Author : Mark Adel

I felt the urge to write speculative fiction. But I couldn’t. So I swallowed a nil pill. Still I couldn’t. So I swallowed another nil pill.

Then I couldn’t remember my name.

But when my fingertips touched the keyboard I realized I was sitting in the part of heaven that had been settled centuries ago by Native American Zen monks.

“Amazing,” I said to a small weathered man sitting beside me at another keyboard. He was typing with the index finger of his left hand, while in his right hand he held a short stick wrapped in a strip of leather and adorned with feathers and turquoise beads.

Because he didn’t acknowledge me, I decided to fill the silence: “Is this going to be speculative fiction? Is this going to be an epic everything-but-the-kitchen-sink story, a sprawling conceit, a junk drawer that holds the meaning of life and whatever in the universe has no home and belongs nowhere but here?”

“No,” the old man snapped, whacking my knuckles with the stick. “It’s going to be painful unless you stop babbling like an idiot while I’m holding the talking stick.”

“May I hold the talking stick?” I asked, rubbing the back of my hand. “I have a question.”

The old man whacked my knuckles again and said, “Quiet. You asked a question and you were not holding the talking stick. And what makes you think this is speculative fiction. There’s not a speck of speculation in it. There’s not a speck of fiction in it. Everything here is true.”

I pointed from my mouth to the stick to my mouth again, trying to pantomime that I wanted to hold the stick so I could talk. The old man whacked my knuckles again.

“Hey!” I cried. “Why did you do that? I didn’t say anything.”

“Not with words,” he replied. “But you spoke with your hands and there’s no difference. You’re lucky this is not a gangster mondo. Then you’d really get whacked.”

“But—” I started to say.

He whacked my knuckles again and said, “Knucklehead! You are Knucklehead! The name you can’t remember is Knucklehead!”