Author’s Note (For Context): This is a ficción, inside joke, eulogy, parody, and testament to the translator and writer Jorge Borges, in imitation of his excellent “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.”
I owe the discovery of a Borgesian doppelganger to the conjunction of a mirror site and an entry on Wikipedia. The mirror troubled the depths of my thoughts in my suburban home in Sugar Land, Texas; the Wiki-page was devoted to an author with a similar name, another Borges. My friend had been explaining the utility of a mirror site, a website replica created to divert network traffic, when, in jest, he said that mirrors and copulation were abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of men. The phrasing seemed too eloquent for his invention, and I asked who had said it. Jorge Borges, was the reply. A strange sense of unreality set in, and I asked if he had any relation to the Argentine writer of the same name, to which my friend said – I don’t think so.
We set about to search for this Borges on the Internet, but could find nothing, only webpages saying Page Not Found, since my Wifi wasn’t working. To save face, he searched again on his phone, but could only find the other Borges – the magical realist from South America. Again, he distanced the quote’s origin and this literary master, arguing that they were separate persons. I finally decided this had been a fruitless fiction derived from my friend’s pride and insecurity in claiming the passage for his own. Surely, if there had been two Borgeses, I would have heard of this anomaly, this controversy?
Years later, I would find a book by this alt-author in a used book store on 99. The work was titled The Garden of Forking Paths, and contained a slew of stories, all strange and wonderful and infinitesimally complex. I was leaving the store when in the Spanish aisle I saw the name Borges in bold print. It was on the cover of El jardin de senderos que se bifurcan – clearly, the work of the Original Author. I bought both works and brought them to my home for careful examination, or to use a word discounted by high school teachers, to peruse. What I found was astonishing. The two texts, by two authors of the same name, were completely unrelated in regards to content. In fact, one was incomprehensible, written in a language divergent from ours: Spanish. Yet the structures were identical, or nearly so, for both had Tables of Contents, chapter headings, a body of pages, a foreword and index. And the stories corresponded; their paragraphs and even their punctuation were terribly homogenous. I felt as if I’d found some otherworldly Rosetta Stone, some fragment of twin dimensions.
The pictures of the authors in the book jackets looked related, although one was much older, shrewder, with a drooping eye. They could have been twins, if it weren’t for the gap in years, or duplicates, as if God had multiplied Soul and Body – some error in creation buried beneath the continuities.
My final discovery was on the bookshelf of a woman I was wooing. She was a graduate student renting her professor’s small one-bedroom apartment while he was on sabbatical. There was an erotic nature to our connection, accentuated by strange phallic images the professor had put up on the walls. African tribal spears, bolo knives, and near-nude women with large breasts in Picasso-like frontality. On her shelf, or rather, the professor’s shelf, was a copy of Borges’ Forking Paths. One night, I brought my own copy from home (possibly by the same author, possibly by the Other) and compared the two. What I found led to my utter distress and subsequent destruction of the books. The works were the same and not the same, as if the two writers had plagiarized the same source, some ur-text, or precursor. In one book, the words read, “I have known that thing the Greeks knew not – uncertainty.” The other: “I have known uncertainty: a state unknown to the Greeks.” Both, despite distance, derivation, offered a glimpse into the unrealness of my world – its labyrinths, its mirrors.
I struck a match which burned like the sun above me, and put it to the books. For a moment, I thought there were twin suns crackling in the afternoon heat, before the bookfire rescinded, leaving behind its ashy droppings, a clutter of black fragments belonging to the libraries of Hell.
The doctor’s office was the only place Fizz Ease could kick his feet around like a kid. It was odd sitting without touching the ground. Kind of like how accustomed he’d become to going into the restroom and looking straight in the mirror, not needing to stand on tiptoes and peer above the counter.
Dr. Sudarshan was looking at a chart. He flipped a few pages roughly, making them crinkle.
“Looks like you have eleven tender spots today,” he said finally. “That’s four more since our last check-up. How are your sleeping habits?”
Fizz repeated the usual stories, each anecdote underlying the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Sleep-heavy nights, moody mornings, fatigue at work.
“Not having anything to do, or to stave off the heart attack forming in my chest (it turned out to be gas), or to hold off a walk to the gas station for cigarettes, or to creep away from the wife awhile, ornery ever since she noticed a carpet growing on her chin (it happens at this age), I turned on the light in the garage.”
“Look at the sympathy and bravery of the Wheelbarrow Queen. Look at the tattoos of endless scrolls that unfurl down her arms. These signs carry murderers and lovers, boring summers and drunken falls.”
“I will never forget it. Blue as the Kelley Blue Book, a proud white belt, dual headlights like plates on display and squinting taillights.”
“Leagues ahead, as if justification for the old man’s suffering, was a boat. How could refuge exist out here in the abandon? The red dust and crags. Would he find whale bone, and coral, and mermaid skulls, and impossible Lemuria?”
“Their hands are spiders on my scarf when I’m not looking. They pull the cornice in the back until my forehead is uncovered and I notice and hiss. They untie the knot by my right breast or pinch the cloth, leaving wrinkles.”
Fresh-baked, toasted wheat with a cream cheese shmear.
Blue sky. Clouds shaped like rabbits and eagles. Faro Claret looked up at a statue of an old war hero, a bowcock adorned with gumdrops—no—buttons, and a gray uniform, and a conglomeration of names. Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard. Faro knew very little about art history, or history, and today was a rare adventure away from his windowless office where he worked for another conglomeration of names—Merklee Shipping Commissions Incorporated. This was one stop of many. Moments before he had admired a tree with similar awe, as if a tree were a sculpted thing too, carrying mysteries in silence. Continue reading
Chuck E. Nietzsche’s
Where a Nihilist can be a Nihilist
Dry sparkling wine, orange juice, and a dash of determinism.
I’m still trying to write the perfect bios for Rune Bear’s About page. But these just came off as too… distressing.
Desmond White, Editor-in-Chief
Desmond White is a guy. He’s right here typing this right now in a moment which will be burned up like the rest of the moments. What’s the point of anything if it’s all going to be extinguished with the unerring plod of time and space, that inevitable line, warbled by gravity, distraught by memory, but mobile? Fruit flies we are, playing and working and rubbing our hands together before retiring to the quiet places. Find him on twitter!
Stuart Warren, Speculative Fiction Editor
Stuart Warren is tired. Crusty-eyed. All he thinks about is his bed. Even when he’s in bed. Maybe it’s because sleep is the closest boundary to death that he allows himself. That great void that pervades. That pressure of nocturne, like the bottom of the oceans of the mind. And maybe he wants to peer beyond the illusions (that conglomerate of memory and fantasy) to peek into the dark dimensions, that unholy slumberous nil. Find him on twitter!
Alyssa Warren, Supernatural Fiction Editor
Sometimes Alyssa Warren remembers why she allowed her birth. For too long she floated in the ether, curious about the meaty breaths of humanity but finding no desire to leave that yellow comfort, that glowing peace. Maybe it was a mistake to come down to this planet, to be born to the struggle of organisms. If so, there is some comfort. From ether born, to ether go. All she has to do is wait sixty years. Find her on twitter!
Zeroflash, a flash fiction magazine that features many, many great interviews with writers and publishers alike, has a monthly competition series. The winner receives an original illustration of their winning entry, ten pounds, an interview with Uprising Review, etc., etc.
I submitted a story to the February competition (judged by Alex L. Williams) and lost. My story didn’t even make it to second or third. It wasn’t featured on the list of honorees.
S’all good, though. I did better than my wife. She submitted a piece which was so bad that it never materialized among the February entries. (Just kidding, it was probably buried in the slush.)
Again, it’s all good. Rejection is a step toward success. Sometimes rejection’s a success all by its lonesome. And if that’s even remotely true, I’ve made it.
The February prompt was this draconic kaleidoscope with granite blues and pinks and a hidden zero. And it was the caption: “I’m asking for the trippiest, freakiest, most surreal piece of prose you can concoct. Let your mind roam and your words dance.” 300 words minimum.
by Jon Stubbington (2018)
So here’s my loser’s piece. I went for Paracelsus meets the goblins in Twilight Eyes meets skin made out of asbestos. You be the judge if it works or not.
There Would be Warmth
by Desmond White
Now the mediæval men knew a thing about doomsday. They scribbled its steps in codices long-brown, although none of them were excited about cityside basilisks and resurrected gods, content with pulling gold from menstrual blood. Not me. All my years I burned to clear the crust of life from this planet. (Humans, dogs, the yellow cities, trees, all that color.) So I studied the works recounting the Vulcani, those lizards that grow in fire like fishes in water, what some call salamanders. If you grow them big enough they’ll survive outside their element—bigger and they’ll turn the elements into char.
I get a fire going until the flicker-roots are blue and the smoke thick enough to climb, then I step between logs glimmering like sticks in a stomach. The lizards see me and run and die in the cold, so maybe, I think, I must accustom the new hatches to my scent. The eggs are easy. I find a clump of black logs glowing with a thousand eyes and there I find them, small, angry. I raise one to see if the fetus is kicking in the ash, but I take the egg too close to the air element, or maybe wind blows out of jealousy, and the egg turns to coal in my boiled fingers. The fire is kind enough to lift my tears. The next egg I push down my throat, placing it by the heat of my liver, wrapped motherly in blood-web, and now I’m running out the tipi, running for the lake to wash the blackened scale of my skin, to feel the living stone inside my belly, to finish what the mystics never started.
An edited variant of this published at Rune Bear Weekly on April 25th, 2019.