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--- B .  D I E T R I C H

"It's wanting to know that makes us matter." -Tom Stoppard

It was like catching your God with her knickers down. You found out one day the universe must end. Fourth grade, back of the class where books lined the walls with all the words you'd ever need. There, between gloss and cardboard, cardboard and crayon marginalia, you discovered what you'd been taught to fear. Something very like a coelacanth, a fish, Mr. Limpitt with feet, peddling up bog banks to test the air. Blasphemy. And worse - Baptist that you were - the rest of the story. What came before, what must, according to Bohr, inevitably follow. The birth of atom, the death of atom's children. A fuller version of creation than you'd known, been allowed. Revelation without apocalypse, apocalypse without demons (Maxwell not withstanding). It was all there, tri-tone, nearly 3-D, all you could ever ask for in a doomsday scenario. The heat death of everything, the cold slowing of heaven's hurled bodies, the gradual extinction of what seemed would expand forever.

Funny, but Fenrir never struck you like this, that quaint Nordic myth of how it all might end in snow-slow, zero-laden stasis. The great wolf presiding over what couldn't last with his last blast of feral breath, his great howl, growl by growl growing silent as ice between here and the end of the world. But this. This was dangerous. It claimed a kind of authority, say, the story of five Chinese brothers didn't. So you did what you had to do. Approached the teacher, Woods, Mrs. Woods. Showed her the book. Asked her to hide it, burn it, take it as far away from you and your faith as her own faith in you would allow. Coolidge Elementary. When the days wind down and the sun begins at last to consume what it has given, you wonder, still, if that book will remain. There. Top shelf. Too high for you to reach. Beached. Unburned. Burning with all its answers.

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