Consider these words close enough and you too can be part of the story. My muse. Person on the other side of the screen. You, reader: the shadow casted from the very lines on this page—as if one’s spirit could weave in and out of words like a slalom skier, cross-blocking each sound on the downslope of a snowy, mountainous fiction. 

Think of this in terms of thoughtography, projecting images onto film with only the mind. Which is to say, I am giving to you, reader, the rest of this story to finish. 

First, you level the mountain and melt the snow with an almost instinctive wave of the hand. You then raise a structure with too-low ceilings and a spiraling hallway (another wave). You bring me there too, to this House of Leaves-like hallway, which leads us to the building’s dusty photo lab.

“Think you can help carry these?” you ask in a way that leaves me no choice.

“Where did they come from?” I ask, but you don’t answer. 

And I couldn’t help but notice: if I carried one bucket and you the other, was the third here all along, in this narrow red-lit room you moved us to a moment ago?

Later, after we leave the darkroom and clip the photos to clothespins to dry fully, you christen it projected thermography, which sounds familiar. And it makes sense—no hands have held a camera in the universe of this story and yet there they are: photos developed with soft wisps in the form of human figures, as well as deep, paragraph-shaped scratches across the photo paper as if mimicking the structure of this story.

We gather the dried photos, kick over the buckets of chemicals. We then decide to have a little laugh. Or you decide it. We splash in the mixture like puddle jumpers and call out flirty names. But it doesn’t last long. Soon, we are trudging our way back toward the only door available to us, back into the darkroom. 

It’s red hot below the safelights. Sweat soaks through our clothes. And it’s then I notice the look on your face. You look nervous, uneasy, like there’s something you’re not telling me. And there is something, isn’t there? I can feel it on the other side of the revolving door, a semi-circle of scorching steel, as if its half-moon opening aches to destroy everything in the tiny world of us. 

This is you now, remember, writing in the backdraft, burning the building, destroying all evidence of what could have been an otherwise wistful tale of two people in love.