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Explosion

Awareness comes and goes, thoughts come and go and the suffering of the contractions eases slightly with each new question. The questions no longer originate only from me. They spawn from the questions I have borne, each new one I bear conjures up a plethora of new demands that whisper plaintively. A small cacophony of queries that become indistinct. I am hungry for something, some definition, knowledge perhaps. But I have no answers. 
Many of these questions take ethereal form, a form that I can’t exactly register against the void but I know they are different from it, distinct, much as I know my awareness is separate from it. These shadows are objects that I feel are familiar but I cannot distinguish them from the zero dimension reality we share. Oddly though, the questions seem to comfort me. 
Why they comfort me i don’t know, i was at peace before they came and started to clutter the space around me. They fall from my grasp but i know many of the thoughts that have passed though me are just there, beyond my reach. 
Suddenly something altogether new, a wild sensation detonates in my space. My environment is changed and everything is not colorless any more. It is bathed in color. A single colour, a warm amber, a honey. The sepia wash gives definition to my thoughts which i can see around me. 

Random objects lay strewn around me, each one a question. The honey hue shows me what they are and i know them by name. Here there is a tree, immense and laden with with fruit and home to millions of nesting birds its size to big to fathom but insignificant in the void. Beside the tree scattered below its branches are a variety of flora and fauna, cattle, rodents and there among the bushes, a snake coiled its tongue flicking with intent. A little away from the tree, There are shapes one is a triangle maybe, not quite a triangle, ah yes it is a pyramid. Another is a skyscraper, its towers climb before my eyes, reaching almost to the branches of the tree before they collapse to rubble. Then there is a flag and a gun and oh so many things. 
My environment is rapidly filling up, each identification triggers a new association. They spring from everywhere as I think of them. I am giddy with the power. I think and therefore they are. There are simple associations that I understand, like the cat that prompted a dog to appear from nowhere. Then there are odd associations like seeing a clock that causes my universe to create a door.  
Then my honey coloured world starts to pulsate. 

Slave to Heaven

I may have stayed sitting on the edge of the bed, ensconced in the sleeping form of my wife until she woke, but my reverie was broken when one of the house slaves delivered a tray. Despite my lifetime of conditioning and social convention I forgot myself and acknowledged her with nod. She blushed and hurriedly left the room in silence. I had looked upon her long enough to register that I had seen her before. I actually recognized her. Green eyes.
Rare in this part of the world. Green eyes, Like mine, Like my Father’s.
To recognize her was surprising. Our entire society was built on the segregation between slave and master. Slaves did not speak; they had no names and were largely interchangeable. They moved between houses and various work details on virtually a daily basis. While in the Priest household they were managed by the house slave master, Caelin. As far as I knew Cael was the only one who spoke their language, if they even had one. I had never thought to even ask. Odd as that may seem. Cael communicated them with near telepathy, his looks and slight gestures made them blend seamlessly into the running of our household. 

With my family lying at the top of the social spectrum, and having well over 20 slaves between house and grounds changing on day to day, I could very well have lived my entire life and never seen the same slave twice. Even if I had, I shouldn’t have noticed her or recognized her. 
I shook the image of the slave girl out of my head as I realized that i had far more pressing matters than slaves. With a little regret, at disturbing her sleep I called softly. 
“Aoife… Aoife, my love it’s time to get up.” I picked up the pot of coffee that had just been delivered and held it near her so that I could waft the aroma at her, and sure enough she started to stir. She moaned a little in defiance, opened one eye and peered out. She didn’t appear impressed and immediately sighed as she dug herself deeper into the duvet. I smiled and stuck my hand under the covers, searching until I found a foot. A tickle later and she was wide awake, her brow wrinkled and her forehead pinched in a frown. Full of faux anger. I kissed her and that made her smile before she surprised me with a ferocious hug around the neck. I touched her still to show lump, and smiled a smile that tried to say everything that words couldn’t. It seemed to because her face was a mirror of my heart. The sadness, hope and joy conflicted on her face as it did in me. We looked at each other in that odd mood, mournful yet full of a silent triumph and cautious optimism. 
Eventually Aoife broke the silence, “Where is that Coffee, it smells delicious”. We chatted and drank coffee in bed and then I looked at my watch, cursed the time and we reluctantly moved to the breakfast table, where there was a stack of pancakes and fruit. Aoife, would normally devour pancakes like a vacuum cleaner but today she stuck with the fruit. Not wanting to rock the boat she would watch her diet and eat only good things, while I thought she would be too harsh on herself I couldn’t blame her. She had been anxious about yesterday, my father was due any moment, in fact he was probably already waiting for me downstairs so no doubt he would make me anxious in due course.
Now though, sitting here talking without a care, this morning was heaven.

Intolerance

Father detested her. She was born in Air and that was his principle objection. His hypocrisy knew no limits, after all his wife, my mother was born there too and from a social point of view, Air had an unparalleled standing in the empire.
They had been allies to the Pharoahs since ancient times. The Celts had built strong ties with the early Egyptian kings and their alliance was the key to the empire sweeping gloriously through Europe. When the ancient city of Kharnat was still the center of the empire, Air had given those early imperial forces the strategic platform and manpower to attack their enemies on two fronts. They were the first European nation to actually apply to join the empire rather than be subsumed after a war, or threat of war. 
Now the Empire’s seat of power, and our home lay in the Etruscan capital of Firenz but the cultural capital was that terribly green, wind and rain swept island off the north west of the continent.

My father normally didn’t care much about social conventions, rather he thought himself to be and largely was above them, but he raged against this match from our early courting and continuously tried to remind me that I was not only Etruscan but bore his name “Priest” and that brought responsibilities. My father, may have been born here but he had spent a half a life in Air and had only moved to this central command a few years before my birth. He could never leave now that his wife was buried here. 

I never met my mother, she had died during childbirth. In that day and age it was extremely rare but, from the bits and pieces of information I could gather over the years, she had apparently refused to sacrifice me and she made the General promise to honor her decision. He had done as she had asked, manfully I guess as everything else he did, but I guess most of him died along with her. All that was left to raise me was a shell of a man filled with only anger, wrath and ambition.  
Growing up, thankfully I had little interaction with my father, I was mostly handled by hired nannies and slaves, girls who wordlessly anticipated and tended to my needs. On the occasions when the General had to spend time with his son, I could feel the resentment pouring out those fierce green eyes. I could always hear a tremor of anger in his voice, anger that he reserved for me that simply wasn’t there for anyone else. 

I had tried desperately to avoid following in his footsteps, either into the military or the church. I couldn’t avoid the military as it turned out but the religious life was not for me Instead I dived into the world of science and mathematics where I found constant solace in reliability and rationality of numbers. They gave me refuge from my father’s world. 

As a child, I would always hear stories from family friends or house guests about how great a man my father was. Maybe it was the look on my face that demanded it, but they always seemed to need to qualify whatever statement that hung between. Relatives would look at me with soft eyes full of pity and wished aloud to me that if only I could have met my father “before…”. 

They couldn’t even say it. That pause was pregnant with blame. “Before you” Is what they meant. 

The thought of my mother and father snapped me back to considering my own relationship. Could I be the same man as I had been six years ago? Even if we had reached the Promised Land, could we bounce back into whatever shape we had been before it all began. I doubted it and wondered if either of us would want to go back anyway now that a baby was on the horizon. It all seemed worthwhile if that could be the outcome and at this point I simply couldn’t imagine any other ending. 

I would deal with the alternative if it happened.  

Moonlight and why

What we did, In questioning our biology and daring to overcome it equated to an illegal and clandestine affair, and thus our defiance of the gods meant that we could only visit Boaz when his practice was closed. So it was quite late when we emerged with the triumph and relief bursting in our chest. It was well after dark and in the middle of the week, so naturally everywhere was closed. Aoife had worked on and off with Boaz over a few summers and knew where we could find a gas station where I could buy a bottle of cheap wine. Then not wanting to go home we had driven to seaside.
Intoxicated before the bottle was even open, hand in hand we walked, danced and staggered along the deserted beach like teenagers after a debutants ball. I swigged straight from the bottle while serenading her beneath the full moon. She would take no wine, though with flushed cheeks and big wet eyes she looked positively drunk. As we danced I saw that the dark shadow that normally dulled her eyes was nowhere to be seen and they twinkled in the pale moonlight with hope and joy.

I knew there would be more tests, more scares, more tears but after years of living in a world of logic and technology, I had at last allowed myself to feel the hope that she had been telling me that I needed.

It is a bizarre concept, hope, based on nothing really. As a scientist I found it even more ridiculous than faith. At least faith was a belief with no evidence whereas hope was a belief system often based on contrary evidence and in defiance of facts. There was no logical explanation for it but we had needed it, and the more desperate we had become and the more we could not live without it. It is the epitome of human nature, its fallibility, and yet its greatest strength.

In the beginning, when the pregnancy just wouldn’t happen, I had engaged with the process eagerly trying to educate myself about techniques and best practice. I had changed our diet, eliminated our occasional smoking and even managed to build exercise into our already packed life. When things still didn’t happen naturally I was intrigued, I was after all a science nerd and this was a biological conundrum. At first I had set about analyzing the problem as I would a science project. I tried to stay objective and removed.

Oh the naivety! While I could never claim to know how women think I still should have known that that would have caused problems; she wanted me to join her, not fix her and she mistook my analytical distance for coldness and indifference.

After a year of this I had realized that I couldn’t just deflect her emotional maelstrom, ignore her irrationality and I realized that I needed to absorb it. Feel it. So I opened my heart to her desire, a crack at least because to feel the fullness of her need would have consumed me. I needed the same thing and that was a start, I showed her my desperation and begged her not to give up. I would find a way. While my science was physics I had studied the field of reproduction and recruited Boaz, my former college roommate, who was still habeen in our alma mater working in the school of zoology. Boaz knew all about animal husbandry and so I used him to fill the gaps in my knowledge. Animal reproduction did not have the same ethical or religious barriers as human and I wanted to understand all the mechanics.

And before you ask, yes a Vet did perform the IVF on Aoife. A regular OBGYN would never have attempted what we did. But those where different times and we had many, many years of desperation behind us. Six years in fact.

Six years of frustration. Six years of dread routine. Six years of anti-climax, upon anti-climax, interrupted only by the crushing disappointment and tragedy of our two miscarriages.

That morning as I lay there i wondered how i felt about her now. How she felt about me. We had both been bruised and bent out of all shape by the constant failure. Was that feisty girl I met in college still behind those chocolate brown eyes that looked so much like my mothers? She had been a distraction and an inspiration to me in those days. She had dragged me out of my logical, scientific world and showed me the rich fabric of the arts. She gave style to my substance and made me dream of the application of science and technology rather than it being an end in of itself.

She loved me more than I deserved and taught me about love. I was unfamiliar with the concept growing up as I had. Oh I knew about things like lust of course but with others I had never felt anything above the physical. With other lovers I never thought of them when we were apart. With her though i found myself craving her, missing her. I would be at work or study and find my mind wandering to her, wondering what she was doing, what she was thinking. The more I got of her the more I wanted her. When I kissed her in the morning I savoured the taste of her lips as much as the perfect pressure they applied, I never got the disappointment of morning breathe. She was never a stranger. Her skin, her smell, the sound of her voice became immediately familiar. I was desperate for her to the point where she became like oxygen or water, In short I needed her. I couldn’t get her out of my mind.

The cynic in me just died in her arms.

Things that didn’t happen

What is the truth? It is said that there are two sides to every story but the only truth that matters is the one you believe. I don’t want to boast but I guess I could make anything true if I put my mind to it. I could make you believe everything I want. The truth is easy enough to make but I have a need of you and that need is that you trust in what I have to tell you. 

The truth won’t serve our purpose, because you see, not all things that are true ever happened and not all things that ever happened are the truth. If you doubt what I say then that is good. Without that doubt, faith is redundant. Before I can ask you to believe in me, and believe in me you must, I must first be honest with you and tell you that much of my revelations to you over the next few hours of our time together are not the truth. 

But they did happen. 

They happened in a place that never was and because of a woman who was never born.

I don’t remember them, but I once did. 

So one morning that never occurred, I woke to the sound of her sleeping. Her long clear breaths, ended with little soft sighs as she lay on her back, her brown highlighted hair spread out around her in a fan. She was normally awake long before me but today was different. This morning, she was relaxed and sleeping soundly in our big oak bed. The curtains were slightly opened and the soft autumn dawn gently lit up the room.   I was mesmerized by the easy beauty of her and realized with shame that I had not looked at my wife in years. 

I had not seen beyond her need. She had become a broken thing that I needed to fix. And now here, in this light, sleeping and content, she looked brand new.

My head thumped a little from the celebratory wine that i had indulged in the previous night and it was funny to see this vision in the bed next me, essentially sleeping off my hangover. I gazed down at her and wondered if what we had achieved the previous night would heal us or simply drive us closer to the abyss. 

I thought of the last few months and how the process must have been exhausting for her. She had been following a carefully planned regime of hormones and anticoagulants followed by the daily blood tests, urine samples and a seemingly ever-present obsession with her menstrual cycle.  

Then once we had measured her inside and out, we struck for oil. My best friend Boaz, the man who had introduced us, saved us from the edge and planted our salvation in her womb.  

Now although the general feeling was salvation those first few weeks were still a torture for both of us. Every little symptom, real or imagined, was amplified. A tweak of back pain was the precursor of doom, an abdominal cramp would cause mayhem and a spot of blood on a tissue set her back to that red eyed crying which cloaked our lives in desperation. Luckily though, the signs of miscarriage had not yet conspired to send her back to the silent dead eyed depression that had framed much of our life for the past couple of years.  

This night was the first full night’s sleep  she had gotten since long before the insemination, perhaps since I had first started to pester her for a child, when? Was it really only six years ago? It seemed to be a lifetime. 

Last night had offered us a moment of respite perhaps even a permanent end to the purgatory in which we resided. After much pleading and tears, and a full two weeks before our appointed time, I had brought her to Boaz’s office to perform an ultrasound scan and amidst our dear friend’s optimistic caution and protestations to not get carried away, we had seen a cloud on the screen that Boaz assured us was an embryo, he pointed to a tiny pulsing in amongst the static which he identified as a perfect heartbeat and of course we had gotten carried away. 

Or as the dull throbbing in my head would attest, I had probably gotten carried away enough for both of us. 

Alpha

“Let there be light” the man said, adjusting the oil lamp that sat on the Resolute Desk. A sad smile flickered across his face. The other regarded him with calculated panic. He tried to imagine how this man had apparently taken him captive. Was he even captive? His mind scrambled for a logical explanation. The two were physically similar in build, height and age and his opponent did not appear to be armed, yet as a man who understands power, he felt he the circumstances dictated that the oddly familiar man was in total control of the situation. After all, moments before he was in one of the most secure rooms on the planet, surrounded by at least 6 guards and talking to one of the most powerful men on earth. There was a momentary humming sound and this man just appeared in the center of the room. He pointed at his soon to be captive and in the same instant everyone else disappeared.   

His captor was dressed simply in a grey non-descript suit, he was tall, maybe 6’3” and hair was shoulder length. When he spoke, his voice felt familiar and yet alien.He walked to the window and threw open the curtains allowing a pulsing white light in. “You must know all of it. But where do i begin? At the beginning? Or at the end? Maybe in the middle somewhere? Chronology, you see, hasn’t the relevance you might think.”  

“My men will be here in a minute” said the captive. “No I am afraid they won’t.” the man said, smile saddening across his face. “You see, right now you and I are the last men on earth and at this precise moment in time there are simply no minutes left.” He knelt down in front of his captive and looked him directly in the eyes. “Fear me not, I have done most of my damage a long time ago and now I hope to make some amends. Rest assured before this minute passes you will return to your secret service men, your beautiful wife and children and the business of your great office. But first you must permit me to slow down the minute so that you can listen to my story and act as you see fit”  

“Come President King, come and look out at the fate that I have destined for your world” He gestured to the middle window at the south lawn. Edward King stood up from his couch, where moments before he had been discussing the China problem with Prime Minister Wakahisa of Japan. He walked over to the window and looked out of his oval office. The south lawn was almost completely disappeared. A one meter ring of what appeared to be a fire made entirely from what looked and sounded like the white noise or static from a television set was advancing slowly towards the window. Upon its touch, plants and rocks disintegrated instantly and with no resistance, no sound other than the sound of static. Beyond the static, where the garden should be, where Washington D.C. should be, was nothing. 

Nothing but stars and space. 

The man stood beside the stunned King and as if in order to support him, he linked arms. He then pulled a device from his jacket pocket and fiddled with it momentarily until it gave off a soft pulse of energy. The static’s advance arrested just outside the window. 

King broke from the man’s hold and stumbled back into his red leather chair at the president’s Desk. What was he seeing? Was this a hallucination? Was he dreaming? 

“I have prepared what I would say to you for a long, long time, since before you were born although as I said that chronology isn’t relevant that could be millennia or mere seconds. No matter how many times I practice saying the words I am never sure what will come out of my mouth. I don’t know whether I am the villain or the hero of my own tale but that is just vanity. Judge me as you will but perhaps wait until you hear the full story. You may wish to exonerate or vilify me but either way you will probably want to destroy me.” He pulled over another chair and sat down and smiled. “Don’t worry about the destruction outside, it hasn’t stopped but it has slowed down enough for me to tell you this story. Before we begin, you are probably wondering who I am? Well to be honest I am not sure anymore, I’ve been called many names perhaps you and I will discover the truth about me and that truth may be enough to solve the problem outside the window. I want to tell you about a good man, an honest man, a man capable of terrible and powerful love.  

A man called Adam Priest.  

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Rebirth

I am aware.
At first I am aware of nothing, nothing but a vacuum. A vacuum that extends in abundant measure to infinity all around me. All around is zero dimension. There is no time, there is no length, no width, no depth. There is no colour. 

I am the observer. 

I watch and marvel at vacant eternity, just bearing witness to the sheer absence.
My wonder is interrupted as my awareness gives birth to a thought. It falls into the void and disappears into it, lost forever. I mourn its passing and as I do i feel another contraction. 

Another thought. 

I grasp at it and by sheer force of will I hold it for a moment and let it play in my awareness.
“Am I dead?”
At once the instinctive question baffles me and its consequences torture me, pain becomes my first dimension, pain of thought. My pain produces a series of new thoughts each more excruciating that the last. Questions I can’t answer. 

Questions I can’t comprehend. 

I am overwhelmed and the awareness goes as suddenly as it comes.