They literally believe, “Everything in our universe — including you and me, every atom and every galaxy — has counterparts in these other universes.” David Deutsch
But they never speak of the Dachshund-related implications. Until now.
“Driving, page-turning force” Publishers Weekly
Set amid the entropy of the mortgage meltdown, Schrödinger’s Dachshund prowls the shades of gray separating science from the paranormal, internet memes from philosophy, NSA agents from bumbling security guards, and unpleasant necessity from Evil.
Meet Maestoso. Avoid eye contact. You don’t want him inside your head. He’ll play with your mind like a squeaky toy and chuck it away when he’s bored. Should it be a source of relief or despair that the purpose of Creation is them, not us?
Creatio ex Dachshund
The Yellow Warbler can’t hide forever. Surrounded by a sweet-scented auburn cloud, you perch on a branch above a blacktopped road, basking in the heavens of this idyllic season. Summer is a lowly transitional phase, an impetuous adolescent, a brutish prototype from which evolves the exemplar of fall. Remove the caps from your binoculars. For once Time is an ally.
A raucous guitar grows louder as an SUV approaches and flashes past below. From the shadows across the street, a man and dog appear. He tilts his head back for a mouthful of Fiddle Faddle and throws the box beneath the tree. “Listen to the guitar’s pitch decrease as the sound waves are stretched further apart. This is how we know the universe is expanding, the Doppler Effect.”
“I didn’t climb up here to have a conversation. You’ll scare the damn birds away.”
“If it’s getting bigger, you’re smaller today than yesterday, less meaningful now than a moment ago. What happens when something keeps shrinking?”
Long and slender like a Doberman by Dali, the dog howls and wags its tail as if delighted by the news. Brown spots over his eyes conspire with lips upturned at the corners of his gator snout to cast a countenance of cruel mirth. A tie-dyed bandana does nothing to mitigate this impression. Vertigo compels you to look skyward, as though man can only find comfort from his essence, which is not the substance of earth but the nothingness of space.
“Don’t forget there are countless universes, all part of the multiverse,” says the man. “There will be a billion more by the time you take another breath. They have the fecundity of aphids. It’s funny how modern physics adds new dimensions to the vanity of life lamented by the ancients. Solomon didn’t know the half of it.”
Let go of the branch. What difference does it make? You were already falling.
Basking in the sun while resting its posterior in a shadow, his dog could be mistaken for a Tiktaalik emerging from the sea to explore the land, or the missing link between Being and Nothingness. Though initially deterred by your moans and writhing, two crows land under the tree and peck at the remaining nuggets of Fiddle Faddle. Stretched like a rolling pin, the dog points at them.
“These magnificent birds,” says the man, “so intelligent they place walnuts on the road to be opened by traffic, can there be any doubt they’re acknowledging this as a blessing from their crow god, a deity characterized not only by darkness, but wisdom?”
“Maybe they’re hungry.”
“To think is to think about causes. They’re not postulating some grand unified theory involving caramel popcorn, gravity, and probability.” A scowl kneads a tragic mask across his features. “This is the dawn of a new horizon of study, the uncharted territory beyond the intersection of metaphysics and ornithology.”
“It was a stupid accident. The box just plopped there. This universe isn’t about them. It isn’t about any of us.”
The man towers over you. “Incorrect. It is about my Dachshund. Come along Maestoso.” They depart, the dog gliding away like some salami hovercraft.
A squished fly covers the Sub in Sub Gum Wanton. Contemplate how this creature’s only entry in the tablet of Existence is a bloody smear. But how many people, how many civilizations, amount to more?
The waitress, messenger from an olfactory heaven, weaver of the golden thread connecting prayers made to prayers answered, herald of things hoped for, is she not divine? If your ribs are fractured you need calcium.
“I’ll have the Happy Family with lobster instead of chicken.”
“Buffet,” she points.
Examine egg rolls beneath the pitiless rays of a heat lamp. If rearranged they could be used for a museum exhibit depicting the stages of decomposition. Were it not for spray patterns on the sneeze guard, quests for the lesser evil among three pans of swampy broth would be a fool’s errand. As always, hunger is the best sauce, but you can’t help grieving the loss of what could have been.
Take another mouthful of the orange puree with green swirls. Like a reptilian Mona Lisa it’s familiar but grotesque. If General Tso were here he’d behead the chef who did this to his recipe. A sharp fragment in the heretofore slimy globs wedges between two teeth and pierces your gum. Ironic how Greek cuisine would have provided better shelter from the first noble truth.
Outside Maestoso watches you with feigned serenity. His human companion kneels behind him, strokes his head and speaks to him and waves the other hand as though exhorting a disciple, or, more likely, pleading for wisdom from a sage.
“What the heck. Why are you guys following me?”
“I take it your knowledge of quantum mechanics is rather modest. Condolences. Causes do not necessarily precede their effects.” He looks both ways down the street and wiggles his fingers as though casting a spell. “Could I interest you in some doses?” A bead of sweat trickles down a lens of his shades, leaving a trail of crystalline stepping stones. “You’ll trip the light fantastic. You’ll see the canvas of reality when the gallery opens.”
“Will it make me throw up? I may have been poisoned.”
“You’re thinking of peyote. This will cleanse you at a deeper level.”
It’s time to examine the Big Picture and act accordingly. Consider the Battle of the Somme. Over thirty-thousand men died the first day. Name one. How many of your peers could name the war? Who will remember your glorious skirmishes? There’s only one practical conclusion. Carpe diem. Defy the cruel hand of Fate or whichever cosmic sadist preoccupies itself with the frustration of your desires. “Let’s go to my car.”
“You should definitely tear it in quarters,” he says. “You’ve become so accustomed to the painting you no longer know it is a painting. The realization will be momentous.”
“General Douglas Haig wouldn’t have dropped a quarter hit,” you tell him, taking three. “Here’s to old heroes and new friends.”
“Goodness gracious. You didn’t have any plans for today and tomorrow, did you? A direct confrontation with the ultimate artist will be a point of divergence in your life.” He tunes in the classical station and curses. Maestoso emits a sorrowful bay, reminding you he’s a hound dog. “There’s a conspiracy against Anton Bruckner. They played the adagio from the Seventh Symphony when Hitler died. How was that Bruckner’s fault? Did he travel forward in time and compose it on behalf of the fuehrer?”
“A Jewish conspiracy?”
“Don’t be obtuse. This is Chopin.”
“But the Nazis liked Beethoven and you hear him constantly.”
“Featherweight. Do you mind if we drive around until the gallery opens? Then we can go to my place and listen to Bruckner. The mystical gravitas of the situation cries out to the heavens for him. I majored in physics and music. Only one composer uncovered the design of reality. If it were destroyed it could be reconstructed from the blueprints of his symphonies. In layman’s terms, that’s the finest tripping music there is.”
“Better than Captain Beefheart?”
“Better than Buddy Rich,” he says.
“I call shenanigans.”
“It’s all about contrapuntal structures.”
The car descends a steep road toward Grant Park like it’s soaring down a rabbit hole. Streaks of silvery blue from Lake Michigan gleam between gold and crimson trees. On the golf course, colorful reapers swing their scythes as if practicing for appointments in Venice and Arcadia and everywhere.
“I don’t care where we go as long as I put that nasty lunch behind me.”
“Impossible. Your lunch splintered the universe.”
“It wasn’t that bad.”
“You don’t understand. Every possibility branches off hydra-style into another universe. The belief that there’s only one is more benighted than thinking the earth is the center of the cosmos. Every choice you make creates a you who took the other option.”
“It’ll be cool to talk about that when we’re tripping.”
“To the contrary. It’s a testament to mankind’s pig-ignorance of science and philosophy that no one before me has plumbed the consequences. You have a trillion clones. How does that impact the meaning of your existence? Should you extend to them the love you reserve for your self, or the hatred of Cain for an army of Abels?”
“Can we swap girlfriends?”
“The value of your life is deflated like U.S. currency. If everything that can happen does happen, free will is an obscene illusion. Good and evil are noises we make with our mouths. Life, with all its seemingly weighty choices, is a rigged lottery where all the numbers are picked in each drawing. We’re not dignified beings struggling through some great epic; we’re pitiful amoebas splitting every time the stimulus of an alternative is encountered.”
“At least I’m the original.”
“How do you know? Each new you is created with the memories of the one it split from, sustaining the illusion of personal identity. You might be ten seconds old. Worst of all, I’m trapped in a universe where Bruckner has only nine mature symphonies. In some he makes Haydn seem stingy.”
“And I’m trapped in one where Mary Weatherworth doesn’t answer my emails.”
Maestoso regards you with a chilling canine analogue of final judgment. His primate companion gasps, “The malevolent sorceress, sentry of the threshold between realms?”
“That’s one way to describe her. She’s quite the actress. I’m a big fan of her realms. Two in particular. It doesn’t feel like anything splits off.”
“It doesn’t feel like the earth is traveling around the sun at eighteen miles a second either.”
“What happens to all the clone universes?”
“They continue branching and splitting. You’re getting smaller, riding a roller coaster to nothingness down an asymptotic hill. How are we supposed to live knowing this is true? Many-worlds scenarios make doctrines of predestination a Spongebob episode by comparison. Try not to think about it. No one else does. I’m carrying this burden all by myself.”
“So if I play Russian roulette I can’t lose?”
“In a manner of speaking. One of you is bound to survive, but it’s Moloch’s immortality, sustained by the bloody sacrifices of all those who don’t. These maddening complications make me long for the blessed peace of oblivion. I’d love to visit a universe where I don’t exist.”
“But then you’d be there.”
“I’d wear a disguise.”
“So these doses are strong?”
“I can’t believe you dropped three.”
“Remember the Somme.”
“What’s dropped is dropped. You cannot un-drop what has been dropped.”
“I’ll be fine.”
Perched on the man’s knees like some surfing Anubis, Maestoso growls at a squirrel. “There’s a universe where he didn’t do that. Who knows how his silence changed the course of history there. It might not amount to much over the course of days or weeks, but in a thousand years it could be the difference between the Amish and the Ik tribe.”
“He should be more careful. Is there any way these universes connect?”
“Hugh Everett maintained that they’re decoherent from each other.”
“Was he a physicist?”
“He was the Messiah, surrounded by pygmies like Bohr. They persecuted him like a witch, dismissed him as a theologian. Can you imagine, those arrogant thugs considered theology beneath them.”
“So he said they can’t connect?”
Maestoso turns to you and growls like some conduit of thunder. The man leans down and puts his mouth next to one of the floppy ears. “Shhhhhh. He’s just asking.”
“It’s alright. There’s a universe where he didn’t do that.”
“Incorrect. He growled at you in all of them.”
Glittering slabs of sound enter the world through Bang & Olufsen speakers propping two windows open. Like a slender manatee suffering tonic-clonic seizures, Maestoso’s friend improvises a water ballet routine. During a quiet passage he leans over the side. “There’s another pool in the attic I could inflate for you. It’s safer than a chair. The swirling brass makes you feel like you’re flying.”
“How did you get blood on your clothes?”
“There was a bone in my tofu. I could have sworn they were invertebrates.”
“I’ll put those in the wash. You shouldn’t eat at Dong’s Wok. Their infractions of the health code are legion. Dong’s concept of hygiene is a child of the Shang Dynasty. You should have waited seventy-two hours before dosing.”
“That’s great advice. I’ll go back and do that.”
“Listen to the colors of the oboe. It’s like a tentacle covered with eyes reaching down from heaven.”
He’s right. And the clouds exhibit more evidence of intelligent design than anything below. Like globs of concrete hurled by graffiti artists, the messages drip down the sky, becoming chariots of mutant divinities scrambling for parking. Maestoso circles the pool, looking less like a sausage satellite and more like a kite tail. His human friend squeezes submerged fists to create pulsating jets that intersect in a crystal aurora. “I wonder how the universe where he went clockwise will turn out.”
“This many worlds stuff is Greek to me.”
“Some days I despair of understanding all the moral and existential consequences. Physicists who know it’s true won’t speak of how it impacts the meaning of our lives. They’re like a Roman mystery cult hiding evil secrets. Don’t be fooled by slick documentaries with breathless nerds babbling about how interesting it is. The only appropriate response is dismay. I don’t consent to exist in a universe this strange.”
“How does it work?”
“I’ll give you an example in laymen’s terms. Once upon a time Maestoso had to choose between defecating or taking a nap. Man’s deceptive instincts fool him into thinking only one of these options can exist. In fact, each occurred simultaneously in separate dimensions.”
“Which one are we in?”
“Probably the former, but it’s only a theory.”
Reading about this in Scientific American after nothing stronger than a cup of coffee would have its advantages. “How do we know when there’s a split?”
“The feeling of free will is often cited as proof of our ability to determine our choices and destinies. It’s nothing more than a dim awareness of the split. Which is more incredible, some magical property that allows us to be the uncaused cause of everything we do, or that alternate dimensions exist in the way the earth is not the center of the solar system? Luther and Calvin would have gratefully reconciled this with their theology. Wise men know free will is a sham.”
“So there’s a universe where I had the Chinese Happy Family?”
“There’s one where Dong washes his hands.”
“Why did I get stuck here?”
“There’s also one where he’s even less concerned with cleanliness. You’re writhing in agony there. Some gratitude is in order.”
“Wait a minute. A wiener dog created the universe? Is that good news or bad news?”
“Welcome to my world. Enter if you dare. Figuring out the ramifications is the greatest intellectual challenge of all time. Make no mistake, Maestoso didn’t wave his paws and exclaim, ‘Let there be a preposterous mess.’ It wasn’t intentional and it’s only one example, perfectly consistent with everything we know about quantum mechanics. If you want to deny it feel free to come up with a new scientific paradigm.”
“It’s probably best that no one knows we had such humble origins.”
“Compared to what? By their nature all creation stories are weird. Look how humans come into existence. It’s bizarre beyond words. Why should cosmic geneses be any different?”
Change the subject. This is a bad buzz. “I like those mirror balls in the garden.”
“Don’t stare at them. The ancients believed mirrors opened a passageway to hostile worlds, the wicked and cunning denizens of which insisted they were real and we were the reflections.”
“So they believed in a multiverse too?”
“Wise men saw the threat of mirrors firsthand. Detritus wrote that having a mirror was the same as leaving your window open during a pestilence. What happened when these bans were rescinded? What became of Egypt, Rome, the Zapotecs? Do you for so much as one second believe the collapse of these mighty empires was due to bad luck? Modern physicists willfully ignore how parallel universes aren’t completely cut off from each other.”
Maestoso drops a squeaky toy and howls and rubs his fangs on a corner of the pool.
“What I meant to say is that the inclination to squeeze the Weltanschauung of a prior age into our paradigm is best resisted. Who knows what they were thinking. Listen to this movement. The adagio of the Eighth Symphony will be the greatest half-hour of your life. This recording is sublime. Too many conductors race through it.”
“Wouldn’t there be a universe where it’s longer, where it lasts for hours?”
He looks at you like an infant gazing at its mother. “Where it lasts forever. That’s the first intelligent thing you’ve said. The eternal adagio is what we mean when we speak of paradise, and it is a paradise lost.”
A luminous glacier emerges from the speakers and drifts through the garden. Trailing a sapphire stream, it crosses the alley and slides over the edge of the world. Like a periscope come to life, Maestoso stands against the pool and watches his friend’s amphibious ritual. Silence beckons him back to the side. “Is this what you thought he’d be like?”
“He’s cute, like a skinny downsized Basset Hound.”
“No, not him. God. Say it. Speak the name.”
“Say it again.”
“Look behind the word. What’s there? Why have you never thought about this? Are you afraid? Keep repeating it. Watch what happens. The sounds we attach to things do not explain them. Now that you know you’ll never forget. From now on the world will appear in all its outrageous strangeness.”
“Thanks. Can I pet your dog?”
“He does not exist for your amusement. Nor does the world. And God does not exist to be cursed when you get a flat tire, or to be flattered with obsequious nonsense if you’re diagnosed with cancer.”
“I like your tie-dyed speaker covers.”
“The subject will persist whether we discuss it or not.”
“Maybe we could get back to it. I’m free next week.”
“You’re freaked out because the reclusive creator disappears in the familiarity of things. You’ve become inured to the primordial strangeness of everything: dirt, the stars in the sky, the thoughts in your head. A dose reveals the masterful canvas of reality as though you just walked into a gallery and saw it for the first time. Up until now you’ve been a bat fluttering around in the Sistine Chapel, thinking your perceptions are accurate. Reality was designed to hide all signs of the artist. Why do you think the shaman’s stock in trade was the vision quest?”
“Why is he hiding?”
“Most great creators are reclusive. He wants his work to speak for itself.”
“They both have some gnarly shards.”
“Why does everyone who looks for him come back with something different?”
“Describe Michelangelo, little bat. Don’t forget that artists love ambiguity. And you’ve been stultified. You’re like a feral child raised in the Louvre, taking it all for granted. Those paintings aren’t wallpaper. Smell the air. It’s a masterpiece. Feel this water. It’s a work of absolute genius.”
“Watch your dog eat a rabbit. Yippee. Is God running a slaughterhouse, a giant cockfight, or a torture chamber?”
His hyena laugh gives you goose bumps. “Indeed, the people who babble the most about him have no idea what they’re dealing with. Clearly he suffers from the destabilizing mood swings common to artists. We are not the endpoint of things, but our belief that we are propels us in ways useful to it. The presumption that a reeking herd of bloodthirsty apes is the teleological terminus is beyond mockery. We are, at best, a necessary evil. The purpose of man was to breed Dachshunds into existence.”
Your sensitive condition makes this an ideal time for discussions about whether you possess the telekinetic power to mold cloudscapes or simply the modest psychic ability to anticipate their changes — anything but this.
“My conceptions are no less probable than any others,” he says. “How can you ascribe probability to such things? Their rarity is owing to a lack of efficient promulgation. If only I had been an advisor to Constantine. The West would be dotted with Dachshund temples.”
Apocalyptic horns summon him back into the two-foot depths, possessing him to gyre in the waves. Maestoso soars past like some landing Boeing. When he plops down and stretches you question whether the sphinx was modeled on a cat. These Teutonic steeds, scourges of the underworld, defilers of burrows, symbol of Germany during the Great War, did they serve the Pharaohs? No, the Pharaohs served them.
“Listen to this next movement.” He jumps out of the pool. “Bruckner didn’t compose symphonies. He created of a kingdom of aural phyla. Can you imagine if this was a tree? It would be bigger than the Yggdrasil, the Norse tree of life.”
The music stops. You could swear it’s the Pillsbury Doughboy running around the yard with a spade and a CD, followed by an elegant hybrid between a stallion and a caterpillar. It’s enthralling until menacing inquiries descend: How many times have you tripped? Will you know when you’re headed around that rainbow bend? How will your personality weather those changes? He was a physics student. You barely made it through algebra.
“Maybe I should fertilize it with a dose,” he says, patting the top of a mound next to a divot of sod. “How long do you think it’ll take to grow?” He wipes sweat from his face with dirty hands, leaving skid marks, and galumphs back inside. He returns with a handful of CDs. “We’ll grow a tree from each one,” he says, pacing to select the best patches to plant his crop.
You should talk him out of this, but many hands of bright fingers wave from your peripheral field and disappear when you turn to look. Wait, those are swarms of flying Gummi Worms. What if they crawl in your ears?
“Except the Ninth Symphony. That tree would grab us up in its branches and never let us go.” His herky-jerky motion, reminiscent of an amateur cartoon, temps you to break the First Commandment of Trippers: thou shalt not regret the dose thou dropped.
“I shouldn’t have taken three hits.”
The rueful admission echoes down serpentine catacombs deep in your mind, waving a torch through long-buried chambers inscribed with crayon hieroglyphics: you’re staring up at the diving board with dread during a swimming lesson; you’re playing hide and seek in your grandparent’s musty basement; you’re debating whether to shoplift and you know the clerk knows what you’re thinking; you’re kissing and you’re sure you’re doing it wrong and wondering if she knows you know she knows.
You’ve been robbed. Those times, where did they go? Once so alive but now hidden in a mass grave. And that’s where the future ones are headed. Remember that. All the days to come will vanish thus. What value or meaning can they contain? We are hoarders of dust. Feel the liquid drip from your eyes. Is it the inseparable gloss of a magnificent canvas or an arbitrarily applied sheen splotched over a bungled hobby model?
Maestoso’s friend appears to be wearing blackface. The yard could be mistaken for a pet cemetery with an indolent caretaker. “I also planted symphonies zero and double zero. Bruckner’s symphonies didn’t start with one.”
When he pumps his fists incandescent smoke drifts off his arms, causing another lapse. Should’ve taken a quarter hit. He warned me. Darkness chases the light west, peeling the callus of familiarity until the presence of its absence and the absence of its presence become one. The word-shields are gone and Reality glows bright and strange under a thick hide of normalcy.
“Whether it’s more absurd than contemptible to have a badger as the state animal is open to debate,” he says, riding a train of thought free from the tyranny of tracks. “The noble Dachshund rid Germany of those insipid vermin, just like Saint Patrick chased the snakes from Ireland.”
Which is worse, Maestoso reading your mind like Shakespeare paging through a comic book, or that the proud but evasive Homunculus defending the fortress within, the last holdout against such insidious ideas, is mortally wounded by your lackadaisical pursuit of a cheap buzz? When he abandons his post “you” will be the sum of these garish sensations and nothing else. Contra Buddha, contra Hume, there was a self in there all along only you had to obliterate him to prove it. How paradoxical. Happy now?
To whom it may concern: please make this stop. I promise I’ll never even drink again. I’ll spend the rest of my life doing good stuff.
“You’ve noticed Maestoso’s slender torso, yes? That was for excavating the cowardly badger. Wisconsin may as well have a tapeworm on its flag. Have you ever written to our imbecilic governor demanding the Dachshund be made the state animal? I’ll give you the address. I used to call his office every day until the FBI asked me to stop.”
Car doors slam. Voices echo on the side of the house, their pitch and speed commensurate with the breeze. They slow to demonic moans and accelerate to chirps. Maestoso watches you, giggling. His swan neck corkscrews like a lasso. He knows you know that some ancient king summoned his forbears from the sea, enticing them to adapt to land, waiting for their stubby legs to sprout. What pact was made with these primal serpents of the deep? And how long before they devoured the foolish monarch and established their kingdom on earth?
“Goodness gracious. My parents are home. I didn’t expect them for two days.”
“Your parents? Dealing acid must be a labor of love.”
“I resent that characterization. I’m the curator of a forbidden gallery.”
“I don’t know where she gets her recipes,” says a chipmunk voice. “That peach cobbler was — Goodness gracious.”
“What the hell’s goin’ on here?” growls a voice.
With the effort it takes to squat 10,000 pounds you turn your head and swear that senior and junior are twins. Can sexual reproduction be bypassed? you wonder with eyes at half-mast. A mushroom sprouts on his father’s forearm and grows to a cauliflower with junior’s features. “Could I interest you in some doses?” the fetal bud inquires. “You’ll trip the light fantastic.”
You pry your eyes open and promise to never again question the wisdom of Nature or God or whatever runs this vile burlesque. A vortex of translucent black and white squares surrounds his parents, depriving them of the green light emanating from the Bruckner mounds.
Maestoso floats toward you like a submarine by Louis Wain, the thin black lips on his alligator jaws pressed together in a sardonic smile, whiskers twitching, his eyes not the perceptual organs of a unique being but portholes to the world of imperishable abstractions where modus ponens and the prime nature of three and five will survive the heat death of the universe.
“What happened to my lawn?” says senior, emitting gobs of spittle like a venom-spewing toad. He turns to you. The rotation frames dozens of holographic images, each of which tries to catch up to the original but overshoots the mark to create a corkscrew, then a cyclone. A sausage-link finger appears from the whirlwind. “Did you do this to my lawn?”
Most of the power lines between your brain and mouth are down. “We’re growing an Ewok village … or something.”
“He’s high on some drug, isn’t he?” Apparently his son’s muddy face is par for the course but your consciousness expansion is a crime against humanity.
“The problem of other minds has never been satisfactorily resolved,” says Maestoso’s friend, “which makes the ascription of specific brain-states tenuous. We’re comparing Bruckner trees to the Yggdrasil.”
“Why is he in his underwear?”
“I’m helping him remove the blood from his clothing.” In spite of its accuracy the explanation feels askew like a wheel off its axle.
“You need to get a job. You’re not gonna spend the rest of your life wandering around with a wiener dog.”
“If it was good enough for Detritus it’s good enough for me.”
“They did not have wiener dogs in ancient Greece.”
“And how would you know? Did you learn that at Briggs and Stratton? His teachings about mirror worlds defended by Dachshunds were stolen by the Sentinels of the Chandelier.”
The portion of your mind that once gracefully orchestrated social interactions attempts to defuse this awkward situation. “That wiener dog can read my mind. He created the universe. He evolved from sea serpents.”
As his father drops you on the curb, you notice the resemblance between your car and a Portuguese man-of-war. “I don’t think I should drive,” you say, hoping he can understand you in the echo chamber, wishing that “you” were in the parallel world where Maestoso took a nap, or, better still, the one where Mary Weatherworth answers your emails.
Like ingredients in a magic potion, the combination of his words smash your head and baseball bat sends your faltering limbs down the sidewalk, which unwinds toward the horizon like a roll of toilet paper.
The stars, are they not confetti? There is a direct relation between the number of them and the triviality of you. Squint your eyes. The constellation of a long slender hound appears, marking the heavens more objectively than dippers or crabs or bowmen. Trace it with your finger. The dog glares as if perturbed by your discovery. Heaven is not a Rorschach after all.
Perhaps the ancients didn’t name him for a reason, or only spoke the name during ceremonies where his guidance was sought, his wrath placated. They looked to the stars and the stars looked back. What became of them? Survival was not among the blessings from this deity. His ferocity makes him more humanlike than one of love. Close your eyes and seize the earth. So solid. So flat and stationary. Your senses are liars and fools.
“What about those other universes he was talking about?” you whisper, assuming the fetal position. It worked once. “Screw it. All politics is local. As long as they aren’t connected they don’t dilute the significance of this one.”
The hound in the sky continues to scowl, as he did before you were born, before all men were born.