by: Cameron Finch ((Header art by Robert Smithson.))
“I feel clumsy, surrounded by this much fragility. One wrong move and everything crashes.” The delicacy of glass, and of life, explored…
There are no windows. Only the glass that makes them. There’s my beating heart. But it’s mostly drowned out by a ticking clock and the gentle hum of the heating vent.
I’m not alone. Kelda breathes loudly next to me.
We’re in an old warehouse, a storage unit for antique glassware. The lights bounce off the artifacts living on the metal shelves. My retinas are cut with a single shine. I would call this place abandoned, but who would dare leave this million dollar room perfectly untouched? I feel clumsy, surrounded by this much fragility. One wrong move and everything crashes. I’m a source of danger. And yet Kelda is a cloud. She skirts around corners and slaloms through aisles. She can walk through the vases, the bowls, the delicate tea cups without disturbing the peace.
Kelda pulls a large metal pole out of her bag and hands it to me. It feels cold against my skin and sends a shock-shiver to my elbow. I don’t know what to do with it at first.
Kelda migrates across the floor and then back to me. She holds in her hands a crystal wine decanter. It looks stupidly heavy. It looks like solid ice.
She pulls the stopper out from the top and takes a whiff inside.
I ask her what it smells like, even though she told me once that questioning is for the weak.
Kelda plugs the top again and smiles. Absolutely nothing: she says. It’s perfectly scentless.
I think she’s lying. Even the most mundane items – plastic, metal, old books, pillows, skin – they all have their own scent identity. I sniff the thin skin of my wrist and find that Kelda’s right. Here in this room, we both must smell of nothing.
The room itself is tinged with tangy day-old milk and decay.
Kelda plays with the stopper of the decanter, dipping it in and out of its hole, as if it’s an inkwell. Finally, she tosses the top behind her – the way you might throw salt over your shoulder for good luck. It smashes on the concrete floor. She isn’t even fazed.
We are alone.
The decanter is pressed firmly between her palms. Someone worked for hours on this piece of glass. This is someone’s sweat, someone’s blood.
I stare closely at it, noticing every detail. Its fan designs wrap around like fingers. Its stem wears a notched turtleneck. I imagine pouring ruby red wine down its throat.
There’s a bloodless power in its vacuous shimmer; a power that divides the reflection of my face into thirds.
I grip the metal pole tighter, my knuckles paling. And we swing.
Shards of glass pierce into our skin as we bat and blunder and bust and break every glass in sight. I feel nothing but joy. The blood seeping out is only purged sickness. To hell with it all. I have no wounds. I forget who I am. To hell with it all. We live without pain, Kelda and me. We live without guilt, without scars.
A crystal ocean crunches beneath our feet.
The lights are white in our eyes. We have crystals in our toes and we don’t feel a pulse. We are not made of glass. We aren’t even human.
The ceiling fluorescents buzz and a ladybug plummets to the ground.
There is glass everywhere. My hands want to touch it all and make shards stick out of my skin. I want to absorb their power. I take a stack of untouched plates. The saucer on top shows a heralding crane; a rock in its mouth. It snows winter behind its figure. My thumb traces its thin and graceful leg, then follows up along the naked bark of the trees. I caress the crane’s wings to prevent the cold from threatening her warmth, bringing back fluid and blood to her body.
I release my fingers. Gravity reaches up and grabs the surrendering bottom plate. Then the next, and another, until the only plate left in my hand is the one with the shivering crane.
I pray for the bird and let its plate drop.
It rattles on the floor. It keeps intact. Not even a crack shows on its surface and it is still made of glass.
I bend over to pick it up while Kelda looks on. The crane is pressed under my thumb. It’s cold again. Deathly, almost. It squeezes out from my hold, shakes out its feathers and takes flight across the room. It lands on Kelda’s shoulder. It pecks her neck and my friend begins to crumble.
Kelda shatters slowly at first.
Then, she explodes from the inside out the way that kettles do. Porcelain segments of her face, her wrists, the little divot between her nose and lips burst out and away. One cracked chip – a curved piece from her hip – bullets into an iced tea tumbler. The glass rolls on its side and drops to the floor.
Kelda’s fragments are scattered amidst the dust and broken glass. Around her, the metal shelves that once held such excellence lay helpless as skeletons.
And then there’s too much quiet. The clock has stopped ticking. I’m alone in this splintered cave with nothing but the glass crane, which has landed inches from Kelda’s fractured wrist. It scratches its body with its beak, releasing a feather into the air. It touches down on the pillowy ground. Murderers always leave their mark. I don’t feel anything until I glance down at my glass-scratched feet. The blood continues to rise like lava to the bony surface. And it looks like it will never end.
Cameron Finch recently graduated from The University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. Cameron is a writer, a preschool teacher, and a student of tap dance. Her work has appeared in the Michigan Daily Literary Issue and the Cafe Shapiro 2014 Short Fiction Anthology and she won the ‘Ways of Seeing’ Fiction Award in Michigan State University’s Exceptions Journal and was a Midwestern Gothic Summer Flash Fiction Finalist.