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"ALT + END" by Felix Anker

According to my grandmother, not finishing my meal would bring rain, but it never did. Until last week. Last week we had potato soup, I hate soup and I hate potatoes and I hate that two wrongs didn’t make anything right here, so I threw it away. As usual, it didn’t rain, but perhaps the consequences changed as I woke up the next day with my fingers turned into spaghetti. I had to take the week off since I couldn't work with spaghetti fingers. Didn't go out for groceries either, so now I'm hungry. I want to cook the spaghetti, but I'm unsure about the cooking time. I can’t find any information on the packaging, so I call the hotline, a woman answers, speaking Italian, but I don’t. She instructs me to press ALT + END, I ask where, but she hangs up. I put the pot on the stove, and turn on the heat, breaking one of my spaghetti fingers. Tomato sauce squirts out of the spaghetti finger hole, the telephone rings, it’s the woman again, urging me to go to a hospital. I get dressed, enter the elevator, press the hospital button and down we go.


In front of the hospital’s golden gate sits a noseless cat with a name tag that reads: Sphinx. I’m afraid of words with exactly three consecutive consonants, so I italicize them most of the time to make them appear less intimidating.


“To gain entrance, you must solve my riddle, the cat declares—without ending the first part of her speech in an orthographically correct manner—and continues, I’ve hidden two quotation marks in this story, and only those who discover them may proceed.”

“There they are!” I exclaim without thinking. Then, realizing my mistake, I add, “Oh dear, now there are five, and soon it will be six.”

Surprisingly, the cat not only allows entrance into the hospital but also lets me keep the extra quotation marks. Thank you cat, I say, putting two of the quotation marks in my pockets and discarding the other two due to small pockets.


I enter, tomato sauce still dripping on the hospital floor, Hello? Can somebody help me? Finally, a nurse shaped like a fork arrives, undresses me and takes the quotation marks out of my pockets.

“Please go through that door,” she instructs, so I proceed, I go through that door, entering a long corridor that carries the scent of chocolate deodorant. There’s a sign here:

No vowels allowed in this area

h, tht scks, lv m vwls bt f jst rn nd kp qt, kp m thghts qt, wll rch th nd f th crrdr n n tm, qt nw!


A nurse dressed in a cutlery drawer awaits me, handing me a small glass with pills, please swallow, here’s some water. I inspect the glass:

O a u I o e y o e u i I u u a e e u i e e e y o u u i e I i e a e e o e o i o i o i e u i e o

Swallowing the pills I feel fully vowelized again. The nurse hands me a mirror, please look. I look and see: 512. What does it mean? Is it bad? I’d have to look again closely, she says, so I do. I see spaghetti, see potato soup, and now I’m hungry again. I climb into the nurse’s cutlery drawer, and she transports me to my room. I’ve been lying here this morning and yesterday morning and the mornings before that for forty-three years. The nurse presses the emergency button, the doctor arrives, beeping like a garbage truck in reverse, and scalps my spaghetti. It’s harvest time, the nurse says, taking my fingers with her. Outside, it started raining, I believe. Meanwhile, the nurse returns, speaking Italian as she hands me a bowl of soup, alphabet soup made out of my spaghetti fingers, they speak to me, saying: ALT + END. Now I can finally push them. 


Felix Anker, born and raised and based in Germany, is a linguist working on the languages of the Caucasus. While most of his publications are scientific, he also writes about things that are not entirely true. Humour, Science-Fiction, and other weird stuff in German and English magazines (State of Matter, Don't Submit!, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Johnny, Veilchen, UND).

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Jan 20

blood of tomato sauce and spaghetti as fingers is a hard life to live




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