Surreal Flash Fiction by Thaddeus Howze
Imagine a modern Universe, with an unremarkable galaxy, where we will highlight a, just under a meaningful-sized, sun. It's an insignificant thing just larger than the average dwarf star. If you blinked you might have flown right by it. There are eight or nine significant bodies in a tangential orbits, where one or two of those objects develops a rudimentary slime-biome which will, in millions of solar years have, said near-organic slime, develop life.
One of those planets loses its precious bio-slime and soon goes quiet. No rotating core. No radiation belt. Soon, no life. The other, warmer, brighter, it's nascent slime reaches higher, toward the light of the sun. Suddenly, the sky darkens, hot winds whip across the surface of the planet, the greatest sound ever heard included the fracture of the crust across the entire planet creating the most transformative moments ever.
Whoops. I mentioned the potential for life but I guess I was premature. Slime 1.0 is no more. What happened? There was some life forming and then out of nowhere, another planet rips into the third rock from the sun and all life on this budding planetoid was snuffed out.
Back to the drawing board.
When the third rock cooled and stabilized, the planet had a new moon and a few million cycles later, life restablished itself. Don't ask me how it happened. I am just an Idea waiting for his time to come.
We will admit when Slime 2.0 happened again, millions of cycles had passed again and the overall interest in this part of the galaxy was at an all time low. It was a general consensus that Slime 2.0 was as boring as its predecessor.
One fateful day, this primordial slime eventually realizes even it is bored with how long it has existed as slime. It strains and does something new. This explosion of new is unheard of in the slime's estimation having been the only significant life on the planet. But, the slime isn't saddened by the company. For the first time in existence it wasn't talking to itself.
Super-fecund Life Planet will enter, for the next few billion cycles a boom and bust, sometimes lots of life, other times barely two flash-frozen amoeba to rub together. But as we learned after a runaway planet rammed into the Earth, Life is a persistent infection.
I can feel my time drawing near.
The life on this planet continues to evolve and when another asteroid collides with the Earth, (that's what the inhabitants will call it one day) I knew I could happen at any time. I watched as those dullards who spent three hundred million years grazing and eating each other vanished overnight and what replaced them wasn't very impressive. At first. But as they grew, I knew there was possibility I could exist if the conditions were just right.
And they were. From shrew-like organisms, life exploded again and new life replace the old. Filling in every biome, something was born to fill it. Some existed in harmony, delicately transforming the living to the dead and back to the living in a breathless hum of existence, an explosion of exuberant life. No matter how long I waited I knew I would exist. There would be a need for me. Something my progenitors will have known would be transformative. Something they couldn't live without, a thing thought capable of binding the Universe, itself, in a time of need.
I fell in with the flow of Life waiting until I saw my moment. There was a long period of nothing until a small hominid stood up and looked skyward. It reaches for the stars. Enjoying the view, she strides upright, into the future. I could feel her primitive mind scouring Logos for an idea. She chooses a stick instead.
I salute the stick and zoom onward into the noosphere. Many other ideas soon start flowing and the realm of Logos is alive with Platonic fire, hurtling Earthward, jumping to a group of primitives discovering Fire, as it rode a lightning bolt to a tree and straight into the mind of a curious onlooker.
Fire was such a glory hound. A dynamic entrance, a positive, immediate, life-altering effect, and they were in love with it immediately. Worse, Fire would bring a whole lot of new ideas with it. This species would use Fire for everything. Can it burn? Can you cook it? Can you eat it if you cook it? Will it taste good? How good will it taste? When in doubt burn something and you will learn something.
Fire was going to be a superstar. Fire would get all the best questions and ideas for the next 20,000 years.
But I could feel it, deep within my metaphorical bones, I would never be related to any idea which had fire in it. Don't ask me how I know.
Fire was a destroyer.
I was a binder, a fixer of things, I was a way to bring something back to life for a time. I was a maker and Fire and I would never see Idea to Idea. The march of time continues, and I can feel my moment coming. It is clear to me now. I can see myself coming into form, my Platonic shape slowly congealing in the empyrean mists.
I am round. A platonic ideal. Several have come close to me. They wrap me around cables, strips of strong cloth, clumsily attempting to bring me to life. They were busy men and it was a hard time. Frustrated, I watch them clumsily try and bring me to life. I scream from the Aether, louder than I ever have before.
It would be another thirty years. Yelling didn't help. It was maddening after waiting all these years to watch them fumbling around. In 1925 as they reckon time, I can see my next dimension. My countdown timer is finally activated. A confirmation of my long held belief. I have watched so many other ideas come to fruition, I never thought I would see my own. I had gotten used to watching new ideas go into the world.
The Renaissance lit the sky above Logos day and night, a fireworks show of possibility. Today, Jazz is everywhere, so new, so varied, a new form was born every night. I see my birthplace. I thought it would be, I don't know, more momentous. I had hoped my arrival would be in a laboratory by a scientist on the edge of greatness. Instead, my place of birth is dark. Dirty. I can feel the danger in every breath. An ammunition factory. A woman working in the war effort.
A woman sees ammunition boxes that once closed, take too long to open. She tells her boss. Her invention will save lives. He laughs. Goes back to smoking. I can see the countdown timer saying at any second I could be born. But she can't figure out how to realize me. Not the kind of woman to accept no, she sends a letter to the War Department.
To the President. Roosevelt.
I was born through effrontery, through an unquenchable desire to protect and yet to serve.
I exist, roughly hewn, a nascent aspect of my Platonic ideal. From this moment onward, my creator's vision transformed the world. I knew I would be big.
It was so long in coming, I knew I could improve the lives of humble people everywhere. Plumbers prayers could be answered by my judicious application. Mechanics repaired things with the understanding constant vigilance would be required.
I would be used in planes, trains, automobiles, homes, kitchens, basements. I would become clothing. Car doors. Hammocks. Battlefield stretchers. I would be used in war and peace.
I've heard it said, I have been used to hold the hinges on the doors of Hell, and the halos to the heads of currently slumming and possibly falling angels.
Everyone knows me. Everyone uses me, I like to think they love me. I'm no Fire, but when you have a broken tool, She can't help you. I can.
I watch humanity as they ascend into space. Watching from within the world, no longer a Platonic ideal, now a reality, refined, expanded, casually utilitarian; I was made manifest more than a century ago, in a factory, packing ammunition. Now, I hold together part of an computer motherboard mounted inside of a ship headed to the stars minus a necessary screw. There are other places on the ship as well, but it might undermine your trust in the space program.
I have been likened to a fundamental force, used to hold everything together. No matter where you live, I am there. I hold all that we know and love together, and a whole lot of things we aren't nearly as fond of but need just the same.
I waited a long time to be here. I'm glad you love me. I am Duct Tape and I was an idea whose time had finally come.
No. I'm not as beloved as Fire, but even her sweet flames took a back seat to an idea who came just a few years after I got here.
They called it the Manhattan Project.