by Shannon Gibney
What he wanted was not so unusual. To live a life full of meaning, yet not bereft of comfort. To come to the end of a hallway, detect a door, open it, and then finally, walk through.
He, a mass of bubbling neurons that no one could isolate into matter or even anti-matter. He, whose entire center fluctuated daily, traveling in and out of biospheres and worm holes, past amber atmospheres of sulfur. He who had no shape.
He who had never witnessed a triangle, could never dream of a hexagon. He whose first word wasrupture, when what he had wanted to say was rapture.
He who saw the star bomb itself into bits just by chance, taking NGC 4414 by the corners, anxious to elide the peculiar gravitational pull of its neighboring, whirring galaxy, when Boom! All silence amassed in the space that wasn’t space within and without him, and he could almost hear for the first time...And what it said was * * * * *.
He saw her then, the eulogy for the nothing at the center of all those spinning stars, the dark matter, the silence, the silence, and he wanted to be her. * * * * *. Hungry, grabbing hands that took even light and stretched it into more nothing. He could feel the peace of it, her emptiness everywhere. If only he were the same, he could bear the loneliness, knowing that he had become something that already was, and would never end. He could finally let go of his him-ness.
But he could not find her. She turned herself into a parsec, and then became a circle circumnavigating itself. He became a parsec, and tried to circumnavigate her, but she had already devolved into dust. Still moving, she transpired into clouds of violet, and he conjured himself the same, but the tint was not as brilliant, the shape not as seamless, and he knew, disdainfully, that he was still him. He brooded there for millennia, building a hyperspectral eye to watch her with, but the eye was not curious, and chose to simply stare at him. It had no desire to move. Unlike him, it had no desire to be her, so he had to abandon it.
In the planets, the gravitational fields, he fell, allowing his disappointment to fester and spread. Where were the galaxies he had once pinned to his lapel? Where were her solar eyelashes, burning the soot of spacetime? Without her, he had no idea how to move, or even how to feel. His thoughts were slowly freezing in the vacuum of darkness, until they cracked and were gone. Where is my * * * * *?he shouted...but the shout was more like a caught breath in the outline of his half-formed trachea.
And then, finally, she snapped before him, a quantum particle of indescribable dimensions. She was the interaction, the particle, and the system, to be exact. She generated her own energy, and was too complex for elementary excitations such as his. Her smallness amplified everything the world had ever lost, her nimbleness the possibilities of cross-dimensional touch. He tried to collapse himself, or whatever he thought he was, into her, before she could move, or even detect his presence, but he had miscalculated: She wasn’t actually a particle, but a quasi-particle, behaving for just a moment like a particle before disappearing into the vagaries of the system.
His thoughts became long, hairy fingernails, and his disappointment mutated into a muscular, taught torso. He grew legs before he could pry open his enormous ears, and the first breath of his incipient lungs almost annihilated him. In panic, he turned toward where she had been an instant before, but she was already gone. He roared his animate body, and flung it towards Jupiter’s unknown brother, the planet Keqwi, in the Elbriap System.