The Invisibility Cloak
According to rumor, there are some purchasers who choose to experience invisibility only in a solitary state; before donning the cloak, they lock their doors and close their shades.
Maybe they get some kind of psychosexual kick out of being inside of but not observing their own bodies; maybe they use invisibility as homeopathic self-treatment for existential irresolution.
Maybe they’re engaged in meditation practice, and the cloak is a somatic koan by which one simultaneously is and is not present to oneself.
Or maybe they so enjoy the delectable sensation of invisibility that they simply want to savor it without distraction.
But you’re certain you’d never be one of them—quite the contrary, in fact; you wear the invisibility cloak only when you’re around other people.
The problem, however, is that you become just as invisible to yourself as you are to everyone else; if you spill something on the fabric, you have to feel around for the invisible stain so you can dab it with a visible detergent stick, and if the hem gets caught in a car door, you know only by the tug, the tearing sound, and the low, anguished cry of the cloak itself—inaudibility costs so much extra that hardly anyone springs for it.
And you can’t even glimpse your own physical boundaries, so you trip and knock things over even more frequently than you do without the cloak, which is more or less all the time, though wasn’t that the very reason you saved up for the cloak in the first place, to escape or at least ameliorate your all-encompassing ineptitude?
No less remarkable than invisibility itself is its failure, which gives the appearance of something appearing from nothing.
Your sister-in-law’s cloak from Amazon-Used came with a mere six-hour guarantee; because she wasn’t keeping close enough track to leave the party in time, it looked to everyone as though she’d sprung into existence right in front of them.
What happens to you is only slightly less alarming—the Best-By date rolls over while you’re in a darkened movie theatre, so that while you don’t become wholly apparent, you’re suddenly a kind of shimmer or blur which constitutes a disturbance, so the usher escorts you out.
What to do with an incompletely-expired invisibility cloak?
You hang it in the back of your closet, but you can’t stop thinking about it there breathing in the dark.
So one night you slip it from its hanger, speak to it soothingly, and wrap it around you in bed as a sleeping shawl.
You’re a pioneer, the first person in history to venture into the unmapped terrain of invisible slumber!
Soon in a dream—yours or the cloak’s?—you’re speeding along an unfamiliar highway when what do you spot ahead of you but the mysterious, legendary mirror-plated eighteen-wheeler that haunts the nation’s interstates like the Flying Dutchman.
You hit the gas, change lanes, and pull alongside it, peering through your window into the sealed cargo space with your dream-x-ray-vision to see... nothing at all!
This must be the mobile holding tank of the infamous rogue cloaks that are themselves invisible--and not only that, but exponentially contagious as well.
Any contact with a human renders that person invisible forever, along with anyone that person touches and anyone the touched person touches, and so on.
The dream spooks you. Your cloak is almost out of “juice,” so to speak; you can’t shake the premonition that instead of properly expiring to become just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill, silk-on-silk-brocade-with-gemstone-constellations outerwear, it will turn into a rogue cloak, and then there you’ll be, without any relief from invisibility—what will that do to your already defective ability to navigate the world?
And imagine the ensuing pandemic—invisible obstetrical teams attempting to assist in the birth of invisible babies, invisible coroners trying to locate and identify the invisible dead, not to mention all the chaos in between those beginning- and end-of-life scenarios. Surely you owe it to society to throw the cloak into the sea where it will never encounter a human again.
So off you set toward the nearest pier.
The cloak seems to weigh more with every step you take, as though invisibility is the heaviest element in the universe, or as if the garment is actively resisting.
Problematic as the cloak has been, and dangerous as it soon may be, you sense that you’ll actually miss it—by the time you’ve reached the edge and are gazing down into the waves, you’re feeling pre-nostalgic for the softness and sheen of the fabric, the sapphire eyes of Cygnus, the pearly strings of Lyra, and the susurrating swirl of the flame-colored inner lining.
Would it really be so terrible if the whole world succumbed to the invisibility pandemic, placing all seven billion human inhabitants on equal footing as far as awkwardness is concerned?
And since it would appear as though they’d precipitously deserted the planet, with only their accoutrements and paraphernalia left behind, people would feel so lonely, so disoriented, that they’d tend to cluster in groups, locating each other by sound and tentative touch.
The beauty and fashion industries would unravel.
Film and television would feature hand puppets and marionettes manipulated by unseen fingers, the actors’ voices the new celebrities.
On all seven continents, the spoken word would be paramount, with ever-mutating worlds of nuance to compensate for the loss of gesture and facial expression.
This is why you turn your back on the ocean and head toward the other end of the pier as you slip on the cloak or it envelopes you of its own accord.
A gentle, halting, maladroit, highly verbal and intimately-bonded global population consoled primarily by puppet action—how could this be anything but an improvement?
Claire Bateman lives in Greenville, SC, and is the author of eight poetry collections, most recently, Scape, published last fall by New Issues Poetry & Prose.