I remember the sensation of grass under my feet. I could run, then. My legs were firm and strong. They would carry me toward the sun at the end of each day, chasing it west to the horizon. I could feel the life in everything around me, in the trees and the rocks and the crawling things underneath them. I could feel the gods I knew then and cannot recall, feel their proud eyes on my shoulders. I could feel the sweat tickle the skin under my ear. I could feel the cool evening wind dry my wet, heaving lips.
There was a little plate under my feet that said “Incense burner.” and I have never known what it means.
I was in a glass case in a dimly lit room. There were other pieces in there, like me. Little sculptures of animals, a boar, a bird, a cat and a fish. I was a rabbit, or so I suspected. I could scarcely make out my reflection in the little glass box that contained me. When the lights first came on each morning, I could see things, work out facts about myself through observation. I was made of copper, bright green and with a stone embedded upon my head. I could feel my limbs, strong and slender but immovable. All I could do was see, and just barely.
Across the hall and through the entrance was a much larger room, well lit and always full of people. From my position, I could see a gray arm as large as my entire body stretching out across the doorway. Behind it there were serpents with jewels in their eyes, their golden tongues lashing and curling in the air, raking their claws at nothing in particular. I had often wished to visit this place, to meet the dragons and know whose arm stretches across my doorway.
My room was not often visited. People would walk by, peer in, and keep walking. I would see children walk by and consider me for a moment, thinking me odd. I was the only piece in the room that faced the door, and so unlike my mates who only had each other for company, I had the passing curiosity of the young to occupy my soul, such as it was.
I don’t know how long I’d been here, but I’d known once, some time ago. I remember things about before I was here, too. There was… a girl, and a magician, and I remember of course that I could run through fields with strong legs at dusk. I thought often of my gods, the ones who i prayed to each night, the ones i couldn’t recall. I wondered if perhaps my forgetting them might have had something to do with my present situation.
Once in a while, some couple would wander into our room to kiss or fight or contemplate the prospect of sex before noticing that we were all watching and leave sheepishly. Very rarely, and always too briefly, someone would come in to look at us, consider our odd shapes, the way our limbs, roughly sculpted bits of soft metal seemed to reach out to them, and note that there was no indication of where any of us came from, what we were. They would tell this to each other, shrug, and move on.
Once at the end of the day, just before the lights went out, a little girl ran into our room. She saw me from the doorway, wrenched her hand from her mother’s and made for my display. When she reached me, she slapped her hands hard on my glass case and I was shaken so violently that I tipped backwards out of the little aluminium stand that clasped my body, and I fell to the cement base of my prison, unfastening the stone from my forehead.
I’m not sure how I figured out that I was free from my little copper prison. I watched the girl dragged away hastily by her parent as she screeched her disapproval, and as I lay there, waiting for someone in a uniform to find and replace me, I thought to myself that I should very much like to be upright, and, just then, I was. Everything seemed smaller, and the air was different than before – it moved across my new skin and the sensation, long forgotten, was strange to me.
The sensation of movement had become foreign to me. I felt as if I had woken from a dream. I turned my neck for the first time in who knows how long, and noticed to my astonishment that I was outside of the display case. I looked at the other pieces, they seemed so small now, so empty. I turned and there I was, just behind me, with long ears and alert eyes, sitting proudly but bowled over on my side, the little stone a few inches away. As I gaped at my own form, I noticed the reflection of a face in my glass. I hopped backwards in shock, and that’s how I came to realize that I was in a new body. I looked at my arms, my hands and finally my legs. I touched my face, tasted the tips of my fingers, they tasted like grass and sweat, of okra and copper. These things tasted like memories, but ones I couldn’t place. I stood there in darkness for a while, considering my position, considering the muscles under my skin, and the wetness of my lips. I rubbed my fingers together and watched the flesh bend and contort against itself. It took, I must admit, some time for me to come to the conclusion that my legs must be able to achieve locomotion. This fact thus remembered, I practiced for a little while, placing one heel against my biggest toe, then again, and again until I could do it without looking down.
I started and fell to the floor, scrambling up against my display case and almost knocking it over. I licked my lips and felt the elasticity of my tongue, then quivered my jaw as if to warm up to the act of speech.
“Come out here and we can talk.”
I staggered to my feet and peered with my new eyes into the darkness. The voice was commanding and proud, I could feel it in my chest. I rose to my feet and walked carefully out into the larger room. As I cleared the doorway it occurred to me that I was finally going to see the rest of the statue whose arm I had watched all this long time. It was a man with a huge chest, his great hand held up flat at the end of his extended arm. His face was furious and grimacing through a wild beard, his stone hair bundled in a knot. He wore an ornate stone robe, and there were divots all over his body worn smooth with time.
“Take a good look, i’m not going anywhere.”
The voice laughed at his own joke.
“Who are you?”
“My name is Gan Fengchi. I am a great warrior. Who are you, and how did you escape?”
“Hello, Gan Fengchi. I don’t know how i escaped.”
“Tell me your name!”
“I don’t know my name.”
“That’s ridiculous. How can you not know your own name?”
“Certainly you are.”
I turned away from Gan Fengchi and looked at the dragons whom I had longed to speak with.
“They cannot speak, rabbit.”
I turned back to Gan Fengchi and wondered how he knew.
“We cannot all speak, and you are certainly the first who can move, as far as i can recall. You know, i have a great memory.”
I walked to the dragons and ran my hand over one of them, its ridged scales felt cool and pleasant under my palm, enjoying the complex ridges carved into every inch of its golden hide. I considered the jewels that made up its eyes and admired the shimmering beauty of the dim light that danced on their scales. I dropped my hand and turned to Gan Fengchi.
“Tell me what you remember.”
“Because it might help me remember. All I remember is grass, and the sun, and something else.”
“I don’t know how to describe it. Tell me what you remember.”
Gan Fengchi cleared his throat, and began.
“I remember the heat of the summer months in the desert, I remember the smell of rain on stone. I remember the marching of men and horses, and the fire in my belly as I grew up. I was ambitious and clever, I became a warrior because there was nothing else for me. I did not care for the pay, but the pay was good. I remember food, and women, and I remember the smell of the temple, smoke and wind and fire and flesh. I could turn my body into any shape, I could mold my hands into stones to bludgeon my enemies, I could turn my legs into swords to cut them down. I lived a good, long life. I was respected and sought after. I was wise and strong, and because I was also virtuous, I was immortalized.”
“I don’t know this word, Gan Fengchi. What does it mean to be immortalized?”
“It means that my flesh has long since rotted away, but the fire in my belly never went out. People tell stories about me, learn about my life here in this place. I am remembered.”
“But what do you remember?”
“I am remembered, and that is enough.”
“I don’t know if i’m remembered.”
“Surely you are not.”
“How do you know i’m not?”
“Because if you were, you would remember the things you are remembered for.”
“That… is a confusing thought.”
“So it is.”
I thanked Gan Fengchi and bid him a good night. He clucked his tongue and insisted I bow to him, and I did. I ran my fingers over the head of one of the dragons, then walked on through to the next room.
I was standing in an immense, open space. In its center were the bones of a great animal, its neck almost reached the ceiling, which was made of glass. I looked around and noticed all the little display cases just like mine scattered around the room under soft lights. In one, there was an animal I didn’t recognize, it was large and covered in thick fur, it had great black claws and the face of a dog. There was a shining suit of armor, glimmering and proud, etched into its surface were ornate flowers all along each ridge. There was a sculpture made of wood, a convalescence of many animal features all collected to make this form. I approached it and placed my hand on the glass, cool to the touch. It looked old but somehow familiar. It had wide eyes that glared alert in no particular direction. Its teeth, perhaps once sharp, were worn and rounded at the ends, and its red tongue floated between them, giving the impression that it was crying out. I inched my face closer to the glass, as if to whisper a secret to it.
“Can you speak to me? What do you remember?”
“That is just an object, little rabbit. It cannot speak to you.”
I whirled around and saw nothing. The dog-faced animal, the armor, the great long necked beast, all still and silent.
“Don’t be frightened. I’ll help you.”
The voice was soft like a whisper, I stepped out into the center of the room and waited for it to speak again.
“Over here, little rabbit.”
I whirled around and clenched my fists. My legs shivered a little as I stepped forward, toward a corner of the room where the bust of a man stood on a stone pedestal. He had sad eyes and a round face. His lips were curious and upturned at each end, but he was not smiling. He was made of bronze and there was a plaque under him just like mine, but it had words I didn’t recognize.
“Who are you?”
“A fine question, little rabbit. My name is Currelly. This is my Museum.”
“Currelly, what is a Museum?”
“Another fine question, little rabbit. A Museum is a kind of temple. In it we store the memories of the earth so that people can come and remember.”
“This is a temple to memory?”
“That is correct, little rabbit.”
“Are you its god, or its acolyte?”
To this the bust said nothing. I stood and listened to the echoing silence of the great room for a while, waiting for it to speak, but eventually it became clear that the obligation to say something had fallen somehow back to me.
“Do you know why i am able to move? Do you know where my memories have gone? Do you know where there is grass that i might run in, so that i can remember my gods?”
“All fine questions, little rabbit.”
“Is that my name? Little rabbit?”
“You are the little statue of the hare, no? With the stone in its forehead?”
“I was. Now I am this. I am what I was before I was a little statue of a hare with a stone in its forehead.”
“How fortunate for you to take this new form.”
“This is my original form.”
“So it is, little rabbit.”
“Where do i come from?”
“Someone must know.”
“No, really i’m quite sure. You were found in the basement here some years ago, pulled out of a crate and admired for some time. There were others in the same crate, but it had no destination or origin. It was decided that you would fill the little room across from the Chinese exhibit. I’m really not sure why, but then, these decisions were made after my tenure of course.”
“What is tenure?”
At this the bust laughed.
“You have many questions, little rabbit. But i’ll suffice to tell you this: your gods are gone, your grass is gone, and it is by accident alone that you walk in my halls. Go back, little rabbit. Put the stone back in its place, let these things be. There is nothing for you here, no gods, no grass, no secret histories. You are here to be remembered, not to remember… Remember that.”
“But i wish to remember. I want to know my gods again.”
“There are many gods in this place, little rabbit. Go and choose one, remember its name, and then return to your display. You have my blessing.”
“What does this mean? Blessing?”
“It means that i allow it.”
“I see… what would happen if you didn’t allow it?”
To this there was more silence, and I once again felt the obligation to speak fall to me, but i didn’t want to talk to this Currelly anymore. I walked away from the bust as quickly as I could, past the dog faced beast and the armor and the crying thing made of wood, but I did not run. Something told me that running would give Currelly something he wanted from me, something I dare not give him.
I walked through hallways, peering into rooms as I passed them just as people had scurried past me all these days. There were paintings of people in extravagant finery whose curious eyes followed mine and laughed in whispers when I broke my gaze. There were sculptures that beckoned me, proud looking stone shadows of men with insisting voices that barked in growls of indignation.
“You there! You can hear me, can’t you! Do you know who i am? I am Hostinian!”
“Stop! Come back here! How dare you ignore Publius Helvius Pertinax!”
“You dare stare at me like that? You know very well i am Decius Caelius Calvinus Balbinus! Come back here!”
I don’t know why these sculptures were so sure i would recognize them, know their names and what they meant. I wanted to ask them about their gods, but they seemed so sure I would know who they were that they became insulted when I scurried past them and down the corridors. Surely the gods of these men weren’t remembered, if all they could think to say was to insist that i should know them.
I stopped at the end of a long hallway, past all the chattering declarations, to behold a stone relief mounted on the wall with little black brackets made of metal. I could feel how old it was, feel the years radiate from each tiny cobblestone that formed the shape of a great lion with sharp teeth and a wild shock of hair around its face. When it spoke, all the other voices tumbled away, as if ashamed.
“What is your name?”
I considered this question for a moment, hesitant to give Currelly any more thought, but I relented. Gan Fengchi thought me a fool for not having one, and Currelly insisted on one, so out it came.
“Rabbit. What is yours?”
There was silence at first, I watched the stone eye of the lion, wondering if it would move to consider me. It did not. The voice came again, haggard, as if this lion were somehow exhausted from standing in its stone frame for so long.
“I do not know my name.”
This shocked me. How could one who commanded such a presence not know its own name?
“Are you a god?”
There was resignation and sadness in his answer.
“What do you remember?”
“Nothing at all?”
More silence, and then,
“I remember… I remember that I am a stone relief of a lion, carved from rocks each bearing the name of King Nebuchadnezzar the Second. I am from a place called Iran.”
My eyes widened at this.
“Tell me of your home! Is there grass? Does the sun set and do you chase it?”
More silence. I couldn’t bear it. I stepped forward and my knee collided with a little black stand that began speaking in a happy voice.
“This stone relief of a lion, carved from rocks each bearing the name of King Nebuchadnezzar the Second, comes from a place called Iran!”
More silence. I stepped past the little black stand and came closer to the lion so that I could feel the wind of my breath bounce off of its cold surface.
“So… you have no memory?”
“I am a stone relief of a lion, carved from rocks each bearing the name of King Nebuchadnezzar the Second. I am from a place called iran.”
I bowed my head and looked at my feet, perhaps in shame or apprehension. The energy that radiated from the lion was like a chill in the night, older than time, its beauty lost in a sea of languid aimlessness. I wondered if this was what awaited me when i found my secret history, a simple statement of facts without meaning, as crude and forgotten as any piece of trivial information, of no consequence beyond curiosity. I lifted my arm and placed my hand on the lion’s neck as if to stroke it.
“No, you musn’t – -”
The voice panicked, but as my fingers slid between the cool ridges of the stonework, I could feel a hum shiver through it. Its voice now was stronger, louder, not my much, but enough that it frightened me, just a little, to be so close to it.
“I can see them. I can see them and they are close to you. I can see the crawling things under the rocks, I can see the petty lives that brought you here. I remember the name. I remember the name. I remember the name.”
I wrenched my hand away and fell on my back. I could still feel the humming coming from the lion as I scrambled to my feet and hurried back down the hall. Every other voice was silent, the paintings did not watch me, or if they did I was too scared to notice. I jogged until I could no longer feel that cold presence, though I recognized once it was gone that it was not unpleasant, only… overwhelming.
I elected not to touch anything else.
I noticed that I was surrounded by skeletons.
In every direction, illuminated by little clusters of lights in the floor that threw shadows across their many edges, were the bones of unfathomable animals, beings that seemed impossible. There were long necked ones like the one in Currelly’s room, and others, not quite as tall but twice as fearsome, all tooth and claw and wide, gaping mouth.
“You are here to see us?”
I blinked, a little shocked to hear a voice come from the corpse of an animal, but it wasn’t just a voice, it was many all speaking at once, a chorus of dead things.
“… i am here to remember.”
“We are remembered. Yes. We are great and powerful. We fought, and grew strong, and died because the heavens came down upon us for growing so great and powerful.
“You are bones.”
“No. not bones. We are stone. Stone is forever.”
“You are stone in the shape of bones?”
“We are gods, we are worshipped, wondered at, told of in tales.”
“But you are dead. Gods cannot die.”
“We are remembered.”
“What were you before you were remembered?”
“Great and powerful. We fought, we grew strong –”
“Yes i understand. What were your lives? Did you grow old? Did you speak?”
“Who lived to remember you?”
“The heavens fell upon us. None survived.”
“But if none survived, then how are you remembered?”
There was no answer. I looked back at the hallway I had come from. I thought I had seen something move in the corridor, but it was empty and dark. I sat down on the cold, hard floor, folding my knees up to my chest and wrapping my arms around my legs.
“You are remembered by the people who come here?”
The voices were quick to answer, as if assuring themselves.
“How do they remember you?”
“They found us, deep in the earth. They brought us into the sun, they put us back together. They told stories about us, good stories. They still tell them. We are worshipped. We are gods.”
I leaned my chin into my knee and thought about this answer.
“Where do you come from?”
“They come from nowhere, Little Rabbit.”
I lept to my feet and spun around. There, standing in the shadows of the corridor I had come from, was a figure. Its eyes flashed in the darkness as it sauntered into the room. Its voice was unmistakable. The lion.
“They are shadows, Rabbit. Shadows of shadows. Their stories are simple inventions. They exist in the minds of the young and the ones who wish to be young. They exist only to remind the people who come here that there are older things than them, things they can touch, things that could die. Their memories are whatever is decided for them.”
I was frozen in place, terrified. In my mind I screamed at my legs to work, to run and be strong, but they wouldn’t budge. The lion crept along the floor between the stages each great beast was perched upon. The beasts dare not speak in the presence of this being. They knew as well as the paintings and busts that filled its section of the museum what I could sense from it, something older than anything in here, something once trapped and now free, like me.
“You freed me, little rabbit. I don’t understand how, but you did. I remember it all now. I remember the gates of the mother goddess, I remember the sun. I remember the hands, dry and dark, who built me brick by brick, worshipped me in secret, a god of one man. I remember his fear. Like yours. Delicious.”
The golden, shimmering glass eyes that captured my totality in their stare and let me know they could consume it whenever they wished flashed in the sparse light. The immense skeletons all seemed to shrink in this one’s presence.
“You asked me if I was a god, and when you touched me with your hand I remembered that I was. It all came back to me, but what good is it to be a god and not be worshipped? I don’t want to be worshipped, little rabbit. I don’t want to be remembered. I want to live. I want to feel the sun and taste the blood. Oh how I miss the taste of blood, little rabbit. Like copper, like life. I want to taste it, little rabbit.”
My mouth quivered to speak
“Wh…what will you do now?”
It sprang up from the ground toward me and I bolted backward and to the side, scurrying away as the hot breath between its bared teeth wisped up my neck. I caught my footing before the lion did and bolted down the hall it had come from. I could see off at the end of the corridor the relief, all smashed to bits on the ground. As I swerved into a room I could see it bounding between the deep shadows toward me. I ran past the busts of great men whose names I did not know. They were silent as I passed, I sensed a fear radiate from their souls, something from their lives as men they were unable to forget. A sensation so primal and ubiquitous that it suffocated me as i scrambled through to another room, then another, then another. I whirled around a corner and into a stairwell leading down. My feet had never used stairs and they slipped and panicked under me as I hurled myself down them and past a barrier of red ribbons blocking the door to a huge, dark room full of little boxes, each marked with incomprehensible words, their lids removed to reveal tiny objects I did not recognize. I slid myself behind a box on the far wall and crouched to make myself small against it. I listened to my breathing, loud and fraught, and focused on controlling it so that the lion wouldn’t hear me.
“What are you running from, little rabbit?”
I whirled around expecting to see the lion, but it wasn’t there. It was something else, another skeleton. It loomed over me, as if floating in the air. It was bigger than any of the beasts in the room I had run from. Its shape was confusing, it had a skull made of two huge paddle-shaped bones, and no teeth to speak of. It was shaped a little like a fish, but there were no fish as big as this one. Its bones were suspended by strong cables that hung from the ceiling far up above.
“Why, you’re afraid. What’s the matter?”
Its voice was deep and soothing, like a parent.
“I-i’m being chased by a lion. It is very old and very hungry.”
“Ah, an old god, I’d bet. Looking to relive something long lost, hm? The chase, the hunt, the taste of blood.”
I hunched against the box I was hiding behind and nodded.
“Over there, in that crate. There’s a device called a flashlight. Go and get it, and bring it here. I’ll show you how to use it.”
I’m not sure what compelled me to do as i was told, but i did. I tiptoed toward one of the boxes and retrieved a tube made of metal with a little glass window at the end. I went back to the box I had been hiding behind and sat with my back against it, looking up at the enormous creature, still awed by its size.
“Point it at the entrance, little rabbit.”
I leaned over the box and pointed the little window at the entrance. I stood there for some time, watching the shadows in their stillness, feeling the presence of the thing behind me like a cool breeze up my neck. I swear I could hear it breathing, hear the moaning of its bones as it drew in air and exhaled like a living thing.
Without making a sound, the lion appeared in the doorway. Its heavy footfalls were silent as it slinked into the room and stalked towards me, smelling my fear.
“Stand up, and get ready.”
I did as the being told, steadying my legs in a wide stance, as if about to catch something heavy. The lion approached, its shoulders rising and falling with each footfall, its golden eyes locked on my shape, able to see me quite clearly in all the darkness. It lunged at me.
“Press the little button on the top.”
The voice whispered in my ear and it made the hairs on my neck prick up. I did as I was told and from the little tube came an incredible light that enveloped the lion. It scrambled backwards, shocked, and its teeth glistened in the light as it let out a terrible sound that shook my nerves, but I clung to the flashlight as hard as I could and swung it against the lion’s cheek. I could feel the crunch of its jaw and the warm splatter of blood that slashed across my arm. I whirled about in my strike and then spun to meet the lion again, advancing on it as it twisted around to flee, its golden fur sparkling with some enchantment. It got back to its feet and galloped away, leaving a trail of blood behind it. I waited for a moment before I took my finger off the little button and let the light go out.
“It won’t come back. I don’t think it remembered what pain felt like. Perhaps it never really knew. Until now, of course.”
“Who are you?”
I turned to look at it again, admire the size of it, the way its jaw bones curved so elegantly into one another, and wondered how many men could stand inside its ribcage.
“I am… what I am, little rabbit. Remembered. That is enough.”
“How do you know so much?”
“I am very old, little rabbit.”
I touched my chin and sat down on the cold floor.
“Can you tell me who i am?”
“I can, little rabbit, but it wouldn’t matter. I have been to many museums. I have seen many like you, the forgotten little souls trapped inside forgotten little statues, all the victim of some jilted lover’s curse or serving an eternal sentence for petty crime. Forgotten tragedies, stories no one tells anymore. That is what you are, little rabbit. Forgotten.”
It must have noticed the expression on my face, even in the dark.
“It’s not all so bad, little rabbit. Tonight you got to walk. You got to meet great men, to be remembered and rememberer both, to speak to gods. That is a rare thing indeed.”
“But I am not remembered.”
“You are a little copper rabbit with a stone in its head. You are part of a set of five, displayed proudly in the eastern wing, across from the Chinese History exhibit.”
“Is there nothing for me but a little glass box and a copper rabbit?”
“What do you want?”
“I want grass and sunsets. I want my gods.”
“Your gods were always with you, little rabbit. They’re silent now, remembered by no one, even the last of their rememberers. Do you understand?”
I sat, stunned, and processed this.
“The other figures. The little animals. But how could I not remember them? They were there… all the time.”
“Each soul wishes to feel close to their gods, but yours have no country, no zealots, no one sacrificing things for them. They are not remembered, and so they are silent. You are their last believer, little rabbit, and you should not even be here. This is a new world, its history is not written, its gods are not servants of their supplicants. There is nothing here for the gods, just memory. To be remembered, little rabbit. That is all one can hope for.”
“But i am alive. The lion came alive.”
“The lion wants what you have. The lion wants to remember what being alive was like, but its only a lion. Being alive for a lion means the death of everything around it.”
“Then what am i? What does it mean for me to be alive?”
“You are an accident, you have no gods, no country, you are not remembered. A little girl broke your curse long after whatever put it on you had faded into dust.”
“… and what are you?”
The being’s bones seemed to groan at this question, like a tree in the wind.
“I told you, I am very old, little rabbit. I have been dead for a long time, been in many museums. I am a memory everyone carries, a god of… metaphors. An obsession the living nurture to keep in order to feel some… power. A power over nature. Those who live wish to be remembered, those who are remembered wish to live. I am like you. I have no country. No history, but I am remembered because I am seen by the living. Does that make sense?”
“Is that what it means to be an… incense burner?”
The creature laughed at this. A laugh that filled the room with echoes and the sound of its bones creaking.
“Who decides who is remembered? Is there a god of memory? Do you know his name?”
“The living decide who is remembered.”
“I do not want to be remembered. I want grass, and the sun.”
It whispered in my ear like a secret
“You can have it.”
I spoke softly, like a prayer.
The being’s bones creaked loudly and the cables that held it up made high whining sounds, straining and taut under the immense weight of its bones.
“Don’t you see, little rabbit? This place… it’s just another glass box, hm? You have shaken it, freed something from it, and now… it’s time to be rid of it.”
It was just then that I noticed the room had become less dark than it was when I had entered. All around gentle shafts of light had begun slashing through the darkness, illuminating the wooden boxes and all the little things inside them. I looked up at the being and listened to that breathing for a while, then turned and walked out of the room, following the trail of blood on the floor.
I made my way carefully up the stairs, back through the hall of great men. They whispered to each other as I passed, wondering perhaps what I had done to the lion to make it bleed all over their floor. The fear that had possessed them seemed to have faded, along with whatever indignity they had in my presence among them. I knew, as i walked out of that room, that they would remember me in secret, forever.
I came back to the corridor and followed the blood trail down it and there, at the end, the relief of the lion, no longer shattered. I touched the little stand and it spoke again in that empty, cheery voice.
“This stone relief of a lion, carved from rocks each bearing the name of King Nebuchadnezzar the Second, comes from a place called Iran!”
I walked back through the hall and into the great room with the armour, the animal and the little wooden figure. Currelly did not speak to me as I passed him, looking up at the glass ceiling above the great long necked animal’s skeleton. The sunlight warmed my skin and I bathed in it for just a moment. It was then that I noticed I was still holding the flashlight. I stared at it, splattered in blood, and looked at Currelly, still silent, but watching me, surely. I turned and swung it into the glass box where the little wooden figure stood crying. I picked it up out of its little display, brushed the glass off its head and squeezed it in my palm, warm to the touch.
As I stepped into the Chinese History wing, Gan Fengchi greeted me.
“You’ve come back! Have you found your gods? Do you know your name?”
I smiled and slid my hand over his extended arm, ducking beneath it to see into the little room with the glass box, where a copper rabbit lay on its side, knocked from the little display it had perched within for as long as I could remember. The heft of the flashlight felt good in my hand, and Gan Fengchi laughed as the glass of each box shattered loudly.
I could feel the sensation of grass under my feet. It was cool and wet. The dim light of the dawn held everything in a bardo of stillness. The little park outside of the museum had another bust of Currelly, and this one too watched me.
I smiled at the bust and walked toward a large tree in the middle of the park.
I used the little copper rabbit like a spade, digging the earth out from among the thick roots to find the living things underneath. among the crawling things I placed a boar, a bird, a cat and a fish, each a secret the living things in the earth would keep for me, to be forgotten. The rabbit, I tucked between the four animals. I stared for a while at the crying beast, wondering at its yearning face, its once-sharp teeth and its bulging eyes. It felt warm in my hand. I used my free hand to push the earth back in place, and my strong feet to stamp it down. I could feel the warmth of a new day creep up my back, see it find me through the leaves and branches above me.
I stood up, overcome with the urge to run, and watched the sun rise over a strange horizon.