Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 21
Spring, 2016

Featured painting, Unnamed (detail) by MANDEM.

New Works

Mathew Serback

Statements of Fact about the Edge of the Earth

The scientists of the world told everyone that the Earth was flat.
The people of the Earth reacted, "Change! Change! No more change!"
The scientists of the Earth tried to explain; they had been reluctant to admit that they were wrong all along. The scientists said that the Earth was discovered to be flat when they realized that two-dimensional vectors were being seen as three-dimensional vectors (a natural flaw in the human brain that was making one into two and two into three and so forth).
This was difficult for the people of Earth to accept.
No matter how hard they tried, they couldn't shake the constant gnawing in the pits of their stomachs that comes with the disappointment of realizing you have misplaced your trust in someone else's beliefs. Society had been built around the cyclical nature of things; birth — life — death, the eternal repetition. How the ground rotated beneath our feet, keeping us balanced.
Our entire theory of human existence was founded, two feet firmly planted, on a lie.
Life was linear. A straight path from birth to death.
The people of the Earth and the scientists of the Earth wanted to fix the disconnect that had now been created between body and planet. The scientists of the flat Earth pointed out that nothing had changed; everyone continued to wake up, brush their teeth while peeing and then shove their legs into holes of cloth. People had been heading in a straight line the entire time, whether they knew it or not. The scientists concluded that the flat Earth wasn't going to make people love any harder or hate any less.
The governments of the world put a ban on flying and swimming and boating and anything else that could take people out to the edge of the Earth. The governments of the world agreed that they must tread carefully. They stationed soldiers in boats and towers with mounted machine guns to turn people back if they tried to get to the edge of the Earth.
See? The Earth was flat, but governments were still shooting bullets at the problems of man. Nothing much had changed.
Unless there is a stressor, people are unlikely to make changes as quickly as they need to be made. The flat Earth had forced the government to act quickly and efficiently — there was the unknown — the chaos factor somewhere within reach.
When the scientists asked the government to open the edge of the Earth to the people, so that it could be studied, so that it could be free, the government refused. It was like fingers massaging honey, sticky and slow.
The government asked the people of Earth what they should do. The people who didn't have any real power until now did what they will always do — told the government to let them be, to let them learn.
So they finally learned.


The government asked for volunteers to go to the edge of the Earth.
The first volunteer to go to the edge of the Earth was Timothy.
Timothy was an Irish-American immigrant. He was also 88 years old the day he set out for the edge of the Earth. Timothy believed there was a God, and he believed there was a reason. He was convinced that God hated Irish people. He thought that you could see the pattern in history that whenever the Irish began to build momentum toward being sovereign and strong, they were constantly struck down.
Timothy had two bad years in his fifties where he lost his job due to neck problems and his wife died. Timothy also blamed God for this, instead of his own ineptitudes.
He also had two sons. One of his sons was a homosexual. Timothy believed this was God's way of showing disappointment in Timothy. He'd punished his son for his sins. In his heart, he truly believed the Earth revolved around him.
Timothy owned four cars his entire life — each one was a Ford. Every car was met with the same fate: a broken transmission.
Timothy wrote a poem once. It was about how love was like smooth-metallic machines. He worked in a factory almost his entire life. Humans tend to find the beauty in the ugliness of the mundane.
The government put Timothy in a small lifeboat — an ironic detail — and let him float out toward the edge of the Earth with a tracking device and a camera. The government told people that Timothy was a champion in spirit, a soldier of science, the first true human experiment.
Timothy died at the edge of the Earth.


The mystery of the edge of the Earth grew because one old man had died.
What if the edge grows, the people of Earth wondered.
Timothy became less of a person or more of a phrase that conjured fear and dissent amongst groups of people. The government had promised people answers, but scientists continued to shrug their shoulders; no one had considered that there might not be answers.
The inevitable occurred; religions adopted the image of the flat Earth. Whole new religions popped up based upon the Earth being flat. Christians claimed that revelations said the second coming would happen at four points, and since the Earth was flat, Christianity knew the entire time that we weren't living on a globe.
New religions like the Two-Dimensionals claimed the Earth being flat proved that humans were not capable of having depth (as in three-dimensional depth). They decided we were glorified characters out of a Super Mario Brother's game.
Aurora was the first woman to go to the edge of the Earth.
She was a sprightly 33 years old. She had a skin disease known as Vitiligo. Vitiligo was a disease that caused the depigmentation of the skin; a disease that left her with a patch of pale-sunless-skin above her left eye.
Aurora's first apartment had twenty five stairs from the door to the hallway on the second floor. The only way to open the front door was to hit a buzzer at the top of the landing and then open it from the inside. Aurora was a short woman with stubby legs. Every morning she would hit the button and race down the stairs, hoping to catch their door unlocked.
She volunteered to go to the edge of the Earth as well.
She knew she would come back with all the secrets of the universe. She had lived in a pointless reality where she hadn't seen depth or shading. She was a religious zealot; a heartfelt believer of the Two-Dimensionals. She was given the title of modern day prophet.
She was doing the work for her faith.
Aurora died at the edge of the Earth.


The scientists of the flat Earth became discouraged.
All the people who had gone to the edge of the Earth had died. The enemy of science is human death. People started yelling at the government and the scientist. They wanted the edge of the Earth explained. At some point human beings don't want the truth — they wanted to be lied to so they call sleep easier at night.
Instead, the government and the scientists gave up.
The government decided to use the edge of the Earth as a new form of the death penalty. They saw it as a more humane alternative (since no one knew what happened). The government would place the people guilty of heinous crimes of murder, rape, and pedophilia into boats and send them floating out toward the edge. The world assumed they all died; no one ever returned, so no one ever had a reason to suspect they lived.
Eventually, euthanasia was legalized as well. The government decided to allow sick people to be sent to the edge of the Earth. People thought that this was very poetic; the way people they loved floated away, slowly vanishing with the horizon, the true realization of no going back.
This is what became normal.


Clay was the first sick person to be euthanized by the edge of the Earth.
He was a thirteen-year-old boy. He had barely lost the roundness in his cheeks and the pinkness in his muscles before he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Clay would sit in his bed with his bones full of pain and listen to his parents crying because his body wasn't normal. It writhed in pain. His body was a messy bedroom that couldn't be cleaned up. Clay didn't want his parents to worry about managing his life anymore. He wanted them to be free from him.
Clay broke his left arm when he was three years old. For the rest of his life, he would extend both of his arms in front of his body and claim that one arm was longer than the other because the broken arm had never healed properly.
His father also had no arms. The children in his middle school would tease him about how many pushups did he think his father could do.
History is weird, sometimes.


Clay left his parents a note about what he hoped would happen in the future — in the future where he didn't exist anymore:

You never really think about getting older — at least not in a cosmetic way.
I'm angry. You get to be so old.
Dad, they took your arms away, but you still got to live — even if it was without a point. Who will hug my mother and tell her it's going to be okay?
Life is happening right now. I thought about you both dying. I thought about dying. It doesn't make any sense, does it? Is everything just supposed to be colorless? Is death like being stuck in a sea of rocks? I can't stop imagining a sea of rocks; the rocks trap all the sound and bounce it back to you. Nothing escapes. That's what my future is — my inevitable future.
I imagine death comes as a thought. You look at the audience while you're on stage, and the choir proclaims this is death — it is here for you. Then you die.
Death is probably more gradual, like letting the water out of a bathtub. It's one moment, full of life, then you dry off and look in the mirror, and it's already gone.


Before leaving for the edge of the Earth, Aurora told one of the pastors at her Two-Dimensional church about her childhood:

My parents made me walk through an entrance hall; I was going to sing for people. As a child, I was confused about the differences between entrances and beginnings; I thought they were the same.
There were statues in the foyer; gigantic gelatin molds of my grandparents' heads. The statues were adorned on the wall. Their eyes followed me as I walked toward the entrance. I touched the statues, and they wiggled like worms in the dirt.
The floor I was standing on was made of cheap linoleum. I pulled pieces of the floor up to find dirt underneath. I followed the dirt path until I ended up at my abandoned grandparents' house.
Next to their door were pictures of American's presidents. Their faces were painted in makeup; they looked like clowns to me.
I walked inside and remembered that I'm house sitting for my grandparents. They had a pet bear. The bear was rather pleasant; he even drank warm tea with me. He took a nap and destroyed the couch with the weight of his body. He was a violent sleeper.
I'm afraid to this day that I'm still in love with that bear.


The day before he left, Timothy told his nephew about his happiest memory:

I was living in New York City at the time. I was swarmed and overwhelmed by the lights and the enormity of voices that sprawled out over the city. I was young. It was winter. The city had been freshly powered like a donut at a bakery — you felt like if you coughed hard enough, the snow would just blow away.
I decided to go ice-skating in Central Park. It was the day before Christmas.
I should point out this was back when the Earth was round, and people thought everything was still possible; the world still worked in a way that made sense to us.
I saw a group of young women ice-skating; they looked like college girls to me. They looked like the type of college girls who were slaves to the whims of their parents, but on some nights they broke the rules. Tonight seemed like that night. Tonight they were walking on water.
I never imagined talking to them — because I didn't think I had anything to offer them. And that might be my biggest regret in life.


Timothy's nephew cried tears of salt at the story. Timothy dipped his fries in them; for the sake of preservation.

Mathew Serback can type roughly 125 words per minute; his mother is impressed. In 2017, his debut novel will be published by ELJ Publications. He is an assistant editor with Bartleby Snopes. In 2016, his fiction appears in scissors&spackle, The Flexible Persona, Pidgeonholes, Donut Factory, Sleet Magazine and Yellow Chair Review.