I promised that Daily Fiction would be back today, with a bunch of news. This is the first bit of news. Yes, we’re back. But we’re not here anymore.
The new Daily Fiction website is http://dailyfiction.net.
WordPress.com, while a wonderful blogging platform, was severely limited in many ways. The new website runs on a self-hosted WordPress installation, and will soon include a variety of features, including downloadable collections of previous stories in various formats. All the posts on this site are already available there, thanks to the powerful export feature in WordPress.*
[ * No, I'm not a shill for WordPress. I just like it a lot. ]
Please update all your bookmarks and feeds to point to http://dailyfiction.net. Email subscribers will also need to resubscribe there.
This site will not be updated after this post.
To visit the new website and to read the latest story, click here.
I have had more than one person scream “Where’s the latest bloody story?” into my ear in the last few days, so I figured it was about time to put up a post about this.
Over the last few weeks (ever since the last interlude, in fact), I have been (a) overworked, (b) writing many other things (paying), (c) travelling, (d) in desperate need of a break and (e) really not in the mood.
A break that I intended for a week has gone on longer than expected. Now I’m done with most of the work, and am concentrating on taking this break that I need, so that I can be as charged and excited at the beginning of 2011 as I was at the start of this year. (In fact, I think I should work on making ‘December = Sabbatical’ a yearly thing.)
We will be back. There will be more stories. The last post was Story No. 191, and there are 59 more to go before Daily Fiction is done. But we will be back a bit later than expected.
So, official-like, Daily Fiction will return on January 3rd, 2011, hopefully along with a bunch of exciting news.
Years later, Samir and I met Maya again, at a restaurant. She didn’t recognise him at first, but she saw me and she came over. At first, she thought I had a new lover.
“And who’s this?” she asked.
“Hello, Maya, my love,” Samir said. “You do realise that if I was straight, I’d be going for you rather than this bag of bones, yes?”
Maya shut up and sat down. She stared at Samir. I knew he looked different now, but every time we met someone from before, it made me smile again.
If you looked at a mere photo of Samir, the difference was imperceptible. The same scruffy beard, wild hair, and slapdash clothing sense. But the eyes were different. Rather than glitter manically, they were warm, open. He no longer looked like he would pounce on you and sit on your back as he talked about theories on synapses. When he smiled, he meant it.
“What happened?” Maya asked.
“I made my machine,” Samir said. “And I lost it all. I can’t read too much now. I get saturated. I remember things now, but it’s not fun anymore. My memory is normal now.”
“Poor baby,” Maya said.
“No, I like it this way. I might not be doing things I used to, but I’m happy. I don’t hate it in my head.”
We talked for a while more. Maya asked me about my paintings (which got a lot less interesting after Samir stopped contributing), and she asked us about our lives. We asked her questions. Samir was lively, but not in the way he used to be.
Maya looked shaken as she left. Her boyfriend was waiting at the door. She took his hand and pulled herself close to him. Then she looked back at me and gave me a tight smile. I nodded at her and turned back to my plate.
Thoughts that had been seething inside my head for years bubbled up again. I pushed them down and stared at Samir. He smiled and blew me a kiss. I smiled back, but stopped when he looked away.
Back when I first met Samir, I was a fine arts student. I had rows of unfinished paintings in my flat, which were usually an indicator of Samir’s visits.
He liked to sit on the bed and stare at the paintings till something struck him, and then he would grab the nearest charcoal pencil and scribble all over the paintings. Then he would skulk away to some bar to observe human interaction, and I’d come home to twenty works of art.
And it worked of the paintings too. Samir’s scribbles lent an urgency to some of the paintings that my teachers seemed to appreciate. Our first collaborative exhibition (during which Samir sat in a corner talking to a plastic plant) got us a decent amount of money.
Usually, anyone in Samir’s position would be part of his way towards a breakdown, but Samir’s memory never let him get too stressed about these things.
One day, I arrived to find a canvas taped to the wall with a code on it. There were indecipherable scribbles in tiny type all around the code.
Samir was sitting naked on the bed. “I refuse to be a slave,” he said. He walked up to me. He looked ragged, but determined.
“These are detailed instructions for me so I don’t give up this time. I need five days, and my problems will be over. Well, under control. I am making sure I know how important this is. I’m making sure I can remember things again.”
“What is this supposed to be?”
“This is mere language. But I’m making a machine. To help me remember.”
“What are you gonna call it?”
He paused. Then smiled. “I forgot. But let’s just pretend I haven’t decided yet.”
And he took me by the belt and dragged me to bed.
I remember how I was introduced to Samir. “This is Samir,” my friend Maya said. “He’s forgotten more than most people know. By tomorrow, he’ll forget the rest as well.”
“I’m not forgetful,” Samir said as he extended a hand. “I’m just differently memoried.”
I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, but it was close. His scruffy bearded face was made endearing by his bright, eager eyes and the soft mouth, which had a perpetual smile playing on it. By the end of the evening, we’d had a little fumble behind the bushes, and the next day, I got a shy voice message from him. As voice messages go, it was odd. Samir called, and then asked me to listen to a recording. It said he liked me, and if I was open to it, he’d like to meet some more and see if we could get used to each other’s idiosyncrasies.
As I soon found out, that was a euphemism. I had idiosyncrasies. Samir was borderline weird.
During the day, he would plow through dozens of books on almost anything he found interesting. He’d conduct experiments – some of them hair-raising – and in the evening, over take-out food, he’d tell me what he had learned. And he would continue telling me about it well into other activities. At times, with my mouth otherwise occupied, I had to slap him on the butt to make him stop talking.
The next morning, I’d wake up to find the room in a mess, the previous day’s notebooks all spread out on the floor, and Samir hunched over them, crying because he couldn’t remember nor understand what he’d managed to create. He would try, but he’d reach somewhere completely new, and he’d be exhausted and disheartened.
Apparently he’d had a dozen papers published in journals that he himself couldn’t understand anymore. I’d gently pull him back to bed and try to make him forget. That he did anyway, but I like to think I helped.
I was peeling an orange at breakfast. I looked at my wife over it. She smiled. Her fingers were scratching the side of the table. After a week, she still wasn’t used to not having a newspaper to read. We made our way through breakfast with only our sniffs and the clinking of the cutlery for company.
I made my way to work. Like so many others, my job was to sit at my computer and wait. On my way, I passed many familiar places – markets, malls, cinema halls. I couldn’t remember their names nor read the marquees.
I reached work and took over from the woman sitting at my usual workstation. I nodded to her, she returned the nod grimly, and then shook her head. I sighed and sat down.
And I began to stare at the screen. A week ago, language had gained sentience and left to regroup and formulate a strategy to deal with humans. Still no sign of a return. Across the world, people sat and stared at each other, or listened to telephone noise, or, like me, waited for the computers to say something. Although we didn’t have the words to express the thought, each of us hoped they would be the first to speak.