CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
The process begins with a five-gallon bucket, preferably blue. The Cultivator adds to the bucket a one-inch layer of gravel, and of potting soil a layer as deep as his or her longest finger. He fills the blue bucket with unfiltered water.
When acquiring an infant for Cultivation, methods include the judicial, medical, and extralegal. It is best to seek donations, as brand-new infants can be dear, depending on their country of origin.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that infants and toddlers can drown in a very small amount of water. For the purpose of Cultivation this can be ignored. When the infant is placed in the bucket there will likely be spillage.
For three months following submergence, the Cultivator frequently shows his face above the surface of the water, and, using a turkey baster or like instrument, squirts sustenance into the bucket daily. He attempts to engage the infant in conversation.
After three months, the Cultivator prepares a twenty-gallon fish tank with an identical ratio of water, gravel, and soil. He places the bucket in the center of the tank and removes it when the infant swims out into its new environment. Non-responsive infants may require prodding. When prodding or otherwise inserting hands into any container containing the infant, the Cultivator must thoroughly wet his hands before insertion. Contact between a dry hand and the skin of one undergoing Cultivation can result in adhesion followed by laceration of the skin when the hand is withdrawn.
After transfer is complete, the Cultivator lowers hydrophones to monitor the infant’s language acquisition. He pipes Shostakovich fugues and concerti into the room. He keeps in mind that infants are not averse to bass. He begins to drop playthings into the tank. For the oldfangled, this means: dolls, horses, and kitchen implements, or guns, planes, and dump trucks. The self-proclaimed forward-thinking Cultivator may instead employ any combination of the previous items and/or gender-neutral building blocks.
When the infant gyrates a certain way, it dreams of freedom it can’t comprehend and that doesn’t exist. It may dream it stands in front of a mirror, its body segmented by metal, panes of glass, and optical fibers. It may dream it grows and gains control of itself and its surroundings. It may dream it walks fully erect down an endless hallway whose walls display a series of photographs depicting the infant developing into something strange and dangerous. When the infant gyrates a certain way, the Cultivator shocks it with a mild electric current.
After ten months, the Cultivator runs a copy of Shakespeare’s Complete Works (Arden or Riverside editions) through a wood chipper. The result is dumped into the tank at the rate of one handful per day. Should the infant’s consumption fail to accommodate such a rate so that its environment becomes obscured with words, a rate of one handful every two days is adopted. The Cultivator also affixes sources of visual stimuli to no more than two of the tank’s sides. Possibilities include a video screen showing footage of the Amazon rainforest, a portrait of Jeanne d’Arc, or a print of Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son. He introduces guppies to acquaint the infant with wildlife and speed up its reflexes. He introduces a hermit crab to teach it disappointment. The work of the Cultivator is complete when the infant has developed motor skills sufficient to climb out of, or break, the tank, at which point the Cultivator’s life is forfeit.
Brooks Sterritt’s fiction appears or is forthcoming in Barrelhouse, Emprise Review, Wigleaf, Gigantic, and Word Riot. He lives in Boston, is the current fiction editor of Redivider, and maintains the website www.magicmonads.com.