they’re out there, those particles that determine life’s natural laws. in chemistry, we learned about the second law of thermodynamics; how, left alone, life will always become less structured; how we are led to a gradual descent into disorder. i was taught to be wary. God watches you when you watch the television, when you eat dinner, when you sleep at night. say your prayers; beg for forgiveness for the misery your existence caused your parents or no more orange candy, no more toys, no more school. but i guess it was all a fairytale. everything has been predestined for us. we are mortals: we fall apart in the end.
leviathan (episode one)
Marina, they called her. Marina, Marina, from the sea, the most beautiful child. “Marina, where is your home?” “the sea, the sea.” when they baptized her, the priest said that her spirit would hunt for water. the ceremony was long, and the heat made my thoughts plod through my consciousness as if there were sandbags attached to each period. i turned my head to the cool breeze coming from the window, and stared at the sequence of innumerable clouds strewn across the sky. here and there in the distance, the sun’s golden fingers stitched an artificial glow through the green architecture, designing fugitive shadows, concepts, that were previously veiled from achievability. the petals of a nearby flower bush scattered in the breath of the wind. the animals (jellyfish? elephants? dinosaurs?) in the heavens cried balsamic red tears that night, the color so very much like the blood of the chicken whose head my grandmother cut off that same afternoon.
in this church i like to pretend that i’m religious. afternoon sun filters through a stained glass window; wavelengths splinter into fragmentary echoes of colors that hunger to carve spiritual meaning out of light. we cry for mercy together with the priest, whose talk, a permanent, rumbling exhortation, expels a rhythm of sounds and syllables conflated with foreign dreams of latent salvation of which i yearn to understand. the words, soldiers animated from origami paper, emerge like molten liquid and burn the roof of the priest’s mouth. they pound like waves through the pews, breaking into tumultuous melodies that disappear and drown in our vacillation between exacting our idealized visions or accepting our guilty subordination to our sins. yet as the service continues, the moonlight elucidates the design of their countenances built upon the determination that tomorrow will be better, tomorrow i will be good. in this moment of ephemeral satisfaction, the ostinatos of forgiveness and kindness provide a violent intoxication that awakens in me the presence of hidden, unknown, invisible realities governed by a hope that is inherently ineffable. the contours of my soul change as they are offered narcotic refreshment by the church’s soma: comfort. “body and blood for you, body and blood for you.” “not for her; she hasn’t been reborn.” “mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death,” we chant. as the days pass, the melodies slip through my fingertips, transfigured into a haunting descending scale in minor key. church becomes a distant memory, a state of being under the custody of a supreme pleasure to which i cannot hope to recollect.
my grandmother keeps a shell on the fireplace mantle. the shell’s glossy affectation is marred by its orange spine: a bloodline that contorts and succumbs, nailed to its own cross. when i hold the shell to my ear, i hear the rushing of the ocean. yet despite its immediate accessibility, i am unable to manifest that essential nature of possibility. its spirit is suffocated by the shell itself. the overwhelming sensation of comfort is hidden within the realmof memory; it has made an indelible imprint on my experiences at church of which i claw at to cradle, yet am powerless to access and replicate within the bounds of reality.
leviathan (episode two)
dear diary, Marina is an ugly cousin: hair too straight, skin too pale, eyes more like the reedy, muddy creek behind grandfather’s house than the roaring great ocean. each morning, she would open a window and look towards the horizon to see if something had changed in the world; hopefully, the universe would be a little wider, a little bolder if it did.
how many carrots does it take to turn my skin orange? i think this as my mother and i stand in the line for changing rooms. we had free time, and she was the one who suggested we try on dresses at the mall. i take the dresses from her, change, and show her how each looks. she talks loudly about how pretty each one is, and how she can’t decide which to purchase; the dresses are far too expensive, and we both know that she is pretending. a salesperson comes over to help us. “wow,” he says, “those dresses look beautiful on her.” my mother stares at his face when he talks to us, and after she pulls out the picture from her bag. it’s a picture of her when she was in high school that she shows to everyone. “look,” she says, “i was pretty too. look at me. i was beautiful back then.” in the parking lot, she tells me that if i maintain my body i can buy those dresses when i get older. “don’t become a size four, sophia, or else you’ll be fat,” she laughs. “i know,” i say. “you’ve told me before.” when we come home, she calls my Dad to see what show He wants to be playing on the television above the kitchen table, what food He wants to eat, and where He will be sleeping tonight.
leviathan (episode three)
eleven years after she was born, our families stuffed our clothes, towels, beach balls, and shovels in the car and traveled to the ocean together for the first time. Marina’s mother drove the three hours to cape may, singing gospel music with Marina’s dad and Marina. at the beach, we built four sandcastles that each had two pale white shells glistening at the top and encircled the castles with a moat dug one foot deep. “palaces for Marina,” they laughed. when dawn came, marina rushed back to the sand. the castles were wiped away; like unidentified corpses, only a suggestion of who they were, the moat dug one foot deep, remained. Marina looked to the ocean, and the ocean howled back. before we drove home, as we washed the sand from our bodies and I removed the broken white shells from my feet, marina stood by the edge of the water and turned her back to the horizon. one day, Marina realized the world was too big for her and now, her window remains closed.
“Marina,” I called to her. “Marina, Marina, from the sea. Marina, where is your home?”
Sophia Hlavaty is a high school junior at Phillips Academy aspiring to study political science. Her work has been featured and/or recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, The Apprentice Writer, Blue Marble Review, and various school publications.