I wrote the following very short story in the fall of 1997, after some boys in the neighborhood shot water and threw rocks at a hornets nest in one of the maple trees in front of our house. But it wasn’t until a few days later that I realized what the story was about. The nest itself was a good foot and a half long and at least a foot wide, and it was fairly well hidden. Quite a few people walked by without noticing it. The hornets themselves didn’t bother anybody, and during the months the nest was up, no one was stung. As the weeks went by, more and more people threatened to ruin the nest, either by soaking it with water or by spraying the entrance with Raid during the night. And so I became the hornets’ advocate, explaining to the younger kids (the only ones willing to listen) that filling the hornets’ nest with water or poison wasn’t any different than going to someone’s house and filling it with water or poison.
“A Small World” was published in 1999 in Mind In Motion, a nicely edited literary magazine that disappeared from the scene later that same year.
A Small World
Uht. Itto. Mennl. This is what they are saying. Vohsbum. I tell them I don’t understand. Bitto? Bitto loft ermeni? Tellehbum leppo? I stare at them, at their many eyes. They wait. I point, finally, and say the word eye.
Eye? Eyedoohd surpoik bimm? Eyebum doohd? Eye?
Murk, the nearest one says.
I don’t know, I say, shrugging my shoulders.
Murk, effto. Kelj.
He holds out his poor, blistered hand. Surb, he cries softly.
But I’m afraid to touch his hand, which is burnt so badly.
He lets his hand fall to his side. He turns and speaks quietly to the one waiting beside him. The other immediately beings humming, in an eerily beautiful and mournful voice, and, as it hums, it opens and closes its own hands. The hands are pink, almost human looking, except for the very long, slender fingers, which have no nails. The hands are soft, delicate. But on these hands, too, I see the blistering caused by fire.
This other being is about two-thirds the size of the first, not much larger than an eight-year-old child. Its eyes, I think — there are fifty or more of them — are female eyes. I’m only guessing, of course. Because it is entirely possible that both beings are male, or female, or that they are neither, or both.
The humming stops. The group, five surviving members in all, moves closer together. The space between them gradually disappears. They overlap, yet they are not touching. They are together, in the same way a heartbeat or a song is together.
They stand in silence.
Everywhere around us, their simple homes lie in ruin. The sky, which was so perfect and empty when we arrived, looks like a torn, bloody veil. Smoke rises.
I want to say I’m sorry.
I want to undo what’s been done.
I want to say, Please forgive me, it wasn’t my idea to come here.
It is such a small world.
Not something we needed.
We will not benefit from its conquest.
No one will.
Instead, I say nothing. Nothing at all.
I turn and run back up the hill. It’s time to make my report.
Also by William Michaelian
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
80 pages. Paper.
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