Author: Katie Venit
It was a clear Tuesday in May at the Eden Garden Center when a new universe commenced between the petunias and marigolds, just left of the snapdragons. Initially the size of a speck, it was easily mistaken for atmospheric sparkle.
Within days, the speck had grown large enough for the owners—former hippies-turned entrepreneurial horticulturalists Stan and Frank Bern-Jones—to notice. Frank was watering the petunias, enjoying the sunlight streaming in through the greenhouse windows and planning the day’s mulching when he discovered himself on his backside, having been repelled by something. Rubbing his derriere, Frank realized he had bounced off an orb the circumference of a quarter, hovering three feet off the ground, incandescing and pulsing like a will-o’-the-wisp. When he tried to grab the orb, it seared his palm with the pattern of the firmament.
Leaning in as close as he dared, Frank discerned gauzy stellar nurseries of billowing gas and stardust, light years across and coalescing rapidly into primordial galaxies amassing along webs of gravity. The universe swelled slightly. Frank closed shop early.
By next morning, the wee bairn had laid waste to the petunias. Gamma waves blackened the leaves and crumpled their trumpets as though they had been held over a fire. Stan deadheaded while Frank called their insurance agent.
“Bad news,” Frank hung up the phone. “Our insurance doesn’t cover the birth of a multiverse in the nursery.”
“It covers Acts of God, doesn’t it? What is this if not an Act of God?” Stan shook a handful of dead petunias at Frank, releasing a stale aroma of funeral parlors.
“Not according to the insurance agent. Besides, wouldn’t you say this disproves the existence of God? I mean, if there were a God, and he were truly omnipotent, then this would be a pretty big goof. Sort of like planting kudzu in a terrarium,”
Stan stared at his husband. “You’re talking about divine ontology when our inventory is being destroyed.”
Frank shrugged. “I’m just saying, maybe we should call Father James instead of the insurance agent.”
“Does the insurance cover Hell, Frank? Because that’s where I am, in Hell!” Stan threw down the irradiated petals, which disintegrated in a tawny puff.
Frank held a hand to his mouth, thinking. It was a pose Stan usually found alluring but not at this moment.
“What if,” said Frank, “we move the petunias over with the impatiens.”
“Those are full shade, Frank. It’ll never work!”
“Now you’re mixing annuals and perennials!” Stan took a steadying breath and pinched the bridge of his nose. He wasn’t sure what that did, but his father and grandfather had both done it in times of stress. “Obviously we’re not thinking clearly. I’m not worried about the damned petunias. I mean, just look at you.” He cradled Frank’s burnt hand. “We need to destroy this thing. Do you know what universes do? They expand.”
“Destroy it?” Frank pulled his hand away. “Stan, we’re horticulturalists. We’re in the creation business. Cosmology, not eschatology. What if we somehow conceived this universe? What if there are living beings? We can’t just exterminate them like aphids.”
“There’s no life there! Besides, what choice do we have? It’s us or th—”
“Shh, do you hear that?” Frank held up a finger. “Stan, listen.”
Stan leaned in close enough to singe the peach fuzz on his ears.
The tiny universe wailed.