The individual leaves constantly found on the ground were, at first, strange to her. Unexpectedly, they would be found in different places, on one occasion inside her apartment, and at other times strangely placed on the streets around her home. She watched for each carefully placed leaf as they wrapped around the streets until they accumulated like clouds combining in the mind into imaginary forms like she had done summers ago while sitting on the beach and staring up into the sky. In her mind, the leaves were so frequent that they formed into the body of an ethereal force, shaped like a human, though in form, moving.
The leaves were blown about the surface so that they became a shifting, moving body form, disconcerting, and strangely beautiful. She would ask questions to this leaf figure, never getting a response, just the endless rustle, like a strange percussive performance of light rain over the course of the body. The wind rose, a strong wind from the east, and the leaves, suddenly, in a burst, passed through the air, forming a path like a series of flocking birds, in fast motion, around the buildings, and into the sky.
At the center of the city streets, where the lines on the pavement drawn by the points where the concrete had cracked and communicated what to heal in the pathways, an open field emerged, and she rested there for a while, staring into these invisible clouds that had formed in her mind from the wind, and she felt at peace. After a moment, she woke up, and she was in her bedroom, in the peace of her apartment, as a virus continued to rise around the planet. For a moment she was calm and wished for better days.
The Third Hour Hand in Research Division A-7
James was late to work again. This always annoyed his colleagues a little, but they were grateful and accepting of it. Sitting in the wooden chair, he began pouring through the piles of notes he had amassed in various kinds of paper. Anyone, and additionally everyone, could quizzically inquire where James got all that paper, and understandingly, everyone did. Each of the papers was of different sizes, colors, textures, and surface details. Here a light grey set of notes fell softly in the light toward pink parchment, over there yellow and bright green crumpled at the edges into a dark blue series of squares, a dramatically ascending series of repeating colors in different piles, with no clear spaces anywhere on the surface. It could be thought of as a forest of interlocking color fields, though not of them, an otherworldly cloud of reflected, soft rainbows in the midday sunlight. There was almost an eternity in the range of colors assorted on Jame’s desk. The fact that he could retrace his steps to the exact location from the day before was something even the system controllers couldn’t explain. The only real question James ever got asked in reviews, in addition to his tardiness, was how he could have taken that many notes in so many different kinds of notebooks. The collection was a marvel to behold.
A lot of people thought James must have an incredible depth of notebooks at home, organized by day, perfect for a researcher, and he had to be working hard. Some thought he had begun making paper at home, and each was an experimental, fresh batch. Some thought he might have received thousands of notebooks from a past relative from across the Ondolorian Ocean, and others thought that the source came from the visits to the Magic Officers on the west side of Ondolor. The truth was simpler though. He actually always forgot to get a notebook, so he slowly amassed paper from the different meetings with the fourth division throughout the day by asking for approval signatures for notes which did not exist. The fourth division thought this was an oddity, not worth the time noting in reports to the research division’s supervisor, who James had known for years: The arrangement wouldn’t have meant anything anyway.
He couldn’t find one of the most important notes he had written the day before, a specific but unnoticeable aberration in the position of an obscure, minor part of the 32nd vertical grid display, because the carefully selected grey paper the notes were written on was covered by a small box that he didn’t notice when he first arrived. On closer look, the box appeared to be a gift. James suddenly remembered that this day was his birthday. Which one he couldn’t decide, and he sat down to open it. Carefully unfolding the package, James found a smaller box, which he carefully opened. In the early light, James discovered that he had been given an ancient clock, the kind that didn’t need power or biotics to generate. James smiled. The clock was one of the last mechanical clocks in the central division. James placed his head over his hands, and rested peacefully, leaning down. enraptured by this new find. He heard someone behind him. He did not look up.
“Happy Birthday, James.”
It was Albert, Jame’s trusty supervisor. It meant a lot to James that it was trusty. Leaping onto the desk, Albert pawed at a particular part of the paper it found interesting. James was patient.
“Sorry about that James,” Albert said and continued to paw at the paper. “I’m distracted. But oh, yes we got you this.” “Thanks,” James said. “Of course,” Albert said. “Thought giving you a gift would be good to say thanks for your work this year on the 32nd. We know you wanted the 27 after event stage 9.”
“It’s OK,” James said, shrugging. “But did you see this?” James scrambled through his notes and found what he was looking for: the 23rd-hour variation from two days ago.“What is that?” Albert asked. “That looks like a giraffe.” The composition was one of James’ interpretive drawings, which surprisingly had become an effective method of communication within the team. “Yes, but look at this one from three hours earlier,” James said. “That one looks like a flower,” Albert said. “And now this one,” James said, “Wait it’s here somewhere… oh yeah, here it is. Look. This was from three weeks ago.” A dark spot resembling nothing immediately recognizable made Albert pause. “I’m not sure about this one. Is this an elephant?” Albert asked. “I”m not sure,” James said. “It’s possibly something in between.” “I can relate,” Albert said, pawing at another yellow lined page. “What’s this one?” As James cleared the table and began laying the drawings in a series, Albert climbed to a shelf above the desk and looked at the collection.
“Are you starting to see this? This is all from week 2,” James said. The changes in the collected documents that James set out on the table were subtle, but there was a rhythm. “It’s stabilizing, even in the chaos,” Albert noted, surprised. ” Yes, this one sector has been doing this at least every three hours,” James said. “It’s language…” Albert said, and added a question after pausing a bit longer, weighing its reply, and then offered, “Should we send this on?” “Yes, after this. Watch what will happen at 9:15, for a brief moment,” James said.
The clock on the desk started rattling. James was startled. “What’s that?” James asked. “Oh yeah, people used to depend on time to do things other than science. They called clocks like this an alarm,” Albert said. “Wait here it comes,” James said. The meter indicator went up by two points.
“Happy Birthday…,” Albert mused, distractedly.
They both felt a small pulse running through their bodies.
“That’s the meeting,” Albert said, “Grab your notes, and let’s go.”
Albert leaped down and scuttled towards the door.
James gathered his notes and followed.
“Wait,” Albert said, “You forgot your solar index meter.”
James hurried to his desk, picked up the meter, and placed the device in his pocket.
“OK, we’ve got a lot to report. They won’t believe this,” James said.
“Why not?” Albert asked. “Can we believe anything anymore?”
The light in the room was soft, the intelligence filling the void in spaces, allowing the shadows reach the transition from shadow to light. When James and Albert left, there was not a sound, except for the small clicks coming from the ancient clock. The third dial passed through to the right side. There was no alarm. Everything was still. James and Albert could have only remained in the room a bit longer, maybe they would have seen it.
As a researcher deep in study, James’ colleagues in the research division, around 20 people, were completely silent in their day to day work. Any momentary noise might distract them from their deep contemplation of information and analysis. They were born for this function, and no one minded the restrictions. Yet, by decree, they were allowed to leave towards the late afternoon and had James only not been late again, he could have noticed how the light was becoming an ascending and descending glow, reflecting softly across the surfaces of the room, absorbed into a warm, even tone, even in its silences.
For a split second, all the meters in the room rose rapidly, and then settled down again: the first moment of contact with the conscious sun.
Just a few feet down the hall, James and Albert entered the meeting room. The room was one of the only rooms in the Research Complex without light, but the room was the only reminder of the minor view of the solar researchers in the viewpoint of the officiants, who were much more interested in the movement of the planetary energies that caused so much difficulty on Ondolor. While important, the research center generally felt that the need for experimental language and analysis of minor solar moments was secondary, even tertiary, to the work of the divisions. Nonetheless, the researchers loved their work.
“Hello, James. Hello Albert,” Michelle stated, authoritatively. “We started five minutes ago, so just settle in and we’ll summarize briefly,” Michelle said. James sat down on a steel chair by the wooden table and piled his notes onto the surface. Albert leaped on the table and sat down to think and focus on the issue at hand.
Michelle started, “You’re late, division A-7. You missed the morning bells. Please imagine them accordingly.”
“To recap, it’s been a few decades since event stage 8, and we thought that maybe there would be no further need for the solar science division, until stage 9 two weeks ago. While we’ve known the sun has been conscious for around six years, we conceded that we did not know how important monitoring the solar movements would be. But thanks to division A-7, we have reason to believe that there are more interesting developments to investigate further.”
“We still do not know how much of the energy from the conscious sun is affecting our new reality, but this could simply be the result of the planetary movements of the solar system in total. According to James and Albert’s investigations after the most recent stage, directional bilateral divergences and the shifting of directions in the environment might be from the pulse of energy from the sun creating new environmental and ontological disruptions. We no longer know the physics of our world, and we probably need to find a way to intercede in their shifting dimensionality: it’s really hard for people to do anything with the constant disorientation of travel and mobility. In the meantime, we’re lucky to have come into this world, as alive beings, ourselves much like the sun, after the world had begun its birth era. We’ve grown up in this environment, and we need to protect those who aren’t used to the disreality, in which reality itself is so new, seemingly every day.
In the past two weeks, we’ve seen more solar jumps, and the solar psychology division has privately communicated to you through the bio network their findings. If you haven’t received the communications yet, you may by the time you leave for the day.”
Michelle concluded and gave a final remark. “Does anyone have anything pressing to report?” “Yes,” Albert said. “We have reason to believe the sun is now communicating with us.” The room was startled. Michelle cautiously enquired, “If so, what is the sun saying?” “We don’t know,” Albert said. “But this may conclude what we know about the sun from the theoretical models of the psychology unit. Could you recap for us, we were only born last year.”
James knew all this, so drifted into a morning reverie, which he did so frequently now. As he daydreamed, he saw a small, ancient deer among impossibly high trees, standing on a Fourth Century Grecian table, or one James had seen in the visual analysis class in the second unit. In the daydream, the deer approached from a distance, opened its mouth, and strange melodies sounding like flute concertos were born from it.
James began to fly above the a forest, and in mid-air, James heard a voice.” “James, seriously, James, where are you? Back to Ondolor please.” The voice sounded like Albert. It was. James was suddenly back in the room. “James…your research?” “Oh yes, sorry,” James said, “Yes, I think the Sun is trying to communicate with us.” James fumbled through his drawings, spreading them over the table.
The scientists gathered around the drawings, and for the rest of the meeting the team argued, discussed, hypothesized, conjectured, questioned, analyzed, and talked well until midday.
“Guys, I have a meeting across town, and I can’t go over this much further,” James said. “Could you upload the meeting notes to the bionics, and I’ll check in on them at home?”
“Oh, sorry James, absolutely,” Michelle said. “Have a good session, and thank you for this. I’ll follow up with you and Albert individually tomorrow morning. Please be late.”
“You too!” James smiled. “Albert said, “Excellent work, James. If you need to take a caterpillar just send me a bionic calendar expense. Happy Birthday.”
James walked out the door. And on the street, looking back at the dome structure and its towering walls of glass, interspersed by the solar cells: a combination of light blue and black. He walked into the labyrinthian twisting environment and called for a caterpillar.
James arrived at the magic offices: a small structure, and one of the few buildings of pre-modern design remaining in the city.
“Ancient Ondolorian.” James thought, and walked to the door and knocked.
“Yes, open it.”
James opened the dark wooden door, in shadows, as vast as deep space. The door was one of the few left in the world, and precious to the building and all of its inhabitants. As the door opened, he could see that as usual, the light was flowing from the room from two large windows, and there was the same circle drawn in chalk on the ground: a wooden floor that resembled an ancient forest, yet seemed so disconnected in this environment. They were the only thing in the offices that were stable.
He loved seeing the circle, which had a unique quality of appearing to hover over the surface. Whenever he walked in, his eyes immediately fell on it, erasing any consciousness of the outside world. The drawing was the same as always, redrawn every morning, precisely. The circle was so precise that when recreated early in the mornings it was considered a kind of momentary eternity. There was an unbroken sequence of exact drawings every day, just as the one before. No one knew exactly the first time the drawings were created, but there were rumors that had become almost like legends in a small amount of time.
But everything was perfect. He had been conditioned to treat this room as a place of healing and contentment. He looked up from the circle, which temporarily shifted his attention, and distracted him from all movement of his body, which he, understandably, did not like doing. In a chair sat a series of clear edges, and he could see in a hazy reflected light the back of the chair’s surface: a grey pillow and wooden slants. He realized for the first time that the officer had become an octagon.
“What’s that like?” James asked.
“Same as usual,” said the officer.
“How do you get around?” James asked.
“I just move from one room to the next,” the officer replied.
“Are you serious?” James asked.
“Here watch,” replied the officer.
From the octagon on the chair, several octagons concentrically rose into the air, connected on the far end of their shape, and in a spring-like motion moved on the floor and made circles on the chalk of the surface. These locked patterns of degrees had been a way for the officer to direct peaceful energy from the light in the room, but this wasn’t always effective. Yet today appeared to be one of the few times the ritual worked. Each movement made a kind of scraping sound, and when the octagon returned to the chair, the octagon settled back into its original position, and silence returned to the room, with the only sound being the blank vinyl that allowed the hum of the machinery to flow out of the speaker into the room.
Blank vinyl recordings were often issued to magic offices, exactly for their absence of sound. Since listening to music other than the magic rituals was forbidden by the guidelines magic officers had to follow, these recordings made small skips and hissing sounds that were calming to clients. The sounds came across the audio speakers, organic in their construction, but with strict adherence to rulesets demanded by the production involved in their contextual creation: to clients, this was a small, silent ocean.
The flow of the spring motion of movement transfixed James, who combined the entire experience of the room into a system of arc and waves. Combined with the light of the room, directed into energy by the chalk circle on the ground, he felt profound peace.
He moved with this feeling toward a kind of gentleness toward all objects in the room, and he realized that again, as every visit to the officers created, a conscious environment of the vibrational pattern of the entire world, as focused into view in the offices. This was always unexpected, but he realized, yet again, that the ritual was taking place, in a new, modified form.
“There,” said the officer.
The light in the room suddenly shifted, as if the light from the window had hit at a different angle. James was used to this. The sun jumps had begun happening in late May, and while, at first, everyone found the jumps disconcerting, their occurrence became a beloved event. The solar jumps should have been surprising, but, as James sometimes thought, no one would really care if the sun had become a conscious being. In time, this would become an entire field of study: solar psychology, which attempted to discover the nature of the conscious sun.
The division now thought that the sun was avoiding collapse by jolting its system on a monthly basis. Other theories suggested that the reason the jumps had begun was through solar anxiety, a kind of cosmic solar muscle reaction. But most of the popular theories were that the sun was just amusing itself.
The ritual magic offices had been decreasing in frequency for at least the last year. While they originally were placed within each neighborhood, by the time James had started frequenting them, they were only in individual counties. Because of this, there was almost no wait for appointment times: no one needed magic anymore, because the world had become too weird on its own.
There were several counties he could have moved to, but he liked this one. There were trees scattered throughout the buildings of the small cities, rising and falling along with mechanical waves between sun jumps, and he knew exactly where to go and what to do. He had often been told of the risks in attending the offices, and he was seeing those warnings played out now, as he began to become more accustomed to the new shape of the magic officer. He asked in a curious way, “How long have you been like this? All morning?”
“No, just when you came in,” said the magic officer. “your perception is leaking into my conscious being.You think too much about octagons,”
James shrugged, walked out the door, and into the street. He could have called a centipede, but because sometimes an hour was needed for both ends of the centipede to calibrate, he decided to walk slowly back home. “Centipedes,” James thought with a targeted specificity. He followed the usual routes, careful not to stay in a straight line. It was dangerous to travel in one direction over long distances, and sometimes impossible since the world had begun to shift and change according to the whims of the rotational patterns of nearby planets.
The only way to travel in a straight line was to walk in different directions and just follow memorized markers along the way. James passed from neighborhood to neighborhood, through the urban forest. Since the war, few building materials were available that were constructed, and stone walls of their exteriors were disjointed and decimated. All around them, natural forms wound around the surfaces of the structures, growing new life in pockets. Since raw materials were not available with ease in Ondolor, each of the homes had invisible reverse gravity enclosures, at first jarring to the inhabitants, but over a period of two hundred years it was considered normal, and despite the confusion, no one complained, ever. He could hear distant sounds from several houses with gravity expanses for fresh air, and he was happy. “I should walk out here more,” James thought.
In the destroyed world, the only thing that could repair or rebuild the lost environment was the imagination. No one expected what would happen when Ondolor was formed from the wreckage. The imagination seeped into reality, and when things collapse, there is a chance that they can be reborn from this brokenness, more magical in their destroyed places.
The first change came from the space in the abandoned houses. With the semblance of the original structures, the environment was open. When people woke up in the morning, the sun shone brightly throughout every corner of the houses. In the afternoon, they could see the clouds in the sky. At night, they slept under stars. The combination of destruction and technology created something new and strange. Everyone realized that the world would never be the same. There was no going back, but this world had its limitless possibilities as well. James knew this much after being alive for only one year.
James did not know or understand the future, and he didn’t care. The teaching from the magician had been simple today, and he repeated it like a mantra in his head as he walked through the ruins back to home. And finally, he walked through the door, laid on the bed, and stared up into the sky.
Reaching forward into the atmosphere, James felt a certain sense of electrical motion through his body. To his right were the simulation system controls, and, a few inches away, the instruction manual and guide. He had recently checked it out from the community store and was amazed by the comfort it presented. The calming effects were immediate. In this series of motions, he found a vast landscape sensation through his body and mind. He held his hand in the mid-air for a few moments, turned off the simulator, and sat back in the chair. He could see above the canopy of the apartment the open sky, dark blue, with a field of bright stars, and for a while tried to remember the names of each one.
There were so many. He looked for the patterns, and it often reminded him of the stories of the constellations that were made long ago by the third millennium, for travelers to remind them of their way in their journeys. In a history class in high school, he had lazily studied some of these stories, and he looked first for the goddess of the moonlight. Her hand outstretched into the stars, forming a winding pattern that illuminated the southern sky, and provided a way to adjust a valency parametric compass device, one of which James had in the apartment from his research, as a hopeless antiquarian. From this he could see the connecting stars, and while a metaphor, they always found a new way to imagine the night sky. At dawn, they slowly became absorbed in the morning light, yet in the moonlight of the evening, they were clear as day.
He wondered if any of the systems of the universe knew of the interconnections in the stories, or were helpless to understand any of the systems of the small planet that James occupied, most of the time. On good days he imagined that he was traveling with the planet across the stars, yet tonight he remembered the stories. He dreamed for a while, and realized that it had been several hours since he had been looking into the sky, and it gave him deep peace.
James began searching for one of his notebooks, a well-worn collection of paper that he was especially interested in. He had shown it to a friend once who was a little puzzled by its simple complexity. James kept only a series of emotional studies of distant language forms, brought about by the layers of thought as they passed through his body one summer a few years ago when the winds were exceptionally strong. He found the notebook and found the measurements of each of the wind occurrences, and in this moment he found strength and resolve.
James sat up suddenly. A reluctant workaholic, he began recollecting the day’s study of the solar communications and started back on his report to the second division. It was a new notebook, and he sat staring at the pale parchment for a while until he had breathed deeply its promise and hope. If the sun was in fact communicating, maybe there would be brighter days ahead, and a way through the shifting pathways that still moved with the changing hours of the day. He was filled with a bright energy that was surprising to him. He felt for his heart and felt it’s beating pattern until it became like a soft drum. He was transfixed. He looked deeply into the blank paper, and felt the promise of better days.
In the fourth caterpillar transportation system, to be more precise 4A-23B, Albert waited for the transportation to arrive. Moving slowly across the surface for the first time, he allowed himself some space from the system so that he wouldn’t be in the way.
Sometimes Albert liked standing in the roadways waiting for the system, so he could watch the winding patterns of the caterpillar as it moved. He thought of his early days as an organism mechanism engineer before he had become the manager of the third-hour hand division in the control center. As the transpiration arrived, Albert moved his tail out of the way so that it wouldn’t be caught in the thousand appendages of the system. The organic doors slid open, and for the first time Albert thought, “Wait a minute this is weird. Something’s wrong”. It was a revelation. What could possibly be weird about something that happened every day? He had taken this same caterpillar to work at least a hundred times, but for the first time, he wondered what the caterpillar must have felt like a transport.
It was very rare that anyone ever paid attention to the system they were moving on, but this time Albert looked into its seven eyes, attempting to focus on each one. “I hope you’re alright today, Mr. Caterpillar.” Albert offered. A low sound of calm emanated from the transport system, and Albert said softly, “Not today, I’ll just walk.”
“Enjoy it!” said the caterpillar. Albert was surprised. The caterpillar continued, “I’ve been walking the city since early morning. The walk is quite nice. Thank you for wishing me well.” “Albert replied, “I suppose I’ll walk to work then!” “Sounds good”, said the caterpillar, and slowly climbed its way up the central corridor and into the day.
Albert sat down on the pavement. He wondered how long it might take him to get to the office. By his estimation, derived from the distance determination sphere he carried in his pocket, it couldn’t take more than a couple of hours. Albert leaped onto a platform and continued his way out of the central corridor. It was a beautiful day, a little cold, but a welcome feeling as he walked toward the open sky. He began walking down the road, looking at the inside of the sphere until it became a glowing ember, lighting each pathway as the land shifted underneath him. Albert looked up at the sun. His species was one of the last that could look directly into the sun and not be phased in the system controls. “If James is right, how will we ever communicate back to you?”
A soft white cloud appeared over the city suddenly. He quickly grabbed his phone and called James. James was sleeping late again after staring into the night sky for hours during the evening, but he picked up the communication device.
“What’s up Albert? Is something wrong? I’m not fully up yet.”
“Look out the window and look at this cloud, do you see it?” Albert said.
“What cloud?” asked James.
Albert looked back up. The cloud was gone. “James, can you look through your solaria and see what the sky was like 3 minutes ago?” Albert asked. “Sure one second,” James said. James opened the screen system and looked. Through the lens, the system had captured one simple bright glow in its footage calculator. “I see a bright light,” said James.
“There was a cloud here only moments ago,” Albert said. “That’s not what I see.” said James. It’s just light. Maybe I should adjust the system. “No, record it to disk,” Albert said. We can go over the footage later in the office. “Sounds good,” James replied. He poured his coffee into the open part of the solar sphere, and while expensive, dialed a second cup.
He needed it this morning after a long night. The day was clear, and as he looked out the window into the day, there was still the light floating in the sky, the beautiful clear skies.. If there was something amiss, he would get to research all day.Nothing was quite as bright as that possibility. He loved the moments in the libraries, the gentle sound of the turned page, the thousands of data charts, the quiet of the moving stacks, and the gentle hum of the motion walls as they moved for easier data access. It was a good morning again, like yesterday, but this time he might make it to work before Albert, he thought. “Maybe I’ll walk too,” thought James as he opened the door a few minutes later. There was not a single cloud in the sky.
James walked out his door and into the snow. It was still summer, but his memory override system had temporarily manifested into a visible form. For all intents and purposes, it was in reality, and James easily forgot it’s disreality. It fell all around him and covered his small garden with a light glow in the afternoon sun. The falling invisible curtain, the coldness against the heat was calming, and he could vaguely make out the pale blue light of the system override in each falling silent rainfall, as it passed through the sky and onto his body. He remembered this. In each system response system, the memory simulation focused on the environment around him, but in each moment, auxiliary memories were also made visible, as slow whispers in the gathering glowing field. The sun gave a calming glow as he sat on the ground and placed his hand on the back of one of the small stone steps leading to his door. He saw, in each new display system, something not quite visible, but there nonetheless. It was James’s father. He often recalled this in the snow simulations, but this memory was unexpected.
One summer before, long ago, he didn’t know how long, maybe two years ago, maybe in another century, there was an open index carrier of the information displays, in different forms that James could never make out completely, but they made sense. In some way, James knew that the information was so vast that he could never understand, and he drifted away from the memory and thought for a while. What had happened to these places, these distant forms? He had only been alive for one year, but he knew that there would always be these distant forces embedded in his mind. “Why this one?” James said out loud. It wasn’t particularly strong. He could still see the snow as it fell, but there he was, in a library. His father walked away. In the place where he stood, there were the beginnings of a patch of green underneath him on the concrete cracks, seemingly pushing stone apart and still managing to grow. James remembered that it was summer, and these things happened.
He heard his father’s voice. “Look, James,” his father said. “Life.” It was one of the last memories he had of him. He didn’t know who his father was. It could have been one of the scientists he worked with, it could be a system error or a modification of his organic structure. He would never know.
Looking out from this dream, he wondered why the system override was happening now. The snow stopped, and James was back in the present reality, however real that was. James would never know how much of his world was truly real, and to his everyday world, it didn’t really matter. There was never another way to know. In truth, he didn’t know for certain really anything. He just had to trust that the ground he walked on was real, simply because he walked on it. It caught every part of his fall. He remembered his first week learning to walk, around ten months previously. “Walking is a series of falling and catching yourself. Just trust with each step that you won’t fall, you’ll get up thousands of times a day, in all you do,” He remembered her saying.
Remembering this he fell towards a small moment in his garden, a silver plant that glowed like the moonlight. It was one of the slower walking plants, gentle and responsive to all the daylight changes of the day. He watched it for a while, winding its way through his small yard, and drifting toward the eastern sky.
He called Albert. The small phone had a sound like a light electronic percussion, sending a pulse both to Jame’s emotional patterns and those of his colleague.
“James, you’re a couple of hours late today,” Albert said.
“Sorry Albert, I had a system adjustment I needed to make. The visuals were too strong this morning. I got distracted,” said James.
“You’ll get over that in a couple of years,” Albert said. “Enjoy it.”
James sent a reply through the system and then closed the phone. He walked to his transport system.
In the light of the summer morning, the metallic quadroped stood, unused for months. James was supposed to meet Albert at the top of one of the surrounding mountains, to watch and measure the shifting streets of Ondolor as they transitioned around the city into interlocking forms, and he would need the transport to guide him up the cliff protrusions. There used to be things in the old world called puzzles.
They consisted of pieces that eventually made sense by all of their connecting patterns derived from their physical forms. There was no real demand for these systems in Ondolor because the city itself had become a puzzle, one put together with each turn down another street, impossibly finding its way back into a cohesive structure. By watching the light move across the surface by their motions, the researchers had hoped to find some kind of logic by which to get more data about the possible connection between the solar responses and the shifting of the city streets below.
The transport climbed the mountain as James navigated the terrain. Finally reaching the clearing where the scientists were still setting up their instruments, he landed the structure and walked among the small group, giving his customary greetings. Albert was staring off into the distance, his tail twitching slightly. “What’s up Albert?” James said. “ Any data yet?”
Albert was startled.
“There have definitely been new correlations in the response devices,” Allbert said.
James looked at the system display. The numbers presented on the display definitely showed a kind of pattern. Even though complex, it was almost perceptible without much thought.
“Well, that’s reassuring,” said James. “I have no idea what it means, but it looks like progress.”
“It may take centuries to put this all together, but it’s a start,” Albert said. “But I’m curious about your morning, These system variations. What do you think caused it?”
“I’m not sure, Albert, but it was strong.” James said, “There were several moments. Overlapping memory visualizations, coupled with moments of reality. I often see things like this in the garden, but I had a thought on the way up the cliffside to meet the team today.”
“What was it?” Albert asked.
“I started noticing a few things that made me wonder.” James said.”I know we’ve been investigating how all of the aberrations may be caused by the solar variations, but…”
“But what?” Albert asked.
“What if it’s two things? What if it’s the sun, and what if it’s also life?” James said. “I’ve been noticing two things recently in my memory index, two cases of plants growing in the cracks on the pavement, all accompanied by these memory displays. There must be something to it.”
“It’s possible. It makes as much sense as anything else,” said Albert.
The scientists returned to watching the city as it shifted. The small squares and line structures created new forms in intervals over unclear measures of time. At this distance, they were like small blocks of stone, and it was beautiful to watch. “There’s kind of sense to it, even in its senselessness,” James said.
“Yes. Wait do you sense that?” asked Albert.
“What?” asked James.
Below where James and Albert stood, was the silver plant that had been in James’s garden. “It followed me up here I guess, that’s really bizarre.”
The plant sat on the ground and expanded all around the scientists. It grew until it had covered the mountain, and out of the center came a glowing light.
“James, is this in your memory index?”
“No Albert, this is new.”
The scientists stood in disbelief. However common that experience was, it was always surprising.
When James woke up, he was suspended in mid-air. He couldn’t be certain at first of his surroundings, but there was a familiar feeling he couldn’t at first discern. As he slowly woke he felt it: the light warmth of the sun as it shone between two windows. He realized he was in a familiar room, and circled his body so that he could get a better view. It was the magic officers’ room, and looking down, he grasped the chair beneath him and pulled himself into a seated position.
“James, our gravity systems are in a bit of repair”, came a voice. It was unfamiliar. James looked up. A few feet away from him was a human form, made completely of glass. It wasn’t perfectly clear. There were cloudy moments, a few unobtrusive cracks in the surface, and in the center of the chest, a warm glow that echoed in warmth across its interior, which was beautiful to look at. Resembling a small sun, the glow pulsed slightly like an intake of breath. James realized where he was.
The population of the Eastern division of the city had long been a place of mystery. The research division had records of the transformation beginning a few years previously, but other matters were at hand. The division usually summarized their findings as a temporary visual field dispersement. The small population, this people, a small number of forms of glass, were generally no different than anything else, and while there had been an initial wave of distrust and fear within the communities, most people now just accepted it as a strange reality, no different than the other shifts of the day to day that had begun.
As he watched this slow pulse of light emanate from the interior of the glass form, he brought his breath in concert with it and quickly reached a level of deep peace.
He had been given the day off by Albert for his work on the mountainside the day before, but with a condition. He was one of the only members of the science division who still knew of the association of officers, and the team of the organic systems response unit wanted to know what his associate thought of the matter.
“James, I read your report,” said the glass figure. “How do you feel?”
“I’m a little confused,” said James.
“We looked into it, and I’m sorry, but we don’t have an explanation. We want you to know that that’s OK. As my people faced so much persecution in the last few years, I would like the science division to accept this reality, listen to it, and give it some time to watch the developments. As you know, at first people noticed our differences, but we did manage to survive it. Despite the glass appearance, for the most part, we can’t be broken.”
James thought about this. “I missed most of that part of the historical analysis training,” he said. “But from what I remember, at some point, there was the realization that all the people of Ondolor were in a way made like a form you have, it’s just not apparent in the visual field.”
“It remains unproven,” said the voice. ”But in this world, we don”t necessarily need explanation. Isn’t it OK for things to just be? Can’t the research division just accept it?”
James thought of the researchers on the mountain and wondered what they could possibly be doing. He had a view in his upper right visual field of the moments of interest, and then he saw it. The silver field pulled inward, and within moments had returned to its original form. Several then sprouted side by side into a small meadow, and the scientists stood and just watched it, amazed.
“What do you see?” asked the form.
“It’s growing, there are more of them,” James said.
He watched the display as it revealed that the single flower had begun to grow into a silver forest. The snow still echoed across the mountainside.
“It’s a forest,” said James. “This is new. Is this a system error?”
“I doubt it, James,” said the figure. “In our tradition, we call that a multiplicity field generation system. In the old language, it’s a symbolance: a conjunction of the unknown with the known, a mystery. It may not last forever. It could be a day, a century, it’s unknown. Welcome that moment.”
James smiled. The glow of the form pulsated slowly in the morning sun.
“We’re all like that,” James thought.
James walked out into the open air. He wondered what lay in store for Ondolor, with all its new developments. No one knew, but with each step, he realized that just like the shifting streets of Ondolor, as disorienting as they were, they always managed to find a way home.
The air was crisp, and cool, a combination of all the recent days, and he remembered the heart in the glass form, always steady, just as now, in the evening light.
The wind had picked up again, and this time it was visible. A series of undulating swirls circled around and drifted to the sky in sequential waves that James knew by now was the technological aberration of visual synthesis that was measuring his responses to the system. He looked up after a few moments and asked the attendant, “Is this the rest of what you need for the report?”
The attendant looked up at James. “Yes, James,” it said. “You may enter now.”
Looking sideways, or anyways, if that could mark a difference, the attendant said, “Are you frightened?”
“No, not particularly,” James said.
“I’ve had quite a long period of being frightened but I’m coming out of it. I think it has to do with the frequent solar jumps.”
“They’re calming if you look at them as waves then?”
“Yes, because I know they shift, they rise and fall, and eventually disappear.”
“You remember your training well”, it said.
“I hope so, I need this for my work.”
“We’ve marked this note as an appearance of somatic responses, and recorded it to your central system’s memory auxiliary drive.”
“Thank you”, James said.
James walked out of the office and into the corridor. It was a strange building by an unknown architect, one of the last pre Ondolorian monuments. In the hall, there were a series of statues of heroes of the third age, all their stories forgotten. The space was incredibly large, and the ceilings seemed at least a mile away. A caterpillar could have scaled the walls, but there wasn’t really anything up there, and it would have been an expensive fare.
The space was designed so there would be disorientation of space, and therefore time, in its open environment. There was a division that met weekly to invent new stories for these figures, in order to build a kind of history of the ancient past, so there would be a new sense of time in the new world. Their work was a grounding source and a specific way to build the new world’s history after all had been lost or destroyed.
James could barely remember why he was there in the first place, “Oh yes, the report”, James thought. He walked by each of the statues and noted his responses to each one. As he entered the stories, the psychological disturbance variances marked by the time transmissions into his notebook, he pressed the small button on the side and kept one copy for his records, and one to the science team back at the office. He stopped for a moment. There was a light wind. James thought to note this in his report but changed his mind at the last minute. “Wind is wind”, James thought, and he walked out of the hall and into the street.
This area of the city was unlike any other. There were no caterpillars, no real answers to invisible questions, just the hum of nothingness, the hum of a generator from behind a building here and there. “Gardens,” James thought.
There were several trees that caught his attention. Evenly spaced, these appearances reminded James of something. He noted it. He couldn’t tell what it was, but there was something about the way they stood. They were moving silently in the wind but were so fixed into one place, much different than the wandering plants in the cooperative forest alliance. “I need to renew my membership,” thought James.
He found a particularly shade sheltered part of the tree and sat down. It was silent. Occasionally he could feel the sunlight as the winds shifted the shadow patterns. A blank wall nearby seemed to be speaking in a silent language that James tried to listen to for awhile. He went over his notes, and sent them to his supervisor.
It wasn’t often that James had moments to do this. He had obtained special permissions from the division that the trip would be useful to his studies, and he began ways to combine the research from the day later in the evening. He turned his attention back to the wall. He looked at it intently. It wasn’t one color.
Seemingly white, it was shades of light blue, pink, and even slightly orange where the sun hit the surface at the mid-day sun. They blended into one tone and passed slowly in the drifting light, held in place by the soft murmur of grass as it pushed up the sides of the wall. He could already sense that in the few cracks on the wall slight points of green almost glowed on the interior. Then he felt the presence of the surface.
He had once been pushed to the wall by a group of passersby at one point during his education, which resonated with him and he always needed space to free his mind from the reverberances. He could sometimes hear their anger in his thought patterns, yet the wind forms calmed them. He didn’t think about them that often anymore, and his regeneration had largely replaced the violent memories with silent spaces, which could sometimes seem like an echoing cavern, yet became more like an open, hollow space, like an empty jar, into which he poured his heart.
It was something the magic officers had taught him. By building this system of open spaces in his auxiliary drive, he was able to compartmentalize and hold the fear. In Ondolor, nothing like this remained, but as one of the earlier orders of system memories, it was still there. Sometimes as light rain. Not painful anymore, but audible. He thought about this for a few seconds. James continued to look at the light.
“If I wrap my report up quickly,” James thought, “Maybe I can find a way to watch for the solar jumps later this evening.” He noted in his reports a system of graphs and moved them slowly through the index until they had become a floating cloud of information. He beamed the cloud back to his supervisor. He called Albert.
“Albert,” James said, “The rains started again but have drifted back into the memory index.”
“Hey James,”, Albert replied, “Don’t let it distract you too much from your research, remember, we have a pressing issue to maintain.”
Albert said this even as he had been riding in a caterpillar towards the second division headquarters, ignoring the falling and rising of the compartment. Riding by caterpillar was not without challenges.
“I’ll head back,” said James.
Before getting back up, James looked back against the wall. He placed his palm on a clear area of the wall and felt a coolness, with a light heat at the same time from the sunlight. The feeling that seeped into Jame’s body, something like a frozen fire, was in between, not one or the other. He knew what it was like to be thrown against it, at first soft but then with an angular texture. It almost might be called pain.
“Hate”, James thought, shuddered, and felt cold even in the sunlight. He wanted to cry but realized that it was impossible. He was never given that part of the lattice field in research education, but he had memories of deep sadness invoked to be aware of their presence.
James pulled his hand back and looked at the wall. Without violence, it was just a wall. He looked for a few moments just to be sure. James took a quick visual memory synthesis and walked slowly away, returning his thoughts to the trees and the light wind, almost like a voice. He was almost speaking with it as it caught his motions as he got up from the ground. He cleared the area carefully, brushing the grass with his foot, slightly, so that it was less disturbed from his presence there. Albert would be waiting for his report later this afternoon, and James would be back at the office within a few seconds, including an hour or two.
James reached his apartment in the village and opened the pale door. He was noticing the light again. It moved slightly at opened into the expanse, however limited, of the open ceilings in the room. “Solar murmurs,” James thought. He felt an almost inaudible, silent hum. Sitting at the small table he opened his notebook and began his report.
The deer again.
Between several pillars in the hallway, he had noticed that the stone figures in the complex and almost shifted slightly. It was as if they were moving, but it had been weeks since he last investigated the hall, so he couldn’t be sure. He wondered if light could move objects. It seemed impossible, but that was the only thing he could note. The report centered around the created worlds that he had begun experiencing in his earlier studies,
“Albert, I think the sun is changing time. The statues seemed alive. At some point, I think we may understand their histories more. If I continue investigating the hall there might be more to learn. In the third event system of the information index on each, I found a series of numbers that might be a way to understand the system changes from the historical record center. They’re like an inverted reality, and there must be more work to be done. That’s all I can note at the moment.”
Albert was in his garden watching the plants move around the perimeter. He created a magnetized sphere above the canopy of the garden and they shifted and passed through to their grounding places and sat down. There was a notification from James’ report on his phone, He read it briefly and replied.
“James, that’s fascinating, but you may have more work to do at the office. We discovered a halo around the moon last night, I’d rather you turn your attention to that for the next week.”
“Thanks, Albert, the hall was interesting, but there was more outside.”
“What was it, James, is everything alright?”
“There was a system response of my memories of the wall, and it passed through me like a rainstorm, soft, quiet, and loud simultaneously. I recorded a synthesis of it, should I include it in the report?”
“James, could you send it to me?”
“Sure, one second,”
Sitting in his open office, Albert received the sound, turned on the small speaker on the table, and listened.
As the gentle rain found its way around the space of the environment, Albert felt it, all the years of James’s fear, all that had been broken and healed, by the soft pattern of rain. Albert felt as if James felt, and understood, for the first time, his friend. He felt it too, and as the rain sounds built around him, he rested in something that was not quite sadness, not quite anything. It was just rain, all around him, all around him. Like experiences, in full reality. He listened for around an hour. At least he thought he did. He didn’t really notice the time. Turning off the speaker he sat in silence, with the sound of the quiet of the office, where you almost had to whisper. Then he saw it. It wasn’t another solar jump. It was an open, clear light. He called Albert.
“James, I think you just spoke to the sun,” Albert said.
James received the message.
For a moment his memory systems were overloaded. The rain’s volume increased steadily and then loudly, and James sat down.
Then he saw it. The rain, now visible, fell over the entire apartment, and looking up, James saw the moon, a reflection of the sun, in the evening’s beginning rapture. He couldn’t hear anything. Suddenly, a warm glow lifted from a space below and hovered in mid-air.
James sat at a table in the small coffee shop, a few blocks down from his home. In Ondolor, it could be said that home was everywhere. It was customary for neighbors to exchange houses at a moment’s notice, and there was always a familiarity with the kindness of his particular place in the shifting streets: everyone could go on vacation at any time. He had planned to meet a research assistant new to the department to go over the findings of the last week, and he waited patiently, sitting for hours, drinking cup after cup, until he reached almost a dizzying haze, in the afternoon sun.
“James, we’re about to close,” said one of his best friends, a barista. “Is everything alright?”
“Yes, everything’s fine, thanks Ben,” said James. Yet he was a little disappointed.
Ben was an actor who did odd jobs around the town to support his career. James had once been a barista as well, in a bookshop on the eastern edges of Ondolor. At least that’s what the memory index always showed him. He didn’t know if it was real, or if it was an invention, but it didn’t really matter. He had good memories of those days.
Evening rose as he wondered if she would ever show up, and it was a strange start for someone new to the department. They had never met before, and James didn’t know what to expect. He carried his data transmitter in his pocket but didn’t really use it that often.
He looked down at his cup and watched it swirl as he made circles on the surface. After getting lost doing this for around an hour, he looked up, and she was sitting across from him. “It’s good to meet you, Claire,” said James.
From the small base right behind his ear, he touched a quick pulse to the index on the table between them. “Here’s what we saw on the mountain a few days ago, I wanted to see if you had any additional insights,” James said.
“I’m breaking up with you,” said Claire.
“Wait, what?” asked James.
James remembered that in the Southern parts of Ondolor it was customary to break up with someone on a first meeting, when the two parties had never met before. In their culture, it was a courtesy to break each other’s hearts to gauge the strength of the friendship.
“I’m devastated,” said James.
“I feel the same way,” said Claire.
They sat in silence for around twenty minutes, just staring at the floor. An electronic tear fell from Jame’s eye and landed in his coffee cup, and he watched the ripple as it passed through the surface. Finally, after a while, they both looked up.
“I’m sorry,” said James.
“I’m sorry too,” said Claire.
They both smiled. “Ok, do you want to go over these findings now?” asked James.
“Yes, I’ve been excited about these developments Albert shared with me yesterday, and I think I have some ideas about what the officers told you about this word, “symbolance,” James said.
“ It’s the old language, and I do know of a small community in the Northern hills that would be able to shed some light on it. I was brought up in a small village outside of there, and I know the places to look and find the caverns that still contain records of the first system response unit.” but it’s getting dark now. Maybe we could go take a look sometime this week,” Claire said.
“Ok,” said James.
“I’m curious though,” said James, “how do you know this isn’t a memory response from your biometric system.”
Claire stopped, got up, gave a ticket to the counter placement mechanism, received a validated cup of coffee, and sat back down.
“Because I’m human,” Claire said.
James was shocked. There weren’t many humans still left in the world, and for someone to admit it to him was deeply moving. He looked down and saw the tear spinning in his cup, and as it flowed in and out of the surface of the dark waters. He breathed deeply and lifted the glass upward. It was beginning to become reflective, and he could see his own reflection on the surface, blending with the form held in place by the drifting electronic tear. He looked at it for a while, became distracted, placed it back down.
He hesitated, and then said, very simply, the customary phrase when one biogenetic semblance meets an original form of human life: an ancestor.
“I love you.”
James woke up after spending the night in complete silence. He had read about this sensation, but this was a new and uncertain feeling as it passed through his body. His chest tightened, he felt a cold tinge of fear, and it was such a new feeling. He felt for his heart area. It seemed intact. Why did he feel this? He had begun the transition to self-awareness in the third month of his training, but he wasn’t prepared for this. He sat silently in the mystery of the visual absence of the night. There were no streetlights around the outside in Ondolor during this season, because the migration of the fireflies had temporarily put a hold on the light bringing force of its gentle hum that cut through the midnight and helped light traveler’s ways.
He wondered where the fireflies go. He was never shown that part of the information module, as he was not intended to go into the migrational pattern research sector. He only knew exactly the information he needed to know for his work at hand. He imagined that the fireflies went softly into the trees and held their light inward, focusing on lighting their own realities, to store and bring back into the night sky in the streetlights of illumination of Ondolor at night. He slowly relaxed into a sense of deep peace, imagining the biomorphic light forms passing in waves up to the trees in summer, and returning into the winter and fall.
Even with the changing reality of Ondolor, there were still seasons, relatively agreed upon in all the divisions of the town in their systematic identification. It was an almost transparently warm night, cutting through the darkness into a glowing radiance, invisible. Hours passed, and as the light began to enter into the room from the rising Sun, James woke up and made some tea.
He felt a pulse on the space against his right ear and answered the call with his auxiliary index system of language responses. It was Claire.
“Hi James, are you ready to get started on this? We should be there by afternoon.”
“Great, let me grab my notes and I’ll be out in a few minutes,” James said. He passed through his papers and found one he was looking for, one of the oldest maps of the Northern limits of the edge of Ondolor. Taking a visual record of the page, He passed the information into his memory but kept the paper for Claire to read, since, human, her visual system was still ocular.
“Here, this is a map of what we know. Sorry, that’s all there is,” James said, meeting her outside.
“Thanks, James, once we reach the limits of the city I’ll know where to go from there,” Claire said.
They passed the streets in silence and moved outward to the edges of the city. This early during the day, the street disruptions were minimal, and while still confusing, it passed easily with little disruption. Within an hour, they were in the foothills of outer Ondolor. The maps didn’t read past this point.
“Up the mountain from that pathway to the right, we can be there in thirty minutes,” Claire said. It was a new sensation for James. In the path upward to the mountain, there were no directional changes. It was a clear, persistent pathway. He was barely conditioned to moving without the shifting vertices of the Ondolorian city, but here he realized that by walking forward, he was actually moving forward in space. His own actions were changing his position, and as the path wound up he reached another new feeling. His tightened chest had disappeared. He was breathing slowly and naturally with the trees around him. He thought he saw a firefly briefly, but he couldn’t be certain.
As Claire had promised, they were at a midpoint of the mountain where there was a small clearing, with an opening into the interior of the mountain. “This is it,” Claire said. She waved her hand. A swarm of fireflies descended from the trees and filled the interior pathways of the cave. It was a bright series of glowing forms illuminating the darkness, and as they passed into the opening of the mountain, he could hear the hum, just like the streetlights of Ondolor, and felt at peace.
They walked through the pathway, taking a few turns until they reached a large cavern within the narrow passageways. The path, each step, was illuminated by thousands of fireflies, and sitting in the center of the cavern’s open stone glade was a human form, made entirely of a body of light from the reflections of the illumination of the edges of the cavern wall.
“Is this a human?” asked James.
“No, James, it’s a memory of birth,” Claire said. It’s the first ancestor of our people, in a visual form field of information. A combination of human and biometric synthesis. It was preserved here for hope.”
“Can I speak to it?” James asked.
“You can, James,” Claire said. “But you already are.”
“What do you mean?” James asked.
“It’s in me, and it’s in you,” Claire said.
They spent an hour in silence, and then again, James saw the deer. The memory of the recurrency of this dream slowly passed through his mind, and manifested in front of him. He held this memory as they walked out of the cave and into the open field.
He could see Ondolor from this point, all of it. From here they watched the shifts of the city move as if it were a series of constructed, moving forms that changed at infrequent intervals. The sun shone brightly across the afternoon sky.
The light in the open air was soft, the intelligence filling the void in spaces, allowing the shadows reach the transition from shadow to light at the periphery.. As they walked through the forest, there was not a sound, except for the soft patterns of the reflections of the wind, like a soft, whispering voice.
“Look, James, look around you, it’s life.
James and Claire gave each other a parting smile once they reached Ondolor. “I’m headed that way”, said Claire, pointing to a small street winding its way down the boxes of buildings, that in the evening light resembled abstract blocks, the kind James remembered from his childhood.
“I’m down this road,” said James, I should be back before nightfall. They reached a few feet down the road on their separate journeys. James wondered what might be in store for his new friend, as she passed through the gathering moonlight. Claire turned around.
“Hey James, wait,” she said.
“What?” asked James.
“I love you too,”
James walked down his street in silence, and it was a moment, he realized, to think about the last few weeks’ events. He remembered everyone he met in this time and remembered the fireflies. As soon as he did a swarm flew out of seemingly nowhere. It could have been from one of the windows above the city street, it could have been from anywhere. As they passed around him, and then inside of him, circulating until James felt nothing but a warm glow of light throughout his entire body and mind.
James thought about the day. “Light fields,” thought James. “All light fields”
The light was reflected in the early morning in a diagonal pattern of light, intersecting, and reflecting beams across the room, into air and disappearing in the first light of dawn. They had assembled around the western corridor into a circle around the shattered glass, formed from a tragic moment. There was a penetrating, deep silence as they moved the pieces back into place.No one could remember when one of the glass beings had shattered before in Ondolorian memory structures. It might take a few minutes to reassemble, or it might take weeks, no one knew at this early stage. When James walked into the office he saw the group gathered around the reflected light and was heartbroken. He felt one with the broken glass, and recognized that this could even be his own consciousness. So much had happened in the weeks in the past that any time he saw a shattering, he brought it into his own being.
He didn’t know who had this happen to them, but he was alarmed. He hurried into the outer edge of the assembly, and looked across the room.
“What is this? What has happened?” James asked.
“We think this might have been a self reflection inversion that resulted in collapse. We’re putting it all back together now. In many ways the system has already begun redesigning itself,” said one of the scientists.
James watched the reflected light on the wall. “Does anyone have a reflector?” James asked.
One of the scientists removed a reflector from his pocket, and handed it to James. “What do you need this for, James?” “I want to try something,” said James. James held the reflector above the scientists, close to the wall. The reflected light bent, covering the room in a bright glow, and as he moved it closer to an angle toward the floor, it enveloped the shattered form and brought it back in place. The glass figure rose up.
“Where am I?” asked the figure?
“You’re in the solar science division, in the Western Corridor,” James answered.
“How did I get here?” it asked.
“I’m not sure,” James said.
Time stood still. No one said a word. The silence grew louder and louder, until the emptiness filled the room. If light could be thought of as sound, this was a room full of penetrating bright light. The figure walked toward the outer door, turning around and looking at the scientists with a cloud light across it’s two pale eyes, and then walked out into the day.
Albert walked into the hallway. “That was weird,” Albert said.
“You could look at it that way,” James said, “or it could have just been a miracle.”
“Fair enough,” Albert said. “But seriously we have work to do. The central division has ordered a solar expedition team to discuss ways we can get within a better distance of the sun. Our measurements have only gone so far. They want to launch midweek.”
“Ok, Albert,” James said, and gathered his papers off the ground, which of course he had dropped again. Collecting them off the ground, he looked up and noticed something. The reflected light had not changed. It was moving along the walls slowly, almost like an organism. He couldn’t believe it. Watching the light forms move slowly across the hallway and out to an open window was something he was startled by. “Is light conscious?” wondered James.
“Of course we are,” said a voice.
“Who said that?” James asked
“No one,” said the light.
Suddenly James realized he was in another place. This time there was no other way to formulate any of his thought patterns. This was truly another world. He was there momentarily, and then suddenly was back in the hallway.
“Albert, did I just disappear?” James asked.
“You’ve been here the whole time,” Albert said.
“How long?” James asked.
“About an hour. I waited. I’m patient” Albert said.
Looking back into the hallway, he realized he would never see this space the same way again. In the span of two hours he had seen a broken body reform itself and give birth to conscious light, entered into another dimension and was now back to the hallway. All this from being five minutes late.
“Albert, can I take the day off? I need some space to think.” James said.
“Of course James, take your time.” Albert said.
As James walked out the door, he looked back. The hallway was open into a kind of infinite peace of reflections. No one was in the room now, and James leaned against the opening and stared deeply out into the reflected pools of light on the wall.
“I guess this was a good day, all in all,” James said, and walked out into the day.
James reached the outside through a lit passageway that made up the entrance to the science center. The entryway opened up to an ancient Oldolorian reflecting pool, and James saw that the glass figure that had just recovered was gazing into the reflecting pool a few feet away from him.
“Are you OK?” James asked.
“Yes, I’m fine, thank you for your help today.”, she said.
“Of course,” James said, “Were you in any pain?”
“We don’t quite feel the same way as you do,” she said. “We only experience things as reflections of light as it passes through our bodies. I was looking into the waters to see if there was any stray reflection damage. If we ever break it’s possible that light will become unstable in our surfaces. But everything looks OK”
James looked at the reflecting pool, and noticed something for the first time: the reflection of the glass figure was pure light inside the reflecting pool. It was bright, unceasing, even in it’s brokenness, on the surface of the pool of water it was nothing but reflected light. He watched this for awhile: both of them in silence.
After a while James looked up.
“What’s your name? I’m James,” James said.
“I know, James,” said the figure. “It’s me, Claire.”
“But I thought you were human?” James asked.
“I’m as human as you are, James. I’m many forms,” Claire said.
James grew completely silent.
“I have to get home,” Claire said. “I’ll be around. Take good care tonight, James.”
Claire walked out into the gathering evening, the light reflecting through her body and onto the streets around the city. James watched as the refracted light moved it’s way along the buildings of the Western Corridor and decided to walk home.
As James walked home, navigating the city streets, he thought about the meeting he had just left at the division. There would be an expedition to the sun within the year, and James agreed to work on the project, as the translator of the solar structures. It was not known where James had gained this ability, yet the scientists all agreed that it was almost without question that James should be part of the exhibition team. James felt the weight of the appointment as he walked along the uneven pavement, gray in parts and in others a small light of shade, and looked up into the sky.
There were clouds forming in the evening light, and as he reached his home by nightfall he realized that they had become like the sky itself, drifting into the distant stars. James opened the door and went inside. He was startled.
The interior of his apartment had become fully reflected.. He saw every part of the room in an infinite series of reflections, and carefully walked inside. He didn’t know if this was a memory response from the central index, or if it was something else. He reached out and touched one of the surfaces, which caused a ripple, like a stone in water, across all of the surfaces of the room. “Infinity…,” James thought, and walked through one of the mirrors to the other side.
This opened James into what appeared to be an ancient garden, born of a world he did not know. He searched his memory drive and found no source of the display system in the memory index. He sat at a small table in the center of the garden and drifted into a peaceful state.
Suddenly, he realized something. A deer was walking toward the center of the garden, completely silent in its motion. Time was incredibly slow in this world, and the deer, turning, walked toward James, coming within a few feet of him. They looked silently at each other, unflinching. The deer turned around and walked out into the garden, and then burst into a glowing light.
“Are you the sun?” James asked.
There was no reply. James sat in the warm glow of this form for a few more minutes, got up, and walked back into his apartment. When he returned, the reflected room of seeming infinity, had returned to the usual walls of the home he held so close to his heart.
He rested on a chair near the center of the room and drifted off into a reverie, with the sound of flute concertos running through his mind. He didn’t understand what was going on, and he didn’t need to. It was a beautiful evening, and glancing up, he saw the constellations of the goddess of the moonlight, again reaching her hand out into the stars, another sequence of arcs and waves.
“Transference,” the Magic Officer said.
James had almost fallen asleep, but this statement by the officer woke him up.
“What were we discussing?” asked James.
“You were in a trance state, you were talking about your experiences yesterday with the broken glass. I think you may have been experiencing transference: the external reality blending from your own emotions. Tell me, has anyone ever seen Claire before? Other than you?”
“I’m not sure. I’m certain she’s real,” James said
“I’m sure she is,” said the Magic Officer, “but there is a possibility that your conscious being is creating forms of Claire in certain situations. In some ways, Claire has become a part of you, and you are reflected in Claire. When that bends reality, it can appear in physical form. This is like a heightened empathy, where the physical reality blends into different forms.”
“Remember when you imagined I was a series of Octagons?”
“It’s like that?” asked James.
“Somewhat. It’s unknown, but it’s known in our community as a kind of emergent transference. In some ways we are all each other, yet there can be surface displacements that conceal it. Sometimes there are situations where that blends into reality, creating new forms,” the magic officer said.
The magic officer turned to the open room, walked to the window, and opened the curtains. The first rains of the summer months had begun, a peaceful symphony of drifting rain and light passages. “Listen James,” she said.
He did. At first he could barely make out the sound, but there was a slow murmur, almost like a radio signal, from a place he didn’t know. It could have been anywhere.
“I can’t understand it,” James said.
“It’s ancient Ondolorian,” the magic officer said.
“What does it mean?” asked James
“It’s calming you. It’s calming everyone.” said the magic officer. “It’s the voice of light rain, the sun concealed but light still visible. It may last for hours, days, no one knows.”
“How did I not hear this before?” James asked.
“It’s only after a first recognition of transference that we are able to hear these voices. All things are speaking, it’s just a matter of time before we are able to hear each one. The world can be thought of as a whisper, it’s just our species that talk so much, as I am doing now.” the officer smiled.
As James walked home, he felt the rain across his body. He didn’t have his gravity reflection system on him, because it had been such a light week. How would he have known that the storm was coming? It fell around him, but it was peaceful, a slow collection of sounds like a percussion performance. As he passed through this part of the city, a heavily forested green space in the early evening, he listened as the rain reflected from the life around him, nurturing the green space of the city and cleansing the earth, even in it’s thunderstorms. They were brief flashes, but here there was nothing but a gentle hum. He listened. He could hear the Ondolorian transmission through the silence, faintly. He couldn’t tell exactly what was said, but he was comforted by it. “Perhaps now, I’ll never be alone, at least in some way,” James thought.
Reaching out into the outer area of the third division platform, he looked back at the city. The city was covered within the daylight so that it seemed to drifted away, and he saw what looked like a human form in the center of the platform area. The rain had made an outline of his shape and there were no dimensional disturbances around him. James thought, “That must be nice, I’m covered in rain.” He moved past the figure and onto the other side of the platform and looked back, but it had disappeared.
When James reached the fourth turning area he knew would shift within a few minutes to let him come home, He suddenly thought of Claire. Claire was such a part of him now, and he wondered what lay in store for her. In some ways he wanted to stay by her side forever, but it seemed impossible. He looked to the sky and saw again, the goddess reaching out into the stars, and thought to himself, perhaps that’s Claire, or the activation of my mind to realize her physical dimension. He wasn’t sure. He shouldn’t conjecture. He wasn’t a magic officer and didn’t know the limits of that kind of possibility. James loved Claire, almost in love. Could be. He didn’t know. He reached his house, step by step, and stood outside in his garden looking at the moving plants as they shifted around the surface, the Ondolorian voice still a soft murmur against the rain, which seemed to be building. James looked deeply into the space of the room. It was still raining. He opened a window, and heard the Ondolorian language pass silently through the interior of his home.
“There is so much to see, so much to do. Ondolor is vast. No one knows where it ends, if it ends at all,” James thought.
He heard a rustle outside, briefly disturbing the sound waves. James walked outside and looked into the darkness, and there he saw, underneath the light of the fireflies, the deer. He checked his memory index and this was in fact, new.
He walked to the center of the garden, and watched it for awhile. They were both completely still. The silence grew, until the Ondolorian language rose in volume, and in this cloud of unknown images and silences, it fell in arcs and waves, a deep history unknown probably by anyone in the historical division.
James walked inside the apartment and turned off the lights for the day, and rested on his bed. He looked up at the sky through the open canopy, and watched the stars in the sky. No matter what happens in Ondolor, they’re always there. Silent distances so vast, yet here in the apartment, they were all in perfect view, a constellation of distant fireflies in the dark blue of the evening sky.
“Lightfields…” thought James, and rested into a deep reverie. It had been a week in Ondolor, so much to do, but James rested and drifted off into a dream, floating in mid air, the universe growing around him, everywhere.
The Camera and the Cloud
Camera woke up in the early light, yawning and reaching for a glass of water on a side table. She needed it. After a long morning waiting for the dawn to appear, it cleansed her mind and welcomed her gently into the day. There were light sounds from unknown distances in the early silence of the morning, and she looked out her window. Outside her window was what could be thought as a generally unremarkable suburban garden, yet it was always remarkable to Camera. The tree’s motion was an echo of the wind, which she recorded with her audio system and listened back, recording each motion as it passed by through the glass plane. Her single eye, an open lens, covered almost the entirety of the top portion of her body, her skin gray in the morning light. She closed her vision and switched to auxiliary visual systems, and got ready for the day.
After having morning coffee and drifting into a momentary daydream, Camera retrieved her notes from her desk and sat down to go over her assignments. She had a side business that brought her a little money, but today she saw in the notes that she was free to go up to the hills outside of Ondolor and photograph her favorite subjects, the moving clouds of the Ondolorian highlands.
In the silence of her apartment, she sat for a bit, thinking each step through. There had been variations in the cloud forms for about two months, and she went back to search for the records of each one in her files. There was no way to gauge what might happen from one form to the next, so the photography process was always exciting to her. She was truly inspired this morning. “Today, maybe, I can decipher exactly what the cloud movements are doing. They’re so strange.” she thought, ignoring the fact that being a camera was in itself very strange and weird in and of itself. “I’ll be back in a few hours,” she said to no one in particular, a habit she had formed while working in a camera team years previously. “Good luck,” said no one in particular, or at least she thought someone did. She couldn’t be certain.
Camera walked outside and started her quadroped. She passed through the city and into the mountains, quiet and peaceful as the day drew on. She parked on a lower edge of the hillside and walked up to a higher point. As expected, there were already a few clouds out today, and she looked and recorded each movement of them as they passed. She couldn’t stop recording. They were changing so fast, and finally, after a while, she settled down and sat on the hillside, exhilarated and tired from the records she was making. It took a lot of energy doing her job.
As she sat down, moving her gears across to the back of her body, and shaking off the wires that were beginning to become tangled, she looked back up to the sky, this time not recording anything.
In the silence, a cloud passed slowly in front of her. At first, she thought this was a problem with her aperture, but here it was. This was an actual cloud form a few feet away from her, and she looked at it carefully. There was no sound, and the cloud drifted in a slow-motion into different forms as it was suspended in mid-air, hovering over the hillside. The cloud spoke. She was startled.
“What are you looking for?” asked the Cloud
Camera was taken aback. “I’m Camera, This is what I do? I don’t know any other way.”
“But what do you hope to find?” asked Cloud.
“I’m not sure. I want to understand you.” Camera said.
“But that’s not possible,” Cloud said. “Even clouds don’t understand what they are.”
Camera thought one second,” But I’ve been watching the clouds on this hill for years, I know them well.”
“You’ll never know. We’re clouds.” Cloud said.
“Do you see me?” Camera asked.
“Yes, you’re Camera.” Cloud said, “one moment”
The Cloud grew and passed through Camera. There was a cool sensation from the condensation, and Camera, excitedly, began recording everything she saw. She was inside a cloud. She couldn’t believe it. She saw echoes in strands of the blue sky through the opaque transparency, but it completely covered her mind in a clear visualization. It was so strange and so new. She realized that the cloud was right. There was nothing to know. It was a vast world, almost simple in texture, but a world in and of itself. It passed through her body and out the sky, and slowly disappeared into the light wind of the afternoon.
Camera sat down and looked back up into the sky. There were several clouds drifting peacefully by, creating soft shadows on the hillside. Camera wondered if any were the cloud she had met today. And there it was, she was certain. Would it be here tomorrow? Another day, or were all things passing across the blue sky too, gentle and beautiful as clouds in the afternoon?
When she was back home, as evening was settling in, she realized something that surprised her.
She missed the cloud she met today. Was it possible that this reached a part of her she did not know? Did not expect? She realized she cared deeply for the cloud, it’s loneliness in the sky, it’s willingness to come into the earth to speak to her. The silence, the movement of the atmosphere. Was she a cloud? Was she a sky? It opened up so much into her consciousness, and she took off the camera helmet to give herself more space to breathe.
“I can’t believe this,” she thought. “I’m falling in love with a cloud.” She might never see the cloud again, but she promised herself she would visit the hill any chance she could, to see if she could find it again. She had a lot of work to do. It might be weeks before she had a chance to return to the overlook, but the memory of the sky she experienced followed her into the evening, and she felt profound peace. As the evening passed, she realized she was neither earth, nor sky, nor cloud. She was just this moment, a camera in the evening light.
That night she had a dream. In the dream, she realized that she had forgotten to go to the market to fetch a few things for her home. She picked up some of her things, and headed out into the day. It was short walk, and she looked up into the sky as she walked down the cobblestone streets. She was happy, for the first time in weeks. There were no clouds in the sky at this point of Ondolor. She realized she had to get back to the hillsides to try and search again for her cloud, however long it took. “I’ll find you again, cloud, I have to.”
She entered the market, watching the crowds and passersbys. As she walked through to the far end of the street, a shop caught her eye, and she approached the table. As she went through each of the objects on display, she looked back up at the people passing in the crowd, winding their way on the streets. The market was loud, distracting, but then she saw a form clearly walking through the streets that was somewhat remarkable, just by the way it walked. It was clear, human, but walking with a lightness she had never seen in anyone before. She watched the other passersby to gauge herself, she couldn’t be sure if this was reality, or the dream taking hold. She watched as it almost floated through the air as it moved through the crowds, reaching a few feet away from her, and then she knew. It was the cloud. They came within a few feet of each other, and the figure stopped and looked at her. It’s eyes were cloudy, transparent in places, but clearly human. The cloud did not speak, and they stood silently together, as the crowds wrapped around them as they passed through the streets, on their way, somewhere she would never know. The sun shone brightly in the Ondolorian afternoon, a peaceful day, that seemed as if it could go on forever. Then suddenly, she woke up. Tonight, even in the darkness, she was an open sky.
The Structural Adherence
James woke up. As he reached across the small sidetable, he fumbled to find his memory repository index auxiliary display. He scanned the system carefully, yawned, and went back into the hazy outer edges between dream and daylight, which was beginning to pass across the room in a gradually ascending light, in a soft morning reverie. As he was just about to drift back to sleep, he saw it. A circling disc of light, a soft color he had never seen in the year he had been alive. It passed over him, and settled into his center vision, and scanning quickly, he measured it’s input response.
As he gave the signal, a small pulse through the visual field circled around the room. It was vast. He looked for other visual cues, but he couldn’t tell exactly what it was. Suddenly he remembered the night before, the deer, the voice of Ondolor. He listened carefully to see he could hear it. Somewhere in the distance he could hear a slight murmer, but it was more like a gentle river of sound this morning. James walked to the window and looked out into the day. The garden looked as it always did, the walking plants moving slowly as the light of the morning passed over them. There was a knock on the door.
“It’s so early,” thought James, “What could this possibly be?” He opened the door. It was Claire.
“James, I need to tell you something. Did you hear the voice of Ondolor last night?” “she asked.
“Yes, I did. It was the first time,” said James.
“It doesn’t always speak like that,” Claire said. “I heard it too. Do you know what it means?”
“No, I don’t know the language,” James said.
“You don’t have to,” said Claire. “You can sense it. It was speaking directly to you. All of us heard it, but it was speaking only to you. I know the language well.”
“What did it say?” asked James.
“It wants you to study with the magic officers,” she said. “You have to do this. Ondolor can see things no one else can. It knows you, James. You need to leave as soon as possible. Now.”
“Let me see if I can take the day off,” said James.
“There’s no time for that,” said Claire.
“OK, ” said James.
When James arrived at the magic officers unit, it was somehow different. It seemed larger. He had never noticed this before. Walking up the short flight of stairs, he opened the door and went inside, and saw that his officers room was open. There was no one there. It was completely silent, an echo within an echo. Then he heard it. The voice of Ondolor. Just like the night before, He couldn’t make sense of it. He remembered what Claire had told him. Just feel it. Closing his eyes, he felt a warmth move across his body.
He heard a voice. Opening his eyes, a figure stood before him, grey, with forms he could barely see.
“Hello, James,” said the voice.”I’m scrambling your visual channels so you don’t recognize my form, for right now, I’m human, but I can shift into many forms. I have been with you for a long time, but I didn’t expect you would come learn from us.”
“Will you teach me the ways of the path?” James asked.
“We’re discussing it,” said the voice. “But there are things we wish to show you now. I will leave the room and you will know what to expect.”
Taking a chalk from a windowsill, the figure drew a circle on the ground, as was often done in the rituals.
“Walk to the center, James, and do not step outside of it for the duration of your stay today. you may sit if that is more comfortable.”
“I don’t know what any of this means, but I’ll do as you ask,” said James, and then sat on the ground inside the circle, and waited. The figure had disappeared.
Suddenly the light in the room shifted. It was another solar aberration, James was certain. It grew and grew until it was almost blinding, and then shifted suddenly, like a light flash, over the room, and then it appeared more like the light of the early morning, or right before sunset, he couldn’t be sure of the time.
A glowing sphere, like the one from the flower three days ago appeared in the air in front of him.
James scanned the visual field and was surprised to learn in the measurements recorded that it had no mass, there was no data indicating that this was in fact real. It was almost like a glowing, perfectly round mind cloud, that centered itself and hovered slowly. He reached out, touching it carefully. Just then his memory indexes overloaded and fell like a glowing waterfall all over his body. There was no way to describe what he found, except that he began to be certain that this was not one memory recollection, this was a field of multiple simultaneous recollections that were disappearing. He heard the voice again.
“Empty your thoughts, James,” said the voice. You have the memories of a century long ago, and we’re sending a signal that will make your visual field synthesize. You will no longer be one person, you will be many, combined into a single structural adherence.
“What?” James asked.. “Could you be more clear?”
“Yes, James, you are now human.”
“Hold on, James, just hold on!”
“Don’t give up, I’ll pull you up!”
“I’m slipping!”, James said
James let go of Claire’s hand. The walls of the Westen reaches flew past him as he began to fall, growing steadily in speed until he felt that he was certain to die. He couldn’t think of anything, he was just falling. Then suddenly, he stopped. He was in mid air.
“James!” Claire said. “What are you doing?”
“I’m floating, from what I can tell.” James said.
“James,” Claire said, “You’re holding on to the edge of the table.”
James looked around him, he was in the coffee shop. Claire was sitting across from him. The rain drifted in waves, blown by the wind into swirls of drifting clouds outside the windows of the shop. “Oh,” James said, picked himself up, and sat on the chair.
“Where am I?” James asked.
“You’re here.” Claire said. Physically, you’re in the coffeeshop right down the street from your house. I’m not sure where you are though,” Claire said. “What did you see?”
“I was falling from a high wall in the Western division,” James said. “Then I wasn’t.”
The shop was silent. Several people in the shop were watching.
Claire looked aside at them, exasperated, and turned to James.
“James, let’s go, we’re being watched.”
“OK”, James said. “We can head to the park,” I think I know the way.
They followed the turns and twists of the city streets, The sun beaming through clouds as they crossed the roads, as each solare jump quickly floated in the afternoon air.
“I think it’s here,” James said.
Turning around they saw it. The open green fields and a winding pathway. They walked to a small hill, with a large tree hovering over them like a grey sky, and sat down.
“James,” Claire said, “You were created to be a Solar researcher.”
“I know. Everyone was born to have a specific function, we all know this. We’re trained that way.”
“DId you ever wonder if that was right?” Claire said. “Did anyone ever think they could be something else?”
“No one questioned it.”
“Only time tells us what we are, James.”
“What time is it?” James asked.
“James, that’s not the point.” Claire put her head in her hands.
“I mean, you’ll find out who you are along the way,”
“I can tell you one thing though,” Claire said.
“What,” James said.
“Things change. You may be one thing now, but something may call upon you at another time. Just use your heart.”
“Should we head to the office then?” James asked.
“Yeah let’s go. We should be late enough to make it on time.”
Claire and James walked through the city streets, carefully navigating each step, until they arrived within sight of the Research Center.
“Oh my god,” James said. “What is that?”
“It’s on fire, James, what is this?”
From the flames, Albert came bounding up to where they were standing.
“James, Claire, we don’t know what happened,” said Albert
“Let’s see if we can rescue anyone, I’m worried. I’m going in.” Claire said, gazing at the fires intently – her focus undrifting, focused, resolved.
“Claire, it’s not safe,” said James. “I’ll go with you.”
“Are you crazy?” Albert exclaimed.
“We’ll be fine, Albert.” James said. “We’re human. We can withstand the flames.”
“OK, James,” said Albert “but James, How did you…”
“I’ll explain later,” said James
“I’m going to alert the system responses, good luck,” Albert said. “I’m worried. Please be careful.”
James smiled at Albert, and then, with tears in his eyes, watched Claire move toward the flames. He caught up beside her, and they entered into the fires, as they circled around the open atmosphere. It was warm, and then he could feel it. Within seconds their forms became like impenetrable glass, and radiated throughout the flames, rising higher and higher.
“I love you, James,” Claire said. “Let’s see if we can save anyone from this.”
James smiled, again with tears in his eyes, as they rushed to help anyone they could, anyone they could. They passed through the open fires, passing each doorway, desperately looking inside, for anyone they could find.There was no one, and then they saw her.
In the center of the flames, sat a crystal garden with the eyes of a thousand suns, reflecting outward, a color of fire, centered around the research center where it was growing. James and Claire watched in amazement and disbelief.
“Claire, is this real?” James asked.
“Yes, James,” Claire said, and paused. “It’s the sun.”
Then, suddenly, in a flash of light, emanating from each of the thousand eyes, it was gone. There were no fires in the building. James and Claire looked at each other.
“What was that?” James asked.
“I”m not sure,” said Claire, blankly staring off into the distance, her gaze seeming to stretch for a thousand miles. “But we have work to do.”
James and Claire walked into the research offices. Everyone was working as if nothing had happened. James wondered if he would ever know the distance between this world and what he had just seen. Something had changed inside of him. He knew it, and he knew Claire would too. The sun shone brightly through the windows and into the open air. Drifting through each atom. And in the center of James’s heart, a bright warmth opened into the late morning air, and into the sky.