There Shall Be Time No More
They did not so much waken as find themselves to be. They remembered. A ship. A journey to a star. The quiet sleep, tended by machines. Were they still dreaming? But it had been no sleep of dreams. When they closed their eyes, they were five, each separate in a bed of ice, watched separately by a brain of dancing light: heartbeats and breathing—distinct, joined only in purpose, not in mind.
Assab had quarreled with Whitaker. Stratova had lusted after Hung. Kaku had brooded by himself, one of them, but apart, never open to their hearts.
It was he who panicked now, thrust in among them like a rat into a pit of dogs.
They soothed him. We do not know what has happened. But we live. Your thoughts are with ours. We have been joined.
They had no eyes. Each strained to see, but found no light.
We feel—almost that we are one.
There was no flesh. They could lust no more. Stratova shrugged in their divided mind. I remember lust, but it has failed me now.
They thought upon the change.
Where is the ship? It was in their midst, part of the matter of their minds, but silent, mere atoms, mingled with their flesh.
They had been destroyed.
Close to the speed of light. We could not escape. The star had a dark companion, black maw yawning in a shroud of light, the light turned in upon itself. We have been swallowed into Hell!
We are going to God. The mind of Kaku, calmest of the five. We are turning into Gods.
They remembered. He knew. In the days of training, he had known.
“Space-time,” he said, showing them a cube. “Three mutually perpendicular lines, the dimensions of space. A point in this infinite cube. Also in time. A point-date coordinate. A second coordinate. Time is the distance between. At infinite velocity, all points are visited at once. Zero time. Infinite mass. Infinite matter-energy. Through time no more. All space, all time before you.”
We will explode. If we are not consumed, we will explode.
They waited in the dark of light.
We feel it. We have left the hole. We are one point of matter and unending light. It presses on itself and cannot hold. It bursts out from itself, into the void, into the realm that is not our realm. We flash out with it into space. We are its home.
It has ended and begun. Begun and ended. We are blind. Now we must learn to see.
What will we do with this new flesh?
Whitaker spoke. Let us make men as we were men. We will teach them to be good men. We will give them no war, no anger, no lust except to breed. They will worship us. We will have glory in these men. Peace will be upon the worlds at our command.
They considered this plan.
No. What are men if they have no will? We will create them, but not to be enslaved. We will teach them, but compel them not at all. We who have been men: though we suffered, we had joy. Though we hated, still we learned to love.
Give me my own space and I will enact my plan.
It is given.
He closed himself to them. They wept. His plan will fail. All his children will become but slaves.
He may repent.
Once he commanded us. We saw it then. He has no faith in others to be wise.
Let us begin.
In the beginning, the gods joined together in a burst of light. From this light they formed the stars. Around the stars they formed planets. Around the planets they formed moons, each in its natural way, so that all things existed and gloried therein. Upon the planets they formed life, which breathed and thought upon itself and took its energy from other life. From among this life the gods formed man, to rule among all life and become new gods.
This is what she believed. But in her eyes there was no evidence of such love. Some other god had brought his hand.
The world was perfect. In all inhabited lands, it rained when the people needed rain. The sun bore down gently—as a mother’s hand. Everything bloomed in its season. No one hungered. No one died. There was no sickness, no distress.
She did not think of it this way. How could she? She could not know there was no hunger, for none had hungered. She could not bask in universal peace, because no one had ever raised a hand to smite another. Only one day upon another of eternal—
They had a word for it, but it cannot be used. We would not understand it. It is lost to us.
She did not think of these things. But within she yearned for she knew not what.
And then she dreamed. In her dream she mounted to the sky upon a wing of fire. The world wished to hold her, but her flames tore at the planet’s grasp and bore her up, high past the mountains to a dark cold (she did not know the word, but felt the chill and knew it was not gentle). The cold did not touch her, but it lived outside the circle of her—of the thing that bore her on the wing of fire.
She looked down. The earth was heavy with the nests of men. This could not be. So many people—and no room. No room for the creatures that were not men. But who would do this thing? She knew how men were made, how they sprang from the womb, how they came to be there. But that had not been done in all the world nearly since creation.
Suddenly she yearned. It was strange to her. To take a mate. One male. To—join with him. To bear a child and children. She felt—she had no word. It was as if the earth held steady, would not turn, and the sun glowed heavy on her skin. As if she had climbed longer than she could bear and lain down under a spread of leaves in the midday sun. She would feel this—hunger all her life. And that would be endless, for death had not entered among beasts or men.
She rose up from the earth. It grasped no more. It shrank behind her like a pale blue stone as she waded in a stream. Past stars. Past glowing dust.
She stopped, circling a planet and its yellow star. She looked down. The earth lay half-hidden under mounds of stone. People scurried from place to place like ants. The air roiled with shapes like birds that hummed like bees. Men shouted and raised sticks against each other. She was amazed. People bled and lay still. They sagged and melted into bones. Some were devoured by the beasts. Some were lowered into holes and covered up with dirt. Grass grew over them and they were forgotten. On this strange world everyone wrinkled and fell into sleep. Then their children hid them in the ground or placed them in a fire.
There were great waters. On the great waters, men had taken trees and shaped them into bits of land. They stood on the trees and traveled over the waters, some near, some far. Sometimes they raised sticks against each other or threw stones. Many joined the sleep and were hidden in the waves.
Water came to her eyes. She could not breathe. She gasped and shook as if shaken by a wind.
She flew down to the planet on her wing of fire. She went out like walking from a cave. She walked toward an object made of wood and stones. Inside it a woman made loud noises, such as she herself had made when the water filled her eyes. The woman lay, not in a nest, but on a pile of wood and something like giant leaves. She sweated and grunted like someone running a long way. Her belly was huge. She was bearing a child. But why these strange noises?
The child was born. The woman held it, speaking to it in a strange, high voice and smiling now as if she had not made sweat or grunted or yelled in her—effort. For she had labored giving birth as if carrying a heavy load.
A man came in. He touched the woman and the child. He smiled at them and put his mouth on their foreheads.
She closed her eyes. When she opened them, the child had grown. He came in to the woman. He showed her his hand. It bled. The woman put her mouth on it and wiped the water from his eyes. She held him and rocked back and forth, singing.
Suddenly the man and the woman were seated at a slab of wood on wooden legs. Their hair was gray. Their skin was like thick leaves. Another man and woman came in, with a child. They were not gray. The child ran to the people at the slab of wood and put its arms around them. The people all put their mouths on each other and smiled and held each other.
Then the gray woman brought something to the slab of wood. It steamed like grass in the morning. It was food, for the people ate it. She sniffed and peered closer. The people smiled at her and offered her some of the food. They put it in a thing like a stone with a deep hole in it, but made of wood. She tasted the food. It was not good to eat. She spat it out. The people showed her how to blow on the food. She blew on it and tasted again. This time she could eat. It was like thick water with plants mixed in it. One of the plants was brown and spongy. She pulled the piece she was chewing from her mouth. Inside it was red. She thought of the bleeding she had seen. She threw the food away from her and rushed outside, out of the wooden cave. They were eating the flesh of beasts!
She fled to the wing of fire. It carried her up into the dark above the sky. Past stars. Past glowing dust. Her heart pounded. She breathed like one who has climbed a steep hill. Water oozed from her skin and her eyes.
She came to her planet and its sun. She descended through the sky. The wing rested on the ground. She ran from it to her nest and lay down. As she slipped into sleep, a voice spoke inside her—a voice she had never heard and would never hear again.
All that you have seen, you must bring to your world.
© 1997 Mark Penny