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๐—ข๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€๐—ถ๐˜‡๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—•๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—ป

๐˜ฃ๐˜บ ๐˜™๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ž๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ

Oversized brain

was rereading the Collected Works of Kurt Vonnegut,

the newly released Library of America edition, when its

wandering eye spotted a typo. Overheated Brain read on

keeping score, after returning to the frontispiece

and beginning anew. No room for sloppiness when obsession

has the high hand. As the errors noted increased Overstrained

Brain suffered a crisis of faith. It knew that on average a scan

from original copy created 4 errors per page, rounded up to 1%.

Multiplied by 2500, the number of pages, Overwhelmed Brain

knew true despair. Darkness visible as Styron so bravely wrote.

Looking at the tally it found comfort in the numbers, nowhere

near the projective level. Far short in fact. And curious in their

distribution. Appearing on pages with prime numbers it soon realized.

A pattern. Not errors. A message hidden in numbers amongst

mangled words. A challenge Overwrought Brain embraced

with fever and fervor. 1229 instantly appeared in its overstuffed

mind. Exactly that many words would be wrongfully misspelled

in the number of pages had before him. And no more.

Night gave way, bowing to the task, and morning moved aside

as triple espressos emptied exponentially. Even the cell phone

knew not to interrupt. When the time came it also knew.

The numbers matched. Misspelled words and prime numbers.

Overexcited Brain took 4 deep yoga breaths. Inhaling and exhaling.

Through his nose and then mouth. This calmed and reengaged

the oversized grey and white matter, and immediately it knew

reading the words as they appeared would not yield meaning,

and backwards even less. What then was the code? If not the words,

then surely the numbers. All 1229 of them. Binary. He made

a simple list, having memorized Pi well past that point. Converting

the numbers to binary, he realized, would be unproductive.

Hex would be best. Overtaxed Brain trusted his inner mathematician,

but suspected Vonnegut was lurking behind this elaborate charade.

Bokononist thoughts, he thought. Boko maru. Was it that simple?

Foma? Or wrang-wrang? An intentional necessary distraction

from the ultimate question. And so it goes and goes and . . .


Post-Covid, the author has returned as the writer-in-residence at the James Joyce Pub. Among his other pubs: conjunctions, Louisville Review, Southern Quarterly, Free State Review, Hollins Critic, NER, Loch Raven Review, The Avenue, & New Orleans Review. Heโ€™s the author of The Stars Undone (Duende Press, 1992), and wrote the libretto for a symphony, Of Sea and Stars (2005). Recently, his 180th prose poem was published. He was a finalist in the 2019 Dogwood Literary Prize in Poetry.

Speculative fiction & POETRY ZINE
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