Monday, May 02, 2016

Stargazing

StargazingAurel stood in the middle of the field, the dry grass up to his waist, its sweet aroma pleasant on the breeze. He held his arm up above his face, palm to the stars. Slowly, he shifted his focus from the backs of his fingers to the tiny points of light beyond and between them.

The heavens seemed to take on a three-dimensional quality: Some of the stars now appeared closer than others, and Aurel imagined he could sense the depths between those and the ones farther away. Many had hints of color: Distant reds, cold blues, soft greens, fierce yellows. Even the faintest of these shone more brightly than usual, for it was a very clear night; the moon had yet to rise, and the light from the fire was behind him and mostly blocked by the trees. The galaxy ran smoke-blue from one side of the sky to the other, unmoving, like a swath of mist frozen in place by the breath of some terrible, ancient beast.

The horse nickered faintly. Aurel turned to see her grazing at the edge of the thicket. He watched for a while, occasionally hearing a muffled chomping noise. She was a good horse, he thought. Strong and full of heart. Perhaps he should come up with a name for her. After all, they would share many more nights before he reached his destination. On quiet feet Aurel strode past the animal, stepping out of the silvery meadow and into the fire-lit stand of trees. He gently placed two good sized sticks across the flames of the campfire and sat down on his blanket.

Once again he reached into his vest pocket and took out the message. He unrolled it and stared at it, hoping against hope to gather some new meaning from it. Plain, black ink – ordinary ink, made from pine ash and water – lay scrawled across the paper in lines almost too messy to read. It was from Yori alright; there was no doubt about that. He was the only one Aurel knew who would send such a mundane letter. He had not signed his name at the bottom. Just the three lines:

Aurel of Estraal, 
Your presence is required most urgently. 
Do not delay. The very world depends.

"The very world," he mouthed. A twig snapped behind him, and Aurel looked up to see the horse standing there, ears perked forward, her big round eyes reflecting firelight. "It's ok," he comforted, "It's just me talking to myself again." The horse lowered her head and sniffed at the ground, as if reassured.


"What's the old man gone and done this time?" He mumbled, shaking his head and staring back up at stars that were half hidden through the canopy of leaves.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Eating Mush

"Eating Mush." Image credit: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. John's jaws and tongue worked sluggishly as he meditated on the repulsiveness of the stuff he'd just squirted into his mouth. His hate for it transcended the mere taste of the substance; this disgust was as palpable as that lidded mug stuck to the desk in front of him -- like an object he could hold out at arm's length and say, This is the cause of my misery; this thing right here. He very nearly acted on the strong urge to hurl the food tube straight into the cycler.

The trouble was, everything they could produce in the ship's food processing factory would inevitably get old and unpalatable, and be imbued with that same partly imagined dullness that, of course, had nothing to do with its actual ingredients. There was no way around it. So John finished his meal in bored silence.

At length he unstrapped himself from his chair, placed the tube in the secure container designed to hold such things, and kicked off in the direction of the loo. Lunch break almost over; time to get back to work. It was a mind-numbing job that basically involved staring at a screen for hours and occasionally pushing a button or two. Not the most social of positions, but he was decent at it and didn't mind quiet. For the most part, anyway.

Lately he had found himself friend-building again. The infrequent conversations with his colleagues had yet again, given their typical insincerity, been causing John to build a wall around his mind that seemed to him was made of something like plastic, not unlike the flotsam that used to accumulate against the sewage ditch drains back home. Disgusting stuff, the kind one had to get rid of, and quick. So off he would go to one of the ship's three watering holes (each of which had its own mixture of charm and tediousness), and drink his way into the eyes of strangers. Conversation they would have, a bit of bullshit or sometimes more. Occasionally he would even feel like he'd made a friend. And then, smirking with mutual sympathy, they would both stare back at the screen on the wall and wait for the next opportunity for words.

The trouble was, he felt, he was always the one waiting, and wanting the conversation to go further. And it was with a different person, every time. He suspected he wasn't the only one in this predicament, as there was nothing lonelier than a deep-space freighter full of transients like him. But still. He sometimes wished he had... well, more. Or, that he was more.


Not that it mattered. In another few months they would be arriving at Galdron Station, and then he'd be off this rig and onto the next one, bound for gods knew where. And then all this fun mush-eating and friend-building would start all over again. 



Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Dark

"Dark" -- from a drawing by Patricia Post"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 such a 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, swept right through him, and disappeared on the other side, he changed. 

It was not a visible transformation, but a transformation it was. 

And soon people began to notice....