Ingenuity

By Anders M. Svenning

The Abacus, 2400 BC

SMOOTHENED stones on the sands, laid in parallel lines, he uses logic to deduce numbers. It is citrine magic, the notions he’s been having, numerals not having been developed yet, and the people think he may be mad, shifting rocks around on the sand alone and listening to the ocean breathe in its shallow rapture; his eyes are wild, he moves quickly, surefire calculations by the second, by the hundreds and thousands of units—rocks—so simple, this untapped energy seems perpetual and ever-living. He feels a conduit into nature, the sun skipping along the waters and onto his skin and pecking kisses at his forehead, he has found something in this instance, my light having been shed and him having conceived in it.

The First Fully Mechanical Clock, 724 AD

Cogs and wheels, the ultimate machine, the engineer sweats, his fingers dexterous performing surgery. Hovering over him with the ticks of trinkets, his brain activated, is I, the hermit genius, toying with the essence of time with the twist of a dial; he is humbled as I watch and listen to his creation—an intricate layout of brass and quartz—he feels as though he has indeed understood for a long time the intonations of past ages, how they’ve passed unchecked, unabsorbed, and ill-regarded. In his machine will the day be granted life. And it is endearing how he has come to this present moment, potential fully deployed like wind under a bird; and, ah, yes, here, he does now feel a presence, as if someone is standing beside him.

Eyeglasses, 1280 AD

Pristine edges are cutting precise divisions between matter. There is focus within the eye, the eye clean, and a man feels in this outlandish headpiece sharp, as he holds the contraption to his face with his fingers, it is marvelous how we’ve constructed such tools. He will show the nobles, they will gape. Vibrant colors defined and hyperemotional when the world had once been ambiguous; he can look everywhere and see with exquisite joy the texture of threads and written language and constellations and the facial features of his family, exactly, which have grown foreign in a once-blurred lifetime, now astute; and look, he says, I’ve even tinted the glass, so we can look at the sun.

The Telescope, 1608 AD

How the sky turns!—the circular momentum of the stars, he can predict where the lights will shift and where they will drop into divine circuit around Earth, where the others will emerge. He is projecting out into the void, where the Moon stands; there he finds in the dashing pin-dots sprawled, a face, peace indefinitely, and silence, the celestial masses gliding along the planes of the Gods. Boundlessly, he is looking and perceives a weightless gift, something which he has been searching for, for ages; he is visualizing, wholly and wonderfully, through the crystal lenses he has sculpted, the face of limitless inspiration. It seems suspended, he thinks—the Moon and the stars—and he is anchored here, though he feels he is in fact with me. He feels he is that much closer, being lifted into the atmosphere.

The Revolver, 1835 AD

Six shots, he spins the chamber. The day is warm and I am not quite sure how I feel about this. This weapon will fit in his belt, be hidden from the world lest he flaunts and wields its power. The chests of men will cave in and blow ragged with lead, many times over; there will be blood, I see, but I am helpless, a mere infatuation. The crafted metal will save lives; it will be the cause of relief as well as pain, and the people watching this demonstration—for he now aims down range, his index finger touching snugly the trigger—are riveted; and seen by all the men, as well as myself, is the intensity of their intrigue.

Antibiotics, 1928 AD

Our bodies are smart, as are the viruses, which sicken it; they will mutate, he knows, floundering, into consequential beings, so small they are not seen, but murderers. He fights them with knowledge and without, with ingenuity; he wishes to save lives with this concoction. It is liquid, and he will direct it into the mouths of men, women, and children, a saint. He will take hands into his own to make sure the sicknesses do not gain ground, because he is the barrier between life and death, the apex of understanding, the first to recognize that things may turn bad, that things may end; perhaps these children will live a complete life, perhaps not; he can only imagine what will happen tomorrow, when he brings the medicine to the first of the families, who are waiting in ill-tempered homes, waiting for tomorrow as well.

REM-T, 20— AD

The night falls, as it has many times before. She is upstairs, weeping into her pillow. The white cotton has turned gray because of her tears and her cheeks will wet when she rolls in her sleep. And there I will be waiting for her. Where the times can turn and where she may cast spectral colors into herself, a rainbow upheld by her own consciousness. The dream she will have tonight will change her; I have administered three droplets of my solution into a glass of water, which she has drunk. She will be asleep shortly. I hope to all that the solution will affect her; I have tried it on no one but myself. And it had worked! It had worked, I tell you, and I met the very thing that has driven me to this completeness I feel now: hope, dreams, and color. We will wake tomorrow beside each other in the same bed and she will remark, What an incredible dream, what an incredible morning! And I will lie quietly, smiling, listening to her song and listening to the water in which she bathes dripping and listening to my muscles vibrate, listening to hers do the same, pretending I am still asleep, musing that she, through her bright path of a sleep, has merely discovered all that there ever was to know—

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Anders M. Svenning is studying creative writing at the Florida State University and is currently working on his first short story collection, potentially called On His Way to Elysia.  “Ingenuity” is his first published story, of which many are to come, God be willing.


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