Neatly putting everything
into little cardboard boxes
and putting them into
the back of the truck.

Taking little things from
little hiding places and
painting over the marks on the wall.

The only things I leave are
a few mysterious stains
and a fresh roll of toilet paper.

So long,
farewell,
auf wiedersehen.

The Fabergé egg you bought at Sotheby's last night drops noiselessly into my sack, 
the world's most expensive Kinder Surprise. I am Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom
transposing a snowglobe onto its silver satin pillow, nudging the display case closed.

I saw a documentary once about a Japanese garden and learned from the man 
whose job it was to crawl on all fours gathering pine needles. I float through the room
with terrycloth and tweezers, erasing my stamp from the furniture and floor.

You and your husband sleep so far apart, the pillows piled between you the way 
a TV dinner tray keeps the peas out of the dessert. The open window's curtain waves 
goodbye on my behalf, the scene immaculate, your blankets smooth.

The hardest part about being the world's quietest cat burglar is that you're not allowed to boast. 
Having programmed the Guinness World Records line into my speed dial, some mornings 
I just sit here, my finger resting on the '2', playing chicken.

The white stone pebbles
Have their natural place
A lake, a river, the waves of stone
Raked carefully so that they return
To their natural order
The raker treads carefully
Removing all signs of his presence
The sleeves moving so as to not rustle the air
Silence in all things
Egolessness
The black hole of never having been there.

He smoothes the white of the sheets
Fluffs the pillow
Covers her shoulder
Gazes down on her
Closes the door without a sound
Breathes the evening air
His emptiness diffusing into
the darkness of night.

The morning I left forever,
you slept in late, oblivious.
I gathered up my things
plus a few you don't deserve
(my voice betrayed a tremor)
and left curses at your feet.

Nothing is quite as nice
(nothing, not-a-damned-thing)
as trying to race the sun
while it climbs the eastern sky.
I could feel my heart at peace
sitting in your leather seat.

The only thing I might regret
is that when you wake up
from your idiot moron slumber
and discover what you've lost,
you'll break into cold sweats,
and I won't be there to see it.

In the perfect stillness of the night
When the servant has put out the light
And retired off to bed
On soft feet we tread
When we are sure we will be out of sight

On our four tiny paws colored pink
Through the cupboards barefooted we slink
Sniffing for bits
Of toast cheese and grits
And water to sip pooled in the sink

Pay no mind to the old tabby cat
She has grown lazy and fat
On rich buttercreams
And peacefully dreams
By the hearth on a soft woven mat

By the first trickling light of the dawn
From pantry and larder we've withdrawn
Snuggled up together
In fur and in feather
And clippings brought in from the lawn

By morning I will have erased all traces that I was ever here.
It's okay, though. I know you won't miss me. You haven't for a while.

I've been packing for the past week. Slowly moving my things away, out of sight. You haven't noticed. I can't say I blame you. I wouldn't have either: I never really unpacked after that first move. Still, it hurts, you know? I've picked up all the little pieces of myself I left lying around, and it didn't make a difference.

Should I leave this picture of us on the mantle? Would you miss it if it was gone? It's not really mine, after all. It's ours, technically.

I suppose the real question to ask would be whether or not I want it.

Maybe I should just leave the frame. That bit really is yours.

My duffel is full. I've got a bus pass and a hundred and fifty dollars in my pocket. I've been saving for a while, you see. Or rather, you don't. You didn't notice when I stopped coming home with new books and clothes and things.

You're on the couch now, belly down and snoring. You fell asleep watching TV. I don't think I'll wake you; you'd only get mad that I interrupted.

I made sure to lock all the doors. The windows are closed, the alarm is set. I'm standing in the doorway, looking back at the living room. I tidied up as best I could, though you probably won't notice that, either.

I can feel the chill through my jacket. It's cold out, and getting colder. The sun set quite a while ago. If I'm going to go, I'd better do it soon. The last bus leaves at ten thirty.

I feel like I should do something, though. Kiss your cheek. Write a note. Tell you I love you, tell you goodbye.

Instead, I silently close the door behind me.

Bye, Dad, I think. I'll miss you.

When you told me that you were leaving
down here in the lab where I was hard at work
I may have nodded, even smiled.

You threw your leaving at me
while I played at dice with God
I should have listened.

The children already gone, I found
when I ventured up above
In search of food and realization.

Tears and recriminations
As you gathered your things
Removing yourself from the house in pieces.

A picture from the wall
A teacup from the cupboard
A wife from my memories.

I listened to you, then, as I followed you
From room to room, in growing horror
At what I had become in your eyes.

But I can fix this.

In the lab, after your departure
I bend the fabric of space and time
By morning, love, I will be done.

'Till now, you've never wanted me.
'Till now, you never needed me.
Do you realize that it's me for whom you're searching?
'Round the edges of the darkness, lurking?

This isn't where you thought you'd be.
Crushing pain, anxiety.
Uncertain fate, a harsh collision,
This world, it begs for your derision.


She is only twenty three,
You'll just have to wait and see.
You look to me and what I give,
If only so your sister lives.

Now you wait, anticipantly,
Your sister gasps out desperately.

You place your faith in a loving God, if only to sooth your oppressive fear.
By morning I will have erased all traces that I was ever here.

Funny, excruciating, can't get it all:

Erasing the memories of last fall.

Though carefully washed the shared glass,

 thoughts, feelings, love could not pass.

 

The pictures of a couple are all off the dresser:

Can one find an understanding confessor?

Wait, on the pillow there's a tear-filled tissue;

Remaining is hurt:  the one who'll really miss you.

I shall come to you when night falls. Even under the yellow streetlights outside your window, no one will see me. Even in the snow that silences the city, I will leave no footprints. Nor bars nor locks will stop me; I will slip beneath the door like a lover's note, drift through the air like dust.

When you fold away your clothes at the end of another working day, I shall be watching from your mirror; in the darkness after the lights are out and the curtains drawn I will watch you fold back the sheets and commit yourself to Hypnos. And when you are asleep, I shall myself slip between your sheets and join my body and my dreams with yours.

But when the sky lightens behind the city-glow and the streetlights go out, I will leave the warmth of your bed and smooth down the pillows, and before the sun rises over the wall of skyscrapers I will flee back into the cold darkness.

Will you remember me?

Thantos enraptures you in sleep,
Wraps your mind in solemn silken darkness
'Tis then that into your brain may I creep,
Each time to start with your blank canvas starkness.

A point of thought I bud, then you're within me,
I pluck from all that's buried in your mind,
Your daily trifles, all that you will give me,
I build into the world you could not find.

Castles, towers, classrooms, powers, bridges,
Darkened streets or snowy peaks abounding,
Or in between your fingerprint's own ridges,
Color, pattern, flight, all made astounding,

Rising over cityscapes of night,
Chased be faceless strangers, never captured,
Liaisons with your fantastic delight,
Have we at last what Thanatos enraptured?

I've carried you to no certain conclusions,
I've buried seeds of thoughts just now begotten,
I've fed and satisfied your mind's delusions,
But then you wake; how swiftly I'm forgotten....

Magic bottle
Captive djinn

"I can grant one wish, effendi."

Only one thing have I ever desired.
Oblivion.
Perfect.
Retroactive.
Eternal.

He hems and haws.
"It is too much."
"You can have riches, power, women, fame."
"You can have all that man desires."

Only one thing have I ever desired.
Oblivion.
Perfect.
Retroactive.
Eternal.

And so my life is vanishing.
Books disappear from shelves
Clothing from closets
Pans and food from cupboards
The car, a trash can, the sofa, old letters
All redistributed to someone else
The blender to an old woman in Dallas
A pack of batteries to a house across town
A filing cabinet to an office in Lawton
A pair of scissors to a family in Las Vegas
The flickering TV to a junkheap outside Abilene where the new owner threw it out three years ago

Only one thing have I ever desired.
Oblivion.
Perfect.
Retroactive.
Eternal.

Vital paperwork folds into nothingness.
Digital records are filled with zeroes
Family and friends forget my name.
My image fades from my photos
before the photos fade from the walls

Only one thing have I ever desired.
Oblivi

When a house burns down
It spreads itself around
In aftermath its lost mass
But it isn't past, it is passed
Around jetsam and debris
This isn't what we mean by free
What goes up in years
Comes down in hours
And now we've lost what was ours
We built by what endures

The point of this is
Nothing goes without leaving a trace
First law of criminology
Last law of liminilogy
That the fading is always there,
Half by half, Xeno's paradox
Converges as monuments turn to dots
on the edge of our vision.
So, so, so, please listen.
Its not that after two years,
There isn't a trace,
its just the only trace
Is the trace
Of my tears.

You used to play the lyre, love-
-songs as touchstones letting
me retain a tentative
(I think the word is corporeal)
footfall in your world
but

you don't play anymore, you know-
and as the sun rises,
you turn with weak longing and farewell
(I think the word is ephemeral)
and I am gone from your world,
traceless

.

18:37...
A motor started up, accompanied by mechanical clunking. This continued for a minute or so before I placed a tablet down next to some jars whose contents I'd been examining, and walked over to the source of the noise.
"Danny! Where the hell are you, man?"
"He's wired in, he can't hear you."
"Get him in here, now. I need him." My expression as I continued to scan through the printout in my hand was one of terror mixed with success. Sam, who had been watching me as intently as I had been watching the printer, shot his chair backwards to a workstation on a nearby table. My free hand extracted a Treo from the top pocket of my lab coat, and I turned to Sam as I began dialing. "When did Christina leave?"
"About an hour ago. Why?"
"What's up, pal?" She picked up before I had a chance to answer Sam.
"Chrissy? There's a bug, we'll lose comms in a few hours. I'm in the lab, get in here." Beep. I slipped the phone back into my pocket, and glanced at the door as it banged open.
"Lose comms with what?" By his lack of breath, it looked like Danny had sprinted half a k not half a story.
I ground the palm of my hand into my forehead and began pacing the floor.
"Does that mean...?" Sam's jaw dropped as he realised the answer. I nodded silently, and handed Danny the wad of paper.
He flicked through it without a word for a few pages. "Oh man, I thought the project was canned last year. You've got a working prototype, haven't you?"
"It's not the sample I have that's the problem right now, Christina's been walking around carrying it for the past week."
"A week!?" Danny lunged at my tablet. His fingers tapped out something, and he whispered, "Good God!"
"The cells rely on communicating with their neighbours to determine whether or not to reproduce. If they can't find enough of themselves, they decide more need to be made. Epaphroditus is incredibly resilient, and very hard to destroy. There's a flaw in the genetic algorithm that causes the receptors to break down after a week of exposure to iron in hemoglobin if the levels are high enough ...as high as they are in Chrissy's blood." Sam explained as I continued pacing the floor.

19:52...
Of the in-wall four monitor array, two were displaying what looked like Life, one in real-time, the other accelerated to where some form of cancerous virus had destroyed over half the native cells. The simulated life-cycle was that of a highly experimental nano-organism that was half living matter and half electromechanical control systems. A highly experimental nano-organism that represented two years of work by three university post-grads, and that was coursing the bloodstream of its development team leader. It was hoped that the NO, codenamed Epaphroditus, or a derivative thereof, could eventually replace normal antibodies.
"Any progress?" A distressed looking Christina charged into the lab where Sam, Danny and I were fiddling with various items on the benches.
"Negative."
"Maybe," I corrected Sam, handing her the tablet. "The fault's here," I pointed to a line of the genetic algorithm. "You know Danny?"
She nodded to Danny. "Christina. You know what we've been working on here?"
"Yes, and I think you're insane for testing it on yourself."
Christina smacked the computer against the palm of her hand. "Ok guys, Epaphroditus is going to start eating every cell in my body in approximately six hours, a process that will take another six hours to complete. So in reality..." She picked up a syringe, and began drawing blood from her arm, "We've got eight hours to reprogram Epaphroditus to destroy itself and itself only. By morning I will have erased all traces that my work was ever here, or it will have erased all traces that I was ever here."


This is for SciFiQuest 2011, based on a freak lab accident a friend was in.

We were at the high school after I came home from college for the first time. It began to get late in the night. There was a stalemate in our conversation, and you said that you were going to go home. I didn't believe you because I didn't want to. But you did, you weren't joking.

When I saw the red brake lights of your car pulling out of the school driveway, I told myself that I would accept it, and so I began driving toward River Road to go home. But I started crying, and I drove around that one block, where the pharmacy is, a dozen times, while I called you and hoped so hard that you would pick up your phone.

And when you answered, you were almost back at your house, twenty minutes away. But you drove back to meet me at the school. I was crying, hugging my knees behind a chair. The lights were off but you found me easy.


A lot of things had happened that week. My grandpa had died but I didn't tell anyone that that was the reason I come home. You didn't know it either. You still don't.

We went back to your house and you let me sleep in your bed. It was both love and charity, the kindest thing. But there was no way for me to tell you that, no words for it.


You have been so far gone since that night. I wonder if, in many years, you will remember me at all.



Because I will cherish your care for a long time.






And I wish you knew that.

In this antique hotel I fill notebooks with thoughts
that were old when language was young,
with lines that start, life is or death is
with lines about shadows through light
as a bare bulb swings in parabolas above me.

I watch a woman sell oranges to taxi drivers
who throw wads of dirty paper into her shoe box.
They douse their throats with firewater and eat
like survival was simply a more difficult way to die.
They smash their horns without rage and watch

the varnish of civility erode, or creep back
into the fingers of the boy, stretched out
to catch an errant coin, the gun metal promise
of a meal, or a half hour trapdoor to love
with some girl or some queen, shuffled

from a collapsed house of cards. With the wind
I will depart this place with one little blue book
this passport from a hell that can’t be tasted or described,
because it is a cage braided with the fibers of time.
And I wonder how this man, heaving half-rotted cabbage

into his wagon thinks about the future, or the past.
About all that has passed, never existed, and yet
returns as smooth and unquestioned as sunrise.
I can almost count the hours, the days, the years
they have left, but everything shifts. Even the Bible

will one day be forgotten, as surely as stories
will evaporate from memory, and shimmer
on the page like heat blindness on the highway.
Here, on the page, or the screen, these words
travel through us, like our reflection in a window
that never stops the eye from finding the horizon.

The helicoptor was very loud.

The copilot was already
hard-of-hearing.

"You know what?!"

"WHAT?!"

"I don't want
this life anymore!"

"WHAT?!"

"By morning I will have erased all traces
that I was ever here!"

"WHAT?!
'By morning you'll have erased all faces that were ever HERE?!'"

"NO! By morning I will have erased all traces
that I was ever here!"

"WHAT?!
'By morning you'll have traced all faces that were ever near?!'"

"NO! By morning I will have erased all traces
that I was ever here!"

"WHAT?!
'By morning you'll have replaced all feces that were ever here?!'"

"NO! GOD DAMMIT! By morning I will have erased all traces
that I was ever here
!"

"WHAT?!
'Your boring eye will have faced all the places that're here?!'"

"NO! GOD! DAMMIT! BY MORNING I WILL HAVE ERASED ALL TRACES
THAT I WAS EVER HERE!!
"

"WHAT?!
'By scoring you'll have created a place for evergreens?!'"

"NO! GOD! DAMN! IT! I SAID 'BY MORNING I WILL HAVE ERASED ALL TRACES
THAT I WAS EVER HERE!!'
"

"WHAT?!
'Bifocals you will have encased in faces that you've severed ears?!'"

"NO! GOD! DAMN! IT!"

"WHAT? 'God RAM it?!'"

"NOOOOO!! CLEAN THE
SHIT OUT OF YOUR EARS!!"

"Clean the spit out of my years?!"

"FUUUUUUUUCK!"

"Truck?!"

"That's it!
I'm crashing this motherfucker
and killing BOTH OF US!"

"WHAT? 'You're mashing this mother's trucker and billing both of us?!'"

"YES!! THAT'S RIGHT! BILLING!
ARRGGGHHH!!"

"Did you say you're killing--
HOLY FUCK, YOU'RE GONNA CRASH US RIGHT INTO THAT--!"

It's something I've wanted - needed - to do for a long time.

I'm not gonna lie, the next twelve hours will be cruel. Not only to me - especially to me - but to everyone who ever knew me, thought any good of me, figured that I was a halfway decent person. Truth is, I built an incredibly good façade for myself. But that's beside the point right now.

Come the morning, I'll scoot off. Throw up a few false leads to keep them off the track. Travel a little bit (I always wanted to do that). Find a place that I like, or a place that likes me. Settle down, and start anew. Perhaps - I don't know - it might end up working out for me. Then I'll never have an excuse to return. Not that they'll remember, anyway; I don't want them to.

New name. New possessions. New mindset. I'm leaving behind everything from my past life.

Good luck, everyone.

By morning I will have erased all traces
That I was ever here from human eyes
They cannot know the model for their faces

The particles have I set to their paces
And fundamental constants will arise
To govern when I leave them empty spaces

When pain and death inflict upon all races
The mystery of a half a million why's
They cannot know the model for their faces

My love for them entirely embraces
And so I will stand back and let them rise
To govern when I leave them empty spaces
By morning I will have erased all traces

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