“Universal Soup” by Tony Southcotte

Universal Soup

In the beginning, there was nothing, which was actually everything.

Eons fell away. Yet with nothing, no time passed. The universe embodied not just a void, but the total absence of all.

A notion passed in the darkness – less as a thought, more like an impulse. “I am.” The sole concept. More a thought whispered than spoken aloud.

Awareness ripped open the darkness and impossible light and matter blasted outward. The torrential tear in the fabric of nothing spouted forth fiery motes of particles ripping into the void.

The being felt itself spreading, felt the distance between every atom grow greater as its quintillions of arms stretched into oblivion.

It was enough to just “be.”

The being felt its particles stretch, felt the chasm between each atom engulf more space. The distance continued to grow, despite the being’s efforts to pull itself inward.

The being despaired as it realized it would never be whole again. Each grasp pulled less and less as its matter escaped from the center.

Again the being pulled, but in vain. The supercharged particles bounded, ignoring the force it exerted. As the particles slowed, the pull shifted toward each other instead of toward the beginning.

The closest atoms near the being’s many arms started to amass. Bit by bit their gravity pulled more of itself toward a common center, towards millions of cosmic centers spread through the void.

Slowly these particles began to coalesce, to knead into pulsing islands in the vast and ever-growing darkness. The great being found solace in this unity of atoms.

It may never be whole again, but at least it would bind together where it could.

The first stars surged and frothed, the small force of the being becoming magnified by every particle that entered into the fray. The unified power ignited in glorious bursts, ripping the cold darkness with furious light and energy.

These super dense crucibles of fire and light seared on a fuel of itself. Within the core of each, complex elements of matter formed. Single particles joined together as beautiful clusters of something more.

The being pulled tighter, cooking these elements into a universal soup of natural chemicals. Over time, the reduction, the thickening, the torrential heat and density of the being’s embrace caused the collapse of its stars.

In origins reminiscent of its own beginnings, these stars exploded inward and then ripped outward into the universe again.

The being refused to allow these new elements to travel far, so the process of collection began again. Recrafting…changing…morphing into more…these massive stars became shadows of themselves. Heavenly bodies spun around the newest stars, creating new and eye-pleasing stations of galactic congruence.

Planets of heavy elements formed alongside the beatific refuges of gas giants.

The being never expected such a creation forged only through patience and chance.

As the nature of matter changed over time, so did the being. It embodied everything, yet felt spread to its limits. It marveled at its own creation, but there remained something missing.

The forces of nature played out on one of the smaller planets. Water rose and fell. Comets and meteors from fallen planets slammed into each other, creating spectacular displays of solid destruction.

And yet the being felt alone. It found itself wanting as it stretched across the cosmos.

It focused on these planets, the newest of its galactic collection, and pondered deeply. On these moist and collected balls of elements, something itched below the surface; complexity that his stars could not sustain in their raging crucibles.

It was on these rocks where acids and atoms played in pools, simmering slowly, that it happened. The being felt a surging burst on hundreds of billions of planets, a thrilling tickle of movement not caused by the simple chemistry of creation. In this cosmic stew, the first moments of something “other” began.

The being felt for the first time that part of itself became biological. It felt the glow of life course through advanced molecules that danced in the mud across planets of immeasurable number.

More time passed.

Some planets slipped back into dormancy while others crept forward. The being focused where it could to try and bring advance types of itself to form.

The natural world crafted creatures of all varieties. All of them pressed forward with the beings urgency, wanting to survive, wanting to be. They fed on each other, as the stars had fed on the energies of themselves. The essential spark of this life could never shine so bright as the beings earliest creations, but their craven need to survive and become stronger gave them the being’s favor.

Each atom of each creature moved in concert with the being’s forces until there came a time when they rebelled against it.

The solidity of natural forces, the predictability of it, was completely overshadowed by the impudent nature of that which lived. With each epoch of life moving forward, the being started to understand itself.

It understood that given time, simplicity gave way to the force of advancement, of evolution.

Near a small campfire on the open Savannah a woman stared upward. She didn’t have the vocabulary to express the vastness of the night sky, but in that moment she felt whole. She felt like she was part of something. She stared at the brilliant menagerie of stars, briefly wondering what she was. Images of far off campfires were the only parallel she could think of, and she wondered who tended them.

The scent of cooking meat met her nose and she smiled. Stoking the coals, she hummed to herself and tended the meat as her children worked the hide.

The animal sustained her, as the grass had sustained the animal, as earth’s soil sustained the grass. Every element of nature vibrated within her and her children.

Soon she returned to the earth as the circle continued onward.

On the distant arm of an indistinguishable galaxy, the being felt a prickle of sudden awareness. The primate’s question – where did she come from? – seeped into the being. It pondered the question, unsure of the answer. Unanswerable questions began to multiply as sentience took hold on this tiny planet.

As consciousness grew, the being grew too. As the realization of itself had kick-started its own birth, the flourishing of universal consciousness brought along its own self-awareness. These miniscule beings had the power to understand the being itself. The inert status of most of the universe seemed to pale in comparison to the new revelations.

As consciousness progressed through the primates and countless other beings, the being found its fondness growing toward all of them. Its patient focus turned to these planets as they reached outward, trying to find themselves among the dark solitude of their own lives. Their beautiful energy invigorated the being, even when their nature turned dismal. In the end, they were all still one with the being, for which so many labels had been applied. They consumed it in every bit of sustenance, they returned to their former states upon their own deaths and rebirths.

The being relished in their progress, and watched as even conscious species faltered and thrived.  It felt their woe in short bursts, but also the hum of their lives across all manner of societies and galaxies.

The inadvertent act of creation had birthed all that was, and their creativity drove it even further.

Jon sat at the table, his hands folded into a steeple against his face. The three-year old-sat in next to him, screaming as if the world had come to an end.  His seven-year old sat on the other side of the table, arms crossed, lip puffed out.

With an exasperated sigh, he said, “And that, son, is why you need to eat your goddamn vegetables. Do you know how much effort was put into making those carrots?”

“How much could possibly go into it? It’s just a salad.” His son pouted, poking the greens with his fork.

“Well son,” Jon said, “let’s start at the beginning.”




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Tony hails from the Rocky Mountains somewhere around the state of Colorado. Possibly raised by grizzly bears, this gritty denizen of the arena now spends most of his time grappling with Java updates and dysfunctional RAM. With not much fiction under his belt, it might seem tempting to bet against Mister Southcotte, but an impressive knowledge of everything from PVC pipe to psychedelic drugs makes Tony a storehouse of fiction waiting to hit the paper. Plus, you know, there’s the possibility of him ripping you apart like a grizzly bear.

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  1. Wow that didn’t end up where I thought it would. That’s a good story!

  2. There were tons of great lines here, a lot of them started their own little loops in my head, and they kept resonating as the story continued. It was like when musicians use a loop machine to build a whole back track from nothing, and then just add in one sound on top of the other. My favorite was “As the particles slowed, the pull shifted toward each other instead of toward the beginning.”

    The first two sections should be merged though, it almost feels like there are two beginnings to this story and they both have necessary context, but they don’t stand strongly on their own. These lines specifically would go well together, “In the beginning, there was nothing, which was actually everything. It was enough to just ‘be.'”

  3. This story was interesting. It was hard to follow at the beginning because it seemed a bit redundant. The story started to pick up though once the “being” began interacting with other characters. Great plot and beautiful ending.

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