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.

How Often Turns Into Dream

She stared at the setting sun. It was like a beach ball at day break, all bright and round and red. Sometimes hard to tell if it was rising or setting.

“Help,” she said quietly, almost to herself, or to the setting sun. What would have helped at that moment was a broom, she decided. She could ride off into the sunset and ask the sun herself.

She had transformed since her last visit to the shore. More crabby. She wanted to belong on that beach. She knelt beside a particularly slow and grumpy looking crab.

“It’s nighttime,” he said.

“Not yet,” she said.

“It will be,” he said, ever the pessimist. “I’m a realist.”

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Part Three: A Traditional Halloween Tale

Cidney Ellen had nearly arrived when she noticed her slipper was missing.

“Oh fiddle,” she said and turned around to search the soggy sidewalk she’d walked up. She hadn’t gone far when a large, lumpy toad hopped out of the dead wet grass and plunked down in the middle of the side walk.

“Hmm,” Cidney said, considered it an omen, and turned back in her original direction toward the steepled mansion at the top of the sodden hill. There was a certain… oh what was it? Cattiness? Yes, perhaps it was that, though she really felt the word unjust to feline-kind everywhere, after all, some of the gentlest friends she’s ever met were cats… but there she was, letting her thoughts wander away from her again. And anyway, there was a certain cat-like-ness in the air tonight, too. Cattiness, and something more: a creeping disinterest in reality.

Unusualness.

Hobbling up the front steps in just one slipper, Cidney straightened her glittering tiara, brushed down her ruffly, white, and soaked skirts, and rapped on the door in a rhythmic way.

One minute. Two.

Cidney began exploring the porch. It really wasn’t so bad of a place when you got down to looking at the roly-polies in the paint cracks of the window sill, or the way the creeping myrtle was curiously beginning to wind up the sides of the porch. Even the sharp October wind was alright because at least it wasn’t playing games with you. It shocked you down to the bone, but then that was that. Cidney didn’t even wish she’d brought a coat.

All except the pumpkin. It was a bit disheveled-looking, with lumps in unusual places, and sat forlornly on the edge of the top step, water droplets still pooling in the little divet at the top. Even if it had been the most beautiful pumpkin in the world, Cidney still would’ve shuddered. She couldn’t stand the sight of them; not since the accident.

The door burst open and a hand darted out and grabbed her.

“We need your help!” Wendy greeted her without ceremony, yanking her down the feebly lit main hall.

In the rooms they passed, Cidney caught glimpses of all sorts of unusual sights. A scarecrow doing a jig on the ceiling, and a nurse chasing after him with a needle and thread, catching his limps as they fell off. A werewolf howling at the little squares on moonlight on the floor. A long, rectangular, suspicious-looking box rattling and thumping from the inside.

Wendy dragged Cidney all the way up to the attic, an unusually spotless room, just for tonight. A dozen mice were dusting and scrubbing the floors and walls, even though they already shone to polished perfection. A tight-lipped, severe looking middle-aged woman sat in the lone armchair in the middle of the room, a compact mirror lying open in her lap.

“We must hurry, my child, it is almost midnight,” the woman said, beckoning Cidney forward.

Cidney knelt before the woman, and took the mirror the woman pressed into Cidney’s cupped hands. There was a certain resemblance between them, not exactly in their look as in their manner. Both seemed to have their heads in the clouds of a world that had long since passed them by. The cadence of their movements. The gestures of their voice.

Cidney closed her eyes and inhaled. Wendy and the woman looked on, and nobody spoke. Wendy glanced at her watch.

“11:59,” she warned.

“Cidney—” the older woman pressed.

“I’m trying! It isn’t working!”

“You must wish harder!”

The mice all spun in unison, and froze, as if they felt it. The gleaming wooden walls shivered. Moonlight grew brighter from the single oval window at the back of the room. A faint scent of roses tingled in the air.

“Midnight,” Wendy announced, frowning at her watch. Everyone exhaled together, even the mice.

All that work for nothing. She was never going to break the spell.

“We’ll try again next year, my child.” The woman patted Cidney on the arm with what she seemed to think was a consoling touch.

Dejected, Cidney nodded, and got to her feet. “I’ll help you clean up,” she told Wendy, who only shook her head.

“They were fine this year. Only one minor mess in the kitchen from the cowboy. And they’ll all have settled down by now.”

Cidney and Wendy descended together, walking back past the rooms of young people sprawled flat on their backs, waking up foggily and scratching their heads, murmuring confused statements to each other that weren’t even all the way to questions. The usual.

Wendy smiled sympathetically and waved a quiet farewell to her friend at the door.

“Happy Halloween,” she said by way of apologizing.

The words were finally starting to feel less foreign in her mouth, so Cidney turned and replied, “Happy Halloween.”

In the brisk moonlight, she hobbled back down the sidewalk, wishing for the millionth time she’d never said yes to pumpkin anything.

 

Smoke and Mirrors, an L.A. Tour Guide

I see a man outside civilization.

I smile at him and he rushes out the words like he himself is surprised at them, or maybe just surprised that I looked, and smiled.

“Can I have some change, ma’am?”

I smile silently and walk on, least I can do.

Very least. 

Think nothing of it.

I go in and buy my groceries. 

A good deal later, I come out the back of the store, and there he is, on the steps, a rag to his nose. 

At first I think he is crying.

He looks up as I pass.

“Can I have some change, ma’am?”

I nod and smile sadly. “It’s inevitable.”

L.A. twinkles brighter tonight than I’ve ever seen her—

A good rain can clear even the most malignant feelings.

Benevolence and glittering lights.

Smiles and ghost-rain.

Ah, how pretty you look from here

But please, don’t come any closer.

Hit-or-Miss

Kind of a lopsided thing, that

Miss miss miss miss

Hit

Miss

More like it.

The hissing of arrows whizzing

By the target

Usually drown

out the slap 

and shatter of clay

Pigeons.

More awkward stutters and 

Falling 

out of it

Than 

Graceful partings and double pirouettes.

Trying to console 

my soul

I make it sometimes.

I yell against the sea of

usually Not’s.