Love Letters to Earth

by Henry Quicke







Instructions for Creating the Earth


The Lur believe that God created the earth from instructions He found written into a rock.  Then, once He’d finished creating, He stood on the shore of the ocean, which He’d created, and languished indulgently in the sun, which He’d created, too, from the instructions.  Unsure of what to do next, He picked up the instruction rock, weighed it in His hand, yawned once or twice, then skipped the rock across the surface of the ocean.  God was strong, especially then, in His youth, and the rock skipped with colossal force off the lip of a breaking swell, up through the sky, which He’d also created, past the sun to a height beyond even His reach.  Though He didn’t create the rock, He was pleased with how pretty it looked in the sky, hanging softly and pale above the ragged waves and the sapphire glow of the world, and He told himself that only He could have had the good luck to be the cause of this.  And God smiled.

In time, God would regret his casual rock toss.  He had underestimated the persistence of another of His creations, the Lur, who with each generation grew smarter and smarter and understood more and more of their creator’s ways, His carelessness, His indifference, and, especially, His jealousy.  The Lur know that the earth revolves around a giant rock that we call the moon, and that on one side of the moon are those written instructions for creating the world.  Because God is a jealous God, He holds His hand between the moon and sun to shadow the instructions from the Lur, whom He thinks are too smart for their own good and want to steal His strength.  Unfortunately, this occupies much of God’s time and energy and allows for the world to run amok with wars, disease, death, and terrible storms.

“Can you blame Him?” ask some of the Lur in God’s defense.  “Where would God be if everyone knew how to create the earth?  Even He didn’t know until He found the instructions!”

Others laugh openly at God’s pettiness.  “Does He really think we’ll understand the language of the instructions?  Does He really think we’ll replace Him?”

“But what if we can read the instructions,” respond God’s defenders.  “Think of the consequences, everyone trying to be God, everyone trying to re-create the world.  What kind of half-baked world could people like us create?”

Still, the majority of the Lur believe they could do better.  When something bad happens, they mumble under their breaths: “If I just knew the instructions….”  And they sigh, shaking their heads.

The Lur live in caves along a rocky, desolate coast.  Between roaring sets of waves, they dash through tidal pools gathering oysters and battered fish.  They keep time on a lunar schedule, waking at moonrise and bedding down at moonset no matter how bright the sun outside their caves.  For the Lur, the moon has a sense of mystery about it because it is the only thing not created by God.  Who made the rock?  Who wrote the instructions?  This, they say, is the Great Mystery, from which all other mysteries spring.  Any unexplained event, mysterious object, extraordinary behavior, or unanswerable question is attributed to the power of the inscribed moon.  And the Lur hold that power to be even greater than God’s.  Why else would He expend so much effort to hide it from them?

On days when the moon is full, the Lur spend their time drinking and dancing and feasting, knowing no harm can come to them because, with the instructions facing away, God has both hands free to attend the world.  On the other hand, during a new moon, when the instructions would be fully exposed but for God’s jealous hands and when the powers of the Great Mystery are at their height, strange things happen.  The Lur huddle in groups up and down the beach, heard but not seen in the new moon’s darkness, their whispered voices anxious, tentative, swirling in the wind and then swept aside by the exhales of breakers upon the shore.  Arguments break out as friends turn against friends, children against parents, and parents against each other.  Someone coughs: the healthy grow sick, and the sick get sicker.  People who are ordinarily lighthearted sag with sorrow and speak only of the senselessness and absurdity of life.  The boldest and bravest quake with fear at the glance of a curious seagull.

At such times, only the Lur’s vigilance holds them together, the slimmest thread of hope that an aging God will nod off and let His hand fall from the sky.  The Lur are prepared.  Two at a time, they keep watch in shifts.  The watchers lie on the beach, their faces to the dim aura of the new moon and their hands at the ready with treated bark and a writing stick freshly dipped in warm fishblood.  Should the instructions be exposed, the two watchers will copy what they see onto the bark, one from the top down, the other from the bottom up, hoping to get what they need before God stirs from His catnap and sees what He’s done.

Even with the new moon about to set and the watchers’ eyelids growing heavy, wrists aching from holding their writing sticks, the Lur cannot afford to slacken their vigilance.  At any moment, a terrible storm could claw them into the sea, or a neighboring tribe could slaughter their children to appease a strange god, or an unknown disease could arrive on a gust of wind, or the mystery of a life without instructions could rob them all of the will to live.  The Lur know that the only remedy for these things is written on the face of the moon, hidden from view, with only a dreamer’s chance of revelation.