The New World
There is a writer who wrote ten thousand words, which is not much—a novella maybe—but each word was a book and a world. In one, I saw birds with four legs who browsed the grass like other birds. But there was also a bird whose head was all beak. It had no eyes. I closed that book with a gasp when it chased me with the intent to draw blood.
In another of her worlds, I saw a labyrinth of caves under a park: in the smallest cave was a desk and a chair; on the desk was one sheet of paper and a pen. Only there on that page on that desk in that smallest cave can work be done. In that world, one young woman was unlucky enough to find her way down there. Once seated, she could never stop writing because the paper always remained blank. I closed that book with a heart palpitation.
I opened a third book and found myself on a sand dune. Saucers lay in the slack, a millennium-old tree emerged from the sand, but there was no one around. I walked for hours, but the sun never moved. I cried out once just to hear my voice echo, but it sounded like a dull, dead thing against the make-believe sky. I am still there.
While I walked on, I opened another book, this one full of joy and flowers and laughter and cakes with icing. In it was the story of the best day of my life—how did she know every last word we said, every last look?—and I was loath to close it. I vowed not to. But when I came to the end and held the last page in my hand, the book pulled away from me, gently, as if it was saying, “My dear, all good things must end.” I appealed, I shouted, I thrashed, I wept, but the book closed with a will. Though damp with my tears, it won’t open again, though I have tried and tried.
I knew I couldn’t give up, so I opened a fifth book. It told me of the future, in which children speak a new language and in which dreams are real but books are imaginary. Those who wrote books are forgotten. At the end was a note stating that an English translation was forthcoming. It was dated January 28, 1987.
I now open a sixth book. I hope it will carry me away from the dune, but I can’t be sure; I know it cannot tell me the best day of my life. But with the third book still open, I have no choice. I’m wearing my purple dress, the one I wear when I go into the city, and I read the new world. It is in the language of all the other worlds, a language I didn’t know I knew. The new world is Euskadi.
Laura Arciniega holds an MDiv from Beeson Divinity School. Her work has appeared in Burnt Pine Magazine, Mad Scientist Journal, Rascal Journal and Eastern Iowa Review.
Originally from Southern California, Laura and her husband Dominic Zappia now live in Bayonne, New Jersey with their son.