Author: Tyler James Russell
When a wall of bone and fascia bloomed from the earth a hundred miles from our village, my dead almost-girlfriend stood over my bed, waiting for me to wake up.
“You,” I whispered.
We’d been longtime girlfriends but only vaguely girlfriends just before she died, making out for the first time the same week a vein throbbed open and the rushing blood sledgehammered her brain. Now, in the dark, her eyes buzzed. Her hair floated and sang.
I didn’t know anything about the wall, not until later, picking up whispers on the road, second and third-hand. People said it was pollution, visitation, a further sign of the planet’s death. As far as walls go it was stupid, just erupted in the middle of a field, dividing nothing. You could walk all the way around it.
She was cold. Every time she opened her mouth, she sputtered. Like her lungs weren’t made for air now. We did our best. For certain things, it doesn’t matter. I imagined mirrors facing each other on either side of some watery barrier, trying my best to anchor her to this side, to me.
There were riots. Mobs and fires. Armies were called in. Some treated the wall like a holy place. A man with no mouth left it speaking. Allegedly a pregnant woman burrowed into it and came out with a baby that glowed. But then a parade of pilgrims arrived to be cured of their sins and one by one they touched their foreheads to the surface and it killed them. Their companions dragged the bodies away, then went back and took their chances.
* * *
When we finished, I felt whole. After she died, all my want had been sharpened to this tiny dagger, this lethal-need. Now I slept like I’d finally been stabbed with it.
But by morning she was wormy again, fly-covered. Centipedes crawled under her skin.
* * *
I set out for answers. It was dark, but everything was always dark. Even day was a shadow. Apparently, the same thing had happened in other places too—a jagged streak of deaths and short-term resurrections, bodies like wind-lifted leaves. Maybe it would have brought a better person hope, but the more I heard of miracles, the more I wanted to burn the world down. A black hole ate everything I fed it.
I followed the Moon-ring from horizon to horizon, heading west. Monolithic shapes drifted in the sky, so exactly the color of night I was never sure what I was actually seeing and what I only thought I was seeing. The wall, when I got there, was the same way. It grumbled and shifted, a thing constantly being born. There were ribbons of color in the air. I thought maybe I’d feel different when I saw it for myself, but everything was still the same.
Soldiers, mounted and armed, streamed out of the hillsides. The pilgrims closed their eyes, held hands in a protesting line. Just before they collided into slaughter, one by one, everyone lifted into the air, floating. I watched them pedaling their feet, faces giddy, in awe.
It made it easy for me to nab someone’s weapon and do what I did.