by John McCall

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A short story

I am an icebrick. I have a name, "Bil," but I am called an icebrick because I am trapped in a brick (which is not at all icy or painful) in the midst of an immense wall intended to secure the northern border of a great nation.

Its First Commanders for the last hundred years or so repeated its purpose in precisely the same words: "by encompassing the sentient remains of each saboteur, we terrorize the terror." Whether or not the term "saboteur" applies to me, I leave to you, if there ever is a you, if a "you" will ever hear me. At this point, I cannot "lift a finger" to justify myself.

I am an icebrick. I cannot "speak up" any more than a statue of a man, but I hope that I am able to "will" my words into the walls of my brick. I do not do this for "you." "You" are some creature in the future with the psychic or technical power to hear me. Obviously, you may never exist.

No, this is not, except incidentally, for you, but for my immediate enemy, a very different creature, I presume. I expect my loathing for this creature will distort my description. However, having been raised to be factually scrupulous (both my parents were scientists), I will try to be accurate.

My enemy is an insect that during the last century or so has come to infest the wall. It is now three meters away. It rather resembles a spider with its six straight vertical legs one-half meter in length, but it wears a distinguishing pointed crown or coronet. The creature digs the points of the crown into the bricks, without weakening the wall, but with a considerable effect on the inhabitants of the wall. (If the insect had weakened the wall, it would have been exterminated. It leaves only a pair of yellow green bands, where two of the points touch the bricks.)

We icebricks call this insect Statue. I was about to explain why, but I must first note that my words to you seem to have been effective. The disruption that my words (or rather the verbal thoughts, since I am unable to make a sound) have caused in the surface of the bricks seems to have warded off the pestilent thing.

I am an icebrick. However, since the evidence of my sabotage was inconclusive, I was not paralyzed. The difference between my state and the condition of the wholly paralyzed can hardly be calculated. In describing my state, I must abandon any scientific pretensions. I must enter into the subjective since, properly speaking, I no longer have a body in the ordinary sense. I have what the First Commander accurately calls the "remains" -- the "sentient remains."

This means that I can sense everything as if I had a body. However, if I refer to a "neck," for example, please do not imagine that I have the bones and flesh of that body part. I simply feel as though I do. I can move my neck from side-to-side two and one half inches to the right or left, but not up or down. (The ability to raise one's head was judged to create a sense of dignity inappropriate in an icebrick.)

The remaining body parts are motion-less, except for the face, where the full range of expressions are possible. Possible. However, the oldest joke told about the wall is that if the faces of its residents could be made visible, a viewer could not distinguish them from the brick wall. The blankness comes within a few months.

My "voice," that is the will behind my thoughts appears to be weakening, as the Statue approaches. He is now within a meter. I could give up now, but I won't. I believe that talking to you has encouraged my resolve. I must take on this Statue. However, if I am to do that, I must preserve my energies. Therefore, I hope that you will forgive me if I become a bit discursive, lowering the intensity of my thoughts. I might, for example, describe my quarters.

I live in a three dimensional, right-angled parallelogram. A brick. Some thought was, I believe, given to its size. It is one meter long and half a meter wide. This would differentiate it from the somewhat smaller conventional brick and something like a coffin, which would confer something like the dignity of a human form to the inhabitants.

There is an uncomfortable irony in the surroundings. Even though it would be "physically" impossible to touch the sides or corners of the brick, the edges, especially the corners, present a sense of razor-like sharpness and, impending pain, which is not, however, present.

This might be an appropriate time to introduce the specific reason that I regard the Statue as my enemy. I believe I can do this without raising my "voice" since I have been meditating upon Statue for years.

I have mentioned that Statue leaves a dual yellow-green stain when it digs two points of its crown (I, perhaps unfairly, think of them as bestial horns) into the bricks. I experienced the results once. The duration is quite extensive some sixty years or the equivalent of a quarter of the average lifetime, and incarceration within a brick does not affect your lifetime. I was a youth of fifty when this happened, and now twenty years afterward, my neck still trembles when I think of it.

This double band forms a constricting force on the groin. It is completely painless; nevertheless, the effect is to constantly remind one of his helplessness. The sense of humiliation so acute that even years after fading, one remains with an open mouth, which is the physical equivalent of groveling. It says, "I am open to whatever you wish to do."

These reactions may or may not be a matter of course to you who might audit this. However, since it might be upsetting to some, I'd like to turn to a more neutral subject. Yet, even when I focus on a bland topic, I feel that my pulse rate is elevated, thanks now to an approaching invasion by the Statue.

Incidentally, the spider-like bug with the crown was named after a crowned statue in the village of Nork, once a great metropolis. The Statue is tallest structure in the hemisphere. According to diagrams that I have seen the Statue original had a vertically upright arm, its hand on a lighting device. Now, somewhat more appropriately, the crown peaks the statue. Despite the large number of tourists that camp on the outskirts, Nork remains almost uninhabited in the wake of the natural and other disasters.

I am an icebrick, but there is another great wall to the south. Its residents are known as sandbricks. Ordinary citizens there are often called "walking sandbricks" as those in my country, who have committed no offenses are called "walking icebricks." However, the tone down south is more jocose, if no less contemptuous, since most of the plagues descend from north of the border.

"All right, I know you're here. Three inches away. I may not be able to fight you off, but I do want to know what you are. Are you some bug? Are you a spy for my jailers? If you are, you must have been informed. You must know I'm no saboteur! All I did was raise one finger six inches too close to the wall. THAT was my crime. So what are you doing here? Or are you the saboteur provoking us to rebel. If so, with what? We can't now band together through these god deserted rectangles...All right, you ARE here. For what, another sixty years?


As you can sense, my auditors, from my fading voice that I have lost my ridiculous combat with a Statue. Its...its answer is again the same.

However, I wouldn't want you to think that I am as undeserving of this condition as I claimed. In raising that one ... that one finger in defiance of the wall, I showed that while I might not ever sabotage, I would always be a saboteur.

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Rev 2010-1.