Escaping Loneliness As A Millenial

“In The Kingdom of a Star”

word by Jacob Goldberg 

colour by Mojo Wang


Hot sand and waters blue unfurled before us. The ground was very warm beneath our feet and our heads hung loose and insecure atop our necks. We wore caps to shield ourselves from the white sun. And below, the beach stretched on. I did not know how long we had to go or how far we had come. Beside us, the rim of the sea surged and retreated rhythmically. It cooled the sizzling sand and left foam upon it. The water washed high onto the shore and sent from itself no longer wanted. Its castoffs were shells and weeds, rocks and jellyfish. 

There was a wonderfully shaded cove, I was told by a neighbor, not a mile or two beyond our lodging. There, we could swim and repose by the waves. If we got there during daytime we could bathe in it untroubled by the locals, who camp there by night. We had set out midday, so we could return by nightfall for dinner and evening prayer.

But each step toward it hurt. I was concerned for my boy, who had not drunk since we had left our cabana. And I was unsure of how much time had passed since then. As the sun continued to climb above us, my only ambitions were for him to be out of its domain.

I had not known it to be this hot. The sun was unforgiving. I stumbled in the sand and looked at my boy. He let out a laugh and I followed. We remarked to another that it was hot. He ran out to the surf and lay in the water. When he stood, his swimming trunks slipped and made his khaki buttocks bare. His exposed back was a deep merlot. I was wearing a shirt that I removed and asked him to put on. 

“I am too hot,” I said. 

“Me, too,” he said.

“But you should wear it.  Drape it about your shoulders, boy,” I said.

“I don’t want to.” He put his hand on his waistline and smeared some blood from his cracked skin. “Pa, I’m bleeding.”

“Oh, that’s nothing, son.  Let me clean it up for you.” I wiped it off.

“I feel tired.”

“We’ll be to the cove soon, and there you’ll rest.”

“I am hot.”

“That is only your imagination, boy.”

I turned around to measure how far we’d come. My son mimicked me. I squinted but could not make out our cabana in the distance. I pressed my hand to my side and when I removed it my boy said he could see my hand as if it were still there. I shifted my gaze toward where I thought the cove was, but as if I were a reflective surface, this direction appeared the same. I did not know where we were and I felt as if cooked. 

“If only it were hotter, then I would be more comfortable,” I told my boy.

“I wish it were hotter, dad,” he said, drooping.

“Me, too.”

I picked him up and we marched toward the cove. The sand blanched my feet. I grew more tired and weak. He twisted in my arms. One or two times, I fell to a knee and dumped him to the sand, smiling at him. I told him I was playing a game, but he did not respond. His squirming had subdued and he slackened amply in my arms. To my left and to my right, behind us and before us, in every tense, I saw the same beach and the same sea, the same earth and the same sky. I walked on in the heat.* 


From the author, Jacob Goldberg:

“The man in the image seems plagued with ennui or Weltschmerz.  He’s a millennial; he’s also alone, and there are skulls around him. He looks aimless and appears to have lost something but he doesn’t even know what that thing is or where he should look for it. Interestingly, he’s surrounded by technology. This story is about trying to disengage oneself from the loneliness of the modern world; it’s an attempt to articulate what that thing is that we’ve misplaced.” 

See more colour by Mojo Wang

Issue 225: “At Daybreak”

For Jennifer 3 (1)

There is a room in the red house up the block that lets sound neither escape nor enter.  Its floor-to-ceiling window faces East.  The other walls are bare.  In the center of the room stands a canvassed easel off of which loosely hang a palette and brush.  But there are no colors to paint with.

At dawn, the woman who lives in the red house goes to the room and locks the door behind her.  She takes the palette and brush and settles in front of the canvas in a painterly posture.  The brow of the sun emerges from behind the buildings opposite her house.  The sun washes the room in the same hue as scrambled eggs.  She does not speak as she studies the canvas or the landscape in front of her.  She searches them with the intensity of one who is trying to pop her own pimples.

Her stomach’s growl sounds like someone squeezing an empty bottle of ketchup.  Every wall is a window.  The suck-suck of her heartbeat fills the room.  The woman dabs at the empty palette with the dry brush, which she holds the way you might imagine holding a wand.

The sun still rises. She runs the brush over the surface of the palette several times.  An inflating lung sounds like the hush when you go from out to inside a tunnel.   Her control of the brush for all intents and purposes seems limited to Mr. Miyagi’s recommendation to ‘paint the fence.’  The bristles on the brush appear frayed from overuse.  She has been doing this for a while.  Alive, she restores the palette and brush and leans on the wall adjacent to the window.

In this room, she is sound.

A crowd of boys on the street below walks hunched together.  One of them holds a baseball.  They can’t be older than fourteen.  The woman in the room smiles down on them as if they were her own children.  Her grin reveals that her 9th and 10th teeth have been badly broken.  The boys down below look up at her and mock her.  They pretend to paint.  The boys, they have all seen her before.  The woman’s expression, though, remains.

Her ears ring painfully as the glass shatters.  The room gasps for sound as would someone for air.  The baseball rolls across the ground and stops by the base of the easel.  The boys below laugh and walk away triumphantly.  The woman does not say anything but she has stopped smiling.  Their laughter hurts the way it hurts to have a snowball fight barehanded.  The woman wonders why they threw the ball through her window.  She spends the remainder of the morning picking up the glass shards and putting them in a recycling bag.

I wonder if she is a sad woman.

word by Jacob Goldberg

“The artwork that goes along with this painting gave me pause about how I can let technology control my life and consequently, forget to maintain focus and care about on what’s going on around me and inside me.  The woman in this story fights that as she is disciplined and compassionate – she just gets picked on for being different.” 

colour by Yukai Du, an illustrator and animator from Guangzhou, China, currently based in London.

“In 2012 I finished my BA Animation degree in Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, China.
‘Musical Chairs’ was my BA final project, also my first animation film.

Two years later I have received my MA degree in Central Saint Martins College in London.
I focused on research skills during my first year study in MA Communication Design
and then transferred to MA Animation in the second year for a more practical project ‘ Way Out’ – my second animation film.
Meanwhile, I have also been working as designer and animator in M-I-E studio, London.”