Another rainy Sunday and Irene was staring out of the window. Or, more correctly she was staring at the window, the rain making the solidity of the transparent glass obvious for once.
She had already moved on from wondering whether to go out or not, had passed through calculating that she had enough milk, bread and general food to last another day without shopping, and started to consider the ineffable.
She had thought about air for a while, spent some time on vacuums – both the one in her flask and the one that cleaned her carpet – and now she was moving on to more solid things.
How could it be, she wondered, that glass was clear. It was, in theory, as jam-packed full of atoms as any other solid, yet you could see straight through it. You could only ever see it at times like now, when some other interaction manifested the existence of the glass in the window.
From here she started to think about the properties of atoms themselves; about the bonds which bound them together into molecules and the energy which held them together internally. It was a logical step to wonder if she could split an atom.
She remembered, perhaps from school but more likely from movies, that you needed special radioactive material in order to split the atom, but that made no sense to her. Everything was made of atoms. If you were going to split one, did it matter if it was uranium or… or… a tea atom?
Did tea have atoms? Must have.
So she sharpened a knife. She spent an hour doing it while watching the rain on the window, until the knife was really sharp. Then she made herself a fresh cup of tea, and sat staring into it while the micro-cosmos of milk swirled on the top.
Then, at what she judged to be the right moment, she picked a spot and stabbed the knife into the tea.
When she woke up, she was lying on the floor by the fridge. The shattered remains of her mug were in her lap, along with a quantity of cold tea.
For a moment she thought she had simply smashed the cup and fallen over, banging her head and knocking herself out for a moment. Then she saw the small sun hovering over the kitchen table.
It was about a centimetre across, but she could barely look at it, it was so bright. It hung over the unmarked table and when she approached it, it gave off no heat. It was just there, shining.
She didn’t really know what to do with it, but she did notice that it had stopped raining outside, so she decided to go to the shops anyway.
She’d deal with it when she got back.
Calum Kerr is a writer, lecturer, and director of National Flash-Fiction Day. His stories have been published in places, and broadcast on Radio 4. His first ‘proper’ pamphlet will be published by Salt 2012. For more info: www.calumkerr.co.uk