I remember standing on the rise, the dig site spread out before me, watching Captain Zimmerman, hands clasped behind his back, walk atop the honeycomb foundations of the ruins with his light, Prussian step. At his feet, the laborers, his charge, toiled in the clay. I was in a wistful mood; in my right hand was a letter from my superior, Neues Museum director Theodore Singer, denying my request to remain in Mesopotamia for another month, and telling me that I must return to Berlin before I caught Yellow fever or Malaria or Typhus or “whatever they have down there” to begin cataloging and translating what I had already found, which, judging by my last correspondence, “was substantial enough,” and demanded an exhibition “as soon as possible, preferably by next spring.” The rest of the crew would remain at the site indefinitely—in an auxiliary capacity, scraping the earth for whatever else it might yield.
Earth, a planet with massive expanses of land to live on, plentiful drinking water and both plants and animals to eat, always seemed perfect for humans to live and thrive. Humans, on the other hand, turned out to be far from perfect for their planet of Earth. The unfortunate human inability to understand their impact on the planet led to a rapid decline in the sustainability of Earth’s resources, and by the year 2455, all but the wealthiest humans are desperate to find a way out of their miserable everyday lives.
The Fragile Heart
I had never left my World. Not until someone sent it clattering to the ground. The looking glass fell from my hand as someone knocked into my arm, landing on the pavement below. I bent down to grab it, but I stopped. I wanted to get back to my World, the World that my looking glass projected for me. Yet my mind was stuck on whoever had bumped into me. I knew based on the blurry images I had seen in my looking glass before that there was was a vast Outside around me; I was just never interested enough to look away. But an Outsider had almost destroyed my fragile World. I wanted to yell at them, berate them for being so selfish. So I turned away from the looking glass to look at something other than my World.
There were hundreds other looking glasses all around me, each occupied by hundreds of other people. They all looked a lot like me, except that every single one of them had their eyes buried in their respective Worlds, picking at their flaws as they studied themselves. A teenage girl to my left dabbed concealer on a batch of acne that had formed along her jaw. A middle-aged man nervously fluffed his thinning hair while his older companion picked at a piece of spinach caught between his teeth. Across the street a young adult was tracing a finger down their lumpy, crooked nose. A sea of faces stood before me, each adorned with varying levels of imperfections. Yet all of them had the same look as they studied the Worlds in their looking glasses.
My looking glass twinkled up at me from where it lay, reflecting the light of the afternoon sun. Spidery cracks had formed across it. Sneaking a quick glance up at the crowds, I kicked it. It slid smoothly on the pavement, stopping to rest a few feet away.
I looked around to see if anyone had noticed. To see if anyone would have heard the noise or detect my movement. To see if anyone would even react. But no one moved. No one said anything, or even looked up. They just continued to stare at themselves in their respective looking glasses, consumed by their own Worlds.
I looked back at my looking glass. I sighed, walked over, and picked it up. I studied my flaws, trying to get sucked back into my World. The World where only I existed. But the cracks in the looking glass distorted my World, splitting it in more ways than I could count. My World was no longer my World, but a kaleidoscope.
By Emily Cerri
“The mask made me do it,” said the young Liberian. He was tall for his age, slouching his sweat-glazed head to his chest as he stood in the musky odor of the hut. Incense and blood tickled his nose. Continue reading
In a gas station one hundred miles inland from the coast of America’s bay state, a cashier is nodding off to the lullabies of Celine Dion coming from the transistor radio behind the counter. The evening sluggishly pulls on, and a few customers visit the gas station, but leave without purchasing an item or awakening the clerk. They, like most patrons of this business, are out of towners just filling up their tanks and continuing on the road towards places of inferior beauty and high population densities. In these places, souls float through city blocks and rarely brush shoulders, eyes meet for split seconds and faces are forgotten in less. People are gray molds, whose faces wrinkle under the eyes, and are smooth from the sides of the nose to the corners of the mouth. The horizon is blocked by massive structures whose designers are praised for the beauty they have given the world. Continue reading
I saw her for the first and last time at the train station.
She was sitting at the terminal with one leg crossed over the other, looking down at the enclosed hands in her lap as if she was absorbed in thought. Her fingers were bare save for the lightest pink nail polish that had begun to chip. No ring, meaning she was not married. Or, that she chose not to wear her ring. Her hair fell in her face in soft waves that seemed just a little too perfect to be natural. Could that be her natural hair? The now-setting sun shone on her face, highlighting the dark spots forming under her eyes. Maybe she hadn’t been sleeping well. Her skirt was pushed up to her knee and rustled in the breeze as a passing train roared by. Her green pea coat was unbuttoned at the top, like she was a conservative woman who wanted the tiniest bit of risk in her life. In that moment, I wanted to be that risk. Continue reading
The first time my brother left was when I was three. At least, that’s what he told me. I don’t remember, obviously. He went on a two-moon trip to Atlanta, GA, a hundred miles away from our rural house in a suburban neighborhood. I think he went with his girlfriend, or met his girlfriend there, or something involving a girlfriend, because I saw a picture of a girl in a motel bed waving at the camera, wearing nothing but a broad and sheepish smile. I commented to my brother that she was naked [and that he shouldn’t be showing these things to a kid like me]. He liked to say [it wasn’t a problem because] she was covered in sin [and everything was covered in sin, so I should get used to it]. Continue reading
Nixon was dead: to begin with. That much was true. And no matter the libel or lies, it would remain true. It was not yet said to be untrue by Trump and this was good because of the doubt he was able to instill deep into the minds of those who believed (and believed hard) that his word was final. Usually, during election campaigns, the notion of saying President Richard Nixon had faked his death would be a ludicrous one, but with Donald Trump at the helm? Nothing was out of play. Even though playtime had long since passed. Continue reading
I suppose she really shouldn’t have been sneaking around up there. It was, after all, not her house. But there was such an overwhelming allure to that attic. One day, she was walking past and she could have sworn there were voices coming from above. Why didn’t she tell anyone? Why because who would believe the word of a twelve year old girl? They would brush it off as one of her pretend games, as they always did. Continue reading