Choices too granular. Illusion of will. Trapped in hyperfreedom. Triage of prayers, conveyers and the ephemeral hellmachine. The gravity of reality distortions. What gains attention gains value. Event currents. Too many zeros multiplying the messages. The manicfacturing of junk thoughts in pursuit of revenue instead of renewal. Pararotting vomitted words to fill in the added gaps. Transsentenced entirely by non-breaking spaces. Carriage makers of reverberating noise. Carpenters as content producers. No nutrition in sawdust. Kids taste everything and numbed adults learn to eat anything. Pointless rumination without stomaching it. Widespread digital coprophagy. The dark ages, the enlightenment, the dazzlingment – so fucking much of everything at once. Lost in formation. Forgetting stars. Every number becomes either null or infinite. Zebra patterns all over reality. The path goes to sephira eleven. Trapped in fiction. We need an anti-thought to this affliction.
Ellinor Kall is a liminal writer who grew up kinda lost among the forests and mountains in northern Sweden. A queer shadow with sparks in between worlds. Born out of emotion and will, glamorized photos and words. Once quoted saying: “I’m not lost, I just don’t know where I am.” Maybe that says it all.
Adaqaros turned away from the dartboard, his hand still on the final dart, which rested just to the right of center in the tiny treble twenty crescent. He stared at Jimmy through narrowed eyes, and accessed Harrison’s memories for the meaning of the term. It took several moments. Harrison had not put money on games of skill very often.
“No,” Adaqaros said. “My sudden increase in skill is a natural artifact. This is my second venture at darts only.”
“Wait,” Jimmy said. “That last game was the first time you’ve ever played darts?”
This made Adaqaros pause. He studied Harrison’s memories again, thoroughly. He had played a skill game similar to this at a fair when he was twelve years old, not nearly enough to have developed any muscle memory which Adaqaros could rely on. Several years earlier, Harrison had played with something called lawn-darts, which he had found in the garage of his paternal grandfather, but it was not truly a comparable activity. Adaqaros himself had never played this specific game of skill, and had had little opportunity to test the dexterity and depth perception of Harrison’s body. He decided that the statement was true enough to be spoken, and required no retraction. “Yes,” he said simply, and removed the final dart from the board.
I wasn’t sure I was in the puzzle until I bumped into a young man on the trail I was taking to the beach.
“Excuse me, can you help me?” he said. “I’m looking for the town centre.”
Then he put his hand up to his mouth and laughed a thin, reedy laugh. One of the thirty-six signs of the puzzle. I kept a straight face. I didn’t want the puzzle to know that I knew I was in the puzzle.
“Keep going in the opposite direction to me and you’ll get there,” I said.
“Thank you,” the young man said. “It’s a good day for the beach, I can see that. Perhaps I’m going the wrong way, after all.”
“No doubt you’ll find out when you get there,” I said.
“Yes,” he said.
He did move off. I felt the puzzle’s grip lessening. I found I could think again. I’ve heard that you can sing nursery rhymes to yourself, thereby confusing the puzzle, keeping it busy, as it were, so that it doesn’t interfere so much with you. I sang Humpy Dumpty. I tried not to think of the beach but clutched my towel a little bit tighter.
Kathy Harrison bursts through the Green Lovelies entrance. Cocobolo beads rattle against the glass door. The steely-eyed clerk is dressed head to toe in selvedge denim. She stares Kathy down, inhaling imperceptibly. She knows what’s coming. The woman’s going to start yelling.
“Everyone just stop!” Kathy hollers once fully inside the plant shop’s showroom floor. A few Green Lovelies shoppers freeze in their tracks. The clerk eyes her from beyond the small forest of hanging macramé plants in the middle of the retail space. She’s got everyone’s attention. Part one of her mission successful. Now for part two…
“Citizens of Long Beach, I am warning you as a fellow neighbor, not to buy any of these plants! None of the succulents! None of the pathos! No tropical dwarfs at all! Because you know why?!”
Colour bleeds out, sounds wind down. Muffled, blind. Straight lines, thick and thin, washed in white and grey. It is winter here. Gentle snowflakes fall, though they strike as something sinister. Am I the only one conscious, the only one not a golem made of meat? Playing pieces for cruel gods. This pawn has slipped through the gaps, into the liminal. I call out, and I see my words, my breath, in emanating waves. Mirrored in the puddle surface a boot hovers above, paralysed by my downcast thoughts. Happily it would have splashed, a small pleasure on the way to work. But now all of that is tainted, and we see, the boot and I, what really lies beneath.
Whole buildings erased, replaced by sea. Wave after wave of attempted communication washes away the humanity stored in my flesh, strips me to my cartilage and cleans it thoroughly. Now I match the snow, barely seen at all and becoming flatter all the time. A whisper on a slate of white noise. No pavement below me, no sky above. Only birds, angry that they are suddenly no more than ink blots on a damaged canvas, furious that the screeches they thought they owned have been supplanted in an instant by silence. In the absence of direction, of anything else at all, they gather to peck at my bones, and I am glad.
C.R. Dudley is author of metaphysical science fiction collections Fragments of Perception and Mind in the Gap. She is also a visual artist and mind explorer, fascinated by the human condition and the inner worlds we create. She considers every project to be part of one continuous artwork. You can follow her blog here.
She is also owner and editor here at Orchid’s Lantern press.
I’d been drifting into twilit sleep, but did I make it? I saw nothing but blackness everywhere.
Not darkness, even when one wakes in a pitch black room there’s a sense—even if it’s subconscious—of a location, time or an innate feeling that things are there but unseen. When your pupil dilates, it comes to you.
This wasn’t blindness but absolute vacuity, I knew I could see, but there was nothing to see.
Light was derelict. Was it slowed, blocked, had it vanished?
Panic wasn’t within me, but an amalgam of ambiguous emotions: the feeling of awakening when you didn’t realize you fell asleep, the feeling of impending mini-apocalypse as a dreaded appointment neared, the no-man’s-land between déjà vu and jamais vu. As I couldn’t take the world as is nor could I imagine a new ideal, was this a new manifestation of Weltschmerz?
In my mind’s eye, which was unclouded, I saw bubble galaxies imbuing new realities. Was that something I sensed by some latent ESP I’d triggered or was that a dream, a daydream or a nightmare?
I felt weightless which was surreal. It was unearthly yet, as I took a step my movement wasn’t slowed and I touched back down onto solid, indiscernible ground. I was not aloft, nor paralyzed, but benumbed.
Seeing blindly, moving unfeeling; how could this be?
Looking down I saw my legs and hands. Another conundrum: There’s light hitting me and nothing else. What was the source of this light? Is it me?
Impossible. Yet, it seemed to be unless most basic tenets of physics no longer applied.
Chroma: Calanooka is the third book in the Constructed Sanity series by Carlie Martece, who has brilliantly woven another story that plays out on multiple levels: this is not simply a book to read, but to interact with.
We follow our neurodivergent protagonists, Leandra and Cal, through the desert to a little town called Summerton. They have difficult lives, trying to survive in a world that does not care about them. They are visited by Kalakai, an alien, who tries to recruit them for cosmic battle and warns them things may get worse before they get better.
I knew this book would be for me as soon as I read the description: an experimental, poetic, flow-of-consciousness exploration of reality, fantasy and all the spaces in between. Yes please!
This is the kind of book you bring yourself to, in that you’re never 100% sure whether your experience is what the writer intended or whether you pasted your own meaning over the top of their words. There’s enough continuity, enough thread to hang onto, to make the text flow through an arc, but it also leaves a lot to interpretation.
I read this as the narrator delving into and confronting his own psyche. Perhaps it comes from knowing this was written during the first pandemic wave, when many felt isolated and helpless, but I see someone grasping desperately at straws to find meaning; someone left alone with his thoughts and falling deeper into their clutches. He picks at scabs, seeks out dark corners, obsesses over repeating motifs and patterns, and he digs.
Today sees the release of our very first anthology. It’s been a lot of work, but we are so proud of the final result. Vast: Stories of Mind, Soul and Consciousness in a Technological Age features exciting and thought-provoking contributions from ten fantastic authors.
Chimy and Chrisby Stephen Oram
Chris is a scientist. Chimy is a brain, artificially grown in a vat and developing quietly in the dark… ‘I feel the pipe against my surface and see her push it inside me. “Chimy, speak,” she says. I do not know how to speak. What does she mean? How do I speak?’
Little Thief by J.R. Staples-Ager
Thief has undergone surgery at the hands of Genesyx Corporation in order to become ‘ported’ and donate unused brain capacity to the country’s data processing power. What side effects could this possibly have?
Limited Infinity by Thomas Cline
Hess has lived in a reality simulation for many years by law, along with everyone else. But one day, suddenly, there is no one else. They just – vanish. Can he, and the voice in his head, find out what happened?
Dreamtime by Vaughan Stanger
Jerome is in pain. He can’t sleep and is in desperate need of palliative cancer treatment, but now that AI has supplanted every government, he must make a trade to get it. And there’s something he has that the Partners want more than anything else…
The Weight of your Mind by Sergio Palumbo
Brett is a scientist, working on a theory that thoughts produce gravity in minuscule amounts. The problem is, he only knows this at night when he sleeps. During the day he must live a different kind of nightmare…
The Video by Jonathan D. Clark
Everyone watches the video. You watch it. I watch it. We watch it from a distance with disgust, with tension, with the dark thrill of drama. What does the video say about us? What have we become?
The DreamCube Thread by Ellinor Kall
Everyone wants a DreamCube. Feed the ethically cultivated neural tissue, keep it by your bed, and watch it dream! But people are curious. People have questions. Why are the Makers so elusive? Join the discussion!
Luz Beyond the Glass by Ava Kelly
Huge glass spheres sit in gardens. Everyone knows they absorb pollution from the ground, water, and air, to cleanse the filth our ancestors left behind. What most don’t know is what resides in them…
Every Aspect of Every Recollection by Peter Burton
A wonderfully philosophical piece, taking a wander in a mind that has only itself left. Do our memories give us life? Our fantasies? Is it possible we are each more than a single timeline?
Ancestors by Juliane Graef
There is no way back from what humans have done to Earth. But there might just be a way forward… A touching story depicting the persistence of consciousness and three aeons of what happens after.
You can buy your copy now from any of the following:
I’m thrilled to tell you that the very first anthology from Orchid’s Lantern is due for publication on 28th February 2020! Vast: Stories of Mind, Soul and Consciousness in a Technological Age has been in the works for the last few months, and it’s looking better than we ever expected.
We asked authors to think about the relationship that current and imagined tech has with the human psyche. Does it change us, or do we change it? How might such a relationship develop in the future, and what could the unexpected consequences be?
The resulting submissions were fascinating, and we have pulled together the very best we could find to make this exciting, thought-provoking volume.
Some stories border on the fantastical in their scope, while others paint a picture of a world we recognise. We have pieces that explore the relationship between social media, marketing and consciousness. We have extrapolations of quantum physics and what we know about the dreaming mind. we have dramatic life extensions, 3D printed medical care, DNA splicing and artificial biology aiding environmental recovery. And, at the heart of all this, we have a careful appreciation that science remains humble in the face of our inner mysteries.
The contributors and their stories are:
Stephen Oram – Chimy and Chris
J.R. Staples-Ager – Little Thief
Thomas Cline – Limited Infinity
Vaughan Stanger – Dreamtime
Sergio ‘ente per ente’ Palumbo – The Weight of Your Mind
Jonathan D. Clark – The Video
Ellinor Kall – The DreamCube Thread
Ava Kelly – Luz Beyond the Glass
Peter Burton – Every Aspect of Every Recollection
Juliane Graef – Ancestors
Vast is available to pre-order right now from most bookstores, both online and on the high street. The Kindle edition can be found here, with versions for other e-readers being rolled out over the next few days. You can also get the paperback edition right here on Orchid’s Lantern.