The LanyardThe other day I was ricocheting slowlyoff the blue walls of this room,moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,when I found myself in the L section of the dictionarywhere my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.No cookie nibbled by a French novelistcould send one into the past more suddenly—a past where I sat at a workbench at a campby a deep Adirondack lakelearning how to braid long thin plastic strips into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.I had never seen anyone use a lanyardor wear one, if that's what you did with them,but that did not keep me from crossing strand over strand again and againuntil I had made a boxy red and white lanyard for my mother.She gave me life and milk from her breasts,and I gave her a lanyard.She nursed me in many a sick room,lifted spoons of medicine to my lips, laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,and then led me out into the airy lightand taught me to walk and swim and I , in turn, presented her with a lanyard.Here are thousands of meals, she said,and here is clothing and a good education.And here is your lanyard, I replied,which I made with a little help from a counselor.Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,strong legs, bones and teeth,and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.And here, I wish to say to her now,is a smaller gift—not the worn truththat you can never repay your mother,but the rueful admission that when she took the two-tone lanyard from my hand, I was as sure as a boy could bethat this useless, worthless thing I wove out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
Billy Collins
I have no idea how long Quisser was gone from the table. My attention became fully absorbed by the other faces in the club and the deep anxiety they betrayed to me, an anxiety that was not of the natural, existential sort but one that was caused by peculiar concerns of an uncanny nature. What a season is upon us, these faces seemed to say. And no doubt their voices would have spoken directly of certain peculiar concerns had they not been intimidated into weird equivocations and double entendres by the fear of falling victim to the same kind of unnatural affliction that had made so much trouble in the mind of the art critic Stuart Quisser. Who would be next? What could a person say these days, or even think, without feeling the dread of repercussion from powerfully connected groups and individuals? I could almost hear their voices asking, Why here, why now? But of course they could have just as easily been asking, Why not here, why not now? It would not occur to this crowd that there were no special rules involved; it would not occur to them, even though they were a crowd of imaginative artists, that the whole thing was simply a matter of random, purposeless terror that converged upon a particular place at a particular time for no particular reason. On the other hand, it would also not have occurred to them that they might have wished it all upon themselves, that they might have had a hand in bringing certain powerful forces and connections into our district simply by wishing them to come. They might have wished and wished for an unnatural evil to fall upon them but, for a while at least, nothing happened. Then the wishing stopped, the old wishes were forgotten yet at the same time gathered in strength, distilling themselves into a potent formula (who can say!), until one day the terrible season began. Because had they really told the truth, this artistic crowd might also have expressed what a sense of meaning (although of a negative sort), not to mention the vigorous thrill (although of an excruciating type), this season of unnatural evil had brought to their lives.(Gas Station Carnivals)
Thomas Ligotti
After a moment or two a man in brown crimplene looked in at us, did not at all like the look of us and asked us if we were transit passengers. We said we were. He shook his head with infinite weariness and told us that if we were transit passengers then we were supposed to be in the other of the two rooms. We were obviously very crazy and stupid not to have realized this. He stayed there slumped against the door jamb, raising his eyebrows pointedly at us until we eventually gathered our gear together and dragged it off down thecorridor to the other room. He watched us go past him shaking his head in wonder and sorrow at the stupid futility of the human condition in general and ours in particular and then closed the door behind us.The second room was identical to the first. Identical in all respects other than one, which was that it had a hatchway let into one wall. A large vacant-looking girl was leaning through it with her elbows on the counter and her fists jammed up into her cheekbones. She was watching some flies crawling up the wall, not with any great interest because they were not doing anything unexpected, but at least they were doing something. Behind her was a table stacked with biscuits, chocolate bars, cola and a pot of coffee and we headed straight towards this like a pack of stoats. Just before we reached it, however, we were suddenly headed off by a man in blue crimplene, who asked us what we thought we were doing in there. We explained that we were transit passengers on our way to Zaire and he looked at us as if we had completely taken leave of our senses.'Transit passengers? he said. 'It is not allowed for transit passengers to be in here.' He waved us magnificently away from the snack counter, made us pick up all our gear again and herded us back through the door and away into the first room where, a minute later, the man in the brown crimplene found us again.He looked at us. Slow incomprehension engulfed him, followed by sadness, anger, deep frustration and a sense that the world had been created specifically to cause him vexation. He leaned back against the wall, frowned, closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.'You are in the wrong room,' he said simply. `You are transit passengers. Please go to the other room.'There is a wonderful calm that comes over you in such situations, particularly when there is a refreshment kiosk involved. We nodded, picked up our gear in a Zen-like manner and made our way back down the corridor to the second room. Here the man in blue crimplene accosted us once more but we patiently explained to him that he could fuck off.
Douglas Adams