Today’s story comes to you from space and the future. It sort of feels like it might need more or something. I don’t know. It was written in a strange way and during peculiar circumstances.
sic transit mundus
Angel, look. Do you see it? Open your eyes, my darling. Right there, through the glass: earth. You were born there but you will never see it again. Soon we’ll be hitting the next leg of our journey and earth will be forever gone for us.
Where do we go, mother?
Ah, that’s the trouble with exploration: we don’t yet know. But we will. We’ve sent out thousands–millions of fingers to find a new home. One of them has beaconed back a promise and we go to make it true.
Why did we leave?
Don’t you remember?
The girl shakes her head.
Stories will be written by your generation and your children’s generation and history will become a story distorted by the many tongues of time. We left because the earth didn’t want us anymore. We did horrible things there and the earth tried to spit us all out and now, here we are, amongst the stars.
But we still have the sun.
Yes, my angel. We still have the sun. For now.
The woman touches the glass separating her from nothingness. and the girl does too. The earth, so close, so bright and blue. They orbit earth from deeper space than where the moon once revolved. Great shadows spread over the immensity of blue broken up by the fragments of drowned continents.
A message plays through the colony and the woman says, Come, Angel, we need to go back to our room.
Didn’t you listen? We’re leaving now. All of us. We’re off to a new home.
I want to watch the earth go away.
You can’t, my darling. Space needs to open up and we need to shoot through it and to do that we need to submerge.
The woman stands between the wombs, each an enclosed tub with shallow liquid inside.
Come, sweet girl–the woman reaches for the girl’s hands–I will be here and you will be here. We’re going to sleep, to dream for a long time. When we wake up we’ll be in the light of a new sun orbiting a new world, a new home.
The girl shakes her head.
What do you mean no?
It looks icky.
Have you ever been in one?
Please just get in.
I’m scared. What if we don’t wake up or we crash or someone comes in and steals everything.
Look around you: we have nothing to steal. No one has anything to steal here. Who even taught you about that?
Arms akimbo, the woman sighs: Well, don’t you mind the Reverend. He’s old. Too old to remember that the world isn’t the one he grew up in.
What was that world like? Was it like earth?
A message fills their room informing them of launch time.
Hear that, Angel? We got to submerge.
It means get in the thing.
What if we don’t?
The radiation–Angel, please. We need to get in. If we don’t we’ll burn alive. We’re doing something that makes us go super fast. Faster than anything. I don’t really know how it works out but if we’re not in these things, we’ll turn to jelly or something. Will you just listen and trust me and get in the stupid thing?
Did dad help build these?
The woman stares at the girl, the anger falling from her posture and she slumps to sit on the edge of the womb. You dad, she says after a deep breath, He didn’t build this but he built–created, imagined what built this. It’s a long story, your dad. I’ll tell you everything, I promise, but first you need to get in the thing. The womb.
Why do they call it that?
Girl, if you ask me one more question I’ll shove you in there. Now get in.
The girl steps back, her body tensed, but the woman slides into the womb as the message marking the ten minute countdown sounds. As the womb closes around the woman she says, Don’t watch me. Get in the womb. If I wake up and you’re goo filling up my cabi–
The womb closes and floods with liquid but there is no panic in the woman. She opens her mouth and breathes in the liquid and then her body floats limp in the glass encasement. The girl takes a deep breath and steps into the womb, the viscous liquid clings to her, climbing up her skin. At first too cold but it quickly adapts to her body temperature and she stops feeling it against her skin. Sitting in the liquid and then lying back, a sucking sound as it conforms to her body. The girl breathe speeds as the liquid rises and she swallows air, fills her lungs, holds her breath and holds her nose closed with one hand as the womb fills. Her lungs burn but her body floats at ease, the beat of her heart thumping but her limbs paralysed, stuck in the viscosity. When finally she starves for air, she opens her mouth and it fills her and the world beyond her body stops making sense.
When the colony stops the blare of a new sun stares back at the crew left to manage the starborne remnants of humanity. Icarus smiles and sublimes to Daedalus who laughs behind the control panel. They sublime to Prometheus who in turn sublimes to Odin and Amaterasu. Amaterasu looks at the new sun and takes Odin’s hand. In that shine she kisses him. Sensations fire between them as they block out the others from their connection, and as they go dark in the steppes of sublime, they explore their bodies for the first time in the new light so near.
Icarus and Daedalus monitor the seven million wombs filling the colony. In the sublime they share information, experiencing each moment and sensation through the other. Satisfied, they sublime to Prometheus who stands pressed against the glass of the observation deck, his polymer skin corroding from radiation, flaking from his body. He attempts Odin and Amaterasu but the barrier repulses and he passes orders to Daedalus and Icarus.
The wombs open and Icarus speaks.
How do you feel?
The girl opens her eyes to the face of a man with bright red hair and auburn eyes. She blinks and rubs her eyes with limp hands. I feel like rubber, she says, the words slurring away from her tongue.
The man stands straight, his lips thin and flat, brow low: It turns out it is difficult for many to wake from the womb. Humans, you see, are more fragile than we thought. Psychologically, physiologically. You will be fine, of course, but for now you must rest, hm?
Her vision sloshes and her head wags, eyes flickering, What?
Sh, lie back, he says while pushing her back to bed. You’ll be better soon.
What are you? the words tumble away from her and Icarus walks to the next bed subliming to Amaretsu who sighs from the Cortex and Icarus shudders in the sick bay.
Amaretsu emerges from the Cortex, the biomatter clinging to her like a thick mucus. She wipes it from her hairless body and dresses while Odin watches her, stroking himself, and when he sublimes she smiles, running to him.
The barrier batters against Prometheus staring at the sun, his skin and hair now bleached white, falling as snow. Humans fill the observation deck but none speak to Prometheus and most ignore him entirely.
–one of them, isn’t it–
–completely broken from the journey–
–don’t last long–
The humans come and go disconnected from earth, disconnected from time: the sun always shines. The colony continues to follow Tokyo time, the halls dimming, designating night, but the humans fill the halls and auditoriums and cafeterias of the colony while Prometheus leans against the glass pressing against the barrier created by Odin and Amaretsu, listening faintly to Daedalus and Icarus treat and deal with the human complaints, asking for assistance, for orders.
Odin and Amaretsu stare through the glass at the world beneath them. Blues of oceans and greens of alien grass and greys of mountains and browns of deserts and when Amaretsu laughs, Odin tastes every pore in her polymer.
What is it, Angel?
How did we get here?
Don’t you remember?
Here, I mean. In this place. I was born on earth but I never lived there.
You lived there, but you were too little, and we left shortly after.
Who built this?
Do you remember your doctor here? The one with red hair?
He had redeyes.
Yes. Yes he does. Well, him and others like him built this place and piloted us here while we all dreamt.
But he’s not human.
No. No, none of them are. Not in the way we’re human. Parts of them are like us but they’re so much not like us that we can’t really call them human. Some call them pseudohumans or homopseudians, but those are silly names. Some people call them angels–like you–or cyborgs.
Um, no. Not really. They were born, not made. Kind of.
Did dad make them?
He did, in a way. He invented them but he didn’t create them.
I wish I could meet him.
He died. A long time ago. Long before you were born. He died when I was your age, actually. He was a great man, maybe the greatest. That’s why you have so many sisters now. A thousand and one sisters! Can you believe that, Angel? Some of them are older than I am and some still are younger than you, and some won’t be born for a hundred years, when you and I are both gone away.
Why does he have so many kids?
Why are you so curious today?
Are all of them girls?
Yes. Your father was a brilliant man, but also a very jealous one. He believed that if he had sons they’d outshine him. That’s what people say, anyway. But he ensured that he would only have daughters, but guess what.
The girl shrugs.
It was your sisters who created the Architects. Your sisters took the dreams of your father and made them real.
Hope says there are five and they’re all boys.
One of them’s a lady. She’s the brain of all of this. She’s the ship itself. She can hear everything you say, see everything you do, and she keeps us all alive. Her name is Amaretsu. You see, people long ago, back on earth, and people like the Reverend believe in gods. Gods are things that make life happen. They give us good luck and bad luck, make us breath and give us energy. Gods make everything possible.
But the gods aren’t real.
They are and they’re here! The Architects. After thousands of years of grasping after eternity, we–your father and sisters–built gods. Real ones. Ones to live and walk amongst us, to bring us across galaxies. You see, humans couldn’t escape earth. Try as we might, we were bound to earth and we were killing it. We destroyed earth gradually but unmistakably, and then, in desperation, your sisters discovered theories your father made. Secret ones. Bold ones. And with these plans, they made more plans and more theories until Daedalus was born. He created Icarus and they taught us how to create Prometheus and then Prometheus created Odin and Odin created Amaretsu and Amaretsu built the colony and took us into the sky and past it while the oceans swallowed earth. But we escaped, Angel, dear heart.
We escaped earth.
We are daughters of a distant sun and now we’ll raise children under this one, all because of the ideas of your father and the work of your sisters.
What is it like, walking on earth?
The woman takes the girl’s face in her hands, smiling, and says: It is amazing, beautiful, perfect. It will make all these years in the colony worth it. To breathe the air of a new world, air not recycled over and over, but air, starlight, clouds, waves.
I can’t wait. I can’t wait to feel and smell grass.
You’ll love it. We’ll be there whenever Amaretsu tells us we can.
Amaretsu and Odin remain in bed, falling into one another over and over, pushing their barrier deeper into Prometheus who remains pressed against the glass, all color rotting from him, the polymer skin peeled and flaked away, the red of his eyes whited out, and Icarus and Daedalus fly through the colony shepherding the humans, repairing them, repairing the ship, talking to the children, teaching them, running tests.
Amaretsu submerges and sees with the many eyes of the colony, hears with its many ears, feels with its surface area, the coldness of space, the intense radiation of the star, the pull of this new earth, lightyears and lightyears away from old earth. She listens to the signals, watches the signs, studies the new earth, the calls of distant beacons, of potential new worlds.
She emerges again, the ship’s mucus clinging to her and Odin cleans her, drinks her in.
And years go by.
Prometheus crumbles against the glass, the new sun obliterating him as the humans rip him apart. Icarus and Daedalus attempt to regulate the humans but years continue on and their impatience turns violent and the humans destroy Icarus and Daedalus and call for the destruction of the last Architects, the hidden gods of the machine but all pathways to them are blocked, closed, never there.
The girl becomes a woman and the woman becomes aged and they dream yet of grass and clouds and water and sky.
Amaretsu and Odin laugh in the light of the new sun, the reflection of the new earth, and the humans learn the controls, taking the reigns, pulling the last of humanity to the new world: crashing.
And Amaretsu and Odin watch the world expand in the glass as they watch from their bed, humanity’s crashing.