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A Universe of Atoms (short novel, as yet unpublished)


What has happened? Where has everything gone?

Something brushes her face. A faint, rippling glint in the black. Salt smell. Like … like…? Something she knows.

She reaches out, finds its moist and swiftly fading warmth, feels the give and cling of it. High it rises, higher than her head. High as … as a wall! Her wall! She’s certain of it – the familiar shell!

But it is no longer whole. A few fragile threads span the gaps that break open and grow in its once seamless iridescence, as if it were melting. A strange ether seeps through it, icy and dizzying. The wall is disappearing. She must save it!

Fingers splayed, she places both hands on the disintegrating membrane and tries to gather its gluey, vestigial strands. They stretch and break, sticking to her skin, to her mouth and eyes, and she panics, frantically scraping and flinging them off until there’s nothing left, realizing too late that she has detached herself from the last remnants of her bloss and encased herself in darkness, instead.

She can see and hear nothing. (What could she see and hear before?) Nothing holds her. She flails, terrified. Is she falling faster than light can follow her or is she still in the same place? Are there any places here? Nothing touches her but the thin, noiseless cold flowing over her own surfaces. It can’t be air, can it? Out here in the black?

Maybe a memory of air.

She breathes, defiantly.