Travel Through the Abyss
April 23, 2012
So, this is a little bit shorter than normal but I’m running into a bit of a wall with Notes right now. I’m not sure where to take it. If you like this, though, please let me know.
Anyway, updates! I went to the Oakquinox event at Stone Brewery yesterday with my girlfriend (it was her birthday) and a few of our mutual friends. It was awesome, great beers all around. It was a huge celebration of barrel-aged beers and they all really delivered. I’m hoping the next event I go to is Stone’s Sourfest, in July. If you’re going, let me know and I’ll be happy to hang out and share a bit of conversation!
Life stuff – still don’t know what I’m going to do for income when my current unemployment line is out. I don’t have a cover artist or any viable cover images which is why you haven’t seen either my short stories or Notes part one up for the Kindle and Nook yet. I haven’t gotten a hold of any potential investors yet but I’ve got some hopeful leads. Today is the first day, and hopefully last day, in a while that I won’t be able to eat while I’m out. (This is hopefully changing sooner rather than later, too – trying to get out of the place I’m living since it game with a lot of hidden costs).
Anyway, on to the story!
We hung in orbit over Earth for several hours while Hunter designed the route from Earth toward the center of the galaxy. Not many have gone that far into the dark ocean and returned, so we wanted to be exceedingly careful. Some of the weaker spirits on the ship were screaming from the closeness to Earth, the stronger ones felt really uncomfortable and it was apparent though they were still able to work through it. I had to sit inside a circle of protection made of salt and blood to stave off some of the energy being thrown out from the planet. This was also the first time I noticed a gold and iron necklace that Hunter wears, a thick pendant on a thick cord, since it seemed to glow while we orbited the planet. I’m still not sure exactly what it does other than protect him from wild energy flows. Jennifer, though, watched the Earth the entire time. She was entranced by it, enchanted by it, and afraid of it. When Hunter set our course and we swept into the inky blackness around us and sped into the layline, she seemed to moan in longing as the Earth shrank behind us.
Now that we’ve returned home, we headed out toward the wild expanse. Planets unsettled, worlds unseen, stars uncharted. Most of what we knew about the galaxy we were diving into were maps from the 20th through the 22nd centuries, none of them enhanced by the True Ways. Hunter’s command of the ship was superb, though, seemingly dodging rogue asteroids and comets with grace and ease. At least, while we were in the Sol system. As son as we curved toward the center of the galaxy, things shifted.
Outside of Earth and the Settled Worlds, there’s a kind of spiritual malaise that settled on the ship.We felt homesick and lethargic, looking out on space as an endless ocean of darkness punctuated by burning and boiling sources of death and destruction. Jennifer ended up setting next to me and holding my hand as Hunter navigated the ship slowly and carefully. The scrying spell would highlight oncoming obstructions, like asteroids, and small bells hung around the room would chime when anything was on path to strike us, but Hunter still seemed to be on edge. Constantly scanning the screens and his notification spells for something he missed. No matter how much he checked, though, and no matter how far we missed some source of danger, the feeling of dread never left the ship.
We spent a week like this, generally being quiet and finding a few hours of sleep here and there. The ship simulated a day and night cycle and the gravity was the same as it was on Metris but the ever-present feeling of dread kept me up even while laying in my bunk. Jennifer’s room was across the hall from mine and during the night I would hear her thrash in her sleep and wake up crying. Hunter seemed to float around like a huge, hairy ghost.
After that week, though, we had to find a place to sit and gather energy again. Orbiting an ancient red star was a small planet, just in the habitable zone for the red giant, that was mostly covered in water and rainforest. Due to the rotation of the planet itself, days lasted fourty hours each and left the world with extremely hot days and very cold nights. Something we could take advantage of but it would be an interesting few days dodging weather that gets near eighty degrees centigrade during the day.
As soon as Hunter sussed out a landing spot on the night side, he summoned up the guardian shell for the temple-ship and slowly lowered us down onto the planet.
“Alright, everyone. Stay near the ship. It’s going to unfold a little to catch some of the ambient thaums in the atmosphere and feed from the heat from the star. We don’t know what’s out there and we’ll need to move every twenty hours or so to avoid the scorching heat.” Hunter spoke through sounding walls, vibrating speakers built on sympathy connections to his voice. “The spirits will be tending to fixing and recharging the ship. For the most part, just relax and don’t wander.”
I took a small folding chair out of my room on the ship and set it up just outside and watched as Hunter leaped up ontop of temple-ship and started chanting over panels that lifted up and spread out over us, reaching toward the sky and fanning out into think blades of obsidian. The wolf looked as if it had two pairs of large, flat wings spread out from its back when Hunter finished.
Jennifer slowly walked from the ship over to my little folding chair and sat in the grass with me. “Kind of amazing to find a clearing like this on a primeval world, isn’t it? Especially one where the plant life has this deep green color.”
I nodded and looked up at the trees. They were more like knotted wood covered in large ferns than trees like those on Metris or even Earth. The wood was dark and supple, clearly bulging with water. “It makes sense, though. This planet is essentially tropical, constantly. The plants soak up as much sun as they can during the long day and the wood needs to be flexible to deal with the water expanding at night to near freezing levels.”
She nodded and sighed, “There’s no sound, though. Where’s the other systems of life?”
I tilted my head curiously and listened. She was right, there were no other sounds.
What planet develops just a forest and nothing else?