‘I’ll Die and Be Right There’ by Anna Matveeva
Twittering Machine (Die Zwitscher-Maschine), Paul Klee, 1922
“Meaning what?” said Celia.
She and Bart stood nearest to the roped-off exhibit, a flat box the size of a kitchen TV. Letters moved across its wide black field, plunging and flipping over, like synchronized swimmers.
Wait, I’ll die and be right there.
Bart shrugged. He was considered the smartest kid in their class and questions were always addressed to him. By default, so to speak. Though currently Bart was the one defaulting. He didn’t want to look foolish in front of Celia, but what could he say to her if his mind was drawing a total blank? TV shows didn’t cover anything of this sort. Frustrated, Bart looked up: the portrait of Gregory House hung in its usual place, on the wall by the window. House was smiling, the kindly wrinkles fanning out around his eyes like the folds on Klelia’s gloves. His beard was forked like a snake’s tongue. His face held no surprises.
Klelia clapped her hands. Then she remembered she was wearing gloves, took them off, and clapped again. “Listen up, kids!”
Celia shifted closer to Bart.
“Congratulations,” Klelia began, mysteriously, and Bart felt like rolling his eyes. Now she’d start harping on about how lucky they were, what an extraordinary place this Museum was, how only the very best were ever admitted—as if they themselves didn’t know they were fortunate. Celia didn’t take her eyes off Klelia, and Bart, unnoticed, used his tongue to probe a small pimple in the corner of his mouth. Disgusting! Couldn’t it have waited till later? No, it had to turn up today of all days.
Celia stood so close to him. Her hair was like flowing honey; it smelled of flowers. Meanwhile, Klelia kept bumbling on.
“Yes, kiddos, you are the very best. You’ve proven yourselves with your superior grades and hard work, and now you deserve a glimpse into the dark world of the past, the world that will be revealed to you today by our guide. Please welcome—Dexter DuBois!”
The lights went off and Celia grabbed Bart’s hand, her fingers smooth like chess pieces. In the dark, three-dimensional letters floated by, forming words: “BAN INTERNET—THIS IS NORTH KOREA. ALEXEI IVANOV.”