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The World



                        * Sally Mann, Jessie (1951)

The beasts from the Apocalypse looked on, with eyes of ravenous red- a girl danced within a garland of fire. She was naked, and held in her hands the staffs that could ward off any danger inflamed inexorably by her untarnished beauty. Lust and wonder abounded. The beasts looked on, salivating. For them the girl was like a candle in motion, her skin flimsy like dripping wax. Their imagination played a fatal trick: the desire came in the form of an infernal fire, threatening to lick away her flesh to the bone, and gnaw it, caressingly and persistently like a jilted lover, still hankering after the love he was denied of.

I asked the girl of her stance on innocence as virtue. She told me that it was engrained in her nature to follow a set pattern of life ordained by the divine One. Innocence was only one of the many virtues that she knew from a very young age to hold dearly of. Never excelled in the art of discussing at length a subject in admirable eloquence, she resorted to metaphor, and envisioned innocence as ghosts with pure, diaphanous bodies, who were never to be violated by either the lived or the departed. The innocent rarely laughed or cried, was not easily given to extreme emotions. No pain so piercing that ever penetrated her glacial heart; all earthly sentiments washed over her like ghosts flitting across a thorny field. Innocence was her shield against the horrors and tragedies that accompanied mortality. “It is rather a fear of vice than a love of virtue that I worship devoutly the innocent,” she confided to me.

The beasts were drunk with ecstasy. Their gaping jaws reminded me of the bottomless pit of Hell. They responded to the girl’s dance with bated breath, like that of an ailing man gasping for life lest it would be his last. Morbid lust and horrible desire stir awake the monsters in them. They were subjected to eternal vigil on account of their inner tumult that was incited by torture, and an impatient anticipation of finally attaining what they had been coveting. “Sooner,” one of the beasts told me, “the fire would extinguish. And it would be our time to feast.”


The premonition of doom never hovered long on the edge of her thoughts. She feared not and she feared none. I warned her of the inevitable danger once the fire extinguished. She smiled, and told me that innocence rendered her a child with white blood: green and unborn and undead. “Someone is destined to kill the history of me. Let them in,” she whispered.

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