The Infinite Palace must also contain infinite dungeons. In the infinite dungeons are, of course, an infinite number of prisoners, experiencing an infinite amount of pain. Their crimes are infinite, yes, but there are also an infinite number of people guilty of no crime and tortured anyway, infinitely. Infinite skins punctured by infinite iron maidens, infinite meals held just out of an infinite reach. The infinite dungeons of the Infinite Palace are the darkest place in the universe, with an infinite amount of shadow and misery, yet the infinite number of small cracks in the infinite bricks let in an infinite amount of light and hope. Because of this, the infinite dungeons are also the universe’s brightest place as well. To be held in the infinite dungeons, or even to visit, briefly, is to learn the degree to which we will accept the suffering of others if it means that we are not the ones enmeshed in pain’s river. Two ivory statues of saints guard the entry to the dungeons, both covering their faces in their hands. What majestic creatures were killed for this minor aesthetic detail?
I thought it wasn’t happening but it was. To every girl I thought looked chaste. Chaste, as though that were a compliment. To get to know every blemish of another’s body. All the filth. All the little corners. I looked at girls around me and thought they must not want it. I must not want it. They were baring down on me, I tell you, I tell you, I wanted it. A girl had to change and I hovered in her room for a second, unsure if I should stand out in the hall, if she wanted me to see. She said go stand in the hall. A month later she put my hand on her breast as we stood in front of the mirror. Her grandfather would be home soon. I wanted it. We called many girls tricks. There was always a push in the air. At any second we could break into orgy. We were told we shouldn’t want it. That girls especially shouldn’t want it. The Lord was everywhere He shouldn’t be—the filth we folded within us, the filth we spoke, in our corners. Our filthy broken bread. The sheets. The hot breaths between us were like a sticky film. They ran through the whole school, the whole town. We all wanted it, oh Lord, I couldn’t believe it. We wanted and wanted and nothing came.
Glenn Shaheen is the author of the poetry collection Predatory (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011) and the flash fiction chapbook Unchecked Savagery (Ricochet Editions, 2013). His work has appeared in Ploughshares, The New Republic, Subtropics, and elsewhere. He lives in Kalamazoo where he is a doctoral candidate at Western Michigan University.