Editor’s Note: For today’s Hoptellectual, I am trying something new. I am debuting an original piece of fiction; a vignette that deals with the forces of the universe inspired by a lecture given in my Physics course in college at UW-Madison in which the professor spoke about Dark Energy. Feel free to enjoy, critique or simply consider the premise of this story and may you do it with a beer in your hand. May I suggest a Harriet Brewing Co. West Side Belgian-style IPA? It’s no Bedlam, but it’s plenty delicious. Cheers.
The CIA came yesterday with instruments measuring radioactivity, bomb-sniffing dogs, and something that looked like a miniature satellite dish with a headset and a meat thermometer attached. I asked them how it worked, but they told me I was on a need to know basis and I didn’t need to know. Whatever they were doing, they took all day and I couldn’t even get into the kitchen to make some eggs.
HAZMAT teams from around the world followed today, working around the clock to probe and take samples of the gelatinous goop, which continued to seep out of the ceiling of my living room into the corner by the fireplace. It doesn’t smell, but looks something like tapioca pudding or jellied whale blubber.
Hell, I don’t know. I’ve never even seen whale blubber.
Kathleen was the first to notice it. I was sitting on the couch watching Jeopardy guessing questions for the answers and she was in the green recliner opposite reading some crappy mystery novel—the kind where you know the ending just by looking at the cover—when something slopped onto the wood floor. She looked down on the wood and saw the brownish goop for the first time. It was coming from a crack in the plaster ceiling. We went upstairs to the bathroom right above that part of the living room, but there was nothing there. I thought it might be a burst pipe; she told me to find out. That was a month ago. It hasn’t stopped since.
A guy in a sterile, yellow suit that crinkles like a plastic garbage bag when he moves swishes by me holding a sample-container full of the gunk in a metal grabber so as not to even chance touching it.
Actually it did stop for a time. Maybe for an hour and a half. Kathleen and I cried and hugged each other. For two weeks and five days we tore up the bathroom floor checking the pipes, checked under the insulation dreading to find a putrefied animal carcass, examined the other side of the ceiling only to find the crack didn’t go all the way through the drywall, and bailed out the living room corner, bucket after bucket like a ship taking on water. Finally, we could rest—it was over. She apologized for throwing the trowel we used to fill the bucket, caked in goop, at my head. I apologized for holding out on sex with her for three days. She said she hadn’t even noticed. This strange gel had thrown us both off.
But the jellied blubber started seeping out the crack again; Kathleen shrieked and left. I wasn’t sure if it was for good or only to blow off steam. Three days passed and I didn’t hear from her, so I called her mother’s. Lynn answered in her usual calm, sweet voice—the chocolate coating to a crunchy ‘fuck off, you bum’ nougat. “Kathleen does not wish to speak with you David, but if you like I can take a message.” I hate it when she uses that tone. Tell her that I can’t know everything. And that she can’t leave me because I need her just as much as she needed me. “Just tell her I called.”
Before it seeped into our lives, everything was fine. She loved me so much. She told me on the phone when I was in Seattle on business that she was hanging on to every word that stretched from my lips through the miles of telephone wire to her ear on the other end. I told her that her voice dissipated all the stress I felt, that she kept me at equilibrium. She told me that I made her feel secure.
A team of yellow plastic men with electric saws crinkl past me and into the house. Jesus, what a mess.
All I hear is the last thing she said to me before running out the door: “I can’t do this anymore! What the hell is this stuff? I need you to know what to do. You have to know what to do! I need you to know. How can I depend on you?”
“Mr. Hanrahan?” a muffled voice emitted from one of the plastic yellow bags, holding a saw covered in brown snot. “We took out the portion of ceiling, where the gelatinous substance was seeping from, but it still seems to be falling from an adjacent part of the ceiling.” Great. “We can’t explain it. It doesn’t seem to have an origin and we still can’t figure out what it’s made of.”
How the hell am I supposed to know what this gunk is when nobody else in the world does? It just dropped into my living room and ruined my marriage. There’s got to be a reason for all of this. I quit listening to him; he doesn’t have any answers to fix my life.
It all reminds me of something I heard about on TV about something causing the universe to expand faster and faster. What did they call it? Nobody knows what it is, but we know it’s there because the universe is expanding faster when it should be getting slower. Some force that throws everything out of balance.