It’s All in the Knowing
by Mikal Trimm
So I woke up this morning knowing everything.
I mean every damned thing. Like how Einstein was waaay off in his calculations, and Hawking has been chasing a pipe-dream for years. I knew that there is no life on other worlds. Sorry, Charlie, that’s the breaks. We really were the result of the biggest chain of coincidence ever to hit the Universe — full body slam, baby, and the cosmos is still reeling. Bet SETI never saw that coming.
Omniscience in one easy lesson, folks. Amazing what a liberal arts degree is worth these days.
So I sat there, all this useless information running through my brain. It seemed pointless to go to work, especially since I knew there was a wreck on I-35 that would stack traffic up for miles, making me late again, leaving me wide open for a nice little ass-chewing from the boss, who was already pissed because his wife hasn’t been putting out lately. . .
Ah, screw it. Habit is a bitch.
Then an hour sitting in traffic, listening to the death-rattle of my old Mercury which, I knew, would die a pitiful, huffing death in thirty-point-seven miles, beyond the help of even the most diligent and honest mechanic. Bye-bye, little Merc. Enjoy the auto-graveyard afterlife.
Then I got to the office an hour-and-a-half late, and instead of heading straight for Mangrove’s office, I stopped at his secretary’s desk. Kelly Lester, a soft-spoken, unassuming young girl, with lovely sparkling green eyes and a smile that seemed fresh-born each time she used it. I fell in love with her the day she started here, and I convinced myself she’d never have anything to do with me the day after.
Of course, I was not all-knowing at the time.
I walked to her desk, bent down and said —
I love your poetry.
Don’t worry, that haircut looks great on you.
Try not to blame your father — he was going through a hard time, and your mother was too sick to help out. . .
— as her history wrote itself upon me, an instantaneous biography. I wanted to cry, laugh, scream, sing . . . all of the emotions of one young woman’s life imprinting themselves on my own psyche in a hormonal rush toward resolution.
I choked in the clutch. I could only point to Mangrove’s office, my finger shaking drunkenly.
He’s on the phone, she mouthed, as if he could hear her through his door, his supervisorial radar somehow able to detect superfluous speech. I nodded gravely, smiled, and went through his door unannounced.
Mangrove blustered into the mouthpiece, his cheeks so engorged with blood that the flush threatened to leak out of his pores and weep down his cheeks, war-paint for the dying. And dying he was, each febrile thump of his heartbeat bringing him that much closer to the massive coronary he would have later this afternoon. I knew that his wife was on the line, not just telling him she was leaving him, but delighting in the details of her several affairs.
You’re a heartless, clueless bastard.
You’ve surfed your way into this position by riding other people’s waves.
You. . .
I knew that his wife was giving him the play-by-play of her latest infidelity while he railed and ranted and tried to pretend that he hadn’t known about her nature long ago, but I suddenly realized it. He looked up briefly, saw me standing there, and again that shock of total knowing ran through me. I saw a man whose every day was a denial of the failure he believed himself to be, even while the circumstances of his life rebuked him, over and over. I saw him visiting his doctor, denying the prognosis, carrying on.
And I knew, with a pain I felt in my own heart, that when the end came later in the day, it would be a relief.
He stared at me, his eyes watery and bloodshot, and I turned and left the office, easing the door shut behind me. Kelly sat in a state of near-shock, waiting for the anvil of Mangrove’s fury to drop on her head. It didn’t matter that I’d run into the office without clearance, didn’t matter that she couldn’t have stopped me — she only knew that this was a job she needed, and as far as she could tell, I had just lost it for her.
The universe shifted. Omniscience adjusted itself to a new set of dictums. Kelly was afraid now, and the avenues that were open to me earlier, the paths I might have taken to catch her attention, crumbled and dissipated.
I glimpsed one tiny footpath, its existence threatened by every passing second. I leaned toward her and said:
“When last I saw the wand’ring bird,
Its voice, so wise, cried out unheard.”
Kelly’s eyes, doe-bright with fear, widened even further. I’d taken her from one shock to another. “Wha- what are . . . what?”
I was aware of time, no, timelines swirling around me. I wanted to leave before Mangrove shook the office with his impotent fury, I needed to get Kelly out of the office before the boss collapsed later in the afternoon in an apoplexy of spit and dander, and I needed . . . no, wanted . . . no, yearned to be with her today. And tomorrow. And. . .
“Meet me for lunch. Please. I’ll be at the sub shop around the corner, and we’ll talk, okay? I want to talk to you about your poetry, and your life, and whatever comes into your mind. I really love the way your mind works, and I— ” say it, damn you, no matter how sappy it sounds! “I really think I love you, too.”
I know everything. Every. Damned. Thing.
So why was I surprised when she turned pale, placed a delicate hand over her mouth, and then ran, ran, ran away. . .?
Now I’m sitting on a flaking bench at the bus stop across from work. I’ve been sitting here playing God. Good way to waste time, if you ask me, but it’s really depressing.
Let’s cure cancer. I know how. I know what will work, despite the current philosophies of treatment. Not chemo, not radiation, not the New Saviors with their DNA panaceas, not the old mystics with their ancient remedies. It’s much simpler than all that. It’s so simple, in fact, that I would have understood the process even before my grand epiphany, had someone outlined it to me.
And then I see deaths, a thousand for each person cured, a turn in the destiny of Mankind, a loss of focus that might destroy the world. . .
I was able to stumble to the trashcan by the bus stop before I threw up.
See, it’s like this: ultimate knowledge and a fiver will get you a cup of overpriced latte at the nearest Starbucks. I know everything — and it’s an ongoing process, too, I feel the tickle of new information constantly, like an ear infection, but deeper in my head — but I can’t tell the future. There is no future. There are blurred, shifting paths that change with each new discovery, each bit of intelligence from the front lines. The future wars against itself constantly.
So I’ve been sitting here watching battles. What if I. . .? and then the pseudo-futures open up in my head, and the good intentions are belittled by the mockeries of the possible outcomes. The smallest, most insignificant change that I might introduce into the world brings calamity and consequence, again and again.
I envision the advent of holographic television, and I see a path that leads to World’s End.
Time. We all forget about it, or we try to find ways to gain it, or we try to beat it, or get around it, or ignore it completely. But it exists, not as a concept but a control mechanism. And I’m sitting here, knowing I should do something and fearing my actions at the same time.
I’m not God. I’m not able to make these decisions. The immortal words “Why me?” come to mind, and I don’t have a good comeback.
The glass doors of our offices swing open, and Kelly comes out. Mangrove has given her a loud, let-everyone-in-the-world-hear diatribe about the sanctity of his offices while his heart screamed in misery, and she’s crying to herself, watching her fragile little world shatter around her. I have one chance now, one shaky branch of the eternity tree, and I don’t want to play God anymore.
I’d rather try Romeo.
I can’t see the future. I can only glean bits of insight from the myriad possibilities afforded me. But I do know one thing, I do know this:
Given the chance, I can make one woman happy. I can produce children, and I can keep them happy, and fed, and informed, and loved. And once I’ve done that — once I’ve understood what factors come together in the getting of wisdom, the loss of my own fears and doubts and prejudices — I will be free to take the next step. I will be able to understand what playing God truly entails.
“Kelly!” I say, and the rest is history.
For now. . .
Mikal Trimm has sold more than fifty works to a variety of magazines including SAY…, Flytrap, Polyphony 4, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. He lives near Austin, Texas, where he is mocked and shunned by all the other writers in the area. Sniff.
Art Director: Bonnie Brunish