Everything in One Room

The whole world is in this room, and pieces of the universe too. A sample of this, a section of that, all compressed and made manageable for eyes that see in the third dimension (or the fourth, depending on your reasoning). I have at my fingertips a collage of continents and centuries. Life in its many guises runs through the collection that I call past, present, and future; although life is one of Earth’s younger inventions, it crowds the room with colour.

When I speak of life I gloss over the first prehistoric cells and think of the complex and the beautiful instead. Plants of a hundred different climes are here. With roots in the floor and stems above baseboard-level there are lotus flowers, Venus flytraps, a baobab tree. Carboniferous ferns and cacti rub shoulders with deadly nightshade.

Just above the greenery the moving creatures make their appearance. Across one of the walls is the prowl of the big cats— the sleek cheetah, the panther whose midnight blends into the undergrowth, the sabertooth of more primitive years. Antelope and bison wade through the tall grass. Puzzle-pieces of ocean waves appear here and there like a work in series, and in the blue-grey patches of water lie the shadows of reefs, of whales and crocodiles, of plesiosaurs. In some places are the opalescent sheets of oil spills, where fish rise to the surface. Reptiles wend their way from hot stretches of naked desert into the comparative cool of African bush, and from the bush into the corners of the rainforests. Eagles wing across no-man’s land, eyes raking the ground below, and big-horned sheep look out from vantage points of treacherous rock.

Yet plants and animals are not the room’s focus. There is in one corner all that is known of the beginning of the universe; a bewildering collision of heat and light, an explosion to shatter the mind. Fragments of the beginning spin towards the center of the room, and from the fragments emerge humans. We who built this room and collected all of its contents.

Language, country, invention, history, and fire radiate from us. Such a short space of time occupies most of what I can see. Painted faces from the Aztec and Egyptian pyramids, fans of many colours up the sleeves of kimonos, galleons charting the unknown world, mud of the trenches in the First World War. Airplanes outstripping steamships, Kings and Queens of the medieval era, Manhattan-made mushroom clouds, jewelry both old and ancient. Templar Knights, scholars, serfs, and professional athletes. The cities built and sacked, the mountains climbed and conquered. And above all are the wonders of the world, the wonders we have wrought.

All this and more fits together as smoothly as a coat of paint. In the farthest reaches of the room the pinpoints of stars, bright and cold, shine across light-years. An arm of the Milky Way hovers indistinctly. But the distance and the immensity of such phenomena are ignored by most, just as the proximity and minuteness of individual cells are forgotten, because the room is dominated by more immediate things. Things chosen and compressed by minds that think in three dimensions.

About Elizabeth Cook

Elizabeth Cook is an economist who enjoys good food and tea, and games of squash and Dungeons and Dragons. Most of her interests are inherited from her father, who is an English and Latin teacher. Although she will pursue an MA in economics she would much prefer to hole up in her room and write.

>> Elizabeth Cook's author page

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