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A Brief History of Us

by C. M. Fields

I remember when we were born. We were a dazzling radiance, and we filled the entire universe when it was only the size of our living room. A quiet, marvelling awareness thrummed across invisible strings, pleased to exist and aching with the newness of being.

Light-years surged between us with an ultraviolet roar and, two by two, we marched into space and into time, felt the weight of mortality settle about us like the flutter of silk robes. We flexed our new waveforms and found haloes, laughed with delight at the tenuous, silvered clouds of probability.

Time dripped and dribbled then, cold and damp like window panes on a chill October morning. A new force awoke: a storm gathered in the darkness and swept us up, pulled us ever inwards, into a dance with no beginning and no end, light into being into light until — at last! — an overwhelming brightness burst forth into the void, carving the first hole out of the perfect blackness. We watched ourselves bloom across space; a garden of brilliant pinpoints, painting the young darkness with soft blues and searing violets.

But we were too bold then, too brash; we burned like candles with a thousand wicks. Oh! The universe will never again know a beauty as terrible as ours.

Our end was the silent catastrophe of breaking hearts, and we heard the darkness weeping as it drew its cloak over us once more. But we were not done. We were too good to die, and our ashes were magic: they were seeds, and they sang through space seeking new bodies and new adventures.

And we found them, we did it; in the vast gulf between us a new era was born, a more cautious era, one aglitter in a sea of small, gentle reds and oranges like a sunset seen through a distant rainstorm. We surveyed our small realm, bits and sparks of us here and there and strewn throughout the darkness in between. It was good, but it was not quite right, not yet.

The worlds we belonged to! The oceans we became! The impossible landscapes, hearts carved into moons, souls snapped open like sails in the solar breeze. We bore witness to a trillion sunrises, we watched the brutal birth of parasitic suns, we shuddered as the crash of blazing bodies shredded skies with cosmogonic teeth. We lived and died in cataclysm and flame, and then we lived again.

We were comets, once, my love, we were choking, sulfuric atmospheres, we were blazing tendrils of plasma reaching black-eyed for destruction, we were dead planets frozen to the core and wasting to dust between the stars.

But far from the chaos, something very peculiar happened.

We were puddles, we were lightning, we were oxygen and, in one terrifying moment, we were alive. We were protozoa, we were algae, we sank roots into turf, swam in the seas, wafted through the clouds, burrowed through the mud. We were instinct and gnashing teeth and clawed wing, predator and prey. Our skulls grew larger, and our sun grew redder, and then it was over, it was all over, and our ashes were once again jettisoned into the void.

But this time, it was not for long.

We watched it all again, a brand new sun forged once more. Baryonic steel shrieked on gravity’s axe as it cast us out into the hot, swirling dust that births planets. We held our breath as the new solar system cleared its throat and shuffled worlds around like tattered playing cards. We opened our eyes to a warm yellow disk in a soft blue sky and we were many things then — molten and mist, fire and salt — but as we quaked and crumbled and subducted and rose again, we knew.

We knew, and we were: sand and air and river and mountain, tree and root and petal; we soared through the skies and padded silent through the forests. We knew wild, feral freedom, and it coursed through our veins as if pumped by a second heart.

Time tumbled, then, rushing like a spring-swollen stream toward destiny unseen. There was a shift. In a moment, we became flint, we became arrows, dams and ditches, bricks and aqueducts. We grasped sentience, we knew poetry, we met death, we were mosaics and paintings and marble fountains and mighty ships bearing across the oceans. We died in battle, scratched graffiti, cradled grandchildren. We were thieves, liars, hypocrites. We were steel and printed page, silk and spice and smoke, flecks of paint on a battleship.

And then it happened — just now — as you sat beside me on the stool in the kitchen with the one short leg, the smell of chai wafting from your mug, an old National Geographic crackling under your fingers.

All of us — all octillion of us — became two.

Me and all my atoms, you and yours; together, we have become a cosmic archive of a universe that is still young. The latent histories of our quantum-entangled souls could fill a world of libraries with what we’ve seen and what we’ve done, everything we have been since the moment our photons surrendered their immortality.

You glance up at me and, in that moment, I know the comet you once belonged to; in my mind’s eye you burn through a strange sky full of long-dead stars, bearing down upon an icy world too far from its sun.

You brush aside a fallen eyelash, and the moment passes.

Copyright © 2019 by C. M. Fields

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