Stars and a Few New Things.
I grew up on a Death Star. My father was a member of the plumber’s union. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but it really wasn’t like that. We didn’t hold hands and sing songs about forests or the old worlds. Death Stars may all be Utopias, but no two Death Stars are the same. And even Utopians have to shit. We ate and shat and worked and made love and read the literature of dead and dying worlds from our peaceful crèches, all while hurtling through the void in a metal monster. And, as the song goes, it was beee-eau-ti-ful. There were times, I must confess, when I looked out my porthole onto a half-charred planet with forgotten junk swimming a halo around its upper ionosphere, and wondered: what could they feel that I couldn't? Why were all of the books that stirred my soul from those dead worlds? And why was I stirred by words that felt like wounds? It has taken me fifteen years of exile to understand my own desire. We cannot write, us Utopians, because we are a longing fulfilled and forgotten. There is nothing left to write about. That’s why I’m here, in this filthy little containment field on a forgotten moon. To fulfill the longing for longing, and to write about it.
My mother was an egg, and her mother was a protein strand. There. I’ve said it. It’s good to get these things off one’s chest (or whatever passes for a chest on your world—I don’t mean to discriminate). My mother was an egg and I’m a bird, and my chest is pelted with red feathers and I can sing beautiful songs, or so I’m told. I’m having difficulty adjusting to this life, and I have to be reminded that my burning light has reassembled itself into a trembling mass of heartbeat and blood and skin. When I forget, the crows jab at me and cackle about cats and I fluff my feathers out like a cocoon against night terrors and gleaming teeth. I miss being the center; it’s so cold out here and my bones are such fragile silk spun things that I sometimes contemplate making friends with one of those cats, moving on to something different. The physics of flight evades me: if I can’t spread my thin body into a pulsing sail and ride the invisible up up up, how will I ever get back home?
The universe, being only one, was lonely. Its insides churned with stars and stones, gases and genomes. Its heart was a million burning suns, its lungs a great vacuum. The universe sang its loneliness from canyon to crater, from river to black hole, but, being only one, there was no one to hear it. This is a useless place, it thought, and sank into a deep depression. The depression was so deep that parts of the universe became strange to itself. Like a morbid man might think “this is not my hand, those are not my feet,” the universe became estranged from its extremities. Galaxies roiled across an imagined surface, and the universe’s hunger became a demon. The demon whispered to the universe (himself): “those are not your galaxies (hands), that is not your star (foot). Swallow them up, and you will be satisfied.” And so the universe ate up its own materials, gnawed at its own edges, chewed the fleshy centers of each planet until only the chewing center remained. Being one is lonely, it thought, but being half of one is even lonelier. It cried and cried and cried and began to feel very full. Its insides spasmed with pain, and the universe choked with fear. “What is this?” it called into the swollen nothing. The pain became deeper and fuller. The universe forgot its loneliness and gave an anguished push. And from that push, its missing half was born, rocketed into the nothing and settling down in the places it had always occupied. The universe had born multiplicity of its oneness; from the same stone and gas and vacuum and blood came otherness and alienation. And the universe so loved their strangeness that it gathered them gently into a single stone. The new stone settled on the edge of a star, teeming with the purpose of the push that gave it life. The universe swathed the new stone, the self and not-self, in gases to soothe it. The stone cried and cried and cried; love was written into its materials, and it despaired at the separation. The universe shrugged: the stone would figure things out eventually. To be one, thought the universe, is to be abominable. It sat back, satisfied, and looked at the rivers and canyons, craters and black holes, and wondered at their strangeness. I am strange, it thought, and I am many. The universe had no further need for demons.