On time-travel, metaphysics and language




“A time traveler jumps back in time to meet a colleague” – this sounds like the opening line of a joke, or a novel whose plot will work itself into paradoxical knots, but in reality it is a question. Or a series of questions. Which tense should be used? If the time traveler references the present, do they mean the time-point they left or the one they arrived at? If they are referring to a third person, at yet another point in time, what frame of reference should be used?

A culture steeped in time-travel, would require a whole new language: grammatically and syntactically unlike any other. This culture would not see time as “flowing” but as a something saltatory and harmonized, like beat-boxing. An elaborate dance with perfect synchronicity, but no plan and no conductor.

Presented here, a preserved portion of one of the most revered and seminal treatises of this culture. A meditation on the nature of reality and nothingness: The Vector of Malaniiät (this is our best effort to translate the meaning and phonemes into English)


– Sa’ad Hassan

At the Metal Creamery


A little girl exclaims, “nothing creamier than metal”, and you know with steely certainty she is right.

At the metal creamery, the befreckled boy behind the counter dollops more palladium on your cone. The girl pulls taffy manganese and twines it into a sloppy cat’s cradle while jealously eyeing the aurum caramel being ribboned on your order.

“Caramelized in the hinterlands, from cows fed a traditional diet of strontium-90” croons Freckles right before he extravagantly and practicedly sweeps his hands across the counter: “tantalum licorice bits, and mango cobalt, untampered hafnium (organic of course!), pudgy, polonium-milk balls and arsenic lased with risperidone are all hot this month”. The girl shrieks and adds “GERMANY”, before her mother corrects her with “zested germanium sorbet fluffed with argon”. Bemused, the mother looks at you directly before continuing “we brought my mum here for her 77th birthday and they both couldn’t get enough of it… especially those flavored mercury petals” and then sighs a little. You chuckle and say, “I always get the same thing!” before asking for a tungsten-stick on the side and “more rhenium please”. The little girl perks up again, and her mother whispers to her “the rhenium is just flavorless garnish”.

You hear the fwoosh! of a magnesium torch come from the kitchen, right before an elaborate confection is wheeled out. The chief baker tisks carefully as she circles her opus. A purest-platinum, ice-cream cake with blinding, lit-magnesium muslin creeping like vines over it. Sleepy iris flowers shaped from an alloy of caesium and chalk droop from the top tier. Inside each flower, a living violet exhales a glittering, osmium pollen that lingers in the air. Asbestos mottling for contrast of course, and a gelled uranium daiquiri en-wombed (but still visible) at the cake’s centre; pulsing with a subtle, foetal Cherenkov radiation. The whole thing sits on a red and satiny, iron pedestal. The baker dips a single finger into the iron and frowns, “whisked to perfection…,” right before drawing herself up to her full height and proudly asking “would you like to try?” The mother holds her squirming daughter back while staring dumbfounded at the cake. You barely work-up the presence of mind to nod.

The clerk scurries into the back and returns with plates and a knife. The baker deftly cuts a piece and presents it to you with a curious look in her eye. You take a bite, and as you chew, you feel it lubriciously peel away the first layer of your mouth’s inner skin. The sudden gush of blood on your tongue pairs perfectly with the delicate flavors. And the effortless lancing of your cheeks by the irises adds a new dimension. The baker studies you and then permits herself a small understanding smile, “copper and salt, as flavors, are best when only implied.” Your eyes close to fully savor the experience as DNA damage spritzes its tiny citrus sparks through your body.

The metal creamery has done it again!

  • Sa’ad Hassan