Pattern of Infinity - Epilogue - What Man Will BecomeBy J. Kel
Page 2 of 9
|Getting Vila coherent and calm again proved to be difficult. Several times the Entity tried, using its assumed form to coax Vila back to reason. Regrettably, inspired new stimulants (for the day) and sedatives (for the night) did not help. It was starting to look hopeless. Finally, an idea came: radically change the perspective. The poor creature was probably still suffering from confinement anxiety. Let the man awaken, not to a sterile, grim room, but to the open sky and . . .
Vila on sedation, his deep sleep emotions of sheer terror and unstoppable horror raging beneath the surface of consciousness, was brought outside into the cool dawn air one fine morning, a morning of clear blue sky and rising sun. As the effects of the sedation gradually receded, he awoke (again) and for the first time was absolutely silent and filled with wonder as . . .
. . . his eyes opened to a scene of utter tranquility. He was on a bed, but the bed was where? Outdoors? This had to be a very strange dream. He did not understand it at all. He propped himself up and looked around. Before him, around him, were children. For as far as he could see, hundreds of them, watching him with curious eyes. Eyes that were muted, remote, worried, not hostile, not yet friendly. Expectant perhaps? He took it all in. Behind him was a series of enormous long white buildings; before him were wooded green hills smooth and bulging from a plain covered with something resembling wheat. And above? He almost fell back. He was under a sky with wisps and feathers of clouds where dominating the whole of the scene was the largest moon he ever could have imagined.
His emotions moved quickly from being startled, to being in awe, to gradually being slightly offended (couldn't they have given him pajamas?) until finally being as curious as he had ever been in his life. He sat back up. The hundreds of eyes continued to watch his every move. He tried to speak but still he could say nothing. He tried to remember. He did not want to go back, but yes, these would be the Auron children, aged about eleven or twelve. He looked more closely at them. They seemed to be in that age range, but their eyes looked older. They were dressed simply, yet distinctly, with all manner of oddly colored clothing, loose, flowing. Graceful, he thought. He returned to the eyes. They did look old. Then he remembered. That terrible night.
Now he looked back at them in wonder and sadness. A glass of water was brought to him and he nodded in gratitude. A new day indeed. He was alive and looking forward to a new day promising to be so warm. He leaned back. What a life.
How long had he been out?
Another child came forth and presented him with a large tray. His first meal and was he excited! It was a meal that should have been familiar. Toasted bread, cereal, milk! All very light; all very quaint, but he was amazed. Vila looked out to the valley. Of course he could see no cows. So, however it is done, bless the miracle.
There were trees. Come to think of it, some of the trees were very strange. He had never seen trees with huge black leaves. It had to all fit together. This was one incredible dream.
Then a third child, a girl, brought him clothes, placing them gently on the bed. He asked her name. She telesent //Trysha//, bowed and backed away. He thanked her, thanked all of them and, in one very strange sights this very odd morning, they turned their backs in unison to him. He quickly dressed.
He then sat back on the bed. Eating was the first priority. Speaking could wait. Manners could wait. So he ate his breakfast, trying to be as slow as possible, but not succeeding. Gradually, the children turned back to him.
This would never do. "Do you," he made his voice as loud and direct as he could, "uh, well, talk?"
A thousand voices assented at once, thought voices burrowing into his mind like hushed whispers. Vila gestured hurriedly for . . . enough. He took another gulp of grapefruit juice. His gesture was understood. He finished his meal in silence.
He stood. "Perhaps there is a spokes (boy? girl?) person among you? I only have one channel," he pointed to his head, smiling. A boy stepped forward.
The lad with black, intelligent eyes looked at him. His eyes were huge, but his voice was small and shy as if speaking were very uncomfortable, particularly to an adult. Vila leaned over to hear. "Forgive us. We were told you would be coming around, but we were unsure when. We have been waiting several days. New medicines were given to help you feel and sleep better. Last night he told us to move you out so you could see us when you awoke."
Vila thought about that. Was the Entity here? That would explain a lot. It seemed a good sign, but he couldn't help frowning. "Well, I thank you. It worked. What more can I say?"
//Are you an Auron? WE were told you are not.//
Vila was startled. Did they think it would lie, or did they trust no one? "No, I am not. And please don't telesend unless I request it. Thank you. I mean amongst yourselves it is fine, but I want to keep this open to everyone. Maybe it is. But I am more comfortable . . . am I making sense? Do you understand?" he was asking all of them.
And they did all nod in unison. He sighed. "Anyway," he moved away from the bed as they parted before him. "It's true, I am not an Auron. But it is not important. What is important is who and what I am, not what I am not. Who knows who I am?"
A thousand pairs of eyes looked at him blankly. Despite the gravity of their faces, he almost laughed. "I see. We start from zero here, don't we? Or do we? Either this is heaven, which seems unlikely since I am here, or," his voice slowed, "we did make it. All of us" But where were the others? He looked down at the flowing grass then stooped down and pulled some up, rubbing it in his hands, smelling it. He seemed supremely satisfied for the moment, but then he remembered. "Most of you. And one of us." He caught himself. "My name is Vila Restal. I am a human being."
They were neither appreciative or scornful at the remark, but merely accepting for the time being the reality of someone different from themselves. He held out both hands, palm up. Physically, he felt very strong. Mentally, he was terribly unsure. "Perhaps we could go on a brief tour? Anyone care to guide me?" Mentally he remained weak and uncertain. He glanced back. "And would someone please roll that bed back inside?"
The morning tour took them far from the long buildings, along a widening path that cut through the nearby low hills and the strange trees. The trees fascinated him but the children seemed to pay no mind to them. Along the way, his guides pointed out some of the buildings that made up the complex: those dedicated to tracking the satellites and probes, and the large cubical building that was the central server complex for the entire interplanetary network. The buildings were only a few stories high, dull or restrained in design depending on how you judged him. He shook his head. An architect the Entity would never be.
But what was truly surprising to him was when they left the black trees and passed through a true forest of green and decay with old logs crunching under him. That was startling enough, but before him, extending into the valley was an enormous field of houses. Houses of every conceivable description, pitched at random over the landscape. He guessed there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of these tiny dwellings. Some were of basic geometric design, but most were of patterns that could only be described as chaotic, with spires and broken angles, some that seem to thrust heavenward and some that seemed to burrow into the ground. He had to stop to take it all in. The children around him stopped as well.
He asked the obvious question. "You live here?"
//Yes, silly man// came the chiding response. In the air there were hundreds of suppressed snickers. He looked at the girl Trysha. She seemed to remain solemn so he addressed the question to her.
"I mean you designed and built them?"
"Of course," she said. "No different, in fact easier, than designing a plant." She offered him a long leaf, one she obviously had ready for the occasion. "We were never allowed to make our houses before. Is that what you meant?"
Vila did not know what he meant. Language was struggling here. He was still having a hard time believing this was not a dream no matter how many times he pinched himself, or that reoccurring feeling that he had trespassed into someone's very odd idea of heaven and would be caught at any moment. Could you a pinch in heaven? He did not know. He had never studied theology.
"Yes, I think so," he said aloud to himself. Finally he could stand it no more. Before them was the broad vista of the valley and above hung that enormous moon. It was a most intimidating astronomical spectacle. Vila pointed up to it, which seemed foolish even as he did so, and asked: "What is that?"
Vila gave up. All right, telesend! He must have appeared terribly confused. "That is . . . no, I mean that moon.'
//No, silly. This is the moon. That is the planet we orbit. The Entity gave it that name. He told us some of the story.//
"I see. How long have you been here?"
//Six months since we . . . // she hesitated. //Reawakened.//
"And what is this called?" He gestured to his feet.
Vila nodded. Maybe it did make sense. They resumed the walk. He noticed the density of the houses was thinning and that many of the children were apparently dropping away for more interesting pursuits. Had he become so dull so quickly?
Of course all this had to be the work of the Entity. Vila was simultaneously grateful and vexed.
He was eager to explore this place on its own, but without guides he was sure to feel like a terribly misinformed tourist. For a moment he wondered how long it would take before he truly missed adult companionship. Not very long, he realized. Being the only chaperone in a community of several thousand preteens was the stuff of nightmares. And all he had seen so far in the way of non-children were a few helper robots.
"Am I the only adult?"
Her companion interrupted. //Well, not exactly . . .//
//Well, he is an adult. He is old and . . .//
Vila was annoyed. Of course. All roads kept coming back to . . . "The Entity?" he asked.
And so it was. The Entity was not his idea of a friend, but it would have to do. Vila was directed by the remaining children to its dwelling: at least in so far as it could be said to have one. They only knew that this is where the Entity would be found on this particular morning. At other times, who knew where it could be?
By now Vila was insistent upon pursuing his explorations on his own. He was grateful the children were almost gone. He had a lot of questions to ask and a lot of answers he was determined to get, but he would not do so as part of a crowd. He was starting to remember more clearly and despite everything feeling better. He was recovering, even he had to admit that.
He walked boldly up to the door and stopped. The last minutes: there had been the plunge through the Gateway then everything went blank. The next moment he was here. Dead for certain. Then a live Vila once more.
He shook his head. He should have been used to the process by now, but a second time made it no easier. It still took a lot of adjusting to, this ghost business.
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