Posts Tagged "nir yaniv"

Undercity

by on Aug 7, 2012 in Short Fiction | 1 comment

By Nir Yaniv That day, the complacent city received three warnings. No one bothered to take notice. The city listened only to itself. *** At the seashore, just before sunrise, a teenage girl met an old man. A westerly wind played with the water and with a grey beard and with some golden curls. On the promenade, a street sweeper passed, unnoticed. “Child,” the old man said, his hand reaching for his worn cap, which was slightly smaller than the measure of his head. Surprisingly, this did not make him look ridiculous, only slightly older. The girl looked at him, dazzled, as if she’d opened her eyes for the first time in her life, and did not answer. “Child,” the old man said in the pleasant tone of someone not used to any kind of pleasantry, either given or received, “is not this too early an hour?” The girl said, “Soon it’ll be too late.” She did not look bitter when saying this. There wasn’t a hint of drama in her words. It was merely a statement of fact. “I would have liked to argue the falsehood of your words,” the old man said. “To delve into the expression ‘too late’ and prove that no matter what the circumstances, it cannot be true. To say that always, always there is something that can be done, always there is hope. But if I do so, I shall be lying.” The girl stared at him. “I shall be lying,” the old man repeated, looking eager to add some drama to the conversation. “It is always too late. This way or another, no matter what you do, no matter what we do, it is always too late.” “Yes,” the girl said. “No.” “No?” She closed her eyes and turned away from him. “No matter what you do, no matter what we do, it’s always too late,” she said, “but there is one thing that’s going to happen just in time. Right now.” The sun rose. Slowly, majestically, it floated above the eastern city line, illuminating the old man and the so-called child. The girl smiled. She opened her eyes and turned her head straight to the east, and a ray of light which passed, most improbably, through all of the buildings of the city separating the sunrise from the seashore; the city’s western border flooded her with light, made her swim in an ocean of happiness, a spring of magic, a sea of tranquility. “This is the last day,” the old man said, ignoring the sun. “Every day is the last day,” she said. The old man turned to look at her. “You know,” he said quietly. “I was sent here to warn you, but you already know.” He smiled at her sadly, turned around, and disappeared into the sand, leaving her behind, alone. He had no way of knowing that she was drugged out of her mind. *** Early that morning, a slight tremor passed through the city. The head of the Tel Aviv Shalom Tower, once the tallest building in the Middle East, bobbed a bit, as if bent by the sea breeze. Several trashcans overturned, and their contents spilled over sidewalks and around the legs of the early risers and those who hadn’t yet gone to sleep. Police units passed lazily in the quiet streets, the cops inside drinking their first coffee of the day and reporting that all was quiet. The sand at the seashore shivered a bit, giving rise to millions of tiny waves, which were swallowed by their bigger brothers from the depths of the sea, and promptly vanished. *** The sun was at its zenith when, by the Disengoff roundabout fountain, a lady met a peddler. “Honorable lady,” he said, “please allow me to offer you my sincere condolences.” His clothes were very old, as if they belonged to some long-forgotten period of time that may or may not have existed. His too-large hat belonged there, too. He did not sell anything except for the truth, and that had no price tag. “Excuse me?” said...

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Benjamin Schneider’s Little Greys

by on Nov 2, 2009 in Short Fiction | 0 comments

By Nir Yaniv Translated from Hebrew by Lavie Tidhar This story is part of a special issue of Apex Magazine guest edited by Lavie Tidhar featuring international writers in support of his anthology The Apex Book of World SF. When Benjamin Schneider came to my clinic and complained of mysterious coils on his left wrist, I wasn’t overly surprised. The term “hypochondriac” may have become overused years ago, but Benjamin nevertheless lived and acted as its perfect archetype. He had been that way ever since he was a child. I remember the first time he came to me, when I was still a minor family GP at the National Health clinic in town. He was about fourteen, short for his age, thin, curly and bespectacled, and a thorn was stuck, mortifyingly, in his behind. His mother, Mrs. Romina Schneider, did not spare him her wrath – “Every time, something strange has to happen to you!” she said – and the embarrassed child gritted his teeth and gave me a pleading look. His mother, too, gave me a look – the kind an older woman gives a younger woman she doesn’t trust, doesn’t want to trust, but is forced to, if only by the vagaries of the National Health Service. I don’t remember how I got her away from the room – one of the nurses helped me, perhaps – but five minutes later the thorn was removed, to the relief of everyone concerned. Benjamin’s grateful gaze was something I could never forget – if only because, for years afterwards, I received it from him, on average, about once a week. The week after the thorn incident, for instance, he grazed the back of his neck on barbed wire – I had no idea how – and came to me to clean up the wound. I asked him if they didn’t have iodine at home, and he shrugged and didn’t reply. In fact, he never talked about himself, beyond – more or less – the medical reasons for his current visit. Every week he visited me, with one reason or another, as he grew up from a boy to a teen and then a man, still thin, still curly and bespectacled. When I opened my own clinic twelve years later, Benjamin was my first client. His medical problems were always a little odd. He was bruised in unlikely places – his right ear, for instance; suffered diseases like an arthritis that had the same symptoms as gum disease, didn’t respond to medicine, and disappeared after a week; and indeed always healed miraculously and returned to me to verify the fact and perhaps discover some new ailments in the process. It is possible other doctors would have ridiculed him and his various ills, and certainly my cooperation with it and with him, but I couldn’t bring myself to be so cruel to him. The coils, however, despite our long history together, were something new. I had sent him for an X-ray several days before, at his insistence. He brought the prints back to the clinic in the brown paper folder of the National Health, searched through them for a minute or two, and then found what he was looking for. I spread the print over the white fluorescent board designed for that purpose and examined it, not expecting to find anything out of the ordinary, or at least of the ordinary as considered in the case of Benjamin Schneider. But, to my surprise, something was there. Two greyish coils, half-transparent, testifying that whatever they were made of was not solid enough to completely block the X-rays. And there was something else that was odd in the picture, but to begin with I couldn’t figure out what it was. “Does it hurt?” I asked. He shook his head. His arthritis had already disappeared. I examined the wrist myself, but externally it was not possible to discern anything out of the ordinary. I told him I had to think about it, and to come back to me in a few days. I looked...

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