Where Were You During the Collapse of Reality?

In a long white room, separate from all of creation, God takes a long drag from her cigarette, inhaling deeply past her Adam’s apple. As she puffs out, the motion of a delicate hand traces the lit cigarette past a hooked nose, along a square jaw, to rest beside thick hair—the oily, voluminous black of deep space.

“That’s it,” she informs the person across from her—a former employee of hers, stout, broad, feral-grinned. She aims the cigarette’s supernova-bright cherry at an ashtray on the table between them.

“Consider this,” she tamps it out with a hiss, “my resignation.”

When the pillars of reality suddenly collapse, the thing that flattens out, that really should never flatten out, is time.

In a Toronto flat, a paintbrush leaks across canvas. An odd but ordinary occurrence. Then, it releases in a winding stream of oily globules—every pigment that its bristles have absorbed since the artist’s first fauvist portrait.

Through a pair of headphones in Belize, a guitar chord metastasizes. Sound doubles on itself, exponential, as every musical composition across history, from dubstep to nocturnes to the drum circles of early man, begins to share the space of relatively few notes.

On a loud street in Jaipur, a pot of chai unmakes. From the boiling milk sprouts a thicket of cardamom plants, tangled ginger root, cinnamon saplings, and camellia sinensis.

In a public library on the US plains, the glue rooting book paper to spines and macaroni to children’s art unfurls into, hooves first, a stampede of piebald horses.

Oceans, rivers, lakes teem with fish and mammals and older organisms, re-becoming.

Millennia of sunlight reverberate into tangible, golden threads, dense like the teeth of baleen whales.

Human beings dissipate from one confused step to the next, clouds of recycled stardust and far-traveled water no longer held together by the passage of significant time.

As God, in her chagrin, unspools every atom across her long tenure, everything in existence, everything across the concept of past and present, attempts to re-exist all at once. There, in space, between one star and the next, the Earth ceases—one tumorous mass of matter, emotion, experience.

That’s that. So there.

Across from her, God’s companion plucks the cigarette from the ashtray and reignites it.

“Shame. It was just—oh, not getting good. But it sure as hell entertained.”

In answer, God is only silent.

“Well, if you’re calling it quits,” he inhales, fire reflected in brimstone pupils, “mind if I give it a go?”

Simon Kerr

Simon Kerr is a writer, editor, and tea brewer in Fort Collins, Colorado. Their short fiction appears in The Greyrock Review and several inaccessible zines.

Hailey Renee

Hailey Renee Brown is a professional illustrator born and raised in mid Michigan. A former field biologist, she moved across country from Michigan to New Jersey, also moving from science to commercial art. A professionally trained artist, she attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, NJ. She was selected the recipient of the 2017 Norman Maurer Memorial Award as well as the 2019 Joe Kubert Jumpstart Project.