I Am Ten


I am ten. I am idly wondering, what is the point of symmetry? There is a left-right map even in cemeteries. Wondering: if time is an arrow, what is the target?


I am ten. I am alone in a room with three doors, two of which open into one another. One door I will name Memory, the others Vortex and Possibility. Through Memory, then: Once I was a news reporter for a small-town cable television station. I was greeted at the entrance of a sheet-metal building by a technician smoking a cigarette. My set was a table and a desk microphone. It was covered with thousands of flies. I swept them aside and began reading into the lens of a single camera. After 15 minutes I stopped. The technician smoked another cigarette.


I am ten. I have awakened from a dream in which my legs have been amputated and replaced by metal folding chairs.


I am ten. A minister is shouting at the congregation where I am sitting. What are the odds that something will emerge from a rip in the air to drag him through the doorway of Possibility?


I am ten. I am driving a Maserati through a hailstorm. My father is angry about this.


I am ten. I have decided to split my conscious from my unconscious but I am not quite sure how. What would happen to my disconnected unconscious, I wonder? Would it float freely? Where?  My brother interrupts me by showing me lightning bugs he has caught in a mayonnaise jar, asking if I would like to come outside and do that too. He says the whole family is out there doing that, so I follow him outside. Mom hands me a jar of my own. Dad has put nail holes in the jar lid. I look inside. Mom says that they started without me and where have I been anyway. I look inside. I see my unconscious. I take it to a corner of the yard and let it go, watch it float gracefully away, winking in the cool air of the summer evening.


I am ten. Gravity means nothing to me. To prove it I jump off the roof of our house wearing only my underwear and a blanket. And I begin flying.


I am ten. I am trying to teach myself Russian with the aid of a Russian-English dictionary I bought at a church-camp bookstore. An adult from the church asks me why I want to learn such a godless language. I look up the word “God” to see if it is in there. The Russian word for “God,” I discover, is “bog.” A mighty fortress is our bog, eh, son? the adult drawls. Loses some of its steam, don’t you think?


I am ten. I am watching the television. The television is watching me. Hello, it says. Would you like to have some fun? The cartoon vanishes and a blue dot appears on the screen. Touch it, says the television. Go on, touch it. Then you can visit me. I ask the blue dot who it is. My name is Vortex, it says. I tell the blue dot I don’t want to visit right now. All right, says the blue dot. We’ll meet again sometime when you are ready.


I am ten. Having begun flying, I now practice hovering in place. I cover myself with phosphorescent paint. I then hover over the IOOF cemetery out by the river. The sheriff’s department receives many excited phone calls from other citizens, who apparently wish to join me. My third-grade teacher soon arrives and recognizes me. Steven Shields, you get down from there right this very minute, she exclaims. Otherwise you’re going to jail. I ask her what crime I’m committing. You’re causing a scene, she says.


Through the doorway of Possibility once more: If God could create a universe, what else could He create? Or what else has He already created? Does whatever it is exist side-by-side with our universe? How would we know what it was? More to the point, how do we get there, if there is any “there” to get to?


I am ten. I have formed a Unified Field Theory while I am sleeping. But by morning I can no longer remember it. But I do remember it had something to do with imaginary numbers. I ask my teacher at school what they are. She says not to worry about such things. Later that evening Mom tells me the teacher called to have a word with her about me. What did she say? I asked her. That you need to stop watching so much television, my mother replied. I wonder if I should tell her about my new friend the blue dot. I decide against it.


I am ten. I am also 10,000 years old. At least.


And I am no longer alone.



Steven Shields is a former all-night FM radio announcer who now corrupts young minds for the Department of Communication, Media, and Journalism at the University of North Georgia. His poems and speculative micro-fiction have appeared in such publications as Angle, Deronda Review, Main Street Rag, and Umbrella, among others. His debut collection, Daimonion Sonata, was published by Birch Brook.

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