A Flash Fiction Experiment: The Boy in the Glass Case
Monday afternoon, you step into the clamour of the school bus. You walk past the boys from the younger years busy with their usual jostling and jabbering. Peals of laughter pierce the air, mysterious objects are thrown around, and someone spills a packet of crisps on the floor. The older ones at the back are absorbed by a slice of gossip, or following a zigzagging current of chatter that goes back and forth, punctuated by meaningful glances and grins. This is the precious hour of the day snatched from the school run, where sounds of all pitches demand to be heard, new and old words are conjured on the spot, and warm conversations run together like the familiar, morphing landscape outside.
You were looking around the place when you saw it. Your eyes were seized by the discovery of a light…a light which was burning against some glass. You could feel the sheer, pulsating force of it, tamed only by what looked like four walls of glass. As your eyes adjusted, you saw that the light emanated from the borders of a silhouette of a person, or what looked like an encased human being. The glow illuminating them was somehow different to anything you had ever seen before. You moved back in your seat, shifted uncomfortably, and took another glance. They were not like the people you had ever known or seen or spoken to before. What did other people do when they saw something like this – when they saw glass and light reacting in this manner?
At school, you had always learnt that glass was found in vases and windows and sometimes public coffins. It was rarely to encase living beings as they went about their everyday lives, you thought, unless they were being quarantined. If that were true, you could imagine someone like that labelled in an exhibit: Specimen A: An Unfortunate Person. But you do not always look as close as you could look. Glass is invisible and it is everywhere: even in places where it shouldn’t be.
You have the option to stare, but you ask yourself. Melting glass takes the mind of a scientist; in other words, are you willing to listen? Are you willing to turn yourself towards another piece of life, like yours? Are you willing to adjust your frequency, like a satellite, and refract the fragments of someone else’s light so it falls in the right places? Before you dismiss it as a pitiful block of the wrong sort of light, look. Look for the rays that split into the brilliant spectrums of colour when you hold them up to a prism.
When the glass melts, you find that there is a person who moves and breathes as you do. You try to remember that, but you wonder: who put the glass there between us in the first place? It could have been you or one of us other humans walking around, so many of us with shards lodged in our hearts, that, given the power to, can bar people off in these glass cages. Or maybe we’re afraid of what would happen if glass didn’t exist. Breaking the glass could accidentally set off the fire alarm!
Eventually, the bus had pulled up outside your house. The person you waved to as it left was a piece of life: they had thoughts and feelings. Your vision no longer obscured by the glass, you saw the way they were made of fragments that formed a living whole.