Thursday, September 16, 2010

In The Early Days

In the early days, I wanted to know physics and cell biology. After a short time I realized that no expertise could save us, because it seemed that even the experts never knew what was happening or why.

One morning five weeks before this day, I noticed the odd shape of one leg of the kitchen table, but didn’t think much about it. By the time I got home from work, the table leaned from lack of support on one side. Running from room to room as eight-year-olds often do, David eventually claimed my attention, so I propped the table up with a chair and went on about my evening. When Gabriel got home he studied it as he did every problem and came to bed with no conclusion.

Two days later, David hunched down to fixate on a small hole in a corner of his bedroom and how a few ants trailed through it. We called the building maintenance man. He shook his head and scratched his scalp and promised to return to repair it. He never did; the opening expanded but the ants disappeared.

Two weeks ago, all the animals followed. We had no pets, but the silence resonated throughout the neighborhood as if it were its own sound. No barking or loud shrieking in the night. No birds singing or crickets chirping. The accelerated pace of their lifespan must have taken them before us.

When two other holes opened up in the ceiling, we stopped ascending the stairs out of fear that the second floor wouldn’t be safe.

Everyone stopped going to work and we never left the dissolving house. For several nights we drank the liquor from past parties and duty free purchases from trips we would never take again, never sure what would be around from one second to the next. Gabriel and I ate some of what we found in the cabinets, reserving the rest for our son more finicky than usual. He fitfully slept between us. I felt the shivering that enveloped him when he wasn't expressing his fear in tantrums and whining like a toddler again.

My terror accompanied the recent thought that Gabe and I would leave David alone to fend for himself, untethered to anyone, grasping at what was left of the world and alone. I forced myself to hope that he would survive what the adults couldn’t and would rebuild the world with us, or without us.

Who knows why atoms come apart leaving empty spaces. Or why beings and objects dissolve into an oblivion that in its first moments flare like an image from a telescope in space, as these words dissect themselves until I cannot even think them anymore. Nothing is left to say, except that the three of us have entered this new world together.


  1. Quite spooky to think of everything dissolving. The wide-open question is what is this new world like? Great story!

  2. A very scary story indeed - i think i'd still want to investigate physics and cell biology if i were them!

  3. Dissolving. Never thought of an ending like that. I am impressed with your imagination.

  4. absolutely intriguing story. Room for so much speculation, would you consider expanding it into a longer piece?

    marc nash

  5. Fascinating story - I always wondered what would happen if whatever is holding all our molecules together collapsed.

  6. Thanks for all the comments. I hadn't thought about turning into a longer piece, marc, but it's something to consider. I'll have to bone up on my physics, though.

  7. I hope this isn't contagious. I'd rather not fall apart just yet. This reads a little like having brain fever, which is a good effect.

  8. I love a good sci-fi mystery, and as Marc nash said, this could grow into 'how it started-how the world was saved' story.

    It has the potential of becoming an apocalyptic 'humankind's fight for survival' type of tale.

  9. To me this story was a metaphor for what happens to families. Who knows why atoms come apart leaving empty spaces is incredibly sad when viewed that way; incredibly sad, and deep however you look at it.
    Cool story, KIm.

  10. I agree with Cathy. I read this as an allegory for divorce. One little corner of family life comes apart and then the rest is destroyed slowly over time. People too, and you hope the younger ones come out better because they won't remember as much of the destruction. Great stuff!