Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2018

Praesens

Praesens
Photo by Stelios Kazazis via Unsplash.

1. perception is reality.

2. to believe in a constructed image of what can exist, what should exist, and what will always continue existing, is to be a liar.

3. and a fool.

4. there is no reason why everything we know to be true cannot change at any given moment. all past wars, epidemics, natural disasters — they had a time in which they began, raged forth from what seemed like nothingness.

5. don’t look bank tellers in the eye, even if you feel like you should.

6. you should be terrified.

7. however, you will not be terrified. there is incredible freedom in the Creed, incredible strength. this is because we, above all else, know that our immediate sphere is the sole thing that defines us. all else is simply a reverie.

8. certainty is the body.

9. when you go to the supermarket, never buy anything from the frozen foods isle, except for the microwave pizza. also, avoid all plums, and all meat products with “farm” in the brand name.

10. perception is reality.

 

You see what’s happened, you see what a mess he’s gone and made of all of this. It was never meant to end this way, the Boy really was just looking for a bathroom when he opened the door to the Incarnation’s room and they met, at ten-oh-seven on the dot. A festival was burning in the living room downstairs, the walls shook in triplets to the tune of a soaring kind of satellite voice, all the youth laughing. They passed around glassy liquid that smelled of formaldehyde, and because of all of this the Boy’s vision was blurring and his throat felt twisted when he walked upstairs and ran into the Incarnation. She sits cross-legged on top of the ripped blue satin sheets of her bed, eyes like deep pits twitching as she looks upon him. The Boy, feeling that his presence is resented, stands there unable to move as the door swings into the opposite wall, crackbang.

You’re in my math class, aren’t you? Is this your house? Are you okay? he asks in quick succession, quicker quicker as he hears no answers. Her hands fold in her lap, nails wrapping beneath each other as she watches him, lips curling up into a slow grin.

Come in, then.

The Boy heeds her instructions, walks towards the consuming, hot sunrise light that surrounds all in this frame. She has left lanterns burning on the wooden floor, on either side of her. They exchange names, but this is a useless detail that time has decided to omit. Therefore, no more can be said on this topic, or on the festival downstairs, or on the way that the Boy should have been at that very moment on the porch steps of Olivia’s house, much further downtown than this one. They were meant to go to the skating rink, or maybe it was the theater.

I’ve never seen anything like this. He gestures around the room, arms swinging like the great eagle forefather. What’s that behind you?

The Incarnation turns to look at the back wall of the room, at the array of images floating behind her head. News clippings, photographs, blocks of scrawled text and numbers and shapes that fall into themselves four times over. An ideal twisted world — celebrity beauty and receipts for seven-eleven slurpees and her older brother’s ex-girlfriend, the Twin Towers are freeze-framed in their inferno, Kennedy has died again, jewel tones are the new fall look and there are aerobics classes for 15% off down at the Diamond Gym during May. It’s for my memory.

It’s disturbing.

Not if you look closely. She inches forward on her bed, feet over the side and stands now. The Boy moves out of the way as she strides over to the wall, eyes rolling up towards the ceiling. Running her finger over the frayed edge of a list of all of the extinct animal species as of 1998, she explains herself. Look, {redacted}, what can you be sure of right now? Really sure of. Just from what you know standing with me in this room.

The Boy watches the lantern-light cast dark, thick shadows on the carpeting, outlines of the dresser, of the desk, of the two live forms corrupting the stillness of the room. I don’t understand what you mean.

The Incarnation shifts back around towards him, face twitching with anticipation. For him to get it. Think about it. All we know that can exist right now is this room, this current setting, the things we see and feel and hear. My posters. The music from downstairs. The scuff on your right shoe. For all we know, New York City could have drowned under water, sunk straight into the sea. Boston could have burst into flames. Your parents could have died, or maybe my little sister did, she’s off on a school camping trip right now. The planet Mars might have been dragged to the center of a black hole for all we know. Right?

But that didn’t happen. The Boy pulls his phone out of his pocket, no news no news other than an old couple in Milwaukee finding 20 corpses in their backyard. He shows the Incarnation the screen. That’s just paranoid imagination.

She examines the bright glow of the phone for a moment, expressionless, then motions for him to put it back. No, but it could have. And you see my point. It’s true that the world hasn’t ended, but you knew that only after you saw that it wasn’t so. In that moment before? Nothing.

The room, it’s a reminder?

Of types. This, right here, is the only thing that I can know to be real in my life at this current moment. So it must be the world. That’s why we are having a festival. I needed to remember what people’s voices sounded like.

A second of silence. The Boy’s eyes fixate on an old photograph near the corner of the room, of a red-cheeked girl standing in front of a building dusted in snow, with grand turrets like a castle. The girl had the Incarnation’s face, but softer, rounder, skin less distorted by the juts of bone. Whether it was her mother or her at a younger age, the Boy could not tell. You spend a lot of time forgetting things?

More like remembering them, really. It’s the nature of me.

When the Boy kisses her, with a graceless hand at the base of her spine, she exhales slowly as if in an unpleasant session of meditation. She is a mouthful of bitter fragrant herbs, rosemary and chili flakes and tobacco straight from the stalk though she doesn’t smoke and never has. Within moments she pulls away, eyes darker now, serrating.

Olivia. She’s my friend, we used to be on the swim team together.

The Boy steps back. Sorry, I shouldn’t have done that. The Incarnation doesn’t respond, just rolls her head from side to side like a feline. Please don’t tell her.

I have to. She says this as if it is an unpleasant but indisputable fact. You should leave.

 

When the Boy was driving home that night he hit a middle-aged man who he had seen working at the local supermarket a few times before. It was at an intersection in the dark wooded part of the road, just a mile before it would dive into a lamplit residential area. The man had been taking a midnight walk to clear his head after too many pain pills, found the chill so strong that he turned around early and was in the middle of the two lanes of the road when the Boy approached, dazed, in his father’s scuffed beige Toyota. After the collision, which shook the car like the splitting of the earth, the Boy stood by the corpse and watched the blood soak the asphalt, black as tar in the dim moonlight. He recognized the face.

The man had been unconscious by the time the Boy got to his side, but continued breathing for two thick, weighted minutes after, in desperate puffs like he was trying to blow out trick candles. Then there was nothing. The Boy couldn’t move, for a while, until he could and then he got back in his car and drove away fast, opened a window and let the wind whip his face until it hurt. Everything smelled of the man’s body, even as he left it further and further behind him.

He didn’t take the path home, he took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up on a dirt road he had never seen before, surrounded by fields of dry grass on either side. Here he stopped the car and got out, sat on the damp ground with his back to the stained headlights so he could not see them and they ceased to exist. It was silent in the clearing.

This is the only thing that I know to be real in my life. This is the only thing that I know to be real in my life. This is the only thing that I know to be real in my life. Nothing else, nothing else, this is the only thing that I know to be real in my life.

 

The Creed never fails to protect those who supplicate themselves to it. The Creed is benevolence, incredible freedom.