The Closest Thing to Home. Fiction Shinjini Dey

Shinjini Dey is very disgruntled but not disagreeable and hates machines and museums; but she likes the awkward and the disconcerting. She enjoys reading polemical writing but doubts whether poetry could ever be political. She works as an editor to pay the bills and lives in India. She has been published earlier in Efiction and Cactus Heart Press.

We lived in a building that was purple, except sometimes it was yellow. But that didn’t matter – we would never use the colour as a landmark. It was too generic. We knew we had to give directions to the McDonald’s a hundred meters away.  And then if we angled our bodies – put one foot lightly on the steel tap and another on the toilet seat – we could wave through the window. They would just have to get close enough. 

But there was The Agent. The Agent’s only function was to play with probability. He’s supposed to teach us hope and despair. 

‘Do you know how many McDonald’s are in the area?’
‘Within a hundred meters?’
‘Within a hundred meters on all four sides, if there are four sides.’

Of course we didn’t know. There could’ve have been two, there could have been a hundred. The Agent’s first maxim was that every second we stayed here multiplied the unknowns infinitely. We’d been here so long we’d forgotten how many unknowns we’d begun with. So far, The Agent is the only one who hasn’t lost hope. 

‘It’s about possibility.’

Some of us, tired of The Agent, had begun to learn mathematics. Their first job was to account for the days that we had lost. They started keeping books, started being economic with the pencils and pens. A lot of us wanted to draw on the walls. The pencils were in demand because the gangs and the couples all wanted to etch their names before we got out. It got muddled, all the time and the writing. We didn’t know where we belonged and what belonged to us. Nothing belonged to anyone. For a little while there was law and someone thought it would be a good idea to add a whole extra hour, all three thousand and six hundred seconds, to our individual uncertainty and submit to The Agent. Except The Agent’s calculations would ricochet if there were two individuals to account for. The mathematicians took notes but most of us wanted The Agent to stop calculating our personalities. Someone said we should scapegoat the disturbing elements but then everyone wanted to be a scapegoat. We really believed in exile for a little while, and we held these little celebrity contests to decide on the best scapegoat. We couldn’t call it law anymore so we just called it a prize. But The Agent did not know what to do with the winner. 

We were tired and we’d begun to bite our nails. It was possible that nails no longer mattered out in the real world. It was probable that each way out would mean more winners or exiles. We knew there was something off about an agency that thought possibility and probability coexisted. Everything was possible and nothing was probable. Or the other way around – but it didn’t matter, it was the same.

We did try things together, like pushing at the walls or kicking or making shovels, but The Agent would always make the walls multiply. We tried to break The Agent a couple of times. We pulled and chewed on plugs and cords that looked like plungers and eyes and telephones. We put cotton into our ears so we wouldn’t hear The Agent or anyone else. We hurt ourselves. We hurt the ones who were speaking because everyone sounded like The Agent. We were so tired of The Agent. We are terribly tired. 

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