Ex Nihilo, Short Stories, The Augmented World

Ex Nihilo – Sleep Is A Thing of the Past

Notebook open, the man sits on the sand. His name is hard to translate into Galactic, but it roughly transcribes as The Wind That Cradles Desert Sand. We’ll call him Wind for the purposes of this narrative. So, Wind sits on the sand where he has lived all his life and squints into the sun, notebook open across his crossed legs. His left hand is outstretched, delicately holding an amber pen. He’s writing, even though it doesn’t seem so. No words or lines or even crude shapes are etched into the paper, lovingly extracted from what few trees grace the parameter of his family’s hold. You see, sleep is a thing of the past and that is the problem that has been assigned to Wind. Sleep is a thing of the past.

This is the third day that Wind has been writing. It began when a soft chime played in the breeze from the distant sea, clanging against the boards of his family’s hold. His mother cried. His father as well. His sister held his hand until the very last moment, until his steps took him, finally, over the imagined yet ever-present borderline of his family’s hold. Writing is an exercise for the Outside. To write within one’s home is blasphemy, although Wind has been led to believe that some races, the far spangled, cursed, seeds of Humanity scattered among the stars, did not hold to that belief. The faintest of sounds came from his nose, a sign of disdain and pity. To write within one’s home is more than blasphemy, it is folly. To have the spirit so bare, so exposed in its utmost silence, is dangerous in the company of others. Especially when writing about sleep.

Sleep is a thing of the past. Still squinting, the paragraphs and pages flowed from Wind like a well from a tapped rock, like the sand from the Birthing Place, like the peace from the clamor of home. And yet, the problem seemed no closer to him. Three days he had sat and written, waiting for the silence to attract the answers. The questions he already had, bless the Noise Maker, provided by the breeze on the chime. If sleep was a thing of the past, how could it comfort the present? In other words, why did humans sleep at all, considering the past was a dead husk and the now was filled with endless energies? A slight movement of his head signified a frustrated shake.

To dwell on the questions was foolishness, foolishness which should have been long burnt out of him from days of writing in the desert. He thought of other things, letting the images come unbidden to his mind, as he had been taught in the warmth and endless noise of the Birthing Place. His mother’s tears, endless with the knowledge that she will never see her son again. His father’s sobs, bottomless with the knowledge that his son had been posed a question about sleep. The smile of his sister, infinite with the knowledge that her day to write will come as well, and soon. He smiled now to himself, forever to himself, a faint, limited thing. Yes, The Wind That Cradles Desert Sand was happy. To write was to be close to the gods. To sit there in complete, blasphemous silence, to slowly erode into the desert, to leave the page blank, that was life. The other thing, his time in his family’s hold, was the past, a dream. His eyes opened wide. Sleep is a thing of the past. Yes, yes it was. The path was now clear. The desert frosts were setting in and the silence, sweet forbidden silence, was absolute. He knew how his Text would end, knew how it would sound, read and recited by his people, forever in noise, to dispel the quiet. Though he would never hear it, it gave him joy to imagine it being sung. Another song, another melody, another affirmation against the silence of death, of the gods.

A day on Johannes World, known to its denizens as The Hold of Holds, lasts for forty Earth years. They write. The desert folk write.

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