He was a student of phenomenon, an avid collector of information, and he was in thrall of rain.
Rain was an absorber of so many things, in its endlessly repeating life story from sea to cloud to droplet to land to stream brook river, and thence to the sea again.
He had a hypothesis that this information could be tapped, to be recorded, and new theories found about how matter interacts with the universe around it.
So one not very fine day – that being the point – he headed out to the common – past groups of ladies returning early from a morning constitutional as the scudding clouds gathered. With him he took his copper can coated in gold film, that he used as his rain receptacle. The gold was an inert layer to prevent any contamination from his equipment, and had cost his unwitting father a fortune.
The rain came down, and quickly an acceptable sample was gathered. He enjoyed the shower, feeling the grit of the industrial world washed from his hair and pale, cloud bathed face. He mounted his bicycle and returned to his laboratory, copper can dangling.
In his lab, a brick lined cellar at his averagely well to do home, he took the precious rain and emptied out onto a faintly concave copper disk, again sheathed in protective gold. He cranked a handle, and the water centrifuged out across the disk. He had to be careful that he didn’t crank too hard and cause the water to splash over the side or become too disturbed.
He then lowered an Edison system needle onto the surface of the water, as if it were a gramophone record. The needle shone silver in the electrically lit cellar, and attached to a copper arm that transmitted the liquid vibrations to a stretched drum of pig skin. The sound of rain was thus broadcast out, as Edison had once done with “Mary had a little lamb.”
The rain sang too. It sang of the water cycle, true, but more than that. It went further. The rain sang of coalescing clouds of dust and gas in the void accreting into planets, how their hydrogen and oxygen atoms had first found their way onto the scorched surface of the proto earth.
Further still, the rain sang of expansion, of inflation, of early cosmic epochs, and the man took notes frantically. It sang of molecular bonds being formed and broken, of atoms themselves being formed out of even smaller particles – knowledge! he exulted! new knowledge! – and of some kind of primal event, the creation of everything out of nothing with no hand of God.
It was as he suspected. The history of everything etched in a drop of water.
And then he thought of the tediously moral masses, sunday strolling their hypocritic selves to church of a Sunday morning. And he thought – “Fools! They don’t deserve to know anything!”
His aching arm ceased cranking the handle, and he reached for a bottle of claret. He knew the truth, and that was all that mattered, a truth gilt in gold, uncontaminated.
Copyright Mulberry Lightning 04.10.14
This piece was written in 18 minutes, inspired by streaks of rain sliding down a library window.