‘In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.’
Every morning, when the withered gray fingers of dawn cast a pale light in her room, Borea blew out of bed to see what time it was. Confusion was a masterpiece of the mornings. As she rubbed her eyes she fogged the window with her breath, Borea knew it could be anytime in the world. Sometimes it was a certain fashion of the people passing by. Perhaps it would be the population density or lack of motor vehicles. Bare-headed men and women betrayed a time after 1950. Some mornings revealed nothing but the trees and the river. A passing deer or hare reminded Borea that time was relative and the animal kingdom thought nothing of it. All that mattered to the hare or the deer was the illusion of Now. As she wiped the fog from the window, Borea looked again and saw. Her eager jaw dropped and she ran downstairs.
Just before she reached the door, Borea laughed at her bare feet. Had her mother been there, she would have scolded her. But the elements, no matter the weather, had no effect on the boundless curiosity of Borea. Just a turn of the knob and the door that shielded her from the world would submit. She counted to three and the doorknob squeaked a C-sharp before the sheer force of Borea’s eager left-hand thrust open the ancient oak door. When the wind failed to blow, her dark eyes matched her dark gaping mouth as her red hair remained unmoved.
The pavement of the sidewalk was as smooth as polished marble and as pure as ivory in hue. Cars hovered by in perfect order in spite of their numbers. People passed by Borea like water does a rock jutting out of a stream.
“Rocks look like jewels in the waters passing through,” she muttered to herself.
A pair of men of identical height, suits and hair glared at her as they passed. Borea touched her own face to make sure she was awake. She felt herself and nodded. It was then that she looked at the people on both sides of the street, in the passing cars without drivers or wheels. All were fair haired, all were blue-eyed, all were quite tall and all were silent as they marched in their respective directions. Even the trees lining the immaculate streets were pruned to perfection while the coffee shop just across the street promised: The Purest and Perfect Cup Every Time. Times past had always provided hilarity with the promise: Best Coffee in New York. Somehow, the promise across the street seemed valid and sent chills up Borea’s spine.
Across Time, Borea had experienced a series of troubles. She had been called a whore, a witch, a hippie, a cunt, a devil, a stupid little girl, a goddess, a savior and nothing of much consequence in the better times. But this was the first time she felt that Time was out of joint. Borea felt drunk as she walked north amidst the marching multitudes in a well-groomed city with fluorescent lighting from the overcast sky. As she walked along the river, she noticed The Hudson had been straightened and the water was translucent. The faint smell of chlorine lingered in the windless air. Airships resembling zephyrs but octagonal hovered over the city. All bore the high-resolution image of some old blonde-man’s wizened face with a smile and furrowed brows. It was then that Borea noticed the sky.
In the best of times, the city had been on the unsatisfactory side of air-quality. But nothing vast entered the life of mortals without a curse. Now, as Borea looked deeper into the firmament, she realized it was not cloud cover that cast the etiolated light on the city. It was a dome of some sort, an overarching wall covering the five boroughs. She suddenly felt claustrophobic for the first time in her life. Here she was, just another player in the game deemed good at some point, a game played by every one and excluded all the rest. Whatever it was that deemed a person fit to participate was abominable, Borea felt it in her bones. If she was a part of it, she was the only one without fair hair, flawless skin and gleaming blue eyes.
“Mongrel bitch,” a girl her age said, with perfect articulation as she passed by.
“The one are many and the many are One without you,” a precocious toddler giggled, as he scurried by with his parents.
“The ape which apes find most beautiful still looks apish to non-apes,” a middle-aged woman whispered, with excellent stage projection.
Like breath into the wind, Borea passed the passersby but heard every word spoken with clarity. By the time she had reached what used to be The Little Red Lighthouse—now painted a gleaming ivory—she sat by the crystal waters of The Hudson. What should have been New Jersey across the water, was nothing but a void. The George Washington Bridge was now a petrified monument to some cause leading nowhere. Borea watched as a flock of geese flew west into the void and vanished. Borea wept for the absence of everything that used to make the world messy. She touched her imperfect face and looked at the freckles on her shoulders that led down to her arms and diminished like a cluster of galaxies at her wrists. Her manic hair found no animation in the windless city. Every breath was Stygian. Borea shook her head violently and stood up. A shudder within told her to look up and she did.
Bones were what made the bridge to nowhere. Skulls acted as screws while femurs bore the greatest burden of the structure. The more delicate bones of the hands and feet adorned the suspension cables of cured sinew wound together like abominable cables of silk. Millions upon millions of pieces of people constituted the bridge to nowhere that nobody used. A red, white and blue flag with a single white star where fifty once were flapped in the artificial wind provided by some hidden machine. A single red stripe cut across the white square like a river of blood as perfectly aligned as The Hudson. Borea squinted her keen eyes and read a sign hanging on the bridge: Construction Underway for The People – Date of Completion Immanent.
Time had reached its terminus. All that remained was festering in its own immanence. Borea had experienced limits to space but never Time. Time moved mountains, it birthed universes, it ate its own children, it was the relativity never to be grasped but always experienced. But Time had leaked out of the world and this place remained. For the first time in her existence, Borea felt like she could never go back. If there was no going forward, back would no longer be back since it was the only direction to go. The whirligig of Time had brought back its revenge on itself. The Cosmic Serpent had eaten its own tail at last. Borea shook her head again to rid herself of the metaphors that seemed to make Time thinkable.
She felt the chlorinated air fill her lungs but she did not falter. Her vision sharpened and her skin tingled as her bare feet left the manicured grass, her left big toe lingering a bit as it always did. The People who witnessed her ascension stopped marching and watched as Borea rose higher as the chlorinated air grew disturbed all around her. As a collective, The People pointed at Borea as she continued to ascend.
The first thing to fall when the wind came was the flag. It was swallowed by the oblivion to the west. As the north wind grew into an omnipresent cyclone, blonde hair was torn from eugenically-approved scalps and spun like straw in a dust devil. Ivory skin was pulled from aesthetically pleasing bodies and The People were flayed alive all together. Their screams were melded into a single note in the wind not worth annotating. The crystal water of the river plummeted up into the abyss and shattered the dome as the heavier elements followed. When nothing was left but an earthen palette and the waterless channel, Borea finally blinked. Nothing but the bones from the macabre bridge remained and were buried with quick care by a few more gusts of the north wind. By the time Borea’s feet touched the bare earth, the sun was shining but the clouds were gathering.
When she closed the ancient oak door behind her, Borea was soaked and the north wind was abating. It would be a century-long storm, the deluge of deluges no meagre book could record. As she ascended the stairs, her weariness proved that nobody would be awake to see it. Borea realized the only certainty was her bed and the window and dreams. The waking world had proven to be finite. Kronos had been banished long ago but his power lingered still. Entropy was the Titan who never fell. Borea felt like little more than an idle breath in a universe tending towards absolute zero. When she closed her eyes in bed, she stared out the window and watched the maelstrom obliterate space. As the twilight of waking and dreaming was upon her, Time fell dead just outside her window.
Hayden Moore was born and raised in Georgia and has lived in New York City for the past twelve years. In the past six months, he has been published three times for his short stories: twice in Corner Bar Magazine, once in Metonym Literary Journal. He lives with his wife and cat on the waters of Jamaica Bay in Queens.