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The Year I Was Alive Paula Koneazny

The old arguments at least were honest. Now, even the inventors of dictatorship—their taste in industrial scenery and tranquility so dead—are plagued with uncertainty. My assignment is to peel back the edges and clip the illustrations (I cut the tiniest rectangular peepholes). Whether or not Our War has begun, the new man in authority mows the grass in our big backyard. His kids so enjoy a spectacle that they ride in off the water in their little motorboats to burn down happy family life into a magnificent pile of silver ash.

I have been engaged to take Our Heroine onto the flatbed of culture, a little slavery in the background to fill the coffers. Mother herself warns me not to bother closing my eyes or walking across the desert. We meet at the tourist counter. So there are houses and perhaps agriculture or flowers, flashing lights on a combo dream we mistake for the Suicidal Spy. At question is the lifejacket I’m wearing or she’s about to wear or Mother wore in the past. Once Our War has begun, we rideshare through the rush. In a less frenzied mood, we are in fact excessive in everything.

Let’s spread the map out in the middle of the game and notice the silhouettes—we’re as good as dead anyway. Sales are brisk. The women at the top bring down the snow. At their confectioner’s shop, they instruct us in personal experience—pop, pop, pop—everything we need: milk, eggs, sugar, and chocolate—in bulk and at frequent intervals. We think intoxication divine, eating it raw then and there. The water (we carry it home on a stretcher) tastes like our sensitive skin.

In the wilds of reconstruction, I describe the rescue to her in detail. Furious at the workplace, we steal the missing back, portaging their arms on the tops of our heads. We were miscued—how she materialized in another country in a waiting room or a couple kissing in a doorway. Virtual gangsters stumble by with high-pitched gestures and rampage music. One recites a eulogy harmful to wildlife—a spectacular house before we allowed it to run down. I used to smell like orange-blossom lotion. Now, I’m the last person on the list and the only one who didn’t reserve in advance. I keep walking until the splashes of red come to an end.