Space Emperor, by Daniel Shkolnik



Bare-chested on a witch’s rooftop in the gloaming of the volcanic sun, I screamed to make eternity know me.  (But scared a flock of pigeons off the roof.)  I cried to make the gutters gush me and the earth seep me.  (But my tears only watered the begonias in a window a few stories below.)  Desperately, I threw my wits against the universe to lodge myself in  memory gears!  (But found I’d lost my mind.)

They took me from the rooftop with a crane and lowered me into the asylum, and I was deeply afraid.  Afraid for my daughter. How would she eat?  How would she breathe?

A few seconds later I began to fear I was losing her memory.  Did she always order vanilla?  Did we always watch Scooby-Doo on Fridays? Were her eyes really lemonade-yellow?

I kept a laser gun in my pocket to fight off the terrible thoughts that came for me in the dirty fluorescence, in the murmuring hallways, and in the minefields between memories.  Was I the one that did that to her? If they dusted her neck, would they find my fingerprints there?

Or did I even have a daughter?  Or was she a son?  Or had all my white life hardened on my 13-year-old bed sheets or in the condoms I left on playground swing sets?


I couldn’t think it any more – had to transport, transform, transliberate myself.  And like my ancestor, Napoleon, who escaped the Devil and his Island, I fled this earth and within 100 — no: 100,000 days I re-conquered my entire empire.

Now my name is Ramses the Last.  My crown is made of moons and worlds.  My Ancestor is Abraham, and my descendants number with the stars.  Now Eternity Knows Me!  Now the universe believes I once lived among its brutal stars!  Now my tears are Priceless and my eyelids have Significance!



When I walk through my spaceship and its endless oval windows, my mind often grips its own beard and I think about my daughter.  If she was my son.  If I even had a daughter.

I’d like her to come visit me. We’d count my planets in the chamber of galactic holograms.  I’d show her the heads of alien rebels hung above my fireplace.  We’d eat vanilla ice cream and project Scooby-Doo onto the back of a moon.

But she hasn’t responded to my telekinetic broadcasts.  How will she find my ship so deep in space?  I re-count my planets alone,







Daniel Shkolnik is a student at Yale University pursuing a degree in Sociology.  Besides being a writer, composer, and visual artist, Daniel is also part of the spoken word collective, Teeth, and a member of the Yale Film Society.  His work has appeared in the fiction anthology, Art, Lux, et Veritas, and in 2011 he was awarded theWilliam H. Lincoln Medal for writing.  Feel free to contact him by email at,

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation