The Laws

Zachary Leven

Professor Rubenstein was the first to notice the universe was changing. A subtle observation through the circular screen of his electron microscope. The generally meticulous isotope particles had switched from square-dancing to slam-dancing. Incredible, but not entirely inconceivable. The laws of physics were altering course. And why wouldn’t they be? There was no reason the laws that held our reality together shouldn’t turn like the seasons, each cosmic equinox spanning a scant fifteen billion years. As the day progressed, his theory was confirmed. The grass outside the window of his campus laboratory turned a vivid shade of purple as the light reversed its wavelength. His telephone no longer chirped exuberantly, but now made a horrible burbling noise, the electric pulses impotent and lame. He raced outside to find clouds diving toward the earth in tailspins, as if they had been gunned down by artillery.

There was only one thing Rubenstein could do. He had to see Julia. Beautiful, dazzling Julia, whose tender hands had consoled him through an endless parade of bitter, failed experiments; whose smile had transformed his heavy heart to a fluttering bird. He had to once more feel her cheek against his, to taste her mellifluous breath. He had to once more hear her delicate voice tell him to trust the universe. Would the laws hold her form together long enough? He jumped into his car, but the motor oil had atrophied to a taffy-like sludge.

He slogged through parking lots of asphalt quicksand, the gooey pavement consuming his feet with every herculean step. He walked over barbed-wire meadows stretching beneath a red and green sun that swirled like a peppermint lollypop. He dodged buildings that collapsed into pools of swampy muck. But he seemed to be holding out — his blood still flowed, his muscles still moved. If he could only last a while longer.

Trees with coarse monkey-hair tangled themselves across the lane where Julia lived. The earth rumbled as he frantically traversed their slippery, fallen trunks, and skated up a walkway of frozen lava. His fist went right through Julia’s door, droplets of liquid timber spraying across the living room, where the couches had puffed into enormous leathery balls. “Julia!” he cried out. And then, she came splashing through the floor above him, into his arms. She was there, she was whole! And still, the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. Such bewitching eyes, such verdant lips. He brought her toward him to kiss her, but she pulled away.

“Oh, Danny,” she said. “I’m so sorry. I just don’t love you anymore.”

Rubenstein gently placed her down, the ground beneath them trembling like a frightened poodle.

“I don’t understand,” he said. “I don’t understand how that’s possible.”

ZACHARY LEVEN is a writer and musician living in New York City. He is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and composes for the London Dry Opera Company.

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