John W. Patterson
Word count: 10,540

Sleep Til . . .

by John W. Patterson
crafted November 2002 to August 2003

(My thanks go out to Iain M. Banks and Robert Charles Wilson for the wonderful
worlds of the future and alternate realities shifting so close to our own that they write of in their sci-fi books!)

Part one: Eve before the Day

Across the concrete flickered the warning lights of an approaching Niltyrn craft. It was approximately 2 kilometers wide and 18 meters tall. As it banked left, it clipped an abandoned Mitzbahplex -- crypts and cryobins scattered like dried seedpods into various arcs. Gytarhmon’s semi-bungled theft was wreaking the unintended havoc of a drunkard disarming a Trogutaalk sense-imploder.

"Kurl’s teeth!" Gytarhmon pulled back on the bent flexwrench trying to better steer the Niltyrn’s anti-theft navigation array.

Brafgit Attahw belched and chuckled, "Woo-hoo," and continued, quoting Gytarhmon, "Thith will be a thinch, we got the crypt code to thith thip off that pilot we brain-dumped latht night." Brafgit Attahw bellowed his laughter hoarsely with guttural susurrations as he turned back to the nav-complex interface.

"Shut that vertical slit you call a mouth, Attahw! And get me more stabilizing vectors or we are gonna get blasted by that set of Rovers over grid 1341" Gytarhmon leveled the Niltyrn, a fifth level, rim-ready, vessel that was capable of making CX-47 in two twists and earn Gytarhmon and Attahw enough to pay off The Missing Matter Credit Trust.

"Ith ready thtupid. Punthhh it!" Brafgit Attahw wheezed.

Ibanez RG550-Y slipped far away beneath them as the Niltyrn’s plasma surface film glowed lapis lazuli fire bright. They banked for a node run to CX-47.

"Whew, thanks Brafgit Attahw. Now rip out this thing’s IDfix beacon."

"Eathy work. Here ya go thpath cowboy," Brafgit Attahw handed the dismantled and mangled ID crystals to Gytarhmon.

"No thanks."

Brafgit Attahw leisurely shoved it all in his mouth like rock candy, his feeding mandibles retracted with a wet snapping and crunching noise.

~*()*~

Morning glowed warm and wet on the smooth and muscular back of Elyza Jel. She rolled over to look into face of Sir Mirko the 6th but he had already disassembled himself. Jel had forgotten to extend the sleeptil period and now Mirko was so much gray goo on the bed sheets -- cata-nanoz swiftly reclaiming Jel’s tempo suite mate.

"Ugh!"

Jel jumped off her side of the bed, grabbing her Wicked-Stik, swinging it around and flash-ripping the bed. It burst into flames.

"Danger! Fire! Leave now! -- Nyogh! Torchz! Avanti hoost!" screeched the room in 88 different language-phase shifts.

Jel blasted the speaker panels too.

A trio of quick response units, QPRs, mindlessly entered spraying down the bed with Pyro-Stop. Jel wandered off into the shower cylinder and wetted down before dressing to leave. In 2.5 minutes she stood on the room’s field-wrapped, glass-bottomed balcony, dressed to thrill, had acknowledged charges for fire control, the room rebuild -- and Mirko 6's vaporized cata-nanoz -- and was strapping herself into a Go-Go 88. She fell away from the 568th floor dropping about 500 before engaging the aurora field and punching in her terminal’s code with her Wicked-Stik. The Go-Go gracefully swooped between ionosphere pylons and QuadStax before finding the straight shot to Jel’s next stop. She fell asleep again, Conrad Wilcher Quartet lulling her into ambient fusion bliss. That hot little Niltyrn she’d ordered was due any tick now.

~*()*~

William Fentress sat staring at his door-stop PC bored to tears. For some reason he had decided to write yet another strange story that would very likely be read by only a handful of barely interested friends and an unknown host of folk in cyberspace once he uploaded it to his free reading website. He was a balding and oversized 53-year-old father of two. Both his girls were in their twenties and doing very well. No probs there, he thought. He was happily married to his slightly younger and loving wife of over two years.

His first wife, Suzie, had vanished coming home from Bible study one night a lifetime ago. Her car parked on the roadside, keys still in the ignition, gas tank full, no mechanical problems detected, her purse, her Bible were all that remained of her last drive home. Nothing else ever turned up about the case of her going missing in the foothills of the Virginia mountains. He of course suspected foul play, even suspected a bad cop behind it all as that could explain much of what seemed to have happened to her. Some relatives suggested a secret lover and her meeting to disappear forever. He couldn’t believe such, she just wasn’t the type. For a time he wondered if someone she knew had followed her home from the church and tricked her into pulling over to commit some ghastly abduction but he could not even imagine any of their friends or neighbors doing such. His in-laws even hired a private detective to investigate him as a suspect! He had nearly gone insane with grief and anger but the death of his 2nd child had somehow prepared him for life’s rawest deals. Fentress survived somehow, mostly wanting to be strong for his girls.

He had met Ann, his new love, during his many search attempts at the scene. She was a search and rescue dog trainer and always went with him each time he searched another area between his home and the church where the Bible study was held that fateful night. Friends became more than friends and Ann filled much of William’s void. He was emptied of loneliness and she assuaged most of his despair. His girls loved Ann too. Still, when the phone rang or the news mentioned an unidentified body being found, the deep loss held a death grip on everyone’s heart.

His psychotropic drug trials database job of 20 plus years paid the bills, built a nest egg, and offered decent fringe benefits but the rut of rote research had worn his interest level to an all-time low. Burnout was long past and mere momentum and various meds provided a pattern of dependability. All that said, with his office lights off, desk lamp reflecting off the ceiling, ambient synthscapes filling the aural voids, Fentress whiled away yet another lunch hour dreaming of Terran mountains climbed and unseen snowfields on Mars. Is all time-space beyond his earthly ken indeed a cold and silent tomb? He wondered and then dozed off for a few minutes, a lavender-hued holo of a guitar spinning before him.

~*()*~

Dr. Andrew Latimer had tinkered with every extra-dimensional theory and read every research paper related to time travel. He’d also drunk at least 10 thousand gallons of coffee since his college days. His own ideas of hyperspace, time flow, and the natures of universes undreamt dominated his waking life. He had been in love in his early college years, got engaged but the marriage never came -- his work always his first love was too cherished to sit aside for such things as nuptial traditions. He was very close to a sort of on-paper breakthrough -- actually a program-crunching numbers and spitting out data was more the reality here. It was an exciting evening as Latimer donned his virtual gear yet again and slowly began adjusting 5th dimensional parameters according to the obscure musings of online texts written by a certain William Fentress. This Fentress was no physicist nor mathematics genius but his ideas about Time intrigued Latimer. One figure that Fentress had drawn, to illustrate his idea of a tubular Time helix containing alternate time flow dimensions concentric to an Axis of zero time flow, had especially attracted Latimer’s eye. The web-search of John Dunne’s name had resulted in his finding this Fentress’ papers on Time. Latimer gestured his time lines into a helix, adjusted certain parameters, and entered a few last equations of his own ideas. He fingered the function activation icon -- the data flow began. He pulled off the virt-gear and rolled his chair over to the printer. As each sheet spewed forth, he read over the pages. Latimer’s eyes got bigger and bigger. He stood up in a stupor of shock, wandered around the office while shuffling through the papers once again, double-checking everything. Dropping into his chair, he laughed, smiled and promptly passed out. Latimer had been awake for 76 hours. He slept with his love scattered upon the office floor -- eight pages of numbers that would forever change his life -- and William Fentress’ as well.

~*()*~

The great ice storm of 2003 hit the entire southeastern US and record cold and blizzards buried the northeast. That same night, Iraq attacked Israel in a combined campaign with extremist factions of the Palestinian suicide forces. Syria jumped in for the heck of it. Limited nuclear warfare erupted in the Kashmir mountains with India and Pakistan both blaming the other. From Turkey, Usama Lin Bad’un and his cohorts set up an elaborate, multi-target terrorist attack in many cities of the western US states. Affected or destroyed were dozens of bridges, towers, dams, malls, schools, churches, airports, power grids, and even national landmarks. Mt. Rushmore was a well-faced mount no more. Only the severe storms in the east prevented a wider attack of every sleeper cell in that area. Once the US was shaken by the attacks in the west a militia-enforced curfew and roundup of suspects netted most all the bad guys from Florida up through Nova Scotia. There were random shootings, ad hoc lynchings, impromptu firing squads, roving vigilante gangs and many an inner-city mosque went up in flames or suffered bombings.

China saw a chance to cash in on the global powers’ confusion and invaded Japan. North Korea felt the old urge again and so jumped the fence for South Korea. The former Soviet Union forces saw red again. They went and tossed the dice, threw back a shot of vodka, and rolled tanks towards Afghanistan to settle an old score. And just for the giggles a group of Russian subs and destroyers set course for Alaska.

The U.K. was also a terrorist nightmare with a hydra-headed outbreak of mayhem, most blamed that old desert rat Lin Bad’un but some stench of Iraqi involvement was apparent when a money trail was uncovered. Only Scandinavia, central Europe, most of Africa, Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, South America, Central America, Hawaii, most of Canada, and the poles were unscathed in the unheard outbreaks of warfare and terrorist attacks.

Israeli and the US forces essentially leveled all of what was ancient Babylon. Dictator Haddam S’insane was force-fed a level four biohazard cocktail by Kurdish fighters that decided they’d had enough of S’insane’s maniacal plans and the resultant destruction of the families and homeland. The Brits, Aussies, and French came in and did a mop up job of Syria and Palestine. Israel, as usual, was resilient and began rebuilding. They also expanded their settlements into much of old Palestinian areas. Syria was turned into a prison and refugee zone policed by U.N. forces and Israeli soldiers. The Mosque of Omar, shelled by Jewish zealots during the 40-day war, was methodically cleared away by archaeologists and demolition crews. The stone was used to build cellblocks and housing in Syria. The Temple reconstruction began, giving a renewed focus of hope and joy to Israelis worldwide, a shot in the arm for eschatologists, and sore agonies to the soul of Islamic nations. Mecca was then guarded by armies from eight different nations. Pilgrims offered their very bodies as shields to any unseen attackers of their Holiest of Holies. There in fact was no real threat though a neo-Nazi and ultra-KKK group had seriously discussed how to use a dirty bomb to defile Mecca as an "infidel-there-ya-go-Allah" stunt.

Usama Lin Bad’un was again a legendary hero to the distressed ones crying to Allah for holy retribution. It was a short-lived reign. In reality the terrorist attacks in the US, eastern Canada, and the UK only served to uncover nearly every cell and connection matrix from the masterminds of madness. As the eastern US thawed out and the west rebuilt and regrouped, Russia pulled its subs and destroyers back from Alaska when the US agreed to support their invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviets’ other bargaining chip was they had Usama Lin Bad’un and major Lodha Qurappa officers in a prison compound in Uzebekistan. We had to agree to supporting Russia’s subsequent face-off with China’s western borders in exchange for China’s subsequent withdrawal from ravaged Japan. We also blessed the new Soviet occupation of North Korea. Japan and South Korea were somewhat relieved though outraged and confused. A wave of assassinations crisscrossed China and a more democratic dynasty took power. Some sources asserted it was a reformed KGB operation but CIA data files found years later in Afghanistan showed otherwise.

After a whirlwind trial, Usama Lin Bad’un was soon found guilty of a litany of international, federal, and state charges. He was to be executed by a unique remote controlled, death-by-hanging device on a floating gallows barge anchored near the razor-wired, island home of Lady Liberty. A perversely useful Internet link-control system was set up at a governmental website where with a mouse click or keyboard stroke all those so interested could participate in the execution. It was said that each signal from billions of PCs would each be fed into a random selector panel that would trigger the actual hanging. When the signal time to hang, set at the moment the first plane hit the WTC tower, was reached, a final surge of power would be beamed to the gallows receiver. It was reputed to be the most widely televised and watched event next to the US moon landing. A mega projection screen would display images of the former World Trade Center, The Pentagon, Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, Mt. Rushmore, the Space Needle, and Disneyland as a backdrop to the black-hooded corpse of Allah’s mad dog warrior, now the hanged man.

On execution day, all went as planned and Lin Bad’un went swinging into eternity. A group of North Carolina’s Airborne 88 soldiers, many had lost comrades in early maneuvers in Afghanistan, were brought in as special security forces for the execution event. As unbelievable as much of what had transpired that year, they turned as one man and faced the gallows. They shouted, "Welcome to hell Lin Bad’un!" From an unknown source a rocket raced toward the swaying body of the dying terror king. Both the gallows and barge became an inferno. Then soldiers, police officers, militia men, and assorted armed men responded to the flames with a steady stream of bullets that riddled the burning gallows. As the barge sank, NYC fireboats moved in to oversee the fires not drifting elsewhere. A cameraman zoomed in the final flickering flames of one singular evil’s passing. An ugly spectacle it all was but it was a type of a closure for many. Commercials that followed the filming of the execution earned the networks 500 million dollars of which 250 million was donated to the USRF, the United States Restoration Fund.

Everyone looked the other way later that year when Russia and China moved their new RNC "democracy" fighter forces into India and took over what was left of Kashmir and Pakistan as well. No one really cared at that point as all Russia and China were securing was radioactive wasteland. They said they were there to help survivors since the World Health Project was staying away from the hot zone. Chinese doctors and Russian scientists did their best to secure some sort of relief and control but after five years China left. Russia stayed for some strange reason. Indo-Pakistani refugees and survivors poured for years into China and were eventually settled in Mongolia near the Gobi.

The spread of nuclear fallout was confined to the immediate area of the war zones by the application of new technologies developed by a certain Dr. Andrew Laitmer. This novel process was said to involve the manipulation certain atmospheric microclimes but Latimer’s secretly applied use of zonal time-fluxes had actually reversed the nuclear clouds’ dispersal patterns. Latimer of course explained none of this in detail to anyone but a select few -- those administering its use via Congressional black funding channels. And to even those who "understood" Latimer’s invention, only Latimer knew exactly what was involved. With this successful operation, millions of dollars in funding were shifted his way to further expand this zonal time-flux effect. Latimer penned articles and research papers as was the norm concerning a limited portion of his work. The deeper things he was unraveling remained is secret alone. That was to change soon. He dialed up William Fentress late one evening when his research reached a snag. Why not? Fentress had provided a sign post for Latimer years ago. It was time to thank him and ask for a few more ideas that might be locked in this eclectic writer’s head. He poured himself a drink and moused the call through to Fentress’ webphonemail node. Latimer activated his personal deep-latticed, fractal encryption package around the call. The new KGB and the CIA were listening to everyone these days. The call appeared in transit as a picture of George Push and Vladimir Butkin shaking hands and laughing at a recent anti-nuke conference. Fentress would later receive data from Latimer that would unlock the dummy handshake graphic as a request for a meeting at Duke University’s Perkins Library. Fentress and Latimer were to meet that Saturday afternoon in the stacks in a group study room. Both Fentress and Latimer would bring laptops filled with enough ideas to forever alter the known and the unknown mesh of time and space and all the in-betweens.

-----~*()*~~*()*~~*()*~-----

Part two: Dawning of the Day

Kazhnessh Ghyarn was an eons-olde, monitor peri-plex, flowing along the Outer Rim flexlines betxit Whorl 33 and Pathe Brilliant. Each flexline was a "dimensional" tempo-border locking adjacent times together. The Ghyarn were a timeless race living outside of the Pathe Brilliant and its many dancing sisters, the Time Whorls. Ghyarns that were interested, spent their eternities observing time-transient, unplanned whorl warps or "collisions" and deliberate "jumps". Most jumps were parallel whorl dwellers nearest the Axial Helix aka the Pathe Brilliant. Jumpers seeking to slow things down in their own universe via a vacation away from their specific whorl flow would attempt to avoid aging and the end of their own whorl-time path. Others from outer whorls of slower time-rates relative to Pathe Brilliant bored of eternally slow change sought the excitement of a multitude of swift deaths nearer the Axis.

One Ghyarn, Huz Drwa Dsiyoni erift Czsgy, said to have conceived the first Whorl trace and finally perfecting a way to travel along its length, evoked an odd luminosity. The councils of silences seeing its nature reflected and refracted its wavelengths into agreement. Whorl 33 was soon to reach its terminus. A decision was perfected into a consensus of sorrowed joys. Huz would leave Kazhnessh to fully experience the death of a Whorl. No Ghyarn had ever done such for fear of non-existence or worse when adjacent whorls collided into the void of a ceased Whorl. It was this very unknown essence that Huz desired to absorb. Huz generated a random pattern of energy and around his mind then resonated Whorl 33's song. Once in tune he fell into the Whorl trace called 33. A massive burst of energy flashed out where Huz drifted in -- conservational laws satisfied. The observers of Kazhnessh watched violet-fire plumes signal Huz’s entry with calm interest.

Huz weighed the choirs of life in this universe, tossed them about in his thoughts and randomly selected a set of musicks. He donned something called human flesh and stepped out into a peanut field in North Hampstead county, North Carolina, USA, on a small planet he would soon learn was called Earth. Huz picked the appearance nearest to humans he watched nearby. Huz looked at his dark brown hands and then rubbed them together. He realized by the reaction of these dark-skinned humans that his "nakedness" was not accepted. Listening to the song of their minds and lips, he walked back into the woods to look for proper attire these people called clothes. He needed britches, a shirt and shoes. Huz would wait for dark. He mingled himself into a large and tall plant he would learn later was a tree. The shouting humans ran right by him, confused that something called footprints stopped at the plant morph he’d moved within. Fear, an intense, emotion in these frail creatures, sent them all running away. Huz buried his mind in tree song and felt the nearby star filling him with light and energy. Randomly ordered atmospheric currents gently moved him though he remained in place. Small life forms danced in his song and slept close him beside in his woody embrace. A tree was a thing of peace and great patience. Huz ceased the deepness of his awareness until nightfall. A harvest moon spilled out across night sky. Huz awoke as a bird and flew over the quiet town of Margaretsville, followed the Roanoke river and then drifted down towards the lights of Roanoke City. He would finds clothing hanging on the back porch of a house where humans slept. Now dressed in denim britches, a NCSU T-shirt, and Nike shoes, Huz walked the busy streets of Roanoke and listened to the music of this people. He danced and clapped his hands and spun about lost in the joy of the thing called human on the street corner. Huz spent the most of the night in a local jail for being a "drunken vagrant". This was a very strange world and confused him. He passed through the bars, the doors, and the sleeping policeman and walked out into the early morning dawn. He stepped into the sky and rose into the clouds to see more of this world.

~*()*~

Elyza Jel stood near the prearranged slip-joint-point waiting on the flux. She arranged a Freestova array of shielding that would mask the entry point of the Niltyrn craft. Uncoiling itself in 3.5 nanoseconds and flexing across the ancient lakebed, the Freestova array was barely visible but reflected all sat scans, tower bounced probes, stop-smuggle patrols as well as planet-roving scrappers. Elyza sent the flux beacon into the array and took cover within her Go Go that had sunk itself 85% in the sand cliffs nearby. It was a waiting game now. Sometimes scrappers would arrive very close to a slip-joint-point and overwhelm smugglers and strip a craft of all its best parts in 20 minutes, bury it all in deep caves, and be gone in time enough to wave at stop-smuggle patrols passing overhead three hours later. What the patrols usually found was variously maimed corpses and assorted smuggled leftovers. Elyza had mined the area with enough explosives to thwart any such nonsense in conjunction with her soon to appear Niltyrn craft.

Elyza was a soon to be retired dealer in high-end transport craft. The Niltyrn was a first generation, rim-ready vessel -- being able to leave one part of the universe and arrive elsewhere in a few ticks. The elsewhere Elyza was interested in, was outside of the known universe. She had caught mind-word of a modified Niltyrn drive that recently sent a hybrid prototype and several talking heads, (ship minds), into a universe of altered time flow. The talking heads figured out how to return the ship to our universe in 10 sol-terran years of ship-sleep and number-crunching dreams. When they returned, a mere 3 days later and 30,000 light years off course in the rim galaxy of Xanthsin, the Niltyrn craft showed a chronometric lapse of 3,653 days. The collective minds agreed upon a rate flux of over 1,200 times normal time. The report was filed away as an oddity and only a handful of select individuals were working this out. The hybrid ship was disassembled and under investigation. Elyza had been analyzing the possible uses for such a modified Niltyrn of her own. She had already wangled a talking head connection to the same ship minds that had made the first trip. Before the "secret" was secret, the minds had excitedly broadcast their experience to several thousand neighboring ships. Elyza had managed to get a complete copy of the drive modifications, the ship log, the method of re-entry to our universe, and also one key piece of info. Something or someone in that other universe had been monitoring, and then followed the Niltyrn just before it left their universe. The ship minds said it was a vessel or perhaps a deep-space creature bigger than anything on record in our universe. That really excited Elyza’s collecting instinct. What was it? She wasn’t so much afraid of finding it as much as she was of figuring out how to bring it back to our universe and sell it for enough to retire on. She was also aware of the need to do the deed as quickly as possible as the time effect could catch her aging too fast to return to enjoy her retirement.

She broke free of her musings as the stolen Niltyrn suddenly hovered before her, encased in the Freestova array. Perfect. A set of sense-mines exploded to her right. Uh-oh.

~*()*~

Fentress had been to Duke University’s Perkins Library on many a lunch hour. He’d researched many an obscure and rare tome there. He’d read old books of first print Machen, Lovecraft, Dunsany, Chambers, Clark Ashton Smith and others. Today he was to meet an even odder destiny than any of those authors could have imagined. Dr. Latimer sat in a group study room just ahead. Fentress recognized him from recent news reports. Fentress was surprised to find Latimer dozing, his balding pate looking a ghastly pale color in the flickering fluorescent light. He awoke as Fentress opened the door. Latimer gestured to a seat across the table from his place. Fentress quickly scanned all the room and began towards the seat.

"Please close that door, Mr. Fentress."

"Ah, yes, of course, excuse me," Fentress pushed it shut and reached out to shake Dr. Latimer’s hand.

"Hello William," they shook hands, "call me Drew, please," Latimer said.

"What brings really us together, Drew?" Fentress asked.

"Hmm, I guess I was a bit vague on the phone," Latimer answered, "We have to be very careful about all this as several agencies in the US and New Russia are watching me."

Fentress’ stomach tightened at the thought of getting wrapped up all the black lists and webs of intrigue. Last time he had felt this way was when he met folks in secret to study "Eyes Only" government files on UFOs and supposed alien abductees. That was old news, he never finished the UFO book he’d started but the tension was very similar.

"Okay, I can believe that but what do you need from me?" Fentress asked.

"I read all your curious ideas on the nature of Time per Dunne and your own ideas meshed with a plethora of very imaginative graphics you included," Latimer opened his laptop, "And look here at what your ideas and my own have spawned."

Fentress looked over a few of Latimer’s graphics, their legends, and watched a few videos of time-flux experiments on-screen. He scrolled down to the conclusion section, saw references to the nuclear fallout cleanup methodology and looked over the screen at Latimer’s smiling face. Fentress smiled back and quickly skimmed through the rest of the data.

"Holy Mother of -- Drew!"

"Indeed."

"Is this for real?"

"What do you think?"

A student walked by with books -- Fentress closed the laptop. They both waited until the hall was empty again.

Latimer explained what things had proceeded as he’d envisioned and how his research was at a snag of no inspiration. The math and physics had taken him so far but his imagination was limited in some ways. He needed the art and limitless freedom of Fentress’ wild ideas. For three hours they brain stormed, argued, sketched out diagrams and shared inchoate ideas locked yet in their laptops and minds. Then Latimer clapped his hands together. Fentress looked up from his laptop. Latimer spun his own screen around and Fentress looked at it and laughed with joy at the animation of a meta-reality and how it interacted with Time. This world’s world line glowed with the luminosity of the Eternal Now in that room.

Even Kazhnessh Ghyarn near Whorl 33 registered the morphogenetic ripples reaching out from that zone. They hoped Huz had sensed the crescendos of beauty flowing out of and into the very world he was visiting.

Huz glided over Durham, North Carolina as the moment of brilliancies flooded the Duke University canvas. He descended to sit atop the chapel tower and bask in this taste of eternity and ineffable light. His tutors of Kazhnessh Ghyarn couldn’t have prepared him for the bliss, the pure elation of seeing men take their first steps away from the confines of their own universe. He focused the exact nature of his very own inspiration and understanding of "allness" and "sang" to the souls all around him. Fentress and Latimer looked at one another and knew they were experiencing an epiphany of sorts, an infusion of gracious peace and they became silent. Students suddenly figured out tough problems, musicians composed, dancers stretched anew, surgeons quickly found tumors in operating room crises nearby, criminals drop their guns, and ministers suddenly saw past tradition and caught a glimpse of the Ancient of Days. It was a night of rejoicing and humility. Huz spread his eagle wings and headed north to this place called Washington, D.C.

~*()*~

Gytarhmon and Brafgit Attahw targeted the scrapper hordes heading their way and sent volleys of shockblasts and gel-fire upon the advancing front. They coded Elyza’s Go Go location and extended a safe-field around her. Once that was in place, Brafgit Attahw laughed aclicking and aslurping as he dumped all the Niltyrn’s extra drive ion-plasma in a 360 degree dispersal pattern. The blast left the Go Go and Elyza hanging in mid-air, the surrounding landscape and the Freestova array were atomized. And, of course the scrappers were no more.

"Elyza’s okay I hope?" Gytarhmon asked.

"Ofth courthe, juth a nathtee headache when we wake her up," Brafgit Attahw lisped and laughed his mandibular orifice with abandon, "Therthvth her right for letting them thcrapperthz get too clohth to uth!"

Gytarhmon lifted Elyza and the Go Go with a grav-neg beam and pulled her into the Niltyrn’s cargo bay.

"Brafgit Attahw, get us out of here now! CX-47 patrols coming!"

"Way we came?"

"Just do it!"

"Thure, thure, hold on, now they hthee uth, now they don’t!"

The Niltyrn vanished in the midst of a closing circle of CX-47 stop-smuggle cops. They entered data of what traces they could read, left a sentry mind, and dispersed. The Niltyrn was already on the far side of the universe.

-----~*()*~~*()*~~*()*~-----

Huz was supposed to be an observer only but his very nature exuded a presence that changed things. His elder council lordlies knew Huz would stray, young and exuberant, and flexing his powers in a dimensional existence. It was also known that Whorl 33 was destined for demise and little harm could really come of Huz’s being part of this universe. At least it was assumed this would be the case but love is stronger than death, wiser than wisdom, and sends ripples of change that outlast time-space’s temporal trails. Huz was to love.

~*()*~

Gytarhmon and Brafgit Attahw let Elyza awake on her own as they feared waking her with the news they had. Elyza kicked the Go-Go 88's door open and threw a leg out. As she stood, she nearly passed out, her head hurt so bad she was nauseated and vertigo was sending her to her knees. The Niltyrn’s mind was online for auto-evasion routines while Gytarhmon and Brafgit Attahw were double-checking their current ship status. The talking head, Regil, observed Elyza with concern.

"May I be of help? You are suffering side-effects of my recent ion-plasma burst," Regil spoke.

"Nice," Elyza answered, "An ion-plasma burst, great."

"It was effective in scrapper control on our CX-47 arrival."

"So ship, where are we now?" Elyza asked, rising slowly to her feet.

"I am Regil, class 12, sync level 3, not ‘ship’ and we are near the Rim in DW-98's unmapped regions, Elyza."

"How do you know my name ship?"

"I am Regil, class 12, sync level 3, not ‘ship’ and Go-Go 88 4554 AE told me, Elyza Jel of New Land 328."

"Okay, Regil, tell Gytarhmon to get his butt down here right now!"

"Done," Regil said, then buzzed an unintelligible sound.

Elyza’s Go-Go 88 folded in on itself and was lifted by grav-neg beam into a storage/recharge hold.

"Thanks, Regil," Elyza sat back down on a nearby fytz cannister.

"Gytarhmon, will arrive in 3.8 seconds, Elyza."

"Yeah, thanks," Elyza pointed her Wicked-Stik at the door.

Gytarhmon entered and ducked behind a nearby cargo bin.

"You deserve this, Gytarhmon!" Elyza blasted a heat level one cone at the bin.

"Stop it!"

Elyza put her Wicked-Stik back in its hip slot.

Gytarhmon stood up slowly, his face reddened by the heat blast. He smiled at Elyza.

"Don’t start that crap, Gyt’mon!"

"Elyza, you beautiful thing you! Ah, as splendidly ravishing as much as last time we met on New Land when --"

"Gyt’mon, shut it. What’s our status and how’s my Niltyrn?"

-----~*()*~~*()*~~*()*~-----

 

Part Three: The Day

Fentress walked away from the Duke Chapel in a fugue state following 15 minutes of prayer, still unhinged from his earlier meeting with Latimer and his intense internal dialogue with the God of his fathers and mothers. If what Latimer’s science indicated and his own bizarre mental meanderings whispered were gospel – oh my, oh my – his own Universe was so small a part of the Grander Schema of things. His God was an even more elaborate Creator than he had ever dreamt and many "new truths" could leak across unseen boundaries. Did the truth of his Elohim, his Savior, and his own soul extend across time, across many times, across the span of parallel realities? He sat down on a cold concrete bench and rubbed his hand over its silent roughness. So real, so hard, so man-made, so temporal though its weight could crush me and end my world-line. Yet in 30 or 40 years it could crumble into dust with enough freeze-thaws. What was he trying to figure out anyway? Fentress took off his glasses and rubbed his smarting, sleep-deprived eyes. Students flitted by, Frisbees flew and dogs ran. He looked up into the tree canopy above him, lost in the new yellow-green foliage. Spring was emerging in its memorable way again. He closed his eyes and turned his soul towards heaven. He wished for guidance, for grace, for someone to come by his side, for that still small voice to speak. He wished for peace amidst a crisis of a horror of great blackness of a million outer voids encircling his soul.

A young black man stood nearby, watching Fentress, sensing a call. He had cancelled his flight to Washington when he felt the call. Something deeper than all the wonder of Ghyarn gripped him, drew him to this moment. He walked towards Fentress realizing a greater need than learning pulled him forward. Huz couldn’t begin to understand what compassion or love meant in any sense of the word but he rejoiced and broke forth into song.

Most everyone passing by figured it was just another cultural event on the Quad and ignored the beauty. But William Fentress lifted his eyes up from his own pitiful gloom realm and thought he was hearing the music of the spheres, the voice of the guide he sought. It was a language of the angelic choirs, the echoes within the temple, and Huz’s song caressed his heart. The song faded as Huz came closer and smiled. Fentress put his glasses back on to see who was singing but Huz had turned a dimensional corner. He remained close yet chose to be unseen for a time. Fentress looked all around and saw no one singing. He feared he was losing it finally – then, he sensed deeply, he should never again think such things. He kept the song hidden in his heart and was encouraged as he stood and walked back to his office. He stopped briefly, looked behind him and wondered what was "there", "with him" shadowing him. He shook it off like a chill and left his thoughts to wander on.

~*()*~

Latimer compiled his notes from his meeting with Fentress and double-checked all his calculations. He would need a hefty power source delivered to his lab, cut through the usual red tape, and get another black funding budget going. When they saw what he had now and that it meant their earlier laughter about "a doorway to make Stargate fans drool" was now turned back on them – "Ah, beautiful," he chuckled to himself. He closed his laptop, stood up, and felt his chest tighten, his left arm go numb, and he was getting tunnel-vision flashes of light. He slipped to his knees, doubled-up in pain like he’d been shot in his chest. Latimer slumped to his side on the cold floor tiles. His breathing spasmed and he sighed a deep regret. His hearing was fading as Vaughan William’s "Lark Ascending" playing on the radio was fading out too soon, too soon, too soon as Dr. Andrew Latimer passed on through his private door to eternity.

~*()*~

A dry-wet blade rocketed past Gyt’mon’s ear and turned back to strike home in his left temple but Regil activated a field that vectored the d-w blade to the floor and held it there while Brafgit chuckled. Elyza turned and left the engine room.

"I told you to thtop bothering her," Brafgit chattered.

"All I did was tell her the engine mods to her precious ship would take Regil a few days to double-check," Gyt’mon answered, "and she throws a d-w at my head."

"Thome thingth jutht bother thome folkth I thuppothe more than you think."

"Shall I return the knife to Elyza?" the ship asked.

"Crush it, Regil, molecularize it, and add it to the scrap for this engine mod," Gyt’mon ordered.

A field of intense blue lifted the knife from the floor, then a matrix shredder diced it into dust. Its basic alloys were spun into filamentous neuro-webbing. The whole mesh was then threaded into the modded engine’s crepuscular phase shielding.

"Done," Regil said, "testing will commence soon."

About that time, a deep, nearly infrasonic rumbling began in the engine’s lower levels. The room Gyt’mon and Brafgit were standing in shook the slightest bit and the freshly installed mods were all firing up. Regil was caught by surprise as well as everyone else.

"What’s –"

"Oh thhit!"

"She has bypassed my security program somehow and overridden the main controls," Regil shrieked.

"Boys, get secured in somewhere! This is my ship and I wanna do some test driving before Regil wastes anymore of my time," Elyza’s amplified voice rang down the halls and in the upper engine room, "You’re welcome to come up here and watch or take a nap."

"She’s going to have to pay us extra for this abuse," Gyt’mon said.

"Yeah, ethtra loot for all the fun we’re having," Brafgit sputtered and laughed.

"Return control of this ship or risk damaging it in its modified configuration. You have no idea of what you are doing, Elyza Jel," Regil urged.

"On the contrary, I have studied all the mods and exactly how this Niltyrn works from inside out. I also know precisely why we are now in what portion of space we are located and exactly why a ‘ship’ mind like yours need not interfere but just take notes and do what I ask when I ask. Clear?" Elyza replied.

About that time both Gyt’mon and Brafgit entered the nav-drive module. They quietly settled into their field restraints and watched Elyza carefully. She had two small grav-neg, remotes holding mini-Wick-Stiks on them. She wanted no trouble from them.

"Brafgit, check both your account stats," Elyza said, "And see that bonus in there for all your troubles."

"Nith, very nith bonuthzz."

"Where are we headed?" Gyt’mon asked.

"I can drop you off at the nearest jumpzone or you can earn another bonus and come along for a ride you’ll never forget. Your choice."

"Bonuth! Bonuth!"

"Shut up, Brafgit," Gyt’mon said, "And why do you want us along?"

"I don’t need you really, only an invite to be part of the biggest info heist of the universe – that’s all."

"Big heitht, big bonuth, leth go!"

"Brafgit!" Gyt’mon shouted, "I am in charge of our little team’s exploits, remember?"

"Jutht maybe, I quit and team up with Elytha?"

Elyza laughed and Gyt’mon turned away to look at the Outer Rim’s starry and nebulaed silence.

"We’re in for the cash, all the way, all the time," Gyt’mon whispered.

"Yeth!"

"Elyza Jel, may I be of service in your attempts to punch through the Rim’s string folds? The space-time signatures there are very complex and even this type ship needs to exercise extreme care in not becoming trapped and or folded into a singularity," Regil said.

"Sure, Regil, you nav – and I drive the new mod engine program. No cutesy ship-mind tricks or I’ll off-line ya and load a non-sentient backup."

"And what do we do now?" Gyt’mon asked.

"Enjoy the ride," Elyza answered, "and hope it’s not your last."

The Niltyrn began a series of precise anglings, bursts of field adjustings, and then blurred into impact with the strange-space known as the Outer Rim. Some considered it a dimensional "navel" or the knot in the great cosmic balloon. Whatever you called it – things that were sent in – never came out.

~*()*~

Whorl 33 was poised on the threshold of its demise. To the inhabitants of this universe, its billions of years past would extend for at least billions upon billions years hence. But even reality can be finicky about its own existence. The very same unknowns on a quantum level also can operate on a meta-level and Whorl 33 had essentially 72 hours before it collapsed, winked out, and all its energies and memories disperse along a myriad of flexlines into Pathe Brilliant. The councils of Kazhnessh Ghyarn watched as Huz was nearing an unknown destiny. Within whorls was mystery the denizens of Kazhnessh Ghyarn rarely pondered. Their own greater aspects and vistas beyond this place of Time Whorls and the Pathe Brilliant held sway over busying themselves with universes that winked in and out on a semi-predictable manner. Yet one of their own, young Huz, has chosen to do just what no Ghyarn ever dreamt of – to take on matter and all its peculiar contortions and temporalities. Huz was to love.

~*()*~

Latimer’s lack of response to the phone and to all mails perplexed Fentress. Even the quiet urgings of Huz were ignored and Fentress went about his life of ho-hum. He wondered sometimes if that Latimer thing was just a dream sometimes as his meds did keep him a bit detached from the edged corners of reality. When he saw the news a few days later, the horrible side of reality sank in. Latimer was dead and all his research and findings with him. Fentress knew that the black ops and Fed boys would be all over that laptop, all the notes, and soon they’d come for him. He panicked. As he rose to close his office blinds in a paralyzing fear, he noticed a laser-targeting, light beam dance blood-crimson in the dust motes of dusk’s soft light. At 6:03 pm, William Fentress died of a cerebral hemorrhage. A liposome-delivered, rapid-acting, vaso-lytic factor drug was injected via a micro-missle shot into his left eye from behind a Duke gargoyle, sprouting a high-powered weapon.

Huz watched Fentress die and felt confusion and a sense of loss and helplessness. He hovered near the gunman and observed him slip off into the nearby gardens after exiting the building with an oddly-shaped case. Why had this man caused Fentress to die so violently? Much of this seemed useless. He wanted to interfere, to change this madness and sorrow into joy and wonder but he must not. Whorl 33 would soon end anyway wouldn’t it? How could anything he might do really matter? Yet the code of the Ghyarn was to observe and know, not to change things concerned with lower lifeforms.

Still, the joy of this Whorl’s people on this "Earth" was soon to end. The wondrous things that Latimer and Fentress had discovered would be lost to this world. Now, there was no way out, no escape for anyone. But why did he care? This Whorl 33 was but one of millions dying and being reborn. And this planet was but one small green and watery rock in a whole universe. What was happening to him? Huz was caring.

Love was moving into him. Its particular joy and its song welled up within this Ghyarn. He could not understand this sudden and passionate concern that moved him to action. Huz quickly swept through Fentress’ files and notes. He found what he needed and headed for Latimer’s lab to find out what was happening with his work. These people needed a small boost in finding the way out of Whorl 33 and into an adjacent one. All they needed was some inspiration, the sudden understanding of their world’s dilemma, and a door to be opened – a door big enough for one small planet to pass though. Simple enough for this Ghyarn . . .

-----~*()*~~*()*~~*()*~-----

Part Four: Twilight looming

48.7 millennia ago a Ghyarn known as Numen had worked havoc in the minds of several worlds of Whorl 32. The majority of them rebelled against this renegade "deity" and escaped mysteriously into an alternate Whorl. Numen was enraged and sought to follow them but the occultic councils of Kazhnessh Ghyarn chose to limit Numen's range of terror to one universe that would one day cease to exist. Possibly, before such time came, Numen would repent of his ways and be restored. Numen instead raged and ranged his twistedness all the more. His monstrous powers and morphing abilities to pose even as an entire galaxy of stars and planets were well known to Kazhnessh Ghyarn. They watched him lure many a life into death. What motivated Numen remained a mystery.

It was into Whorl 32 that Elyza Jel was to bring the Niltyrn craft. It was the unknown monstrosity known only to Kazhnessh Ghyarn as Numen that she sought to capture and bring back to her own universe as treasure. Numen awaited just such a way to escape Whorl 32. Numen would cloak himself as part of this ship and slip out into fresh killing fields. One universe and its singular sting of death was not enough. Numen crouched at the dimensional portal and waited.

~*()*~

Huz was running out of time. Though the knowledge was there amongst the two labs of Fentress and Latimer, it was scattered now across a hive of activity, notes encrypted, stored, and hidden. This world's inhabitants were casting their hopes to the winds. Huz could never gather it all together in time. He couldn't convince nor force all this world's men of reason to come together and cooperate to help themselves to be saved. Huz despaired and drifted across the oceans and many highways and byways of Earth. He took it all in and tried to know Us -- to remember what We were. He stopped his pilgrimage and watched over the funerals and burials of Fentress and Latimer. The sadness, the joys, the tears and laughter filled him.

In a last-minute flash of agony Huz enveloped the entire Earth in himself, to somehow shield Us, to shift Us, to birth Us anew. Whorl 33 collapsed into a web of flexlines and our universe splintered back into the Pathe Brilliant -- like mayflies falling into the twilight glow of summers forgotten.

~*()*~

The Niltyrn survived the crossing into Whorl 32 and Numen immediately entered the outer gates nigh unto the inner cybersanctum of the ship's mind.

"I am under attack! Purge my core now and flash my bios-fields!" the Niltyrn bellowed, "I have already sent an imprint of myself back across the way we came."

"What?" Elyza Jel asked, fearing the worst.

"As soon as we entered this other universe, my peri-mind sensed a trojan, a hitch-hiker or a worm mind-thing. It is now seeking access to my core. If it is successful, you will have no control of this ship and will be at this thing's mercy. Immediate purge is urged now! I cannot purge myself as you have modified my access to this function!" the ship pleaded.

"Nith work," Brafgit Attahw sighed.

"Gytarhmon! Do a Purge now!" Elyza yelled as she fought to regain control of ship life-support as Numen gradually was eroding such.

"Drop all the security measures on us?" Gytarhmon bargained.

"Done," Elyza switched off her death-toys and they returned to their places.

Gytarhmon reached for the Purge sequence codex panel when Brafgit Attahw slammed Elyza across her neck with nearly enough force to kill her. She was out cold.

"Ththip? Take uth back the way we came. Now!" Brafgit Attahw commanded.

Regil, in the ship' s enforcer drone, came around a corner with an aim of some kamikaze projectile and was about to do some slamming of his own when Gytarhmon codex'd Regil's drone-mind-link into oblivion during the ship mind's battling its own inner demon. Regil's drone-self, a metallic emptiness, clanged off the wall near Gytarhmon's head. Brafgit Attahw took advantage of Regil's unshielded fragility and chewed a chunk out of Regil's bio-mech matrix.

"Tathtee brainth and eggth brunch," Brafgit belched as he trampled the empty "leftovers" drone-shell underfoot. He belched once more and re-chewed what came back up.

"What is happening? Where's Regil? You fools! He's gone? I sense Elyza is hurt. And now you want me to take us back across the portal with this alien mind eating away at me?" the ship mind faltered through a failing reasoning capacity as Numen battered away at the core.

Gytarhmon answered, "Do your last duty ship and navigate us home! Just follow your mind imprint trace back outta here! We don't plan on any Purge until we are safe on the other side. So get cranking or we will let whatever is bugging you get into the core with you. By then we will be long gone on the escape pod. Your choice -- think fast."

"Prepare for reversed-flow entry and negative-burst portal thrust. I cannot guarantee where we will wind up nor our survival," the ship indicated.

"Just do it!" Gytarhmon shouted into the empty echoes of another portal crossing. The Niltyrn shuddered a bit. The core held as Numen turned his attention away from the core to reveling in his escape. Reality vanished again.

~*()*~

The death of a universe is a spectacular thing to behold and an awful given to accept. Huz was the first Ghyarn to ever experience such from within a Whorl death. He was also the first of Kazhnessh Ghyarn outpost to attempt what he had intended. He survived both and was sent to the Source to recover.

Huz awoke among the misty pavilions and cathedral echoes of tall slender Ghyarn wraith forms moving about him.

"He is finished," a nearby Ghyarn sang.

"Where am I? What of the Earth and --" Huz began.

"You are in the Hall of the Keeper Avatars. You hold your own answers," A booming Ghyarn chorus of voices loomed about him.

Huz had heard of this place of this palace of Savior Ghyarns. But why was he here? He was about to speak when the answer arose from within him. All that was the Earth, all that was Man was part of him. His mind blossomed, exploded, and was nearly overwhelmed with the essences of this planet's life and its death. Yet somehow it lived on -- in him. He stood and bowed himself to the other Avatars serenading him and then sang the song of Man. It was a glorious cacophony and the Hall of the Keeper Avatars filled the Source with a new musick. The temples tolled the bells of oblation.

~*()*~

Kazhnessh Ghyarn's elders spoke of their new favorite son Huz, "The timeless echoes of his choice moved him to comply with his destiny. Is it not so?"

"So it seems but Huz speaks now of a love that was birthed in him while on Earth, an essence, an emotion that moved him to act so selflessly to try and save a whole race of these time-bound creatures. How is this a destiny? Is it not but one choice that leads to yet another choice in time and the endpoint is always a destiny -- so called?"

"Point well spoken -- Huz was in essence rash, risking a wrong of intervention. He had no intent at first but to understand a Whorl death. We here saw the chance that Huz would involve himself in unwise ways. It could have gone very badly for him yet now he walks the Halls of the Source, a Keeper Avatar beholding even the glories of the One!"

"And then there is this Numen. Why does the One have mercy and extend the grace of existence to such a horror. Even now it seems Numen has been allowed to move between Whorls. Kazhnessh Ghyarn has seen him attempt this before but it is confirmed and reported that the blight of his twistedness infects a new Whorl. Why does the One let this evil spread?"

"Perhaps Creator Avatars love their own creations good or bad more than the created ones can ever understand."

"But Numen is evil beyond understanding. The One made him this way -- yes?"

"Yes and no. Numen became self-absorbed as we all know and now refuses to believe he is created. Instead he sees himself as persecuted, unjustly maligned, a threat to a hidden Truth, which is but a self-conceived lie he has adopted as the Truth. Perhaps the One sees a good that comes in Numen as a lesson, an unforgettable example to all that are and are to be."

"It is being spoken in Kazhnessh Ghyarn that Numen seeks to turn all creation into an army, a rebellion, a shout towards all of us that he is indeed his own Creator Avatar and there is no One to whom we ascribe our service and devotion. Numen spoke many times of freedom, of cutting the cord, of standing proudly before the incident long ago. What is this freedom which enslaves him now? Can he not see how he has fallen?"

"No, it will be -- wait, observe, Numen is coalescing! See there on that planet in Whorl 34!"

"Yes, I see! As Whorl 33 died, Whorls 34 and 32 came crashing together and propelled Numen into that spiral galaxy just there. And it seems one flesher survived in transit -- a female!"

"We will watch quietly now -- for say, another 10 millennia, Whorl 34 time, before we speak anymore."

"Agreed."

-----~*()*~~*()*~~*()*~-----

Part Five: Nightfall

For some unknown reason Numen passed over Elyza and smote both Brafgit Attahw and Gytarhmon. He dissolved them slowly with a satisfaction he hadn't felt in many decades. The Niltyrn fell to Earth.

"Ah, to celebrate my escape with a bit of death and dissolution ~ yet one more piece of creation in entropy. Delightful!"

Numen was bored with his metal alloy-silica form and vacated the ship mind's core he had possessed. He took up residence in a nearby rainbow-hued, gracile hominoid. This creature's sagittal crest was adorned with a comb of pulsating light.

"What a beautiful specimen to pollute with my warpedness," Numen mused.

He climbed down from the tree, stood up, walked off, and began re-ordering the primitive neural pathways of this semi-bipedal oddity. There was malice to be worked out here.

~*()*~

Elyza Jel awoke in a heap of twisted metal and smoldering plastic. The Niltyrn had impacted the planet's atmosphere at too high a rate of speed for the nearly-infected ship mind to adjust for a safe landing. Numen however, had located a watery landing site after fully infesting the core and semi-successfully, safely crashed the craft in some marshes between two large sub-tropic rivers. Elyza was bruised of mind and body but managed to sit up.

"Elyza," the ship mind sputtered, "the Purge is not needed now, the alien mind has left me. Your Niltyrn is inoperable and the escape pods are not functional. Suggested course of action is --"

"Who's there? Where are you?" Elyza asked slowly.

"Elyza, it's the ship. I am here."

"What ship? Come out and show yourself," Elyza slowly backed away from the nearest speaker.

"Please listen carefully without speaking until I finish. You have suffered a severe blow to your head and a form of amnesia has robbed you of your memories. Listen to me. You are Elyza Jel and I am your Niltyrn craft. The alien force that attacked my core and crashed this ship killed Brafgit Attahw and Gytarhmon. You and I are survivors of inter-dimensional travel. Unfortunately, you will not believe any of this until your memories resurface -- if such happens. And to make matters worse, this craft is slowly sinking in the marsh outside. My weight is too much for the saturated substrata to support. Get out now! Mark this spot as one day you may need my help. My core is protected from most environments and I have enough power to wait here for 18.9 thousand years, this planet's time. Good-bye. I am shutting down until needed again to conserve my core power," and silence returned.

Elyza was definitely not herself but understood enough to realize danger when murky water began pouring through an opening that shuttered open above her. She climbed out and swam and slogged to a nearby rush-festooned bank. She watched the Niltyrn gurgling and sinking out of sight. Steam rolled across the lagoon with the morning breeze.

Numen watched, smiling from behind a club-moss, tree fern. He wandered off and formulated another planet's dying.

"Elyza," she wondered outloud.

She looked around her, trying to remember this place for later, for whatever the ship spoke about in her future. Right now she was hungry, hurting, scared, and lonely.

~*()*~

She found him asleep -- not too far from where she fell from heaven -- so to speak. He was very, very interested in her. He cared for her. He fed her. He helped her to understand his ways. He and Elyza eventually learned more than the language of love. She spoke of the stars above them and dreamt of going "home" wherever that was. She never quite really could get a hold on the exact memories lost to her. He would smile at her beautiful stories. She was fascinated with his knowledge of the flora and fauna all about them. For mile upon mile of their journeys they never saw another human. Where had this man come from? He only knew enough to tell her he was a son of his God, the Creator. Elyza found this odd but even odder was his absence of a navel. Strange . . . very strange indeed.

They caught glimpses of rainbow-colored things that ran through the jungles and across the distant savanna. They deeply interested Elyza but her mysterious new friend held them in a type of fearful awe. He spoke of them as troublesome to his soul. It was as if these things looked into his mind from afar and whispered confusion so he always avoided them and sometimes waved his arms and shouted them away. Elyza never felt this way. It was the only sore subject between them. Elyza told him how there was a place they could go and perhaps get some answers about these things. After weeks of pleading, some tears, and silent days -- they both returned to where the Niltyrn was submerged.

"My soul fears we will find only more questions and not answers here," he spoke.

"Adam, please help me drain this swamp and you will see how I came from the heavens to you as you dreamed would happen," Elyza asked.

"Very well, my love," he smiled and laughed off his fears.

~*()*~

"Welcome back, Elyza," the ship awoke and answered her voice pattern.

"It is alive!" Adam said.

"In a way, yes." Elyza answered, "but it is a machine I remember somehow, made by other men like you, out there where I came from."

"Only men in heaven could do such things, yes."

"Elyza, has the alien mind contacted you or have you seen its evidence of being about? I fear for your safety as it nearly destroyed me and did kill your crew," the ship spoke.

"I don't think so but we are troubled here by certain rainbow-colored man-like things that haunt us but stay afar off," Elyza answered.

Adam listened intently, awaiting heaven's machine to amen his fears.

"It is my concern that this malicious mind may be among them. If this is so then this place should be forbidden now to your return, as the knowledge I hold may still be of use to this other mind. It may be lurking close by even now," the mind warned, "Flood this area again and do not return. You will be safer living out your days far from here. Perhaps in 18.9 millennia it will be safe for your ancestors to visit me. So speak of my resting-place here in a respectful fear and teach that after evil has left this world -- I may speak to men and women again. Good-bye." The mind shut down itself again.

"He has left?"

"No, it's asleep for a very, very long time," Elyza sadly replied.

-----~*()*~~*()*~~*()*~-----

Part Five: Midnight

Several years passed and one day Elyza ventured alone back to the sunken Niltyrn. She cast flowers on the lagoon's still surface.

"Good bye my old friend and my old life. I will miss speaking of the stars with you. I will perhaps never quite understand why I am here and what this evil is that you spoke of nor what the those rainbow things really are and why they avoid us."

Elyza turned to leave and Numen stepped out into the moonlight to face her.

"Do not be afraid, woman," Numen spoke, his head's column of lambent flame glowed as he thought-spoke to her soul, "I am of the stars as you are. Come let's speak of these things. I can smell your hunger."

Elyza nearly ran but this creature was beautiful, gentle, and full of light that glowed even in near-darkness. She cast aside her fears and the counsel of Adam. She sat at he feet of Numen and slowly regained much of her memory, bit by bit.

~*()*~

And a child was born amidst sorrow and joy.*

 

-----~*()*~~*()*~~*()*~-----

Fin

 

==================================================

My thanks go out to Iain M. Banks and Robert Charles Wilson for the wonderful
worlds of the future and alternate realities shifting so close to our own that they write of in their sci-fi books!


*Another note: Though this tale my seem to indicate a lack of "faith" in my Creator God, the Lord Jesus, nothing is further from the truth. My faith is grounded on personal realities I have lived and have become part of me. God grants me an imagination that my Generic Christian Mystic background has a great deal of fun exercising. I urge everyone to re-evaluate their own relationship to the King of all Universes. Now there's a reality beyond what we limited "soul boxes" normally experience. Once the Infinite touches you -- you will never doubt again in His reality. ~ the author

E-mail me if you enjoyed this tale or would like to use it in any e-zine or hard copy publication.
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"I wanna go home now!!"