Ex Nihilo, Short Stories, The Augmented World

Ex Nihilo – The Language Makers

I listen to the echoes in the halls of history. Bouncing off imaging walls, swimming in holo-projected books, living besides harsh lamp lights that attempt to illuminate the never ending darkness of knowledge, I reside. This is my domain; a blue-green kingdom, as if submersed in a vast ocean that moves forever, its waves time, its tides desire. I am the Historian, mind the capital “H”. Smiling slightly now, I gaze down at my wrinkled hands, deftly moving with elegance through the registrar that is my tool, my pen, my sword. Swiftly, precisely, it slices through history, parsing and dissecting the flotsams and jetsams of human action, reaction and thought. This is what I was born to do, forged perhaps from the iron of society, from the ore of language and discourse: to catalog, to pinpoint, to expedite information. But never to know.

And I am fine with it. This is the centre of things; we are in the apex of Heart, in the Discourse Chambers where law was made, where the universe was set in motion and when it was finally decelerated. Not stopped, since that process is still ongoing, the slowing down of human action, pace, civilization. The Stop will come soon, we can all feel it in our joints and windpipes, the breath sometime catching and disappearing as ultimate cessation crosses our minds. But until that comes, I have a lot of work to do. Brushing my hands on the registrar once again, I pull up the entry I have been searching for for the past hour. It is blank and formless and have no meaning except for the trained eyes of the Historian, decoding the network of symbols that give it what history needs to live: context. When looked at like that, it becomes a brilliant red, the red of exploding stars. The eye can discern a faint hint of orange, the color of the flag one of the sides in the war used. Space battles, the deaths of planets and the full panoply of the atrocities that woman committed across her history, across our history, unfold beneath the educated eye. And I am fine with it, fine with the burden that is mine, the burden to see, to understand but not to know.

That is for them to have and I am headed there now, for the last time. The Discourse Chambers, where the Lawmakers have set since time began, literally. There history was initiated, language formed and law birthed. Nothing remains of that. All that is there now, right now as my footfall echoes through the endless gardens and quads of this place, are husks, men and women completely devoid of the energy that was once their birthright, their duty as thinking, perceiving, knowing entities. Mirah, my beloved, was saddened by their state but that is only because she isn…wasn’t an Historian. She was a soldier, a captain, and now she’s dead. She was brave but only understood one kind of bravery, the courage of the soldier. I, on the other hand, am acquainted with the full scope of human courage and I must say that her specific one, that of the soldier snatching glory from the face of death, is the rarest, most outnumbered type out there. More often than not, humanity’s bravery manifests in more subtle, sadder ways. And so it is, now, with Heart. Here I am now, at the entrance to the Chambers. I can feel the weight of the people who walked here on my shoulders: tyrants, saviors, mad men, geniuses, generals, heroes, villains. The Council. Other Historians have felt awe when walking here, I read that because I’ve read all of the past. But all I feel now is quiet resignation and respect. Inside sit those who know.

Does that title mean less or more now that the final shift is close? Now that the Artery Law has been abolished, that Heart is no more than a husk in the middle of a collapsing web? I think it might mean more but not because of the act itself or its grandeur but because of how and why it was done. As the Historian, I have seen endless empires fall and shatter as if they were no more than filigree. Great women assassinated, mighty works struck down and all manner of things come to pass and die. But I have never seen a gesture such as this and I want to know. I want to know why the Heart killed itself but to ask the question is the greatest transgression my profession can commit. To ask why and not just when. To ask for what reason and not just by what explanation. But maybe now, at the edge of time, right before language is made meaningless and the works of man are reduced to color, motion and pointless, I can transgress. Perfect word for this minute, transgress. To cross the boundary, to be other than you are, to be different than expected. Is this not the spirit of this time? Steeling myself, I enter the metallic halls, plant my legs firmly on the ground, raise my chin like I have never done here in my all life, nor any of my predecessors as Historians, and speak firmly, birthing meaning and intent in the old sense, through pure language: “I ask you now, Councillors. Why? Tell me why you have done this, why you have unraveled all that we have built? We had stability, we had language, we had the law! We had made this galaxy into a garden of meaning and purpose. We gave so many souls purpose. Why undo all of that?”. The last is a shout, the voice echoing in this now-silent place. My ears strain to hear the answer, to finally know one thing, one last thing. Slowly, the sound reaches me and my knees buckle, my forehead strikes the floor, my heart crumbles inside of me like so many leaves under a fateful wind.

They laugh. The language makers laugh.

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