"Lydia!" said Father. "Have you read this?"

Father held up an article in the morning paper. It was on the front page, where usually only advertisements appeared.

"What is it?" Lydia asked.

"It's an announcement from the National Ministry of Health. Read it."

Lydia read.

Because of certain recent events, our countrymen are cautioned to be careful in handling broths, cereal, and beverages, particularly if they are hot. It is not advisable to cool them off by stirring them too vigorously, rhythmically, in one direction only, or too long. The safest course is to let all foods cool off by themselves. In a few, admittedly rare, cases, stirring may produce, through a manifestation of turbulence, what is termed a singularity.

Those who knead dough are also in danger. If a sucking is noted in the direction of the turn, one must absolutely push the dough farther away and direct one's gaze away from it. Staring at the turbulence too intently increases the danger. In the worst case, such a "wormhole" can suck the unwary kneader into itself. To date there is no known way of retrieving those who have disappeared into a singularity.

Fellow citizens! We urge you to moderation and precision both in the home kitchen and in public eating places.

"What's this supposed to mean?" Lydia asked.

"It's a necessary warning. Some accidents have happened," Father said.

"Really unfortunate events. Like what happened to Uncle Kauto."

"What happened to Uncle Kauto?" Lydia asked.

"You mean you still don't know about that? It happened last spring, when he sat down to eat some cabbage soup. His wife ladled it onto his soup plate right from the boiling-hot soup kettle. Uncle Kauto was very hungry and stirred his portion very rapidly with his spoon so that it would cool down faster."

"Everyone does that," Lydia said.

"That's right. But fortunately, what happened to Uncle Kauto doesn't happen to everyone."

"Well, what happened to Uncle Kauto?" Lydia asked again.

"His wife heard his astonished gasp," Father related, "and turned to look. She had just time to see that a vortex had appeared in the soup plate like what you see when you pull the plug on the bathtub. It didn't stop whirling, even though Uncle Kauto had stopped stirring. On the contrary, the soup bulged and rose up and splattered like a stormy sea. After a while they couldn't even see the plate. The soup itself swelled up. At the same time the spoon dropped from Uncle Kauto's hand and his wife saw his face pressed into the vortex of soup. She said to me, `It was just as though the plate was sucking him in. He seemed to get noticeably narrower and thinner. Before I could do anything, his head disappeared into the maw of that funnel-like thing. An irresistible force gobbled him up. It was truly a witch's brew.'"

"How awful!" Lydia said.

"His wife grabbed her husband's suspenders, but at the same time she also felt herself being sucked in. She said it felt as though some monstrous vacuum cleaner was coming at them from the soup. The wife said that she too would have disappeared in the same way if her husband hadn't kicked her away. She was sure that that kick saved her."

"Evil soup!" Lydia said. "But what happened to Uncle Kauto?"

"He disappeared," said Father. "He drowned in the maelstrom of the soup. Soon afterward things calmed down, the surge died down, and there was just a soup plate on the table from which a little steam was rising. The man hasn't been seen since."

"How is that possible?" Lydia asked.

Lydia's father said, "Well- Quite likely the hot mass of the soup, as it whirled around, produced a kind of turbulence manifestation just as the Ministry of Health article described. It is unusual, but such things happen. Whatever isn't impossible will happen sooner or later. But sometimes even the impossible happens."

"I still don't really understand," Lydia said.

"At that moment, time-space started to curve and become denser. That caused the creation of what is called a singularity, or black hole. In turn, that created a strong magnetic field. And note: once we get a singularity, nothing can be predicted. In a singularity the laws of Nature no longer apply. When Uncle Kauto bent over his soup plate, he surpassed the event horizons of science. After that, the process could no longer be stopped. No one could have helped Uncle Kauto. In his ignorance, he caused his own downfall by his vigorous stirring."

"But is he coming back?" Lydia asked.

"It's possible. But I wouldn't say it's likely."

"Is he now in some other world?"

"Possibly," Father guessed again.

"But surely people there have to eat," Lydia mused. "And if he stirs his soup again, maybe he'll cause another singularity. If then he would remember to come right back here-"

"Let's hope for the best."

"But," Lydia said, "couldn't we disappear like Uncle Kauto? Couldn't the same thing happen to us, if we stirred our soup or cereal or tea too hard?" "What happens to one person can happen to anyone at all," Father said. "And anyway, we all came from soup. We originated in the boiling chaos of an ancient, primordial soup, and one day we must sink back into it. It doesn't have to happen exactly as with Uncle Kauto, but eventually it will happen. To us-to the whole world."

"Oh, Father, when?"

"Who knows? Tomorrow, or a hundred billion years from now," Father said.

"Ahh," said Lydia, reassured, and drank the rest of her cocoa.

© Leena Krohn