Monday, 18 July 2011

Sketches 003

I spent a few weeks doing work experience for Gollancz, which was heaven for a geek like me. Whilst there I copied up a selection of back cover blurbs for old 70s and 80s science fiction and fantasy books. It's impossible to spend time doing that and it not kick off an idea or two. Here's an opening chapter for a book I'm unlikely to find the time to write for a few years. It currently has the working title Cold Caller.



--

A figure lost in crushing depths like darkest oceans. Arms held out in front, a blind man, legs loose and adrift. The visor of the helmet reflects a million million specks of silver light. All around abyssal yet free of any tidal interference, here there is only the frozen silence of the endless universe. Ridiculous of course, there is always some noise cluttering the fathomless background. Gamma or radio waves rumbling, drowsy song from immense behemoths of the pelagic void.

The figure stares out of long-dead eyes. The surfaces of those once perfect orbs clouded with ice, like rheum and age. Cataracts of fractured waters obscure the ocular, and an unseeing gaze takes in the endless panorama of night.

These are the low places, the gaps between star systems, between clusters of suns, between matter. Even now the low places stretch and yawn, becoming fractionally wider as the universe warps and drifts away from itself. Like a current pulling you out to sea, never returning you to shore, never releasing its subtle grip.

The figure has spent a cruel eternity making its trackless journey to the low places. Slowly, incrementally, the figure drifts onwards, away from even the memory of warm humanity. Away from press and stink of countless bodies. Away from a million million voices crying out into the night. No soul so wretched ever went to such lengths to escape his fellow man. Out here loneliness is total with no hope of reprieve or rescue, just inexhaustible introspection.

And yet the universe proves its own rule, providing the exception.

Impossible to discern at first, then later, much later, impossible to deny. Dimmer than the other myriad pin pricks of light that slide across the black curving surface, one pin prick of light dares to grow larger, like a cell dividing and multiplying. Suddenly the future is pregnant with potential and the cells continue to divide, clinging to each other, growing into possibilities that are in turn already pregnant with other fecund futures.

The figure continues on his endless traverse, and with each passing hour the visor is filled with the approaching maternal speck. The dead gaze of the figure slides over the construction, now visible to the naked eye.

A silver gauze stretches out across pylons like spider legs, all straight and stiff, chitin brown and mottled black. The light of a thousand suns has infused that shimmering surface, even here in the dark velvet of the low places. Behind that great argent sail is an ellipse, seemingly dragged through the firmament. The cells of possibility continue to divide, futurity becomes manifold.

By chance an intelligence in one of the many towers of the ellipse looks up from its musings. Instruments are checked, and re-checked and the pregnancy of the possible now enters its labour. The ellipse draws closer to the figure, as if by a powerful magnetism. Destiny, fates and fortunes all push their way through the birth canal, competing to become reality.

There is discussion in the lofty towers and graceful domes of the city, this city with a silver sail. A selection of futures thrive and prosper, others becoming stillborn in their wake. And now the city, the behemoth of the pelagic void, is bearing down on the figure, becoming his vista, becoming his locale, becoming his reality.

The figure is consumed. The city welcomes a newborn.


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