The World Went Away | Corey Mesler
“How nice objects are—I'm glad we live in a thingy world.” – Iris Murdoch
The morning was as cold as clapboards. Jake stood next to his bed, a lifeless automaton. Jake needed the command to move. Only Jake had it.
He shook like a wet dog and put one foot in front of the other. The bed was a life raft, around which he had to swim. To set out on open waters. The bed neither spoke nor shimmied.
Jake found his way into the bathroom, white as charnel bone. In the mirror was Jake's face looking at him, assessing. His eyes were glowing filaments. He knew the face and the face knew him. He abrogated the night's congeries.
In the kitchen the light seemed muted, like a Miles solo. Perhaps it was only Jake's smudged visualization. Progressing like a sleepwalker, Jake made a cup of coffee and while he waited for the appliance to percolate, he scavenged for bread. The wheat was moldy. The white hard. The rye held out the best possibility; it was apparently indestructible, the hardy rye.
Jake settled down with his breakfast and life slowly leached into him. He could feel his limbs loosening, his body returning, his heart engaging. And it was about this time that Jake began to sense something odd, something off-kilter.
The light. Something was wrong with the light.
He turned, stood, gazed out his kitchen window.
He had gone blind.
No, it wasn't blindness. Everything beyond his own kitchen window was gone. The world was white space, blank as a skull, as empty of matter as windswept dunes. Emptier. The dunes themselves were gone.
Was this the morning of dispossession?
Was Jake dead? Jake asked.
Jake turned toward the center of his home. He tottered to the front door—his mind was blank also, something tunneling there, slowly—and opened it as if he were opening his own tomb. Outside was the same emptiness, the same world gone white. Seemingly, only Jake and his house existed. Beyond his stoop a void.
Jake stared into the nothingness for as long as he could. Madness lay that way.
His mind switched to reference mode: what had Kierkegaard said about the void?
Finally, he turned back toward his home and relished its solidarity, its things. There was his couch, dusty and wavery like a couch underwater. There was his coffee table, his bowl of seashells, his Newsweek magazine. There his TV, his DVD player, his complete Secret Agent Man DVD set, his lamp—the one his ex-wife gave him after the divorce. A peace offering. A peaceful lamp.
His rooms were as stable as red bricks. And he was real, that was important. His brain worked, firing—in his thoughts a universe. A reconstructed, reconfigured world. It could be.
Jake sat down in a shabby rocking chair, covered with an old afghan. His hand felt the material underneath it; absentmindedly Jake was connecting himself to what was left. What was left?
Surely, this was a temporary aberration. A glitch in space-time. Jake believed such things possible and, in his belief, he was comforted. It did not seem a time to panic.
So, the outside world was gone. As gone as the Mayans. As gone as last night's dream. Funny, Jake did not think that he was now in a dream—this was not dreamspace, cloudland. This was the Earth, the old familiar Earth, though disappeared.
The TV suggested itself to Jake. The lifeline. Jake picked up the controller and pushed power. There was a satisfying click as the engines engaged, as the motor of the outside world began to whirl inside this box of glass and plastic.
And the show that Jake found on every channel was this: Nothing. Brought to you by the Imps of the Perverse. Sponsored by The Old Gooseberry, Himself.
Every channel a white screen, a palette, a sheet upon which the soul of Man longed to record its heroic journey.
Jake laughed a sardonic laugh. Ok, everything was gone. Everything. Everydamnthing. He was Robinson Crusoe, and like Crusoe, he had been set adrift from the ordinary. This was perchance a plus.
Another possible plus: along with the rest of the known universe, his place of business was no more. No work for Jake, not on this day.
But, had the whole universe disappeared? Jake only knew that outside his residence, his own dwelling, there was a pane of white like sightlessness. What if one pushed through it? Perhaps the nothingness only extended for a hundred yards, or a mile. Jake could go out and explore it—he could find his way back. That was what people did—they explored the unknown—this was humanness. Jake felt grounded and, to be honest, a bit disappointed. If this were just a subtracting of his immediate surroundings it was an anomaly, sure, one that Jake could dine out on, as they say, but it was not the total obliteration his heart now secretly yearned for. He was possibly not the last man on Earth.
For argument's sake, let's say Jake is alone. Completely alone like no man has been since pre-Eve. What to do? How to feed, what if he got sick, how would he pass the many minutes in each day?
Jake stayed in his chair contemplating this.
An hour or so passed.
Finally, Jake admitted that he had to go outside. He had to chance it. Because what if later the world returned and he had to explain what he had done, and he had done nothing? Jake was even now mulling over what other people would think. Is this basic humanness, too? This insecurity?
Jake dressed as if going on a hike. Shorts, socks, boots. Into the many pockets of his shorts he squirreled away the items of survival. GORP, lighter, knife, paper, pen. And he hooked a bottle of water to his belt. Intrepid voyager.
Jake once more stood in his doorway, his threshold the last solid thing for miles, perhaps for miles. Jake now half-expected the world to click back in, to reload like a recalcitrant webpage. But he only saw white ahead, only zilch. Jake had no pathway. Jake had no direction. What if he got out into it, whatever it was, and could not tell up from down, right from left, forward from backward?
It gave him pause.
Nevertheless, like many men and women before him, he gritted his teeth and knew the bravery of the lost, the disenfranchised. Formerly pluckless, Jake now, for the first time, knew bravery.
Jake took one step off his doorsill.
Jake did not fall. He did not plummet into the abyss.
The void held him up, yet there was a sensation of being part of the void that was unnerving. He took a few more tentative steps. He was moving outward.
Suddenly dread rose in his throat like vomitus. He spun around. His home was still there. It looked like a cardboard cutout against the vacant background. Could it be possible that Jake's house was the only bona fide thing left in the universe? Or, another hypothesis occurred to Jake: perhaps everyone woke up this morning to find him or herself alone, seemingly the only tangible point in immobile space.
The universe was rife with anxious explorers walking into the unknown!
Jake took another step, and then another.