7 Days of Creation (Plus 2 in a Coma)

by Caitlin G. Dennis

A Near-To-Factual Tale of Falling From Grace
I. Creation On the first day, the subject began to show signs of brain activity, nestled in the womb. Cells began to split and re-group to form the heart, the lungs, the frontal lobe—and the sounds of the outside, filtering through, began to herd the swarming genes, and lay down the first layer of memory.

On December 7th, 2007, Alcides Moreno, 37, began his workday by stepping onto a window-washing platform, suspended at the 47th floor of a high-rise in Manhattan. He took a moment to take in the height, and the muffled brain activity coming from below.

II. Water from water On the second day, the subject emerged from the womb and inhaled, and the assembled neurons, waiting in the wings of the carefully prepared cerebral cortex, began to excitedly traverse the network of synaptic corridors so delicately formed in utero. Lungs, inflating for the first time.

It was 35.1 degrees, cold enough to see his breath. Moreno had had a pleasant morning—his wife had made him coffee at home, and he carried that moment of domesticity with him out the door.

III. Land from water On the third day, the corridors and pathways began to rapidly grow and multiply, and from those dense new meetings of matter came speech, and that traveled to the outermost layer and erupted. Those led to locomotion—first on all fours, then one new foot in front of the other. More and more neural paths were built, and they intertwined, and spread, and eventually became well-worn.

Moreno’s brother Edgar was working with him. After growing up together, and their habits growing with them, their work rhythm was easy. They wordlessly agreed that it was close enough to lunchtime, and perched to eat their sandwiches. Pastrami with coleslaw for Alcides, tuna salad for Edgar. Alcides had never liked cabbage as a child, but in more recent years the aroma, having made itself a solid synaptic bridge to his childhood, had become something he sought out nearly every day.

IV. Light from darkness On the fourth day, the tangled grey matter began to shake loose. Information, shooting along, began to branch off into opinions, and choices were made, and new stimuli from the outside brought in equal parts destruction and excitement.

After lunch, the brothers smoked a furtive cigarette and geared themselves up for the next round of polish. The post-sandwich strain on the belt was enough to encourage them to leave the harnesses off, at least for a short while. It was, after all, their choice.

V. Life from land On the fifth day, the paths of the ceaseless neurons shifted into place. Out of the mercurial grey matter was formed the frame of the final structure, full grown and elaborate, gently vibrating—the brain was freed of adolescence, and the matter of opinion solidified, and it saw that it was good.

High above New York City, the platform was brand new, and felt sturdy enough. Moreno had had some concerns when it was purchased, but nothing that the appeal of newness couldn’t allay. But the wind did that thing the wind sometimes does. He swayed, and had to steady himself on the railing. The wind slapped him across the face.

VI. Completion On the sixth day, all was completed. As the subject’s behavior was born of these complex workings in the neural hallways, the outward development was propelled, and the subject reached the pinnacle of growth and saw that it was a man, in his prime.

Moreno swayed again, but this time it was the platform beneath him that moved—there was a metallic groaning and creaking from above, and as he looked up, the sky suddenly jerked away from him. Instinctively he threw himself to the floor, some dormant training kicking in—he looked up sharply and shouted to his brother, just as the cables above them snapped, and they were sent plummeting down, at 124 mph, toward the concrete. Moreno did not see his life flashing before his eyes, it’s said, but time slowed, and he found himself considering the cost of the equipment he was losing as they fell.

VII. Rest On the seventh day, the structure was supposed to rest, but it didn’t. Out of nowhere, there was an ambush — an explosion of electricity in the cortex. As the subject’s body crumpled, the delicate arches of association began to fall and from inside, a swelling came, and the swelling pushed at the walls, and kept pushing, tearing apart everything in its path, crushing the intricate designs.

Edgar Moreno was killed on impact. Alcides Moreno was found to be breathing, and he was delicately extricated from the wreckage, and rushed to New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Injuries included bleeding on the brain, a collapsed lung and a shattered vertebra. The trauma to the head resulted in a cerebral edema, an excess accumulation of fluid, an invasion of the brain.

VIII. Suspension On the eighth day, man played God. You see, cortical activity is measured and detected by means of electroencephalography (EEG), and portrayed as waveforms. The subject is in a state of unarousable unresponsiveness, with a total lack of awareness for self or environment. This is the scientific explanation.

Moreno received 24 pints of blood and underwent 18 operations, and fell into a coma. For 16 days, his wife was fixed by his bedside, speaking to him and touching him.

IX. All as it was, or would be Then there came the ninth day, the longest day. It began with a faint streak of light, a stirring in the ruins, as once again, strains of melodies and voices seeped through the rubble. The neurons had held vigil, barely moving. Yet as they moved, some flimsy paths sought survival and the palace began to vibrate and hum, at first quietly, then louder.

Moreno awoke to his wife chiding him on December 25th, Christmas Day, and his own hand, outstretched, attempting to caress a nurse’s face.  His first words: “What did I do?”