It was the year we went to Iceland. Not everyone, mind you. A few were happy with what was going on at home. Who needed a passport when you could have a gun?
We went to Iceland because it was ice and fire, and we felt like both. It was cheap and closer than anyone knew. You were allowed a lunch and the clothes on your back. We liked the simplicity. It felt like possibility.
We wore heavy boots on the plane. We stored extra underwear in the pockets of our rain jacket, and we used our rain jacket as a pillow. We arrived at 4 am but it was not dark, not really.
The pictures were amazing. We all liked the pictures. The pictures made those of us who had not gone to Iceland want to go to Iceland. Our home, after all, was not what it used to be.
We saw the lights. We saw the last glaciers. We learned to pronounce, for an afternoon, the name of a volcano. We soaked in blue water and smeared mud on our cheeks and paid terrifically for beer. We pulled over for a picture and waded into a field of lupine. The birds sang all night.
It was the year we got shot and shot and shot. Not everyone, mind you.
We learned about the sagas, how Iceland exists because it fought savagely to preserve its literature. We ate rancid shark. We toured the world’s first parliament. Many places, we observed, were named björk. We got meticulous about umlauts.
We took over Iceland and remade it in our image. Parents and children arrived. It felt safe there. Safe!
The adults in cities got shot around the same time as the adults in the suburbs and rural areas. The elderly were next. They were shot slowly and efficiently. The babies were shot all at once.
They’d gotten everyone by now, mind you.
Soon we encountered people we knew in Iceland. The old roommate at a gas station. An ex-boss at a geyser. Evidence of a larger organizing force, if you were so inclined. We were inclined to different degrees.
The last of us went to Iceland. We’d been meaning to go and prices were still low. We took the same pictures we always took. Iceland had become more like Disney than anything resembling risk, but unreliable access to gas stations and alcohol outside the capital let us feel powerless enough. We could still, thank god, get lost.
Some women became pregnant with guns and were forced to give birth. Each gun was baptized and given a Christian name.
Iceland grew saturated. We contemplated simply taking it for our own but we all had the pictures already. There was no need.
We were all shot a second and third time. We were told that we had never been more free. Bullets accumulated inside us. Our hearts grew leaden.
We raised the guns and sent them to the best schools. We told them they were the future.
We stopped going to Iceland. We remembered it fondly: the platinum light, the midnight birdsong, the boundlessness. We remembered the extremes and were satisfied to have borne their witness. Iceland became a bedtime story we told our children.
We were made of steel then. All of us, mind you. And what are we made of now?
Kelly Luce is the author of the novel Pull Me Under, a Book of the Month Club selection, and the story collection Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail. She’s the editor of Electric Literature’s Commuter, and was a 2016–17 fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She lives in an old grist mill in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“We Went to Iceland” ran in TLR Granary.