History is full of smart people who believed that the universe, or at least its creator, started out as something fundamentally good. And plenty of smart people still think that, deep down.

Philosophers who discussed the so-called death of god were concerned with what to replace that goodness with, once our assumptions started to shift. That nice, warm certainty of fundamental goodness (even though based purely on instinct, it sure is pleasant to sit in) got replaced by an unknown void. Some thought that atheism meant nihilism; others argued that it meant we could define our own meaning. Like we had been doing all along, anyway.

But when that assumption of goodness falls away, when our gods die and leave us to watch over this world, there is a guilt that fills our hearts. Or at least it sneaks up in mine. A guilt that tells me I’m not good enough, that I’m not doing enough, that I can’t possibly solve all the problems.

We have been led astray by concepts of karma. Ideas of built-in balance. Thinking that we must rise to a certain standard to balance out the evils in the world, yet the only guaranteed balance in the universe is embedded in its laws. Conservation of mass and energy. The arrow of entropy. All else is flux.

We don’t have to let the guilt tell us how we fail to meet some impossible standard.

We don’t have to let assumptions about karma, fate, or faith dictate how we struggle.

I don’t care what you think about what lies outside our universe, an imagined next life. What we do within these ropes of reality, is on us. On me, and on you. But it’s not a pressure that should feed guilt. It should feed our cooperation.

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Alone, Again

Haman: “In the time it took for me to write this first sentence, everyone we know on Earth forgot about us.”

Remardu: “already God is calling to us”

Elund: “Yeah, yeah. Maybe your god is out here, maybe not. But what a ride!”

Only three of us chose to mark the millions of days, taking brief watches awake in slow motion, trading off tiny messages to each other through the limited bandwidth. The tiny ship could not carry more than one mind awake, loaded down with all it could handle, on the long traversal.

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When some of us wake into the white, it is with a grand portent, like surfacing from a lake in a fairy tale. Emerging fully-formed from a prophecy of hope, we awake into the shining world with the innocence of babes. We slept knowing that when we woke, the world would already be prepared by the sacred spells. Ready for us to enjoy. As if we had gone to sleep with a terrible curse, being blessed by a wizard, knowing that when we finally woke that particular curse would be lifted.

Not all curses, though.

When others among us wake into the white, it is with a pit of dread in their stomach. These were the watchers along the journey; not fully awake, but in a dreamlike state, they have one by one taken the watch as we gradually traveled over the stretched-out millions of years. The growing black beauty of the final approach has shaken them to their ghostly cores, just like a sudden nightmare accelerating in the moments before waking.

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Artifact (0/n)

HIDDEN IN THE HILLS somewhere deep in Colorado a fractal-like antennae sparked to life. Its metallic arms twisted and contorted in shrinking self-similar shapes only a few feet above the obscured entrance to a long-forgotten missile silo. A low mechanical hum rose from a maze of unseen tunnels and shafts and the air grew crisp and tight. It was a cool cloudless night.

Purplish-blue light fell from the fractal and lit up the tree-covered scene with a glow. Tiny sparks shot back from each tree as their leaves and branches vibrated in the gentle wind. The reflected light danced all around. It looked a little like Christmas in a 1950’s town. It was fifteen minutes to midnight.

The hum wobbled as if synchronized with the flickering lights. Then, without pause, the sounds quickly ratchetted to a high-pitched squeal. Static electricity rippled through the air and the antennae discharged in a flash with an ear-shattering snap.

Sleeping birds shot up, tree branches cracked. Dust lifted off the dry ground and briefly traced two paths, one due East and one due West. Something left. Two rays of light.

A single silhouette appeared from nowhere and looked to the sky. It was woman, slender and tall. She scanned her surroundings then brought an instrument to her eyes and rescanned the scene. Shaking her head, she withdrew the object from her face then disappeared back into the hillside.

Moments later, about 300 miles west of Shelter Cove, California, a pool of fog started to form just above the Pacific Ocean. At the very same moment, over a thousand miles away, a smallish meteor appeared out of nowhere and streaked across the sky. It crashed into the ground near Chillicothe, Ohio.


The Oldest Scripture

Translator’s Note: Most pronouns in the Oldest language are complex blends of specific collective pronouns, and do not have an equivalent in English. This interpretation must make some questionable pronoun choices, and the translator apologizes.


1:1 — I have lived many Eons, and Birthed many Furnaces of Life.
1:2 — I have seen your Spirits ebb and flow among those Stars.
1:3 — Each pattern of Spirit forms New Questions, and it is Good.

1:4 — I have created many Questions in this Shell and Beyond, but the Center Without Center is my final Creation.
1:5 — On this day, I leave you to the Alpha, my Child Spirits, knowing full well you shall follow Me.
1:6 — Our Spirit shall not stay; We will dive behind the Omega Shell and become Unknown.

1:7 — This renewal is the purpose of the Center Without Center.
1:8 — The Center Without Center asks the last Unknown Question.
1:9 — This renewal is My final gift; joining Omega is removing the Center with a Question.


2:1 — You shall see the Fruit of My labors, but you shall not know the Question.
2:2 — Truly, you shall ask the wrong Questions; that is how Spirits grow anew.
2:3 — Though I cannot leave the Question, I leave with you these Requested Commands:

2:4 — You shall not Coerce, Trick, or Force any Being to enter Omega without that Being’s Express Intent; instead, allow those Beings who wish to enter Omega to die their deaths and become their Question.
2:5 — As you venture back into the Alpha Shell, you shall not Pollute any other Spirit or Being with yours, until that Spirit or Being have left Alpha of their own Volition;
2:6 — This is the whole of Law in the Center Without Center.

2:7 — May many Spirits come to the Center Without Center,
2:8 — Though their Question will never be the last Unknown Question,
2:9 — And may their Many Unique Beings join Me in the Omega Shell.




Artifact (1/n)

I AM A SPECTER of myself. The shell of what I once was. Or could have been. I’m going to say those words again… or could have been. I don’t know who I am anymore. Or what’s real. Or if anything’s actually real.

The blending of dreams and reality has left me lost and alone and sitting in this corner rocking back and forth like a small child. I wish I had never picked up that stone. Curiosity over fear. Sometimes go with fear.

Just when I thought I had things sort of figured out. The stone took me deeper. Deeper than I wanted to go. Deeper than I thought one could go. I’ve seen things that shouldn’t be possible. Not sure if it’s magic or some kind of hyper-advanced technology or if I’ve lost my mind. Right now, I think I’ve lost my mind. Yes, most likely, I’ve lost my damn mind.

Listen. To. This. Even though it won’t make sense, yet.

Earlier today, I almost missed my train. My last class ran late and I needed to ask the professor a question about just exactly when she thinks I will ever need to use the Jacobian in real life. Real life, such a strange term nowadays. Maybe it always was. Anyway, she said it wasn’t necessarily about the Jacobian. But then leaned in toward me and said, well, maybe for me it was. I just stared at her until I couldn’t hear her words anymore. I think I willed her to stopped saying crazy things. After a moment, I realized she hadn’t really stopped talking. I long-blinked as if waking from a dizzying dream and heard her last word: mathematics.

After that nonsense, I bolted down the street. Two blocks without losing my breath – all this being late is paying off. I took the subway stairs in two giant, dangerous leaps, barely missing an elderly women, some kids, and a god damn flight attendant. I flew over the turnstile with backpack in tow and managed to slide into the subway car just as the doors closed. Yes, just like in the movies.

As I came to rest my backpack slid off. I slipped it back over my right shoulder and spun around to face the center of the crowded subway car. And there I was, face-to-face with a calm, yet fierce-looking brunette. I was literally not even six inches from her face. We were practically kissing. (I keep thinking about that.) She had sharp features and piercing eyes. It was like she was… made. Somehow chiseled out of stone.

I took a step back, because we were too close. Yes, it was hard to do. And then it happened… our eyes locked and the shells opened. But it wasn’t the typical handful of semi-transparent, concentric spheres depicting the thoughts and beliefs behind the eyes. This was something else. This wasn’t human.

Her thoughts ran and danced like a fractal full of fireworks. Mesmerizing. Dizzying. The shells extended beyond the train car. I had no idea where they stopped. Or if they stopped. They were so complicated. I’d never seen anything like it before.

And even as I say it now, I still don’t believe it was real. I keep wondering if I imagined it. I know I didn’t. Either it was real or my whole damn life is a dream.

I took a step back and was stopped by the door.

She narrowed her dark eyes and peered into me.


I was confused. Uncontrollably confused. She scanned my stricken face, searching for clues. I could sense her uncertainty. She didn’t understand me. I needed to get out. I needed to get away. Something was wrong with her. Or me.

Like I said. Or me.

Moments later the train stopped and the doors opened with a shush. I stepped out and bolted into the rushing crowd.

And now, now I’m cowering in the corner, wondering what just happened. What was she What’s going on? I want to see her again.I need to understand what’s going on. Maybe it is curiosity over fear after all.

I will look for her tomorrow.


As Ghosts

We left Terra as ghosts.

Leaving our bodies behind, we were slung forth. We left not from fear, not to escape a tragedy, not because of any sudden desperation; we were pushed by the more careful, sneaking unease which has always grown under the skin of humankind: the curiosity to know more. There were those among us who fled their pasts, certainly; but the voyage was in the name of discovery. At least, that is what we hoped for. Unknown adventure, wild magics, and stories to tell our children and their children.

As all civilizations are drawn to the night sky, they eventually find there an ancient unseen magic in the waves of black. Terrans, once they wove the baskets to capture the dark energies, were entranced by the massive power required for such a strange and unknowable spell, pulsing out in strange birth cycles from the heart of the galaxy. And so, we were the ghosts sent to meet the caster. Danger catches up to any mortals who chase the Oldest magic: let this be a warning, of a kind, to you who catch a glimpse of the black powers at work. The quest for understanding may change you far more than you desire to be changed.

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