Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Burning of Effigy: Chapter One

For the last few weeks, I’ve been taking care of the alien that crashed on this world. She never speaks, but when I speak to her, she seems quite receptive to it, and I’ve been assuming she’s trying to encourage me to speak more. When I first pick her up, there’s nothing around, except for a few dead trees I can see in the distance. We’re obviously still not on Earth, so I realize that this is the best I’m gonna get. I tear them apart and set up a lean-to shelter, though I’m not sure it’s necessary. As terribly barren as this place is, there also doesn’t seem to be any weather. Still, as soon as you get too comfortable with something, it’s taken away from you, so just always be prepared. The shelter isn’t necessary for long either way, though. When the alien first wakes up, a tent suddenly appears several yards away. A couple days later, she’s a lot more lucid, and a log cabin appears to replace the tent. Over time, as her strength increases, we upgrade our lodgings. She has some power over this place, and I think perhaps maybe, she’ll eventually be able to get us out of it.
One day I’m reading a book to her, that she apparently uncontrollably summoned, called God’s End of Paradise. One of the lines reads, “My name is Xanthia,” she said. “This is my son, Blaine.”
As if in response to this, the alien suddenly says, “my name is Ezqava.”
“What? You speak English?”
“I do now,” she says. She holds her hand out. “Ezqava Eodurus.”
I timidly shake her hand. “As I’ve said, Kallias Bran. Did you learn just by listening to me?”
“Yes,” she replies. “It took me much longer that I thought it would.”
“You never tried to teach me your language.”
“I’m sure humans would not be able to produce all the sounds we use.”
That’s fair. “Now that we can communicate with each other, I can finally ask you.”
“Where did I come from?”
“No, can we leave this place?”
“I’ve tried many times. Everytime I grab your arm, you’ve interpreted it as mere affection, but I’m really just trying to teleport us to your world. I seem to have a lot of power here, but I cannot do that.”
“Would you not want to return to your own world?” I ask her.
“No one would want to go there.”
“Why not? Tell me about it.”
She sighs. “You live in a magnificent universe. There’s no telling how big it is, or even if it’s not infinite. My universe was not like this.”
“You’re from a different universe?” I ask, intrigued.
“I am, and for a time, it was fine. We lived in peace, and advanced at a decent rate. We built giant structures, and studied health, and learned from our mistakes. But then we wanted to travel to the stars. There must be something else out there, we would say. There must be someone we can meet, and learn from. And we must find other places to live, for we are running out of room. But this was impossible.”
“You encountered an evil alien race?” I guess.
“If only,” she says. “We could have fought against that, but not against the truth. The truth was...difficult to reconcile. We designed a ship powerful enough to travel beyond the confines of our solar system, hoping to reach interstellar space, like the ships in those books you read me. What we found...was that they did not exist.”
“The stars weren’t real. They were...illusions...or maybe reflections of other universes. We don’t really know, but the ship crashed into the wall of the universe itself. We tried to retrieve our friends, but they were gone. Their remains were still floating in space, but they did not answer us. Kallias, they were dead. From what I can tell from your stories, your people experience death all the time. We had never heard of it.”
“You’re immortal?”
“We did not have a word for mortality, so no. We were just...alive. You’re born, you live, and then you live, and then you keep on living. This was how it was thousands of years. We had to build megastructures and get creative with our produce, just to provide for everyone, but we did it. The first time anyone died was when they reached the end of the cosmos. And it was then that we knew there was nowhere else to go. We were stuck.”
“What did you do?”
“For decades, we lived in war and strife. As it turns out, there are many other ways to die, if you work hard enough. The world was no longer safe. Enemies and the elderly were regularly sent off in other ships to the universe wall, for that was still the only thing no one could survive. We had to maintain the population at its number, if not lower it, or we would all be in danger. Some brilliant scientists, however, never gave up on finding new worlds. They realized that if there was an impenetrable wall just outside our solar system, then there must be something on the other side of it. If not in those stars, then maybe in other dimensions, or somewhere. They built a giant machine that they called—as translated to your language—The Crossover, for it was meant to cross us over to other universes. As you can see by my being here with you now, it worked, but it wasn’t all great. The bulkverse is dangerous. We found on the other side only more war.”
“In our universe?” I ask, ashamed.
“No, not here,” she clarifies, to my relief. “There are an infinite number of possibilities. But we did not realize this at the time. All we saw was pain and hate. We did not evolve these traits ourselves, for until we discovered our world to be finite, it was paradise. We didn’t know what true war was until we met the Ochivari.”
“Who are the Ochivari?”
“They are unimportant, for again, this was just one universe. We went to many others, searching for a home, so that our internal conflict could finally end. I do think we found it, but then I was jettisoned to wherever it is we are now, so I do not know what came of my people.”
I nod and walk into the kitchen for a glass of water. We’re now living in a house far nicer than anything I’ve ever been in. It’s only missing two things: basic entertainment, like television and radio, and a way to leave. “Are you thirsty?” I ask.
“Yes, thank you. Probably not more than you, though. This is a lot to swallow, I’m sure.”
I walk back over with her glass. “I’ve seen a lot in my life. Nothing can surprise me anymore. But now that I know where you’re from, I’m questioning why I’m here.”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“Well, I came here accidentally as well. I was traveling with someone who could show me the past, but we weren’t meant to interact with it. Sure, those rules were broken a time or two, but it’s different here. I am physically in this dimension, just as you are. This leads me to believe that someone wants me here.”
“You wanna know who and why?”
“Yeah, that would be nice. I’d love to help you, Ezqava, but I have no clue how. You’re the one with the powers. What good am I to you?”
She shook her head and smiled. “You weren’t brought here to get me out. You were just brought here to take care of me, which is what you’ve done.”
“You know this?” I ask, not sure how.
“It’s become clear to me that my powers always act to my benefit, whether I’m consciously aware of what I need or not. I didn’t create or summon this building by choice. It came to me simply because I wanted it. Likewise, you came to me, because I needed you. I needed someone, that is; why the gods of circumstance chose you is not a question I can answer. Which means that’s not really the question we should be asking.”
“Then what is?” I ask her.
“The what are we gonna do now?”
I shake my head, at a loss.
She continues, “and also, who is that behind you?”

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