Tuesday, August 14, 2018

World of Mists

 The world of mists is a terrarium, a cylinder carved out of an asteroid to contain a self-sustaining ecosystem. Spun for gravity, the interior of the cylinder has a surface area of almost 140km2. An odd effect of airflow through the spinning cylinder has led to permanent mist.

Approximately a third of the surface is covered in lakes and ponds, another third is marsh, and another third is forest. The constant mist has lead to massive amounts of lichens and mosses growing on every available surface. Moose wander the land eating lichen off branches, otters live along the shores of the lakes, and packs of wild dogs hunt through smell at night. The thick constant mist forces all animals to neglect their sight and depend on other senses. During the day you can hear moose bellowing to each other, and at night the dogs howl.

A village has been carved into the sheer cliff that forms one end of the cylinder.. The villagers tend to moist gardens and maintain necessary machines, living meditative lives of routine, including exercises that maximize their hearing. It is because of these exercises that they have become aware of the wanderer, a being that has never been seen. It may be able to see through the mist, for it has always been able to avoid even silent pursuers, but in quiet twilights one can hear the sound of its heavy steps as it roams.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Punctuated Equilibrium

Long after the singularity, after a million miracles had been tried and left wanting, after the reconstruction of the solar system into countless ruins, after the creation of great minds who cared for nothing but their own thoughts, humanity endures.

Then, each new invention promised a new world, a new way of life, a new future. Now each new invention promises more wealth, more power, and more prospects, but is always found to be costly, impractical, or useless.

The renovations of Mars and Venus would have made new Earths. It would have been a labor of centuries, but subsequent generations proved unwilling to pay the great costs. They support life, but they are not Earth-like. The solar system would not be adapted to suit Earth life, but Earth life was adapted to suit the solar system.

Then, humanity assumed that the creation of great artificial intelligences would be its greatest work.  They were long anticipated as the harbingers of either heaven or hell, but they only introspect, answering no questions and telling no truths. They are only feared when they are not forgotten.

A thousand peoples have lived and died, but only the tenacious and omnivorous survive. There are many peoples, but only some are human. Humanity endures, but the great wheel of time grinds innovation into tradition, and tradition into stagnation.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Corpse Colonies

Bone-white ants chew tunnels through the corpse. Workers chew apart nearby leaves and bring them in procession to the empty stomach, where more chew those leaves into mulch for fungi, and more still chew that fungi into layers of pale-grey plaster that smother rot. In the smallest chamber of what used to be a heart, a pale queen lays row after row of glistening eggs. The colony is expanding, slowly and surely.

Soon the colony will reach maturity, and the corpse will rise.

Wants: To reproduce. Corpse-colonies wander aimlessly, searching for corpses, or living things they can turn into corpses. They will try to kill anything they come across to make new homes fit for juvenile queens.

Needs: To eat. A constant supply of fungal plaster is required to prevent the corpse-colony from rotting, and a constant supply of vegetable matter is require to grow the fungus. A colony can be tracked by the trail of mutilated vegetation it leaves behind.

Morale: Corpse-colonies do not give up. If enough damage is done to an inhabited corpse, they will abandon it and the entire colony will swarm, hoping to pull victory from the jaws of defeat by turning their attacker into a new home.

What happens if you eat this monster: Preserved behind layers of fungal plaster, the corpse in which the colony lives dries, but is kept soft by movement. It can be eaten like jerky. The ants themselves are also edible, as are their eggs, although both are quite bitter.

What can be crafted out of this monster's body: The fungal plaster the ants use to prevent their home from rotting is a very effective antiseptic, and serves as the base for many healing unguents.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Purity of Form

We had heard rumors about the place for years, and obviously dismissed them. When a surveyor actually found it and brought back pictures, we assumed he was playing a prank on us. But someone upstairs took him seriously and sent a science team, and they brought back samples. Now there was a new laboratory somewhere in the mountains.

Our little outpost was the connection between that lab and the outside world, and we were all trying to get a peek at the hermetically sealed containers that were being shipped out. Security staff weren't privy to anything that was going on. But six months later, I was rotated into duty at the laboratory, to escort scientists as they run their tests.

As you crest the ridge and enter the valley, the first thing you notice is that it is filled with beige trees with white leaves. The trees have bark made of keratin, making them uncannily smooth. The leaves of the trees are pale white and tend to droop. They are made of skin, albino skin, the better to absorb light. In spring some grow "flowers" made of fine eyelashes.

Squirrels climb with small hands and chatter with almost-voices. Sheep walk on their knuckles and grow thick coats of coarse human hair. There are no birds, but bats are everywhere, hanging from trees with wings like emaciated hands. Even snakes have scales like tiny fingernails. Every animal has human eyes.

During summer the smell of human sweat is inescapable. Even in the laboratory it seems to cling to everything. Only in our hermetically sealed hazmat suits are we spared.

I'm showing Jones how to put on his suit, making adjustments every time he does it wrong, which is every time. My job is to make sure he doesn't do anything stupid in the valley, which is usually easy. New guys usually just follow along in grossed out daze.

When we're over the ridge and begin descending, picking our way past thorny, bone-like shrubs and into the treeline, he begins breaking the unwritten rule for security staff and starts pestering the scientists. Luckily, Dr. Vasquez is willing to indulge his curiosity.

"There aren't any normal plants and animals at all?" asks Jones.

"None. Even the microorganisms seems to be descended from inhabitants of the human gut. Normal plants can't sprout here, and normal animals die of allergic reactions." says Dr. Vasquez.

"Why?

"Its called allelopathy. These organisms all produce a protein that kills all non-human forms of life."

"That's why we have to wear these suits?"

"To protect us from allergens, yes. But also to protect the valley. We are genetically similar enough that diseases could spread from us to them."

We hear the sound of gagging and turned. Jones has taken off his facemask.

"It smells like sweat!"

"PUT YOUR MASK BACK ON!" I bellow, running.

Jones can't stop gagging, his throat is closing up. I wrestle his facemask on and open up the oxygen valve, but he is already slumping to the ground. Dr. Vasquez checks his vitals. Jones is unconscious, but not dead. He'll probably survive if we can get him back to the laboratory, but that means hauling him out of the woods, up the slopes, and back over the ridge, and we'll have to do it as fast as possible.

I hoist Jones on to my back, and, as I turn to Dr. Vasquez, I catch something out of the corner of my eye.

The first thing I saw was the eyes, and I think, for a moment, that they were a man's eyes. I almost call out to him, when I see the face. The body is shaped like a big cat, but it has the hairless skin of a human. Human eyes, wolf face, human skin, tiger body. It paces towards us carefully and confidently. We run, and somewhere along the way I drop Jones.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Seedware.pdf

I have spent a couple of months slowly giving the yearblog entries some much needed editing. Now that that has been done, I have compiled a new pdf with the edited entries.

You can view and/or download it here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Defense of Irkutsk

The last monster of summer had shoved its way through thin arctic ice, and begun its journey south. The hole in the ice had frozen-over before being spotted, and the tracks covered by wind-blown snow. The thing had wandered in its fugue of hunger and adrenaline for weeks before being spotted and called in by a militia outpost, already much too far south for comfort. The hunter-killer Hind squadrons were unavailable, protecting Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Valdivostok, or else receiving necessary maintenance, and so militia groups were hastily mobilized and assigned military officers.

Five tanks along a ridge. All had their hatches open with men standing in them. Most manning DShK heavy machine guns, but two have binoculars. Mist blankets the land.

The lieutenant had been gazing through his binoculars since dawn, as had the militia sergeant. The lieutenant was restless, occasionally taking his focus off of his binoculars to take in the landscape, or glancing at the sergeant. The sergeant was diligently scanning the fog, making a point of paying the lieutenant no mind.

"Silhouette, twelve o'clock" said the lieutenant .

"SILHOUETTE, TWELVE O'CLOCK" screamed the sergeant. The lieutenant winced in spite of himself, and the five tanks pointed their guns north. The lieutenant and the sergeant both focused on the shape in the mist.

The mist cleared briefly and revealed a tree.

The sergeants face remained carefully neutral. The lieutenant and the sergeant returned to scanning the landscape.

"Movement, eleven o'clock."

"MOVEMENT, ELEVEN O'CLOCK!"

The guns of the five tanks shifted left.

The fog shifted in the morning breeze. Nothing moved. The sergeant began to smirk. Then there came an echoing call, halfway between a scream and a trumpet, and the monster came charging at them.

"FIRE!" screamed both the lieutenant and the sergeant, and the call of the creature was met by the crack of the guns. The shells hit around the creature, some traveling too far, some coming up short. Shrapnel tore into its legs and belly and it began to bleed, but it continued its charge.

"FIRE!" the officers screamed again. This time the guns were loaded with APFSDS rounds, tungsten darts designed to pierce armor. They zipped through the creature as though nothing were there. It stumbled, and struggled to get up.

The lieutenant waved the line of tanks forward, and signaled the machineguns to open fire. The combined sound of five heavy machine guns is felt as much as heard. Fifty heavy bullets per second began tearing apart flesh, sending up eruptions of black blood.

Up close, it looked almost like a mammoth. Almost. It had too many trunks, and they were too long. It had too many tusks, and they were too sharp.And, as something tore its way out of the monsters belly and charged at the nearest tank, the lieutenant realized it had been pregnant.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Intelligent Design

Humanity was created for a purpose. We are vessels, with just enough soul to be possessed. We are servitors, with enough intelligence to do work but not enough to understand. We are clay, substantial enough to be molded but not so substantial that we pose a problem for the potter. We are neotenic, children who can become something greater. We were made to be transformed. We were always meant to something more.

There are older beings, mature beings who were once like us, but whose forms have stiffened. They envy our youth and our adaptability. They peer at us from great distances, from around angles in spacetime, and from the distant future. We must beat them to the punch and decide for ourselves what we are to become.