Vanquished Glass

All the glass in the world has vanished. The tall grasses thrash against my bare legs, dress pillowing and sucking against me alternately. Shelby is beside me, both feet planted firmly on the ground for the first time in his life.

The moment this strikes me, I can’t help but look over at him and shout over the wind, “How does it feel to stand?”

“A little dizzying,” he says, grinning back. “Lot farther to fall.”

Shelby’s the kind of person who loves the ground too much to realize he was born with wings, says Mr. Mellark. Whenever provided the opportunity, he always chooses to sit on the ground, sit on something, or even just lean.

But today, tonight, he stands with us. We all stand in a line on Cherry Hill, holding hands. Except for Shelby and me. He didn’t offer it, and I don’t feel like taking it, so I just let Aunt Josephine clutch my other hand fervently. I try not to look at her, because she’s the type of person who would notice, but I can tell she’s crying. A lot of people are.

And singing.

It started out as a dull rumble, as we were marching out to the hill.

It was barely dark out when we all left our homes and banded together on the road, in one lumbering mass. Somebody near the front began a song, one of the sweet, melancholy folksongs that were made for campfires and nights of endless chess tournaments and knowing that you were part of something much more immutable than yourself.

“Why are we signing?” little Connie, barely awake, asked, tugging on my hand.

“With the proper high note,” said Mr. Mellark, contemplatively, striding beside us with his smoothly gnarled walking stick, “a signer can shatter glass.”

The Wall lies in the valley below us— or what is left of it. It looks more like a trail left behind by Connie, who didn’t realize she was tipping the salt container upside down. Nothing but a strip of white powder from up here— maybe a few sparkles if you squinted your watering eyes against the wind.

“What does it look like?” comes a croaking cry on the other side of Shelby. Blind, old Addison had, when he was very young, elected Shelby as his favourite. Intricate descriptions of the world he’d lost sight of was his favourite treat, and he was always instructing us children not to tell him that the moon was shining, but to “show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Shelby doesn’t say anything for a long time, and when I turn my face toward him, I see he has his face in his hand.

I swallow, reach out, and pry his wet hand from his wetter face. His April-storm eyes blink at me, red around the edges, scared and hopeful and alive. I wrap my fingers around his hand and squeeze.

“What does it look like, Shelby?” I say.

A shuddering breath rips through his body.

He says, “Freedom.”

“Mr. Addison,” I shout, as wind buffets us, “blue moonlight glints on the winding trail of shattered glass.”

Shelby squeezes my hand back.

I’m waking up.

I feel it in my bones.

We don’t know what lies before us. We never knew what lay beyond the Glass Wall. But it is ours. Whatever the future holds, it belongs to those who sang until the prison glass came crashing down.

The ones who see the glint of light on broken glass, because the moon shines for us tonight.

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