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I'm a writer and sound engineer raised in Tokyo and New Jersey. My essays and poetry have appeared in Southeast Review, Essay Daily, and Puerto del Sol. I received the Bowdoin Nonfiction Prize and an ... [+]

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Image of Creative Nonfiction

© Short Édition - All Rights Reserved

10^19

What is 10^19, really? There's no specific term for this number, the closest would be a quintillion which is 10^18. I can write it out longhand 10,000,000,000,000,000,000, but that does little to explain its magnitude; it's nothing more than a billboard reading, Big Honking Number. It's easier to use tangible examples of 10^19.

There's only one tobacco tin baseball card of Babe Ruth on that day in 1935 when he was forty and filled with carcinogens and sheep testosterone and hit his third-to, second-to, and final home runs in major league baseball; take that card and replicate it about eighteen million times and they can fill the Tokyo Dome—which looks like a half-sliced volleyball monocled by a rollercoaster, a stadium which programs concerts, kickboxing, and baseball games, and we're not even close to 10^19; okay so let's take those replica cards and shake off the sweat and stripper dust and keep printing until they fill that ink blot of God, until they fill that Mariana Trench, I guess we're getting to 10^19, I mean we're technically halfway; so let's go to fucking Lowe's and get a combine harvester to scoop up all our replica cards out of the water and keep copying them until we can make a line of cards that starts on Earth and ends on Mars, that amount of cards is not enough for 10^19, you know what is 10^19, the amount of atoms between one woman and one child.

1,019 AD

Cackling, the young women with old faces are cackling and clawing at limestone castles. Their rice paper skins are flogged in blue veins; church bells ting as sad men stop a second to listen. On the first of October, there is a total solar eclipse.

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Nikolaos has no face or no face recorded in history. What he passes down on are his words, those characters slanting as they reach the right margin, words wild with diacritics and breathings. He decorates the histories of saints with chains of rosettes. Nikolaos had been tasked to record and glorify Eastern Orthodox Catholicism, now his notes live in a temperature-controlled library in London and his seal is preserved in a Harvard Research Library, both dating back to 1019 AD. Accustomed to Jesus drawn in sand and gold; Nikolaos illustrates him in a teal robe centered on the yellowing page. On the periphery are beggars in red bodysuits, who wear crowns and permanent expressions too faded to interpret. In a ring around Jesus the righteous drop to their knees.

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Blossom ten-19, Abe Sadato. Abe who rallies four-thousand men to swear to a death together and defend his life against the charging, slipping, screaming forces sent for his slaughter by Yoriyoshi and his son Yoshine; Abe who survives and, perhaps by his own mouth's nudge, gets the nickname War God because of his snow-swiped stories of the sword.

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In the Abruzzo region of Southern Italy, a Norman foot soldier lies in an olive grove with his fingers laced over his stomach, looking up at the sky. He was granted a free afternoon by his knight, who spends the merciless summer day along bright beaches beside the Adriatic Sea picking endemic flowers and wiping fig juice off his chin. Both he and his foot soldier are the first generation of Normandy Vikings to occupy this land. The foot soldier stares so blankly he goes cross-eyed at the jagged Maiella mountains that jut out of swelling black clouds. What he can't see are the sleeping white wolves with whistling wind behind their triangular ears, or the hanging bats menstruating and listening for thunder, or the centipedes sprinting from rotting logs to no known endpoint.

Earth quakes. Palazzos cave in—like deflating bounce houses—like failed soufflés. From the rubble of wooden palaces, Normans castellate Abruzzo in their preferred stone, and for a hundred more years, Norman Vikings would watch honey buzzards fly away for autumn migration.

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SSu-mu Kuang makes spitty bubbles with his mouth and screams like life is death. His body—slimy with the placenta and birth goo of his dead mother, is dropped on one half of a balance and on the other scale, a stranger places stone after stone.

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$1019

A five-millimeter garnet set in a diamond halo, dangling off a platinum necklace.

The essential kit of dentist drills.

Per person, the average amount Americans spent on prescription drugs, an eleven-fold increase from 1960 even after adjusting for inflation.

A two-pound bar of chocolate, lasered in 3-D lettering, Happy Holidays.

Come and enjoy a one-week stay in the world's largest brothel in Cologne, Germany—well go in 2019 as the establishment was sacrificed for COVID safety.

A golden tin filled with white sturgeon caviar.

A commercial-grade inflatable bounce castle (after shipping).

The cost of one Tesla share.

A reservation plus cab fare to an undisclosed location in Shanghai where one is served twenty courses of grilled cuttle skin, grand marnier slush, coriander carrot cake (and so on) over three hours.

Now on 50% flash sale, a white tee shirt worn on stage by Chris Brown.

A four-bedroom townhouse in Lawrence, Kansas with access to two algae-splotched pools, an aqua-tinted tennis court, and four net-less basketball hoops; or a bedroom in a shared apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn, the bedroom is 150 square feet large.

At fourteen weeks, the cost of a Tallahassee abortion.

A metal sculpture of an English Bull Terrier.

One credit hour at Meredith College.

A vintage (circa 1665) Russian button accordion.

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A robot holds the world record for a Rubik's cube solve at 1.019 seconds, a full four seconds faster than the human record holder. 101.9 FM, promises to play the most devout Christian pop and mail bibles to the greater Cedar Rapids area. The 10-19 police code signals an officer is returning to the station. A vast study of 10-19 year old Norwegian children found that girls reported the most emotional problems while boys felt the most conduct and peer problems; there were only two boxes. Yangtze finless porpoises breach dirty rivers in Eastern China, avoiding boat collisions and aimlessly sniffing for fish that escaped from commercial nets, their population is estimated at around 1,019.

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