Scattered Reports of New Origins (a sequel)
A Short Story by Jeremy Benjamin
Written using the suggestion "Pyramid"
Originally featured on 07-23-2008
As part of our series "The Ancient Trappings of Humanity’s Endless Summer (Age-Old Traps)"

Excerpt recovered from an anonymous diary:


Misnomers — the big ones, I mean — have a way of righting themselves over time. Like the Whit Nukkel Pond hiking loop; it’s a path that comes to a dead stop, and if you’re walking it, you just turn your hiney around and come back. You’d think it circles the pond to end up where it started, since it has loop in the title, but it don’t. Nobody seemed too embarrassed by it, or too lead on, and the name’s stayed on brochures and road signs for fifty years.

Then last summer the Maitlins’ barn shut down and the land was claimed by the state, and now the wildlife and recreation officials are talkin about extending the path so that it will go all the way around Whit Nukkel Pond. Probly for different reasons than I’s specifyin, access for trout fishing, or because every new mile of trail accounted in their ledgers gets ‘em some sort of tax write-off or something. But you see my point; if you don’t change the name of a thing to be more like the thing, the thing will change itself to be more like the name.

Kinda like in the bible. I don’t know my bible too good, I’ll admit that, but I do know about a thing called nomenclature, which is par with the natural order uh things; when you make names for stuff, names have a way of stickin fast. It’s a kind of power.

We — as a people, society, whatever — don’t like to backtrack. Never have. And we especially don’t like to admit to errors. So we wait and hope nobody will point the finger. Like calling native Americans Indians. Or French fries; someone told me, I forget now where it really originated from, but it sure as hell ain’t no French delicacy. …never will be, either, which kind of scrambles the point I was making, but oh well. Do they eat French fries in France? I dunno.

Most of that stuff don’t bother me, I just get a kick out of knowing things are wrong but people still do right by ‘em. But there is one misnomer I do mind. And it’s a pretty big one.

Earth. The name of the whole world. The majority of our planet is water, but the people who named it were standing on dry land when they came up with the name, and far’s they saw, Earth fit pretty good. Read once in a science book that the appropriate name for the planet we live on is Oceanus. You ever heard anyone call it that? Sounds pretty funny, but come on, if there’s one thing we could have the decency to get right, it’s the name of our whole damned world.

What are we waitin for?


At this time, Earth is an accurate name, for reasons that the author of that diary could not have predicted, but that another pedestrian — whom we refer to facetiously as The Prophet — did indeed foresee.

[note: for reasons of future liability infringements, I am obligated to refrain from the use of consistent terminology: when talking about diaries recovered from excavation runs, I will use the terms diary and personal-journal interchangeably and haphazardly, since in our piecemeal knowledge we cannot confirm the correct names for items. Additionally, the terms celestial-dirtfall and rain-of-dirt may both be used in reference to the meteorological event that separates our world from the world described in the personal journals we study, that is, the event of sediments descending for thirty days.]

It rained dirt for thirty days from the heavens down upon the earth and the seas.

We are in a post-desert landscape. We estimate our geographic location to be coincident with what used to be Egypt. Grass has grown over the dirt. Some infant forests have emerged. I have emerged. You have emerged. Within me, strange interests and desires have emerged: The compulsion to study my physiognomy reflected in a body of water for lengths of time that put strain on my body to retain a static pose. To stare into an endless loop. The curiosity to collect small containments of my bodily fluids and observe populations of microorganisms and how they come to organize themselves around my tissue. The need to publish this micro anthology, arranged precisely the way it should be arranged.

When gazing on my own reflection from the reservoir’s shore, it is with a sensation of longing that I squint my eyes to produce shapes and fantasies in the glue gray background, and with practiced patience that I see these same self-projected landscapes when I allow my eyes to relax. Through a technique that was at one time called Consciousness Spot Reduction, I am able to dream and be awake at the same time, and to be the architect of the resulting collage of images — both real and imagined — thereof. I can, in that respect, tour other places and time periods without complication.

The structuring of a living society, as seen from a deific vantage point (note: I am not completely sure of the meaning of the term ‘deific,’ but I believe it to imply an astronomical ratio of scope, without spiritual implications per se) is informative for any potential governing body. The analogy between the composition of fungus in my fecal matter and the formation of a community, tongue-in-cheek as it may be, is not so much my thesis as my desire.

Additionally, certain disinterests have manifested in my habits as I embark on this task of compiling. The most alarming of these dissociative tendencies is that I seem to have transcended the need to sleep beyond an hour a night, and furthermore, that hour is spread out in ten isolated intervals of six-minute super-naps, all of them taking place in a standing position. Accompanying the departure from continuous sleep — although this I suspect to be completely unrelated — is a lack of emotion. The demand I’m currently placing on my analytical capacities seems to have had an anesthetizing effect on my libido. I do not experience sadness, laughter, anger nor sexual arousal. I experience only the content through which I am sifting, and select samples of which you are reading. I intend to present these glimpses into the World Before Dirt without populating them with an iota of my ego. I feel the words, the thoughts of these journal composers not as feelings, but purely as- it is difficult for me to convey my meaning, other than to affirm that I believe every journal to have importance, and, hence, my job of compiling to be an important function.

The burden must fall on robust shoulders to reorder the universe.

That, what I just said, is a quote, and although I could never hope to identify its author, I embodied the words as I scribed them, that is, I feel.

Our present habitat bears little to no similarities to the deserts described in our literature. We do not yet have a naturalistic understanding of this fact. Excavation projects have been undertaken over the course of the past sixty years, spreading as far as all continents believed to have been the former world’s superpowers.

I believe myself to be standing on top of the apex of a pyramid as I write this report.

Although oceans may still exist — at this point we do not have the resources to conduct a macro topographical survey, and simply do not know — it appears that the majority of what used to be called ‘seas’ are now in a state of tidal mud (to the naked eye, no waves or shifts are observed in the mud’s surface, but measurements have shown the mud to exhibit tidal properties). There have been five reported deaths resulting from people ambulating into the mudlands and sinking. Their bodies have not been recovered.


Excerpt from The Prophet:


Yeah, I said it, I like mudslides. To anyone who says that’s not a real drink, I say you’re on, big boy, seat your ass down here, put your money over there and we’ll let nature determine who’s the thirstiest.


At this point, we are still unclear as to the meaning of the term mudslide.

Although I can imagine an ocean of mud based on my knowledge of mud and oceans, I find it difficult to picture what an ocean is, in the original meaning of the word. I have not personally seen the shoreline of the semi-solid dirt seas, and I do not regret that lack of exposure.

Excerpt from an anonymous diary that remained barely intact and legible:


I am writing this because I am about to die. I know this because I look out my bedroom window and I can see nothing but falling sods of brownish stuff, and I hear the ground getting taller. It sounds like a frying pan left on too high, to the point where what’s in it starts popping and going off like tiny gun shots. That’s what it is, it’s that sizzling and popping at the same time that sounds like something was done wrong, and you hear it from another room and you know there’s gonna be a bad mess. The ground is almost up to the window n

I had to stop for a minute. The window broke. The dirt is on my floor. In minutes the floor will be as tall as my bed. It doesn’t look like dirt, really, it looks more like a tree, like one of the tall trees in the front yard, but not like a tree tree, like the liquid stuff a tree was made of before God made it a tree, right? And it sounds really loud with the window broken, but it’s not loud, it’s just that you can’t hear nothing else. I know there’s people running around, probably everyone screaming, cars crashing, dogs barking, but the dirts two loud I don’t hear it, I just hear nothing, kind of like the sound inside your own ears when they make you sit in the corner and think and you get really quiet.

It doesn’t look like anything either. It’s totally dark, because the sky is just dirt now. It’s like the ground and the sky got mixed up, or the sky got jealous. I wonder if Jesus is outside. I bet he could walk on the falling stuff, and he’s probably real calm. I’m scared to crawl outside, because then I’d have to breathe with my hand over my mouth, and I think it’s really cold out too, and I’d probably have to crawl. If it’s too cold, my heart could seize up.

If anyone reads this, I just wanted to tell one last joke. What’s b


The recreational literature I have most enjoyed is that which takes on an exultant tone when documenting the appearance of a landscape. The word beautiful has been applied to this approximate location — what existed here before the dirt. The reddish brown clash of mountain peaks combating the setting sun like the dust smoke of an endless battle — inaccurately quoted, that is a descriptive passage that I can recognize when I look eastward at certain times of day. That is one of the few images I’ve come across in my reading that I can identify with what I am seeing.

Small connections such as that are what inform me of the potential worth of this project. It is another type of feeling that is felt with no index of emotions. Although my pulse does not quicken and nor does my scalp contract or my appendages tingle, another desire emerges in me: the desire to be these places.

Read More By Jeremy Benjamin

COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project

Archives Archives