Fragment 3

6

In the far distant future there was a zoological forest-park where ancient species of humans were kept in artificially natural habitats. They’d been forced to live this way for generations and their will had been broken to the degree that they didn’t really know or remember anything else. Among these humans a small group had begun to retaliate by trying to achieve the ultimate act of resistance: suicide. The keepers–who were human but had greater powers than the ancient species–were aware of this growing tendency toward self-destruction. For them it became an ongoing nuisance.

It was an overcast and hot day when the air was hard to breathe and the sun did not shine. The keeper-general was called over by one of the guards to a spot in the forest. There he found a body in complete tatters. The chest was ripped in half, the ribs were sticking out, the skin was missing, and human flesh and muscle were exposed. It looked like a brutal murder but he knew it was a cover-up for a suicide. He bent down over the body and started gathering the pieces of flesh and skin. He bent the two halves of the chest and cracked them back into place. He massaged the torn muscles. And before long the woman was back to life.

She stood up with an angry but defeated expression. The only evidence of what had happened was a small piece of dry skin on her neck. “Don’t try it again,” he told her. “You see there’s no point.” She looked at him defiantly, though it was clear that she had nothing with which to fight. Not even her life. The keeper-general watched her as she walked away, thinking about how she’d have to live the rest of her days with the knowledge that she had committed suicide and that it hadn’t helped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Lindsey Turner

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About Author

David Stromberg is a writer, journalist, and translator. His fiction has appeared in the UK's Ambit and the online KGB LitMag, and his fourth collection of single-panel cartoons, BADDIES (2009), was called "fantastic" by The Los Angeles Times. He writes on contemporary art for The Jerusalem Post Magazine and has contributed to The ForwardHaaretzTabletBeliever and other publications. He is co-translator from the Russian of Polina Barskova's The Zoo in Winter (2011), and his translation from the Yiddish of an unpublished Isaac Bashevis Singer story titled "Job" appeared online in The New Yorker (2012). He was born to ex-Soviet parents in Ashdod, Israel, grew up in urban Los Angeles, and currently lives in Jerusalem.

6 Comments

  1. A super story!– constantly surprising from the very first sentence. And a lovely conclusion. How good to know that, all things considered, suicide doesn’t help.

  2. Wow! Very powerful in so few words. This story feels sad, in a hopeless kind of way, yet somehow I’m relieved that she didn’t die…though she seems left to suffer a dead and meaningless life. Does the overtone of existential nihilism ambivalently fall in favor of reincarnation (her rebirth, so to speak) in the end, or is even rebirth futile? An allegory for modern times…what’s our artificially natural habitat and *who* cages us?

    Oh, and as an aside, the gruesome rib cage massage scene was oddly sexy. I’d say that I’m just projecting my own fantasy but I’m not into that kinda thing– I think I read it as sexy because it’s a moment of conception in the story.

    • sandra shechory on

      Cool. Love the word chernuxa. A bit odd for me was the wording of the line “the woman was back to life”. Maybe “came back to life”? or “was brought back to life”. It was surprising that it was a woman, which I liked. Interesting story in any case… I have the feeling it’ll stick with me for awhile.

  3. micha breakstone on

    Very powerful, concise writing. Takes reader in and doesn’t let go. Only part I less connected to was the last 6 words “and that it hadn’t helped”. Is it *suicide* that didn’t help or that even *death* would not redeem her?

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