I want to make a statement.
You ready? You got your notebook? All right.
It has been intimated to me that I should accept the stone god who appeared overnight in my yard as an absolute reality, a permanent resident on my property standing right there in front of my house, on the path to my front door like it was him that lived here instead of me. No, more than that. I was given to understand that the stone god had always been there, that he had stood there in the rain and the shine before my grandparents moved to this electoral district in the first place, that the stone god had stood there in the time of kings, in the time of heroes, in the time of the old demons, stood there for ten thousand years. I can’t say now that none of this was true yesterday. If I do say so, that would be a breach of the peace. They’d say I was lying. I’d be liable for the kind of trouble that I need to not get into if I want to keep living in my house. What I mean is, I can only elude, parenthetically. It’s a stone at the tip of my tongue that I can’t spit or swallow.
I can say he’s no god of mine. That I can still say, because forcible conversion to alien religions is illegal under Article Nine of the Constitution and will stay that way until and unless next year’s election involves a two-thirds majority for parties that I am unable to name due to the slow petrification of my tongue. Still, I don’t see how this can make me vote different. Some strategist thinks otherwise, but I know my own mind. They could put a stone god in my bed but that doesn’t mean I’m married to it. What? No, I told you, it’s in front of my house. That was a figure of stone. Of speech, I mean. This is viral electioneering and there should be a law against it. That’s why I wanted to make a statement. Are you sure you’re writing all this down?
All right, you know the old saying about the map and the territory? It’s like that. All the stone gods popping up in these battleground districts, showing up in the middles of streets, at sacred crossroads, under bridges, childrens’ playgrounds alongside the swings and the slides and even on private property like mine and eventually to office spaces like yours, they’re like pins in a new map to hold it down over the old one. And the likes of me, I’m a fly on the new map having lost my bearings because it’s the old map that’s all I know. Worst part is there’s no true territory under all of it, just layers and layers of maps. Maps all the way down, you understand? Electoral maps, maps of registered voters, maps of prevailing belief systems, psychogeographic contours, telluric currents, historical voting patterns, social media sentiment analyses. I suppose we’ll know if it all mattered or not when the election comes around. Elections are real like real life isn’t, you know? That’s what all this is about. That’s why they’re doing their best to contest the past, to make it into something it wasn’t. And I don’t hold with rewriting the past. I like to think that when a thing is past it should hold still. The past should be a solid, unchanging thing. But it isn’t, that’s what the plague of stone gods is telling us. The past is fluid; it’s us, those of us who insist on remembering it as fixed, it’s us who are petrified of it, by it changing.
When I woke up and I found the stone god in my yard, I didn’t just say okay fine, this stone god has always been here. I understood that this was what they wanted me to say, but I didn’t say it. I didn’t say hey oh yeah I remember this stone god from when I was a boy growing up in this same house, I remember climbing on this same god when I was a boy, I remember climbing right up on his shoulders on sunny days in the harvest season and tracing my fingers along the rain-pitted pores in his face or cupping in my hands these stone curls as big as snails while he whispered to me of an elder world, a better world than this. I didn’t say any of those things, though I can’t even say they’re not true any more. I know some do say those things when the stone gods arrive in their lives. I don’t blame them for that. Not everybody’s going to risk telling their story like I’m telling you.
I don’t want you to put my name on this, though. Can you put me down as an anonymous source? I want people to know what’s happening, but at the same time I don’t want to—you know the saying about how they first came for someone else and you said nothing because you weren’t someone else. You know that saying? It’s like that. Well, I didn’t want to be someone else. I didn’t want to be one of the people that got come for first. I want to be left to the end when there’s nobody else to come for. I want more time.
I suppose that’s all I really wanted to say. I want more time, which is the kind of thing people only say when they know they haven’t got any more. I don’t think I’m going to make it to the election. I do want to see it, I do! I want to live long enough to see the oiled days slip by faster and faster. Days like short, hurtful breaths, the sun and the moon strobing and stuttering through the sky until this crusty old world comes apart in clean electoral fire and is remade with new gods, new laws, new physics. Maybe the stone gods will walk again, or maybe we won’t. Maybe we’re memorials to the old world, not markers of the new. Oh, I know it’s coming because there’s already stone in my mouth from all the things that I can’t say, and all the things I can say I’ve already said to you. Will you remember? Put away your notebook now and put your hands on my face, feel my skin slip over my bones while it still can. Run your fingers over my teeth and find out if you bleed stone yet, like we do.