I noticed him seeming to notice me, and I found that so unlikely that I almost frowned. I was extremely skilled at remaining unnoticed. The Queen of the Hollow Yellow Moon had once proclaimed that I had the power to turn invisible. Of course, there’s no such thing. At least, I haven’t come across any such thing in my work so far.
The man approached me, smiling inquiringly. I knew better than to glance behind me. He would certainly see me if I moved, and if he wasn’t smiling at me, he would be stunned and probably unnerved to find that a person was standing in what he thought was empty space.
So instead I too smiled. But I didn’t move.
He stopped before the window. I stood right beside the window.
“Strange night,” he said. He glanced out of the window and up at the glimmer of the borealis.
He glanced back to me and introduced himself. I too gave him my designation. (I understood that by local custom, he was actually expecting my name, but I wouldn’t have known even how to begin translating it.)
I wondered what he had seen in me that made him walk over.
He grinned. “Cool name!” He furrowed his brow and asked me what the origin of my name was.
“My people hail from a distant star. The farthest start you can see from here.” So, I told him the truth.
He laughed. For he took it as a jest.
“So what do you do?” he asked.
Now, one might be wondering why I did not have an answer ready. Even if I did have the power to turn invisible, unless I remained invisible and could be certain that no one would ever perceive me, I would surely be seen sometime. And I would surely be asked the questions that are typical in such gatherings as the ones I often attend in the execution of my duties. I had my designation ready. Why, then, did I not have my profession ready?
Well, let me see…
How does one explain what they do, if what they do spans the cosmos?
Perhaps I could tell him the truth. The truth would surely do no harm, other than to make the man dissatisfied with his interactions with me.
I have been witness to a stellar nursery. I have measured the brightness of a prince’s smile. I have calculated sums whilst submerged in a sea. And I have tasted the many flavors of a lepton.
I glanced out of the window. My gaze caught the twinkle of a star. And I imagined that twinkle reflected in my eye, a twinkle of mischief. I would tell him the truth.
But which truth?
A few examples came to mind.
They sent me to fix a planet once. The whole planet.
It had gotten caught in the orbit of a larger planet eons before any of us was a twinkle in the universe’s eye. The larger planet was uninhabited. But the smaller one began experiencing atmospheric and structural changes in response to the invisible forces that spun and swirled between the two planets, as they edged closer to each other.
A lovers’ dance, some said it was, and they pointed to ancient myths that seem to foretell the inevitable crash when the two lovers succumbed to their passion. Both, even the larger one, would be destroyed by that passion.
Strangely, the people of the planet had the means to save themselves from such destruction. They simply could not see it. Not until I arrived and watched, and listened, and gathered, and measured. It wasn’t I who presented the solution that time. It was a few who were present at my presentation, who suddenly saw with clear eyes, beyond what they had ever seen. They thanked me. They dismissed me. My assignment was complete.
Last I checked (for I sometimes do check), those two planets still swirled around each other, no longer lovers destined to meet in doom, but lovers who would abide forever out of reach, their passion denied, their eternity of longing ensured.
Must great lovers always be doomed, I wondered.
They sent me to report upon the activities of a single sub-atomic particle once, one they feared was deviating from its expected deviations.
My first challenge was the physical. It wasn’t possible to shrink to sub-atomic size and maintain my complexity. I would need to shed too much of myself, and by the time the shrinking was done, I would no longer be me. The only way I could manage was to project my consciousness outside of my physical self, and then shrink my consciousness. It should have been capable of shrinking and expanding to any size without losing complexity.
I admit that I have made many a mistake in the execution of my duties. I’m sure there are those who are perplexed by my logic pertaining to the properties of a consciousness. I’ve searched my notes, and to my surprise, I still cannot find the sources that led me to conclude that my consciousness would remain intact at any size, and that it would retain its complexity at any size.
As it turned out, my subconscious increased in complexity as it shrank. Compacted so densely, it formed thoughts and gained powers of comprehension and awareness that I had never before or since experienced. Upon returning to its native size, my consciousness lost all the complexity it had gained upon shrinking. I remembered nothing. It was like a dream, a fleeting dream, fading from being as soon as I woke in my body. I only remembered as much as I was asked to report upon.
The particle was deviating slightly, but I saw no harm in reporting that all was well.
How many times can one fold a rainbow upon itself before its colors are sharp enough to pierce a soul?
The question troubled me. I asked what the purpose was of knowing the answer. Typically, I could ask as many questions as I wished. Not all were answered, but most were. They had to be, for how else could I perform my duties with confidence?
But this time I was granted no answers. I was not even granted a meeting with the asker. Though I did not want to know the answer, and I certainly did not want to give it, I accepted the assignment. I accepted it because if I did not, someone else would have. And if someone else did, that someone else might think nothing of the question, nothing of finding the answer, and nothing of sharing it.
Ah, for I have lied, in the performance of my duties. But I did not do so this time. This time, I persisted in my request to meet with the asker of the question. And the asker persisted in refusing.
I made my observations, and I made my calculations.
And I presented my answer.
It was not a number, my answer. It was a riddle. For if one wished to pierce the soul of another, a single rainbow might suffice, unfolded, unfixed, fading even as it appeared. But if one wished to pierce one’s own soul, the only implement sharp enough to do so was a deep truth, a truth buried so deeply that when it pierced the soul, it pierced from within. This was the answer I gave, and I expected that I would be dismissed and the assignment given to another.
Much to my surprise, when I returned home, I was told that the assignment was finished, and the asker was satisfied enough to send a message of admiring appreciation, and extra payment.
A drink that warmed, but also cooled, that was fortifying, but also refreshing, that did not spill, and yet flowed without end.
Perhaps with just a touch of sour.
It was my most perplexing assignment. It seemed more a riddle, to be teased out like a knot, than a problem to be solved through observation, experimentation, permutation, and contemplation.
A heavy vapor, perhaps? A vibrant variety of plasma?
I recalled my little deviant sub-atomic particle, and wondered if it might provide the balance of qualities that were required. I re-examined my notes on the particle. I realized I did not have the expertise, not yet. But apparently there was no rush, unless I was in a rush to be compensated for my work. I would only be paid after I presented the drink, and it was drunk, and the drinker was satisfied.
And by this time in my life and livelihood, I knew well enough to keep my subconscious mind roving as I accepted and completed other assignments. Perhaps I would learn what I needed to know, find a clue, find the answer itself, as I continued on with my work.
And so it came to be that I found a clue, perhaps even an answer on the surface of a yellow moon…
There was a giant planet on the opposite edge of the galaxy that had so many moons that every citizen of the planet was granted the right to lay claim to one. As citizens passed away, their claim to their moon would be passed on to another citizen at random. Inheritance was not allowed. None earned what they gained when it came to the moons. And yet, those who were granted the “lesser” moons were considered lesser citizens, though they had no choice in the moon they were assigned. In mocking jest, these citizens of lesser moons were called by the titles of sovereigns.
There was the King of the Three-Pebble Moon (named so because it was the smallest of the moons). There was the Princess of the Red Pepper Moon (named so because its dust took on a dull red hue from a native mineral). There was the Empress of the Wormy Moon. The Duke of the Pungent Moon. And on and on.
And then there was the Queen of the Hollow Yellow Moon. This moon was of a healthy size, but it was also hollow. There were no riches to be found in its depths, for it had no depths. There was no beauty on its surface. No charming or impressive inhabitants to befriend.
But the young Queen, the most recent inheritor, believed there was something special about the moon’s yellowness.
She tried to study her moon on her own. And she began to suspect that the moon’s yellowness was not the result of some mineral on its surface, as with the Red Pepper Moon. And she began to suspect that the moon’s hollowness was not quite so hollow.
When she could go no further with her own investigations, she summoned aid, and so it was that I came to visit her moon.
I too felt the moon was unique in some way that I could not quite perceive. Perplexed and intrigued, I went to work. I remained as still as I could, and I opened every sense, so that I could perceive the shifting of each grain of dust, the sliding of the moon through her orbit, weaving around and over the orbits of her sisters, and the movement of space through her hollow heart.
A vibration struck me suddenly. It had always been there. But I had been moving too much. I needed only to stand still, truly still, to feel it. It flowed through me and back upon itself, coiling loops, thousands of loops, millions, billions, loops within loops. Within me, I felt a cool calm. Without me, I felt a comforting warmth. I was fortified. I was refreshed.
If it were not so challenging to stand still, I might have stood there until the end of the cosmos.
But I began to move.
And when I did, the good Queen of the Hollow Yellow Moon gasped with wonder and proclaimed that I had the power to turn invisible. For she could not perceive me when I stood so still.
I laughed. I told her that her moon was indeed a treasure. For her moon was a fountain like no other, and there was a being I knew who sought just such a fountain.
I made the arrangements. And though I had not known that I would be doing so, I completed two assignments at once.
The Queen was surprised when I told her that her payment was fulfilled. For I had drunk from a fountain that few would ever drink from. I taught her how, though she did not ask. And I hoped that she would learn.
She thanked me for my generosity.
I smiled and said, “I do enjoy what I do.”
So what do you do?
Suddenly, I had it. A word in the man’s language that would truly answer his question without betraying my true part in the workings of the cosmos.
There was no need for me to spin the stories of my favorite assignments.
“I’m an analyst.”
Perhaps his eyes would glaze now, with a façade of politeness as he mechanically asked me how I liked my work, whilst his conscious mind scrambled to find some reason to exit the conversation.
But, even after all this time, after an eon of analysis, I could still be surprised. Much to my delight.
The man smiled. His head was turned to his left a bit, so his left eye caught the light from a near bright star.
“Small world,” he said, his eye twinkling with starlight. “So am I.”
Copyright © 2020 Nila L. Patel