The Experiment

For many years, I, alongside my kin, have witnessed many miracles, and just as many atrocities. Attestant to creation, we stand ready to learn the fate of those we observe. A titular moment.

Amongst the vast darkness, the unfathomably large space, nothing happened. Until it did. In an instant what was nothing blossomed to be — not just something, but everything. With the eyes of billions, we witnessed its birth. Through time untested, we looked on; peaceful observers awaiting a sign. An indication. 

Oceans of plasma spread apart, cooling to form the atoms. Atoms which swirled and spiralled, breathing life into the infant universe; spirals of gas formed galaxies, each with its own magnitude of stars. Each star unique, each star a cosmic experiment, a laboratory separated by impossible profusions of black. The most elaborate of projects: a promise to resolve the unrequited.

We waited, watching with patience, our kind spread across the cosmos, connected through a singular mind sewn into the web of spacetime itself. Separated by colossal distances, but never alone. Eventually, before my own eyes, one emerged. A planet, a chunk of rock thrown around a ball of plasma, in turn tossed about a black hole. On this planet: life. 

At first, just one. Its composition different from our own, banal by no measure. What was once a minute cell, now breathes, its children walk the land and traverse the waters. A cycle is forming, and in each cycle a new generation cultivates life unimagined. Not a single organism as we are, but an ecosystem of billions. Trillions. 

Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, sulfur. The building blocks of life sent to the crucible on vessels of ice and rock, enriching the firmaments with minerals vital. With every death, the cycle begins anew, altered just enough to adapt to a changing world, for every gift we send changes this rock. A world so fragile, so unique with life. So delicate yet so profound.

Generations pass, and what was small becomes larger; the plants grow wood, the finned grow wings, the scaled grow fur. Until one emerges with thoughts. Thoughts different from our own, but hope grows, and so we watch. As had their ancestors, they hunt to survive, but now they learn. Intelligence. Felled woods become shafts and homes, the rocks which had carried life to them are used to take life from others, such is their cycle. And still we watch. 

Tribes are formed, first they hunt together, then one another. Ages pass, and still they hunt each other, standing in opposition of their kin. Still, hope remains. Generations more and the quaint rock now sees their footprints on its every surface; no peaks or valleys are spared their footfall. Water is no longer an obstacle as they bend our gifts to their will. 

Those who once occupied caves and treetops now build a new world. In their arid zones a great edifice of stone is built, and is soon joined by a dozen more, each a point in their map of the stars. As their progeny proliferates, so too do their teachings; their creed, practice, and erudition.

At last, after impossible times have passed, they reach the void. First with light and sound, carried by ripples in space, then with objects of their own design. With every increment of time, their species advances until they discover the power of the atoms; the fundamentals from which their world was birthed. Our gift; our quest for answers.

Experiments are devised to learn the atom’s secrets. Each axiom births mystery; an enigmatic unity from which innovation is born. Understandings not thought possible for individual minds. They grow before our very eyes, perhaps they evolve. Though they still fight, their minds work together. Colonies, larger by the generation, learn to trust, and in trust they learn. Eclipsing the hopes of their ancestors, they grow as one; thrive together. Together, that is, until they exploit their feats, renouncing prosperity and conscibring damnation. One. Two times they fall. Billions of lives, the children of the first; the product of our experiment, consumed by hubris and fire.

With regret I close my eyes and leave. Our experiment: a failure. Their benevolence: an ephemeral truth. Our ancestry: a mystery, still.

We seal the universe, preserving our shortcomings as a reminder of our antiquity; a lesson for our next venture.

The Experiment – C.B. Powell

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