A man by the name of Friedrich Nietzsche yelled up at me that, "God is dead", from his refuge between the two warped, worn covers of a hardbound volume unearthed from the dingiest corners of the church library. Carefully setting him down on the corner of exposed mattress on my unmade bed, I rose to my feet and anxiously padded down the hallway formed between the matching beds and dressers that used to divide the room between me and my brother. Still divided the room between me and my brother. Having reached the window, I pulled back the cheap bamboo blinds from their side and leaned against the sill, setting my cheek against the warm wall to angle my gaze through the dirty glass. Far above, visible in between the looming stacks of timeshares and condominiums, there he was. God. Floating on his back. Dead.
An undeniable magnetism rooted me to the floor as I watched his giant form glide slowly in between the white and steel columns. The black scuffs marring the bright white vulcanized rubber of his tennis shoes preceded the long, immaculate socks that stretched from ankle to knee, leaving a ring of thick, dark hair and blued skin exposed beneath the bottom hem of industrially pleated khaki shorts. A knocking on the weak drywall of the door frame behind me.
My mother reminded me of my promise to take out the trash. I nodded into the window and briefly wondered how long I had been standing here, a stiffness creaking awake in my calves. Shrugging off the chore and ache, I continued to watch God passing above. Now, the cinchy print of gigantic palm trees, much bigger than the real thing, against a faded pink background eased their way along between buildings. By the time I could see his neck, the light was failing and the sun setting. As I squinted harder and harder to resolve fewer and fewer features, the last thing I spied was his necklace. A giant lanyard of rawhide yoked about his neck, leading down to a giant glass bottle suspended below his floating body. The bottle, plugged with a cartoonishly proportioned cork, contained a single grain of rice, comparable in size to one of the towering complexes littering the shore, upon which, written using a steady hand and fine-tipped permanent marker, the name, "GOD".
The overbearing control the scene exerted on me eased with the dying light, returning me to my immediate surroundings as night arrived. I looked back to his book left open on my mattress and the space between it and me, wherein somewhere I lost the entirety of my Saturday. My mother returned, much angrier at the bold persistence of the lumpy garbage bag tied and leaning against the end of the kitchen counter. I dragged my feet to the kitchen, dragged both my feet and the bag to the garage, and dragged my feet back to my room. I felt drained of the day, despite having spent it almost entirely standing still. Regardless, I opened my blinds fully and stood again leaning on the sill, looking up to the growing void above in hopes of recapturing some of the ethereal hold I had felt earlier in the day. I focused and unfocused my eyes, squinting tighter and tighter, hoping to find a shirtsleeve, the glint of cheap plastic sunglasses, or a panama hat of braided fronds, but saw nothing.
When the hulking figure disappeared into the inky dark, he was replaced with a growing contingent of weak specks of light. Though the target of my mesmerization had faded away, the magnetism it captured me with had not. I addictively watched the unfathomably distant shimmering, the appearance of new orbs, and the disappearance of weak ones. Knowing the fate of the God I had just lost, the tiny lights, fearing they may suffer similarly when the sun arose in the morning, begged for preservation. With inexplicable obedience, I retrieved a pencil and his worn book, setting both on the windowsill. To better see the population of orbs above, I first shut off the light in my room and then the hallway outside. Using the blank inside of the rear cover, I began sketching each sky light. Though I had lacked any proclivity for the visual arts, I found myself faithfully reproducing the night sky in inverse, dots of dark lead on a white sky. The act brought a deeply motivating satisfaction that stole away my night just as God's death had done to the day preceding it.
As the sun returned for air from the ocean depths, bleaching out the last stars, leaving only godless blue in its wake, I diffused back into awareness. Though I hadn't slept, I felt rested. And before me lay a flawless exercise in celestial pointillism, where constellations of stars, planets, and hazy galaxies speckled the entirety of the page except for three tall columns of emptiness sprouting from the bottom of the picture upward, where Seashell Suites, Seafoam Flats, and Seamist Manors stood between my neighbourhood and the coast. My mother in the doorway, telling me to get ready for church. I told her that I'm not going.
When my mother, dressed in her Sunday best, shouted her goodbye before closing the door behind her, I had yet to leave the company of the window. My night of celestial plotting had unlocked a bizarre new mysticism that overtook the world through my eyes. When I turned back to the open door of my bedroom, the bed beside it called out.
"Much like how the night stole God and the sun stole the stars, I too will not last. Someday I will break and rot and disappear forever."
The bed begged me to preserve the geometry of its miters and architecture, as I had done for the stars. I felt helpless to deny the furniture's request and began sketching over a new page, ignoring the heavy print beneath my pencil drawing of slats and wooden legs. After the bed was satisfied, the dresser, the sheets, and the dried seastars propped up on my night table took turns demanding their recording in my repurposed tome. Admittedly, I found some bland pleasure in the practice, falling into a contented trance as I communicated each joint and surface and texture to page. Feeling my own will dissolve and sink somewhere beneath the wooden floor, which itself howled up for me to map its intricate gnarls and grainy roadways, I became the stenographer of my bedroom. Having obliged much of the interior of my room, I expanded my work through the views from my window, from which I charted the constellation of popcorn stucco on the neighbours' wall, the uniform stacking of apartments in the towers hedging the shore, and the radial expansion of palm fronds, among many other things. I had lost God, but I had found new guidance much closer to home.
Countering the dull glee I derived from the robotic copying of my immediate surroundings, I began developing a growing dread at the world beyond the confines of my bedroom, where a presumably infinite array of creatures, shapes, and structures could command my will. My only defence, I stopped leaving my room altogether. I lied to my mother that I had fallen gravely ill and asked that she deliver meals and water from the kitchen. I began relieving myself in bottles and jugs, but even then caught myself mapping the arbourized tracks my urine would trace down the insides of the ribbed plastic. My only friend, Marto, began making daily visits on my mother's request.
At twelve years old, I had committed myself to hermitry. And I would've stayed in that room forever, endlessly transcribing the small day-to-day changes in the complex architecture on a plate of akee and saltfish and the vasculature of wrinkles innervating dirty laundry, until Marto delivered news of the quiet.
He had barged in on me mapping the paths of small motes of hair and dust floating along my bedroom floor, driven by the wind squeezing in through the slit gap beneath the door. His entrance sheared them severely, scattering them into impossibly small pieces I could no longer follow.
"Samael cannot speak no more."
Marto elaborated that Samael's whole family couldn't speak no more. Simply one day they could, and one day they couldn't. The wild tale distracted me from the entrancing uniformity of the horizontal stripes on Marto's shirt. My first glimpse of the outside world in weeks delivered in the form of simple, organized data. I invited him to watch over my shoulder as I fetched a map of the coastal community from somewhere beneath a stack of blue texts. Together, we traced our fingers from town square down Tackling, left onto Coronation, and left on Long Ground until we settled our touch on Samael's house, immediately across from the whitened beaches of Comb Bay. I drew a thick "x" over the property and jotted down the date. I even transposed the information into a fresh page of my book of recordings. The whole transcription took seconds and I felt saddened by its simplicity. But, things would change.
As Marto's visits turned into the recitation of increasingly longer lists of new victims to the quiet, I committed my map to the wall over my bed. Each morning, Marto, idly pretending to play in the dirt, eavesdropped on the chatter in the town square. Each afternoon, we kneeled on my weakened mattress and labelled the houses of those named. Expanding my characterization, the wallspace around my map was invaded by new recordings of case numbers, contagion timelines, and family trees marked with familial spread of the quiet. Safe in my room, I floated happily between longitude and latitude, the x and y axes, ignorant to the horror and shock dominating my community outside.
When Marto returned one afternoon, stricken by the quiet, the whole project was complicated by a reliance on his shoddy script and shoddier spelling, but we persisted. When my mother returned one afternoon, stricken by the quiet, I hadn't noticed, the list of victims now requiring most of my day to transcribe along their many dimensions. So, I persisted.
As silence blanketed the entire town, I began wondering if I, too, was quiet. My two contacts to the outside world, Marto and my mother, had been quiet for more than a week. And in the absence of their questions, there had been an absence of replies. My throat felt dry at the thought. I flipped open my book of recordings to the old bookmark still poking out from the top of the pages close to the front of the story. Clearing my throat, I continued where I had left off.
"God is dead."
I sighed loudly in relief, clapped the book shut, and looked up to return to my daily mapping of the quiet. I don't know if it was the lighting from my open window or the angle of my view or a final death spasm of God raining down from above, but I saw something new in the charts and maps on my bedroom wall. Jumping onto my bed and examining the geography more closely, with cross-reference to the weekly schedules of affected families, a new pattern underlying the wavelike spread of the quiet emerged. Tracing the pattern backwards, it became evident that the quiet did not travel within the family structure. Nor did it originate with Samael, patient zero. All pathways through time and space traced back to a short stretch of beach on Comb Bay.
The discovery was elating. My extensive charting efforts suddenly transformed before me, morphing from a passive recording of the world foisted upon me into something wholly new. Something active. The shackles of the observable world had loosened on my thin wrists. I flipped to the back of my book of recordings. In my drawings, I found new, transcendent properties in the mundane sketches of my life. I could see new insights into the structural physics of the dovetailed corners of my desk chair, the geometrical symmetry of the floral pattern of my fitted sheet, and even the liquid dynamics in the flow of my haphazard cursive itself. I had inverted my relationship as a subject to the overbearing world through observation and analysis.
When Marto visited that afternoon, I danced freely around the entire house, denying the insistence of the material world to record it to my pages. Dragging him by the wrist to my room, I unveiled my greatest discovery. The quiet was born of a phenomenon on Comb Beach. One insight inspired another as Marto's eyes lit up and he jotted rabidly on the notepad all citizens had begun carrying in silence. He wrote of bright purple conches littering the sand, unfamiliar to any inhabitant. Their appearance, he insisted, coincided near perfectly with the Quiet. I requested he fetch me a whole bagful of the strange shells and off he went.
As I waited for Marto, I packed. Folding my maps and sketches into my worn backpack, I had realized that my insight into the spread of the quiet was, ultimately, just a guess. I could be wrong. If only I could test my predictions. I was emptying the snack cupboard into my backpack as Marto returned, a dull clinking of shells in a grocery bag hoisted at his side. I eyed into the brown plastic, gently lifting one of the hollow conches out and up to my ear. Though almost inaudible, I heard a distant collage of voices hollering and screaming over top one another. Owing to their familiarity, I heard Marto and mom cut through the crowd.
Later that afternoon, while my shoulders ached beneath the crude straps of my bag, I looked landward from my view on the deck of the barge. I surveyed the docks beside Key Beach where I would land, then looked down at my map of the same region spread open in front of me on the railing. I had marked my predicted waves of contagion that the quiet would follow into this seaside community from a single population of conches on the beach, marked with a dark "x". I looked backward, towards the community I had just left. I imagined new systems of communication evolving. Messages conveyed with snaps, claps, and vigorously tourist pointing. I was sad I could not stay to map their spread and growth. Land ho!