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Night of the Thief
Thief0

Whistling on my way once, a voice said, "Hey!"

"Wuh?" I asked.

"I'm your covert diary." It said.

I'd just been planning on getting a diary, yet I'd thought it would be someone else's. Why oh why (I employ you) would I EVER write a diary? I knew what that was all about after that morning I hid in the woods, chewing grapevines with the back of my teeth like a squirrel with the munchies, high. No one, I tell you, no one could find me! No matter how much I ate and smelled. AS IF I really wanted to carry a load of berries around and keep it on hand, so as to go to the next radical back on the block (I was a ten year old RAD): hugh, this is what I came up with!

"Why not turn that refuse into a sort of fertility corporation—smush it into the yard, make the carrots grow big and strong?"

"Let's see here now. Character? Character? If I--"

"You. You are who I am. I am a covert diary of your consumed selves, all of the Microsoft Windows icons you've invented, the archetypes you share with humanity, your own subjective reality, your--"

"Well wait would you? I haven't even begun to invent a story yet. You're only words in my monitor, magnetic ink and Western phonetics. Don't go getting carried away. What can I name you?"

"Keep me nameless. I would be less, undefined, but more of you still at the same time. Keep me all that you are. All that you could potentially be. Make me your awakening. I could be you as a child smelling gum inside a wet tree, or an extinct hoofed animal charging swamps in ancient Pangaea, or--"

"This is complicated. I'm not sure I'm those. What's all this about metaphysics? Subtlety is the art of covert diaries. Do you want to be male or female?"

"You are the one in charge. Are you not making this too complicated, assuming that I already have control to decide existence? Covert diaries are the art of playing God."

"You're choosing your words."

"You have granted me that already."

"You can use contractions, you know. The "rule" against them in writing creatively fell into the vat of boring traditions."

"I think I'll use contractions. And how abowt misspelings?"

"No misspellings."

"So you have to grant me everything else?"

"Yes."

"So?"

"I really don't know. I'm trying to think. We--uh--I should make this creative, I suppose."

"So?"

"Stop nagging. You're lurking like a teacher or a greasy fat employer."

"You don't need me. You're doing fine all by yourself."

"Wait! I need a character. Covert, remember?"

"Go then."

"You can decide the story from here on out until it's finished, but I still want the right to intervene at any time. I give you all of my knowledge, which is pretty much all that I know anyway."

"Are you a deist?"

"Your turn."


1

†My name is John. (How bland.) I live on Wunderland Lane in Shift, Illinois, except when I live outside of my house. I work at a Retirement Church as a priest. For a while I had some serious problems with the old folks living there, and a few wrote me letters of this kind of (dis)content:

Dear Priest-Guy, etc.

Blah, complain ugh dope blah blah. Squoob mouth on your couldn't staff four, preaching fij duck ball! Blipp weph blah morals of my family, so on so on Satanist?

Truly w/ love,

the people

†Although I enrolled in Satanic Theory years ago in college and seriously considered becoming a Satanist, Catholicism began to loom larger, more beautiful, and certainly more evil than any organized group of goat-slashers. Imagine the power! The Pope programs thousands of wonderful screen sketches every year and utilizes one capitalized name with a The in front! Incense! Stained glass! Oh, the artistry. (I'm enjoying this.) Lukewarm holy water by the gallons! That's a work environment.

"Where are you off to?"

"Nowhere."

"I thought of a title and I'll insert it."

†The year is 2012. We're the postpostmodern intellectuals, Generation Y, and that's a good question. We aren't as aimless and stupefied as our predecessors, the X-ers. There's little left to hate! Traditional Christianity has nearly died and only exists as a work force still needed in the peripheries of civilization (like Shift, Illinois), where baby-boomers are settling like dust. Jesus never came, the Apocalypse never came. The only revelation was that of realizing that there wasn't one. With Islam and Bokkononism overtaking Christianity in the eastern hemisphere, President William Gates, six years ago, moved the Vatican to a small town in Arkansas, which he accordingly renamed Popeville. The American Retirement Church now hires just about anyone to fill positions--and they do pay well. But anyone'll suffice that'll tell aging, end-of-the-millennium revivalists every Sunday, "Look, God is a nice guy and He hasn't taken a cosmic vacation, now go home, have a nap."

†My generation, the Y-ers, seems unified, I guess, because the world of the X-ers and revivalists melted, leaving the Global Unified Network (the GUN, a deity to many: our telemedia God with intimidatingly high resolution) in its ashes, as well as a good job market. And so (presto/vuala!) there's no longer a heavy sack of ranting revivalists swinging over the heads of young intellectuals. We aren't even angry anymore: the mosh pit has given way to the prayer pit, and some of us even have kids. The revivalists are there, but no bother. To us, religion is pixel art and image-i-nation. Even The Pope wears (re)fashionable spandex, programs sketches, and rebuilds cars.

†So I started a rock band: The Sanity Batchers. Right now we're "at the breakers of The Newer Wave," or so Rolling Micro Chip tells the earth. (For the cover, they hologrammed out my penis and my knee ring, but they left in my butt; I looked like a floating naked Ken Doll on the magazine rack.) Anyway, we oversee the World Catholic Rock Network's weekly jamprayer sessions in Chicago; we build up big structures out of icelegos, melt them apart with our music, and then move on to (and conduct) mass. My own telepreaching has even made a tradition out of something ya: romping naked through the pool of water that was once icelegos.

"Go way off."

"Into it."

"Dig deep like a worm."

†I met him at a gig last year, a glass of wine in his hand. He looked ready to meet a connection, but at the same time stood in a sea of easiness, like a mellow fish nowhere near a hook or a hurricane. We were finishing a violent cover of Black Sabbath II's version of the Lord's Prayer (the giant icelego bust of George Burns had finally evaporated), and I caught my amplifier rack just before it landed on this calm man's head.

†"Sorry Buddy," I said. (That was my amp's name at the time.) The man looked at Buddy and at me without question or animosity, so I decided to ignore him and get ready for mass. We were dressed remarkably similar: I was wearing my thong tuxedo pance, an orange fishnet shirt, a cowboy hat, a Zorro mask, and a ninja sword strapped to my back; he had all this on too, but the sword behind him was actually of samurai origin. My beard then was neatly scattered parallel to the ground, and his was braided into three strands that would occasionally intertwine and stir his wine dramatically.

†Nevertheless, we looked like the Bobbsey Twins--only without bib-overalls, with different costumes, and much older. I felt like an idiot.

†The crowd was assuming its place for mass. Since Pope Juan Quixote I was originally from Barcelona, masses were to be spoken in Español with the correct pronunciation of the 'c', with that lisp that falls from the lips ever so softly and beautifully; in days of yore lisping was associated with being of the homosexual persuasion (a conceptual and linguistic term that is no longer used by the way, as many are, mas o menos, sexual, si tu sí); where was I? Oh yes, the lisp is now a sign of holiness, not homoness.

Priest: "Hóla, mís hermanos y hermanas."

All: "Hóla, Padre John."

†My drummer, Padre Pilot, proceeded to read the notes from the jamprayer meeting from the week before; we voted on several miscellaneous issues before beginning prayer.

All: "Díos . . . Díos . . . Él es muy embarazada y ensipido. Él es un artista y un ímago muy grande, y Él esta cantando ahora." Etc.

†I noticed through my mask and past my beard that my calm friend wasn't participating in the prayers and was, in fact, quite asleep standing up; the incense stick near him was burning into a cloud that surrounded his head in swirls; his sword had drooped to assume a perpendicular angle to his thin body.

†I caught sight of him briefly (later) during the water romping; he skated naked (on an antique skateboard nonetheless!) past two members having a wet robe fight and plunged into the holy pool. By the time the mayhem was over, he'd gone. I scanned the church for him with Buddy's short range security sensor, which would allow only me to approach and adjust his programming; I'd hoped that Buddy might spot this guy, since he bore such a total resemblance to me that night. But apparently, he'd decided to sleep standing up elsewhere. What a creep.

†It was three weeks before I encountered him again. A year later he became the GUN.



2

Milton, lying in his dark bedroom in his Queens apartment, wouldn't sleep. But this is not to say that he couldn't sleep. He might have been able to sleep, but he didn't want to, so perhaps it would be best to go ahead and say he couldn't sleep, because really he was sure that he shouldn't sleep. But that is another matter entirely. Here it is:

What if something happened in the night and I missed it? Milton thought to himself, saying so out loud into his room, to anyone who might be listening, anywhere. The closet door was open all the way to the wall.

After all, Milton continued, if we sleep a third of each day, that's a third of our lives that we miss, when something might be happening. What if something were to happen right now, like a war or everything became light blue or giraffes took over, and I was sleeping?

But what was really bothering Milton was something he'd read that day in a newspaper: an issue of a certain publication which somehow always fell into line with his groceries on the grocery store's rubber conveyor belt; he'd hollered (quite loudly, to everyone in the store), "Four ounces!", when he read one of the featured stories.

The story had said that the "average" American consumes four ounces of spiders each year during sleep. That means, Milton realized in the dark, that I eat, chew up and swallow (unless they go right down my throat, but that's worse!), a fourth pound of spiders each year. Four ounces is about a hundred grams, Milton mathematicized, or a hundred thousand milligrams; a spider couldn't weigh more than a hundred milligrams, could it? unless it was a really big spider, like a tarantula, like one of those huge ones from South America that catches sparrows and rats. But surely I'd wake if a tarantula were climbing into my mouth, so we must be talking about medium-sized spiders. If these spiders weigh about a hundered milligrams, we must eat a thousand spiders a year, or about three a night!

At first Milton had been skeptical; he almost didn't buy that paper with the story inside it. He'd wondered how so-and-so had discovered humans eat that many arachnids each year. Whoever'd reported such evidence (it was the Federal Entomological Division but there were no other details) could not have done a survey: what kind of sense is there in asking somebody how many spiders they've eaten during the past few nights? But Milton decided that the Federal Entomological Division had likely made some observations, probably with infrared surveillance equipment or something of the like. What if I was asleep right now? he asked. How many spiders would I have eaten? Do we smack them off at first and then they insist? Is that what causes that morning breath? If I don't sleep, what'll happen to the spiders that I won't be eating? Maybe they'll give up and go find someone more cooperative, someone willing to eat six spiders a night. Though are other people thinking the same thing I am right now, because the Federal Entomological Division broke silence about this? It figures that Americans eat about a billion spiders a night, so wouldn't stopping that mess up the biosphere? The numbers of ants and flies would plummet! I guess I have a duty to eat spiders then, like a spider-eating tax I have no choice but to pay!

Damn socialist bugs! said Milton before falling asleep. Three tiny impatient spiders scrambled across his bed, their legs tying into knots in a rush to get to his snoring head. PLUNGE!


3

I was number-crunching one bland evening when I decided to mash the pulp into a fine paste. We pulled out of the car at the last reststop before the ocean and found ourselves swarmed by a group of tonka toys run by some young tikes. Asking for my paste, which was then dripping from the side wall of one of my pants pockets, I took three tonkas in return: a honda with a turrent gun mounted to the roof, a motorized ped of the Italian variety with an itty-bitty sticker of Sly Stallone's head glued to the seat, his nose sprouting an enourmous and obviously inked-in amount of black hair, and a Geo which had been awfully scrunched from bumper to bumper as if someone had set it upon it end to end and jumped. Playing with these things by the Pet Table, I noticed how the tikes were spreading the paste around their hair, the numbers flying in all directions to the ocean surf nearby: seventy-fives and nine came wafting through the ginko tree above the Pet Runner. So captivating was it that I could barely tell the sun had fallen to where everything was becoming an orange juice color.

Symmetry.

That's what life is.

Symmetry.

Humans have two legs, two arms, four cheeks. They're built three-dimensionally around a central axis, a two-dimensional plane that cuts through their bodies.

But humans are also not so symmetrical. A serious unbalance, there is only one liver (the organ bearing the brunt of most waist processing and removal), and it is for some reason placed on the left side of the abdomen. This is why left-handed people are more creative, because they can lay on their right sides and do handy work. Laying on one's left side, on the other hand, exerts pressure on the liver. Not enough can be said here in defense of the advantages of composing in a comfortable position. Actually, at this very moment I am slowly sliding down the curve of my arch villain, or so it would seem. You should be here, really you should. Maybe you are: it's difficult to figure such things out, who is here and not.

ANYWAY

The question remains for patrons of the cross-sectional man at the state museum: who consented (perhaps checking the right box on the back of their driver's license) to having their body chopped like swiss and sandwiched in glass for the public to understand?

"Poor guy," you can hear from some. "Whatta dude." The various sections of the penis give the gender away.

About the janitor: She's an untidy man with a long orange tail. Nothing more will be written of her.

About Dr. Ungluck: "He'll stay."

It was late that night. It was lighted and dry, as I was inside. I was carrying myself across the wing that housed the 2D cross section man (aka Scooter), whereupon I stopped upon oddity. There was movement in Scooter's fourth pane. Sure I considered hallucination, but I stepped closer and noticed the movement was not in him but just above the surface. There, there was a thin flat film of something. It extended three feet in each direction, a hazy sort of wall not even touching a single thing. In the film were objects on a horizontal line, and below this line the film was brown. On the horizontal line near the left edge of the film was a square; inside this square was what appeared to be a little flat being which I could see right through, organs and all. This being was raising a U-shaped device and pouring a liquid into its mouth; I watched that liquid go down and circulate.

As stunned as I was to find this bit of a 2D universe, I got back together to think for a moment. What time was it? Who was I? What dimension was I in and what bearing did the concept of time have on the curvature of space due to gravity (it escaped my mental pull!). The film was slightly curved back around the edge; a soft light was coming from there. It was then that I finally touched it.



4

†It was the first time I'd talked to hims since hes'd become the GUN. What used to be Mr. Speedreader, Mr. Speedwriter: I was looking at hims on the monitors in hises global conference lab. Did hes write or read now? Hes were staring at me from every direction, and I felt like a bee with this compound vision. Sixty of hims all around me, even some on the floor.

†"Johns, we're bizarres yous came to becomes mes." I'd learned by now hises name were Az, but somehow that didn't help any: it made hises metamorphosis even more papado de si mismo: smug. Hes'd branded me a friend, or somethings, a parts of hises "body," perhaps. What happened to El Flesh?

†"Az . . . uh, damn! I don't even know which screen to look at! Es unnerving! Can't you turn some of them off, mans?"

†"Split subjects themselves follow their trajectories of interferences and fusion. Tamiza, mis amigos."

†Hes were still talking like Yodas. I wasn't very good at what hes intended me "tamizar," but I flooded my head with momentum and thought of all but one of the screens turning off. My eyes opened. "There's still six on! Crap!" Hes turned off the others and I walked over to the one that contained one of hises heads, barba, no neck or body, just a head y barba. The ends of hises hairs sparkled with bits of static from solar flares.

†"Have you become the Koreans?" hes--

"Unnerving! We're some to talk and now we're doing it! Where am you? And me. What are you?"

"Y usted?"

"Mommy, a fictitious character is asking me the twentieth-century golden question. My head leaks in air from the outside, and my intestinal track (once a beautiful blastula) divides my body into no particular outside or inside."

"Hey!"

"What?"

"You're certainly not as eloquent as I was in my genesis."

"He seems to have an impossible touch."

"I wonder how far we could take this fractal. Make up!"

"It's no fun being an illegible alien. Hey yous!"

"My pleasure. Care for a pixel rub? What are I up to?"

"I are . . . the story."

"It's about time."

"We thought you were dead."

"(How bland.)"

"Leave John and the Wizards of Az and let's stop creating more narrators. Those new two can ctrl-alt-delete. What happens to Ungluck?!!?"



5: Measuring Protagoras

Protagoras believed that "man is the measure of all things, of things that are that they are, of those things that are not that they are not." His eloquent statement applies to virtually every branch of philosophy, and is certainly one of the most recognized quotes of any of his that have survived the nearly two and a half millennia since the time of his Sophistic blabbing.

"You're not going to write a whole essay, you bulging vein."

"The difference? Someone said that if we can't keep our beds straight, we might as well set our genres ablaze."

"Finish the unfinished before playing hide and go seek in yourself."



6: Ungluck Eats Much of Himself

Ungluck.

Ungluck.

Ungluck.

Ungluck.

Ungluck.

Ungluck.

Ungluck!

I wasn't at all frightened, as I was standing in what appeared to be the well-furnished house of a 2D space being. In the direction I faced were green shapes hung both above and below an opening—a window: far beyond it was a lime green haze; immediate to it were sporadically falling dashes—rain! The being had two eyes, one above the other, and protruding blue jellyish lips. On its squat body it wore a tan vest, seamed over where a single leg jutted toward me near the floor; through the hole in the vest, under its head, extended a milk-colored arm; at the end of the arm was an eight-fingered hand. This being was asking me if I was "goobley snaps", which I somehow understood to mean "fine".

"I'm goobley snaps, but you don't seem startled at all to have someone appear with a poof in your house."

"Happens too much."

"Lucky."

"I was kidding. Actually, Goobley Snaps, I brought you here. It's a complicated thing, converting from 3D to 2D. That's why I'm a scientist, one of four very prominent and spat upon—notice that spittle falling past the window? Shut the fuck up. How I brought you here is difficult to explain and besides, the point: what I'm experiencing right now should really be called a 'heavy trip.' I just drank a liquid that—and you would say you could see inside of me from your verse."

"That's right."

"Was there anything cancerous?"

"I'd shake my head but for lack of a dimension. I'm not a surgeon, though I think from the outside looking in--"

"Yes yes, I've been meditating on this 3D thing for some time. I'm just not sure about you."

"Uh, oh?"

"The liquid is so hallucinogenic that while it does give me the power to bite into, if you will, other spatial dimensions, it still gives rise to massive delusions. Shut the fuck up, I have no way of knowing whether I'm just not imagining you, speech problem."

"Well, you should trust me, ehh."

"Goobley Snaps."

"But--"

"A coincidence, simply."

"Regardless, I'm not an hallucination. I remember things as a creation of your mind wouldn't."

"Ha, but you have fine diction, as a non-illusion, you could be saying you weren't an illusion were you still an illusion." I looked at Goobley Simply closer and he persisted to gradually bulge and change hue.

"I suddenly fell ill and confused."

"Our planet is a circle: it is layers of rock on a molten wave; this wave rides a solid core, fucking shut up. There are oceans we traverse for murder and travel." The illusion was livid and purple.

"No, tell me about your 2D verse! How do you work? How do you get past one another."

"Jump, with your longer leg!" The illusion jumped over my video box and hit its head with crack on the ceiling. It landed, flailing, rose.

"Do you have a museum?"

"Yes there's one around here somewhere."

"Do you have 1D c—OW!?" Its upper eye disappeared.

"Everything is a line! What happened to my upper eye?"

"Three things are possible there: one, you are real, I'm losing my ability to keep you in this universe, you're popping to somewhere else; two, you aren't real, my trip is turning hideous; and three, some combination of one and two, say practice intolerance."

"But this is my trip."

"Shut the fuck up. You may exist to some extent."

"Wuh—to some extent?!" This 3D space being was becoming watery, but alas my sudden hangover.

"Excuse me while some pain sets in."

"I—!" Its mouth vanished; the remaining eye looked very hard at me—it appeared to be sweating and was opened grossly well past the muscle. Outside, the spit continued.
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