Casey -provisional title “A History of Smallness (Book I)”


It is known that Leucippus of Elea viewed the All as a great void, full of elemental elements to which he gave the name Atoms, which do fall and swirl about within the void, and entangle with one another. Out of such entanglements arise great worlds unlimited in number, and into them them worlds are again dissolved. To know the atom, taught Leucippus, is to know the essence of our being. And yet, he added, it is impossible for any mortal to perceive a single atom, so small are they in weight, and in dimension.

Leucippus had many pupils. The least among them was Diminus of Pixunte. Diminus was feeble of frame and taciturn of nature.He could neither read nor write, and when he spoke, he pronounced his words like unto the Barbarians of the north. There being no one with whom he could hold forth in learned discussion, while the pupils of Leucippus did debate  how stars and the moon were born of atoms, Diminus remained apart, and pursued alone the course of his speculations, full-determined withal to isolate and see himself the most elemental of elements. I am a small man, he would have said (could he  but speak), I am not worthy of speculating on the Great All and the even Greater Void. I seek the Atom–only one.

Yet no matter how minute in size the object chosen–a grain of sand, an eyelash, the seed of an orchid–no blade was fine enough, no substance strong enough to break it into solitary Atoms.

One morning, while Leucippus was teaching, he found himself interrupted by the banging of stones and the unintelligible cries of Diminus hammering away at a speck of dust on the far side of the atrium. Leucippus reprimanded Diminus, who, quieted and verily ashamed, paused from his labors, and partook of some olives, spitting out the pits upon a white cloth. Witnessing this act of defiant spewing,  (for thus did Leucippus perceive it), the philosopher grew irate and betook himself towards Diminus, who, hasty to hide the proofs of his indulgence, pulled the cloth down in the middle, creating a depression into which the pits of the olives tumbled.

Diminus then saw that he had just made the surface of the center of the cloth very small, not only small but negatively small, and this smallness exerted force upon the olive pits, pulling them into its recesses. He realized at once that had not found the atom: he found something even smaller still. Ecstatic, Diminus let forth a yell, as he had been taught, of Eureka, but the cry, once issued forth from his clumsy tongue, fell upon the ears of Leucippus as another word, whose meaning (in Elea) was son of a toothless whore, whereupon Leucippus, enraged, dealt Diminus a mighty blow.

When Diminus regained consciousness, he found himself in possession of an extraordinary power:  he could now make infinitely small space out of any surface in the world, simply by tugging on it in the same manner as he had tugged the cloth. The size of the surface mattered not: he could draw any city and its peoples nearer to him,   and need not, as other mortals, himself traverse the space between.

And so with but a tug, Diminus summoned towns and empires to him, and he grew mighty, and powerful in his art, until one day he vanished into the pit of one of the negative spaces of his own creation, and thus did Diminus of Pixunte abjure himself from the company of the philosophers of Elea, and he was never seen, nor suffered, nor heard about by others, and his name is unwritten in the History of the Eleatics.


Long did the blow of Leucippus leave Diminus lingering in the realm of the unconscious on the floor of the Eleatics. When, four hours after the setting of the sun, he did at last regain the possession of his senses, he arose, and went forth into the agora. The wife of a magistrate was passing by in her litter; one of her number dropped a ribbon of silk, which flew across the way. Diminus grabbed it, and pulled at it as he had the cloth of olive pits. Immediately the wife and her litter did suddenly find themselves thrown atop Diminus, with great protest and dismay on both sides.

Diminus was much astounded at his powers. Leaving off thereafter the practice of making disappear the spaces that separated his person from others, he took instead to abolishing spaces that separated towns from towns, and cities from cities.  In the second year of the possession of his powers, he diminished the space between Elea and the great eastern capital of Byzantium.

But no sooner had he achieved this feat,  than did a great cry resounded among the people, for the Queen of the Byzantines had just then been crossing through the city gates, followed by her retinue and a horde of golden monkeys, and then all at once she was no more, she had vanished like fog in the sun in the sun, together together with her retinue and all but one of the monkeys. Diminus, finding himself alone at the gates of Byzantium, with only a straggling yellow monkey atop his shoulder, at once understood: the Queen of Byzantium had suffered the fate of the olive pits. She had by some means fallen into the abyss of the infinitely small space that lay below the surface of the Void and the All.

Diminus tarried not, but did at once follow the queen down into the diminishment. Sweet zephyrs buoyed him as he plunged ever downwards, so that he fell as a leaf falls from a tree, the queen’s monkeys still swirled like rain around him, transforming, so that some grew long beards and took on the limbs or the faces of men, while others expanded into gorillas, or sprouted wings and scales. Then, weaving round him a circle of arms and legs and tails and they all began to chatter at him, until their chattering took on the form of singing, the Song of the Monkey, long and high, the Song of the Primitive beyond  the Void.  


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