I should never have gone to college down South.
I had never really thought there might be a reason Florida looked like a melting drop hanging off the end of the continental shelf, or that the perpetual mismanagement of the sun states might be a sign of one big liquification of boundaries and borders. My first day of class was the first time at that latitude I had had to sit in one place, not allowed to move and with the sun beating down on me. Within 20 minutes I could feel myself softening and wettening. My posture, as it sunk into a slouch and then a terminal slide, got the opposite of sympathy from the professor.
What a strange and exciting and shameful feeling it was, first a hot rush and a tingling sense of giving way and buckling under, and then all there was was a thick pool of me cooling on the floor. Somehow I could see myself from on high, but I don’t know if it was because I was dreaming, because my soul was departing its now un-container-like body or because I was starting to evaporate.
There are those that would call any prolonged stay atop the earth that could purport to the name existence a blessing. But I come from way north of the Bible Belt, where we don’t need a horde of preachers on hand to justify the ways of the Lord when people start melting through no fault of their own.
I was stunned, half in denial and fearful of what would happen next. I trembled slightly, although I’m pretty sure that would have happened regardless. Any feeble attempts I made to, in my suddenly antiquated mental vocabulary, grapple with the new and form a plan were pulverized every half-minute or so by the repeating realization that none of my dreams for my life were flexible enough to accommodate a non-solid-state existence.
Since about the only commiseration I got from anyone after that was a janitor that eventually came by and swept me into a holding container with a floor mop, I had to drop the tragic turn of thought that asks for sympathy pretty quickly or lose my mind. When I would do that around other people it often made me feel better, but now that it could only echo around my own mind it made me feel a lot worse.
Most people were more or less bound to see such a change as the plight of some diseased unfortunate, since their basic assumption is that the highest state of existence is their own human kind, and that it is a major misfortune at best or failure at worst to be in any way bumped away from that. It never occurred to most of them that I wouldn’t prefer to trickle on as a mangled apparition of human life rather than becoming a new form. But really, making a new kind of liquid existence with no model to follow would be a higher accomplishment than anyone else of woman born had ever had the opportunity for, even if that existence would necessarily collect at the lowest depression of any given surface.
Gradually I got tired of those waxy bipeds whose bodies were so haughtily discrete. Their religious beliefs were only good if you were one of them, with the occasional exception in favor of cow or cat, and then there were their perpetual laudations of their own horniness…
I learned a long time ago from the observation of house pets that you don’t need to talk to win someone’s affection; all you can usually accomplish is to lose it. So I didn’t necessarily regret the loss of a mouth that much, especially when I had gained the ability to refract light in a friendly manner.
Nobody warned me though that the air was going to start liquifying too.
Over the course of several days the air smoked more and more, turning into a thick, impenetrable gray steam like some eau de commnunism sprayed all over the color spectrum. The atmosphere, nearing some sort of terminal point for non-marine life, was not the ideal consummation of an existence that had been reduced to a few slowly evaporating liters in a glass bowl that it might seem to be. I was liquid but I wasn’t water, and even if I was, if I merged with the-sea-that-used-to-be-the-air, I wouldn’t be a body, but merely a density of several units per thousand dissolved in a gigantic ocean.
On the other hand, this creeping mist might as well have thoroughly impregnated me with gold. It had suddenly laden my existence with value in every particular. A body that I had deemed worthless had gained inestimable worth from its imminent termination.
The disquieting turn the world had taken was not bravely disregarded or even viewed as substantially less catastrophic by the people that got to keep their human form. As they paced the earth with difficult breaths and bulging eyes, I suddenly changed in their eyes from a degraded remnant to an uneasy harbinger. They weren’t yet at the point of making any attempts on me with sorcery or sacrificial palliation, because they weren’t born into a religion that cared to vest its superstitions in anything directly apprehensible. Conversions do sometimes happen, though, with the speed of a T-boning on the freeway.
Maybe they would have been dissuaded from their pending millenarian apostasy if I could have told them that I wasn’t the first one in my family to suffer from this. The sun doesn’t shine equally bright on all corners and edges of any family’s destiny, so I didn’t have access to this information as fair warning in advance. I only reconstructed the situation retroactively from the little bit I knew before but didn’t understand about a couple of people in our family weirdly evaporating completely out of our world. And I grasped the purpose of some aspects of my family’s seemingly arbitrary puritanism, such as their massive geographic intransigence. That in particular had enraged me so much before that I didn’t even give them a chance to talk me out of going to the college that I chose: my departure happened with all the tears and ceremony of a pet escaping the yard.
I didn’t really know what other people were doing to deal with the imminent liquefaction of their universe. I do know that there was a lot of distribution of scuba gear and preparation of giant submersibles from the suddenly-relevant-again naval warfare department. Military build-up being the near-infallible sign that the danger for which it is being amassed is over, they definitely were not ready when the air stopped thickening while still within the realm of breathability and everything on the ground started turning blue and white. I wish I had thought to measure the intervals between when these changes started and between when they started and stopped, but I didn’t even have the instinct to look for patterns. With no useful training of any sort, be it martial, scientific, medical, technical or even tantric, even had I remained solid, functionally my state would still more or less have been advanced puddle. In retrospect I realize that choosing to be an English major was a declaration of belief that fundamentally nothing would ever happen in the world that I would need to be a part of.
It was around that time that I convinced myself that immortality was virtually guaranteed for me. Since I was still conscious without heart or brain, I didn’t feel that much would really be required to keep my uneasy confederation of molecules self-aware. If I evaporated and they became separated things might get a little fuzzy and I might get the feeling of novocaine brain, but their connections seemed to be working more like cell phones calling each other than like the gears of a watch. Granted if I was dispersed across three clouds I would lose the capacity for cohesive movement, but it’s not like I’d be giving up Sunday morning bocce ball anyway. It seemed more like I was the only one on the planet no longer forced to put all his eggs in one basket.
Then I spent a few hours just thinking about raining on people. I was going to set upon the pinnacles and outposts of human habitation like a race of bullets. I was going to turn the water cycle into aerial warfare. I was going to become a fifth column in their drinking water, a god of war in the digestive tract. I don’t know how serious I was, but I can say that whenever I used to hear about a school shooting I would think that with respect to that there was not just one but two extremes I couldn’t understand: those that actually open fire on their school and those that have never imagined doing so.
And yet to this point, far from escaping from the horde of juvenile reprobates that I spent my childhood surrounded by, I had been left to slosh around indefinitely in uneasy proximity to the barely more rarified crew that managed to grasp pencil in fist and spell their names adequately on the application form to a state university. At least until such time as I was able to complete my escape, molecule by molecule, up through the ventilation system.
As my evaporation continued I didn’t feel any sort of cosmic expansion or even diffusion of my consciousness. So at a certain point I started to call these molecular escapees my children. I had no evidence that they possessed any sort of independent mental apparatus any more than does a rainstorm, but I wasn’t really any longer in a position to follow the royal highway of observational dogmas laid out in my high school biology textbook. My own body had all the visible dynamism of a body of water that old people would throw bread crumbs into and then fall asleep on a park bench in front of. So while I know that, for the loud-mouth atheists, being soon to be deceased is not an acceptable reason for allowing somebody his illusions, even they would have to admit that what I did was not the same kind of thing as giving names to your stuffed animals.
I was a different sort from the common run of humanity. Not just in that I didn’t go around stomping on dandelions and gnawing desiccated cattle hind parts like the other human specimens any more, but also in that I didn’t even obey the laws of physics evidently. Despite evaporating I wasn’t diminishing. In fact I seemed to be growing heavier and bigger. It seemed like the evaporation had eased the strain for a while, but now I felt almost a pain from bulging up against the sides of my container. I had filled every ounce of it and was now desperately in need of some kind of release. My destiny was now manifest, considerably more so than the meandering uncertainties that sometimes pass for such. I could almost feel myself draining down the bowl and away. But I had finally gained enough lucidity to realize I was going to have to get up and go to it first.