I’m a small child and I’m at a birthday party. Maybe it’s my birthday. There are balloons and ribbons strewn about the carpet. I reach out my
hand. I’m a passenger on an airplane. My hands are wrinkled and my skin is paper white and almost translucent. I look at the old man sleeping next to me. His skin is also nearly translucent. This old dress I'm wearing is getting to be too tight. I look out the window. Thick currents of air flow across
the sky. I hear thunder as my friends and I play rugby in a large field. We should go in soon, but we’re muddy and the rain would give us a nice wash. My legs burn and sweat drips as I stand motionlessly. I think I'll prepare
the equipment. I’m on a small wooden boat in a large, clear ocean. I’m a teenager out working with my father, who is trying to impart some life skills to his stubborn son. My hand covers my brow as the sun gleams off the calm ocean into my eyes. I squint
and focus as best I can. Traffic is backed up as far as the eye can see. I’m listening to classical music, and my dark hands tap along to the rhythm of the orchestra. It forms an oasis of tranquility amidst the incessant honking outside. I feel
smoothness against my hands. It’s the soft skin of a lover. She’s beautiful. She’s looking at me I think, but we’re so close and I’m looking at her loose black curls and can’t tell for sure. Our breath is
getting louder. The fireworks show is about to begin its crescendo, and the crowd around me takes a deep breath and braces for the spectacle that is about to befall them. In this moment of darkness and anticipation, I can't see myself or those around me. I feel free. A tiny thud and a red dot shoots into the sky. Any second it will
Is that what your teacher said? That’s why you’re upset? Well, it’s a great question. But...before I answer it, your Grandpap is going to tell you a story from a long while back, when he was your age:
Well, we had a dog, a fat old mutt named Chestnut, who spent most of his time sitting under the kitchen table looking for scraps. He wasn’t the smartest to be honest...he didn’t know any tricks or anything. I mean we tried to teach him, but he...well he just wasn’t very smart. We loved him though. If we were in the kitchen, a cold cut always found itself “accidentally” dropped on the floor. He was such a fat dog.
Anyways, we had him tied up out back one night. He always loved being out on hot summer nights, which I never understood because there were so many bugs out. You stayed still for a few seconds and your face was just covered in bugs. But regardless, he loved sitting out there. So on this night, I hear Chestnut barking like crazy, so I go out to see what’s got him so wound up. Well there was no mistaking what was driving him so nuts; the full moon was out. I’d never put much thought into it, you know I’d always figured a dog barking at the moon was just something that was only true in the movies and comic books.
But the thing is, it happened the next night too, and the night after that. The dog just went wild, and his eyes were just...just fixed on the moon. This is coming from the lazy old farty dog I’d known as long as I could remember, so as you might imagine, I was a little confused. This went on for four nights, and I remember my parents were furious. My brother and sisters and I were in a panic over the dog. But on the fifth night, we didn’t hear a peep, and we all looked out back to see what the dog was doing. He was gone! He’d freed himself somehow, and ran away.
We were all scared for him and worried for a few days, but then...something happened. Something, well it’s just about the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced. We looked up at the moon, and it was all chewed up! Before then, before that day, the moon was just a big white circle in the sky, nothing really distinctive about it. But if you look up at it now, it looks all chewed up, right? Turns out Chestnut had chased down the moon and gnawed on it a little. Scientists were all baffled.
And it didn’t stop there. A few weeks later, some astronomers saw that one of Mars’ moons, Phobos, had a big bite taken out of it. And a few weeks after that, Uranus seemed to have been tilted on its side, like something had pushed it around a little. And this kept happening over the years with stars and nebulae and all sorts of things, and of course it was all our fat old dog.
So, back to your question. Your science teacher was right, our Milky Way galaxy is on a crash course with the larger Andromeda galaxy, and in a few billion years there may be fiery and cataclysmic collision. What your science teacher didn’t tell you- what she didn’t know- is that between our galaxy and Andromeda is Chestnut, and I suspect he’s developed an even bigger appetite after snacking on moons and planets. You’ve got nothing to worry about.
The town of Utopia is just as you’d expect it to be. It is real, it is tangible, and it is truly amazing. Here are some quick facts about this marvelous place:
There are never traffic jams.
No door has ever been locked.
The courthouse is there for strictly aesthetic reasons.
Politics are smooth and pleasant.
Pollution has been 100% solved.
There has never been hunger.
There has never been suffering.
There has never been discontent.
And there have never been disagreements.
The secret to the town of Utopia’s serenity?
There are no people in Utopia.
The sun sat out like a blurry orange stove burner. People held out inside except for a handful of stubborn busybodies and some punk ass kids. The kids looked like they were on the verge of drowning, but seemed convinced of their coolness regardless of the weather. Humidity sagged over Beacon Hill, and the innumerable buildings huddled together for fear that one of the outliers might spontaneously combust.
Waves of heat sweated from the pavement, distorting the currents of air into hazy coils that licked the backs of passing cars. One of the cars stood out; an old red Toyota that meandered down the street, perusing the buildings one by one. The paint and plastic were peppered with rust and scratches, and it hugged the pavement in perpetual exhaustion.
Suddenly it stopped in what could generously be seen as double parking. A wire of a man exited the car, sucking in on a cigarette like it was his source of oxygen until the moment he discarded it. He wore blue jeans and a pitted white t-shirt, and he coughed into his arm as he approached the building.
The apartment building in front of him was an old brick Victorian that looked exactly like those on either side of it. The windows were highlighted by thick, colorful curtains, and were outlined by curved brickwork. All of its five stories looked rather affluent.
The man hovered over the door handle. If anyone had bothered to look, they would have seen a skinny twentysomething picking the front door. But everyone was either inside, preoccupied with the heat, or heaven forbid outside, preoccupied with the heat. The door quickly submitted.
He jumped in shock at what lay before him; the entire floor of the building was covered in a deep layer of snow. He cautiously ran his fingers through the biting cold of the granular flakes, as a trickle of water fell onto his feet. Frost covered the stair rails, and the chandelier above had grown icicles. From the outside, none of this could have been fathomed. Confused, but overwhelmingly more curious, he entered the building.
He left the door cracked open, wedging a nearby chair next to it to prevent it from closing. He felt childish in his fear, yet fear still held him relentlessly.
His feet crunched with every step, and they quickly became damp in his cheap sneakers. The shock on his body from going between such extremes left him shivering. Still, he pressed on. He was in something of a meeting room, with lounge chairs and tables and a chalkboard. The chalkboard had seen a lot of use and not a lot of cleaning; it was nearly white from all the erased chalk. Or maybe it was just the cold.
He entered a long hallway, with rows of imposing doors on either side of it. The snow was getting deeper. There was an open door at the end that seemed to be made out of metal. He considered stopping, going back, flat-out running away. This was foreboding, unnatural. This was something either unspeakably terrible or amazing here, maybe both. He wasn’t supposed to be here. Hell, he had come here to burglarize the place. It took everything in him to press on.
He approached the metal door with caution. Every inch of him told him to go back; his hands shook not from the cold, but from primal, undiluted fear. It dawned on him as he came within arm’s reach that it wasn’t a regular door. It was the door to a walk-in freezer.
He slowly peered inside.
The room was small and incredibly dim. His jittery shadow spilled onto the white floor in front of him. Ice coated the walls and ceiling. There were things stacked up all around, but it was hard to discern what anything was. Except for...something was moving, if only a little. Something was breathing, a figure, a silhouette.
The brick, five story Victorian looked the same as those on either side of it. Kids shouted incomprehensible slurs at passing cars. A cacophonic siren blared from somewhere, blocks away. Someone was watching Gilligan's Island with the volume cranked up in an adjacent building. When the front door inexplicably slammed shut and the colorful, thick curtains all shook in furious rhythm, the kids still shouted, the siren still blared, and the old theme song persisted. No one even turned their head, and soon the curtains were still. Busybodies still stubbornly walked by, lost in their own worlds.
Rebecca Primwell is a historical figure known for making global warming in September of 1803, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Primwell, only 6 or 7 at the time, confided in her mother that she had wished upon a shooting star for eternal summer. Her horrified mother contacted the nearby authorities immediately, but the damage was already done. Rebecca was sentenced to 10 years in the local penitentiary, and the details of her life afterwards are near nonexistent.
Her actions as a youth, however, are still felt around the world; not 5 months later, Richard Trevithick constructed the world’s first steam locomotive. It wasn't long before mountains of coal were being burnt into the atmosphere. Rebecca Primwell had unintentionally jump-started the industrial revolution, and through it had instigated what we now know as global warming. She would never see her ruinous wish come to fruition, but nonetheless her wish is being slowly, arduously, granted.
Of course, global warming is still in effect today. Scientific conferences have discussed what will happen once the other seasons die off, as there will still be varying degrees of summer over the course of a year. They have settled on the pleasant, unpleasant, toasty, and lethal times of the year, each roughly corresponding to our current seasons. It should be emphasized, however, that these are technically not seasons, but rather different flavors of the single season of summer.
Instituting a global “Rebecca Primwell Day” has increasingly gained traction over the years. On this day, the severe dangers of wishing on shooting stars would be stressed in public schools around the world.
One thing is irrefutable: global warming is all Rebecca Primwell’s fault and hers alone. Nobody else is remotely to blame for global warming in any degree; it’s totally Rebecca’s fault.
Have you ever looked up at the night sky and wondered what’s missing?
What has been lost or discarded on the road of progress?
The unfathomable coalescence of tiny specks of light and seas of gas
That which our ancestors looked upon and were convinced that it was there
Up there, that’s where the metaphysical reached its apex
That’s where gods and heroes slept
That’s where we come from, and it’s where we’ll go again some day
It’s a vision that has haunted us since life first began aeons ago
And it’s only now, when we’ve made little lights of our own
That we’ve lost sight of the marvel that always lies
Right above our heads
(based on MC.1993's breathtaking illustration, The Blind King)
Long ago, before the close embrace of history and myth had been pried apart, there was a Great King. A former general who had proven himself a worthy leader, his name carried weight throughout the land. He ruled with wisdom for many years, and was dearly loved by his people. His military prowess was unmatched, and his wealth towered above all others. His great citadel was the epicenter of culture and art, and all who entered gaped in awe of its magnificence. His accomplishments were so great that rumors began to spread, connecting his ancestry to the gods themselves.
And while the Great King cared dearly for his land and people, they were overshadowed by a deeper love: his love of family. He had only one son, a youthful adolescent, whose bright, naive eyes and brazen curiosity reminded the king of his late wife. The son, while sweet, was unremarkable; he was neither foolish nor gifted, neither meek nor strong. The Great King, far from disappointed, saw this as an opportunity; the boy was a blank slate unto which a king would be fashioned. This vision of the son inheriting the empire remained engraved in the mind of the Great King, influencing his every decision. His aspirations for his son remained steadfast until the very moment the Great King suddenly, inexplicably died.
The Great King’s son was immediately crowned the new sovereign and was placed upon the golden throne. The radiant crown was too large and heavy for him, and it often sank below his forehead. Frustrated and embarrassed, he flipped the golden headpiece so that it sat on his head upside down, where it rested comfortably. He saw his illustrious court through the emeralds and sapphires that adorned his sublime crown, and slowly learned to govern his kingdom like his father before him. In this way, the son of the Great King became known as the Crowned King.
One day, a diplomat arrived from a subservient neighboring kingdom to the north. An arrangement had been made under the Great King, that the neighboring kingdom would pay tribute every few years to avoid terrible military wrath. The diplomat bowed deeply before the Crowned King with a chest full of luminescent gold and jewels, and said, “These treasures are the finest in our land, and we give them to you, Crowned King. Do you accept our payment?”
But the king was acclimated to the gleam of such riches, since they perpetually covered his eyes and surrounded his head. Through the colorful film of his jewels, the Crowned King saw only an unremarkable lump of vaguely glimmering trinkets. “This is a pathetic collection of trifles,” he replied, “and I will require more, if this is how you intend to pay me.”
The confused diplomat was sent on his way, and the Crowned King indifferently relaxed on his throne.
On another day, a local governor arrived at the royal hall. His clothes were ragged, his skin pale and sickly, and his face gaunt. “Dearest Crowned King,” begged the governor, “a terrible famine has taken hold across the land. My subjects are starving, and even us noble folk are struggling to survive. Won’t you please help us?”
The Crowned King looked over the governor; from his bejeweled perspective, the governor appeared to be absolutely fine. “Governor,” replied the king, “I fear you are over-exaggerating your plight. Your cheeks look youthful, your skin glows, and your clothing is refined. If this is what you consider starving, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a while longer before I give you any aid.”
Shocked by the callousness of his king, the governor left in silence.
On another day, a beautiful, graceful bride was presented to the Crowned King from an allied kingdom to the west. He waved her away before a word had been spoken; from behind his mask of jewels, he could not see her true beauty.
On another day, news arrived that the neighboring northern kingdom had declared war upon the Crowned King. His apathetic insults and rejection of their tribute had defiled their honor, and their army was already on the move. The king called his minister of war into the room, and asked him, “How will we destroy these impudent trespassers? Have you mustered our army?”
The minister replied, “I am sorry my king, but our army is starving, and has already been routed. There is nothing between their soldiers and our great citadel!”
“What of our ally?” asked the king.
“They were insulted by your rude dismissal of their bride, and will not help us in our time of need.”
And so the enemy army surrounded the great citadel, and began to build siege weapons for the imminent battle. The Crowned King made his way up to the imposing stone walls that protected him, and looked out at his invaders. Unfortunately, the jewels covering his eyes had made him incredibly short-sighted, and he could not see a single soldier. “Let me out through the front gate!” insisted the king.
His subjects tried their best to dissuade him, but the Crowned King was vehement. “I cannot see the enemy,” he stated, “and must confirm this threat with my own eyes.”
The enemy soldiers, dumbstruck that the Crowned King had simply strolled out from his walls, did nothing as he obliviously walked past them. Even their hushed murmurs failed to reach his ears. His eyes did not detect a single soldier, and he pressed further and further away from the citadel in search of his foe. Eventually, he turned around and saw nothing; he and his kingdom were lost.
His citadel fell without a single drop of blood.
The Crowned King, lost in his reverie of gold and emeralds and sapphires, fell into the clutches of madness. He roamed the countryside for the rest of his life, fruitlessly yelling orders at any unfortunate soul who managed to catch his attention. It is said that his short-sightedness rendered him nearly blind, and that one day, the Crowned King met his end by inadvertently walking off a cliff. Such a fall- so they say- was the only way for the cursed crown to be removed from his incurable head.
The last thing she saw were the brittle branches of the icy maple trees that loomed over her head. Her breath had fogged her view, but in that last second before the snow devoured her, it was as clear and still as a painting. Where was he? Where had they all gone?
He was getting ready to leave. His anxiety only cost him more time as he fiddled with his stubborn shoelaces in vain. Finally, he knotted his scarf around his neck and walked outside into the immutable sea of snow. He knew she’d already left for the cabin; she was following a boy she’d had her eye on for a few weeks now. Maybe they were going there to party- he wasn’t sure- but it didn’t matter. Teenage jealousy boiled inside him, and it had single handedly dragged him out the door and into the cold. He walked down the icy street as quickly as he could without slipping.
A high-pitched voice came from behind him. He turned around; it was a girl from school. She was bundled up from head to toe, but her wide eyes and her unrelenting smile shined through. He’d forgotten her name, but he knew she’d had her eye on him.
“Hi,” he replied flatly.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“I’m going to a thing in the woods. There’s a path out of town by the old spring, and apparently if you go far enough, there’s a cabin. I’m actually in a hurry.”
He edged away, trying his best to stop the conversation in its tracks.
“Oh,” she replied. “Okay. See you.” She silently moped away, and he resumed his passion-fueled march.
The trail was freckled with the vague footprints of others. It must be a party, he thought, for there to be so many tracks on such an obscure path. She must have gone this way. Time seemed to meander at its own pace, and before he knew it, the tracks had thinned. The path had narrowed considerably, and the trees seemed to bend over him as if to hold him in their grasp. Still he persevered, driven on by the intolerable fear of letting youthful love slip through his fingers.
It took him a while to realize that his were the only tracks in the snow. Confused and frightened, he began to follow his footprints back with his head hung low.
But the snow and trees and wind would not be shrugged off so easily. Soon, he found that his old footprints were becoming fainter. Before long, he realized that his footprints had disappeared, eaten away by the elements.
He wandered for hours and hours, searching for the path or a road. But the wind grew more furious, and his clothes became soaked and frigid. He leaned against a tree and curled up, shivering; there was nothing more he could do. The cold was too merciless.
Just before the end, his body gave out. He slumped over to the side, the sun shining into his dilated pupils.
The last thing he saw were the brittle branches of the icy maple trees that loomed over his head. His breath had fogged his view, but in that last second before the snow devoured him, it was as clear and still as a painting. Where was she? Where had they all gone?