The Fourth Day
by Chad Carpenter

It was time for, well, time. It was day four, after all, and he could no longer put it off. In the preceding days, he’d figured out the complexities of earth and heaven, day and night, land and sea. Oh, and plant life – not one of his prouder moments, but plants are one of those annoying-but-necessary steps along the way towards something greater. Plants are to creating a universe as gym class is to graduating high school.

        But today was the day for time. He needed to get things moving. Way back on the first day, he’d separated light and dark and, by means of his next creation, the synonym, named them, respectively, day and night. But the day and night just sat there, each blanketing half of the lumpy earth in their respective brightness values. It was immediately clear that no human (a goofy placeholder name for a yet-to-be determined life form) would bother living in the shadowed hemisphere of the earth. And, besides, half his stupid plants were dying off in the dark.

What was needed was some way to evenly spread out the day and night. So in the morning, he played with the idea of mixing light and dark back together but quickly realized he was just regressing towards a soupy gloaming that wouldn’t satisfy anyone but photographers.

A bit later, he invented stars. At first, they were just intended as temporary tools to help him to visualize day and night. He created two giant balls: one that emitted bright light and one that emitted dim dark. He played with his balls for much of the day, completely oblivious of how embarrassingly naughty that would someday sound. Completely unaware of how childish and immature his yet-to-be-determined lifeforms would one day be. Heh heh, balls.

He moved the two balls, light and dark, around the earth, pushing them closer, then farther. Placing them side by side or opposite each other. In so doing, he discovered he could satisfy the need for evenly distributed light and dark by alternating them one after the other. He pushed the balls around the earth in a roughly circular orbit and appreciated how the light and dark alternatingly fell upon every surface of the earth. This was his day and night.

But he didn’t want to have to stand there and twirl his balls around for eternity (heh heh). He needed them to move on their own. Try as he might, though, he couldn’t instill life in them. He’d done well by his plants, but, despite his best efforts, the giant balls of light and dark remained inanimate. And that’s where things got complicated.

The day went on and on as he cogitated on the problem. His thoughts went in some pretty wacky directions while seeking a solution. At one point, he considered and then discarded the idea of making smaller versions of himself and putting each in charge of one of the balls (he could even give them cute names like Helios and Atlas and Cronus). Later, he realized he could keep everything stationary and simply spin the earth like a top to get the effect he was going for – fewer moving parts was always nice. So he grabbed an early animal prototype he’d been toying with – he called it a turtle – and placed the earth upon its back. Though the poor creature did manage to slowly spin the earth, the whole setup looked a little odd, so he put that turtle on top of another. And then another. And then – oh why not? – let’s just whip up an infinite stack of turtles.

Finally, leaving behind the more simple-minded solutions, he came up with an immensely sophisticated system of day and night stars that flew around at incredible speeds on invisible tracks and exerted bizarre, clandestine forces upon each other. It was some pretty deep stuff, requiring crazy advanced math, but, then again, he was a pretty smart guy and had a lot of time to think about it (actually, since time didn’t yet exist, he really had no time, or all the time, depending on how you look at it).

Tired after a day (or millennium) of thinking, he said screw it and decided to go with his uber-complicated solution. It didn’t make a lot of sense and had way more moving parts than were strictly necessary to rotate day and night around this one planet, but he’d already put in the elbow grease and, hell, it was working wasn’t it? Besides, it would give those soon-to-be-cocky humans something to ponder on. Oh, you think you’re so smart? Well, fuck you, go figure out how this works, huh?

He had his solution. It may not be simple, but it was reasonably elegant. It was the first science project diorama ever – and the most impressive. It was an intricate child’s mobile of days and nights and planets hung from invisible strings. Its creator had no intention of ever being a father – who needed that hassle? – but, if he ever changed his mind, he now had a plaything that he could dangle above a universe-sized crib. That should keep the little brat quietly enthralled for a while.

Time was the last piece of the puzzle. It was the construct  he’d come up with to keep the mobile in motion – the tiny motor that moved everything. Yeah, it was a bit lazy, but he’d already decided he didn’t want to sit around and babysit this science project. He had other things to do, after all, and no, playing with his balls was not one of them.

Just as he was about to turn in for the night, it struck him. Of all the stupid mistakes. Slumping back to his workroom, he plucked out the earth and its two closest stars – a day star and a night star. Putting them off to the side where the rest of the universe wouldn’t interfere, he removed the night star and spun the day star around the planet. Sure enough, it worked just as well as it had with the night star in place. He smacked his forehead. Darkness was just the absence of light. This whole time, the night stars had been completely redundant. What an idiot, he thought.

At this point he was sorely tempted to just leave the night stars where they were. The system did work after all, even if it wasn’t as elegant as he’d first thought. Or maybe he should go back to a simpler implementation. The idea of creating little mini-hims suddenly seemed more appealing as he stood there in his pajamas, tired and frustrated from the long day. But no, he was stubborn, and he got to work plucking out the trillions of night stars and adjusting everything else to accommodate the sudden absence of their mass. It took a while, but, again, time wasn’t an issue.

He was beyond exhausted when he finally crawled into bed. And yet he lay there awake, thinking about the day’s accomplishments: physics, astronomy, quantum dynamics, nuclear fission, time. It had been a full day, and he wasn’t quite ready to let it all go. Though he wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone, he was giddily excited about all he’d created. Like a child on Christmas eve, he lay there vainly thinking about how good he’d been and about what tomorrow would bring.

Tomorrow, he thought. Tomorrow I’ll try my hand at some real life forms. No more of that boring plant shit – I’m making something cool. With visions of fish and dolphins and whales swimming through his thoughts, he finally drifted to sleep while, above, his new universe spun and whirled of its own accord.