CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Unlike before we start not in the middle of a decision, not in the middle of the egg, but in a house that someone has built. Unlike before where we were swordless, where we were a child, we have knives, a shield, a weapon to dash out in front of our body like a jabbing tongue, a retracting thorn. We are older now, we are told, we have been tested, we have burned through trees, we have separated rock from rock, evaporated water with a song—here, a pond with no heart—we can only play one song—we can play that song again if we are allowed.
The beauty is that we have lost everything except our sword, except our shield, and there is nothing to remember or to be remembered. We know that it is us only because we are told that it is us; we looked so different then; we can see every stride we make with our legs; we can see our knees bend. Before, we were seen through the eyes of a god, a raven, something we have killed with our sword, turned away with our shield. We used to take the jewels left behind by our enemies and turn them into things that we can hold: a candle, a bottle. Here, now, there is nothing to buy and nothing to take from our slices but experience and the knowledge that we can walk through a place where you once were, but are no longer.
We do not know any of this yet. We will touch shadows and be thrown into worlds where we must duck under the emergence of fire from stomachs of creatures that we will always be unfamiliar with. We will take lifts and we will be seen. We will turn into fairies for just a few rotations of wings before we fall back towards the grey brick. We will die and we will see a photograph of ourselves multiplied. We will die and someone will lose themselves in the lights. We will die and someone will forget a name they have said before. We will die and someone will put form over function, over meaning, and we will say the word “door” over and over again until it looks strange; we will doubt the letters and how it feels in our mouths; that nothing can be that round, that the door that disappears with a key was never there—that someone came in the middle of the night and replaced it with something similar while we weren’t looking, while we were sleeping. We do not know any of this yet because you are sleeping. We begin when you were sleeping. We begin when you were sleeping and I am sorry. We begin because the end has lost its meaning. We begin because we are meant to believe that after all that transpired between us disappeared at some point; that a birthday passed, you ate dinner with mothers I will never know, that you are wearing a shirt that I have never seen and now you are sleeping. There are stairs to where you are sleeping and I cannot jump up them without jumping through you while you are sleeping. The key to the door is in your mouth but you are sleeping. I will see the fires that surround your bed, my bed where I have placed you while I sleep like a gentleman in a chair close by. I will see the fires that surround my bed, one at your feet which are bare, one at your hair which has not moved since August. I will see the fires elsewhere and they will cause me to leap back like a wasp and my body will turn invisible, invincible, and I can run through things that harm me, things that harm you like invisible plans made to cause you to fall asleep elsewhere, all places, but not here. These fires are for decoration; they cannot harm you while you are sleeping.
You do not know this yet, but I will wake up and think you are dead. I will wake up and you will be dead and you will not wake up. I will wake up and I will be dead and you will not wake up. I will be dead and you will wake up and you will get a drink of water and look in the mirror and I will be dead. I will be dead and you will wake up and you will kiss me on the forehead and I will kiss you on the forehead and I will be asleep. I will be dead and you will walk through a door and then another door and you will leave and I will be dead and you will play a song like a boat on an ocean, like a night moth, like a sad bird and I will reflect in the keys like a Spanish melody, like a shadow that I have been carrying that spills out from my stomach when the lights go out and the courage is lost. I will kneel in the corner and stab at the air until my shadow walks into me—jumps with knife pointed downwards to the earth, and you will be asleep. I will sleep on the floor on my side like a wound, like the taste of grapes.
Watch a video of “Zelda Revisited.”
Brian Oliu is originally from New Jersey and currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. His work can be found in Ninth Letter, New Ohio Review, Bat City Review, the Collagist, DIAGRAM, Brevity, and others. If all else fails use fire.