Helder da Rocha

i’m a fish

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The barber’s book

Leshkat Beard Knots LBN

Yuri Lishkat was executed yesterday in the morning. After the execution, he was cremated. He, and his life’s work, became ashes.

Lishkat wrote full books in prison, without pen, without paper, without a computer. He was blind but he understood many languages. He wrote stories in his hair and beard. He formed symbols and words with his hair strands by making simple, double and triple knots, with variable spaces in between them, which served as punctuation and sometimes to change the meaning of a phrase or word. He could read very quickly with his fingers. The knots represented consonants. The vowels weren’t necessary because the words would get their meaning from context. Sometimes one symbol represented a whole word, or even a full sentence.

Lishkat shared his cell for more than a year with the barber Raul Navade (who was executed last year) and wrote down several stories that Navade...

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The Geography

The Geography
Dmitri had a hard week. He invested all his money in a low-risk transaction so he could get back into business, but his partner ran away with the money. Because of that he is experiencing financial problems. He hasn’t paid his rent for two months, and the landlord is threatening to evict him.

He used to sell used books in a bookstall he inherited from his uncle in an alley between the Lapa market and the train station. It was actually the adapted carcass of an old VW van. Six months ago it was completely destroyed by fire, and now he’s unemployed. He lives alone in a small kitchenette in an old building in central São Paulo with his two cats: Boris and Sasha.

Boris is black and fat. Sasha is white and skinny. Dmitri rescued them from the streets 10 years ago. He named them after characters in a story that his uncle Nikolai used to tell, about two Georgian avengers who would torture...

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Holy formulas

The Northern civilisation had collapsed. It was the oldest of the civilisations on the planet Zaphon, colonised by humans some ten thousand years ago (considering their reference of time). They have one moon and orbit an orange-red star like our Sun. The planet is a bit smaller than the Earth, but has a 22-hour day and 400 days in a year. During these years, they occupied the entire planet and built a base on their moon. They aren’t aware of the existence of the Earth (as we aren’t aware of their existence either). I just know this because I hosted a space-time traveler last week: a 356-year old planetary anthropologist, and he told me many stories. This was one of them.

Zaphon had changed. The Northern civilisation was the most developed of the three large civilisations that had ever occupied the planet. They built the base on the moon, which was once populated by their scientists and...

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Three stones at the wall

Thomas forgot his name. Not his first name. He knows he is Thomas, but his full name. He was only aware of this when he was asked for it. It happened at the control point. He was asked: “Name”. And he replied “Thomas”. The guard just stood there expecting something else, but he was silent. The guard repeated: “Name”. “Thomas”, he replied. It was too strange. Finally he asked. “Full name”, and he replied “Thomas”. That was it. After that the guard said: “Documents”. They never asked for documents, but faced with such a situation, they of course needed to ask for the documents. Of course Thomas had no documents. He just went out for a walk. He had no intention of passing by a control point anyway. Yes, he knows that he should always carry his documents, but he was wearing synthetic shorts, synthetic pants, and the pockets are very thin. It’s very uncomfortable to place all the documents...

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It happened by chance. A flat tire, a strange rock, a full skeleton right there, in his property, under his house. Bernardo had a degree in zoology, but he never pursued an academic career and never finished his PhD in vertebrate paleontology mostly because of his ambition. He was very competitive and he had lost several positions in the academic race to his peers. He ended up getting involved with illegal fossil dealers, faced a lawsuit and risked imprisonment. His academic career was over and he decided to invest his time and money in small country resorts. He had three of them. One located by a beach and another in the mountain countryside, near the place where he was building his new house. He had another house near the beach resort, but he had to leave it to his ex-wife.

He knew the area was rich in fossils. He paid a very low price for the land because of his contacts in the...

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Null pointer

Anthony was fired. He was already expecting that. In the last weeks it had become harder and harder to understand his boss and his colleagues. Yesterday, just before leaving work, there was a meeting and he was not invited. He could barely understand that it was a meeting. The only creatures that could understand him were his computer, his code and Polly, Mary’s dog. It was not easy to understand Mary, but it was still possible, and it was while trying to communicate with her that he became sure of the inevitability of his fate.

It had started on his birthday. A little book, he believes, that he received as a present. He had always been an average person, never daring to pursue anything out of the ordinary, but this book somehow made him think different. It was his boss, Ernest, who gave him the book. Ernest probably didn’t actually think about the content, or perhaps he believed that...

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Just a bit later than usual

Kostya was bored. He woke up with the sun. Actually he woke up because of the sun in his face. Another day. Another boring sunny day. He could hear the sounds of the birds and the trees, dogs and people in the street. Another day. Now he would need to survive the long hours until he was sleepy again. He would have to eat. He would have to move. He would have to bear the long hours of light until the day fell once again.

No, he couldn’t stay in bed. It was worse. Time moved much more slowly. And he would become hungry, and the suffering was much worse. He had to eat. He had to move. The alternatives were always much, much worse.

The clock in the kitchen was ticking. Day after day it ticked slower. Staying in bed made it tick even slower, but being hungry made the ticks louder.

And in a couple of hours Nanny would arrive. She always arrived at nine o’clock sharp. If he were still in bed...

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