Synecdoches

‘Hum hu hee hahaha hee hee hee… See that girl what’s that dre-eam, dancing the dance of her life. SEE THAT GIR… no that’s not right.’

‘Let me try.’

‘Fine.’

‘From the top.’

‘…’

‘From the top! A one – a two.’

‘Fine… Hum hu hee hahaha hee hee hee…’

‘You can dance… You can da-ance. Dancing the time of your li-ife. See that girl, see that da-ance, dancing… no I lost it. What else you got on there?’

‘Hum, Stairway to Heaven? By the Beatles, the Beatles? No. ‘

‘Ha! One, it’s Stairwell to Heaven, two…’

‘Definitely not Stairwell, you crazy? Stairwell to Heaven…’

‘Really? Weeelll… you learn a little something every…’

‘Shush. Hum. Let me vibe one out.’

‘Okay.’

‘Doubadibidibidabadou. Aaaaat first I was afraid, I was horrified…’

‘Petrifi…’

‘…petrified, I kept thinking I could never live without you in my eyes.’

‘But then I spent so many days and night… days and night…’

‘But then I spent so many time thinking how you done me wrong, and I grew strong’

‘And I learned how to be alone! Solo!’

‘PApa papa PApa palapa palapa palapa, palapa PA palapa… And so you’re back, from outer space…’

‘Outer SPACE yeah!’

‘What?’

‘Outer SPACE yeah!’

‘I just walked in… I just walked in… ah fuck it… ‘

‘…soupi soupi that sad look all in your face…’

‘Nah. It’s good… Mary stop. We’re good.’

‘What why? Are you crying?’

‘I fucking hate this place.’

‘Yeah me too.’

‘…’

‘Fuck outer space.’

Ξ

‘God I hate gloop.’

‘Check this out though.’ He chucked his gloop against the wall. It bounced back awkwardly before smacking flatly onto the floor. She was about to turn back to her notepad when he brandished a finger in her face. ‘Wait! Wait wait wai… there!’

As Mary watched, the gloop started sliming its way back towards his bowl like a sad submissive animal.

‘Whaa..?! How did you even discover that? Why would you even… Is it… moping? Feels suuper wrong.’

‘Fine. Yeah you’re right.. no it’s cool, it’s cool, your right.’ Thomas got up, walked over to his gloop, bent down as though to inspect it from reeaally close, and slurped it right through his left nostril, whereafter he coughed it back into his mouth and started chewing on it.

‘Bruup..!’ she gagged. ‘Christ that’s gross… Huh.’ She shook her head trying to etcha-sketch the memory from her mind. ‘That’s it,’ she said. ‘That’s IT! I’m keeping mine as a pet. From now on I’m a vegetarian!’

‘Heeheeheehee.. Ha! Hahahaha. That’s good! You’re good! Hoo…’ in his glee, he almost choked on his gloop. ‘Your face right now! Hahaha!’

‘I’m serious.’

‘…hehehe…’

‘Maybe they don’t know that we eat. You know? Maybe they just thought we needed company.’

‘Huh. Good point.’ He rested his bowl on the floor, pensive. ‘We should include that in the archives. Wanna do it or should I?’

‘I got it.’

Ξ

‘What is it you reckon?’

‘I dunno.’

‘Has it always been there?’

‘I can sort of remember seeing it. It feels familiar to me.’

‘Does it?’

‘Yeah. You sure we didn’t have one of these around the house… you know… growing up?’

‘I would definitely remember if we did.’

‘I mean look at it. I don’t think it’s… I’m going to pick it up.’

‘Don’t.’

‘No no it’s fine. I’ve got this.’

‘Thomas don’t. D…’

‘There. It’s done. Let me just…’

‘Tom…’

‘I’ll just put it in my pocket and…’

‘TOM!’

‘WHAT!?’

‘There’s two of them now.’

‘Oh.’

‘Yeah.’

‘No it’s fine I’ll just…’

‘No!’

‘There. I’ll just put it in with the other one and we can… Oh.’

‘Yeah. What did you think was gonna…’

‘I don’t know! I don’t know. Shit now it’s looking at me.’

‘Noooo. No no no. No it’s not!’

‘Totally is.’

‘Tom, no it’s not looking… hey don’t touch that… TOM!’

‘What!?.. Oh.’

‘I’m out.’

‘Why? It’s fine! I’ve had one of these since I was a kid. I’m pretty sure. I’ll just put it in my pocket with the other… hey where you going Mary? Mary… we can share, I can…. Mary!’

‘…’

‘God. Can you believe her?’

‘…’

‘Right?’

‘…’

‘Yeah you’re right, she’s always been this way, hasn’t she?’

‘…’

‘Well, at least we have each other. Come on let me put you in my pock.. oh, hey there little buddy! What are you doing on the ground all alone?’

Ξ

‘My friend! Helloo!’

The space they inhabit is almost limitlessly vast. If not in the mere sense of its dimension at least in its complexity. It took a while for the two to grow accustomed to not seeing each other all the time.

‘Mary, I was thinking… wow when did you learn to work that… machine?’

Mary sat at the helm of a loom of some sort, unbound, working with a complex glowing woven web that floated mid-air. As Thomas found his way closer to her, he could see that she was halfway merged in with the weaves, so immersed into her world of floating strands that he dared not disturb her, in case, god forbid, he break her concentration. Instead, he leaned back and bounced a gloop against a flat section of a hollow root system that extended in all directions from the floor.

Mee-meep. Mee-meep. Mee-meep.

His mind carried him back to the carpet where, as a kid, Mary would spend days deep into her world, making collages and solving puzzles.

‘Classic,’ he mumbled.

Mee-meep. Mee-meep.

‘Wonder what she eats.’

Meep meep meh.

‘Huh? Hey, come back here. Fine, run away you little twerp.’ He turned to Mary and watched her a while, studying the majestic severity of her ways.

‘Must be peaceful,’ he muttered.

Just then, Mary stretched and leaned out of the loom. She reached over to a bowl with some kind of thick growth spilling over the brim. She slurped on it pensively, studying the work she had just left behind. Once satisfied, she took in her surroundings, waking to the mysterious ever-changing world around her.

‘Oh, hey.’

‘Oh, hey?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Mary, I haven’t seen you in months. Is it months? I don’t even know.’

‘…’

‘…’

‘Hey, slight change of subject, when’s the last time you slept?’

She stepped over to a crooked rock shelf where a leathery substance pulsed with a dull light, in silence. She picked up a sharp, tiny rake-looking instrument and began scratching the surface of the leathery skin slab, collecting some sort of the sprouts that came shooting out.

‘I don’t know, Mary…’ he said indifferently. ‘When’s the last time you were awake?’

‘Good point. Yup. Oh shit, what’s that thing on your arm?’

‘What, this? Well.. huh, I’m not sure really. But check this out,’ he said aiming his hand at the wall. The apparatus immediately came alive, blinking and whining. And then, a gloop shot out. It hit the wall dully, slimed slowly to the floor and started inching its way back towards him dejectedly.

‘Ah come on! Really?’

‘Waaaait… Waaaaaiiit!’

The apparatus animated itself again, he shot 4 more gloops against the wall.

‘Enough! You know I thought you would have spent this time doing some actual work…’

‘Waaaaaiiiit! Will you just…’ He pressed his index finger against his thumb, with a sigh of annoyance. ‘Unbelievable… So little patience, so little faith.’

When he parted his fingers a thin red line drooped between them like a stretched-out chewing gum.

‘Huh? How about now eh?’ he said with a gin, revelling for a second in her intrigue. ‘Listen,’ he said. He brought the chewing gum closer to one of the gloops and simply dangled the string over it.

‘Meep. Meep. Meh.’

‘Preeetty cool right!?’

The other gloops then joined in with the chorus.

‘Meep. Meep. Meh. Meh. Mep. Meep.’

‘Now watch this. Hoowie you’re going to love this part!’

He stretched the chewing gum substance and began tracing the exoskeleton of a three-dimensional chair. Immediately, the gloops began sliming their way towards it chanting in rhythmic unison.

‘Meep. Meep. Meeeeeh. Meep. Meeep. Meeeeeh.’

When the design was complete, he stepped back proudly and let the gloops go to work. At first contact with the chewing gum chair, they began sticking horribly to it. Desperately, painfully, they crawled over one another and stretched themselves out over the frame, all the while whining hideously. But their attraction to the sticky substance was just too great and they couldn’t help but keep stretching out to the very limit of their fabric.

He grinned, obviously satisfied at his masterpiece, and keeping his eyes focused on the work at hand, he shot another gloop straight into his free hand and began mowing on its rubbery flesh indifferently.

‘Ta-da! There you go Mary! It’s a… chaaair,’ he said airily, waving his fingers magically in the air.

‘…’

‘A… chaaaair.’

‘…’

‘What..?’

‘You don’t honestly expect me to sit on that.. on that thhING do you?’

‘Well.. why the hell not? They worked really hard to make it for you.’

‘…’

‘Mary, it’s a perfectly good piece of furniture. Watch.’

But Mary didn’t watch. Disgusted, she put the bowl down and turned back to her work mumbling her exasperation. Trying with all her might not to hear the squeaking of the gloops as Thomas settled into the chair.

Ξ

‘What’s wrong?’

‘Nothing, brrrp! I just ate a bad gloop. Brrrp! Hey, isn’t it crazy that after all this time you stop noticing that, you know, that we’re upside down?’

‘What?’

‘…’

‘Upside… what are you talking about.’

‘…no nothing. Forget about it.’

‘No wait what? Haha you thought…’

‘You’re stupid Mary.’

‘Hahaha me? Stu.. haha! Stupid?’

‘…’

‘What are you talking about Tom?’

‘…’

‘Tom? Are we..? Wait, what? You’re serious, aren’t you? Tom?’

Slowly, suspiciously, she eyed every single thing around her.

‘How…,’ she lowered her voice and continued in a conspirational whisper, ‘how can you tell?’

‘Yeah, well I guess it’s hard to notice looking at me, he slid a hand over his shaved head, but see, look, look at your hair.’

‘My… hair?’

Ξ

Tom snapped his fingers.

‘I saaiid, isn’t it annoying Mary, that…’

‘Annoying Tom..?’

Tom had a gloop tied to the end of a chewing gum string, like a yo-yo, performing tricks. You can tell his patience was stretching thin.

‘When is this?’ he asked suddenly, looking around.

‘When Tom?’

Tom ignored her. He walked around evaluating the growth of the life-forms in the vicinity. He closed an eye and turned his head sideways. Mary could barely focus her attention on her brother anymore. She would whisper things unconsciously and the weave around them would shift so that she could inspect a few particular variations in the thread of an obscure area. Satisfied, she would dispel the thread and find herself drowned deep in thought anew, browsing her mind for other revisions which required so little a level of concentration that she could perform them while attending to the needs of Tom. The needs of Tom. The needs of Tom. The needs of Tom. The words repeating in her head like a mantra.

‘Mary!’

‘Yes, Tom? Please don’t yell Tom… It makes… it makes my threads quiver.’

‘Yes well, anyway, look over there.’

The needs of Tom. The needs of Tom.

‘Isn’t it annoying to think that if I step over there, we’ve already found the solution to all our problems?’

The needs of Tom.

‘But then as I step closer, the solution becomes farther out of reach because I’m not actively working on resolving our problems?’

The needs of Tom. The needs of… ‘What?’

‘Right?’

‘No… What’s… what’s over there Tom?’

‘It’s us, Mary, look.

‘Us?’

‘Later us. I think…’

Tom closed an eye and looked sideways.

Ξ

As Tom sat there on his gloop throne, staring into his sister’s world, a thought travelled his mind and didn’t find a home. Just who was this Mary person? He produced a gloop, whispered something to it and then chucked it with all his might against an obelisk of stone. Nothing. In their rare encounters of late, Mary’s mind had seemed veiled, only partially present. It had become difficult for her to stray from her loom. Her workings had become so intricate, that they completely escaped the grasp of his imagination. As the glowing weave expanded, as it grew to encompass most of her surrounding area; so had her focus found itself applied to ever-diminishing areas, to the most minuscule of details. A pull, so to speak, in the fabric could occupy her for days. Watching her, he couldn’t help but feel anachronistic and, well, useless.

Tom adjusted a few dials on his arm and produced another gloop. Different this time, darker, more concentrated. He whispered the same instructions to it and chucked again with all his might against the stone obelisk.

‘Hmm.’

He hesitated, then stood up and sauntered over to the splatter on the wall. He stretched a strand of chewing gum along the circumference of the gloop’s exploded innards, waited a few moments for the neuronic mass concentrated there to expand as it was drawn equally to the circle of chewing gum. Then, something of a portal materialised. He stepped through it and was gone.

Ξ

‘Hey, Thomas?’

‘What.’

Squatting low to the floor under the rain, huddled into little balls of abandon, they leaned against each other, drenched to their bones.

‘I don’t think it’s raining over there.’

She got up. Thomas followed her with his eyes. She glanced into the distance through the rain. He glanced too. Mary sniffled and squatted down again, silent.

‘Well, it’s definitely raining over here,’ he said, and they carried on crouching, laughing quietly to themselves, pitiful like dogs in the mud.

‘Tom, I think we should document Earth.’

‘Hmm.’ Tom stared pensively into the rain.

‘What?’

‘No, no. It’s just… Mary, how sure are you that that’s one of your ideas?’

‘…’

‘You know what I mean?’

‘Hmm…’

‘I mean, if someone or…,’ he scanned their surroundings with his eyes, ‘something… were to whisper that idea to your mind, how would you know it was really yours?’

‘Well, you wouldn’t I guess.’

‘Right.’

They crouched a while more, in wet silence. A gloop came floating past on a stream of rainwater. They watched it as it drifted by, then disappeared.

‘What was that?’ Mary asked.

‘Dunno,’ said Tom.

‘Are we the last of our kind Tom?’

‘…’

‘Tom?’

‘I don’t know! I don’t know… It doesn’t make any sense. Why us?’

‘…’

‘Why you?’ he whispered pensively to himself.

She craned her neck back to look at him.

‘What did you just say?’

He didn’t answer, and for a moment, Mary couldn’t tell whether he was shivering or laughing.

‘Why ME? Why ME? You dirty…’

She slapped him square in the back of the neck.

‘… piece…’

He ducked as she slapped him again in the back of the head.

‘… of…’

Tom broke out laughing, and after a few moments, she joined in, still offended at first, then wholeheartedly. And for a brief instant, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope for humankind.

‘I meeaaan… They’ll get a pretty strange idea of humans, if we’re the sample subjects.’

‘I know… What do we know? But what if they get something. Something… useful. Something they can use against us? Humanity.’

‘Oh, I don’t think so Mary… And plus what if you’re right. What if we’re the last of our kind?’

‘Right…’

‘Wouldn’t you want to give the world a good obituary?’

‘Right.’

‘Oh, what the hell, Mary. Let’s give the bastards something to chew on.’

‘Right!’

‘What songs do you know?’

‘Dancing Queen!’

‘Urgh…’

When the rain eventually came to pass, both looked around slightly unsettled by the shift in their discomfort. Thomas stood first and offered his hand. Together they began stepping stiffly out of their clothes, and for the first time, they caught a few passing glimpses of each other’s naked bodies. Mary’s breasts drooped almost imperceptibly, one most of all. Thomas’ penis was shrivelled and a little off to one side. Exposed, yet chiefly indifferent, the two parted ways.

And so began their archives of Earth.

Ξ

Tom stepped out of a portal into a marsh of sorts.

‘Great…’

He excreted two gloops out of his hand and stretched them over his sneakers up to his calves. He looked around perplexed. He sighed and a few cubes, smaller than thimbles, tumbled from his mouth into an adjacent puddle. Quickly, he reverse-sighed, caught them before they entered his mouth and crushed them in the palm of his hand for good luck.

‘Never too careful, Tom, old boy!’ he mumbled to himself. ‘Now, is this the place?’

He whispered a few words into a third gloop and smashed it against the ground. A crude map slowly took shape from the gloop remains. From the resulting low-relief, he established his position. He opened his mouth wide but then thought twice and yawned through his nose. He took a last glimpse at the map, uneager to set off into the damp obscurity.

Thoop.

A fourth gloop came rushing out and he chewed on it apathetically.

‘It’s a sad and beautiful world,’ he shouted with an Italian accent and affectation. ‘It’s e sed,’ he shouted again, ‘and biutifool worrld!’ Smiling now, he began his journey across the interstellar swamp to find the last of the eight spheres.

Ξ

‘Oh.’

Her surprise was weightless as though the answer had been so simple, so completely obvious that it had never crossed her mind. She put her food down. The small oval bowl wobbled as it settled on the floor, wish-washing the algaeic translucent gelatin floating in a clouded fluid. And with a few rough sweeps and dexterous thread-throughs, she brought her work to an end.

With a final tug, the immense tangled mess of glowing yarn ravelled itself into a tighter and tighter sphere until its density became such that it very much resembled the heart of a star. She dove deep into a box at her side and dragged out a velvet cloth as dark as the emptiness of space and very delicately veiled the bright orb from sight. Mary sighed. Her mind was suddenly imbued with such clarity, that she felt as though she had awoken from a deep eternal slumber.

‘Now,’ she spoke aloud to herself. ‘Where is Tom?’

So long had she been swallowed whole by her work, that she could barely recognize her surroundings. She studies the life-forms of all dimensions and intricacies that had grown so reliant on the warm glow of her loom, that now in its sudden absence, she felt at the centre of a new world destined to wither and die. Yet she did not quite feel guilt nor empathy. Rather, she felt a detached curiosity at the novelty of it all.

‘Tom Tom Tom.’

Unable to decide whether to set out in search of her brother or to await his return, she sat to finish her food.

‘Tom Tom Tom.’

‘Yes?’

‘Haaashooo!’

‘What.’

‘You scared me. How long have you been… here?’

Tom stepped out of a wall where buzzed and whirred a dazzling array of incandescent bulbs, and dials, and meters, of which he had come to form an integral part. A few cables and wires retracted into the wall. Whisks of vapour rose and dissipated in his wake.

‘Oh Tom… What hhhappened to you, Tom?’

‘I’m tired, Mary.’

Mary could not believe how much her brother had changed. She saw, as though for the first time, the extent of the mechanical transformations that had slowly crept from her brother’s arm to cover now the better part of his entire body, and she knew that she wasn’t talking to her brother any longer. Not completely. She could not help but wonder just how much time had elapsed since she had last seen her brother, or indeed since their abduction from Earth, and whether time was of any relevance in the matter. She too had changed, after all. Her work had left her small, frail and aged. Unrecognizable.

To Tom, she had become more akin to a distant memory, the authenticity of which he had very much come to doubt.

‘You can feel it too. Mary?’

‘Y..yes? She cleared her throat. Yes.’

‘They are… impatient. It’s time. Time to bring this thing to an end.’

His sleeveless long coat exposed most dramatically his wiry and wired arms, as he mechanically opened a portal and stepped through to the other side. Mary followed resolute, mostly nervous, holding tight the burning orb inside her pocket. Stepping through into the damp darkness, she held her faded red coat against her delicate frame. She shivered. Tom’s footsteps echoed in the long hollow corridor. Together they set off towards a bright light in the distance. Their shadows, travelling behind them, seemed not to reflect their respective transformations. There walked Mary and Tom, like they once were. The roaring hush of an unfelt wind filled their ears.

‘Tom? Tom!’ Mary cried, though she herself could barely hear the sound of her voice. Tom pushed on, unnoticing.

They reached an immense hall, overwhelmingly vast. Above, one single and formidable source of light showered down from a dome in the ceiling. As they moved along, the whole ancient library whirled and pivoted along many axes, so that it would have been impossible for them to arrive at any other point in space than the one seemingly assigned to them. Tom walk on, tall and solemn. Many shadows shifted and disappeared as the great source of light above came to settle directly upon them as they arrived at the opposing wall.

With a deep shudder, the world around them ground to a halt. A profound silence fell, leaving only the sound of Mary’s last footsteps to resound majestically into the void.

Tom reached deep inside his coat pockets and dredged up a few scrolls which he slid methodically into a few empty slots in the wall, each precisely in their own place. Neither of them wondered how he had come by this knowledge. He reached again inside his coat and proceeded to set into orbit the eight dull spheres he had collected. One by one. Slowly and with much ceremony, he whispered to each as he released them. And one by one they came to life. A wondrous sight unfolded.

‘Oh,’ Mary whispered under her breath, touched by the spectacle.

Tom wearily reached his hand out towards her. And for a second Mary caught a glimpse of her brother hidden beneath all the wires and augmentations. As he once had been.

‘I’m sorry things had to end this way, Tom.’

Mary reached into her pocket and pulled out the black velvet cloth. She bent low and set the orb down on the floor.

‘Go on now…’

Mary looked up at her brother. His cold detached tone sending a few tears rolling down her cheek. This was no longer her brother.

‘Go on now, go!’

She turned to leave as her orb began rising to meet the others. The rushing sound returned to her ears as the world began pivoting anew. She hesitated a second and looked back. Through the blur of her weeping eyes, she saw her brother surrounded by the many wildly rotating orbs. He had already begun to disappear.

‘Just turn around now,’ she hummed to herself and a smile crossed her fading shivering lips.

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