by Robin Wyatt Dunn.
I am Soad and this is my story. What I experience here is the record of my journey into the wormhole. Our Visitors, like the gods of the ancients, arrange for us poor humans various tests. This test of mine is one of escape; one I have undertaken for my people. For my family of Level Seventeen. To see if we can escape this dead Earth . . .
As an experiment to understand the metaphors and vestigial “terrestrialness” that makes up the human mind, my ordeal was arranged by our Benefactors. Within their simulation I was to take my journey into the sky, a simulation designed to control a satellite into the wormhole, even as I climbed into a wide blue vista as our ancestors saw, with my sister . . .
At first the blue sky took getting used to. But I no longer have time for adjustments.
I am walking into the sky, up the stairs. Like an old-fashioned journey into heaven, which in so many ancient languages is the same word as sky, going up, going up, going up, going up.
The clouds are broken by the sun and it shines through and I smile, wondrous thing the sun. I want to die here, today, under this sunlight.
“It’s pretty,” says my sister, but I say nothing, because I do not want to speak, only enjoy the view as I climb the stairs. Up the stairs and to the gate, so far above. I have brought my oxygen.
We are engaged together in this great task, me and my sister who I never cared for very much. Younger than me, but smarter. Always the negotiator, my sister, always playing the Devil’s Advocate, and now that we are beset with devils, I cannot abide my own blood being their damned lawyer but so it is, she defends them all the time, all the time, as though they are what she wants to be . . .
We are linked inside the immersal nutrient bath of the simulation, hallucinating our way towards the Great Gate. Each experience here a metaphor, from meta pherein, the bearing across, the signal through the noise.
I and my sister are dreaming in the Redoubt, my body inside the tank filled with fluid the consistency of phlegm and I am climbing stairs into the sky.
As we climb, our decisions correspond to the movement of a telepathic and remote-recording probe, negotiating its way towards the LaGrange, where the wormhole is kept in relative position to this metal earth, the dead sun, and the largest craft of our Visitors, larger than our old gone moon, but more distant, colored like the darkness of space.
But I am able to forget that now, forget all I have ever known. The stairs are stone and metal and they extend upwards, as though forever.
As I said, the Visitors are like gods, and like the gods of old, they have set us with tasks. The only problem with this metaphor is that in the old histories of the divines the buck stops somewhere: Mama Goddess and Daddy God are at the top, manipulating everyone, and their mommy and daddy is long dead and no trouble to anyone.
But like K. knew inside the Castle, it goes ad infinitum, it is turtles all the way down, all the way up too, and we cannot see that far and so we need a way station, you see, we need the receiver for the metaphoric signal, something to encapsulate our awareness and give it the right edges, give it the force of logic, give it the womb it needs to grow.
For our minds are growing. Growing to the stars, but too slow, some say, too slow! Citizens, I burn too slowly! I burn too slowly, citizens! Please throw another faggot on the fire! For I am a heretic, it’s true. My gods are not congenial or quotidian, they are neither anthropomorphic nor ingenious, they are like the forces of science, gravity and electromagnetism, deeply impersonal and personal all at once. My gods are life and death, and they are coming closer together, here at the End, here at the Beginning.
But I digress. Suffice to say that, we’re all taking orders from someone. The Visitors take their orders from their higher ups, both known and unknown, and I take mine from the Redoubt. And the beauty of freedom is that while you can acknowledge your orders, you don’t always have to follow them, and when you follow them or when you don’t each decision to act and in what fashion is like the translation of a signal across time, moving through the aether, moving towards your brain into your heart.
This my transmission reaches you and you decide what it shall mean and so I who must go beyond, into the sky or down into hell, I am always selected for the job no one else wants to do, but more joyful for that, more joyful in my lonely fate (except for my damned sister . . . ) —
“It’s time to eat, brother.”
We eat. The stairs curve a bit here and there is a dimple in the curve of carved stone where we can rest our backs comfortably and open our backpacks. I eat the fish sandwich and it is delicious. I have never eaten fish before. Our Earth has no oceans.
My sister is crying.
Orwell was right, unfortunately. Ignorance is strength. For a very long time. On the longer time horizon, knowledge is stronger, but that horizon must be long enough to cross the generations, you see. For knowledge and pain are almost indistinguishable from each other; I believe they are in fact the same thing. Although pain makes you stronger, in your will, it damages your body and your mind, and in this sense you grow weaker, more sensitive, for so often pain does not inure your body to that suffering, but only makes you even more sensitive to it, more “appreciative” of its gradations. Knowledge is this way too: with everything we know, we grow more in pain.
And so Orwell knew that so many choose to stop knowing, and try to be. They let others learn the hard things, and wait, like the follower for the shaman, for the evil poison to be translated by his body into urine which will be palatable for all.
It is the same thing, you see? Somebody’s got to go first. Up the stairs. Into the vein.
[an excerpt from the forthcoming book Conquistador of the Night Lands by Robin Wyatt Dunn]