Edition 31: A Thousand Million Small Things by Eleanor Whitworth

Meringue is ready to move on, but her bot-tinker partner Chris hasn’t quite reached the same decision. A relationship breakdown in space. – SY


Merophie Jenkins hated the serum jabs. The weekly fix just never sat right, binding the body together when all it wanted to do was break apart. Ever since her first one as a child the side-effects had worsened, despite the Corp’s claims of continual improvement.

She stood on the street swallowing nausea and distracting herself by staring up at the affected apartment block. It was completely a-roll. The molecules of the external walls phased from ground to roof in fat horizontal waves. She squinted to see through the shifting particles and was surprised to find a tenant on the first floor. He was busy doing the Corp’s ridiculous solidity-inducing exercises, jumping up and down and flinging his arms about with such earnestness that she, too, almost believed the ruse. The nausea built to a high and she bent over and vomited a paltry splatter of sick onto the rubble-edged pavement. A bike-lender on the other side of the street grinned at her in sympathy, spreading his arms in front of his three functioning machines. She shook her head. It was always best to walk off a serum jab.

She turned away from the phasing building toward a part of town that, for the moment, retained solidity. The breakdown was fickle like that: one stand of buildings would remain, whilst others around it phased, often out of existence. The street was busy. Other first-dayers, serum fresh in their blood, kicked at the ground and pulled on their fingers plying-out the jitters. The sixth and seventh-dayers congregated listlessly against whatever solid item they could find as dread and their desire for the next jab mounted. She watched a group of first-dayers handing around a plundered object, a plastic hairbrush, in a moment of material relapse. After two decades of dematerialisation, mundane objects had become revered for their fluke of existence. The cast-offs that made it to the street hinted at the high-value items confiscated for the ‘public good’, sometimes to be used accordingly, but mostly traded for favours all the way up to the corporate cloisters of the Corp.

Messengers cycled slowly by, selling the latest off-the-shelf-soon-to-disappear-but-not-yet-disappeared materials. She saw Christopher. His wiry body balanced beautifully on the bicycle as he warbled the day’s jingle. Stopping here or there, he lingered with an individual. Her chest tightened as she watched the intimacy. They barely touched anymore, and when they did, it was bitter. He spotted her and rode slowly over. To avoid conversation, she joined him in the singsong melody: ‘Wrap yourself in Binder’s flexible sheeting. Three months guaranteed privacy can’t be beaten.’ Somebody whooped from the sidewalk in appreciation of their joint effort.

‘See you later at the bar?’ he asked.

She nodded. He rolled on, raising an arm with dismissive familiarity.

A woman’s voice replaced Chris’s in her ear: ‘Solidity awaits on X8. Don’t be late. Last launch for the year departs in two days. Come and stay.’ The woman’s voice was husky and seductive, as if X8 was a lush, reliable escape instead of a lump of minable rock that barely rated as a moon to a planet on the edge of the solar system.

Merophie studied the tightly-wound curls at the nape of the woman’s neck. She opened her mouth to ask for details, but found herself choking down uninvited sobs.

The woman reversed her bike so they were face to face. She cocked her head, studying Merophie before deciding to go ahead and speak. When she did, her voice was kind, ‘Honey, I’m gonna talk off script here, but for real.’

Merophie nodded as she wiped the tear lines from her cheeks.

‘If you’re interested, I hear it’s not so bad. You gotta be at the East Gate at 4pm.’ The woman touched her arm. ‘You’ll get there.’ They both knew that she meant more than X8.

Merophie turned into a side street and then into her favourite bar. At the far end of the dim room, five listeners sat around a game of Barrik. She knew the two players in the centre, had played them many times, often beaten them, winning a private jab to avoid the queue or sometimes an object in a moment of material relapse. She fixed herself a drink.

The voices carved the air, each one mimicking the other then adding new sections of melody that flowed from low gravel to soft new leaves. As section followed section and sluiced away her worries, Merophie caught the journey of the game. It was well developed, had been going for a while. She went and sat down, joining the listeners, taking on their role: to be carried by the curlicue of sound but never lost in it, to witness and if needed, to arbitrate the outcome.

She was only just settled when the mistake in mimicry came. A collective acknowledgement, half-sigh half-gasp, made by the listeners confirmed what the player already knew. She was sorry it finished so fast and was about to nominate for the next game when a hand squeezed her shoulder.

‘Hi.’ It was Chris, bedraggled after his shift. His face was animated with the pride of achievement, which annoyed her. ‘I’ve got something to show you. It’ll cheer you up.’ He smiled.

‘Not more bot beasts, Chris. You know I’ve seen them all.’ She turned away, irritated.

‘No really Phi, this one is something else.’

~~~

Chris had fixated on the bot beasts from the moment they ate through their supposedly munch-proof boxes and began consuming more than the waste they were programmed to. This caused havoc that started in basement waste chutes, spread through households and then across whole cities. It got so that you never knew when you would come across one of their cheeky, shimmering forms pulsing next to an empty space where a pillow or pile of clothes had been.

People immediately attributed their escape to ‘The Programmer’, an anonymous person or persons known for tinkering with everyday systems to cause whimsical and pointed disruptions to the Corp’s control, usually aimed at greed. The Corp—not yet realising that the breakdown in materiality was being caused by something far more monstrous than the bot beasts—set up an extinction program.

As Chris got older he set about defending them, taking note of their locations when he was on his messenger rounds. He would come home and rant to Merophie about how the beasts couldn’t be dangerous, not to solidity, or to humans. Sure, they ate more than the waste they were supposed to, but it was a normal sort of eating, not the weirdness that was happening with materiality. And who would program a bot to eat everything anyway? The Programmer was a trickster not a God-complex-ridden misanthropist.

Merophie would agree, caught up in his enthusiasm and the tight net of young love. Then they would head out to feed the beasts on bits of scavenged rubbish so the creatures didn’t go munching through something they shouldn’t and set off an extermination alarm.

~~~

To avoid an argument, and because it was what she had always done, Merophie agreed to go with Chris to see the new beast. They hired bikes and rode out of the centre, passing through dilapidated housing warrens. The hastily constructed estates were supposed to be a temporary solution for the refugees of demateriality. But they had defied everyone’s expectations and remained solid. Now long past their rightful lifespan, they were degrading rapidly and the occupants wished they would dematerialise. Merophie and Chris lived amongst them, and when they approached the laneway that led to their apartment block, Merophie pushed out and held her breath against the clinging stink from the cracked pipe that marked the entrance.

Where the estates ended, an industrial zone began. Broad buildings that once served as manufacturing and storage outlets cast wide shadows over the two riders. The further into the zone they travelled, the weaker the shadows became and the slower Merophie and Chris rode in an attempt to fend off the vertigo of motion against motion. Walls rippled on either side of them and the road flickered.

Merophie took her mind off it by searching out the semi-solid shapes of loner phase-shift cultists. She scanned the base of the phasing buildings, looking for their prone bodies as they attempted to camouflage themselves and evade the Corp’s suicide watch.

A year earlier when she was riding around, avoiding going home after a shift, Merophie had found herself compelled to take a real look. She approached the woman cautiously. A fetid smell increased the closer she got. Merophie was surprised by it, unaware that it was a symptom of phase-shift. When she was near enough she realised that it wasn’t. The smell was issuing from an infection where the woman had cut out her wrist ID. Merophie and the woman stared at each other. One universe of chosen reality looking at another.

Merophie was repulsed by the physical pain, even though the woman seemed happy to embrace it, at times closing her eyes to experience the ripping of her body to its fullest. Merophie felt like a coward, inadequate for the true fate of her flesh. But, turning away from the unspoken exchange, she discovered that she could never go the way of a cultist, no matter how bad it got.

Chris rolled to a stop in front of a deserted warehouse in a small pocket of solid structures. Merophie put her bike down as Chris pushed gently on the door. A flash of silver darted to the far end of the room. Quick and cohesive, the movement reminded Merophie of a school of fish that she’d seen in a history class. As if to spite her, the bot beast settled into a large long-haired cat, tail swishing, head turned away. It glowed like phosphorescent creatures in disturbed seawater, the brightness pulsing regularly as if it were breathing. It was hard to believe, even now after all the fuss had died down, that the Programmer remained anonymous, declining to come forward and claim responsibility for creating the beasts, their beauty, and the extraordinary habit they had of taking the form of recently extinct mammals.

‘Watch this.’ Chris walked to the centre of the large space, knelt down, and tipped a pile of material shavings from his bag. The beast’s pulsing sped up, but it did not move. He whistled short and sharp. The beast turned to him, expectant. Chris whistled again. At the end of the second command, the beast’s body dissolved and spread out over the floor like a wash of water, a thousand million small things moving as one toward the pile of shavings.

A small noise came from Merophie.

Chris laughed. ‘Great, isn’t it?’

‘It’s amazing.’ Merophie said, astonished that the beast would follow orders. ‘Does it stay inside the building?’

‘Over a month now. I brought it here for training.’ He raised a hand indicating for her to watch the beast, which was now a thick pulsing film covering and consuming the shavings. He whistled again. It snapped back into the cat form, tail switching impatiently.

Chris gathered the shavings and put them into his bag. The beast watched and swayed.

‘Always hungry!’ He laughed lovingly. ‘I think it works off a remnant script from when they operated in time with the waste chutes.’

He gave the double-whistle command. The beast elongated itself, stretching out toward the bag, distorting its cat-form until it connected then, using itself as a bridge, disappeared into the bag to emit a feint blue pulsing glow as it ate the remaining food.

‘And it’ll stay?’ Merophie asked, still surprised by the beast’s obedience.

‘That’s how I got it into the building.’ He stood up, smiling expectantly at her.

She ignored his excitement. ‘How stable is the bag?’

‘My friend who supplies the shavings, the one who works on molecule-tighteners for the Corp: he made it, so it’s quality. Been good for six weeks. That’s how long I’ve been training this beast. It’s different to the others. It’s evolving. Rapidly.’

‘Into what?’

‘I don’t know, but it’s sentient.’

‘That’s not the same as evolving,’ she said sharply, staring at the pulsing blue glow. ‘They were always sentient.’

‘It’s responding to the breakdown.’ Chris also watched the beast eat. ‘Its resonant frequency changes when something transitions into phase-shift. It’s like it understands at a deeper level.’

She looked up from the beast and around at the derelict space. Her eyes narrowed. ‘And how does that help us?’

Chris’s face hardened as he turned toward her. ‘What? You and me? Or humans as a whole?’

Her face flushed as a rush of accusations flowed, ‘You’re so content to play with your pets as the world falls apart. You think the Programmer cares? You think anyone cares?’

‘I’m not doing it for recognition.’ He glared back at her, his body rigid. ‘I’m doing it because it makes me happy. Most people who care about me would think that was good. And what’re you doing to save the world? Playing Barrik and moping. Great. Thanks for showing up.’ He turned to go.

The beast, finished with its eating, sat quietly in its cat-form beside the bag.

She had no answer. But she did know now for certain that she would leave. That she would go to X8, with or without Chris.

~~~

When she woke the next morning, Chris was already up, sitting on the floor by their only lamp, his head bowed over a pile of metal shavings. She watched him divide them into portions.

‘I’m sorry about yesterday,’ she said.

‘Sure.’ He kept sorting.

She got out of bed.

‘You could come with me today,’ he said, still not looking up.

‘I would. But I can’t. Have a shift.’ She pulled out a packet from the box of rations. ‘You eaten?’

He shook his head.

She took another packet, sat on the floor, and passed it to him.

He rubbed his hands together, careful to deposit every shaving onto the pile, and then opened his packet. She watched the sucking of his cheeks as he ate.

Pausing to look back at her, he asked, ‘Not hungry?’

She put down her unopened packet and took a deep breath. ‘You know I’ve joked about going to X8?’

‘The slave camp, yeah,’ he said between mouthfuls.

‘I’m going to do it. I’m going to go.’

He stopped and looked at her. ‘What? Because of what I said yesterday?’

‘Partly.’ She looked down, away from him.

‘Come on, the jabs aren’t that bad.’ He put his packet on the floor beside him.

‘Yes they are.’

‘But their atmosphere-adjusters are worse, they reconstruct your entire system. And what makes you think the material breakdown won’t happen on X8?’

She looked at him, ‘It’s not happening there now, that’s all I know. And I want to go before the rush, before people start getting crazy.’

‘People are already crazy.’

‘But worse. Ugly.’

‘I’ll come.’ He nodded slowly to himself.

‘You don’t have to,’ she replied, her voice strained in an affected lightness.

He moved closer and touched her arm. ‘Of course I’ll come. When’s the launch?’

‘Two days.’

His head moved back in surprise. ‘Two days is too soon. I can’t just leave the beast like that.’

She stood up and turned away from him. ‘Of course you can’t. I have to go or I’ll be late.’

‘When’s the next launch?’ he asked.

She didn’t answer.

‘You know what?’ Chris stood up as well, his face brightening. ‘I could take the bag, make a false bottom for it and hide the beast.’

‘What, just the one?’ she asked sarcastically.

‘There really is only one,’ he said thoughtfully, ‘and this place doesn’t deserve it.’

She stopped getting ready and looked at him. ‘Isn’t that dangerous?’

‘If it’s a problem at the gate I’ll tell them that if the breakdown spreads to X8 I’ll surrender the bag. They’re always saying we should donate stuff to X8.’

‘I meant taking the beast off Earth.’

‘Oh, that will be fine.’ He waved his hand.

~~~

X8 was an infant dependent on its parent, but with Earth having so many problems of its own the child colony had had to grow up fast. News reported back was often bad: the pseudo-atmosphere temperamental, adjustment programs inadequate. Still, a line of people stretched back from the launch entrance. As the queue moved slowly forward the people shifted nervously, unsure of their decision. Some feigned enthusiasm, leaning-in to their neighbours to foster their own comfort. Others kept to themselves, avoiding confirmation of the irreversible action they were about to take.

Merophie counted ten people between her and the gate. She looked around for Chris and just as she started weighing-up what she would do if she reached the gate before he arrived, she saw him hurrying up the street. He was holding the bag.

‘Are you crazy?’ she said into his ear.

‘It’s fine.’ He smiled.

‘I can’t believe this.’ She looked ahead at the row of Processors sitting in front of the gate.

They were directed to a young man, his face sour, slouched behind an almost solid bench. He had sixth or seventh-dayer written all over him as he checked their wrist IDs like it was a major chore.

‘What’s your reason for leaving?’

‘Work.’ Merophie replied.

‘Want the same pod?’

‘Yes.’

‘Possessions?’

‘Only this,’ Chris put the bag on the counter, doing a good job to make it look light.

The man’s eyes widened. He reached forward and prodded it with a bony finger. ‘No way. It’s 100% solid.’

‘My friend got it cheap off the street as a going away present. I don’t know how reliable it is. Maybe two days.’ Chris shrugged.

‘It should stay on Earth.’

‘It’s a souvenir,’ Merophie added quickly. ‘To remind us of home, just for a little bit.’

The man rolled his eyes. ‘Anything inside?’

‘No,’ they answered together.

He studied them. Merophie’s stomach turned.

‘All right. Register it.’ He signalled with a small wave of his hand, simultaneously directing them to the registration desk and acknowledging the okay to his colleague. Chris and Merophie walked over, careful not to look at one another.

~~~

Tired and disorientated, but also nervous and excited, the passengers disembarked on X8 into a large lobby. They crowded around the tiny windows to look out at the distant sun and at the squat, domed, interconnected colony buildings that were not old enough to be charming and not new enough to hide their dinginess.

Merophie took Chris’s arm and pushed at the wall then leant against its reliable firmness. She smiled. He smiled with her.

Amused, a Processor called out, ‘Come on Earthers, you’ll get used to it, especially being inside all the time. Line up to get your adjuster kits.’ Merophie and Chris joined her queue.

At the front, she checked their wrist IDs. ‘I see you’re both messengers. No need for that here. I’ll put you down for retraining. Now…’ She reached into a container behind her and withdrew two brown bottles and set them on the bench. ‘This is the atmosphere-adjuster. Take a cap full every morning. The pseudo-atmosphere is supposed to approach Earth’s, but you’ll find it’s not even close. You need to take the adjuster for three years, and get a slow release implant to reinforce it.’

She put two white stubs next to the bottles. ‘Take these tickets to Supply to collect your skin suits. Wear them all the time except when washing. Got me? Even in the controlled atmosphere there are miniscule leaks. These will protect you. You’ve been allocated Pod 758. Here are two copies of the key.’

She put the incised disks next to the other items and looked at them sternly. ‘You’ve probably forgotten about keys. Don’t lose them, or you won’t be able to get into your pod. Your bathroom is down the corridor from your pod. These first days you’ll feel especially exhausted because you have solidity serum in your systems. If at any point you start to struggle psychologically, visit the medical team. Go and rest now. You’ll be woken and called to assemble in the morning for further induction. Any questions?’

‘Do people play Barrik here?’ Merophie asked.

‘There are five recreation rooms, you’ll find the best Barrik players in Rec 4. Good luck.’ The Processor smiled briefly. ‘It’s not so bad. Next!’

The pod was tight and neat. A floor mattress that would barely fit the two of them lay opposite a small open-shelved cupboard and a box of rations. Merophie put the bottles of atmosphere-adjuster on a shelf then lay on the bed. ‘It’s okay,’ she said.

‘Uh huh.’ Chris squatted in the small space between the bed, the cupboard and the corner of the room, and carefully pulled the false bottom from his bag, taking out the container of shavings and putting it down beside him.

‘Poor thing,’ he said looking into the bag. ‘It must be starving. Did well to last this long, and it didn’t even touch the shavings.’

She watched from the bed as the beast rose from the bag, arched its back and sprang out landing softly on the floor. ‘Is it bigger?’ he asked.

Chris measured a serve of shavings. The beast pulsed faster. He whistled twice and it pounced over the mound. Happy, he sat back on his haunches and inspected it. ‘You’re right, it does look bigger.’

~~~

Exhausted but jittery, they headed out to explore. Rec 4 was crowded, jovial and welcoming. Merophie and Chris made their way in amongst the long, thin X8ers and found a space on the floor. As the woman at the arrival lobby promised, the Barrik players were artful, the game rougher, but just as intricate. The voices filled the room.

At first, the melody carried Merophie and Chris on its surface joys and sorrows. But as the game continued, their interpretations deepened into the private experiences of the enormity of their recent change so that, when the round finally came to an end, the lovers looked at each other as if they were strangers.

Merophie signed up to play the following week. Now utterly exhausted, they shuffled back to the pod.

‘Well that wasn’t so bad.’ Merophie fumbled with the key.

‘Maybe it will be okay.’ Chris put his hand on her back as she opened the door. The pod lit up automatically, bathing the curled-up beast in a soft golden light.

The following morning the pod lights came on to wake them. After slowly getting her eyes open, Merophie groaned as she tried to sit up. Her head pounded. Turning to her side she pushed up on an elbow. The beast, sitting in its corner, rippled in response to her movement.

They dragged themselves out of bed, washed and ate. Chris fed the beast, saying to Merophie as he did so, ‘You know it’s finally going to be a star.’

She didn’t answer, just watched his absorption with a dull resignation.

As they left their pod for induction, their neighbour also emerged, drowsy and leaden. Merophie recognised him. ‘You were at Barrik last night.’

He nodded. ‘I like to play.’

‘Me too.’ She managed a smile.

The three of them started walking, too tired to introduce themselves or talk more.

As they continued they were joined by others, also baffled and groggy. The straggling group numbered close to forty when they arrived at the nominated room. An older man, lean from his years in low gravity but healthy and vibrant compared to his company, watched them straggle in. He instructed them to sit down.

When the room was settled he spoke. ‘I’m Randall, your integration and welfare officer. And I say, “Welcome Earthers”.’ He clapped, signalling for them to clap, which they dutifully did. ‘You are Earthers and in your deep soul most of you will remain Earthers. But as of yesterday, you also became something new. X8 is now your home. It will change you, physically and mentally. It’s a hard life, but it is,’ he paused for emphasis, ‘a life. Congratulations on being brave.’

Heads nodded in agreement, the energy in the room lifted.

‘Your adjustment period will be challenging. What will get you—us—through it is to work as a team. Look around you. This is your team. Be nice to each other! Always be nice! X8 is small. You know everyone, and everyone knows you.’ He indicated to a list on the wall. ‘You will get this information shortly when your Wrist IDs are ported, but as electronics can be fluky, a hard copy is posted here. You have been allocated jobs based on your transferrable expertise. You will do short shifts for 6 months, until your bodies are through the first and harshest adjustment phase. You’re already feeling it, right?’

The audience groaned good heartedly.

‘Well, enjoy it, because once you’re through it, we’ll really get you working!’ Randall said, to a chorus of nervous laughter.

‘Go check your name and job and make your way to the room indicated. If you have any concerns, see me. My office is next door. We will continue to meet here, same time, every week for 6 months. In this room we will share experiences and make X8 home. Today, we’ll finish early so you can get orientated in your jobs. You all have to check-in to medical this afternoon. And once again I say, look around, make friends. Welcome.’

The newbies clapped before getting up to check the list. Merophie and Chris were assigned to be cleaners along with six others.

‘This is great,’ Chris whispered to Merophie. ‘I can syphon scraps for the beast.’

Their corridor friend was down for food production. They arranged to meet him in Rec 4 after their medical.

They were met at the cleaning station by a middle-aged man with a thin-lipped, unenthusiastic mouth.‘You will be cleaning the 1,500 domestic pods. You work in pairs. There isn’t much to take, but don’t take anything. This isn’t Earth. We see and we know. The objects remain so there are no excuses. Come here.’ He motioned to shelves at the back of the room. ‘Take a bucket, a dispenser, a brush and two rags. This is the cleaning gel.’ He pointed at a large container with a tap.

‘You don’t use cleaning-bots?’ Chris interrupted.

The man sighed, almost rolled his eyes. ‘Too dangerous in a foreign atmosphere.’

‘But the atmosphere is controlled.’

‘Not if they get out. Or we have a breach. We’d like to avoid replicating the issues on Earth.’

‘But that’s got nothing to do with the bots.’ Chris responded.

The man took on a patronising tone. ‘We don’t toy with risk here. There’s no margin for error. Multi-forms might have worked fine for a while on Earth, but we don’t have that luxury.’

‘They have as much right to exist as us.’ Chris said.

‘Do they?’ The man challenged.

Chris sidestepped the argument. ‘What happens to the waste?’

‘Everything is recycled.’

‘Where’s the plant?’

The man sighed again, ‘You on a quest to change jobs in record time?’

Chris raised his eyebrows. ‘Just trying to acclimatise.’

‘It’s next to the west mine entrance.’

‘Thanks.’ Chris smiled.

The man ignored his response and continued to outline various protocols as the newbies stood around trying to stay awake.

Chris was up and out the door as soon as the session finished. Merophie struggled to keep up with him as he rushed back to their pod.

‘How can you go so fast? Aren’t you tired?’ she called after him.

He slowed until she caught up. ‘I am. But I want to get back to the beast.’

They stood a moment, sucking hard on the processed air.

‘You know I hate the beasts,’ she said. ‘How easy it is for them.’

He nodded. ‘I know.’

As he leaned with his arm against the curved wall, the profile of his body lit from above and below, Merophie saw beyond the bright drive in his eyes and beyond her own filter of judgement to the deep exhaustion that sat beneath his blotched skin in the grey depth of his bones. She saw that it was not just the toll from moving to X8, but that the exhaustion was old, and came from the same place as hers: a denial of their joint failure.

‘I know you tried,’ she said, looking into his eyes and touching his arm.

Tears gathered in his eyes as he studied her face. ‘You mean…’ His voice trailed off.

‘Yes,’ she said quietly.

He put his arms around her. ‘You know I really loved you.’

‘I know.’

Other newbies from the room were catching up to them. They started walking, the weight of sorrow undercut by the relief of finality.

When they got to the pod Chris unlocked the door. The beast sat in the centre of the room, pulsing gently as if musing. It raised its head toward them as they entered. Its tail moved in generous, seeping arcs. Everything that had been in the room was gone: the bed, the cupboards, their rations and atmosphere-adjuster, the bag and the metal shavings. The beast had grown too. Its body filled half the room and its ears, if the beast chose to sit up straight, could touch the ceiling.

‘It’s eaten without my command.’ Chris’s voice was full of pride and horror, a parent recognising that their child can and will make their own decisions.

‘We need to tell someone,’ Merophie said, turning towards the door.

Chris didn’t move. ‘You were right: the breakdown of solidity was limiting their growth range.’

She stopped. ‘You think the Programmer did it on purpose?’

The beast’s pulse quickened.

‘We need to go.’ She took his arm.

‘It’s too late.’ Chris said, a look of fresh understanding on his face, one of awe and acceptance, shifting to a wash of regret as he turned to her. ‘I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.’

The beast began to slowly drop and fan out, spreading across the floor and then up the walls. Merophie watched as it moved toward them.

~~~

Epilogue

The beast consumed all the buildings and people on the mining outpost of X8. After an initial frenzied splurge, it settled into a methodical pace, devouring first the rocky exterior, followed by the molten interior of the small moon. It grew to an enormous size, its hair and whiskers stretching into space like huge tentacles, feeding on the hundred million small things contained in that galaxy, including the already almost dissolved Earth.

Usually we wouldn’t notice such a small planet. In the case of Earth, however, the legacy of the beast, such a beautiful conglomeration, has become such a delight. We particularly enjoy its habit of morphing from one of Earth’s extinct mammals into another: a blue whale, an Indian elephant, an appaloosa horse, a human, a marmot.


Eleanor Whitworth image by Yassine Khaled

photo by Yassine Khaled

Eleanor Whitworth’s short stories have appeared in Not One of Us and Meanjin. Eleanor has worked in various fields but primarily with theatre companies and museums, assisting the former to tour the world and the latter to share information using digital technologies. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and small child. More details can be found at: eleanorwhitworth.com and also @elewhitworth

About Gerry Huntman

specfic writer, publisher, IT Consultant

Posted on June 12, 2017, in Edition and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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