Apparatus Sum res Cogitans, Ergo Sum

Apparatus Sum res Cogitans, Ergo Sum

by Patrick S. Baker

“. . . and that is how I know that Mrs. Cotswaddle is the Jowerton jewel thief,” Sherlock Holmes declared.

Dr. John Watson looked up from his notes, shook his head and said: “Holmes that cannot be correct. Mrs. Cotswaddle was at her garden club meeting the whole afternoon when the Star of Sarawak went missing.”

“What?” Holmes said. “I do not see how I could be wrong about such an elementary matter?”

“Indeed,” Watson stood. “Here, study my notes of the whole affair. I have just recalled an important, er, medical matter on which I have been asked to, er, consult.”

The good doctor handed the consulting detective a sheaf of papers and left the room.

Through the window open onto Baker Street Holmes heard Watson sending a message to another doctor. Holmes did not catch the name. One of the dozen young boys who loitered about 221B Baker Street in hopes of earning sixpence for running messages for the famous detective said: “Roit, guv’ner” and scurried off.

Watson dallied outside from some minutes before returning to Holmes’s drawing room.

“What was that about, Watson?” Holmes asked.

“As I said, a, er, medical matter of some importance.”

“I know since your service in Afghanistan as a surgeon,” Holmes said. “You have been much in demand in treating the wounded veterans of the Empire’s wars. But don’t you think you should go see the patient yourself to give any sound advice?”

“Hmm, quite right,” Watson nodded and then looked nervously at the door as if expecting someone.

“I say, Watson,” Holmes pushed on. “What is this about? You are acting most odd.”

“Well . . .” the doctor’s explanation was interrupted by a knock at the door.

Watson practically leapt to open the door. A tall, portly, florid, prosperously dressed middle-aged man with full moustache shook hands with Watson as he entered the room.

“Sherlock Holmes,” Watson said. “Meet Dr. Arthur Conan-Doyle, a, er, medical colleague of mine.”

Holmes and the newcomer shook hands. Holmes noticed the handshake was firm and dry.

“How do you do, sir?” Holmes asked politely.

“Well, sir, thank you.” Conan-Doyle said as he scrutinized the detective closely. “And how do you do, sir?”

“Very well, sir,” Holmes said and turned to resume his seat.

Conan-Doyle reached up quickly and touched a spot right at Holmes’s axis vertebrae.

“I say!” Holmes exclaimed at the touch and then slumped to the ground.

When Holmes awoke he was seated in his favorite chair. He was paralyzed from the neck down and his chest was open like a set of cathedral doors. The doctors were examining Holmes’ exposed thorax like two clock repairmen examine a faulty mechanism.

“Good God, Watson,” Holmes ejaculated. “What is going on here?”

“Well, that should not have happened,” Conan-Doyle remarked to Watson, ignoring Holmes completely.

“Indeed,” Watson replied, also ignoring Holmes. “I suppose we owe him some kind of explanation.”

“Yes, I suppose we do,” Conan-Doyle nodded.

Conan-Doyle and Watson both stood and straighten their waistcoats and then took seats opposite Holmes.

“You should have some memory of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace,” Conan-Doyle said addressing Holmes directly.

“No, I am afraid I do not,” Holmes replied.

“Make a note of that, Watson,” Conan-Doyle said to the other doctor and then to Holmes, “Sir Charles Babbage was a polymath and a mechanical genius as was Lady Lovelace. They developed a wonder of a device called an Analytical Engine. Sir Chrales designed and built the machine, while Lady Lovelace wrote a set of inputs, of formulae and data, which allowed the Engine to tabulate trigonometric functions and logarithms by weighing the finite differences that generate approximating polynomials, as well as languages and subtle indexes. In short they built a thinking appliance. After medical school, and Afghanistan, John and I were their students. And . . .”

“This is all very interesting,” Holmes interrupted. “But what has it got to do with me and this most unpleasant and, I might add, undignified position in which you have me.”

“Don’t you see, my dear Holmes,” Watson said. “You are a walking, talking Analytical Engine. Arthur and I built you. We went to Scotland Yard first, but that fool Lestrade turned us down, so we built you ourselves to see if we could, and to also aid in defeating crime. I stayed close at hand to keep a record of your activities and in case you needed repair and upkeep.”

“Gentlemen,” Holmes said. “Cogito ergo sum. Cogito ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. Therefore I am as human as you.”

“I told you he would say that,” Watson said to Conan-Doyle with a broad smile and an air of satisfaction.

“Very well,” Conan-Doyle said and went into Holmes bedroom. He returned with a hand-held mirror. “Look for yourself.”

The portly doctor held the mirror at such an angle that Holmes by just moving his eyes could view his exposed chest cavity.

Inside, where heart, lungs, and other vital organs should be, were steam valves and small moving bellows that powered a set of rotating and turning gears, rods and actuators. Cellulose punch-cards slid back and forth on a shuttle, like on a loom. Something that looked like a miniature church organ operated in the upper chest and throat. Holmes looked wide-eyed at his mechanical self.

“You started to make some obvious errors, so Watson called me over to help him in repairing your functions,” Conan-Doyle said as he put the mirror down. “You were not to awake during the procedure, so we have more to mend now.”

“I must accept what you have shown me, gentlemen,” Holmes said after a long pause. “After all, to mint a phrase; ‘once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.’ I am indeed a mechanical device of some kind. Yet, I must also be more than that, just as you are more than a collection tissue, blood and bones. Regardless of how I am constructed, and of what I am made, I think, I feel, I learn. What more does it take to be a human being than that?”

Watson and Conan-Doyle looked at each other and then they both nodded.

“We will repair you and let you keep the knowledge of what you are,” Conan-Doyle said. “But you must not reveal to the world what you are. I would imagine the reaction would be strong and adverse.”

“I too, think that is how people would respond,” Holmes said in agreement.

“. . . and that is how I know that Mrs. Javier is the Jowerton jewel thief.” Sherlock Holmes declared.

Indeed,” Dr. Watson, scribbled a last note in his book. “Excellent reasoning on your part, Holmes, most excellent.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Patrick S. Baker
Patrick S. Baker is a former US Army Officer, currently a Department of Defense employee. He holds Bachelor degrees in History and Political Science, and a Masters in European History. He has been writing professionally since 2013. His fiction has appeared in the New Realm Magazine, Jouth Webzine, and in King of Ages, After Avalon, 100 Voices and Starward anthologies. In my spare time he reads, works out, plays war-games, and enjoys life with my wife, my dog, and two cats.

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Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

by Caitlin Fisher

Everything will be better after this. I figure if I just keep telling myself that, I’ll find a way to believe it. It had gotten me this far.

The cracked and fading vinyl that embodied the warm seat cushion beneath me snapped as I repositioned my sweaty legs. The sound of it served as a beacon for me to follow back to the stormy reality I was currently facing: motoring down the highway with a complete stranger in a truck that the very same stranger so cleverly called “Blue Bessie”. She breathed in gasoline and coughed out mileage, which is the only thing that I needed in a vehicle back at that gas station so many hours ago.

How many hours had it been now? My eyes roll over to the blinking bright green letters on the dash.  The clock flashes the numbers ’12:00′ at me, while the reds and pinks in the almost-sunless sky tell me that it must be much later than that. My purple messenger bag containing my watch sits on the vinyl seat between the driver and me, and as I turn to grab the bag, our eyes meet for a moment. We maintain eye contact long enough for me to find out his eyes were big, brown, and full of sleep. My eyes fall like rocks before the look could be misconstrued. I have a mission to tend to, and I don’t need this random guy to tell me I can’t. The less we know about each other, the better the situation will be. I pull the bag toward me and dig my hand through the contents, blindly searching for my rubber watch. My hand brushes against a familiar cold cylinder, sending ice all the way up my arms to my spine. I could swear that I visibly shivered.

I find the cylinder shape in my bag once more and close my hand around the coldness. Mom. I can’t believe that it’s already been a week since I’d heard her voice. When I try to imagine it, it takes me back to our tiny blue-cabinet kitchen and the slow burn of the mint hot cocoa she would make for us every Friday, regardless of the season. It was just Mom and me back then, but now it was just me… And now this stranger with a blue truck that I decided didn’t look intimidating enough to murder me on the road. I caress the small urn containing her ashes with my thumb, remembering the promise that I had made her those long seven days ago, the whole reason I was out here today.

I wasn’t made to sit on a shelf, baby. Scatter me to the breeze. Let me dance in the waves at our favorite beach. But, don’t let me sit in a cabinet for the rest of my death. You know that I can’t sit still that long…especially without you there to keep me company.

She had smiled when she said it, trying to trick me into thinking the cancer wasn’t going to steal her from me two short hours later. I let go of the urn in my bag, the freezing texture of the shape reminding me too much of how her hands felt after she passed. I remind myself of how she looked in her life: golden haired, blushing, and laughing. That was the woman that I promised this mission to. My mother would make it into Lake Michigan before midnight.

* * *

“Hey, you’re not sleeping, are you?”

My body must have shot at least six inches into the air. I turn to where the voice came from, almost forgetting where I was. The big brown-eyed stranger was staring at me intently. Before I can make a sound, he smiles and says, “We made it.”

The truck wasn’t moving. My neck swivels to the windshield, where I see the deepest of the Great Lakes crashing before me in the dead of night. Before the stranger can say another word, I’m out of the truck with my bag in hand. I dash toward the lake, tears welling in my eyes as I take in my mother’s final resting place. As I run, I can hear my mother’s boisterous laughter falling among the waves.

I laugh along with her for the last time.

◊ ◊ ◊

Caitlin Fisher
I live in West Michigan with my fiancé, older brother, three cats, and two chinchillas. I’ve never known a better sunset than what I’ve seen over the Great Lakes.

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Letters and Lattes

Letters and Lattes

by Patti Jurinski

Ellen loved raw, wet London mornings. Nothing drove demand for warm beverages better than a dousing of freezing rain, and today’s storm forecasted big business. Despite the early hour and gloom, she prepped for opening with a smile. Decade-old light fixtures, now deemed retro, softened the café’s rough edges and warmed her heart.

Today would be a good day.

With a final wipe of the counter, Ellen looked around. Yesterday’s post, mainly over-due bills and solicitations, sat next to the faulty espresso machine. A thick ivory envelope, with a designed-to-impress return address, lay on top. Even unopened, she knew the contents; it was the third one to arrive that month. Turning her back on it, she crossed the room and flipped the closed sign. A gust of wind blew the unlocked door open, admitting a swath of rain, wet leaves, and traces of his cologne.

But the time was all wrong.

Every weekday without fail at six-thirty-five on the dot, the bell over the door would tinkle in the near-empty café. Without a word, Ellen would start his order. Earl Gray tea, cream on the side, and a warm butter croissant, simplicity in a world of multi-syllabic, foamy, sugary breakfast concoctions. While the tea steeped exactly three minutes, he would take his seat by the corner window, lay his bowler hat on the table, and unfold his newspaper. When she delivered his breakfast, she’d steal a breath of tea and cologne, pausing to admire his pressed shirts and braces that peaked out from under his tweed jacket like a secret.

At six forty-seven, he would stack his plate, saucer, and cup, count out the exact change plus tip, and place it on top of the refolded newspaper. With a nod and hint of a smile, he would leave, door tinkling in his wake.

Ellen would imagine him walking to his job as a district judge or university lecturer, some position that matched his jaunty hat. Thought he would be best suited in a brick house with neatly trimmed window boxes and a lacquered red door. She only knew his name from his elegant signature left on a credit slip, the one time he didn’t pay cash. She remembered the way the tails of his y’s lined up to perfection.

Gregory Thayer was her most regular, regular. The lifeblood of any business, particularly precious for her anemic café.

But today, he stood in front of her, dripping wet at six a.m. with a loud woman in tow.

“—is all I’m saying. We’ll have to do it eventually, why not now?” Gregory’s companion asked, her voice loud from talking over the howling wind. She stomped her feet, shaking the rain off her umbrella like a water-soaked dog. “Jesus Christ, it’s freezin’ out there! Why the hell did we have to trek all the way over here when there’s a Starbucks a block from the flat?” She stopped talking and scanned the café, eyes lingering on the chipped tile and rickety tables. “It’s a bit shabby-chic, I guess. You’ve always had a soft spot for anything vintage.” She nudged Gregory in the side.

Vintage. Ellen should have been insulted, but her indignation died when she looked around.

Forty-two years ago, the black and white tile was new. The hand painted stencil on the wall unfaded. Back then, Ellen’s parents served coffee in glass pots to clientele who considered anything other than ‘black, one sugar’ an exotic drink. Customers sat down to tea and toast, her mother knew everyone by name, and many ate and drank on credit. Now it was Ellen’s credit that had replaced the boiler and added a new cooktop which stood unused in the corner. Health-conscious and time-pressed customers no longer wanted fry-ups, preferring egg whites and avocado.

Ellen sighed, pad in hand, as she followed the pair to the corner table – Gregory’s table.

“Let me guess; you have the same thing every day, don’t you?” The woman asked Gregory when he didn’t order.

Ellen tapped her pencil as she walked away. A cinnamony, non-fat, no-foam latte concoction for the woman. The usual for her usual. At least, the world hadn’t gone completely mad.

As the weather predicted, more customers staggered in, limiting Ellen to only snippets of the conversation in the corner.

“Dana, I don’t want to do this.”

Gregory’s voice matched his cologne, rich and smooth, and Ellen realized she hadn’t heard it in months. Not since those first few weeks when he placed his order.

“C’mon, Greg,” Dana pleaded. Across the café, Ellen cringed at the nickname, amazed at how three letters could define a personality so completely that their loss felt criminal. “This entire area’s hot right now; developers are dying to get their hands on these properties. If we wait too long, we’ll miss our window. I’m telling you, it’s a seller’s market.”

A seller’s market? Ellen hurried to pass a bag of muffins to a customer and drifted from behind the counter, rag in hand, anxious to hear more. The sound of Gregory’s cup hitting the saucer echoed across the now empty café.

“I don’t care about windows, or developers, or gentrification,” Gregory said. “I don’t want to sell my home.”

“Actually, it’s not your home; it’s half mine. Mum and Dad left it to both of us.” The sister reached across the table to grasp Gregory’s hand, and Ellen felt his flinch.

“Greg, I need the money, and Erik knows a guy at Westcombe Development who’s really interested.”

Ellen abruptly stopped wiping, wanting—no, needing—the rest of the story. When it didn’t come, she risked a peek, and locked eyes with the younger woman’s glare. Ellen resumed scrubbing at a watermark made years ago.

Dana lowered her voice. “Please, we need to sell. There are a lot of really nice places near us in Peckham. I know it’s no Belgravia, but…”

Ellen continued wiping circles on a clean table as the woman nattered on. Only Gregory’s deep inhale, followed by Dana’s small “thank you” broke the spell. She retreated to the safety of the baked goods cabinet, watching Gregory’s tea cup tremble as he took a final sip and stacked his plates.

There was no nod or half-smile as he passed by, just the sad tinkle of the bell in his wake.

The silence of the café rained down. In three steps Ellen reached the stack of letters and the top envelope. Decision made, she dialed the number at the bottom of the letter. Bits of sun filtered through the smudged windows, as the line rang twice and an operator picked up.

“Good morning, Westcombe Development.”

“Hello? I’m calling about an offer I received for my business,” Ellen said.

She had heard Peckham was quite nice.

◊ ◊ ◊

Patti Jurinski
Patti Jurinski, a native of Massachusetts, lives in Florida with her husband and two children.  She is working on a historical fiction novel, but short stories and flash fiction bubble out at the oddest times. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Sick Lit Magazine, and 101 Words.

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Come Forward

Come Forward

by Irena Pasvinter

I must remember what it was… Forward… Police ask witnesses to… Am I a witness? A victim? What happened? I must remember.

I didn’t care for this damn movie. We had no chance to be there on time, but Rob wouldn’t listen. He raced ahead. A shadow darted across the windshield. A blow followed almost instantly.

“We hit somebody! Stop!”

Rob went pale like a Hollywood vampire, but didn’t slow down.

“Shut up. Just a dog.”


I grabbed the handbrake, but Rob shoved me away, smashing me hard against the wall.

“I told you it was a dog!” he roared. “A fucking dog!”

“Even if it’s a dog—”

“Will you shut up?”

We didn’t get to the movie that night. We dashed home by the side roads, making a stop in the forest to wipe the blood from the car’s crumpled front. The damage was less than I expected.

“Bloody dog,” Rob murmured, attempting to set the dirty rag on fire with his lighter. The rag refused to burn. Rob cursed and threw it back into the trunk. At home he thrust the car into the garage and ousted me out of his automotive kingdom.

Next morning there was no newspaper.

“Damn dogs,” Rob said emerging from the garage. “Damn postman.”

It wasn’t a dog. It was a boy, five years old. As I scanned through the article on the net, I heard Rob entering the room.

Now I can’t open my eyes. Everything hurts. I hear voices, words. Coma. Accident. Reanimation. Who is in coma? Me? Police ask witnesses to come forward. Witnesses. Forward. I must come forward.

◊ ◊ ◊

Irena Pasvinter
Irena Pasvinter divides her time between software engineering, endless family duties and writing poetry and fiction. Her stories and poems have appeared in online and print magazines (Every Day Fiction, Bartleby Snopes, Bewildering Stories, Fiction 365 and many others). Her poem “Psalm 3.14159…” has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is currently working on her never ending first novel. Visit Irena at

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What You Want

What You Want

by Karl Lykken

My eyes almost relax in the split second of darkness before my apartment’s lights switch on. I kick off my shoes, drop my bag, and make my way straight to the fridge. A long day’s work earns a longneck beer.

I open the door and see the last bottle of brew, but as I reach out my hand the bottle disappears, leaving behind a line of floating text. My earpiece reads it out loud in case I look away. Lasso up some Cowboy Brew, lasso up some fun!

God, I wish I had the money for the ad free augmented reality set. I mean, why trick me with an ad for the beer I already always buy? Who does that help? I would just pull my AR lenses out if I had any real decorations in my place, but I suppose I’d rather look at gorgeous landscapes plus ads than barren walls. Besides, I’ve gotta go back out. I’ll get a Cowboy at the bar.

I slip my shoes back on and head into the hallway. My feet are begging me to take the elevator but I use the stairs on principle. I reach the bottom and push the door open into the bright night. I cross the street and head into PJ’s Pub.

It’s more crowded inside than I would like, but there’s nowhere close by that is likely to be better. I spot an open seat at the end of the bar and head over to it. There’s a pretty brunette on the stool next to it, so I ask her, “Is this seat free?”

“I generally charge twenty bucks for it,” she says with a raised eyebrow, “but since I’m feeling generous, yeah, you can have it free.”

I smile back at her and slide onto the stool. “Well, I generally charge the people next to me for the whiff of my heavenly aroma that they get, but I’ll let that slide, too.” Why do I say things to people? I know I’m no good at it. She gives me a courtesy laugh and I flag down the bartender to give her an easy exit from further conversation.

“Want a Cowboy?” the bartender confirms as he walks over.

“Yep. Thanks Larry.” I hand him a $10 as he puts a bottle in front of me. I pick up the bottle and I take a long pull.

“I guess you’re a regular here, huh?” the brunette asks me. I guess she’s a glutton for awkward conversation.

“Yep. Come here at least once a week. This your first time?”

“That’s right. I’m still deciding if there will be a second.” She gives me a little wink. My God, she’s pretty.

“Well, I’d recommend it. Good drinks, decent prices, chill vibe. And don’t let me fool you—most of the patrons are actually pretty cool.” My self-deprecation draws another small laugh. Maybe she just also has a terrible sense of humor?

“So, you like the quiet places, huh? Not into the club scene?”

“Nah, I’m not much for clubs. I’m a pretty low energy guy. You?”

“I wouldn’t say I’m a ‘low energy guy’,” she says, her lips halfway to a smile, “but I’m not into clubs, either, no. I like the quiet places, too.”

“Well then, I think my recommendation about coming back might be on target.” Because that needed saying. I should actually look into those conversation prompting apps when I get home. Maybe if I was reading from a script I could at least be a generic guy instead of an exceptional loser.

“Yeah, I suppose so. You know, I could really use another recommendation.”

Why doesn’t she blow me off? “For what?”

“For what to do with a bonus I got at work today. A thousand dollars. I just have no idea what to do with it. What would you do?”

“I would put it in my bank account, and I wouldn’t mind if you put it there, too!”

This time my joke doesn’t land. She just looks vaguely annoyed, and I feel a sudden urge to try and squeeze inside of my beer bottle to hide. “Really?” she asks. “You’d just put it in the bank? There isn’t anything you’d buy if you had a thousand extra bucks?”

“Sorry. Yes, there is. I’d spend the money to go on a trip. Maybe to the Outback, though that would probably be more than a thousand bucks, I guess. But somewhere with a lot of open land and open skies, where I could kind of reconnect with nature. Or maybe really connect with nature for the first time, you know? Just get away from all the hustle and bustle and get unplugged. Just try and experience something real, you know?”

She smiles. “I do know. That’s a great idea. That’s exactly what I’ll do.”



“Wow! Well, congrats on your decision! Here’s to a safe voyage and a wonderful trip!” I raise my bottle and try to clink it against hers, but just as the bottles seem to touch she disappears. A line of text hovers over her seat. Need a little love in your life? Meet beautiful women online on!

I turn away and drain the remnants of my beer. I set the empty bottle down on the bar and see another line of text floating behind it. Want to get away? Trips to the Outback starting at just $4,500 at travelbug.journey!

I start to reach for my eyes to pull out the AR lenses, but I stop and take another look at the floating text. I don’t have $4,500. Maybe I can take a VR trip for cheaper.

◊ ◊ ◊

Karl Lykken
When not scouring the Gobi for death worms or munching on tarantulas in Siem Reap, Karl Lykken writes both fiction and software in Texas. His flash fiction has appeared in Every Day Fiction, Nanoism, and Deadman’s Tome.

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Time-Lapse at St Stephen’s Green

Time-Lapse at St Stephen’s Green

by Frank Roger
The artist was working in intense concentration. He didn’t seem to notice me as I stood behind him, looking at the painting he was doing. To my surprise I saw a beautifully rendered medieval castle in an undulating landscape. How strange! This wasn’t what I expected from someone mounting his easel at one of the most picturesque spots in St. Stephen’s Green Park in Dublin, where I did my daily walk.

Maybe he just came here because it allowed him to work in tranquillity, and he didn’t need the inspiration the park offered, preferring to paint what he saw before his mind’s eye. He was clearly putting the finishing touches to the painting. I wanted to tell him I found his work absolutely admirable, but as he appeared so absorbed in his artistic endeavour I chose not to do anything that might disturb his concentration. I did make a picture of the painting, without asking permission, for the same reason.

The following day I saw the man again, at the very same spot. Surprisingly, the painting now looked less complete. I made a picture of it, and compared it with the one I took the day before. I had been right indeed: yesterday’s version offered an almost finished rendition of a castle, whereas today’s canvas lacked several details, apparently removed for some reason or other. I couldn’t quite grasp what the man was doing. Maybe it would become clear in due course.

The third day I went straight to the spot where I expected the man to be. He was present indeed, working in concentration as usual. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I looked at the canvas: the painting again offered fewer details than yesterday’s version, as if the artist was removing bits rather than adding some. Yet he appeared to be painting in a completely normal way. What was going on here? It almost looked as if he was doing a painting in reverse.

I made a picture of today’s version, and tried to get the man’s attention, as I really wanted to ask him a few questions. Either he was oblivious of my presence, or he was too absorbed in his work to hear me. Anyway, I didn’t get any answers from him.

Every day I went to examine the artist’s work in progress—or in this case, work in regress. Each time the painting I saw was indeed an earlier stage of what I had seen before: the castle was slowly disappearing, the background was now only roughly sketched, and so on. On every occasion I made a picture of the work, and at times I tried to get the artist’s attention, but always in vain. I was facing a mystery and saw no way how to solve it. I only had my series of photographs to prove I had stumbled onto something extraordinary here.

On the fourteenth day, the man had just started work on his painting. I could only see an outline, a few vague shapes on a white canvas, barely hinting at what the finished piece would look like. I wondered what the next day would bring. Nothing? What if the man wouldn’t be there?

I needn’t have worried. On the fifteenth day the artist was present at his fixed spot, staring at a blank canvas. I had come full circle, from a practically finished piece to the moment the first paint was about to be applied.

Nothing happened for a while. As I took a picture of the blank canvas, just to have a complete set of photographs, the artist turned around in surprise and asked me:

“Why did you do that? What’s the point of taking a picture of this?”

It was the first time in all those days that he had been aware of my presence and even established a form of contact.

For a moment I wasn’t sure what to say. Why not simply the truth then, I decided.

“I’ve taken a picture of your work every day for over two weeks now,” I said. “I must admit it’s something of a mystery to me.”

The man stared at me in amazement, and then said: “Can I see the pictures?”

“Of course,” I replied, and showed him the entire series.

“Fine,” he said. “Thank you. Now I know what I have to do. I was a bit short on inspiration, you see.”

He turned his attention to his canvas and began to work. I asked him a few more questions, but he didn’t seem to hear me. Either he chose to ignore me, or he was already absorbed in his art, as usual. It was clear he was going to do the painting he had seen in my pictures – his painting, the one he had “undone” over the previous weeks. After a while I left him, wondering what I would see the following day.

The next day the artist was nowhere to be seen. I checked every nook and cranny of St. Stephen’s Green, but he was not there. I didn’t expect to see him again anymore, and indeed I didn’t. The mystery I had come across was bound to remain unsolved. I would never find out if that man had done his painting in reverse, or if perhaps time ran differently for him than for the rest of us.

All I knew was that I was somehow responsible for it all, as I had shown my series of photographs to him when he didn’t have a clue yet what he would do.

I still look at those pictures every now and then—but I start with the blank canvas and end with the finished piece. It just feels more natural and doesn’t raise questions that will remain unanswered.

◊ ◊ ◊

Frank Roger
Frank Roger was born in 1957 in Ghent, Belgium. His first story appeared in 1975. Since then his stories appear in an increasing number of languages in all sorts of magazines and anthologies, and since 2000, story collections are published, also in various languages. Apart from fiction, he also produces collages and graphic work in a surrealist and satirical tradition. They have appeared in various magazines and books. By now he has a few hundred short stories to his credit, published in more than 40 languages. Find out more at .

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