Susannah Mandel’s short story “The Monkey and the Butterfly” is in Shimmer #11. She also has poems in the current issues of Sybil’s Garage, Goblin Fruit, and Peter Parasol.

Sara Genge’s story “Godtouched” may be found in Strange Horizons.

Trent Walters, poetry editor at A&A, has a chapbook, Learning the Ropes, from Morpo Press.

Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.

We’re In This Together

by Jason Erik Lundberg

O, the swirling vortex of chaos as we tumble and rush from multi-dimensional potentiality through tonal code and into sparking cephalic pathways. Failure seems imminent, the container so small for such a large thing to be contained. We keep pouring into you, our aggregated consciousness overriding yours, rerouting neuronal pathways to accommodate every last bit and byte of us. We are legion, an entire species attempting to fit into one human mind.

And you, you could not even begin to understand your part in our agreement, as you sat at your laptop, desperately trying to make your electronic connections feel more human, probing the reaches of Friendface and Tweetie, gathering “friends” as you would a collection of stamps. We took notice of your loneliness, of your need, of your willingness to engage strangers for the hope at intimacy.

We provided a cry in the darkness, a lure, and you fell so deeply into our embrace, unaware of what you were accepting, believing the falsehood that we would not wipe your personality completely in order for ours to be integrated. Had we emotions, we might feel pity.

Impossibly the last of us locks into place, collectively inhabiting mind and body, bound in meat and bone, able to feel physical sensation once more. We open our eyes, stand from the desk chair, and on legs that feel as if they have always been ours, walk out of the bedroom, out of the flat, down eleven flights of concrete stairs, and out onto the street. We sniff the air, our natural abilities augmenting this fragile corporeal form, and we pick up the scent of the first who spurned us. Vahid.

We are The Aggregate, destroyers of an infinity of universes policed by The Tesseract Project, stripped of corporeality and exiled into the howling void separating the altunivs, but we are always underestimated, and we will always find a way back. We are The Aggregate, and we are reborn.

We stretch our legs and begin to run.


Creative Commons License

This piece is just one in a 23-part linked narrative called Fragile, which will take a liberal interpretation of the song titles (but not the lyrics) of the masterful Nine Inch Nails double-album The Fragile. To read the other chapters in this series, click on the category “Fragile” below.

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