ii Writing Lab Experiment: Surrealism

ii Writing Lab Experiment: Surrealism

In the November 5th episode of the ii Writing Lab, writers participated in a wonderfully cooky exercise in surrealism.

What you’ll find below is the results of this exercise: twenty minutes of spontaneous writing, bravely shared.

To keep the mystery, I won’t share the actual exercise, but I will say that writers combined three seemingly unrelated words to open a window into a strange world 🙂

Happy Writing!


Contributing writers: Helen Nde, Erich Lehmann, Sach Holden, Anne Ross

P.S. The original exercise was pulled from this collection of exercises, and is attributed to the novelist and short story writer Aimee Bender, known for her command of surrealism in her work.

Writer: Helen Nde

Prompts: Laundry Room, Silk, Cucumber

It started as an experiment. No. Not an experiment per se. A joke really. The silkworms were going to be tossed away anyway, discarded as if their existence meant nothing more than to be used as fodder for Professor Jankovich’s ambitious project. The project had been a raging success too. People had come from far and wide to see it for themselves, a skyscraper made entirely of silk produced by over a million silkworms. Holden and Kalunga had collected the worms which survived the project and kept them in the lab for days, reluctant to let them go. And then Kalunga had thought of the plan.

And so they’d set out to do it.

The walls had gone up first. The worms had produced the strands as if they were in on the joke. Then the shelving units for detergent and fabric softener. The sink was next, soft to touch but still sturdy in the way that a stretched, tough material could be. The washer and dryer were the hardest. Weaving the strands into the intricate inner mechanisms of the machines had taken time but Kalunga had been determined to make it work and Holden with his eye for precise design had made it happen.

The room was initially a sickly beige color, but it had warmed into a dusky brown. It smelled strange and organic. It was useless. But it existed.


The rotten bits of cucumber were stuck to the top of the silk washing machine. Holden took a deep breath to release the flash of annoyance he felt when he saw them. Kalunga must have left it behind, the last time he visited. Some people smoked cigarettes or chewed gum. Kalunga crunched on cucumbers. Holden had, at first, been amused by his colleague’s weird but healthy habit. But then eventually, the cloying sweet smell of cucumbers and the constant crunch of chewing had begun to irritate him. It didn’t help that Kalunga left whatever remained of the plant everywhere. At least smokers had ashtrays and you could stick a piece of gum under the table. Holden picked up the pieces and frowned at the dark brown stain on the material. He rubbed at it and then sighed in irritation when the brown just smeared some more.

He’ll have to talk to Kalunga about this.

Writer: Erich Lehmann

Prompts: Bathroom, Titanium, Banana Peel

When I came back from my year abroad, my dad had prepared a surprise for me. He renovated my bathroom and built everything in it out of titanium.

Tiles, titanium. Floor, titanium. The mirror, polished titanium. The shower, the washing machine, the toilet flush… you guessed it, titanium.

Why did he do that? I don’t know. He and mom are not in good terms currently and I think he’s trying to overcompensate. And I’m all for it. Buy me a freaking Ferrari or something. But this goes beyond what I can consider good and normal.

The thing about titanium that most people don’t appreciate is how damn slippery it is. So naturally, yesterday when I woke up in the middle of the night for a quick loo and for 5 brief, blissful seconds forgot that my bathroom is now made out of the most expensive material in the world I tripped and fell and my butt touched the floor making this dumb sound only the most luxurious asses can make.

See the reason titanium so expensive is that it is also extremely dense. And the density doesn’t let sound travel very far. Or something like that.

I don’t know anything about physics and this is not a story about titanium. It is a story about a banana peel. A rotting, smelling, old banana peel. Probably the least valuable thing in the world in a room made out of you know what. This banana peel is the reason I slipped. How did it get there? Who put it there? What was its purpose?

I don’t want to spoil anything as I begin this story, but let me tell you this… there was a purpose AND there was a who. As I’m telling you the story you will discover the answers to those questions the way I discovered them.

Writer: Sach Holden

Prompts: Workshop, Silicon, Falcon

Writer: Anne Ross

Prompts: Kitchen, Cashmere, Penguin

Part 1: The architects began by using water pressure from 500 yards beneath sea level to compress fibers dense enough to use for the foundation and structural beams. The floor was compressed only slightly less rigidly. Cashmere makes a luxurious, soft carpet but in the kitchen we wanted a firmer surface underfoot. Floor and countertops are flat, firm, and level. Cashmere fibers insulate well. My feet are warm even barefoot in winter.

The sink and oven are heat-seared to form a non-permeable surface.

Material supply chains since the pandemic have been beyond strained. Paradoxically, cashmere had a boom. The best fur-producing goats in the Far East flourished in a microclimate of melting glaciers. I know it’s temporary, but we buy cashmere now while we can.

I chose muted earth tones for floor and countertops and cabinets. The walls—their structure is yurt-like—are lighter, a natural off-white with flecks of gray or reddish earth.

The scent is faint, but occasionally I smell a damp fur when boiling water for pasta or running the oven for a long time.

The windows pull to one side, yet seal tight with industrial velcro. The most expensive item in the kitchen was the transparent and translucent cashmere fiber window pane. Patent is pending.

Part 2: Clean up is cozy. We use natural shampoos and a brush.

We’ve expanded the fridge and freezer area to crate an open area and habitat for our rescue penguin. As glaciers continued to melt, the SPCA became inundated with arctic creatures in distress. So we have two walk-in freezers. Cashmere, as I said, is a fabulous insulator. And with the heat-seared and pressure-treated walls, both freezers are sturdy and sound. One walk-in freezer keeps our food. The other has a slurry, a slow-flowing pool of just-above-freezing salt water where Nico, the penguin, can swim and play. Snow build up on the edges of the pool where he loves to climb up and slide down.

A small doorway remains open and Nico comes into the main part of the kitchen when he likes. He’s become quite social.

Sometimes I go into the freezer, bundled up in a heavy-duty cashmere down coat, and meditate in the cold where I inhale sharp frozen air and my breath rises in steam by the snow and saltwater slurry pool.

The walls shift from royal blue to twilight to glacier-green to snow-white (which isn’t really white but a prism of color and a play of shadow).

I think Nico would benefit from a companion. We likely will adopt a second rescue penguin.

Photo Cred. Unsplash