And you see, she continued, a little slower, when you stand in the very center of a Geodesic Dome, you have the sensation of being propelled right out into the cosmos. Like the universe is sucking you out. This, as Bucky said, is really one of the most intriguing of paradoxes: in order to expand outward, we must go . . . inward.
After inward, Nana stopped speaking and stared up at the center point of the dome. We all looked up with her. The few clouds that hung above us were small and gauzy. The wind was blowing, whistling over the dome. A few feet in front of us were our kitchen cabinets, hovering over the counter, hung from the ceiling by tension wires. Nana coughed and tried to speak again. And that was when it happened.
My name was all that came out. Only she ran it all together so it sounded like Sebas-yan. Then she took an uneasy step backward. I think I follow what you were saying, said Janice, still looking up. Go on . . .
I observed Nanas face closely. It was becoming partly splotched with red. And her mouth was tightening. Just as I noticed this, she reached out a hand to grab me. It seemed to happen in slow motion, but I couldnt tell what she was attempting. Her fingers didnt quite make it to my blue fl annel. Before anyone could react, she let out a long breath and then tipped straight backward, crumpling to the thin carpet of the dome fl oor. The dull thump reverberated through the space.
Oh! said Mrs. Whitcomb, looking down immediately. Oh my God! Are you all right?
She bent over Nana. Nana said nothing. She seemed to be holding her breath. I stood completely frozen. Next to me, Jared very slowly removed his headphones.
Oh God! Mrs. Whitcomb yelled. Is there a phone in this place? Wheres the telephone?
I pointed her toward the cordless phone, and she sprinted toward it in her heels. A bit of spit was forming at the corners of Nanas mouth. Suddenly, I felt a bony hand clap down on my shoulder. I turned around, and it was Jared. He had a grave expression on his face. Hey, he said. Hold her hand.
His voice was oddly calm. I didnt question him. I got down on my knees and grabbed Nanas palm. It was warm and I held it tightly. I was unable to think at all. I just looked over her anguished face, and massaged the hard nubs of the knuckles. I couldnt remember the last time I had even seen her resting. She was always up. Always in motion. Jared got down on the fl oor across from me. He picked up the other hand and pressed it tight. We looked at each other.
Sebastian, right? he said.
Yes, I said.
This is fucked, he said.
Behind us in the kitchen, Janice Whitcomb was starting to cry into the phone.
We just came to tour the bubble! she yelled. I dont know anything about her condition.
Meanwhile Jared and I held tight to Nanas hands, and I thought for a moment that maybe, somehow, we were allowing life energy to course through her spindly frame. Like she was the middle link between our two life-energy links, and if we could just hold on, everything else would be fine. I listened intently for a signal from the universe. But all was quiet.
Jared, I said.
Yeah, he said.
You were right.
His enormous fish eyes blinked twice.
Theres a sock in that picture.
Excerpted from House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni. Copyright © 2010 by Peter Bognanni. Excerpted by permission of Amy Einhorn Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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