hobart logo

January 12, 2018 | Fiction

2 Stories

Carla Diaz

2 Stories photo

There Never Was a Mainland

We burned fast that summer. The boats had stopped coming. The water kept us there. That’s the thing about islands.

We bathed at low tide. We ate shells and weeds. We cut our good teeth. We grew stronger than before. We never had to lie. The fog rolled in forever. There never was a mainland.

“Just kidding,” we all said.

The mainland was not far. Still we liked to joke.

Our skins were blistered raw. We fed birds to birds. We needed them to fatten. Was this kind or depraved? We wondered about this: cannibalism. It was a new idea. But somehow it felt old. Like we had forgotten it. We pretended to be birds. “Squawk, squawk, squawk,” we said. Proof we liked to joke.

We learned a new language. We burned the remaining books. Their pages bent like sails. Their bindings shattered like bone. It almost hurt to watch. The flames ate every name. We all watched them unbecome. We felt powerful, but tired.

“Zoom kie doofel,” we said. Then together: “Zoom kie doofel!”

Leaves descended from the branches. We shuddered with the thunder. We stayed dry under rocks. The water kept us there. All of us were hungry. Not only in our stomachs.

Our bodies joined and shook. We thought ourselves like animals. Most of us were glad. We almost all got pregnant. Far fewer, then, gave birth.

“Knock knock,” we all said. We hoped to laugh again. The quiet nearly killed us. We had forgotten our line. Still, we liked to joke.

Then it happened, so unthinkable. Our children learned to walk. Our children learned to speak. “Zoom kie doofel,” they said.

“Zoom kie doofel,” we replied.

They bathed at low tide. They ate shells and weeds. They cut their good teeth. Like ours, their skins burned. Like us, they never lied. We brought them our meats. The good, dark, sweet meats. We knew they’d grow strong. We dropped to our knees. We did something like pray. We tried to remember how. Now, there was a reason.

One of them died young. His mother walked the cliffs. His mother disappeared, then reappeared. The ocean turned her over. Half of her was missing. We burned what was left. The fire grew large, tall. Its flames made us known. We all raised our heads. We pointed to a boat. We had forgotten the boats. The boats had stopped coming.

Its sails were like pages. Sails the color of bone. We thought of the fire. But none of us moved. We crouched in the cattails. But the boat didn’t leave. We scratched our shedding skins. Who stood there beyond us? Where did they come from? Did they want our children? How many would they take?

Then the boat sailed away. It disappeared behind the fog. We wondered where they went. Why they didn’t come ashore. If they knew we’d fight.





  1. Some things you can't learn from school.

  2. Such questions require independent field research.

  3. Said field research [see statement and reason #2] can be circular, at times, bleak.

  4. One must not allow this to discourage the scientific process.

  5. Curiosity kills love.



  1. Some things you can't learn from school. I know because I’ve read these text books all the way through to the appendices for nothing. What is your raison d'être? Mine is to know everything, which is a power I will use to save the less fortunate.
  2. No one can get in the way of my raison d'être. For example: Jennings, the boy who sits behind me in French and has an alien-like mark on his face. I asked him why he has that alien-like mark there, and he says it’s called a hemangioma. So I came right out and asked: Do your parents love you less than your siblings? He looked confused, so I gestured to the mark—purple and red like melted candy. Because of your hemangioma, I explained. How does it make you feel? I wanted him to know that his feelings were important—they meant more to me than the pursuit of all knowledge, my raison d'être. Unfortunately, he did not seem to understand this, which I realized as soon as his closed fist made forceful contact with my face. Now, he can’t go to Winter Formal.
  3. Still, I continue the search for all knowledge. For instance:  I stuck a finger (my finger) inside my mouth for ten minutes to discover the rate of pruning. Recently, I offered my Physics teacher a stock in any future investments in exchange for the answers to all my life’s questions. He said that he only knew the answer to some questions, and that most of them were related to the study of matter in motion. More importantly, he continued, I should be focusing instead on formulas, since I had failed the midterm.
  4. I explained that my failing grade was due to the fact that I was fully entangled with my extracurricular essay on the rise of hermetic mysticism, which some people might say is, in fact, solving for x when x is WHO AM I? I also told him that my questions were indeed related to physics, as they investigate the nature of beginnings and endings. He frowned then looked at his watch and told me to ask my most important question because he had a meeting. So I asked him: What do you think—above all else, regardless of the particular constructs to which one may choose to subscribe, or dismantle, and excluding any circumstances in which one person cannot feel his or her true feelings and is thus self-alienated—makes love disappear? He began to walk away from me in a way that was familiar—sort of slow and pathetic. Or maybe I was pathetic. Someone was pathetic. Then he answered: Curiosity.
  5. As it turns out, Jennings doesn’t have any siblings. It made me wonder if his parents stopped trying, if having a child with a blemish is like a series of living questions, or like a wrench used to open something up; or like getting partial credit on an exam when you don’t know the answer, and have had to make a hopeful guess.


image: Carla Diaz