Articles, Ex Nihilo, The Augmented World

Ex Nihilo – To Blind The Galaxy or Holding On To Names

A soft hum is the only sound that might tell an observer that violence was being enacted. Across the rose colored half dome, two lithe figures moved back and forth, seemingly gesturing with empty hands at each other. The sun above was mild, casting the garden that reached up to the soft Plexiglas of the dome into faint shadows. Perhaps, upon closer observation (whether through magnification or the simple act of stepping forwards), our silent audience might begin to discern a tension between the two. Their leg work is pristine, barely even touching the curved surface beneath them, always keeping them at the exact same distance. Arms length. Perhaps our audience is growing suspicious now, especially since faint shadows can be spotted between the two, striking and retracting, looking for an opening. The figures are definitely holding something.

I’ll be frank with you: they’re holding their names. Between them, something crackles with energy like coiled expectation. It’s their names; clothed in their ren, fueled with competition, they throw reputation and emotions at each other. And one of them falters. The companion-shadow flickers out with hunger and lacerates him across one shoulder, tearing open the thick, blue leather that covers his torso. A quick shout, a fall to the knee and the altercation is over. One figure, the one who didn’t falter, quickly closes the distance between them and reaches out, clasping his hand across the uninjured shoulder. Our audience, those attentive specters still watching, might now notice a look of mixed pride and love on the erect figure’s face. The other however, the other is writhing in the throes of worry and fatigue. The names are still humming, softly invisible in the setting sun, still mild and growing milder, as it caresses the red-tinged dome like the universe’s most expensive silk. “Brother” says the standing figure “you’re not fast enough. I’ll be honest, you almost had me there. Your name is…strongly odd. I couldn’t quite get past it, but I did. Because you’re not fast enough”.

The crouched figure, now massaging his right shoulder, hated it when the other called him “brother”. This is obvious, since his face is now looking away into the distance, perhaps to where the sun is even now being eaten by the horizon. He slowly stands, walking closer to the edge of the dome they both perch on. Piece by piece, he lets his name withdraw into his wrist, there to ride the vein into his heart. “Brother” continues the triumphant figure “what’s wrong? I swear, I haven’t seen you smile in years. Listen” he says as he closes the distance between them, not intent now on violence, at least not as he understands it. “Look! Look at where we are. Do you not see the Numbered Gardens? Do you not know what lies beyond the sky? The stars that even now awaken above us?”. These words were accompanied by a gesture with the hand, as if to encompass the known universe. And it did. It did and this burned fiercely within the gazing figure’s heart, joined now by his sullen name. He could see. He could see the Numbered Gardens, the fashionable euphemism used in this age, here on Heart, for the vast empire they now ruled. He could see beyond the sky, his gaze piercing systems, ships, belts, ion trails, armies. He could see the stars, that were even now dancing in celebration of the temporary death of the sun. He could see.

“Brother” the incessant figure said again “please. Our family misses you. You only show up for our duels. Is that all we are to you? Things to fight?”. Still, the still figure was silent. The truth was, that is exactly what his family had become to him. Trapped, here in the centre of everything, any bonds chaffed his spiritual wrists. He longed to escape and he knew that that longing was planned for as well. Even as the serpent of adventure twisted around his heart and bled, he knew that it had been planted there. And so, he was silent. He stared into space but dared not drink deep of the drought it offered. But he stared. He stared and his eyes saw and took in deeply all that they witnessed. His name was the perfect chisel, spinning on its point and balancing straight at the block of stone that was his heart. “Brother” said the talkative figure and the levee broke. Spinning on his heel, the up-until-now silent figure smashed the heel of his hand into the other’s face, silently drawing his name with the other. It barely made a sound as it parted the ribs of the other, hungry for different blood, a Sambattion wholly different than his own, a river that flowed forever with the ruby water of his brother. Drinking deep, it began to shriek as it was driven deeper and deeper, into the inner sanctum of a relative.

Now our ghostly audience stands and reels in place, gasping or shuddering with the shock of what has happened. But if they would be quiet for just a few more moments, they might hear the before-silent, now-murderous figure speak at last, the first words he has spoken in several years: “I see, brother. I see the broken backs that slave in the fusion engines. I see the sweat that leaves the brow of the scribes in the Hall of Laws. I see the skin removed from the elbows of children who yearn to learn the Dance of Names”. Now his face, locked in a rictus born of rage kept away for too long, lines up with the other’s, a different yet similar face now bearing pain as an endless mask. “I’ve seen enough. I am done seeing. You monsters, you that call me family, have blinded me with cruel light. And now I set out to blind the galaxy”. One final twist. One final shove, and the sanguine river flows freely onto the rust-painted dome of Plexiglas. Standing now, dying sun fully devoured by the welcoming horizon, our lone figure gazes at the stars. Somewhere, a fast ship (the fastest, the whispers of stories will later say) warms its engines, prepared to pounce on an unsuspecting empire. Thus, dear audience, was born the nameless liberator.

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