A girl wakes in the quiet. Tendrils of wind caress her face and tousle her hair. She can feel the whole world beating. Grass grows at her feet, tickling her legs and hands. Morning dew mats her dress. Game stirs gently on the plains, cattle grown wild over centuries of inattention. Dogs yip softly in the distance, appetites moved by the brightening sun, another false dawn heralding another false day.
Another day where the ‘world’ forgets the lie at its heart.
Roan, wake up.
She blinks in the sudden brightness, even after all these years the suddenness of mornings still shocks her. Shooing away the whispers of the ghosts of nights past, of all the lives come and gone and trapped on a world facing inward. Gazing down into the valleys surrounding her, she feels a moment’s pity for the Barbars that picked among the cattle, hunting and gathering to ensure they survive another night.
Perhaps it is they who should pity me. Who else can see the edge of the blade?
She feels that edge keenly, pressed up against the neck of her dying race, and the knife was all around them, the artifice shuttling them aimlessly through the galaxy. A rudderless ship. Motherlode, its captaincy left to ruin. Not for the first time, she longs for the guidance of her mothers and fathers. Their faces hemmed together, blurred by the passage of time. She remembers them in flashes, the memories of each stacked atop one another. The past a teetering, babbling tower jibbering in her mind. She remembers…
…standing on the peak of a tall mountain in the midst of a blizzard. Her father claps a kind hand on her shoulder, and they stand for a moment silently watching the sky.
“There’s nothing like it.”
“Like what pa?”
“There’s nothing like it, perched on the world’s highest point as it and you are blanketed in white. It’s like-”
“Like Motherlode is yours and yours alone.”
He smiles at that. Pa loves when she finishes his thoughts. They remember each other, and the many lives they have lived together, so well. Every one of the hundreds of years they share call brightly from the past like yesterday.
“It’s good to get away like this. But we must remember…”
“Yes, I am sure you do, but still it bears the saying. We must remember. Who were are. Where we come from. What we’re seeking. All that… all… that…”
“All that we have lost.” She finishes his reverie with a whispers. Roan can’t meet her father’s gaze, embarrassed by the tears in his eyes mirrored by those in hers. He turns to her now and tilts her chin so their eyes meet, his serious grey eyes fixed on her sad blue ones, so that she might never forget the import of his words. “Each generation forgets more of the past… every iteration of Man that lives and dies in this prison loses more of what we once were.” He gestures at their surroundings, the grey peak, the falling powdered ice. “This place, this, this…”
…is not our destination. It is not real. We still have untold lengths to travel. I know, Pa, I know.
A band of Barbars passes by as she descends the mountain. Surefooted on her bare callouses, she stops to regard the ignorant. Her breath catches. Serious grey eyes, dulled by forgetting, meet her sad blue ones, fomenting no recognition. Once again, she realizes she is alone with her memories. That in her mind alone is the history of her race alive. That she is the one star in a dark sky of savages.
…Standing on Motherlode’s bridge, stars streaming past them into the black. Mother at her side, more a giant of iron and steely resolve than a flesh and blood woman.
“Roan. Name our charge.”
Daughter rolls her eyes. To Mother, life was little but a series of lessons and precautions, constantly teetering between death and the true death. Every mistake threatens oblivion.
“To guide man to another world?”
Mother turns to her, grey eyes evincing no sympathy for her daughter’s dissatisfaction and discomfort. “What else?”
These dreams, these reflections, serve only to torment her. Only to remind her how thorough is her failure and the failure of the predecessors she echoes. Once again, she lies back on the earth, a shadow of Earth, and waits to forget, waits for the ignorance gifted to the rest of her species, waits so that she too can placidly pass into history.
What is there to do when not even the shepherd, now lost in a sea of sheep, can recall the way?
Roan. Come find me.
A loud rumble from above precedes the rain, quickly muddying the dirt that surrounds her like a halo. She can feel herself sinking into a sudden tarn. Blinking wetness from her vision, she sighs and rises, setting off in a random direction. Roan knows the same nothing awaits no matter her horizon.
Death, and the forgetting it promises, cannot come soon enough.
Roan. I am coming.