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the glass rose
It is bright. The fog clouding my eyes is slowly peeling away as I blink to lift the haze. My eyelashes stir the air, the only source of natural movement in the room. Light floods my retinas as I pull my torso from the ground, rainbows reflecting off the warming walls.
From here I can see the crystal formations beginning to assemble life. The only foreshadowing of creation is a scattering of sprouts bursting from the soil of shards. Glass ants march by with small bits of leaves with which to start today's home. I smile at their simple life.
Then I see them. The eyes. Like every day, They stare; as smooth as an untouched lake are Their mirrors of eyes. Like every day, Their dark pupils dart across the gray of Their irises to read the sign, and like every day I cannot see it. I reach my hand to turn it around, but my fingers connect solidly with an unseen mirrored wall. And, like every other day, I rap it twice to remind myself of its existence, to remind myself that I am barred.
I let my scarred hand drop to my side as I study my reflection. Why do I look so different from Them? Why are my arms such a creamy color, while Theirs are whiter than a new handkerchief? Why does my unruly hair writhe in matted, fiery snakes, while Theirs is a pale blonde half-curtain dropped around their perfect faces? My lips are red and swollen; Theirs are firm lines.
The feature I stop at is my eyes. These must be the reason I live alone, these piercing emerald fiends. The Uniformity Committee could have repaired every other imperfection besides these eyes. These unacceptable green demons betray all, dancing wildly in their sockets. Angrily I turn away.
The garden is almost fully grown now. Giant glass bumblebees flutter by, their wings clinking like champagne flutes. I feel Their eyes even as I turn to tend to the unruly roses, clipping the leaves away from the poking, out-of-line branches. The clippings cascade to the ground in a crystal waterfall. A glass garden snake slinks around my feet, and I freeze in panic. It glides past, and I continue my work on the violets that are engaging in a playful prism war with the bird overhead.
I hear a tap. I slowly turn to see a crowd of small children. Their fingers leave smears on the otherwise stainless surface; Their noses squash up and fog against the glass. They etch designs into Their breath.
The tap comes again. I see a small girl rapping at the case's wall. I curiously walk over to where she stands. Her eyes are empty pebbles, taking in the rarity of the vast glass wildlife. Most children go Their entire lives only seeing the occasional candy-spun blade of glass or an odd pigeon, never a fully foliaged tree or woodpecker.
The girl extends her hand, her fingers pressed to the barrier. I hesitantly pull my hand back, but slowly reach my scratched fingertips to the places hers meet. In all my nineteen years, no one has dared to look me in the eye. I feel her small hand heat the pane. Something is different about this eight-year-old. The corners of her small, thin mouth turn up slightly, twisting her face into a contortion of valleys.
Suddenly one of Them yanks her back, throwing a look of disgust in my direction. The crowd titters, slewing loud gibberish to each other. Frustrated, I retract my hand, in the process knocking over a crystalline birdbath. I dive for it too late. It crashes to the ground, taking a tall fern with it. The bell sounds assault my ears, and I step back clumsily, cracking the ant hill beneath me and falling back among willowy crystal plants more fragile than spun sugar. The fronds decompose around me, cutting into my bare arms. My blood stains the glass crimson. The crowd gasps; since They are perfect, They don't bleed. My blood is a sport, a pastime.
I am a destruction to everything I touch.
In a whirlwind of anger, I swipe at the hummingbirds, shove down a trellis that glitters with ivy. The birds screech, the sound of a fire alarm. My rage is uncontrollable. I smash into the tree that grows in the middle of this glass Eden. I hear a crack and run frightened towards the walls.
The trunk is the first to cave. Like a crushed origami crane it collapses. The branchs sway and the leaves swing into each other, chiming murderously. The topmost branch topples loose, knocking down the others beneath. I duck my head as the entire tree is crushed into a pile of fairy dust. A burning tear sears through the glass coating my face.
The crowd applauds, contracting and pulsing like a human jellyfish. They move on, grabbing each other's wrists and pushing away from the site of destruction. The sign tosses like a lifeboat on an angry sea, and for the first time in nineteen years, I can read it.
"RAW EMOTION. DAILY. 1:00 - 1:10 PM. NO REFUNDS."
I fall flat on the stabbing dirt. The tear trickles to the ground, hissing on the broken glass. My breathing becomes as jagged as the shards beneath my body.
Then I hear crunching on the ground. I lift my head and see the little girl. She rearranges her face again, and I realize that this contortion is an attempt at a smile.
Her shiny blonde hair, transparent as a spider's-web, shadows her face shyly, and she cups her pale hands around something, brilliant from the light. She nudges her hands, offering them toward me. I nod. She opens her hands.
Resting on the smooth marble of her hand is glass. I accept it and turn it over in my hand.
In my palm is a glass rose, unchipped and perfect. A single drop of red trickles down the glass thorns. I wonder where it comes from, for my cuts are not on my hands.
Something is different about this eight-year-old.
I look up in disbelief. The little girl smiles wryly and holds up her appendages.
On her palm is a cut.