Last week, I encountered a curious thing. The cold snap was in the snap of snapping, tilting towards a predicted low of -17 degrees; a scouring night, dotted with stars faint and mysterious as compacted tears. Darkness lies flat everywhere in Wyoming; goes everywhere except for where the snow jests back. That night there were also lights. And how do I describe them? I mistook them for the Northern Lights at first: an otherworldly, luminescent green smudged over the rim of the town, filling a space normally dipped out by shadow.
I got in my car and began driving. The lights followed. Except now, they were distinguishing themselves as individual spotlights—beams—radiating ostensibly from earthly sources but vaulting towards the void; pointing at points beyond knowing. The cause, it appeared, was quotidian: streetlights, the green throb of traffic, lights switched on above garage doors and twinkling above gas stations. Meanwhile, I drove entirely alone through the eerie, emptied town. Pillars soared up all around me, shining. I laughed out loud. These were tractor beams trawling the raised shell of the earth. These were, perhaps, illumined celestial fibers spiraling from a mantle of stardust both borrowed and blue.
The phenomenon was real. I saw it, and I’ve never encountered the like before or since. Was it caused by a low-lying mist and nothing more (or less) than the lens of my eye, swinging on its faulty frame? Can cold itself pull apart the world like so much taffy, wrenching the glow of a fixed point into whatever shape it fancies?
That’s my hypothesis.
If I should join it, I imagine an ecstatic stretching: the regular made wondrous. I imagine a face beaded with the same cold that holds all the carbon of space in its soundless, depthless doom. Pulled apart and reaching, I’d slough shape and skin. Pulled apart and reaching, I’d make someone gasp below, crying to herself about this beautiful world.
I wouldn’t even know it: no more I in know.