Norman Thomas di Giovanni

    Four Minus One by Marcial Souto


    Once upon a thunderstorm, in the midst of the downpour, there fell to earth every shape in the world. Soaked through, the shapes grew soft and formless and soon it was impossible to tell them apart. A lion, now taking on the shape of a seal, heaved itself through the grass until, utterly exhausted, it paused to nibble at a clump of daisies. A lightning rod turned into a swallow spread its wings and was pounced on by a kestrel that had once been a rubber eraser. Now in the shape of a dictionary, a boy lost all his pages and turned into a yellowish paste. Now in the shape of a camera, an ox let out a click, click and flopped to the ground. A hen, once a mariner's compass, began inching towards the magnetic north pole in the form of a rainbow serpent. A shooting star, once a belfry, made an effort to flare up but the torrential rain kept dousing its tail. A car, once a shark, crashed into a telescope that was once the skin of a banana. A clock that had once been a crossroads sang cuckoo, cuckoo.

    The rain stopped, and out burst the sun. Slowly the new shapes grew dry and when they were firm enough they went their separate ways, each with a brand-new life. One thing, shapeless from time out of time, having taken no part in the metamorphosis but looking on in wonder from a nearby wood, could no longer restrain itself and thought up a long, shapeless thought.

    The City That Outsmarted Time

    Having discovered from whence the river of time flows, the architects gave their city the form of a ship, with a sharp keel that parts the centuries and allows the city to stay afloat on the same spot, prow into the current, untouched by wear, tear, or change.

    Having discovered a means to see far back into the stream of time, observers sighted a great straggling bubble in the form of a ship - a vessel no one would any longer board.


    Arms wide, you run. For a moment or two, all is fine, then you start to tire, your arms begin to ache, and tears well up in your eyes. All at once you feel a change. Your arms are less weighty. Longer, thinner, they slice the air. Your body has grown slim too, and you race ahead with a slight forward tilt. Soon you find you are bounding along, supported and balanced by your arms, which have become long and flat, giving you lift to skim the tree-tops. Now you're aloft. Buoyant, you feel no fatigue.You break through the clouds. The sun is on you. On outstretched arms, you can embrace your country, and soon - far, far below - the continents and oceans loom. Off to the right, the moon drifts in empty space. The sun is behind you, and you can make out Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. With a bare glance at them, you soar on. Your arms now girdle the whole solar system, and a moment later you reach Alpha Centauri, passing it overhead towards the heart of the Milky Way, which is quickly left behind, a luminous eddy of stars. Your left hand brushes the galaxy of Andromeda, a dim firefly in a pitch-black night. Your right hand wallows amid shrinking islands of light. You glide among shining spiral microbes on a voyage that spares no direction. You - your limbs, body, gaze - encompass infinity. You are the universe.

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