When The Stars Were Not As Busy
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I was born after the starcrash, and before the times of the saltwater intrusion. I grew up to be learned, to my everlasting regret and shame.

A war brought about the end, at least that is the story passed down to me. War so terrible that heaven itself saw fit to use terrible force to end vicious cruelty. A few lived after, but most have been reduced to broken pieces. Heaven not only burned the sin away, it froze and transfigured and morphed and twisted and fused and stacked and so so so many other things to create a world stuck in place, torn into pieces and with each piece feeling a different punishment.

The time is long ago. I am young, disappointed that Stargazing as an art and science has fallen out of favor. Maybe because there isn't much to see besides the wrecked constellations running like jagged veins ripped from a corpse. I understand how some find it depressing, but I respectfully disagree. Looking up to heaven is still a way to move forward, and wonder what could lie in the beyond. There could still be some angle through which to see through the horror. Something had to lay beyond.

So as a reward for my enthusiasm for the practice, I was more often than not sent to map out the sky. Usually, this quest was given to me when those who still had their heads grew weary of my babbling. My job was to map things out and perhaps preserve knowledge for whichever generations are left to follow us. Not that there's much else to do when the star-crashed world still reeks of profane sulfur and oily gas. Send the dreamer out to find some new angle, maybe this time he won't come back again. Even I never knew if the next hemispheric sojourn would be my doom.

There was little to do to prepare, so on what I know now is my last journey I departed without fanfare. I can remember the monotony of walking. It wore out my boots, socks, and the souls, but I had my mission and was going to do it well. There was only one road left to follow like a walking tour through every awful thing imaginable and not yet imagined. For solace, there could only be the skies. Even if nobody would use them, the sight burned out the eyes of those on land and using them to embark was impossible with boiling seas. Few felt adventurous when that sky which had not yet fallen upon us shuddered and threatened to collapse each day and night.

Everything was pointless. But it was nice to dream otherwise. Either I could make maps for the pleasure of others, or I would lay dead in the field and it might all fade away.

So onward I pursued a new way to slice the space above. Trekking like this went through places like the binding, winding lands of the tollbons, heirs to the Doltonians frozen in grotesque sculptures, up the high, puffy hills of Teba which I could feel breathing down my neck each time I went downhill. Every night, my scope would be set up and pointed, searching and asking for the answer. But there was only the dark, and silence. Usually.

The first time I saw it was in the shouting hills. On a lark, I went, as I never had gone before. Nobody had. The last cries of the dead after the calamity had landed here, and even generations later still there was the screaming. Maybe they wanted our attention. What I saw brought tears to my eye! There were entire new systems out there, swirling and bubbling as they fused and danced before my eyes. But then as I gazed, they glared in return. The twinkling rhythm stressed itself, expanding and binding but some of them were gone… they'd blink out of the patchwork for a minute, then return, like an indecisive seamstress was sowing the thread of the universe.

I wasn't sure if I was hallucinating again. Maybe the screams had spoiled my last nerve. Mustering the guts to peer into the telescoping tube once again I saw something anew. All I had seen condensed into a sliver at first, a touch of light dancing across the glass eye, a small spirit of new in a dank indifferent blanket of fog. It seemed to demand my attention and it grew rapturously as I watched. Suddenly, like a child had pulled a zipper straight through the sky, this novel sight peeled open to let in a darker night. It was not like the emptiness I had known all my life for it expanded throughout the whole of space with a firm, suffocating fullness. A cold void warmed by a rich fur coat, like the paintings I had seen of the time before the calamity when animals were still around to be killed for their furs, which swallowed every feature and fixture until it was all-encompassing.

Then came the descent.

I don't know how it spared me. The sky pounded every place except where I had camped, a hot rain sweeping up around the plains and valleys, swallowing them into a vast black pondering pond. Even the hill's voices fell silent, content as everything in this new sky began swirling again. Nobody else screamed. It did not take long for the distinction between sky and land to be washed away. I will never forget the bubbling noises I heard then. Flushing away this scorched soil and dragging all on this plane down into the underbelly of the universe.

The violent tempest swirled around me, smashing through all barriers and creating a sound comparable to the death of a god. A hurricane roar grew louder and louder as it was torn asunder, spiraling and entwining itself back through the rip. It came in thousands of miles, shifting and bending until it reached its zenith. Then, it was gone, up to whence it had come.

Finally, even my vantage point could not hold out any longer. My arms, my leg, every part of the rotten guts inside of me pitched downwards and tore out too. Lightning seized my features and my face was torn apart. Everything fell apart. All but my eye, my last eye, watching as I descended into the condensation of everything which had remained.

It took much time for me to learn how to see again. Even longer to know I still had myself, even if my body was only a fraction of what it had once been. But I had never been whole, so this was not a terrible shock. Nothing around me was complete, either, but even the pieces jumbled in this universal soup were more than I had ever known. There was a whole here. Ready to be put together again.

The puzzling becomes normal very quickly in such a state. I learned how to speak to the birds, who had seen all from their vantage point in the skies. Secrets and informal unknowns were taught to me, showing me how all things were, had been, and would have to be. No stone was left upturned, and no lifetime was not lived. Peering through the haze of sky and sea, fragmental knowledge came together inside of me. Lives were here, waiting for the gaze of one they could trust. They weren't the small, glistening flesh stars I had known, but large glorious charges that would move him to heaven.

Scorched starstuff had stilled their scornful passions to let life renew itself under their blazing gaze. Now then there could be choices again. The same which had wrought all life asunder. But if it were to be put together, they had to be warned that all could be broken again. It was only I who had such knowledge.

I didn't want to go. I stayed sitting at the lap of this sky for a long, long time. Knowing I had to tell them, what had come before and may come again. Even if I had never been listened to before. I dreaded it. But the knowledge of my inevitable road kept coming back. There was a responsibility to let the others know, to tell them what I had experienced. So, the trek homeward began. Through the narrow caverns, scraping through the old mines, walking backwards through towards old places.

As this journey continued, I thought about things. The names and sins of every great lord and royal. The hidden tragedy inside every vegetable leaf. The thousands lives gained and lost over snowflakes in Empria. The last wishes of every piece of poultry which had ever existed. The terrible knowledge was almost overwhelming, but it was important that everyone knew. Even the little I could share with them, could save our souls. A crossroad was on the horizon, and it brought times of trouble. The tide was coming.

Many were surprised to see me, almost as surprised as I to see them. Familiar faces once smashed to pieces, now more whole than I had ever knew them. Both myself and the masses all had surmised the other's doom or destruction. Collapsing when we met, I laid in bed to compose the endless thoughts contained within. On the restless day I emerged to the Hall, declaring what had been learned. Some sought to listen, but others shut it out. For the majority the words confused them, and I was taken before a trial.

I'm so sorry. Maybe they can't accept where we are. The things unremembered. Please, please don't judge them for not knowing that which haunts my mind's eye.

We were in an ark, floating through uncertain seas, and the black tide was coming again.

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