Issue #68

Fall 2018

Two Stories

by Soren James

Sawbridge-Erle And Tritton-Hall

English didn't work back then, so it's difficult to recount this tale. What I can, I'll tell; the rest I'll make up – translating lost nouns and strayed verbs into a narrative that stands for me.

But what is this creature: contemplating interiors, putting them in words, then putting those words out into the world? One should, ultimately, live narrativeless, and without knowing.

I lost interest in knowledge as a basis for identity. Anyone claiming knowledge over others is doing violence. Thought is ever forced to take backward steps down the ladder of knowledge, there to realise the need to let go, to realise the ladder is not real – nothing is.

It was on such a day – a day in which nothing was real – that Sawbridge-Erle Drax and Tritton-Hall Tassell strode down a street, zapping from folk's minds unspent monetary units and using them to bury dogs.

The dogs struggled, for sure. The cows watched. The sheep watched. The monkeys ate – knowing jobs are just movement for financial reward.

Sawbridge-Erle turned to Tritton-Hall: "Tritton, my old friend, where do you see yourself in ten years time?"

Tritton thought hard, and finally responded, "Waiting for a bus."

"Which one?"

"The 25 – out of Ilford."

"Such ambition! Would that I still had your spunk. . . Knock, Knock."

"Who's there?"

"The revealer of ignorance."

"The revealer of ignorance who?"

"My work here is done." Sawbridge-Erle raised himself to his feet and walked nonchalantly from his finest moment.

***

Colony Heights High

Laying her pen on the desk, neatly in line with the stapler, the headmistress leaned forward on the desk. "Are you refusing to answer?"

Folding her arms, the girl fixedly stared out of a small, leaded window. "I don't need no qualification in either maths nor English."

"Look, Ms Johnson, or can I call you Bonjella?" There was a cold silence, then the headmistress continued, "Our institution would like to help you. As I understand it, you've had a rough time in other education systems, but this one is different, friendlier. It's more . . . inclusive."

"Don't like education. Don't believe in it. I don't believe nothing."

"You believe that you believe nothing. Some say that's the beginning of knowing."

"It ain't true. The more you know, the more it's proved wrong."

"Interesting." The headmistress leaned back. She placed the tips of her fingers together, forming a cage. "And where are you learning these things?"

Bonjella stared at the mistress. "In my head," she snarled.

"I see. And is that a nice place to learn?"

"No, it hurts."

The mistress looked at her silently for several seconds, before saying, "Let me show you something." She handed an A4 piece of card across the antique desk. "Here. This is a test."

"Don't like tests." Bonjella looked away, "They're a mind-trap. Throw it in the bin, I don't ever wanna to see another test." She refolded her arms.

"Sure," the mistress carefully dropped the card into a waste-basket at the end of the desk, "but aren't you interested in what was on the other side?"

Arms still folded, Bonjella looked at the mistress. "No. Why?"

"There are two sides to everything. It's worth looking at both. Sometimes, seeing the same thing twice is seeing it twice as clearly."

"Bollocks. I've seen that crappy Mona Lisa about a million times, it's still boring."

"You may think you've seen it, but have you ever opened yourself up to it, been curious enough to see it in new ways?"

There was a long pause. Bonjella gazed intently at a small leaded window in a Gothic stone-arch, then glanced at the waste-basket . "What's the other side, then?"

"Have a look. If you're curious."

Bonjella sighed, then leaned slowly toward the basket – weary and uninterested. She picked up the piece of card. "Wow! What's . . ?" She flipped it over several times, "But . . . It don't exist on the other side! How?" She kept turning it, unbelieving of the object's alternating between a paper surface with a few rules on, and an empty space – like a mirror that refused to return light, or a window through to an empty universe.

With manic interest she turned it over and over, then tentatively tried to touch the non-existent surface, her finger drifting through the surface and into the emptiness. For over a minute Bonjella was lost in fascination. Then she remembered the headmistress. Becoming impassive about the object, she then asked, "So? What's it mean?"

"There are two sides to the education we offer here. We like to feel that gives a larger scope to what we do. You see, here we use both sides of existence." The mistress gestured toward the card.

"Are we this side of existence?" Bonjella sighed as she held the empty face of the card toward the headmistress.

"No, the other."

She turned it over. "That?"

"No, the other."

"Other what? The edge?" Bonjella searched the object.

"The other side."

"That?"

"No, the other."

Bonjella frowned and tossed the card onto the desk, its void face-down.

"You see," continued the mistress, "everything is relative."

"To what?"

"To all things. And all things are relative to every other thing, at every moment."

"I'm consistent." Bonjella looked hopefully at the mistress.

"You may try to fool yourself of that. Here, though, we like people to face certain gaps in their perception. And we do this together, as a community, so it's not so scary. That's why this institution offers belonging, a system of mutual support, as we drift through this meaninglessness the universe has left to us."

"I could do a couple a lessons – see if I like it."

"There are no half measures," said the headmistress. "Here, you're either with us, or not."

Bonjella looked around the room, at the stone walls, the leaded windows, and the rows and rows of books, then said, "Thanks for the offer, but I'll pass."

Author Bio

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Soren James' fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Black Scat Review #13, Urban Fantasist (Grievous Angel), Freeze Frame Fiction, Page & Spine, and Nanoism. His story, "This Is A Series of Words To Which You Are Condemned," appeared in Issue #60 and "Waiter" in Issue #64 of The Cafe Irreal.