Red Glass

January 21, 2012
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The stars sit high on the zenith, staring blankly down at the sand. Kangaroo rats, small and short-lived as snow, dart across cool red earth, tufted tails bouncing along. Cacti stand like soldiers posted to guard the moon. There is no moon. There is no water. There is sand. There is no breeze, and the world holds still like a butterfly in a bell jar. It will not escape. It stopped trying long ago. Its wings have been folded and locked away against its dusty back; it will not fly again.

The kangaroo rats have a message to deliver, or so they would like to think. In fact, they are merely hopping about in small circles, their feet pressing softly on the darkened dust. Some, like miracle patients emerging from wheelchairs, take toddling leaps into the unknown, down foxholes and into the jaws of rattlesnakes that kill them dead.

Here, there are no miracles.

In a better world, a more interesting world, the kangaroo rats would talk in high, squeaky voices. Foxes and rattlers and jackrabbits would be friends, and they would dance beneath a desert moon that would hang full and bright and barren every night. This is not that world, and it never will be.

Some wish to think that God, or Nature, or the giant turtle on whose shell we all live created the desert as revenge upon itself for some past wrong. The truth is that the desert is not revenge. The desert is the desert, and a lack of water and the stillness of the sand at dawn.

A kangaroo rat hops underneath the zenith and cuts its little paw on a shard of red glass. It squeaks with hurting, but the other rats pay it no mind, not it nor the glass nor the blood beading on the orange sand. The rat can hop still, and it hops to its nest, down low and hidden in the gut of a cactus. The cactus is small and alien: a sea urchin far from home. And the strange thing is that the kangaroo rat keeps the glass, keeps it clenched between its tiny teeth.

The kangaroo rat hurts. It hurts because it is dying. The sun is rising as it hops into the nest, amid shards of hawk eggs and scraps of sage. The rim of the sky is pale yellow like the birthdays of beginnings when the kangaroo rat drops the glass, props it against the nest’s opening, and lies back to watch the sunrise, rat blood dripping onto an eggshell.

Through the glass, it is like the sky has been draped in sand. It is like the desert has been thrown to the gods in loathing of its dryness, of its lack of a moon. The kangaroo rats and the foxes and the rattlers and the jackrabbits smell something burning, and they find the saguaro turned to ash, the red glass melted, the rat dead, its white fur singed with the sun, with the light through the red glass lens.

They dance a slow dance of mourning under the sun, full and bright and barren.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

AbigailPalmer This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 27, 2012 at 11:16 am
Awesome :) I particularly like the comparison between the cactus and the sea urchin, and the ending is not what I expected - I like it
Marsipan said...
Feb. 26, 2012 at 12:59 pm
This is amazing. I love how well you describe the setting and that the characters aren't human and don't talk. Very creative, and also very well executed.
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