From the Journal of Aframos Longjourney, Pilgrim
With notes by Avos Torr, Scholar of Rheve Library
Tresday, Nineteenth Cycle, Seventh Year, 81st Turn
Forty-Ninth Day in the Trees
It's all Torne's fault. I should have known.
We reached the Engine shortly after we rested last night. It was not as we had left it.
Large parts of the machine had broken. We saw gears lying around it, cylinders broken off. The parts that were left were moving fitfully. One end of it had burst, and wrecked metal lay everywhere.
The Abbot Engineer hobbled up to us. He had a broken leg, but he had constructed a crutch from the wreckage. His face was clouded in anger.
"You idiots!" he shouted at us. "You colossal fools!" He laid into us with his crutch until he fell over. It would have been comical, if the other monks hadn't moved around us. Many of them were similarly injured, but what I noticed first was that most of them were armed with knives, clubs, and weapons improvised like the Abbot Engineer's crutch.
The old man picked himself up. He screamed at us incoherently for several minutes, until finally he exhausted his anger. Then the technolyte we had spoken to before - now missing a leg - walked up. Like the rest of them, he had an angry, desperate look on his face. He then began to tell us what had happened.
Soon after we had passed by the Engine, it had exploded. Several of their number had died in the explosion, but that was, in the technolyte's own words, a minor inconvenience, compared to the loss of the machine itself. Because they weren't crazy. They were right.
The machine, he explained, kept track of events. It made certain that one event followed another. It kept things working smoothly. With the machine broken, things were not working smoothly, and they would soon get worse. And it was all our fault.
I thought about telling them that Torne had pressed the buttons, but I was fairly certain that they would fall on him then, and I wouldn't abandon a friend to that.
The Abbot Engineer had recovered from his tirade, and motioned for silence. "You wrecked the Engine," he said. "You must fix it. Soon, you will be the only ones who can."
I asked what he meant by that, when one of our guards changed. One minute he was an older man with a long beard, the next minute she was a young woman with long hair on her head.
"As you can see," he said, as the young woman stared at her body in alarm, "these disturbances are affecting us as well. Tomorrow, we may not even be the same species. After that, we won't be able to keep two thoughts together long enough to even consider the machine. You're at the center of this, though. You'll be affected last. That may give you the time you need."
"Time for what?" Torne asked, sounding eager to help. I think he was feeling guilty.
"You must find," the old man said, and then he disappeared, leaving behind a bowl filled with hair.
"You have to find the nondeterministic trout," the technolyte supplied, picking up the bowl reverentially1.
We asked what this might be, and he shrugged. "You figure it out. You have to skif zith sem. Dnaa ude tih eelkiwk." We tried to speak with him more, but we couldn't get any more sense from him or the other monks.
We slept by the remains of the Engine, and moved on this morning. We couldn't see any of the monks. There was a fine breakfast prepared where they had been camped. Under the circumstances, we decided not to eat any. Better safe than sorry.
We spoke a bit about our quest as we walked. Torne says that a trout is a kind of fish, though he's never heard of a non-deterministic one before. How can we find something if we have no idea what it might look like or where it might be?
As we walked, there was more evidence of strangeness. The empty holes growing larger. Torne calls them negative space. There are also trees changing ages, and I haven't seen many animals about. The ones we have seen act strangely. I saw one of those chattering tree-climbing creatures running between the trees. It sat suddenly, and gave out a shrieking howl, before flying away. Then there was the spiny creature that exploded a dozen yards ahead of us. We were lucky we weren't closer; some of the quills had buried themselves several inches in the nearby trees.
There was a place we found where sounds came half a minute after they were made. This made it difficult for us to talk to each other.
We looked around for any sort of fish. We saw a few riverbeds, but they were dry, having run into the negative space.
I hope we find it in time.