There are right and fruitful ways to try to ‘empathize’ with the reader, but having to try to imagine yourself as the reader is not one of them; in fact it’s perilously close to the dreaded trap of trying to anticipate whether the reader will ‘like’ something you’re working on, and both you and the very few other fiction writers you’re friends with know that there is no quicker way to tie yourself in knots and kill any human urgency in the thing you’re working on than to try to calculate ahead of time whether that thing will be ‘liked.’ It’s just lethal. An analogy might be: Imagine you’ve gone to a party where you know very few of the people there, and then on your way home afterwards you suddenly realize that you just spent the whole party so concerned about whether the people there seemed to like you or not that you now have absolutely no idea whether you liked any of them or not. Anybody who’s had that sort of experience knows what a totally lethal kind of attitude this is to bring to a party. (Plus of course it almost always turns out that the people at the party actually didn’t like you, for the simple reason that you seemed so inbent and self-conscious the whole time that they got the creepy subliminal feeling that you were using the party merely as some sort of stage to perform on and that you barely even noticed them and that you’d probably left without any idea whether you even liked them or not, which hurts their feelings and causes them to dislike you (they are, after all, only human, and they have the same insecurities about being liked as you do).) David Foster Wallace, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

Li Yilei – “Unabled Form”
LTR Records Փ Ambient | Noise
FFO: Fennesz, Lucy Railton

There had been a problem exactly three nights before. Attacked by an incontinent outbreak of diarrhea, the new inmate didn’t even have time to put on his slippers. It was one of those deaf December nights, with its skin wrinkled from the cold. The humidity was approximately 90%. The grimy cement was icy and the new inmate slipped during his 52-year-old male sprint. Not only did the outbreak scattered the floor like a pipe hit by a hammer, but this new inmate ended up falling over his own glasses – which were already loose before the accident. Now, let’s be even more accurate. It was Friday night before Saturday. The town where that prison was located was called Essen (food, in German). It was one degree Celsius. His cell number was four. He had ingested two pieces of pork, along with a prototype salad where multicolored and multiform items sailed aimlessly. Dropped on the ground, and soaked in his own shit broth, the new inmate remembered he would have to wait for Monday for the ophthalmologist. Until then, and as a result of advanced myopia, he would be blind.

Funeral Leech – “Death Meditation”
Carbonized Records Փ Death Metal
FFO: Bolt Thrower, Coffins

 Just as every morning in that village where it almost always seemed like solstice – one just needed to open the window to witness two monarch butterflies on a convoluted and spiralized flight –, Lizzie decided to leave home for breakfast. Her favorite little bakery was only eighty-four feet away. It was impossible to be in her living room and not immediately smell the warm, sweet bread that was pushed by the wind from that village, where the sun insisted on being more than just a mere guest. As she always did – it’s important to repeat how routine this act was – Lizzie ordered a decaf and a tiny acerola cake. At the very first bite, this young lady was also in the habit of opening the daily newspaper. Her intention was not so much to know what was going on in her village, region, city, country, continent, or world. It was just something that seemed to go with decaf and the acerola cake. However, even before she opened the paper, Lizzie noticed that the date didn’t match that present day. After all, we were – no, we weren’t, she was – on September 21. But the paper said 22. Was she wrong? Was it Thursday the 22nd already? She asked the waiter what day it was. The answer was September 21. She swallowed dry, felt her throat getting a bit rough and coughed once, forcing her own glottis to close. Then, she opened the newspaper and almost all the news talked about what had happened today, but which, factually, at that time, had not yet happened.

Tereshkova – “Budget Angel”
Audio.Visuals.Atmosphere Փ Ambient | Classical
FFO: Vanessa Amara, Felicia Atkinson

They were sitting on a small parapet made of bricks and mortar. What were they waiting for? As mere spectators of this event, we cannot know for sure, for our window into this world allowed us to see only about ten minutes of action. They were probably waiting for the next bus towards the city centre. After all, it was morning. They didn’t know, but they were thinking exactly the same thing. The night before, there had been a strange episode in that gray neighborhood. Contrary to what was expected, the garbage truck did not show up to take the waste produced by the residents of those parallel streets, people from the lower-middle class, mostly workers from the service/customer industry. Instead of the truck, a bald man appeared, of average height, who knocked down all the bins.

Regis – “Hidden In This Is The Light That You Miss”
Downwards Փ Techno
FFO: Ancient Methods, Function, Vatican Shadow

It had been five days since the first symptoms started. It all started at 2:46 a.m. last Saturday. This individual was sitting at a small bar called ‘Petrol’, located on a block known for nightly entertainment. Unlike most establishments in that area, ‘Petrol’ seemed to attract the 33-47-year-old demographic. The owner did not have a Spotify account and the playlist ranged from eighties pop-rock classics, grunge, to a strange tendency for Shania Twain hits. This individual had just had a second thirty-three-centiliter beer. He didn’t know if it was a lager, a stout, an IPA. All this was irrelevant to him. And the owner would hardly know the answer if he was asked the question. When he finished this second beer – just to adorn this account, I can say that it was a blond, low-foaming beer; I was sitting at a table near the only window of ‘Petrol’ – this individual got up and went to the men’s toilets. At the third step, he felt a sharp pain that made him scream and cling to his right ankle. Shania Twain’s “From This Moment On” managed to stifle two-thirds of that scream, but the other audible third was enough for ‘Petrol’’s clients to turn their heads towards the protagonist of this account. The man covered his ankle again – he had momentarily pulled up his corduroy pants in a quick inspection of the affected area. He repeated the walk towards the men’s restrooms, and at the third step the pain erupted again.

Ceremonial Crypt Desecration – “Anointed By The Crimson Veil”
Crown & Throne Ltd. Փ Raw Black Metal
FFO: LLN, Lampir

The guy sat down at the counter again. His facial expression revealed a combination of different sensations – surprise, fear, oddness. There was no sign of alcoholism, as both beers were low in alcohol. On the only ‘Petrol’ TV set, we could see the highlights of a smaller golf competition on the reputed Pebble Beach course. Someone had just completed a birdie when the owner of the bar asked the afflicted man if he needed help. The answer was no. In his self-diagnosis, this individual considered it to be just an ephemeral pain. And the fact that that stabbing pungency happened only at the third step was just a simple coincidence. This individual did not believe in any kind of numerology, nor in any other explanation that was not associated with the scientific empiricism capable of sustaining the falsification method. But skepticism, unlike other personality characteristics, seems to be more ductile and malleable. In the third attempt towards the male toilet, this individual took a break before the third step. About four seconds. When placing the sole of his foot on the wooded and grimy ‘Petrol’ floor, the pain did not reappear. There was a small sigh of relief and a little smile on his face.

Maxwell Sterling – “Laced With Rumour: Loud-Speaker Of Truth”
Ecstatic Փ Ambient | Experimental | Jazz
FFO: Matana Roberts, Jasmine Guffond

But that tiny episode of happiness didn’t last long. As he walked normally again, the pain returned in the third step. Perhaps fed by the frustration of encountering a problem that seemed to have already been solved, the pain now appeared even more intense and this individual ended up touching the boarded with his left knee, grimacing. The scream coincided with a failed putt by a player who was two under par, an easily convertible putt I may add. The player took off his white cap, looked at the caddie, approached the ball and, almost in a gesture of mere cordiality, completed hole number twelve with a bogie. The crowd cheered timidly, the player picked up the ball, made a small gesture of gratitude and, nodding his head negatively, advanced to hole thirteen. At the same time, this individual was now aided by two other ‘Petrol’ customers, who helped him up and back to the counter. The road to the men’s restrooms seemed impossible to accomplish unless he changed his locomotion, adding a short break of four seconds before the third step. He asked to be allowed to try again. He succeeded. The breaks in his walk seemed the right prophylaxis for this strange physical malady. This individual managed to urinate and return to his seat at the counter, not preventing his hiccup-like march from being followed by all the pairs of eyes in ‘Petrol’. The television broadcast of the golf competition was now in a commercial break.