1. I attempt, as I have been instructed, to envision a palace.

2. For a moment, I can see it clearly, from far above, as if I am a god.
2a. I am not normally a god, but in my mind, at this moment, I am a god.
2b. I do not reveal this to my instructors.
2b1. Is instructor the right word?

3. I float above a palace of my own envisioning which has its roof torn free.
3a. Not torn exactly: shorn.
3a1. But is there really a difference between shorn and torn?
3a1a. Do I dare ask?
3a1b. Who would I ask?

4. Below are vast, echoing halls.

5. Below are rooms, some large, some small.
5a. Each is distinctly furnished.
5a1. Each room contains within it a bed.
5a1a. The beds are not distinct from one another. They are all identical. If you took a bed from one room and exchanged it for a bed from another room, you would not know a change had occurred.
5a1a1. Who is moving the beds? And why?
5a1b. If the beds are not distinct from one another, can the rooms be said to be distinctly furnished? Wouldn’t semi-distinctly furnished be—

0. Focus. Envision a place. Roofless. From above. You’re a god. I’m a god? For now. Vast hallways. Rooms. Beds in rooms.
0a. Ah, there. Resume.

5a2. Each table has a box on it.
5a2a. The boxes are not distinct from one another. They are all identical. If you took a box from one room and exchanged it for a box in another room, you would not know the change had—

0. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Focus. Say a prayer.
0a. To whom? To oneself?

5a2b. Or should it be 5a3? Ideally everything should fit neatly in a perfectly arranged pattern. But I am already losing the thread.

0. ...

5a3. But of course you know that however carefully your plans are drawn, things change when construction begins.
5a3a. You can say, The radial arrangement of hallways must be exacting. Every room meant to have the same dimensions must have exactly the same dimensions.
5a3b. The only variation shall come with the habitation of the rooms, the difference in bodies, what the patients themselves bring to them, how they in a sense “furnish” them.
5a3c. We will provide each room with the same bed and the same box. When the patient is either cured and leaves or dies and leaves, all that will remain will be the bed and the box.
5a3c1. If patient is the right word.
5a3c1a. Is patient the right word?
5a4. But even if you build it, even if it is all built exactly as you specify, precisely as you have rendered it, in your mind, on the page, even if it is used in the way you intended from the beginning, there is still time to reckon with.
5a4a. Even if the halls all stay perfectly straight, sixteen spokes in a large wheel.
5a4b. Even if the small rooms are equally small and the large equally large.
5a4c. Even if the chapel in the center is just as you imagined it in your head, back when you were a god.
5a4c1. Were you ever a god?
5a4c1a. What were you exactly?
5a4c1a1. If anything at all?

5a5. There is still time to reckon with.
5a6. You build what you think is a hospital.
5a6a. It is, in fact, a hospital.
5a6b. It serves as such for a number of years.
5a7. You grow older. Your hair turns gray and stiff. Your vision fades.
5a8. You forget about it.
5a8a. Not forget exactly, just rarely have occasion to consider it.
5a8b. It was, after all, an early project. A young man’s design.
5a8b1. (But one that, old as you are, you are still proud of.)
5a9. And then, one day, in the district for no reason, just passing by, you walk past.
5a10. It is no longer, you can see, a hospital. No.
5a11. It is a prison.
5a11a. An outrage! You complain. Your complaints are ignored. You have, you are told, long ago been paid for your labor, and paid handsomely. Once a building is built and the architect paid, it is no longer the architect’s concern. Besides, they claim, it has been so many years, you have built so many buildings since. Why do you care?
5a11a1. Why do I care?
5a11a2. Because when you conceive of a building to provide succor to the sick, how can you bear for it to be transformed into a center for incarceration?
5a11a2a. The central chapel become a vantage for the observation of and discipline of the carceral victim.
5a11a2b. The rooms all fitted with heavy iron doors.
5a11a2c. The beds all gone, replaced by cheap cots.
5a11a2d. The boxes all gone, replaced by an agitation of empty air.
5a11a3. I did care, that was all that mattered.
5a11b. I proved adamant in my pursuit. I was referred from one authority to another, passed from bureaucrat to bureaucrat. When that horizontal movement did not exhaust or satisfy me, I was passed up the chain of command. Until at last I was shunted from the city planner to an audience with the mayor himself.
5a11c. He could, he was sorry to say, do nothing for me. This was, properly, a matter to be referred back once again to the city planner.
5a11c1. But I had gone far enough in my investigation to know it had been the mayor’s signature to authorize the transformation from hospital to prison.
5a11c2. I had, indeed, gone even farther: the mayor had, I discovered, profited enormously by retrofitting the facility.
5a11c2a. It was he who partly owned the company given the contract for the installation of the metal doors. It had made the mayor a wealthy man.
5a11d. He could, he was sorry to say, do nothing for me.
5a11d1. And so I, I am not sorry to say, could do nothing for him.
5a11e. I left him bleeding on the floor, throat slit ear to ear.
5a12. I have never been a violent man.
5a12a. I was not, properly speaking, violent then.
5a12a1. It was as if someone else inhabited my body, and I only observed.
5a12a1a. But to say I did not enjoy observing would be a lie.

6. The lid of each box has been torn off.
6a. That probably should have been 5 something.
6a1. But things were getting confused again. I was no longer envisioning a palace.
6a1a. A palace that used to be a hospital.
6a1b. Instead of a prison that used to be a hospital.
6b. Shorn off.
6b1. Shorn off is better than torn off.
6b2. Focus on the words, what they convey. What they make you see.
6b3. A bed, a box on it, its lid shorn off.
6c. Nothing is hidden from me.
6d. Even from above I can see the inside of the box.
6d1. Even from my godlike vantage.
6e. Nothing escapes my attention.

7. How long have I been here?
7a. Surely they can’t intend to keep me in here forever.
7a1. Alone.
7a2. In darkness.
7a3. Without human contact.
7b. They think they are punishing me like this, in my own building.
7b1. The irony of it! they no doubt say when drunk. His own building!
7c. But it would be more a punishment were I forced to look at what my building has become.
7d. Here, I can envision things as they were. Or envision them as something else, something better. A palace, say. I can dismantle the prison around me.
7d1. I can sweep the barred metal doors away.
7d2. Prisoners, too, can be made to dissolve. Slowly they sink into the floor and are gone.
7d3. Then it is a hospital again.
7d4. And when that is not enough, I envision a palace, as instructed.
7d4a. Who has instructed me?
7d4b. ...
7d4c. I see no one. I hear no one. How am I receiving instruction?
7d4d. Some things are better left unexamined.

8. Here we are again. Eyes closed, they whisper. Now. Imagine a... palace.
8a. Building round.
8b. Hallways radiating like the spokes of a wheel.
8c. Royal chambers at the center.
8d. And in the heart of them, at dead center, a chapel.

9. That is where I am to be found, at dead center.
9a. Everything revolving around me.
9b. You have come here to find god.
9b1. You have found him.
9b2. You have found me.
9b2a. It is the darkness you see.
9b2b. I can see nothing.
9b2c. I have to imagine everything.
9b2d. Even you.


For more information about this piece, see this issue's legend.

Brian Evenson has published more than a dozen books of fiction, most recently A Collapse of Horses and The Warren. He has received three O. Henry Awards, an NEA Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was a finalist for an Edgar Award. He lives in Valencia, California and teaches at CalArts.

Granite Mountain Records Vault

Fearful that earthquake, fire, flood, or nuclear attack would wipe out millions of genealogical records, the Mormon Church drilled a vault deep into Granite Mountain so that, even if humans were all wiped out, there would still be a record that we had once been there. Now, with computer storage vastly increased and all these records able to be kept on a single computer, or multiple copies on several computers. And yet they keep adding records to it: paper, microfilm, microfiche, all patiently awaiting the end of the world.