Guadalupe rested her hands on her faded, flowery tablecloth. Sun shone through the kitchen window upon the brushed steel sink, its powerful ambient glow filling the room. In this light she looked at her hands: plump fingers, wrinkled joints, toughened skin that now smelled like lavender dish soap. A plain gold band dug into her ring finger, though she’d been widowed seven years, and a surprisingly rugged gold-tone watch hung on her left wrist.
The twinkling lights floated in her kitchen, scintillating between pale blue and pale yellow, hovering around her little table. They wavered slightly, and though they were faceless and expressionless, they gave the sense of waiting for something.
She puffed out her cheeks and slowly expelled a long breath. “Wow, blow up the whole planet… That’s not very good.” Her words were stretched out and soft.
[or Guadalupe select people/lands to destroy] chimed the words in her head. This was how the lights spoke to her, not with words but with very strong suggestions and feelings. Their voice “sounded” pleasant enough but she wasn’t used to hearing something without using her ears. It made her anxious.
“I don’t know. How do I know you can blow up the whole planet?”
[Guadalupe wait then end with people/Earth and know]
She sighed again. “That’s not very good either.” She noticed a smudge of flour on her black polyester slacks. “Are you angels? How do I know you’re not demons, tricking me? Or—Dios mio—maybe my poor mind is finally breaking apart.” She crossed herself.
[I/WE angel not—I/WE devil not—Guadalupe delusion not]
“Isn’t that what demons would say? If I was going loco, isn’t that what I’d tell myself?” Her chuckle caused her gumdrop-shaped body to jiggle. “Oh, just listen to me.”[question: Guadalupe choose not]
“Hold on, hold on. Oh, boy.” Guadalupe looked through the twinkling lights, out the kitchen window. It was a lovely day. The pine in her backyard stood placid, glowing with a deep and resonant green health. “How am I s’posed to choose who lives and who dies?”
[all choice of Guadalupe only] The lights swayed politely but with a hint of impatience.
“I guess, oh…” Her head started to throb and her heart felt very sad. She wished her hombre Martin were here to discuss this with. “I guess I should be in charge of destroying things. I don’t want the whole planet to blow up.”
The lights pulsed once, the voice thanked her (in its way), and then the lights winked out.
She lifted out of her chair. Guadalupe’s broad butt relaxed as the wood seat fell away, and she watched the ceiling grow closer. Part of her mind had the instinct to shield her face, but her body wouldn’t respond in this way. Her brain was wrapped in cotton and her arms were sleepy. All over the rest of her, she felt waves of cooling relief—she did not sense the ceiling or roof cracking and splintering around her, not her clothes constricting then shredding off of her chubby old-woman’s body. She did feel the sunshine directly on her skin, as she rose into the air. That was very pleasant, and she grinned toward the sun.
She did wonder why her clothes behaved that way, and at this thought her body rotated slowly in the air. Below her were tiny scraps of fabric, bright against the green lawn behind her little split-level home, now with a gaping hole above the kitchen. The pines she loved were sinking beside her. They looked so small, even right next to her: when her hand brushed against them, tiny little twigs against her sausage-like fingers, she realized she was growing in size. Her clothes had torn off because she was getting bigger.
Guadalupe was getting bigger and floating up into the sky. She hadn’t heard of anything like that before. She should have felt fear at this unknown event—like, would she fall into the sun? Would she get hit by a passenger jet?—but all she felt was healing sunshine and blissful release from her former cares. Her wedding ring glinted sharply in the sun, and she smiled: at least she still got to keep that.
To this middle-aged widow, it seemed as though she were growing steadily and the world were shrinking steadily. Yet technically she was growing exponentially faster, just as she was drifting further and faster from the world. This process took about five minutes, she guessed, before she finally stabilized and everything held still once more. It was a beautiful sight, at any rate, to watch her town get smaller, see all the landmarks from around her suburb, the other towns, all rushing together and scrunching up. It was just like she’d seen in a beautiful music video.
Now she floated in outer space. She had heard things about outer space, like that she should be cold or exposed to radiation, or that there was no air to breathe. Her boy, Daniel, he was off studying astrophysics or something. She should’ve shown a little more interest in that. It’s not like she didn’t care, it’s that everything he was studying was just over her head. She wanted to know why she was still comfortable, here in outer space, how it was that she could still breathe. Or maybe she just didn’t need to.
The sun shone on her back and on the Earth before her. The blue-and-yellow twinkly lights appeared before her, glowing upon her breasts, large and round in their weightlessness. Look at that, she thought. My boobs must be bigger than the United States of America. This was not accurate, though one of her breasts could easily have taken out any four adjoining states: the Earth was still huge before her, but much smaller now, maybe the size of her old home. She kicked her legs gently and floated backward away from the planet. It was still exquisitely beautiful at her size: detailed clouds in cottony whorls, beautifully deep blue oceans, and the familiar outlines of the continents all stood out in her gaze. She herself was only as big as South America, a little smaller than that. With one arm, she reached out for Brazil, and her palm immediately destroyed the eastern lump of Rio Grande do Norte and everything around it.
Guadalupe recoiled, alarmed. “Oh my God! I didn’t mean to do that!” The South Pacific Ocean slowly flowed into the dark brown crater she so easily dug out.
The lights fluttered on her breasts. [Guadalupe behavior correct—some people/Earth live—more people/Earth die]
“Why? Why would I do this? How can I?” While many emotions were very distant from Guadalupe in her elevated state, a few still came through very sharply, briefly. She wanted to cry, but before her tear ducts could even sting the feeling passed.
[Guadalupe select more people/Earth die—living people/Earth begin new people/Earth]
She wished she could stare these aliens (or whatever they were) in the face and try to read their expression, just to begin to understand why this had to happen. The twinkling lights only glittered like her own personal constellations upon her enormous floating space-bosom. Her eyes lifted to her home world once more. “But it’s so lovely. I don’t know why I have to do this.”
If I have to do it at all, I guess I could try to erase the bad guys from the planet first.
Now she really needed Martin. He read the news every day, three different newspapers, two of which had to be mailed to him. He was so sharp, he taught himself the Internet (he tried to teach her, but she just couldn’t wrap her head around it) and found news from all over the world.
He would definitely know where the bad guys were. What would he say right now?
Well… aren’t we having trouble with the Russians? With that thought, her round body floated across the Atlantic Ocean and over Europe. Her palms spread over western Russia—not that she could tell. All the lines and names were missing on this globe—and her legs shot out behind her, as though she were falling toward the planet face-first. Her pudgy fingers splayed and blasted tremendous craters into both Moscow and northern Kazakhstan (not that she knew). At first there was childish delight at planting her hands into the dirt and seeing the effect she had: she tried this a few more times, patting Mother Russia as though it were a mere mud-pie. Her prints were perfectly preserved in the crust of the Earth, but then she saw cracks form. Fine cracks at first, then widening and turning dark.
Oh… that was too much, she thought with a little regret.
[24%] said the glittering lights.
She was a little startled to discover the aliens could read her thoughts, even though it followed, since they were pushing their thoughts into her head already. What does that mean?
Slowly the wheels turned in Guadalupe’s mind and she looked back at the Earth. Her flabby jowls flexed as her jaw worked: thoughts were flooding her mind but no words would form.
Except one, the name of a country that was often in the news for terrible crimes. Colombia.
Whether she flew across the globe or it spun rapidly beneath her, she couldn’t say, but there she was right where Panama connected tenuously to South America. Her left hand balled into a fist, and her shoulder propelled her stiffening arm into the mountainous region. She felt the upper lithosphere powderize all the way up to her wrist.
That’s for the babies. Which babies? She wasn’t sure, but it felt correct. She pulled her arm out and the lights thought [29%]. Now what? Oh, wait, I do know another country. Where’s Boko Haram?
And so she went in her autonomous word-association game. She repeated the word “terrorist” to herself, and she seized on any word that popped up after it, surfacing in her memory like a Magic 8-Ball. Never entirely sure where her body floated to, she launched an assault wherever she could reach.
- She buried her fist in Nigeria. [34%]
- She planted one pudgy foot upon everything from northeast Egypt to Syria. [40%]
- And there was something about North Korea: one stern index finger bore a deep hole into that. [42%]
- Switching to war zones, she flattened Turkey beneath her sole. [52%]
- She wiggled her toes across northern Iraq. That looked cute. [53%]
On and on she went. Each continent was touched, some more than others; Australia was largely left alone. All Guadalupe had to work from was her dim memory and shaky grasp of mainstream American news headlines. She hoped she hadn’t wiped out too many innocent people, but who among us is truly innocent?
That was Martin’s voice. She could see him grinning wryly at her over his Times of India, always with a jaded comeback to her plaintive wishes for peace: “Why can’t we just get along?” Oh, he had a thousand answers for that one. His education and curiosity made her feel secure, but… those glib retorts always made her a little sad. And they never answered her question, not really. She was afraid they said more about her hombre than the world.
Guadalupe drifted back again, massive and noiseless, in the void of the most profound silence she could have imagined. So quiet and cool she was, in contrast with the chaos she wrought upon the Earth. Craters, gouges, exploited fault lines, brand-new volcanoes and tremendous, record-breaking earthquakes laced the surface of the blue and green sphere. She could imagine the screams, a soundtrack of horror and agony borrowed from any Hollywood blockbuster film, but she was fairly certain she couldn’t actually hear them. Ay Dios mio, what would that be like? Hearing all those little people down there, screaming, scared… She gazed with sad eyes upon the continents, slowly hovering over the world like a massive storm cloud. I am so sorry, all you little people. I didn’t want to do this, I really didn’t. They made me. It was either this, or everybody had to die. Do you understand? I’m so sorry.
She looked at her palms, expecting to see them covered with the blood of innocents. Instead, they were clean but her hands and arms looked fatter, larger. Her eyes widened. She patted her body all over, her sides, her familiar belly: everything was plumper. Was this going on the whole time? All that destruction, all those deaths, and she was getting fatter. How in the world did that work?
She snapped out of her thoughts, blinking rapidly. More? Isn’t this enough? Just look at them. I’ve ruined everything, all the vacation spots, all the governments. What are people supposed to do now?
Something stabbed at Guadalupe’s middle-aged heart. I can’t do this. Please don’t make me. This is enough destruction, you’ve had enough. Let the planet heal now.
[99%] Her breasts flashed with bright pinpoints of blue and yellow lights.
What else was there to get rid of? She’d pummeled all the armies, all the governments, all the terrorists she could think of. The United States was a checkerboard of rat-holes, a network of devastation guided by half-recalled news stories and pictures on TV. Bombings, white supremacists, fundamentalist religious groups, pedophiliac priests and the Church that covered for them: all she had to do was think of the news story, and her titanic, naked body swiveled into place. She only had to bring down the hammer.
But what had she missed… the governments created the terrorists… who controlled the government? Corporations, of course. Money equals legislation! Martin often cackled this bitter maxim over eggs and toast, when Guadalupe just wanted to have a nice, peaceful Sunday breakfast with su marido. But what was the company Martin was angriest about? Big Pharma, certainly, but that was a system, a network, not an actual place. No names were coming to mind. Think, Lupe, you big, stupid−
That’s right. The name emerged with all the disgusting relief of a popped zit. They whined about how persecuted they were, trying to solve the world’s food problems, but they caused all those thousands of suicides in India. They dispatched thugs under cover of night to beat up seed-collectors, like a penny-ante villain in a comic book. They sued poor farmers who tried to save their seeds until the next season, and organic farmers who had done everything right but whose fields were contaminated with copyrighted DNA once the pollinating bees and birds and bats made their rounds. Martin made her watch so many documentaries, read so many articles. None of it stuck… well, obviously some of it did.
She rolled above the Earth like a freshly minted moon. Florida ran below her chin, then Alabama and Tennessee, and then she hovered over a bend in a river that ran between Missouri and Illinois. This must be the place, she thought with ironic cheeriness.
But how to destroy it without ruining the city? She knew St. Louis was famous for its own barbecue style, and any city that was famous for cooking couldn’t be all bad.
“I know! I’m thinking!” Even she was surprised at the volume of her roaring voice, way up here in outer space. There had to be something else, something more to justify what she was about to do. Could she destroy all of St. Louis for the sins of Monsanto?
Daniel… when he was a teenager. He was into vampires, that’s right, and St. Louis came up. What did he say about St. Louis? There was a name… Anton LaVey. How on earth did I ever remember that? Flush with success, she plowed ahead: Satanism. St. Louis was supposed to be one of the largest colonies of Satanists in the United States. Did Satanists come in colonies? What did that even mean?
But it was enough for her. Guadalupe crossed herself, spun her body slowly through space until she was head-down above the country. Let this be enough, please. Her broad, round face descended from the heavens. Slowly her thick lips parted, baring an inky cavern ringed with slick, yellowing teeth. Closer she descended, breaking through layers of clouds and winds, casting a vast umbra upon the Midwest. Her eyes strained to pick out the city among the landscape, to focus on that point until she was too close for her eyes to work. At which point she simply fell to earth, unfurling her thick, glistening, pink tongue and laying it upon the nation.
It didn’t taste bad. Everything from skyscrapers to bedrock was moistened in her saliva and adhered to her rolling tongue. Not a foul taste… dusty, a little bitter, but not in a bad way. For good measure she dug into the earth with the blunt and blind tip of her tongue. She carved a greedy swath out of Missouri—the Mississippi River would fill this basin forever; the four states below it were forever robbed of their main tributary (Louisiana just could not get a break)—and she drew her tongue back into her fat lips. She swirled the civilization and its arable tracts around in her saliva, and she swallowed these down without any impedance whatsoever.
[100%—Guadalupe: task complete]
She floated back out into outer space, entirely immune to Earth’s pull. She had one of those attacks of miserable sadness, wanting to plead why, struggling to comprehend just how much life she’d ended. Then it passed.
Well? What now? Do I go back to Earth and get arrested for killing God-only-knows how many people?
[Guadalupe become Earth]
…I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that one.
Her breasts glittered. [I/WE choose Guadalupe—Guadalupe represent people—Guadalupe clean people/Earth then create new people/Earth]
She could barely follow this. The urges were so strong, but listening to the aliens was like trying to remember a dream. She could only grasp one concept and pick out the closest attached thoughts or feelings. “You wanted me to judge who was good enough to live and who was bad enough to die? I’m not that smart. You should’ve gotten my husband, God rest his soul. He knew much more about this stuff than I do.”
Pulses of denial and disagreement flashed through her skull. [Guadalupe represent people—Guadalupe resemble majority people]
As if this made her fit to judge. As though she were the majority rule all by herself. Could such a thing make any sense?
While she wondered, she watched the continents collapse on her home planet. Some caved in on their centers, where she’d done the most damage. Others crumbled and flaked off into the ocean, which was harried with attempting to find its new level, what with all the new chasms and abysses to fill.
And as she watched, her body filled out and became rounder. Her belly rose beyond the cliff of her breasts, her chest swelled, and then there was no difference between her breasts and her belly. They were one sweeping curve. She craned to look at her arms, and these were stuffed fat until they seemed to recede into her expanding belly and chest. Then the mass overtook her neck, then her jaw and cheeks, and then she was a sphere. Her curly black hair melded into the surface of her body. Her face spread and washed out into barely recognizable features. Her fingers, toes, breasts, and butt all formed mountainous imperfections on the new fleshy sphere that hovered before the ruined Earth.
Within the spherical mass, Guadalupe felt no panic. As her body blimped up and deformed, she felt no sadness or fear. She did feel her heartbeat, though, growing massive and slowing down, and then matching the beat of another… Deep within the core of Earth, she could feel the ponderous pulse of life, and her own body resounded with it, picking up its tempo and settling into an awesome and irresistible rhythm.
Then life went out on Earth. And life appeared on Guadalupe.
The old planet collapsed upon itself, ancient continents falling into the crucible of their own world. The oceans boiled and misted and trailed over to the new world in a steamy, cloudy stream. They found their new level on Guadalupe.
Humanity would be stunted, she knew. Starting all over, with the smart tiny things hiding from the large and fast tiny things. They would build shelters and learn cooperation to protect against the animals; they would forge rules to protect them from themselves. And none of these would turn out perfectly, but it never stopped them from trying.
Earth fragmented and boiled and spun away. Guadalupe rolled into its place, glowing with health and cleanliness and love. A new story started and maybe this one would be different. She couldn’t wait to see.