The Hole in the Ceiling of the Universe

By David O’Boyle (Spring 2021)

Water kept falling onto my face, which meant gravity still worked, which meant the loofah sticking to my cultured stone shower wall was somehow defying it.

With more effort than anticipated, I yanked it off the wall, doused it in body wash, and started to scrub. Before long, barbs poked out of the loofah like it was an angry sea urchin. The barbs punctured my hand, securing me to the bizarre bathing object.

A quick tug. Then a more violent one. Then somehow my human body, with my hand connected to the loofah leading the way, was pulled down the drain, dragged through the sewer piping and coughed out the side of a sandy manmade mountain. I fell. But only for an instant. Then the opposite occurred. A strong jerk in the other direction sent me up and up…

Into space.

Past the planets.

Past the stars.

Everything sped by in a blur like some impressionist painting.

Darker and darker it got. Then it got light. Then it got light and dark at the same time until the optics blurred into a vignette composed of the refracted image of a crouching Being dipping its hand into a hole, a hole I was in, and pulling me out.

I entered its world dangling from an invisible string above that very hole. My surroundings were a desert of white flatness in all directions, cold and blustery, deprived of all additional color besides the orange chainsaw on one side of the Being, and a red bucket and a bag of belongings on the other. Some ice shavings were still stuck in the teeth of the orange chainsaw. Others powdered the rim of the hole. These images, as well as the circular block of ice situated next to the hole, identical in size to the hole itself, confirmed the origins of my entryway. The atmospheric change between here and there also explained the alarming lack of oxygen beginning to bother my lungs.

A cold wind hit the front of my naked body. Then a less powerful warm gust of wind warmed the back of my naked body. Gasping for breath, I spun around on the invisible string to see what caused the temperature difference. When I did, I saw the Being’s massive face bearing down on me like a full moon on a mountaintop. Its nose, the confirmed source of the warm wind, looked swollen and sounded congested. Each time the Being began to unhook my hand from the loofah, it paused to rub its nose, delaying my release. Eventually though, it tore my hand loose. Enslavement to the loofah was replaced by enslavement to the Being. With me firmly clutched in its hand, it now not only saw, but felt my struggle for air. In response, the Being grabbed the red bucket and dipped it into the black circular hole from where I came. When the red bucket was full, it tossed me inside.

In the red bucket I could breathe again.

The gratification of a good breath barely lasted long enough to take another. As soon as my lungs got a good gulp of air, out of the bucket I went, and onto a small table full of fancy instruments. Based on the bag of belongings now unzipped at the Being’s feet, I assumed these items came from there. With surgeon skill, the Being used these items to prick, prod, slice and scrape me, only stopping when it thought I needed another toss in the bucket to keep from suffocating. By toss number four, the being had developed a rhythm, a rhythm that allowed for a degree of inattention.

On toss number five, my teeth gave it something to pay attention to.

A piercing scream. A knee-jerk reaction sent me flying. I hit the ice face first, then slid across its slippery surface until I finally fell back inside that sawed circular ice hole, that roof of the universe,

Back toward space.

Back toward the stars.

Back toward the planets.

Everything sped by in a blur like some impressionist painting.

Until I was back in the shower. Well, I was back in “a” shower. This shower did not have cultured stone walls. What it did have was company.

An old man whistled atop the toilet. Unholy sounds trumpeted from his underside. A flush. A drop of his robe. A turn of the faucet. Hot steam everywhere. He grabbed me.

Then he started to scrub.

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