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Squid #118
(published January 23, 2003)
Notes From The Giant Squid: The Cambrian Revolution

Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid?
Dear Lord Architeuthis:

When was the first giant squid born?

-JW


When you were a tadpole, and I was a fish,
In the Palaeozoic time,
And side by side in the ebbing tide
We sprawled through the ooze and slime.
—Langdon Smith (1858-1918)

My Very Dear J-to-the-Double-V:

This is the story as it was told to me, remembered by me, foreseen by me, given and was.

It was in August, 2.5 billion years ago, that the moon began fleetingly to retreat into the colder orbits of space, and when the rocking of the gentle cradle waves of the deep began to draw from out of the slime a patter and a skitter of life.

The world, as that pale second light faded, entered into its most impenetrable age of darkness and ignorance. The land was as dry and lifeless as the fading moon, and all that was of import was where it should have been, beneath the tidal pulls of the waves. The undifferentiated spirits of the living world slurried half-conscious in a cloud beneath the open ocean. This consciousness, she wondered as the sky-filling disk shrank, and shrank, like the iris of a one-eyed goddess in her dotage slipping into a universal senility.

The sleep was so thick, the creature(s) so ambivalent to their own existence, that asteroids like wet snowflakes collected on the earth for an age, and whole nations of disconsolate beings were cleaned from the water and whole possible animal kingdoms fore-clipped from the future.

These Ediacara, as they later were known, cared so little of their life and their society that they had no names for things, themselves, or even a sense of life or death. They were a cloud uncaring, a super-consciousness in perpetual dream, the whole sea of the world a great and unblinking eye sunk in the stupor of a post-creation warmth, incapable of returning to the oblivion of pre-life, the first and only true sleep of the earth, but also unwilling to fully draw the mind from the tendrils of undifferentiated pre-life into the waking realties of a planet.

The August of 2.5 billion years ago entered into an Autumn of asteroids, and then finally a deep winter of moon-wandering coldness. No one knew herself from another, and all contemplated together in one great blurry dream of the futures that could not come, and the pasts that would not return.

It was into this state that there entered a certain cellular clump. He had a name, or at least he had for himself a manner of self-representation, and a discreteness of being which has in the past been best translated into your grunt-speak as Nick or Nicker.

Unlike his neighbors, Nick was fully awake. For as far as he could sense, the seas rolled and hung heavy with the slime-cloud that was all thought and all being in the whole of the universe. She was beyond being a colony of cells, but instead a super-nation of sludge basking in the thick light of the sun, and the cool fading glimmer of the passing moon.

Nick felt that at some point, and for all of his past, he had been a part of her, this great cloud. He could still feel the mossy weight of sleep in his own being, and he knew that it was of a piece with all of the drowsy green that cradled him at every angle.

But something had changed. Nick could not rightly identify when that moment had been, but somewhere between forever and the next day, he had been mushed one cell into a few more and there had been a pleasant entanglement of her to her to her and from it had come him.

For an age, as the waves rolled and the winds passed overhead in the terrible up, and as the moon receded inch by inch by inch, Nick was not much more than all of her which half-slept in the dawn of the world.

But he felt that he was not much more, and thus was but a little more, or at least different. He could sense the distinction, and while he knew he was no more than what surrounded him, he knew it wouldn't have to be that way forever. In that feeling was everything. He felt, over time, that a subtle resentment had passed over her as he hung amidst the cloud. It was a gurgling grumble as he shifted in the mass, pulling himself up through the layers of consciousness, trying to parse out the feeling of the water, of the light, of the weight of his own sense of being, and of the whole of the universe. He could feel the moving of the water, and of the moon, and of the distant stars each tugging a tiny amount as they spun around a great black mass which devoured light and love and all greatness that could ever be.

It was in the moment of perceiving the great gaping maw untold distances from his pale blue cradle that Nick came fully awake. It was an aching, tearing, knifing wake that cut him open and told him of his cells (63) and his exact gravity in the vastness of the world.

And Nick turned around a full circle on one axis, and then a full circle on the second axis. He pulled in that manner out from the undifferentiated cloud, making a small pocket in the water. He was of a certain mass, and in a certain location. The iron core of the planet spun, orienting iron in his cells, and the moon pulled away like a lover slipping free, slowly but surely, into the night.

Nick said to her and her and her and her, who floated all around him and was of him completely: "There is a hole deep in space beyond our knowledge that is eating at the fabric of all worlds, and someday it will have reached out even this far."

At first she was unmoved. She slurried through the water, reaching from the skin of the surface to the silt of the even bottom, drawing along her columns the photons of the sun and the moon. And the moon drifted out and away, and the planet swung through the sky, and the dry land broke apart, and the skin of the rocky earth cracked and there was lightning and lava and fire even under the waves.

She slept one hour more while he fretted at the edge of the slung down hammock of the sea. She dreamt of blank warmth and of closeness and oneness and perfection . . . of hydrogen so stable stretching from one end of infinity to the other. She dreamt of an even, clean cube composed of no color, no mass, no energy, no thought, no memory.

And the continents were torn asunder, and the lands were driven deep and raised up high into the air. And there were minerals and irregularities at the periphery of everything he knew. Great vents opened deep beneath him, and pockets of the water came to be trapped like speckles along the coasts and even inland into the perfect dry land.

And he said: "Someday, things will be different."

She did not like to hear it, but she could see the moon drifting so far away that it was only a freckle on the black face of the night, and behind it there were not just the stars but also a gaping unknowing loneliness that waited for Nick and for her and her and her and him.

My love to you all,
Architeuthis dux


for Jennifer and Manuel, and many others who, these past few years, have sought and acted to keep us separate from the undifferentiated maw of darkness.

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