“Dark Matter,” by Magda Knight

Dec 20th, 2011 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Although I’m alone in thinking this, it all started in a small pub at half past closing time. Several drinks in and an unspecified number of brain cells down, we approached the topics of the day with all the swagger of emperors and kings.

It was Madeleine who broached the question first. She wrote it on the back of a beer mat, refusing to buy the next round until we’d considered her words with what she considered to be a suitable measure of gravitas.

The beer mat read:

A vast meteorite heads towards the earth. Then scientists announce it is actually a gigantic poo. Are you:

a)            More scared
b)            Less scared?

Well. We didn’t realise it at the time, but Madeleine – who’d always had a touch of the mad, the divine – must have been a part-time prophetess. The question took us on a journey lasting several more rounds, all the way back home to Madeleine’s (two night buses and a drunken walk in the wrong direction) and right into next morning.

What was the density of the poo? Was it flammable? Was it likely to burn up in the atmosphere, or would it rain down upon us all in flaming chunks? If the poo narrowly missed us, would the earth be covered in a great cloud of methane, a noxious but totally viable energy source to put to global use? Would the poo be a glamorously long stool or a cowpat-style Frisbee? In the great likelihood of it being a diarrhetic poo, all wet and sloppy, would it cover us in a very literal shower of shit? Would there be corn in the poo? If so, would they be giant chunks of space corn, or just regular corn?

So many questions. We grabbed no-doubt willing bystanders on the night bus in the hope they might prove to be astronomers and physicists. Night shift workers in fast food outlet uniforms, who may also have been physicists, explained, when pawed and clutched tightly, that all space poo would be universally exposed to near absolute zero temperatures to become a frozen lump equivalent to deadly rock, and that if the poo was any larger than a truck, it might as well be a vast meteorite for all the difference it would make.

This was heartening. Night shift workers were taking us seriously. We felt vindicated.

We, and by ‘we’ I mean Madeleine, started spreading the word. The conundrum became a postcard, then a small feature in a magazine, then a larger item in the national press. It was name checked by TV comedians looking for a bit of filler, an easy laugh. It was the new vampires, the new zombies. It captured people’s imaginations. It was the perfect cosy new threat. Everything had gone a bit tits-up since the fall of the Euro and the Big 3, and people needed a manageable villain to make them feel cheery in their time of need.

No credit to Madeleine, of course. No-one invented vampires. No-one invented zombies. No-one invented poo.

And then… the first fecal meteorite. Suddenly, the joke wasn’t funny anymore.

It was a near-miss. Two weeks before impact, its course was detailed with greater precision. We were safe, this time.

But we were no longer alone.

Dipping soggy biscuits into cold tea, Madeleine and I fought for room on her lumpy sofa, glued to the sphere while scientists talked in fast, high-pitched voices about the turnaround on their theories of Dark Matter being, in fact, fecal matter – the building blocks of all that exists. Madeleine and I didn’t hold with their theory. That would suggest that the universe was basically shit, and we didn’t think that was a positive outlook.

Then the second meteorite came. Or rather – it’s coming.  Only a few hundred thousand miles or so away from us, now, I forget the numbers. 50 km wide. The ram pressure will be huge and the impact crater will be even bigger.

Goodbye, Russia. And the rest of it.

Yes, of course everyone’s spending their remaining days worrying about the nature of the creatures that could produce such a giant emission. It hardly needs to be said. There’s something huge out there, hopefully not divine, because that would be insult to injury, and it’s using the vast emptiness of space as a toilet. The chances of a direct strike are astronomical, so either the damn thing’s very close to us or the universe is teeming with them.

Today’s the day. Madeleine took some Captain Cody to help her sleep but it only kicked in at 5am, so it’s dangerously close to midnight and she’s only just come into the pub. Good job for her we got a round in – double-parked her, too. Dark-ringed and puffy-eyed, she’s greeted with a Bombardier ale and a nice peaty Laphroaig to wash it down with.

“I had a bad dream last night,” she whispers, gazing into the circles of dark golden liquid honey before her. “We don’t survive. But they do. The bacteria. They’ll live on. They’ll become the dominant life form on our planet. The poo people.”

“Perhaps this may not help,” says our mate Trevor, far more gaunt than he was two weeks ago, “but all atoms bar hydrogen are basically the poo of stars. So it’s a moot point – we’re all made of poo, anyway.”

“You’re right.”

“Am I?”

“It doesn’t help,” says Madeleine, not looking up from her glass.

I still believe that Madeleine has something of the prophetess about her. Codeine or not, I believe her dream. It’s more coherent and less sad, somehow, than the ones I’ve been having.

Even though we all smoke like troopers we stay inside the pub, in the back, in the dark windowless cubbyholes. Far better to stick with what we know.

Will we get a lock-in tonight? It all depends.

The bell rings.

It’s closing time.


Magda Knight has been published in UK’s seminal national science fiction comic 2000AD (nepotism), and also in the What Would Bill Hicks Say anthology (not nepotism). She’s also the founder and editor of MOOKYCHICK.CO.UK, an online finishing school for the alternative young miss of today. Magda is basically Miss Jean Brodie, but not a fascist. She was once very drunk and accidentally asked her favourite comedian who he was. When he told me, she stared blankly at him until he walked away.

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