Story B 'Zero' by Raelinda Woad

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Product Description

The problem with junk, I have found, is that in its larval form it doesn't look like junk. It looks like really cool stuff you have to have. That you will someday really, really need.

But this is just a trick that plastic has developed to get you to bring it into your apartment. Once inside, it quickly matures into its adult, dust gathering state: Your junk.

We Americans move through our lives like comets, trailing long tails of clutter behind us. When two Americans decide to try moving in together before marriage, it's really to find out if all their stuff is compatible.

But why all this junk? How did it all start? And who started it?

I'll tell you.

It all started with zero. Zero was the most beautiful number that never was. And the most powerful. There was no other number that could go up against zero and win. Especially in a multiplication contest.

And like all things magnificent, zero could not be possessed. Who could possess something that wasn't there?

As it turns out, the advertising weasels of Madison Avenue discovered, everyone could. Because when you possess zero of something, it is you who exists in a larval state. The larval state of being a consumer.

Remember? Remember that morning we all woke up and realized that we possessed zero sports utility vehicles? Nobody had even heard of a sports utility vehicle before. But suddenly every man, woman, and college student possessed zero of them.

Oh, how we wept and moaned, like lovelorn sinners in a blues song, under the burden of that zero. Oh, how that Zero Of Sports Utility Vehicles brought us down.

Some of us held out, but others cracked fast. And soon the streets were flooded with S.U.V.s. Soon the highways were flooded with their high beams.

And when the people without S.U.V.s began to compare the zeros in their garages to the ones driving around on the streets, they cracked too. And all the rest of the those zeros got traded in for ones.

One went up against zero. And one won!

Advertisers are a lot like farmers. First they seed our minds with zeros. Then they harvest us, one by one.

But not me.

I'm never giving up any of my zeros because I love them too much.

My favorite is my Zero Of TV Sets. Late at night, when I can hear my downstairs neighbor's TV set honking out canned laughter from beneath my floorboards, I turn the page on the latest sailing book I'd borrowed from the library and I cherish my TV Zero.

And I'm never giving up the zero that brings me the most peace. My Zero Of Cell Phones.

But if I'm to speak honestly and completely about zeros, then I have to bring up that other type of zero. The zeros you summon yourself.

The zeros that form from the very substance of your dreaming heart like bubbles. Perfect, three dimensional zeros.

Oh, the things we want.

Oh, the people we think we want.

And this brings me to the Zero Of Mysteries.

We walk around all day filling ourselves with Zero Of This, and Zero Of That. The media bombards us with zeros, like radiation from space, until we're riddled with them. And it's a riddle that we don't unravel from all that we want yet we do not have.

But we don't.

In fact, the more zeros we learn to take in, the more solid we get.

So where do all those zeros go?

I'll tell you. They go to a place that's not there. A Zero Of Universes.

I've been to that place a number of times, although that number is always zero. In that zero place I'm on the sea of course. One of the many seas that I've never sailed here in our universe.

I'm sailing along on the Zero Of Sailboats I possess in our universe (Lyle Hess designed Falmouth 22, cutter rigged,) and we're on the most perfect point of sail that I never get when I'm sailing in our universe. The wind on the port. A pure beam reach.

And the boat is skipping along at the speed that I never seem to get whenever I sail in our universe. Exactly halfway between boring and panic.

And I am experiencing Zero Of Sea Sickness.

But when I'm sailing through Zero I have to assume that the water is beautiful, that the waves are like liquid jewels. And when I'm sailing through Zero I have to imagine how the sky must be so deep a blue it's like looking through a clear glass dome straight into heaven.

I'll just never really know because when I'm sailing through Zero I can't see a thing. It's completely dark.

Not one single photon is moving through the Zero Universe.

Because in our universe, I do not possess Zero Of Light.