Flash Fiction: Nil Omne

This piece was originally written for the last Microcosms of 2017 ( a flash fiction competition of 300 words). I quite enjoyed writing this one and it took me in another direction than I had initially thought it would. Enjoy!

Nil Omne

John stared into the machine through the thick glass. His fellow scientists recorded the readings from within the capsule. John mumbled and twisted at the multitude of knobs that lined the outside of the machine.

“We need more heat, more power.”

A scruffy-looking boy kneeling at the furnace fed the fire.

“Is anything happening?” one of the scientists asked as he threaded the paper from the readout through his fingers.

“Nothing.” He banged on the table. “What good is this to us?” he asked, motioning around the room.  “All the knowledge we could want, but nothing that is helping us one bit. There is not even a spark!”

“What do you expect? There is no living matter in that thing. We tested multiple times. You will get nothing to grow in there.”

John went to the glass-encased scroll and read the first line again. “But these are the words that set the universe in motion! It must work!”

The other scientists laughed.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” the boy’s voice piped up.

“So you went to Sunday school — good for you,” Andrew mocked.

“Maybe it doesn’t work when a human says it,” the boy said, ignoring Andrew.

John stared into the machine again. “We’ll all starve if this does not work. It has to work.”

“We are already working outside our field,” Andrew said. “We are wasting time.”

Nil omne,” John said. “Maybe everything is nothing. Maybe nothing matters.”

“I’ll pray, maybe that’ll help,” the boy ventured.

“Maybe that’ll shut you up,” Andrew said.

There was a spark inside the machine. From the spark wheat sprouted and started to grow on the bare metal.


“What is it?” Andrew ran closer.

“Hope,” John said. “Hope remains.”

By Carin Marais

Bibliophile, writer of speculative fiction, non-fiction, and maybe-fiction, language practitioner, doer of stuff.

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