Posted on: October 11th, 2009 First Annual Brain Harvest Mega Challenge Winner

Enough with the phone calls, and showing up at our houses! Enough of bugging our moms, trying to get them to spill the beans! The winner is a story Jeff Vandermeer described as “an excellent example of spinning out an absurdist idea to its furthest (il)logical conclusion,” which structurally is “like pitting one of Mike Libby’s steampunk insects against a melting clock.” While none of us know what the hell he’s talking about, we share his enthusiasm for the story, and for its author, Brian Francis Slattery.

If you read Brain Harvest, you probably know Slattery’s work. Brian is an editor, writer, and musician. He wrote Spaceman Blues and Liberation, which are thoughtful, genre-bending stuff with heart and guts that go down as smooth as a nice whisky and then burn for a week. He lives at www.bfslattery.com

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The World Is a Voice in My Neighbor’s Throat
by Brian Francis Slattery

The people who live in my neighbor’s esophagus do not know that they are in an esophagus. They believe that they have died and that my neighbor’s esophagus is their afterlife. Because more of them keep arriving, they have built a structure within the esophagus like an office building, including an intercom system that can be heard outside my neighbor’s person. The building is already very full; a committee has been created to deal with this, but has reached no actionable conclusions.

My neighbor does not like the people in his esophagus and has attempted many times to remove them. He has drunk scalding tea. He has swallowed spoonfuls of chili paste. He has smoked cigars and eaten small pieces of the burnt tobacco. He has induced vomiting, then held in the bile for longer than anyone should, so that the people in there can marinate in it. None of this has dislodged the people from his esophagus, though it has led them to believe that they are in the sinners’ afterlife that their nation believes in, which they were warned about when alive but ignored in favor of, for example, shaky real estate deals, gambling, or driving too fast.

You may have noticed that the punishment seems harsh for the sins. The people in my neighbor’s esophagus have noticed this as well. Also, my neighbor’s esophagus does not at all resemble the sinners’ afterlife of the people’s holy scriptures; in those texts, the place of eternal damnation consists of a very, very bright light and a loud, keening noise, neither of which ever stops. The contrasts between this apocryphal place and the reality of my neighbor’s esophagus are glaring, and the people have formed several investigative committees in reaction.

The first two committees formed exploration parties that left the esophagus from its top and bottom several months ago, rain slickers rolled and tied to their backs, flashlights, crampons, and rappelling gear in hand. As neither party was heard from again, subsequent committees turned to more philosophical, theological work.

The third committee argues that the people are in the sinners’ afterlife, as the environment would suggest by process of elimination (the concept of the saints’ afterlife has as its principal elements a warm orange sun and a sea of golden honey), but it has driven mad anywhere from one to all of them, who labor now under a very elaborate hallucination. This committee publishes an ongoing journal of their findings every two weeks. Of late, the debate has stalled over who is hallucinating and who is a hallucination, and whether the findings of a given author can still hold weight in committee decisions if it is discovered that the writer is, in fact, a figment of another’s imagination. This has led to rampant libel and slander, as rivals seek to knock each other out of consideration for committee chairs by accusing each other of not existing. The fourth committee inverts the third committee’s work, suggesting that perhaps the people have been in the esophagus all along, and its mucus-lined walls are the reality revealed to them upon their deaths. This idea has attracted few adherents, for reasons that should be clear.

A fifth committee began its inquiry by vanishing altogether. They were gone for six days, returned with beatific smiles on their faces. They said nothing, wrote nothing down, did no work at all. They seemed to be in a state of constant, tranquil bliss. A few days ago, the chairs of the other two extant committees assembled the fifth committee for an inquiry. Where did you go? What did you discover? How can it be that you are so content to be here? No one in the fifth committee answered; at last, one of them rose and kissed the chair of the third committee on the forehead. That night, another of them broke into the office on the top of the esophageal structure with a crowbar, stepped in front of the microphone for the intercom, and sang a song, high and wavering, in a tempered fifteen-note scale that nobody in the esophagus had ever heard before. We could hear it, too, emanating from my neighbor as he stood in his driveway after taking out the garbage. We all stopped and listened, transfixed in our yards, until the song was over. By then, the sun had gone down, and we could not find our way back to our houses.

Filed under: bad-ass, stories

7 Responses to “First Annual Brain Harvest Mega Challenge Winner”

  1. Brandon Bell Says:
    October 11th, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Congrats, Mr. Slattery!

  2. Brandon Bell Says:
    October 11th, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Congrats, Mr. Slattery!

  3. Adam Says:
    October 11th, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Very very interesting. Definitely deserving.

  4. Adam Says:
    October 11th, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Very very interesting. Definitely deserving.

  5. William T. Vandemark Says:
    October 11th, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Excellent. Congratulations!

  6. William T. Vandemark Says:
    October 11th, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Excellent. Congratulations!

  7. Brian Slattery Says:
    October 12th, 2009 at 5:03 am

    Hi William (Will? Bill?),

    Same to you! I loved your story. Part of me wished I’d written it.

  8. Brian Slattery Says:
    October 12th, 2009 at 5:03 am

    Hi William (Will? Bill?),

    Same to you! I loved your story. Part of me wished I’d written it.

  9. rreugen Says:
    October 12th, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    I liked this a lot. Thank you!

  10. rreugen Says:
    October 12th, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    I liked this a lot. Thank you!

  11. marco Says:
    October 12th, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Barthelmian?

  12. marco Says:
    October 12th, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Barthelmian?

  13. Daniel Says:
    October 15th, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Whoo! Cool story. Liked it very much…

  14. Daniel Says:
    October 15th, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Whoo! Cool story. Liked it very much…