The Great Switch

Division of Prime Cause by the artist, Michael Cheval

After the cataclysm took place, people, or rather the beings that people transformed into, would refer to it as The Great Switch. When these beings recalled how the world had been before The Great Switch, what struck them above everything else was how blind they’d been in those times.

Back then, religious teachings and scientific theories kept mankind obedient, cowed through ominous prophecies of apocalypses and Armageddon, when all life on Earth or indeed the Universe itself would come to an end. What no one had foreseen was that there could be far greater calamities than universal annihilation.

The Great Switch was a process which caused the inner and outer selves of human beings to swap places, so that the emotional, mental and spiritual characteristics now became external and vice versa. It must be stressed that it wasn’t just a case of the intangible inner characteristics becoming visible; rather, the inner selves now literally became the outer physical bodies, while the physical bodies became invisible internal entities.

Naturally, the consequences of this event were momentous and far-reaching. No longer could anyone conceal their true inner self; it was exposed in all its glory and disgrace, in all its beauty and ugliness. Many lives were wrecked, relationships destroyed, and careers ruined, as a person’s internal neuroses, anxieties, delusions, hatreds, prejudices, insecurities, and character flaws were revealed to their partners, family, friends, work colleagues and strangers. The very structure of society was threatened, for its smooth running was greatly dependent upon people suppressing and hiding their true natures and feelings.

After The Great Switch, a large proportion of the world’s population disappeared completely. Of all the competing theories about this vanishing, the most popular one was that the superficial, soulless lives led by many had made them emotionally, mentally and spiritually vacuous. Consequently, once the Great Switch had taken place, those people were rendered externally empty and became invisible.

Yet, for some, this turn of events proved to be a godsend. Before the Great Switch, physical appearance was of paramount significance; people’s impressions and opinions of you were predominantly based upon how you looked. In your daily interactions you were constantly, indeed instantly, judged on your looks. Your inner essence, being imperceptible to others, required much more time and effort to uncover. Few were interested or willing to do that, as, in those fast-paced times, people hardly had the time to discover their own inner selves, let alone the inner selves of others.

And so, it was especially touching to witness the pride and joy of some of those who had been physically ugly before this event, those who, despite all the slights and the disregard meted out to them by the world, maintained their dignity and self-respect, their souls not begrimed by bitterness, self-loathing or envy. Now, their inner purity sparkled brilliantly for all to see and marvel at.

On the other hand, it was rare to come across someone who was strikingly good-looking both before and after The Great Switch. Maybe it should not have been surprising for, given the ceaseless attention, admiration and favoritism that was lavished upon those of great physical beauty, it was inevitable that they would become self-absorbed and incapable of empathy. And so, after this cataclysm, a large proportion of the blindingly gorgeous turned into some of the most hideous beings around, their ugliness causing others to turn away in shock and disgust. Yet there was pity for them too, and a desire to help somehow.

It was particularly ironic how the mirror, once the most treasured possession of the beautiful people, now became the bane of their existence—something to avoid at all costs, lest they catch sight of their transformed selves. Indeed, mirrors and other reflective surfaces became horrifying and loathed objects for many in this post-Switch world. Few had the courage to see themselves exactly as they are. Perhaps they were terrified of facing the stark truths their reflections might reveal. Or, maybe they were afraid of what they might not see, given how easy it had been in the pre-Switch world to delude yourself about possessing undiscovered talents and untapped potential, and to convince yourself that all these marvellous gifts were supposedly hidden in the depths and shadows of your mind and soul.

It should be mentioned at this point that The Great Switch was so all-encompassing that its effects were not limited to mankind. All living organisms, from bacteria to whales, and everything in between, were affected too. However, unlike many human beings, none of the other living organisms disappeared after this event, thus settling once and for all the age-old question of whether it was only man who possessed a soul. It was now indisputable that all microorganisms, plants and animals had an inner self too. Moreover, in stark contrast to the prevalence of ugliness in post-Switch mankind, they all became beings of simple yet distinct beauty. From this it could be concluded that every non-human living creature, no matter how loathsome or harmful it might have been in the eyes of humanity, no matter how devoid it might have seemed of any redeeming features, had a pure, beautiful soul. Regardless of how much suffering and death such organisms as typhoid bacteria, malarial mosquitoes and lice have caused to mankind over the eons, their inner selves all shone with the same plain, steady radiance.

How exactly did The Great Switch come about and what had caused it is still being fiercely debated: Was it God’s doing? Or was it a hitherto unknown, yet completely natural stage of the evolutionary process? Perhaps it was something else entirely; a singular, unprecedented phenomenon that neither science nor religion could explain. What is not debatable is the radical transformation this upheaval wrought upon the Earth, for it had affected each and every living entity. Even embryos and fetuses’ gestating inside their expectant mothers were not immune from its effects.

Perhaps the scenario that I have painted seems implausible and utterly preposterous. Yet, who is to say that our current reality is not actually a temporary aberration from the state of being described above? What if it is only during this period of existence that we briefly possess physical features on the outside, and emotional, mental and spiritual features on the inside? And what if, once in the Afterworld, we exist for all eternity with our inner selves externalized?

Is that as good a reason as any for us to start working on our souls, to start devoting as much time to developing and improving our emotional, mental and spiritual selves as we devote to bettering and beautifying our physical bodies? For, after all, these fragile corporeal bodies belong to us but for an instant of time while our inner selves may live on forever.

I leave you to ponder these questions. And if you choose to dismiss my suggestions as absurd nonsense, let’s catch up again to talk about them when we are both dwelling in the Afterworld. I will then say to you, without a trace of smugness or schadenfreude in my voice: “I told you so!”

By Boris Glikman
Opal Writers’ Magazine, November 2020


BORIS GLIKMAN is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia. His stories, poems and non-fiction articles have been published in various online and print publications, as well as being featured on national radio and other radio programs. He says: “Writing for me is a spiritual activity of the highest degree. Writing gives me the conduit to a world that is unreachable by any other means, a world that is populated by Eternal Truths, Ineffable Questions and Infinite Beauty. It is my hope that these stories of mine will allow the reader to also catch a glimpse of this universe.”

ZOMBIEING FOR THE BRAINS

(parody of “Singin’ in the Rain”)

Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo
Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo-doo
Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo-doo
Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo-doo…

I’m zombieing for the brains
Just zombieing for the brains.
What a horrible feelin’
I’m hungry again
I’m moaning at the sun
so bright up above
There’s a hole in my chest
and I’m starving for cortex
Let the warm weather take
everyone to remote lake
Come on with the brains
I want cerebrum on my face
I trudge down dark street
with a limp in my feet
Just zombieing
zombieing for the brains

Zombieing for the brains
Dee-ah dee-ah dee-ah
Dee-ah dee-ah dee-ah
I’m hungry again!
I’m zombieing, just zombieing for the brains.

OCTOWORLD

From the top of the hill I saw, to my keen disappointment, that this was not a pleasant coastal town at all, but rather a monstrous octopus of some kind that passed itself off as an urban conglomeration. I already knew octopuses were excellent mimics with highly evolved intelligence and that they impersonated, for defensive and predatory reasons, sea snakes, jellyfish and stingrays, as well as many other creatures. It seemed they had now taken mimicry to the next level and were imitating entire cities.

What were their motives for doing so, I wondered. What were they trying to achieve? How many other objects or cities were actually camouflaged octopuses? Perhaps the Earth itself, or indeed the whole Universe, was just a cephalopod in disguise?

It was abundantly clear to me now that all those crazy conspiracy theories were right with their claim that a nefarious organization has spread across the world and penetrated all strata of societies with its harmful influence. Nay, it went much further than that. It no longer was the case of a cabal controlling our world; rather our world literally was one and the same as this evil creature.

What if I myself was just a sucker on one of its giant tentacles? That would certainly explain why I have so often been gullible and easily deceived. Could this be the reason the Company sent me for a vacation to this “town” – to gain insight into my own nature, as well as into the true character of the world? But if so, then how could I possibly profit from such a devastating revelation of who I really am?


BORIS GLIKMAN is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia. His stories, poems and non-fiction articles have been published in various online and print publications, as well as being featured on national radio and other radio programs. He says: “Writing for me is a spiritual activity of the highest degree. Writing gives me the conduit to a world that is unreachable by any other means, a world that is populated by Eternal Truths, Ineffable Questions and Infinite Beauty. It is my hope that these stories of mine will allow the reader to also catch a glimpse of this universe.”

Dead on the Page

By Linda White

Ellen reads the group another long-winded piece. Beverley yawns behind a discrete hand at the story’s stream of unconsciousness and Carol thinks it’s no wonder that she couldn’t handle The Dubliners.

“What do you think?” asks Ellen. Carol tries to remember anything she can comment on. Wool-gathering, out-of-body experience, whatever she labels it, she missed the last third of the story.

“On page two…” Bruce, the token male and former high school English teacher, starts to address the errors in spelling, grammar and word usage.

“Give it a rest, Bruce.” Charlene’s grammar slips sometimes and she’s done with Bruce and his nit-picking. Half the time, he doesn’t even bring writing to the Seriously Scribes monthly meeting.

Beverley and Charlene make a few desultory comments. Carol pretends to review the story, turning a page here and there.

“This might be your best story, yet. You should submit it to Grain,” she lies.

Carol can’t wait for the others to be done. She has an announcement.

“Bruce, your turn,” says Ellen. He is on her left and once the first reader is established, they go round the table clockwise. Bruce reddens and reaches for his coffee.

“I was too busy to write anything new,” he says. “Next month, for sure.”

Charlene distributes copies of her new poetry to everyone.

 Carol presses her lips against the looming yawn. Charlene’s poetry is as pedantic and fussy as the cats that appear in her nature odes. Carol imagines Wordsworth twitching in his grave.

 “I like the internal rhyme in the second verse,” Bruce says. “Have you considered echoing it throughout?”

 Charlene looks over the top of her reading glasses at him.

 “No.”

 Her voice is flat. She knows that her poems aren’t original but she writes them for herself and harbours no elaborate fantasies about becoming the next Margaret Atwood.

 Carol says, “I like the imagery. That’s your forte and it comes through so well in the last verse.”

 She likes Charlene and admires her work ethic. Carol knows that none of the poems come to Charlene easily; she recognizes her shortcomings but every time the Seriously Scribes meet, Charlene has new work. That, in itself, is admirable.

 Carol looks at Beverley.

 “How’s that fourth chapter coming?” she asks.

 Beverley sighs.

 “I’m not sure,” she says. “I changed the scene order and I dropped some dialogue.” She passes out copies of the chapter re-write.

 Carol can’t recall how many times Beverley has re-written chapter four. If the group had any integrity, they’d tell Beverley to let it go. Some novels are dead on the page.

 They suffer for twenty minutes of the new order and tightened dialogue but the chapter still doesn’t work.

 Charlene says, “I like this new approach but don’t we have to know why Olivia hates Norman? Did you delete that part?”

 Good for Charlene. She does pay attention and tries to help every member of the group.

 Beverley’s eyes blur with unshed tears.

 “You’re right,” she says. “I didn’t even notice. I tried so hard to get the wording right. I worked at this all month.” Her lower lip trembles.

 “The rest is well written and moves the story along,” says Ellen.

 Beverley just says, “I’ll work on it some more.”

 Carol knows that the sad thing is, she will but the new version will have new problems.

Ellen turns to Carol.

 “What have you got?” she asks.

 Carol laughs and with a flourish pulls a sheet from her folder.

 “They accepted it,” she cries.

 Her triumphant announcement meets a confused silence. The coffee shop where they meet is small and just then the grinding of the latte machine precludes speaking. It goes on for several minutes while Carol sits, annoyed. She is not competing with a coffee maker when she has something so momentous to share.

 When the noise quiets to the normal hum of voices, Carol begins.

 “Dear Carol,” she reads.

 My staff has completed the review of “Dark Secrets.” I am pleased to inform you that we think your work would make a positive addition to our Donahue Publishing list of titles.

To begin the process of publishing your book with us, I have passed your file on to …

 Carol continues to the end of the letter and waits for the accolades to begin. Nothing. Don’t they get it? Didn’t they hear? Donahue is going to publish her mystery.

 Each Serious Scribe has a different expression; not one of them looks joyful.

  “I will mention each of you by name on the acknowledgements page,” Carol continues. She considers that a great honour.

 “You didn’t tell us you were writing a novel.” Beverley’s tone is accusatory. “I’ve been working so hard at mine and you didn’t even hint at a novel in the works?”

 Ellen isn’t happy.

 “I have worked on my short story collection for five years now,” she says. “And you’re being published?” She makes it seem shameful.

 Bruce looks like a beached fish, his mouth working to say something but making no sound.

“Congratulations,” he croaks at last. He has expected to be the jubilant novelist at some point.

 Carol can’t believe it. Why aren’t they happy for her?

 She looks at Charlene, the Scribes member everyone depends on for encouragement and support.

 Charlene is packing up her writing.

 “What are you doing, Charlene?” Carol is shocked.

“Leaving.  Carol, this group is about trust. You destroyed that trust with your selfishness. I’m done,” she says.

The others follow Charlene and walk with purpose to the exit. Carol drops her letter. As she sits alone, her coffee grows cold. Then she brightens. Her novel isn’t dead on the page.


Linda White writes from Central East Alberta. She has the first draft of a novel and is working on a re-write.  She also works at shorter pieces. Her grandchildren are her joy. Walking her two dogs and reading help her cope with the isolation of the pandemic.

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