by Brett Abrahamsen
It was the year A.D. 2020, and history had gone more or less exactly the same. Shakespeare, Milton, Joyce, Pound, Proust, Flaubert and a handful of others – and this was the point of difference – had all died in infancy. In this alternate history, then, Hamlet simply did not exist, as Shakespeare and the
handful of others listed above had all died before the age of 2.
Meyer’s great Twilight series then was considered in popular estimation to be the most significant work of literature since the Bible. Meyer Academies taught classes of Meyerology. “Meyer-ian” themes were the law of the land. The world clearly had a dearth of great literature – and no one even knew it.
It might be objected, and should be noted here, that if Proust hadn’t written Swann’s Way that perhaps someone else would have someday written it, or something similar to it, but this was not the case. Whenever anyone tried to write something meaningful, for example “To be or not to be?”, the paper
would inevitably shrivel up and its creator would fall as if knocked over by a strong gust of wind. The god of this alternate history, clearly, was no fan of great literature.
One day while reading Twilight, for example, a reader prayed to Meyer that he might write something greater, and this reader met the same unfortunate end. Following the incident, Meyerologists debated whether anything could hypothetically be written that was greater than Meyer, and the answer was uniformly this: “No”.
There remained the odd discussion about how to write something superior. Some people even dreamed greater scenes in their heads – but these were doomed from ever seeing paper. “I see great lines in my head – of war and love and death”, said a reader. “They cannot be greater than Meyer”, replied his friend, “or Meyer would have written them already”. It should be noted that this peculiar attitude toward literature extended to cinema as well. The Twilight movies were considered the best in the world.
“Great literature is an enigma – the coldly calculated riddles of masterful sentence structure surely are not conductive with the wild flow of creativity”, one would say to the other. “Masterful sentence structure and wild flow of creativity are both realized in Meyer, and they shall always be synonymous with Meyer”, the other would retort.
The two continued to converse – speaking aloud the plots of untold great novels never written, filling their heads with dreams of love and death and war. They covered more ground in an hour than had any novelist since Meyer, but since nothing remained written one said to the other, “Alas – we are no better from where we started”. The two ceased talking and, as if in stupors, began to turn certain ideas around in their heads. One melted his mind trying to find his answer during Twilight reads, which culminated
with his fatal prayer to Meyer. The other, however, left his company and retreated into another room. He began to speak softly, as if to no one. He was speaking to someone he believed was really out there: his Reader.
He said: “And surely, what you have just read – that brief work which you have just read and are now finishing, some of which you have heard spoken aloud by me, Dear Reader – does this not count as great literature?”
Brett Abrahamsen resides in Saratoga Springs, NY, and has written a number of speculative science fiction stories. His favorite themes include the nature of reality, evolution, and alternate histories. He prefers the flash fiction medium, at under 2000 words.