The post posttruth journal
All your favourite distortions from here, there, everywhere and nowhere.
A stuffy basement office with one flickering light.
A man in a misshapen brown suit and loose tie stares at his keyboard, intermittently pulling out and examining crumbs.
He has yet to complain about the smell today, the one permeating next door. Something’s up with it. Someone’s up to something over there. Something dodgy involving rotting meat. Something someone important sitting upstairs should probably be told about for the fifth time this week.
His eyes rest briefly on the receiver to the right of his monitor, his hand hovers over it for a moment until he hears a gentle tap on the door. He starts, and then pushes his specs up his nose though they promptly slide down again.
“Who’s there?” he says, which isn’t really office protocol. He’s supposed to welcome all sorts with no questions asked. Office protocol doesn’t seem too bothered by the risks he takes just existing. There are all sorts of sickos out there. Many would gleefully take an axe to his head. The career consultant is a rare and targeted breed.
“I was told you do walk-ins,” lisps a voice barely loud enough for the sound to carry.
“Yes,” he says. “But who are you and what do you want?”
He is not adhering to anything approaching company standard today, not even trying. But the fact is that his mind is filled with worries of contamination from next door.
He once braved making an inspection of it, was careful to disinfect himself fully afterwards and felt sick the whole way through examining everything with a magnifying glass he’d picked up from Woolthworth’s (which work refuses to reimburse.)
He covered his nose and mouth with a dishcloth, gulping down breathe at frightened intervals.
He couldn’t find anything incriminating unfortunately, just some traces of fingerprints, bad paintwork, and what looks like a seemingly shimmering dampness seeping through a crack near the lower hinge of the door that otherwise looked just like his.
Silence. Time suspends and then reinstates itself. The lilting voice returns, this time at a pitiable high pitch.
“It says here your business hours are 9 to 18 hundred. My name is moth and I’d like a consultation.”
He leans back on his chair from which a creek emanates, briefly drowning out the sound of the fan overhead.
“Well come on in I haven’t got all day.”
The door is slowly pushed open and a shadow appears on the other side. Moth steps into the room and examines its contents. So many cubbie holes stuffed to their brim with scrunched up bits of paper.
Some of the files have been stashed upside down. One of them reads: Action-based Language Without Action. Another: Statements that Show You Care (in an Abstract Way). One more: How To Fill Out Important-Looking Forms.
His immediate space is a halo of gleaming order, a desk behind which he looks rather small and which plays host to no object other than the absolute essentials; a ballpoint pen and a packet of Kleenex.
A dark shape steps into the room and out of it the shadows. It blinks. That is, she blinks, a waif-like shoeless creature barely five feet tall wearing an eggshell coloured dress chinked at the waist with a string of paper clips.
At her hip dangles a dainty bag woven with a straw-like material. Silver tresses flow with relative freedom from her scalp, some of their strands entwined with what looks like toothpick-sized twigs. In her left hand she holds a pink selfie stick.
Her cheeks have almost grayish sheen to them, large eyes like a cow stare into his. She delicately closes the door and takes one hand in the other, rubbing the dry skin of her knuckles with her fingers.
Time suspends itself again. He reaches for his ballpoint pen and breaks eye contact to stare at his blank computer screen, wondering whether it is likely she had any close contact with the goings-on going on next door.
By his feet lies a bottle of disinfectant he considers spraying in her direction just to be safe, but assumes doing so might lead to the initiation of a complaint procedure. He briefly ponders with some regret contemporary society’s lack of basic liberties.
“So what brings you here,” he says.
She takes her little bag in her fingers and pulls out a folded piece of paper, stepping towards the desk and placing it next to the Kleenex.
“I would like to make a career change and understand you are my only hope.”
He sighs, reaches for the piece of paper, unfolding and raising it towards the light. What appears in front of his eyes is a page of nonsensical text written almost entirely in the Wingding font, except for the small signature in the bottom corner, which reads -- in rainbow-coloured comic sans -- “very truly yours, moth”.
He squints and scans the page once more, before looking up to meet the gaze of his most peculiar visitor.
“Is this some kind of joke?” he asks, waving the page in front of her expressionless face as she blinks.
“Yes, a cosmic one,” she replies.
A spark of light flashes from the egress window, followed by a boom of thunder and a heavy patter of rainfall crashing down outside.
He scans her up and down, and feels deeply distrustful of the whole shebang. Perhaps she has some connection to the rotting meat situation next door? Consciously or unconsciously. In following her truth or her untruth, she could be tarnished by the kind of thoughts that smell like rotting meat, and sound like action?
If she is, then he better not let on that he’s on to her. Better to play her at her own game.
He blinks right back at her, and gently places the sheet on the table, pointing at the first line of Windings.
"So tell me, is this really the truest assessment of the situation, or can you express it in a more authentic manner?”
She takes a deep breath, and places her index finger on the edge of her lip, looks to the ground and says:
“Hum. Let me see. Scissors. Glasses. Bell. Bell Bell. Thin arrow pointing up. Skull. Microsoft logo. Scissors. Clock reading 6. Clock reading 6. Um. Telephone. Tick. Tick. Telephone. Er--”
He waves her aside.
“Speaking plainly, Ms. Moth, you appear to have some trouble in communicating your beliefs and values in a way that truly resonates with the requisite audience, would that assessment be correct, Ms. Moth?"
She blinks, and cocks her head sideways. If she were an actual cartoon her eyelashes would be much longer than they currently are.
I apologize if I speak quite candidly here but in my considerable experience I’ve found that honesty really is the best policy and I’m truly as honest as they come.”
He scans her up and down, trying to glean whatever else it is he can about this strange creature in the off chance that he might in fact be in considerable danger. He makes an inventory of the possible weaknesses available to exploit should there be a need to.
Should she, for instance, feel inspired to enact a seditious gesture of some kind, capsizing him from his chair so he winds up on the floor with his arms outstretched, twitching like a bug.
He envisions her wrapping him in the sellotape stolen from his top draw, pictures his limbs immobilized, with a strange, villainous imp standing gleefully over him, her tiny fist held up in the air.
Still, he is not entirely helpless. He takes in her meatless frame and pathetic, impish dishevelment, and breathes out slowly.
Moth shrugs and looks down at her toes.
More meaningful thoughts: Perhaps Moth is in fact a helpless, wondrous and lovable creature after all, vulnerable enough that it might make sense to actually help her, though of course not enough that she could ever achieve the stature of the fearsome capsizing creature of his vision.
“Clock. Clock. Bold tick. Star of David. Book. Postbox with the dial turned up. Postbox with dial turned down--” she speaks slowly and contemplatively, and he cuts her off.
“Well, quite. We all feel misunderstood and misrepresented sometimes, Ms. Moth, the point is not to let it get you down or hold you back in realizing your very unique vision."
moth starts swinging her selfie stick at her side.
"You see we are all possessed with unique visions and anyone who articulates otherwise is only allowing themselves access to an aura that is not theirs to take however it might very well be theirs to coopt should that be their particularity in any case as in your case I wonder if the point we’re both trying to make is that while you most obviously have this bright and shining energetic system that beams outwards, a ray of white light that is so resplendent as to be blinding, it also clear to see that what you truly lack is trust."
At this point he stands up, assertively slides the Kleenex to one side, and places both hands firmly on the table, leaning towards her and fixing her to the spot with the intensity of gaze he normally only uses on the crows who accost him on his way to work with all their usual complaints.
"Trust in yourself. Trust in others. And (pause for emphasis!) Trust In Me."
Moth's arm stops swinging and she let's out a little cough. No one is surprised to see the air she expends sparkle.
"Can I level with you here?" he continues, his gaze gathering the kind of hardness required to stare a red traffic light into going green from sheer force of will.
"I won’t be able to help you just one jot if I don’t have your complete trust and your complete honesty, if you can’t truly let me in, if you can’t truly allow me access into the inner workings of that fantastic mothy mind of yours, then our time here, together, at this unique point, in this special moment, is meaningless and will remain lost in the auspices of auspices of all time," he says, gasping in her sparkles and nearly choking on them.
"Let me in, Moth,” he says., with low grade breathlessness. “Let me in.”
Moth pauses for a moment, slowly raising her gaze to meet his.
“Yes, Moth, yes,” he replies, beaming, holding out his hand to take hers.
He quickly checks the top drawer of his cabinet. The heavy-duty stapler is still there. He reckons if any funny business starts here, he could use it to knock her out cold.
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first draft fiction about nothing.