Ανικητη

Staircase

Image: Ⓒ Roxane Kokka

Author: Roxane Kokka

Ανίκητη

My aunt had always been a person of wonders. While growing up, I remember her running up and down the stairs in her huge old house, regardless of her age or the grey color of her hair. Not to mention, she had one of those wide staircases with tall steps, similar to the ones you see in old movies. She ran like that to answer her old greyish-beige whirred rotary dial phone. And she would have this old piano with all the white keys turned yellow that apparently survived a bombing (well, some of the keys actually broke but she never bothered to have them repaired). Nevertheless, that did not stop her from singing, and she had one of the most moving voices I ever heard. Without her needing to be in any sorrowful state of mind (especially around my siblings and me who she loved as if we were her grandchildren), whenever we asked her to sing, I was fascinated by how quickly she changed from laughing, gossiping and telling stories to singing songs with great nostalgia and melancholy, but nevertheless sublime tones in her voice. It was as though each sound that escaped from her lips managed to find a way deep down into your chest and fill you with awe.

As I said before, my aunt used to tell us all kinds of stories. Some were of pure invention, such as the fictional “naughty boy called Peter” who, according to her, was the one always ripping her sheets whenever my sister and I asked her about the holes in the bedsheets she lent us. There was also the story of that time she jumped out of a car window after the driver told her that the breaks were not working. I do not know if that story is true or not, but I would not be surprised if it were, especially after I found out a few years ago that she refused to go to the hospital when she broke her arm. That was a true story, along with the ones about her experiences of World War II and the Greek Civil War. There was, for instance, that time when a shooting took place in the street right outside her parents’ summer home she was staying in alone that summer, which was all on one floor and full of windows. She recalled hiding in the fireplace because it was the only part of the house that remained intact from the bullets shattering the windows, as they simply crossed right in front of it. My aunt also told me that if it were not for Hitler, she would not have been able to finish her education. As she was the eldest girl in the family, her mother did not want her to finish school in order to keep her at home to do all the hard work in the fields and chores around the house (this was, back then, the fate of most eldest daughters in Greek families living on islands or in the countryside). But her father, you see, was a headmaster and teacher, and during the war, when the island was under Italian rule and children were not allowed to go to school or work in the fields, her father, the only one allowed to enter the school, took her with him and gave her private lessons. My aunt also told me that, unlike most women of her time, if it were not for her marriage, she would have never earned her independence. At forty-five she broke free from her tyrannical mother thanks to her husband. At forty-five she was finally allowed to move out of her parents’ house and stop working in the fields like a slave or take care of her healthy parents as if she were a nurse. At forty-five she would never get beaten again by her parents for coming back home past midnight, even at the age of thirty.

My aunt died last year. The funniest thing was that I thought she never would. I knew she was mortal alright, but I always thought that she would die at a hundred and fourteen (like her grandfather) instead of ninety-four. She survived two wars while she was a teenager and young adult. She jumped out of a car running down a mountain out of control. At the age of ninety-two she broke her arm and refused to go to the hospital – my uncle had to drag her there. At ninety-three she was still running up and down the staircase in her husband’s big, old house. At ninety-four she had breast cancer and did not even feel concerned by it and apparently did not even need to – it did not put her life in danger. At ninety-four all of the doctors she saw were impressed with how much energy she had and how well her brain and speech worked for a woman of her age. She was quick and she was sharp. Even at ninety-four. I do not know what exactly killed her. All I know is that it was neither her cancer nor the current pandemic. And I do not want to know. I will always remember her as the strongest woman I have ever known. Invincible.

The Man Behind the Sheep: an Interview with UNIL’s Shepherd, Bob Martin

Image: © Bob Martin

Authors: Mégane Spicher, Katharina Schwarck

 

One fine day in April, the university’s shepherd, Bob Martin, generously agreed to meet us in front of his sheepfold to answer our questions and explain all about his sheep. [version française en-dessous]

 

Image: Deux Nez-Noirs au Géopolis © Katharina Schwarck

 

Could you say a few words about yourself, who you are, and why you are here?

My name is Bob Martin, I’m the university shepherd, and I’ve been looking after the sheep at the university since about 2013-2014. I’m in my forties, and then before this fabulous job I was a car mechanic. Yes, a radical change of profession, because I was a bit fed up with it, I felt that I had done all I could with that job, and then I wanted to work with animals, especially dogs. That’s where I found this job that does a bit of both.

How long have you been looking after sheep?

I’ve been looking after sheep since I started here. It was all new to me. So since 2011 I’ve been in the sheep business a bit, and then in 2014 I took over the university flock.

Is there a certain breed of sheep, a certain kind of sheep that you have?

Yes, I currently have two breeds of sheep: the Nez-Noirs du Valais and the Roux du Valais. The Roux du Valais were originally endangered and the Nez-Noirs I chose for aesthetics, because I love them and they’re a bit like plushies. I thought it would be nice to have a couple of plushies around the university. 

What do they look like? How do we recognize them?

Well, the Nez-Noirs are quite easy, hence their name: they are all white with black noses and then they have black spots on all their joints. And then the Roux du Valais are red. And the little bonus of these two breeds is that the females and the males have horns.

Oh yes! Because here I see some of them and they all have horns!

Yes, they (“elles”, French feminine form) all have horns.

Ah, they are all females! And I see that you also use dogs. How do you work with them?

I have three dogs at the moment. I have a little bitch who is 5 months old that I have to train to take over for my very old dog [a dog suddenly becomes concerned and barks] who is now 11 years old. And then there’s Will who’s in the middle, who is 7 years old, he turned 7 this weekend by the way. I always work with two dogs and then I always have a ‘spare’ one in case one gets hurt [it’s still barking] or for other situations.

Do the sheep have names? Or numbers? How are they recognised? What do you call them?

Officially they have a number, a BDTA number. They are registered in a Swiss database. And then all the sheep that have papers have a name and all my favourites have a name too. Let’s say that out of the 260 that I have, there are about a hundred that have names, but I don’t know them all by heart.

So are there some sheep that have a personality, that you can recognise, [the little dog barks] with whom you have a more special relationship?

Absolutely, yes! So I do have what we call my favourite. Punky, she’s called. And she’s also the one I take to classes, to schools, for example, because she’s quite calm [the little dog really wants attention and barks again], and that’s what’s so nice. 

Is she the little one? 

Yes, I haven’t taught her to stop barking yet. We’ll make do. He laughs.

Are there any misconceptions about sheep, or anything we don’t know at all? Something we think about sheep that is not true?

I would say the first misconception is that we always say that we are as stupid as a sheep or that we follow like a sheep. And it’s true that we follow like a sheep, because they are animals who live in a herd. But they are far from stupid, I noticed. When you live with them every day, you can see that they all have their own character, and sometimes their own strong ideas. So that’s what I also find nice about sheep.

Very interesting answer! And why are the sheep at UNIL specifically?

Well, there are sheep everywhere, but it’s also a bit of an emblematic model of the university. Back in the day, UNIL’s land was agricultural land and when they designed the first buildings, they decided to keep this system of sheep on the site. I think the sheep have been on the site since before we were born. I’m the third or fourth shepherd at the university. The sheepfold where the sheep are in winter – I bring them in between Christmas, New Year, until the first of April – this sheepfold that’s just behind us has always been there, so it’s really an iconic building of the university. It was built at the same time as the university buildings.

How do you decide where to put your sheep? Is there a schedule? Do you rotate them around the different parts of the campus?

Yes, we have a plot plan of about 45 plots for grazing on the university. Depending on the season, the growth of the grass, the work on the site, the events, and everything else around the university, we try to organise ourselves as best we can to graze these plots. We go on the plots between two and three times a year.

Are the sheep divided into small groups, or do they usually stay in groups of 260?

Now we have two flocks. There’s a small flock for the small plots of eight to ten sheep, and there’s a large flock that’s between thirty and forty sheep for the large plots.

How did your partnership with UNIL start?

I trained as a shepherd at Châteauneuf, and in this training there was the lady who looked after the sheep at the university. That’s how I got into the system and I had the opportunity to take over the flock.

Wonderful, so you are the successor! Do you use sheep as “natural mowers” elsewhere or only at UNIL?

Well, of my 260 sheep, between 30 and 50 graze at UNIL during the season. With the rest of the sheep, I use exactly the same system in Geneva’s communes, or for the army, for the road service, for civil protection, for many other institutions.

Thank you very much!

Image: © Bob Martin

 

ORIGINAL FRANÇAIS:

Un beau jour d’avril, le berger de l’université, Bob Martin, a généreusement accepté de nous rencontrer devant sa bergerie pour répondre à nos questions et tout expliquer sur ses moutons.

Image: Un Roux du Valais à l’ombre © Katharina Schwarck

 

Est-ce que vous pourriez dire quelques mots sur vous, sur qui vous êtes, sur pourquoi vous êtes là ?

Je m’appelle Bob Martin, je suis le berger de l’université, et puis ça fait environ depuis 2013-2014 que je m’occupe des moutons à l’université. J’ai une quarantaine d’années, et puis avant ce fabuleux métier j’étais mécanicien automobile. Oui, changement radical de métier, parce que j’en avais un peu marre, je sentais que j’avais fait le tour de ce métier-là, et puis je voulais travailler à la base avec les animaux, et surtout les chiens. C’est là où j’ai trouvé ce métier qui fait un peu les deux.

Depuis quand vous occupez-vous de moutons ?

Alors j’ai commencé à m’occuper de moutons en même temps que j’ai commencé ici. C’était tout nouveau pour moi. Donc depuis 2011 je suis un peu dans le monde des moutons, et puis depuis 2014 j’ai repris le troupeau de l’université.

Est-ce qu’il y a une certaine race de moutons, une certaine espèce de moutons que vous avez ?

Alors oui, moi j’ai actuellement deux races de moutons: il y a les Nez-Noirs du Valais et les Roux du Valais. Les Roux du Valais étaient à la base en voie de disparition et puis les Nez Noirs, je les ai surtout pris pour l’esthétique, parce que je les adore et c’est un peu des peluches. Je me suis dit que ça ferait bien autour de l’université d’avoir deux trois peluches. 

A quoi est-ce qu’ils ressemblent ? Comment est-ce qu’on les reconnaît ?

Alors les Nez Noirs c’est assez facile, d’où leur nom: ils sont tout blancs avec le nez noir et puis ils ont les taches de toutes les articulations qui sont noires. Et puis les Roux du Valais sont roux. Et le petit plus de ces deux races là, c’est que les femelles et les mâles ont des cornes.

Ah oui ! Parce que là j’en vois quelques-uns qui ont tous des cornes !

Oui, elles ont toutes des cornes.

Ah ce sont toutes des femelles ! Et je vois que vous utilisez aussi des chiens. Comment travaillez-vous ?

Alors là j’ai actuellement trois chiens. J’ai une petite chienne qui a 5 mois que je dois éduquer pour la relève pour ma toute vieille chienne [un chien se sent tout d’un coup concerné et aboie] de maintenant 11 ans. Et puis il y a le juste milieu Will, qui a 7 ans, qui a eu 7 ans ce weekend d’ailleurs. Et puis je travaille toujours avec deux chiens et puis j’en ai toujours un « de réserve » au cas où il y en a un qui est blessé [et il aboie encore] ou pour d’autres situations.

Est-ce que les moutons ont des noms ? Ou des numéros ? Comment est-ce qu’on les reconnaît ? Comment on les appelle ?

Officiellement, ils ont un numéro, un numéro BDTA. Ils sont enregistrés dans une base de données suisse. Et puis après tous les moutons qui ont des papiers ont un nom et puis toutes mes préférées ont un nom aussi. On va dire que sur les 260 que j’ai, il y en a une centaine qui ont des noms, mais je ne le sais pas tous par cœur.

Donc il y a quand même certains moutons qui ont une personnalité, qu’on peut reconnaître, [la petite chienne aboie] avec qui vous avez une relation plus particulière ?

Tout à fait oui ! Alors j’ai toujours ce qu’on appelle ma préférée. Punky, elle s’appelle. Et puis c’est elle aussi que je prends par exemple dans les classes, dans les écoles parce qu’elle est assez calme [la petite chienne a vraiment envie d’attention et aboie encore], et puis c’est ça qui est chouette. 

C’est elle la toute petite ? 

Oui, je ne lui ai pas encore appris à arrêter d’aboyer. On fera avec. Il rit.

Est-ce qu’il y a des idées reçues sur les moutons, ou quelque chose qu’on ne sait pas du tout ? Quelque chose qu’on pense des moutons alors que c’est pas du tout vrai ?

Je dirais la première idée reçue, on dit toujours qu’on est bête comme un mouton ou qu’on suit comme un mouton. Alors qu’on suit comme un mouton, c’est vrai parce que c’est quand même des animaux qui vivent en troupeau. Mais ils sont quand même loin d’être bêtes, j’ai remarqué. Quand on vit tous les jours avec eux, on voit qu’ils ont tous leur caractère, et puis aussi des fois leurs idées bien tranchées. Donc c’est ça que je trouve aussi sympa dans les moutons.

Très intéressant comme réponse! Et pourquoi les moutons sont à l’UNIL spécifiquement?

Alors, il y a des moutons partout mais c’est aussi un peu le modèle emblématique de l’université. A l’époque, le terrain de l’UNIL était des terres agricoles et quand ils ont dessiné les premiers bâtiments, ils ont décidé de garder ce système de moutons sur le site. Je pense que les moutons sont sur le site depuis avant qu’on soit nés. Je suis le troisième ou le quatrième berger de l’université. La bergerie où les moutons sont en hiver – je les rentre entre Noël, nouvel an, jusqu’au premier avril – cette bergerie qui se trouve juste derrière nous a toujours été là, donc c’est vraiment un bâtiment emblématique de l’université. Elle a été construite en même temps que les bâtiments universitaires.

Comment décidez-vous d’où placer vos moutons? Est-ce qu’il y a un planning? On les fait tourner sur les différentes parties du campus?

Oui, on a un plan parcellaire d’environ 45 parcelles pour brouter sur l’université. En fonction de la saison, de la pousse de l’herbe, des travaux sur le site, des manifestations, de tout ce qu’il y a autour de l’université, on essaye de s’organiser au mieux pour pâturer ces parcelles. On passe entre deux à trois fois par année sur les parcelles.

Est-ce que les moutons sont divisés en petits groupes, ou ils restent généralement en groupe de 260?

Maintenant on fait deux troupeaux. Il y a un petit troupeau pour les petites parcelles entre huit et dix têtes, et il y a un grand troupeau qui est entre trente et quarante têtes pour les grandes parcelles.

Comment a commencé votre partenariat avec l’UNIL?

Alors, pour la petite histoire, j’ai fait la formation de berger à Châteauneuf, et dans cette formation il y avait la dame qui s’occupait des moutons à l’université. Par ce biais-là je suis rentré dans ce système et j’ai eu l’opportunité de reprendre le troupeau.

Magnifique, donc vous êtes le successeur! Est-ce que vous utilisez des moutons comme “tondeuses naturelles” autre part aussi ou qu’à l’UNIL?

Alors, de mes 260 moutons, il y en a entre 30 et 50 qui pâturent à l’UNIL à la saison. Avec le reste des moutons, je fais exactement le même système dans des communes genevoises, ou pour l’armée, pour le service des routes, pour la protection civile, pour plein d’autres institutions.

Merci beaucoup!

Image: Un agneau au Géopolis © Katharina Schwarck

Which English Department Staff Member are You Most Like?

Library

Image: © Lex Rodriguez

Authors: Oscar Jordan & Lex Rodriguez

 

 

I think all English students will agree when MUSE says that the English Department wins the “who has the best Unil staff?” competition ;) If you want to know which staff member’s tastes resemble yours the most, take this quiz to find out! If your curiosity still asks for more, fear not, you can always check our two previous quizzes with other fabulous staff members here: part 1 and part 2. Enjoy!

The Rich Man with the Sunglasses

pair of sunglasses resting on their case

Image:American Optical Original Pilot Aviator sunglasses‘ © GuySie. Source CC Licence.

Author: Leah Didisheim

This evening, way across the east side in New York, this man was crossing the road. He had a briefcase in one hand and the other hand in his pocket. He wore a long coat and a suit under it, a cashmere suit, with a perfectly adapted hat. He probably bought them together so they could match. He wore black waxed shoes and a scarf nicely put around his neck.

But most strangely, he wore sunglasses. Sunglasses is not a strange thing to wear, I agree. But the thing is that it was winter. A cold evening in winter. Who would wear sunglasses except if they were drunk or if they had something to hide?… I’m pretty sure this man was not drunk. He was not the type of man to be drunk. He was really elegant and we could see with his clothes that he came from the high society. So, what did he have to hide, I ask you?

I had met him two days ago. It was in a meeting. He wanted to buy the business which I worked in. He came and behaved as if he owned the place, except, well, he did not. It pissed me off to be honest. But that’s the thing with rich people. They think that because they have money, therefore own a lot of things, they own everything else too. They think they are better than everybody else. Well, I say let’s put an end to that.

So here I am today, I’ve been following him for the last 5 hours; he cannot be perfect. There must be something going on with him. Nobody, in his rank, has no secret. And the sunglasses are my first lead of the day.

He opens the door of this hotel, the Colomara, and checks if anybody saw him. He cannot see me from where I stand. I wait five seconds. 1…2…3…4…5… I’m going in. The elevator at the far-right corner closes. I can just have a glimpse at a scarf and a hat. I hurry along the stairs. I can’t know which floor he’s headed to… so I must be quicker and see which floor the elevator opens at.

I’m not used to running like this. I’m at the fifth floor and I hear the sound of the elevator opening. I hurry behind the first wall I find and I wait to hear some footsteps. I don’t understand… nothing happens. And then suddenly I hear a voice.

“Well, well, well, are you done following me now? I have other things to do than to prove you right. I have a wife whom I love very much and three wonderful children. And I cannot help but think that because I have more money than you do, and obviously less time to lose than you do, that you have prejudices against me. Well, let me tell you something, yes, I love being rich but that doesn’t mean you can judge me because you don’t like being poor. And, of course, as nice as I am, even with what you did, as you didn’t deny it, I’m gonna offer you the same deal as I did two days ago: buy your company, and I swear you’ll be able to judge yourself with the amount of money you’re going to make.”

I couldn’t say a single word. I stared at him. My mouth opened. I guess he took that as a yes, nodded, gave me a contract which I quickly signed, and left.

Well, I cannot speak about every rich man in New York, but this one definitely is a very mysterious man!

I was still on the fifth floor when I heard a gunshot on the main floor. Screams followed not long after the first noise. When I managed to bring myself downstairs, nobody was left in the building. When I looked back, before going outside where the street was busier with every more minute I waited, my blood froze: I noticed black sunglasses left behind on the ground.

The Sparkle

Author: Martina Nina

I am still waiting. I am still waiting for that sparkle.
This sparkle, they say, is the best thing in the world that can happen to you. It comes to your soul. Why is it taking so long for me? I want to feel this way. I am getting desperate waiting for it. Does it exist for me? I don’t know. I am searching for it. Every day, everywhere.
This is turning a bit ridiculous. Am I so damaged that nobody wants that sparkle with me?
Days and days have gone by. Still nothing. Still ridiculously nothing.
I am giving it a month. If nothing happens, I quit. I will never search a sparkle again. I swear.
One week, nothing. Two weeks nothing. Oh, come on. Three weeks nothing. It’s the last weekend. That’s it. I quit. Definitely quitting.
I am going to that party to have fun, since no sparkle will ever come to me.
I never thought I could have so much fun when I’m not looking for that sparkle in every corner. Why didn’t I quit months before? I have fun, never have this much fun actually.
And there it was, as soon as I forgot it, it came. The sparkle.
The sparkle was standing just in front of me, looking with these beautiful brown sparkling eyes and the most amazing smile I have ever seen. He was wearing a black jacket and dark grey pants; he was tall and skinny, a bit muscular.
The sparkle looked at me, and there it was, love at first sight.
It is so true what they say, love always comes when we least expect it.

Burning Out

Author: Gislain Cardinaux

So on my heart grows full of flame,
Of life ; passion to fuel the rage ;
To feed the beast I cannot tame.
Fighting to free it from its cage.

Through the scratches in my chest
Through the darkness and the haze
It lies and crawls, it thinks and rests
With eyes of burning amber gaze.

Its breath only to break silence,
Its mind ready to rise higher,
It’s on the watch for any chance
To burst and turn to bone fire.

So go on and burn, burn, burn…
But don’t burn out, hang on a bit.
Cause I will need you to return
And keep my inner fire lit.

These Nuts

Sunny forest

Image: “Forest near Vřesina” by Jiri Brozovsky is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

Author: Katharina Schwarck

 

The fine morning was sunny when I woke up,

Discovered the craving of eating a nut.

I tried to remember what tree it was near

The place where I had hidden my nuts last year.

 

Was it an elm, a birch, or a tree that broke?

I found myself climbing the core of an oak.

After hours of climbing, seeking, and hurry,

I found myself clenching my cheeks in worry.

 

I touched my cheeks, and felt something round.

Little did I know, I had nuts in my mouth!

The Future we deserve

Image: “Jewel Changi (II)” © Wikimedia Commons – Licence

Author: William Flores

The Future we deserve

Towards a post-scarcity, solarpunk, Star Trekkian future

It’s been more than a year since our daily lives have been upset by the pandemic. I remember last spring when reports of nature’s supposed healing were on the news almost daily. For a while, the prospect of a green post-pandemic recovery seemed within reach. However, both the European Union’s “Green Deal” and Joe Biden’s “Build back better” infrastructure plan, the most ambitious recovery plans thus far, remain short of what’s needed to avert a climate catastrophe and fix the grotesque levels of inequality that plague our world. Despite the “New Deal” rhetoric, they’re no match for the transformative social welfare policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

If anything, governments all over the world are failing to rise to this historic moment. The difficulty of getting a federal 15 USD/hour minimum wage across the finish line in the US only shows the lack of political will for any long-lasting change.

However, perhaps we should not expect state institutions to offer salvation from capitalist dystopia. Indeed, it is up to us as people to resist and disrupt the system wherever and whenever possible. Rights, especially social rights have never been granted, they have always been fought for. Resistance can take many forms. Whether it’s through strikes, squatting empty apartments, setting up mutual aid networks, guerrilla gardening, petitioning for improved rights or even disrupting company efficiency by taking extra long bathroom breaks at work.

While a bit of a long shot, the notion of dual power is promising. Applied by the Black Panthers, the idea is to make capitalist and existing state institutions redundant through community organizing. Community permaculture, local housing cooperatives and community-owned clinics for example, offer ways towards at least a partial emancipation from capitalism. However, I believe that we should not abandon institutional politics completely. Indeed, the continuation of many social programs that protect the most vulnerable people of society depends on the kind of people that are in office. Even if institutional politics alone do not offer revolutionary change, it can be used as a tool for harm reduction and as a way to make things easier for communities trying to organize mutual aid, cooperatives, community gardens, renewable energy micro-grids and so on.

By slowly building a network of semi-autonomous socially and ecologically minded communes, we might just lay the foundations of a post-scarcity society based on Murray Bookchin’s municipal social ecology. The liberatory potential of small-scale community-owned and community-managed technologies such as hydroponic systems, solar panels and additive/subtractive manufacturing techniques (3D printers, CNC machines, Wiki-houses) might just allow such communes to slowly but surely break free of capitalism and authoritarian state structures and usher in a world where the needs of all are met unconditionally, where all unnecessary (and often environmentally destructive) work will be abolished. Over time, these communes might start looking like the vegetal cities imagined by Belgian architect Luc Schuiten or certain parts of contemporary Singapore, whose futuristic architecture is based on the concept of biomimicry. Free from wage slavery, people might spend most of their time building relationships with their fellow humans and the Earth, pursuing art and all kinds of skills and hobbies. Just as Star Trek: TNG’sCaptain Jean-Luc Picard said to a time-traveller from present-day Earth: “The economics of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24thcentury. The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity”. Now that’s the future we should be aiming for, that’s the future we deserve.

A poem

Colorful suburban streets

Image: ‘Suburban Streets‘ © Felix the Cat.  Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Author: Arthur Margot

Crossed with us she shouted and boomed and raised

Her voice, throughout the household heard,

Intonations soon dismissed by ears,

Livid, she thought to chase us all

Down the flight of stairs and

Hoping to catch any,

Out the door and

Of her grasp

Did we escape,

Realising nothing could

Usurp the freedom once tasted and

Left unchecked of fleeing from a mother’s hold,

Easily slipped, scampered, dodged, bolted, vanished,

Soon to hear the distant yells echo fainter and fainter.

El Diablo

Abandoned railway

Image: “Abandoned Storehouses” by Diego3336 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

Author: Katharina Schwarck

 

This piece of writing was born in a Creative Writing Club session, with the prompt “Mixing Worlds and Characters”.

 

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, lived a mean little creature, tall like three stacked apples, hair and cheeks the colour of a rotten cherry. No one had been able to defeat the little devil, for it had magic powers. One weakness, though, it had. It sang. It sang about its victories and sang about its plans. One day, as the goblin was strutting in the forest, it chanted

 

The miller’s daughter she was fair.

Found her crying in a prayer.

“I’ll give you anything”, she’d say,

“If you make to gold my hay”.

 

The miller’s daughter had married the king, and the goblin had been promised the princess’s first-born, which was expected in a year. This day, the creature was strolling through the grass, but little did it know, the fairies had set a trap. One safe step, a second, a third, and the little foot stumbled over a root. The creature fell and fell down the hill. It rolled and rolled, and cursed, and cursed. Underneath the hill, there was a pond. As it approached the bottom of the hill, it braced itself for the fall into the shallow water. The fall hurt much more. It slowly stretched its sore body and opened its eyes. It lengthened its arms and discovered two iron bars on both sides of its body. It lifted its head. The iron path had no visible end. The little devil turned onto its belly and found what had hurt its body were pieces of wood, which connected the iron bars, and black stones, that filled the gaps between the wood shafts. The creature pushed itself onto its knees. Its mouth tasted dust. There, it heard an ear-splitting noise, more powerful than it had ever heard. Lifting its head, it saw: the noise had come from an unknown being. A gigantic iron monster, that was spitting smoke from its head and which was speeding towards the creature like a flash. The goblin rolled itself over hectically, and saw the long, dark beast thundering by on its magic wheels. The creature scarcely admitted to fear, and it was only when someone lifted it up by its hood that it started screaming. It screamed and fought and bit and struck. It looked up and facing it was a tall man, fully clothed in black, with a black hat, and a black mask. His cape blew gently above the dust, and his right hand held a rapier. He smelled of dust, of sweat, and smoke. The man said calmly: “Entonces, eres tú el diablo”.

 

We do not know what happened after this, but people say the next day the goblin came to the princess’s door with a gift and promised to never show itself again. 

 

And sometimes, if you pay attention, you can walk along the forest, and still hear the creature sing

 

The big man said I did harm

I laughed and spat, he rose his arm

“You must be punished, you are foul”

Struck his blade across my jowl

“Quit your evil, you disgrace”

Struck a Z across my face

 

For life, I’m marked with shame

Three scars, from his first name

 

Time’s Prickly Thorns

Lamp

Image: Ⓒ Roxane Kokka

 

Author: Roxane Kokka

 

I cry out your name

In the ocean of silence

 

Never do I stop searching

In the bright sky of dark stars

 

I reach out my hand in the void of the unknown

Through Time’s prickly thorns that never cease

to creep in the empty spaces between us

 

in hope to catch yours

 

Time will take you away from my arms, eyes, ears, and mouth

But Time will fail to erase the memory of your lips and body against mine

My guinea pig died last Friday.

Artistic Picture of a Guinea Pig

Image: © M. S.

Author: M. S.

I cried when I heard the news.
I cried because I loved my guinea pig.
I cried because nothing lasts forever,
               Even having you with me.
I cried because I’m tired,
               Tired of not being enough.
I cried because nothing really matters,
               Even when I’m with you.
I cried because you don’t love me enough,
               Enough to make me feel special.
I cried because I felt sad.
I cried because I cried.

And also, because
               My guinea pig died last Friday.

Leaving

Author: Anonymous

When a fox is trapped
This is a known fact, you know
About foxes, people know this
People know these things about foxes
People think they know many things about foxes
But really nobody knows the important thing about foxes
Nobody knows the really important thing about foxes, which is
The really important thing about foxes is that for them, for all wild things
the squirrels and badgers and teenage girls, the boars and martens and cats
Pain isn’t something they could ever do, not to themselves
Pain is a natural event, pain is like a storm which passes
Or doesn’t pass, a storm which continues on and on
They don’t create pain, they don’t shape it
It shapes them, so when the fox
When the fox is trapped
And it gnaws off
Its own leg
And we
Marvel
At its
bra
ve
ry
And
Its
Sac
ri
fice
We are doing
everything
but understanding it.

 

March 2021

Where there is screaming there is breathing

Image: © Andres Stadelmann

Author: Andres Stadelmann

You sat at the foot of the hill
The one which softly sloping rose high above the clouds.
And you watched, eyes twinkling as I met your gaze.
That gaze
Wrought of that deep iron which only exists in the mines of memory and experience
Piercingly understanding but softened and smoothened by wisdom.
What a funny thing
How you of all people waited for me there.
I remember as a child how you spoke to me. You knew all my tongues, and I had barely learned yours.
But that sensible experience became
That drive and desire to know more.
It’s always difficult at first. It requires trust, sure, but more importantly the willingness to accept those lofty dizzying sights in order to plunge and go deep and far and above and beyond and to twirl and to tumble and to wake and to sleep and to scream and to scream and to scream and to scream
Perhaps too much.
You always told me, yes we do want to go there. We do want to reach that summit, the clouds, the rain, the cold—it holds no importance.
And that flushing hilly side beckoned yet, light parting and peering ever so slightly.
But why then, what of this urgency? And who am I going with, and how, and when, and
Why
That love which you pronounced on your lips and in your heart, which screamed in your loins and in your eyes.
And suddenly that gaze was not so sunken, not so piercing, not so deep.
And still you looked
The oxygen is always thinner at higher altitudes, your breath catches easier and you need to stop more often
And wait.
Wait for that immense solitude, which, like the clouds, hides that questioning desire and that fear.
Wait for it to come, and when it does don’t hold back.
When it gets cold you can’t hold back
And those precious piercing breaths
The ones who hold sobs
Take them in, let them out
Let them comfort your heart, take them out in the sun
Don’t forget it’s all green, and you’re there at the top
Open your eyes so you’ll know where to stop.
Now again there is music with a promise of song
Still you listen.
Slowly we gather our arms and take steps, which resemble the ones your children made only last year.
Here is dancing, here is singing, and above all
here is crying.
Do it in silence, so I can hear you reappear. I want to go with you I want to have you here.
I want to feel you living
I want to watch you breathe
Please watch me while I stare, while I glare and while I dare.
And looking towards the ocean, of that sky high and wide
The same one that catches the moon when it lays to rest during the day
Sleeping frivolously.
The same sleep of course, which I shared with my mother. I slept knowing only of a love, that love which feeds the same furry hillsides we wish to climb
And kicking to satisfy those itchy jitters
Yes mother, there is still much to learn.
You know that first time when I chanced a glance, when I thought that maybe a part of that blinding light was kept for me, it didn’t look right.
There was something that I knew I could have followed, with my eyes closed. Never stopping, only stumbling.
And now, with you, at the foot of that hill, I did stop
Not to see, nor to hear
But to breathe
While the world all around me keeps screaming

Sky Blue

Black-and-white silhouette of a person on a balcony in front of a tree

Image: “Depression #4 (standing at the window)” by ndanger is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 Source

Author: Diane Kalms

Content warning: this text has light mentions of eating disorders, anxiety, and drugs.

you found Happiness
in Darkness
you found the Light
in the Night
you found Passion
in Starvation

 

what you didn’t know
is that you lost your Reason
long time ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOST MY TIME
LOST MY PLACE
IN SKY BLUE…

I’m wandering in this megalopolis; I’m feeling a little bit hazy, I don’t really know how I got here, but it does not bother me. A lot of people around me are walking with such conviction and determination, and it amazes me how much energy they put in their march. Confused and dazzled by their steel armor, Anxiety, until then calmly muffled in my chemical fleece, begins to seethe, threatening to erupt like a nasty bile and disintegrate my organs, my nerves, my brain, leaving my carnal envelope definitely empty and ready for a reboot. What a bitter place! I know I should have been more discrete. Now, I have been detected as an intruder. They are diluting my cocoon, slowly, the cotton is dripping with an icy liquid, almost like soldering iron and I can feel it invade and pervade every inch of my living body; I can hear a mechanical humming and I know they have sent their steel parasites to penetrate my mind. Their little legs, like metallic ants, are working for my absolute mutation: the annihilation of my deviant character.

At that moment, my mouth opens like a gaping hole. From this bottomless gash emerges a deafening shrill, the final cry of all humanity. Someone throws a grenade in it and it resorbs instantly, as I feel the red little pill going down my throat.
It has not always been like that. Before the Big Fall, remember? You were well at ease with other people. We’ve been stuck down here for a while. You pretend that nothing happened, but deep down you know she has taken possession of you. She loves to play with you: sometimes she cuts one string, and you end up dislocated like an obsolete puppet. She knows how to keep you close, because she often fastens a new chain to your head. She successfully tamed you, to the point that you’re afraid of the chains breaking. Afraid of being alone again. She made you believe that she was vital to you. And you know what worked best? She turned your world upside down, and made you believe that the Others are your enemies, and not her. Yet, you cannot understand this. But I can open your eyes.

I must escape, they’re blocking my way, I have to beat them, I have to go in the opposite direction of their infernal pace and find the light again. Yes, but first, find me.
 
I’m slowly regaining consciousness, after what seemed to be an eternity. A dreamless sleep. But the world around me is not fuzzy anymore. Instead, I can feel my heart beating like mad, the adrenaline is rushing through my veins. My body is going at full speed. How am I capable of such prowess? My bones and muscles have taken over my brain; impulsiveness becomes the master of my decisions. While the drug is violently waking up my aching limbs, I know She’s happy. I’m totally in sync with Her. How funny it is to be satisfied with that. You’re in harmony with her passion for self-destruction. She can rest, while I’m taking over. I’m looking up and as always, it’s a starless night; the moon is shining like the light at the end of a tunnel. The darkness of the streets seems impenetrable; from below the buildings are burnt trees without branches and their threatening shadow prevent me from going further. Still, as I don’t have any control over my corporeal movements, I’m stepping into this urban wood.
We have always liked this city. The rumors about its open-mindedness, the kindness of its residents but above all else, its particular nightlife. We had never seen that somewhere else. The city where you can be anyone, and at the same time no one. Humans spending time with other humans, free from any kind of social labels, the ones we always hated. We felt good there because sometimes it seemed like we did not belong anywhere. So maybe we needed this neutral environment to entirely reveal and celebrate peacefully our individuality.

Discretion has always been a specific trait of our personality; this is why anonymity has always been attractive. At that time, we knew that she was already there, yet she wasn’t strong enough to push us to the bottom of our reason. But she managed to do it. Now that we see the world from below, everything is terrifying. People have muted into malevolent titans with scorpions’ tails, ready to harpoon us so we will swell and swell and swell ever more and become as big as they are. You became afraid of them, and this was her greater accomplishment: she made you think that Others are out of reach and that you will never be as good as them. So, we sunk into the night, blinded by the thought that in the dark laid our light. At that moment, she knew she could invert right and wrong, just and unjust, reasonable and unreasonable, just as she pleased. Because you were scared about these giant devils, she made you think that the tinier you were, the more you’ll become invisible before their eyes. At first it was hard for her: we were a question mark in a universe that needs definitions, but we still felt that we deserved our material place one day or another. Insidious, she stripped us from our substantial attachments and of the few certitudes we had, imprisoned us on the other side of the mirror, where down is up and left is right, mutilating our last perception of reality. Because she did not like our body image, she persuaded you that you did not either. She dragged you down with her on the corporeal side too, extolling the virtues of drugs, singing their magical ability to transform your corrupt vision and manipulate your self-image. You felt sexy, mighty, but, above all, it numbed the pain. It’s like playing Russian roulette, and you like the taste of metal in your mouth. Drugs would falsely reverse your natural world, deceiving you while letting you think that you were on the upper side again, persisting in the treachery when you could feel them running in your blood, letting you glimpse what you still think to be the gates of heaven. But I now know for a fact that you entered hell a long time ago.
Like every night, I find myself in front of the reinforced door. It’s the only source of light for several kilometers around. I can hear the usual melodic throbbing, its sharp and rhythmed noises coming from the entrails of the machine, sometimes punctuated with guttural roars of infernal beasts burning with desire voluntarily entrapped down here. The siren call attracts other damned souls, springing from the deafening darkness and slowly coming near the entrance like zombies enticed by fresh meat. Inscribed in red letters along the ledge above the portal the words I AM THE WAY TO THE CITY OF THE DEPRAVED are shining timidly, as if they did not want to be seen, as if it was only a bad joke, but hopefully, it’s not. Hell is real and it is man-made. I know the drug has seriously kicked in, as I’m staring, aghast, at the countless snakes rising over the head of the bouncer: one move and I’m out. The more I stare at them, the more I’m realizing that they are either biting at impostors or charmed by genuine evil souls. At that moment, She knows that I’m in danger. She wakes up and hastily takes over, because only her viciousness will enchant these little demons. Their mouths twist in a vicious rictus.
And once again, I’m falling down the blazing rabbit-hole.

Come. You’ll find me eight floors below.
 
            The first time we heard about this club, we were really troubled and deeply disturbed at the thought of how it works. Eight floors, all built underground. No windows. No clocks. No mobile phones allowed. Time is the enemy down here; its power to change, the continuity of its movement are banished. Only eternity is allowed. It’s a one-way road going downards, you cannot come back to reality by the same stairs: to reach the surface, there is a hidden passage you have to find by yourself. Every level looks alike, if you’re not familiar with the place you lose count almost immediately. The air is heavy, foggy; the light sources are scattered and flashing at a rapid pace, meaning that you will never see the same thing even if you stand still. There is however a little particularity that only the regulars are aware of: if you take a look at the other living beings, you will notice that they are distinct from the previous floors.

First floor. I’m totally blinded by what seems to be a shower of sparks. Millions of light particles are dancing around me, enveloping me and penetrating my skin, muscles, nerves, until they reach the grey matter, and ultimately the core of my soul. Enchanted, I want to be one with the fire, let go of my carnal prison, dilute myself in this universe until I’m nowhere but at the same time everywhere, until I become an ubiquitous energy, ultimately freeing my conscience from any material and earthly obstacles; don’t you dare!!  We already tried that once see where it took us but oddly, I cannot let go of myself, I feel that there’s a war in me oh yes, it’s me against her and something stronger is attracting me from below. I’m hearing the thoughts of someone else IT’S ME! they are coming in successive waves and I’m scared. Maybe I swallowed too much. Again, Anxiety, normally sedated threatens to blow me up, everything is going really fast around me the rapid rhythm of the hard techno is synchronized with my heartbeat I feel the sweat running on my temples the stroboscope blurs everything around me focus please, focus, focus… Suddenly, a cold wave runs over me, from my toes to the top of my head. Anxiety puts its blade arms away, turns back into darkness. I feel sober again. I look around myself, and for the first time, I’m really aware of what’s happening here.

The people filling the room are all richly dressed. Their clothes sparkle in the obscurity; they look like bronze figures of deities. As I get closer, I notice that a mask of gold covers their faces entirely. Faceless statues of an ancient time eroded by excesses and by their lust. These are only women; I can see their breast underneath their armor. Like sorceresses, they turn everything they touch into gold. The room is filled with magnificent beds, sofas but no one lolls into them. In a small alcove in the left corner of the room, an altar; illuminated with candles, some writing: MANEATER. I hear laments, they crave for the feeling of kissing, stroking, licking. This is hell down here, I thought women were free to do whatever they wanted? Behind a glass wall, faces, grinning from ear to ear, watching libidinously the Chamber of Horrors. I had never been aware before of their suffering, I always thought it was a show. It’s strange, I feel like I’m more lucid. She’s not happy.

Oh, I know she’s not happy. I can feel her trying to fill up your veins with her dark viscous poison, the one that immobilizes your willingness, and keep me glued to the bottom of your mind. Me, your Reason, your Happiness, Your real Self.

Throughout the years, I observed. I observed her smallest deeds or gestures. I observed how she manipulated you, with what tools and what words in what order she used. I observed how she faked her pretended feelings for you no, I know she likes me, doesn’t she? Throughout all these years, she pretended that you’d love your body by destroying it. She reversed the mirror. By throwing up, the sensation of the empty stomach would be pleasing but the burning, oh, the burning; by over-exercising you’d feel lighter I couldn’t walk for days; by starving you’d feel powerful, above all these weak people the time I didn’t eat for a week and I fainted in front of everyone and everyone laughed and my father carried me and found out I was thumbing my nose at Newton’s laws; by being thin you would please anyone and all the boys who looked at me with disgust; by taking every kind of drugs you wouldn’t eat for days and I wouldn’t sleep either and all the demons came back at night; by taking drugs even more often you would look inaccessible and you could really feel alive oh yes we felt alive we loved that but we loved that too much and look where it got us? ; by rejecting the physical essence of life, what you loved since you were a child remember I even wanted to be a cook you thought she was the right choice to protect you from the hostile environment in which you evolved. See? It is all wrong: she wants to replace life with death itself. But I don’t want to be dead.

From all this observation, I learned. She doesn’t know, but she’s been teaching me how to beat her. We have to crush Her.
What floor? How much time have I been asleep? Doesn’t matter. I know what I have to do now. Quickly. I don’t know how long I can keep Her quiet me neither it’s now or never. Under a heavy amount of dope, certain floors terrify me, such as the sixth. On a podium, creatures writhe wearing a mask of historic celebrities, but every time they try to talk, blood and snakes spurt from their mouth; the reptiles inundate the floor and wind around my legs, climb up my back and whisper fine words on my physique in my ear. I realize that this surrealist situation might not be a hallucination and that it is really hell down here.

I consider what’s around me, and I understand I am at the seventh floor: one floor to go. It’s the worst one, a materialization of all the fears I internalized, the ones that I buried deep down so that they couldn’t scare me again you have to face them and get rid of them. Women. All extremely skinny, wearing sumptuous clothes, the ones you would expect on a fashion show; they are stunning and smile merrily. When they move too quickly, the fabric of their apparel moves and reveals a big, disgusting mouth in place of their stomach. There are tables of a never-ending length over which lie countless dishes, each one looking more succulent than the other. But I know by experience that they have no taste. They strut like proud peacocks and pretend to ignore what is on the tables; still, as soon as they approach the plates, their large mouths begin to yell in a senseless gibberish; the only words I can distinguish are ADDICTION and STARVATION. Their macabre stroll seems to be going on endlessly. I have to gather all my courage to pass through them and reach the last floor.

We’re almost there.

Eighth floor. It is freezing cold, whereas the previous rooms were rather overheated. I don’t remember ever being here. The room is of a blinding immaculate white, the walls are padded and there are no couches, except for dirty mattresses, stained with unidentified substances. On them, the remains of what were once human individuals: livid, they produce long vociferation like beasts in agony; their white eyes and their mouth half open give them a dazed and disillusioned look. Long hair hangs over their scraggy shoulders; they remind me of ghouls. These human shells move so slowly they seem to be numbed by the cold atmosphere that prevails in here and it’s sure the dope doesn’t help them to be vivid either, still they are begging for more. There is only one armchair at the center of this scene of devastation, where sits the owner of this whole crushing system. Happily grinning from ear to ear, she’s the one that distributes the drugs. At no point in time does she take any of these; but she takes a perverse pleasure in choosing who can get some, starving them until they’re on the verge of dying, and only at this moment she gives them a phenomenal quantity, so that their next withdrawal symptoms torture them always more. She’s exulting to see the vampires jostle weakly to get their dose, tearing each other apart to be the first to get it. She notices me, and I see in her look that she might know me; indeed, she extends her hand toward me. I see that it is full of appetizing little pills of all colors, the ones I’ve been taking for years now, the ones I love, the ones that make me feel so mighty and thin, the ones that make me feel like I’m in control of everything around me RESIST you have to resist otherwise she will win again and this time you will lose me forever yet, curiously, I feel at peace and I don’t want any. She’s trying to persuade me to take them, She does not understand why I’m not already swallowing them, and She begins to get angrier and angrier; at the same time, she becomes darker and darker while I’m seeing the light again! and tries to regain control over my body. I don’t let Her. I have a nameless force helping me to resist Her assaults, all of my muscles tense up, every inch of my body is on alert, my brain is throbbing in order to purge the venom can you feel that you’re coming back to your senses again? my body is going to blow up, lava is running down my ears, tears are flowing down my face, and a long hoarse howling escapes through my lips.

Little by little, the fog that permanently troubles my vision diminishes, while I see a black cloud slowly materializing itself at the corner of the room. A skeletal and slender silhouette is gradually outlined; it’s faceless and has no hair, I can only distinguish her small breasts, and the prominent bones of her chest, ribs, and hips. Her long and thin fingers try one last time to catch me, but I stay stoic. She knows it’s over. Gently, she curls up on the floor and begins to cry.
At the back of the room, a door opens. Behind, the sky is blue.

Open your eyes.
Life can go on.