A Refreshed Perception

Contributor: Andrew Vrana

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I was there this morning as the sun peeked coyly through steel mountains, standing in the incessant line like so many mornings before, taking step after mindless step to carry myself ever closer to those automatic doors that have an appetite for the chronically mundane. I had to step carefully: I could not encroach upon the body in front of me nor let the one behind get too close. We had to move as one droning entity to keep up the desired illusory order.

Before the sun showed me its full face, I was inside, shivering against the bitter cold and feeling naked in the filthy glow of artificial lighting. I was much more conspicuous once inside; the guards on either side of the door sneered at me through faceless helmets. As the doors shut behind me, I gave the tiniest of twitches and shifted my eyes nervously, though I knew anxiousness was unreasonable. They would all know soon enough I was different. I wanted nothing more than to reach the end of the line and run hastily back into the sunlight before crawling back into my hiding place.

Will I never reach the end?

“Your ID please,” the plump woman said, not even glancing at me as she tapped a yellowish claw on the counter. She reeked of bad perfume and wore an air of superiority. Reaching a moist hand into my pocket, I set the plastic card shakily on the indicated spot. Hundreds of trips to dozens of different check-in centers made me dread what was coming next.

“Okay,” she said. “No, please stay there for now.” Here it was. “You—what’s this?” Her accusing gaze found my wide-eyed face for the first time, her mouth curling upward maliciously; I thought I might have seen her tongue shoot out to lick her glistening lips.

Leaning toward me but speaking in a voice that I was sure reached all the way to the doors, she said, “Not Officially Registered, huh? Something wrong with you?” She could hardly get the words out before a deep chuckle.

“Choice…” I said. My voice was a weak whisper, but it did not matter now. “It’s my choice. Do what I want. You know.”

The woman let out a hearty guffaw followed by an endless maniacal cackling, baring her yellow teeth and bombarding me with horrid breath. Behind me the line of bodies echoed her laughter and added audible commentary to intensify my mortification. I lowered my head, skin glistening with sweat that chilled in the cool air and made me shiver.

“Your identity is good for another week,” the woman told me between shouted laughter. She used a grimy fingernail to push my card back toward me. I took it and ran.

I closed my eyes as I reached the door, hearing the guards laugh their metallic song at me and pushing people from their precious spots in the line as I hurried through the door. I did not open my eyes when I saw the red glow of the sun upon my eyelids. I felt it happen. I felt it all crumbling away behind me. Bestial shrieks were drowned by the deafening sound of chaos as steel mountains crumbled inward. I ran on and on, over quaking concrete and melting grass and finally softness, where I at last collapsed and where now I wallow.

When the world on my eyelids turns to blackness, I curl up and hug my knees. I am the World Breaker. I know what I will see if I open my eyes: nothingness, a void, a blank space. I’ve done it again.

But later…

Later I will open my eyes as the World Maker, and everything will be the same again—no, it will be new, slightly different. New streets lined with new steel mountains reflecting the light of the orange sun. Yet I will stand in the same line and see the same people mocking me with blank stares. I will never change them or myself, but I will continue to change the world. Perhaps one day that will be enough.

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