Archives for category: sci fi

Dustless | Volume 10 | Mask [ii]

…where things give up the limits of themselves, and become revealed for what they are, the drifting envelopes of dust…

Not only people wear masks: nature, too, embroiders to dissimulate, and paints in beauty what may in naked moments kill.

A pretty golden-eye thrush upon the branch of an old plum tree, with a song so sweet: it cocks its head, looks for passing bugs, unearthed worms, is an assassin.

And the assassin snake slips out of its skin, and is a new assassin.

Or a white butterfly stares with black and red eyes rounded upon its wings, through a shape of false force seeking to escape the unwelcome attentions of a hunting mantis.


Through an immense arboreal forest, travellers make their way, and the world prepares for a universal festival.

Villages put on their finest shows. The temples are decked with ornaments, banners proclaim the beauty of the sutras, pay homage to a far-off emperor.

The roads become tracks, and the tracks become paths. Paths narrow, and the trees press in. There are only small settlements: there is much wilderness. The prospect of safety dwindles. The chance of misdirection grows.

As in the world, so in the head: one traveller takes off his flesh, enters the vegetable labyrinth of the mind, and in smoke and dreams wanders ethereal palaces, the banks of fertile rivers, the streets of unending cities…

Although form is dust, the way to the Dustless state must be by form. To hold a glance, there must be a face: to look out, one must have eyes.

If the face in the mirror is a mask, what lies behind the skin? If the person inside the mirror is invisible, what is there left to see?

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Dustless | Volume 9 | Mask [i]

Brace yourself, and act the man

When truth is in doubt, people wear masks.

The road becomes roads. The journey grows more complex. Travellers begin to lose their way. The longer they live, the more they learn: childhood begins to retreat, and the world, like a great forest, stretches on and on around them, and within them, a wilderness.

In such a world, there are many strangers. Are they truthful? Do the faces they show mirror their hearts? Or do they wear masks?

In such a world of dust, it is hard to become Dustless. In a world of strangers, wearing masks of lies.

Go deeper still into the wilderness: become truly lost. Then look to your comrades: look to the ones you know and love.

They, like you, are creatures of dust. Do even your friends wear masks?

And if so, who are they?

And you?

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Following an attack by a strange marine organism, Lord Naro enters a profound state of delirium.

Several nurses who had been instructed to sit with me during the critical phase of my delirium found the experience too harrowing, and asked to be relieved of this duty. Patients in nearby rooms were taken to other, more distant rooms. Faced with these unprecedented symptoms, even Woya was troubled out of reason: he later confessed to me that his mind wandered towards the impure and barbarian notions of possession by evil spirits. Certainly, he had never witnessed such torment. Only Virsodanva Veka proved strong enough to undertake long sessions of vigilance beside my bed.

When the doctor recounted to me the convulsions that had shaken me then, I pitied myself, though (at the time, while speaking with him) I could not recall anything at all of those intolerable hours. Often, I cried out: almost always, I seemed to be in great fear. One peculiar effect of my disorder, which many found most troubling, was that sometimes when I shouted out it would not be in my usual voice but, as it seemed, in the voices of others.

Woya-tsa himself, for all his professional and inherent calm, admitted that he found himself questioning the nature of the world itself on encountering this unsettling phenomenon. He said his reason could not bridge the gulf that opened up between his knowledge and what he saw and heard as I lay there crying out. For not only was my normal voice distorted by terrors the nature of which he could not see, and not only was it bent by agonies the cause of which he could not ascertain, often my voice would change, grow deeper, and seem to be emitted from a hitherto unguessed region of my being. And it wasn’t merely that, in my delirium, I was impersonating other people, pretending to be a child or woman: uxo, it was worse, because there were moments when the voice that came out of my mouth appeared not to belong to me at all.

Only when I seemed to have recuperated fully – a matter of several weeks after first recovering consciousness – did Doctor Woya give me some account of what he and others had heard at my bedside. Sometimes, he said, my voice was so deep, and so contorted, it sounded inhuman, though it spoke our MidImperial tongue. Sometimes – more disconcerting still – it seemed I was communicating in my normal voice, but in no language the staff in the hospital had ever heard. And yet it was definitely a language, Woya believed: there was a fluency and an articulacy about the sounds that convinced him this was not the gibberish of a completely unravelled mind. At other times, my voice issued odd clicks and grunts and hisses and whispers, something subhuman, Woya said, reminding him of the language of insects. Any of these manifestations would have troubled all sensible witnesses, but there was yet a further variation in my distress, one which actually caused nurses to flee the room; and even Woya himself, on one occasion, said he found it unbearable, and had to leave me in the sole hands of the redoubtable Virsodanva Veka.

For not only did my voice sometimes sound like that of another man, or other men, it changed eerily and grew more strange still: it slipped from the tenor of the masculine altogether, and grew light and female.

While it was technically possible for a male voice-box to produce these different effects, the doctors agreed, not Yamgo of the Five Stars, nor Samisama, not the most brilliant actor of the Kunobun Ventriloquists’ Theatre could have commanded such an amazing range of voices. Male, female: they all sounded utterly real, as if they belonged to some individual. If you had turned your back, you would have thought a third person had entered the hospital room, and was speaking while I lay unconscious on the bed.

Woya said it was difficult to comprehend: when I was speaking as a female, there was no question that the words were coming from my mouth, but there was also no question that the voice was that of a woman, and not a man; and Woya could not put the two certainties together to form a rational whole. But most extraordinary and moving of all, he told me, were the moments when the timbre and intonation of my voice seemed to shed years, and I spoke not as a grown man, nor as a mature woman, but as a child.

This was too disturbing, Woya said. Most of the voices that spoke out of me were bearers of distress: some were angry and hostile, some were in pain, some fleeing pain; some were uttering bizarre orders; some were panicking, some grieving. Sometimes, at the height of the hallucinatory stage of my illness, different voices would chase one another out of my throat, and I would seem to be speaking in quick succession almost as if a line of beings queued inside me, wishing to communicate, and even squabbling among themselves. Then, abruptly, I would speak in my own voice, or in another voice, and utter something completely banal, a comment about the weather or the expression of a desire for a particular food for lunch, and it was precisely the ordinariness of these remarks which, juxtaposed against the chorus of other voices, highlighted the eeriness of my condition.

When the child, spoke, though, it always cried for help, and Woya found this nearly unbearable. He recounted how the child was a young boy – and to Woya, this boy was real, it seemed to me, even though the child spoke out of my mouth, and from some unaccountable region – and how the call for help was deeply affecting. Of course, there was no possibility of help being given, and so Woya felt both frightened, and concerned, and completely helpless. He said he definitely wanted to be able to give the child some reassurance, to soothe and calm it, because the fear in the child’s voice was palpable, and there is surely nothing quite as poignant as a child looking out for help. Woya-tsa felt torn and so disorientated that, as he told me, he began to worry not only about my sanity, but his own; indeed, he began to grow worried that, after his experiences by my bedside, the very notion of sanity itself was being thrown down before him, and he was entering a domain in which he was poorly equipped to survive.

Woya-tsa also told me that he had even tried to speak to the child, to call out to him. Woya-tsa attempted to learn the child’s name, but there seemed no real contact possible. Woya-tsa was unembarrassed and unashamed of his actions, even though some of his colleagues thought his behaviour eccentric: nevertheless, no other doctors called in to assist on the case remained unshaken by what they found. Most stated their opinion that what I was undergoing was a state of profound hallucination, and that the voices speaking out of me were fragments of memory or illusion, which had been chameleonised in my distress, taking on the properties of people and episodes I’d witnessed during my life. However, most also accepted that such a diagnosis was very limited, and that the case had a certain freakish fascination.

Woya-tsa described the child’s voice as not panicked, exactly, but possessing a kind of calm fear. The tone was plaintive, somehow rather distant, as if speaking out of another element, or through a distorting device. Not only was the child concerned for his own safety, but he also seemed very intent on passing on some information, or a warning.

Of all the voices that spoke out of me during those awful days, the child’s voice was, by common consent, the most alarming. “Help me,” he would say: “they are coming. They are coming. Please – help me. Why don’t you help me?”

Few of the doctors invited to give their opinion on my case believed I would ever recover. The general prognosis was that, even if something like consciousness returned to me, my wits would have been cast to the dusts, and I would never really be Lord Sokosozuin Naro again.

In this, I believe the doctors were right. And yet, finally, one evening I opened my one remaining eye, and looked out of it.

The day before, the jelly-like secretion had abruptly dried, and could be brushed off my face in a kind of powder.

The first words I said – although I don’t recall them myself – were: “They are coming. They are coming. They are coming.”


Dataslivers

Woya | Family name of the physician responsible for Lord Naro

Virsodanva Veka | The name of the captain of Lord Naro’s bodyguard

Uxo | “No”

tsa | Honorific, given to doctors and other members of a certain class

Names in Dustless | Naro, is the family name | Sokosozuin = Soko-so-zuin, Soko, son of Zuin


From Comb | Volume 8 of Dustless

Dustless | Volume 8 | Comb
It is known as the Still Building.

It is the building reached through the mind: the building of a different world.

But what happens if the world of the mind grows greater than the world outside the mind? And the ordinary life of pebbles and trees, of family, of work, grows dim and unreal? But the illuminated life of the mind grows brilliant and free?

People speak of delusion, of delirium, of madness: but have they ever truly entered the Still Building?

There is an old ZirCong saying: When the mind swallows the world in which the mind lives, that is the beginning of a new truth.

Along a remote road, to the north, in winter, travellers meet with a man who has entered the Still Building, and become lost there.

Can the travellers believe the strange tales they are told of a world reached through delusion, delirium, madness? If you remain in the world of the Building, wandering without end, will you find in there only loss and decay, the same dust that is found in the ordinary world?

Or is the Building greater than the world from which it rose? Might it be Dustless? Might you find inside you the beginning of a new truth?

Dustless | Volume 8

Please explore…

Volume 1 | The Sentinels

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Dustless | Volume 1 is approximately 20 pp./a5

status | published 11 02 2013

Amazon Kindle Store:
Australia | Dustless | Volume 1
Canada | Dustless | Volume 1
India | Dustless | Volume 1
UK | Dustless | Volume 1
US | Dustless | Volume 1

ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) | B00BEZL4ZU

From a seed of stone
mountains sprouted.
No one knew.
We were busy, and, anyway,
there was the sky.

Time passed, as it has
the habit of doing.
We passed away, others came.
Under their feet, very slowly,
the landscape was changing.
They didn’t notice:
they moved more quickly,
their moments were flushed
with vivid colours,
and these colours
caught their attention:
the rest
they demoted to background,
especially the grey
of rocks, even
the chrysalis hidden by dazzle
in the first winter snow.

We kicked pebbles, or put them
in glass vases, as ballast,
and to set off
the flowers we cut and placed in our rooms
for beauty, or perhaps,
more obscurely,
to remind us we were mortal.

As we changed, the sky changed,
we didn’t notice.
We had love, and grief, and our bodies
bleating in the dark
asking for milk or for a tender hand
to reach out, and be for us,
to soothe, to slip us
from our clothes,
to offset our pain.

And then, one day,
somehow there were mountains.
What could we do with them?
We lived with them, but
they weren’t very useful.
Did they remind us of flowers?
Of fathers we had lost,
of the dying of years,
of lovers?
Or of towns, out on the plains,
we had left, long ago,
places we’d only ever
meant to pass through?

Perhaps. Still, we couldn’t
rearrange the slopes, the peaks
and the divides,
wash them, keep them clean,
ask them to explain,
or take them with us:
but they altered the earth’s
relation to the sky,
and they lingered
changing the way
clouds behaved,
and in our rooms
in the warm, still
moonlight of summer
the dust motes
trembled, turned
to face the summits,
and, vibrating as we slept,
floated,
already far along
into their journey

to be mountains.


 

Please explore…

Volume 1 | The Sentinels

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Dustless | Volume 1 is approximately 20 pp./a5

status | published 11 02 2013

Amazon Kindle Store:
Australia | Dustless | Volume 1
Canada | Dustless | Volume 1
India | Dustless | Volume 1
UK | Dustless | Volume 1
US | Dustless | Volume 1

ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) | B00BEZL4ZU

Dustless | Volume 7 | Flowing House
It is RoMayZine to understand: battle is endless.

Men and women struggle in the act of love, they battle: and in the act of birth, women struggle with their child: they battle. Born, a child struggles with the first blazing of the light: the battle of sight begins, and of all the senses.

Decision is battle: life is fought by decision.

Having won the first light, children battle to see and to grow. Men and women battle to keep their children safe. Death battles to take all the living prisoner, to subdue all armies of life, to grow still greater the already vast armies of dust.

In a remote province of the Desolate Cantons, two exiles meet, and speak of decisions, speak of war.

One describes a duel with the King of Swords. The other describes life by the sword, in a place humanity may be cast off: the Place of No Footsteps.

To each, battle brings a kind of liberty, freedom from a world of laws, a victory for intense life.

Yet, when their battles are over, have they not drawn closer, after all, to joining the ranks of the armies of dust?

 

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Dustless | Volume 6 | Fire House
New worlds are being born all the time. These are young worlds, and young worlds, like young children, grow.

Old worlds await them. Into the old worlds, these young worlds rise.

If worlds are made of dust alone, like people they must age and die, and their dust blow into the wind, and fall away.

Must all growing be dying? Must all the young age, and all youth only fall away?

If there was something more than dust — greater than the dust, higher than the dust — would that mean a life that could keep growing, and not die? An ageless life, forever open, never closed?

Is there a life beyond the dust?


Into an old world, a young child travels, further and further, from the edge of a great empire slowly towards the centre.

And the edge, abandoned by the centre, withers in the freezing depths of a northern winter.

Dereliction and negligence: immense distances, isolated settlements where people survive or flee, and little more.

The law has retreated, the teachings of the book become confused, His Majesty no longer shelters and protects his subjects, no great clan orders and guards the struggling villagers of the Endless Plains.

To a dying world, what can a growing child bring?

From a world of dust, may a Dustless vision rise?

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Dustless | Volume 5 | The Dwellings [ii]

The sun is hot, and the fields are wide.
I walk, head bowed, towards my village.
The path is hard, the earth is dry.
There is dust on the road, but no horses.
I am thirsty, but the well is far away.
The plains stretch on towards the horizon,
where my way goes.
This is all there is –
and all there is, they say,
fits in a hawk’s eye.

All places, it is said among the Pure, are places of TanZo. Yet, if you are not Pure, what might you think of a place?

For a civilised person, the Endless Plains are famously empty. The air is polluted, the climate extreme – ferociously hot in summer, gnawingly cold in winter.

A civilised person, in a civilised place, may enjoy many aspects of life, but for those condemned for a time to dwell in the Endless Plains, life may well dwindle down to one master wish, a single, essential aim: survival.

A RoMayZine general once looked down at the pitiful remnants of a barbarian force, taken prisoner near the BisMarian Mountains. “They have survived – but what has survived?” he said.

“A human being plots a course between the animals and the angels”, an old ZirCong philosopher once said. And in a SurGaKu amendment: “A human being is a contract between an animal and an angel”.

What might happen, should that ‘contract’ be broken? What might a human being then become?

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Dustless | Volume 4 | The Dwellings [i]
It is natural, when embarked upon an arduous journey, to wish for shelter, to seek dwellings. And it is also natural, when circumstances within a particular dwelling place prove too much to bear, to wish to move on, to embark upon a journey, even if that journey should prove to be an arduous one.

The land wants nothing of us, it is only the land. Rocks seek no destiny, thorn trees ask no future, but simply adhere to the natural laws of thorns and earth, winds and water.

Upon a barren road, in the north and east of the empire, three travellers face the challenge of the wintry land. Here, shelter is hard to come by. The tanzo is unyielding. This is a place where space and time have settled, where space eats up the days, and the years dine on the endless plain.

For a poor human being, there seems no escape: it is a place the body must be, and suffer.

What does it avail a traveller upon such a road, to wish and to dream and to question? Is it that, faced with the bitter cold and the hostile earth, the delicate things of dreams and wishes and questions might give some form of shelter? And that questions and dreams and wishes may be the very things to help the traveller survive? Or do they merely lead further into delusion, back to the bones of the hands and the feet and the skull?

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When they finally get here — if there is a “they”, and if there is a “here” —

But I’m not in the mood for graves today.

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