Our Woven Lord

The story begins with the main character waking up, and you think, “Okay, this is the kind of story that begins with the main character waking up.”

But it’s not that kind of story. Because as you soon realize, the opening scene is actually the final one chronologically, and you think, “Okay, this is the kind of story that plays out in nonlinear fashion, creating resonances that wouldn’t exist were it presented in a more traditional, straightforward manner.”

But it’s not that kind of story either. Because the structure ultimately has little bearing on the content of the story itself, which focuses on determinedly banal moments like getting the mail and taking a trip to the supermarket. So you think, “Okay, this is the kind of story that asks us to reevaluate everyday experiences through the frame of the author’s aesthetics.”

But it’s not that kind of story either. Because the supermarket is soon attacked by giant plant monsters, and you think, “Okay, this is the kind of story that subverts expectations of literary realism by incorporating absurd, possibly ironic genre elements.”

But it’s not that kind of story either. Because the giant plant monsters are quickly revealed to be overt intrusions of the story’s author, who inserts himself, using his real name, into the plot at regular intervals. And you think, “Okay, this is the kind of story that explores the boundaries between a work of fiction and its creator using a literary device you’re pretty sure you already saw in a Charlie Kaufman movie.”

But it’s not that kind of story either. Because the author, writing under a pseudonym, is not a real person but a collective of content marketing professionals, which—after several months of demographic research—has determined that stories employing a diverse array (or “suite,” they say in presentations) of narrative strategies perform well with the coveted 18-24 market. And so you think, “Okay, this is less a story than a corporate data-cluster approximating the shape and feel of fiction but serving mainly as a revenue driver for its publisher, Hella Sweet Media, a low-cost imprint specializing in adult coloring books.”

But it’s not that kind of story either. Because despite the clear profit motive, the story still incorporates a strong and believable psychological core, largely centering on the main character’s attempt to reconcile a childhood trauma with his inability to connect with loved ones in the present day. So you think, “Okay, this is a story about how you can never truly outrun your past, no matter how hard you try. Also, giant plant monsters.”

But it’s not that kind of story either. Because the main character is actually a crack-smoking white supremacist who robs nursing homes and kidnaps children from an after-school fencing program. And so you think, “Okay, this story is really about the limits of empathy, and whether I, as a reader, can be morally implicated in my identification with the protagonist.”

But it’s not that kind of story either. Because when you highlight the 18th word of each paragraph, you get a hidden message about the rise of the Children of Bramflogwyx, a religious movement founded in Spindle, Wyoming in the mid-70s that worships a talking scarf and counts Jerry Guffin, founder of Hella Sweet Media, among its adherents. This goes a long way toward explaining the presence of the word “Bramflogwyx” in otherwise mundane sentences, like, “Martin turned and reached for the bag of corn chips Bramflogwyx.” And so you think, “Okay, this story is actually a covert recruiting tool relying on subliminal messaging techniques to transmit the true and final word of our woven lord, also known as He Who Rests on the Blessed Neck.”

But it’s not that kind of story either. Because the whole thing is all of 800 words long, and by the time it’s over you’ve already started to forget about the plant monsters and the kidnappings and the mysterious childhood trauma that, at the story’s conclusion, remains disappointingly (yet predictably) ambiguous. And that night when you’re lying in bed, struggling to fall asleep, it’s not the story that comes back to you but something Carter Harris once said in middle school, when he caught you picking your nose in geometry class and called you a snotlover in the hallway afterward. And even though you’re older now, married, with two kids and a house that includes not only an in-ground pool but a tiny, remote-controlled waterfall, you still feel a jab of guilt, a fleeting sense that you are still that 12-year-old in the back row, glancing illicitly over your binder, knowing inside that he was right. And you think, “Okay.”

Okay.

And you try to fall asleep.

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