Monday, January 30, 2012

The Vintage City by Emily Calvin

I HATE MYSELF I HATE MYSELF I HATE MYSELF I HATE MYSELF!” my 5-year-old daughter screams in mock reminiscence of my own self-loathing childhood. She learns quickly, I note and return to the project at hand. My focus returns to said project: building an army of faeries to bring peace. About 30 years ago, the war of all wars erupted and melted all over my hometown, among many others. When the dust settled and the soldiers released us from our solitary cages, we awoke to discover our world had been morphed into an oversized, personal laboratory for a mysterious man called “The Dictator.” Not long after he rebuilt every country to look alike, he decreed the injection of mind-washing chemicals into every mother’s breast milk and every faucet’s tap water. The Genius chemical mixed with the Servant gene makes for extremely efficient, worry-free, subjects.
But Sophia and I escaped in search of refuge with dreams of gypsy communes. Fueled by nostalgia and the optimism induced when a mother gives birth to the future, I have brought Sophia back to my hometown—a tiny, piece of shit in the middle of a swamp once called Florida. Florida—now an archaic state—once thrived like a lush rainforest of ancient trees wet with morning dew. Enter nuclear sky and acid lakes and mindless soldiers with guns of poisonous vapor, and now my hometown reeks of anarchist pride and disparity.
My hometown—one of the myriad, so-called “Wastelands.” One stoplight directs 2-way traffic. The United Baptist Church of the World stands proudly atop a plastic dome painted green (as if one color aesthetically suffices as grass replacement). Across the street, a decrepit, rectangular edifice sits lifeless, covered in ancient concrete bricks. Aside from the shattered windows scattered across the concrete, the building boasts a fresh, wet, spray-painted declaration: PUNKS NOT DEAD. When did The Dictator outlaw apostrophes? I ponder…or maybe the punks have sworn off proper grammar.
“How cliché,” Sophia interrupts my setting survey.
Cliché? I wonder. Where’d she hear that word?
“I’m talking about you, mom,” she clarifies. “Not anymore, of course,” she backpedals, “but when you were my age…a 5-year-old filled with angst? Come on,” Sophia laughs…like a 40-year-old French man sipping espresso in one of those Parisian cafes I loathe more than pre-Revolution high school.
She’s always been too damn smart, I fear.
“Hey,” I defend my childish ways, “generational divide…I was brooding before you were born,” a cackle sounds from both our mouths.
Generation “Y” I muse of the peers with which I grew and fell and loved and lost. Generation Y…not? Generation Y…care? Or maybe just Generation wh“Y”?
“I just don’t get how you even knew how to hate yourself at that age,” Sophia presses, “you know…without our water.”
“At that age?” I stop fiddling with my tinctures and turn to face this bouncing ball of smarts and opinions, draped in moth-eaten, fuchsia, tutu dress made of recycled nuclear waste. “You mean at your age?” my finger points in Sophia’s direction.
Her hair sparkles red in the sun. Beneath her flowing cape of cobwebs, she hides a yellow, bumblebee costume, complete with black, aluminum sequins and antique, 100% post-post-post consumer wings. Bees are her favorite mythical insects from “my time”…before The Dictator. “I just love how they shamelessly slept with one flower after another!” she always beams. “So poetic.”

Ever since Sophia was born, she always understood more than most children. It must be all the genetically modified breast milk and chemically injected water. That’s why, by the way, we’re “on the lamb,” as some might say—I refused to comply with The Dictator’s orders and replaced Genius and Servant bullshit with gulp after gulp of my own, woman-made, pure, glorious breast milk. I couldn’t get the Genius chemicals out of the water before her life entered my belly, but because we escaped in time for Sophia to use her intelligence against the New World, mind-washed bullshit. “Thank Goddess,” I sigh.
“You’re welcome,” Sophia giggles…one of her favorite jokes. “What are we doing here anyway, mom?” she looks at my potion bottles, then the intersection in which we stand.
“Hush, Sophia,” I demand. “Respect the sanctity of where I was born. This is where we will start a new world.”
“Oh right,” she mumbles, “your legacy…the ‘gypsy community’…how could I forget,” she scoffs.
“Enough,” I snap. “Back to work.”
Sophia’s shoulders droop and her lips press into a pout as she turns on her heel and commences her wanderings throughout my workspace. Scatterings of ingredients lay before my feet as I sit cross-legged on the concrete of an abandoned parking lot behind the warfront. Five phoenix feathers, each dipped in an eagle’s blood, give the faeries flight, fire, and fury. Six dragon’s eyes, with a needle in the center of three, give the faeries unlimited sight at the cost of the inevitable pain that accompanies omniscience. Some mushroom luster here, some stone-ground insect powder, a pinch of ancient soil, and voila! “Arise, oh glorious faeries of my creation!” I bellow.
My inebriation de triomf quickly fades, however, as my fears of anticlimactic “Abracadabra’s” realize themselves before my eyes…and Sophia’s. “Oh no,” I mutter. “What’s wrong?”
“Um mom…” Sophia stutters, while rifling through the withering Wiccan Bible I gave her to learn the essential spells of survival.
“Oh put that book down,” I sigh. “It’s nonsense. This will never work.”
I pick up one of the beakers of “faery potion” and almost crash it on the sidewalk when Sophia screams, “No!”
She runs over and snatches the beaker from my stubborn grip. “Listen mom,” she sits down next to me, “you forgot one, essential ingredient.”
She’s nervous. Why’s she nervous? What have I done wrong? Oh how could I do this! I’ve failed her! “I’m so sorry I’ve failed you!” I blurt before my head falls into my palms and the tears flow like Niagara Falls before it dried up when The Dictator pumped it into his factory.
“No mom,” she grabs my hands, “I’m sorry. Look, I have to…you need…I um…just read this.”
She hands me the Wiccan Bible and points to the last ingredient in the faery potion. I read, “All the blood of the maker of said potion.” Holy shit. I…I…I have to do this. It’s my destiny. It’s Sophia’s destiny. These faeries must be! “These faeries must be!” I jump to my feet and reach for the knife.
Before Sophia reaches me, I make two deep slices down either side of my inner forearms and stand above the rows of faery beakers, raining blood…my blood…over every one of my beloved creations.
“This will give them life,” I argue to Sophia. “My job here is done. I cannot live in this world any longer. This is your world now, Sophia. Make…me…proud.”
My arms shrivel into bare twigs covered in raisins, and I falter and lay my body on the concrete next to the beakers. Sophia stands above me, glancing back and forth between the beakers and my body. “What have you done?” she remarks, rather too calmly.
“This was so unnecessary, mother,” she complains.
The sky turns purple and glitter shoots from invisible cannons as I shrink into nonexistence, seduced by the lullaby of harmonious faeries chanting, “Hail Sophia, our queen and master.”

Sophia’s 5-year-old mind jolts into overwhelming awareness.
* * * * *
Shit. My head hurts. “Mom??” I shriek, as the faeries circle around me, chanting my name and reaching for my hands—“Sophia! Sophia! You are our queen! We will follow your bidding!”
“Wait!” I hold my hands up as if to stave them off. “You’re mistaken! It was my mother who created you. My mother is your master! Not me!” I attempt to laugh.
“But your mother is dead. Is she not?” one faery asks.
“Yes! Yes I know she is!” another retorts.
“So you are next of kin and next in line and therefore…” yet another begins.
“Our queen!” all shout in unison.
I jump, and curse my mother for being so goddamn selfish. I never wanted her stupid world. Who cares about this wasteland? Who cares about this war? Why on earth could my mother ever believe sending faeries to kill everyone would some how bring about a land of peace and harmony and communal living? And now I’m in charge? Fuck me. I scan my servants and consider my options—continue my mother’s plan and live with guilt and blood on my soul for the rest of my pathetic existence; or somehow convince these bloodthirsty faeries to create peace here and now, without sacrificing another living soul. Okay, I sigh, here goes nothing. “Listen up!” I shout, and every single translucently iridescent faery freezes in silence.
“I’m your queen, and this is what I want you to do,” my shoulders raise and the faeries move closer. “As you probably know, somehow, through my mother’s crazy potion, you were created to fight a war,” the faeries nod and “mmhmm” in agreement. “Well,” I clear my throat, “there’s been a change of plans.” Silence. “No blood will be shed. No soul will be killed. And no fighting will occur. You will create peace among the people already living on this precious land, and the anarchists, the Baptists, the faeries, and I will dance in a community of freedom and acceptance.
First, the faeries stare into my eyes in silence, and finally one speaks: “Yes master,” and the rest follow, “yes master. Dance we shall!”
All the faeries fly off to separate corners of the sky and set to work on a project unbeknownst to me. I plop down next to my cold mother, touch her shrunken arm, lean down and kiss her forehead, and mutter “I’m sorry,” before I set fire to her body and watch the flames rise above the faeries, anarchists, and Baptist fundamentalists alike.
Bass reverberates in the distance, buildings boom, windows shatter, and anarchists and Baptists freeze mid-war. Bells and harps and electric guitar solos chime into the bass and suddenly trance music fills the entire wasteland with flourishing pathways of green leaves and flowers of all colors and shapes. Concrete bursts into trees, buildings melt into bamboo dance floors, and the traffic light turns into a disco ball larger than the sun. Faeries fall to the sky as anarchists and Baptists emerge into the streets in curious inspiration and happiness. I watch in amazement as faeries grab anarchists, Baptists grab faeries, anarchists grab Baptists, and an especially beautiful faery even grabs me. The music fills our souls with vibrating pleasure as we dance into the night in celebration of a revived, vintage city.
And we all lived happily ever after.

1 comment:

  1. Love it, where's the rest! This is a novel I can buy right away? More from this author.