Friday, February 1, 2013

Three Science Fiction Stories


There are those who know why those who go to the forest chose go to the forest but they number few and do not speak of these things.
Some of those who chose to go to the forest came from the forest again but they numbered few and do not speak of these things.

So much tape was snagged on one tree it looked like a spider's web.
Tape tied to another tree led deep into the forest, as if to lure the unwary into the dark woods.
The amount of tape was overwhelming.

Holy blood and fire.

Reneging on the negation and opening renegotiations.
The void rendered invalid.

Holy blood and fire.

Every word was once an animal and every poem is the first song.

Around the heart fires a few gather to speak the worlds necessary.

Here, Odette enchants to Leda.
Here, walls of the houses are inscribed with rivulets of Aristaeus' weeping.
Here, the strongman leaves the Carnival for the lion.
Here, only the slightest of seeds are sown in friendly fields of battle.

Others gather lights on poles and push them towards the periphery.

There, where an insubstantial black soot shows where an absence once stood.
There, where pillars of salt now stand; trunkless legs and lifeless spit.
There, where   

That which hits the retina never leaves.

A small body plucked from his mother's cooling flesh.

Between heaven and here.
That which hits the retina never leaves.
Paradise belongs to those who build.
That which incises the heart never leaves.
Between heaven and here.
A journey, a single step.
In the beginning was the word.
And in the end

they number few
and do not speak of these things.

The Prescient Moment

He stands on the edge of the crater, closes his eyes and looks out across the rust coloured plains of Platonia. In the back of his mind he can hear the caravan starting to break camp and prepare to move out into the yawning twilight of the first sun. The sound has the distant quality of a memory as his eyes trace the path caravan takes into this false night.

From this vantage he sees the track between stony ridges where the animals are slow, their footing uncertain. He sees where the soft sands break against the rocks like a slow tide and his foot sinks in up to calf, the dust almost cresting the top of his boot. He quickly learns to walk across this shifting surface. Carefully distributing his weight with each step, the sands of the plain compress underfoot but still support the traveller. Moving this way he makes good time in advance of the column of pilgrim, and their native pack beasts and their burden of cargo.

Then the sands stretch as far as he can see, only occasionally punctuated by the towering fossils of creatures no one has seen. He scans the horizon, aware on some level of the air cooling across the skin of his face as the first sun slips away into another half-night. Only the pale light of the second sun remains to smear shadows into half-truths.

At the edge of his vision where the arid land meets the darkening sky he sees where the caravan moves across sand recently disturbed. Sand recently covered over. Sand that conceals.

The attack is swift and it is brutal. Dust explodes around the caravan as the raiding party burst from their hiding places beneath the sand. Blades sluice through the thin night, wielded with ferocity by both sides. Three raiders fall by his hand before he takes five steps towards the head of the caravan.

A series of dry slapping pops sound behind him. A tent cluster that had protected them from the midday furnace of the first sun was being deflated. For a moment the sweet aroma of the caravan's pungent cargo twitches at his nostrils before the wind changes and all he can smell is the sour dung of the pack beasts.

He can see the head guide directing the fighting from the front of the caravan and tries to move towards her. A raider appears before him out the swirling dust and thrusts a jagged dagger towards his face. He flinches to the side, feeling forward with his own weapon. His knife finds a soft spot between the armoured plates of the creature's abdomen and he is moving again before it hits the ground. The head guide is shouting commands at the caravan guards to protect the animals and cargo and to the pilgrims to protect themselves, but as he approaches her words are lost in the cacophony of battle. Screams, dust, blood, and steel overwhelm his senses in an instant. The guttural shrieking of the raiders, the cries of the dying, and the howling of the animals become a single sustained wail. He feels where the cold wetness of the raider's blood is sliding between the fingers of his knife hand. He sees the head guide look at him her eyes wide, lips on the edge of pronouncing a word. Everything is lost in the sensation of fire punching through between his shoulder blades.

He never sees his killer but can imagine the raider looming behind him, seen from the head guide's perspective. For a moment of vanity he imagines she may avenge him and he pictures he cruel blade of raider finding its home in his flesh.

He could hope that the caravan, its cargo, would make it across the plains, and he could hope that the pilgrims found what it was the searched for, and his hope would be all that would remain. All who journey with them know the dangers and foresee the hardships.

He opens his eyes and looks out across the rust coloured plains of Platonia one last time.

Small stones tumble down ahead of him as he descends from the crater rim and returns to the camp. The pack beasts are loaded with towering bales swathed in cloth and some of the younger pilgrims are busy kicking dirt over the animal dung in what remains of their overnight enclosure. The tent clusters have been deflated and stowed away and the cooking fires extinguished. The head guide waves to him and signals him to the head of the column. There is a long journey ahead.

 The Lloigor

A punctuated darkness envelops us. A fretted firmament; formless, endless, and ours. We spin like this together in our cocoon of steel and plastic. Always together. Pure of purpose, unified of intent. We shine a tiny light, forever moving forward searching for the others, and always together.

In the center of the flight deck a mass of tentacles twitches languidly in glass tank framed with ornate gold. This is the Lloigor that binds us and drives us onwards. The oil slick of its skin is dizzying to watch and I am always touched by a distant sense of disquiet and nausea whenever I get too close to it. I move cautiously around the edge of the room, keeping my distance and steeling my nerve. Despite my apprehensions I still hunger for the Lloigor.

We all do.

Although it is not this desire that keeps the crew of the ship together and that keeps us operating as one.

Busying myself with invented tasks, I keep my back to the creature and try to calm my stomach and my thoughts. The sensor arrays report the same lack of activity they did when I last checked twenty minutes ago. I refresh the display and nothing changes. Diagnostics show the engine systems running a little hot. One day someone will get around to purging the the fuel lines and we'll be running smoother, but today is probably not that day.

I am trying not to think about the Lloigor.

Outside the forward viewport, stars and planets hang against the black full of rumor and promises. We know little of where we are going and care little for where we have been. The only thing close to certainty is where we are.

Here. With the Lloigor.

In the reflection of the glass I see Curwen enter the room behind me, his shock of wild hair unmistakable even in silhouette.

"Carter." He nods at me in greeting.
"How's it going?" I ask over my shoulder.
"Yeah, been better." He says.

I know what this means and turn around. I can see he is holding a small, sharp knife.

Curwen was a heresiarch on his home world, hated and hunted. Among us he is an equal. We define no roles or hierarchies. Opprobrium is unknown.

We have the Lloigor.

The Lloigor twists lazily about its tank. If it knows that were are in the room with it or if it suspects in any way what we are about to do to it, it shows no acknowledgement. The lethargic mass of black tentacles keeps swirling with the same easy grace that it has since I came on board, half a galaxy and a lifetime ago.

Curwen looks at me as he walks towards the creature with his knife.

My stomach twists slowly as I step away from the control panels set below the viewport.

Curwen reaches into that gilded glass tank with his left hand, casually holding the knife in his right. He gently strokes the dry, impossible skin of the Lloigor, feeling for the the new growth of stubby tentacles that have come in since last night. Satisfied, he delicately teases out two of those animate appendages and with a quick swipe of his blade removes them cleanly.

I imagine the Lloigor to twitch or react in some way. To recoil from the wound, to show that it knows pain.

Its silence is absolute.

Curwen holds up the tentacles now each as rigid and sharp as an arrow. Without speaking, avoiding as much as I can looking at the Lloigor I walk over to Curwen and take one of the tentacles out of his hand. It is rubbery and dry, elastically holding its form and emitting and a scent of over-ripe sweetness. Next to me cells of alien biology are already stirring within the Lloigor to regrow the lost tentacles.

Holding the Lloigor tentacle between his thumb and forefinger, Curwen dangles it above his open mouth and slowly lowers it in. I do the same with mine.

We speak without words in a language as veiled as it is precise. Intimations become pure meaning. The ship that surrounds us becomes its own being.

We know where we are and we know that we are searching for the others.