Short Story: The Universe Eater

whale

Swimming about the universe, there is a whale so large that there is no earthly measurement system yet devised that is sufficient to measure and compute its size. Even its relative size cannot be computed, because, never having seen it, we have nothing with which to compare it. It swims about in the effluence of space, navigating by a means we have yet to understand, so big is its body, that not even the myriad stars and planets it passes are sufficient to exert a pull on it. It moves with ease, and, when it opens its enormous maw, it is quite capable of consuming whole clusters of solar systems with all the ease that a baleen whale might lazily engorge itself on a shoal of krill. For this reason, it is colloquially known as ‘The Universe Eater’. No one knows how often they procreate, whether they are divided into male or female, or even if there is more than one of these whales altogether. Some have hypothesized that, were you to dive to the bottom of the universe, where Dark Matter is at its densest and darkest, there you would find their resting place, whole pods of Universe Eaters all reposing in silence together, satiated and exhausted by glutting themselves on who knows how many planets. There they rest for countless aeons, before lumbering back into matter to begin their repast anew.

Their place in life is likely an ecological one. Even if the universe is constantly expanding, there must needs be those who prevent it from becoming unruly and frayed around the edges. An untended garden can quickly begin to stifle itself. The same is true of infinity. So they rise, and consume, in languid consumption, stop galaxies from choking each other, and quench the finite in their dark matter bellies.

The scope of a Universe Eater’s mouth is so large, and its process of digestion so long, that the world in which you currently find yourself could already have been eaten by one, and you wouldn’t even know about it, for everything that you’ve ever known, or ever been able to see, will have been consumed right along with it, and you’ll have no means to distinguish the difference. Even so, the organism of The Universe Eater is largely translucent, and being consumed by one does not alter your perception of light and dark. Its bowels are massive. Their convolutions are unknowable, and its digestion mysterious, but it may shed some light on the beliefs of cosmologists, The Big Crunch being merely the anomaly of its bowels constricting around a given universe it has swallowed, and The Big Bang a rare example of its cosmogenetic flatulence, farting worlds to life. The Milky Way dribbles out of its blowhole, and its stern-like underbelly is tattooed with barnacled nebulae. So large is this fish, and yet there are beings out there that can pierce it on the edge of a needle, and use it to make sushi. There is no difference between being eaten by a Universe Eater and not being eaten by a Universe Eater, so why mention it at all?

There is a man out there who hunts these whales. Eating of their blubber is said to confer one with immortality, and imbue one with the safety of non-being. He rides alone on a ship of his own making, manned entirely by his thoughts, stirred by oars of intention, and sails capturing the winds of fancy. No one knows how he trained to hunt these whales, or how he managed to build his boat. He has never seen one of these whales, propelled by faith, and hardened by a determination that cannot be fractured. He could even be carrying out his hunt entirely inside the belly of one of these Universe Eaters, and he would never know about it, hunting for fire in the belly of a dragon, stalking through a forest in the mouth of a deer,

He does not know

He does not know

His flesh is a creamy silver, tanned by a million moons. His skin is smooth, and remains untouched except by the very basest of elements. He hums whaling songs to himself sometimes. He knows how to exploit the natural acoustics of the universe, and has isolated a number of ‘sweet spots’ where things can resonate in all directions with the minimum of effort. This practice may not be as innocuous and as whimsical as it seems to be. Some think – (for it can be heard anywhere within the stretches of these dimensions) – that it is his attempt to imitate the song of The Universe Eaters, and thus lure them into the scope of his harpoon. If that is his intention, it is a futile one, to be sure. The crooning of a Universe Eater is an empty waveform that ensnares all those who hear it. It is a song of anti-matter that inverts all who hear it; though, it is so low, that it cannot be heard, nor even felt. As soon as it touches you, you are transformed beyond all ability to perceive it. So, to be sure, hunting these whales is a risky business, and one that pays little, except for those who are fanatical about it. Economies work very differently in realities in which immortality is the norm. Debt is a concern of those who die. But sell a Universe Eater to a specialist who favours it, and you’ll be set up for life.