A Short Story of Premortal Life
Alvin and Tex dashed along the shore marking the edge of Father’s kingdom. In the night sky beyond, new light exploded into existence. It rushed at them from the darkness, crashing like a tsunami against the golden sand. By comparison to the orderly light of home, this newer light seemed murky and chaotic. Its glowing photons splashed profanely onto their naked limbs.
Immediately it became a game. With the steady warmth of Father’s domain to their right, Alvin and Tex set to running an S-curve. They tried to stay as close to the incoming waves of light as possible, without being caught by them. When the waves rushed in, Alvin ran farther up the shoreline. When the waves receded into the dark, he followed them out to the edge of heaven.
It felt less like a game to Tex. He interpreted the surges of new light as attacks, and he took them personally. He was slower than Alvin to retreat when each new glowing wave encroached. As the waves receded he charged them in rebuke, winding up with legs stained in milky phosphorescence. This made Alvin giggle. As yet, neither of them thought deeply about the countless almost-galaxies blinking on and off in the black sky.
Alvin ran beyond where he thought exhaustion would be. He sensed how Tex and he were straining themselves in unison. There was an exhilarating balance to it. Faster and faster, taking longer and longer strides, they sprinted along the kingdom’s border. Relentlessly, the maelstrom of light taunted them from out of the unorganized darkness. When they could take it no longer, the youths leaped off the edge of heaven into the storm. Only then did Alvin think to ask the question: will this kill me?
Almost instantly, they began floating. Their spirit lungs breathed in the finer things of which Father had spoken: neutrinos, gamma waves, and x-rays. It all heaved around them, through them even, but also buoyed them—the flailing of an infant universe.
A gigantic wave of light clapped into matter over their heads. It cracked into shards like breaking candy canes and then softened like melting clumps of candy corn. Alvin was thinking a lot about candy. A pulse of time or two before, Father had prophesied of treats to come in latter days. Alvin wondered on everything Father said to his children, but more especially on the remarks which made Mother smirk and roll her eyes.
Quickly, the stillborn cloud of matter dissolved into velvety light. It drifted lifeless along the edge of known things. Tex broke from Alvin’s side and swam after it, howling as if his world was ending. But now the cloud simply disappeared. Tex halted, panting out microwave radiation like foggy breath. He whimpered once and then forgot the shimmering cloud had ever existed.
Alvin caught up to Tex and placed a hand on his back. “Easy,” Alvin said. “I just got an idea of what a thousand years might bring!”
As tufts of shiny matter formed and died around him, Tex began whelping gibberish. Alvin tried to keep his hand on the rambunctious boy, but this was impossible while suspended in the choppy ether. Tex yanked himself away, paddling wild-eyed among poofs of light, wondering as they solidified into dust, then back into chilly photons. The phenomenon made little sense to Alvin and none to Tex.
Alvin studied the marveling in his companion’s eyes—suspicion mingled with glee. Yet, Tex’s eyes also seemed old, in contrast to his young muscular frame. Alvin wondered if maybe Tex was something less than a whole being. Something fractional. Maybe Tex, though he appeared separate and distinct, was only a portion of a greater soul—perhaps its finger, or a claw.
Alvin heard a crescendo of footsteps on the shore. Immediately, he turned and swam until his toes touched the illuminated sand. Then he walked up onto the beach. Michael’s weighty left hand came down on Alvin’s shoulder. Firmly, lovingly, he turned the boy around to face the storm again. His right hand jutted past Alvin’s ear, pointing up and far away.
“New stars!” Michael said.
Alvin grinned preemptively. It took him several moments to find the far-off splinters of light. Once he spied their gleam cutting through the syrupy plasma, Alvin could see nothing else for a time. Then he sensed the rhythm of the stars’ spin and almost started crying. “Their time moves so fast.”
“Yes, it does,” Michael said through tears.
A plasma wave shoved Tex back up onto the beach. He swatted at the foamy tendrils of lesser light, only to be flipped onto his back by them. In this pathetic fashion, he slid all the way up to where Alvin stood. Tex started yelping again but ceased after making eye contact with Michael. He rolled onto his side and set to staring at nothing in particular. Alvin had seen this restlessness in other creatures as well—seen them crave a sense of control Michael never granted.
For the longest moment he could tolerate, Alvin imagined what it was like to be God. What was it like for Father and Mother to decide they wanted more children, and in the very next instant—even before the spiritual birthing was complete—to know with absolute certainty the fate of each and every newborn? The thought persisted a mere moment. Alvin crouched down and began rubbing Tex’s belly. This would not be the last time he felt grateful the Gods kept secrets.
Read The Immaculate Forgetting for another tale of premortal life.
Image of bio-luminescent plankton by PawelG Photo, licensed from iStock.
Your writing is like an artist applying paint to a canvas. The pictures are beautiful!
“ This would not be the last time he felt grateful the Gods kept secrets.”
“But I must be content with only one more and a concluding illustration; a remarkable and most significant one, by which you will not fail to see, that not only is the most marvellous event in this book corroborated by plain facts of the present day, but that these marvels (like all marvels) are mere repetitions of the ages; so that for the millionth time we say amen with Solomon–Verily there is nothing new under the sun.”
Lois, thank you so much for your comment! I’m glad the story spoke to you.
And thank you too, Herman Melville, for penning gems like the above (albeit, burying them deep under an ocean of plot-stopping lecture. I’m fond of how Lord Byron puts the sentiment: “And History, with all her volumes vast, hath but one page…” (from Canto IV of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)