Categories
2018 NonFiction

Aram Mrjoian

ANIMAL KINGDOM

The president is on television calling people animals. He is not the first. He will not be the last. He is one of many throughout the ages, snarling with glee as he uses one of the oldest tricks in the book. The animal can be labeled a pest and a pest can be exterminated. A pest can be undone. In fear, predatory nature emerges. Clothing and smartphones and the wonders of modern architecture become nothing more than a façade for our feral roots. Build a wall. Pen the unwelcome. Believe in the salvation of barriers. In a country far away, on what was once the land of another country far away, there is a mountain that they say Noah’s Ark came to rest atop. A grand ship measured in cubits, docked high in the sky, loaded to the brim with precious cargo. Long ago, in its hull, the animal kingdom waited for the flood to subside, two of each breed, ready to repopulate the soggy landscape below. Among rotted trees and waterlogged fields, a mushy crust of mud, they returned to a land without borders. A map free of demarcation. The colorful menagerie, survivors of a world awash, no longer tethered to the arbitrary boundaries of the past. Legend has it the ark remains hidden at the summit of Ararat, nestled in the crevices of the frozen peak. When the ice melts and the flood returns, I wonder who will be invited to board this ancient buoyant vessel. Who will weather the planet’s second inundation? Who or what will survive? Perhaps, the weatherworn, cavernous boat is full of holes. Given its lighter load, it could topple in the massive waves, so many of its original couples having long since vanished from the earth. Or maybe the rich will push and pay their way aboard, cram their bodies into every nook and cranny, fill the gaps with their worldly possessions, until the beams crack and the joints snap and the cabin collapses and everything sinks toward the undefined darkness of the ocean floor and as the water line rises and the shores disappear and the tree line submerges and the hilltops are baptized, we’ll all be left to drown.


Aram Mrjoian is an editor-at-large at the Chicago Review of Books, an interviews editor at the Southeast Review, and the assistant managing editor at TriQuarterly. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Millions, Kenyon Review online, Longreads, Joyland, Colorado Review, Tahoma Literary Review, The Masters Review, and many other publications. He earned his MFA in creative writing at Northwestern University and is pursuing his PhD in fiction at Florida State University. Find his work at arammrjoian.com