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The vast halls of this wholly unkempt and foreign place

The voice is very loud as it booms from the hidden noise boxes. It is possible she is sick, as she sounds like those ill people at the doctor’s office, straining to sound cordial and inviting. But, her health is of no significance. The woman could step out from behind her curtain into the streaming masses and collapse and that little dark-haired boy with his back pressed against the window would not cast a glance. He does not care to hear what the horde of strange people around him bellows out as they stand and wait, but the voice is very loud and it resonates into him. Only the voice, the shrill and unfamiliar voice that echoes through the vast halls of this wholly unkempt and foreign place. The voice is unwelcome at this time and it does not have the decency to go away.

A black sign hanging far above and in the middle of the high ceiling glows red and then dims yellow, occasionally readjusting altogether as old symbols vanish and new symbols appear. They are important, those symbols. It is not unlike the rare days when the little boy, his mother, and his father travel to the large white building to sit on wooden benches and hear the robe man speak. All the people sit and stand and kneel and look up at the robe man and the sad statues surrounded by strange symbols. His mother tells him he must do what the other people do and not make a sound, because it is bad to do so. His mother did not tell him to do that here in this white building, and he wonders why it is okay to be noisy here but not in the other place. All around him people pause their advancement through a line or through the horde to look up at the holy sign. It seems to direct them, or tell them what they are meant to do. The little boy, with his hands joined and placed between himself and the glass behind him, looks at the sign as well hoping to understand and receive the information. It conveys nothing.

His eyes fall back to the main area where so many people sit or stand or walk very fast. There are many places to sit, like the other white building, but these seats are separated and made of cloth, colored blue. A woman directly across from the little boy but very far away sits on the ground, her back pressed against glass just like his. There is a hat, just like the one baseball players wear, atop her head, with few strands of black visible beneath the edge of the hat. Her eyes are lowered at her lap where a book lies over her crossed legs. Those pants she wears are too short for her and he can see that she wears purple socks like a girl he saw one time on a playground swing. Her clothes look dirty, not clean and pressed like the little boy’s. She should ask her mother to clean her clothes so she can look nice for her visit to the white building.

The voice announces more important information in that familiar yet indiscernible foreign language. Why does she not simply step outside and talk in a normal voice? She is confusing the little boy, who strains to listen but cannot grasp what is happening.

As he listens his eyes are drawn away from the purple-socked woman and are unable to focus. Blurs are moving, across the wide expanse of the corridor between the little boy’s side of the white building and the purple-socked woman’s side. A red shoe, a black sleeve, a yellow ponytail, a brown backpack, a shimmery silver bag. They move across so quickly, so amazingly fast that the little boy can only notice certain parts of the whole, those that catch the eye. Where do they go, those blurs? To the big white flying tubes, or to some other mysterious location? The robe man and his children disappear, too, when the ceremony ends and the horde must leave the white building. Here in this white building there is no robe man, but there is a voice. The blurs come, and the blurs go. They have received instruction and must find their way through the great hall in the white building. He looks away.

To the left, more people seated on blue chairs. Most of them are like the purple-socked woman, holding a book or a collection of gray papers in their hands. They sit and stare at them. Do they not hear the voice or see the many, many blurs of the horde around them? The little boy wishes he could shut out the voice, as they do, but he is just a little boy. He hears everything, and sees a great deal. The little boy can catch glimpses of the purple-socked woman and the glass behind her through the blurs, and it is much the same as the glass on his side. Faint shadows locked behind the glass, the sharp edges of the tops of white flying tubes.

A woman, standing a few feet away in conversation with a man, glances at the little boy. Her dark eyes meet his for a moment and those round, rosy cheeks rise and dimple as they often do, before returning to face the man. The buttoned shirt and pants she wears match the yellow shoes upon her feet. A marshmallow woman standing so starkly against the blurs and gray people around them. The man, in thick blue denim and a checkered coat covering his thinnest of male frames, does not look at him as the woman did. He glances at the window, the ceiling, the floor. His light-colored eyes looking everywhere, and thin lips parting and pursing as the conversation continues. The marshmallow woman and checkered man, the little boy’s mother and uncle, continue their conversation. They, too, seem ignorant of the voice.

Hands are weary and bright red from an extended period of being trapped between the little boy’s rear and the glass, so he stands straight and turns. Tiny needles overtake his palms for a few brief moments before he places his hands in his pockets. He looks at the glass, and there they are again: the blurs and the readers and that purple-socked woman. They are the people behind him but he knows it is not really them. Their ghosts are nearly invisible, blending into the pavement, the buildings, the fleet of white flying tubes, and even those dark mountains that are far, far away. The ghosts remain safely locked away behind the glass. They cannot touch him or bother him, not like the real people behind him can. He looks into the glass, at his ghost. It looks almost exactly like him, with the thick, dark hair, nice shirt with buttons, and those pants that itch and his mother told him to wear. The shiny shoes that are only for those rare days. But the ghost is not a perfect copy, poor thing. It’s eyes are dark, in fact they appear black in this glass and at this dark hour. They are not like his brown eyes resting in front of his face. His lips spread and curve upward, testing the ghost, and it passes the test like it always does. He knows that one day his ghost will get sleepy, and then he will catch it. The voice echoes again behind the little boy, and he sees several ghosts near to his pause and tilt their heads upwards. Some stand and move away from their blue seats while others return to their reading activity.

As he looks out across the mountains the little boy is startled by his mother’s ghost. It appears beside his own, and he turns around because he knows his mother is behind him. She stands, her cheeks not rising and dimpling, but not quite solemn like she appears on the sad days. This look is not as familiar as the rest. It is blank, perhaps. She stares out across the pavement and white flying tubes then, finally, glances down at the little boy, and the dimpling returns. Her left hand comes to rest on his shoulder while her other hand rises and points at the glass.

“Mira,” she says.

The little boy looks at her, brows low and his bewilderment apparent, but then turns to face in the direction she is pointing because it is his mother. Her finger points to an area on the left side of the glass where a white flying tube slowly rolls towards the white building. A blue streak, starting at the front of the great thing and extending back past the wings and up to the spiked tail, runs parallel to the glass squares all along the side, behind which the little boy sees faces. He sees people from another place and another time, now arriving in his. The little boy scans the faces as the tube slows to a crawl then crawls to a stop. Some of the people seem happy, some perplexed, and some move about so quickly that he is unable to decide how they are feeling. When the moving finally stops many of the faces disappear altogether, and it is moments later that the little boy realizes that the people are moving towards the front where a small curved door has opened. Glancing down, the boy sees a vehicle approaching, bringing a set of stairs to the opened tube. The little boy vaguely remembers the curved door at the front of the white flying tube, but the driving stairs are a strange new addition to the processes of the white building. Soon, people begin stepping out of the tube and descend the stairs. Children, a man with no hair upon his head, a large woman wearing worn sandals. One by one, they step out and onto the pavement below.

A thin man steps out from the white flying tube, one large brown bag in each hand, and advances down the stairs. He seems familiar but for the fact that all around his face is a thick mass of black hair. The little boy stares, and as he tries to trim away the beard the voice blares behind him. It distracts him, again, and he loses focus. His mother notices and says something, which were it not for the voice he might have heard. She seemed to indicate that he should look down at the bearded man again. The voice’s intensity increases behind him. As he tries to look, tries so hard, the ghosts of the people and things inside the white building take his focus away from the man. He sees as far as the other side of the white building, where the ghost of the purple-socked woman once sat. Only a vague outline of a glass wall remains. But he tries again and manages to focus on the bearded man when he reaches the bottom of the stairs. The voice, the voice is getting louder! Be quiet, voice, he is trying to figure out who this man is!

The bearded man looks up. His eyes rise to the white building, at the glass, at the little boy. There is a serene smile upon his face, calm as he always seems to be, even with this black mask on his face. The little boy’s eyes glisten; his lips curve upward, much wider than usual. And the voice goes away.

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