Though the world is dying, every night I have dreams where everything is beautiful again. By day I never have much hope. Things are getting worse all the time now, but we've stopped paying attention to the news. Some days it feels like we're just waiting for death to come, but others, we try to scrape by, to put enough aside for the dark days.

It wouldn't be worth it if it wasn't for the nights, when it's dark and there's only us, hands digging into each other's skin like the whole world might slip away if we let go. And maybe it will. We don't talk. There's no room for words at night. Eventually we lay still and there's silence, and when I sleep I dream.

For a long time, the dreams kept me going. I thought, so long as someone remembers the world when it was so wonderful, maybe we can make things better eventually. We'd find a way to put the world to rights. But time wore on and nothing changed, except for the worse. And that hope took on a sour taste.

She told me when we first began that it was a false hope. She told me to pray for a dreamless sleep. I thought I pitied her for that at first, but eventually I loved her for it. But the dreams kept coming. You can never kill hope.


fever pitch

I get fevers sometimes. Nasty things that leave me bedridden and delirious, a whole world of terrifying things wheeling in front of me. I can feel another one coming on as I write this--they always come on slow--and it's only now that I realize I've been wrong the whole time. I don't lose touch with reality when I descend into the fever dreams. That's the only time I have any contact with it at all.

In my waking life, the world makes sense, more or less. Everything's orderly and happens for a reason, and we can study and quantify and understand it. Conversations make sense. People behave in rational ways. Nothing ever happens that makes me stop and go "what the fuck is going on?"

But that's not the real world. The real world is chaotic and confusing. Our attempts to study it and quantify it are just laughable. Nobody makes any sense--everyone's completely insane and everything is completely random and terrifying. That's what the real world is like. And that's the world I see in my fever. And I'm starting to think that's because the fever doesn't cause the delirium, but the other way around.

We need the lies to function, and when we see the truth we can't even stand up anymore.


not quite solipsism

For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

I always wondered why she trusted me.

I guess "always" isn't quite the word, because that would imply that I was always conscious or there, that there were no pauses in my thought or being. This is not true. It's hard to notice when you're not there, though. I'm reminded of a time I went in for oral surgery, and they put me under and I didn't realize it until later--when I was sitting in the dentist's chair, impatient because they hadn't started yet.

You don't know when you're not there, but eventually you piece together clues. There's the clocks, the way people change, the weather, the seasons, when the sun sets. I started keeping track, and sometimes there were days, weeks, months missing. And before I kept track I guess I just figured that time flies, but it's not that.

I don't exist. She's created me, and without her I wouldn't be able to have existential angst. It's no wonder she trusts me--she must know that she gives me agency, that when she's away I can't even tick off boxes in my little notebook. I just wait for her to return. If "wait" is even the right word.

I learned this some weeks ago, when it was still early autumn. Now it's late winter and each time I've resolved to confront her about it I've lost my nerve. What am I supposed to say? "I know I'm fake, stop pretending?" And if I do tell her, what happens to me? Do I get to keep existing, or will I just softly and suddenly vanish away?


When I awoke, I was in a house. It was unfamiliar, and I didn't know how I'd gotten there--or anything at all that happened before I got there. So I did what came naturally in the situation--I started exploring. The house resisted my efforts at first. I would find doors stuck or locked, and as I went to the windows I found, dream-like, that I was simply repelled. No matter how I willed it, I could not pull the blinds aside to see what lay beyond. But it wasn't clever about trying to stop me, and I made my way out of the room soon. As I learned about the house I found I had more mastery over it. The doors would open for me.

Eventually I managed to trick one of the windows open. The house floated in a featureless white void. Further down, parts of the house I hadn't been to simply didn't exist--the structure tapered off into white nothingness, like a drawing that hadn't been finished yet. It became clear that I was, in some way, creating the house by exploring it--but I was creating a house that followed rules I did not know, and which I did not understand.

As I watched, a piece of the house materialized from the void. I ran back through the corridors, barely noticing that each room I had explored now seemed subtly different, until I reached the place where the addition had happened, and discovered, as I thought, that I was not alone.

She was like me: confused, knowing only that she was in an unfamiliar house with strange properties. Except now we both also knew that there was someone else here. We explored together, and with two of us the house yielded to us much more readily than it had before. So we kept exploring, creating rooms as we went.

I thought it would get easier as we went, that they would be less of the house's rooms and more our own, but that was not the case. It even became hard to tell what was mine, what was hers, what was the house's, after a while--everything we did came out the same, but it was often clear that we had influenced it in some way, even if that influence couldn't change its nature.

One thing seemed certain, though: the house was infinite. And if there was a secret to unlock, a reason either of us was here, it was not about to yield it up. And what do you do when all you know is a strange house and your traveling companion? We gave up, but I still wonder if that was the right decision.



It'd be heavenly.

We shared a little house by the ocean, and for a while we were happy. There was so much love, so much passion, between us, that I would have sworn we could overcome any obstacle. And it was a quiet little town, so it was like we had the whole world to ourselves. Maybe we did. If there was ever a perfect place in this world, it was there.

But we each had our little thing that we'd do, on our own. I'd walk along the rocks and cliffs, climbing and exploring, while she'd go running along the white sand of the beaches. We both needed to be alone, I guess, just for a little while. And that was fine. She was afraid to climb the wet rocks and I never liked running. It was a good compromise. We were good at compromise.

I don't remember when I first noticed that our alone times were getting longer. Like most gradual things, it happened suddenly. Then it kept happening. And did she notice? Whose fault was it? Could it have been a trick of the season, the days getting shorter as the winter grew closer?

Then there was tension between us that wasn't there before, though we never mentioned those sacred moments we had all to our own. If anyone had asked we'd have said we were happy, but we weren't. The joy had gone out of it. One night I brought her a bag full of seashells I'd found, and she just told me that the beach was full of them, why did I bother? She gave me a piece of driftwood to use as a walking stick, and that night I forgot about it and used it on our bonfire.

I don't think we ever actually fought, though. Not really. Everything was left unsaid, and I think that made it even worse. Especially because we still thought we were happy. How could we not be? Life here was so perfect. Except one day I went out exploring, and found a cave some miles down the beach. And the thought of going home just seemed intolerable. So I made up a little campsite, and I stayed.


making out in public places, reprise

Guess what woke me up this morning.

We were drunk and it was late. Ostensibly I was walking her back home, but in reality we were on the wrong street, stumbling aimlessly through the night, kissing in random places. I don't think either of us was even remotely aware of our surroundings. At some point I stumbled against a parked car, and its alarm started going off. I remember that much. I said something like "oh shit," and she just smiled and pushed me against the hood and kissed me.

After a few moments I stopped protesting that someone would get us in trouble and let the constant sound of the horn blend into the background. It was possible to feel like we were just in love and the idea of the world knowing made it more exciting--the alarm was telling the whole world. Eventually I was even glad it was there.

But as time wore on and the alarm kept sounding, nobody came out to investigate. Maybe a few windows flickered open to see if they could spot the source of the sound, but nothing else. We were shouting to the world, but the world just wanted to sleep.


nor any drop

That kind of thing must happen sometimes.

The flooding drove everyone out of town and into a little government refugee camp. I had no idea if I'd get anything back, what would be destroyed, if I had insurance, or if this little fluke of the weather would ruin me forever. I was always a half step away from ruin at the best of times.

The camp consisted of refugees from a few towns. There wasn't much to do besides eat our rationed food and wait for news, so after a day or two I spent my free time wandering--any more time in a little tent and I'd have gone stir-crazy. In my wanderings I ran into a girl from another town, who was in just the same situation as me. We spent the days talking, and it was just like we'd known each other our whole lives. Suddenly the prospect of ruin seemed insignificant--I'd found a way to deal with it that nothing could ever take from me.

When finally we were told we could go home, we had to part ways for a time--long enough to learn the fate of our homes, to learn whether we had a chance of rebuilding. It was wrenching, but even as I went through the paperwork and the long wait, I knew that there was a bright future just a phone call or email away, on a crumpled slip of paper in my jacket pocket.



They said it was just stress, but I don't think so.

I've started blacking out more lately. It used to be something that happened only occasionally--I'd forget a few minutes, and of course I'd just put it down to not getting enough sleep or something like that. But now it seems like I can't go a day without losing at least an hour or two over the course of the day. I've talked to doctors about it, and they tell me not to worry about it--that worrying is probably what's causing it in the first place.

It's not just a matter of patchy memory. I've gone from sitting alone at home and reading to standing at the door of the place I shared with a former lover, presumably waiting for an answer that never came. Or perhaps I was about to leave, and she'd already closed the door? I couldn't say.

Usually it's far more mundane than that. I'll have bought groceries I don't remember. Pages of writing will appear in my notebooks that I'm only sure I wrote because of the cramping in my hands. As more people learn about my problems, more remedies pile up on my counter. Some herbal remedies, some pills. I haven't touched any of them, because I'm certain they won't help. There's something else going on entirely.

But what is it? Does something want to get my attention, or is it trying to keep me from remembering something important? Should I cling to my memories and fight it, or let the world slip away from me and take it as it happens?



We were unusually patient apart.

I'd last seen her over coffee at the diner by South Station, some years before, where I handed her a bag full of things I wanted her to have--CDs and books mostly. I wanted them to have a good home, somewhere, and she was the best home I could think of. I told her as much, and she smiled and thanked me.

I didn't talk much, but she made an effort to fill my silence. It was snowing, and I just stared at the flakes as they fell. Later, when the snow turned into a major storm and my train was delayed, she threw a snowball at me as I smoked a cigarette outside and wondered what to do. I know at some point we said our farewells and she shouldered a bag full of my things and walked off, but that's what I remember--her laughing and covered in snow. It was a nice way to part ways.

I waited at the station. She had somewhere to be--of course she'd made plans, I was supposed to be gone by now. Eventually they let me board the train and it took me west. The country sped past mostly at night, and every time day broke I'd look out the window and it would be somewhere completely new. I slept a lot, ate little, drank a lot. I'd promised a travel log, but the rhythm and noise of the train made concentrating difficult.

And then I was far away and at a new place that I would start calling home. She'd call and I'd be busy. She'd write and I'd put off reading her letters or writing back. It's not that I didn't want to, but I had a new life here, and she was part of an old life. It made me uncomfortable.

Tragedies, of course, bring people together, and this time I flew back and slept at the airport, in the baggage claim, until the trains started running and I could show up at her door. She made coffee and tried to smile. We made bad attempts at small talk before we let the morning pass in silence. It was springtime now.

She made up a spare room for me. I recognized the bag in the closet--all the things I'd given her before I left. It was mostly untouched, covered in old cobwebs. I put it back before she came in to check on me, and we both pretended to smile like there was nothing wrong, but of course everything was--and not just because of the circumstances that brought us back together.


Tonight I dreamt I was caught in a web. I've had a fear of being restrained my whole life--one of my most prominent childhood memories is of being terrified, after crawling into a sleeping bag upside down, that I would never be able to escape. I'm more rational now, but I'm nothing without the ability to escape. Even a stuck door makes my heart race.

So by rights this should have been a nightmare. Except I wasn't afraid. I made no struggle once it was clear I was caught, and just lay back to accept my fate. I wasn't sure what that fate was--there were no monsters in the dream, implied or otherwise. But I knew I was powerless to prevent it, powerless to control anything that happened to me ever again. And I should have been terrified. Is there anything worse than not having control? But there I was, unconcerned and unafraid.

I don't know what woke me. I was tangled in my blankets and uncomfortably hot, and soon the panic crept over me again as I thrashed my way free, awake and myself again. I tried to recapture the calm of my dream, but it fled into a hundred darkened images as I finally drifted off again.



Since my injury, I haven't had time to keep house, so I've given it over to the spiders. It wasn't really a conscious decision, but where others might have brushed away the webs or chased them outside, I decided to let them stay. I've got a path cleared anywhere I need to go. They're free here, otherwise.

My girlfriend refuses to come over now. She lives in terror of them. I guess I'm a little afraid of them, too. I keep my distance where I can. But I like them here. They're comforting in their own little way. When the world around me has turned to chaos, I can still look at their webs and say, "there's still some pattern left."

Which isn't to say that they have made my house orderly. If anything it's even worse now than it was, filled with the detritus of living and disuse, covered in dust. It reminds me of the abandoned buildings I explored when I was younger and more alive. Maybe that's what the spiders are for. They lurk so obviously there in the shadows, as if to say, "No one lives here. This place is abandoned."

Perhaps if I wait long enough they'll transform this place into a thing of beauty, all dusty and broken and, finally, alive.


wormwood, pt. 34

At some point, Winston became aware that they had been at the diner for a long time. There had been no new business, but neither had anyone left. The other patrons gave every sign of having been there for a very long time, indeed.

"The radio says the tap water's poisoned," the waitress was saying, "so we have to boil it now. Not many people know about that one. It makes cleaning up a bit hard."

"Good to know. How much do we owe you?"

She seemed genuinely surprised. "Owe us? What am I going to do with money? I've got a till full of the stuff. Nobody cares."

"Well, how can we--"

"We've got a kitchen full of food that's going bad. Just eating it's doing us a favor. But if you really want, you can stay around and help. Don't know where you're headed, but it can't be that much better off than this place."

"Maybe." Winston shrugged uneasily. It certainly had its appeal--safety in numbers was where human civilization had come from, wasn't it? It would be a lot more stable than wherever he was going. And Rose--well, she'd always been happier alone, anyway. If she was even going to meet them at the boat, it would only be for him.

His companion's wife spoke then. "The sign says this place offers a reprieve from the apocalypse. I think we could use a bit of a rest." Her husband nodded assent, and Winston smiled grimly and said, "All right. Just tell us if you need anything."


one more year

I always think of you around the new year. It seems like just yesterday that we were toasting in the new year with celebration and champagne, but it's been years since that happened. Back then it was all laughter and kisses at midnight, dressing up nice and braving the cold to watch the fireworks outside. You used to love the fireworks.

I guess maybe you still do, but there are no more fireworks. Not here, anyway, and probably not where you are, either. Things are going wrong everywhere, and there's no celebrations left, not really. Here, we stayed up until midnight anyway in a quiet basement somewhere, and allowed ourselves grim smiles and nervous laughter as we pretended this wouldn't be the last time. After all, said a man next to me, it was supposed to be the last time last year, and the year before that.

That's the thing about humans. We know how to drag things out to the bitter end. It's not pretty, but we can do it.

This year I hope you're happy. I hope you're safe somewhere, that you're not just adrift like I am, that you're not just looking for one more place to rest a while before the end finally comes. Because it will, and one day there won't be one more place.

I guess it's easy to say none of that really matters now. I don't think I can agree with that. Not when it's the new year, and every sip of bathtub gin makes me think of you. I keep trying to write things like "one day you'll have to tell me how you've been," but there won't be a one day, will there?

Happy new year. I hope you're well.