You Can Touch The Map

Ryan Shea

You feel closer to terrain modeled than terrain massive. Paul the tour guide cannot stop hitting on Paula the tourist. The halls are color coded. You can't be disoriented if you try. Paula pulls two clementines from her purse and shares with Paul. Because the U.S. is so small beside you, you run your fingers through the Rockies, massage the Mississippi, draw circles around Hawaii. The buttons trigger voices: “This is California, the anxious state. This is New York, the anxious state. This is Kansas, the anxious state.” There were moments when Paula could have come home with you. Tour love is abrupt. In Paula's mouth, the tongue slaps the roof. She says, This place makes me sleepy, and her tongue slaps loud the roof. Even if Paula had offered you the clementine, you hate citrus. You think maybe her tongue-slap is applause. You think maybe in this place, where the carpets are hide-the-stain black plus zigzag greens, where motion activates not just light but brilliant exhibit voices and clacking plastic on tracks, maybe children with packs and sandwiches have known what you're touching, heard histories, ate cold cuts and fruit in syrup. The lights over the map dim and a voice says from obscured speakers, Get out in five minutes or we are locking you in. Paul and Paula glance back like please don't follow, and Paula stumbles into the five-foot Mount Rushmore. The monument splits at the figures' necks and flakes plaster dust on the carpet. You pull the base upright and hope hard security can't see. Paul and Paula are gone. You are the straggler. You lift the mountain's lid above your head. In the walls, the vents cut out, and the thick quiet claps your ears. You step into the base and squat. You wonder if the break line is visible from out there. There is movement.

Ryan Shea is currently working on a novella. This is his first published fiction.