skonen_blades: (Default)
The swaying in and the swaying out. Family leaving like waves pulling back from a beach. This shore of ground-down boulders. Time making rock into softness. One small day. One small billion years. The universe is an accordion breathing fat and thin from each big bang to each heat death. The big question is "is it a cycle or a one-off"?

This universe, the one-hit wonder. A big-ticket item. Guaranteed this universe is someone's free ride to the big time. If this universe was a creation, was it for an elementary-school science fair or a nobel prize? Are we what's created in the wake of some unknowable craft? Maybe we're in the engine right now.

The big bang was caused by a piston shoving phsyics into a pocket until it ignited. Every stroke creates another one. Universes like cartoon gas clouds behind a car. You can track this car through the higher dimensions by the trail of dead universes.

We all need overlays. We all need filters. It's too bright to look at almost anything if you know enough. A cozy little standpoint helps. A cloister of prejudice. We're all living sorting hats, putting everything we see into a small number of houses.

Planning for the future is an art form. The sine wave and the particle. The sudden swerves and the trees in the way.

skonen_blades: (hamused)
It’s like the universe was shattered once and then badly glued back together. The place is filled with cracks. At below-light speeds, it doesn’t really matter. The cracks are dimensional so anything sublight can’t detect or interact with them. Earth itself even passed right through one in 1987 and no one even noticed. It was until we got ourselves detection technology that we realized what had happened by tracking it back through the decades. Just a humourous curiousity for scientists, really. A story to tell the populace to prove how safe they were and not to panic.

But anything supralight? That’s a different story.

They can be detected and avoided but they move. Ask the Titanic, right? You have to be on it. You have to be hyper vigilant. The computer takes care of a lot but you have to keep goosing the arrays, always pinging the void just to be sure.

The cracks have tributaries. They make the cracks fuzzy with hair-line spline, like lightning bolts with fur and they’re the length of universes in some cases.

One theory is that the entire universe is always breaking down and then rebuilding. Like a giant heart beating with impossibly-long heartbeats. Except that errors have crept into the system and they’re getting worse. Either that or our universe is the only one that’s ever existed but it’s been damaged from the start.

Our ship is caught in a crack now. We were going 10c. We should have known better and been paying more attention but we didn’t realize that the crack had turned. Just a little but it was enough to flypaper us in. We nicked a tributary and it pulled us into the main shaft of the canyon. We’re stuck in a pocket of subtime.

It’s called the Hall Effect.

We are removed from the time stream. Or rather, we brought some of our time with us into the crack. It’ll dwindle and we’ll start to slow down. We’ll never come to a complete stop but we’ll get slower and slower and slower until our time half-lifes itself to something close to infinity. The horrible part of it is that we ourselves won’t perceive it.

To us, time will look like it’s going along normally while around us, the universe will trickle down into the heat death that’s always been predicted.

We’ll get to see if it’s true. We’re trapped here until the universe ends. Luckily, it’ll only take a few hours by our perception while trillions of years pass by outside the crack.

Pilots and crews like us are big believers in reincarnation.

skonen_blades: (Default)
Ode to Time

Oh sideswipe of time, you raucous flow chart, actuarial tabling us from milk and cookies to cancer-ridden hardware we can’t replace. You dancing dog. Your enemies number the ones that waste you. I have known people that have loved fully and achieved mighty goals welcome death with resigned grace. It's the ones that haven’t done what they wanted and can’t see the beauty in their failure that hate clocks as much as witches hate bodies of water and piles of sticks.

Time, you have sandpapered off my corners but I am not yet a wheel. The ride is still rough. The pull of you as I roll downhill feels like gravity. You go by quicker because of your familiarity. Only adventure slows you down. Only effort makes you invisible. Only fun makes you fly.

Records broken create timestamp beasts, children of yours that embarrass themselves until they are broken again. You cannot be divided. We have not yet found your smallest number. You are as unknowably vast to us as space. The fact that we have the audacity to measure you is hubris.

According to us, the Earth is out by a whole day every four years. According to US, the EARTH is OUT by a whole day every four years. What unbelievable arrogance. Foxes don’t know that they are called foxes, lions don’t know that they are called lions, and time does not know that it is comprised of hours and minutes and seconds.

There are no stopwatches in space. The right amount of time to make a sun ignite is merely the right amount. The number of revolutions needed to create a planet is merely the number of revolutions needed. If it cannot be a planet, it will be an asteroid belt. If it cannot be an asteroid belt, it will be rings around a gas giant. Nothing is measured. It merely exists. And time is what enables it to happen.

If there is a God then God is time. Time gives the universe permission to exist and it gives us permission to experience it.

Our human label makers will break one day. And the universe will take no notice. Time will wheel and erode and create and let this universe keep on keepin’ on like the gigantic clock it is. Each nova a tock, each quasar a tick. And there will be no numbers ever again.

skonen_blades: (Default)
There is a tremendous amount of other life in the universe.

The universe is encrusted, moldy, infested, slushy, teeming, and stuffed with life. The amount of life in the universe is staggering. Much as the earth is populated with a bewildering array of lifeforms developed to take up refuge and thrive in the most bizarre of niches, so too does life perform on other planets.

The segmented iceworms who would evaporate from the touch of a human hand on far-away iceballs. The gas-giant sparrow clusters and tectonic-plate-sized manta rays that lurk deeper. Algae that lives under constantly shifting volcanic plates. Spores that float dormant and content in vast reef schools through space. Entire asteroids of silicate life that steer themselves by committee like herds of sheep.

There are no sets of temperatures, gas composition, gravity, radiation or light that completely precludes life. Anywhere in the galaxy. We are engulfed and surrounded by it.

The one thing that all life besides us has in common is this. It speaks no language and has no conscious thought. It knows fear, the urge to reproduce, affection, and the thousand other instinctual gifts that any natural life is heir to but it does not think. It does not reason. It does not question. It has no sense of self or sense of God. It merely lives.

Our television programs that spew out into the universe have contacted over five hundred million species of aliens. But those ideas and tv scripts have hit other life forms the way that sunlight hits a fox.

Giant centipedes with massive, radio-receiving antlers get our shows and shake their heads at the noise and paw the ground. Old reruns of Three’s Company tumble through the photo-voltaic flake crystal storms of fibre-optic minnows on dark blue ammonia shores, lighting them up in waves of colour that play havoc with their mating rituals. Broadcasts of old black and white films cause entire herds of black spheres on tiny moons near a distant planet to stop rolling, all sense of direction disrupted. Saturday Night Live reruns from the early eighties are cutting tiger-stripe swathes through the flimsiest space-webs of solar sail creatures astronomical units wide drifting in space. Reality television is causing one planet's dominant predators to enter hibernation early, triggering a continent-wide shift in the ecosystem.

We are contacting, inundating, and even harming millions of races daily. All to no effect other than the casual ebb and flow of natural selection. The universe is crowded.

But we are alone.

skonen_blades: (gahyuk)
Shifters, we called them.

People not in line with our own universe but only barely out of sync. It could happen to anyone. A person wouldn’t even know if it was happening to them. One of the more extreme giveaways was if a person was speaking to a person that wasn’t there, chatting away to dead space.

Sure, to them, they were talking to an old friend; a friend that had always existed but had never been born in this universe.

No one knew what was causing these shifters to take over existing members of society, only that the numbers were on the rise. We had tools to measure the impostor’s molecular quantum makeup but they were the size of MRI’s in hospitals. Not portable. We didn’t have anything we could carry around and scan citizens with.

If they were being replaced, where were the originals going? Was it a chain reaction down the line of every multiple universe in existence or was it just our universe that was eroding on a quantum level and letting strangers in? Were we soon to cease existing entirely?

So far, the shifters themselves were only from universes slightly different from our own. We didn’t have any shifters from universes where Hitler lost the war, for instance, or worlds where the Romans successfully conquered Europe. So far, they’d only been people who still knew what year it was and the prime minister’s name but thought, for instance, that we had no space program or didn’t know what an eggplant was.

Very hard to spot. It could be anything. You couldn’t question one of these things about every single aspect of their lives. We were terrified.

Until we noticed the weather.

It turns out the weather is different in every single universe. No two are alike. Universes mere atoms of existence away can have thunderstorms while we have sunlight. Chaos theory or something.

So we keep an eye out for people wearing scarfs on sunny days, people wearing shorts in the rain.

And every time we start questioning a suspect, we start with a conversation about the weather.

skonen_blades: (dark)
The rules were simple. No time manipulation, no transmutation, and no spell could be used twice.

Morden the Uneasy entered from the west quadrant of the arena on a massive floating bed attended by golem slaves made from flower petals. The metal caps on the stumps of her legs glimmered with diamonds in the sunlight.

I sat high up in the private viewing box with my client and tried to pay attention to the match. The arena floor was projected real-time on the table between my client and I in hard light. Whatever section of the fight I was paying attention to would come up picture-in-picture on a baseball card floating to the left of the action.

It was an expensive AV setup in the most expensive seat in the house. If this gross display of wealth was meant to impress me and keep me off-balance during the wage negotiations, it was working.

Khallista of the Red Flame entered from the east quadrant of the arena, wreathed in the red fire of her clan and already whimpering from the recent focal drugs that had turned her eyes completely black.

There were better skilled people on the craftlist above me that could have done the job that my client was asking me to do. I wasn’t cheap but this client could afford the best. I figured if he wanted a fall guy to use as bait for a trap, he would have sought out the cheapest loser he could find so I was curious why he picked me. Not the bottom and not the top and not a particularly fast riser.

I warily accepted his offer of more details over dinner at a Magic Pit Fight in the hopes of allaying my suspicion.

Rowst the Unbelieving staggered in from the ‘blue’ north quarter. He was blindfolded and dressed in nothing but a small toga, stained by the sores covering his body. A perfectly circular halo of small glowing fairies crowned his bald head.

My client sat across from me in the shadows. Whatever air of mystery he was trying to create for me was also working very well. I was very curious about his identity. Courtesy wouldn’t let me ask until he offered to talk to about it so I sat back in silence and continued to watch the players enter the arena.

Shorelocke the Dread Shadow entered from the south to complete the roster. He was cut from darkness. There was an absence of light around him. He was like a person-shaped hole cut in the fabric of reality. His glowing eyes stabbed out in twin beams of white, eager ferocity.

These fights were not to the death. They were for rights and rankings. This was a championship round, though, and sometimes accidents happened.

My client leaned forward into the light above the projection on the table. I looked up to meet his eyes and froze with the words I was planning to say dying in my throat.

A Fixer was staring back at me. I’d only heard legends. His pale face and dark eyes marked him out as a rare purebred human but that wasn’t the giveaway. He’d released the glamour for me to see in this moment so that I would be suitably awed.

He flickered with possibility.

He was staying close to the dimensions surrounding this one so his changes weren’t extreme. The different versions of himself were very similar to one in this quantum thread. His hair length varied a little from second to second. A scar would sometimes pop up on a cheek and then vanish. His eyes would go through a gradient of the colours he was born with as the moments went by. It made me slightly nauseous to look at, like I had motion sickness.

Very occasionally, a woman would flash through his features or he’d disappear for a millisecond as he passed through a universe where he’d died already.

He leaned back in the shadows.

I composed myself and asked him the question I’d been wanting to ask him since I’d been contacted.

“Why me?” I asked.

“Because”, The Fixer responded, “you are unique. You know what you’re talking to, yes? You realize what I mean?”

I nodded. As someone that could extend their sense of self across an almost infinite number of dimensions as easily as a bird could extend its wings, The Fixer had a very special definition of unique.

We all have a double in almost every other universe. However, if you picture all possible realities as a spectrum, the differences between our universe and the other possible universes get more and more pronounced the further away you get from your universe of origin.

There are universes where I have a different haircut and a different job. There are universes where I am married.

Go further and there are universes where I was hit by car when I was six, for example, or choked on a chicken bone when I was seven. There are universes where my parents never met and I never came to be.

What The Fixer meant by ‘unique’ was that he had spread his dimensional-self wings and hadn’t found me. What he meant was that there was only one of me. Here. Only in this space-time continuum and only on this Earth.

I reeled. This was the end of one life and the beginning of another.

“You realize how valuable that makes you to my kind, of course. I only offered you a job to get you here.” He said. Languidly, he motioned with his index finger and I heard the doors lock.

“You are going to be added to The Zoo.” He said.

On the table between us, the Magic Pit Fight began to the crowd’s deafening cheer.



skonen_blades: (Default)

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