After a week at vacation bible school and another at science camp, you come home asking where life really began. In a snake-infested garden or the petri dish of the sea? Never one to take a hard line with an impressionable mind, I do my best to split the difference.
What I tell you, dear child, is that it all started with a speck. A speck that might’ve collapsed upon itself but by chance compounded instead, begetting two specks from one, four from two, and so on and so forth. Amidst this divine multiplication, the compounding speck began to shake, then pulsate, then swim. By and by the swimming speck swam right out of the water and slithered ashore, sprouting leaflike wings so it wouldn’t scrape its belly on the ground. The winged speck flew in great circles, swooping down to feed upon the still-swimming specks. But when its wings tired, the swooping speck landed on the limb of a tree — The Tree of Knowledge, if you like — right beside a bunch of forbidden fruit. I say bunch because I’d bet they were bananas. I mean, has anyone ever been tempted by an apple that isn’t caramel covered?
Anyway, the landed speck swung from limb to limb gorging itself and pushing out a bad brownness that it sniffed and slung to the forest floor, where soon a top-heavy fungus sprouted. And when the bananas ran out, the swinging speck fed on the fungus instead. Afterwards the fed speck sat there with a stomachache, thinking about its stomach, thinking about the fungus, thinking about both things at once, thinking about thinking, eureka! And for the first time it became aware of the head on its shoulders and the brain in its head, which seemed to be blossoming outward not unlike the fungus. Well, the more fungus the sitting speck ate, the less it cared to swing. It preferred to just sit around thinking about things it could see: the top-heavy fungus, the bad brownness, the big bright ball of hotness overhead.
Instead of eating with it all the time, the thinking speck took to using its mouth to name things, starting with the things it could see: mushroom, shit, sky-fire. The speaking speck wanted the sky-fire for itself, so it walked clear out of the forest and ever west, though the walking speck never could catch up. For trying to catch it, the sky-fire punished the westbound speck by burning it, so the burnt speck started spending the bright half of the time hiding in a hole in the rocks. Since it was perfectly dark in there, the hiding speck took to thinking about things it couldn’t see: good and evil, life and death, fact and friction. The last of which led to an important discovery; sky-fire could be made on land by rubbing limbs, just like the ones still-swinging specks still swung on.
In fact, the limb-rubbing speck made sky-fire right there in his rock-hole, but upon trying to hold the land-fire said “shit” since holding land-fire felt the way bad brownness smelt. The cursing speck needed someone to care for its wound, so it found a care-giving speck. That’s when it occurred to the wounded speck that there were two types of specks in this world: those with growths between their legs, and those with holes.
Whenever it was near the holey speck, the growing speck’s growth would grow, which made it feel good about itself, the way it felt when it first made land-fire. It asked the holey speck if it could stick its growth in the hole and the holey speck agreed. Afterwards the two specks decided to stay in the same rock-hole, wielding land-fire to cook the still-swimming / slithering / flying specks the cave-dwelling specks speared. Three seasons later, the holey speck pushed a crying speck from its hole, then the crying speck got bigger and pushed a crying speck from its hole, and so on and so forth, until by and by you were pushed from the hole of the speck you call mom. And that, dear child, is how you came to be.
Yance Wyatt is a hearing-impaired author from rural Tennessee. He left home to study fiction at the University of Southern California and the University of Cambridge before going on to serve as director of the USC Writing Center and professor in the USC Writing Program. His work has appeared in dozens of literary journals, among them Zyzzyva and The Los Angeles Review. He is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a finalist for the 2023 Ninth Letter Literary Award, and a longlistee for the 2023 Reflex Press Novella Award. He currently lives in Pasadena with his partner, son, and eighteen-year-old dog.