The man in the suit sat in a back booth and waited for the young man to walk up, even though the bar was closed. Alright, he said. Let’s see what we’re working with.
The young man unbuttoned his shirt. In his stomach were two glass doors that opened to a small town where everything was engulfed in flame— cobblestone streets and colonial houses, children playing stick and ball in the yards, all glowing orange under the tongues of fire shooting out from their backs. I see, said the man in the suit. But what about the burning?
You can get used to all sorts of things, he replied.
The young man opened the glass doors so the man in the suit could hear—from his belly came only the sound of pizzicato harps, a celestial music box. Good, said the man in the suit. And how do I change the tune? Something more upbeat?
The young man took out a bag of black powder, withdrew a pinch and sprinkled it inside. A slight breeze picked up, as the flames grew higher and turned green. The children began to dance the maypole, while the harps were joined by bowed violins.
Excellent, said the man in the suit. Again! The young man put another pinch in and the breeze became a gust as the flames grew higher, blue now, and the children took to coursing hares with their bats as the harps and violins were joined by coronets.
Fantastic! A little more now! said the man in the suit, as he grabbed the bag and threw in a handful. The gust became a gale, the fires turned bright pink and hot and snaking up out of the fireplace and bubbling the skin around the glass. Inside, the children took their bats to each other in a rage and the sound of wood on bones emerged from the young man’s abdomen undisguised.
No. No. No. said the man in the suit. This is unacceptable. He ran to the kitchen and came back with a pitcher of water and tossed it into the young man’s stomach. The flames died instantly, and the water sloshed once and poured out of the smoking hole. The gale, still as strong, reversed and pushed the smoke back into the young man’s abdomen and out of his eyes and ears and nose and mouth like a chimney.
The man in the suit peered into the town as the last of the smoke cleared. The cobblestone streets were blackened with soot, the colonial houses half sunk-in with debris from collapsed roofs. Clots of glass and timber littered the streets, and here and there tatters of cloth fluttered from under the rubble.
Where did they all go? asked the man in the suit, but all that came out of the young man was the brush of the little furls of fabric against the stone. They shushed in the wind.
Gahl Liberzon is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan’s Residential College and School of Education, where he studied Creative Writing & Literature and Secondary English Education, respectively. A native of Ann Arbor, Gahl was a two-time member of the University of Michigan Poetry Slam team, a four-time coach for the Ann Arbor Youth Slam team, and a three-time Hopwood award winner. In his spare time, he enjoys singing, beatboxing, filmmaking, dialogue, dance, fighting arts, dance-fighting arts, photography, and impatiently fiddling with his tie. He plans to teach high school English.