I have become the suggestion of a stranger... the invited intruder.

Where is the phantom entrance to somebody’s somewhere?

I am fading from view.

I am nothing but a flicker.

I am nothing but a speck of dust, floating and shimmering in the air.

I am in the middle of it all just like you.

The man carefully placed a piece of paper (which he had stolen from the clouds) flat on his barren desk, a distant and absent expression haphazardly chiseled onto his common face. His empty but anxious gaze unhurriedly trickled towards his hands... as he spread his fingers wider and wider, stretching the digits, teasing the webbed skin to break... as if he were loosening a powdered surgical glove which he believed would shield his skin. He gripped his right hand at the wrist with his other and proceeded to direct the fettered palm to press itself flat against a hovering and senseless wall, pushing-holding back a presence that simply wasn’t there.

Could he see me silently watching? Could he see the mist of my breath appearing on the invisible pane?

Suddenly, the man craned his hand downwards and started (almost uncontrollably) reaching... in... now... slowly... tips and bits of his fingers patiently vanishing into the surface of the paper, traveling through its lit portals with dark destinations, entering worlds which had no ends and no beginnings, only hazy in-betweens. I saw his distals become submerged as it waded in the white pool of surreal once-tree-milk. The solid droplets of pulp sliding away, making room for the rude human intrusion, as his scarred knuckles were swallowed by the gaping mouth of unconscious imagination until it finally reached the end of his blackened wrist... and then he stopped. It was as far as he could go.

Squirming and with a slight twist and grimace, the man fumbled with what he was reaching for, and no, he was not struggling with murderous incisors or dueling with a writhing tongue; he was simply dealing with... (nothing). So, I watched him as he continued to delicately pick out among the swimming teetering chattering gossiping multitudes of sensitive-decaying-life~altering-rejuvenating–fountains that promise infinite youth particles of thought... of what is supposed to matter... of what fictional worlds are made of.

The motto: collect then select.

Quietly, and with the help of a slimy translucent lubricant (whose origin, I’m sure, he would rather keep unknown). He slid his hand out effortlessly (the exit obviously easier than the entrance), finally revealing what he had taken out with time-consuming decimal precision.

Letters! From every known system of signs... lonely graphemes and sociable morphemes... unidentifiable symbols and scribbles on notebook paper... endless sunshine notes and midnight quotes…notes on a napkin, crayons on a placemat and markers on a mirror. All of these unreadable translations of free human thought were dripping from the edges of his trembling palm, tumbling about like plastic bags lifted by the visiting wind: glyphic silhouettes casting shadows behind the glowing and pulsing nicotine lamps, falling gracefully from his cupped hand like people elegantly exiting off a 13-story diving board.

However, these naked symbols could somehow detach themselves from their predisposed shapes. And so it appeared as if the doomed letters had limbs flailing wildly in the air as they fell like stars from the sky, ready to cement their existence as controversial craters. To the man’s surprise however (but not mine), the letters were attached to some chain/leash/puppet-string. And so I watched every single get viciously pulled back by the whispering deception of all men: that momentary pause in midflight, that split second of serenity before physics takes over, that complete submission to a force which had created and now controls everything.

And so the symbols, drowned in wails of exhilaration, landed safely back into his palms like felines on their feet after falling. Their shapes were restored, and there they lay among the indentations and pathways of astrological readings, perched with backs sharply arched, patiently waiting…

With his left wrist, or rather, his hand (those fingers which never entered the page-portal, those digits of the dirty device), he sifted among the silent self-complanatory letters, carefully selecting the ones which were destined for his desire. He felt within him the self-levitation equal to the ego of Romulus (whose demise I’m sure he would like to imitate), as he looked at the symbols and realized his power to give them all a new life, a second first chance... a life far away from those who knew them intimately. And so, he grasped each ‘chosen-one’ one-by-one between his index and thumb, and threw them with Poker precision - letter K's and Q’s... asterisks and ampersands… all swirling and rotating in flight like darts of destiny, thrown back with echoing splats back into the portal of the page... rejected.

There was so much hostility... angst... resentment... what-not... in the manner with which he hurled the weakest of the herd! Oh, and his actions, his despicable acts…disillusioned by the snares of so many signifiers, simply…signified...his stoic sentiments. He was salivating at the sides of his mouth that had been sewn shut with his own stubborn convictions and the numbing pain of an inkless ballpoint pen and could not be revived by the heat from a flame.

Flick. Flick-er. Flick. Nothing but sparks on a stick.

I figured, that this is why in his time of crisis, he used the living words (it was alive, I tell you) to act out the unsaid. He could not see, could not feel and could not be anything other than what he was right now: a man possessed with the tantrum of a child…

A young mind alone in an empty school, waiting for his ride to take him home. The magnitude of the deserted campus swallowing him up whole. Echoes of bellowing whispers jumping playfully from ear (left) to ear (right), silently sliding words of fear into his mind - words which weren’t really words but mere mumbles. And it was his own perilous panic that put meaning to the silent utterances.

Every tale of imps and transparent women (whose beautiful breasts you would completely ignore because of total fear in being able to see what was behind the luscious orbs), came to life. Each mythical character from dwarves to demonized knife-wielding infants hid in the corners of musty classrooms and behind pillars with flaking and eroding paint. Every croak and flutter of air made him fear the piss and powder which could take away his sight.

The puzzle-unjumbled-the-jumble-unpuzzled.

Everything around him had formed into moving statues. Enemies (as well as friends) both real and imagined (the former which he desperately decided was less of a danger) revealed themselves behind their plastic masks. They all said his name, and knew his secrets…secrets buried so deep, you’d reach the other side of the world just looking for it. Secrets so dark, the mere mention of it would snuff out the sun.

Shhh. It’s here. Can you hear it?

Light winds blew on the dusty playground of his memory. Alone and frightened in the daytime, he felt like the only person alive. Abandoned. Forgotten.

Oh, but little did he know that silence is the angel of fear!

On the sparse spots of grass in his recollection, the dusty (sapphire) field (now the second rock from the star) seemed to (suddenly coconut husk brown) change (finally it’s midnight) color, and as the tickling wind created baby dust devils of lapses in memory. He saw pictures tattooed onto the textured leaves which swirled around him. And he couldn’t help seeing the faint photographs of past trance-like bonfires, awkward jigs, and midnight swims in polluted rivers.

And now he was back once more from a place that never-really-was. Silence was knight and he was its page. He watched the remaining letters squirm in his hand, playing in the mud of his palms…laws of survival-of-the-fittest prevailing in a Golding world, with the weak lying still without breath and the triumphant trampling over the defeated. When all the barbaric and boyish battles were over, the remaining symbols lined up in formation - not rigidly and promptly like plastic toys guided by a tiny unwrinkled hand (which upset the I’s and exclamations, and you can guess their reaction), but more guerilla-like, awaiting the words of a revolutionary perched on top of a rock (of which any shape it resembled would quickly be likened to some religious belief), guiding a speech to its listeners to embody traits formidable and expected in a freeman.


Looking at the words looking at him, the man closed his hand into a fist. Onequickthoughtlessmovement.

He felt the gooey pus of their warm ink melt on his palm, turning every lifeline into black gushing rivers. His simian crease was pulsing with its own heartbeat, mimicking his own. And when he was certain that nothing was moving in his crude phalange cage and the nightly current had come to a halt... he slowly forced his fingers open (like a beetles on its back flailing its legs in the air), and slapped the nocturnal blood onto the paper which sat before him.

Lifting his hand away from the spot he had struck, sticky strands of what was left of the letters clung on to his palm, desperately begging for their lives, pleading not to be abandoned and left within the hypothermic white sea from which they could not be erased from.

And just like a whiteboard, the rubbing out of what once-was would only leave black blemishes on his skin.

But he did not LISTEN.

With his left palm, he held the paper firmly in place as he pulled his other hand (of destruction) away to be free from the wails and laments of what was once insignificant-but-united-together-was-something. Something which he could not yet ascertain.

After staring at what was made, the man spit on the page.

He rose from the swivel-squeaky chair which had cushioned his ass from the swift execution. He side-stepped towards the adjoining comfort room to wash his stained hands. Using his clean fingers to turn on the faucet, the spout fired its nonlethal ammunition (thirst-quenching but cholera-giving water), as the goo from his palm was blasted away by the collision between dirt and purity. Little fragments of the crushed letters thudded-crashed-splashed and swirled in the sink, straight into the gaping hole from which nothing returns. It was nothing... nothing more than a toxic alphabet soup fed to the insurgent sewers.

Unsatisfied with his cleansing, he washed his unsoiled hand against the dirty one and rubbed them furiously, thankful that jogging water doused the fire building up between his palms before it spread and burned his whole body. But still, he was displeased (I could see his brow begin to crumple). He splashed the water onto his exercised forearms - cold hepatitis-bearing armies licking his perverted muscles and blemished skin, plucking at the sparse follicles of invisible hairs like uprooted cacti in the desert...

Yet, none of this gave him comfort.

Now. Listen.

The squeak of a faucet turning off. The rattling sound of a confessional cloth being opened. A flip-click of a lever. The sound of gushing missiles striking a rubber mat. The gurgling of starving pipes. A man stepping into the shower. Fully clothed. With shoes.


Shirt sticking like a parasite to his chest. Chameleon slacks shifting shades. Shoes becoming shiny and slimy. Water becoming weight. Burdens on the shoulder and waist. Eyes closed. Washing eyelids. Drenching eyelashes. Tears of water. Stalactites on his chin. A beard of beads. Falling. Bursting on the rubber mat. Submerging his toes in something.

Water around the ankles rising to his knees. A man sitting down. A man lying on his back. Floating in something.

Water beneath the chin. Water behind the scalp. Thin sparse strands of hair. Slithering serpents. Avoiding the mirror. Don’t want to see. Something.

Water on the cracked upper lip. Waves crashing against the crooked nose. A gurgle. Submergence. Emergence.
The flopping plopping slipping dripping body rising, hands gripping the sides of the tub. A lever pushed down.

Then silence as the flurry comes to a halt.

Water splashing onto the tiles, concealed grenades inside the slacks. A man sliding, then sitting on the floor. Suppressing. Weeping. Looking at something. Can you see? Have the letters been washed away?

Black ink mixing with the water on the tiles. I could see it in his face; I could see the magnitude of his desire…how he wished the water was white and not merely clear so what swirled before him would be gray...

Now helplessness... looking for something. Next. The death of parrots and parodies.

He stands up and walks back into his study, dripping and sloshing about, spheres of water falling to the floor. He leaves a trail of wetness as the silent unshakable shadows follow him…following him…following him…with a leash that can never be cut and a scent that will never lose its fragrance…

Unfeeling, unmoved, unshaken and bathed beyond recognition - a stranger estranged from his own self-imagined world…that’s what he was…completely blindsided by the enslaving quality of something. The words…the letters…oh these impartial vessels of man, ignorant of their meaning and metaphor, apathetic to the consequences they produce! He cursed the letters (and the words they made) and couldn’t believe that out of the blind groping into the page. He had pulled out the most vile, most repulsive, most distasteful symbols and joined them to form tales of trickery, narratives of the never-hopeful, cantos of controversy and pubic poetics. He could not imagine where these ideas came from; he could not decode the imagery nor see past the cloak of metaphors and ambiguous expositions. It was necessary for him to believe that he did not in any way, have a role (much more, that of a hero) in any of these manifestations. He struggled to accept the unnerving truth that he did. No, can’t be. Impossibility. Tell yourself.


No sense. No sense. No sense.


Oh, if only he could shape-shift and discard this mutated form!

There is no hope, no salvation, and no rescue for the bewildered and lost! No ambulantic sirens, no policific wails, no rescuistics of conscious heroics! There would be no cinematic one-liners uttered by quivering and sweaty lips and shimmering eyes aware of the Byronic irony. No. Is there no acceptance in altruism that is aware (and in contradiction) of itself?

He picked up the detested draft and began shredding it with his trembling hands into stellar pieces... little remnants of cosmic dust from the explosion of what is to be an imagined universe... particles floating-falling as nondescript bits of what was once invisible. He is suddenly reminded of the forlorn pin-sized piece of matter which had started all of this... this life... this existence... that little lonely particle which exploded in a fit of rage from the desire to be with someonebodything. And when the epiphany of the inevitable bang! Finally arrived, it created companions with its emotions, which would brighten up the dreary blackness and emptiness of its surroundings - entities without a definite purpose other than to be exquisite. And thus the universe is a result of loneliness and the longing for beauty.

All of this came to be because of one lonely soul in search of something... and so the man tore up his ridiculous creation like vast landmasses destroyed by falling poison-tipped spears, disrupting logical tectonics, forming-dividing-transforming-dissolving-renaming-blaming patches of earth, putting an end to the tedious journey of more and more letters. Debris was scattered, creating more tiny particles to be lifted in the gusts of the frustrated winds…a reinvention of the paper-planet through conscious destruction. That is what he felt he must do. To rip that paper like most people do.

And what of the truth-that-matters? Something has convinced him otherwise... his idea of something has been compromised. Through his eyes: multiple truths…multiple realities which were not coexisting – all were incarcerated solely in their own place and pace. Silenced by concealment.

Suddenly (without provocation or warning), something deepdeepdeepdeepohsodeep within him started to satirically bubble. The world shiver and vibrate…was the earth trembling? From what? He began to feel the tease of nausea as if he were clinging onto a pendulum…the rhythmic swing suspending his emotions, his body moving faster than what was inside him. The unsettling sloshing and bubbling within his gut began climbing towards the cavern of communication which he had sealed shut so long ago. He could feel the queasiness more and more as every second passed…the gaseous infidels…those liquid gurgles…Slowly now…the expelling (or revealing) of something hidden... something that has been concealed or suppressed…

The earth then stopped shaking. He swallowed. The apple of the first man moved. He sat down at his desk. He takes a breath. He begs the world to stay still. Like a picture.

Setting a page before him once again, no longer did he put on that unseen glove and extract with surgical laseristic accuracy words and worlds that existed behind the shield of the paper. No longer did he reach down into that invisible realm and pull out with ease the same frantic symbols. No. Not now. This time, he took his baptized hand and tenderly passed through the skin of his own clenched abdomen... past his cocktail fat and slumbering muscles, past the beating and pulsing organs, past the network of nerves and asphyxiated arteries, past his manic emotions and disgruntled memories...

From within himself, he pulled out... well... something beautiful.

He, ummm, extracted an absolute rose.

It glowed. Absolutely. It had no traitorous thorns and no imperfect petals. It was colorless but had color. It was shapeless but had shape. It was scentless but... yes. It was something he did not know was growing inside him all this time. It was concealed by the shadows of skyscrapers and silhouettes of late night wanderings; it had been hidden by false hopes and adorations, comic distractions and selfish actions. It grew silently - waiting patiently for this moment. And this absolute rose pulsed with such an indescribable glow that it was all he could do not to drop it in total awe of its magic-nificient presence... it was beyond any form of poetry and any shape of prose...

Oh, and how he ached all over (during) (and) (after) he slowly brought out the absolute rose to mingle with the air. He was drained and exhausted... yet, he did not care. No longer did he see dreams of dashes and hyphenated hallucinations. Now, he saw the undocumented events of an offered seat, a pulled out chair, an opened door with the gesture to pass after. He saw the distant but peaceful stares partnered with arduous labor and all the simple joys of simple men. And all the screams of change (which he had heard for so long) no longer filled his ears... instead, he heard the untainted laughter of children and the whispers of undiscovered hope.

What is your worst nightmare?


(Sneaking up towards the origin of the voice.)

Come take a look.

I can’t see. I still have my mask on.

(Laughter tiptoeing lightly pitter-patter pitter-patter like drizzles in the sun.)

Look. Twin brothers stuck together. But, one is no more.

Everything that was, is no more, and everything that is, struggles to be.

Yet to fight for the grand idea of a personal and beautiful ideal is only fire against fire. Is the answer, he asked himself so troublingly, in…is it, really?

On the new piece of paper he had laid out (which he had taken out of the drawer in his desk), he took the absolute rose and laid it carefully on the surface of the page. I could see, that in his eyes, the way he looked at what was in front of him was tainted with an expectation: he was convinced that what he had painstakingly pulled out would wilt because it had been uprooted for far too long from where it had come from. But instead of withering away... the absolute rose blossomed: it grew stems and fuller petals…the color (of which there was none) grew more vivid (even though there was none) and it glowed even brighter - like a star on a stem that was captured from the sky. It writhed into life as if a breath had awakened its slumber, and it finally flattened itself on the crisp paper, followed by the melody of a light crumple, signaling the beginning of the chorus of days to come...

At the sight of this absolute rose melting into the page, he felt completely ridiculous about his earlier fit of fury; he…realized…that he…could not…remember…a single thing about his momentary indulgence in an emotion that was easy to awaken. It was all gone…every memory of what had happened in no more than a few blinks of the eye was nothing more than overexposed negatives consumed by the greedy light. The words he produced and the despicable actions that came consequently after it, were all gone…exiled from the confines of his mind.

It was at that moment that he began to understand that ill-directed passions were all unnatural to the human soul, because from the instant the possessive episode begins until it finally dissipates as steam mixing with the coolness of the air, the memory disappears with the moment.

He now knew that he could never be consciously in control of any outburst of rage because the lived memory is always vague, as if the mind, as well as the soul, simply refuses to remember…

I begin to fade in...

I can touch. I can feel.

I am part of the world once more.

I am a product of my time.

Inside Joko Jun

Joko Jun features Filipinos from around the world... musicians, writers, photographers, and other creative people.