The State of Mind

A few introductory words by the author:

The following is a short story I wrote as a thesis for my B.A. in Interdisciplinary Humanities. What follows is a study in philosophy and culture to attempt to reveal the essential nature that art enacts in our lives. No doubt researching, analyzing, and producing an academic paper on the subject would have been more informative, more effective, and much simpler. However my degree required extensive literary studies, and I was compelled by the challenge of producing a piece of fiction. To balance the aesthetically beautiful with the analytical in the medium of language is a work of art in of itself, and art was the core of my investigation after all.

***

“Naturally, your sentence will be death. However, the council unanimously agreed to allow you to select your method of justice.” The speaker paused long enough to let her words resonate within the defendant, there was a trace of tragedy marked in the tension of her face as she added, “We believe you have earned that privilege.”

“If the present men and women don’t mind, I would like a real death. Surprise me.”

“Very well, you will be executed tomorrow at sunset. Goodbye old friend, I dearly wish you had not lost sight, it will be difficult to replace you.” The calm finality of her voice cued the other twelve men and women in the room to rise from their seated positions around the broad circular table, and file towards the heavy oak doors. The defendant was left alone in his position; he sat motionlessly, absorbed by the silence. A subtle smile peaked at the corners of his lips as he leaned his elbows on the dense wooden table in front of him; in spite of himself he was amused. Silence. No doubt the calculated conclusion to his trial, he knew it as soon as he heard it. They had left him in utter stillness, with only himself as the weapon to destroy it. The synthesis of the moment was brilliant on their part, an easy symbol for his fall from grace, foisted on him in their hall of grace itself. He expected nothing less from the most powerful minds in the State.

.    .    .

“It’s exactly how I would have done it. Simple, obvious… powerful.” The defendant spoke to an assembly of burning logs as he sat unmoving in the faded umber armchair he had moved directly in front of the fireplace. The room behind him was a plaything for dancing shadows, as there was no other source of light than the whimsically dancing of the flames. There was a young man in the room, he sat upright in a simple wooden chair, both hands gently grasping the rounded ends of the armrests.  His chair was slightly behind and to the left of the man, in its intended place. He could see the profile of the man in front of the fire, but remained out of his peripheries, for which he was thankful. The light from the fire played upon the half of the face that he could see. Each random pulse of flame distorted his features; diced by the fine line between shadow and light.

The defendant stared intently into the shifting flames; he was not noticing the elegant curves of each miraculous flame, though their elegance was never lost on him, instead he focused on the texture they created together, as they thrashed and vacillated amongst one another. Slowly his eyes drifted out of focus, but the texture remained, enhanced by the lack of definition. The room around him throbbed with the embers of the used logs, as their fiery pulse provided a rhythm to the spiritual dance of the flames.

“From silence all sounds are born, and into silence all sounds dissipate.” The words were spoken to the flames. Yet the young man took them for himself, and let his mind churn with the image of this man in the state room imprint itself on his imagination. There he sat, surrounded by his life’s fantastic accomplishments, static with the feeling of abandonment.  The products of his inspired toil dissociating themselves like spurned children. He was absolutely alone, with only his own mortality to comfort him.

.    .    .

The State room was like any other, like every other, with the walls that hide nothing. Their bare pretention captured the defendant in their space, and seemed to infect him with a slow release paralysis that seeped into his consciousness like the flow of magma, powerful and ambivalent. His smile faded. The room became heavy. He gazed around and noticed everything he had already, every detail seemed to stare back at him. The elegant transition of color from the faint, blank cream of the walls, to the imposing brown of the mahogany door; the perfect hue of the late afternoon light that lay itself on the table as if approving of the work that had been done that day. He cherished all of these things, and now they exuded a distant unfamiliarity. A silent rejection.

He rose and walked in front of the large, rectangular single pane window that dominated the western wall. It had been put there specifically so the council could witness the light fade and darkness descend on the sprawling State beneath them. The miraculous colors of the sunset were at the precipice of their evolution into vibrant, ineffable beauty. He stood there for a long time and watched the sun, the clouds, and the sky put on their performance; the pale purple deepened its demeanor, and played with the endlessly layered fuchsia on the soft rolls of drifting clouds. Everything was in motion.  It was a perfectly harmonious ballet of light.

Each day the council stopped what they were doing and watched it end. They saw the vibrant transition, and silently worshiped its power as it cast its colors out over their State. As darkness fell they knew that they must work to keep the State beautiful, and cast in the impeccable light of truth. Positioned at the apex intent and order, and void of illusion; they sought to capture the State in a perpetual sunset, in its miraculous perfection. It was an immense task, one that only the most educated and clever individuals could hope to accomplish.

.    .    .

“What brilliant work we did in that room …” The sentence was passionate but faded in the vulnerable color of nostalgia. The defendant’s gaze had yet to leave the shifting layers of flame. The young man was surprised by his own impatience with his master. He had grown accustom to the dynamic precision with which this man conducted himself, been inspired by it. But apparently the prospect of an inglorious demise had left the man by the fire a poor imitation of a magnificent self. The submission was pathetic, the young man felt pity, and the burn of frustration.

“The work you did was righteous. The State is the sum of its parts, a mechanism of disciplines and carefully constructed spheres of society. It feeds on the tens of thousands that toil as our agricultural machine. It moves with the energy raised from the ground by our master drillers. But it is educated by you. Its knowledge is handed down from the State room and dispersed throughout its parts like blood in its veins.”  The statement was not intended for comfort, pity angered the young man, and to indulge in it would have been pathetic also. But the statement was true, and he felt the man across from him needed the truth; he thought it would revive the man, and let him die with a shred of pride. He remained unmoving, and the young man began to feel he was indifferent, which was deeply unnerving. They had discussed death extensively in their years together; the man had always upheld that it might be the most important event in his life, but he would have to die to find out. “Death,” he would say, “is the moment we may put a title on our lives, a concise metaphor that captures the whole wondrous event… or we might slip away without ever having grasped anything at all. Presumably, it will be the latter.”

His posture suggested apathy, and his silence seemed to affirm, until it broke.

“Beautiful isn’t it? The way it worked. The way we educated them all? I assume you would have figured it out by now.”

.    .    .

The weight of utter isolation crept into the defendant as darkness settled on the state. His reflection grew denser in the window as the balance of light favored the artificial. Long ago he had forgotten what it meant to be lonely. He had forced himself to forget the gripping humiliation of attempting to know oneself without others. At this point he considered the feeling a fleeting memory, a fact that did not apply to him, yet his distorted figure lingered before him, bent face, twisted and translucent, and there was the loneliness, staring back at him through his own cubist eyes. It was as if he was a child again, at the mercy of his own mind, ready to indulge any whim of satisfaction. He wanted to escape it, throw it away and keep the sublimity of isolation; that was something he could indulge in. But loneliness was there, emanating from the state room, pummeling his defenses against it. He wished somebody would come in, tell him to leave, detain him and treat him like the criminal he was. But he knew the council would not have made it that easy for him, because he was no common criminal. His death would be self-realized, and his loneliness complete. They knew he would simply show himself out, descend the elevator and find his way home. The next day he would return, and hold himself still in the truth of death. He was a member of the council, he had poured his being into the state; justice is order and it was in his blood.

“I will not die lonely.” He muttered it aloud, perhaps wishing somebody would hear. Nobody did. He continued to examine himself in the now completely black window. The distortion was poetic, a dysfunctional imitation of himself, exactly what he had become in the eyes of the council.

.    .    .

“It was an illusion. Psychological taming with art.”

“Very good. Clearly those trips to the Archives have accomplished something after all.”

The young man suppressed an urge to bristle at the patronizing words of the man in front of the fire. This man could not even bring himself to look at him. He was shamed in the eyes of the State and about to die, yet had the audacity to talk to him as if he was still just merely his ward. After sunset tomorrow the young man would likely take his position on the council, as that was the beauty of the ward system: having the brightest educate the next generation of State leaders through constant contact. But he allowed the old man his words without chagrin, after all what did he know of impending death? It probably did not occur without at least dusting of bitterness about it.

“You taught me,” he replied with a precise edge of sarcasm.

“I taught everybody.” The defendant was looking over his shoulder straight at the young man now, who had not seen his head turn. The movement had been disguised in the dancing light on his face. “Of course the curriculum had been in place for generations, but education through “art” was the most important part of my job.” The defendant saw the young man ever so slightly twitch his head to the right, at the word “art,” as if he was trying to dodge the syllable hurling through the air at him. A keen smile spread on the defendant’s lips, the first since the silence after his sentencing. He stood and walked around the back of his armchair and rotated it to face the young man. He could see the satisfaction the action had caused the young man, his smooth, becoming face remained unmoved but his eyes narrowed in focus, and he leaned back in the slightest in order to settle himself for the conversation ahead. The defendant could see that his ward was nervous, but he knew he was eager to conquer that anxiety, prove himself powerful over his slyest enemy; his own mind. “Do you know why you are my ward?”

“You selected me.” He knew it was essentially a rhetorical question, but as this might be the last conversation they had, he indulged.

“There are thousands of exceedingly bright young minds that I examine each year, yet there was a moment that I knew exactly who my ward was going to be. You and I are very much alike in ways that won’t please you when you realize them.” Behind the calm eyes of the young man there was a pumping mind.  “We don’t like to be told something we don’t know, do we? Especially about ourselves. To be mastered by another gives me a burning envy, I imagine you have a similar response. That is why you and I are smarter than those around us; clever enough to perceive, without letting them get a whole perception of us. What a game you and I play. But of course you already know this. ” The young man was fascinated, in 15 years with the man, he had heard him speak in such a way only twice, and each one of those times he had been drunk. It was not the words he said, but the person behind them. There was liberation behind the words, rather than meticulous thought. They released from his mouth with blind desire, wanting only to be said, rather than affect their listeners as intended. The shift in attitude was astounding, and clashed with the dim room and fading fire. However the defendant was smart, even in his building recklessness.

“I suppose you are right. But I don’t believe that is the reason I am your ward. Judging by what you just said, selecting me seems slightly fatalistic.”

“True. But you taught me something incredible the day I selected you. I knew I wanted to watch you closely as you grew, and find out what else you could teach me.”

.    .    .

“How many pieces of art are in your collection?”

“Three hundred twenty-two. Does it matter? This “trial” is barely an hour old, and we all know I will be convicted.”

“And are all three hundred twenty-two pieces from the Becoming Era?”

“Not quite, fifty are from underground artists currently operating and creating, however I find their work rather choked of inspiration. Or, perhaps they are inspired by their repressed imaginations. Either way, they can thank us for that.  Most of the pieces I have originated prior to the State; I have a particular fascination with their expressiveness, and the selection is vast.”

“By what means did you acquire this extensive collection?”

“Many pieces I saved from a slow decay of irrelevance in our own archives. Many I procured from underground markets outside the State during my travels. Realize that the same power of mind that allowed us to be colleagues was applied to my acquisition of art. And for the obvious reasons, procuring art was truly not strenuous; in fact it could be quite effortless.”

“Obvious reasons?”

“Art is being done everywhere, constantly.”

“Please explain.”

“In a matter of hours the sunset will be gazed upon by thousands of pairs of eyes. They will all absorb the immense reality of the most natural and vibrant colors their brains they will ever manage to comprehend. That image will be immediately printed in their memory, but as we are all well aware, a memory is not a hard drive. Memories are not preserved in their original state, to be called back and examined as one examines a photograph.” A lush, vital tone was seeping into the defendant’s words. “Memories are dynamic; they fold, and appear differently depending on which point of view you access them.”

“How does this account for the constant presence of art you have claimed?” The interjection had come from his left periphery, he turned his head in a gallery of piercing gazes and intense minds, and locked the man responsible in a stare that was confidently returned. He continued,

“Furthermore, and most importantly, our memories belong to us. Each person that sees that sunset owns an imitation of it, with which they can do whatever they want.” He glanced around the gallery. Their faces remained intensely calm, and their bodies relaxed, but he saw them looking through their own memories and realizing what he meant.

.    .    .

“I remember the day I realized I wanted to teach you. It became one of the most important days in my life.” The young man remained motionless. His youthful face was locked in calm determination. Determination to see through this man’s words, and sift through the confusion his new demeanor had wrought upon him. It seemed drawing a breath was responsible for most of the ward’s movements at this point. In a past time, such a demeanor likely would have looked awkward on his smooth, youthful face, like an actor who acts without becoming someone else. But those times had passed, killed off more like it.

“As Head of Education, and considering my lack of a ward, I was invited to observe a group of children that were deemed high functioning enough for the ward track. The education center insisted I come in on a conventional testing day, so I could witness the intelligence of the children in examination. You know, watch as they are asked reasoning questions, and perform mathematics. Obviously I declined, what could be duller than children doing mathematics?” The defendant chuckled at his own joke, turned his head once more towards the fire and continued, “I didn’t actually expect to find a ward, but the council decided that it was important for me to appear connected to the local education centers, seeing as how I was the ultimate authority governing them. So I decided on joining the children on a recreational outing in the mountains west of the city. It seemed like a good opportunity to stretch my legs and get some fresh air.”

The young man nodded in acknowledgement, but said nothing. The memories he held of those mountains were dear to him. They had always gone to a small alpine meadow surround by a dense pine forest; a microcosm apart from structured life in the city. More and more he found himself returning there in his memories; he remembered to gulp the pristine air, and feel the tall grass tickling his knees as he ran through it with the other children. He would lay down to sleep at night and recall the faint smell of vanilla emanating from the pine trees. The other children and he would walk to every tree, bush, and flower they could find and smell them. They would call to the others when they discovered a new scent, and everybody would gleefully rush over to educate their noses. But most of all he remembered the steep mountains towering out of the forest; the permanent white sheet of summer snow that slid down their steep chutes and the chilling breeze that rolled down from their peaks and made his skin erupt in tingling bumps. So aesthetically massive, their grandeur captivated him. They were exquisite in their jagged perfection, and terrifying in their stoic immortality.

“What transpired that day was incredibly simple; it was hardly how one pictures a crucial plot point in one’s own life. There was no struggle or pain, or great joy. No singular moment of brilliant enlightenment. It took me years to realize how important that day is to me.” He stopped, stood and walked over to the pile of logs. He picked one up, examined it a moment, delicately put his nose up against it and deeply inhaled. His eyes were barely open, and his eyelashes fluttered with the intake of air, yet he wasted no more time in putting the log on top of the shrinking flames in a burst of tiny embers. “I was sitting beneath a tree on the opposite side of the meadow, and I remember laughing at the children immersed in smelling any plant they could reach with their noses. It was pleasant, a welcome escape from the trappings of the State room. I admired their innocence, and their obsession with their senses. The children might have been the brightest in the city, but still too young to realize the limits of their sensory worlds. But who can blame their indulgence? I could tell each one of them was fascinated by where they found themselves, which is a critical step in realizing the truth that senses cannot give you.”

The young man allowed himself to smile as their memories collided. “I recall I was about to close my eyes and take the nap that I actually went for, when I saw a boy, alone, sitting under a tree, the same as me. I hadn’t noticed him at first, as he was partially on the opposite side of the trunk as the clearing, with his back to the joyous collection of children. I noticed him deliberately dragging a stick through the dirt, without taking his eyes off of it. It is hard to describe why, as memories don’t allow us the detail we crave, but I became very keen on watching this boy; he kept me awake. There he was, with the beauty of nature to stimulate his curious mind, and an open meadow to stimulate his restless body, but he chose to sit by himself under a tree.” The defendant knew the young man had already figured out that this boy was himself, his deductive capabilities had always been prodigious, but he also sensed discomfort in him; a psychological squirm. “I went over to him after some time had passed, I was as curious as the children in the meadow. I remember the blank glance that he gave me as I approached. It was brief and without expression, he was merely confirming what his ears had already clued, that someone was walking toward him.”

“Hello.” The boy did not bother with a reply. “What are you drawing?” After a moment, he lifted his head towards the peaks lingering over the meadow, then silently went back to dragging his stick in the dirt. His silence was unsettling, depressing even. It was clear he was troubled. The man rotated slightly behind the boy to get a proper look at the dirt being carved out by the stick. It was a mountain landscape, the triangles stacked on one another were unmistakable. He was drawing the peaks above the meadow. “May I sit?” The boy nodded. The man sat and paused with a pleasant smile on his face as he assessed the boy up close now. He was cross legged, with his back up against the tree trunk, fingers gripping the twig with surprising grace. The way the tip of it twitched in the dirt suggested he had done this before. “Why are you drawing the mountains?”

“Because they frighten me.”

.    .    .

“I believe I speak for each councilmember here when I say that I appreciate the irony that you, the Head of Education, are being charged with the criminal collection of art, and the obstruction of justice concerning at large illegal artists.” His cross examination had been up until then had been conducted in the cold unfamiliar tone one would take with a common criminal. But with these words it shifted slightly, hinting at the vital history the defendant and the council shared. “Considering the fine work you have done regarding the problem of the masses, the events at hand are fascinating to put it simply.”

“I agree,” the defendant said with relish in his voice.

“I am a very intelligent person, we all are, yet this time speaking for myself, I must say that I was quite surprised when your illicit theft from the archives was discovered.”

“May I take that as a compliment?” Apparently doomed men still have a sense of humor, thought the defendant.

“Please do not. Your activities have proven very dangerous to the well-being of the State, the well-being I personally witnessed you work with unparalleled diligence to achieve. Your research on the psychology of the peoples of the Becoming Era and their relationship with their popular art has led to instrumental cultural reforms, and unprecedented domestic peace. Yet, you are charged with a crime that achieves the opposite. Free art is dangerous to our society, it promotes the omnipotence of the individual. It gives them an ability to design their own truth, and what becomes of truth if there are multiple editions of it?”

“Well said.”

“Right now, the State is closer to the beautiful ideal by which it was conceived than ever before. It has taken generations, and powerful mind after powerful mind to make it what it is: a place where those who know the truth of justice and morality, and understand it through the beauty of goodness, can guide it. And those that cannot escape the trivial cave of their own desires live in harmony. Such harmony has been the goal of council after council, and each council encountered the same obstructions. The masses is comprised of individuals, and their guttural lifelong bid for pleasure. They are the natural enemy to harmony. How do we placate millions of people that all desire different things? How do we get them to desire the virtue of social unity? You know as well as any of us the pain in patience as we waited for social evolution. At times all we could do was wait and watch, as disorder, and misled people destroyed themselves and those around them based on the consuming “truth” of their beliefs. The survival of our species depended on the work the councils have done, the work you and all of us here have done.”

There was true passion behind her words, that much was obvious. She was personally devastated by her colleague’s crime; it was an unprecedented breach of trust that had shattered something she held in certainty. That men and women of the state room were elevated, exempt from the petty libidinal thrust of the human mind. They knew the sad nature of being a human, and had come together to selflessly overcome it for the good of everybody. They lived on a constant quest to make sure the truth permeated every level of their beloved community.

“Yet you used your power to feed your own personal desires. You ventured into the archives and became lost in a myriad of images, and the lust of fantasy.”

“I will not deny it, to do so would be untruthful.”

“You have deceived us. You know as well as I the council is no place for deception, deception belongs to the artist; to he who espouses a reality dictated by his own terms, when in fact he is dictated by the terms of reality. We cannot let such a cancer fester within this room, and nor can we let it escape. You have become a very dangerous man, and for the good of the state you know what your punishment must be.”

.    .    .

The young man’s gut clenched. It was true, he did not enjoy being told something he did not already know, especially of himself. What right did this old man have inserting this memory into him now? He knew it would trouble him. What use was it? He would be dead in less than twenty-four hours; the young man nearly wished he was dead already. Immediately upon hearing the defendant’s account of the day in the meadow, his own memory surged into his consciousness, not the one in which he played with the other children, but the true memory. The young man had to look away from the subtle smile on the face of the defendant before it enraged him. His eyes naturally drifted to the indifferent fireplace, and the fear that he felt that day in the meadow swelled inside of him. It felt fresh, and immense; it made the young man feel like a helpless child once again. “You seem pleased with yourself.” He was proud that his voice remained calm.

“Not at all. You are angry with me.”

“Why did you tell me that? Why tell me that I was a pathetic, frightened child?”

“I said nothing of being pathetic, quite the contrary in fact. I was impressed.” He received a piercing look from the young man as his head snapped back from peering at the fire. “You see, initially it appeared as if you were the only frightened child in the meadow that day, however I had been watching all the children. I realized that you were the only child to see the mountains, and attempt to understand them.” He paused to give the young man’s brain time to digest this first clue to the conclusion that he knew was coming. “It is very likely that a number of the other children were equally as frightened by the sublime view of the peaks. To this day I am frightened by them, I can hardly imagine what a child feels. But the other children chose to bury that fear, and attempt to forget about it by palliating themselves with play and companionship. None of them bothered to look at the imposing peaks longer than it took to realize they were afraid. Together they buried their fear; it drove them into harmony.” The fire popped loudly, and a log fell off the stack, unable to hold itself up any longer. “You on the other hand confronted that fear. Instead of burying it in the recesses of your mind, and hoping to never feel it again, you allowed it to the surface. You put fear in the tips of your fingers and tried to master it. Out of the uncontainable impulse of fear sprang your drawing in the dirt.” The fire needed another log if it was to continue to burn much longer, but neither person in the room took action, their eyes remained fixed on each other’s dimly lit figures.

“That’s when you figured it out, your “education through art,” isn’t it?”

“Very good. The idea, of course, had been with me for some time, but it seemed so unattainable. The homogenization of masses of individuals felt like an insurmountable peak itself. I knew that the Becoming Era people rallied around the things they liked. I spent what felt like years in the archives, sifting through the menial tastes and trends of those erratic people. You’ve been in the archives, seen the body of evidence, what a story it is.”

“It’s a story of blind desire, not decisions, but impulses.”

“Mostly correct. The impulses were hardly desire—“

“They were fear.”

“Precisely.” There was silence, except for the low crackle of the dying fire. “Can you explain why you feared the mountains?”

“They made me feel—small. Impotent and alone. I was extra conscious of myself and my limitations. Isolated in my own mediocrity.”

“Precisely.” The defendant’s eyes were closed and a blissful look crept up on his face. He leaned back into the embrace of his chair, crossed one leg over the other and continued to speak with his eyes closed, “from there it seemed so easy. So natural. Make them fear being without the state, use the power of the image, of the sound of music to show them the power in community, but more importantly the terrifying isolation of life outside of it.”

“Create the state as trend.” The defendant’s eyes slowly opened, but his eyelids were all that moved.

“More than just a trend. The trend to end all trends. In the Becoming Era people who stepped out of these popular movements were heralded as the harbingers of the next important movement. Which is exactly the reason behind the councils’ deep skepticism of art. There can only be one trend, because only one trend is good, and one trend is the truth, and that is the trend that I curate for them from the State room.”

“Brilliant.”

“Thank you, but not brilliant enough.” It was a leading statement, the young man could feel the defendant’s eyes boring into him, urging him to connect the dots, to reach the ultimate conclusion. “Think…” There was genuine excitement being released from the condemned man. It permeated the air between them. “Think about how you could not remember yourself drawing those mountains, and why you drew them in the first place.” The young man did not bother to wonder how the defendant knew that, as he was desperately grasping around the space between them with his mind.

“I changed that memory. Changed it to something I preferred, turned I into a more satisfying replica.” The defendant could see the tension release from the young man’s body as he landed on the simple answer. “I imitated the truth of what happened.”

“Simply because you could.”

“But I did not intend to…”

“And that is why we will never escape the presence of art. It is like our shadow in the sunlight, it follows us, leads us, distorts us, and is always there. And just like we don’t have a choice of the sun shining, we don’t have a choice in the art we do.”

“But your collection! Why risk everything by collecting all those works? We may be unconsciously performing art in our thoughts and memories, but we are surely not always converting that into paintings, poetry, and music! You must have known you would be found eventually. Why throw your life away?”

“Because it satisfied me, I couldn’t help myself. You never saw my collection, it was beautiful…” This time the nostalgia was not tragic, rather it was pleasurable. “I spent far too much time with the art of the past to not grow to love it. Art captured me in the way the council fears it can capture imaginations of each person, and rightfully so. When I was with my collection I wasn’t a member of the council, and there was no State. There was just me in the imaginations of talented artists, a world apart, a separate truth.”

The defendant’s eyes were closed again. The fire was a pile of pulsing embers. It was dark, very dark. After several moments had passed the defendant stood and carefully walked to the wall. Suddenly light flooded the room, and both men flinched at the abrupt transition. Still squinting, the man walked to the small table that stood by his chair. He had procured a key, and with his back to his ward had inserted it into the rustic lock on the drawer in the table. There was the dragging sound of outdated wood on wood as he slid open the drawer and quickly closed it again. He stood up straight and turned around, and the young man saw him holding what looked like a square piece of plastic.

“This is the first piece of art I ever collected; I was about your age. I want you to have it. Now if you will excuse me, I get to die tomorrow, I need my sleep.” As he walked by he placed the plastic in the outstretched palm of his ward. He walked past the young man, up the staircase, and out of sight.

The young man examined what he had been given, it was an audio CD, an old one judging by the faded colors on the cover. But he could still make out what looked like a childish doodle of a house with strange cone shape hanging off the top of it, and the faint imperfect letters that spelled “Perfect from Now On.”

By: Drew Parrish