SOUL SHALE

TREVOR SHIKAZE

 

  God is a freak for fossils, which is why he invented time. It’s why he invented mud. It’s why he invented skeletons, which he hid inside bodies. He hid them because God likes to work obscurely.

 

  Flesh is in fact a recent invention. The dinosaurs were just skeleton, walking around all bony and jangling. Oh, you say, what about the fossilized feather and hide impression? Natural glitches, nothing more—like how sometimes a calf is born with two glassy-eyed faces. Every so often, just by chance, a dinosaur would pop out of its egg with meat on the bone. When God saw those prodigies, he clapped his hands and squealed with gibbering delight. Flesh! Feathers! I never would have thought of that!

 

  So when he made his newer creatures he hid their skeletons under layers of tissue, and hid himself under clouds and burnt into toast, watching the slow eons go by. One certain thing you can say about God: he is patient. His main hobby—making fossils—takes forever. First, you need to create enough animals so that one or two of them will accidentally die in a mudslide—just billions of animals running randomly around, swimming, flying, and you cross your fingers whenever one of them wanders by a riverbank. Once your prospective fossil gets itself trapped and smothered, the wait begins. You also need perfect conditions: ideally anaerobic, no scavengers nearby. God loves this part; he does not intervene. Slowly, slowly, molecule by molecule, rock swaps in for bone, soul itself mineralizes as crystal bits, which you can see glittering if you hold a good fossil up in the right light. The Earth, our planet, is a vault for God’s collection.

 

  And that is why, if you care to please God, you should wander by a riverbank. You should step carelessly in the rain. Await the slip and the slurp of earth, the gentle suffocation.

 

  Then one day maybe you too will find yourself pressed in slate, beautifully crushed and hardened with your neck thrown back, your arms splayed and bent up like wicked archaeopteryx, a paperweight ballerina. A light thing made heavy, ossified, in glory.

 

 

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