The ocean in the sky

universe-planckWe dived at approximately moondown. The navigator explained how up was down – and vice versa – and that in the new medium of exploration common perceptions would be challenged. Forget what you know, he said. Forget we did. The familiar ripples on the fabric of the ocean floor was the first impression. It could have been the womb of the ultimate creature that gave birth to us all. The deeper we went the closest we came to our moment of creation. Near was far, far was near, zero was infinite, infinite was zero. Then our vessel came to a sudden halt. We had arrived, the navigator said; there is no further going. We could now touch the end of the sky, the depth of the ocean. I raised my finger and poked the thin veil of spacetime. Curiosity is a reflex sometimes, and that time was one of those. The blue colour changed, momentarily, to red. A faint sigh was heard from the other side. Was there someone there? I wanted call to the others to let them know; did they hear that noise too? But at that depth all voice was lost. We had become strangers living in our private worlds, sealed from each other. The only sound I could hear now was the almost silent breathing coming from the other side of the ocean in the sky.

Amasia, the future supercontinent

Eight hundred million years ago Earth’s landmass concentrated into one area forming a supercontinent called Rodinia. Parts broke away and shifted in a dance orchestrated by the hot core of our planet, and 400 million years later the parts reassembled into another vast landmass called Pangaea.

A possible future world

If this is a periodic cycle then, as the continents move towards and away from each other, the planetary jigsaw must reassemble in the next 200 million years yet again.That future condition has been given a name, it is (will be?) called Amasia. Will there be humans in that distant future who will remember the name “Amasia”? Or any of the other names given today by science to its predicted oceans, its rifted terranes; like Avalonia, Carolinia?

Most species have a lifetime of around ten million years. If homo sapiens sapiens was an average species then we would probably survive for another 9.8 million years. Unfortunately, the Sun is a relatively old star that is running out of hydrogen. It will begin to turn into a red dwarf in a couple of million years, its diameter will increase and it will swallow up Mercury, Venus and Earth.

It seems that Amasia will never be. Not in the sense of some intelligent creature identifying it as such. Perhaps it will never happen in geological terms either: surely the expansion of the heliosphere will effectuate thermal equilibrium on Earth which, in effect, will bring the movement of tectonic plates to a halt.

Perhaps humans will not be extinct in two hundred million years from now. Maybe we manage to survive, somehow. Not on the burned, dead Earth but as colonists of the Earth-like planets that we begin to discover today. Maybe our descendents evolve into another post-human species, genetically engineered to survive long interstellar travels or the different environment of other planets. Maybe then, say in a million years from now, no one will remember Earth, or its continents, Gondwana or Pangaea, or Europe, or Asia. Memories of the origin will be lost, buried under the heavy tomes of history-to-be; the epics of galactic explorers and colonists, the wars, the poems and the arts of the very distant future.

Our Sun, having turned from yellow to red, will be a faint and forgotten glimmer in the sky of mutant humanity’s other homes.

The Bat Girl

The day before Victory Day we received a short, yet welcomed report, from our field agent on our northwestern borders, that distant place of fertile pastures, tranquil lakes and mythical beasts called Serprerps. Having spent the best part of the winter underground, living off his short supplies and sleeping off the freezing cold, our agent was able to make contact with the local tribes. At first the simple-minded inhabitants of Serprerps took fright from the wild appearance of our agent, a bear-like brute so typical of the rank-and-file of the Field Commission of which he is a lowly functionary. Thankfully, he was able to make friends after several tribulations, and went on to organize a display of fireworks that, apparently, was a real winner with the children.

Quid pro quo, the tribesmen led him to their sacred caves, the first time any from our race was granted permission to that mysterious place.  Clerks should take note: our agent’s mission has been accomplished and, upon his return to the capital – whenever that may be – he must be presented with a class G minus governmental citation.

According to the report, the caves form a sponge-like complex, not unlike human brain tissue, buried underneath the muddy bottom of the lakes. To get there, one must take a boat and sail to a secret spot where the lake water is siphoned three hundred meters into the ground. It is a perilous journey for if you do not know your way out you will end up been sucked into the siphon forever. But the local tribes know their way well in and out of the maze of galleries and caves. Our agent landed on soft ground, at the bottom of the vortex and, following his guides, descended to the caves. His report is short on detail, but we understand that he has no intention of returning. Scribbling quickly on the last page that much was there to be further explored, he passed the report to the tribal chief and it is through the good services of this uncultured but loyal subject that we today, ten years later, are able to read it.

What is particularly curious in the report is what is displayed on the opposite side of the last page: a picture of a person. Our forensic analysts have decreed that the picture was taken accidentally, the result of a rare combination of electrochemical happenstance. Something to do with the scarce light, the composition of the air in the caves and the mould of the paper after been stored under ice for months. Anyway, the picture shows a young woman with the wings of a bat. She hangs upside down from the ceiling of a cave. Her eyes are bright red. Who was that girl and what role she played in the decision of our agent to stay in the caves remains a mystery.

A young researcher who happened to delve into a relevant entry of the Grand Book of Knowledge has suggested that the girl is not real and that the picture is in fact a projection of our agent’s thoughts. To substantiate her hypothesis she has correlated a local tribal myth that describes a time when every man and woman lived in those caves and all reality was made of pure thought and nothing else. We are also told that this researcher has applied for the post of field agent and asked to seek the caves and our lost agent too; but Central Directorate has decreed that the bat girl story was too weak a reason to fund a long and perilous expedition, not with the way our Empire’s finances are going. We agree and file this complementary report to the Archives for future reference.