Posts tagged ‘doubt’



by mdjb

Volumes where the golden insect crawled fetch glory by the yard, but there is no communication between the ink and the eye, for try as they might, libraries cannot express the depth of what they lack in emotion. Sharp-toothed keys assist the explorer in gaining entry to a world renowned for its emptiness, but there is never any action in the quotidian balance. Read, read, read, they said. However, he was left alone to ponder the fruitlessness of his desperation. Sadly, Hugo observed the declination of reason as three virgins giggled and proceeded to retain their innocence, which, by the way, was neither innocent nor retainable. They must have known what was on offer without the experience, he calculated, for there was guile in their laughter. One of them, she of the radiant halo, dipped and scooped up the golden spider leaving only its latest unreadable tome in a web of silky verbosity. Virgin or muse, he could not tell. Still, he was news once again without the slightest perception of validation. Everything he touched glowed and shimmered in an ephemeral way. Yet, he never doubted all was at their behest.
Popping, he shriveled almost immediately and shortly thereafter he noticed he was losing hair again and there were liver spots.


This Came for You

by mdjb

Hilary Jane Burckhardt moved into the apartment on Riverside Drive on a sunny day five months after Mrs. Akkerman died but it was on a rainy day three months later that Mrs. Akkerman began causing trouble.

It was not until much later, Hilary learned that was the same day Janisch Akkerman’s girlfriend Wenche had had an abortion and that that aborted fetus would have been Mrs. Akkerman’s only grandchild.

It was raining all morning. It was a Saturday. Hilary had printed out twenty stories to review because todo so on her monitor, even though it was twenty-one inches, bothered her eyes after a short time. Her father claimed she was ruining her eyesight and her health in general because she had taken on too much work and was not getting enough sleep. Now she had her own apartment in the city, she did not have to listen to his carping.

She made a cup of herbal tea and propped up over-stuffed pillows to get comfortable in a corner of her white leather sofa. In a bowl on the glass coffee table were celery and carrot sticks. Next to the bowl, cradleless, sat the cordless telephone. Hilary found when she was deeply involved in evaluating scripts, if the phone rang, she could not easily re-establish her rapport with the writer if she had to walk away from and return to her perch, but this way she could answer and say, “I’ll call you back later,” without feeling guilty or neglectful to either party.

The first two scripts were by inexperienced writers and were thus underdeveloped and forgettable, but the third was a horror story called This Came for You. It was gripping and admirably polished. Hilary knew a third of the way through she would be recommending the piece for inclusion in the next issue of Prototype.

Just as the indescribable horror was being described on the page, Hilary heard a noise across the room. She looked up at the foot high brass letters H J B on the opposite wall. The J gave way and fell to the floor. Then it slid across and under the sofa as if being pulled with a magnet from the apartment below and it crashed into the wall behind her. She jumped up and in so doing knocked over the little bowl of vegetables and the teacup causing them to smash into many pieces.

“What perfect timing,” she heard herself say aloud. She knew cleaning up the mess would break her concentration, just as a phone call would, so decided to put the rest of the scripts aside until later. She had a closet to clean out.

Janisch Akkerman had not done a very thorough job cleaning away his mother’s effects but had prevailed upon Hilary to hold onto a few boxes of things until he could come and get them. Three months had passed and he had not contacted her again. When she finally called the number he had given her, she learned the number was no longer in use. She had as yet no success tracking him down via the Internet or the usual avenues she might use for research but felt with persistence she would eventually find him. In the interim, she had decided she would look through the boxes she had previously left unopened. Now was the time.

The buzzer rang and when she answered it, the doorman told her there was a package for her down in the lobby. She told him she would come down for it later. She was in no rush. It was a box of groceries from her father. He had had one of his office lackeys go out with a shopping list and pick up health foods and produce and then bring the stuff up to her building.

She knew the doorman went off duty at three and figured she would have one of the porters bring up the box for her when the second doorman was on. He at least might think she had had the groceries delivered from a local market rather than having received them from a Burckhardt employee. She wondered why her father would go out of his way to embarrass her in front of her building employees. And why he could not trust her to take care of her own needs.

Hilary did her best to clean up the broken cup and bowl, and while reaching under the sofa to retrieve the brass J, she cut her finger on a stray sliver of glass. Though she tried her best to avoid doing so, a couple of drops of blood fell onto the white rug under the coffee table, and she knew immediately the rug was lost. Although she washed and bandaged her finger, she hadn’t noticed there was blood on the back of the J until she replaced it on the wall, and in adjusting it made the situation worse. Scrubbing with a wet cloth, she wore away paint, but the stain would not wash off.

Then, the buzzer sounded again. At the intercom, she could sense the annoyance in her own voice as she asked, “Yes, what is it?” and was a bit startled to hear the doorman respond, “Nobody rang, ma’m.” Lord, how she hated being addressed as if she were her mother’s age!

Everything seemed to be going wrong all at once.

She thought about the bedroom closet, but hesitated, waiting for another sound to set her in motion, and then it came. A knock on the door. Nobody ever knocked on her door, unless she requested the services of the handyman, which she had not done for nearly three months.

Looking through the peephole and seeing nobody, she felt the hairs on her arm flutter as she put her hand to the knob. When she heard another knock, she almost gave in to the impulse to ignore it and run into the other room, slip back under the duvet and try starting the day over again, but she could hear her father’s patronizing voice saying, “Hilary, you’re a woman, now,” as if he suddenly realized the truth one day. She turned the doorknob expecting to find one of the neighbor children standing outside looking up at her more confused than she felt at the moment.

What she found was an unattended package wrapped in brown paper, tied with twine, with the letter J written in red marker. Oddly, the letter ran over the cord, as if it had been added as an afterthought. The thing was too small to be the CARE pack she expected from her father, and she became unnerved. She glanced toward either end of the empty hall, and down again at the package, standing in her doorway for several minutes not knowing what to do.

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Cosmic Rays

by mdjb

A Jesuit by calling yet vastly non-Jesuitical by nature, Theodor Wulf woke from a wet dream feeling the shame of the ages. Already in opposition to the will of the Holy See due to his modernist practices, he now viewed himself as subject to the basest of submissions. The worst of it was he recalled immediately the scene in the Tower which had caused his lapse.tower

Balloonists were to confirm his findings, and in his dream, a balloon suggested the fleshy face of a man with a ring through his nose, smiling down on the Tower radiating cosmic rays for which there was as yet no name, but which emanated an invigorating sense of energy all the same.

Back in ’88, Eiffel was building his tower when Wulf had taken his vows and he had believed there was no greater dedication in the world. Jesuits were forbidden in Germany at that time. Wulf, committed to his vocation, emigrated to the Netherlands. That was how he had come to teach at Valkenburg. Now, twenty-two years later, here he was in France, not high on the list of places devoted to Rome, as Wulf wanted to consider himself. After four days of testing, his electrometer obstinately reading higher and higher radiation levels as he ascended the Tower, he began to believe that God had left remnants of the spark of Creation, here in this world to be discovered as a reward by those searchers worthy of knowing. Spark of Creation, or remnants of the Great Flood? One didn’t have to transcend to feel the hand of The Father at work.

Now as he awakened in shame, he thought he might be assuming too much. One should never assume. Disaster creeps at the heels of assumption.

Thankfully, the flood waters of January had subsided and the Seine returned to its normal level, but there were streets where the houses remained unlivable. More than likely those less dedicated men in the Vatican saw this as just deserts to the French who were considered less than faithful. Wulf preferred not to judge the Parisians too harshly, but now believed there might be something in the water that abrogated chastity,

In the corner of his room, by the window overlooking the Champ de Mars, the potted philodendron had grown exponentially, its aerial roots attaching themselves to the gray walls, no doubt attracted by the rising damp. The love tree would produce its poison in spite of neglect; find its own source of nourishment. Through the window, he could see the hazy March sky held no promise of rain, but now he knew it was filled with something else.

In the back of Wulf’s mind he heard the voice of his former teacher, Walther Nernst, dear Walther, who had found a better way to bring light to the night, but whose lamp was only this year overshadowed by that of the Englishman, Coolidge. “You must not speak of God as the source of this power,” Walther was saying, “It sounds heretical. It sounds like the poor workman who has left his tools lying around the shop.”

In silence, he argued, “But surely, to claim God’s hand is in this matter can only appease the dictates of Rome.”

“No, no,” the shade of Nernst responded, “In these times our scientific methods will be vilified. There can be no reconciliation.”

And as if he had spoken actual words, Wulf knew this would be the only outcome. He was faithful to his beliefs and he was a man of science. He did not see the two as mutually exclusive.

There was, however, his nocturnal emission. Was he doubting? Was it a sign?

Wulf’s plan was to return to Germany and publish his findings. He was sure the energy was extraterrestrial, and if not from God’s own hand, then from whence?

His soiled bedclothes reminded him of the temporal. The overgrown houseplant, displaying tenacity, spoke of survival without belief. Folded over a chair, his trousers and leather belt spoke of exquisite mortification hidden beneath a cassock. There was justification in abundance; if not a dichotomy, at least there was room for speculation.

In September, he would publish, but few would accept his findings, as Pius X would force his constituents to swear his newly issued Oath Against Modernism. Though Wulf’s electrometer would be patented and widely used for a time, it, like Nernst’s lamp, would be bettered. In ten years, his old mentor would win a Nobel Prize, and Wulf’s name would be largely forgotten.

But in this moment, lying half-awake and feeling shame in a Parisian flat, Father Theodor Wulf believed he had shaken hands with the Almighty, and been consigned to a fate less than divine.

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