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Category Archives: Aldous


It’s some time before her nose catches on and Aniridia realizes where she is: backstage. Not any backstage she recognizes, but the smell is universal, velvet and rope and dust on the lights.

And nerves.

The path is narrow, like a game trail, or the routes preserved through the hoards of the mentally ill. The tiny keychain LED leads her with a cold bubble of light, catching on jars of catseye marbles and stacks of wire birdcages. The cages are too small for more than one occupant. If you like birds that much, Aniridia wonders, why not keep them in pairs?


Aniridia shouldn’t be surprised to find that someone’s left their copy of the script down here.

Not that it’s the kind of thing one can memorize. The words are scribbled in haste down the inside cover of a blank octavo, and they slide and blur under the wobbly pinhead of light; by the time she gets to the bottom, she’s sure the top has changed:

Fever dreams and mondegreens,
Innocent of time;
Tarry, scurry, hide the seams,
Multiply your eyes

Close the book of holorime.
Night will swallow day
And ink, and knives, and things unkind.
You’re better off this way–


When she looks up from the amorphous stanza she realizes she’s walked out of the area backstage and into the wings. Red curtain legs hang ranked alongside her, and she peers around them to see the grand drapes drawn shut behind a false proscenium. This device, she recalls, is called a tormentor.

Is there an audience out there? Of whom or what would it be composed? She almost doesn’t want to look, but her father would admonish her for willful blindness. Aniridia thinks of his poetry books and goofy legerdemain, and pulls the velvet apart to step out onto the apron.


“You aren’t supposed to see this,” says the end of the world.

Aniridia looks out at the auditorium and the dead filling its seats, quiet and still.  “I didn’t intend to,” she says.  “I want to go home.”

“Have you walked the maze?” The end of the world straightens from her sutures. “Have you named names and dug at the cracks? There’s no home for you anymore.”

“Dead dear fear feed fled,” Aniridia whispers, then grips the curtain, forcing glossolalia back down her throat.

“Which will you be?” she asks. “The end of the house?  Or the girl in the world?”


Aniridia closes her eyes and it comes burning at her, the one memory she never summons, the day her father didn’t come home. It was incongruous and beautiful, a sunset like brushfire. She sat and watched television until fear beat in her heart like wings.

No note. No trace. No end to the questions, all these aching lost orphan years later, and finally she knows:

The end of the world’s not a girl or a dream.
The end of the world’s not a house.
The end of the world is the story you tell when your reasons for living run out.


She feels the end of the world stroke her throat with fingers like truth and death. She swallows. A tear crawls down her cheek.

Aldous opens her burning eyes. The auditorium is empty. She is, as always, alone.

Backstage there are stacks of dusty pine, newspaper, buckets of nails; the thing about the theater is you’re always building something. It’ll take time to lug it up through her little trapdoor, but time she’s got.

One final thing her father showed her: you can’t just leave the house. You have to give it something. You have to build the last room yourself.


She frames it like she saw on a TV show once, studs at sixteen inches, or anyway the breadth of two spread hands. Without sheetrock, she panels the walls in masonite, like an old movie set facade. You could tear it apart with any crude pry bar. Maybe one day somebody will.

It’s not quite square, the little room. When she looks it over she mostly sees the flaws. But it’s her own.

Aldous found two brass numerals, backstage: the number that comes after twelve. She tacks them to her door to nowhere, and opens it, and leaves the house behind.


Aniridia is wrestling with the end of the world, who has already used four illegal tactics including her teeth.

“You can’t win,” whispers the end of the world in Aniridia’s sweating ear. “You can’t even see what winning would look like.”

“Yeah,” grits Aniridia, “but it’s the only game in town.” Her teeth are grinding, and so is her shoulder, an inch from the ground.

“This isn’t a fair fight,” says the end of the world. She’s watching from the audience and checking her phone. “It’s not a fight at all.”

But, Aniridia knows–heart muscles trembling–it isn’t over either.