Everything here is cut from marble. Greek architecture dominates. Regularly spaced grooved columns hint at a perimeter; lengths of smooth, shallow steps lead to raised and sunken areas within a large plaza; white knee walls and low benches are shot with blue-gray veins. People crowed together here and there, heads inclined in order to speak softly; their voices echo like heart beats.
As I observe, I notice the dull, grey stones scattered about the plaza. They are so nondescript, the eye desires to glide over them. The stones seem totally out of place, but are so unremarkable, no one seems to notice them. But I see that them everywhere — scattered over ledges and benches, clustered near the bases of the columns.
A woman approaches me where I stand alone — she is dressed in a muted gown of purple which drapes her form elegantly. A slim gold cord defines her waist. Soon, my son appears, as well. He is full of humor and enthusiasm and spreads his arms wide in sweeping, exaggerated gestures as he proclaims too loudly — in what is clearly meant to be a joke — that he has assumed the role of Leader, and we should all now treat him with the honor and gravity that this title affords him.
The woman with us is as alarmed as I. And although I try to stop him from speaking, I know it is too late. “They” have heard and have utterly no sense of humor. Such words are treasonous; the speaker will be marked a threat for elimination. But my son has already finished with his misguided proclamation. Laughing, grinning, he offers me a wink.
Quickly, I glance around and see what I fear — one of the stones near us has begun to shiver and stir. It changes shape slowly before my eyes, begins to lengthen and take on the aspect of a hand. Lines form along the narrow end, separating into finger-like digits. I see a nail grow where the thumb will be. But I don’t wait — I seize the stone, which is soft and cool to the touch, and I pull off chunks of it, as though it is made of clay. I fling the torn pieces as far as I can in all directions. The stone resists, moves against my hand as I tug it apart…