I am happy to have the chance to submit a story for the final round of this challenge, which started with about 1,000 participants and is down to 25. I don’t think my final story is a winner, but I had fun writing this one, so that’s enough for me. It was inspired and influenced by the short fiction and style of Donald Barthelme (The Emerald, The Zombies, etc). Thanks for reading! Note: White space doesn’t format well on the blog so I’ve inserted lines to show breaks, which unfortunately has a slightly different effect…
Genre: Open Location: Iceberg Object: Lighter
The iceberg was proof of something more—the impossible. It split from a large glacier in Greenland a year ago, survived the seasons and the warmer currents of the mid-Atlantic, and then drifted into the Gulf of Mexico a summer later. Still it stands, a long tabular—unmelted, unmelting, proof.
“Proof of what?” asked Eric.
“God,” said Juan.
“You mean science.”
“Why not call it what it is. A miracle.”
“You believe it?”
“People are heading there in boats.”
“To do what?”
“Live on it. It’s the new promised land.”
“Not just Christians, lots of folks.”
“The leader, her name is Kale.”
“Like the leafy greens?”
“And she’s beautiful.”
It’s true. I’m beautiful. Follow me. We can live here on the miracle which promises to always be a miracle. We’ll eat raw fish and swim in warm waters and run naked across ice, and I swear you’ll see it, too.
And if you don’t believe in God, that’s fine. I’ll show you. You see where that long quiet range of ice meets the fat blue sky. That’s God. This is her iceberg. I declare it: Godberg.
First rule. No fire. Fire melts ice and only God has the right to melt her gift.
Second. No digging. Not deep anyway. Just because this thing is a miracle doesn’t mean it’s not fragile.
Third rule. Every morning we run naked to the white flag in the center of Iceberg—a featureless place Kale calls sacred for what it lacks–so we can feel Godberg against our skin, but also because people like running naked with Kale.
The rest is just respect.
“What’s over there?”
“The other end of Godberg.”
“I don’t know. But they have loud instruments.”
“I think it’s a marching band. That’s what it sounds like.”
“Is music allowed?”
“I guess, but they’re breaking other rules.”
“At night, you can see the flicker of their fires.”
“They’ll sink us.”
“They just might.”
The musicians marched with band instruments made from fur and wood instead of brass, trumpets that shot fire, trombones that blew little winds, and at night they banged on the ice with iron sticks. Sometimes they paraded around the edges of Godberg, dancing, fighting and shouting, even pushing someone in the water for being dull. We hear that’s how Juan drowned, when he slipped away to join them one night. The quietude of Godberg was diminished.
There’s a man holding a pick and hacking at the ice. He’s got cigarettes tucked in both ears and a furry trumpet strapped over his shoulder. He’s crouched by the flagpole in that stretch of ice between the two villages where you can stand on a not-so-clear day and see no water and think you are alone in a world full of only space and light, without color or sound.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“This is art?”
“I think so.”
“What are you all doing here?”
“We made too much noise on the mainland. They didn’t like it. So we came here to make it.”
“I feel like you don’t respect the miracle.”
He swung his trumpet around and played a few notes, blew smoke out of the bell; it turned into a small fire and the flame made a song, a brass lighter of music. He lit one of his cigarettes with a note.
He held the trumpet’s flame against the ice.
“See? It doesn’t melt.” And then the first rule meant nothing.
“And what if you find something?”
“Below the ice.”
A day later they found something. The musicians brought it to Kale.
“What is it?”
“Is she alive?”
“Doubt it. Will you take her?”
“We just feel like you’re better equipped for this.”
They put her in an open box in Kale’s capsule-home and let her thaw. When she was done thawing, she woke up. Another miracle or maybe just the same one.
“Who are you?” Kale asked.
“I feel like a Rachel.”
“You were frozen for I don’t know how long.”
“A long time. God is good.”
Kale beamed. A believer, freed from the ice, Godberg’s virgin daughter.
“I have more friends down there,” Rachel said.
Kale hesitated. They’d have to break the second rule. But then maybe that’s why she was here, to dig these holes, to liberate the people frozen in Godberg.
So they dug them out, children, a small dog, someone’s long-ago grandparents. They found other things, too, jewelry, a rocking horse, a tuba.
“Hide it from the band,” Kale said.
Winter came and it got colder, the days less yellow, and the naked runs to the flagpole started to feel more like labor than love, especially because it was surrounded by bad art. Kale allowed small fires. Then folks noticed Rachel wore her boots during runs.
“I was frozen for a long time. I’m tired of being cold. God understands.”
And then the only rule left was respect.
One evening, Kale walked to the edge of Godberg, and sat along that other mystic border where cold ice touches warm sea.
Rachel found her and sat next to her.
“How was it?” Kale asked.
“Being frozen for centuries.”
“Cold. But quiet. You can live forever that way.”
“You did good, Kale. We owe you everything.”
The two women embraced then walked back to the village holding hands. That night they dug a hole and put Kale in it, in the center of Godberg, so she could see both ice and sky but never have to feel a fire or hear a bass drum again.
Then they dug another hole, to get at something shiny in the ice, a new drum kit. They had a party that night with a bonfire because nobody could hear them out beyond the permanent edges, and they could make as much noise as they wanted. Rachel assured them that’s what Godberg was for. Everybody was invited.