Jessica Lee Richardson
Slow and with rage Paradise devoured its only road.
Paradise said, “There.” Paradise needed a change of identity. Was tired of being such a dream. With no road out, a paradise was not paradise anymore, was it?
Utopia and Mirage said she should have just gotten a haircut. A piercing maybe? But Paradise wanted to change the chisel of her lowest rock.
Over the years many wanderers came but did not went. They could not go, and Paradise loved the feeling of their pounding little walking sticks. Their shouts. Their buried maps. The way wanderers would have no choice but to set up camp and live in her until they died.
Over the years some lure grew in the guts of this wonder of a world, as lure is sure to do.
Some said the sums were off. Not all who had wandered in could be counted.
Some said the way out was up, and fictitious wingbearers abounded.
Some just said one, Wickham, Wickham, they said, went. Wickham, Wickham,
Wickham, they chanted like wishes into the canyons of Paradise.
“Where is this fictitious wingbearer, Wickham?” Paradise, pleased as
marmalade, implored. Utopia and Mirage just kept their mouths closed. Not a peep.
Paradise looked from universe to universe and shrugged. There are just too many variables, too many isn’ts. Such an is as a wingbearer is—”
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake, he’s right there,” Utopia said. Her face was red from holding it. “He’s humming into the dirt below the stump there.”
“What dirt? What stump?” Paradise searched herself. “Stop pulling my leg, Utopia.” She curled the edges of her starscape away from her friend.
“Oh god, don’t start causing black holes again. My stump, by my southernmost river in the Glen of Indivision.”
Paradise caught her breath. “Your stump? Your stump!” “Take a chill,” said Mirage in a glisten.
“He’s busy humming himself whole because he nearly lost himself in you.” Utopia said.
“That’s the point,” Paradise shouted. She was shaking with rage.
Earthquakes sprouted and volcanoes spewed.
All kinds of new lure was born in Paradise when she lost the wingbearer to Utopia, who then lost him to Heaven. For Wickham’s part he was unaware. He took singing lessons from birds and enjoyed the changes of lighting in his many incarnations.
Finally he lived a life that took him back to Paradise. She was an old hag now, wearied from waiting, but still miraculous in her crevasses.
The storytellers had been waiting too.
Everyone wanted the wingbearer, everyone wanted his wings. Everyone wanted a way into another view, up they chanted, up.
Paradise wept sometimes at this. “I don’t understand. I’ve given them everything!” She railed.
“Except a way out.” Utopia muttered.
Paradise tried to thwart the wingbearer’s flight in a variety of ways. First she singed his wings, but the storytellers had ointments.
Then she wet them. But the storytellers fluffed.
Next, she pinned them under a large rock. The storytellers rolled it off. The storytellers, you see, wanted to form a chain behind the wingbearer,
each holding onto each, so they might ride out of here in the hero’s wake.
“I’m not a hero, though,” Wickham sang. Everything was a song with him.
He constantly had headphones on and barely listened to the rest of the world.
In his early flights he let the storytellers hang on, but all their talking was a real bummer for the wingbearer. He began searching for hiding spots, where he could just jam out alone.
One day after the lurers lured him into a chase again and he was tired and bored enough to talk out loud to himself, he said, “I wish I could just have some peace!”
Suddenly below him there was a stirring of dirt and sand.
To the wingbearers great surprise the sand spoke back to him. “Embody me,” the sand said.
Strange as it was, the wingbearer thought the ground had an alright idea, actually, hearing the footsteps of the storytellers in the hills. He began covering himself with dirt.
The storytellers ran right by him.
“Thanks, Sand,” the wingbearer said, silt licked and sitting up. “Embody me,” it said again.
I guess it only knows two words, thought the wingbearer. Still, pretty good for sand.
The wingbearer tried to embody sand since the sand just kept asking nicely.
He dug deeper. And deeper. He sweat and sang and dug again.
Eventually he was successful and the sand swallowed him right up.
He had a choice then, to continue on as the wingbearer, or to stay where he was as sand. “I’ll just stay here,” he decided. “It’s quiet.” He settled into his hard particulate. “Everyone needs a change of identity sometimes,” he thought, thinking his thoughts were his own, but of course now he was just a part of Paradise.
She smiled at full glow to her friends, who sighed. Mirage looked down at her fingernails. Utopia pretended interest in her phone.
Paradise won the other realms back eventually, though, by reading them all of the wonderful stories her people wrote down through the ages about their terrible, terrible loss, and about their dreams of glory and escape.
Jessica Lee Richardson, a New Jersey native, lived in Brooklyn and performed Off-Broadway and elsewhere for years before earning her MFA in fiction from the University of Alabama in 2013. Her short story collection, It Had Been Planned and There Were Guides (FC2, 2015), won the Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize and was longlisted for a PEN American Center award. Stories and poems also won awards from the National Society of Arts and Letters and the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum and have been featured online at The Short Form, Ploughshares, and the Authonomy Sunday Shorts Series by Harper Collins. Her fictions have appeared in some great journals. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Coastal Carolina University and working on several new books. Her and her dog June live by the beach. They are visited occasionally by turtles, herons, gators, foxes, frogs, swans, mud salamanders and humans.