Featured fiction
// Reza Naghibi

Audio File No. 1
I am back with you at the cabin now. It’s freezing here. Always winter. I want to say everything I can in case something happens to me. Someone has been using the empty drums outside to burn something … more than just for fires to keep warm. Last fire went out ninety days before I woke up. How do I even know that? I just remember. Without someone to talk to, my sanity is waning. I can’t see myself. Can’t bend my head. Think my head is wired solid. I’ve seen my legs and chest and arms, but not my face.

Audio File No. 2
They left me prepared. I’m wearing gumboots, though I can’t see any higher than that. When I lift my arms up I see the coat-sleeves are tucked into leather gloves. I’ve been freezing since the start. I’m glad to have found this recorder, and wish I had it a long, long time ago.

Audio File No 6.
I have a spoon, it’s my mirror. You don’t really know how much you want to see yourself until you can’t find a single mirror within a hundred miles. And it’s still freezing. I can’t walk much. I freeze up. Have to wait for the sun to come back. I can’t take off my clothes. They’re stuck. Stuck to me. Like I was a burn victim. It feels like there is some prostheses about my head. Only my right eye works. My face … I’m scared to touch it. What happened to me?

Audio File No. 14
I make fires to keep myself from getting too cold. I have to wait for sunrise if I get myself stuck. I freeze easily. I have the fires going with the drums near the cabin; I can walk about if I stay close.

Audio File No. 15
The mirror from the cabin’s lavatory was clearly ripped out, as was the one seated above the operating table where I woke up. I’m pretty sure I spotted shards of glass piled at the bottom of the empty drums outside. My bed is a stainless steel table under a pod of halogen lamps. It is where I woke up.

Audio File No. 53
I took a full day’s trip out to the eastern edge. It could be an island, but I don’t know for sure yet. Tried to glimpse myself in the water except it’s more like mud. No reflections. There are trees. There’s a copse of birch trees growing so close together I cannot walk through them. I’ve used two for firewood. There are a few closer to the cabin.

Audio File No. 54
This place could be several acres, but I’d say no more than ten. Am I trapped here? There’s literally nothing living here. Not a squirrel. No birds at the wharf. No little crabs under rocks. Nothing. My joint mobility is quite poor so I can’t move too fast. When I was about twelve hours into my walk out east, the cold and the snow really started affecting things. My clothes were wet. I can feel the cold in my head.

Audio File No. 150
I weighed myself using the scale in the cabin again. I am about two hundred and eighty pounds. If my calculations are correct that places my body mass index at just over thirty – I’m obese. But the problem is that I’m not eating. It is extra cold today. Negative forty degrees here. My headaches from this cold get bad … I can’t even see out of my one good eye. I touched my face … I’m so glad I found you.

Audio File No. 216
I woke up, but I haven’t gone back to sleep. I have tried. I just lie there. I read Dorian Gray, over and over; it’s my only book.

Audio File No. 392
The book is Picture of Dorian Gray. Read it too many times now. I can read it in about fourteen minutes. Every three seconds I can read a page. It’s really hard to see in the dark. There’s not much light here. On the western edge, the water is frozen solid. What is this place? There’s been daylight for over a week.

Audio File No. 437
I feel. But why? What man goes this long without eating? I haven’t felt hungry, but isn’t the absence of feeling still feeling?

Audio File No. 582
The shed has been the toughest location to reach. It sits at a part of this island where the birch trees – how I know the tree names escapes me – are rooted too tight for me to walk through. I get wedged between anything narrower than two feet, three inches. I need to see if there is anything useful in there; I have nothing else left to explore, nothing more to do. The shed has to have an answers.

Audio File No. 719
I’ve managed to fall about thirty of the trees with a hatchet from the fire-kit in the cabin. Catharsis: hacking at the tree gave me some relief; I felt alive. I wonder what my face looked like when I was like that … The spoon. My goddamn mirror. Alone here, forever; I could go crazy. I could die here … and not naturally.

Audio File No. 1084
I felt uneasy when I got into the shed. Just some shelves in there. The kind of shelves rich people have in their attic, full of dingy old manila covers, burlap bags. Sixteen canvases all measuring twenty-six by thirty-nine inches. Bound with something that might have been rope. I can tell it’s been … well, exactly how long it’s been … since they were left here. I had to leave after taking a look at some of the art. They weren’t much good. More like diagrams and geometric forms.

Audio File No. 1085
I’ve managed here so long alone. I should have starved to death. I shouldn’t have woken up. At least I’ve had you to talk to. If I don’t see anyone, maybe this recorder will be found … some day. I took a closer look at the paintings. With some proper day light I saw the art was more like schematics or diagrams. Anatomic diagrams.

Audio File No. 1086
I assumed it was art. One piece was wrapped and shelved almost too high. It was by chance that I noticed it. Several layers of covering had to be torn off … it was smoother than the canvases. It felt delicate. Beneath six layers of manila paper, under the soot and ash, the mirror was … just waiting for me. I knew the shed had something I needed.

Audio File No. 1087
Wires, cables, ribbon connecters, and computer ports. Circuit boards slotted into my skull. Some sort of fibreglass, maybe. A lot tougher. Just as lightweight. Somebody got carried away with a soldering iron. It’s not that I only have one good eye. The left part of my head seems to be computer; the rest seems to be an observational tool. A camera. Audio receivers. Microphone. Com-sat communicator. GPS. Someone watching me? The flood of questions would have made me vomit. A human would vomit.

Audio File No. 1088
I saw myself. That’s what’s important. I had been waiting for it. Whatever I am, I’m not human. Then what part of me has been talking to you if I’m not human? Where did my compulsion come from? Is this my proof of humanity? What brought me to say this to you: my ear?

Video File No. 1
When it burst out of the shed still clutching the mirror, the daylight was a muted, overcast white veil. It glanced about in panic at the anatomic drawings. It looked at the chest in the drawing and saw nothing but gears and circuitry where its heart and stomach would be. It leaned back to look up at the sky, lost balance, and fell. 
No emotions, yet aware of emotion missing. Feelings interpreted from the contrast of having no feelings … what is expected. A priori anxiety delivery system. Looking at its reflection. A goddamn walking web-cam.

//Reza Naghibi, writer
//Illustrations by Reza Naghibi

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