FORMAL PROOF THAT THE UNIVERSE IS NEITHER CRUEL NOR KIND, AND THAT THIS IS THE GREATEST CONCEIVABLE HORROR
by Danielle Blau
1. The redheaded child, eldest male of the family from another country, has just seen a flea hop into the sheets from a dim place on his cat Dragomir.
2. An hour like this and the lobby is empty except for the sideways-walkers. One of them keeps asking, Where is the person in charge?
3. Old Marty won’t go to bed without wandering corridors first. From wing to wing, the grasscloth walls he touches and sighs.
4. Miss Suhn returns to find her home rented out to boarders. Sure, the yolk-blond couple smiles—Down the hall to your left. On the sink beside the toilet, a fake lightup fishtank.
5. The laws of motion—though complex—are real and etched on waterproof leaf. The balled space behind seafloor is a single void-shaped tablet.
6. Louis yells: Fish taco! You nasty—
7. The widow asks again, Who is speaking please? into her telephone receiver. Over one of the arms of the Queen Anne chair is hooked a long black sock.
8. Forgotten your keys, Marty? says the man with seaglass skin.
9. Shut up Louis, interrupts everyone.
10. But when she wakes, everything in its order: Her bird’s-eye quilt, her miniature vase. In the dark, Miss Suhn hears furniture being moved around upstairs.
11. From inside him or somewhere closer—deeper—a wail, a frightening ripple. The man repeats: Forgotten your keys, Marty?
12. In a poster on a half-stripped wall, twelve bishops at a table encircling twelve eggcups. On each cup’s porcelain surface is a scene depicting twelve bishops—the very same—around their porcelain eggcups, whose identical surfaces depict the abovementioned scene.
13. The foreign boy counts under the covers, while everywhere is beating to the black designs of invisible strangers. Was there a word for that in his old language? This is the time when the owls might come.
14. Please—who is speaking? paces wife of the late Principal Wills. Over and over, the cramped circles bound by the telephone cord.
15. Outside, a monstrous hull, a ghost ship against night. It is only the dun rectangle formed where apartment house meets sky. Behind cinderblock flesh, soundless bodies in motion.
Published on March 18, 2015