Except for the light breeze everything is different from all she had ever known. The temperature, the humidity, that she cannot see the horizon, the colors and the way the light dances over the ground. She has never smelled anything like this before, but it is not unpleasant. It comes closest to a combination of heavy wet mud and the youngest grasses. Behind her she could still have seen the familiar blue sky, green water and yellow sand through the trees, in case she had looked back.
Would you like a sample? asked a woman in a uniform just past the store’s threshold, gesturing out a sample in a small white cup, similarly to how pills were handed out in prisons on TV shows. The rows of food reached nearly to the ceiling of the store, so high they required a forklift to be lowered down to the patrons. A child begged her mother for a sample of an unfrozen fried Wonton appetizer, which her mother steadfastly denied. Sure, Stacey said, accepting the small cup, finding it pleasantly crunchy with afternotes of carrot.
The year is 1743. Daniella Caracosa smelled piss, rat shit, and some fine perfume throughout her quarters aboard the Mindful Miscreant. She swayed from side to side on the bed, contemplating how she emerged here, in this place, instead of in Cordoba. She was to be royalty! She imagined the regal weddings, the ballrooms, the dresses! It was all she could have wanted. But now, her husband-to-be has placed a bounty on her head-
We were born in darkness and hunger, and that was all we ever knew. My brother said we were like axes lodged in stone, impotent objects frozen in unknown space. Silence overwhelms us. Wind is a silent phantom, ice a silent beast. Sometimes it crackles with anxiety, sometimes it groans with hunger. Sometimes it terrifies me.
She believed in Sundays. Neither God nor churches nor frozen family dinners, watching a rerun of America’s Funniest Home Videos circled around the television like seagulls to a piece of bread. No, she savored Sundays like a talisman that protected her from the unknowns of the upcoming week.
Again, the phonograph replays the record. The very first motion of the driver’s ferrite, pointy reader-head clicked heavily on the periphery of the disk causing the first friction on the shellac surface and sounding like a glitchy fuzz, whose prosaic particles started moving, vibrating randomly in the space generating broken waves without any predictable order.
This story is part of our Summer Fiction Month 2020. Click here to view the stories featured this Fiction Month, as well as past fiction pieces. One morning in late spring, when only the earliest risers of the orchard were awake, a car was found crashed into the milky river that surrounded the town. The man
I received an email from The New York Review of Books, though I do not remember signing up for their mailing list, advertising gifts for the Class of 2020. Enclosed in the email was a catalogue of thin silver bracelets with quotes from famous authors. The advertisement’s featured bracelet had a quote from Thoreau in a handwriting-like font that said: “Go confidently in the / direction of your dreams— / Live the life you’ve imagined.” I will not be buying one of these silver bracelets, nor have I learned, these past few months, how to bake sourdough.
It was a strange feeling, to be meeting someone who I’d heard so much about online and during a pandemic; truly bizarre to be interviewing someone about Bard College Berlin, a university Clara Canales Gutierrez (BA EPST 2019) attended before I even knew it existed, and ask her questions that are unanswerable in uncertain times.