supposed to be scared, or happy, or whatever.

    “For calling me black.”

    I looked at her obliquely, not quite getting the message here.

    “But you are”, I heard myself echoing my earlier self.

    “Yes, and thank you for not calling me Afro American or similar local patriotic definitions.”

    “You mean you do not care for politically correct.”

    “Fuck politically correct.”

    I almost choked on the water I was sipping.

    “Quite strong worded for a lady.”

    “Who said I was a lady? I am a fairy.” She pulled her legs underneath, smooth, long, let her wings fold out of sight somewhere on her back and winked as she followed my regard nailed to her small hard breasts. I didn’t pay attention till this very moment that she was naked with a body made of dreams and a face made of morning prayers. “What did you expect, a white fairy? Of course fairies are black and the only reason kids think elsewise is that fairy tales were written by white people. Ignoramuses. I have nothing against white beauties but fairies are black. Fact.”

    Well, I couldn’t ignore it, yes, I was watching this fact with my own eyes.

    “You are very beautiful,” I heard myself saying and blushed. I hoped the relative darkness camouflaged my obvious embarrassment and for safety I turned off the reading lamp.

    “I know,” she said. “Fact.”

    “Are there other facts I am supposed to know?”

    “Yes, many facts, but none that you are supposed to know. Unless if you find them yourself. Why are you not scared?”

    I got off my bed, went to the bathroom for a pee leaving the door open, what the hell, she was fully naked. I pulled the water and returned to the bedroom. The dark stain on my bed informed me that she was lying there and did not disappear. I moved to the chair she sat on earlier, and sat on it. The pleasant lingering warmth soaked into me, and a strange fragrance caressed my smelling sense.

    “Why are you not joining me?” she asked.

    “Why me?” I answered.

    “Why do you ask? Frightened?”

    “No, curious. Anyway it is a dream and dreams never frighten me.”

    This time she laughed loudly, a strange laughter, almost like guitar strings about to compose a melody yet undecided which way to develop the idea further. So instead they were playing the same tune again and again. Then she stretched her fingers towards me and I felt gravitation losing its hold on my body as I floated to the bed, then sensed weight slowly taking renewed control as I sank into the mattress.

    She crawled closer, laid her head in my lap, and started humming softly.

    “Caress me, what are you waiting for?...”

    I let my fingers sink deeply inside her thick hair, then let them guide me further down along her back touching the thin line delineating the wings’ folding pocket. Her skin responded like thousands of ants suddenly waking to life and her purr became the only sound of any meaning to me.

    “Because you are a poet.”

    I almost broke the magic by giving in to a terrible urge to laugh at the absurdity of the answer, then made a supreme effort to control myself. Strange as it was, I enjoyed the magic about to dissipate with the arriving sun. I knew that even if it was not a dream, magic had no chance of survival in sun’s glare. Suddenly I found myself hating sun.

    “You want to make love to me?” I asked.

    “No. I want you to make love to me.”

    I hesitated.

    “Hey, I thought that fairies are sexless female-shaped creatures or at best eternal virgins.”

    I sounded stupid even to myself but that was what I really thought, at least in case there was such a thing as virgins... oops, fairies. I smiled to myself.

    The disaccorded guitar played again its duet with my collaborating ears’ strings.

    “The guy who invented fairy tales was not only white, he was a white prude.” Her body shook violently with uncontrolled laughter till I grabbed a handful of hair, pulled her head back sharply and crushed her mouth with mine. She sunk her nails painfully into my spine and forced me to lie on my back... The force in those gentle hands could crush a steel ball into liquid metal.

    “You don’t ask why you?”

    “I asked. You didn’t answer.”

    “I said because you are a poet.”

    “As I said, you didn’t answer.” I struggled to think at my half baked poems, imaginary tales of lost love, of humanity’s pains, of dreams never to happen. Thousands of words saying nothing to person except to myself. Quite a poet, ha, with about fifty rejection letters from distinguished and less distinguished editing houses.

    She laid her head on my chest, hugging my waist. I knew her eyes were closed.

    “Because you are a poet who believes in fairies. Fairies exist only because of poets who believe in them.”

    “Meaning you are a dream, as I was suspecting all along? And tomorrow I wake up with a headache and a fading memory.”

    She giggled.

    “No, you are wrong. Please keep on caressing me.”

    My hands kept tracing her back, shoulders, thin waste line. I wondered if those muscles I sensed could be real, needed to control those wings, could a dream be so realistic?

    “Meaning you really exist but only as long as I believe in you? Did I create you?”

    “Wrong again. Remember, you thought fairies were white skinned and blonde. Do I look white skinned and blonde?”

    “Does it matter how you look?”

    She propped herself against the pillow, pulled my head towards her and let it gently in her lap. So close to her femininity, I could sense its warmth, its fragrance.

    “Finally your words make sense. Fairies are what they are. They are fairies. They don’t mind or care about human color, about human wingless existence, about human frailty. Horses have manes, snow is cold, fairies are like me.”

    “Then why do you say fairies exist only because of poets? You say you are real. Poets do not create you.”

    “I said fairies exist only because of poets who believe in them.”

    “Everybody believes in them. Certainly all the poets.”

    “No, you are wrong, all the poets write about them, few poets believe in them.”

    “And how do you know which poets believe in them, how did you decide I believed in fairies?”

    “You see me don’t you?”

    If I was mad, this was the moment to get certification and hospitalization before I had any chance to hurt myself or someone else. I still had to get my answer, before medically recognized dementia downed on me following which this game would become one more event lost in some forgotten locked drawer.

    “Okay, so you are real, and real fairies are black and can fly through bathroom windows, and I really believe in fairies thus I can see you, all this is fine and logical. Why do you say that fairies exist only because of poets who believe in them.”

    “Because only poets who believe in them can see them, and can touch them. And can make love to them.”

    She pushed me again on my back, this time savagely, her hands nailing mine to the bed as her lips sucked my life in agonizing gasps and her body molded my shape to hers against the protesting cracking sounds of crushing ribs and tearing muscles. Fire ripped my body into thousands of pieces before conceding conquered ground back to its rightful owner and allowing me the bliss of dreamless sleep.


    I woke up, my gaze fixed to the white ceiling above my bed... No, I screamed in my head, a dream... not a dream, not again a dream, oh no... you bastard sunshine claiming the reality of my dream with the ugly pierce of your blinding light. A touch... so soft... so unreal... I turned my head... oh my God, the beauty of this creature smiling at me just a few inches away...

    She took my hand and guided it to her warm belly, the glitter in her eyes playing havoc with the leftovers of my sanity.

    “It was not a dream. Now you know it. Fairies exist because of the seed poets seed them with. Your seed is a fairy, soon to be born to a poet father.”

    I felt like crying, like wailing, like dying.

    “Will I see you again?”

    “No, you will not.”

    “Will I ever see my child?”

    “No, you will not.”

    “So first you use me then you leave me.”

    For a moment there was a sparkle in her eye that dried away fast.

    “You, lover, are allowed to love as many times as you wish. I... am allowed to love only once.”

    “This is death, how can I give you up, how can I give up my child?”

    That guitar sound... was it the last time ever I would hear it?

    “No, this is life, we will live through your dreams, we will live through your love, we will live through your fairy tales.”

    She leaned over and kissed me lightly on the lips. Then the transparent wings unfolded, and with a few moves she flew out through my bathroom window.

    It was not a dream. I touched the spot where she was lying a few moments earlier. The warmth soaking into my fingers as they wandered a bit further on, gently caressing the drying, red spot of life’s blood.






















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