The Man With The Universe In His Chest
by J.D. Lee
It’s cold. The sky is gray. The trees flash by the windows of my Dodge. Even pressed on the wheel, my hands shake. My heart pounds. My blood races. I know what I’ve done and I can’t shake the thought, I am the end of the world.
My chest aches but I dare not let go of the wheel. At these speeds it takes all of me to not careen into the woods. The woods. So beautiful, I want to stop. I want to enjoy them one last time, but I know I have to get away. As far away as I can get from everyone. From everything.
I’ve cleared the woods and only white, rolling dunes rush by me now. The desert. I can’t help but see the cacti scorched and the sands turned to glass.
My chest burns. My foot shoves the accelerator deeper into the floor. It’s as fast as it goes now. The engine whines. The tachometer trembles in the red. The view outside is indecipherable. Images twist. Colors blur. The road leaps up at me ahead in waves.
I wonder, Am I far enough? I tell myself I am. I release the gas pedal and wait for inertia to take over. Gradually, I slow. I pull to the right and stop. I’m in an empty turn out. The signs claim I’m hundreds of miles from anything. It will have to do.
My chest pulsates, pushing against my shirt. It hurts. It sears. It screams. I rip at the cotton to get at the skin. It’s rippling, writhing, twisting like snakes inside me. I toss my shirt into the passenger seat and throw open my door. I dive into the dirt, and for a moment, I can’t breathe.
I collect myself and rise, using the door as my crutch. My chest aches. It’s ripping open now. I can feel it. In the reflection of the back window, I see it. Black dots twist across my flesh. They swirl and bleed, circling one another before blending to a deep, oval void. In the center, a fire grows. A small light at first, then a flash. It bursts across the inky blackness in a flurry of sparkling lights. The lights flicker and swell, deepening their intensity. Then another flash.
A spiral of stars now occupy the cavity in my chest and I recognize it – The Milky Way. It churns. It’s many arms reach across the hole in me. I grab at it, but find my hands to sink inside. It won’t return them to me. I pull. It pulls. I’m elbow deep now and I can feel it feasting on me. Sucking me in. Pulling me backwards. Folding me into myself. Before it takes the last of me, I realize, I am not the end.
I am the beginning.
J.D. Lee is an author of science fiction, fantasy and suspense based in Los Angeles, California. He draws influence from great authors such as Stephen King and Philip K. Dick, and inspired thinkers like Douglas R. Hofstadter, Zeno and Kurt Gödel. J.D. Lee also maintains a free fiction website, Truelee Fiction, on which many more of his works can be found. In his debut novel, The Mediator Pattern, J.D. Lee discusses many of the topics in his shorter works; life, death, eternity, perception, identity and how it all comes to be. One of the questions that has always plagued him is, what makes reality real? Through paradoxes and cyclic thinking, Lee aims at creating stories that drive those answers out of us.
Richard Edwards has a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism from Bowling Green State University and an M.S. in Education from the University of Akron. Managing editor of Drunk Duck, poetry editor for Prairie Margins, reporter for Miscellany, Akron Journal, Lorain Journal, and The BG News. He has also worked as a professional writer and editor in the medical publishing industry for several years. For the last 15 years Richard has also taught literature and writing at the secondary and post-secondary levels. He works much of the time with at-risk students.