Preludes by Matthew Burnside

Preludes by Matthew Burnside

Fiction, Vol. 7.2, June 2013

There is the story of the girl with a cactus heart who, upon waking every morning would find in the bathtub a key to a different door. The story of the girl who would, upon scooping sleep from her eyes and pouring a water spout down her throat to sate the prickling inside her chest, stumble to the bathroom, yank back a quartz curtain, and claim her key before venturing out into a large, many storied clockwork dollhouse to discover which door her day would contain. The story of the doors, which would come in all shapes and sizes, colors and textures: some weathered and scuffed as if by claw, some teak, some tinfoil, some oblong, some furry, some glazed like salted meat. The story of the unlocking—the twist of a wrist, the music produced from a rococo mechanical click. The story of the day she renounced the key to carve a door of her own in the chandelier. The story of the day she forewent dowsing to let her cactus heart harden to a rock-candied shell, before eating it.

There is the story of the boy with an appetite for mirrors. The story of the many ways in which he would cook his mirrors for consumption: basted, kabob’ed, crème brulee’d, fricasseed. The story of the extinction of mirrors, having all been eaten by a glutton grown more handsome with each banquet of shards. The story of polished cutlery gone missing in the night, toasters, bumpers, hubcaps, sheets of ice, anything with a reflection. The story of clouds as condiment. The story of the boy who eventually ate the ocean, the boy who could not be contained, who could not contain the Atlantic. The story of a stomach ache dilated to delirium, like scarabs on an origami Mars, or licorice fish tickling through the nipples of apocalypse.

There is the story of the birdhouse having grown wings of its own, having flown far far away, tired of its insides serving as a cage for calculated wingbeats. The story of the inverted bird that ate the birdhouse whole, then flew impromptu into the moon, mistaking it for a translucent lake of cheese. The story of a cubist rainbow where departed birdhouses are born again as the pink sorrow of scarecrows.

There is the story of the dress which, when worn by her, would enrapture all gentlemen callers but at a price, the phantom fabric pulling tighter by the stitch with each kiss. The story of the collar caving in on her larynx, the sleeves swallowing her wrists, the skirt squashing her femur to a fine dust to be pinched between an ex-lover’s index and thumb, hemmed by his jealous hands. The story of him attempting to burn the dress in the ravine, the garment’s ghost slipping into his gloves, reaching for a lighter and starting at his toes. The story of the folly of fire: how it spreads with ease agitated by the kerosene of envy.

There is the story of the staircase found under the baby’s tongue. The story of the tiny people who opt instead for the elevator in his left eardrum. The story of a tsunami caused by a tantrum over a stolen pacifier. The story of gravity broken in half by the popping of a purple balloon. The story of a mudslide crumpling teepees along follicles in the event of an exploded diaper. The story of drought during belly button season.

There is the story of the window, which every so often, would flash with the glimpse of a near future, but only ten minutes ahead. The story of the man addicted to watching the window for any sign of distress, any forewarning that would spare him the fate of all men. The story of his losing everything over his obsession—his job, his children, his marriage, his mind. The story of the brick thrown by a heartbroken bride. The story of a delicious shattering, an arabesque of beautiful emergency. The story of joy in never knowing the ukulele logic of tomorrow.

There is the story of the writer trapped in his beginnings, writing this sentence even now but unable to pull the trigger, to bleed forward into a bigger world. The story of perfection oblivious of beauty in absence of headlights, of unfolding a road one inky inch at a time, delighting in a buffet of fog. The story of two feet grafted to the precipice of a page, a mouth full of mermaids, unable to chew loose through a velvet blowtorch. The story of a scab encased in holes, an escalator made of Jell-O, a zipper pinned to a skull projected on a portrait of paradise by a stationary carousel horse—of the raw countries of animals divisible by falling versus flight.

Doves on Trafalgar Square by Zuzanna Fimińska

The Last Summer by Jens Birk

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