In space Dark Matter occupies the gaps between sense and logic. Dark Fluff fills the vacuum.
“Alex! There’s something wrong with the vacuum, it won’t suck up.” Peggy’s cry from the dining room is agitated and strident.
Lemmy is curled on the living room sofa with a ginger and cream banded tail draped across his nose. He raises one eyebrow and half opens one eye. Good, perhaps, now, we can get some peace around here.
“Right with you, chuck.” Alex washes his paintbrush, dries it on an old rag, places it with a cluster of well used Jyukeis hog filberts, sable riggers and hakes in an old tin jug, and digs his tool-box out from under the bench. Armed with a Phillips screwdriver, a wire coat hanger and eternal hope he readies himself for an attempt at a repair.
The yellow Hoover télios class 1500 lies in the middle of the dining room floor whining pathetically. Alex unplugs it from the wall socket, spreads out a used copy of the Fernton Bugle to protect the carpet from the contents of the distressed appliance and then removes an access cover from the machine. The stout brown paper bag within is bulging and stretched close to the point of losing structural integrity. He detaches the bag and empties it over the newspaper. There is a puther of dust that spread out to hang in slowly undulating layers across the room, and then a dark mass flops out over a half page colour photograph of the town crier, in full regalia, and a short article about inappropriate dealings in respect of a lucrative but unpopular proposal for a town centre shopping mall. The heap settles gently, its lumps and folds resembling black mashed potato and wire wool, Obsidian-black rivulets and pools of viscous tar-like gunk seeping into clefts and crannies, its boundaries blurred as if it is not quite in this world, its hyper-black core sucking out colour from its surroundings. The dust cloud gravitates, slowly at first, back into the primal entity.
“What on earth is that?” Peggy is standing in the doorway defensively holding out a wrought iron toasting fork. Lemmy, roused from his slumber and having intended to offer advice and encouragement, peeps wide-eyed from behind her skirts.
Alex cannot take his eyes off the hypnotic muck. The intense blackness seems to draw in everything around it, expanding to fill his field of vision, tugging at his mind, his soul.
As Peggy watches in horror, writhing black tentacles of congealed fluff reach out towards her husband.
“Just cut that out! Get away from him you, you… ” She thrusts her toasting fork into the mass. The iron chills in an instant, crackling as frost spreads along its length. The shaft jerks and is tugged from her grasp. She springs back screaming as the weapon is drawn into the slowly pulsing form. Lemmy takes a pace or two to the rear.
Quantum Fluff is constantly and spontaneously flickering in and out of existence. To the observer of one small area of space such events, or Quirks, are barely detectable, but at any instant in time, across the entire vastness of our universe the net mass of all the fleeting and tiny flufflets is significant. Rarely, a number of coincident creation events will occur in close proximity and sufficient mass will accrue for gravity to take over. As the conglomerate grows, fluff enters our Newtonian World and that is when the true mystery of Dark Fluff becomes apparent, he muses. Cats have an instinctual connection with quantum mechanics. How else could they pass through walls or become invisible? They cannot, however, influence the universe by an exercise of will. Such seemingly impossible acts are unconscious, random, unobserved and as much a source of amazement to the feline as to anyone else.
Alex watches as a swirling vortex forms at the centre of the mess. Flashes of sheet lightening illuminate boiling black cumulous. Everything around him dims and recedes; becomes distant as he becomes detached from normality. What is that far away shouting? He is enveloped in darkness now and tumbling towards the blacker than black core, swirling within the violent maelstrom. He is spinning, tossed about, thrown by unseen forces. And now everything stops as he is spat out to float in an infinite void. There is stillness, silence and calm… but only for a moment. Feint pinpricks of light are appearing, multiplying as he adjusts to his surroundings. Tiny, fuzzy blobs of light are everywhere, speckling the eternal night. Only scale deceives him into thinking he is stationary, he hurtles at incomprehensible speed. One of the light patches rushes towards him, passes close by. It is made up of a myriad of clustering stars, warped into a crude S. Another swirling galaxy lies in his path. He closes on an immense tilted Catherine wheel spiral, blazing at its core and plunges into its depth. Clouds in emerald green, dull red, intense blue, hang in the immeasurable emptiness between stars, vast clouds of fluff; fluff within the universe and a universe within the fluff. The clouds tower above him sculpting fantastical forms a million light years across, breading ground for new, hot, white fire balls; born of dust to become red giants, white dwarfs, explode into novae of elementary particles. Soap-bubble nebulae skitter by; transparent spheres carried on undiscovered currents. Here is a lace-sphered supernova, a cat’s eye, a blue snowball. Ahead is a single, boiling honey-gold star. An orbiting gas giant spin past, billowing elemental clouds and storms thousands of miles deep, magnetic fields crackling from pole to pole, its gravity pulling at his tiny mass, inviting him to join her ice moons, lava moons, cratered moons in an eternal orbit. Another has a wafer thin disc of rings in bronze and greens.
Plunging on he passes through a field of tumbling, irregular planetoids – and, skimming one dead, desert world, falls towards a sphere of vapour-cloaked rock. The friction of an atmosphere slows his approach. He trails fire across a thin blue sky and plunges into a grey, damp, nephological world. He is through the cloud in a heartbeat and into drizzle, gigantic rime-heavy wings, shedding feathers, slowing his descent. Has he always had wings? They do not feel familiar.
And now he is streaking above an ocean, black in the twilight. Ahead a light flashes regularly, marks out a bleak junction between pallid grey land and a heaving midnight sea. It is a forlorn lighthouse on a lonely rock marking safe passage to a distant harbour. As Alex flies above the haven mouth, rusting tramps bob at the quay, intense floodlighting illuminates bustling wharfs. Slate grey rooftops behind the wharfs pack tightly, lining narrow streets, rain soaked sidewalks, which wind uphill away from the sea.
Down at street level now the rain-darts are silver-streaking through the insipid street lamp-light to puddle on blue brick pavements. Still floating incongruously a few inches above the tarmac he approaches an end of terrace pub. Primrose light shines through frosted glass windows. The sound of an out of tune piano swells each time the door opens to admit fresh customers. It does not open for Alex, and yet he is inside the saloon bar of a dockside alehouse. The grey-brown linoleum is cracked and sticky, the anaglypta wallpaper shades of tobacco, upholstery faded and threadbare. Faded and threadbare too are the locals, staring forlornly into their flat pints, at black iron, marble topped tables, too heavy to throw. Thin light from shabby wall lamps struggles to penetrate the pall of cigarette smoke; fall down drunk sailors grope their tattooed escorts, slop beer, leer and cheer at the pole dancer. The naked, death-white body writhes around the chrome shaft. Her bored eyes focussed vaguely on a mould-rimmed damp patch on the ceiling. Her unsexy, mechanical jerking caricatures the procreative act on a low stage, as it has night after night after night.
Alex is through the room and up to the step-high dais, drinking in the body odours of must and yeast and something slightly acidic, mingled under a powerful mask of eau de cologne. He is pulled towards the blue-white flesh, every purple thumb and tooth imprint, each livid indented bra scar and knicker-elastic welt sharply detailed, bruise hued tram-track veins criss-crossing the damp, glistening pelt. The pumping groin beckons, the leprous, blanched belly, stinking of fresh sweat, envelopes him. He is melding with, dissolving into, the bland soul of the indifferent stripper.
There is a clatter at the cat flap as Digby bounds in from the yard. Tail high he prances and somersaults into the dining room, certain as ever of the overwhelming joy his presence will provoke. And then he stops, puzzled. No one has looked up, no one has moved. The little group before him stares, motionless at a lumpy black mass of… So that’s where you’ve been all this time. Peering into the fluff mound he has seen something treasured. He leaps into the middle of the outspread newspaper, dust and fluff flying in all directions. There is a collective gasp. Lemmy sneezes.
Digby emerges clutching the limp, grey, filthy form of his favourite, one eared, catnip mouse, more furless, featureless and tailless than ever. Alex snaps out of his weird reverie, Peggy, fast recovering her equilibrium, regards the dust caked moggy and sighs.
He stops, tilts his head, …What?