Ex Nihilo

Ex Nihilo – Severance

The roof is shaped conically and made of strongly translucent glass, throwing the entire room into blue waves that play across the art-deco furniture, like so many children on blades of grass. It is hard to describe the emotions that fill her heart upon this return; she had spent so long in transit, in the surprisingly warm embrace of space, that seeing a scene so dynamic makes her a little bit queasy. That’s another thing which they don’t tell you about space: nothing much changes there. Not only the void itself is motionless, that’s almost too obvious, but ship life itself is monotone, mundane and nonfluctuating. When all that separates you from certain, swift death are thin walls, rickets, bolts and pressure valves maintained by fragile humans, routine has a calming effect. Even as a passenger, albeit a military one, Inerra was merely another set piece in the flow of the crew, something to be navigated around. Options were considered: could she be used as a gravitational slingshot, a motivational force or aid that would make a job faster? Or was she instead the gravity well of a heavy, gaseous giant, inhibiting a person’s drives, making them slower? That was all that mattered.

Now, unbelievably, she is in a room, alone. The luxury of solace, much deeper and more important than silence, is a thing too often taken for granted. Inerra closes her eyes, letting her empty kitbag, a mere formality of military ritual now, fall to the floor as she stretches out both her arms, slowly, gently. She isn’t taking in a specific emotion but the feeling itself, of being alone and unconcerned with others. It has been years since she felt; years since, groped at vaguely by a planet’s gravity, she had any time at all where she could be herself. Not in any psychological sense of false authenticity; Inerra crumples her nose at such a thought, something that her mother might adhere to in her pointless attempts at making sense of life. No, simply the ability to not be dependent and not be depended on. A solitary body, bound to no orbit or other, gravitational effects except the one too large to really be felt or imagined. She smiles briefly and then continues her survey of the room. Under the slight, blue waves (their reflected light originating from the nearby bay) which flood the apartment, lies satisfaction: cold, solid wooden floors, practical yet hospitable furniture and an immense bed that is everything she currently longed for.

Inerra is far away from home, the farthest one can get in many senses. Therefore, she had decided a while ago, lying in bed staring at the ceiling of the Nihil Sub Sole Novum, that she would become her own home; an island of ideas, emotions, and thoughts that she could relate to. A self sustained system, like the efficient drive of the ship that had undulated quietly beneath her. It wasn’t going well so far, as much as she’d like to tell herself otherwise. She doesn’t quite feel lonely at the moment (the hotel room and its many familiarities help with that) but she isn’t at home with herself, a turn of phrase which pleases her vaguely among the general disquiet she is now feeling. Perhaps that, oxymoronically, is the best way to describe what is going on inside her: disquiet. As if something is stirring in the back of her mind, feeding off the empty spaces that still exist there, having been birthed either when the ship had left Episcopal or, strangely, as her skipper had decelerated towards this very planet. As if, somehow, by longing for solace, she had also birthed an aversion to it; the strong, sleek passion mirrored by an equally powerful repulsion.

She understands now, in this blue-washed room on a planet that doesn’t mean much to anyone who matters, that she has lied to herself. All those mornings (and nights) spent walling herself off from the others on the ship. Letting only transients, men and women who had come to the ship with the express goal of leaving it soon, into her bed and into her body. Stretching her arms far in front of her, coating herself in the faint lie that she would rather be alone. Now, she sighs as she folds into a nook that overlooks the recently nameless city that stretches out below the conical window that makes up one of her walls. Now, she is filled with a creeping dread that is all too cliche, a sensation which she tries to combat and fails, a knowledge that what she had sought outside of her mother’s planet and home was really waiting back there all along and was now lost. She scoffs slightly before sleep takes her, exhaustion from the last stretch of her travels finally taking hold. She scoffs at how boring that sounds, like a green-behind-the-ear jumper muttering about adventure over their first beer. She scoffs as her eyes close.

Later, in the humidity drenched streets of the port city, Inerra is lost. Not a geographical quandary nor a simpler, locally spatial one. Instead, her eyes are lost, disjointed from the purpose of her self. They flicker here and there, seemingly trying to drink in the street. There’s not much to sate her visual thirst: the streets are mostly empty, this being the middle of the night, housing only the broken effigies of lives that had once made sense. Coerced via the inescapable, and yet wholly imagined, vector of will, they used to make striking figure as they cut through the stream of life, the wide river of possibility. Now, they are still, decrepit husks of ocean fearing vessels that litter the wide bay that is the city. Inerra walks among their detritus, mixing with that of urban living, much like they themselves; un-tethered, cut loose from purpose, made to await a cue that she had no preconception of but of which she would instantly know. Her hands move slightly, back and forth, as she paces, lost in the memory of the last time she had been here.

She had felt a similar disconnection then but it came from a wholly different souce. Still on her initial vector, heading like a spear of fate deeper and deeper into space, she had been filled with the unexpected shock of exploration. It had pushed everything from inside of her, like a wounded space hulk venting what was left of its artificial air. This had been just a short stop, a stepping stone on a journey farther and farther away from all sorts of things. It had been different times for the city as well, times now lost as a faint, chronological way-point in the deep annals that is, by now, on par with that of her own lifetime. As the disparity between the years she had actually lived and the years that had passed grew deeper, recollection of places and events seemed more and more inherently absurd. Regardless, the city had seemed to her to be more than just a center; it was a hub, a place where so many ideas, words and beliefs changed countless hands, mouths, and ears each minute. Which was, of course, why it fell. Or so her H1F files told her, commonplace artifacts for traverses of the inky deeps. No one ever got past H1 but not more was needed in order to comprehend the historical tragedy of this place. Bullet-point after bullet-point had fired before her eyes as she descended the atmosphere, extolling crackdowns, Artery Law backlashes, ostracization and, finally, the ultimate punishment the Heart could levy against anyone: severance.

Left to drift in the coldness of space without a network, surrounded only by the silence that is most of reality, the city had slowly decayed. Now, Inerra walked where once ideas raced, subtly perplexed at the slow fever with which concepts were now discussed. But of course, she knew why; the first lesson you learn in space, the first lesson that the Heart taught, the first lesson that made anything go, was connectivity. Not a mystical action from afar, not a synchronicity that tied existence into ebbs and flows. No, this connectivity was wholly human but not less powerful; wholly artificial but all too innate, lying as it did underneath all things that aspired to movement. The teacher, the space-farer, the soldier, the pilot, the politician, the lover, the artist, the lawyer, they all needed one thing: context. Most civilizations realized this well before they went to space but in taking that first step out there they learned the second, more terrible lesson. In the universe, context is the exception, not the rule. Adrift in a blankness beyond words, all human ideas, constructs, and emotions fade into nothing, launched into a place that had never known, and thus could never accommodate, their foundations.

Deadspace, depression, The Haze, dedetox, Mercurial, every culture that had ever went out there had a name for the creeping dread that overcame all who traveled the inky waters. Adrift on lack of time, on the death of genealogy and, therefore, the death of culture, a million million civilizations slowly faded. Flaring again and again, humanity tried to grasp on to something out there, to make sense, a sense which would act as a node for their network of connections. Like so many bacteria in their petri dishes, they would reach out spores and seem to thrive for a cosmic moment or two before their center gave in under the lack of context and died as quickly as it appeared. Such collapses rang across human space with the threat of collateral, technology, weapons, finances, and people spiraling out of the relative restraint of civilization. Often, such collapses destabilized other hubs of humanity, initiating a deadly chain reaction. Thus humanity clung to existence in the void, until the answer came, until the answer rang out across the metaphorical skies and, slowly, over millennia, overtook them all. Where there was alone, there was now together. Where there was freedom, a freedom too cold to breathe, there was now Law. Where there had been violence, a desperate attempt to force context on the universe, there was now Language. Together, these two forces reshaped everything, including places like the ones Inerra now walked through. But the answer itself only had one name, even if that name reverberated and came back to everyone in many forms. There was only one name and that name was Heart.

Back in the now of things, Inerra starts to fade into the urban backdrop. Her mind races, vision distorted into the perspective of recollection. Thoughts of the Heart and the civilization which pulsates through and enables Human Space metamorphose into thoughts of her own motivations, objectives and fears. Out there, on the sleek Nihil Sub Sole Novum, en-route once again via the twisting roads in space the Heart had made, things had appeared clearer; she needed to disconnect and what better place was there for that then this once illustrious node, this planet and its two cities cut adrift? As the ship decelerated towards the planet, Inerra had dug deeper into the files, rows on rows of data which even flash before her eyes when she closes them, as if etched on the back of her eyelids. She’s gone off the beaten path, deeper into the ultimate dejection the city’s dying throes spread across all space. Why had she drunk so deep from the well of knowledge? What was she looking to know?

Obviously, why they had sent her on her mission. On the brink of severance, when the bell of the planet’s doom was already rung and they were just waiting for its echo, they had sent for her. A bleak message, asking for an even bleaker thing, had flashed across her work-space. Many questions: why her how had they known where she was how had they known she would go why did she go why did she do what they had asked why destroy something so large, so uncaring, so meaningful? All these cascade in Inerra’s mind once again, as they had when she had been alone, in front of a computer screen flashing with an impossible request, a litany of doubt which loops and loops and has looped for objective decades/subjective weeks as she had sped back and inwards and into the past, hands shaking now and then as the mental barricades she had set eroded underneath what she had done. To an outsider, to an impossible someone from out of the Heart, out of the Language and Law which made existence possible, her actions wouldn’t seem as that drastic; knowledge hidden here, information exposed there. From her own little terminal she set out to shift little pebbles, nudge them into a position where potential energy (purely theoretical of course and more social than physical) would be better poised to turn kinetic. Little packets that had been given to her, attached to the selfsame hopeless message, silver bullets crafted from a knowledge of history and genesis which no one should have had which was, in fact, impossible.

These bullets were even now making their way through the target’s body, the consequences of her actions were even now ringing out across Human space, echoing along the networks which made it possible. Now, as she walks through the blighted city towards the border between it and its sister, her mental defenses collapsing from sheer, internal pressure, Inerra imagines how those reverberations might unfold. Her packets would be discovered by system administrators, curious scholars, random netkids, and all other manner of those who dwell in the network. At first, it would be discarded; the story would be too old, too preposterous (empire from nothing, Language from death, Law from misunderstanding). They would wave it away and discard it into their drives, halting its trajectory from further accelerating through the invisible filigrees of civilization. But enough strains would go on, forwarded automatically or with a flippancy in writing, a careless shrug of characters and protocols.

At some point, someone would take it seriously. Someone would glean the ring of truth vibrating in the words and be shocked. Reeling backwards in their chair/console/creche, they will start spreading it in earnest. From screen to screen, from code to code, the truth of the Heart’s genesis will spread and its inherent paradox unleashed on its members. Was the story true? Enough of it was. Enough of it struck fast and deep, as Inerra soon discovered after reading it, after editing it, after sending it out. Enough of it explained many things which the lofty executors of the Heart’s will had never bothered explaining. In the wake of its blow, what? Nothing more and nothing less than what surrounds her now. Severance. Dejection. Nihilism. Unraveling. Severance, of the basic ties which held Human space together, foolishly predicated on the ability to speak and be understood. Dejection, of and from the Law that was so well founded on those aimless words. Nihilism, as the void which was kept back by culture floods in when shared truth collapses. Unraveling, of everything that had been propped to stand the test of time.

She, of course, didn’t even think for a moment about blaming those who had contacted her. There was no context for such an accusation, nothing small enough for a human mind to cling to and twist into a grudge. Set loose, cut free, floating away, an entire civilization was not only doomed but exposed on the cliffs of the universe, a child (as all human civilizations often are in the face of the ever-aging sage which is the universe) left bereft of all shelter, some deformity not of body as in days of old but of culture, of habit, of language, sentencing it to a lonely death. That might sound excessive, since all death is, essentially, lonely but there are types that are even lonelier, when the individual is left outside the campfire, outside the circle of light. There is no greater need for that fire, for that demarcation of us and it, then there is in space. And so, dying, terrified of the night, they had done all that they could and reached out to her. Not the hare trapped and gnawing on its own foot to get out but the hare confined by its very existence, every breath containing the bitter chill of the vacuum, a hare that is a lacking metaphor for an entire civilization trapped on the fringes that just reaches for anything, for something to do, for something that isn’t stillness.

Inerra looks at her hands and back at the city around her, now shimmering silver as she heads into its sister, back to the same hotel room she had left but also a different one. Back into a mirror, a silver staircase that she hadn’t dared take the last time she was here. It promised answers, introspection, understanding of self. She is ready now. Here, the results of unraveling are perhaps even harsher. The rings which surround the world in this iteration are slower than they were when she was last here, less filled with the brimming commerce of vehicles that had made their engines run. The streets themselves seem fainter, people tottering side to side. Not drunk, or at least not on any material substance, stricken with befuddlement by a force thousands of light years away. Stricken with the more precise version of what she had unleashed when she uploaded those files. Now, faced with the results of the cruelty of her target, mental defenses were long gone and Inerra’s psyche began working on the true bulwark of personality: moralism.

This was her excuse after all, what she had told herself (without hearing it, of course, since she spoke in her most internal voice, the voice which speaks with suggested suggestions, hints of hints and premonitions of maybe feeling something in a few seconds) as she had set in motion a plague which she knew too well, as she reverse engineered the hair of the dog that bit her into the dog itself and let it slip its leash, let it fly its kennel, let it run amok in the chicken coop that was human space. The arithmetic of cause and effect, of punishment and justice, the chains of worth and retribution, the silk shackles of consent, had all helped her move her hand and press the trigger, releasing her tiny, tiny bullets/packets on their civilization killing course.  Here, now, standing in this shadow city which was all too real, those petty reasons fell away. In that moment, swaying through streets familiar to her (as she had just, moments ago, walked their mirror) towards her un-hotel, swaying in beat with the others around her, stricken by the same internal malaise, she would take it back if she could. But that, of course, was impossible. The moving finger had made its always-final pass and no tears nor prayers could reverse even one flashing line, even one sickly, green line of code with which she had executed this most final of sentences.

Lastly, as her hands fumble on the un-door leading to her un-room in her un-hotel, Inerra (or rather, the sleeping part that was un-Inerra, the sister city which lives inside all of us, hazy streets mirroring our waking hours, faintly faded structures which echo our “conscious” thoughts, our inherent sibling, our unconquerable territory, our Tír na nÓg of meaning, yawing doors of not only ignorance but of the terrible knowing of things which we’d rather not to know and which therefore get squashed into the basement of our edifice) reached the volta do mar of the soul, the clasping of the snake on its own tail. Nothing left to burn by itself, surrounded by people so dejected (now outside the room but very much present nonetheless) that empathy barred even the vent of external blame, all argument corrosive to its own foundations, in that moment and place the psyche realizes that there is no one else to blame, realizes, truly, deeply, that there never was anyone else to blame but itself.

Inerra opens the kitbag that she had carried into the room with her in the original city. It had been empty. Now, inside, there is a gun.

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Ex Nihilo

Ex Nihilo (Interlude): Stars Serenading

They won’t think back on us, those that come after. Too obsessed with the night’s weight which will push down on their brains, they won’t remember all the little things which made up the fabric of our every-day. They won’t spare a second for the rich textures and smells of our cities, they won’t think back on me leaving my mother’s house and walking a narrow pathway in the dark towards the slightly rusty (sorry mom) gate that leads to the front yard, on my way home before leaving for two months to a city which echoes with the boundless lives of millions.

 

Some of them will think back on us, curious weirdos siphoned in some bulkhead on a frayed liner hauling rocks from this outpost to the next. Pouring over screens which echo green in the minor darkness floating inside the greater darkness, their bloodshot eyes will flicker over lines and lines of text that do everything but describe how things are for us. They’ll feign understanding and nod with empathy at patterns whose distorted loops ever so slightly nudge their own out of place. We’ll be their profession, those few of them, the touch of a hand across a cheek sagging with Earth’s gravity (chokehold/bosom), a fact imprinted, a ritual reported, a gesture examined.

 

They’ll all think back on us, buses weaving in and out of the textile of their past, trying to track down the weft which led them to where they are, on a fast(er) trajectory away from sun, from Sol, from Earth, from Cuiviénen, from an imagined lake in the shade of mountains that never existed. They’ll all think back on us, event horizons, disaster thresholds which sent them careening on a slingshot towards their future, their own explosive terminus. Our decisions, our fates, our worries, they’ll all be counted by all of them as the ultimate rear view mirror reflects a fading prison/home, an ever decreasing perspective and peace and pain and heart’s blood.

 

They won’t think back on us. Some of them will think back on us. They’ll all think back on us. I know, because we’re doing it right now, to those who came before: sailors, soldiers, rapists, slave owners, traders, artists, holy people, women, men, children, filth, beggars, traitors, patriots, boring people, fascinating people, houses, carriages, flags, flags, flags, fire, night, morning, bread, oil, meat, spears, chains, freedom, hope, despair, failure, brilliance. We don’t think back on them. Some of us think back on them. We all think back on them

 

the gaps get larger and larger and we spiral in place, gathering momentum for a shift, an expulsion into space/across space, a metamorphosis of wings, a head first dive into a sable deepness from which there is no extraction, a slowing down of thoughts, of ship’s engines, a cerebral hum that engulfs perception, a solar anxiety that hurtles perspective backwards even as tools for understanding (binding words) unravel at the edges and lost descriptiveness, even as the point of egress unwinds further and further back, all perceived continuum of a thing called “human” escaping us it borders (once thought absolute and inherent) collapsing under the night’s weight, pushing down on our brains, erasing a face in the sand drawn in chalk, erasing “heritage” and “clan” and “memory”, leaving so many by the wayside, ending so much fire, so much light, language losing its touch, orbits losing their impetus, lights fading behind us, engines roaring ahead, lives decaying behind us, stars unfolding ahead, stars beguiling before us, stars serenading

Context
Background
Legend

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Ex Nihilo, Short Stories, The Augmented World

Ex Nihilo – Through And By The Words

There is a faint wind blowing through the bright orange square. It might be the trees that faintly sway with or the sound of the nearby water source, but it feels to Bright like home. Which is funny and weird and fitting since he is, indeed, home. As home as one can be in the Heart, as home as one can be in a place where Language flows and there is only power. Perhaps it is the rhythms of the wind that make it so, the familiar ways in which it curls around the soft buildings, echoes in the empty-yet-comforting corridors. After all, this is where he has lived most of his life and when he hadn’t, he had lived near. This was his, like our footfall is ours, like our shadows is ours. Which is to say, far less than we would like to believe.

Speaking of footfall, the sound of it began to fill the square, softly inter-playing with half-words, silken grunts and other voices coming from the students. His students, to an extent, but Bright knew that, like all of them, they were only leased to him, temporary droplets struck from flowing source that was the Heart itself. He smiled, to himself and to whoever was watching, and slowly rose from his perch. He wasn’t an old man, not in the ways which mattered here, in this seat of unbridled yet constantly restrained power, but he still enjoyed the luxury of rest. He had been in motion for such a long portion of his life that now, when he has briefly (relatively) stopped here, he enjoys doing nothing. Alas, the time for action has come since the student is like the arrow. “Please stop” he says quietly, his voice nonetheless seeming to bind his students as it of course actually does. Hand still raised in a two-fingered gesture, he walks closer.

The eyes of the students are not those of the hare in the shadow of an eagle but rather of the cub as he observes the elder hunting. Hunger; they hunger for his power. In this place of never-ending conduits, channels, ferry-women, passageways, openings, wellsprings. junctures, nodes, nadirs, whirlpools, openings onto the direct, swift flow of bright light, he is an offshoot, a branch, a sapling and they are a mouth hungry for the water which flows from him. He smiles. Finally completing his adhesive-slow approach, he gently points towards the nearby student. “Look up” he commands but pointedly leaves the words absent of Language, absent of true intent. But the student still complies, a much stronger force than Language compelling her, the desire which takes root in our hearts and turns us into the most subservient pupils possible. The force of curiosity, the force of hope for more. So she looks up and in doing so is disappointed, seeing nothing but the bright blue canopy which covers this place.

Like many before her however, she of course cannot follow a Speaker’s mind but soon, she will be instructed. Now, in fact: “You look around you and you see death. You see a sharp dichotomy: you and your compatriots, who are alive, and the world around you which is dead. You are, of course, correct. But your veracity is boring; you are simply relying on instincts, knowledges that your own body has forced on you”. He draws closer now, standing at the shoulder of the student, his back turned to the rest of the class. Somehow, however, his voice reaches them from every direction, crystal clear and perfect as if he was standing at their shoulder instead. “There is a much more interesting divide between you and it. You speak. It listens. You think. It reacts. You intend. It…well, it is intended. Intended to lie there, in the case of the rock, intended to blow in the case of the wind”. He smiles now, again, more deeply, more ferociously  and turns to face the class once again. “Who intended it to is the pointless question you are all now asking in your heads. Who cares? The question you should be asking is…”.

He pauses, savoring their frames and their sudden forward momentum. “The question you should be asking is ‘how did they communicate their intention?'”. If you’d like, picture some sort of god, an omnipotent, shining, golden being who made everything spin. How did they make it spin? Through what medium does it spin? How does it know where to spin? These are the questions you have been brought here to answer; no one can teach you to answer them yourselves”. Bright turns again, this time walking away from his class. It is over. Only one lesson remains and it is one they will have to learn for themselves, over many lifetimes. “The answer is not simple and yet I can tell it you now. It won’t spoil your classes; you won’t be able to grasp it anyway”. The wind blows again, or still, coaxing Bright’s hair from out of his collar. He savors the moment by looking up, through the canopy, through the distance, through the light years and seconds, through the diffused light of a billion stars, through the ether, through space itself, to a planet where black winds blow, where spires reach for the sky, where one man kills his wife and then himself, where the unraveling of beings, has begun, is coming closer, where finally Bright will rest.

“The answer is you. It used you to make those stars spin. The medium through which they spin is, once again, you. They know where to spin because you tell them. And you can change your mind: you can stop telling them and start saying them. When you do that, we’ll give you your ships. You’ll be your ships. Until then, there is only death for you and for most of you, there will only be death. Unless you say it otherwise; unless you convince me with your story that you live”. Sensing that he is done, the footfalls return to the square, as do the soft grunts. But now, at least in one, Bright can detect an edge; a stony, ice-cold fever that burns through and by the words.

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Articles, Ex Nihilo, The Augmented World

Ex Nihilo – Influences

This is a short list of texts that have influenced, directly or indirectly, what Ex Nihilo is slowly becoming. It’s by no means extensive but serves as a good starting point to where I drew a lot of the images, ideas and characters. Titles in bold are central to understanding the piece. If I’m being honest, the first book is all you need to read. Enjoy.

The Instrumentality of Man – Cordwainer Smith

The Centauri Device – M. John Harrison

Gateway – Frederik Pohl

The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin

City of Illusion – Ursula K. Le Guin

The Telling – Ursula K. Le Guin

The Hyperion Cantos – Dan Simmons

Illium & Olympus – Dan Simmons

Worlds Enough and Time – Dan Simmons

Grass – Sherri S. Tepper

City – Clifford Simak

The Book of the New Earth – Gene Woolfe

Eon – Greg Bear

Dune – Frank Herbert

 

 

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Ex Nihilo, Short Stories, The Augmented World

Ex Nihilo – Golden

My skin tingles with the words of the Poet, even now, surrounded as I am by the crassness of everyday stimuli. Standing at the brink of the crowd, a multitude of people from every arm and finger of the galaxy, the sound and smell wash over me. In the face of the countless-countless voices that ping in this enclosed yet cavernous space, a core of me remains silent, intent, listening. To the past, to words spoken over a budding light, in the darkness not only of simulated light but also of the depths of our home, this way-station left alone in the silent void. Beneath working machinery, beneath coiling corridors and far away from the footsteps of the powerful that operated them, my chosen family whisper to me. I have a lot to learn if I am to catch up; if I am to be a member not just by Will but also by Knowledge.

I remember their syllables now, imparting a secret history which I never could have believed existed. My military experience left me flabbergasted in the face of such an insidious and loving assault on all I had thought I had known. The rigid training of who I had been, of the flame-hardened, song-tempered surfaces of my loyalty slowly break away, made supple by the compassion and empathy presented to me in the depths of these forgotten communication tunnels, falling apart bowels of a lonesome space station. They speak of oppression but not with rage. They lament the past that had been taken from them but not with sadness. They cry out against their oppressors but not with malice. No, all they hold is a golden hope, a seed of light and longing which slowly eats away at them all even as they cherish it. Rebuffed by some foreign hand, here in the now, in the ebb and flow of Central Hall on board the Space Station Zeroed, I stumble harshly against the metal railings of the promenade. I turn to catch the assailant, the callous busy-body who had such little disregard for my own body, but they are already gone. Naturally, the flow of people hasn’t stopped just for me. They never stop, not for themselves and certainly not for me, not now that I had been adopted. I can still remember days when my uniform seemed insulated within a force-field, creating a zone of silence and respect around me. I allow myself a half smile, remembering how my sisters and I had looked, splendid in our golden sashes, our rough black uniform, the sand of our ancestors still visible in our dun colored hair.

But that was all a lie, a lie convincingly told for centuries by the oppressors. Ever since the first day, ever since we had left our home and went to Black IV, the planet of supposed benefactors, we had been guided, misled, deceived. It seemed so clear to me know, a truth resounding like a silver line through my memories. And these memories contain nothing else to be proud of: years in space, weeks on planets, shattering, destroying, instilling order and discipline and most of all, fear. All in the name of some imagined center, some guiding hand that supposedly directed our course and employed my sisters and I, the original rebels, as its police. Back then, on what was supposed to be a casual run for hardened veterans like me, something in my own mind shattered. Cast away, I ended up here. Here: a derelict hunk of metal, afloat in space by the sheer gumption and greed of the men and women who ran it, stocked nearly to bursting with wares, weapons, food, and people. People of all places, people who didn’t fit, people who had no where to go. And my family, my new family, so different than the one I had known! Longing still filled my heart when I considered my sisters but it was vague now, opaque and distant. I had found people so different, at their core. That spoke instead of struck, that felt instead of decided. That told instead of ordered. And now, it is time someone struck for them. It is time someone decided for them. It is time someone ordered for them, ordered this callous, cruel place for them. That they would no longer be bottom feeders, cast away like all tellers of stories with too much truth in them were. And that someone was me.

Heart racing now, all feelings of oppression or fear of crowds gone, my hand quickly reaches for my gun. My gun, still inscribed with the sickly, blue-tinged, crawling words of my former masters. The Golden Sash! The shiny metal blade at the end of the claw, springing straight from the Heart and all across the galaxy. It was fitting that this weapon fire the first shot and fire it does, its mechanism running true even after two years of disuse. They built weapons well, the masters did, no one could take that away from them. Accompanying the discharge was a shriek of words, a babble of power so strong that it leveled the hundreds of people closest to me. I smile. They know what this voice means, they recognize the hint of command embedded in the words, phrased in a language that none of them knew but they all knew to fear. The language of those who hold the whip, the language of those who drive the flock. The masters. The Heart. I aim at someone at random. A man. He is wearing a suit, his shiny, pink skin glistening with sweat. He does well to fear but it aids him not against the first burst of bullets that pierces his chest, moving onward to at least a dozen more targets behind him. all the while screaming words of command and power.

Terrorism, they would undoubtedly call it later, the onlookers, the interpreters, the by-standers. Rebellion, some would whisper darkly, perhaps recognizing the strength in my actions, me who was once the cutting edge of law and power and language. My family, my new family, would probably call it insanity. My old family? Their faces are soaked with blood before me as I dispatch three more commuters, the litany of the bullets embracing me with the power of my Will. They are dead an infinity of times to me, heading towards some point in space to deliver death, coated with promises of salvation and a beacon between the stars. No, it is time to let it all float away: terrorism, rebellion, story-telling, pretense, lies. It will take time but I will die here eventually, not after my gun has said its piece and I have struck the ending chords on my own requiem.

Now, in the face of this, there is only acceptance, perhaps that shard of hope and light that I saw glimmer last night, when they were telling me their story, my new adopted family. Of how they were chased, how they were driven, how they were whipped and silenced, their voices drowning in a blue tide of poetry and haughty metaphysics. How the Heart had opened its Arteries and out flowed blood, viscous fluids, drowning them all in their viewpoint of reality. This is my surgery; a song and process both, a killing and an opening. A clearing of vessels, a removal of obstructions. In the face of the rough laughter of my gun, there is no discourse. There is no rebuttal. There are only the blazing words of my intention and my message. To them, to all, to the oppressed and the oppressors, every single one of them:

Cor Ad Cor Loquitur. The city will not be forgotten. Her blood is on your hands and I come bearing a cup full of water. Sweet, lucid water, straight from the golden, hopeful core of her people. They bid you to drink deep, truly, and be forgiven.

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Articles, Ex Nihilo, The Augmented World

Ex Nihilo – The Cloak

Feel the fabric. It’s ultramarine hues are deceptive, as the light shifts constantly from the bay windows. Hung on the mahogany as it is, it almost seems alive, flickering in the pale wind that blows into the room. The light is almost drawn to it, lovingly embracing the folds, the hem, the soft edges of the cloak that speak of warmth and comfort. Closer now, perhaps, see the faint golden threads that run through the fabric, buzzing with information. Trace a thousand-thousand nimim, fragile tendrils that form a web as intricate as the patterns the light makes on the wood. Now with nose almost touching the fabric itself, you can smell the rich, vanilla scent of care, the enveloping warmth of concern. It is a treasured piece, this cloak, and its owner’s concern can be smelt and felt on the undulating cloth.

Almost without noticing, your hand reaches out to touch it, against all the warnings you were given when entering the room. Nonetheless, the hairs on the back of your hand rise in anticipation as your flesh closes with the article of clothing. It’s so light, so warm to the touch, its ultramarine now washing your hand and mingling with the pink health of your youth. The nimim blaze with reflected light and somewhere, in some hidden core far away from the place which we inhibit, a mind moves an infinity of times and reacts to your touch. The light intensifies, ensnaring your senses in an incorporeal web of memory; now we stand on False II, the winds of destruction at our backs. Giant cannons pierce the night with weighted ammunition, rending the earth apart with rough barks and shouts of iron; here we are on The Encumbrance‘s steel-blue deck, watching The Bizzare Brigade lay waste to the flanks of our enemies, hired lances ending the lives of millions; the cries of the women of Tower’s Weight finally make you flinch, as they shiver through the rough dawn, sun alighting on the bodies of their children, bloated from the weapons released on them just yesterday.

Away from the cloak. Away from the messages this ultramarine wonder whispered to you. A harsh body behind you, mine own, muscles corded and taut from years of wearing the object of your current fear. Hedging you in, drawing you on, pushing you towards the article. The cloak now has taken on a new hue for you, perhaps because hours have passed and the light has changed. More likely, it is because you slowly come to understand its meaning as the knowledge explodes in your mind. Now, in this new vantage point, you might see the bronze-red frills that adorn the hem, bristling with contained energy. Now, from this crow’s nest in which you find yourself, you might notice the words woven into the ultramarine fabric of the cloak, spelling the allegiance which you now know it owes. And, perhaps now, with a dawning realization, you realize why you’ve missed classes today. Your mind, accelerated for your new task by the nimim, is now remembering me: at the track field, watching you run. In the test room, watching you calculate, in your bedroom, watching you sleep. Yes, now you understand.

I do. My legs move with a grim determination as my mind, bursting with new-found speed, understands that there is no alternative. The choice has been made, far away from here. My hands reach out, perhaps shaking a bit from fear and expectation, grasping the cloak firmly. The hills of Neversight, burning; swords on Miscellany, flashing; the engines of Betrayed, We Take To Flight, spinning in the endless night; armies on the fields of Omerta, marching. My own body, setting fire, dueling, piloting, commanding. My own body, turning towards the door, ignoring the husk of my predecessor on the floor. My own body, stepping again but never again into the world I once knew. Analyzing. Weighing. Discerning. Far off, a mind moves with my own, an infinity of times.

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Articles, Ex Nihilo, The Augmented World

Ex Nihilo – In the Throes of Gusts Unseen

The funny thing is, it wasn’t the Ancients who started all of this. When you pour over the scrolls, the digital books, the leather-bound tomes, it’s always the Ancients. Culture projecting its darkest homunculi, the tiny idols in the cave that lie in the center of the mind, projecting them back towards some antiquarian nomads or some such thing. And they’re always dead these Ancients, long gone! Silence forbid that people ever have the chance to run into them again, meet these tiny wicker dolls of distilled selves in flesh and blood. But in the end, when the end did come, it wasn’t the Ancients at all. Those self-same icons, those idols of flame and shadow, their fragile hands were those that set the first gear in motion. Themselves that is, you understand. They ended it all.

You’ll forgive me if I can’t re-tell the specifics, song-clothed visitor. I was just a man, I had no real expertise in anything. The winds simply started blowing one day. Through the alleys of the great cities, and there were those a-plenty, the winds came. They didn’t howl, or whisper or cajole. They were simply there, so cold and so all-encompassing. The closer you drew yourself to your center, huddling around some imagined ball of light and warmth in your stomach, the colder it grew. Walking the streets became a nuisance. But, what good this talk of the past? Those self-same scrolls and digital books and leather-bound tomes always speak of the past as if it’s discreet, breakable into these little steps that then unfold to make a whole road, stretching from here-now to the impossibly huge there-then. The truth is, the next thing I remember is the wasteland.

Yes, the hand gesture! The outstretching of my left hand to survey before us what remains of this land. Such a regal gesture, as if I own anything but my grief, well becomes the irony of this happenstance. The winds never killed. The Ancients, you see they are my Ancients, the here-now’s Ancients, were too cruel for that. The winds blew cold on more than one level. Ah, you begin to see! I can tell from the change in pitch in your garment, song-clothed! Yes, those hulks of metal on the horizon, which you perhaps mistook for arch-like rock formations, now begin to make sense to you. The winds simply started and never stopped. The first to fall took a long time, but once they had, things quickly deteriorated. With the first chink in the human-flesh armor of society, the winds had found their opening. Quickly, grasped in the throes of gusts unseen, people began to stop where they stood and shiver. There was no escape either; the winds don’t blow everywhere but they criss-cross this land like a navigator’s charts criss-cross solar systems with invisible lines that are meant to guide him home. Him and his ship.

There are no more ships. At least I wasn’t in a ship. I wasn’t near one you see and the drive to act was quickly becoming a rare commodity in this place. I can see from your face and the funereal tone of your garments that you have now fully entered into comprehension. Yes, visitor, they dropped like flies from the sky, head on controls, arms on dashboards, eyes on floors. They dropped like amber from a prickled tree to smash on the ground and leave their viscous matter on the earth. This planet has been watered well and still, the winds blow. Near the end, which hasn’t really come since I am not the solitary denizen of this planet, I took to the hills. The winds blow here often but that doesn’t bother me anymore. If I’m honest, the little idol of shadow and flame that lives in my mind as well, has grown used to them. And so, when they come, I relish them. I bathe in them and feel their raspy breath on my cheek. The fire and shadow mix with the wind, buoyed by the air and I lose myself and find myself. Tear down the edifice and construct a mighty totem. A totem built from the discarded revenants of the there-then.

Yes, I see the question forming on your brow and in your song and I will answer it. Although it is not the important question. I don’t seek out the other denizens of this planet because there is no reason to. All I need I have with me, a fireplace in my thoughts, fuel for the burning when I need heat and the winds when I need cold. You’ll notice I haven’t said “we” or “our” or “us” once. I have no more need of “we” or “our” or “us”, although I faintly remember the concepts. But, as I said, song-clothed visitor, that’s not the important question. Ah, the rictus of disgust! Yes, disgust indeed song-clothed fugitive, I understand you’re smart and see the words before I shape them! But you will listen. Do not worry, my winds reach your ship and inside it and past your song-shields and into your mind. Flee this planet’s gravity well and then the sun and far away but my words will still reach you, borne on these gusts unseen. The important question is: why did I come to the hill? When will had faded, what dragged me to this vantage, where I sit as the scout of all creation, the look-out for the only fortress that remains, the fortress of ego? Song-clothed pilot! Take this back to your choir-leaders, to your conductors and word-speakers.  They ponder at the nature of humanity and so I shall present it to them on a rust-colored platter:

I sought a vantage point because that is what I am. I am a vantage point. The gusts unseen blow hard and I stand in their stream and survey. I survey the breakdown. When all was stripped away and the idols were left to themselves, that’s what I became. That’s what we (hah! point to you) became: vantage points to the breakdown.

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