One Man’s War

When the blood ran off his hands the war was over, and he turned his eyes to the vast, burning wasteland that marked his wake. He sighed and wiped the dead from his face, the gristle and blood falling inconsequentially onto the crimson soaked earth.

It was time to go home.

He stared at the horizon, a statue slowly sending shadow spreading with the sun’s descent. Then he ran, pounding steadfast past corpses, leaping nimbly across the eviscerated, hurtling on the tips of his toes as an avalanche of putrefying meat and rusting paraphernalia of war filled his field of vision, sending nanotech bullets into the hordes of over-ambitious scavengers tearing at the decay, reeling himself up a sheer cliff face as highly militarised alien technology silvered through the effluvia below, loping through the healing country past the bursts of wildflower and dancing insects that push from the vibrant grass, falling in a dream that shakes him awake on a cold cave floor, brushing his fingers ecstatically on the rippling wheat rolling on to the horizon that flashes as the sun sinks from view.

The thatched cottage, luminous in constellation light, sent out waves of warm heat and scent. He sank to his knees, the long strobe of days heavy on his flesh and soul. His eyes filled with the light. His voice was hoarse as he yelled at the golden vision that seemed magically there, his leaden legs finally propelling him forward to embrace her in a whirling hug sparkling with tears and litanies of love.

Advertisements

The Aftermath: Map Nomads

All the pretenses of the old world had fallen away like a whore’s veil. Old belief systems crumbled in a loss of faith, and from its dust thoughts different and new were erected with renewed faith in Mankind. Though civilization congealed in the normalized gravity that was rampant in the zones of moderate psychedelia and synaesthia, many of the people became fiercely nomadic.

Cults of Movement began popping up along the western seaboard, in groups of synchronized dance that pulsed in coastal cities. California was ideal for this because the affected regions there contained peculiar acoustic and physical effects optimal for their purposes. They populated the beaches and rocky crags in sprawling campsites constantly wreathed with smoke and wore bright colored clothing more for display than warmth; they moved with a cadence that was unique to each cult, with swooping movements, frenzied gyrations, or an eloquent elegance. Certain groups just stood still and let the environment move them. Travelers from far and near came to prostrate themselves at the foot of Motion, which was now the law of the world.

Small groups of men and women and their children populated the low gravity zones, and could leap many meters in a single bound. When they passed through zones of heavier gravities, their weakened muscles ached and often, if they could not pull back in time, they crumpled on the ground until they were assisted or died from starvation. More groups chose the color zones and faded into particular hues. On occasion an unfortunate nomad would intersect the path of a fatal zone and flash into a fine dusting of ash in a smell of ozone, or creak slowly into a blue hue until the body stirred into snowflakes. These were not the only horrors to be discovered in these zones; slow deaths were common and sometimes death struck as a silent bursting of the brain’s veins. The fatal zones sometimes obliterated large caravans, lengthy histories, and would be the nomad’s biggest terror for a long time until the Mapmakers pooled their resources.

The slow men, passing time as trees do, stood in their temporal arbor and watched the outside reality unwind like an accelerated film, their leaden gaze reflecting the turning seasons. Forays into faster time—which they called the quickening—would find them catatonic, their nervous systems literally stunned by the change of temporal flow. Nomads from other zones, usually furtively escaping from something, would slip into their slow world and wait shortly before re-emerging into the future where the danger elapsed with time. The slow men were a heavy, ponderous race, and shunned most of the outside zones with the mutual solidarity of distrust.

The gnat people, their lifetimes in the accelerated zones a burst of dust in the wind full of frantic copulations and aimless frenzy, within a few generations had quickly forgotten their history. Because of this, they began to interbreed in the high-speed climate and spawned a multitude of congenital deformities. The nomads who used this zone as a shortcut to other zones regarded the gnats as dumb beasts that were given the same passing caution as the dogs and cattle of the old days. Occasionally a gnat would burst out of the zone’s boundary and stand there stiffly as it tried, uncomprehendingly, to absorb a slowed down world, and grope backwards with increasing panic until it slipped back into the comfort of smooth speed. A gnat who by chance or whim lost their zone wandered the zones in bleak despair, black pupils always moving in the dark circles of their eyes, jerkily, as if still trying to accustom themselves to the inexorable slowness.

One thing in common these people had: map-making. It was a time of exploration, where novelty twisted in the next corner. Centering from the Samuels map,—transcribed during Samuels’ wanderings in the early years of the Event. He was the very first map nomad. The maps he brought plus the techniques he taught greatly reduced the death rate. The original maps, copied time and time over, were retired with honor on display in a moderate zone that held a semblance of constancy—their well-inked maps were filled in with details and references. Friendly travelers meeting on the road through zones took the time to copy, update their maps. They discovered that Samuels’ original hypothesis that the slow drift of the zones circled the planet to return to its point of origin was correct; they named this the Long Year, in addition to the current Solar year, and could calculate the exact position and time of each zone on any latitude and longitude.

Legend sang of a great temple—its location was known, but the area was generally shunned. The nomads that adventured there never returned—that twisted the world into the pulsing and throbbing existence the nomads all knew, and that there was an island in the stream of zones that kept still the qualities of the Old World. In Samuels’ original mapbooks, a torn page haunted historians, and lore suggested this page contained the secret location of the tranquil zone. The bedtime stories of children outlined this eden in much imagination… Utter silence, complete tranquility, absolute motionlessness. Children dreamed of dust collecting on shelves, still grasses, and grey stone animals in the gorse. Their snores bled onto their hempen pillows and smelled of old berries.

Man changed drastically during his time in the Effect, and although the zone residents were of the same species, their appearances became many and varied, to accommodate the environments in which they thrived. But, as always is the nature of Man, they looked up at the twisting and pulsing stars and wondered hungrily what lay ahead.

In and Out

He made a memo and slipped into the empty common lounge, tacked it to the bulletin board. BTB (Bring Television Back) Revolutionaries in flimsy bond emblazoned the legend above the corkwood. Especially inane in a world against electricity. A french press steamed hot coffee on a counter next to a darkened candy bar dispenser. He slipped out to wait, blissfully awash in the tunes of ‘Secret Agent Man’ that filtered out a high apartment window.

They ran into the night streets, firing guns over their head, and still had the time to express indignation when the roof of the world fell onto their heads in large fiery chunks. Snug in a doorway, Aiolos Kozlowski, back against rough stone, took a deep drag of his cannabis cigar. He sniggered as the fallen zeppelin burned the streets. The scent of roasting revolutionary flesh mingled quite nicely with the tang of dope.

Something rubbed riotously against his pantsleg. A black cat, its shiny globes writhing with the burning red skies. Rolling a strand of his long straight locks in his fingers, he smiled down indulgently and blew a smoke ring. The cat rumbled.

“My luck’s looking up.”

Gaiarticulations

An old child, she sleeps smiling in the loam with bright visions of herself blue and green in the void.

Her hands of bark and cellulose grip the heavens and wrests the breath from the wind that laughs through her fingers. Her bosom booms mountainously as she turns in her sleep. Sweet life giving river, her soft scented sweat of Mons, leaps and laps with all sorts of living things. She breathes, and the seasons turn.

Like an inside out body, sweet dreaming Gaia, at her iron’d core reaches out through the rough cloak of mantle and laps at the sky with green alveoli. Like veins that branch out of arteries at the mouths of rivers and the lips of lakeshores, a delicate balance is struck in which beast eats beast until the littlest beast is eaten or the biggest beast is beaten. The photosphere in the sky’s children a-plenty, the photons, grazes at the soft rough tough wild chroma of the planet and bounds away joyfully, transformed at the very amplitude of their being.

All Mixed Up

A crush of movement. Strobing light and sound. Cellophane color music. Jerk and grind of bodies. Powdered nostrils and sweat beaded brows. The Time Traveller adjusts his lapels, flicks a wayward lock, bares a grin at nobody in particular, and checks out his chronoscope. He elbows his companion and says through white teeth more accustomed to lying, “Though the show has started a number of minutes ago, the show is starting soon.”

His companion, a vixen foxy in a short number with all the nice parts just about spilling out, howls yow wow! and spins around in a platinum blur frenzy of dance. Angel lights wash over her. Lava dance of chroma. The Time Traveller watches her placidly, dimly acknowledging the bulge swelling at his crotch. Another peek at the chronoscope and his lean limber limb stretches out long fingers that wrap around a sweat slick, softly fleshed humerus. He pulls her to him and snarls, his long brown hair eddying around his lean features. She snaps back with sharp even teeth. They laugh. Bodies that twist and twirl within their circumference feel an unearthly unease upon hearing his mirth.

“So…,” her rubicund lips work like soft red warm worms. “Where’s the spectacle?” He spreads his arms wide stageward and they watch the gyrating figure of Rick Dagger, who might as well be the Time Traveller’s identical twin.

“Here, look! Watch the shit hit the fan,” he grins, and as if on cue, Rick Dagger’s hands disappear behind his back. With a conjurer’s flair they reappear, laden with a gift the world would be long in forgetting. She squirms excitedly, shivers in the music.

“There was a scatological treatise written that exceeded the heft and weft of the Starr Report. Man, was I a dick back then,” he says loudly to her across a chord snared in a fading refrain, but she doesn’t hear. Like crayola dying, a lux waxwork of psychedelia melts down his face. Diablo he grins: a rimshot. Brown explodes over her astonished features.

“But then, I’m still one,” The Time Traveller muses philosophically. “Or will be. I get all mixed up in this business.”