A Discrepancy in the Promised City -- Sean Riordan
I wonder when I began to stop feeling.
A thin reflection quivers in the glass where my fingers tentatively meet its boundary. Beyond it, the sun struggles to cast a pallid glare across a horizon chopped up by the white buildings of the Promised City that jut out of the ground like teeth. In their shadows, small figures fill the ground and pay worship to the city and their eternal happiness. Through the fog of tranquility that strangles my mind, I manage to pull out one memory. I remember being promised that happiness, too.
“Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Trammel,” a nurse’s muffled voice calls from a sliver of light in the room outside. “It’s a wonderful day, isn’t it?” I don’t feel the connection or desire to respond. “I just came to check up on you two. Here’s your medicine for today—I’ll leave it right here on the table, so remember to take it. Oh, and take it with water after you eat!”
After another pause, she continues. “Don’t worry, you two. You’ll definitely overcome your tranquility soon. We won’t quit ‘till you’re happy again!” The door closes, but I can faintly hear her talking to another nurse through it.
“Five more people came in for tranquility today. You’ll be assigned to rooms 203 and 204 as well as the ones you’re in charge of already.”
“My gosh, more and more people keep getting sick! And none of our patients are getting better, either. The Trammels have it the worst. They haven’t improved at all in two years.”
“Don’t worry. Just keep upping their happiness prescription. It’ll work out eventually. We just have to trust the city, right? They’ll all get better. Sadness is obsolete now!”
Lifting my fingers away from the window, I stumble through the bedroom door frame to a silver table with two large eggs and a mound of bacon—the way I used to like it—tamed by two colorless pieces of bread. The right wall is entirely glass, casting the morning sun back again onto my pale skin. As I sink my teeth into the sandwich, I try to remember the swirls of color that would spark across my tongue when I ate it. But I continue eating, the sandwich disappears in my hands before a single memory swells into existence, and I am forced to continue my morning. The same as always.
The same as always.
By an accidental twitch of my eye, I become aware of a presence to my left. Silently, my wife transfers an egg and sausage sandwich of her own into her stomach. Her hair falls lifelessly onto her shoulders, rests for a moment, and rolls off into the air. Her eyes are glazed over, staring into nothingness. Once she finishes her breakfast, her mouth hangs perpetually open, blessed by neither a smile nor frown. My hands explore my face and find that I am the same.
A few seconds later, she notices me sitting next to her and lazily drags her face in front of mine. For hours, we sit there, together yet alone, looking at each other. I scour every curve and crevice of her face, thinking I just might be able to find an answer somewhere in it. I search her eyes, trying to somehow penetrate the thick barrier that lays over them, trying desperately to find something. Though I’m not sure what it is, I can sense a being beyond all the fog, one that held the answers, one that wishes to tell them to me.
Then, by some miracle, I can tell she’s doing the same. The instant that thought rises out of the thickness of my head, I almost see a small flicker in her body, as if a small electric jolt ran through it. Travelling from her heart up through her arms and legs, it sparks in her eyes. It races into her hair, and it rises into the air with a yellow glow. Flowing from inside of her, her skin, previously gray as death, suddenly bursts to life with pinks and blues and her eyes are painted green—the green of trees and of fields, of beautiful, precious life. Suddenly, I remember—I remember something. The air suddenly holds its breath, and a pang of adrenaline throws my arm forward toward her. Panic devours my stomach. Full of excitement, I try to hold onto the trail of a memory I somehow know I held so closely. This is love! This is empathy!
She lunges at me. Reaches her hand out. Our fingers crave each other; two reflections desperately race to touch, to feel, to meet beyond the boundary of the glass wall that had separated them. But just before they finally touch, the spark is gone.
The world falls back into nothingness, and as the fog fills up my mind I return to the feeling of sluggish oblivion, thoughts moving like thick syrup. As everything slowly fades, all colors and emotions turn their backs on the room and abandon it for the distant horizon. Even the silence remains quiet as it mourns the day and the dead minds of those in the hospital. For we are doomed to walk alone forever, empty, ashen husks wandering the halls, the minds of the nurses and those throughout the world. We are the lost ones, the reminders, the discrepancies in the Promised City.
When I go to bed, the only thing I remember from that day is thinking, I wish I could worry.