The Bubbles – Julia Verlanger

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“The Bubbles” (short story) by Julia Verlanger

English Publication History: Travelling Towards Epsilon (New English Library, 1977)

Original: French (Les Bulles), 1956

Translated by Maxim Jakubowski, 1976

Synopsis: Sixteen years and two months ago, the bubbles descended to Earth with unknown origins and unknown intentions, but their actions were clear—kill all humans. As the bubbled burst above a human, they would either dissolve to their death or become an Other with multiple mutational appendages. Monica has witnessed this her entire life while secluded in her home with robot servants. With her parents dead, her only hope is the TV that has begun to broadcast a promise of resolution.

Analysis: Grown up isolated aside from her parents and automated servitors, Monica grows up a hermit shut off from the world by the force of circumstance. Her knowledge of the world outside comes from two sources: 1) what her father has told her and 2) what she can see from the window. Though her deep humanistic intuitions plays afoul with her judgment sometimes, these two sources of knowledge tend to agree with one another. Actually directly experiencing the truth behind the armored door is much too dangerous according to the facts she understands, but these are not facts she knows.

Regardless of the eerie images she views from the window, she is content with her sheltered life and her limited knowledge of the outside world. When unforeseen external knowledge intrudes upon her hermetic yet fragile world, her reality suddenly teeters between hope and disbelief. It isn’t hope which is her danger, but the false sense of resolution that is a contrast with her collected knowledge of how her world operates—inside is safe, outside is fatal.

Consider our own personal banks of knowledge; we have knowledge taught to us and we have knowledge experienced. These are always, whether we know it or not, always in silent conflict. But there do come times when immediate truths are reveled to us in the form of an aha! moment, in a dream, or an epiphany. These can radically change our perspective on life or any any given matter—for better or for worse.

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