Motherlode

The Night Has A Thousand Eyes

The night has a thousand eyes,

And the day but one;

Yet the light of the bright world dies

With the dying of the sun.

 

                Looking back, the Mothers would say they knew her straightaway, and were glad the next savior would be one of their own. A rose-colored half-lie to obscure a darker truth. They knew, indeed, but hoped against hope they were wrong. They wanted to spare their daughter the pain forced upon all Messiah’s, the burden of guiding the flock through an unforgiving wilderness.

Maraya did not cry, not once. Not when exiting the womb. Not when they cut the cord. Not when blinking as she adjusted to the light in the ‘sky’ that mimicked the sun. She watched with quiet gray eyes as the conclave swaddled her, as if when first coming into this world, she remembered their births. As if when she closed her eyes to sleep that night, she could see the blue and the clouds of the world that was. Maraya smiled in her sleep, like she felt the long-forgotten stars kiss her plump cheeks in the night.

                She was a precocious child. For the first year she watched and listened. Every moment she was learning, and on the eve of her first birthday she spoke, broken and malformed English trickled out her soft palette.

                “Ee ha’e so fa t’go.”

                At first, the Mothers took it as little more than the pidgin gurglings of a young girl. Sounds with no more meaning than the emotion behind them.

                “You hungry, baby child?” One cooed, her Birther, baring herself for feeding.

                Maraya shook her head. This struggle, to make herself understood. She swam upwards from the bottom of the sea of infancy, flexing the long arms of language that she had grown, but never before used.

                “We… ha-ave… so far… t’go.”

                The Birther, Belledonne, stopped with her arms by her side. Language? In a child so young? She exchanged a glance with the others. All knowing what such precocity forecast for her future. The Captain had to be notified at once. With a nod, the Farmer—Ertrude—left the nursery and quickly wound her way through the reeds towards the door in the sky.

                And so, as the lights dimmed to mimic twilight, she came. A lithe figure in gray-suit, the mothers were always surprised by how small she was in truth. Compared to the power of her spirit, the way she loomed in memory. To see her was the remember that she herself was no bigger than a child, though there was no denying the ancient wisdom in her eyes. Dark and black like space itself, they betrayed nothing, but remembered everything.

                She pursed her lips, clenching and unclenching her hands as she approached the babe at the center of the room. She knelt before the bassinet, feeling the gray eyes watching her as she brought her face to the child’s height. They watched each other a while before the Captain deigned to speak.

                “We have so far to go.”

                The child spoke slowly, deliberately, recalling a ritual she only half-understood, wanting for every word to be clear.

                “Our… world is… only… a memory.”

                “Only the Captains remember.”

                “Only… they… shall… see… us… home.”

                “We are…”

                “Ee, We… are…”

                “The Captains.” They finished in unison, not once blinking as they held the other’s gaze. The Captain, white hair curled up around her had in a shock of an afro, nodded, her lips a thin line of grim satisfaction. Here lay not a child, but an equal.

                She turned to the Mothers, who gave the two a wide berth as they commiserated.

                “She is the one. When she’s old enough. Send her to me.”

                Belledonne was frightened, but not too frightened to ask what needed asking.

                “And when, O Mother, will we know the time is right?”

                The Captain did not turn back, only paused briefly at the burlap flap that hid the nursery from the glare of a false star.

                “You’ll know.” And she was gone, making her way back through the tall grass.

                The Mothers stood in silence a while. Then crowded back around the crib of their beloved Maraya. She whose name would be stripped away. Whose very identity would be subsumed in time.

                “I’m sorry, my darling.” They crowed in unison. “I’m sorry! Roan has claimed you. There is nothing left but to go.”

                The child did not speak, talking correctly to the Captain had drained her. All that remained was the energy to be a baby in truth. But she thought, and the tenor of those thoughts was clear in her gaze.

                This was always to be the way. This was always my fate. There is no use regretting the things that are certain.

                Regardless, tears streaked her cheeks. She closed her eyes and remembered the night sky. The true night sky. The darkness with its countless distant lights that they streaked past and towards in the Arc, their vessel, its payload humankind’s only hope. The stars weighed upon her like a hundred thousand piercing eyes. Each perhaps with a world or two of their own. One perhaps with a world meant for her flock… but perhaps not. Perhaps they would die in space, lost and cold and forgotten. Perhaps thiswould come to pass on her watch.

And for the first time in her short life, on the morning of her first birthday, Maraya, the next Captain, began to wail.

The mind has a thousand eyes,

And the heart but one;

Yet the light of a whole life dies

When love is done.

--Francis William Bourdillon

Mother and the Reborn Sun

Mother wakes with the dawn as Hiperstus’ reborn sun at its center, the catalyst for all life, announces its return. Even before the cock crows, Man is moving: farmers towards their fields and flocks, craftsman and traders to their shops. And all the while Mother watches from her home. She is the dreamer, the storyteller, who weaves tales of what she sees while she sleeps. Truths that not even she understands. Truths of the black outside their world, dotted with diamonds that glimmered beyond their sight. Truths of the home that awaits them in the afterlife, of the home they are cast from and search for still. Mere metaphors, she thinks, for a people in desperate need of hope.

Each night she tells these stories, and they echo through Hiperstus, and give those hardworking men and women hope that, if not for themselves, then for their children, there would one day be a better life. Each day she walks among her people, whose eyes light up as she passes, beloved Mother, a role that past from daughter to daughter, their beacon of encouragement. In her line the first children wareere always daughters, with grey eyes and brown skin, who share the dreams of their foremothers, and who pass the dreams down to their own.

This is how life has always been.

As the sun sets, before her flock assembles before her to be told of salvation. She walks through the wood by her house on the hill, listening to its whispers. They contribute to her dreams, she knows, though she knows not how. Listen… Hushes the voices of the wood, and as her ancestors did, so does she. She lies in the grass and listens to words, familiar words, she does not quite understand. And when she leaves the wood, were she asked what they said, she would not quite be able to recall.

“The truth, my child, the truth. What is more important than that?” Is all she would say, and nothing more.

And as the sun dims, slowly expending itself and collapsing the world into black. Men and women retreat from their fields, close up their shops, and gather their children. They make the short pilgrimage from their homes to a small amphitheater at the base of Mother’s hill. They sit on rows of black stone, gleaming even in the night, refracting light from their torches, shooting their flickering glow into the sky so all can see. Mother sits at their center, still youthful, in a plain tan frock that ends just below her knees.

Her hair, kinky and unkempt, falls about her ears. Her eyes, ancient and gray, despite her apparent youth, touch on every man, woman and child who sits around her, eager for her tale. They linger on a young man, with rough hands and an open smile, bouncing their daughter upon their knee. The young girl waves, but her countenance is serious. She knows the story well, could recite it word for word. They are the same in ways that escapes even Mother. It is always the same tale, different parts, but the same tale. She waits for a hush to fall upon them before raising her hands, signaling the beginning.

“Tonight we start again. There are young ones here who have not yet heard it, the beginning, others, older than even myself, who got wind of it first from my grandmother’s lips. This tale is cyclical, and we live here still trapped in its edge, still creeping round to the beginning. With each generation we crawl closer, back to the world we lost. With each child we fall further, further towards the world we will find. This is the tale of the edge. This is the tale Ouroburos, and the Mouth who chases us still.

“It begins at an ending. The ending of a world that once was ours.”

Here she pauses to gather herself and take a deep-breath. The old ones in the circle around her already quietly weeping.

It is important. She reminds herself, or is reminded by herself. We all must feel this loss. The children must know. Even in their innocence they must know what we lost.

She steels herself, and continues, the story telling itself, she a mere vessel for its telling: “In the beginning…

there is Earth, our home. In the beginning, it is dying.

On Earth, the seas boil and the land burns under the glaring eye of an exploding sun. Its mountains, once high, noble peaks, crumble into basins once called oceans. Once blue and filled with water that stretched as far as the eye can see. The world is become bereft of life, all scorched clean from its surface. The verdant green of jungles, rustling grasses of the plains and frigid poles are all become a distant memory, replaced by smoke and ash and rivulets of molten rock streaking across Earth’s surface. A planet-wide desert of sand melted to glass colored the angry red of the kiln.

An old man watches, let’s call him Father, skin sloughing from flesh. The end of all things.

Father turns to his flock. The hundreds who still live, dying men huddled in hovels underground, drenched in sweat, in shade, in steaming blood. Their skin drapes loosely from their frames like tattered rags, their clothing, little more than rotten scraps, curls away from their bodies and sizzles in the heat. Their bones, baking, are brittle and hollow. They are starved and thirsty, cuddled up with the dead and the dying, unable to distinguish themselves from those they chase into the grave. Each man, woman and child stares with the listlessness of the hopeless. He must speak to them, comfort them. But what does one say in a moment such as this?

The truth is all that remains.

"It has come..." He begins with a sigh.

"I will not say 'do not despair'." His heart grows heavier with every word. "I will not say 'there is hope'. This is no time for lies.” His reflection shimmers in a pool in each cave, some trick of forgotten magic, voice cracking from desperation. 

“I say this: Life goes on. If not here, for us, then elsewhere. Life goes on." His voice, a forlorn rasp, falls on deaf ears, dull eyes. Man does not hear him. They do not care. Their dwindling masses have no spirit left. And why should they? This is the end.

"Life goes on," He repeats, now for his own sake, eyes fixed on flaming skies, his hopes centered on a single, twinkling ‘star’. One not visible in the wake of a dying sun, yet growing more distant from it and a doomed solar system nonetheless.  "Life goes on. Life goes on. Life goes o-" Despite his despair, despite the heat, despite his own smoking flesh, despite joining with a swelling star, despite the death of all he had ever known and loved, the old man smiles knowingly to himself as blistering gas engulfs the world. Mankind, and Mankind’s only home, deliquesce from the universe and into the quiet of history.

“All men on Earth died that day.” Mother circles back to the present, the first portion of the tale done. “But not us. We remained, asleep and dormant, on that single, twinkling star, borne away from destruction. We must try to remember, as best we can, what was lost. That was our home! Those were our brothers and sisters! And we mourn them each day. But we also endure, and one day we will be carried to another home, of lush green and vast pools of life-giving water. There we will thrive. But until then, we must content ourselves with survival. With hard-work on this closed-loop of a planet, where we are denied the sky and the stars. Where we suffice with this false sun.”

She stops. This is always the hardest part. The words she does not not understand, the concepts that are beyond her and all humankind. They had forgotten so much since the early years. That much she knew. What little is left, endures in words she repeats from her memories verbatim. Recitation without comprehension. This world they lived on was some kind of vessel as well, and beyond it existed… a whole universe that she would live and die without seeing. That countless more generations would live and die without even knowing about. But until they were free once more, she fulfilled a simple purpose. Explained by the voices on the wind.

It falls to you Roan. It has always fallen to you. Keep the spark of man alive in the wilderness until the embers take seed on a world once more…

…and civilization can begin again.

Humankind's Walkabout

                A walkabout is, like all change, an act of violence. The passing of childhood as one transitions from a child into adulthood. It is the awakening, the realization that all about you lies death, and that eventually it will claim you. It is a creeping towards maturity, scrabbling free from the womb that once held you fast. But it is not just for men alone, not in the singular, but also for whole species. Entire billions forced to reconcile themselves with the ending of the safety they once knew, cast into the unknown, forced, as man was, to escape their home into space.

                And so we fled a dying Earth, consumed by the embers of an expiring star. We rose in a planetship, its treasured Motherlode, and walked-about the galaxy, an adolescence lasting millennia. We searched, a lost kin, for another home where we might be safe once more, while all around us threatened death. We looked into the black, the cold that called to us from the airlocks, the breathless end that awaited, and said "Not yet." We looked past the enticing void that whispered of a final rest. That beckoned and begged for us to succumb.

Our captain, our brave Roan Oake, whose life spanned millennia, gave her all to sustain us. Driving us, even when we would not drive ourselves, to survive, remembering—even when we forgot and lapsed back into barbarism—why we struggled. She overcame Godhood's temptation, she withstood the erosions of time, the dementia and weight of her memories. She bore loss after loss.

She bore us here, to our new home, Croatan. An oasis in the black. Is it better than Earth was? Worse? That matters little. It is all we have. Here we will live and we will die.

Until we are forced to mature again, and flee death again.