Feeble Little Universes – Lulu Pettit

The Universe is a drop of rain.

I watch it slither down the windowpane, writhing and wriggling slowly. Little water people on the little water droplet shriek in terror as their world spins around, around, around. It is everything to them, and it is nothing to me. The droplet begins to slow, grasping for anything to anchor it in place. When it finally stops, I flick the glass, and it continues its descent. Anything to take my attention from the cold, drafty room I find myself in, empty except for every item my sister owns, her personal Universe. Danielle wishes I wouldn’t sit in here, but she knows I can’t stand sitting out there.

I am fascinated until I am bored. They disappear—

The Universe is a jar of push pins.

The jar, small and dullish and dusty, perches on the corner of a hulking mahogany desk. My mother sits on one side; I, on the other. We are almost having a conversation, but her words are drowned out by the war cries of the push pins. Each tiny galaxy stabs at the others, vying for total domination of the jar — the jar, which might shake so violently that it falls off the table, if they keep fighting so cruelly. On the ground, it would shatter, and the pins would scatter across the room, some stabbing into the carpet or my ankle or the curtain, but most of them rolling into oblivion. The jar, which is everything. Everything. The word sticks like a half-chewed sandwich on the roof of my mouth.

The battles reach a momentary stand-still, and I hear my mother ask, “Margarette, are you even listening?”

My name is so ugly in its full form. I recoil at the sound of it in my mother’s relentless voice.

The Universe is a sidewalk crack.

Soldiers wearing freshly-ironed uniforms march along the crevice. War is not yet reality to them, so they march in neat lines to meet the devil.

I am careful to step around the crack, but my hand is tugged by my father, and I stumble onto it. My foot is a boulder to their Universe. I cannot bear to watch their faces distort with terror as I crush them — I didn’t mean to, I swear — but I must, I must. If I don’t watch them, who will?

I lift my foot, and several of them dangle above the sidewalk crack as they clutch the sole of my shoe. It takes a few shakes to lose them all. I am sorry enough to want to stay but not sorry enough to ignore my father’s impatience.

My family doesn’t believe in the Little Universes. To my father, they’re a cry for help. To my mother, they’re a ploy for attention. To my sister, they’re another silly game.

You and your silly games, she says, but her voice is warm like cinnamon, and she pulls me into a one-armed hug. Neither disapproval nor pity cloud her gaze or twist her words, and I am here — one hundred percent here.

In moments like these, I wish micro-realities weren’t so clear to me. I wish our Universe would lay itself out with clear rules and boundaries like the other ones do; it’s so impossible to keep up with the way it is now.

The Universe is a steering wheel.

I clutch it with confidence, back straight, eyes forward. It is dotted with its own little people, and for the first time, they don’t fight an endless war, around and around and around in the same cycle. No, they sit peacefully and tell each other lovely things about life, things that don’t have to be all the way true to sound beautiful.

Danielle says something, but I can’t quite hear it over the jingling chorus of voices. Quiet down, I want to tell them.

The Universe doesn’t have to be a steering wheel; it can be the reality I live in, the one everyone else sees. It can be my sister pointing to the turn signal and singing along to her favorite song and treating me like a functioning human being. It can be the icy road ahead.

But if the Universe really was a steering wheel, it would be strangely calm and collected. Its tranquility would demand attention, and its music would grow louder, louder, louder as the tiny people joined hands, creating one long, circular chain. Pure unity — it mesmerizes me.

Meg, watch the road. My sister’s voice, far away. Doesn’t she know, can’t she tell? The Universe is finally at peace.

Meg, the road!

The Universe buzzes in agreement with me.


The Universe is a shard of ice.

It is the first perfect Universe, symmetrical and infinite. Small diamond shapes interlock like armor on the window of my hospital room. Hospital room — window.

Where is Danielle?

My mother is weeping. My father is weeping. I wish I could reach the window and press my hand against it and melt the Universe.

The Universe is a ceiling fan.

The small, windowless room is hot and sticky; the word muggy bounces between the edges of my mind. I watch as the blades of the fan chase each other endlessly. They create a draft without cooling down anybody — not me or my parents or the priest or the piping-mad little men on each blade. They all want to kill each other; always the same war, over and over.

I look for something else to interest me. The priest is mumbling something in another language for my sister, doesn’t he know that she only speaks English? Doesn’t he know that she can’t hear him from the hospital morgue?

I want to end it all and turn the fan off, but until the doctor removes the cast from my leg, I cannot move unless I am pushed.

How am I the one still sitting here?

I pick at the seams of reality. Does it matter? Alone is a lone is a loan, and the bank called today to ask about Danielle’s bank account. My mother wipes at her eyes. My father tells them what to do with the money.

A photo of a little girl with pigtails starts to scream at me. Who cares about the money, she’s dead!

She’s dead she’s dead she’s dead she’s dead.

What else is there to say?

Margarette and Danielle. So many syllables for something that no longer exists. How can we disappear from every Universe? Gone, gone, gone. The word looks harsh but sounds soft, too soft for the suffering it inflicts.

I begin searching for micro-realities so I can crush them. If they understood, they would be grateful — it’s all the same, anyway. What would they do, if I let them continue? Destroy themselves over and over, fight the same endless wars? At least now, they have a monster to blame; it’s always better to be the victim; they just don’t understand. I am the great and terrible god who knows better than to ask for mercy.

When I lose interest in the feeble little Universes, I tear off pieces of my own reality and throw them away. Who’s going to miss the corner of a room or the top of a tree? Nothing will come of it. Nothing will come of anything.

The Universe is collapsing—

And I wish I could say I expected it, but you have to understand, I never meant for it to go this far. I never wanted to destroy anything, at least not anything big and real. I reach for every corner of the world and try desperately to pull them into myself — more desperately than the water people tried to stay still, and more desperately than the push pin galaxies tried to win the war — but nothing helps. It is falling apart! Can’t you see the seams slowly becoming unstitched? There is a black hole in the sofa and a bottomless pit in the basement. The sound of my mother’s angry voice — always angry, always condemning — droops to a low hum. Hmmmm. Her mouth distorts her face distorts her body melts. We are all puddles of goop and then clouds of poisonous gas. The trees wither — the animals shrivel — the old stone church turns to dust. My sister, for a moment, is here, but she’s crying, and the tears stream down her face like blood from a gash on the head, and then she is gone again. Why does she always have to leave?

Everything falls into nothing — I swear I didn’t mean to!