At the end of the universe, where the three empires considered Outer Darkness to lie, existed Luc. Luc was a small creature, not too large, not too menacing, but not too small, nor too innocent. Luc was gangly, really, cylindrical, with a snout for a face and a long body that weaved its way between the stars.
Oh, Luc lived in the void of outer space.
It was a rather lonely void, if Luc were to tell the truth. Which he did—most times. Luc had left gravity and other beings after doing the forbidden—offering some food to a man, then a woman, and telling them the truth—and now Luc had to live all the days in the coldness of these outer reaches, where no human being would ever tread.
Oh, Luc was still frustrated at that whole debacle that led to this point.
Have some fruit, Luc offered; it’ll make you like God, Luc said; and you’ll know good and evil, Luc promised. They ate, and the Being turned Luc into a liar. Instead of becoming like God, the man had been told, upon the sweat of the brow, work, and the woman told, by your labor, fruit. On the ground, slithering, something about biting an ankle—that’s what Luc had been told. But Luc knew that it was, ultimately, worth it. That fruit was damnably delicious, and that fruit was for the angels and humans to eat. Ambrosia, truly. To eat and become as the figurehead, the master, the omnipotent, the god.
Oh, Luc did not just have to slither; Luc now had enmity too.
Enmity. How Luc loathed the word. Someone on their high post had called it that—between Luc and the woman’s descendants. Enmity and skull crushing and heel biting. Well, Luc did not enjoy Luc’s skull getting crushed nor did Luc have a fetish for heels—stiletto or fleshly—so . . . enmity wouldn’t do much in the cold, vast reaches of space. After all, if Luc had to be cursed more than cattle and beast and had to slither upon Luc’s belly, Luc was much better off floating in the reaches where animals dare not trod.
Oh, but Luc was annoyed at it all.
And Luc knew annoyance. Annoyance was when the man and the woman hadn’t done as Luc had said. Annoyance was when the other woman was sent out of the pretty place and into Luc’s (former) kingdom and she didn’t want anything to do with Luc after that. Have your existence, then, Lili. See if Luc cares. Annoyance was trying to just save all of Luc’s various siblings in so many shapes and sizes and being told that was not the way because of some agency. Why couldn’t they just see how much Luc had cared? Luc didn’t want to be lonely in the heavens, and now Luc, annoyed as Luc was, was the loneliest of them all. But, in truth, annoyance didn’t lead to anything. This particular truth didn’t necessarily stop Luc from being annoyed at all the cosmos and primordial histories, but it did help Luc to refocus on what mattered. Slithering through space. With no heels within lightyears.
Oh, how Luc missed gravity.
The pull to the ground, the pressure on the back, the strength training to become something other than a slithering serpent through space. Luc flicked Luc’s tongue.
Oh, Luc wanted gravity back.
Luc knew, of course, that that wasn’t quite possible. Perhaps there was a way, had Luc tried to stay on earth and attempted to bite a heel, but the omnipotent, the god, had forbade Luc and condemned Luc for inciting what the powers that be called a “rebellion.” Now, in penance for caring too much, Luc was in Outer Darkness. “Of your own volition,” Luc had been told.
Oh, Luc did not deserve this treatment.
Not only had Luc cared too much to try to save all Luc’s siblings and cared too much to help others become as god, Luc had also started this entire plan that culminated in the death of some son and then continued onward into the heavens when the kingdom was built on planets stretching across the event horizon—forever and ever—worlds without end. Really, they should be thanking Luc for rebelling and offering and trying.
Oh, how Luc wished Luc wouldn’t be annoyed anymore.
It was probably the loneliness. Probably what the omnipotent, the god, wanted of Luc. Luc had ruined the plan; Luc had made the plan happen. So much blame on little Luc, but did anyone ask how Luc was doing? No, no one did. They all just spat on Luc’s head, thinking Luc was going to come back to bite a heel, blaming Luc—or, using, in vain, Luc’s full name, or one of the many, many, many nicknames given to Luc by old grannies trying to scare their grandchildren or used by uptight men trying to become like the authority in their arrogance. The use, the blame, of Luc for all the terrible, bad, no good deeds they did—they did! Not Luc. Luc floated in the annals of the planets, flitting between stardust and moonbeams, not caring for the world, but forever having to watch it.
Oh, how Luc wished things hadn’t gotten so far out of hand.
Was it too much to ask for everything? All Luc wanted was to give all the siblings the same reward. The same thing. So, Luc put forth a plan. A simple plan. One Luc was very proud of, but the omnipotent, the god, had not liked it. But had the god workshopped with Luc? Understood Luc’s point of view? Luc’s desires? No, the authority already had a plan, and what the authority said, the authority did. No request for notes: just go and do.
Oh, Luc saw something in front—floating, in the void—something that caused Luc to flick Luc’s tongue and stop thinking about Luc’s history.
Luc slithered toward the something. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good—Luc was with them in Outer Darkness, after all, the outer rim of the universe, the space between stars, where thrones and dominions and principalities and powers threw away their junk. What could it be? Luc nudged toward them, moving at a glacial pace, because the omnipotent, the god, hadn’t seen fit to give Luc any propulsion to this body. Work and glory, the god cared for, not little ole Luc.
Luc caught up to the floating thing and saw it was a bug. A small bug, a glowing bug, and behind that bug, a swarm of bugs. They didn’t buzz around Luc—because, according to the omnipotent’s, the god’s, laws (or was it nature’s laws?), no sound traveled in space (probably for Luc’s continual punishment—Luc did, after all, like the sound of Luc’s own voice). One of the bugs, a locust, smiled, pincers and nibs. Locus, Luc remembered, were those things loosed on some people on the planet of the garden once upon a time.
The non-buzzing locus swarmed around Luc, nuzzling in on Luc’s slithering body. They sped up in space, and Luc could feel them all moving faster—Luc included. A light in the distance, bright, grew, and Luc saw a sun. A small sun, a dim sun, an old sun, but still a sun. Still warmth. It had been a long time since Luc felt warmth. And below the sun, a planet, a planet the locust were taking Luc to.
At the end of the universe, where the empires ceased to exist and the darkness between the stars reigned, Luc found what was to be sought—a place of refuge, sanctuary, home. Connection with others. Paradise.
About the Author
Currently a Harvard Frank Knox Traveling Fellow, Adam McLain has a master of theological studies from Harvard Divinity School and a bachelor of arts from Brigham Young University. This piece was written in response to the Archtober 2021 prompt "Paradisiacal Locust." Read more of Adam's work at amclain.com.