Day 87: Tuk and I emerged from the smoldering northeastern edge of the flame forest at noon yesterday, promptly set up camp by the edge of a small stream, and slept for eighteen hours straight; making up for three nights of no sleep and two grueling days moving without rest through a nightmare of flame and ash.
I was being greeted by a silent, smiling band of bald, retarded children.
I reminded myself that these were almost certainly the same group of ‘smiling children’ who had slit Tuk’s throat while he slept and left him to die like a butchered pig.
[…] I play back their words to them and they smile and go back into their hovels to sit for hours, doing nothing, saying nothing.
Talking to one of the same “bald, retarded children” mentioned above:
‘What would you do if I did go down the cliff face?’ I asked, expecting no response. Hypothetical questions almost always had as much luck as my time-based queries.
This time he did respond. The seraphic smile and untroubled countenance returned and Alpha said softly. ‘If you try to go down the cliff we will hold you down on the grass, take sharpened stones, cut your throat, and wait until your blood stops flowing and your heart stops beating.’
I said nothing. I wondered if he could hear the pounding of my heart at that moment. Well, I thought, at least you don’t have to worry any longer that they think you are a god.
The silence stretched. Finally Al added one more sentence that I have been thinking about ever since. ‘And if you did it again,’ he said, ‘we would have to kill you again.’
We stared at each other for some time after that; each convinced, I am sure, that the other was a total idiot.
Sense of scale:
On Svoboda, not far from Pacem’s system, over eight hundred thousand kilometers of labyrinth have been explored by remotes. The tunnels on each world are thirty meters square and carved by some technology still not available to the Hegemony.
The cave walls and ceiling were encrusted with crosses ranging in size from a few millimeters to almost a meter long. Each glowed with a deep, pink light of its own. Invisible in the torchlight, these glowing crosses now suffused the tunnel with light.
A striking way of describing a teleportation:
There was no thunderclap, no sudden smell of brimstone, not even a scientifically sound inrush of air. One second the thing was there, surrounding me with its beautiful certainty of sharp-edge death, and the next instance it was gone.
Kassad tapped at thruster controls, considered it a success, and pulled his hands away when he felt as if he were being pulled apart in only two directions rather than five.
Shimmering, miragelick, a tree of steel thorns appeared out of the haze and a sudden dust storm of ochre sand. The thing seemed to fill the valley, rising at least two hundred meters to the height of the cliffs. Branches shifted, dissolved, and reformed like elements of a poorly tuned hologram. Sunlight danced on five-meter long thorns. Corpses of Ouster men and women, all naked, were impaled on at least a score of these thorns. Other branches held other bodies. Not all were human.
Description of how “time tides” could feel like:
Kassad followed her through the fringes of the time tides, avoiding the ebb and flow of the anti-entropic field the way children would play tag with an ocean surf on a broad beach. Kassad felt the pull of the time tides like waves of deja vu tugging at every cell of his body.
Siri’s voice had grown even more beautiful with age. There is a fullness and calmness there which can come only from knowing pain.
How do I grow from this book?