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News & Features » March 2020 » “Nameless” by Łukasz Drobnik

“Nameless” by Łukasz Drobnik

In October 2017 we published An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, a rare literary science fiction set in a future universe so gorgeously described and perfectly self-contained—and yet so harrowing and cruel—that its only parallel universe is our own. Solomon’s novel has inspired this speculative fiction series. We’ve been through the past, and we haven’t really learned from it. The present? We’re too busy attempting to survive it. So we’re asking you to provide us a glimpse of what comes next. Illustrate the essential choices we must make in the present that will lead us to your brilliant utopian future. Or, if you cannot anticipate utopia, provide us instead with your cautionary tale. Show us where we will fall if we—when we—fail to alter our course. Fri-SciFi stories are published on Fridays because we expect we’ll need the weekend to contemplate your vision. 

This week, being immersed in knowledge proves not to be a solution  . . . 

by Łukasz Drobnik
20-50 Years In The Future

It can see us from above as we try to hide among brambles, hoping it will mistake our human shapes and movements for those of boar or deer or badgers. We freeze, letting blood drip onto moss.

The buzzard does a figure eight against the cruelly blue sky. The cloaking devices don’t let it track us, but it still has its four camera eyes, movement detectors — who knows how many — and a machine gun. It seems to have a mind of its own, and I can’t shake the impression that it knows all too well we have to come back for our boy.

I can call it a buzzard only inside my head. Perhaps you called it something else. Or maybe, after all those years together, we both came up with the same name, inspired by its looming presence, the silent buzzing sound it produces and the way it makes us feel like rodents in the fields. Finally, the buzzard flies away. We wait a few tense seconds and dash towards a thicket of spruces.

It was right before his second birthday, when you were having an affair and I pretended not to notice. We were at home, just the two of us. He couldn’t sleep because of a headache. I lulled his warm tiny body in my arms, unable to stop thinking of what you might be doing. That stupid lamp you bought cast little lights on the walls and ceiling: blue birds over our heads, green trees all around us, slowly rotating in a dizzying loop. It was the only thing that could put him to sleep.

I look at the wound in your arm and try to tell you it’s going to be okay, but all we can hear is a staccato of shattered syllables. If only there was a way to remove the implants. It’s mind-blowing we were so thrilled to have them put inside our heads. Just think of it, you said, we’ll be able to understand any language. Have all the world’s knowledge at our synapses. But what we mostly used them for was liking stupid shit on other people’s walls.

Now, we can’t even speak our mother tongue.

Clearings are the scariest, bogs the most treacherous, glens the deadliest. In places, the forest is gaping mindlessly at the azure sky with its small lake eyes of the same colour. There are innumerable pines and birches and spruces and occasional oaks, raspberry bushes and dense clumps of ferns. There is the constant looking up, the throbbing of arteries, the instant freezing whenever we hear the barely audible buzz.

He looks as if he were asleep, save for the bullet hole in his head. Resting against the spiky mattress of pine needles, his red parka forms a vivid stain among the faded woody colours. His little eyes are peacefully fixed on the ruthless blue.

We scan the sky. Then slowly spin our heads, turning our ears into radars catching the faintest of noises. I gesture at you to stay and make a break for the centre of the clearing. With wobbly legs, I kneel on the ground and — shedding no tear, giving no sob — take his cold tiny body in my arms.

You cry out. It’s a mess of short rustly sounds that could be reassembled into my name. There are buzzards above my head, an entire flock.


ŁUKASZ DROBNIK’S writing has been published in Atticus Review, Pithead Chapel, Quarterly West, Lighthouse, Bare Fiction, Foglifter, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine and elsewhere. He has written two novellas in his native Polish, Nocturine and Cunninghamella (Forma, 2011). An English version of Nocturine is forthcoming from Fathom Books. Twitter handle: @drobnik; website: drobnik.co.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Fri-SciFi series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines.

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a conceivable, not a fantastical, future. No dragons, please.
—With your byline, include the date or era OR galaxy or ship or planetary system in which your story takes place. Or both. But not neither.
—To be perfectly frank, we prefer dystopias. But feel free to surprise us.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words, and must be previously unpublished.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Fri-SciFi are typically posted 1–3 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Mar 27, 2020

Category: Original Fiction, Fri-SciFi | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,