The Scrawny Mackerel 

In the north, they eat golden ammonia fish, black creosote eels, and mercurial prawns. Clouds are chimercal; water and stone is chemical. They sleep on gravel, and bandage their own wounds. They mine the endless snow and rain, and sometimes summer butterflies. They smoke their straw. In the northern seas, the oarsmen tell the tale of the scrawny mackerel. The mackerel lost its friends and family at a young age, and found it difficult to survive in the black waters. It went to a distant shore and met a marlin. It asked the marlin some questions about sea life. The marlin explained that the world was always eating itself. One had to beware of lying flora and destructive minerals. One was forever caught between the two. The marlin began to talk and to talk, weaving tale after tale to illustrate his points until the mackerel fell asleep. Suddenly the marlin swallowed it whole. Inside the belly of the marlin, the scrawny mackerel woke up in a dark, rosy twilight of brine and acid. It was not the end though. It would have to eat its way out of the eating. 

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The Mousecraft

In the empty castle, there are no mice left to eat, and sometimes the cat is hungry. Of course, it is better to eat fish, for their goodness lasts forever, and there are ways to get to the moats and the river through the cellars, storm drains, and catacombs. Nevertheless, there is the emptiness of time. Wandering the long stone hallways and climbing the infinite towers of gray stone and gray brick, the cat collects bones, wires, old keys, magnetic coils, batteries, fragments of music boxes, and glass marbles to assemble his robotic rats. The idea first came to him when, alone and sad, he drew a face and some whiskers on a pebble with a stub of charcoal, and then battered it about as if it were a mouse. Not long after, he manufactured his first mouse and wound it up. It ran here and there, trailing its rubber tail. The cat was amused and chased it at once. Then it went on to build an army of mice out of metal scraps. The engines whirred, and drew figure 8s in the dust, and the music of the mice danced throughout the castle. Sometimes, the cat forgets, and almost breaks his jaws on the steel skin of his contraptions. One day, he should venture out of the castle and search for real prey. In the meantime, the robotic mice are beautiful, and they help him to forget the hunger, the water leaking into the cellars, the rotting galleries, the broken pillars, and the sinking foundation. And sometimes the mousecraft makes the cat forget the absence of another cat whose forehead he would touch with his own forehead, until their skulls became typewritten paper, their bodies electric eels burning with one sustained prayerful, reasoning and transcendent thought of what it means to walk in the void as phantom tigers and ethereal panthers in a dream of bones and dust.

The Sardines

The sardines, like ancient republics, are always in grave danger. The ocean is the color of their dreams, dark blue and filled with clouds of unspoken thoughts and aeolian winds trapped in bubbles passing back and forth through their gills. It is the secret life of piscatory rei naturali. Some vanish beyond the jaws of sharks and whales. Some fall sick, bloat and drift on their sides, rotting and bleeding slowly into the water. Most are lifted up, after wandering in the labyrinths of seines and weirs. Once caught and transported in brine, they continue to dream in the dark prussian blue of the other, earlier and wider sea. When they meet the air, their sense of danger evaporates like morning rain on the pavement, and their souls escape for a farewell party. They smoke cigarettes and drink sherry with the fishermen. They lay on newspapers in the good sun and listen to short wave fados and stare back at hungry gray cats. They bathe in boxes of icewater and ice cubes. The sardines swim down the cobblestone streets. There are whitewashed houses and tiled roofs. They look at porcelains with blue and white pictographs of sardines that also mirror sea and cloud. They find gentle palms and stone saints. They get lost in old cathedrals and wishing wells. Many have reported on their sidetrips through markets and restaurants, and have described frying in olive oil as something not unlike fireworks or pop candy for their scales. Being chewed has been compared to music for their skin and a massage for those parts of the body that are neither bone nor flesh. Being gutted by kitchen knives and slowly boned by forks is also therapeutic in inexplicable ways. Others have reported on the descent into digestive chemistry and the almost epicurean spaces of atomic collisions, which again are not unlike fireworks or pop candy for the mind. Invariably, their souls return to the moment of death to begin their interrupted ascent into the ether. Like lazy kites or montgolfiers, their little souls rise in elegance, not like careless flying fish, but like sardines, who are sleepy children of the gentle elements, caught up into silver nets of wind and cloud. The five oceans shrink into a black raindrop. The sky is intolerably blue.

[credit for piscatory rei naturali goes to Romanus Cessario]

The Pilgrim

In the realm of colophons, a young pilgrim became lost. She was making her journey into the great moment, but found herself lost in labyrinths of other momenta. What she found most difficult was the number of crossroads, the mimics among the trees, and the changing weather and seasons. A rainfall of whispers could follow a drought of intonations. There were nonlandscapes that bled through landscapes; quanta and qualia would throw their lights and shadows upon eachother. A tree of ink could dissolve into water. A stone could dissolve into the wind. There were vast wastes littered with fishbones and chariot wheels where there had never been seas or highways. She lost her parasol and blindfolds, her prayer beads and her cup, her coins and bone dice, her compass, astrolabe and telescope, her map and her almanac, and even her horse. It was hard to walk alone among the phantoms, chimaeras and mirages. Once, she stopped to ask for directions. She wanted to know if the orb of hydrogen was shining, or if it was the sun, or if it was a vision of the sun, a lion, a coded replica, a magic lantern trick, or some twisted combination of several or all of those possibilities. The passersby assaulted her skull and left her for dead. Almost naked, she staggered onward, fixing her hair into a classic chignon to remind herself that her body and heart and mind and spirit could still be real and beautiful. Symbols were bleeding from her and leaving tangible bloodstains, like dark burns or holes in the universe, upon the dust of the road. Sometimes she almost fell into them–how vast and bottomless they seemed. Now and then, she encountered other victims whose skulls had been rocked, sucked, cracked, probed, trepanned, hollowed out, stuffed with straw or used for libations. Most were beyond healing. It was often difficult to tell if the others on the road were statues, automatons, shadows, or real bodies, walking the earth, their footsteps almost making the same rhythm as her own. And yet, there were so few footprints in those glorious wastes, so rare that one would wish to kiss them or suck the rainwater from them. Wandering through one spiralling chronotope after another, she fell in love. The man was ancient and youthful. She found him writing in the sand surrounded by a circle of bones. Out of his hands and skull flowed a silent light. She fell facedown in the sand upon seeing him. When she awoke, he was carrying her in his arms. Now and then they rested on the glory of snowed mountains. Though he seemed to be mute, she read his radiant footprints that were mirrors of the world, of his soul and her soul. Whenever he held her head, kissed her, brushed sand from her brow, or held her hand, her skull and heart would fill with purity, and the chronotopes, the planets, the symbols and colophons melted into silence and into light.

The Swimmers

The swimmers stretch their limbs into the warm water, blades between their teeth, racing for the thrashing quarry. On the beaches, the locals pass coins and notes from palm to palm. Those who are drowning thrash with great violence, the violence of the unknown. The origins of the game are wrapped in the mists of time, but it is clear that it originated in missions sent to welcome shipwrecked sailors. This is why the coast guard still takes part; the game differs very little from the manner in which the coastal marines greet those who wash upon the fatal blue shores today. The number of swimmers and victims depends upon the season, the crime rate, migration patterns and the intake of captives. One of the worst things for the spectators to witness is the way one or all of the victims might cease their thrashing and surrender to the waves, the algae and the green ocean below, long before the swimmers arrive. Thankfully, this is not a common thing. For swimmers, the unknown also plays a great role in the joys of pursuit. There are only two possibilities for a swimmer upon reaching the drowning person. One can bring the head of the victim out of the water or push the head down into spasms of foam. Until the last second, the swimmer rarely knows which path to take. Once in a while, and it does happen, a victim may have a moment of clarity and start swimming for the shore or the deep. The swimmer stops this escape with a knife to the throat or lungs. Should the victim outswim him and head for the shore, the spearmen of the coast guard, wading in the surf and shallows, dispatch him one quick thrust after another, as if they are nonchalantly fishing. Whenever the victims are spared by the swimmers, they are brought back to shore with shouts of jubilation from the colorful crowds standing on the rocks, bluffs and dunes. Time has taught the swimmers to spare only the able bodied, who may one day become swimmers themselves or give their bodies to the heroes for an indefinite season of pleasure. It is also a custom for the spectators to give a percentage of their winnings to the swimmers as a gift. Now and then, when the beaches are deserted, bloated bodies wash up on the shore. Children come down to the surfline, braving the reek of death, to decorate the naked corpses with shells and seaweed until they are driven away by the coast guard, although this is also rare. This caused a very strange superstition to arise among the children, one which the officials and locals have attempted to stamp out. Some of the children believe that the drowned captives are swallowed whole by gigantic fish, magic sharks or enchanted turtles, who bear the still warm bodies to safety in a heaven far below the waves. One wouldn’t want to ruin the horror of the game. The horror is the drug.