Fragments of Youth, by Robb Dunn

Gravity pulls me to Earth, the weight of existence unbearable. You are not here and I am afraid to show feelings. Mother will be coming soon to escort me to yoga. It prevents muscle atrophy, she tells me. We must make use of the limited space we have now.

Now.

The elders use the word automatically. I find it odd. It has always been this way. This is what we have, and it is all I have ever known. To me, it simply is.

Our histories state we came to occupy this space forty-six years ago in order to survive high above an unraveling world unable to sustain itself. We had divorced ourselves to make do on our own. Each level architected and stacked one upon the other over a growing wasteland. A biosphere to ride out an ending that would never come.

But you knew that, didn’t you?

We surround ourselves in white fabrics, stainless steel and glass. Antiseptic practicality. Food grown hydroponically in the atriums on the top level, we are vegetarians, the plant life used to filter out impurities in recycled air. Cisterns below them to collect runoff from the mist.

Pervasive and eternal, visible from every window. They say it stretches beyond the horizon, encompasses the earth. The mist is our legacy, a testament to overindulgence.

So the histories tell us.

Our biosphere is what heaven looks like, the elders extol. When we pass from life, we will sleep and then wake without breaking stride. This place is a way station. Our monument to God.

And then, when your ceremony drew near, you saw this place for what it really is.

A mausoleum.

You hid your fragments of youth and then you were gone.

We have ceremonies to celebrate one’s passing. We gather in the atrium’s center, circled around the egg shaped pod. Bless the elixir. Say our goodbyes and wait for their end. But when you vanished, they called it a miracle. God had chosen to take you, body and soul, before your time. They sainted you and hung your portrait in the Chapel of Histories. I have been under constant observation since the day you left. I miss you so.

At first the questions were endless.

Can you believe he’s gone?

Did you see him taken?

Are you a witness?

How do you feel?

Eventually, I came to understand that feeling is a vulnerability. The wound of your disappearance left me nothing but a scab for others to pick at. And as they picked, I became diminished. By the time I found your fragments, hidden where you knew only I would find them, the last little bit of coagulated soul had been flicked away. Now, I am nothing but a scar. Now I understand the state of now and what it was like to have once had something more than this place.

And so, now, to avoid the discomfort, I spend my days carrying on. Expectations piled on top of responsibility piled on top of unselfishness piled on top of logic. Mother calls it duty. I imagine you called it a chain, and plotted in silence.

The histories tell us that our knowledge is the only tool we need wield. Simplistic living to hammer out an existence of comfort, preparing for the afterlife. Until I found your fragments of youth, I had no idea what a book was, let alone a journal. Inside, I found words that you called writing. Images that you called sketches. Delivered by your own hand. We have no need of such things. Our words are delivered onto screens. We consume in images.

Only God creates.

Each fragment you called a page. You taught me poetry. Showed me myself as a newborn and sketches of my progression. Asked questions about the nature of being. Questions about the nature of God. Questions we never think to ask.

And at the end, you drew an image you called a map and you placed writing there for me that showed the route you took, down the spire, back into the world. It was then that I learned the difference between mist and opaque glass. Between the cult of family and that of self-awareness. Of truth and of treachery. We have not occupied this space for forty-six years, as the histories tell us. Merely the span of a single generation.

Mine.

Mother will not understand it when she finds I have vanished, at least not at first.

Perhaps I too will be sainted, and as saints, we shall rediscover the earth together.


In 2013, Robb Dunn gave up twenty years of corporate life in order to twist reality into odd bits of fact and fiction. He’s much happier now, albeit a little nostalgic for the weekly rib eye steak. Medium rare, please.


<– Not All Who Wander Are Lost, by Sylvia Heike

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