Aphelion Issue 234, Volume 22
November 2018
 
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The Randamine Pyramids

by Ryan Harris




They were always a mystery to me, the steel pyramids that prodded the sky. I say steel but it was actually an alloy consisting of comet detritus, helium-4, and steel that had been cured in a Hahns-Klug smelter--so I've been told.

Most people on Unity Realm made the pilgrimage to the Randamine pyramids once in their lifetime. They rest within the arid Antigone Plateau.

The priest greeted me just past the dunes. I'd chosen to sail by conventional skimmer across the Falster Sea. Modern means of conveyance like spin skiffs and amphibs were discouraged in a pilgrimage. It is about finding one's self, not solely reaching the destination.

I knelt before the priest.

"To say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not within us," he said to me in Danish. Though I cannot not speak the tongue, I understood him. His words were angelic all the same.

I spoke in semi-standard Colonial English. "But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness."

"Let us then confess our sins to God our father."

Confession nearly always brought me to tears. The unloading of emotions, guilt, and sin was enough to break anyone with a conscience. Perhaps it was the priest that brought memories of how kind and gentle my father was.

We finished the Penitential Rite, he kissed my forehead, and I was on my way without a dry eye.

The beaten path, past the station of blessing, was quite prominent. Sifting savannah had been beaten flat by the feet of pilgrims and Realm camels.

Empty was the course that snaked and then straightened into the distance. For a moment I wished I had brought company but being alone was calming. I've never been dependent on others for much anyhow.


*****



Days and miles passed by before I could see the pyramids. Even at first sight, they were still far in the distance.

No sooner than I'd felt a tinge of parched despair, I spied a resting depot. Basically a walled-off courtyard with stone benches, a sectioned-off water pump, and a common latrine room.

The water pump stood in the middle of the courtyard. I shook my two canteens--nearly empty. My grip on the pump handle felt weak with fatigue as the cold water poured out. Oh, how cold that water was. Nothing I've drank since then compares to the sensation I felt.

Sipping a full canteen, my resolved was again strengthened. I refilled that canteen and the other before realizing that our star was easing itself behind the pyramids. Walking the path at night was foolhardy as scorpion wolves and highland bats are nocturnal hunters.

My verve tent, rigid from its armored Faroe liner, was set up and ready in the courtyard. It served nicely as protection from anything short of a pulse round or incendiary explosion. The built-in automat was comfy but sleep was intermittent.

There was a spring in my step the next morning. With the pyramids near and a clear, ultramarine sky above, all seemed well.

My optimism was scathed when a group of pilgrims came toward me from the pyramids. I was nearly one kilometer out, and they were leaving en masse.

When I reached the front of the jumbled line, I began to stare into their eyes. The dozen pairs of eyes had distant and glazed looks in them. They were looking through me.

"Good day, brothers and sisters," I said to the collective. I didn't expect a response and did not receive one. I shrugged at the blank stares and kept going.

The pyramids dwarfed me as I approached the staircase the led to them. The history holos say that Randamine is a derivative of the Baltic Estonian word Randama, which means to wander or travel. Aptly named were the monuments of humanity on Unity Realm.

The east pyramid was nearer, so I went cautiously in. Silence inside was as hollow as the structural ingots. The walls within were cool to the touch and without much density. Micro-proximity lights began to light the interior and ease my vigilance. Words were inscribed on a floor square in front of me. The large tiles matched the walls in substance.

"We bless...this...land in the name of the...Father, the Son, and the...Holy Spirit...I think," I said aloud. I had trouble reading it as the words were faintly etched in aboriginal Danish. My God, I thought, this particular dialect died out centuries ago.

Other floor squares had history written as well. The more I read, I gathered that the two pyramids made up the first diocese on Unity Realm over one thousand years ago. I had to remember to breathe in the midst of such a moving moment.

Then, without warning, the wind outside excited into a banshee scream. My awareness heightened again as the pyramid quivered on shaky land and the north wall began to ripple like tidal pools I'd swam in as a child.

I slowly walked over and caressed the aqueous surface in a motion one would use to test bath temperature. It was lukewarm with a pleasant, almost comforting thickness to it. Going against all logic, and because I hadn't come all that way for nothing, I strolled through the wall.

The ethereal interim took my equilibrium. There was no sense of left and right, up or down. I felt as though I was immaterial, yet no harm came to me.

Nothing could have prepared me for the other side. I was nudged through the rippling membrane into an ancient cathedral on Earth. I soon realized people hadn't come to Unity Realm by ship. They had settled here through a micro collapsar of the church!

Long abandoned, the collapsar's fusion reactor had maintained its energy and stability over the centuries.

I was eager to roam in such a divine sanctuary.

Rotting wooden pews lined the empty chamber. Confessionals were properly situated on each side of the entrance.

I admired the ornate architecture which I guessed was late Baroque era with the rotunda and painted dome overhead. Sadly, the period's rich colors had been dulled by generations of neglect and deterioration.

Everything was quiet except for the wooden floors moaning beneath my feet and the humming of the reactor.

I thought of leaving after an informal tour, but hesitated. It would be the only time I'd see this place that teemed with venerable grandeur and grace. My heart has ached to go back since I left.

Reluctantly, I ambled back through the collapsar field to Unity Realm. The pyramid was still empty and the weather was once again calm. I strapped on my rucksack and walked outside.

Sunlight was blinding as I left the interior.

When my pupils adjusted, I surveyed the trail back from atop the staircase and sighed.

A week would go by before I made it home to Damgaard. It was a week I would need to redefine everything I knew.



THE END


2018 Ryan Harris

Bio: Mr. Harris is a native of North Carolina, but currently resides in Arizona. His stories have appeared in Terraform, Theme of Absence, and Aphelion Webzine. He enjoys reading and time with his son.

Website: Claire Fitzpatrick

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