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THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING • by Tina Wayland

It wasn’t there and then it was.

There, in the middle of class. As the teacher explained algorithms. Added endless digits on the board. I caught a glimmer from the window. The sun catching a pen, maybe. An earring.

But no.

I reached out to touch it and it opened more. A hole. A tear in the room. A gap of light and heat only I seemed to notice. No one else heard the water, felt the sunlight. No one saw me reach further to gather in this other place. No one saw me fall out.

The staring eye was blue. Almost see-through. It blinked in time with my own as I adjusted to the light. It wasn’t afraid. Didn’t flinch as it raised a hand to pull me up off the sand.

And yet its touch was shocking. Charged. It filled me with the energy of generations. The wisdom of time. I could feel layers of people, thick coats of life. It was incredible. Electrifying.

It was everything.

Where is this?

The blue eye blinked. Tilted its head.

This is here.

I was barefoot. Toes in the sand, sinking. Leaving my mark. The blue eye beckoned me to where the waves washed the sand clean. Left it smooth. I walked over and watched old footprints make way for new.

The eye pointed to the shore.

This is your classroom today. Burn the lessons to memory.

From out of the sand came a claw — a crab. Clicking. Climbing. It raced across the beach and back, knitting lines. Drawing circles. It connected everything together with fine sea stitching, hooking together bits of sand, threads of shell. Looped everything until it resembled a soft, white tapestry. A sand afghan for the birds. A canvas for the sky.

Then a wave washed up and carried it away.

Okay?

I nodded.

Lesson two.

From somewhere over the sea came a giant bird. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen — bright and bursting with hundreds of colours. Thousands. It landed on my shoulder, impossible hues streaming from its head. Shifting in the sun. It stretched its wings out over the beach in an exploding embrace. A new sky erupting in fireworks.

The eye and I sat in the shade. Felt its peace. We sat illuminated by a rainbow display of down, a parasol of every colour there ever was. Then the bird unclawed its feet, rustled its wings. Reflected its infinite colour wheel across the sea before disappearing behind the sun.

One more?

I looked up and suddenly the moon was out. There, next to the sun. Stars dangled from clouds, pierced through sunbeams. The bright, black background reflected off the water, joined the horizon. Created two of everything. It was a constellation of impossible proportions. A supernova of everything there ever was.

I raised my hand to shield my eyes — to keep all the new colours there from burning. But the sky simply went out. Faded to blue. The stars disappeared back beyond the bright curtain and the moon took its rightful place in the far corner of the sky.

And now I understood. Now I had the answer.

I looked at the eye looking at me and I suddenly knew the answer to everything.

We are threads of sand. We are each important. Fleeting. We live only for the space between waves. And we must write something on the sand big enough to be remembered.

We are all the shades of men’s hearts. Of children’s wonder. We are the cracks between colours. Every hue of every being who walks the earth. A rainbow without every colour is a rainbow no more.

We cannot fade. We burn bright with ideas and thoughts. Regrets and resurrections. We leave our marks reflected on the sky and each and every one of us burns our place. So we must choose the heat of our passions wisely. We must leave a mark that people can see. A map to guide the lost home.

The eye blinked — deep and blue and knowing. It blinked and when it opened again I was back in the classroom. Staring at a board of numbers that speckled the black background like dull stars.

The teacher called my name, impatient, and I looked up. Through my new blue eyes I could see into him. Through him. I could see everything.

“Back, then?”

I rubbed my eyes and saw colours pierce through numbers. Discovered patterns in the chalk dust. Neon lights reflected off the dust in the air — illuminated everything in the room. Everyone. We were all so bright.

We were burning.

That’s when I climbed on top of my desk. Spread my arms wide. I cast long shadows over the rows of students. Shone my light out the door, the windows. Burned my passion into them all.

The teacher broke the spell, but only for a second. A pause between the waves. “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

I opened my arms wider and reached around the sun. Pulled down the stars. Saw them shimmer back a thousand times in everyone’s eyes. Watched them knit together there like endless grains of sand, erupting in sunlight.

“You will,” I said. “You will.”


Tina Wayland is a stay-at-home mom, freelance copywriter and out-of-the-closet fiction writer. She’s got her fingers in a few pies and hopes to net herself a few publishing plums.


This story is sponsored by
Clarion West — Apply now and prepare for your professional writing career with Paul Park, Kij Johnson, Ian McDonald, Hiromi Goto, Charlie Jane Anders, and John Crowley, June 22 – August 1 in Seattle.


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THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING • by Tina Wayland, 3.7 out of 5 based on 26 ratings
Posted on February 19, 2014 in Stories, Surreal
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  • http://chaoticterrainpress.blogspot.com/ Mickey Hunt

    The answer is 42. (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) But seriously, the story’s answer also seems arbitrary because, why? Why the specific details and imagery? Why anything? And the real world is so much fuller and more beautiful.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Last week I took my eight-year-old son to see the Lego Movie. He said it was the weirest movie he’d ever seen. I found this story equally weird – in a good way.

  • John Timm

    An awesome blend of fantasy and poetry.

  • Guest

    This is a great flight of imagination. It explains where the pupils’ minds were when I was trying to interest them in quadratic equations – probably a much better place than my classroom :)

  • http://www.derekmcmillan.com/ Derek McMillan

    This is a great flight of imagination. It explains where the pupils’
    minds were when I was trying to interest them in quadratic equations –
    probably a much better place than my classroom :)

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/quirkandkwizle Avalina Dixon

    A great exploration of moment – lovely tableau!

  • Walter Giersbach

    Five stars, Tina, because of the sheer poetry. I wish The New Yorker ran flash, starting with this one.

  • Tina Wayland

    Thank you all for your kind and thoughtful feedback. It is, as always, much appreciated. Walter, you’ve given me the wee kick I needed to get back to those unfinished stories in my writing folder. :)

  • Donna Jean McDunn

    It was nice, but for me, it wasn’t much of a story.

  • http://suburbannoir.com Cathryn Grant

    I’m not usually a fan of the surreal, but this story captured me in the first line. The gorgeous imagery left an impact beyond simple words or story.

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