Breathing room, n. Any monument in the form of an interior space, created in the oral cavity and throat of a mourner by the pronunciation of a specified sequence of noises, usually but not necessarily the names of the dead. In the late twenty-first century, memorials to wars and national disasters had become both so huge and so numerous in major cities as to force occupants into increasingly distant suburbs, turning the cities into giant funeral parks, though only a few mourners and flower vendors actually ventured into the barren, windy avenues and plazas. A rogue terrorist attack levelled one of these abandoned, funereal cities, killing only pigeons; the ingenious mayor, rather than rebuilding the memorials, or raising a memorial to the memorials, issued instructions for the citizens to construct private memorials out of breath. These proved popular. Meanwhile, the leveled city was rebuilt, using the materials of bygone memorials, and resettled. One might find a name engraved in the wall behind the tub, or use the bronze hand of a general to hook an oven mitt on. Remembrance became a more private affair as people discovered they could create memorials of their own design, just by talking to each other. Breathing Room, n. When capitalized, the cathedral-like space located in the Interstitial States where the terminally ill may deliver a citizen’s address to an assembled crowd or no fewer than two librarians and a stenographer, to be recorded and entered into an archive of last words. The space was formed by the generosity of the large numbers of citizens who contributed their private memorials (breathing rooms) to expand the once modest space.
Dewey States n. The Interstitial States of America (see ISA), founded by the Council of Radical [later Interstitial] Librarians, also called the Dewey States after the Dewey Decimal System. The Council of Radical Librarians, reasoning on the basis of the Dewey Decimal System that if every book had a unique call number, and there were infinite call numbers, then there must be infinite books still to be written (in which case the world was not in such immediate danger of total destruction as one might have imagined from contemporary evidence) and furthermore an infinite library to contain them; that as the call number for those books lay between the books already on the shelves, rather than beyond them, the shelf-space for those books must also lie between them; that there was therefore a great amount of space between any two books, however snugly shelved, just as there were infinite numbers between any two numbers; that if the space existed, it ought to be possible to get into it, providing you had not eaten a big lunch.
The way to this place was duly discovered (see hh). Initially it was used primarily for quick escapes during the time of persecution, and for extra shelving. Many of the interstitial passages remain lined with books and on one’s travels through the skinny one often passes a librarian tirelessly shelving, or catches the gleam of an eye through the stacks. It was discovered that these spaces could be expanded easily and soon they began to be colonized, as many people preferred to live in a place they could shape to their liking rather than in a place that was prefabricated and indeed had already been occupied by someone else, usually someone a bit stiff around the knees and not entirely clean. An entire second America grew inside the first one, fitting there as neatly as fine bones in a fish.
Glish [contraction of English] n. Dialect spoken in certain regions of the ISA (see ISA), where it is considered bad form to pronounce a whole word. Instead, one utters the first half of a word and waits politely for one’s interlocutor to provide the second. Even the shortest words such as "a" are shared, being seen as containing hidden intricacies. Often the person with the second half must summon up considerable ingenuity to finish what the first has begun, and often the first is considerably surprised at what she has begun, having been under the impression that she was saying a different word altogether. Because of this convention, political speechmaking is rare here. First, because it would be nearly incomprehensible, being composed of only partial words; though the audience may silently supply the missing pieces, each will do it in his own way, causing great confusion about what the politician actually said. Furthermore, it is considered rude to insist upon going first more than half the time (so that polite conversations are marked by numerous respectful pauses in which each party indicates with gestures that the other is to precede him) so these peculiar speeches composed entirely of first halves are considered an affront, and the politician is expected to conclude with an abject apology. Of course a speech made up of whole words is out of the question. The only exception to this rule is the deathbed address, when the citizen narrates her life for the benefit of all. The dying woman or man is understood to be entering a state of repletion, meeting her other half (her death or negation) and merging with it; the dead are in conversation with themselves. Of course this conversation between halves of a single self is more eloquent than any one could ever have with another. We are privileged to eavesdrop upon it, briefly, before the happy couple strolls away, engrossed in one enother, in eternal congress.
hh (h´ h´) Imit. & n. [Time diphthong (cf time diphthong, n.); Imit. of death rattle; cf Ger. ö-ö, Sp. ññ; perh. back-form. from shh] 1. the death rattle 2. The infinitely slender space between life and death, but by extension between all definite things, the skinny; all indeterminate and in-between spaces, such as the insides of walls and ceilings and hollow doors, and especially between books on a shelf 3. the time in between ticks of a clock; a particular instance of such time, particularly when hollowed out for personal use, a skootch (see skootch) 4. The request, generally pronounced on the deathbed, to enter the Interstitial States of America (see ISA) and follow the labyrinthine between-roads to the Breathing Room (see Breathing Room) to make one’s final citizen’s address in the presence of two librarians and a stenographer, for entry into the archives 5. nounal verb [N.B. An inadequate term. The editors of this dictionary were not able, by time of printing, to agree on a notation for words that do not name things but create them.] This word, a time diphthong, when pronounced correctly, does not just name the space between life and death, and by extension all things, but creates it in the throat of the speaker, so that when in need of a quick escape, one can actually slip through the tiny aperture thus created, if nimble enough, and perhaps with a dab of shush cheeseâ€“though this operation has been proved impossible by physicists, who must nevertheless contend with the historical evidence of its successful accomplishment, most notably by the first generation of guerrilla librarians, when they were under pressure by the state. That this word creates what it names has given rise to several quasi-religious sects: one led by semioticians who proclaim that they have found the "transcendental signified," hitherto associated with God, and have consequently thought to find God in precisely this word; another claiming that the word in "In the beginning was the word" was "hh," and that its pronunciation by God created the distinction between past and future, life and death in which all of history finds room to breathe. This would suggest that our world is itself interstitial, occupying the cracks in another, more stolid, sedimented world. Our world too once appeared as a zone of free invention, a pulpous mash of possibility, limpid and infinite, as the Interstitial States seem to us today.
The pronunciation of this word requires special note. Hh is a time diphthong: the first h is pronounced in backtalk (see backtalk) and the second the usual way, so that the word first undoes and then does itself. It thus reverses and then restarts time, forming a little catch in what one might call the throat of time, and can be heard both by the dead and by the living. This word, generally considered nearly unpronounceable, becomes easier for the terminally ill as they approach death, and is understood as a request to enter hh and make one’s final address in the Breathing Room (which see). The word can be mistaken for the death rattle in the very old or ailing, but it is a very different thing: the death rattle announces the passage into the land of the dead, it is the clatter of the screen door behind the departing, while hh pries open the space between living and dead—which is not even a space until the prying widens it, but a seal as of two lips pressed firmly together, or the pages of a closed book.
Every person’s speech contains many inadvertent openings into the interstitial states. Hh may be easier to pronounce by accident—when surprised, or waking up from a bad dream, laughing or crying—than on purpose. Every sentence contains, between every word and even within words, many opportunities to escape. As the atom is mostly empty space, so speech is mostly silence; the interstitial is combed through the world and cannot be separated from it. Indeed it can be seen to support it, forming a kind of matrix, as bubbles support the bread.
mouthglass n. 1. Transparent speech. It had long been suspected that some utterances becloud the air, while others clear it. Smog, it turns out, is forty percent conversation. Finally, in the late 22nd century, refined enough instruments were invented to confirm this theory. The difference is small but measurable. The result of this discovery was a great overhaul and a laundry of political and personal wind. A sufficiently eloquent speaker, possessed of a pure heart, for example a child not yet persuaded of the incontrovertibility of anything, if held up close to the face and pricked to speech, can provide better advantages to the eyesight than the best prescription lens. A mouth holster, or harness, may be used to hold the child aimed across the eyes. The disadvantage of this arrangement is that due to the proximity of eyes to mouth on the human face, there is no way to fire a limpid word across the eyes and not take the mouth in its compass as well. Now if this mouth is not (whether by design or not) itself practising crystalline speech, the voice of the strap-on speaker will rinse away the impurities from the utterances of the wearer, leaving only the occasional blameless the or if sparkling like the morning star in the great void of space; the speaking mouth may be seen to move (seen indeed with particular clarity due to the magnifying filter of the transparent speech) but no sound can be heard—which is of course very discrediting to the speaker, who may adopt, of course, the long horn to forward his voice to a position free of clarifying influence, but the suspicion of bad faith will fall with reason upon anyone who resorts to such measures. 2. the permanent crystalline substance or gem of perspicuity formed by subjecting transparent speech to extreme heat and pressure.
ISA, Interstitial States of America; the Dewey States (see Dewey States); the Interstitial Stacks or Styx (see Styx) of America, where the extra books are shelved; the incorporated hh (see hh).
backtalk v. 1. to talk back time, reverse the directionality of time through guided stuttering. 2. To talk inward, sucking your breath back through the vocal cords. 3. to address the dead by such talk. —n. instances of such talk.
Shh 1. a shushing sound 2. Society of Hh, the council of radical librarians who discovered hh (see hh) and founded the Interstitial States of America (see ISA). Long associated with the forces of repression and conservatism, librarians emerged in the early 21st century as the custodians of civil liberties. The shushing gesture (the index finger raised to the lips) was adopted and recast as a gesture of fellowship among the radical librarians and their followers. Some linguists believe that the sound shh may be the origin of the word hh, though it is pronounced differently.
shush cheese n. Sediment that forms in the mouth, made up of partial and withheld utterances, the essence of hush, and used as a lubricant or liniment. Massage a small piece of air with it and guide it into your ears and you will experience the aural equivalent of the private place inside the bell of a flower. Rub it on your tongue and your silences will be eloquent. The gaps between words become elastic, expansive; this looseness permits new words, and with the words, new thoughts.
skootch n. Space between the ticks of a clock created by a skillful and focused use of backtalk in alternation with foretalk. By rubbing a moment of time back and forth with your voice you can irritate it sufficiently that another day pearls under your palate and can be stretched and fattened by the continued exertions of the tongue. Eventually you can puncture the elastic skin of this supplementary time bubble and then it will readily expand to your dimensions and those of anyone you bring with you. —skootch v. i. to hole up in a skootch. v.t. 1. to romance someone in a skootch; I skootched her 2. to complete a project faster than linear time permits by retreating into a skootch; How did you write a 20 page term paper in six minutes? I skootched it.
skootch motel A used skootch or cluster of skootches, available to the public and maintained by a custodian; also, any used skootch that can be recycled.
skootch day Entire day created by a time rollback through the concerted efforts of balktalkers (see backtalk) The government at first tried to ban these rogue days, fearing that they would be devoted to illegal drug use or conspiracy; scientists warned that the inequal distribution of extra time might throw chronology off altogether, but use of bootleg time became so widespread even among elected officials that the government finally decided to create official skootch days for all to enjoy.
skootchy, adj. Comfortable, well-fitting, permissive.
Styx n. plural The Interstitial Stacks, where uncategorizable and as yet unwritten books are shelved. The Shh or council of interstitial librarians sought out and even commissioned interstitial books, favoring expecially those books that presented cataloguing challenges, e.g. a highly technical study of tooth reenameling techniques translated from the Icelandic into English rhyming couplets. Some of these were cross-over successes, to the consternation of the publishing industry, which subsequently funded, with little success, a series of would-be interstitial texts, hoping to tap into this market.
twife [contraction of it-wife] n.Nonhuman spouse, partner in an interspecies or intermaterial marriage. Proposed by a right-wing politician as a tongue-in-cheek rider to a tax increase bill he opposed, this bid to widen the definition of marriage to include animals and inanimate objects found unexpected acceptance . Conceived in a satirical spirit to indicate the sorry state of morals that would come about if gay marriage were legalized, the rider was seen by the public as an expression of a true, secret desire. The politician was acclaimed for his bravery, and despite his denials became the darling of the nation. Later, he acceded to the wish of all and made an ornamental shrub his twife, becoming the harbinger of a new era in which the material world was seen as joined by bonds of love and fealty. Not only that, but the rights accruing to spouses enabled the numerous Americans who became husbands and wives of local bodies of land or water (many went so far as to propose marriage to the earth itself) to push through far-reaching environmental protection laws, buoyed by the support of sentimental voters. The possibility of being wedded to the world made people feel sexy just walking around, and the sense of commonality with material things made death less dreadful to many. The smoke caressed its twife, the chimney; clods adored the spade; the mongoose pledged his troth to the steam engine. The world was bound together by secret—but legal—bonds of love.