JOEY CIFELLI ’23
Hello, again. It’s good to see you. How have you been? Mhm. I see. I’m doing well, thanks. Over our break I’ve done some thinking about art. The subject of which you can likely guess. So, do you think this is art, the sky above us? I’ll admit right now I do not know. I do not even know what we mean when we say that word: art. When you look for a definition the Oxford English Dictionary will happily be your supplier. It’ll say (as far as I gather) that art is “the expression of human creative skill and imagination.” Merriam-Webster says the same thing except the human qualifier is removed, a difference which to me feels massively underreported/discussed. Do these definitions feel right to you? Either one? Or maybe you prefer some combination of human and non-human expression, with stipulations and exceptions? I can tell you something is being expressed when I look above, but how much of that expression is me and how much is the natural flow of energy I could not say. And does the question even matter, when the thing itself already exists and is beautiful regardless of what we say about it? This line of thinking always reveals itself to be a circle. In any case, I’m glad that while we think, we can observe. Welcome back.
Terrible things clawed at the door. Nasty things, with red eyes that glowed. And teeth that dripped. The child gripped his blankets in the corner of the room. His knuckles shaked. A drop of sweat slipped from his brow to his eye and landed beneath in the bruised creases of sleep deprivation. One of those small round clocks ticked on the other side of the room, close to the door. He hoped that at any moment the dream would end. He still hoped, perhaps foolishly, even though this was the second full day of the dream. He knew by the clock. And he knew it was a dream because, in real life, his room could not possibly cause such sharp spasms of fear to pulse through his stomach. It simply wasn’t big enough. But here the floorboards stretched and stretched and all the empty air felt foul.
And the clock was a dead giveaway. As much as he could he kept them out of his room. Their ticking always felt like mocking laughter, in two parts, like Ha-ha, Ha-ha. The terrible things somehow felt normal. At least they were on the outside. He knew that an awful thing would happen to him when he fell asleep. Sleeping was how he got here, after all, and he could just feel palpably in the air that sleeping further would take him deeper into the dream, somewhere where the terror wore fewer masks. This was how he had been for two days, growing sleepier and sleepier. Waiting for the moment when the door would inevitably give in and glowing eyes and dripping teeth would come crashing in and snap him up. But in the present the clock had suddenly ceased its ticking.
The child woke up in his room, exhausted. The sheets were damp with sweat. He wiped his forehead with a pajama sleeve. Sighing, he pushed himself out of bed and went over to his dresser and started rooting around a drawer full of bits of junk and odds and ends. He pulled out tools, a hammer and nails, a spool of thread, some clay, a tiny saw made for tiny hands. And a candle. Matches, green-tipped, two of them. He hadn’t escaped, he knew. The terror still brushed against the edges of his mind. But it had caught him off guard once already, and that was enough. Tonight, when he went back in, he would be prepared. And something would have a lot of explaining to do.