Ben Okri has published a new short story titled “A Wrinkle in the Realm” in The New Yorker Magazine. As with many short stories published in the magazine’s digital format, the text is accompanied by a dramatic reading from the writer.

Okri reads his story in the contemplative voice of its protagonist, an unnamed man who begins to notice women crossing the street and shifting seats in the Underground when he is near. The reason for this behavior is unnamed but generally understood, which gives the conflict even more power as the story progresses into the speculative realm.

In an interview about “A Wrinkle in the Realm,” Okri reveals,

The story is called “A Wrinkle in the Realm” because, in that universe, where people respond irrationally to what they see, something has been glimpsed. The world is governed by perceptions that have a greater force than laws. But they are illusions. The wrinkle is the momentary revelation of that illusion.

Okri also shares that the story was “hijacked by history,” in that he conceptualized it before mask wearing became prevalent during the pandemic. The meaning behind the masks in the text is meant to be more spiritual than practical; fortunately, this is an aspect that most fans of Okri’s works will already understand.

Read a short excerpt from “A Wrinkle in the Realm” below:

Every day that week, his walk home had confirmed the efficacy of the masks. On the first day, women who normally would have fled across the street when they saw him now only stared at him as he went past. On the second day, a woman began to cross but changed her mind and stayed on the same side of the street, perhaps out of curiosity. By the fifth day, none of them noticed him.

This surprised him. He was certain that the masks made him look unnatural. Why were those who normally fled from him bothered by his face but not by the mask?