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We were dead before we were ever alive.
For so long, my people have built our city. We have built it out of the ash, generation after generation adding new elements each time. We have built it to be the most beautiful thing in the entire Globe, we have built it to be the only thing in the Globe, from the smooth surface of the glass walls all the way around. We’ve been so proud, you see, to be able to create such a place with our disability.
We were born without eyes. All of us. We have been forever cursed to live as blind artists, unable to see our work stretched out before us. We have been cursed to never be able to see our own faces, we have been cursed to never see the faces of our loved ones, and we have been cursed to be unable to cry. We only know of sight because it is something our ancestors had, an oral story that has been passed down through the years. I myself doubt the existence of such a thing as sight; there is no plausible explanation of how we could have once seen but have now been blinded.
All that we know is encased in a glass dome, measured out in our largest unit of inches. Usually there is snow beneath our feet, but occasionally the snow whips out from underneath and rains down upon our heads. Occasionally, when the snow falls, we as people are whipped around in a phenomenon we call an earthquake. Our buildings never move, but we do and the snow does. We always recover, though, and we go back to building our cities in the snow.
All that we know is being destroyed. It started off like one of the usual earthquakes, yet it was different. Only some of the snow flurried around our heads, not all of it, and something seemed wrong, as if the ground was shifting sideways. That’s when we heard the bang, the shattering of the glass dome that surrounded us for so long. We held on to the edges of our buildings as we found ourselves in a suddenly vexatious position, tilted on our side.
Our air was suddenly replaced with a lighter, more poisonous substance. We found that our clothes, our hair, and our bodies were the only things that had retained our air, and that everything else was replaced by the poisonous gas. I took the front part of my shirt and fumbled with one hand as I slipped it over my nose, eager to breathe in the last bits of air that remained around me. With the other hand, I held on to our tallest spire, the one we named Hephaestus. My head began to pound with an intense ringing. Everything I was feeling right then at that moment, from distress to hunger, was magnified. The pit of my stomach became all expansive and I started to perspire profusely. My breath folded in and out of my chest like tiny paper cranes. I was losing conscientiousness, losing my grip on my cracked perspective of the world.
Whether it was the sweat on my hands, the lack of air, my head, or my tiny heart that did me in, I began to slip. I tried to hold on for as long as I could, but my will was all too soon not enough.
I let go.
I began to fall.
It was that moment that I realized something strange was happening to me, to my body. I put my hands up to my eye sockets and discovered that they were no longer sockets, but rather filled with something. Eyes. I separated the skin over them with my fingers; I opened my nascent eyes.
The first thing I saw was my own body. I was floating out of it, separating from it. I had short, dark brown hair and a sturdy build; my skin was of a pale, lifeless color. I didn’t think I was beautiful, but rather it was beautiful to see me.
As my body fell, I remained suspended in space. I turned my head and looked up, up to the city I had spent the entire span of my life building. The first thing I saw was Hephaestus. It towered above the other buildings with a skinny frame that bulged a bit in the middle. After the bulge, a thin, silver point rose from the top. The building had a bluish tint in the lighting, and it was green at the bulge. There was a thick, black band that encompassed the surface area just before the bulge. There was a single, shining red light just underneath the black bulge; the only light that came from the city. The rest of the light poured in from the area outside the globe, the area we never knew to exist. In that moment, I knew that building was the most pulchritudinous sight I would ever see.
I guess it was then that I realized I only had seconds to live. It seems greedy, but I wanted to remain in that all seeing state forever. I did not want to die, I did not want to lose it all when I had just begun to see what I had been missing all these years. My mind could not decide if it was depressed or amazed. I did I sort of flip in the air, looking downward this time instead of upward.
My wife was ten feet below where I was. For the first time in our twenty years of marriage, I saw the woman I loved. She had this deep red hair, pale skin just like me, and she was quite thin, just as I had remembered her. When she saw me, she smiled. She smiled with those deep red lips, little dimples catching on the sides of each cheek, white teeth shining in between. And that smile – that smile made me feel complete. It made me whole. For the first time, I felt satisfied, and for the first time, a tear dribbled down my cheek. Her seeing spirit faded away; I knew inside that her body had hit the ground, and I also knew that I had less than a second before I joined her in that other place. The corners of my mouth danced upwards into a smile as a last thought ran through my head:
We were alive before we were forever dead.