At the end of this world there is no god but the Reverend’s child.
They crouch with stick figure dolls between the metal crates that are stacked and stacked and stacked in the compound, reaching to high gray heavens. These crates contain all the gifts of the world; they are slowly being loaded into the ship. The rain is coming, the Reverend preaches to a rapt congregation, distilling down the private messages of her visions. In this cavern it does not matter which side of the compound you come from—everyone stands at attention when the Reverend speaks.
Now the child crouches beneath a makeshift pulpit, a ceiling of solemnity and righteousness above them. One doll hits the other. They do not apologize. The rules of play are fickle and sudden and harsh, bending to the whims of the hands that move them. It is the end of the ceremony, and the child is being dragged out from beneath the dusty cobweb roofs of a precious hiding place by the firm hand of their mother. She places them before her and lets the people see her truth — that she is a mother like them. A parent like them. A parent of them.
“I told you to stay out of the dirt,” the Reverend tells her child after, ushering them along in front of her. She calls out a greeting to this person and that; the stainless-steel walls of the compound are a mirror, a trap, a horror.
NOTE: Aspects of history have been changed to suit the purposes of this story.
I didn’t believe what I said on that April day at the United Nations, but I could live with that.
“We shouldn’t intervene when others abuse human rights,” I said. “There are two reasons for this. First, we are not sovereign nations. Second, who knows how any of the rest of us will react? It might start a war that destroys us all.”
Everybody else seated around the negotiation table nodded, save for one person. The ambassador from Portugal shook her head and asked, “How do we know that others won’t take advantage of our inaction? Besides, isn’t it our duty to promote human rights?”
She asked it in Portuguese, and the interpreter took a while to translate it. Fortunately I didn’t need the interpreter’s help, because I understood Portuguese from school. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to answer. She had raised a particularly good point. It was a point I actually believed to be true myself. The only thing was, how did I know it was moral if everyone else in my delegation disagreed with it?
“No,” I finally said. “That’s completely false, because—”
My head suddenly burst with pain, and I broke off.
Snowflakes gracefully hit the ground
Crushed conifer cones lay scattered
Smoke drifts away from warm bodies
One man grabs his metallic circular shades
Reflection of thoughts trapped in two frames
Lowering them, he sighs
Zebra patterned pants that smell of cup ramen
He hides behind the window
His reflection hidden
Growling sounds pierce the ears of others
Blood trickles down his throat
Staring into a wavering reflection of shape and body
Koi fish move in peaceful motions
Their tails glide swiftly against each other
Raising his pants right above his coarse ankles
He steps into a clear marble pond
Garnet droplets pour down his mouth
A white tail innocently plays victim
Recovering from the stains
The tails peel off
Letting go of his safety, he lets his pants soak to feel the cold