33 Functioning Machines (excerpt)

Author: Veronika Reichl
Translator: Donna Stonecipher


You have to pluck up your courage a bit to touch Frank. Frank is full of liquids. They undulate, they rise and fall in pipes, or freely. In streams that move through him according to their own whims. Everything flows here and there and constantly produces new equilibriums. The liquids roar and gurgle all over, course through him and render him taut and full. And where they’re not streaming through him, it’s moist, mossy. You can go up closer to him and hear the moss squelching; and the blood slurps through his veins; and he stands in full sap. And smells like woods in rain.



For Andreas, things must fit together in order to be real, worthy, and true. Tools that allow for a certain grip, that can name an optimal processing material, and this material is what ought to come to us in life. Even better: toys: counterparts that fit not only because they fit, but because that’s why they were produced. Not chance, but destiny. Destiny is easy to recognize: the same material in the same color. In all its characteristics it says: this is where I belong. And it gives off a quiet “swapp” when it fits into itself in the right way. Andreas has been waiting for some time for a quiet — this time perhaps slightly louder — “swapp.” For not only his friends and his apartment should fit him perfectly and have perfect connections, but above all his girlfriend. Here the sameness of the material is a bit more difficult to establish. Connections can only make the right sound when they are correctly hooked up. “Swapp.”

Manuel always knows what’s real and what isn’t, and when something isn’t real, he knows how unreal it is. When something isn’t real, then one can no longer listen closely, one can no longer analyze the background noises; then the pictures take longer to appear; then one doesn’t know what one has in the background, behind what one is concentrating upon. One can, so to speak, only ever concentrate on one thing without being able to consider it in relation to another thing. And this knowledge of how real pictures appear — they are suddenly there, sharp and detailed — he has buried all the way in the back of his brain, he has repeated to himself sentences in the evening such as: “If I cannot immediately determine the background, then it will get serious. If it gets serious, I will call Dr. Schneider. In the top drawer is the note that I will then give him. Nothing bad can happen. Exactly.”


Original © Veronika Reichl
Translation © Donna Stonecipher