In this world, the tiniest life creates you. In tireless work microbes construct you beneath the soil, this quiet and appropriate place to conceive a being. You won’t remember this, but it is how it happens. Above ground, the others are stalking the forest, retrieving their loneliness, their grief. Meanwhile, your pale and riven face is composing itself in the darkness.
When it’s time the others unearth you. They brush the soil from your vestments, your eyelids, which have yet to open. The hum in your nerves is still incoherent, still dispersed. The microbes that will be you are still grieving as they put you together.
The others carry you to the house, lay you in the bed. It is here you come awake, your eyes fluttering open, a rattle in your throat. Your family is all around, the pain dissolving from their faces as you come into the world.
This life begins in pain, a sense of dislocation. You have trouble recognizing yourself at times. Some days are worse than others, but this feeling steadily fades, and burgeoning is the joy from the presence of your grandchildren, those who have been old before you and who have matured into their prime.
You grow stronger, and soon your days are spent disassembling things, tools and beautiful crafts which you break into their constituent parts and scatter in the woods. You steadily delete words from your books, the thoughts and sounds effervescing into a cloud that hangs unseen in the understory of the forest.
You build things too: animals from meat and bone and hide. When it’s ready, you lay the deer in a clearing and stalk away. From a distance, you draw a bullet from the deer with your gun, watch it leap to its feet, its huge brown eyes on you. It turns away. Emotion roiling in you, elation at its lithe movement, also the knowledge that it must live through pain all its days.
Grains you form from flour and place on the stalk, so they can shrink back to the ground. The sun rises in the west, the squash turn to buds on their vines. Your grandchildren have begun to grow smaller too, and soon they disappear, one after another, into your children.
More years, your children’s faces are going smoother. They laugh a great deal, they have a manic energy. You find a deep-cutting sadness in the forest, almost world-destroying. You know something is coming. It is somewhat ameliorated when it’s time, and you draw yet another child from the earth. You brush the soil from his face as was done for you. He will have to live in pain for a time from the disease, but he is alive.
Down the valley, the weeds are drawing downwards and the cracks in the pavement are mending themselves. Plumes of smoke stand dark on the horizon. Grief and anger, sharp and mounting. Somehow, those same things that built you are building this: concrete to imprison the soil, no place for the forest to decline and leap to its rising heights.
Before long your children have disappeared as well, it’s hard to conceive exactly how it happened, perhaps because of guilt, knowing in your way you have drawn them into yourself, unmade them. In a strange trade, you pull your parents from the earth. You recognize in their confused faces what you once felt at the opening of your eyes.
Years go on, the pavement advances. A gripping sense of confusion, of the world not quite right on its axis. You think your parents should have the answers but they are somehow unable to communicate them to you. They often withdraw into themselves, their brows heavy with their own concerns. Meanwhile, the world is at the brink, everything can be destroyed at any moment, it is your responsibility to amend this for some reason, you are the future. Hot summer days, riding a bicycle through the grimy streets, sweltering in the classroom, malaise and the sharp, terrible shock of embarrassment, all in a bad mix.
To whom can you express this? The forest is at a remove, but still you walk the dusty paths of the manicured parks, breathing in disconsolation from the flowers. You sometimes consider growing younger more quickly somehow, just to escape. Or if time in this world could be reversed, if you could go back into the earth. What peace that was, in the quiet dark, what gentle love you felt as the microbes worked through you, as you were being made.