From: (nikolai kingsley)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: Salt Flat Mop
Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 20:03:14 +1100
Organization: anarchartists/FDP
Lines: 63
Message-ID: <>
X-Newsreader: Anawave Gravity v2.00.753

The few records available said that the salt flats were over two hundred 
years old. There was something about them being artificial, but it was 
hard to tell from the nonlinear postmodern narrative used by records of 
that time; they could have been making a point about the relationship 
between the form of the novel (as it was then) and man's encroachment 
into areas previously governed by nature alone, or it could have been an 
art thing, or it could have just been shoddy and poor translation.

Hundreds of kilometres wide, as dry as any place on earth has ever been, 
and right at the centre: the remains of a wooden shack. Real twentieth 
century stuff. It was desiccated, the metal nails holding it together 
dissolved into some kind of semi-organic paste, desiccated in a way that 
no human could ever completely understand. When I tried the round door-
knob, it felt as soft as a piece of rotted fruit and came away from the 
door leaving a wound in the wood, seeping red-brown ruin. The hinges gave 
way and the door fell inwards, luckily; it had petrified and would have 
massed three hundred kilograms, easily. Salt dust puffed out around the 

There were more examples of this weird tactile reversal inside. The 
curtains were, originally, lattices of some long-chain polymer which had 
been drawn out into long strands and woven into that shape. The time and 
the salt had frozen it solid to where I couldn't kick a hole in it. There 
were bruises across the ceiling where the electrical wiring had rotted 
through. A pair of socks had merged with the tiles on the floor and 
couldn't be chipped away; we had to peel the decayed ceramic slabs up 
like soggy toast, and the cement underneath was as soft as cheese. Water 
pipes sagged down like intestines hanging out of the belly of a ritual 

I found the mop, leaning up against a wall. The handle was wood, now 
translucent purple with the lustre of glass. The brush was a single, 
solid mass of fibres, grey as bone, splayed out in the pattern that it 
had been left in two centuries before.

I pried it from the wall (it came away with a crack, like breaking glass. 
Of course I was wearing gloves; it would have sucked the moisture out of 
my hands in a second) and carried it out to the AV where, stupidly, I 
filled the largest bowl we had with water, placed it on the deck and 
dipped the end of the mop into it.

For a second, it made a sound uncannily like a sigh; the world's oldest 
person sinking into a bath of warm water at the end of a long day. The 
fibres started writhing as they took in moisture; then it reached the 
plastic shank that the mop-handle fitted into, which exploded, sending 
razor-sharp filaments flying in all directions. Luckily they weren't 
poisonous; a lot of them ended up in my shins.

I remembered the bottle of oven cleaner I'd seen on the floor in the 
shack. I thought about the kinds of chemical that 20C people had been 
fond of using to clean their possessions. I thought about what two 
hundred years in this environment could do to those chemicals, and 
decided we'd just put a fence around the whole thing rather than try to 
cart it back home.

It would seem a curious arrangement of nature
that we should see a lot of things that are not there.
 - Whitehead