The Unimaginable by C. M. Chapman

The Unimaginable wakes in a dense purple dawn after an uneasy sleep.  He sits up in the ancient oak bed, stained dark with an ivy engraving along the running board, and looks listlessly around the room, trying to recapture what has just come before.  After a moment she understands that whatever answer was there is gone, yawns, rubs her eyes, and slides her legs to the floor.  It rises and delicately cleans its fur, checking carefully for stars fallen during the night.

The Unimaginable has a distinct problem, which might seem obvious to a non-existent observer, but which, to him, is a mystery, a past which eludes him, a future which cleverly hides as if in ambush.  Was there a traumatic amnesia?  Will there be a crime?  Perhaps she once killed a family of four in a Kansas farmhouse, or possibly drowned her own children.  Or is there the possibility of some heinous act of genocide, today even?  It ponders shooting a president from a grassy knoll, of exceeding the speed of light, or of destroying whole worlds with a word. 

But no, none of these.  He slides a slice of bread into a toaster in a red and pale-green art-deco kitchen with a checkered floor.  The toast is a doom we cannot see from here.

She presses a button, it doesn’t matter where.  Peer Gynt spills into the air, in every room, music flowing like a wispy fog, out over the polar bear rug, the Louis XIV armoire, the lava lamp, the priceless tapestries of dead civilizations.  The pastoral flute floats like delicate, yellow pollen on a spring breeze.  Childhood drifts in those notes, cartoons and play, and it dreams of toys, of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, of jacks, and the Atari Asteroids video game, or could it have been a thermonuclear device in a tan, faux-leather briefcase etched with a reptilian pattern, or possibly in a giant silver suppository with a barometric fuse and an exploding bridgewire detonator made of shiny gold? 

Maybe that was yesterday, he thinks, or maybe this is just the wrong music.  She scours a billion songs.  For now, The Unimaginable favors “Tomorrow Never Knows,” by The Beatles.

In the afternoon, it ventures forth from impeccable oblivion, tentative, anonymous, crossing the street to the bench next to the schoolyard, where its view of the cavorting children through the weathered iron railing is best.  Who knows why he does this or why he thinks of toys and cartoons?  Perhaps she senses a shift in the polar axis or mourns loss of innocence.  Then again, it might be a despicable peddler in human flesh, only scouting victims to keep in its basement dungeon for horrendous pleasures.  But no.  He understands enough to know this.  She shakes her head at the insecurity of it all. 

As it watches a game of red rover, The Unimaginable wants to know, more than anything, how to “come over,” and yet it fears that knowledge like death, like utter extinction.

He is not in the newspaper or on television today, but he has been, or will be; he cannot remember which, or tell the difference.  Time is a crazed grasshopper, its mind rotted by radioactive decay, springing erratically through the quantum cornfields with no regard for linearity or certainty or nuclei, snapping a percussive ditty as it splits proton kernels with voracious teeth.  Will I?  Did I?  Have I?  Do I?  Was I?  Am I?  She sighs and rises from the bench, looking around her at the totality of life- is it her?  The totality of life?   The children are gone, if they were ever there.  There might have been a school shooting, possibly.

It turns its back on the playground and shambles up the street, a Lovecraftian abomination, a brilliant angel of the highest firmament.  The cracks on the sidewalk yawn into chasms before him.

The Unimaginable cannot pray and knows no faith  She knows no holiness.  It knows no god or good or evil.  There are only the walls of oblivion, the fog of ignorance, the milky cataract of hope that sometimes arises with the laughter of youth.  The Unimaginable dines on shredded purple twilight.

He asks the question.  She inquires about the opening.  It queries the editor.

There is a story, after all.  Architect of Armageddon.  Long lost twin, miraculously found at an International House of Pancakes in Fairbanks, Alaska.  Ambassador to All Possible Dimensions.  Hydrogen salesman on Jupiter.   No, not these.

He feels certain that he is running toward fate, to the fulfillment of his destiny.

The collapse of the food chain.  Secret of Pi.  One abrupt moment of complete, clear introspection for all humanity.  For all gorillas.  Sudden, certain elimination of greed.  Of love.  Carnivorous dinosaurs genetically altered to appreciate the finer points of city living. 

At the same time, she suspects she is running away from the story, absolutely terrified.

Multi-dimensional aliens who swim through consciousness like wine, drunk on the very essence of being?  The solution to all the world’s suffering?  No, no, none of these. 

The Unimaginable waits.  Always.  It puts on Scooby-do pajamas.

He feels that maybe she has been imagined once, perhaps today, moments ago, or moments from now, but it isn’t sure, and it isn’t true.

In numerous studies of midwives and fiction writers, there is wide agreement that The Unimaginable deserves as much pity as we can lavish upon it. 

Yes, of course you need to be told this. 

Another troubled night ahead of him, The Unimaginable wonders if he will dream his way into existence.  She smooths her fur, rubs her itchy snout with her stout paw, and climbs into the great oaken bed with ivy carvings and four posts which weren’t there before.  It waits for sleep, and for awakening, one eye watching out the window for falling stars.

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After a twenty year gig in radio, C.M. Chapman returned to writing in 2012 and was first published in the anthology, So It Goes: A Tribute to Kurt Vonnegut. He has also published in Cheat River Review, Dark Mountain_ in the U.K., Kentucky Review, Bird’s Thumb, Rose Red Review, and Limestone. He was a finalist for the 2015 Curt Johnson Prose Award and his chapbook, Music & Blood, will be published summer 2016 by Latham House Press.  Read more here:

Photo credit: Terri Malone


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