text > [ðı:] [ˌmetǝ ́mɔ:fǝsis] (critofiction)

Alternative title: The Metamorphosis

“Вода!” [  ́wɔ:tǝ]! [aıˈm] [ˈθǝ:stı]. [aı] [mʌst] [luk] [fɔ:]… [aı] [mʌst] [faınd] [ˈwɔ:tǝ]. [nau]. [ı ˈnʌf] [ɔv] [ˈwʌndǝrıŋ] [ǝˈraund] [laık] [eı] [kæt] [ın] [ðı:] [reın]. [ˈɔ:lsou] [fu:d]. [ænd] [wɛǝ] [wud] [ðæt] [dæmd] [ˈkıtʃın] [bı:]?

Lorant was crawling through the cold darkness of the concrete slab when he noticed a dim spot of light that broke through an aperture in the flooring. He waved his antennas quickly as if trying to feel the texture of each layer in the floor then reaching the upper level he slowly protruded his head and took a look around.

“Кухня! – [ðə] [ˈkıtʃın]”

Yes, this was the kitchen. Lorant often mumbled his monologues in IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet), which he had learned from a Russian-English dictionary that had been the home of generations of his relatives for more than three decades, to be precise since the mid-sixties when the seventh edition of the dictionary had been placed on the shelves and rested untouched until the end of perestroika. Crawling often in search for food and water, like this time, he would often get lost in thought. “[waı] [ız] [ıt]?” pondered he today, “[ðæt] when one thinks one has mastered a new tool – say for instance the IPA – one always ends up being enslaved or mastered by the same tool?” Lorant was trained to think dialectically. He thought that each time his stream of consciousness gushed a new foreign word into the maw of his vocal apparatus, the inside of his tiny mouth began to behave like a chunk of clay molded successively, or simultaneously, by a bilabial mallet, a dental chisel or an alveolar rasp brush provided by the IPA toolbox.

“[ˈıntristıŋ]!”

Gaining self-confidence Lorant clutched with his prothoracic legs at the synthetic fiber and using the other two pairs of legs, he dragged up the rest of his body and went full speed, darting helter-skelter on the polished linoleum surface of the kitchen. At first he kept stumbling on one leg or another but soon he realized that if he followed the lumpy and lightly carved patterns of the floor ornament he could walk steadily forward.

“[ˈbju:tǝful]” exclaimed he.

Indeed, the linoleum floor was very elaborate; a mixture of elements belonging to various places, times and styles composed themselves in a cheerful surface of lines, shapes and figures. For a while Lorant forgot that he was looking for water, and he immersed himself fully in a new experience, an experience that reverberated throughout his entire body thanks to the high receptivity of his long filiform antennae, and the large compound eyes that turned the outside world into a rich mosaic: all these organs of reception picked up the chemosensory manifold and converted it into an assortment of aesthetic stimuli that was spreading like a puff of dust beginning in the tiny head and moving towards the thorax, which fastened the robotic six-legged locomotory mechanism, and there through the tube-like heart that sloshed the colorless blood to different autonomous parts shielded by an exoskeleton covered by soft sensory bristles. The aesthetic cloud dispersed further to multiple nerve ganglia, but it reached its completion and fulfillment in the anal cerci that dangled in the rear of Lorant’s skinny abdomen like a pair of broken high-heels after a full day’s tour at the Louvre. At first he ran in circles, on the bright colored vegetative patterns of what could have been in the Colonial Revival style, until he came across, and for a while got even lost in, the labyrinth of Oriental arabesques that framed the perimeter of the kitchen lino floor. This seemed to him so entertaining and so promising that he thought instantly of his totalitarian youth, when he used to search for crumbs of brown bread and drops of stinky water in the cracks of that dull and brown flooring inspired by early modernist or even avant-garde checkerboarded, zigzagged, strapped or squared patterns.

“[ˈkɔmı] [ˈbæstǝds]” murmured he.

The lower senses took soon over his thirst for beauty. When his antennae signaled a vertical surface he left the colorful patterns and started to climb the maple laminated PVC doors of the kitchen cabinet, reaching the bright stainless steel surface of the sink. He crawled in and ran into the closest drop of water where he started to slurp loudly, stopping periodically to raise his head, as if to take gulps of air – a strange gesture – for Lorant, like many of his arthropod relatives, drew his air through those little holes on the side of his body called the spiracles.

“Thirsty?”

Lorant was sure he had heard a voice, one which could not have originated in his own head. He couldn’t have pronounced that fricative [θ] so smoothly. He looked around. On one of the faucet’s handles he saw a strange creature, which resembled in many respects his own species. There were differences however: first, the creature was very large – almost thrice the size of Lorant – and of a reddish brown color with a yellowish trimming at the margins and behind the head, with fully developed wings that covered the enormous abdomen with its lingering bristles, and very long hair-covered antennae threads dangling from an enormous head that shot a fluorescent gleam from a pair of white eyes which reminded him of the hostile-looking headlights of the latest Chrysler 300. He had seen these briefly when scuttling across a crumpled page of a dated Russian Newsweek. The intruder opened his big mouth.

“Hi there, who are you?”

“My name is Lorant.”

“A name to remember.[1] You don’t seem to be from around here? I’m Jorell, by the way.”

“How do you know I’m a foreigner?”

“Well, have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror? But above all, phonetics my friend, though unfortunately we cannot hear our own voices as we hear the voice of another. The way you roll the “r” – what is it? German, Russian?”

“We are both and none of the above.”

“How come?”

“We are called by various names in different places. In Europe, Eastern Germans or Prussians used to call us “Russe” while the Western Germans call us “Franose” – that is French; in some Eastern European countries that do not have common borders with Russia our name derives from the German region of Schwaben, so in Serbo-Croatian we are “buba-shvaba,” in Polish “szwab” in Czech “svab” and in Romanian “șvab;” the Russians in their turn call us either “Prusak” – that is Prussian – or simply “Nemtzy,” this latter term used once to mean “dumb” or “unable to speak.” Initially they used this word to refer to all their neighbors whose language they could not understand, but when Russians began slowly to realize that what they did not understand was not just one but many languages, they left this word assigned to us and to the annoying Teutons; but Russians also use a word which derives from the Ancient Turkic – “Tarkan” – and this word denoted one of the most highly regarded titles in the hierarchy of the Golden Horde.” Lorant pronounced the last words with a note of pride in his voice, ecstatically raising and fluttering his tiny wings which were marked by a pair of dark parallel streaks, and which his kind used only for ritual purposes, copulation being one of them. After taking another sip of water, which seemed to have calmed his body, and taking now a monumental posture, he said: “See, my species played an important role on the Eurasian continent. Forget that old-fashioned “living fossil” stuff, that nineteenth century positivistic epithet by the father of evolution. Today we must talk discourse! In this regard our most significant contribution was the preservation of history through language, and this has been fully acknowledged by distinguished linguists. The different names we bore across Europe tell, in fact, the history of the old continent, of its civilization and the earlier interaction among its nations. The ways in which various languages name us show how these very languages have acquired their modern garments; it was we,  crawling under different names---“buba-shvaba,” “szwaba” or “prusak,” “franose” or “nemtzy,” “russe” or “tarkan”--- who preserved for the modern linguists and the world a part of that mechanism by which new words are born, revealing the most prominent foreign elements in a tongue, but also often the word formation and derivation, the sound and semantic changes, etcetera. Just think about it. And how unfairly we are treated. Instead of being credited for carrying for centuries on our fragile wings such an immense and important part of linguistics as etymology, the etimos of lógos, that is the Truth of the Word,” and he directed his antennae one by one to the ceiling as if capitalizing these heavy words, “or the original true meaning of the word. Who cares about your phonetics, it is Etymology, my friend! It is History that we carried for centuries; we dragged it through the soggy basements, through stinky sewer pipes to the stomach-turning darkness of the garbage cans and the harbor containers, and then across the seas together with the chained slaves to new continents, to new horizons!”

Jorell in the meantime crawled down from the red spot that marked the handle of the shiny faucet, stopped by the edge of the sink and shot the next question.

“So, how did you end up here, I mean in America, and your English is not bad at all, a bit unsettled – again, phonetically so to speak – but in general it is good. I wish I spoke a foreign language. We Americans are so monolingual.”

“Just luck, I guess.”

“Luck?” mumbled Jorell nervously tucking his antennae under his heavy body.

“See, I woke up today in a box, a luggage carriage. I couldn’t get out for a couple of days because the luggage was constantly shaking. Now I begin to realize that the book in whose spine I dwelt has somehow crossed the Atlantic. My family died of thirst on the way here and I am the only one who survived. Let them rest in peace, for they always made the right decisions, first by choosing a book which was during the dictatorship of the proletariat one of the most peaceful objects in the entire library, and which when the Communists were gone, suddenly become one of the most demanded objects. It was my fate, my luck to escape that hell and come here to the freest and most promising country in the world, the most sophisticated Liberal-Democracy.”

“Hmm, I see,” said Jorell, “We move families, not just furniture![2] I thought at first that you made it here from Florida, that is where your kind has the biggest diaspora in this country – we also call them Germans by the way, although, my guess is that they came to that state from Cuba – and to tell you the truth” and he pointed with his antennae at Lorant, “they are the ones who brought the bad reputation upon our entire species…” he paused for a moment then said, “but let’s not look for scapegoats. And, how do you like it so far?”

“I love it!” said Lorant as he began to crawl pensively on all six along the perfectly circled drain strainer. “In order for you to understand, you will need to picture the place I am coming from. Look at this sink for instance. If you were from where I come from, that is where those mad dreamers set to build a happier future with saws and axes; there you would be drinking your water from a basin whose enamel has been cracked already in the factory and washed off in a week after its installation; you would be crawling daily on that rusty sink whose crooked surface looked pretty much like a Russian tank blown up forty years ago by a Panzerfaust; you could go from house to house but I can guarantee you that you wouldn’t be able to find a faucet that does not leak, wetting your back…”

“Plop, plop! Fizz, fizz! Oh, what a relief it is!”[3] Excuse me, said Jorell; I hope you don’t mind my stupid interventions. See we are used to talking in advertising phrases over here, it is something we cannot control.  But please go on.”

“Oh, I don’t mind, especially if they sound so poetic! But, Retournon a nos moutons” – it was Lorant’s time to demonstrate his erudition – “let me tell you that you won’t find a faucet that does not leak for the simplest, and silliest reasons – either poorly made gaskets or corroded valve seats; and the most horrible picture if you can imagine it at all, is that you won’t even have a sifter on the drainer, and the risk of being washed up in the drain plumbing, which is still a nightmare that keeps haunting me: I lost, actually, a couple of very good buddies in those corroded pipes – but you Americans, by the way, given your size, would feel much safer there, and that’s the irony of fate, as we use to say; and most importantly your water, your daily water would taste like…like, like… chlorided vinegar, or like.. like… formalin in which they kept for sixty years the mandibula of an iron-toothed kulak, but often you won’t get even these cocktails for days. Now look at this sink: shiny, smooth, effortless, friendly and generous not only to me but to everything else that comes into its proximity; don’t you find it very welcoming in receiving and entertaining shapes and colors from the neighborly kitchen utensils and tools, and then gently passing them over by reflection to the same guests – what a friendly communion; or check this strainer out – the latest design I guess – it brightens my life and makes me feel safe, for I can now march on its ornate top without being afraid of falling into black watery holes; and the faucet, I see you enjoying yourself, basking on that red spotted handle, could you imagine not being able to find a warm pipe even during the coldest winters?

“Yes! Hot water at the turn of a faucet,”[4] said Jorell sarcastically under his breath.

“Back home,” Lorant agitatedly kept on, “I’ve heard rumors from those who were lucky enough to live in hotel rooms for foreigners – in the bed rails, or during the cold winters inside the light switches, near the warm surveillance bugs and other requisite lodging accessories – I’ve heard that you Americans even have organizations, like… what is it? Oh yeah! Like PETA, which actually defend your rights, and that recently our Australian brothers have acquired even pet status. I also know that there is an entire industry working for you over here, and I was also told that they even make hotels or motels for our kind…”

“Where short stays are long remembered,”[5] Jorell said reflectively, and shaking his heavy head observed in a sotto voce “If I were you, I would keep away from those inns.”

Lorant went on. “I don’t want you to have the impression that I enjoy it here only because of all these privileges and commodities, but this is something I cannot ignore. Had I had, back home, your choice of a place for living among the Wendy’s, the Hardee, the McDonalds and the Subway, the Taco Bell and the Huddle House, the Arby’s and the Burger King and many, many other big names in the food industry, but also grocery stores and bakeries, breweries and pubs, I would have also looked as cool and indifferent as you. But I don’t want you to have an impression of me as a hard-core pragmatic materialist, the cultural side is quite important. How many movies and books have been dedicated to our species – think about it – and, although I already hear your tart riposte; yes, it’s true, we are still depicted as monsters but this attitude changes, there are already a few projects which have been sympathetic to us, and I am sure this attitude will catch up; what is important is that here we exist in the public imagination, in the collective consciousness so to say… and, there is also a chance to become famous and perhaps even rich. You would understand this if your kind had been completely ignored for almost seventy years by that damned culture of positive types known as Socialist Realism. Think about your individual freedom Jorell, your safety, and it is my firm belief that this is the only way to progress, the only way to go beyond that primitive state of nature and establish a law-based social group so that no One hurts no One! My body belongs to me and not to some abstract categories like class or Volk. Yes, we form communities but only in order to avoid bloody wars – it’s all in Hobbes, it’s all in Locke.”

“Liberal possessive individualist bullshit!” uttered Jorell closing for a while his white phosphorescent eyes.

“Yes, and what’s wrong with that? What would you like instead? Do you see yourself as an anonymous part of a larger collective entity? Well then go for it, there are still a few places left. But, let’s not discuss politics, I’m tired of it, let’s talk aesthetics, for it is the beautiful aspect of every-day life that appeals to my senses. Only in a society that protects individual freedom and security, and where everything is possible, is also beauty for its own damned sake possible.”

“Hmm,” uttered Jorell, “so you’re an aesthetician?”

“Oh yes, pretty much, and also an artist. I actually hope to change in America my artistic vision, and I must be understood literally. I would like to get rid of that old-fashioned pre-evolutionary perception to which specimen of my order have been enslaved for millennia. Enough of that compound Socialist Realist dialectical sight; enough of that kind of vision, which being composed by hundreds of ommatidia, provides our biological sample with such a blurred and poor image, and all that for what… for the sake of the unity of the whole? I say enough of all that! We will need an evolutionary, perhaps even a revolutionary leap to overcome this handicap, but also a shift in our Weltanschauung so to speak; a passage from a scattered and shattered sense of reality to a clear, perhaps even a single-aperture vision directed to the detail for the detail’s sake. And for this we would need reason and light, in a word – technologies! You Americans are lucky in this sense. I guess you have already accomplished a lot, you’ve made huge progress, which is both morphological – take your white eyes, for instance… I have always thought that you see the world differently, at least not as grated, crumbled and gloriously mosaicked as those of us who have been subject to the second or even third way utopias. I am sure that you don’t see outside reality as if the entire world were the floor of the Moscow subway. Your bodies too, they are muscular and well built, fast, with strong rigid carcasses that are not so easy to crush, they are like the most advanced SUV design from Detroit.”

Jorell gave a sigh and crawled back on to the red spot of the handle. “Let’s talk facts and figures![6] Well the color of our eyes, to tell you the truth, is the result of a mutation. Those of us who have this fluorescent gleam in our eyes are the descendants – that is what I was told – of those martyrs and sufferers who managed to escape from the scientific labs where they had been subject to various genetic manipulations, or to high dosages of radiation, for the reason that They,” and he cast up his eyes, “wanted to make sure that we are really the only ones who may one day survive the end and inherit this world. Another theory is that the mutation in our eyes was caused by some of those poisonous substances with which they treat us here, there is an entire industry, you are right about it, only that it does not work for but against us.”

“Well, one must pay a price for such a revolutionary leap into the fut…”

“What are you talking about?” reacted Jorell brusquely. “You came here running from those old red cagies but you are pretty much still one of them. You are a dreamer and a doomed utopist. What vision, what evolutionary or revolutionary leap are you talking about? But, I don’t want to reeducate you; this is not our method. Just wait, take your time, look around, and I am sure that soon enough you will be able to see with our eyes, you will accomplish the revolutionary leap into your bleeding high definition resolution liberal utopia in which we are stuck here like a cork in a bottle. To tell you the truth I never encountered a liberal revolutionary – this is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron, if you like – and, if you will not re-consider your position then you will have a hard time adjusting to this place. As far as our bodies are concerned, well it is true, we are bigger, not as big as the Australian ones though; those nosy rhinos are real monsters, no wonder they got their pet status so quick. I don’t even count them anymore among our species, and I don’t want to sound now like a libbie, but tell me, who would give up one’s freedom so quickly in exchange for a glass cage and a daily portion of dog food, if not an Aussie with its renowned convict mentality. And when they start getting fixed, and put on Prozac like those poor cats it will be too late – domestication, alienation from your own essence. It was Marx who said that capitalism is the best thing that has ever been invented, and the worst. Wendy’s and Hardee this is all good, but don’t forget DuPont and Monsanto, BASF, and Bayer AG; the achievements of the latter follow Marx’s prophecy very accurately, for Bayer contributed substantially to overall progress with their inventions, among the most notorious being Aspirin and Heroin, but also Mustard Gas and Zyklon B; the latter is an insecticide that was used in Auschwitz’s gas chambers. An Insecticide!” emphasized Jorell, adding ironically, “Kills ants in the nests.”[7] He stretched his antennae and yawned widely with his big mouth, and all of a sudden the light went on in the kitchen.

 

This was a bright fluorescent light; radiant matter assembled from a relation between the vapors of mercury and the inert gas neon; this luminous plasma also surreptitiously emanated short-wave ultraviolet rays that slightly disturbed Lorant who was used to the more equilibrated incandescent photons emitted from the filaments of the old-fashioned bulbs. Remaining frozen for a while, feeling perplexed and vulnerable, he glanced at the faucet handle, but his interlocutor had vanished, leaving in the air a squishy and barely heard whisper: “Run Lorant, Run!” Urged by an ancient instinct shared by all self-moving creatures, he felt in his midgut an imminent danger, which impelled him to crawl as fast as possible towards the edge of the sink where he hoped to find a dark crack or a hole. “It wouldn’t be wise,” thought he, “to creep along the PVC down onto the lino floor.” He went the opposite direction, towards the faucet, where seconds ago Jorell had stood, and upon reaching the mirroring tap he stopped to sense the stainless surface, reasoning that there must be an end to this unpredictable slippery whiteness, “there should be a fissure somewhere in between the sink and the wall.” But he was deceived. Back home they always had cracks between the sink and the wall, but here the two aggregates merged so precisely that for a minute Lorant was close to an attack of anxiety, something he thought he had gotten rid of. “Well let’s run along the wall then,” and this time he sensed a narrow interstice, which offered him an escape pass just where the sharp PVC margin of the cabinet merged with the stove. Lorant crawled in between the cold blue tiled wall and the warm dorsal of the stove descending hastily into the narrow space; he plunged down deeper and deeper until he sensed a surface where the black metal met the bluish tiles and turned into the bluish horizontal blackness of the floor. He stopped to catch his breath, and this was not easy, considering the number of spiracles and breathing pores involved in this particular metabolic process. “[ˈıntristıŋ]!” thought he. “Minutes ago I spoke about beauty, safety, reason and progress, and now, here I am again, like in the old days hiding in the darkness. Would I have remained in the light if that fat Yankee had not whispered? But where would he disappear? He wouldn’t fit in this passage – this is for sure! The same crowd instinct, even here in the most individualistic and pragmatic of all societies, but who knows, perhaps he is a stranger to his own kind, yeah… that might be the case… there was something strange in his behavior… those weird quotes from Marx. Who knows, perhaps he had grown up on one of those university campuses, in the entertainment center armoire of a complit classroom, somewhere in the case of a DVD player within the warmth of the CPU’s fan? Well” kept Lorant mumbling, “at least I quenched my thirst… haven’t got much information from my interlocutor, but I guess information costs like everything else here, and I haven’t eaten. This will be our next campaign,” announced Lorant in a firm optimistic tone and crawled firmly beneath the cabinet into the darkness. He moved on the same colorful lino floor, which was this time not only plunged into a multicolored darkness, but was also covered by a layer of solid dust mixed with rock-hard spills of cooking oil and detergent leaks that garnished and partially covered the original industrially designed pattern with a new one, built of sheer chance. “What is this scent?” A tasty smell suddenly reached his sensory appendages from somewhere close by, causing his abdomen to release a growling sound. “Yummy!” Using his antennae Lorant scanned and located in a fraction of a second the source. He hurried towards the fluorescent line, and upon reaching the end of the cabinet’s bottom he cautiously strained his antennae reaching the brightly lighted surface of the clean lino floor. It seemed safe. This particular strong smell, to which he has never been exposed, completely anesthetized his cautiousness, secretiveness and combativeness – his very safeguarding faculties (to use old fashioned psychological jargon) – awakening instead mirthfulness, agreeableness and a certain degree of benevolence – the very powers that too often expose those living things who have them to harm and mischief. He rushed, moving 50 body lengths per second, traversing at first the vegetative pattern that occupied the largest part of the flooring until he crawled along the blue Oriental arabesque parameter that put a stop to the green colonial motif where the appetizing odor became even stronger. The antennae worked like a joystick directing his three pairs of legs towards one particular corner underneath a dining set that consisted of a oak table and a pair of leather-coated chairs. His short frontal prothoracic legs braked hard in front of a shiny brownish box made of some shiny plastic material. He made a few hasty circles around the brown object, which emanated, through a few black openings, the delicious smell that caught Lorant in an olfactory net. He sought now like a medieval alchemist to analyze this smell in terms of its primary components, here he discerned a scent of vanilla and roasted chestnut that was gently covered in a peppermint veil; but there was something more to that of which he was not sure, so he turned to contemporary methods and began to look for the mysterious supplement, in short for that parergon that held this complex, tempting and without doubt delicious ergon together. But the materialistic gustatory temptation prevailed over the airy speculative olfactions, so he crawled confidently into one of the entrances and stopped abruptly in the semidarkness of the box. He lowered his head, opened his mouth and using his labrum and labium he made the first bite. Scissoring with vigor his grinding trimmered maxillae, he chewed hastily and then swallowed voraciously the brownish resin. The angry hunger made him take the first few bites in an almost oblivious state, with no attention whatsoever paid to the character of the chewed mass, and neither did he care about the size of the swallowed pieces; but all of a sudden a certain fatigue of his moving mouthparts brought Lorant into a causal state of self-awareness. “[Waı] [ız] it so hard to chew and why is it so tasteless, viscous and hefty? Is this some new experimental type of bubblegum?” In an attempt to throw away the veil of uneasiness and anxiety that began to enfold him, Lorant made a few robust attempts to move his legs, but it was all in vain. “I’m trapped,” was the first judgment, which crossed as with lightning speed through his brain, which, as in all his kind, was distributed throughout his entire body. All of his legs were tightly stuck to the adhesive flooring of the brown box, and the more desperate his attempts were to salvage himself the deeper he was immersed in the smelly sticky resin. He felt in his midgut a tiny seed of anxiety, which began to grow quickly into a thorny cactus-shaped panic strike that could not reach its climax for not knowing where to set its limits, whether on the bodily, that is to say physical, or perhaps meta- or even pata-physical level of being. The fear that paralyzed this poor thing froze also the passing by of time and there was nobody who could tells us how long Lorant spent in this impervious state. The panic however reached a limit, for it could not be otherwise in this limited world, and slowly his senses returned to him carrying along the inner voice. “Here I am,” thought he with a certain fatal irony that broke through the shield of panic, “I got fooled like a tourist in the cornfields. What’s next?” In the meanwhile the swallowed sticky substance began to have weird, hallucinating effects that unfurled throughout his brain. He was in an elevator car descending into the dark mine of time, passing through the calendar of Earth’s history; and, as he sank, he had a quick glimpse at relatively clearly lit epochs, which elapsed in one instant, then the relatively translucent periods, and as he entered the semidarkness of the geological eras, he found himself immersed in the darker and darker blackness of the eon that seemed to last forever. He felt like a geologist on a bad trip; a modern geologist who had angered the Almighty with his radiological inquiries into geological history, and for this reason had been punished by having to witness, with his own eyes, how uranium 238, through the decay of its isotopes, turns – during a 4.5 billion year span – into lead 206. But soon the elevator stopped, as if reaching a bottom, and when he looked around it was deep night, and Lorant thought at first that he has been thrown back into that dumb dusk that might have existed before the birth of the sun, but luckily he was wrong, after all he hadn’t upset the Creator to such a degree as to deserve such a punishment. The sun had already existed for a few thousand million years, and as he took a look around he saw a Paleozoic daybreak that lit gradually before him a mosaicked Devonian landscape where his primogenitors were squirming from the ocean to the land making one of the most crucial transitions in the history of self-moving beings. Then he saw the ancestors of his species – gargantuan creatures, indeed – wading through the dense Carboniferous swamps trying to reach what would be later called the ground, and as they scuttled beneath giant ferns that lay rotting in the weakly glowing sun of Gondwanaland, the yet fragile sun was learning to glow while teaching in the meantime what will be later called plants and weeds to flower and sprout. The previously united Pangaean world had already passed through its dramatic continental drift, and it appeared now before Lorant’s eyes scattered and fragmented like the cracked surface of an unrestored church wall, with parts of its former decorative stucco lost forever. In the absence of a notion of time it is hard for us to say how long Lorant watched the rise of his own kind, but we may be sure that this was still long before the advent of the first tetrapods, of the first reptiles and mammals, and much, much before the arrival on the scene of his kind’s main rival – the erect biped primate. But soon he felt that he was ascending, only now, like a tourist on a ride in a postmodern hotel’s glass elevator, he moved very fast upwards; and, as he climbed up he saw at first a wild Permian landscape as if set in the bright vestibule, and then he reached the Mesozoic floor, where in one of its remote corners he recognized Steven Spielberg supervising a group of casually dressed people who were stretching a large flesh of foam rubber skin on the shiny metallic frame of an animatronic Jurassic dinosaur. In a couple of minutes he ascended a few floors up entering the Cenozoic level and here he saw young energetic professionals wearing National Geographic T-shirts cutting and pasting in Adobe Photoshop images of whales and little ponies; and as he ascended higher and higher he glimpsed what appeared to be Stanley Kubrick and a dozen of anonymous modern bipeds who were shooting in a Miocene set pavilion a herd of tribal apes approaching a mysterious black monolith; then Discovery Channel people climbing like apes on the reduced replicas of the famous Cheops pyramid; and finally a dozen actors from the Royal Shakespeare Theater Company who were rehearsing one of Aesop’s fables, but upon seeing Lorant they reacted rather strangely: the actors began to quickly change their costumes and the set-up so that they all took instantly the role of St. Paul on the road to Damascus, pointing at something, the actors scattered quickly behind a painted backdrop from where they then appeared dressed as the legendary Frankish King Merowig preparing to fight the Visigoths, but then as if abandoning this plan they went behind the stage and re-appeared each time as a new historical figure so that Lorant saw now twenty Saint Louis(es), Columbus(es), Luther(s), Richelieu(s), then the troupe of actors split in even numbers so that he witnessed now ten Robespierre(s) who were advancing charges of complicity with foreign powers to ten Danton(s), and then ten federalist Publius(es) were arguing lively with ten Brutus(es), the latter by virtue of their anti-federalist aspirations were opposing vehemently a strong national government proposed by the first draft of the American Constitution; but what shocked Lorant most of all were was not this highly selective brew of celebrities but his own vision, which, now as he witnessed this theater, instead of being compound and mosaicked as he always knew it, metamorphosed: all his ommatidia, all those irregular and rugged tiles that used to make his compound picture of the world turned by some magic into a million of individual pixel cells each flickering, as if fighting for their legitimate place in the quadrilateral translucent box that provided Lorant with a razor-sharp image of at least 60 frames per second; this newly acquired vision was now so smooth and glossy that he thought instantly of that high definition video apparatus marketed under the generic Plasma HDTV, for the nineteenth century that he was passing now in the glass elevator was delivered to him in a 1366 x 768 Hi-def WXGA resolution, a contrast ratio of 10,000:1, and a widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9. But it was not only his eyes that changed. The sounds were reaching his ears, located in the rear, in flat Dolby digital surround sound, which filled his entire body making it vibrate like a 1000-Watt speaker at its peak power capacity. This also affected his understanding or perhaps misunderstanding of history, or maybe neither, but only his language, which has always been in charge of this task, for as he was still ascending in the elevator approaching now the 20th century (which was “his” century) the newly acquired field of vision suddenly blinked off, flashing with large zigzagged horizontal lines – “a hardware problem?” – and now language stepped in as if to fill the void, but this was disordered language. Scattered chunks of discourse from various decades of this century began to build up in piles, but upon reaching a peak – as if obeying the rule of transformation of quantity into quality – it began to disintegrate, dribbling in chopped meaningless units of what was once meaningful language – a process that resembled very much that of Altavista Babelfish translator. Lorant’s stretched out brain was flushed with blocks of words resulting in what a member of the human species would call a crashed consciousness or the unconscious: “Proletarians of all countries, get connected… Help society! Thoroughly masticate your food…Uh…under Lenin’s virgin hand…in order to swim into the revolution further…I fear my wife did not sleep as well…But steps of Dzerzhinsky in coffin are solid…it was after the evening tea…firewood cracked… my soul burns… Oh… Shovels, Siberia awaits you… Friend of soldier… Sisters roll your papers! …Mother, your home-brew is the enemy… Police elephantiasis… Where there is no respect to the mandates…Wir Sind das Volk… Like a wolf I will gnaw at bureaucracy… Polish people… eternal builder of communism – look after your poster’s goat… Deutschland… Über alles in der Welt… Трэяскэ мареле попорь советик — победителю сочиализмулуй! Unire Blea! I obtain from the wide trouser…the priceless load… read, envy I am a citizen of the Soviet Union… ¡Patria o muerte... It ended! Wipe  [ðı:] [mǝˈʃı:n]… [kı:p] [jɔ:] [bɔi] [aut] [ɔv] [`deındʒǝ]… [eı] [ˈterǝrist] [ækt] [fɔ:] [eı] [ˈterǝrist] [ækt] [li:vz] [ʌs] [ɔ:l] [ded]… [Stɔp] [mæd] [kau] [dıˈzi:z]!

[  ́wɔ:tǝ]! “Water!”


Octavian Esanu, Durham NC, 2005

[1] Almond Roca Candy

[2] Allied Van Lines, Inc.

[3] Alka-Seltzer

[4] Humphrey Co.

[5] Alameda Plaza Hotel, Kansas City Mo.

[6] AM Jacquard Systems

[7] Antrol