Animalia Paradoxa or, Contradictory Animals

I burnt it all down, like I promised. You didn’t think I would do it; those four walls held too much meaning for me, you said. You were right that the walls meant a lot. A lot of pain, and joy, and memory in them. An ode to history, and to our present. But you didn’t understand walls the way I do.

Probably why you ran away from mine.

I remember that last fight. The one with broken mugs and lives and dreams. You swore you wouldn’t stay under that roof any longer. Too much heartache in the house. A spectre you couldn’t escape, a nursery we’d painted over.

I screamed I’d tear it down and build the whole damn place again. If only you would stay.

You said that wouldn’t matter. That my walls were made of thought outside the physical. That even if I burned it all, that like a phoenix rising they’d be back. New material, new paint, old hurt. “As long as you believe those walls are here, they’ll cage you,” you said. “I’m done with being caged.”

You flew away.

The old walls burned down. The roof collapsed, the flame so bright I thought I saw a phoenix being born. The ashes afterward were black and still. Time wrinkled and I saw those other coals. You should have been here. You should have been there, when she died.

I hid within my walls, and all my cells decayed and left me. When every part of your body and soul dies and is replaced, are you still you?

I built the house again, a newer model, better. It gleams with calm blue walls and cream-beige furnishings. The land remains the same, but that is all. The walls have moved around, the layout changed. Study the photo. Do you see the same woman, the same house you left behind?

You used to say I carried my walls with me. That I repaired and replaced them with whatever came to hand, that my ways were fixed forever and the walls would never fall. I know that I took time to recover, as did you. That I held a seed of memory within. But my walls were always low enough to cross them. And you didn’t.

The phoenix of my house is a new being, born from the detritus of the past. The walls of our home were made of bricks and love, and bricks and love rebuilt them. Are we the same, or are we new, now?

You said that change is superficial if built around foundations of belief. You thought your own beliefs were flexible. They were the most ingrained of both of us. My walls were never rigid. They were transparent. A word might have shifted them, or brought them down. But we let them grow between us, and to you they were reflective. You saw the truth in them and ran.

I burnt it all down, but you can’t see past the flames.

New grass shoots growing from burned ground
Image by WhiskerFlowers from Pixabay
Header image from

This Ship of Theseus flash story was inspired by — and first appeared on — a prompt to write to the theme of paradox. Thank you for reading.

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2 thoughts on “Animalia Paradoxa or, Contradictory Animals

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