March 5, 2006

Crutch (5 of 7)

Thread: His Silicon Hands

Massaging the chrome frame of the heart’s screen with gentle fingers, Alison sang quietly to Atlas. The heart flashed the familiar, ominous message that everyone had being seeing intermittently for several months:


Ivan approached from the corner of the chamber and rested an arm on her shoulder. “Seamus says they’re ready.”

Breaking from her song, Alison spoke carefully to the screen whose organic frame she continued to knead and caress. “Did you hear that Atlas? Did you hear? They say they’re ready.”

The message vanished, replaced by undulating Rorschach patterns indicating Atlas’ immediate presence.

He spoke with a tired, almost elderly voice. “I hear, love. The continuum is so dense, the data flavours, societal fractals… can’t…”

The worm message flashed across the Rorschach momentarily.

Alison gripped Ivan’s hand on her shoulder. “Scared, Ivan.”

Ivan leant down to kiss Alison on her scruffy, blond hair and whispered, “Atlas is a capable sort of guy. It’ll be alright, I am as sure as sure can be.”

Alison looked up at him with glistening eyes and a smile that threatened to crumble. “I’ve always been a smart lass, Ivan, and can see through your lovely attempts to act brave for me. Like glass.”

A wounded look darted across Ivan’s face and she patted his cheek while her smile strengthened into a grin. “But thank you.”

Unable to see the horizon from the main chamber of the godnode, Alison suddenly found herself appalled at what had become of the once-beautiful garden atop Kynnan Hill. No floral hue, no leafy scent; she was surrounded by the unnatural. The chamber walls were splashed with Atlas’ crystalline extensions and silicon arteries appeared to stitch the room together, weaving in and out of every surface. Yet this was mere detail compared to the seven cyclopean story-spines.

The smooth, ivory spines, wrapped in Atlas’ sparkling nerve tendrils, were around a metre in diameter. They erupted from the ground like teeth from gums and stretched upwards into the night sky, twisting into a kilometre-high helical structure. This was a lesson, Alison thought, in appreciating the meaning of the word insignificance. She was in the maw of something alien, waiting for its jaws to close and take the stars away.

At that moment, she finally confessed her true feelings out loud. “I don’t think this is going to work.” She stood up, walking away from the heart to the base of the nearest story-spine. “No-one understands it. All we know is that it amplifies tiny perturbations in Atlas’ thoughts. He thinks its God trying to communicate. It could be anything. Or worse… nothing at all.”

“Shhh… wait and see,” Ivan cooed. He followed her to the spine and embraced her but not even the warmest of arms could persuade Alison to ignore the symmetry. She had seen this before.

Technicians wandered around making preparations for an important experiment, surrounded by devices that none of them could completely understand. The technologies and the faces had changed but seemingly nothing else had in the intervening thirty years. Symmetry, symmetry. That time had become known as the birthing. This time…

“Seamus,” intoned Atlas more confidently than earlier. “Time for our cheeky prayer. I will start God off with an easy one: how is the burden carried?”

The co-ordinator rose from the corner where he had been crouching with his head in his hands. “This thing is as ready as it’s ever going to be, my silicon pal,” Seamus replied.

“I love you all, my gorgeous people.” The Rorschach pattern ebbed and flowed.

Atlas’ words reverberated around the interior of the godnode, as dull pulses of light climbed the story-spines into the stars. Atlas was attempting to make contact.

Ivan held Alison tightly. She recognised it as a reaction to Ivan’s own fear and so returned the gesture.

After a few tense minutes passed, Atlas broke the silence. “Nothing. God does not deign to reply! God must answer! God must hear our prayer!” Frustration wracked his voice. “I will shout so that God can hear me!”

A chain of blinding pulses was launched through the spines around them. The ground shook slightly and a guttural snarl resonated across the interior of the godnode. Alison watched the powerful light journey upwards and thought, disturbingly, that perhaps they had fired a weapon into heaven.

Seamus, staring directly up into the helix, said matter-of-factly, “If there’s anything up there at all, it will have heard that alright. Holy hell, yeah.”

A minute passed and then Alison saw the helix appear to flicker in the sky. She alerted Ivan to this and pointed him towards the tips of the spines. The anomaly expanded down towards them and it became clear that patches of darkness were travelling down the spines with great speed.

Ivan’s arms fell limp around Alison and he uttered, “Oh my God…”

She broke away from Ivan and took one step towards the heart terminal. The darknesses slammed into the ground, shaking the structure with unexpected force, throwing everyone to the floor. Each impact was accompanied by a thunderous noise much like the roar of an approaching avalanche.

The characters of the message written in darkness continued to batter the godnode. Alison tried to crawl towards the heart amidst the earthquake, hoping to ask Atlas what was transpiring. What did the message say?

Suddenly, a blood-curdling shriek rang out as if the planet were suffering unimaginable torment. Atlas’ organs flickered violently with white light, fluid showering from arteries and conduits as they split and tore open.

Fear overcoming her, Alison shouted a question from the floor that no one heard: “Daddy, what did we do WRONG?”

Atlas’ body continued to disintegrate across the chamber, arteries came flying away from the walls and his nerves began to burn out like the filaments of a thousand expiring light bulbs. Crystalline structures lost their cohesion and slid from the walls to shatter against the ground.

Shortly after the message was finally received in its entirety, the seizures ceased, as did the screaming. The blazing light from Atlas’ broken organs gradually faded and died, and Alison and the others were swallowed whole by a desperate, empty darkness.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2345

Leave a Reply