Melya’s voice carried through the firelit clearing, the long-familiar words flowing smoothly.
Emptiness. Darkness. Nothingness. But in the void was an idea, a spark without fire, but a spark nonetheless. The spark was surrounded, nothing above, nothing below, simply nothing.
The spark was bored.
After time unmeasurable, because there was nothing to measure it against, she took a step. Her feet rested on the ground, first one then the other. Feet were new, but with the invention of ground to stand on it was necessary to have something to stand with, and she imagined it so. Feet were a good creation, strong and flexible and able to move as soon as she created somewhere to move to.
The first time she stubbed her toes, the first time in all the vast universe this happened to anyone, she imagined the need for light to illuminate the ground, and eyes to perceive it. What she imagined became so, but the light was not yet pleasing. She lifted her hands overhead, defining the sky and herself simultaneously, and placed two handprints on it. Her left hand she pressed hard and long into the roof of the world, and the handspring shone out brightly. With her right hand she touched the room of the world lightly, and she rocked her palm from one side to the other to see what would happen. And so the sun shines out full and round and strong, and the moon’s dimmer light comes from first one side and then the other. She poked the sky here and there, making stars, and she laughed in delight, the first laugh.
The light that spilled over her spread her shadow out across the barren landscape. She raised her hands, admiring her fine silhouette, then looked directly at herself for the first time. She had imagined well: smooth brown skin, long brown hair, breasts, buttocks, legs that reached all the way to the ground. With, yes, feet at the end of them, and one sore toe.
She looked around at the lumpy brown ground she stood on. It wasn’t nearly fine enough for her, so she imagined it better. She made the grass, the first plant ever to exist and the most important, the plant that feeds our sheep and covers our houses. Greenness spread across the plain. But that wasn’t exciting enough, so she tried out topography, mountains and hills and valleys. To make it more interesting, she put water in some of the valleys, creating lakes and oceans, rivers fast and slow.
She played with the plants then, making some of them into trees that reached for the sky, and some of them into brightly colored flowers like leashed butterflies, though she didn’t know that because she hadn’t invented butterflies yet. She particularly liked the flowers, so she braided some into her hair, a lovely new thing.
There was no one to share her inventions with, and the world was too quiet, so she created people. People who looked just like her, just like our mothers and our sisters. And they laughed to see the flowers and the trees and the stars and the rivers. She made fancier plants, and the women suggested many other things. They all imagined together, and the world was full. Animals ate the plants, and ran among the trees and over the grass. They invented names, and spent a long time arguing and laughing about what to call each plant and animal. The people called her goddess, because she was first.
Once everyone and everything had been named, the goddess looked around. The land was full, the people were happy, and there was nothing left to do. She didn’t enjoy that, so she imagined harder than she ever had before. That’s when she invented sex. There was even more laughing then, and play. The goddess discovered that sex with women was fun, and then she created men for variety, and sex with men was fun too. They all together invented all the games in all the combinations.
But guess what? The goddess got bored again. Yes, even sex gets boring after a while. But what to do? She’d already created everything she could imagine, women and men and plants and animals, birds and butterflies. Even elephants, and they took a great deal of imagining. There wasn’t room for anything more.
She thought and she thought, and she talked to the people, and she watched the butterflies for a long time. Then the goddess had the best idea of all. She invented stories, and she taught us how to tell them and how to create our own. And then? The goddess was never bored again.
The storyteller bowed to her audience, her braids clattering and her shadow in the firelight dipping gracefully. This was her favorite time. Every five years all the clans gathered, everyone who could, to share the old stories, to eat the foods of their civilization’s childhood, to see distant family and friends. Tomorrow they would disperse, back to the ships that carried them here, back to the myriad worlds of the Diaspora, but for tonight she would smell the smoke, feel the ground beneath her feet, and imagine for herself a newborn world full of magic and laughter.
Sarah Goslee relates to the world by figuring things out and writing about them. She writes science fiction and science nonfiction, and has done fieldwork with endophytic fungi.
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