Hydaspian Badlands, Pollen
If there is one thing I have promised myself in all these years it is that I will leave this godless alien dust behind me before I die. But the truth is I would rather die myself than let it leave me. I will rot one away into the ground, and nothing will remain but tendrils of Primer dust, the sepsis that once corrupted my spaces.
My chest itches. I feel the red hairs tingling, and scratch them absently. They shiver when the cusp in my left hand draws nearer. Stretching, reaching outward for the Primer’s influence like coral fronds. I am becoming addicted to this connection, a slave to the pulsating commands of the aberrants lurking beyond reach. They will soon find me once again.
Am I cursed?
Sitting here in the parlour tent of the Taigan-bedouins, I realise my hand holding the cusp is shaking as I raise it. The potency is the strongest the herd master has ever found, he says, and so I will brave the infinite once more and surrender to the deepest insanity that I have ever attempted. In the name of my ancestors, and the ones who will come after us.
The timeslip catches me.
Such a bizarre sensation, the awareness of experiences from both before and after the intoxication bleeding back from the dimensions around the present moment, like a dream that will not dissolve, caught before it could return to the collective subconscious. Temporal echoes.
An image of a woman with shells for eyes flashes in my mind as I raise the cusp, but as the past and future collide I suck the spores down into my lungs.
There is a crackling sound as the wafer-thin membranes crush to a crisp. Crumbled dust runs through my fingers into a pile on the floor.
There is nothing for a moment except a faint, sinking sensation. My body falling into cold water.
A single eye opens within.
– I fall, I climb, I crawl, I slide out from between planes of being, rushing to fill the space within spaces without borders or boundaries that contain the forms I have inhabited, will inhabit, will eat and love and fuck and die in before returning to the void between the stars once more –
– I, you, we, feel the futility of the singular existence, the lonely individual, lacking collective, seeking unity, the glory of the timeless ones in their joining with the hive, the network, the life of all of us, join us, feel us, live us, work us, unite us, us, US! –
A baby awakes.
A child takes its first steps.
An adolescent makes a fist.
An adult runs under the sun.
An elderly human staggers.
A corpse rots.
A dark comet, kilometres wide, races down from the heavens again, through the scattering of interstellar gases and around the gravity well of a young sun, swinging in towards the tiny pearl of a blue planet, glittering in its iridescent perfection…
Visions of screaming people, shielding their faces from a blast front as wide as a continent, sweeping toward them, hurled into the sky with their homes and families, pinpricks receding into the distance…
An army of hundreds of thousands sweeps down from the hillside, screaming a merciless warcry, the riders clad in dark robes…
A starship launches from a barren, flat desert, exhaust plume ballooning out as it begins its gravity turn towards a new start…
Between the trees of a silent forest, a trail of blood leads to an ancient bunker, while feral eyes watch from the shadows…
A stampede of people surges through the streets of a Bygone city, screaming filling the air to a deafening volume…
A clan march onwards through under a winter sun, the virgin snow crunching as their mammoths plod onward, their leader turning to see their ancestral lands for the last time…
Two figures stand transfixed on a beach at midnight, hands raised in a gesture of both surrender and warning, and a woman rises up from the water with shells for eyes turns and opens her mouth in a silent scream…
A pair of twins of either sex are sealed into matching sleeper’s chambers, their hands make fists on the glass as they are entombed for eternity…
A god with the head of a jackal lifts its head to the sky and laughs, dancing in the ashes of a people sundered…
The vision of a crow soaring up through a storm, elated by the turbulence of the air.
Beneath are a cluster of tiny tents, each one a pinprick on a landscape of dust and gossamer. The clouds roll across the sky too fast, yet somehow hanging motionless.
The bird swoops to land on the tent roof.
An eternity passes in the blink of an eye.
I arrive at a cracked plain under a starry sky.
I do not know this place.
I am old, ancient and wise. I am young, naive and pure. I am grown, strong and ready. My wrinkled, baby mouth turns to the heavens, wheeling endlessly. The sands at the edge of the horizon rise and fall, rolling relentlessly onward through their passage of time.
I hear words echoing in an infernal whisper, the voices folding over one another… Am I cursed…? Cursed…?
The shell-eyed woman smiles at me. She stands motionless some distance away. A single eye blinks in her forehead.
Is this now?
-It is not that simple, my child.
The echoes of the visions still flash into my consciousness, distracting me.
What have I seen? What are you showing me?
-The things you were supposed to see, nothing more. I can no more control the flow of time than a fly can stop the wind.
I step forward, angry.
I do not wish for this madness! My body is consumed, my mind crumbles!
I hold my old hands out to her, begging. The woman recoils slightly, the single eye frowning.
-Foolish child! The soul is not bound to the present – none of us are. There is no body… there is no mind… surrender your choices to the Primer…
I gasp, confused.
But the Primer is evil! It took my family from me, it will take everything from us if we allow it!
She smiles once more.
-Are you sure?
A faint vision of people I used to know, or will know, dance around her happily, sliding in and out of reality.
-Learn to focus, to see beyond.
She spreads her arms wide, her robe of jellyfish fronds hanging.
-All that you experience is a memory. These echoes are not true, but also true. Trust not in the linear streaming, but open your eyes to the glimpses of true events, the infinite web that links the past and future to the present.
I watch the cracked earth in it’s motionless yet ongoing change, the soil shifting with the aeons of change. The silence hangs for a moment, stretching out until the perception of endless time almost engulfs my senses.
I look up, wearily.
Am I cursed?
She laughs kindly, a mess of seaweed crowning her hair in spirals and spikes of brilliant curving organic majesty, and lifts a hand with her palm out in offering. The vision of her begins to flicker.
-This is a gift, child. You will prophesy. You will observe the flow of dreams that others cannot see. Bear witness and rejoice, for there is no end…
So this is to be my destiny.
I stand alone on the plain.
The eye closes.
Surfacing from the drowning in a paroxysm of savage disconnection, sucking in the dry air of Pollen in violent, heaving gulps, my body feels like someone threw molten lead over it.
My herd mother holds a gourd of water to my mouth where I lie. I cough and splutter but drink hungrily, the flakes drifting from the corners of my face as she cooes softly, soothing my confused and shattered mind.
The master stands in the doorway. His face is a mask, yearning yet impassive. The dust spills in around his feet, desperate to fill the cracks.
“What did you see?”
I look up, eyes fighting to focus. My mind keeps trying to sink back into the void, reject the present moment.
I look down to see the circle of the Earth Chakra emblazoned, forever marking me as one of its own.
Outside the tent I hear a crow, calling.
I know now I am Leperos.