PIQUE Another committee meeting. Of course no one will shit or get off the pot. 7 scientists, 11 politicians, 3 generals, an anthropologist, and a sculptor. No one knows who invited the last. We’re debating a symbol that ought to last 100,000 years. Or whether a symbol ought not to exist at all. We scarfed dry mustard-less roast beef sandwiches, and wrapped up lunch by belching out tinny pop through our nostrils. Yucca Mountain, against the residents—against anyone but us and this buzzing halogen-lit conference room, is being hollowed out to make a womb for spent nuclear rods. It will become a veneer of a mountain, as brittle as the holy host. Our self-appointed role is to figure out how to keep people off this stale crust. To determine whether a sign will pique their interest, or whether lack of signage will spill the end of civilization by accident. 100,000 years is nada to a single cell, but to a culture, it’s epic. ‘What should we spraypaint,’ asks one general—‘a bull?’ We understand cave paintings well, or so we’d like to think: like a four-year-old’s art— a house and sunshine and Mom. If there’s lightening and/or tears, call the shrink…In the past, as in our youth, our needs encompassed less than to speak, yet the images conveyed meaning so basic they still give off heat. Our ancestors thought a lot about food. The sculptor asks, angular, ‘What will the future think of the obelisk at Trinity? Is this phallus a warning, or does it seduce by wanting inside?’ A general coughs uncomfortably into his fist and chides. He refers to Chozo with Phazon in Metroid Prime. No one knows what he means, but no one will fess up, so we nod, grim. I think the gist is, he has a fondness for obelisks. We debate what symbol could endure indefinitely. Whether the three-winged, fluorescent snow angel of radiation is universal. Whether it can sustain its meaning. Whether rain will erode it’s imprint, or whether it will be interpreted as ‘there’s gold in them hills,’ and people who start digging will weaken. Not from soil weight on the shovel, but from the fateful encounter with depleted uranium. ‘We can’t make a clock that lasts 1,000 years!’ exclaims the anthropologist. A politician counters, ‘I vote to keep this on-topic.’ Scientists form a chorus: ‘Here, here.’ No one admits that we’re pre-managing our reputations for when the minutes go public. Trying to show we understood the gravity of whether (not really), and how (yes, really), to transfer the future—yours, not ours—over to an awesome, boring machine.     I AM A WOMAN OR I AM A HORSE Comes a point where you must confront why you’re still alive and what you intend to do with it. She braced to die younger than Jesus, feeling that a lesser being didn’t deserve to outlast him. But she tripped and But she tripped and cracked her temple, got concussed, and vision took on new hues, a sharpened geometry. Perhaps the phenomenon was temporal—a compressed hippocampus, amygdala milked of terror, hallucinating a beam in dark hedges.

MOLLY GRUE: (gasps) No. Can it truly be? Where have you been? Damn you, where have you been!? UNICORN: I am here now. I am here now.

Now greying and shrinking, never having had beauty or charm to mourn as it melted, those wax mummies in heat, she lived her life on her feet, and wore her body like a cilice. But she tripped and She flinches when looked at bulls-eye, it’s a health protectant, and is home in a herd, unexceptional and silent. The world thrives on kicked up dust and gun powder, calls clamour forward. She must never tire or risk being hunted.

MOLLY GRUE: And where were you twenty years ago, ten years ago? Where were you when I was new? UNICORN: I am here now. I am here now.

Those archetypal, over-contingent _____ before her slipped on marbles, huffed gas, and collapsed into forever-slumber. Their manes were braided into the fairy tales that they had starred in to try to unravel.

MOLLY GRUE: It would be the last unicorn in the world that came to Molly Grue. It's all right. I forgive you. UNICORN: I am here now. I am here now.

  stevieStevie Howell’s first book, ^^^^^^ ^^^^^^ ^^^^^^ (a.k.a. "Sharps"), will be released fall 2014. She was a finalist for The Montreal International Poetry Prize and The Walrus Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Hazlitt, Maisonneuve, and The Walrus. Stevie grew up in Scarborough, owned a small-town bookstore in her twenties, lives by the Mink Mile, and studies psychology.