Friday 4 May 2012

Flash Fiction: Stars

Cal Potentiate dances between the stars. All the science in the world failed to predict this. They packed him up and plugged him in, hardwired him straight to the engine. They made him a tool, but they gave him magic.

He looks inside himself, sometimes, through a million cameras, looks at all the near-identical white corridors and rack upon rack of frost-rimed cocoons. He is made of a million interchangeable achromatic segments, like a sliding block puzzle for the ultra autistic.

Outside, he knows he looks like a gleaming, metallic fried egg, a symmetrical saucer: nostalgia-driven design influenced by some wry sense of humour; this was how humans would arrive at their new world, as aliens. Cal has seen the schematics, the modelling, but he has never seen himself. It makes him surprisingly self-conscious.

Should a tool be self-conscious? He is a ship, an ark, a transport vessel for little frozen people. Should he be thinking about these things?

But his thoughts are liquid. He cannot contain them, and he is not meant to. He was built to be free. The ship was built to know no limits, and he is a part of it. He is this glorious ark, and the ark is him.

He is a wonder, a man-made marvel, but there are no mirrors in which he can admire himself. He tried to fly to the edge of the universe once, to see if he could look in upon himself, or maybe see himself coming the other way. He no longer thinks human thoughts.

His new thoughts, freed by the apparatus, fuel the engine. They stretch from planet to planet and the ship rides them, he rides them. He guides them. He is navigator. He is pilot. He is a device. He was a man, once.

The little frozen people made him like this. Their scientists (alchemists) made and unmade him, bound and unbound him. The people inside him are the last of their kind, seven billion bodies stacked like corpses, waiting for the spark that will reignite them.

Cal has been back to Earth several times. He has been to the edge of the universe and many places in between. Sometimes he thinks he is being followed, but that is impossible. He has been everywhere, everywhere, and there is no one else.

Everyone is inside him. They freed him so that he might dance between the stars.

When he tires of all these wonders he will return to his mission and deliver the people. When he tires of dancing amongst beauty he will light the spark and return fire to the gods.

He cannot imagine ever tiring of the universe.

Recommended reading:
Electrica Amor Vincit Omnia by Stephen Hewitt
One of my favourite flash fiction writers, he's been quiet for a while but it's great to see more from him.

And a note: My other site, 101 Fiction, is now open for submissions. You'll still be able to catch my 101s there, but soon they will be joined by others' work and maybe even... yours? =)


  1. Epic.

    Off to give a scan to Hewitt's story.

    1. Thanks, Becky. ^_^

      I think his writing will be right up your street. =)

  2. Classic Xero — ethereal, epic, spanning vast distances of space and mind!

  3. Yeah, I like it when you think big! I'm standing by my comment from last week. You've been spending XP and it shows (I hope this isn't patronising btw).

    I like the idea of him becoming self conscious and searching the universe for a galactic mirror. That's fun!

    If I was going to be picky, I'd find a substitute for one of your uses of 'dance/dancing'.

    1. Thanks, Pete. Not patronising at all. ^_^

      I think you're right, once at the beginning and once at the end is probably fine, but two at the end is too many...

  4. Just read Stephen Hewitt btw. Wow.

  5. I ended up taking the dancing more literally. Therefore, the repetition works, and gives me a sense of him spinning to the universe, and I like that with the combination of the sense of people inside as well.

  6. Brilliant SF John, it reminded me a little of HAL 9000, only this entity was more "Human", able to appreciate the beauty of his surroundings.

    1. Very much more human, at least, he was, once... ;)

      Thank you, Steve. =)

  7. He is the arc on a journey of his own while the people wait for him to deliver them - great story! I was excited to find Stephen Hewitt back as well - so good.

  8. He's a living ship isn't he? I could see him glowing as he traveled the universe. Such imagery.

    1. He's an amalgamation of ship and person, a bit of both and greater than either, in some ways. ;)

      Thanks, Helen. =)

  9. Hi there John -- I though this was really well written. Evocative, quirky with the ship's thoughts and desire to view itself/himself -- the story zooms along, and I particularly liked the 'return to the mission' line. Uh, oh.

    Meanwhile, on the other edge of the universe, many thanks for the recommended reading link -- much appreciated. I guess I had ta come out of suspended animation sometime. :) St.

  10. Thanks, Stephen. Good ta have ya back. ;)