Shira Dentz


Life as an Abstract

It had been a slow process, the making of the chopper. The rhythm of her imagination had set it, all the while posited at just the right angle, maneuvered so she would have no awareness of the danger between the moment it was consolidated and the moment it fell. She didn't suspect the gravity of what she was devising.

Her death, however, went unapparent. She remained physically the same, and people were convinced she was alive. She was uncomfortable in the form she had taken; while resembling a human being, she had none of the feelings and ability to organize as these others did. She thought perhaps her condition was temporary, and while this had never happened to her before, she trusted that soon she would find herself returned. It was as though what had happened was by magic, and believed her present problem would be similarly resolved. She tried wishing.

The transformation had occurred silently, and maybe would be undone silently. Disorientation led her to recall some of her former characteristics and gesture them as a means of diverting her present absence from the world. Bits she recollected she guarded. They connected her with the past and served as a guidebook. At first, however, she used this book as minimally as possible, planning to hide until she recovered herself.

Impatience climbed, leading her to search in all directions for her life. She groped so she could pick it up and replace it. This seemed as simple and necessary as replacing a misplaced cap on a marker. Finally she believed if she could convince herself that she lost nothing it would become true. As nothing continued to happen, she became more and more resigned to the idea that what she was waiting for would never happen, and she would have to resume existence the way she was. Perhaps it would come to pass that she'd find something familiar.

She translated any food she looked at into its ingredients, and as she ate, tasted them as though they were still separate. Why anyone would want to eat she couldn't understand, yet she had to. She was relieved to find she had some needs.

Contact with people sparked a terror, a current that shocked an impulse in her: to find someone who would have a word for what she felt, a name, and would be able to tell her how to go about getting herself back. Someone who could help her find the cap. Someone who could reverse what had happened.

She needed to describe this place to someone, so that maybe then they could see, tell her from where to get out. She couldn't remember the experience of talking with someone, though. The decay within her, like her desperation, radiated, forming words that fissioned as they spread in her mind, expending in her throat as she was about to speak, leaving her mute.

Words peeled slick from the surface of sheets disposed in her. Her past interest in words had led her to accumulate a storage of definitions. The material had stuck with her body. As at a raft to which she was bound again and again to return; a raft to keep her afloat in a directionless expanse that could bring her nowhere; she clutched onto some words

If someone understood, they could assure her of nothing. They had no remedy, were perplexed as to how such a thing could happen. Some believed she hadn't died yet, and tried to resuscitate her by describing her as she thought of herself before, as measured breaths calculate to elicit breath.

She had to get to know people, whom she resembled. All she could find was that they ranged from being all the same models, different brands—packaged differently—this accounted for their appearing different, having various faces, bodies, skin textures, hand shapes, smells, tastes—though when she got closer they seemed all made from the same ingredients. And then other times it seemed she got no one—the rules were so different, she could find no common identification.

Although she was perfectly capable of doing things that had to be done—she had the physical apparatus and the memory of how it worked—sometimes she felt the feat she was trying to accomplish would finish any last chance of recovery. Within the suspension she dangled she couldn't trace a stem, a root, to find ground; nor reach the impress of the sharp corner of a ledge; she could only have faith there would be a floor beneath that would make it possible to walk, that everything could be trusted as a perfect machine.

Perhaps there were other creatures like herself; she was assured there were. She wanted to see others; was informed how. Where she entered, she saw only humans.

There is a metronome clicking away in this room, keeping time to these people. This room is ordinary, just like others they walk in from out to in all day, every day. But this one is special. It has a metronome clicking away, sound-proofed within a little box in the corner of a shelf at the head of the room; the echo stops here.