Numb

The cello hums a warm melody through the laptop speakers.  I am no stranger to this sound.  My lungs move with the instrument’s faint swell-drop, characteristic of its hollow, wooden body.

The ocean undulates ferociously.  Waves crashing against the rock-hard barriers that keep water away from the shore.

Meanwhile, on land, all is dry.  The villagers have no embellished tales of fish, extravagant beasts washed to shore in the night’s storm.  They know the legends of mermaids and sharks as large as ocean liners, fictitious feathers of hope that something interesting might happen, if they pray hard enough.  They gaze at the black clouds above them: perhaps tonight is the night.

The floods come hard and fast, spilling jellyfish and bottles and unanchored ships onto the sand.  They bury themselves beneath the dust, sculpting homes of the wet, grainy clay.  The salty ocean swallows them before dawn.

***

            Bluish laser lights cannot penetrate the thick, graphite brick that rests somewhere inside my skull.  They can blind me all they want, but they will never disrupt the safe, neutral mass of minerals I have allowed to accumulate between my ears.

…or so I think.

The artificial sun is hot enough to form crevices where there was once a flat expanse of gray.  Heated rays spread lonely particles across the wasteland to where they, too, will transform this uniform object into something unsightly.

All the earth’s work, falling to waste.  This brick took years to form, fitting the mold just so.  At this rate it will never form a house; it will see the sad day where it is mechanically separated into slender cylinders and divided equally among the wood.

***

            The percussion of pots and pans affects me more than the steepest high note, the loudest shout to leave my lungs.  My vessel-lined alveoli shrivel into their pink mothers, asking why this chaotic noise has to happen to them.

Iron lungs are no longer iron, for iron rusts too fast.  They are bricks laid around a wooden frame, massive twelve-by-twelve squares too heavy to be mobile.  The patient must lie inside, wrapped in the safety of the oxygenated cocoon.

“What a sad way to live,” the villagers say. “What a lonely way to go.”

There comes a time when the patient must choose how or if he or she wishes to communicate, to know the humans outside without choking on their pollution.  To leave the lung would spell danger.

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A Carol

Hodie the child rolls from its cocoon, slimy with its mother’s insides.  They dunk it in water and determine its gender.

Hodie it shrieks a morpheme.  Its teachers snap to attention with their pens gripped between their bony fingers.  They cannot miss the wealth of information that is pouring from its tongue.

Hodie it holds onto something and uses that as a crutch for the rest of the day.  They stick mattresses under it so it won’t be broken.

Hodie she sings for the first time.  She’s sharp; but she feels so wonderful in her new, pink dress.  It is better than shrieking.

Hodie she learns that lines are dangerous.  She makes her own maps.

Hodie she doesn’t understand why what supports her feet is of so much concern to them.  They send her away because educating to the tune of questions is too much work.

Hodie her skin falls away and she grows a new one.  It isn’t horribly comfortable, but she will have to deal with it if she wants to make friends.

Hodie reality is no longer acceptable to it.  It makes do with the poetry of the pencil and the secret language of Poe.

Hodie she bathes herself in icy blue to dull the sting of the outside.

Hodie she buries herself in layers of armor and they roll her over in her sleep.  A beetle, defeated.

Hodie numbers are what she must avoid, for the lock her in the present.  If days were gifts, they must have come from a dumpster.

Hodie she leaps onto the palate and chooses a color.  She paints herself from head to toe.  This is what she is.

Hodie lines are all there are.  She dares not cross those lines.

Hodie her mouth opens, but nothing useful comes out.  Questions shouldn’t be asked, she knows, and no proper comment can she make.

Hodie she sings and it is perfect.  Her dress shrieks around her, squeezing her arms with its itchy elastic and suffocating her legs with every step.

Hodie the television-tray stands permanently in the living room.  She folds with it when they aren’t looking.

Hodie she holds onto something and makes it her own.  They wrestle her to the ground: “That thing could snap your bones in half.”

Hodie its words are quiet and controlled.  Its teachers ignore it and know it will do well, regardless of whether or not it seems intelligent.

Hodie it rolls from its bed, slimy with sweat and nightmare and drool.  It dunks itself in water and determines its gender.

On Art, Food, and the Downside of Higher Education

I am aware I have been rather absentee, other than the occasional dose of Molly.  The main problem, I assure you, is my being a humanities major.

You see, we do a lot of writing in the humanities.  As the essay season approaches, my brain is more or less sucked dry, and my ability to write quality fiction is almost totally depleted.

Luckily, I am able to turn to drawing (and cooking) as another form of escapism.

So, for the month of November, you will likely see more personal things, or rather drawings and recipes.  The upcoming holidays will hopefully give me some time to “reboot,” and get things going like normal once again.

— Sami

The Classy Coat Club

It was a sunny day in September when mommy gripped my arm, whisking me away from the thronging crowd, and into the department store.  It was three stories high, I remember, with escalators and ramps twisting up its middle.  It was called Kelly’s, like Barbie’s sister.

Except, unlike Kelly, nothing was cute.  The dull-colored suits hung stiff, cardboard-like on their oddly-shaped hangers.  Massive plastic women with painted-on lips wore some of them, trying to make the customers think they were fashionable or mysterious because their hats covered their eyes.  Why would you want to wear something that makes you blind?  They couldn’t see how silly they looked, with their legs all spread apart and their elbows tensed.  Mommy grabbed my arm, again.

            Come this way, we’re going to the little girls’ section.

I couldn’t imagine it would be any better than this, and it wasn’t.  I stood still as mommy locked me in the dressing room, surrounded by glimmering mirrors and the shimmering fabric of maybe ten ruffly dresses.  Even before I tried them on, I knew I would hate all of them.  Mommy knocked on the door, reminding me I had to come out and twirl around for her once I chose an outfit.  She sounded impatient, so I chose a green dress.  I think impatient people have a permanent green light blinking in their heads: go! go! go!

Oh, does that not look pretty with your hair.  Twirl around for me.  Yes.  Um, we might have to get it altered around the cuffs, but yes.  We’re taking this one.

Happy that I had done the right thing, I went back into the room and put on my normal clothes, which had been picked out for me pretty much the same way the dress had been.  It was only a matter of time before mommy had my arm in her hand, and we would be on our way to the pop shop, I hoped.  I didn’t mind shopping as long as we stopped to get a root beer.  Maybe mommy would let me get a float.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw it.  It was green, like my dress, but it was a green I liked.  It had a whole bunch of flowers on it, and, oh, winter was coming.  It would match my new dress just perfectly.  I would be the prettiest girl at the Christmas party and, oh mommy, could we get that coat, too?  Please?

She said yes, because I had done such a great job of trying on a nice dress.

***

            I wore the coat out of the store.  Mommy didn’t mind, because it was “tailored just right” and made me look like a “little lady.”  She even said we could get a float.  As I sat at the stool kicking my feet, I felt a tap on my shoulder.  It was another girl, wearing a coat that was like mine, but red.  She was older than me, and had shiny black hair.

“Hey.  I see you are fond of classy coats.  Yours isn’t bad, and we’re looking for new members.”

I asked her who “we” were, because I wasn’t going to let myself be stolen and forced to work in a sweatshop.  She told me she was the leader of the Classy Coat Club, which sounded like a group of girls who walked around while wearing coats.  Of course, their meetings were only as long as the weather would allow.  Sometimes they would get pops, and other days they would go to the matinée at the movie theater.  The only rule was you had to wear your coat, and that your hair couldn’t look like a bear had attacked it.  Her name was Joan, and she lived just a few blocks from us.  I asked mommy if I could go visit her sometimes.

Yes, but please be home before dinner.

And that’s how we were formed, the Classy Coat Club.  I felt really grown up, probably how mommy felt when she became a part of The Parents’ Organization at my school.  I was ready to drink floats with them, and to go to the movies like some of the other girls on my block.  As I waved good-bye to Joan, I started calculating in my head all the quarters I would have to earn to pay for these endeavors.

In the September sun, I sweltered.  I didn’t care, though, because I was now a member of the Classy Coat Club.

 

Collection, II

            The real Collection was about to begin.

            Semíh held the paper – or papers, as they made their continuous slide from the printer – in his stiffened hand, feeling their slim surfaces become damp with the perspiration of his palm.  He had no notion of the names, the faces, or the debts associated with the scatter of numbers littering the white; all of which he was permitted to be privy was that they were to die.

            On his computer, he directed himself toward the National Monetary Database.  The website, with its calming blue-and-silver color scheme, drew a curtain over the saltwater-diluted crimson that splashed upon the gray sidewalk at the close of every month.  The website was known among the citizens of Kozoc as the N.M.D, and was often parodied with acronymic equivalents such as the New Money Diet or the Necropolitan Mail, Daily.  The rewordings made themselves to billboards, as well, yellowed lights shining upon the hopeful phrases of Nullify My Debt! and Nix My Dues

            Still, there were values that not even the largest loan could cover.  The two at the top of the list, medicine and school, could bury families into holes of a million or more.  What had Semíh to say about the institutions, and what was his advice for groups who faced the wrath of the Collector?

            He cringed, the words seeping through his teeth, singing involuntarily to the script in the clutch of his leader, “Forego that degree, and don’t get sick.”  The N.M.D could tell if you were doing anything unnecessary, and would act accordingly.  Its blue-and-silver would streak through the city and collide with the wood of your front door, taking no mercy in its reaping.

            Semíh brought his gaze down to the first number on the list and, with a swipe of his fingers, punched it into the “login” bar that was at the top of the page.  Twenty-five dollars, three-hundred, three-thousand; he filled the accounts of the characters in his confusing, numeric novel. 

***

            Leo went prepared, with a gun and a bright-red warrant.  He was not sure what the warrant did to contribute to the situation, other than make it more threatening, an added shade to the colors that were to follow.  The number stared back at him:  01-191809.  It owed twenty-five dollars of unpaid credit, consisting of a leather-bound notebook and a tube of lipstick.  It was probably a woman, and it was probably poor.

            He knocked on the dark, hard door of its uniform, one-bedroom house and straightened his back.

***

            Before he knew it, noon had made its appearance.  Four hours later, and four pages to go.  Semíh listlessly thumbed his drying fingers through the tiny stack, and turned his pupils toward the topmost figure: 10-271932.  Ten billion.

            Semíh logged out, and moved down the list.  This man would have to meet his fate.

***

             Leo wondered what it was that made this job so satisfying.  The gun would not load, its face beaming ERROR.  There were people in the world who deserved that punishment, he decided, and those people were apparently not the ones whose numbers were etched in ink upon chemically-treated bark. 

            About four pages were left to go.  It was nearing evening.  Leo consulted grimly the sheet, then the sky, and then the horizon in a desperate attempt to believe the impossible was not going to happen.  How could he have been framed this way?  Certainly whatever he did with his bank account was for the greater good – he had been appointed, not elected, to his office.

***

            Semíh blinked himself alert after the monitor’s screen adopted a shady hue of black.  He stood, stretched, and re-entered the room from which he had left a lifetime before.

***

Boom.

All was over.