Once upon a time there was a piece of paper through which the words printed on the other side could not be seen, a piece of paper so thick it might have been made of wood. Twice upon a time there was a transparent screen through which one could see the other side of the world, a screen so tantalising you almost wanted to stick your hand in it. Three times upon a time there was a window through which fish could fly, bursting out into daylight and dying right in front of you on the cobblestones. Four times upon a time there was a fish so smart it could survive out of water, flipping about and using its tail to order drinks, hail cabs and enter security codes. Five times upon a time there was a security code that was so secure it hadn’t even been thought of yet, but existed nevertheless, inside the brain of a super-intelligent fish. Six times upon a time there was a thought so rarified it could not survive in the human brain, and thus had to be thrown away, like a dead fish. Seven times upon a time there was a brain so soft and yet strong that it could have survived in the ocean, where it might have been mistaken for a jellyfish. Eight times upon a time there was a jellyfish that enjoyed computer games, and often wondered what lay on the other side of the screen. Nine times upon a time there was a computer game that could not help crying, blubbering through its start-up routines and causing the screen on which its menus were displayed to smudge. Ten times upon a time there was a cry so piercing, so utterly sad, that trains would stop, dripping taps would dry up, and ugly men would somehow become beautiful. Eleven times upon a time there was a train that dreamt of derailing itself and then did so, flying off into a rice paddy and burying itself there, in a hiss and storm of steam. Twelve times upon a time there was a rice paddy full of jellyfish and model aeroplanes, useless for growing rice but beautiful nevertheless. Thirteen times upon a time there was a model aeroplane called “Benny” that was attached to a piece of string and spent its days circling beneath a spinning ceiling fan. Fourteen times upon a time there was a piece of string that wanted to be a jellyfish but instead found itself reincarnated as a piece of cooling lava. Fifteen times upon a time there was a river of molten lava that smelt like burning incense but was, in fact, a reincarnated Buddhist temple. Sixteen times upon a time there was a Buddhist temple that a passing peddler mistook for a glass of cola and then proceeded to drink. Seventeen times upon a time there was glass of cola that a waiter brought to you free of charge but which tasted like petrol. Eighteen times upon a time there was a litre of petrol that refused to be burnt up in a fuel tank and thus chose to self-combust, killing the car’s occupants and several bystanders. Nineteen times upon a time there was an explosion that didn’t want to be thought of as a killer of innocent bystanders and so disappeared into the sea, leaving behind a note that said: “Give my love to Benny”. Twenty times upon a time there was a sea that was so sick it no longer responded to the pull of the moon and just sat there like a quivering mass of jelly. Twenty one times upon a time there was a moon that had no name and whose gravitational pull had no discernible effect on lovers or seas, so it span itself out of orbit and is now travelling somewhere in space, in search of lost satellites. Twenty two times upon a time there was a pair of lovers who were infatuated with satellites, and whose names cannot be spoken, for fear of dragging space probes back to earth. Twenty three times upon a time there was an earth where lovers arrived from outer space, seeking the comforts of radiant dawns and spider monkeys. Twenty four times upon a time there was a radiant dawn so beautiful it froze the hearts of lovers, spider monkeys and model aeroplanes, forcing the authorities to ban it from appearing at all. Twenty five times upon a time there was a spider monkey that dreamt of becoming an astronaut but settled eventually for a part-time job as a scrap-yard merchant, earning good money. Twenty six times upon a time there was an astronaut who bellowed operatic tunes to the stars, but whose space-suit was punctured by one too many peanuts. Twenty seven times upon a time there was an opera in which all the characters, as well as the orchestra members, died, somewhat muting the standing ovation of the (also dead) audience. Twenty eight times upon a time there was a dead city called Opa, and this is how many stories you will have to endure before anyone is willing to tell you behind which screen or on which page it even exists.