There is an axis, so thin, so fragile, so infinitely extended into the spacious fathoms of creation, that it is never seen. This axis’ furthest end, held firmly by the severed hand of God which reaches through the slit He drew between Heaven and Betelgeuse, is spun so gently, so regular. It is the perfect tilt of everything, and that perfect tilt is measured by the perfect Mind.

Of that at least, have faith.


At first, Jeppe had only noticed how his master trembled. It had begun at breakfast, the day after the Great Comet of ’77 was observed on Hven. The astronomer, usually so determined to re-fix his rotundity around the day’s first meal, came to the table irritated, talked so animatedly that he could not stop gesturing for long enough to bring his fork to his mouth. Jeppe thought it nothing more serious than the excitation of nervous phlegms, that the observation of so magnificent a star had charged the man with an energy peculiar to the practitioners of his art, and Jeppe spoke as much aloud, suggesting a cooling tonic to settle his master’s humors.

Not an observation!” was all Tycho Brahe puffed, “An encounter!

So Jeppe allowed Brahe to go on raving without further interruption. Some weird gleam had gripped Brahe’s eye, and what was unsettled in him would not be easily reset. Brahe spoke of worlds and movements, of musical unfixedness and the harmonies that hide behind discordant fifths and seconds, erupting at intervals, played in the far out portions of long scales. Jeppe did not follow that train of thought, nor did he follow its sequels that moved the master astrologer in subsequent weeks. But thinking better than to press too hard and risk his patronage, and considering the potential for embarrassment should Brahe bluster-talk his way into a new cosmology, one perhaps favored by the King, thus leaving poor Jeppe in the possibly outdated Ptolemaic dust, Jeppe let Brahe ramble on. And for his part, Sven the moose huffed just inscrutable moose sounds, certainly unwilling to throw his own underdeveloped astronomical opinion into the ring.

But by the following summer, this same half-crazed babble had crept from Brahe’s tongue into his head, and now everything at Stjerneborg and Uraniborg was done hastily, ramblingly, almost randomly. Brahe himself was often absent, long stretches spent in his private rooms, shuffling papers and erupting through the doorway exclaiming weird conjectures, manhandling his illustrations of planetary systems very nearly like our own, but diverging from any correspondence at all around those system’s central point.

That point, where the four quadrants of an arial view converged, was mismatched across all of Brahe’s hastily drawn maps. Sometimes the universe itself seemed to be there, reflected in miniature; sometimes it was naught but a void spot around which galactic aspects swirled. Always it was drawn in scribbles, frantic duress etched into the pen stroke that made it. It was that mysterious quadrant with which Brahe was so gripped. Sven reported to his dwarfish companion that, for nearly a fortnight, he had caught Brahe skulking in the dungeon with wild eyes and a dowsing rod, gasping sharp breathes and shuddering at a sight unseen.

It was under these circumstances that, late one Sabbath eve, under the glow of Saturn’s closest approach, a solemn Brahe convened his two companions. He stood against the giant astrolabe in Uraniborg’s garden and, gripping the lens of his favorite telescope, Brahe sing-song said:

“Dearest friends, what we’ll now commence is the most staggering attempt at science ever essayed by man or beast or god. What we seek is no trifle in the book of life, but may prove its crowning diadem. It is to us to find the thing. Jeppe—” he said, laying his hands upon the dwarf’s tiny thumping breast, “The hour’s late, and the Orphic veil is fluttering. Sleep now, slip into your deep panspermia. I call on your especial talents.”

The seance so commenced, Jeppe flitted into psychic fantasie, induced into an automatic somnolence that hovered in dreamspaces. A clock rang the witching hour and nervous Sven watched on as Brahe worked close to what he knew must be countless floating ghosts. It was at that most spiritualized time that the warp and woof of all Jeppe’s soul begun to sag. Tethered only to the distant whisper of Brahe high above him, Jeppe’s dislocated mind followed his instruction, “…To the terminal point, the terminal point…”

In a long slog through virtual coordinates, down a trellis of mental correspondences, tranced Jeppe descended. He flew through passages, earthen cloisters alien and odd, composed of geographic and metaphysic comport, blackly shining geometries half-seen by the vantage of his mind’s eye. Somewhere between infinity and instant, Jeppe sensed the end of these things, and at that end there was pure lurk. Rising lurk, creeping lurch, the oncoming revelation of a reverie unveiled. The bold companion of our constant periphery. From the warbling uvula of a cosmic maw, where the great gullet of life respirates the rare aethers of our quintessence, there, way out and down there, comes the thing that’s creeping.

Through a burst of light, Jeppe shoots straight up and sees the snotty nostrils of curious Sven. “Mmrph?” says the moose.

“I do not know,” says Jeppe.

“But did you see?” says Brahe, breathless.

Jeppe contemplates a while. “Whatever it is,” he says at last, “it’s there. That’s all I know.”


That morning, Brahe and Sven trek to the small village on the shore, gather the local Hvenish boys, and hire them. There is a project, Brahe says, commissioned on no less authority than that lended him by the very regent royal to whom every Dane is due. It is not to be spoken of, and Brahe will tolerate no inquiries into its scope or purpose. But rest assured, he tells them, they will be compensated with very fine kroners, and the good conscience that their efforts are a boon to scientific advancement besides. And with that short speech, Brahe adjourns, setting Sven to the task of corralling the able bodied men and herding them to Stjerneborg.

These hirelings daily toiled in Stjerneborg’s basement, hauling clumping teems of dirt aboveground, setting those earthen masses off just beyond the castle walls. Soon they produced a staggering pile, equal to the castle’s high ramparts and robust enough for the village children to set to it with their sleds, turning the astronomer’s detritus into a makeshift pastime. Jeppe was appointed the overseer of this mysterious project, told to urge the workers on under the impulse-promise of double wages for every day saved before the equinox. Sven hauled the earth away in a big cart leashed around his neck, groaning in Elkish at the heft of his burden.

Brahe was sometimes seen skulking the periphery of these goings-ons, glaring with a coagulate look, stern and expectant and frightened and glad. More often, however, he was withdrawn into his rooms, plotting huge maps, more of those puzzlingly canny ones with which he was so taken. He would sometimes show them to Jeppe and Sven, pointing at the ineffability scrawled in the center, and then dismiss whatever vague dimension he’d drawn there as, “Just a guess, conjecture. But surely something…” before returning to his privacy and drawing hundreds more.

That is how the summer went, the crew of clueless peasants farming dirt from dirt, Sven and Jeppe worriedly watching, and Brahe buzzing in and out, talking of nomads and unfixities.

At last, Brahe deemed enough dug and sent the laborers home with whatever kroner he owed them, saying, “Take this, take this,” and dumping clumps of soil in their pockets. “It is the prelude to a new science, and you’ve earned it, my good man!” The exasperated villagers flashed polite smiles, tottered on without a word of thanks.

The basement was an empty crevasse; it gaped an eery cleft.

“It is nowadays fashionable to unmoor the earth, and account for the ecliptics by means of an uncentered spin,” Brahe lectured, Sven and Jeppe staring wordlessly into the emptiness that was shorn beneath their feet. “Firmer calculations, more accuracy…the rallying cry of an atheist vanguard, preaching godlessness all around our orb, about our orb, without our orb. You know well my own surmises, that the old and the new must of a need be married, and that a twin system of two rotations is the only salvageable view. But I am unproved, more often mocked across the sweep of this continent than I am heralded for my piercingly good theory.”

Sven shuffled his hooves in a nervous twitch. The last time Brahe had evinced such an important self-conception, as Sven well knew, the man had lost half his nose.

“But I am come upon a revelation, dear friends, and I have seen the certain truth. In the wake of yesteryear’s falling star, when the heavens loosed themselves and a vision rose before me, I was at last illumined from my long blindness, even as the blazing body was jostled from the firmament and hurled across the night. In a flash, like the glimmer-tinkle of stardust or the shimmer of moonstone, the truth had taken hold of me. I know that there is a marvelous synthesis, not just of the geo- and helio-centric systems—no!—but of up and down, above and below. That, friends, is why I’ve called you to this spot, on the uneasy edge of a vast precipice. Let us prove me now, and so prove the world.”

Brahe, producing one shovel for himself and one smaller for the dwarf, turned to the tunnel and gazed longingly within.


Slanting pit, diagonal angle harshly hewn. Beginning at a minor incline, it eventually unlevels into a steep precipitousness, and so the staggering trio mind their hesitant steps. The light of four lanterns, one each to Brahe and the dwarf, two more hanging from Sven’s antlers, show that this most unnatural of corridors is broad and tall, deftly carved into the form of a peculiarly right-angled cube. It is as if a preternatural influence had swayed the craftsmen to make a suitable monument, a grand foyer to— what?—a place prepared by an invisible pilot.

Sven is grumbling that the absurd position of the lanterns on him is far beneath his station, and that the antlers bearing those guiding lights are the very same that are engraved on countless royal crests from Skagen to Padborg. Jeppe shushes the beast, bends to better hear Brahe’s silhouette, which is traipsing far ahead and whispering cryptic lines. Something about mythic Jason and Odysseus, about leeward facing stars. Jeppe detects a novel phrase among the warbles, cosmonaut? Absorbed in that effort, Jeppe’s little ears belie his tiny eyes, and it is not until they are far into the snicket that he realizes the closeness of the walls, the thickness of the unlunged air, fresh musk hitherto entombed between fathoms, and the morphing of the space with each progressive step. Polyhedrazation, a conical form, the radial point of which shape is before them, demanding that they make the remaining pilgrimage on hand and hoof. Brahe, cramped and gesticulating against the tunnel’s lower bound, calls, “We dig!”

In a manic effort, Tycho Brahe bores the earth. Huge clumps of detritus shoveled to the side, passed back the line of miners to Sven, who stamps the excess until it’s flat and vanished. This disassembly, all apace, turns the trio into outward potteries, crusted in the same muck they move. Sweaty, wheezing men, frothing bubbling spits in exhaustion and heat sickness, mixing the ejaculate fluids of their mouths with the particulate earth that flies into their open jaws. It’s a frantic ecstasy, and dissolves every ego among them, solvate speed and vector purpose. Finally there is no body left within that flurry, and man and moose alike are united in the crazed hypnosis of the task. They will disassemble, work the earth into a lattice, and at last hap upon the unknown end that engines them.

“What do you sense?” Brahe shouts, hurling yet more crud behind.

Concerting all his psionic optics towards the projected spot, Jeppe penetrates through thick rock baileys, past mantles of land wrapped in tectonic shell, feels the pulse of something hot and fiery beyond, the slosh of magic fluid, the shores of creation, the nodes of a rotation. “I cannot tell, but there are movements.”

“Tides!” says Brahe. “Tides and spheres!”

The dwarf is alight with a minor psychic luminescence, subcutaneous glow that supplements the lanterns. Guided by the radiant power within him, Jeppe makes gradient changes, instructing that a more inclined effort be made here, a curve there, conducting around the hard jetties buried in the crust.

Hours pass. Sven is finally spent and drops to his four knees, moans a neighing basso whinny, pleading for a moment’s rest. Procuring a small flask from within his cloak, Brahe passes the bottle down, and the three swig the drink and pant heavy breaths between.

“If my geometer’s compass does not fail me,” says Brahe, “and the mandibles of my protractor read true, we are measured close to the center’s center of our globe, and will soon break upon the lower limit of existence.”

“What do your five senses sense there that my sixth cannot?” asks Jeppe.

“Not sense, but surmise, little one. Indeed, it must be.” Brahe breathes deeply and leans hard against the cave. His gaze, gone long into an invisible distance, trembles at the half-seen sight of some wondrous thing. “A station so innate, such a fundamental axiom…a first principle, Jeppe. A truth as sure as that you are a moose, Sven. A thing as sure as God is certain, and that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Sven grunts, invoking the old Elkish adage, common among his race, that the left antler ought to talk to the right, and that otherwise one is liable to get their snout snagged among the thorns, and concludes that his snout feels mighty jumbled in Brahe’s brambles.

“Patience, big beastie. We’re near it now.”

It is slow going this deep, compact, and tough, as if the earth had armored itself around an inkept secret, a mechanism in the world’s aorta that should not be so easily disturbed. Jeppe senses the crest of an enormous thought rise up before him, terrible and glorious, and hopes that the crash of this mystery will spare him his mind and minuscule limbs. Brahe had spoken of truth and invoked Christ, as if miraculous revelations lay in wait for those bold enough to sojourn into them. Jeppe now imagined Christ, conjured the body finiteness of the Lord, Prince of Paradox, Synonymous God. How many men had spurned Him, King of Contradictions? And if that is truth, then might there be a truth too true for men?

And that is when the crack of electric fire shot straight across Jeppe’s head and paralyzed the little man in levitation, sent Sven reeling onto his two back hooves, and Brahe exclaimed, “It is!”

What was? A spectacular gash ahead, cutting through a hollow and projecting beams beyond itself, somehow of its Self, ineffable. It seemed to Brahe to be the quintessence of heaven, that viscous firm liquid that ligaments every astral body, descended now unto the earth, into the earth, effulgent leaking in rainbow waves. In luminescent reams, in unending unfolding of spermatic squiggling stuff, the boundless flow of what’s zestier than energy, lighter than air, more shocking than any spark, volted forth upon the motley caravan. Each a gaggle of quaking bones, each the very whiteness of their superlighted eyes, each the chatter of teeth and the flow of blood pump in veins, each bowed down from either reverence or fatigue.

Before such a spectacle there could be no speech. All were raptured in the growth of this impossible shuttle. Brahe beheld a vision of the universe, complete and unentropic, yet expanding every way; Jeppe saw the pure aspect of what moved him in his trances, the essential psychic stuff; Sven bore witness to a moose apocalypse, the coming of a heavenly kingdom for all things four-legged, tasted berry sweetness and felt the cool breeze of un-summitable mountains, boundless adventure for he and his kind. Staggering, the three souls rose up through an ashen fog, and enchanted passed into the gleam.


Brahe breaches it, Brahe weeps. Before them is a vacant pocket, a tremendous globule space, hollowed, hallowed, containing just—

“What is it?” said Jeppe.

“It is the glory of God to hide a thing, and the glory of kings to seek it out. Here is one such treasure.”

Marbles. Trifling giants shrunk to comprehension, worlds in orbit, celestial tango. There is Saturn, Mars, Mercury. Venus on its elliptic. The whole crystalline palace of the angel provinces, remade in miniature, suspended in a cave. At the center, the perfect euclidian center of this three hundred and sixty degree concavity, spinning on its tilt, fixed upon a spot, the centripetal pitcher of all around it, floats the earth. Duke Earth, sovereign earth, unmoved by any reference, any solar oversway. The sun swoops around it. And another marvel still: that behind the sun there is a double sun of equal size that flies in perfect parallel to the first, and that in equidistant partitions they nestle another earth, and yes thinks Brahe, yes, yes and forever more, and something searing shoots to the forefront of Jeppe’s mind, something guessed at in ancient poesie, a word returned from old moments of cataclysm and grace—

—“Antichthon! An earth that’s always lit!”

“Who could live on such a place?” Sven gasps.

“A brilliant people,” says Brahe, his mind flush with theory. “An entire race raised in, flourishing in light. Never knowing darkness, strangers to night and shadow. We can only dream of what form such a civilization would take. Bold men, shining always in the light of day.”

“Or perhaps they would be cowards,” says Sven, “Darkly tanned and trembling, too conscious of how everything they do is visible, observed by unflinching solar eyes.”

And Jeppe, “To have lived always in the light…we may not say what weird awareness such a state would make in a man. Cowardice, courage, these may be foreign notions. They may know of no such things.”

“And the other earth, the first earth,” says Sven, “The one that mirrors us. Is it a model, Brahe? Or could it…could it be…”

“Inhabited,” Brahe already pondering the thought. “Is there a tiny Tycho on it, boring into its center, finding a miniature system there?”

“And are we ourselves in such a sphere, wondered at by giants?” asks Sven, looking up and squinting through the earth.

Recursions, excursions, discursions, discursive dismemberment of sense and reason. All three of these journeymen are snared in the confusion they have excavated, like as if archaeology was an act of burial, like as if science, with its manifold conjectures, turned thought into a trap. For a long time these three wondered at this weirdest experiment, flying high speculations like weathervanes of reality, flapping in endless, silent, brainstorm. Repetitions of the same, the atomic aspect of creation. They might have remained, reveried in that perfect dynamism, but instead there was eschaton, and the second sun fizzled.

It went without fire or brilliance, rather was a whisper, a hush. Slowly, like an ember cooled, that secret star was seen to dim, diminish, disappear, and the other earth was freed.

On a novel hinge it came round the back, flying out and swinging. It was slow to see, but Brahe sensed the real speed of the object on its relative scale, the tremendous thrust of motion through the bowels of space, the discovery of orbital ligament.

Brahe calculated it fearfully, the angles of incidence, the curve of the line. A gruesome recognition, maybe fore-written on some heavenly scroll, at last loosed by the breaking of a seal. “My God. It’ll hit.”

Brahe bounded back, retraced the way without a light, overflowing with expectation. He would be a witness, a martyr to the new science, and prayed, Let it be commixing, not collision, and clung with desperate cleavage to the Lord of things that end.

Let it be commixing, not collision.

            There was a rumbling and that was the joining of poles, like what a charged particle on a magnetic face must hear when it is to be wedded to its negative bride. The faintest brim of light crept from beyond the tunnel’s portal edge, and with it faint wailing, hailing, praying from the topside world. This was the greeting with which humanity met its end—whether that be doom or deliverance—an end come slogging round the corner.

Let it be commixing, not collision.

Horizon. Lighted lip of fresh air and openness. Brahe up and upways goes and upturns to the heavens where the moon is covered and the stars blotted out and Antichthon slices sky.

Let it be commixing, not collision.

All creation chattered, every living thing, men and fish and birds, the plants rising up.

Let it be commixing, not collision.

Is this the end? Must it be stoney, fiery ruin? Mightn’t we go on below the yoke of a slaver race of anti-us’, tethered to the will of our superior selves?

Let it be commixing, not collision.

Or could this be the promise, made at the start, of revelation and restitution, our final jubilee? Dare Brahe dream, even in the face of towering fear and danger, for a revolution in the heavenly spheres?