En Français because it happened in French. But not in France. True story
Hop on folks, there’s still room for more people.
Em… We’ll take the next one. See ya later…
Hmm. That’s weird! Why did they snob us all of a sudden?
Ah! Bonjour madame. Vous parlez français.
Oui! J’adore cette langue. D’ailleurs, j’ai fait mes études en France. Et je dirige la boite.
Silence. Stupeur. Un ange passe. Et la lumière fut!
Ah! Nous sommes donc avec la CEO de la boite!
Eh oui, c’est bien moi.
Puis, se tournant vers la seule personne dans l’ascenceur dont les oreilles sont sourdes au français, et très élégamment:
Oh I am so sorry to be speaking in French but I love this language so much and have very few opportunities to speak it.
No worries, I still have to learn it. Procrastination, you know… (avec un grand sourire, et ne réalisant vraiment pas ce qui se passe)
Et vous venez de France?
Et que faites-vous chez nous?
Nous sommes les consultants du vendor, nous sommes là pour la définition de la phase 2.
Ah! Oui! C’est un programme très important pour nous! Bon courage à vous! Je descends ici. Très enchantée!
Nous de même! Bonne journée!
Dude! You just missed a conversation with the CEO of the biggest bank in the country!
Dude! You should really learn French!
So, dear readers, maybe you should consider learning French. You might never bump into a French speaking CEO in an elevator, but then again, who knows? And at least, you will be able to enjoy this story without google translate.
She opened the locker. Three years had gone by. So much had happened since the last time the locker was locked, so much had changed in the world. In her world too. She did not remember the lock code anymore and had to have it broken. She would come to remember later that it was the birth date of someone dear to her heart. 0804.
You could write a book about the locker and its content. It was a microcosm of her life before the pandemic, before the illness. But first stood out the names. Dozens of names, some old, Germaine, Pierre, Eugénie, some younger, Nicolas, Aurélie, Chloé, and some from elsewhere, Farida, Evgueny, Mauro. They came from all over the world and from all walks of life. They did not share much, except having been really ill, at the doorsteps of the world after.
She would stick their names on the back of the locker, praying for those undergoing surgery, remembering those who did not make it and cheering for those who did. Many of the names were testaments to the miracles that modern medicine and its practitioners were able to achieve, especially when all hope seemed to be lost.
Those she cared for were here on a last chance. They came to undergo the stuff of magic, which are procedures closer to science fiction if you fancy a less irrational description, but all the same if you asked her, because magic is what it really took to save these lives in dire situations.
People on whom medicine would have given up a few years ago, or even a few kilometers away, had a chance here. A reasonable chance. And I like to think her touch contributed greatly. She was the last face they saw before the great ordeal, a great responsibility which she did not take lightly.
She did everything she could to deliver them smiling and fearless to the magic procedure which was supposed to mend them. Most made it through because a smile, a pinch of hope and a prayer are powerful spells too, maybe the most powerful of all.
She stood there, in front of the locker, memories rushing through her. She remembered her colleagues, many of whom had retired or moved on to other endeavors. She remembered the pandemic, her illness, and felt the toll that these three years had taken on her.
She remembered the old days, some happy, some sad, and all the hard times that had shaped her into the sharp professional she once was and never stopped to be, even with the past three years weighting on her shoulders.
All she needed to do now was to enter into the cold white light and take her place in the magic procedure of wizards bringing back to life those who had no other alternative than their magic.
She closed the locker, scrubbed up, donned the gown, and with her magic wand in hand, she went on saving lives, in honor of the names in the locker from a previous life.
To my lovely Rita, and to all the wizards, Elie, Stephan, Saïd, Emre, Joy, Olaf, Dominique, Philippe, Julien, Ramzi, Sacha, Régine, Sebastien, Bechara, Iolanda, Pierre, and the many others doing miracles at the edge of science and magic, to save lives which are otherwise doomed.
Don’t even blink, it will be so fast you might miss it
All my life I’ve been running. From bullies, from teachers, from shame, and later from hunger, from bullets, from cops.
I’ve been running after elusive hassles, and more often than not after a loaf of bread, when you’ve been running the course of honors. I’ve been running on an empty stomach, bare feet on the cold concrete, when you were running after a world record in 500 dollar-running shoes. I was running after my life while you were rushing to the podium, running for gold and eschewing silver.
But now, things have changed. I am the underdog. It took a lot of blood and tears. It took a lot mockery from people like you, to whom I may not look like much, with my tired borrowed sneakers, to whom I may not sound like much with my weird accent, in this lingua franca of the 21st century I can barely speak. I can hear it in your laughs.
The Olympic games were never the same ever since. This guy just came out of nowhere and destroyed the 100m sprint in just 33 steps, with a headwind of -1.6m/s.
The time it took him? 07:81 seconds. The previous record of 09:58 seconds had stood unscathed for more than thirty years. The 100-meter sprint lost its shine after that, and most sprint athletes turned to other disciplines. No one could fathom this new world record. It was too great a goal to reach. It was way beyond what mere mortals could hope to achieve.
One can only wonder. He had been racing great contenders day in day out, maybe the greatest of all contenders you can encounter in a lifetime. Misery. Adversity. And for once, just for once, he was not racing for his life.
I met her on a cold winter evening. She was laying on the sidewalk, in the pouring rain, abandoned there by her last abuser. She was visibly broken by years of hardship. The old scars were still visible. The more recent ones were alarming.
I was in my car rushing somewhere when I saw her. I picked her up before the reaper did. She had many broken bones and a dislocated hip, which seemed to have been treated by less than qualified surgeons. Battle wounds really.
We would share stories over a cup of coffee with an orange peel every evening for the next week or two. I would tell her the tales of a small country on the verge of oblivion, and bit by bit, she would tell me her story, or at least the parts she could speak about without putting to jeopardy whatever sanity she had left. I had to figure out the rest.
I took her in and cared for her. She started to open up when the fog and doziness of homelessness lifted, but more so when she realized she could stay for as long as she wanted. She was safe here.
She was born in East Germany, during the cold war. Blonde, feminine, not as tall as you would expect, which suits me fine. And one could guess she once had a warm alto voice. The thing is, by the time I met her, she had not sung anything meaningful in years and her voice was only the shadow of what it used to be.
She had probably been an artist in a previous life, or longed to be one. She could have had to leave the totalitarian state where she was born, her art having become too heavy to bear behind the Iron Curtain. Or could she have been given up for adoption at birth, moving in and out of foster care until coming of age? Whatever it might have been, the life she was made to live took quite an expensive toll on her.
I tried to bring back the shine she had lost over years of sorrow and abuse, and I think I did a pretty decent job. I cleaned her up, put her back to shape, oiled her fretboard, refurbished her tuning mechanism, set her up with new strings and gradually tuned her to pitch. I left the scars though, as a tribute to her survival on a more than dodgy path, and they make her beauty stand out. She has been my go-to guitar ever since.
I do not know who played her before me or what was her repertoire back in the days. She never told me and probably never will. I just hope that she finds my music interesting enough, and I think she does. Otherwise, she would not bless me with this warm alto voice of hers when I play her.
Here she is, as if waiting for me to fix her a drink. Enough with coffee, even with an orange peel. She likes Bourbon. Fair enough. So do I.
And a ray of contagious light, travelling the universe
So, there was this guy. He was shining. A ray of bright light. All who bumped into him were touched by his light and for a while, became alight themselves, and this light was contagious.
When his time came and he left for a better place, they uncovered a diary he seemed to have been keeping. Not really a diary, more like bits and pieces of inner thoughts intertwined with some lament.
It turned out the guy had no light inside whatsoever. He had been walking in darkness the whole time. A deep well of despair and loneliness, a constant yet unfruitful search for an ever-elusive ray of sunshine. His writings left no doubt about it.
So where did the light come from?
It came from every wrong turn he took because those who knew better never gave him the right advise.
It came from every piece of bread he would be denied when starving at the side of the road.
It came from every border he could not cross, every job he could not get, every opportunity he would lose because of who he was and where he came from.
It came from every failure, every broken dream, every sleepless night, it came from the indifference he had faced when most in need of human warmth.
You see, this guy was carrying the curse that others, more worthy of it, did not wish to carry. He was burdened with crying all the tears they would not cry anymore.
A burden chosen with care, a curse embraced with full prior knowledge, for he had already been there before, took the wrong turn, cried the bitter tear, begged for a piece of bread, a job, an opportunity. He had been left outside in the cold when others were boarding first class.
Broken dreams had been daily bread for as long as he could remember, and from the rumbles of his dreams and the ashes covering his days and nights, he found the strength to shine, not on others, but for others, to make their lives a little bit warmer.
This constant shining got the best of him. He died of exhaustion on a sidewalk on a cold November evening.
Those who knew him quickly forgot hit legacy, if they ever knew it, and save for his writings, nothing remains of him today.
Except, maybe, a ray of contagious light, still travelling the universe.
Remember the inner compass? The one pointing you to the right direction and which you are supposed to follow?
Well sometimes, it is a bloody Anvil!
Can you swim through the meanders of life with one tied to your ankles? I thought I could. I tried. I drowned…
Salvation dawned on me while on my way to the abysmal depths of an ocean of despair, dragged down by the sacred anvil of Conscience.
All I needed was a hammer.
A hammer for those who dare to rise against the evens and the odds. Those who challenge the events and the gods. A hammer to pummel the wicked against the Anvil, this sacred compass of the soul.
The Anvil of the Righteous I already had, tied to my ankles, dragging me to my destiny. The Hammer of Righteousness I needed to wield.
And for the hammer I went. And to the wicked I took the hammer. And boy did I pummel through the scum of the earth.
The Others came first. Those who spoke a different language. Who followed a different faith. Who were born in a different place, or had a different skin color. The scum steeling our food, our jobs, defiling our way of life.
Then came those who were no longer productive but still feeding on the live forces. The elderly, the sick, the disabled. The parasites.
Then came the poor, reveling in their poverty, the rich, exploiting the poor. The tyrant, crushing the people. The people, rebelling against order. The men, all but rapists of mothers and daughters. The women, all but temptresses of fathers and husbands. As for the children, well, they had had their turn earlier, with the parasites.
I then took the hammer to people of faith, all but bigots, sons of bigotry. And then to the atheists and unbelievers, for reveling in their ungodly beliefs. I went after the sinners, and then after the saints, I trampled those who stood on my way and chased those hiding to their graves.
They all had to die, and I hammered them all. I hammered them down to nothingness, drunken by the scent of blood and the taste of righteousness. I was invincible.
I was so full of my righteousness that I did not see it coming. A blinding flash of cold blue steel, cutting right through me. My conscience slowly slips into the void, as the sword of justice rips my flesh apart. The souls I hammered are coming back at me. Their curse is too heavy. Their curse is the real Anvil…
I was adamant I would be welcomed in Valhalla, the resting place of the righteous warriors, but all I can see is the pitch black hole in my rotten soul.
And the Anvil is still dragging me down to abysmal depth, this incorruptible compass still pointing down below, to nothingness.
Awakening to a light so intense it consumes my heart and soul in a blaze that can no longer be put out.
Everything becomes dull and dead. Everything but the light, everything but the blaze.
It is consuming me inside out. It eclipses the sun, it blinds my eyes to all the other dim candles.
And the light becomes too bright, it becomes unbearable, it becomes darkness after taking away the light. A light taking away the light…
My life starts to unravel, thread by thread, in bright flashes consuming the memories, one after the other, until only remains darkness, a pitch-black veil before my eyes, a pitch-black spot in my head.
Only then do I realize I should settle for the dim candles, the simple pleasures. Alas, the blaze is too appealing, the light too strong, I find myself drawn to them like a firefly.
And to the blaze I run, faithful and eager, longing for obliteration, now that all hope is lost, now that the blaze has broken my body and consumed my soul.
“Obliterate me!” shall I cry to the powers to be,
“Obliterate him …” would I hear in return, my own words carried like an omen by the echoes of the wind.
Or how the lamest events can trigger the brightest ideas, or the lack thereof
An apple once decided it was time for it to wander free from the branch holding it to an old apple tree in a garden somewhere in Kensington. Some lads walking by were witnesses to the incident.
The first lad thought: “Why does it actually fall to the ground?”
A lame idea at first sight, but one which gave birth to the laws of motion and the theory of universal gravitation, which now form the foundation of classical mechanics. The very idea which would allow sending three men to the moon 282 years later.
The other lad picked up the apple and ate it, then wrote a book about making a fortune by waiting for apples to fall from trees, and started selling his book to people who were in desperate need for a break, along with (expensive) courses on how to be whole again by watching apples fall from trees.
One of them made a fortune. The other one made a difference. A huge difference. We are still reaping the benefits.
On a cold night there’s a cold gun, burning through her hand In the lonely town there’s a lonely girl trying to forget The tears she cried a long time ago are still haunting her soul And in the cold night all the pain she felt was driving her insane
Same night many years ago, lying in a bed Torn dress, shattered look, more than she could take What if she died a long time ago, what if she wasn’t born at all And in the cold night all the memories unraveled in her head
And she said You can’t hurt me, you can’t hurt me I’m just passing by she said I’m just passing by
Bleu. Rouge. Bleu. Rouge… Un bruit continu, une modulation assourdissante… Des cris, indistincts, paniqués… Le noir, le silence, puis, un plafond blanc qui s’enfuit… des visages qui lui courent après, et du noir, encore…
Je me réveille. 4 heures du matin. Encore un cauchemar me dis-je. J’en ai la gorge sèche. Trop engourdi pour aller à la cuisine, je cherche des yeux quelque chose pour oublier ma soif. Un puzzle m’attire irrésistiblement, la création d’Adam, chapelle Sixtine. 206 pièces.
Pas trop compliqué, ça me prendra une petite heure, le temps de me rappeler au souvenir de ce brave morphée. Je commence par les coins comme tout passionné de puzzle qui se respecte, je m’applique, mais ça n’avance pas. Une horloge tinte dans le lointain, 4h30.
Une voix intérieure résonne dans ma tête, comme une explosion. “Résous ce puzzle!” Un sentiment d’urgence m’envahit soudain. Où avais-je la tête? Il faut conclure au plus vite! Il va où le cubitus? Aurais-je interverti les tibias? Et cette rotule qui ne s’imbrique pas sur ce genou? Morphée finit par se manifester alors que je pose la dernière pièce du puzzle, celle où l’index du bon Dieu rencontre celui de sa fragile créature. Mes yeux se ferment juste à temps…
Je saurai plus tard à ma sortie du coma que le chirurgien orthopédiste aura fait des miracles sur une grande partie de mes 206 os et que je lui dois de pouvoir me tenir à peu près debout aujourd’hui malgré la gravité de mon accident. Je fais deux bons centimètres de moins à cause de mes tibias passés au moulin et je ne serai jamais champion de course à pied, mais je marche encore et je peux même courir dans mes bons jours grâce à lui également. La rotule est toujours aux abonnés absents, mais heureusement, les cubitus tiennent encore la route. Des miracles je vous dis. Ma moto quant à elle n’est plus qu’un lointain et douloureux souvenir, cédée avec hargne à l’épaviste au poids de ferraille par ma mère, qui depuis garde un cierge allumé à l’intention de son grand garçon à Saint-Sulpice, que Dieu me la garde.
Depuis ce jour, une pensée me hante, celle de la dernière pièce de puzzle où se rejoignent l’humain et le Divin, le mortel et l’Eternel, à travers leurs indexes qui se frôlent. Voyez-vous, de tout mon corps, les os de mes membres supérieurs ont le plus souffert et à un moment de ma jeunesse, j’avais arrêté de compter les opérations qui m’ont finalement permis de pouvoir tenir une fourchette à peu près correctement. Les seuls os à en avoir réchappé sont ceux de mon index gauche, celui-là même que le bon Dieu semble toucher dans la fresque de la chapelle Sixtine. Et j’y ai vu un signe, un appel à utiliser ce rescapé de l’hécatombe pour transmettre le don de vie qui aurait dû m’être refusé.
J’ai donc repris mes études de médecine, abandonnées dans une vie antérieure pour l’amour d’une créature à deux roues et me suis spécialisé dans les greffes, pour redonner la vie à ceux qui allaient en être privés par la faute d’un cœur trop fatigué ou d’un poumon trop faiblard, vie qui leur est involontairement donnée en cadeau par des têtes brulées qui ne réalisent pas la chance qu’elles ont d’être jeunes, en bonne santé et de pouvoir croquer la vie à belles dents, et qui décident un beau jour d’aplatir leur électroencéphalogramme pour une dose d’adrénaline dans un bolide à 8 cylindres.
J’ai eu la chance d’en réchapper, d’autres ne l’auront pas. Alors de grâce mes amis, prenez soin de ces cadeaux que sont votre jeunesse et votre santé, d’autres n’ont pas eu ces privilèges …
Un ex-jeune rescapé des kilomètres/heure
Let the board sound
PS: cette histoire est purement fictive, toute ressemblance avec des personnes ou situations réelles est fortuite.
An apple red 1974 Dodge Challenger, rushing through the turns in a futile tentative to reach the summer sunset, before the night sets in. The girl driving it was not running away. She was speed-driving an oppressing feeling of inevitability off her chest and onto the asphalt, racing the race of her life in an attempt to beat the chequered flag before it signaled the end she was dreading. It was 6 PM already and the stakes were growing higher by the minute. She was driving towards the capital, with 2 hours to go according to the GPS, but much less according to her plans: the tuned and well looked after muscle car had a top speed of more than 200 kilometers per hour and the girl could not care less about speed tickets or traffic. She was planning on cutting through anything or anyone standing in her way.
The sun had already set by the time the car finally came to a stop. 37 minutes to departure. That was 7 minutes before the gates would close, but it was already too late for her. Even with all the time in the world, she would have never been able to reach them without a couple of much sought after passes: a European or American passport or visa and a valid plane ticket, both of which she did not have. Fortune favors the bold. She reached to her chest, grabbed a golden medallion and the picture hidden inside, put it to her lips, took a deep breath and started running the fastest sprint ever run. 372 meters, through revolving doors, a couple of stairs, three border police checkpoints and all the crowds trying to flee this god forsaken land. She had already 12 cops on her soles by the time she reached the departures gates, with 3 minutes to spare. And then she saw him, right at the other end of the terminal, the last passenger boarding, and too far to hear her over the crowd. All she could do was stare at his back while she still could, before she would be taken down by 12 angry men. Right at the last second, in a fortunate twist of fate, or maybe thanks to providence, he turned back, as if to wish this land farewell one last time. Their eyes crossed, and what he could not have heard in her silent voice, he saw in her big brown eyes. He knew right at this moment that his life would never be the same. He dropped his bags and rushed to her through the crowd.