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Some time ago, I was living in a blue, underwater kingdom of kings and queens and delightful creatures. It was quiet as long as citizens kept traffic to a minimum and restrained from using bubbles irresponsibly. It was civil, not because civility was enforced, but because no one had reason to act out.

The royal guards lined up to salute the king and queen. Trumpets were raised, and the queen, as graceful as ever, smiled at each and every one of her loyal guards. Her name was Geraldine, and I liked her.¬†Queen Geraldine once told me, “Sarah, don’t let anyone tell you to doubt your feelings.”

“What feelings, Queen Geraldine?”

“Your feelings about anything.”

And I got a funny feeling one day that told me the kingdom was changing. I saw it in the blinking shadow of a jealous eye. I saw it in a little girl’s betrayal of her best friend. I saw it in a man’s refusal of all the things that made him uncomfortable.

——

She trudged on, directionless but fueled, her rage focused on the patches of pavement shifting and trembling beneath her favorite shoes.

He’d looked at her with unfocused, uninterested eyes. He’d shaken her hand. He’d politely led her into his office and waited for her to sit.

The wind snuck its way into the hole between her scarf folds. She covered it absent-mindedly and walked faster. A pigeon scuttled in circles in her path. She stopped and thought back to the clock.

It was round, standard, white. She’d stared at it at the start of the interview, trying to recall the Stranger’s emotions. She didn’t mean to stare at it; it merely interrupted the path of her gaze, and she found it alarmingly blank. The priest? “I don’t remember,” she said. She couldn’t remember any of the plots of the books she mentioned, only impressions, the smoke that trailed off, the “faint remainder,” “the gentle indifference of the world.” So what if he didn’t visit the priest?

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