for teens, by teens

Canvas Teen Literary Journal is published quarterly in print, ebook, web, video, and audio formats.


Juliana Castillo

AMANUENSIS: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another; secretary.

           Her fingers tap out a tangled web of rhythm and syncopation, the beat to their frenzied dance. Her fingernails flash in the sunlight, glinting out of the inextricably merged blur of metal and flesh. But in her mind, there is nothing; nothing. 
She is writing one of the greatest books the world has ever seen—but as the black squares of letters flair up on the paper, there is nothing in her mind but the vague idea that there is no bread for dinner. 
           The paper flutters as the metal arms swing up and imprint their mirror image doppelgängers onto it. The letters run across the page, filling it and then growing and floating off the page to fill the room, and then expanding and filling the world, the galaxy . . .
            But she takes no notice. Perhaps there is a leftover roll in the cupboard.
            She slides the paper back to the left side and recommences the blurry dance party of her hands. In the middle of the page she misspells “intention,” and the word is blacked out with a series of X’s. Through the X’s, though, the letters can be seen: little black figures contained behind great black bars. But she does not think of the trapped black creatures. No, she had the leftover roll for lunch yesterday.
            She finishes a page and tugs the paper out of the machine. She lets it flutter to the top of a pile of papers in a metal bin. They are only temporarily constrained, for in a few hours they will be gently removed from their metal encasings, smoothed, and read; they will be covered in scrawled meditations, scribbles of ideas, corrections . . . Their clean, white margins will be filled with fragments of a genius’s astounding peep-holes into the galaxy. Then, they will be set back on the desk and a new paper will be typed, incorporating the smudged marvels and the square forms—and then the creased drafts will be dropped into the grate, to blaze up the chimney, perhaps for a fragment of charred paper to fly up and soar over the world . . .But her mind is unconcerned with the future of the paper. She will have to stop by the bakery on her way home. 
            Her fingers fly over the metal keys, typing the words that are not hers, expressing the ideas that she cannot comprehend. And behind her, with his back to her, sits a man in whose head the world spins twice as fast as its real speed. His hands twitch in vague gestures, misty attempts at expression or demonstration or perhaps the faintest touch of an invisible key, and his voice molds the words like fine glass, stretching and texturing them with subtle twists, and then letting them drop to a bed of sand. His mind is above, beyond . . .And she will never understand it. She will have to hurry, for the bakery closes at six. 
          He dictates and she types, her fingers blindly dancing over the black monster, creating patterns of ink on paper—though neither of their minds is really concerned with the black squares of ink that fill pages that fill metal bins. His mind is soaring somewhere where everything has more meaning, where the air is fresher, where color is more vibrant, where ideas take shape . . . And it is hard for him to fit the ideas into little black, stamped boxes on a sheet of paper. 
Her mind is also far away—it is running down a street, thinking of what type of bread to buy. The black letters she spends her days typing mean nothing to her. 
           The bakery is closed when she arrives. 

Juliana Castillo is a lifelong homeschooler with a passion for learning. She finds inspiration for her writing in the convergence of words, ideas, and people. In her free time, she enjoys reading and playing the violin.

© Canvas Literary Journal 2016
Writers & Books
Rochester, NY