These Four Strange Men

by

Ivo Dias de Sousa

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Copyright © 2012 Ivo Dias de Sousa http://twitter.com/ivosousa2 http://www.facebook.com/IvoDiasDeSousa If you want to review the book on Amazon Translated from Portuguese by Pedro Ferreira and revised by Sarah Katooki and Jane Thackray

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To Sarah Katooki, a clever Italian girl with good taste :)

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Contents
Acknowledgements .......................................................................................................... 7 Foreword ........................................................................................................................... 8 Mister Market ................................................................................................................... 9 Chocolate ...................................................................................................................... 9 The Robbery ............................................................................................................... 10 Mister Market ............................................................................................................. 10 Team ........................................................................................................................... 11 TV Channels ............................................................................................................... 11 Gambling and Parking ................................................................................................ 12 The Food Tray ............................................................................................................ 13 Mania for Saving ........................................................................................................ 13 Learning to Swim ....................................................................................................... 14 Birthdays and Wedding Anniversaries ....................................................................... 14 The Ride ..................................................................................................................... 15 The Lectures ............................................................................................................... 15 Another Lecture .......................................................................................................... 16 The Speech ................................................................................................................. 17 Feeling Down ............................................................................................................. 17 The Match ................................................................................................................... 18 It Only Happens to You .............................................................................................. 18 Mister Darwin ................................................................................................................. 20 Robbery ...................................................................................................................... 20 A Schoolmate ............................................................................................................. 20 Mister Darwin’s Dream World ................................................................................... 21 Death ........................................................................................................................... 21 The Lecture ................................................................................................................. 22 Hospital Attendance ................................................................................................... 22 The Suicide ................................................................................................................. 22 The Accident............................................................................................................... 24 Mister Newton ................................................................................................................ 25 Walk Interrupted ......................................................................................................... 25 The Stock Market ....................................................................................................... 25 Swimming................................................................................................................... 26 Spontaneous ................................................................................................................ 26 Death ........................................................................................................................... 27 Watchmaker ................................................................................................................ 27 The Cake ..................................................................................................................... 28 Broken Leg ................................................................................................................. 28 A Suicide on a Skyscraper .......................................................................................... 29 The Chat ..................................................................................................................... 30 The Appointment ........................................................................................................ 31 The Weekend .............................................................................................................. 32 The Basketball Match ................................................................................................. 32 Mister Said...................................................................................................................... 34 The Wardrobe ............................................................................................................. 34 Dreams ........................................................................................................................ 34 Reality Remix ............................................................................................................. 35 Ghosts and Demons .................................................................................................... 36 5

Mister Said’s House ................................................................................................... 37 Good Magic Starts at “Home” .................................................................................... 37 Paranoia ...................................................................................................................... 38 A Resentful Wizard .................................................................................................... 39 The Game ................................................................................................................... 40 Mister Said’s Dream World........................................................................................ 41 The Lecture ................................................................................................................. 41 Public Privacy ............................................................................................................. 42 The Suicide on the Bridge .......................................................................................... 42 Meaningful Actions .................................................................................................... 43 The Annoying Ghost .................................................................................................. 44

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Acknowledgements
Thank you Manuel Freire, for translating...ehm...reviewing this text in its original language (which is Portuguese, not English-clearly). Another special thanks to Carlos Lourenço and Clélia Andrade, whose stories, even if slightly modified, appear in this book.

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Foreword
This book has been inspired by an excellent series of books written by Portuguese writer Gonçalo M. Tavares and based on the life and work of particular authors – as in Tavares’ “Mister Calvino” which is based on the life and work of Italian writer, Italo Calvino. In the case of this particular book, the main characters of the short stories are loosely inspired by ideas and theories. Such ideas and theories form a basis for the characters’ personality and actions. “Mister Market” is inspired by Benjamin Graham, university professor and professional investor, and his ideas about stock market behaviour. He compares stock markets to someone who is rather unstable and has severe and sudden mood swings. In other words, he compares the market to someone who can rapidly pass from euphoria to depression (and vice versa), with behaviour may not be at all rational. The story of “Mister Newton”, on the other hand, contrasts with “Mister Market” in the way that it freely builds on the law of gravity discovered by Sir Isaac Newton. Newton’s formulation of a number of equations based on the law of gravity will allow very accurate predictions about the orbits of the planets in the solar system for many years to come. “Mister Newton” can therefore be considered someone not bored by repetition and who prefers to plan ahead. “Mister Darwin” is obviously inspired by the eponymous theory of Darwinism and natural selection. Thereby, “Mister Darwin” is a very competitive fellow constantly trying to gain immediate benefits from every situation. His conduct tends to be morally questionable. Sometimes the “reality” that I have created becomes too unexpected even for “Mister Darwin’s” tastes. :)  “Mister Said” is not along the lines of the previous characters. He is very loosely based (very loosely indeed) on modern theories of Physics and on the figure of Aleister Crowley. He’s a magician in the literal sense – he is capable of “impossible” things, including levitating and reading the minds of others. He is a lonely person and one of his main concerns is to remain inconspicuous – he believes that enemies are lurking. It is an unfortunate fact :), but sometimes he has to face situations that challenge this concern. Sometimes, I have also forced the characters to face some problems, although with the best intentions (or not). Had I not challenged them, they would have hardly grown as individuals. Plus, their lives would have incurred the danger of dullness. Dear reader, you may very well disagree, but you must believe me. ;-)

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Mister Market

Chocolate
Mister Market’s relationship with chocolate is a cyclical one; always with its ups and downs. When he’s in high spirits, this means he’s soon going to come down heavy. In those moments, Mister Market eats chocolate as if there was no tomorrow – similar circumstances he faced in the past are but memories, hidden somewhere in the recesses of his mind. He adores chocolate (especially white chocolate) and only by eating a lot of it, one square after another, can he momentarily fulfil his craving. If one were to see this chocolate “orgy” from the outside, one would conclude Mister Market has an eating problem, along the same lines as the relationship between alcohol abusers and vodka– and rightly so. After gorging himself with chocolate bars, beyond what one would expect to be a man’s limit, Mister Market heads to bed. He quickly falls asleep but wakes up well before the alarm clock, unable to ignore his gigantic bellyache. He restrains a scream, aware of his wife sleeping peacefully next to him. His chocoholic memories reappear effortlessly. The memories are not pleasant, just like his present bellyache. Mister Market wishes he could be rid of memories entirely. This would make everything easier. He knows what will happen next; things will get worse before they get better. His bellyache weakens him, although he stills feels the urge to go to the toilet. He tried to fulfil this necessity appropriately but without success. His mind flooded with a myriad of words not worth sharing. Mister Market went to sleep in the living room in hope of not waking his wife. However, she eventually woke up due to his constant visits to the rest room. She had witnessed Mister Market’s previous chocolate binges and she already knew what was going on. Mrs. Market got up and fetched a pill for Mister Market’s diarrhea. She put on a nice face and made absolutely no comment at all on the issue. What for? He’s suffering enough, she thought. During that night, Mister Market barely slept until his usual time to wake up. When the alarm clock rang, he was already awake. He managed to get dressed and went to work. The diarrhea showed no signs of stopping; in spite of the pills he had taken. Fortunately (based on his past experience), he had remembered to carry two extra pairs of underpants – a wise decision. This was obviously not a day to remember; he looked like a zombie.

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Mister Market was still feeling sick when he returned home. The pain was both physical and psychological. He knew the outcome of his “orgy” even before he had indulged in it, and still he had pulled the stunt once more. He could barely look at chocolate in the months that followed. Over time, however, the bad memories faded away. He carefully began to eat chocolate again. Over time, portions that were beyond common sense became frequent and would lead to occasional diarrhea. Another bout of diarrhea was about to happen anytime soon.

The Robbery
A man wielding an oversized knife was robbing Mister Market and his wife. Mister Market and his wife had their hands up and had delivered all their money and valuables to the robber. The thief had already done everything that is expected of a robber, except leave to enjoy his loot. Instead, he was waving his knife in one hand and continuing to talk. He seemed to enjoy capturing the audience in the literal sense. Mister Market wasn’t happy with this at all. During a robbery there is a risk of getting hurt, or even killed. But this annoying guy was not part of the programme. I already know several annoying people like him at the office. As soon as this thought was over, he jumped on the thief, who was caught by surprise. Mister Market was slapping the thief when he came to his senses. Mister Market twisted the thief’s wrist and took his knife. He retrieved what had been stolen, plus some extras. He then kicked the thief’s butt and chased him away. Mrs Market was impassive, but not fearless for all that. Only before he married her would Mister Market have done something of that sort. She thought she had tamed him long before, but this indicated there was still a lot of work to do. She started expressing her displeasure to Mister Market: “This was highly irresponsible. What would become of me, if he’d killed you?” And so on. Mister Market trotted out explanations, but he realised it was better to shut up. What went on in his mind was a private affair, depending on his will. During the following days, Mrs Market kept expressing her dislike and lectured him a few times. Despite this, Mister Market was enjoying his days: After a long time, Mrs Market was again, performing unusually well in bed.

Mister Market

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Mister Market was standing still for several minutes now. He had to be somewhere soon. He couldn’t decide whether to walk or take the bus - while trying to decide, he had already missed several buses heading for his destination. By the way, Mister Market was standing between two bus stops. If he took too long pondering he would be late, no matter whether he walked or took the bus. He took a coin out of his pocket and flipped it. Heads, I’ll walk. Tails, I’ll take the bus.

Team
One of the few constant variables in Mister Market’s life is his sports team. Once as a child he came home claiming he’d become a fan of a particular team. His parents never paid much attention to him, so they didn’t care. Mister Market is one of those people, who says to his friends that he might leave his job, his country or his wife (this bit he obviously omits whenever Mrs Market is around), but never his team. Not even if they’re relegated to the regional league. He loves to talk with his team’s opponents, or should we say enemies, about his team and their matches. As soon as any TV set in any given restaurant starts playing a match featuring his team, he immediately becomes excited starts chatting away with other lovers of the sport. When these are made up exclusively of supporters of his team, they gossip and speak ill about the coach (his choices have been awful, for crying out loud), the president (he should have hired a player for that position, while he still had the opportunity) and the players (they don’t make the least effort and they’re a bunch of money-driven vampires). Of course the picture changes when supporters from the opposition are present. That’s when the president, the coach and the players are clearly the best in the whole world. If his team doesn’t win, he blames it on the referees (that severe fault the referee didn’t call, the unfair red card, among numerous reasons). He supports whatever his team’s supporter’s say, as unbelievable as it may sound. In terms of his club, Mister Market is what can be termed as a “self-conscious fanatic”. He’s one of those few “fanatics” who realise immediately when they’re saying something silly about their team. To die for my team. :)

TV Channels
When Mister Market lived at his parent’s, problems with choosing a TV channel only arose when they were absent – his parents were undoubtedly at the top of the food chain. He had an issue with his older brother – the age difference was not significant 11

and Mister Market was taller than the average person of his age. His younger brother, on the other hand, was, although stubborn, a lot younger than the others. This let him voice his preferences, but no more – it was otherwise useless to fight over things such as the TV, except when his parents were not at home. Mister Market and his older brother occasionally clashed due to different views on which channel to watch. Since these clashes were not very enlightening (in fact they were somewhat painful), they eventually saw the error of their ways and reached an agreement. When their parents weren’t at home, the first come, first serve principle ruled. Obviously, one would lose power once they’d leave the room, no matter how brief the absence was. As soon as Mister Market left home and started living on his own the problem didn’t arise anymore. However, when he married Mrs Market, it re-emerged. He wasn’t expecting it, nor was Mrs Market. In fact, it caused most of their disputes. Their tastes couldn’t be any more different – sports for him, soap operas for her. Once in a (long) while, they managed to find something that pleased them both. The problem was so acute that they had to buy another TV set. They came to the conclusion that this separation was not a good solution, though. They watched TV a lot before they went to bed. No matter how good or bad, it was still time they could spend together. It was better for them to be able to argue (preferably in a friendly manner) over the TV than spend the time apart.

Gambling and Parking
Mister Market had promised his wife he would stop gambling for one quite simple reason: his losses had compromised their lifestyle. Naturally Mrs Market was not pleased by the losses; neither was Mister Market – he was fond of living lavishly. Now, Mister Market kept his promise in a creative manner. He indeed quit gambling such as playing roulette. Although he truly wanted to keep his promise, he couldn’t completely renounce his excitement in life – even if he realised that jeopardising their lifestyle was very inappropriate. After giving it some thought, he concluded that it would be easy to find ways, possibly profitable, of “gambling” on a daily basis. One way of gambling was paid parking in the city where he lived. He looked into it in great detail – after doing some research on the Internet, he even accessed the working times of the traffic wardens in the car parks. He came to the conclusion that at precise times and places it was worth taking the risk of skipping parking fees. It was exciting for him to get to his car and check if he’d been fined (or not). So that there were no doubts that crime really paid, he did some accounting regarding his 12

outlaw activities. The money he saved by not paying parking was the plus. The fines he used to receive once in a while – you can’t always win - were the minuses. On average, the results were positive (barely, but they were). It meant great fun for him – it’s more fun to escape the law than to play roulette. He grinned.

The Food Tray
Mister Market is a somewhat thoughtless person. One day he carried a rucksack and some books to the university cafeteria. After he had paid for his meal, he realised that carrying both the food tray and his belongings could easily turn into a difficult task. What would a normal person do? They would ask for somebody’s help or would decide to take more than one trip. Well, those who are acquainted with Mister Market know that he was never a normal person. He decided to bring everything in one trip. After a few meters, things obviously started to go wrong – the tray began slipping forward from his hands. Anyone could see that the tray would eventually fall on the floor with a bang. Since Mister Market was not aware of that, he was trying to wrestle with the tray, which was getting nearer to the ground. This took place long enough for some students, who were watching, to alert more people sitting next to them. Mister Market couldn’t actually avoid the tray falling, but he achieved the next best thing: he managed to make it land on the floor with all the contents intact. This result unleashed a disappointed “ohhhhh” throughout the cafeteria.

Mania for Saving
Mister Market is not a frugal person. If it weren’t for Mrs Market’s tight reins on expenses, he would tend to stay penniless. He showed however, a mania for saving in home repairs – why should I pay some professional? I’ve got two arms, two legs and a brain! Mrs Market was afraid of these savings bouts from her husband – they often ended up calling some expert to handle the situation. She tried to contain his urges, but this was not always possible.

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One day, Mister Market’s impulses stopped abruptly. That day, they had had to request a plumber after Mister Market’s intervention in the pipework caused a flood in the house.

Learning to Swim
Mister Market fell into a pool when he was five years old when he couldn’t swim. He was rescued, but he didn’t enjoy the experience. It had such a great impact on him that he constantly resisted his parents’ attempts to make him learn to swim with the help of an instructor. A few years later he went to live in a city by the shore. His new friends used to go to the beach and it was annoying for him to not be able to swim with them. He was sick of it, so he started swimming along the shore, doggy paddle – this was the only style he could mimic. After he managed to swim like a dog for a dozen metres, he felt he was now ready to try other techniques, more appropriate for humans. Mister Market’s swimming stroke was never a perfect one, but it became the perfect one to accompany his friends with from then on.

Birthdays and Wedding Anniversaries
Mister Market has a reputation for forgetting about things. His wife confirms this when she remembers all the wedding anniversaries he’s forgotten. Occasionally, his wife would spend several days constantly repeating all the dates - which made his hair stand on end. Mister Market adored his wife – he suspected he might even love her. Still, he refused to occupy his mind with information about his wedding date and the sort. One day he discussed it with Mister Darwin. Not giving it too much thought, Mister Darwin suggested he should simply buy a cell phone with a “smart” calendar – “you just have to program it and it will warn you ahead of time about any date you want”, Mister Darwin said. Mister Darwin’s solution was certainly not in the same vein as what Mrs Market intended. Despite this, Mister Market bought himself a cell phone. She doesn’t have to know about everything.

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The Ride
Mister Market called his parents. His mother insisted on talking to him for a long time, as he had never spent so much time without speaking to his parents. Not long before, Mister Market had managed to find his backpack with some of his clothes, most of the money and other things people, especially students, take when they decide to travel for several weeks through the continent for summer break. He had tried to get hold of the backpack for some time, after a long 3-hour trip by train. Luckily for Mister Market, he had managed to hitch a last minute ride from a trucker. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have had the money to get to the end of his trip. In that case he’d have to call his parents for help, which would look bad on his résumé… He’d taken the ride at a petrol station somewhere on the motorway. As a matter of fact, this had been an easy one. Better to ask the way than to go astray. Before he’d begun asking for a ride, he’d been gazing into space at the gas station’s parking lot – where a bus that could take him back home supposedly should be waiting for him. Like every other passenger, when the bus stopped he would take the opportunity to grab a bite or do something he could only do by himself (such as going to the loo). Apparently he had taken too long.

The Lectures
Mister Market was not enjoying the lecture at all. Damn! I wish I hadn’t agreed to attend these lectures. And it’s not just one, nor two, but five lectures! What was I thinking when I agreed to attend these lectures? Mister Market remembered what he was thinking in the moment he had promised to attend the lectures. During the years, Mrs Market mastered the art of picking strategic moments to ask him for things that would not please him. Sometimes (quite a few, in fact) in those specific moments, he could even manage to stand up to Mrs Market. The lecture carried on and Mister Market was still not enjoying it in the least. Dullness, five times. He felt like sneaking away, so that nobody noticed. For that to happen, he had to face two unsolvable problems. First, he was sitting next to Mrs Market – she would notice him leaving. Second, they were sitting in the first row, facing the speaker. Mrs Market had picked the place, for she wanted to show her dear husband to her friends. Either I quickly come up with a solution that can make this seem bearable, or I’ll leave. He remembered the tactics he used for dull high school classes. He started focusing on sentences with potential from the speaker.

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They are coming, Mister Market mentally repeated what the speaker had just said. This is a sentence with potential. Mister Market was driving in his car, mostly on a road outside the town where he lived. He was listening to the radio when breaking news interrupted the transmission. The radio announcer informed them in a distressed voice that aliens had invaded Earth a few hours before. The announcer indicated the aliens drove some kind of six-legged tanks that shot deadly rays, and quoted several cities (one of which was Mister Market’s) already under direct attack by the aliens. “Their intentions appear to be to wipe out all signs of human life on the planet”, the announcer said in a frightened voice. Mister Market heard explosions during the broadcast and then there was no more signal. He stared at his town’s buildings from afar and realized that they were on fire. In vain he tried to call Mrs Market – the line was dead. He did the only possible rational thing. He drove away from town. He had to get off the road. Panic had already caused many crashes, which made driving impossible. He kept driving, but the alien tanks were getting closer and closer. One of them shot a ray that caused Mister Market’s car to explode with him still inside. Mister Market came back to the speaker. These lectures are more pleasurable than I thought. He resumed his focusing on sentences with potential. It could be decisive. Now he was watching the forward from his favourite team (Benfica) in some important, international final. He had just scored a header and his team was ahead. There were still a few minutes before the final whistle. They would have to do their best in those final minutes.

Another Lecture
The director of the department where Mister Market worked was giving him a big lecture – it went on and on. On top of that, it was about one of those mistakes that only someone who doesn’t work at all can avoid. He’s asking me to sit back and watch. Mister Market felt like heading straight to the exit, but this was not a good idea. He deemed his job as more or less well paid, considering the amount of work he had to do. The job would actually be nice, were it not for his being lectured. At a certain point he totally switched off. He imagined his right hand holding a grenade. Then, with his left hand he would pull his director’s pants enough to drop the grenade. He would walk away from the office, while the director would desperately try to get rid of the device. After the explosion, he would go back into the office. The director’s body would be scattered all over the place. One leg here, a piece of an arm there. The torso and the hands were missing – they had been hit by the bulk of the explosion.

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He made a wry smile. He tried to hide the smile that was starting to show on his face. After all, he was being lectured.

The Speech
It was almost his turn to speak. Sweat was dripping from his face, although he had prepared his presentation rather well. He had barely even slept, which was ridiculous in his view. Looks like the audience is made up of vampires who will suck all my blood out, at the first slip. He started picturing the audience in his mind. They were all extremely white, almost milk-coloured. All had sullen faces. But what he appreciated least were their canine teeth. Even when their mouths were shut one could notice oversized canine teeth, at least for human beings. He instantly thought about a monstrous mouth approaching his neck to suck its blood. His turn to speak arrived. They had to call him more than once, since Mister Market wasn’t paying much attention. Mister Market stared at the audience. Fortunately, their teeth weren’t nearly as white as he had imagined. As for the faces, they varied, but most actually were not sullen at all. The best part, however, was the fact that the canine teeth were of the average size for human beings. The speech worked out well.

Feeling Down
Mister Market was feeling down, really down. He wasn’t in the mood for anything. He would lie in bed watching TV for hours. His life wasn’t going very well lately. All he tried to do went wrong. “Doors” wouldn’t open. In fact, they kept being slammed in his face. He noticed that feeling sad was bothersome. Just sitting still and thinking about what happened and how, time and time again, wasn’t doing him any good. He went back over everything that had happened. Sure, I could have done things differently. He thought about different ways of acting. Probably it won’t work. But it could be interesting to learn another reaction. He tried a different approach but it didn’t work. However, the response was different from the previous one and that surprised Mister Market – he enjoys surprises and new things, unlike that silly fool of Mister Newton.

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He kept trying, not so much to solve the situation, but to find different ways to act. Different answers were already a kind of reward. The answer he got to another different silliness he tried was not at all negative, which in itself was already something new. It was a road worth exploring. At the end, things started to be better. It was about time.

The Match
Benfica won the match and he smiled to himself before having dinner. He had previously turned off the TV set where he had watched the game. Only close to the end of the match had Benfica resolved the game by scoring the decisive goal. When Mrs Market threatened from the kitchen to disclose the results of the match (since it was recorded) he responded half-jokingly, half seriously, that he would have had to repudiate her. She probably knows nothing about the score, Mister Market thought. Unless she’s taken a quick Internet tour! Mister Market sat in the living-room right after they got home. His wife had planned to have dinner immediately, but it didn’t work out that way. Higher concerns were at stake. A man has to place some boundaries. Mrs Market had not been too persistent with the matter of dinner. It was a lost battle. Her husband had kept the car radio switched off so that there would be no chance of finding out the final score. The more he waited, the bigger was the probability of him accidentally discovering the result. For Mister Market, to watch the match later was not as good as watching it live. A true supporter, like Mister Market, believes he can positively influence the result when he watches the match live.

It Only Happens to You
The alarm clock rang at 6 a.m. Mister Market made the tremendous effort of getting up to catch the 7 o’clock train. It had been a while since he had last visited his parents and he had promised his mother he would come this weekend. University was draining his time. For instance, that very night he had gone to bed at 4 a.m., because of a bagatelle with some of his colleagues. I am a victim of the system, thought Mister Market. When he got to the station, he noticed that he needed more money for the train ticket. He didn’t care, for he still had a credit card in his pocket. Since the railway company only accepted cash, he headed for the nearest ATM so he could buy the ticket. 18

Unfortunately for him, the machine ate his card without further ado. It was Saturday and had to wait until Monday to recover it. He’d missed the train and it was pointless to wait a couple of hours for the next one. Anyway, he was supposed to be back the next day in order not to miss classes on Monday. When he got home he texted his mother explaining the situation, as he had no credit to phone her. He realised that he didn’t have much money for the rest of the weekend, so he went to sleep. This is going to be one long weekend. In the afternoon his mother gave him a harsh lecture on the phone. He promptly agreed to visit home the following weekend. His mother ended the call saying: “It only happens to you”.

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Mister Darwin

Robbery
Three muggers were robbing Mister Darwin. Two of them were armed with razors, which forced Mister Darwin to quit any chances of resisting. It’s only money and tomorrow is another day, he thought. The thieves went away with Mister Darwin’s belongings. He was a bit upset at the thought of being separated from his possessions, since the stolen money had been the result of many hours of hard work. Well, this wasn’t exactly true – it had been easy money, but that didn’t matter. Principles were at stake. He thought for a moment about what to do and decided to follow the three muggers. One of them went off on his own, so Darwin followed him. He already knew what to do. He attacked the lone mugger from behind – by robbing him, the mugger had given his permission to be assaulted. After he took the mugger’s possessions, he went away and then counted the money: it is not exactly the amount they stole from me, but it certainly helps to contain the losses.

A Schoolmate
Mister Darwin was fed up with his job. He had learned everything already and now he wanted to earn more. He decided to look for another job. During a selection procedure for a job he really wanted, he got to the last stage (a personal interview with the person in charge). At the interview he discovered that the guy was an old schoolmate, whom he vaguely remembered. They chatted about the chitchat that people talk about during job interviews and about their time in primary school. From Mister Darwin’s point of view, the interview went splendidly. He was lucky that the interviewer was a former classmate. Unlike Mister Darwin, the interviewer remembered him perfectly. From his point of view, Mister Darwin would only get the job when hell froze over.

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Mister Darwin’s Dream World
The world devised in Mister Darwin’s dreams is mostly a vast sea of endless skyscrapers. Most of these would be the envy of cities like New York or Tokyo. Some of the buildings are high enough for any person contemplating suicide to have plenty of time to consider his/her options. But it is of little use to conclude that jumping was a bad option – this only makes the last feet before death worse. One unpleasant detail is the fact that people committing suicide by jumping from skyscrapers rarely die alone. The sidewalks are almost always crawling with people rushing, day and night – it’s difficult not to land on someone. Even with a clear sky, usually it is necessary for streetlights to be lit up throughout the city, as a vast majority of the streets are no more than deep valleys surrounded by buildings that reach for the clouds. City folk walk as if something is following them through the streets. Seen from the top of the skyscrapers, they look like ants on a huge anthill. Even if they don’t know where they want to go, they keep on walking as if they were running late. In Mister Darwin’s world, it is best to keep on moving through the streets. For some reason, he or she who slows down starts to catch a glimpse of huge felines behind them, so big that even a lion would keep its distance. The felines heads are unusually large compared to their bodies, their mouths too wide for their heads and their teeth too prominent for their mouths. In Mister Darwin’s world, to stop on the street literally means to die. Felines appear rapidly from nowhere. While the attack takes place, the masses keep moving fast, leaving an empty space around the tragedy – felines don’t appreciate audiences and they make provisions to eliminate them and know when to strike. In the past, there were even blocks with small buildings in front of which people used to stop. All of them disappeared with the skyscrapers that were built on their foundations. But if anyone looks thoroughly, they will find a small oasis within the vast metropolis. There are small gardens on the top of some of the skyscrapers. On the ground, one can find a garden or two, barely touched by the sun trying to find its way through the web of buildings.

Death
Mister Darwin doesn’t like (and doesn’t want) to think about death. He believes that death is, indeed, THE END. In other words (I presume most of the readers already understand), Mister Darwin believes consciousness ends with death.

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Mister Darwin doesn’t want to think about death, but his actions in life are deeply influenced by it. He wants it all and he wants it now, before… well, before IT arrives. Therefore, he’s eager to go for the big pot, but he can end up just going potty. Mister Darwin acts sometimes in a way that is (let’s say) morally questionable. It is not quite the “ends justify the means” way, but almost. One of the concerns Mister Darwin has is not to undergo actions that may force him to spend prolonged “holidays” in some prison.

The Lecture
Mister Darwin would rather be somewhere else. The lecture he was watching left a great deal to be desired. He was only there for professional reasons. After thinking about it for a while, he glanced around the room. He noticed that the rear left corner of the theatre was empty. He started moving in that direction with nonchalance. When he got there, he took out his discrete wireless headphones from his mobile phone. He put one in his left ear – the ear facing the wall. He turned the radio on to his favourite show.

Hospital Attendance
Mister Darwin has a tendency to act like a smarty-pants. He pretended to be feeling pain at the hospital, so that he could be seen faster. All he wanted was a prescription for his flu – this would allow him to buy cheaper medicines. The physician that was examining him went ballistic when she realised Mister Darwin’s scheme. “It’s people like you that are guilty of causing the current situation”, the physician said to Mister Darwin at a certain point. She not only refused to write out the prescription, but also forced him to pay for a full appointment. Should he refuse, he could end up being sued for abuse of trust. Mister Darwin chickened out of the situation and left.

The Suicide
It was already late in the evening. Mister Darwin was in a rush to get home and go to sleep. He had an important business meeting the following day. He parked the car a few hundred yards from home and headed there.

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Not long before, he had noticed a tall teenager who was standing on top of a wall. Another one of those numb-skulled teenagers. That’s a dangerous place to be. A slight mistake could be fatal. Mister Darwin was right, for the wall was very high on the opposite side. If someone fell from it, they would endure serious health consequences. For sure, they would not have to be worried about their health for a while. Without thinking, Mister Darwin asked the teenager what he was doing there. He answered that he was about to commit suicide and that Mister Darwin should stay away from him. Mister Darwin wouldn’t even think about approaching a potentially suicidal person for fear that maybe he needed some company while going to a better place. Mister Darwin enjoyed being alive and he wouldn’t take any chances because of some melodramatic teenager. It would have been better for Mister Darwin to keep his mouth shut and keep heading home. He could still go home and phone the emergency number. The problem was that he had already established contact and would feel guilty if he left the boy alone. He might indeed carry out his plan. Not knowing what to do, Mister Market sat on the wall at an appropriately safe distance from the suicidal teenager. Surprisingly, the melodramatic teenager mimicked him and also sat down. For a few moments there wasn’t a sound. Mister Darwin commented on the lovely evening as he felt he should say something. The teenager replied that it was a beautiful evening to die. The suicidal teenager started monopolising the conversation. He talked about his life and his problems. Only occasionally did Mister Darwin intervene, in order to show that he was listening. He couldn’t care less about the teenager’s life and problems. I might as well leave and let him jump, if that’s his wish. But his ridiculous consciousness wouldn’t let him do that. He checked his watch and didn’t like what he saw. He should have been sleeping hours ago. I’m going to be sleepy at the meeting. The teenager kept talking about his life. On top of that, he had an eye for details; something that Mister Darwin was unwilling to know about. As he tried to have an earnest, interested expression, a thought kept reoccurring: Shut up and jump, once and for all! Mister Darwin’s suffering carried on all night long. When the sun started to rise and a couple of passers-by were roaming nearby, the teenager got down from the wall. He said that he was going to go back to his place and that maybe his problems weren’t as bad as he had thought. Without any further words (not even a word of thanks), he went away.

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There’s no way I’m going to get to the meeting on time.

The Accident
Mister Darwin ran over a girl who jumped in front of his car. He immediately sped up and tried to flee, but ended up stopping the car a few feet ahead. What am I doing? To flee the scene of an accident means going to jail. Should anything really bad happen to the girl, he could end up spending some very long holidays in the slammer. First the problem, then the guilt. On the other hand, if I can resolve or minimise this, the guilt will be smaller. He reversed the car. He checked the girl (it doesn’t seem that serious) and called the emergency number. They just advised him to wait for the ambulance and nothing else. A couple of people showed up and kept her company. Now he could handle the second most important issue. He got into a café close to the accident and drank jars of water until the police came. I’m pretty sure they are going to test the level of alcohol in my system. He had drunk a couple of beers before he picked up the car. He might very well be within the law, but just in case...

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Mister Newton

Walk Interrupted
Mister Newton usually goes for long walks in the evening. On one of those walks three muggers interrupted him. Since he kept staring at them, one decided that he deeply disliked Mister Newton’s look and punched him twice to put him in his place. After the assault, Mister Newton noticed that he’d lost two buttons off his shirt due to the punches he’d received. He went home to change. He checked his face in the mirror to see if it was still impeccable and then went to the police to file a complaint against the muggers. Not only did he report it to the police, but he also gave a thorough description of the muggers - Mister Newton is very proud of his photographic memory. It makes it easier to identify and capture the assaulters. Finally, he testified in court. The criminals had to take an extended break from their professional activity.

The Stock Market
Mister Newton used to invest in shares, which surprises his friends and acquaintances. On principle, somebody as predictable as Mister Newton would have nothing to do with something as chaotic as the stock market. However, there was something even more surprising – Mister Newton not only invested, but he was also successful. At first, they thought he had beginner’s luck. After a while, they had to change their minds drastically. They even began dutifully following Mister Newton’s advice, no matter how odd it was. Mister Newton related to the stock market almost with indifference. He established from the start the price he was willing to pay and which criteria the company had to fulfil. Since he always established lower prices, he only bought when the market plummeted due to a generalised panic from investors. In practice, Mister Newton only bought shares that nobody else wanted. Sometimes the stocks kept on plummeting but Mister Newton didn’t lose much sleep over it. He believed that the shares were clearly worth more than the price he paid. Sooner or later the stocks would soar (sometimes a lot later) and then he could sell when everybody else wanted to buy.

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Mister Newton didn’t understand why people bought high-priced shares when the price is rising – and he also didn’t care why. He was happy that they bought his shares at a clearly higher price than his purchase price.

Swimming
At the age of twenty something Mister Newton realized that he couldn’t swim. He never felt the need, nor did his parents – he had always lived far from the coast or any river. He read a book about swimming, containing all the necessary strokes, among other details. Just to make sure, he read a second book on the same subject. He then went to a swimming pool where he wouldn’t drown (during off-peak hours, for obvious reasons). He got in the pool and followed the books’ advice. He began to swim almost immediately – a bit clumsily, but still he was swimming. A few days later he went to swim in a deeper pool.

Spontaneous
One of Mrs Newton’s regrets is the fact that her husband is a bit predictable, romantically speaking. In other words, Mister Newton never surprises her and it kills any romance. Mister Newton enjoys being himself: seldom or never spontaneous – everything on time and things of that sort. However, he understood Mrs Newton’s needs – unpredictability in some of his displays of affection would bring some colour to Mrs Newton’s life. He thought for a while and started making a list of romantic activities: 1. Going to the cinema 2. A note with a poem 3. A gift 4. A kiss in an unusual place 5. Dinner at a restaurant He didn’t remember any other romantic activity. He would expand the list in the future. Besides knowing what to do, he had to solve another important issue: when. After he weighed up all the factors, he concluded that the romantic activities should happen monthly. The problem is that Mrs Newton is a smart woman. She would notice that the activities were not being spontaneous, if they happened on a regular basis.

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He solved the problem by taking some minutes to install a very simple app on his mobile phone. This way, he only had to activate the programme every day and there were one out of thirty chances when the programme would say it was a day for a spontaneous romantic activity.

Death
Mister Newton’s attitude towards death is of the que sera, sera kind. He believes death is outside his control and pays little attention to it. Why should I bother with something that is beyond my control?!... Of course Mister Newton cares about what lies in his area of influence: he watches his diet, he exercises and things like that. He enjoys life. If it’s sure to happen, better later than sooner.

Watchmaker
Mister Newton was fed up with his job. He didn’t appreciate what he did. On top of that, managers weren’t reliable: they would say something and do the opposite, and their main intention seemed to be to drain him completely. Why do I keep doing this job? The reason was quite simple: Mister Newton needed his salary at the end of the month, a big inconvenience to say the least. He imagined himself sleeping on the street – which wasn’t his goal in life. Mister Newton is a lover of predictability, but not at all costs. His current job was beyond all limits. What can I do? First, he looked for a new job. The few alternatives he could find were at the same or lower level than his present job. The job market was in its death throes due to the crisis of the time. He could keep up the rigmarole to bursting point, but that was out of the question. The only alternative he could think of, other than changing jobs, was to turn his hobby (repairing mechanical watches) into a business. Is there a market for repairing mechanical watches in a digital world? He wasn’t sure and he hated to search for customers. But big problems require big solutions. The trial slowly started to produce results. One day, Mister Newton took the great leap: he quit his job, since the increasing number of customers didn’t allow him any spare time.

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And one thing was for sure, in Mister Newton’s view: even if his experiment turned out badly, sooner or later he would find another way to bail out.

The Cake
Mister Newton stared at the cake he’d just bought. In that moment, it became clear to him that he was a “slave” of his future “egos”. Most of the time he spent awake was dedicated to the needs of future Misters Newton, not to the present. He had to study to find a good job. He had to save for this or that. Always for a somewhat distant future. He looked at the cake in his hands. He’d bought it for the Mister Newton in that moment a dozen seconds ago. He opened his mouth, had a bite… and he enjoyed the cake.

Broken Leg
Mister Newton lay flat on the ground. His right leg was hurting, but it had had to meet unusual demand during the fall. So, he started moving his leg with his hands, from hip to toe. At a certain point, he noticed that the bone below his knee had a slight and uncommon bump. He wasn’t sure if there was something wrong. He wasn’t used to touching his own legs – he’d rather touch Mrs Newton’s. Just in case, he picked up his mobile and dialled the emergency number. Calmly, he explained the situation to the person at the other end. The emergency operator thought Mister Newton was some kind of prankster, for his voice had no agony – Mister Newton preserves his calmness even in difficult moments. After having lectured him about “not wasting life-saving resources”, the man hung up the phone with a slam. Mister Newton then tried to get up but a pain like he’d rarely felt before made him abandon the idea. He picked his phone up again and redialled the emergency number. This time he made an effort to put some agony into his voice. He mentioned having previously called and not being taken seriously. He stressed the pain he felt when he tried to get up. They believed him. He was told not to move and to wait for an ambulance. Mister Newton was uncomfortable with the fact that he was wearing a suit and tie and lying on a busy street. Some of the passers-by agreed, judging by the looks on their faces, Mister Newton thought. However, higher principles were at stake.

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This was funny. At first, both the paramedics in the ambulance and the physician who attended to him at the hospital didn’t believe something was wrong with him. It seems like I have to spray tomato juice over my leg so they take me seriously. An x-ray to the leg clarified any doubts about the need for medical attention.

A Suicide on a Skyscraper
Mister Newton was talking with a potential suicide victim at the top of a skyscraper. The way things were going, this talk would end with a plunge onto the sidewalk. Mister Newton realised this potential suicide had several issues. However, that wasn’t enough for Mister Newton to regard suicide as something serious – so many heads, so many minds. He was an eternal optimist and always believed any situation would get better even when it was getting worse. So he was struggling for results to appear. And this was not even a particularly brilliant moment in his life. His pockets were empty – at the cinema with the future Mrs Newton, he couldn’t even pay for his ticket. The job as a watchman in the skyscraper was the best he could find lately – he was still waiting for his first salary. Compared to previous jobs, this wasn’t so badly paid. That is, of course, if he didn’t count the awkward situations he had to face as a watchman – this potential suicide was just another awkward situation. Mister Newton disliked surprises. If it was up to him, he could stay all night chatting with the suicidal person, hoping to make him see life under a pleasant light. However, nothing of the little he had said seemed to work – things can get better, blah, blah, blah and so forth. Mister Newton knew that the leap into the void was hanging by a thread. He thought about grabbing the suicidal person to save him – he was close to him, but not enough to achieve this successfully. The potential suicide victim was fairly small and Newton would not risk falling with him. The big issue was how to grab him before he jumped – the suicidal person was determined to taste the sidewalk around the building in an improper manner, for his organs and bones at least. It’s now or never. The suicidal individual had shut his eyes. Mister Newton believed he was concentrating on his final leap – and he was right. When he grabbed him, he was already in the air. Luckily for Mister Newton, the suicidal individual was surprised and momentarily couldn’t react. When he did, Mister Newton had already dragged him back inside the building.

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The suicidal person kept on resisting well beyond what Mister Newton thought to be reasonable – he didn’t have any more reasons to jump. The fact that the guy used his teeth to earmark Mister Newton’s skin was seen as a tremendous lack of appreciation. He slapped him to calm him down. He placed him on the ground in an uncomfortable position. He then grabbed the radio on his waist with his free hand and called the rest of the watchmen. Not on my watch.

The Chat
He won’t shut up. Mister Newton couldn’t stand listening to Mister Market any more – although he and Mister Market were friends. That does it. Few things are constant in Mister Market’s life. One of them is his football team, Benfica. He pretty much knows all there is to know about the squad – even the slightest details about the worst player’s career. All is well when Mister Market is chatting with another Benfica fanatic. It is a lovely, never-ending conversation for everyone. Whenever his companion shows a normal interest or no interest at all in Benfica, the talk turns into an ennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnndless monologue. It’s very nice for Mister Market, but not so nice for the victim of the moment. Mister Market is so enthusiastic that he fails to notice his counterpart’s suffering. In that moment, Mister Newton was the victim on duty. He didn’t want to be rude and suddenly interrupt or change the conversation. He made every possible sign so that Mister Market could realise it by himself. For instance, he checked his watch from time to time and his body clearly indicated an exit. Zero. He was on the brink of telling Mister Market to get lost in the least possible unpleasant way. He had the idea of trying to gradually shift the topic. So, what can this shift to? One of the possible ways was to scale it down, and to talk about really tiny details of Benfica. It is out of the question to encourage him even more. Flipping sides was another possibility. That is, to change the topic to another team. Mister Newton also vetoed this idea. The last chance was to go up. In other words, to comment in such a way that the topic would shift to more general issues. This possibility had potential – Mister Newton grinned. He began by making a negative remark about the board of the league where Benfica played. Mister Market couldn’t agree more. “Sure, the money from the sponsors is illdistributed. Benfica is obviously being impaired.”

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Mister Newton then pointed out an interesting aspect about the League’s main sponsor. The talk revolved around the sponsor and this was again bearable for Mister Newton. I have to try this strategy in certain talks with Mrs Newton.

The Appointment
Mister Newton had been dragged to his wife’s appointment with her friends. He had tried to escape, but it had been impossible this time. For some reason he wasn’t aware of, Mrs Newton adored to take him to some of those meetings. He was almost always the only man in the few gatherings he attended – she probably gets extra status with my presence. He thought that he had figured out the logic in those meetings. His wife and her friends got together to talk about their private lives and share emotions – for God’s sake, what did I do wrong to be here? It was a curious ritual. Each one would speak about recent events in their lives. All would listen and express compassion for what they felt. They didn’t intend to solve anything. Is that a goal?!!!... Of course, since Mister Newton was there, hotter issues were not discussed. That was reserved for meetings in closed sessions. And it was best for him that these were kept well closed. Nobody ever expected Mister Newton to talk much – what can you expect from a man? He tried to look rather interested and understanding towards all those existential issues they mentioned. Once in a while, he would cast an extra word of support into the conversation. At a certain moment, a topic he was keen on eventually came up. One of the women was a high school teacher. She was saying that one of her new pupils was posing her colleagues and her some problems. They had punished him in every possible way, but nothing seemed to work. The school was about to form a football team. Since that pupil enjoyed playing (he was also a good player), she and her colleagues (mostly women) were thinking about forbidding him to join the team. Only when he behaved well would they let him play. Almost immediately, all agreed that the pupil was hell broken loose personified and that he should be brought to order. Mister Newton refrained from contributing more than an understanding gaze. Without realising, he was positioning himself as against any further punishments of the pupil. But this feminine meeting wasn’t about discussing solutions. Later on, he would try to speak alone with Mrs Newton’s friend, the teacher. If the student enjoyed football and was good at it, they should instead sentence him to

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football. As long as he can play and practice he’ll be no bother. It will raise his selfesteem and divert his focus from the conflict with her and the other teachers. If they persist on focusing on his bad behaviour, that’s what they’ll get.

The Weekend
An excellent weekend had passed, leaving a sense of emptiness in Mister Newton and his wife.  Now they had to get back to reality and leave fresh air, breath taking landscapes, the open-air pool and five-star comforts behind. Mister Newton had won the weekend away in a draw. It wasn’t his custom to engage in such stuff, but the draw number on the newspaper that he normally bought didn’t change its price. So, he kept the number. You never know. They could have enjoyed their weekend at any chosen time within a period of months. Although they preferred good weather, Mister Newton and his wife decided to postpone it as much as they could. It was already a good reward to imagine that nice weekend they were about to have – they wanted the feeling to last for as long as possible.

The Basketball Match
Mister Newton had formed a team to compete in the school’s internal basketball tournament. Since it had several good players and the supreme star of the school, his team was high-rated. The next match was the decisive one. This was the last match in the group and they were playing against the only other undefeatable team apart from theirs – only one of the two teams would go through. They were very optimistic. So much so, that they had invited colleagues, friends and relatives to watch the match. It began and soon they were losing. This wasn’t supposed to happen, given that they were clearly superior to their opponents. The problem was that the ball was unaware of that and insisted on falling into the wrong basket too often – the gap kept growing. Mister Newton was at the same time player and coach. He was a coach because he was the worst player – he spent too much time on the bench. Nobody cared much about what he said, but he had to do something. He called for time-out – fortunately, the scoreboard paid some attention to what he said. The supreme star of the team was completely out of control. He was one of the players who had attracted the widest audience. It was supposed to be an easy match, but it went the other way. The star was blabbering things like “You stink”, and “I’m out of here”.

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Those moments made Mister Newton want to give the star player a good slap, but he soon abandoned the idea. In the best-case scenario his star would leave, which would consolidate the defeat. In the worst-case, Mister Newton would be trashed to death – the star was clearly bigger and stronger than him. He was under pressure and suggested a tactical change, more to divert attention than anything else – the star said nothing more. The other team’s point guard was playing very well and scoring a lot. They were changing from zone defence to box-and-one. That is, one of them would defend the opponent’s point guard man-to-man. “You must be where he is. If he goes to the loo, you go with him.” Mister Newton said to one player. By halftime the gap had stabilised. After the break, the difference slowly started closing. They tied 20 seconds before the end. Fortunately, the other team didn’t score in the final seconds. It went to extra time. The other team broke down psychologically – they had never been behind in any other match. Mister Newton’s team won. Secretly, he was the happiest person: people started seeing him as an added value on the bench. In other words, he became a true coach and not just somebody that sat there because he was the worst player. Great men are made for great moments, Mister Newton thought, lacking in modesty.

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Mister Said

The Wardrobe
As a child, Mister Said enjoyed hiding in his bedroom wardrobe. For him, the wardrobe was like entering another world where he could fly just by the force of his will. He liked telling his parents, brothers and sisters about the adventures he’d had in the wardrobe world. They all listened to his stories, but kept saying that his wardrobe world only existed in his head. Mister Said believed that the wardrobe world was real. His mother didn’t like him to arrive late for dinner - that’s the only reason he would leave the wardrobe to return to our world. However, after hearing his family’s opinions so many times, he eventually stopped believing that his closet world was real. Despite that, he still enjoyed going into the wardrobe world. One day, while inside the wardrobe, he thought: if this world isn’t real, I can stay here – when lunchtime comes, somebody will come and look for me in the wardrobe. So he did that and spent a lot of time inside the wardrobe world. He found it strange that nobody was coming to look for him in the wardrobe, so he came back to our world. When he opened the door, he realised that a girl around his age that he didn’t know occupied his room. Later he learned that his parents and siblings had long since moved house.

Dreams
Dreams are for wizards what a ball is for a footballer. I’m probably exaggerating, but not that much. Wizards like Mister Said know that dreams are as real as the book you’re now reading. Our dreams create our individual universes, which are as real as what you are now seeing and touching. Even a baby has dreams while still in his mother’s womb. Every time we dream or daydream we create and transform that personal universe, which will continue to exist, even when we die. In other words, each new dream grows and changes what already exists. None of those worlds are exactly identical. Each is as distinctive as a fingerprint.

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A true wizard can easily enter his dream world. Some wizards enjoy being stage magicians and making rabbits, pigeons and anything they want disappear. Afterwards you can find the items hidden under a black cloth. Although it’s harder, it is also possible to gain access to other people’s worlds - but normally you have to be close to the person… This becomes easier, though, the more often you enter another person’s world. The general opinion is that each person’s dream world is isolated, although that is not always the case. People who are close can enter each other’s dream world. That is, to create a border between their worlds, so that it’s possible to pass from one side to the other. In more rare cases, these worlds somewhat merge together. This can happen when people strongly share some ideal. Another contributing factor is when people share painful experiences over a long period of time.

Reality Remix
What does a magician like Mister Said do? In a nutshell, he changes reality with his thoughts, imagination and will. The most spectacular example is perhaps the transmutation of something – for example, a stone into a flower. But there are easier spells, like moving something around or even lifting it into the air. To do what a wizard does one has to go to behind the curtain. In other words, to see what’s happening “backstage” in order to change it. The more powerful a magician is, the more his vision of reality reflects its essence. Many people aren’t wizards because of the way they think about reality. They think that reality is either barely or at all malleable and this prevents them from being wizards. Reality isn’t like most of us see it. Everything that exists (the book you are reading, stones, flowers and your body) is information, energy and empty space. Some of the most mystical people would say that everything that surrounds us is spirit that we judge to be matter. Mister Said is neutral towards this last view. If you pick up a modern book on physics, it will verify that our bodies are composed of molecules. The space that is occupied by molecules is essentially empty, with some atoms here and there. The same goes for those atoms and so forth. The hardest diamond in the world is empty space, even though we can, feel its consistency when we touch it. The same happens with our bodies - being energy and information that shape them. We think that there is a clear boundary between our bodies and the objects we touch. That’s not true. Every time we touch an object, a small-scale exchange takes place. Whether we believe it or not, each one of us is already a little wizard. What Mister Said does is raise awareness about this phenomenon. 35

Ghosts and Demons
Mister Said enjoys being a wizard. It’s an activity with a lot of positive aspects. Unfortunately for him, it also has some negative aspects, or at least mixed ones. A true magician begins by seeing the universe differently from the average human. In other words, he begins to see a couple of things that the ordinary person doesn’t see for example, ghosts and demons. The world isn’t exactly full of ghosts and demons, but there are some. Ghosts are divided into two fundamental groups. One of the groups is composed of people who died violently and/or still have something important to do, usually connected to their regrets. The other group consists of people that enjoy that state of “life”. Most ghosts vanish a few hours after death and leave for a place unknown to Mister Said and other wizards. Mister Said calls demons “demons” for want of a better word. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t know if they come from hell - if such a place does exist. The principal objective in the “life” of demons appears to be to possess humans. This can be quite uncomfortable. Fortunately for Mister Said, he has no first-hand experience of this phenomenon. The worst thing a wizard can do when he sees a ghost is to gape wide-mouthed – that’s what rookie magicians do. Unfortunately Mister Said was no exception when he began to see them. Some ghosts become quite a pain when they find out some humans can see them. They try by every means possible to get those humans to serve as messengers to the world of the living. As long as there are only one or two ghosts, it’s bearable. The problem here is that news travels fast – pretty soon you’ll have a lot of ghosts wanting to use you as a communication channel. Mister Said even had to move for some months, so that the situation could calm down. Demons raise more problems. Firstly, they don’t like people to know when they’re controlling someone. Secondly, they especially enjoy possessing people with special powers, like wizards. Mister Said had a problem with a demon that was particularly serious. One demon, after noticing he could see it, tried ceaselessly to possess him. It became such a problem that Mister Said had to call for a more experienced wizard’s help (Mister Said hates to have to ask for another wizards’ aid). Together they managed to put the demon in his place by casting a spell on him and imprisoning him inside a bottle – the demon didn’t like it at all. Mister Said, with more experience, even ended up befriending some ghosts. Anyway, he learned to look discretely at ghosts and demons without attracting attention.

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Mister Said’s House
Mister Said is one of those low profile wizards. On one hand, some people have a poor image of magic and that can make them seriously compromise the wizard’s integrity – better to be an anonymous wizard than a dead and famous one. On the other hand, there are always some people trying to make him do things that are questionable, at the very least. Mister Said doesn’t enjoy doing questionable things. Even if he did like it, his missing parents wouldn’t appreciate it and that’s a good reason for him not to do it. Mister Said likes his house. It’s the house of a true wizard, although from the outside it doesn’t seem so. Even people that have used different entrances would notice there’s something fishy only when they crossed into different parts of the house. The uninitiated visitor to Mister Said’s house would still deem it as much bigger than he thought before entering, even after going through several rooms. Another disturbing fact for some visitors is that the house has stairs to a first floor that is not immediately visible when they enter. But what really startles every visitor is the view from some of the windows. Some visitors enter through a door in a big city street. They certainly don’t expect to see a beach or a mountain landscape. The same happens to the visitors who enter through a door close to a beach or a mountain. Usually, their first reaction is to think that it’s all an illusion, created by Mister Said. He tends not to contradict his visitors’ first impression. However, he allows some (very few) to go out through a different door than the one they entered, so they can breathe fresh mountain air, walk on the beach or watch the hustle and bustle of the city. Mister Said likes his house exactly as it is. He can pick from different views, but that’s not the main reason. He likes to travel rapidly to different locations, and the house allows him to do that. Another thing Mister Said appreciates is that his house can be used to easily hide him. His necessary discretion is due to the tendencies of some religious fanatics and governments, when they learn about his existence to think that his talent should be put to their benefit. Mister Said’s opinion is obviously different. Thus, Mister Said always has a spell at his disposal that allows him to divide his residence – these divisions are just normal homes that lead to nowhere.

Good Magic Starts at “Home”

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Once upon a time a priest was giving a sermon. At a certain point he said: “Anyone that wants to go to heaven, raise your hand”. Everybody raised his or her hands, except for a man sitting almost at the back. The priest carried on with the sermon. After a few minutes, he said in a low tone of voice: “Anyone that wants to go to hell, raise your hand”. Nobody raised his or her hand. When the sermon was over, the priest went to speak with the man that hadn’t raised his hand: “So, you neither want to go to heaven, nor to hell”. Confronted by this statement, the man thought for a bit and commented: “If you don’t mind, I’d rather stay put, right here”. This is not a particularly funny story, but it casts some light on Mister Said’s philosophy towards death. Mister Said knows more than the average person about death. He knows about the existence of ghosts and therefore, that there is life after death. Still, he prefers to continue to live here for a bunch of reasons. One of those, as far as we know, is that due to their lack of physical substance, ghosts cannot do certain things that Mister Said particularly enjoys. One or two of those things involve elements of the opposite sex. Another reason lies with the fact that some ghosts disappear off the map. Mister Said admits the possibility (and hopes) that they might have gone to a better place. However, the fact is Mister Said doesn’t really know what happens to them. That way, he prefers to stick around alive and kicking. One of the main targets of his magic, therefore, is his own body, so he can stay forever young. Good magic starts at “home”.

Paranoia
Mister Said is… let’s say, somewhat paranoid. “Somewhat” is arguably a euphemism. He is indeed paranoid, although in a controlled fashion. He doesn’t exactly believe that the universe is against him, but he has a black list of people and other entities. On that list are the entities that Mister Said believes are, or could be against him, were they to know about his existence. He even considered adopting a doctrine of pre-emptive strikes inspired by the world’s biggest power. After giving it much thought, he decided not to implement it. Preemptive strikes have the problem of attracting retaliations – the logic is more or less this: If I think I’m about to be attacked, I strike first, before taking any other action. Mister Said concluded that the cure could be worse than the disease. Besides, some of the entities on the list were unaware that Mister Said existed, and he deeply appreciated that. If he attacked them, it would be natural for them to look for the 38

perpetrator and this would increase the probability of their discovering his existence. An unpleasant prospect. After he abandoned the idea of pre-emptive strikes, Mister Said thought about it a bit more. An idea that he thought might be valid was to spy on the members of the list. He was a magician and that made things a lot easier. Mister Said managed to place bewitched objects in the homes and workplaces of most of the entities on the black list. In most cases, these were pictures or framed photos. This enabled Mister Said to see and hear what was going on inside the rooms where they were placed. Of course the ideal scenario would be to spy on them, wherever they were. A ring or any other personal object would serve this purpose. But the best of the best would be glasses. Mister Said likes to look at well-proportioned elements of the beautiful sex, even when they have their clothes on. It turns out that he prefers to look at these same elements, when they are wearing few or no clothes at all. Now, it turned out that spying on the black list, on many occasions enabled him to look at those fine elements of the opposite sex, either wearing only what God gave them or partially. Sometimes he even had the chance to see those ladies up-close in relationships of an altogether more intimate nature. One of the conclusions Mister Said arrived at by observing these elements, was that yoga does women a lot of good. For him, daily yoga practice should be obligatory for the women. He recognised that all this didn’t invalidate the fact that the initial purpose of the espionage had been sullied.

A Resentful Wizard
Mister Said’s Holy Grail is to discover a spell that can enable him to alter the past. For the time being, the Holy Grail is still a very distant mirage. He keeps chasing it, but it manages to stay out of reach. So, Mister Said has to face his past mistakes like all of us. Being a wizard allows him to take more action to correct or alleviate the mistakes of his past. The problem is, the mistakes of a magician can have extremely unpleasant personal consequences. Mister Said became a great wizard very quickly. His enormous self-assurance was matched by his arrogance. He thought he could do whatever he wanted. He went too far with a novice magician (Mister Said was the first to admit it), who in turn tried to even the score in a way that was definitively bad for the health of Mister Said. He understood. He would probably have reacted in the same way, in his position. Except that he wasn’t.

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The novice wasn’t going to quit, despite playing in a league lower than Mister Said’s. He attempted to get revenge repeatedly. Mister Said tried to talk to him and even proposed to compensate him. His answer was quite expressive, in spite of not involving any words. The chestnuts have been in the fire too long. When that happens, they eventually get over-roasted. He had to resolve it, one way or another. One of the options was to force him to say goodbye to his life. This posed two unfortunate disadvantages, however. The probability of not solving the issue was one – a ghost can be as dangerous as any living being. The other was that it would increase his debt with him. As an alternative to death, he could always provoke a permanent injury. That would actually solve the problem. Although it would be contributing even more to his debt which was bad for someone whose position has already being jeopardised. And I can be more creative than that. The solution became obvious, after he found it: to cast a spell to simulate his total defeat at the apt moment. The rookie magician might find out about it in the future, but hopefully it would be far enough in the future that his thirst for revenge would have passed.

The Game
Mister Said likes to invent games – it is one of his all-time favourite activities. Time flies when one is trying to come up with new games. He invented one in primary school and his schoolmates wanted to play it again and again. In this game, the class was divided into two groups and two unlucky individuals were the referees. The teams faced one another. The players weren’t allowed to blink or lose eye contact. If they did, the referees would send them away. What was the purpose of the game? To make the players from the other team laugh with silly faces and so on. Whoever laughed would be removed from the game. The winning team would be the one who had eliminated all the players in the other team. Another way to win was if you had more players when the school break was over. If they had the same number of players, the game would continue in the next school break. Mister Said wished he hadn’t invented this game. He liked to play. That was a fact. The trouble was that he would burst out laughing very easily and no one wanted him on his or her team. So, Mister Said ended up being referee most of the time – he hated being referee.

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Mister Said’s Dream World
Mister Said likes to visit his dream world. And basically, he wants that world to stay as it is - a quiet place where Mister Said can be alone with his thoughts. Its always daytime, but the light is soft. Even though there are no clouds in the sky, you can’t see the sun anywhere and there aren’t any shadows. The light appears from nowhere. Mister Said’s dream world is essentially a sea of endless hills. The hills are covered with grass and there aren’t many trees in the scene. There are no animals anywhere. Lots of streams run up and down Mister Said’s hills. He enjoys bathing in these streams. And the water is just as Mister Said likes it: somewhat chilly when you first get in, but afterwards perfect. In one of these frequent bathing sessions, it occurred to Mister Said to change the décor of his dream world. After all, it was his world. He started by placing some water up in the air. He liked the idea of diving into the water from below. What pleased him the most, though, was to raise himself up really high and dive in, with all his might, so that he would cut through the water and surface below. Another modification he made was to place some trees in the air, complete with their roots and earth. Some of these were put upside down, just for fun. They look good in the air. As well, he could sit close to them and quietly observe his dream world from above.

The Lecture
Mister Said had had it. He had already told the lady that she was right and that the seat was hers. However, she didn’t sit – she preferred to carry on lecturing him, in a way that only the elements of the feminine sex know how to do. He was almost tearing his hair out with all this. It had been going on for quite some time. Two minutes? Three? While he was there, Mister Said cast a spell to shut the lady up. It was against his principles, but she just kept talking and talking. Those poor people who have to put up with her. Maybe I should cast a spell in order to shut her up permanently... Or maybe it’s better that I don’t… Maybe she’s only annoying around me. I doubt it, but anyway it’s not my responsibility.

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Public Privacy
Mister Said doesn’t like to draw attention to himself. With or without reason, he’s somewhat paranoid: he thinks that the world would be against him, if it knew of his existence. He tries to keep his acts of magic as discrete as possible, in such a way that the world around him doesn’t even notice the effects of his magic. It’s almost always like that. The few times when it’s not like that, are problematic for Mister Said. One or two witnesses to Mister Said’s acts of magic are not a big problem in itself – the more fantastic his stories are, the less credible they seem. The problem is that the world is getting more and more filled with mobile phones, cameras and surveillance cameras. On top of this, there are not only more of them, but they are also much more intrusive. Let’s take as example infrared technology that detects changes in temperature. Mister Said could always cast a spell to hide the results of his magic. The problem is that you can’t do it too many times and it has to be done with great care. Or else, the cure could be worse than the disease. That is, he might attract even more attention than if he’d done nothing. Incredible as it might seem, on some occasions the best solution for Mister Said is to pre-emptively announce his supposed illusion up-front. From this point on, people won’t find it so strange and will end up believing almost everything.

The Suicide on the Bridge
How did I get into this? Mister Said was in the middle of a bridge, trying to convince a potential suicide victim to change his intentions. The traffic had almost come to a stop, because the drivers were curious about how the events would turn out. On top of that, the drivers and their passengers were using their mobiles to record it all. The situation was very disagreeable for Mister Said as mobile phones record his facial expressions and the visible effects of his potential magic. Added to that, pictures can be sent to other phones; some of the drivers and passengers were doing this as we speak. The situation became more than extremely unpleasant as helicopters from three different TV channels started hovering above and broadcasting live. Millions of people are watching this - live?!!!  I better end this as discretely as possible. Mister Said had some issues with using his magic to force people to act in a certain way, only doing so in cases of “force majeure” – this was a case of force majeure. He decided to cast a spell to force the suicidal individual to change his mind. He could always kill himself later. 42

Unfortunately for Mister Said, the suicidal individual threw himself into the void before Mister Said could finish his magic. From that point on, he lost the will to interfere with events. If he had left it like that, the suicide victim would have naturally gained momentum and the water in the river would be like cement at the moment of impact. That would be the end of the story. To interfere or not to interfere, that is the question. If he’d had more time, he probably wouldn’t have done a thing. Mister Said is a great defender of the freedom of the individual. The suicide victim seemed to be a grown-up. It he wanted to commit suicide, that’s his business. Since he had no time to weigh the pros and cons of interfering, he focused on what he could do in that moment. He could stop him in mid-air, but that was out of the question. The “miracle” would be broadcasted and shown over and over again on televisions all over the world – the helicopters guaranteed that. He quickly decided to reduce the suicide victim’s speed a little. It wasn’t enough to save him, but it gave him some time to manoeuvre, without attracting too much attention. He chose to cast a partially protective spell. This wouldn’t guarantee that the suicide would escape with his life. It was most probable that he would break some bones in the fall, but nothing that would prevent him from swimming until a boat came to help him. Mister Said trusted in two things. Firstly, that the suicide victim knew how to swim. Secondly, that his automatic and inconvenient survival instincts would force him to swim, although at the same time he wanted to die. If one of these two things didn’t happen, the suicide victim would leave this life. I’ve already done more than what I would usually do under these circumstances.

Meaningful Actions
During his search in vain for his parents and siblings, Mister Said had found some people from his past. One of those people was Mrs V. - his favourite classmate in primary school. For some time, he’d considered getting in touch with her again, but opted not to. If he told the truth, he would either be seen as a lunatic or yet another person would know that he was a magician. I could also pass myself off as my own son... or grandson even. He hated both those alternatives. Even so, he kept himself informed about Mrs V’s life. At one point, he noticed that she was really depressed - she was a housewife and had a lot of free time on her hands. Her children had grown up and went about their own lives. Her husband (who still loved her 43

like crazy) was becoming increasingly cold and distant towards her. Worse than that, she spent all her time thinking about her situation – Mister Said could hear her thoughts. Mister Said could cast a spell so that Mrs V’s husband would show his love for her again. That would have been easy, if not for two little problems. One of those was that it was against Mister Said’s principles to interfere so much in other people’s lives – only in cases of force majeure or where there was just a little bit of manipulation required. A spell like this would be radical. The other problem was that this is dangerous magic. You know how it starts… but you never quite know how it will end. Sometimes the consequences are very unpleasant. But he had to do something. He couldn’t stand to see his friend in such a state. What could be done? From Mister Said’s point of view, her situation was even quite good – she had no money problems and a lot of spare time to do as she pleased. The possibilities are endless, and yet she is only focused on her misery: her husband pays her no attention and her children are away. Mister Said decided to cast a small spell. One of those that nobody would notice, but that would resolve the issue without major complications. The magic would gently compel Mrs V to act in ways that were meaningful to her. She may very well be drowning in this situation. But now she will have to get out of the water. After a few days, Mrs V enrolled in a course on information technology (Internet and all that). Her children were full of admiration and they began to get in touch more often. Virtual contact is better than no contact at all, she thought. Even so, she still had a lot more free time to kill. She enrolled in language courses – she was not only good at it, but was also having fun. Most of the students were a lot younger than her. To her surprise, they were interested in what she said and invited her for coffee after school. Her husband noticed that she was acting differently and in a good mood lately. Slowly he became closer and more affectionate towards her. Now, what thrilled her the most were the trips abroad with her husband. He knew nothing about foreign languages. And as Mrs V became more proficient with languages, she started to organise every aspect of their trips abroad. Her husband didn’t exactly appreciate this turn of events… but he respected it and their relationship improved.

The Annoying Ghost
Mister Said didn’t know what more to do to get rid of the ghost. The ghost had noticed that Mister Said could see him. Usually, after messing up like that, Mister Said would handle the matter patiently, continuing to act as if he didn’t see the ghost. Generally, the

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ghost would come to the (wrong) conclusion that it had only been a coincidence and that Mister Said couldn’t actually see him. In the case of this ghost, he hadn’t been calm enough to handle the matter patiently. He was having a bad day and he was trying to escape from the ghost. It was a bad option, given that the ghost was clinging to him like a leech – ghosts don’t need to sleep and they can pass through anything they want. At a certain point, after successive failed attempts, Mister Said concluded that ignoring him was no longer a viable option. They started to talk to one another. As always, the ghost wanted Mister Said to help with something that it hadn’t completed in his lifetime: to reveal to his wife the existence of a Swiss bank account. In exchange, he would stop bugging him. Mister Said agreed, but he liked to do things right. That is, he would do his homework (including, for instance, to find out what the wife was currently doing) to see if it was worth revealing the account. They found out that the ghost’s wife had married again a few months after his death… and she was already pregnant from her new husband. It was her right to do so, but she might have waited a bit longer. The ghost gave up on the idea of revealing the account to his wife. When things had settled down again, Mister Said suggested something. He didn’t have to give anything to his wife, but he still had two children with her. Why not set up a fund for his kids? Mister Said knew a trustworthy lawyer that could set this up with the money from the Swiss account. The ghost agreed. After all this had been done, the ghost would keep his side of the bargain. But, from Mister Said’s point of view, the damage had been done: the ghost already knew about his existence. He proposed that the relationship continue as long as it served them both. He would accompany the two children once in a while, as only somebody of flesh and bones can do. The ghost could do some favours for Mister Said, like getting into places that were inaccessible, even for a wizard like him. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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