Aphelion Issue 277, Volume 26
October 2022
 
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Time Gatherer

by David Baresch




“Lifeless.”

 We orbit a planet - barren. It is a world stained with darkness, yet it once held a plethora of vivacity.  

“Time Gatherer,” Captain Magma hailed the atom formatter, “find the cells of the sentient beings that once existed here. Amass the past 20,000 years of perceptive neurons, put them together. Let’s find the acts of devastation that wreaked the death of this planet.”

Time Gatherer scanned the world below. It identified the drifting atoms that had once moulded together to create intelligent life, at close to the speed of light the cellular formatter linked them back together again.

For, from atoms, all are made, and atoms live on, nothing is ever lost, in a finite universe everything transforms, and hence, a finite universe weighs the same today as it did at its moment of its eruption.

Time Gatherer rapidly pieced together the neurons that were once held in craniums. It reformed the brains of the long interred, and many millennia after their decease-ation, minds were re-activated.

The atom formatter watched on as eons of sentient life were re-lived. The neurons of a ‘Dominant’ were identified, but these were not the cells of a native.

These were the molecules of an entity. This was a being from another dimension, and, in a few short seconds, Atom Gatherer re-connected the entity’s memories.

The machine scanned. The dimension traveller made this world his home. He became honoured as a god, and his neurons relayed witness to this planetary demise.

“Sir, a memory of significance has been rejuvenated.”

“Good, project the tragedy into the minds of all onboard. Let us watch and learn.”  

 

******

 

“Do not give fire to those on this world!” said Zeus.

(Zeus, an entity, a fugitive, a leader.)

“For, here, the cruellest of souls are imbued with a furnace of torture for others.”

 (Zeus, he who had fled from his crimes in a parallel dimension.)  

            “There will be those who will use the wrath of scorch for self-empowerment alone.”

 (Zeus, he who made himself a god on a lush blue/green world.) 

            “They will enrichen themselves, and themselves only.”

 Prometheus, a fellow entity, listened.

            “They will persecute with barrages of blaze anyone who dares to defy them. All known life will suffer. Do not give fire to humankind!”

“Oh,” Prometheus answered, and, seemingly deep in thought, he stepped towards the water pump.

 There, he poured out two drinks and placed a chalice of nectar in front of the Entity of Mt Olympus.

“Let us drink,” he toasted Zeus then bade him, “Adieu”.

 Zeus, weary from his tense exchange, drank, a warm calm flowed throughout his being, it overwhelmed him.

 In his lofty palace he lay back, closed his eyes, and slept for many a-millennia to come.

 Dreams appeared and those aboard ‘The Planetary Cruiser’ watched on within their own minds.

 Zeus’s sleep was deep and tranquil until one distant dawn…  

 A bell tolled, it hailed the sundown, and it awakened a nightmare that snaked through the neural pathways of the entity’s somnolence.

 Zeus’s sleeping-eye watched on, widened…  

 Silent drifts of vaporous claws formed. They drifted over the lands swirling from left to right, as if in search.

 They floated towards the vast forests, and there they slowly entwined around the tall, fruitful, trees.

 The mists gripped, squeezed, crushed, and the woodlands crumbled into deserts of dust.

 A deluge of cinder rained down from a star hidden heaven, and the once dew-fresh fields of verdant now lay encased within a tomb of hardening ash.

 The sun wheeled. It fled from the world, and a horror of spectral shadows roamed and suffocated all that breathed.

 When...

 Without his command, Zeus’s body jolted. He arched upwards, coughed, splattered, panted.

 A choke of smoke had invaded his airways, the crackling of flaming timbers rattled throughout his eardrums, his eyes shot wide.

 A stinging sensation blinded him, he sat bolt upright, he rubbed the burn from his sight and stared.

 Clouds of smog flowed through the great palace halls, and there, nearby, in a rocking chair, the Oracle grinned.

            “What is this!?!” Zeus and the Oracle shouted in unison, “what have you done!?!” they said, also, at exactly the same time.

The Oracle let out a wail of laughter, for the Oracle is the traverser of the circle of universal time.

            “You have slept for many a-millennia,” said the eyes of all days past and all days yet to come, “a multitude of Cronos’s seconds have slipped by and much has changed.

“Hephaestus!” she yelled in an ear-piercing cry, “bring me my tableaux of mirror!”

 Hephaestus, the craftsman, entered. He positioned a mirrored table before the Oracle and placed a chair for Zeus. 

             “Sit,” said the Oracle, “let us see the journey that time has taken,” together they sat and watched.

 

******

 

Prometheus appeared. He flew towards the sun, he held a branch wrapped, thick, with reeds and pine leaves.

A solar flare leapt up from the orb of Helios, it rose to a height of a hundred miles or more. Prometheus, soaked in sweat, swiped the branch through the atomic burn and his torch ignited.

The entity admired his theft of blaze, smiled, turned, and flew back down towards the cool of the world.

The folk below gathered. They looked to the sky, in fear they gazed at the dancing sunlight that approached ever nearer.

Moments later Prometheus set foot on the terrain.

The crowd, nervous, backed away. Prometheus laughed. He arced the flaring mace, wildly, in circles above his head.

Starlight sparked into flight, it was as if a fury of wasps swarmed and darted with ire intending death by a thousand stings.  

“Fire!” bellowed Prometheus in a voice of thunder.

 And a mystery of light streamed from the beacon.

            “Fire!!!”  

 Red, yellow, gold, and orange streaks of sunset entwined, swirling, flickering, leaping, and dipping.

            “I give you the gift that I have severed from the heart of Helios himself.”

 The spectre mesmerised.

“And all of humanity shall remember me as the holy bringer of fire!”

 It was as if the spirit of Salome herself danced the Seven Veils before the onlookers, swaying, luring, enticing.

 The bewildered beings looked to their shadows and gasped…  

 They jerked, frantically, from left-to-right, from fore-to-aft, it was as if they had been given souls of their own and fought to wrench themselves free of their mortal bondage.

 Then there was a warmth…

 It passed through the cool of the air, it caressed and soothed the chill of fragile corporeal skin.

 Is this a god of aid placed before them?

 A child, entranced, dared to touch the perplexing, many tailed, asp, then let out a screech of pain.

            “It holds venom!” the innocent yelled, “it stabs with the poison of Medusa!” and a blister of red roses blossomed upon the child’s palm.  

 Or, is this a demon to slay?

 Then there was a dark drifting mist. It held an aroma anew. It slid through the nostrils and throats of all.

 Unaware, a birth of darkness fell across the lungs of the inhalers and the passageways of their arteries filled with mire.

 The onlookers coughed, wheezed, spat, threw up. Such was this thing named fire that it enthralled with both dread and awe. 

            “Bring me iron,” Prometheus roared. He smelted the metal then shaped it into the form of a deadly spearhead. He attached it to an unbending staff of ebony.

 A rustling came from the forest nearby, within the trees a boar snorted, Prometheus hurled the missile, the iron tip embedded deep into the throat of the swine.

 Blood erupted, the boar squealed, collapsed, writhed, panted, and a pool of red slowly grew around the fallen beast. The creature breathed no more.

 Of the men watching, most beamed with admiration. It was an act of power that they had never before witnessed.

 Of the women, a look of horror crossed most. It was an act that struck with murder’s macabre.

            “Bring me the carcass,” ordered Prometheus, “and you will learn of the delights of salivation!”

 The servile beings complied and Prometheus roasted a haunch over a great blaze.

 An unknown aroma filled the air and the crowd found themselves suddenly hungered.

 The meat was served and all feasted as they had never feasted before. A hither to unknown glory of warm juices flowed through their beings, it stained their hands and faces.

 Ravenous tongues licked, sucked, and gulped down the fallen juice, and it is a juice that slowly cools, a juice that slowly hardens, and a juice that slowly brittle-izes the innards of a body.

 Prometheus watched and thundered with laughter. He then called the crowd nearer.

             “Now, I will show you how to bear the child of fire.”

 On the ground, he formed a circle of stones, inside he heaped a pile of dry twigs and leaves, he packed them tightly together.

 Next, he produced two small, sturdy, shafts of wood, he stood them upright within the centre of the circle.  

 Using a thick cord, he spun the timbers furiously. As if by magic, smoke arose, the onlookers gasped.

 Flames magically materialized, they flared up amid the leaves and the twigs.

 Prometheus then went to a nearby stream, knelt down, cupped his hands, drew water, and returned to the ring of fire.

 He poured the water onto the flames, they hissed as if in rage and pain, and soon, the eruption of the stone circle dowsed. A black, smouldering, patch of ground, alone, remained.

            “Water is the executioner of fire,” said Prometheus, “have it ready at all times, for fire is without prediction.

“Fire can take to journey upon a whim, it travels with the speed of the wind, it knows no boundaries, and its plots are made in stealth and silence.

“Beware and be prepared!” and Prometheus left.

 The people of the world gazed at this new, before unknown, child of Prometheus.

 The mirror clouded over, the scene changed, time passed...

 

******

 

Forests were axed, wood burnt, crop-fields set alight for fallow, humanity, roasted, smelted, and charred.

Smog exhaled…

Hellish kilns were constructed. Within, metals yielded. Spears, knives, swords, and shields were fashioned. Blades slashed, stabbed, bloodied, slaughtered.

Cannons were forged, lit, shot was fired, missiles flew, lands detonated.

Torsos were ripped, battlefields ignited, within, bodies blazed, reeled, writhed, and slumped to molten deaths. These, the infernos of glory of a warmonger’s desires. 

The lands were mined…

The poison locked within the grip of coal was unleashed. Factories blazed, turbines spun, the night’s horizons danced with flicker. Palls and palls of mass production arose.

Daylight darkened…

Cities of a thousand funnels billowed, rainfalls of ash fell, the breath of the trees, the fields, the flora, the fauna - all were smothered.

Toxins thickened… 

Towns of a million chimneys now lay under a filth of coal-painted clouds. They passed by, silently, like a mortuary of airborne crows.

The air now held a density of breath that strangled breath.

The rooftops, the streets, the masonry, all were tarred with the strokes of lacquer’s deepest shadow.

The colours of blue and green greyed.

Atomic reactors were fashioned. They heated, over-heated, detonated, and volcanoes of nuclear fallout winged skywards.

Life withered…

An invisible hail of plague rained down. Radiation swam through the rivers, the lakes, and the seas.

An atomic carpet swept over the plains, the hills, the forests, and hence, thousands of years of a cancerous desert now rested upon the Earth.

Zeus watched on…

He saw the gift of Prometheus fashion pyres for sacrifice, penalty, and gain.

He saw the faces of those who were enchanted by the threat of ‘terror by fire’.

He saw the minds of those twisted by the rapier of nuclear scorch and who sought the power of life and death over all.

The mirror of the Oracle misted over, the scene changed, the entity saw himself in discussion with Prometheus …

            “… I can give them the gift of fire.”

            “No,” said Zeus, “humanity is at peace with nature, they live to gather sustenance, to share, and to be as one with the world.

“The garden of the Earth gives them all that is needed.”

             “But…”  

            “No! The gift of fire will corrupt their minds, for some will use that deadly furnace as a tool to portend and inflict great suffering. No!” 

             “But they clothe and warm themselves with leaves and animal skins,” said Prometheus, “they shelter in caves, they have not the engineering for palaces such as your own. Fire will be their treasure.”

            “And treasure brings terror. No!” Zeus repeated, “craftsmanship shall forge and sully for profit, weapons of devasting destruction will be unleashed, the lands will be torched, and the azure sky will be stained for an eternity.

“The planet will return to the days of Archaea and Archaea… He alone… will bathe in a world swamped with broiling, arid, sands. No!”  

            “Oh,” Prometheus answered, and, as if deep in thought, he went to the water-pump. He poured out two drinks. Zeus watched on through the mirror of time.

 Prometheus added a potion to one of the vessels. He returned. He placed the chalice of tainted nectar in front of the Entity of Mt Olympus.

 Prometheus downed his own goblet with one swig and placed the empty vessel carefully and quietly onto the table, “Adieu,” he bade.

 Zeus, still tense and angered, drank. A warm calm gradually overwhelmed him, and in his lofty palace, he closed his eyes. He fell into the depths of a sleep that was to last for many millennia to come. 

 

******

 

In rage, Zeus stood up, he stepped out and onto the brow of Mount Olympus. Below, for as far as he could see, the world was now a shroud of shadows such as that of the Realm of Hades.

Tears fell onto his cheeks, “Vultures!” he yelled.

Two towering beasts, their wings singed and covered in ash, flapped and hovered in the billowing smoke that choked the air.

“Bring me the soul of Prometheus,” he whispered. And the atoms formatted faded.  

 

******

 

“Time Gatherer,” said Captain Magma, “you show us the mind-traits of the corrupted that led to acts of mass devastation here.”

“Sir.”

“Let’s give this, once, abundant, fruitful, elegant world another chance.”

“Sir.”

“Set about refashioning the atoms of the entire planet. Reform the particles - the cyanobacteria. Ensure photosynthesis. Return the ecosphere to its pristine past. This world will live again.”

“Yes sir! And the rebirths of the sentient dwellers, sir?”

“Disconnect the neural pathways that lead to hate, spite, conflict, self-pride, and self-profit.”

“Sir.”

“Input the potency of value of a natural, peaceful, breathable, world-garden for all.”

“So be it, sir,” and Time Gatherer set about restoring the planet to the sustainable life giver that it had once evolved to be.


THE END


2022 David Baresch

Bio: David Baresch has published with… Aphelion XR-Hub The Telegraph media New Humanist Austin McCauley David Baresch also… Produces and publishes music videos.

E-mail: David Baresch

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