interaction space

short stories collection - a compilation of my short stories.

Summary

What is a conversation?

There is a start and an end. Whether at work, a bar, at the pier watching a boat race, climbing a mountain, sitting in the silence of space, or anywhere else, they all have a beginning and an end. For some, it is an enjoyable journey: an observation about the weather, a chat about how the local baseball team is doing, or catching up about the going-ons in the community. In other situations, it is engaged and a series rapid-fire information exchanges takes place: a dynamic tussle of ideas, facts, and wisdom—often very little of the later is actually seen or produced. Some sit back and allow the ebb and flow of it to surround them, then with hawkish precision they spot holes in logic, espouse their displeasure, and tear the opposing party to shreds.

The composition of it shifts and morphs as each person wanders through its corridors. For some, it is a large, interwoven tapestry on which they can weave each thought and feeling. While others see a voyage about to depart, the galleon’s sail nearly ripping off the mast while the captain rouses the crew. There are a few who see the Sahara, a barren wasteland of forgotten thoughts and wishes, but out of the blue a glimmer of hope shows the way, only to turn out to be a mirage. Several attempt to build fortresses to defend against it, afraid of what the rest might find behind the sky-high walls. Many hope for a Gold Rush, a torrid adventure that quickly takes on a positive light when, after endless searching and horrible mistakes, they find a golden nugget and the true adventure begins.

And for me that quest is a spider web of possibilities, a maze of traps and deceptions, a mixture of majestic nebulae and exploding supernovas—a dazzling complexity that is hard to visualize or describe completely, but which i will attempt to do, if ever so briefly. You see, when someone decides the time is right for it, my mind shifts gears and i set out on a wondrous odyssey. Allow me a short example.

A friend and i walk down the street toward my car (and her nearby appointment). We begin discussing the importance of humanities in a college education...

A bright light shines across a scorched earth and nearby is my lone transporter pod, it’s beckon is spazzing out while sparks fly every which-way. Peering into the distance, i see a woman crawling out of a pod of altogether alien design: it has outstretched wings the size of cars, lines of colorful light zipping along its surface, and a body shaped like a perfectly cut diamond. The suns are dazzling against its polished surface, which bears no sign of the insults it just suffered on its way to a messy landing. Suspicious, i start to eek forward and feel around for my weapon of choice, a sharp knife that really doubles as a laser. People always fall for it...

...midway through, the discussion shifts, my feints and jabs have been parried equally well and i take a step back to center myself...

Woooshhhh! Gale force winds nearly blow me off of the ship. Regaining my balance, if only for a moment, i have but a second to react as a woman lungs toward me, her half-torn tunic flapping in the wind. Out comes my sword and i hurriedly swat away her pokes and jabs. She steps back for a moment, allowing me a quick respite to survey the scene around me. Above a small man in a bright yellow dress holds onto the Mizzen-mast, his bright green eyes peering down at me. He smiles, if only for a second, then draws two daggers and jumps down beside the lady with nary a hint of effort. I sheath my sword and a pair of pistols appear in my hands. This isn’t a time for honorable play...

...our voices begin to rise, but at that moment, a group of friends who we haven’t seen in a bit trot by on the way to a restaurant in the south of town. Suddenly...

Peering ahead, i see a small opening that suddenly vanishes. To my left and right a pair of walls are attempting to crush me. And, unfortunately, these are no ordinary walls. It’s as if someone took a thousand broken mirrors and arranged them randomly, making it impossibly to discern anything concrete amongst the endlessly reflecting rays of light. Shapes come and go while my mind attempts to conceptualize what is going on. The complexity is overwhelming and is compounded by the small monitors randomly placed on the walls, their screens blaring a thousand different scenes from movies long forgotten and shows currently in vogue. Suddenly the wall to my left disappears and i shield myself as it’s contents come crashing down. And then the one to my right does the same. Behind each a solid black obelisk hovers above an endless sea of gold liquid, here and there it ripples and waves lap up against the floor where i stand. Bits of glass have already begun to float away. With one timorous step after another, i begin walking across the golden sea...

...and just as quickly, we are done. They need to get to their reservation and the conversation will have to wait for another time. I slowly drift away, pieces of the journey floating around in my mind and flashes appear in my vision, but nothing solid or concrete. As i round a street corner, it slowly starts to come back, bit by bit...

Smack! I drive the stamp hard as i can into the open book’s back cover. Registered: 2143.09.22 [07:09:42]. The scarlet letters stand out like a purple suit wearing clown in the middle of the projects. I close the book and toss it behind me into a nearby chute, waiting a couple seconds until i hear the faint bump! that assures me it has reached the pile below. Ahead thousands of books lie in ruin, their spines laid out every which-way. Looking closer, i can make out some titles: The Jiji Times, How to Learn the Secretes of Wire Cutting, Empty Century: How the Rise of the East Ruined a Nation, Jupiter Paradox and the Lone Survivor of Mission X16B, and many more. I dip my stamp in the bucket of red paint and reach toward the nearest tome, its tattered body barely holding together. An Organized Mess: The Story of the Rise and Fall of LI2 the title reads. Ostensibly it gives an account of the Google of our era, a technological and business masterclass that had taken the first commercial leap into quantum computing, dominated the market for half a century, then abruptly collapsed in on itself after a series of managerial failures. A classic. I flip open the back cover, only to see...

Nearly running into the person in front of me, i coolly step aside and bound across the street toward my car. All around me the world is spider webs, stars falling into black holes, the ruins of long forgotten civilizations, the man cheating on his wife only to have to run from the hitman she hired, a sea of silver and platinum on which floats the newly minted aircraft carrier ready to do battle with the enemies at our door, and so much more. Standing near my car, I close my eyes for a second then reach into my pocket and pop a set of buds into my ears. Flipping through the collection, i come across a very old tune. My eye lids flutter as the beat takes over...

Down below the city goes about its business. I stand on air, a thin force-field keeping me from plummeting below. “Alright, are you people ready!!!” a man screams over a pair of enormous speakers. A horde of people materialized around me, their bodies swaying as the tune began its hours-long ascent. I smile and my hips begin to gyrate. There is more than one way to converse...

-biafra
bahanonu [at] alum.mit.edu

more articles to enjoy:

when darkness falls
18 september 2012 | short story

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©2006-2017 | biafra ahanonu | updated 12 december 2017
biafra ahanonu