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๐—•๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—ธ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ก๐—ฒ๐˜„๐˜€!

๐˜ฃ๐˜บ ๐˜™๐˜ฐ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜—๐˜ฐ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ

While shaving at the bathroom sink with nothing but pajama pants on, I shooed a fat, annoying fly that banged into the mirror for some unknown reason, if reason operates on that level. It disappeared for a moment and reappeared above me, bouncing along the ceiling. For a frightening second, I sensed it watching me, perhaps gauging the level of danger or the promise of a nice fat corpse I posed. A text rang through. I picked up the phone from the back of the toilet and took a gander. Kris Kelvin at The Solar Plexus, the underground news source I worked for, with the message: P*Culch?

I had no idea what that meant. This could have been the result of haste, an accidental text, or it might actually mean something. I typed in my reply WTF but before I could touch the button to send it, I found myself on the sidewalk plunk in front of my building, shaving cream on the left side of my face, phone in one hand. My heart racedโ€”this was it. Two cars collided head on in the street. I heard a strange cry. The neighbor above my apartment, a career woman, fell out her window and hit the sidewalk beside me dressed in a gray suit, her feet bare. She raised herself on her arms and looked into the street where motorists staggered from stalled cars.

Real news! I didnโ€™t know how much time I had, so I typed without looking, fingers moving like feelers or antennae. I had gotten good at this reporting from the field. I needed to describe other neighbors, signs of bewilderment in faces and startled postures. How we came to our senses the same moment. This had happened before, a so-called glitch. I remembered eight occurrences in thirty years. The policeman directing traffic at the malfunctioning stoplight stared in confusion. Three dogs stood nose-to-nose, looking at each other.

I kept typing right into my Kelvin reply. I remembered from the last episode that a text I sent during or after a glitch actually came through when the episode ended. Though I remembered nothing, as I read what I had written, fleeting images returned. I eventually recalled how often it had happened and resolved next time to get as much down as I could in a text and send it before the glitch repaired. I may have been the only one in the world who remembered them, and this was it, next time. What if I could make the entire world remember glitches?


I knew what came now, the voice in my head, my own personal psychic loudspeaker installed at birth by The Committee: โ€œSorry for any inconvenience. A glitch in the time-space continuum has been detected. Relax as The Committee works to restore schedules.โ€

The career woman sat up by this time but did not get up. An elderly woman pushing a baby carriage said, โ€œNothing to do now but wait.โ€ I was getting all this down in a text that began WTF, which seems appropriate at this point..

Our clothes began disintegrating, molecules evaporating. Everyone assumed a comfortable pose to wait out the glitch. The career woman lay back on the sidewalk, naked, hands behind her head, eyes closed. Naked drivers leaned against their cars, arms crossed in varying attitudes of boredom. The naked cop sat on the hood of a stopped car. The naked older lady now held a naked baby in her arms. Gender distinctions faded. Bodies began to lose their shape.

This happened faster with the elderly, but the change had begun working on the career woman as well. She did not seem surprised as she watched the process that began on our clothes turn her body into molecules dissipating in the air. All the naked, sexless bodies around us began disappearing like a gas. Cars seemed less substantial, though these would take longer, longer than buildings, sidewalk, the street on which we walked and drove so confident of our present condition of existence.

โ€œRest assured,โ€ the loudspeaker in my head reported, โ€œwe have our best minds working on it. We should heave a collective sigh of thanks to The Committee. May we remind you that none of this has been or should be recorded or stored in any memory banks now or at any time in the future. The Committee thanks you ahead of time for your compliance. Your faithful correspondent, Secretary to and by order of The Chairman.โ€

I did heave a sigh, but it was far from collective. I was alone though surrounded by my neighbors. I kept recording what I saw even as molecules of my hand began to disperse like bubbles in carbonated water. If The Committee did not hurry I would not be able to hit send before I had no finger left. The thought in my mind was that this path would lead me to retaining a memory of this particular glitch, and thus, by extrapolation, of all other glitches I experienced in my life, from childhood to the present moment. I imagined serialized columns, a book with a chapter for each glitch. It makes me laugh, but it is a dry and empty laugh.

What follows torments me, a double anguish because I understand that no one knows or cares. When the glitch ended I thought I had fallen into a sleepless dream in which I saw myself from the vantage point of the ceiling, looking down on the man swaying in front of the mirror with the phone in his hand (formerly my phone) about to press the button to send my text to Kris Kelvin who might or might not understand what I had written. As I looked down on myself, rather my body, I noticed the eyes looked glazed, thoughtless. Interesting, I thought, Iโ€™ll have to write about this sometime.

This incessant buzzing!

I take no joy in endless flying. I long to walk, to run. I have spent the last week trying to remember lines of my favorite poems. I used to read poetry back in college. What keeps coming back to me is a poem in which Emily Dickinson imagines the last moment of her life; the last thing she sees before death arrives like sleep is a common house fly. Perhaps that will happen to the body formerly known as my own.

If someone comes to see him, heโ€™ll be hauled off to the booby hatch, out of my life forever. Such sorrow. How I loved him in his day! Cared for his slightest wound. If he stubbed his toe, I commiserated as if it had been my own toe. If he suffered, I suffered. It was my favorite thing in the whole world. Now what am I?

A fly whose only comfort lies in the knowledge that I have a life span of about a month, maybe shorter, locked inside my former apartmentโ€”excuse me, condominiumโ€”with no hope of escape. The poor booby wanders around, bumping into walls, eating from the trash. I feel for him. Not as I did before, but my days too are numbered; thank God the number is much smaller.

I could be satisfied to die in a week or two if only the brute had lowered his thick finger and sent my text into the world. Or, at least, to Kelvin, in the hope that I might jog his memory. I was so angry at The Committee I wasted my first week as a fly. Now, I note the differences between fly and human life for future reference. Anything to keep my mind off the former journalist scrabbling at walls, trying to climb them as he once did.

As it is, I feel my consciousness fading bit by bit. His arms shake as if he wants to fly, and here I am buzzing around his head, hoping for one last glimpse of my own face, any slightest glimmer of recognition. Being alone is a tragedy that has already happened. Nothing to do now but wait and eat and purge my bowels. If this lasts long enough, I might be eating him.

Hopefully, by then, I wonโ€™t even know what I am doing. โœฆ


Robert Pope has published four books of fiction, the most recent of which, Not a Jot or a Tittle, is a collection of short stories. A new collection of flash fiction, Disappearing Things, which includes โ€œBreaking News,โ€ will be available by January, 2023.

Speculative fiction & POETRY ZINE
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