Wien: Crystal bridges

by Elise Wien | 3/7/17 2:05am

Vox clamantis in deserto. I thought about writing of how much sleep I got this week with my roommates away. I dared to imagine what living without them would do for my health. How many lost hours of sleep would be recovered? But I remembered joy, which I say (romantically, naively) cannot be quantified (I remember cortisol and serotonin and hold back). I dismiss the idea.

I think of writing about the student activists and advocates with voices that fall on an administration whose chief tactic seems to be committee-ization and delay. Delay, referral, delay, until students graduate. But the people reading are likely not the people who need to be told. Besides, this idea isn’t particularly poetic.

I think, instead, I will go for a walk. There are some people who claim that winter here is easier if you get outside. I am not one of those people. I give it a try. I sit by a tree. I fall asleep. When I wake up I am on a raised plateau surrounded by water. I do not know how many thousands of years have passed, but this is what I see:

A candle is lit. A woman enters. Her hair’s a mess and her face is dirty, but she wears a silk gown.


Gather round, children. Have some blinis.

-She passes around a sleeve of Ritz crackers.-

Have some paté.

-She passes around a jar of peanut butter and a knife.-

Maybe they eat off of Picassos.

There was once a school whose motto was “Vox clamantis in deserto” and it liked to think this was true, but if you looked close enough you could still see the Indian heads painted on the back walls and if you talked long enough you found it all tended toward money. Remember money? After awhile it got fed up putting on airs and changed its motto to “Vox obstructum ab pecuniam manducatum.”

Fessa! The students cried.

We are Fessus, Fessa, Fessum

They did not switch their oil 6, they sold the grant land and kept burning, burning, until one day deserto became desierto, which is to say, gone, finito.

They started dyeing the dirt on the Green but it just kept getting swept away by the wind, bald.


Today in geology we learned about sedimentary rock. This is stone that builds up in layers, if you take a cross-section of it you can see history. The rock looks like this:

On the bottom-most layer is dirt, then it’s cities, then people, then a lot of water, then more people, then mountains.

Here we have the continents. Mount Walton, Mount Rothschild, Mount Zuckerberg, Mount Gates. Everything else is underwater or too muck-covered to wade through so we’re living up in the mountains, at the peak of the mountains the tippy tippy top of the mountains, Mount clamantis in deserto, we’re the highest point you can see around here for thousands of miles. Thousands of miles.


The bodies are buoyant. Some of them, if you wear stilettos, will get holes torn in their bellies and a foul-smelling gas comes out. I was going from one mount to another for a birthday party and there was a woman, a body, and she was pregnant and she gave birth. It’s called postmortem fetal extrusion. I asked Rick who found it in the Internet books. The scribe for this one was really good, actually. You know how some of books, D, F, R, especially R, had mediocre scribes who smeared the ink, and the words are faded a little, being from 50 years back when they wrote down the Internet, because we were losing the people who maintained the servers. But this book, volume C, is perfectly clear with some, um, illustrated diagrams, you know? So it’s postmortem fetal extrusion and the gasses build up in the belly and they push out the baby and it floated out like a little island, connected by an umbilical bridge.


The bodies are buoyant, but it’s distasteful. So we’re building bridges. So we’re in the crystal warehouse, we’re collecting the Swarovski — we’re not touching the Baccarat — but we’re collecting the Swarovski for the bridges. Crystal because we have a surplus and we only use it at Christmastime and during balls, so we’re giving it to the cause. Our family is historically altruistic.

So we crushed up all the Swarovski in the warehouse and constructed these bridges. They glimmer beautifully. A trip from one continent to another is 10 days by foot or three by Segway.


The chefs staged a coup on Mount Walton when they decided the money wasn’t worth much. We’ve figured out how to access and prepare the food now. The guards shot the chefs down when they refused to cook a meal. We were starving, forced to eat the leftover crystal.


Hi, I’m Rick, Keeper of the Internet.

I worked — before coming to Mt. Walton — I worked at a startup.

I have an excellent memory, I’m good at looking things up in the Internet books relatively quickly and I am unthreatening in the physical sense. So really, uh, the ideal keeper. I’ve gone on strike a couple times because they haven’t been feeding me, which basically looks like I don’t look things up for them which they can do without, for a while, so I don’t know how effective the strikes have been, actually. And I said, “Alice, you need to feed me. I’m dying.” And she said, “Yes, Rick, well we’re all dying. Some just faster than others.”


So we built a wall on the border.

On the Canadian border. Because Canada — Canada was underwater. The melting glaciers and such, and our position so close to Canada makes us vulnerable. So the Canadians, um the Canadians were losing food with the flooding and no one wanted to trade with them because that meant opening the floodgates. So they went without and floated around on rafts in their country that was now this cold cold soup. And all that remained were the pines.