This was the third story that I wrote for the New Scientist Competition. This was probably the easiest one to write. I didn't really have a very clear idea in the beginning. I just had vague images in my head, more of a presence really, but the voices kept ringing inside my head and I had this bigger than life feel to it.
I decided to trust it and let it take me wherever it wanted...
(514 word count)
“Tomorrow will always taste of Yesterday.” The voice echoed through the vast, shapeless chamber. “The consequential weight of history upon us. Any decision will bear this mark. Therefore we will not be creating something new but rather sustaining the past through engineered change.” The figure gazed around and then said, “I move against.”
The crowd swayed uncomfortably. The figure retreated back into their midst.
Another, vaguely feminine, suddenly became clearer while advancing to the exact same place where the other had been.
“But it is in Time that we inhabit. That has been our choice. Our initial choice. For most of us at least…” it said with a vague air of contempt. “I believe it would be inappropriate to leave now. However, I would venture that those of us that do not wish to share the responsibility of decision should also abandon our gathering. And any subsequent interaction.” The figure wrapped itself tightly and said, “I move in favour.” Then it bowed respectfully and faded into the background.
“It is precisely because our nature is different that we should stay. For too long the rules have been set.” The being glimmered in dark blue as it spoke. The chamber grew colder. “If we are to change things we must change them on a fundamental level. Remember what we have suffered! For too long we have been dismissed and forgotten!” A burst of blue and white lit the endless room. “I move against!”
A somewhat short figure came forth.
“That maybe so. But this decision concerns them. Not us. Correct? We are as we’ve always been, as we always will be, the agents and nothing else. They are our mission. That they recognize us or not as being so is ultimately unimportant. I move in favour.”
Without waiting for the previous speaker to disappear completely, another came into play.
“Indeed. But you forget that we too have been changed by them. That we were despised for centuries. And now, only now, do they return to us? Out of need rather than respect? I move against.” Its dark figure disappeared instantly.
A golden light began to fill the chamber, making the edges go softer.
“Certainly. That has always been their nature. This is what we have always known. Listen, all of you know that I have always been in favour of change and adaptation. This has always been the core of our presence here. It is necessary that we continue this work. Not abandon it. In doing so we will not only fail them – and thus prove their dissatisfaction – but also fail ourselves and our initial intents. They are our chance too. Let us not forget it. I move in favour.”
A low rushing sound began as a figure approached.
“And so do I.” it said. “This is the perfect opportunity after all.” It looked around defiantly. “They may have forgotten that their gods exist. But I believe we can begin to show them we are ready to come back.” It’s voice was soft and alluring. “And take what’s ours.”
“I move in favour.”
In all honesty I have to say that I thought a lot about Neil Gaiman (and, yes, The Sandman...) as I wrote this one.
But also Gene Wolfe.
I was thinking this one was truly inspired by them but, hopefully, was also a tribute to them. Something they would be proud if they ever got to read it. And yet, at the same time, I felt that there was a unique voice here. Or rather, unique voices.
I don't know which of the characters or archetypes each of these voices could represent (though I have some vague ideas on two or three of them...) but they were really there.
This was one of those stories that just wants to get out and get out of the way.
Hope you enjoyed it!
And so it is...