THE TEXT OF MY FAVORITE STORY
THE TEXT OF MY FAVORITE STORY
Dominic said, “You can find the Mariana Trench water column anytime. You can find the Mariana Trench water column that takes you to where you can smell the texture and hear the stripes only on Advent Sunday. I swam until I found it, then down through the marine snow for minutes or months or millennia—who knows? In the bathypelagic, a flabby whalefish came for me, angry over the name humans gave her, but she banged her face against the Advent water column like a neon tetra in an aquarium. By the time I reached lower midnight, my irises were bioluminescent enough that I could see the mile of ooze at the bottom of the okeanos. I’d swum 36,000 feet but when I spotted the Challenger Deep, I let myself float the rest of the way. It was like floating down to heaven.
“I sank into the slush pile of the ages. When my feet touched the depression floor, I bent and cleared away a little space. Seven sapphires circled a sinkage in the sediment. There was room enough for only one symbol in it. I took the osmium coin out of my pocket; besides my Basque boots, it was the only thing I’d brought with me. The size of a dime and heavier than a neutron star, there was room enough for only one symbol on it. I sang the Song of the Three Holy Children through the seawater as I placed it in the sinkage.
“A door opened in the Deep. On the other side was old sea ice that would’ve been at home in the Arctic ice pack. I thunked my knuckles on it. By the antiphonal reverberations of the big water against my face, I could feel that it was twelve feet thick. I held the coin one millimeter above the ice and dropped it. Thunder resembling the seven thunders cracked and the ice cracked, too; it was beautiful on my eye and ear. I picked up the coin and lowered myself down the hollow column. I say ‘lowered myself,’ but it was more like drifting.
“For twelve feet, I saw nothing, though my irises continued to glow. On the other side, it was still lower midnight, but punctuated with faraway creatures. I turned to look back at the ice. It wasn’t just old sea ice; it was the noctilucent clouds covering the Earth below. I also saw that I had not come out above the Deep—our coast was visible—but that did not signify. I had my coin, I had my boots, and I had my soul. That was all I needed.
“As I drifted away into space, I saw that the bioluminescent hemisphere of our Moon was a cream anemone sheltering her workers, the clownfish; her dark side, an enwombed iron blue whale embryo. Deep-sea gigantic diatoms snowed down as hollow columns on Venus and Mars.
“Passing Jupiter, I saw the Great Red Sea. Its sound and heat were that of the big water over the Trench, carnelian with black spotted starfish. The Sea’s waves were still echoing my voice from when I’d sung in the Deep, ‘O ye Waters that be above the Firmament, bless ye the Lord; praise him and magnify him for ever.’
Punctuating Io was Boösaule Montes, of which the Trench was a miniature inverse allusion. On Saturn, the Great White Oval Queen of Herrings swam her 62,000 mile body north of the ring system’s light nilas.
“Europa’s black smokers and Enceladus’ white smokers vaulted up 700 °F water into space, growing crystals and other creatures that live in autoclaves. The stars were sodium sea stars, some multiplying by fission, some joining together. I was the lone human, but I was not lonely; I was surrounded by my friends, the water bears, as I had been in the Trench.
“After an Advent of Advents, I started drifting less and walking more. I could see nothing but the color of sleep under my feet, but there, on the edges, space felt solid enough. My mind wandered through sundials and water clocks and sandglasses; I never forgot my precious little jewel baby, an amethyst whose every-question-answer is ‘Just right by time,’ but I forgot all of the things that don’t matter. My mind became a jewel of two facets: a blade.
“Finally I came to a lip. I knelt down (gravity being Earth-like again) and placed my hands on it. The coin wouldn’t work here. It was too holy a place. I took off my boots. I closed my eyes.
“Instead of the kaleidoscope overlaying the charcoal curtain one usually sees, I saw the text of my favorite story.
“Someone spoke: ‘That is the way.’
“‘But there are no stairs,’ I said.
“‘You must throw yourself in. There is no other way.’
“With eyes closed, I stared at the text for a whole minute. A whole year. Then I leaned over the lip and fell headfirst.
“I landed somewhere. I tried to walk forward, but I banged my face against the water column like a neon tetra in an aquarium. My eyes focused on the column. It was a color I’d never seen before. I was somehow off the hyperbola of the Universe, yet also at the saddle point, near the real thing symbolized on the coin. Then I knew that the Universe was a concavity, a depression and its filling: the Trench and its Pacific, the sinkage and its osmium coin, a womb and its embryo, a hollow column snowflake and the air filling it. It’s a thumbprint cookie, a cleft chin that shows we’re related. Its true name is The Disk Dosinia.
“Then the seven thunders spoke. I almost wrote down what they said, but someone told me, ‘Keep it secret.’”
“When did you get back?” I asked.
“Just right by time.”
Laura Arciniega’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Burnt Pine Magazine, Mad Scientist Journal, The Bombay Gin, and Rascal Journal. Originally from Southern California, Laura and her husband Dominic Zappia now live in Bayonne, New Jersey with their son.