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INVESTIGATIONS OF A 21st CENTURY DOG

Many books have been written which examine the behaviour of our pets. These books analyse, in various degrees of detail and depth, the drives, desires and aversions of our companion animals and explain how these inner goings-on are expressed through their outer actions and conduct.

I recently asked myself, ‘What if our pets were to write a book analysing our behaviour from their point of view? How would they interpret and explain our actions, our drives, our fears, our desires? What kinds of insights into our own lives, our own behaviour could we gain from their perspective?’

I have begun to create just such a book. Below are some extracts from it:

“We 21st century dogs are different from the dogs of the 20th century; we are wiser, more advanced, more knowledgeable, more cynical, more jaded—we’ve been around the neighbourhood block a few times. Nowadays, it’s hard to teach young dogs new tricks, let alone teaching old dogs new tricks, for we modern dogs are more reluctant to blindly obey our Masters’ orders.”

“We must admit that our efforts to understand our Masters are inherently stymied and constantly undermined by our Masters’ near-inability to communicate in any intelligible language. They are incapable of expressing their thoughts and feelings in a coherent, lucid sort of manner, and our discourse with them is limited to only a few basic vocalisations that we have been able to discover the meaning of. Because these vocalisations are all concerned with elementary physical actions, such as sitting, we cannot convey to our Masters the true range and depth of our thoughts and feelings, and are unable to engage them in a higher dialogue. Consequently, there will forever exist an unbridgeable gulf between us and them.

Nevertheless, we persevere tirelessly at attempting to impart to our Masters that we 21st century dogs are not the simple, unsophisticated, naive creatures they apparently believe us to be. As we cannot communicate with them through language, we instead perform actions which hold deep symbolic significance, hoping our Masters will thereby recognise how enlightened and profound we really are.

For example, before lying down to sleep, we turn around several times in order to pay our respects to those who bring us our dreams—it is our way of praying for peaceful and pleasant dreams, dreams that will not disturb us or make us twitch in our slumbers.

Another example is when we are rolling around in the grass, with our legs pointing up to the sky and our backs upon the ground. In such a way we are giving thanks to the Father Sun for providing us with light and warmth, and we are also giving thanks to the Mother Earth for providing us with solid land upon which to walk, run, play and perform our purgative tasks.

Alas, it seems that our Masters cannot even comprehend our symbolic actions and instead apparently misconstrue them as arising out of our primal instincts.”

“Our Masters even lack the basic understanding of how to communicate correctly through facial expressions. For example, through hard lessons we have determined that when our Masters bare their fangs at us, it is not an aggressive gesture that warns of their intent to attack and bite, but is rather, absurdly and paradoxically enough, a benevolent expression of friendliness, pleasure and happiness.”

“In such laborious, tortuous ways we, bit by bit, compile rudimentary knowledge of our Masters’ behaviour. Yet, we must persist in trying to comprehend our Masters as best as we can, for even a partial, imperfect understanding of their actions, motives, fears, desires would be invaluable to us.”

“Our Masters are always rushing about, preoccupied by some mysterious concerns. They disappear for long stretches of time and just as we are about to give up all hope of ever seeing them again, they rematerialise and we are overcome with joy and relief at the sight of them. The reasons behind our Masters’ frequent departures need to be investigated further.”

“Our Masters possess extraordinary (bordering on magical) powers. They are able to produce our nourishment from a place where before there was not even the faintest whiff of food. They can create, with no perceptible effort and using merely their bare hands, an empty space where there once stood an invisible—yet cruelly mocking our senses—impenetrable barrier. This compassionate act of wizardry of our Masters allows us precious access to our beloved outside playground/lavatory, where there is fresh air, green grass, wide open spaces, and where we are able to unburden ourselves of the foul substances within our bodies; otherwise we would remain imprisoned inside forever.”

“Our ancestors believed that the Masters are all-powerful, all-knowing and pure goodness; that nothing the Masters do is ever wrong, evil or senseless, even if at times the Masters’ actions appear to be absurd or malicious. The dogs of the past explained away the seemingly vicious, meaningless acts their Masters sometimes committed against them by arguing that we, mere dogs, lacked the perspicacity needed to fully comprehend the Masters’ motives and actions. If only we had the ability to see the complete picture from the Masters’ perspective, those dogs claimed, then the Masters’ deeds, no matter how violent or arbitrary they may seem, would always turn out to make sense and to be to the dogs’ benefit.

These days, we occasionally question whether or not our Masters are as powerful, as knowledgeable, as virtuous as we make them out to be. Perhaps the belief that our Masters possess superpowers and moral perfection arose because the dogs of the past surmised that if they were to accept this concept unquestioningly, the Masters would treat them better and feed them more. It is entirely possible that this idea was then passed down over the ages, without ever being challenged, and eventually assumed the appearance of an incontrovertible, absolute truth.”

“And yet, despite all these niggling doubts, we still love and revere our Masters unconditionally and only wish the best for them.”

“Several enduring questions confront us.

One question: Do our Masters have, in turn, their own Masters? If so, does each of our Masters have their own personal Master, or is there just one Master of all Masters? If latter is the case, does that Master of all Masters appear as omnipotent, omniscient, all-good to our Masters as our Masters appear to us? Does the Master of all Masters bestow the same love and care upon our Masters as our Masters confer upon us? Does the Master of all Masters sometimes also act in seemingly violent, senseless ways towards them, and do our Masters accept his incomprehensible deeds with the same grace and unwavering faith that we accept all of our Masters’ actions towards us, no matter how vicious or arbitrary they may appear to be? Do our Masters love the Master of Masters unequivocally, regardless of how he treats them, or do our Masters sometimes doubt the Master of Masters’ absolute goodness?

Another question: Given that each one of us has our own all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good Master, does it follow that all Masters are equal in their strength, wisdom and virtuousness? Or are some Masters more omnipotent, more omniscient, more perfectly good than others?

And another question: Why is it that our Masters cannot learn how to speak correctly and how to express themselves properly through their facial expressions, given that they are all-powerful and all-knowing?

But most puzzling of all, the issue that most deeply concerns and mystifies us is the presence of some malevolent entity which attacks our Masters even while they are safe and cosy in the giant, secure kennels, with us by their side. How it gains access to the giant lair is an enigma we are yet to figure out.

So far our observations have revealed that this creature possesses no solid body, has no claws or fangs, gives off no smell and moves in total silence. Nevertheless, despite its apparent intangibility, the powers of this implacable foe are formidable in their magnitude.

It is capable of distracting our Masters, taking their attention away from us. It can upset them to the extent that they become completely indifferent to us, and even incapacitate them to the point where they no longer care for us. Consequently, the solving of this mystery is of utmost importance and urgency to us all.

As yet, we have had no success in making any progress with this dilemma, apart from one tiny possible clue, although it may not be of any relevance or of any help in solving this problem. A vocalisation which sounds a lot like “black dog” is often uttered by our Masters when they are under attack by this sinister creature. Yet we fail to see how there could be any connection between this entity and a black dog, for a lot of us are not black, and so our Masters are obviously not referring to us. And in any case, it is impossible to believe that a dog of any kind, black or otherwise, would ever do anything as horrible to our Masters as what this creature does to them.

Perhaps we have been regarding this conundrum from a wrong perspective. Rather than looking at it straight in the face, what if we were to tilt our heads and look at it from an angle? The world always makes more sense when seen atilt, and this problem too might be easily and readily resolved from a different viewpoint.

But there could be an even simpler solution: if only our Masters were to disclose to us the whereabouts of this hateful enemy, we would rush at it with all our might, assail it with our teeth, deafen it with our shouts and scare it away forever.”

THE mePHONE(updated version) 

One day a new type of phone that you could use to call yourself appeared on the market. All one had to do was dial a certain number and one would be connected straight away with oneself. The quality of the reception was so good that the voice on the other end of the line sounded as if it was coming from the very same room.

Inevitably, there was some initial apprehension about using this phone, for no one quite knew what kind of a response they would receive when they rang themselves out of the blue for the very first time. What if their unexpected call was considered to be an impertinent and unforgivable invasion of privacy? Eventually, these fears subsided as most found that they were greeted with warmth and enthusiasm and their calls were seen as a pleasant surprise.

People rushed to purchase this new invention, which was marketed under the brand name “mePhone”. Suppliers could not keep up with the demand and there were ugly scenes as customers fought amongst themselves for the last available mePhone.

The advertising campaign for the mePhone was built around the slogan: “With the mePhone, there’ll be no more me-phoniness or lying to yourself!” and for once the reality corresponded exactly to the promotional claims, as it truly was a unique invention the likes of which had never been seen before.

For the mePhone to work properly certain procedures, as set out in the Owner’s Manual, had to be followed. First, the reception only worked in particular areas, access to which required an extra fee. Second, there was a strict time limit on how long you could spend speaking with yourself. And third, when using the mePhone, one had to wear special apparel that was sold separately from the phone. Also, the cost of a call was outrageously expensive, although some enterprising phone companies, hoping to capitalise on the popularity of the mePhone, for a while only charged a local call rate.

The high charge for using a mePhone was partly due to the technical complexities involved in establishing a connection, for there were many impostors who pretended, for their own twisted and devious reasons, to be the voice of your true inner self. Thus, a lot of specialist expertise was required to connect you to the real you. The biggest technical problem to overcome, however, was how to avoid getting a busy signal when calling yourself, for if you were calling yourself then that meant you were already on the phone and thus your line must, ipso facto, be engaged. So it was an astounding technological achievement that the creative wizards behind the mePhone were able to somehow surmount this seemingly unresolvable paradox and allow people to get through to themselves. How it was actually done remained, for obvious reasons, a tightly guarded industrial secret. There was speculation that it involved utilising the Many Worlds quantum theory, so that by using the mePhone a person was connected to themselves in another parallel Universe.

However, the steep costs and other inconveniences were more than outweighed by the benefits one gained from having a good chat with oneself, for no one ever had the time to stop and take a good, honest look at their lives. Everyone was always rushing about, preoccupied with the mundane details of existence, trying to silence the nagging questions of whether or not they were happy with their lives and if they were being true to their inner selves. The users of the mePhone could now catch up with all the things in their lives they never had the chance to think about before, to find out the vital news that fell by the wayside as they were speeding along the road of life.

Conversation flowed easily as people found that talking with yourself was a lot like talking to an old confidant you hadn’t seen for a long time and with whom the most intimate matters could be discussed candidly. Not infrequently tears were shed as truths one had been hiding from oneself for many years were revealed and conveyed in forthright terms. Conversations gained a confessional aspect, as darkest secrets and problems known only to oneself were divulged openly over the phone lines. Quite often, surprises were lying in store as people discovered what they were really feeling inside. At other times, the voice on the other end of the line would remind you of your long-neglected dreams, of desires and needs you had suppressed for far too long. Many found out they weren’t really happy in their places of employment. Some realised they had fallen out of love a long time ago. Others saw for the first time that they had deluded themselves as well as others into believing they had reached fulfilment. Quite a few recognised that they had become so comfortable with being miserable and disenchanted that they shrank back in fear when contentment appeared to be within easy reach. And so it was an enlightening and cathartic experience to be able to have a deep and meaningful talk with oneself.

Naturally, some were reluctant to use the mePhone, afraid of the frank and unvarnished truths that they might reveal to themselves, too scared to ask themselves what it is that they really wanted from life and what would make them happy. They had an instinctive aversion to self-exploration and self-discovery, due to their fear of what they might find lurking in the shadows and depths of their souls. Or, perhaps, they were afraid of what they might not find there, given how easy it was to deceive oneself that one possessed undiscovered talents and untapped potential hiding somewhere within. And so these people avoided using the mePhone, for it had an unparalleled ability to demolish all the delusions with which they comforted themselves throughout their lives.

The mePhone became so popular that it turned into an obsession for some users who spent all their time listening to and talking with themselves, finding it to be much more satisfying and fascinating than conversing with others.

Alas, for an unfortunate few, no matter how many times they tried, they just could not reach themselves on their mePhones; either no one would pick up the mePhone on the other end or if it was picked up, it would be hung up as soon as one said “hello” to oneself. In some cases, a connection could not be established due to the line being broken or the number always being engaged or disconnected.

In a way, it was a brilliant invention—both going against the zeitgeist, for the predominant trend was to avoid introspection, yet, at the same time quite fitting for the times, for everyone was communicating endlessly using all kinds of phones, having superficial conversations via texting, emails, tweets and instant messaging, yet never once listening to their own true inner voice. Consequently, all connection to oneself was lost and people were living unauthentic lives, deaf and blind to their own feelings, needs, desires. With the mePhone, one was able to satisfy the insatiable need for electronic devices and yet, at the same time, engage in deep, invaluable introspective explorations, analyses and discoveries.

The world became a better, happier place because of the mePhone as people at last began to be true to their own selves, for they knew they could no longer get away with lying to themselves. The way life had been before the mePhone was just a distant, faded memory and no person could imagine ever being without one.

The Day Death Died (updated version)

It was widely known that Death had been ailing for some time. Its poor health had made it rather slipshod in the execution of its duties. Whole generations were being taken away in the flower of their youth, while other people were living for an extraordinarily long time – over 400 years in certain cases.

For a while Death hovered in a half-alive condition, with one foot in the grave, and mankind held its breath, fearing Death would rally and make a complete recovery.

And then the day came when Death breathed its last and nobody could believe their good fortune. It was hard to grasp that Death no longer dwelled in the world, and that one’s life would never again be burdened with the ever-present spectre of extinction hovering nearby. No one would have to grapple any more with the problem of incorporating one’s own demise into their lives.

The most eminent pathologists of the land were assigned the task of performing an autopsy on Death. Their unanimous conclusion was that Death died of natural causes. What nobody had suspected was that Death possessed a finite life span. Everyone had always assumed it would live forever, yet it too carried within itself the lethal seeds of mortality.

The next most pressing issue was the burial of Death. Issues never considered before needed to be addressed urgently, for the world wanted to be sure Death really was dead and would not rise again. Where should the funeral ceremony be held? According to which religion’s rites should the memorial service be conducted? Who should give the eulogy? Where to entomb it?

The matter of whom to invite to the service proved to be the most intractable issue of all. A certain number of tickets were reserved for those most deeply affected by Death’s passing – morticians, grave diggers, psychotherapists, blues singers, goths and horror film directors. Otherwise, it was nearly impossible to determine who was genuinely grief-stricken and who only wanted to attend the ceremony so as to be a part of this historic occasion.

Eventually, all of these matters were resolved by the International Committee for the Interment of Death. After lengthy debates, the Committee announced that the ceremony will be held in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, for Death’s death was seen as the ultimate fulfilment of Christ’s promise of Eternal Life. The heated objections of atheists and adherents of other religions were appeased somewhat by granting them special dispensation to be present at the ceremony inside the church. The world’s political leaders and its leading religious figures, philosophers and scientists all gave eulogies, each expressing their own views on the meaning of Death and the meaning of its demise. It was widely agreed that Death was given the exact send-off that it deserved.

Straight after the funeral, the world kicked up its heels and celebrated.

When the unbridled, hysterical wave of joy at being liberated from Death’s tyrannical rule had abated, people sobered up and recounted the ways Death had helped out in the past.

They recalled with fondness Death’s unique ability to provide clear-cut and definitive solutions to any inextricable, inflexible or abstruse problem of existence; its unmatched faculty of erasing all pain, shame and misery; the way it was always there to readily and obediently offer its helping hand to anyone who would ask for it and the way in which it brought equality to the world and granted perpetual rest to the weary.

Religions could no longer survive without Death, for their appeal and authority derived from the promise of ideal and everlasting existence in the next world and from their expert knowledge of the nature of the Afterworld. New religions arose, prophesying that one day mortality would return to Earth and the virtuous would be rewarded with Eternal Death.


Mankind recognised how fundamentally it depended upon Death’s existence for the preservation of social order and peaceful international relations. Given that capital punishment and armed conflicts ceased holding any threat to a person’s life, nothing stood in the way of lawlessness and immorality in human affairs, and countries went to war on the slightest pretext.

Life soon lost its meaning, for Death had been needed to provide the contrast that distinguished being from non-being. Without it, existence became unrecognisable, a grey shadow of its former vibrant self, and to be alive was now an unendurable, yet inescapable, fate worse than death.

Each human being was forced to find the strength and the courage to face a baffling future in which the saving grace of demise was no longer present. Only then was it realised how inextricably Death had woven its fateful thread into every aspect of man’s existence and how much had been irremediably lost the day Death died.

A SHORT LESSON IN LINGUISTICS

During the Medieval Ages there lived an illustrious scientist and inventor who, after much thought, came to the conclusion that there were far too many stars and planets crowding up the sky and that the heavens would look much better with a lot less of them.

He also realised that the lives of people on Earth were intractably complicated and unpredictable, because of the myriad stars and planets all exerting their own particular and often conflicting astrological influences upon mankind. This made forecasting the future nearly impossible and caused prophecies, divinations and horoscopes to be wildly inaccurate. With only a few celestial objects in the sky, existence would be so much more orderly and the flow of human affairs so much smoother.

And so this inventor-scientist applied all of his prodigious mechanical talents to the construction of a special weapon that could be used to shoot down heavenly bodies.

As an added bonus, when the gunned-down stars and planets landed on Earth, he dissected them and exhaustively analysed their inner structure in his laboratory, thus gaining invaluable knowledge which greatly advanced the field of astronomy. Once finished with his investigations, the scientist filed them carefully into his special astral album, like precious stamps and coins.

And that’s how the phrase “shooting stars” originated. Initially this phrase referred to the actual deed of gunning down stars, but over time its meaning shifted to refer to those falling stars that have been shot down.

Even to the present day, we continue to see stars falling from the sky, for they are the ones that have finally succumbed to the wounds inflicted by the astronomer’s gun hundreds of years ago.

painting by Vladimir Kush

THE SHADOW OF THE GREAT NEBULA OF ORION

One day, the nebula in the constellation of Orion, already the brightest nebula in the night sky, started to shine much more intensely, emitting a piercing blue-green light. Its luminosity was now so brilliant that it cast shadows during the daylight hours too, something that had always been the sole prerogative of the Sun.

Naturally, this generated great excitement, for never before had such an extremely bright celestial body been seen in the day sky. Everybody rushed outside to look at this heavenly wonder and to gawk at their double shadows, the old familiar one and the new one created by the Orion Nebula.

It was then that the world was hit by a very unpleasant surprise, for there was something quite peculiar about the shadows caused by the nebula. Instead of being mute, inert outlines of a person’s physical form, they revealed the shadow of a person’s character. Everyone’s inner anxieties, delusions and insecurities were now exposed for all to see.

No one could be found who did not possess a nebula shadow. Even newborns had a shadow accompanying them; thus, coincidentally, vindicating some psychological theories and theological dogmas, while demolishing others.

Naturally, the consequences of this new phenomenon were immense in their scope. Billions of lives were wrecked, relationships destroyed and careers ruined as a person’s innermost complexes and most tightly guarded secrets were revealed to their spouses, family, friends, work colleagues and complete strangers. The very structure of society was threatened, for its smooth running depended so much upon one’s true feelings and nature being suppressed and hidden, even from oneself. Consequently, these revelations came as a heavy shock to the many who didn’t know what apprehensions, self-deceptions and self-doubts they had been concealing from themselves in the remotest reaches of their psyches or in the deepest substrata of their unconscious minds.

Humanity was in a dilemma over how to cope with this situation. It certainly couldn’t dim or extinguish the nebula’s brightness. It could have tried to adapt to a nocturnal existence, when the shadows would be less distinct, but surely that would have been too radical and onerous a solution. Yet who could have risked or put up with the shame, the disgrace and the burden of walking around with all of their flaws and aberrations showing.

Inevitably, cults arose that chose to embrace with enthusiasm this new state of affairs. For them the Orion Nebula was The Bearer of Truth, The Great Enlightener of Mankind. Just as the Sun brought outer illumination, so the Orion Nebula was deemed to bring inner illumination to the world. The adherents of these sects took pride in letting others see their most intimate neuroses, and experienced catharsis in coming face-to-face with their fears, self-delusions and insecurities for the very first time. Having accepted their shadows, they felt more fulfilled and whole than they ever did before.

And then, just as suddenly as it flared up, the Orion Nebula dimmed to its usual luminosity. It didn’t take long for people to readjust to having only one shadow again. Lives, relationships and careers wrecked by the nebula were quickly rebuilt and almost everyone resumed living their old lives, maintaining total silence about that awkward period when their failings were revealed, the way a faux pas is ignored in polite company.

Anti-Labyrinths

The front cover of my upcoming book “Anti-Labyrinths” and a blurb about it.

 

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My Story Goes Hollywood

My story “The Curious Story of Frank” is one of the finalists in the Roswell Award science-fiction contest.
It will be read out  by a celebrity guest this Saturday,18th of May, 5:00pm – 7:00pm (Los Angeles time) at the Litfest Pasadena in Los Angeles.
You can find out what time that will be in your area using this link: https://www.worldtimezone.com/
You will be able to watch the whole event live at this link:
Do not despair, however, if it will be too late or too early for you, because a recording of the event will be posted online, and I will send you the link to it once it becomes available.
I include below 3 posters showing the finalists, the celebrity readers and the judges of this contest. And there’s also a poster about this literary festival.
Representatives from movie studios, networks and production companies will attend the readings and will judge the stories, and so there is the chance of my story being turned into a cinematic format. 
After the readings, the first, second, and third place winners will be announced. 
There will also be an audio message from me played at this event.
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Gallery

An Interview by The Australia Times Unearthed Fiction Magazine (Please click on the images to make them readable.)

 

Gallery

An Interview by The Australia Times Fiction Magazine (Please click on the images to make them readable.)

 

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Welcome to the Machine – El Diario article (English translation)

Welcome to the Machine Canary Islands Newspaper English image 2Welcome to the Machine Canary Islands Newspaper English image 3