About the Authors
1 Shelby Snedeker, Nebraska – February 13, 2017
2 Rebecca Hannigan, Colorado – February 20, 2017
3 Nicole Koneck-Wilwerding, Nebraska – February 27, 2017
4 Johnny Caputo, Ohio – March 6, 2017
5 Amanda Farbanish, New Jersey – March 13, 2017
6 Tamara Grasty, Massachusetts – March 20, 2017
7 Ellis Wright, California – March 27, 2017
8 Nicole Bartley, Pennsylvania – April 3, 2017
About Dually Noted
Dually Noted is TBL’s exciting group-writing project. New and established writers from around the world come together to create one ongoing story through weekly installments. If you would like to add the next section, shoot us your 500-word addition by Friday night. Our editor will publish the best submission at the beginning of each week.
All the Glass in the World Vanished
by the TBL Writing Community
Sea of Glass
All the glass in the world vanished. He was free. The boy had lived his entire life in a room made from glass, a twelve by twelve foot box with four glass walls, a glass ceiling, and plush blue carpet across the floor, softer than his bed. There were things the boy knew to be true: a plate of hot food, buttermilk pancakes drowned in fresh cream and dusted with sugar, would be sitting upon his table when he woke. He knew when he looked beyond the glass walls that he could see the outline of what must be his reflection. But his face—the eyes, the mouth—were too obscured by darkness to be seen clearly.
He knew there would be people standing outside of his room. They would be holding paper books. The room beyond these people was too dark for the boy to see. He had learned his relationship to these people. The more he moved around his room, the more the people busied their hands with writing and drawing in their paper books. His favorite books had pictures of the ocean—of sea monsters with bodies like serpents or monsters with thirty-six legs. The kraken has thirty-six legs. The boy knew this because he counted them himself when one of the people propped that monster book against the glass.
Sometimes the people played the boy music. He’d seen pictures of instruments in books, but he had to guess which sound was the sharp pluck of a harp string, or the press of a piano’s white tooth. The quick soft notes made his heart go jittery, left something aching inside his chest; made him want to see the ocean books again. He pretended the blue carpet was the ocean and that he could slip beneath its surface where the monsters lived. The music played and he jumped from his bed onto the floor. In his imagination he sank far away from the world, away from his glass room, into someplace else where he could ride the back of a giant serpent to the deep.
Belly on the carpet, legs kicking, arms stroking the air, the boy pretended to swim. The deeper he swam, the more the people wrote and drew. The boy liked this—the way they moved as he moved. He knew this was called dancing; moving in sync with another while music plays.
Only one of the people, a woman, would not dance with him. She didn’t write much in her paper book. She preferred simply to watch him, eyes blue like his carpet sea. She was the first to speak to him on the day the glass vanished.
“Every day, for all of your life, I have studied you. But now I’d like to learn who you are. Will you tell me?”
The boy frowned, confused, and touched his face. “Can I see my reflection?”
“There is no more glass—no mirrors. We will have to find water,” she said. “We will have to find the sea.” 1
All the glass in the world has vanished.
But I am still here. Still shaking from the open air that suddenly swarmed our sixth floor office hours ago when the windows gave out and oxygen gave in, along with two pigeons and an assortment of flying insects.
At least I was not leaning.
At least I was sitting at my desk where I should have been.
And now, my desk—landlocked—is preferable to the previously-envied, more scenic options. The desks with views for higher-ups who do real work, which, apparently, requires a wall of windows showing off the city skyline.
Jerry was a higher-up who is, now, no longer so high-up.
Jerry is on the ground after falling the six stories and landing with a crunch on the sidewalk, turning his tall, toned body into a spill of bones, broken, under loose skin. Jerry did finance and had been sleeping with the head of HR. Nobody liked him anyway.
Nobody likes the serious spill of liquids in the kitchen. Spills of jam from jars. Fruity teas from bottles. And coffee. Scalding hot coffee leeching out of once mugs, now nothing.
Lucky for me, my hands were not burned. I don’t do coffee.
Panic wouldn’t be so pervasive if iphones and androids were not affected, if they were not rendered useless by loss of screen.
News spreads slowly by mouth. I’ve heard rumors of massive amounts of death around the world: entire buildings, walls, and bridges unexpectedly surrendering. A botanical garden in Brazil, the Louvre pyramid, the National Grand Theater of China.
At least in China, it was the middle of the night. No show, no celebrity or crowd losses. Just janitors working late.
Our office janitor isn’t working now. She sits with empty frames on her face where prescription lenses should be. We must not pay her enough to afford contacts.
Our only form of contact is pigeons, perhaps, now perched on our files. It’s been a few hours, but still, nobody knows. Where has all the glass gone? Is it ever coming back?
My coworkers are crying. For Jerry. For family members on airplanes which plummeted like injured birds, pilots and passengers frostbitten and frozen. Plummeted and plunged into other buildings, other people stepping around puddles and groping about blindly.
I don’t even want to imagine the astronauts.
The effects, I imagine, are endless: city buses, bottling companies and breweries. Clinique counters.
One coworker sobs because she can no longer see herself. The bathroom is missing mirrors, and she just bought lipstick that she’s unable to apply. She cries, mascara dribbling blindly down her cheeks, and I cringe, wondering who will survive in these new conditions.
But then, suddenly, I understand.
“Here,” I say. “Look at me.”
She turns, and I mimic her movements, moving my finger like a magic wand over my lips in the same way that she does.
Who will survive?
She smiles, and I smile.2
Look at Me
All the glass in the world vanished, which was fine by Kate. She loved waking to dawn air coming through the window screen; it reminded her of summers on her grandparents’ farm. Her husband, Henry, was distraught.
“I can’t see without my glasses,” he complained, fingering the empty wire frames.
Kate watched the wind comb back their small patch of lawn through the kitchen window. Without turning, she said, “You only need them to read.”
Henry sniffed and tucked the glasses into his pocket.
Kate closed her eyes and inhaled. It was going to rain. “I suppose water will get in the house,” she mused. “I’ll cover the floors.”
Henry left the room to build a fire in his library. Kate dumped the rest of her bitter coffee down the drain and went upstairs. She sighed. That was how it was now: Henry seemed to only talk to himself, and when he did, she made snide remarks.
Been married longer than most, Kate thought. Twenty-five years isn’t nothing.
She entered their neat, quiet bedroom and inhaled the scent of rain mixed with the lavender water she still patted on her wrists each night and the musty library books on the table. The curtains reached for her nightstand, stirred by the rising wind. Kate went to the trunk at the foot of the bed before remembering she had given her old sheets to her daughter-in-law the spring before to protect some tulips from a late frost. She had nothing to protect the wooden floors from the water.
“I’ll move this,” she announced, lifting the jewelry box that housed her engagement ring. Kate was dismayed by how bony her fingers had become as she aged. The ring slipped loose constantly, and she brought it out now, thinking she might cry and remember the good times with Henry.
The gold band was the same but the diamond was gone.
“Glass,” Kate murmured, turning the smooth gold band around. “Must’ve been glass.”
Kate thought of how impressed she had been by the glinting diamond peeking out at her from the red box, how shy Henry had been, how green his eyes. Kate set the gold band back in the jewelry box and looked to where the mirror balanced on the dresser. She wanted to see herself as she was then, but of course, the glass was gone. They were the only two who remembered each other that way now; young, bright, still listening.
She went downstairs and found Henry in his old armchair, a fire blazing in the previously neglected fireplace. He held a book of poems and ran anxious fingers over its spine. Silently, Kate eased the book from his grasp and sat beside him. She would read aloud to him. They would see each other again.3
The Legacy of Captain Hourglass
Finally, Dr. Nathaniel Ebenezer Farious thought as a rush of ecstatic joy surged through his aching and aged bones. All the glass in the world…vanished…
He almost couldn’t believe that he had finally succeeded, but the results were right in front of him. The calculations scribbled on the grease board from last night’s fit of manic productivity. The particle ray amplifier still smoking from its one and only use. The six-foot tall glass globe he used to keep in the corner, now vaporized without a trace. Only the gilded stand remained.
Dr. Farious’s liver-spotted and waxy hands quivered as he checked his plastic wristwatch: 9:03 AM, March 1st, 2071. After some quick calculations, he realized that this project, this unqualified success, had taken him the better part of fifty-four years, two months, and twenty seven days.
Nearly a lifetime, he thought as he stroked his long white beard. Over fifty-four years cooped up in this laboratory with just his work and his brain. No TV, no internet, no distracting influences from the narcissistic world to corrupt his research.
But now, Dr. Farious thought, I finally have my revenge.
His gaze fell onto the yellowed and disintegrating newspaper clipping of Captain Hourglass’s obituary tacked onto the wall. In the photo, Captain Hourglass’s chiseled chin protruded proudly, proclaiming his unfounded superiority. The article outlined in excruciating detail how Captain Hourglass had spent an entire lifetime using his time-manipulation abilities to foil the plots of super villains such as the Hell Hound and Valkyrie Vixen. Dr. Farious wasn’t even mentioned, but no matter what the papers chose to ignore, he had certainly been a victim of Captain Hourglass’s vigilante crusade.
Even now, Dr. Farious couldn’t sleep through a night without shooting awake at some ungodly hour, uncertain if time was rushing blearily past him or whether he was stuck forever in the sludge of a single moment. The disorientation was unbearable.
This will be your new legacy, Captain, Dr. Farious thought. The whole world will know that your arrogance has spurred me to this. A world without vain people staring into mirrors. Without cell phones, TVs, and computer screens drilling images of glorified youth into the minds of the population.
With a mirthful chuckle, Dr. Farious clicked on his dusty radio, sat back, and put his tired feet up on his desk.
“…according to market reports,” the announcer said, “the price of genetically modified salmon rose 2.3% in the past quarter.”
Ah, yes, Dr. Nefarious thought. They are still blissfully unaware. I haven’t missed the panic in his voice.
But the announcer droned on for another five minutes about the fluctuating demand of eyelid computers and increased supply of geothermic running shorts.
Any second now. Any second…
“In other market news, Paradoxic Polymer and Chemical Corporation set an all-time record yesterday for highest stock value. This latest accomplishment caps a ten-year run in which their miracle synthetic compound, Plastiform, has become ubiquitous in every industry from construction to electronics. Known for its versatility, Plastiform has virtually replaced more expensive and less durable materials such as wood, clay…”
Dr. Farious sat bolt upright.
Don’t say it. God, please just don’t say—
Dr. Farious slumped forward, and his tired skull thumped against the desk. The radio turned to sports, then politics. Eventually, the voices were replaced by an unintelligible sequence of electronic blips and bloops that he assumed was what passed for music in these new and strange days. He stared at the gilded stand where his great glass globe had once stood.
After what seemed like hours, but very well might have been seconds or days, he picked up a pen and set about scratching a moustache onto the photo of Captain Hourglass.4
House of Glass and Stone
Eddie and Martha were the proud owners of the only glass house within fifty miles, as they were apt to tell anyone who listened. After they decided to marry for the tax benefits—Martha needed extra cash to pay off some gambling debts and Eddie had expensive tastes in taxidermy—their glass house was immediately instituted. It had three glittering stories, though they never left the first, and a pointed roof that caught sunlight like a prism—a rainbow sundial.
They spent this particular day like every other: armchairs facing the street, Eddie with his frayed suspenders pulled purposefully over his bellybutton, Martha with her crooked stick-like limbs haughtily crossed, a pile of stones between them, and their list titled “Those Who Deserve Stones” hanging like scripture on the wall.
First, a woman walked past and made the terrible mistake of stopping to glance curiously at the gleaming glass house.
“Nosy-nelly!” shrilled Martha. She clicked a remote and the glass in front of them swung open like shutters. Throwing like professional pitchers, Martha and Eddie hit her stomach, legs, and chest, pelting with exalted rapture. The assault only stopped when she, crying, limped out of range. They settled back in satisfaction.
Nosy-nellies, number fifty-four on the list, were one of Martha’s favorites. Sometimes she would slink through backyards and keep count of the times neighbors happened to look out their windows, figuring those were the most meddlesome. They received a special welcome if she caught them out on a jog.
The next was a man talking on his phone.
“Loud asshole!” roared Eddie, and the shutters swung wide and the stones arced high. Number seventy-three, Eddie’s preference. He could rant about them all day, hollering at Martha over dinner and banging the table for emphasis, a long forgotten French-fry smushed in his fist.
Number thirty-two: long-limbed freaks.
Number nineteen: fashion flops.
Number sixty-eight: married couples.
They dug and dug for stones until their backyard was a cavernous black abyss.
After another hard day’s work, they were sleeping blissfully when it happened. Eddie shivered. Martha felt a breeze tickle her nose and sneezed herself awake. Her high-pitched shriek woke Eddie, who bellowed for silence. Then, even he was rendered mute.
Their perfect glass house had vanished, as had all the glass in the world.
It was a conspiracy. Sabotage.
Martha recommended they ask the nosy-nellies for aid. Maybe they would be interested in such a succulent new story. So off they tromped to each nosy-nelly dwelling Martha had taken the time to note. The nosy-nellies threw shoes and spoons and half-full soup cans. Maybe the loud assholes, Eddie suggested. Maybe they’d want to shout I-told-you-so as they lent a hand. And yell they did, as they pelted flip-flops and forks and half-eaten, week old, hard-as-stone falafels through glassless windows. They meandered and entreated until the list reached its end and they were covered in shoe-dirt, silver polishing, and food from the back of refrigerators.
They came to the end at the beginning, staring at their empty, exposed lot.
Number one hundred: people who live in glass houses.5
The Day the Aliens Came, No One Really Cared
All the glass in the world had vanished and Khadijah couldn’t find a single mug in the office that wasn’t chipped. She didn’t mind so much how drafty the office had become and she rather enjoyed the way the blossoming trees around the arboretum grounds scented the building. It took longer to book appointments and tours, but her work went on.
Khadijah didn’t mind anything at all until it got dark. At night, her candlelit house felt like it was conspiring against her. Anything could be lurking behind her curtains. Or a mischievous gust might snuff out her candle, leaving her in pure darkness. She began sleeping in her closet, so there would be something solid between her and all the shadows.
The night before the glass had disappeared, Khadijah had trouble falling asleep. She’d thought she heard a low ringing sound and wondered what it could be. It wasn’t like the pulsing hum of her refrigerator, nor the arrhythmic whoosh-clank of her radiator. When she could stand it no longer, she’d risen from her bed and padded around her room, pausing only to listen more carefully. She’d wandered through her house and had all but given up finding the source when—flash. Every window lit up for an instant; Khadijah had dropped at the force of pure energy that sucked all the air from her room. She’d woken in the morning, still on the floor, unsure of what had happened. It felt like someone had come and gone while she slept. She’d reached for the patio door handle before she’d noticed that all its glass was missing.
After that night, Khadijah made a habit of spending the hours of darkness away from her house. She heard similar accounts of the light throughout the office, but within weeks everyone had returned their attention to the upcoming summer seminar. She knew she hadn’t dreamt the light, but no one seemed as frightened as she felt. She would stay at her parents’ house on the weekend. Her friends let her sleep on their couches most days of the week. No one seemed to mind her visits when the glass first went missing, but as the weeks continued, she could see their patience wearing. Only Moira didn’t seem to mind. They would sit with Khadijah until she felt tired enough to feel safe.
In dreams she could see the same blaring light that had taken all the glass, and in those moments the light could see her too. She would float awash in the bright, humming void, suffocating, until she awoke. Her friends assured her the dreams would pass in time, but every night she slept, she could hear the ringing sound growing. Lying in the dark, she waited for the light to return.6
All the glass in the world has vanished. The girl sits cross-legged on the floor of her bedroom and stares at the lifeless pedestals that line the shelves of the bookcase before her. The other children have snow globes made of plastic, miniature keychains which can be purchased at souvenir shops in bargain sets of three or five. But hers had been made of glass, and her mother had always reminded her that she must be careful not to drop or knock them when taking one down from the shelf to examine the world trapped inside. They could easily shatter, her mother would warn, before taking one in her hand and smiling distantly, reminding the girl that each one was a miracle because they came from so far away.
Snow globes are the only thing the girl collects. There are two for each year: one for Christmas and one for her birthday. There are fourteen of them in total, lined up chronologically. This is how she keeps track of time.
The smallest one had been the size of a tennis ball, with the Taj Mahal sparkling dreamily inside. When she used to shake it, gold flakes would swarm through the air like exotic birds over the Indian landscape. Some of the flakes are scattered on the floor now, but they are neither birds nor real gold, just confetti.
She does not think the unexplained disappearance of glass is nearly as troubling as the miniature buildings that now stand naked on their circular platforms. She knows they must have been hiding within the orbs the entire time, merely parading as impressive giants. But now the liquid has cascaded out and the illusion of magnification has trickled away along with it. The girl sits and blows, sending glitter and tiny Styrofoam balls skittering around the floor.
Her mother stands in the doorway, watching.
“Will Daddy be mad I broke all of his gifts?”
The woman hesitates before stepping into the room. “Of course not, darling.” She walks towards the bookshelf and runs her fingers absently along the wood. “You didn’t break them. You’ve taken very good care of them, and your daddy could never be mad at you. He loves you very much and would tell you so if he were here. Now, don’t you want to pack up your collection to take with you?”
The girl shakes her head forcefully. “I don’t want them anymore.”
“They’re all broken without glass.”
The woman smiles shakily. “Oh no, sweetie, that’s not true. Don’t you see? They’re better this way.” She takes a miniature Stonehenge in one hand and the Hollywood sign in the other, placing them side by side. “Now they can all be part of one big world.” She moves Notre-Dame and the Great Wall of China to join the peculiar geography forming on the bedroom floor. “They aren’t trapped anymore and they certainly aren’t broken.”
The girl frowns. “But they look broken.”
“That’s only because they’ve broken free.”7
Pearl’s on the Beach
All the glass in the world had vanished, which made our beachfront property coveted. Not for the design, structure, or proximity to neighboring towns. No, it was the sand. Superheat it, melt it down, and there’s your windows, spectacles, pot lids, medical vials—everything you lost waiting to be created right under your feet.
That left Richard and me sitting on our back porch, watching waves slam against the cracked, uneven bedrock. When the glass disappeared, the government appeared in droves, offering outlandish amounts for our little plot—enough to retire comfortably in the mountains, away from the machinery, oil spills, and commotion. We refused. This was our home; we wouldn’t give up on it. So, they returned, and stole the beach’s essence. They contested our litany rights during a wartime effort and took us to court. To hell with them.
But tonight is not for condemnation and damnation. It’s for iced lemonade in cups. It’s for watching the moon turn from purple to pale yellow. We try to listen for the last bit of trickling sand against the waves, but its drowned out by the surrounding slaps of tension against hard rock. Other neighbors held firm, so sporadic low dunes dot the shoreline for miles, but they’re like sandboxes without their wooden frames or plastic green turtles. Sand drifts with the tide; the sea is angry without it. No more hush, whispers, rolling lullabies, or thunderous roars and stormy hisses.
“Tonight, I steal from the government,” I say.
“Why’d you have to do a thing like that, Pearl?” Richard asks. “Now I can’t claim ignorance.” Light from a candelabra makes his eyes sparkle and he lifts his cup in salute. “If I’m to be your accomplice, reckon I should have a bigger part. Can’t be your getaway man; truck’s low on gas and our house needs wheels and an engine to drive out of this here ghost town.”
Ghost town is just about right. Who wants to own beachfront property without a beach?
“No glass,” I grin. “All our memories would blow out the windows—too many years. You wouldn’t love me with an addled mind. No, we’ll just have to stick it out.”
Richard laughs and drinks. “Then, it’s settled. Steal to your heart’s content and lock it away. I’ll cover you.”
Rising from a creaking chair with creaking joints, I begin my crime. Richard, ever vigilant, settles in to enjoy the show. The little strip of leftover beach is like a shifting catwalk to the water. The grains are still warm from the September sun, the water cold against my calluses. Leftover sand swishes over my feet with the tide—one last sensation to memorize.
I kneel and fill an empty vitamin container with even parts sand and water. A quick but firm twist locks away my prize. The sea, my home, in the palm of my hand. Even if they take my property, in the end, they cannot take the beach from me.8
Glass is so integral to our everyday lives—what would happen if it all disappeared? This collection explores all the possibilities spurred by a glassless world. So, tell us your 500-word stories in this setting! Feel free to borrow characters and locations from other installments. Your section can stand alone or build on what came before. Send us your submissions by Friday for consideration!
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