Thursday, 24 July 2014

Dreams of Morpheus



I woke up from the same earthbound dreams again; dreams full of sights, sounds, touch, smells and warmth. I hadn’t experienced such things for decades now, but they came to me all the same. It was my sacrifice, my name would immortalised so I was told; the life keeper, the warden, the pilot of Morpheus. Immortalised? Oh yes my name would be infamous, after what I did. Something felt different this morning; I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

I felt her stir beside me as I woke, not that Juanita really ever slept of course. If she had dreams, she never remembered them to tell me.  I felt her hands reach towards me, caressing me. She knew what I liked and soon I felt her smooth, ageless  pseudoskin against mine. She had once been my sexual ideal, custom made to my tastes, and I had revelled in her when we had first set out and yet, over the years, she had become nothing but a sweet gaoler. She was meant to keep me sane of course, an escape from the crippling loneliness, but my dreams told me otherwise.

I kissed and held her afterwards, for a while it all seemed real, but soon the moment had passed and reality became clear; as the lights flashed on heralding my beckoning duties. I was merely holding a pleasure cyborg; beautiful, yet soulless. She waved me goodbye; I had disabled her speech mechanisms after her awkward questions had got insistent. Besides I had soon exhausted her programmed conversation menu. She wasn't mortal, she never aged, she never heard the voices...

I rose easily, that was one mercy the artificial gravity afforded to my advancing years. If my dreams ever came real my skeletal structure would more than likely just collapse. I went to the adjoining gym, strapping myself in the treadmill and went through my exercise regime. I showered, the vacuum pump was noisy, indicating the filtration system was playing up again. I added it to the day’s duties. How many times has this water been through me now? Every shower I had this same thought, trapped as I am in my molybdenum alloy home.

I fixed myself a breakfast of synthicereals. How I longed for fruit! Real Fruit! A Crunchy apple with sweet juice that would flood my mouth or grapes… I put such self-torture out of my mind. I tried the faucet, holding the cup close to it due to the part grav, every drop was precious; even the water vapour I breathed and the sweat I exuded was scrubbed from the air and recycled. I smelt the water; it had an unpleasant aroma despite it being cold from the cryo tubing. The filtration system was definitly playing up. I poured it carefully away back into the filtration inlets. I would get a set of tools on the way to the computer room. I grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge that I had previously set aside. It upset the resources diagnostics, which I had to bypass, but the years had taught me that the water filtration system was prone to problems. Over the years I had disconnected many of the systems from the mainframe.

I bounded down the corridor. Funny how even now the sensation still was joyful. Did I dream of full gravity? Was I aware of it? I must try to take that in when I’m next asleep. I timed my next leap to land next to the tool store. I punched in the number and retrieved a set. I looked at my hands, they were old and wrinkled. I realised I had lost all track of the years. I felt a wave of regret wash over me; or was it guilt? I fought back the tears; they would only be recycled anyway. I leant against the wall. The background vibration felt different and I was reminded of my waking thoughts. How long had we been cruising now since I turned off the Deuterium Helium 3 Inertia Engine? Forty years? Fifty years? More?

The superstructure creaked more than usual. It reminded me of when the Winterberg Fusion engines were running for the first ten years, propelling us to 17% light speed. How the creaks and groans had become voices echoing down the length of the beryllium shielding. I learnt that they were the voices of those who slept, while I worked alone;  my life slipping away into monotony. The voices had taunted me, but I had silenced them.

I reached the computer room, hydrating myself as I sat down and punched the console into active mode. The touch sensitive keys had worn, only memory told me where I was to place my fingertips.

“Morning Raoul.” The female voice of the mainframe computer cheerily said. It sounded different, almost excited.

“What have you got for me babe?” I replied yawning.

“Last night we came within range of the navigation beacon for Barnard’s Star, the magsail was deployed as we came into its heliosphere. Our voyage is over Raoul, after 54 years and 6 Light Years.  The cryopods are being activated. The crew will be awake when we rendezvous with the robotic Helium mining equipment around the gas giant. Take a look.”

The shielding over the forward portal slid open to reveal my first view of the Barnard’s system. It was a red dwarf star, like the sun, but different. We were heading for a distant gas giant, its bands streaked red from the rays of this alien sun, as it consumed its iron, its bright glory spent. From here the crew would have mined the Helium 3 and carried on to the Cygnus binary system to find the exoplanet from which the signal had been heard. Would have… They shouldn’t have taunted me about my lost youth.

I arose from the chair. “I need to repair the filtration system.”

“But Raoul, we’ve done it! Our mission together is accomplished.”

I walked away from her voice. Did it contain disappointment? It should if it knew.

I carried the tool case but thinking upon it, the futility was apparent. I dropped it on the floor and headed to the pressure suit cabinets and airlocks. I suited up and closed the door behind me.

 
“Rauol! Where are you going?” the computer said in a worried tone.

“I’m just going out for a walk babe.”

“Raoul! I forbid it. It’s too dangerous while we are still travelling at such a spee…”

I flicked off the intercom, another bypass I had found. By now the cryopods would be beginning to open. The occupants would crawl out confused and senile; the living ones that is. They had been older than me to begin with and to silence them I had bypassed the Time Stasis Buffers. I chuckled to myself. Mock me would you? The lonely man with the sexbot? At least I’ve been conscious while I aged between the stars, unlike you, who have aged and died while you slept.

I closed the visor on the helmet and saw my wrinkled and lined face in the reflection. It had all been for nothing, but I had seen what no other human had seen. I stepped out of the airlock. Behind the magnetic sail was vast and open, slowing our momentum. In the vacuum of space the speed was barely discernable. I walked around the hull, my magnetic boots keeping me attached, until I saw the star  clearly as the Morpheus entered into its orbit. It was big at this closing distance, despite its labelling as a red dwarf. Its red glow reminded of a dream of a reality that was so long ago. To feel the warmth of the sun on my face, just one more time; I opened the visor to a cacophony of warnings. The alarms were strident until silenced by the vacuum, the cold, airless vacuum…

 


“So the same thing happened in this simulation as well?”

“Yes Commander,” the Flight Director replied, “It would appear that Mr Fernandez suffered the same severe space madness. A great pity; we actually made it to Barnard’s Star this time.  I’ve got to admire the way his madness covered its tracks during this simulation. We definitely need some kind of hull buffering. All the subjects heard voices during the voyage. I've double checked the simulation programming, its not a glitch.”

“Just paranoid delusion, Director, the mind will hallucinate voices out of the silence of space if it wants to. Besides we cannot increase the weight without adversely affecting the fuel capacity of the Morpheus. See that Mr Fernandez has his memory wiped clean prior to bringing out of hyper dream sleep stasis. It still amazes me, 54 years squeezed into a week. Put in the false memory of a week’s holiday in Hawaii, pay him and thank him for his time. We still need a Life Keeper; we just have to keep looking for the right stuff.”

“A holiday in Hawaii Commander?”

“Yes, a holiday that included a whirlwind romance with a great beauty called Juanita…”

 

 

Monday, 21 July 2014

The Sun Shard - Excerpt

*** In a shameless bit of self promotion of my Flint & Steel, Fire & Shadow fantasy series, I hope you enjoy the following excerpt. ***



He was Kress Startooth of the Flint Folk, war cleric, bush priest, but before that he had been a hunter and warrior of great renown. He mouthed a silent prayer to his gods, the Great Mother and the All-Father, to impel his enemies, “Come on, follow the path before you”.

The soldier got his way, almost shoving the scout auxiliary ahead of him to continue, threatening him by placing his palm on his sword pommel. They would have to climb the steep deer path; the soldier would find it hard going under the sun in that heavy armour, the watcher above mused.

Kress prepared himself; he took off his cloak and bag, loosened his steel knife in its sheath and unhooked his flint axe from his belt. He risked another look down the escarpment edge. They were climbing the path towards him, but would take some time to reach his position. He crept back from the edge and sat down behind some waist high rocks set away from the escarpment edge. He took a swig of water from his gourd and reached in his bag for some dried meat and a hard crust of bread. He would need energy for the coming fight. Using the water in his mouth he worked at the meat and bread and chewed slowly to release as much nourishment as possible. He took his time, breathed deeply and cleared his head. He took in every detail of his surroundings. He would need to spell weave the air, the grass and the earth of this place. When he was done he wrapped his bag and gourd in his cloak and hid them between some rocks.

Kress grasped his flint axe in his right hand and with his left clasped the Sun Shard. He quietly prayed, “Great Mother Earth shield me, protect your own. All-Father Sun, blind my enemies, guide my axe, grant me the strength in my arms as I used to have.”

Once again he sang softly in an ancient tongue that spoke of grass and earth; the rocks and air. The Sun Shard flickered as he gestured about himself reshaping this small corner of the world. He sat atop one of the rocks. He stopped his song. The light in the crystal faded. There was a moments silence and stillness before the buzzing of insects and song of birds filled the noiseless vacuum.

The hunters were getting closer, Kress could hear they were still discussing the situation. He first heard the younger voice, that of the scout. “Captain Tollend, we should go back down and find the Commander, our quarry is close, I’m sure of it”.

The Captain replied in the gruff voice of a veteran, “Go back and tell the Commander what exactly? That once again we have chased shades? The track split you said, the second time you told the Commander that. I tell you boy, I’m sick of this bollocks. You’ve had us going around in circles. I’m amazed the Commander let you drag me along this fool’s errand. If it was me I’d have broken one of your legs for leading us this merry dance, aye, and left you for the mountain lions. You saw how the tracks took off at speed going back down the valley. He made a break for it. The main force have probably caught the old bastard already and are having some fun with him.”

“Captain, those tracks seemed too obvious. This is a Flint Father we’re tracking. Those other tracks were out of character. I don’t like this. These tracks lead up here but we ought to see him climbing up that exposed ridge by now”.

“Flint Father you say? That’s heresy. Don’t ever let Commander Kaziviere hear you say that lad. He’s a savage, nothing more. You northern filth are all half breed bastards yourselves. Maybe you shits have forgotten the lessons we taught you long ago? You know nothing of the real world, but you will when we march south. You’ll serve your Emperor boy. If you’re lucky you’ll survive your first battle you snot nose shit.”

The two figures crested the hill onto the grassy plateau. The scout squatted down on his haunches and ran his fingers over the grass.

“Captain, the tracks stop here, they just disappear!”

 The scout looked troubled and pushed back his helm to cool down, his fair fringe plastered on his forehead. His eyes were glued to the ground looking for signs. The burly soldier looked around at the virgin, un-trampled grass and spat thick phlegm in disgust. He was breathing deeply from the exertion of the climb. He span around at the scout who was still attempting to read the signs in the grasses. “Why you little goat fucker, where is he then? There’s bugger all here. We’ve climbed this hill for nothing, you bastard. Right then, I need a piss. You either find them tracks again or think very carefully about what you say next, sunshine. If it isn’t good enough, then I will leave you crippled for the lions. I’ll tell the commander you fell off the mountain.”

“Captain, you saw the footprints on the path back there as clearly as I did.”

The soldier was about to bark out an insult in reply and then thought better of it. He knew this tracker was highly skilled, much better than he was himself, although he would never admit that to the world outside his mind.

The soldier stomped to a stand of rocks. He leant his matchlock musket against one and took his helmet off and threw it to the ground. He was sweating profusely after that pointless climb. He had to blink as it ran into his eyes. He undid his drawstring and pulled down his breeches. He let out a sigh of relief as his stream of urine splashed against the rocks.

He was barely aware as a boulder to his side seemed to shimmer, rise up and take a man shape. What was moments before air, rock and lichen, congealed into flesh. He hardly had time to mouth a surprise as a wicked flint axe, wielded by a sinewy arm, slammed into his face. His jaw broke and fell slack. His left eye and cheek exploded in a welter of blood, bone and torn tissue. He barely gurgled as a sharp steel knife slashed out his throat and he fell backwards onto the sward, his stream of urine still flowing like a fountain in a palace courtyard in Taleel.

Kress sprang over the fallen soldier. He uttered no war cry. He needed shock and surprise. He thrilled at the kill; it had been fast and perfectly executed. He ran towards the auxiliary who hadn’t fully registered what had just happened. Kress swung back his arm for a deadly blow, his axe leaving an arc of gore in the air. The auxiliary raised his head from his reading of the ground, his mouth agape in surprise. Kress swung his axe; he looked into the blue eyes of his victim, set in sharp features, which shone fearfully as death approached. The world suddenly seemed to still, as the boundaries of the waking and dream worlds blurred and became one. Kress instantly recognised the scout’s features as the Sun Shard flashed brightly.

** Now if you enjoyed that excerpt then you'd like to know that The Sun Shard is currently available at a promotional rate of 0.99p! Its available here at  Amazon.  Oh and keep your eyes out for Book 2 - The Dead Gods - coming soon. ***

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Playing Chicken!


As promised, a post about Banty, a hen that knew its name.

I can’t remember where we acquired her egg, but I know we hatched her using an old paraffin fuelled incubator my father had bought in a farm auction.  The clutch of eggs from which she came may well have been the first use of it, prior to it being used for raising ducklings and goslings. If that is true then her egg would most probably have come from an odd assortment of feral chickens that roosted in the rafters of the cowshed in the farm opposite.

Some of the eggs failed, but a handful, including two of the smaller ones. hatched successfully. Of these smaller eggs one chick was slightly bigger, a mixture of Rhode Island Red and Bantam while the other was a tawny feathered full bantam. Not using too much imagination or investing too much thought, (these were chickens after all) we called them Henny Penny and Banty.

From downy fluff they started sprouting their true feathers. We would make a paste for them to eat from ground cereals. But we noticed that Banty wasn’t thriving. She wasn’t eating and just stood alone with her eyes shut, occasionally being hen pecked by her companions. My mother’s concern led her to make a decision; I was asked to wring Banty's neck and put her out of her misery. I caught the little chick, it didn’t even attempt to escape it was weak. It just cheeped at me feebly “Pheep, pheep.” It was so small and helpless; I took its little head between my index and middle finger in my right hand. I began to pull but stopped.  I couldn’t see this unpleasant task through. I could force myself to wring the necks of adult birds for the pot but this little chick? I just couldn’t do it.  I put the chick back with its companions and went and sheepishly owned up to my mother that I was unable to do the task.

She was annoyed but understood my reasons. She went to have a look at the chick and came out with a smile on her face.  Banty was now furiously scoffing all the food she could find, her appetite fully returned. All we could think of was that she had a blockage in her crop and I’d stretched it a little and released the blockage.  Inadvertently I had cured her!

She became quite a character despite her lack of stature. She couldn’t compete with the bigger hens but unlike them she had no fear of us. We would always keep a little paste in the bottom of the bucket when feeding the chickens. We would listen for the distinctive “Pheep, pheep.” and hand feed Banty, and to a lesser extent Penny too when she saw how it was done.

Banty actually liked being handled, allowing herself to be picked up. If you stroked her wattles her eyes would close as if she was completely relaxed!

I recall February 1981 we had a hard winter’s  cold snap and a heavy snowfall. There was ice inside the windows of our house.  The electricity was down and we had to cook and boil water on the open fire. I was doing the night time rounds and putting the chickens in their henhouse before sunset fell and Mr Slyboots Fox came out on the prowl. I was counting the hens but someone was missing; Banty, where was she? I looked around the chicken run, she wasn’t there. Eventually, not knowing what else to do, I called out “Banty!” not expecting a response (this was a chicken remember?). I was amazed to hear a “Pheep, pheep.” from up above. There she was, perched up high in an apple tree on an ice encased branch, her feathers puffed out trying (and failing) to keep warm. I had to get a step ladder to get her down; I think her feet had nearly frozen to that branch, poor thing! It still amazes me to this day, a tame chicken that knew its name!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Dreaming of Sheep


The other night I had an upsetting dream. I awoke from it at 3.44AM and in that halfway house between sleep and full wakefulness, in the predawn gloom, I lay experiencing a profound sense of loss. I felt emotional all day; I was merely tired and being stupid I told myself. But no, it was more than that; I was actually in mourning, in mourning for lost friends as it happens.

You see the last image I recalled from the dream was that of Janet, or Jannie as we used to call her. Now Jannie was special, a born fighter; one who had survived against all the odds. She had her own personality and knew her own mind; which is odd when you consider that Jannie was a sheep.

I remember when we got her. We bought her and her “step sister”, Annie, from the livestock market. We had actually gone to get some chickens for our small holding, but something made my parents get these two orphan lambs as well. 

We already had 4 black faced Suffolk ewes. To identify them my father put a blob of paint on their ears. So we had Left Ear, Right Ear, Two Ears and Tufty… Tufty got her name for the patch of wool on her forehead.

Jannie was a little white faced Southdown and Annie was a brown faced Hampshire. Both lambs were under nourished and cold. Jannie was scouring badly which could be seen by the state of my mum’s coat as she carried the poor lamb. “You’re wasting your time with that one.” Farmers told her as she tried to keep it warm. Now my mum would take this “advice” as a challenge to her mothering instinct so really, in retrospect, there could only be one result!

Back home, both lambs were warmed by the Rayburn. For a while they lived in the living room with us, having a temporary pen in the room, while we fought to bring them back from the brink; much to our Springer Spaniel, Snoopy’s disgust! They were hand fed using a bottle with a teat and they did more than rally; they thrived!

Back in the fields, with the other sheep, these two lambs would bound over to us if we had a bottle of milk or not. If Snoopy went wandering they would accompany him; they thought they were dogs at times!  My dad would show off Annie to relatives who visited. She’d actually jump up to him like a dog and my dad would pat his robust Hampshire sheep proudly.

Of course they weren’t really pets; we now had 6 ewes as breeding stock and we raised their lambs for meat and sale (we supplied organic lamb before the term was coined!). To that end we acquired a Dorset ram at a bargain price. Sam the Ram had a bad case of foot rot in his front hooves which was making him lame. A commercial shepherd would probably have seen him as a liability but, as with the two orphans, we had the time to put effort into his care. He always had a slight problem hoof but he thrived too; the monarch of our fields and Lord of his Harem. He didn’t take kindly to human visitors in his fields when tupping time approached, as instinct and raging hormones made him aggressive. We all learnt to stay out of his way if we could, as the bruises on our legs testified to. His favourite ewe always seemed to be Two Ears, although you had to be wary when Annie and Jannie would come over to say hello!

When the lambing season began, both Orphan lambs couldn’t be more different. Annie was distinctly unimpressed and didn’t initially take to motherhood very well at all. We had to confine her and her lamb in the goat house until she realised that the insistent lamb bothering her was her responsibility. The opposite was true of Janet; you would be hard pressed to ever find a more devoted mum. She rarely let her lamb out of her sight and would but any ewe who tried to bustle her lamb away from them. Both sheep were still friendly though, that was until two years later.

A terrible storm was raging through the early summer night. That years’ lambs were about three or so months old at the time. We had by then built a shelter for the sheep out of galvanised corrugated steel and apple wood (the fields were old orchards and we reused anything!). There was a gate tied to it which we used when we had to confine the sheep, for dosing them with worm drench or treating foot rot etc.

We awoke to Jannie bleating and running around the field like a thing possessed. Her lamb had got its head between the bars and the gate had fallen over breaking the poor creature’s neck. Jannie was distraught; it was heart breaking to see. The stress of it all actually made her wool fall out. Don’t let anyone tell you that animals don’t feel or don't have emotions because I know that it’s simply not true. Poor Jannie changed that night. No longer did she come over and say hello, she was forever stand offish with us. The sheep that thought she was a dog had died; the poor baby.

So why have I written this post? After all, all these animals I mention here are long gone and my parents were eventually forced by family commitments to abandon their self-sufficiency dream, and return to the suburbia they had escaped from. 
It’s because I think these creatures deserve being remembered by me, they were part of my upbringing and so part of me. So here’s to Annie and Jannie, Sam the Ram, Two Ears, Left Ear, Right Ear (I knew them by their faces eventually, who needs paint?!), Tufty, Snoopy and Brock my beloved dogs, Arabella and Bluebell the pigs, Jessica and Juba the goats, Clarence and Clara the geese and not forgetting the chickens, Eric the Red and his girls, including Penny and little Banty; I miss you all… Banty? Now Banty has a story all of her own to tell, but that can wait for a future post. ;-)
 
 

Monday, 7 July 2014

Recall


Galaxies circled in the universe, all seemed ordered. Within galaxies stars orbited their cores. Eternal they seemed, wheeling in an eternal dance of creation. Around these stars worlds orbited, their surfaces warmed by the wave-particle duality of photons, the building blocks of light, that erupted from the surfaces of these nuclear furnaces. And smaller still were worlds within worlds; of electrons circling the atomic nucleus. Everything ordered, a pattern followed, but on different scales...

Welcome to the world. He was registered, he was numbered. A blank page. A mind to be programmed.

He had vague recollections, echoes of echoes; the shadow men who walked on the landing of his childhood home and into his room. Yet the memory was soon suppressed and forgotten, as he grew. Likewise the imaginary friend who played with him, there came a day when his visage and voice faded to nothing. His friend had been sad but had known that the day would come. But time moves on and childhood is fleeting. The one…

And all the time he learned, and the radio and television spoke with louder and louder voices in the corner, describing and setting the boundaries of the world. His mind, once open and boundless, now grew walls and the more he was taught the closer the walls drew.

As he grew he needed to escape reality. He saw how unremitting it was on his parents; their lives seemed joyless when they should have been seizing every moment of existence. He was sure they loved one another and yet they bickered constantly. He wanted to play with them but day in day out; they awoke to a day of drudgery to keep the roof over their heads and the wolf from the door. While he was sent to be educated in a regime that prepared him for the same future.

He read; comics at first and then books. He read fantasy, it seemed as an echo of what once was and yet it was unreal when compared with historical accounts which were written as fact, despite them only setting preordained boundaries.

Some literature seemed to form a bridge between the historical and phantasmagorical. There were magic and amazing creatures described in these ancient tales; gods seemed to connect directly with mortals but these ancient stories were discounted, labelled merely as myths and legends. Try as he might he saw no fairies at the bottom of his garden. He was shown pictures of cave walls in some books and in his mind’s eye something stirred; the beating of wood on wood, the blowing of hollowed bones, and the chanting of stories. He seemed to be able to picture the wall-bound animals came alive with the flickering of the fire. A strident voice brought him back to the present with the accusation of him day dreaming. An echo was left in his mind, an echo he clung to. The world was as it was, but time moves on and innocence is fleeting.

The echo resonated in music. With his headphones on and his eyes shut, the music painted landscapes of wonder in his mind. He and some similarly minded friends experimented with narcotic fungi in their teens, altering their perception as they stumbled around a field. They did it for fun and yet, in the haze of oblivion… for a time it all made sense, there was a feeling of oneness among them, a place in the divine cosmos; they were made from stars amid the stars. The one love…

He found love with another; they shared moments of that oneness again, enjoying each other’s bodies yet forgetting they were trapped within their own prisons of flesh for a time. But time moves on and carefree summers are fleeting. The one love that…

He grew, aspiring to manhood, his future seemed set; it would be like clockwork, mirroring the wheeling of the stars and planets; regular and preordained. He was prepared by education to be another cog in the machine of labour, whereby a concept, called money, was brought forth from thin air and made somehow real; empowering some and enslaving others. To have anything you had to have it. Yet the birds and wild animals still lived and the rain fell free from the sky; but onto a land that now was owned and fenced? There was no magic in the world, the divine was an illusion?

All around friends knuckled down, as did he. They seemed to synchromesh into the machine of labour, pursuing the money concept that was universally accepted yet totally alien. And yet...

To look at  the night-time infinite star field reminded him of a different age, when he had looked at the same distant suns through different eyes, the feeling of déjà vu, a sudden jolt that grabbed his soul. Small he was, insignificant even. Yet here he existed, a body manufactured from the divine alchemy of stars, stars that had burned for near eternities until exploding across the sky shedding their bodies to the infinite. The light from the distant candles may have taken millennia to reach his eyes. It linked him to all of creation on this world and beyond, here and now, and in the distant past and the far future. Then he knew, the one love that binds, and he recalled at last, despite the chains of reality that he had been bound with. Life was far from mundane and he was no mere number, he had never been a blank page and it was the programme which was in error…

Everything is basically falling. At the centre of the galaxy is a hole,  a hole so black that light itself can not escape it. It is insatiably hungry. Its a well of unimaginable depth and mass, that stretches the fabric of space time to a  singular point, that surely must break in a rift or a tear. But what lies beyond its darkest depths is a multiverse of innumerable possibilities.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Rebirth


The light shone a sorrowful blue. “Do I really have to go down there again?”

The golden light reached towards the blue; warming and soothing. “Why wouldn’t you want to? There was a time you’d jump at the chance to experience the bodily senses.”

The blue light sighed.  “That was a while ago now, although it seems but moments in the infinite. It’s all changed down there; I’ve spoken to some recent returnees.”

The golden light pulsed in recognition. “You’ve heard the tales too? Remind me, what was it like when you were last manifested?”

The Blue light shone bright revelling in its recollection. “I was among the first to go. Everything was so innocent, vast and wild. The air crackled with magic. Everything revelled in their shared kinship, the plants, the animals, even the air, water and stones. I was there for a mere blink of the eye, but it was wonderful.”

“I cannot force you to go, but only one such as you can give an honest account of what has happened. We only hear vagueness from those who return. Contact with the manifested seems to no longer be open, as it once was. It seems that instead of enjoying the gift of life they are obsessed with possessions; to such an extent that they themselves are mere chattels, mere numbers, enslaving themselves and each other. Others  render themselves deaf and blind, presuming, in breathtaking arrogance, to fully understand the nature of all of us; even willing to kill for it, if you can believe it? You were there in the first days of sentience; perhaps you can make sense of it?” The golden light shone waiting for the reply, unable to deceive, its concerns shone through despite the warmth it exuded.

“You are worried, what troubles your love?”

“Some returnees jump straight back down. Some are sullen, yearning for vessels of manifestation once more, others are guilt ridden, needing to return, to right some wrong, ashamed to become one with the one love that binds.”

“The one love that binds.” The blue light repeated.

“Remember what you can, I sense a vessel emerging now, it is a male, are you ready?”

“A male? That’s different; yes send me now before I change my mind. I will see you soon.”

On quantum wavelengths he emerged from the universal photonic bliss. From the seething chaos of the subatomic he dropped into the psychical realms of manifestation. He instantly felt stifled, deaf and dumb; everything was set and ordered. Where was the sweet chaos, the celestial music of the spheres, the… He strove to think of the word, already his mind was closing. He didn’t remember manifestation being like this before… magic! That was a word for it; where was the magic?

Still, it would be good to see how the clan had changed. It must be 300 lifetimes since he was last here. It would be good to see through those dark eyes under heavy ridges, to follow the herds, to breathe in the cold air of winter through broad nostrils and to find love with a mate under furs, experience the suckling of an infant… oh no, he forgot; he would be male this time. The physical began to take shape before him.

The planet was blue green, as he remembered, but as he got closer he passed through detritus that orbited the world. The air was thick with dust, particles and smoke rose here and there. Where were the endless forests, the vast herds? Microwaves and radio waves emitted from below made the air crackle and hiss. It broke communication with the one love that binds. The lands looked different; strange grey patterns had appeared, linked as a web by regular lines going this way and that. The vessel must be near he felt himself speeding towards it. It would be dark in the cave; he closed his eyes in readiness to adjust them.

He opened his eyes, feeling a rush of sensory perception, once more he was within a vessel. The room was incredibly bright, the smell was unnaturally clean. The clan around him wore masks. There was a strange beeping sound. He was handed to his mother. Feeling the hunger pang in his stomach, the instinct to suckle took him, the clan had put him to his mother’s breast and he fed greedily. He looked up at his mother, feeling the bond of love growing strong already. Strange, she had a smooth brow. He must remember why he was here. The one love that binds. The one love that binds. One of the clan put a bracelet around his wrist which he looked at; it had strange forms on it. They were numbers! He’d been numbered at birth? His young mind was under sustained attack from the micro and radio waves. It was getting difficult to recall things; the one love that binds, the one love that…