c o n v e r g e n c e:
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EDITOR'S CHOICE: rain ananael's

Painted Hills by Keith Moul
Painted Hills by Keith Moul

by Scott Stambach

Fifteen billion years ago, when a tiny point of infinitely dense energy became discontent and blew itself to bits, eleven dimensions fought to be seen. There were four winners: the three dimensions we live our lives through­—that we crawl through, love through, and die through—and time. Seven others got lost in the folds, tucked in wrinkles one-millionth of one-millionth of one-millionth of the width of a hair.

I understand—you need to see this, really see it. Let me take you there. Imagine that you’re at the edge of the universe; the entirety, the infinity, the diffuse light of the 100 billion trillion stars glowing like a cosmic golden egg. You slowly zoom in for what feels like an exhausting inhalation of time, honing in on one random incendiary star. You zoom further to the tiny grain of sand floating around it. Keep going. Push deeper until the color and texture of the grain comes into focus and you see the familiar forms of broken mountains, and jade forests, and oceanic waves, and fields of grass, and then into a single blade. Slide into its vasculature, into knotted ropes of molecules, into trembling atoms, and deeper still until you find an ominous wrinkle—here's where we find our loser. Let's call it the 6th dimension, but of course this number is perfectly arbitrary.

I want to tell you about its one resident. She's a sprite, but that's not quite right. A sprite is, of course, sprightly. We could call her fairy, but this is not right either. We would be using our heads, our thoughts, a conglomeration of images from our memory, and our memory is only of things up here, which you could imagine—actually no you can't—is so unthinkably different from what's down there. So let's throw it all away. You say you can't? You tell me it's like trying not to think of the infamous pink elephant. You're so predictable. You may also be right—you may not be able to let it go. But I'm going to ask you to do it anyway.

Let's begin with "she." Why did I use this pronoun? Not because she has, or could ever have, a gender. I say "she" because she embodies all that we might call feminine. She is light and fragrant, and smiles in an aloof way. In fact, at all moments, she has one-third of a smile—no more, no less. She is white, but not as you might think, because color has no meaning here. It's a different quality altogether, but color is the closest thing that I can summon from your head, and white is the closest shade from that palette. I know, I know. I'm breaking my own rules. It will be worth it. Trust me.

Her space is the absence of light. But isn't that just darkness you ask? No. They are different. It's only the backdrop that's void of light, empty and dark— but certainly not cold. Where she glides, there's a hum of illumination. It's bright at her fringe, but dies out quickly. There are pockets of faint light throughout, exploiting the spectrum as we know it, from red to violet, but including trillions of shades we haven't a name for. She feeds on these lights; this is her nourishment.

In this dimension, in her world, there is no "other." But, of course, it has always been this way, since the beginning of time, so there is no sense of loss, no privation, no loneliness. Without "other" she is hopelessly complete. A paradox? Not at all. Imagine the most exquisite love— the most symmetric companion— and the coveted contentment that comes with it. Put this delight, this fever, in your mind, and drag it to through your chest. Feel it all. Hold it for as long as you can. Let it suffuse you. Lovely, no? The truth is this: the love you feel in your body cannot compare to the wholeness she feels.

It gets better. Her maker granted her one precious skill: The faculty of God, the ability to create. What our sprite conjures in her mind becomes reality. But in the 6th dimension there is no form, no matter. Her thoughts become energy dancing through shapes, stories through unfamiliar symbols. And even though you've never laid eyes on them, you'd understand them perfectly, as if they were childhood friends leading you through your first memory. They tell every story there ever was.

I see your puzzled face. Just let go.

She swims— again a sad imposter of the right word but the only one that triggers what I need you to see— through her space leaving medicated wisps in her wake. They heal that which is unhealable, that which needs no healing. Her world is still and silent. Sound is an orchestra of colliding molecules, colliding with human parts, neither of which exists here, so we don't expect sound. She is one, she is all; in fact, there are no collisions at all.

You wonder: If she is our protagonist, where is the conflict in our story? Where is the tension? You mustn’t look for any. Without collisions, without moving parts, there are no conflicts. Try as you might, you will never find one. Accept this, without resistance, and we can continue.

There is one more dangling piece of her puzzle, just waiting to be placed. By now we know that she is the only resident of a dimension that is tucked quietly inside of every other dimension. Can you feel the implication? She is inside of you. But here is where it gets tangled: she is the pillar of it all. Without her it all falls apart— you fall apart. She is not the sufficient condition, but she is the necessary condition, of every cell in your body, every thought, every desire. She is responsible in the most delicate way for your blood, its hue and its heat. She makes it all be, by willing it to be. You are her choice.

Scott Stambach
Scott Stambach

Scott Stambach received a BA in philosophy and a BS in physics from SUNY Buffalo, as well as an MS in physics and an M.Ed. from UC San Diego. By day, he teaches freshman math and physics at an innovative charter school in San Diego. By night, he writes, a practice which has left him with a collection of short stories and budding novels, one of which has recently been accepted by The Writing Disorder. When not teaching or writing, he plays guitar in a local indie rock band and produces records.

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