The Origin of Life by Daniel Hudon

The Origin of Life by Daniel Hudon

Beginnings are always hazy. We were so much younger then, and so simple, that it’s hard to say what really happened. You could say it was like waking out of a dream, those few disorienting microseconds where you slowly (despite the infinitesimal duration of the time), almost achingly, realize that your entire universe is fading and a new one is taking shape before your eyes.

It hardly seems an adequate description – maybe it was more like thawing – but we were so preoccupied with getting accustomed to our surroundings that some things failed to make an impression on us. When we awoke, as it were, we were in motion, roaming around the sun as if we had been for a long time already. Everyone was excited about the prospect of warming our extremities and having more light in our lives (though we had no immediate use for it) but just as we began to get toasty we realized we were heading back out to the depths of space again.

Though I liked to try to keep track of things (even if I didn’t really have a mind for it) I lost count of how many times we went around. All the revolutions blended together and it seemed like forever. That’s the way things are when you’re so young, everything is far away in time, if not in space too. We passed the time thinking mostly of nothing because we didn’t know how to think.

We could have used a little more space in our cramped quarters, but no one minded. If only we’d had some hair and a slight cosmic breeze, we’d have been picture-perfect teenagers joyriding in a convertible on summer holiday. We didn’t even worry about getting dust in our eyes because we didn’t yet have eyes.

This happiness couldn’t last. Somehow we swung closer to the sun, part of our comet melted, and instead of having the depths of space ahead of us, we bore down onto a tiny blue world. Everyone shouted (thought we didn’t have mouths) — to no avail. The blue world loomed larger and larger. Without steering or brakes we blasted through the atmosphere and splashed into a large body of water. Our comet vaporized and it’s a wonder we didn’t go with it. If we could count our blessings, we would have started there. There are advantages to being simple, and this was one of them.

But who knew how to swim?

Nostalgia by Flickr user John Roy

Nostalgia by Flickr user John Roy

Another awakening. No one knew what to do. We thrashed about in the water, fighting for our very lives, such as they were. At the same time, we were galvanized: we’d had it so good for so long that we didn’t know what we were capable of. Right off the bat, recognizing our predicament, we bonded. Soon, a group mentality took over and once our initial terror subsided we played games to see what new combinations we could make of ourselves. We could scarcely recognize what was happening.

Had we ears, all you could hear was the continuous din of connections snapping into place. There must have been a thermal vent somewhere to help facilitate things. We had no idea we were capable of such intricacies; we lost our inhibitions, our individuality, and all our efforts now went into building some new monument of ourselves. Often we took a zap of radiation from the sun and had to start over, but c’est la vie. We had time.

One day we constructed something strange and unwieldy. But rather than collapse upon itself, even in the low gravity and buoyancy of the water, something unbelievable occurred. It folded over – we folded over – and suddenly there were two of us. Had we mouths, our shouts of surprise would have been deafening. Naturally, none of us knew what we had done and we took it as a challenge – along with a few wagers – to repeat it. Pure chance, most shrugged, we’d never be so lucky again. Yet, just as we were about to give up, it happened again.

This time, K used what few wits he had to create a rudimentary system for keeping track of what we’d tried. After dozens of miscues and complaints, he was able to align everybody – and duplicate our success. A brand new self. It was terribly exciting. Then K had an idea (a first). He couldn’t really speak (none of us could), but he somehow communed to us that we should codify our favorite combinations and see what happened. By God it worked. After that, like fools in love, we replicated like mad.

We’d gotten a toe hold onto some new endeavor and now we could do no wrong. It happened so fast, relatively speaking, that no one knew what to make of it all. But when we thought of such things (which wasn’t very often) we couldn’t help but hope we had a bright future ahead of us.

bio_hudonDaniel Hudon, originally from Canada, is an adjunct lecturer in astronomy, physics, math and writing in Boston. He is the author of a nonfiction book, The Bluffer’s Guide to the Cosmos (Oval Books, UK) and a chapbook of prose and poetry, Evidence for Rainfall (Pen and Anvil). He has recent work appearing in Kudzu, The Little Patuxent Review, Written River, The Chattahoochee Review, the anthology {Ex}tinguished and {Ex}tinct: An Anthology of Things that No Longer {Ex}ist, Clarion, Riprap, Paragraphiti, Toad, and Canary. Some of his writing links can be found at people.bu.edu/hudon. He lives in Boston, MA.