But We Have Learned Patience in Two Hundred Million Years

Owen Maresh

The Epoch of the Sungulls

1.1 The Plastic Factorial

Scribbled underrubber robed arbitrators array plinths and cairns at the oddest of angles: their protractors are rotted wood affairs marked with impossible angles. Grotesque gargoyloids undergoing resection and other ignominies, oddly nubbed trapezoids hanging in fashions contrary to both physics and aesthetics, supported in position by thin filaments. The air: unbreathable and pungent, redolent with alkanes and other low molecular weight obscenities. These monks or factory workers have strange faces. either too many nostrils or too many noses or three and a half as many eyes in the wrong place as they should be, you are thankful that their cloaked hoods obscure. They mutter in a wandering thistle of blurry syllables. At prescribed times they dip bricks of polyethylene in lamp oil and burn them, much to your nose's distaste. You fasten your gas-mask and make quick retreat to the entrance, your mission to this monastery dissolved by the contaminated air.

1.2 A Field of Orreries

The old cyclops woman tends this farm: she plants orrery seeds and from them orreries grow, then the researchers from the institute arrive and take measurements. The only fertile orrery seeds are those that correspond to solar systems in which the development from raw matter to intelligence has taken place, and the researchers are charged with determining which solar systems this year's orreries correspond to. The living metal grows epicycles and gears and planets and stars. Wearing a single starmonocle she waters the orreries with a garden hose that washes the planetary systems with the mist of awareness. Sometimes the researchers are successful, and the star system is nearby: for these, radio transmissions at high power are beamed to them. Sometimes a civiilzation destroys itself, killing all life, and consequentially, the orrery in the field begins to macerate, the metal blisters, oxidizes, cracks with infection, and eventually falls apart, as fungus disassembles it. Saddened, the cyclops woman sprays galactic fungicide and turns over the loam: she usually leaves a marker for civilizational suicides.

1.3 Furtive Nascent Latent Sphalerite

Glittering gadgets bedeck my apparition: my fervor, my minus-mystery, my fast-forwarded glass of milk: engineered eventualities compete for the troubadour's attention, an out of order arrhythmia by which I sort my socks is seen to contaminate my timepieces, and spreads to every artificial timekeeping device I possess: a sulfurous interlude of reorganization and development encrusts itself on my personal chrysalis without much of my involvement, and without warning, breaks open. I, neither sentient that I was once a caterpiller, nor now especially sapient of my wings that now seem to be filling with hemolymph. In a few hours they will harden: but where will I fly to? What instinctual migrations haunt my ancient biology? A molecule of ascii bombykol brushes against my antennae, and my attention is now focused on I know not exactly what.

1.4 Froth Orbifolds

Waterlogged, sea-spray'd, soggy, and polyarborescent, seized by vertiginous gulfings and heady vapors, I swirl in a plume of effulgent iridescence, my eyes wide but my ears and nose wider: the auditory and olfactory fugues proximally extant to me gingerly palpate my awareness, leaving me the opposite of nauseous: my mind it seems is carbonated, fizzy, overcome by the intersecting pluralities of this sensorial interlude I oscillate, my fronds soaking in the trace elements. The overlapping odors and binaurals chiaroscure illusories, citrus greenery engines and organic crystalline dirigibles, gentle celery-scented behemoths, serene wars, fierce peaces and shuffling rumbling semaphores arcing under the Great Cough Drop of Time.

1.5 The Waiting Room of Elsewhence

Magazines from alien realities in wooden containers alongside a medicinal smell belie the confusion of this place. Entities doing things I can't understand are documented in glossy paper. There are advertisements and card pull outs, also written in incomprehensible languages. Occasionally, a sequence of sound skitters through, and someone who has been waiting goes to the door and presumably subjects themselves to procedures both subtle and suburbane. I cannot tell how long I have been waiting, nor what happened before I was here: was I baking cookies? Was I writing a screed? These things I do not know. The other occupants of this room are possessed by an essential obscurity for which my rarefied senses find their entity-class impenetrable, indeed, ineffable to me. Could they be other human beings? Yes. But they could also be non-human things, and not along an atavistic direction either. There is a pattern here, a pattern which I am too coarse to understand. Someone tugs on my arm. It is my turn to see whoever I have been waiting for. Oddly, they hand me a cookie and a flower before I go.

Afternova Glimmers

2.1 Interregnant?

Churlish chirugeons emplaced at strategically unsound medical practices spanning the countryside? Check. Fifty ton electromechanical fear wardens slowly meandering the streets like ancient, extinct megafauna? Check. Satellite chess and checkers by mail? Check. Mate? What utter, unadorned fury did the bearded Guardian of the Axilla present at the city entrance, entranced only by the chitterings of parakeets and other ornithoid inhabitants of the frescoes and grottoes that line the city frontier, when the entire regiment of pasta chefs demanded entry. “This hallowed ground is not for the likes of you!” slamming his ruthenium tipped boots on the pavement. He tore his green galligaskins and ripped his orange gaberdine in the process of castigating this bevy of cooks. “My foremothers founded this city on the principle of the freedom from pasta, and the leisure for your lot to enter it at this juncture was not amongst the purview they set for us. I turn you back. Leave! Exile yourself from our fine metropolis!” The chefs departed, intent on trying another entrance, meanwhile the Guardian of the Axilla instant messaged the city's guard on their shared data system “more pasta cook trouble, I think they're going to try the egress at the Promontory of Discord. Watch out”, he wrote.

2.2 Bespoke requests

The undersnuggler and the overcuddler counted their sorrows: it was twelve to two, and Reginaldo Erwharl had yet to emerge from the liquid helium baths. When was the decision due? Who could say? For these ambiguities the undersnuggler and the overcuddler hid in the darkness, wary of the continued neutrino bombardment and all of those damned muons that kept raining down. Erwharl could either approve their pardon, liberating them from the perpetual confusion, or condemn them to another thirty thousand years of mindless tedium, as official censors assigned neurotropic computer terminals, charged with maintaining the intellectual sterility of the commonwealth. Reginaldo emerged from the baths, clad only in a towel, smoking a paprika cigar, with bits of frost on his erbium beard as he adjusted to standard temperature and pressure. He grinned, somewhat worryingly, and handed the undersnuggler and overcuddler the two saltines, the one thirty five GHz pion coupler valves, and the bottle of whisky that were tokens of their manumission. They departed for the Copper City, across the Bay of Unprofundy, to seek their fortune. Erwharl would then have to find two other android elephants to press-gang into censors. Can't have the masses getting lax on their mental hygeine.

2.3 The Post-Umbrant Arroyo of the Otherlands

Intertwining filamentous ghost-wraiths in mud boots negotiated the stalagmites of slime in the border caves of the Land of Riboflavin. Armed with nothing save memories and nondemonstrable passions, their evanescent bodies disregarded cave arthropods and fluorescent lichens. What they had for eyes, er, the metaphysical photogranules darted from this mote to that mote, abstracting out the unnecessary, and making their migration to the great Getserseluk tree swamps of the Hinterlands, where it is said that the shatterproof obsidian leaves of the Getserseluk trees can disentangle one ghost-wraith from another, freeing them and permitting them to dissolve their essences to elemental constitients.
The Escarpment People in between the chorelands and the Hinterland deploy wraith-detecting auto-djembes at the edge of their settlements, and upon the drum-beat, they make haste to wraith proof dwellings made from red adobe brick impregnated with the syrup from the scar pine.
Eventually, some of the tumbling wraithtangles make it to the Getserseluk trees. The wood of such trees is deep blue with inset metallic arteries and crystalline green veins. The evaporation of the wraithtangles is, alas, a tourist trap. Some of them contain up to twenty wraiths, all intermingled and confused, their transcendental anatomies diffuse and interrelated only by accident. They climb the tree stalk with great effort, and when one snags on the obsidian leaves, and a sudden explosion of light and color occurs as the leaf cleanly untangles the wraiths. Tourists and food sellers watch the evaporation of the wraithtangles in a peculiar combination of commodification and respect.

2.4 Internment Against Grailgrease

It was recorded that in the Seventh Age of the Hominids, before the Post-Nasal Revolution, did the Unscaled Trapezoid, Vice-Regent of the Remnant of the Geometries, a wholly unfoggy being, march with a cohort upon the Psychological Fields, demanding Statistical Relief from one of the generally unforgiving Probability Gods. “Give us three more standard deviations or give us peppermint candy” bespoke the Unscaled Trapezoid. The Probability Gods, twelve mile tall electromechanical stone sculptures with brains the size of elephants and minds the size of tangerines groaned as was their due. One of them, Pelphegenbu-sa-Iyalghe finally spoke in a deep, mooing bass “We have not authored your present situation. Our garlic intents and our sulfur jazz are remote and uninteresting to you. We cannot augment your meritocratic status by fiat: either make those achievements or do not, we cannot judge thee. We will now remain silent for the next twelve thousand cycles. The Unscaled Trapezoid was then deprived of the “Un”, for he had been scaled by the Probability Gods, and had to content himself with being the Scaled Trapezoid from then on in.

2.5 Ingress

The cryokrypt steamed, the butler waited with the pot of mustard. The clock, paused in between 31$\frac{1}{7}$ and 31$\frac{1}{\sqrt[7]{3}}$ seconds past the hour with the spidercracks of glass obscuring the broken second hand. The steamed rice and tea made a good break from my hibernation. Thin reedy soup and attenuated steam. Offensive images and thin diagrams scrawled in in incomprehensible languages handed to me in a series of twenty page fascicles all presaging events that I am believed to have critical or downright cantankerous opinions thereon. I am handed plates with pieces of rotted cheese: I am expected to write illegible calligraphy in a dead language on small manila cards containing opinions of utter disgust. The cards are collected, but the pieces of cheese are thrown away. My eyes are sawed off and replaced with radio recievers. My nose is replaced with a 500 ton electromechanical atmosphere purifying machine which is connected to my head by snail glue. My orders are printed out and placed in my backpack. I am sent to the Island Nation to engage in a peace action with the nine meter tall metal skinned natives, who are in fact some advanced make of organic robot. I am involved in a skirmish and sent home on medical leave. I write my memoirs. My main capacitor fails, and I spend the next forty thousand years offline, floating upside down in some viscous chemical concoction. Upon returning to life, I discover that the People of The Sea and the People of the Stars have made peace, and that there is no need for my particular specialty. I disassemble myself, placing my components in their original styrofoam packaging along with return media authorization forms. Everything except my mental facilities is out of date, and they are redistributed amongst worthy parties: most of my static memory is incorporated in a hypercomputer; my language skills are distributed to the poor and needy of New Imaha city, my beliefs about the origin and ultimate fate of the universe are auctioned off to the highest bidder. My sense of self is equidistributed amongst seven half-sisters who place it in their hope chests. My visual apprehension is given to a banker. My fears are steeped in sesame seed oil for five years then sold at high end art stores to the spiritually unsteady. After a full cycle of transcendental time my elements consigned to the torrents find another focal subspace, and I find myself existent amongst a tribe of primitive coastal dwelling hominids as the plucky, pretentious, pugnacious, petulant third in command, often thrown the worst jobs and with

The Overlugubrium

3.1 Algolagnimorphia

dry starch-cracked star-speckled sand-scars; the pitter patter of insects devouring the corpse of an Indricothere; slashing smashing stone shards: fracturing conchoidally grainy meagre stenches, noxious and pungent, assault the air; varicose lesions congeal, meander, coruscate, and corrode; broken glass monoliths, razor sharp, gleam in the acrid sunlight; torn scored corrugated metal flensing straps abrade a blood foam rose froth chirugeon's vivisectorium. an atavistic howl rises to a fierce shrieking wail, ripping and sundering the poor auditory carapaces of any proximate creature, too foolish to heed the vaporous desolation soaked through land, water, sky, and air, burnished and painfully effervescing into every interstice of the local ether, forever soaking the quintessence with the death-squawks and life-squeals of perpetual tetanus, a clawing and an aching which voraciously thrashes and violently sunders the remotest mote of serenity at even the slighest and most miniscule gleam of peace until its fragments spray and scatter, rendered unto thrackled and gnarly knotted tourniquets of frozen, murmuring, relentlessly frothy horror, straggling on the edges of the icy wastes of the nuclear oven that the deserted place broils to brittle fragility then casually, lacksadaisically, even mayhaps languidly, tosses aside to shatter into innumerable glinting nothings, a perpetual scream of oblivion encased in each.

3.2 Interconnecting

Thrushing darting seeking searching speaking hoping waiting. In pause: torpor? Hibernation? Green-screens and blocking. This is what is to happen. In here, there is potential. An empty office drawer, an empty text editor, an idea, nascent, latent, waiting for drippy ink to scrawl potential meaning on paper. Now or later. Here's a church schedule floating in a storm drain, meetings of support groups and choirs written on it. There's a woman playing a didgeridoo in the distance. There's an old VHS tape of a middling movie featuring a minorly famous star twirling near the sewer grate. There over yonder, thanks to our perception, is a house of a hoarder. A missed email. A missed text message. A missed romance, and corollarily, a missed life. There's no accountant so adept that these potential things may be enumerated with exact precision. These almost people and almost events miss us, walk by and to the side of us. They are neither ghosts nor especially residents of Tumbolia: the absence of their absence in our awareness affords them a sublime existence which our senses -- both those of physical and mental capacity -- are constitutionally too gross of character to allow us to perceive, even with the eyes of imagination and fancy aided by metaphoric spectacles.

3.3 Directions

Locate the patient storm-drain athwart of the redwood forest, wait until the yoghurt fruit hatches and the embryonic text-editors emerge and take flight to the conclave of the linguals, and then, betroth the arch-earthquake to the vice-orrery, may their union be plentiful, fruitful with turbidity and opaque remarks, flurries and chalcedony embankments, faberge chocolates and cantilever bread, these things distributed for the commonweal and inciting the comments of the preparation. We, she? Someone! The ribald attendees and the disastrous catastrophes are but an editorial hiccup on our wraithlike blunders, the blowhards and peacehawks chide the wardoves and the sucksofts, and in the tendentious epistolaries of our renunciation, I saw a sort of clarity, a readiness to act that I could not countenance with a spork: for here, I thought, sure of my axioms, I could rely on the distributed nature of our ornamentation, the clarity of our vision only undone by our mistaken and perhaps incoherent attempts at self-organization. The time was now and now was the time but nevertheless we were dawdling, procrastinating, hiding in our hyperspace pods reading bad holonovelas about ancient antelope farms and the dramas that unfolded in their communities -- as a means of escapism -- rather than starkly setting forth with the agendas that we had prepared and making vast sweeping actions of great cosmic import: we were dilettantes, charlatans, jesters. The concentrated activity had passed us by and we had consigned ourselves to our entertainments and amusements while the more adept had engineered what our art of description was essentially incapable of describing...

3.3 Zenith

the vaporous, effervescent luminance sparkled, gleamed, glimmered, it elucidated, flowed, and vibrated through every conjoined lattice point and interstice, interconnecting with oscillatory candor: facile, easy, unencumbered. it had both depth and breadth and width and something else; realizations, comprehension, exultations, orgasmic -- both in the bodily sense of the physical and in the strange that is the mental -- unmatched and unmatchable, the summa, the pulsing, throbbing, all, concentrated, distilled, kiln-fired joy of perpetual serenity decanted for a no-moment, that moment when the complicated and shuffling borders between you and the cosmos are temporarily dissolved, when all the effluvia becomes fluent, what has (had?) been achieved here is peerless, for it pulses, shakes, jumps up and down for ecstatic calm, and then

3.5 echoes

another here, other here, other then, no where? now here? gales of unprofundity subliminally ineffabilize, surfulgent in hyperethereal transcendence, statements and equations seen in dreams, quite true, but never to be written, spoken, ensconced in thought. I dreamt of another world, I think. Not a missed avenue or a lost phone number, but another real place, indubitably imaginary, but, and here's where I employ some clever octopiloctomy: once the vision is so enabled, those dream worlds can, with effort, be made real. Those equations that you might get a glimpse of, or social arrangements that you'd plead to have. The first, you know, can be obtained by a certain effort of application of the self. Once seen in a dream, it is foolhardy to condemn them to illusionhood when you do possess the art to engineer them. The logical conclusion, which is perhaps puzzling when one first encounters it, is that it is possible to navigate the enfolded reticule of possibility, to make the imaginary real, and to perhaps change illusion to allusion.