The God Particle

Originally written in 2011 or 2012

Time shed itself, and no sound foretold the flaking scenery, and no forewarning bespoke beyond the dead superstition of a tribe long ago, and no gospel could voice the quick crumbling of a world.

And there was a woman of many years, named Evelyn, who knew just as her children would age as she, who knew their end as well as hers, marveled still at their emerging wrinkles. And though she knew time would one day flag its obvious flares upon her body, she gasped in the mornings at the way her limbs hurt from shock and wear. And she knew one day she would die, and the world sometime further down the line, but as her belief proved itself upon that final day, she asked to the sky, What good has my knowing done?

And the ground and trees evaporated like rain recoiled into the clouds, and lifted into the highest thinning reaches. And the tumbling, unspooling world came towards her house, and the sidewalks unthreaded from the streets, and the greens rose from their grasses, and a titanic black nothing dwelt in their absence.

And Evelyn had no time to scream or call her children or do anything else. And she could think, I, I have learned a lot, I have prayed a decent deal, I could make sense enough of the living world, but precious little, if this is what the world has come to, and to herself she said, Maybe I had not done enough.

And then, the world ended.

The world ended very instantaneously, but Evelyn did not. With something shorter than a blink, Evelyn found herself still material and whole, still thinking, and, she realized, slowly orbiting around the weight of her confusion, legs somersaulting above and below. She was tumbling in space — space like the astronauts had roamed, space that nightly routine, and she let out a long, long scream, and it was just an open mouthed void, like everything out there.

And she was still she, but she was all alone.

In the many countless days thereafter, the shock at last wore off, and Evelyn began to recognize as company the same bright lodes that rose and set on the occasional seasons of the world that had been. And she recognized, far more brilliant now than before, the mysterious cloudy band of galaxy flexed in the dark, braceleted by the same constellations and starry jewels. And as time wore on, she felt she could sense some personality in her nearest planetary neighbors, and she felt a kinship towards them as she had felt towards her old earthly friends.

And Evelyn became accustomed. She spent her existence rolling over the same questions of existence she had contemplated upon Earth. And in that comforting cushion of space, she fell into a permanent half-rest, one like the cozy state of subconscious between waking and sleeping. And she became so accustomed she barely noticed the stardust speckling her hair, and did not notice how in a short few thousands of years her skin had taken on a magmic and eruptive quality, and how the water of her eyes and in the mass of her cells would in some millions later spill outward into the remainder of her being, and Evelyn was too happily poised in her unanswered wonderings to notice the formation of an answer.

Love Song of the Involute Shell

amy godliman involuteshell.jpg

Illustration by Amy C Godliman

Originally published here

"Our love was written long ago, my dear," said the captain to his mermaid lass, but speaking to the horizon, "in the shells and chambers of the deep." 

 

He puffed his pipe. "As a young skipper upon these waters, I used to fear the churning sea. She seemed to me unending in her heartlessness and indifference — the dull repetition of wave after wave! She would swallow us and we, too, would be reduced to nothingness, another temporary speck in the mighty blue. The older I have grown, however, the more I see in her the patterns of love. Yes, my dear, love! A love as deep as the ocean herself." 

 

He gazed out at the setting sun. "Imagine, if you will, life in prehistoric times. Imagine a terrifying abyss of chaos — amoebae splitting and mutating without order, currents without continents to curb them. Pure chaos! A world in constant upheaval!" 

 

He glared, with great purpose, at the repeating waves. "But formlessness needs form to guide it, else it shall continue to mutate without end. And so, out of necessity, came shells! Protective shapes to shape the shapeless, outer bones to bind the boneless! Beginning at the smallest point, a core of simplicity, began a shell, a shell which through maturation birthed additional septa. So grew this shell, logarithmically, towards a living chamber, and hence the cephalopod. Life is built in simple steps, you see."

 

He puffed again on his pipe. "It has seemed to me that life is written by a single rule: reproduction. That is why the waves give birth to waves, and why our time upon this blue beast in so small a wooden craft will one day, to our children's children, be a footnote; we are mere ancestors already." 

 

He smiled to a flock of seagulls flying in sync overhead. "But, Captain — you must be thinking — is not this the same meaninglessness you so feared? Is not this unending reproduction but sister to the ocean's monotony? Perhaps — but I prefer to think of it differently. For does this pattern not manifest itself in so infinite a variety of shapes? The world is not monotonous, but a complexity of endlessly beautiful variations on a single principle! And that principle, my dear, is love. Love, the ever-beating heart of the whole; love, the common factor between opposites; love, the simple origin point that births the world!"

 

He outstretched his arms to the horizon. "For is it not love between man and woman that creates each and everyone one of us? Was it not with love that God created out of shapeless sand the first human upon this earth? Is it not love that connects contraries, love that warms us in the harsh winter, love that seems, by my reckoning, to be the final conclusion of every creed, belief, and wish?"

 

He put his arm around his mermaid lass. "And so like the nautilus, my dear, we are formed from the beginning by this simple rule, and no matter how long and windy our road, however complicated our union, you shall trace in our stages the same lovely pattern, and you shall arrive, after so many revolutions, at a single starting point: love. What say you, my fair maiden?"

 

The mermaid shrugged. "You're weird," she said, and dove into the sea.

Ruinology

amy godliman ruinology.jpg

Illustration by Amy C Godliman

Originally published here

"Everything is a gate," you once said to me, and your words are some of the few things I have managed to hold onto.

 

In all my walks I could not ever recall seeing your gallery until that January evening. I do not know how I could have overlooked it. You were in there at your reception desk, reading a book, with a large mauve sun hat and a drapery of long black hair. I surveyed the collection of newly made antiques, the new paintings of old myths and the nostalgic pottery. I complimented your collection and left.

 

I began to visit regularly. I told you it was a sure sign of my old age that I spent my after-work walks seriously perusing a gallery of expensive imitations and Southwestern-themed niceties. You laughed then beckoned me to the backroom with your bejeweled fingers. You had a secret to share, you said.

 

You presented a dusty painting of a "magic ring," a painting, you insisted, that was authentically old. This was your most valuable possession, you said, and for whatever reason you passed it into my hands and insisted I go home with it. "With this, you will have access to every entrance in the city, and you will leave no trace of your break-ins," you said. "You will become invisible."

 

On my next walk I decided to test your forewarning in the hopes of joking about it on my next visit. To my surprise, my first attempt, the locked Joey's Barber Shop, gave way, and I stood flabbergasted amongst the unwatched combs and hair gels. I felt very alarmed and ensured I left everything as I had found it. Could this work everywhere? I wondered.

 

My curiosity got the best of me and I went on a night-time prowl with my newfound power. I learned the contents of private storage spaces; I tiptoed through countless apartments; I toured the gemstones exhibit at the natural history museum. I was entirely unaccounted for. I had access to a secret world. I began to know the innards of a city that, until now, I only saw from the outside. Now I was deep within.

 

I expected my mischief would catch up to me. I awaited police phone calls or security team apprehensions, but no matter how many cameras saw me, no matter how many alarm systems I ghostily passed through, I heard nothing. As you said, I had become invisible.

 

Inspired, I lived out an early childhood fantasy and made slight disturbances across the city. I skipped work to restyle and reconfigure mannequins in the Macys storefront. I missed appointments to move cars. I stole the finest wines. No matter how much I altered, I was neither seen nor stopped. In daylight and under moonlight, I may as well have been thin air.

 

The city took on the feel of a ruin: open and accessible, marked by inhabitance but mine to explore without witness or admonition. I was the chartered tourist of distant lives.

 

After my intrusion bender, I returned to your gallery to talk but could not get in. The door was locked. You were in there talking with a new customer. I saw you presenting to her the most terrifying thing: an ancient portrait of a man who looked very much like myself. I knocked loudly on the glass, shouting and questioning. You turned your gaze to mine, smiled, and then resumed your conversation.

 

I returned to my apartment for the first time in days, and was locked out of my own home, too. I made every attempt to enter, and called every contact I could — landlord, neighbors, police — to no answer. I realized, then, what you had done to me: in granting me access to every door, you shut me out from my life. In letting me plumb the worlds within our world, I had ceased to exist as I was.

 

To this day, I remain shut away from my old life. The unsold painting stands in your window. My likeness mocks me from behind glass.

 

I have lost interest in breaking indoors. I kick up dust in alley ways and look at the lives still lived, defined by what they can and cannot access, as I slink between gates and barriers, the bottom feeder of a common abyss.

She Pulls the Strings

amy godliman shepullsstrings.jpg

Illustration by Amy C Godliman

Originally posted here

Mr. Hartford Bickley gazed upon the geese and grouse in his yard; his wife, Elinor, meanwhile, only saw these fowl through an obstructing window pane. So went their summer days: the artful conversationalist surveying his property with his friend Walter in tow; his quiet wifely companion, removed and afar. The two only united upon the husband’s return when he, fresh from a hunt, would demand food and drink, and she would oblige, alone in the kitchen with sorrow as her only true companion, sorrow for a marriage that once held so much promise, sorrow for the vacancies and recognized barriers between man and wife.

Until one day, when, having tired of contemplating the mocking greenery beyond the household walls, Elinor retired to her husband’s vast library, where she found, curiously tucked into one volume, a long, thin, black string, spooling from the pages. She opened the book to where this string was threaded and found there its termination; the rest of the string trailed to floor, to shelf, then seemingly to ceiling, then yet beyond, further up, threaded through the skylight and to the roof of the estate house. Like a cat she toyed with the string —  a few tugs —  and then left the mystery to rest.

That evening, her husband returned bruised and distraught. He spoke of a phantom force tugging upon his neck, as if he were ensnared by a noose. He was dragged, he said, by an unseen instigator, thrown this way and that under a ghostly chokehold. Elinor, recalling the string, understood her newfound power, yet kept quiet, choosing instead to dissuade her husband from indulging superstitions. “There are occasions when our bodies seem to work contrary to our minds, and may give us the most misleading signals, the most inscrutable urges, that neither you nor I nor any physician can accurately account for; we must accept these short bursts of instability as one of the inconveniences of being alive,” she said.

And so it went, she feigning the role of unaware wife, he becoming the newly troubled and damaged husband. No longer could he stroll through his estate without the occasional ensnarement; no longer could he circle the pond without fear of being yanked round its perimeter, as if made the sole competitor in a perverse hippodrome. In short time, the fearful man sheltered in the estate and took to more productive hobbies, cooking and general upkeep, out of suspicion his idleness had inspired some godly wrath; while good Elinor, ever the quiet one, continued to pluck gently at the string as needed, the silent looser of unseen knots, the tinkerer of worldly rules.