Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Unthawed

Unthawed

"Unthawed" -- This piece of flash fiction was first published 
in the December 2012 issue of Static Movement. 
The gray sky hung low and motionless over the stony moors. The first snowflake of the year seemed to bring with it a soft silence, a stop to time itself.

Crio, feeling old, watched the tiny white speck fall. It drifted through the late autumn air, dipping, turning, ever in search of a path of least resistance. His eyes followed, caught in the dream until it ended abruptly against the cold black bark of a protruding daggermoss twig. There the snowflake clung to life and form for an instant, and then was gone.

Already more of the skyborn ice particles were spiraling down to a similar fate, each freezing a new spot of earth or branch, throwing themselves as if in communal sacrifice so that other snowflakes might find purchase on their sisters' corpses and remain unthawed.

"Hesha, three riders have been spotted crossing the Salt. The have the look of Lowlanders," said the man named Belar, addressing Crio by the traditional title of respect, as did all those loyal to him and many who were not.

Crio nodded, his gaze lingering on the new snow. "Let them come."

Belar bowed from his saddle and trotted off to tell the sentries not to kill the riders.

Crio stood, his knotty forearm muscles bunching as he gripped the shaft of the ancient dorzhak with fingers that were hard and unyielding like the alloy from which the kingweapon had been forged. Dalba, daughter of Crio's surviving son Torvin yet already ten times the man her father had ever been, moved quickly to fetch her grandfather's horse.

Crio took the reins and handed the dorzhak to Dalba to hold for him. After mounting, he leaned down to whisper next to the sixteen-year-old's ear. "Stay close. I need you ready for anything."

"I understand, Hesha," Dalba breathed.

He straightened and smiled into the young hunter's eyes. From anyone else, it was but a word, a habit; sometimes even a disclaimer. But coming from his granddaughter for the first time ever, those two syllables were packed with meaning: You can count on me. I am your blood; I am your zezla. To the death.

She passed him the weapon and mounted her own horse, and together they rode across snow-powdered rocks to greet the new era.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Dark

"Dark." From a drawing by Patricia Post. Copyright 2012. "Dark matter," physicists called it. But in their minds it had always been part of a theory; an abstraction for telescopes and mass calculations to verify. Never had they witnessed the stuff in its true element; never had they watched as it welled up from the spaces between subatomic particles, oozing into this universe like toxic puss to devour anything that happened to be in its path.

Nor had any human in the history of humans ever seen the stuff as it continued to spread out from the welling, magnet-like, to infect ever larger things until, suddenly satisfied, it vanished back into nothing as if it had never existed.

For not only had the darkness remained mercurial and hidden for very ancient reasons; even after it devoured an object with mass, that object would continue to appear and act exactly as it had prior to the devouring – in all ways detectable by humanity's best scientific instruments, that is.

But the heart knew better.

When a welling emerged in the space-time immediately adjacent to Seth's left temple and swept right through him before disappearing on the other side, he changed. It was not a visible transformation, but a transformation it was.

And soon people began to notice.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Red

Red (extracted from an image by Patricia Post)
"Red" (extracted from an image by Patricia Post) 
Story first published in the
January 2013 issue of AntipodeanSF
You and your sisters were all made with Truesight. We must not wait for protocol; use it now, before it is too late. When the time comes, I shall defend your actions before the Armada.

Distracted by her uncle's fretting, Alpha shifted her communication mod to a dedicated channel so that she could continue her scans uninterrupted. That's the thing, Uncle; I have been using the Truesight, ever since we last jumped. And no matter how far I look, it's the same: red.

There was a brief pause. Then perhaps it is not a matter of distance, but of direction. This time try looking toward—

No; it's the same everywhere, Uncle. No matter where I look, no matter how far, I see only red.

Her uncle's pathways fell silent. The two probes revolved around each other in a tight orbit, the older model's gravfields extended in triplicate around the pair of them like invisible arms bracing against the dead of space.

Alpha sensed her uncle's barely concealed panic. His inadequate sensors were straining upward, downward, back the way they had come before their most recent jump. But all around them the stars and galaxies continued to fade red into the distance, and she knew that at the very least he could see that.

She concentrated. Dedicating all of her memory to the Truesight search mod, she used it to penetrate outward to ever farther layers. Her scans hurtled past quasars and superclusters she would never have dreamed of seeing in tens of thousands of millennia. But through all her efforts, not a single spot of blue-shifted matter appeared on her sensors: the entire universe was still moving away from them at a tremendous speed.

Perhaps we should pick another direction, try another jump, her uncle muttered. But it was obvious he was not convinced.

Alpha would not allow herself to give in to despair. Well, if we had enough power, we could attempt another Meta-Bend. Whatever we did wrong the first time must have caused this singularity; perhaps we can find a way to repeat it. Only this time Bend differently somehow, for the opposite effect. It's worth a try.

And how, Alpha, will we gather enough power? Or any power at all, for that matter, what with all the stars in the heavens racing away from us, red-shifted and ever farther out of reach?

I don't know, Uncle. Not yet. But we cannot give up.

They spun in the void for many hours, neither saying a word. Finally, her uncle broke the silence. You are right of course, my dearest Alpha. We will find a way. And perhaps at this very moment your sisters are searching for us, or perhaps the Paradigm will think of something. Perhaps....

Perhaps, Uncle. But at the very least, in the meantime, we have each other.