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Knock Our Hats Off Contest Winner
Ryan Wirick
Honorable Mention Fiction

Beauty in a Sarcophagus: Beep. Beep. Beep.
A Mayan retelling of the folktale “Sleeping Beauty”

 

—Once upon a time, no. There is no time, only calendars and clocks. There is the day and the night, and the fact that everything is spinning, repeating, erratic, chaos, but ordered, nevermind. . . .

One-thousand three hundred and twenty years ago in what is now known as Palenque, in what is now known as the Mexican state of Chiapas, located at 17°29’0”N, 92°2’59”W, the Red Queen awoke feeling disturbed. She called for the King of Kin. When he arrived, she said to him thus:

—Your beauty is your math, the counting of days, of cycles, things not known in places we will never know, let’s call these places Europe. I have been dreaming, my love. A horrible horrible dream that came true, or will have come to be true in the future, which is now, for we have no word for “future.” Everything that is to come has already come, is present. Whatever waiting there may appear to be is merely an illusion that we call “waiting,” perpetuated by the Symbolic Disorder, but that comes later. Along this illusion, we will grow old, and you will die first. There will be no tragedy at first. People will mourn. People will move on. And I will arrange a tomb for you, a tomb beneath a temple pyramid with you in a sarcophagus beneath a brilliant stone lid. The walls of the tomb will glisten like snow crystals. Intricate festoons of stalactites will come to hang from like tassels, unmoving like the air across the floor. The floor will be filled with stone carvings, stucco figures in low reliefs: Open eyes, open mouths. I will place a jade mask over your face, and you will reside behind the mask in the sarcophagus until the end of the Symbolic Disorder. I will have the brilliant stone lid installed, a lid inscribed with the story of the end of all inscription. And the entire tomb will be sealed off, except for a single stone hole, called a psychoduct, which will rise through the temple above and into the jungle, so that the gods may come and go, so that they may witness the unfolding of the stories left in the inscriptions on the walls which lead to the end of all inscriptions on your lid. . . . Over time, the temple pyramid will come to be known as the Temple of Inscriptions, for the story of the remainder of the Symbolic Disorder will be inscribed on the walls that will lead to the discovery of your tomb. A second temple will be made to house a tomb of my own, with bright red walls that will fade from the heat long before the so-called future comes around. It will be called the Temple of Non-Inscription, for not a single inscription will be left to be found in the stone walls of the temple which will lead to my tomb. Not a single jewel will be left with me, not a written name, not an offering from the people. When both temples are completed, and your tomb is perfectly sealed, I will go to rest in my own sarcophagus. I will not intend for our people to place the impossibly heavy, unmarked stone lid over me while I take a nap. The temperature in my sarcophagus will rise too high for me to breathe, or scream, for my eyes to open, for my self to resist my physical demise. And so it will be, the two of us in our own sarcophagi, yours foretelling the end of the beauty of your math, our calendars, the end of the Symbolic Disorder, my own foretelling thereafter. . . .

—And in the meantime?

—And in the meantime, the humidity of the jungle will eat away at our flesh, we will decay down to our bones. Spiders will prosper in between our bones. Outside of our sarcophagi, our people will lose their way and forget about your beauty. They will abandon our cities and intermingle. They will never return, our temples steadily digested by the jungle for a thousand years. White men from Europe will arrive, those who were here, those who don’t remember will mistake the white men for gods. Kukulcán, Quetzalcoatl, our gods will be replaced with other bearded gods they’ll call Jesus, Santa Claus, Uncle Sam. They will burn our libraries, destroy our temples, and on top of the ruins they will build churches in dedication to their own bearded idols. Eventually, the white men will discover the psychoduct that leads to your tomb. They will hear whispers of gold, profit, ownership coming from the stone hole, and like our women and language, they will have their way with the stone hole psychoduct. Mile long lines of men from all over Europe will form in some collective Imaginary Construct, slicing with knives new paths in the jungle, trampling insects. Each man will take turns attempting to fill the psychoduct with their very own throbbing, inadequate members in hopes of receiving those treasures mentioned in the whispers in the hole. Jaguars, monkeys, and all kinds of creatures will mimic the white men, they too mistaking the foreigners for gods. The animals who protest will be struck-quick with flying knives. They will not be eaten. They will rot like you and I, waiting for the end of the Symbolic Disorder: Our heritage in cages, all the animals in— While we wait, for one-thousand two hundred and sixty years no one will understand the origins of the whispers in the hole: Empty penetration. Empty penetration. Nothing made whole. . . .

—Until one day?

—Until one day, as foretold in the inscriptions in your temple, the virgin Prince Archaeologist will discover in his messy disappointment after having his way with the stone hole psychoduct, that the stone hole psychoduct beneath him in the ground simply must lead further than his member could ever manage. Dressed in white, the Europeans will crowd around in the muggy, humid heat while Prince Archaeologist uncovers your tomb. The brilliant lid to your sarcophagus will be harshly removed, fractured on the floor. Its inscription will be misinterpreted. Your jade mask will be sold to a museum. Your bones will be auctioned off, one by one. Your teeth too, one by one and spread throughout the world, their origins forgotten, dropped, buried beneath the earth at random. Your temple will be turned into a tourist attraction. Roller coasters will run from city to city to your temple. Laughing children from all over the world will draw with crayons all over the inscriptions. The inscriptions will be misinterpreted. Crayons mistaken for carvings. The image of your temple will be reproduced on posters and tee shirts and bumper stickers on mobile machines that will feed on the vines of the jungle. Children will stick gum on the reproductions, while the beauty of your math, our calendar will be trivialized, replaced with ugly, arbitrary clocks and calendars from Europe that do not correspond to the Real, that perpetuate Western rationalism, irrationalism, the idea that Time equals some intangible thing they’ll call “money.” . . .

—And your own tomb?

—My own tomb will be turned into a Lost and Found Center for belongings dropped on the tracks of the roller coasters. Mechanized cashiers that make hideous clicking and beeping cries for all the days and nights will be placed on top of my lid, a beep for every thing they’ll call a “second.” Beep. Beep. Beep. No one will be interested in the contents below the beeps, because inside my sarcophagus there will be no jewels to sell, no image to reproduce, no inscription to misinterpret. I will call for you constantly through the crack in the lid: O the sun, O the sun, through the crack the gods will come— Beep. Beep. Beep. . . . One day I will call for you, and something called a GI Joe doll will fall through the crack in the lid, a crack used for power outlets, telephone lines and wires, internet hyper broadband connections: Beep. Beep. Beep. The GI Joe will shatter my brittle rib cage, my sad corroded rib cage, but I won’t mind. I will take off all of the doll’s little clothes and plastic armor. I will pretend the doll is you. And I will tell you of my destiny to wait. But you, you, stupid painted lifeless eyes, you will not reply. You will stare up at me without measure. You will know not how to count the days, the beauty of your math forgotten. So I will remove your little plastic head. And I will snap off your arms and legs. And I will throw each and every piece back through the crack. . . .

 

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Ryan WirickRyan Wirick grew up in Southern California in close proximity to the ocean. While he has never taken to surfing, he has created several moving and non-moving pictures and paintings, and is presently completing his first novel Invisible Escalators.

 

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