I was overcome with awe, and fell to my face when
I saw the Chronomancer walking slowly toward me
along the balcony.
To my right, the thought-amplifying spyglasses
looked out from the great embrasure upon the
darkness and strange fires of the Night Lands, and
I could see the shining eyes of the Great Watching
Thing of the Southeast looking at me. The Thing
was as mighty as a mountain, and about its
forepaws, which had not moved in a million years
or more, was encamped an army of Blind Ones, of
Ogres, and of shaggy subhumans, of which more than
half had stirred from the six thousand year
paralysis, and had been stirring since the days of
my grandfather's youth, and the reddish haze of
severe space-distortion was all about them.
To my right, above me and below me were the other
balconies, the windows and lamps of the Home of
Man, and the Tower of the Monstruwacans, the
monster-watchers, rose another mile above the
topmost embrasures of the highest balconies. No
other humans were near me, not for miles: the
cities of this level, and the ones below and
above, had been deserted for half a million years.
The cities were silent except for the whisper of
the perfect machinery built by an ancestral
people, and were empty of thought-action, except
for those paeans known to hinder powers of the
outside, soul-vibrations taken from the
thought-records of departed sages of greatest
spiritual power and wisdom. He and I were alone.
Once, when I was but a youth, I dreamed of the
days of light. A hollow vessel of wood, like a
long and narrow dish, but great enough to hold
many men, was shattered on the sea: the crew was
treading water, and with loud voices they called
to each other, each man telling the other as he
sobbed to remain strong and hopeful, and await the
In the dream this seemed no wonder, though I
later would regret I had not slept long enough to
see this marvel of the ancient world.
My father was in my hands, and he was weary and
cold, and I gripped him, calling out his name,
although the bitter sea wave entered my mouth
whenever I spoke.
There were sharks in the waters, drawn by blood,
and, one by one by one, the men to my left and
right were yanked below the surface. The
inconstant moon appeared and disappeared between
silver-edged black clouds: and sometimes I would
see the silhouette of some mate or well-liked
crewman bobbing on the heaving waves. But then the
water would rise and fall between us, and I could
not see, or the moon would hide. Then, a moment
later, there was fitful light again, and whoever I
sought was gone. They made no screams as the jaws
pulled them under, for they were too weary.
I remember the salt-sea and the deadly cold. I
remember trying to pull the wizened body of my
father up onto my back, as if I could somehow lift
him away from the sea. All I did was to push my
own face below the dark waters.
When I woke, the dreaming glass registered a
time-tension of over twenty-five million years,
farther by three aeons than any accurate records
reached, farther than previous paleochronopathy
had recovered though thought-echoes. Even the
master academicians, dwelling in the egg-shaped
crystal thought-chambers of their guild, their
minds augmented by surgery and magnified coherent
streamers of by Earth-Current, could not penetrate
the spirals and angles of time so deeply as I,
when merely an untrained boy, unaided, had done.
I knew then that my life was marked: if
foretellers had not foreseen someone of my power,
after-tellers, those who walk through the memories
of their ancestors, would return from the future
to seek me.
I was not entirely surprised. In a sense, I had
been long awaiting this visitation.
Did I say I was alone, fallen prone before the
stranger from another aeon? Not alone. None within
this Last Redoubt can be alone. Our enemies are
ever with us, unsleeping, tireless, horrid.
The Final Siege of Man has been since eight and a
half million years ago, or so run the estimates of
Paleochroniclers, who study those books written by
earlier versions of the human race.
Uncounted millions of years before that, a great
lamp stood in the upper darkness, called Sun. So
long ago that only the time-dreams of the
strongest mystics can confirm it, this lamp was
quenched to an ember, removing all the light from
the outer lands. Then came the hosts of Dark, seen
and unseen. Between upper and nether and
surrounding darkness, the terrors are encamped
against us, patient beyond the limits of eternity.
The Great Redoubt stands seven miles and more, a
mighty pyramid hulled in imperishable metal lit
with a million lamps, above the haunted cold waste
of the Night Land; and from our balconies, by the
flares from fire-pits or by the smolder of
volcano-flows, we see the beings move, those that
can be seen to move, or loom in the darkness,
large as living hills, motionless and watching,
those that cannot. Beings from the far side of the
life spectrum move also, but at so glacial a rate,
that tens of thousands of years span the slowness
of their approach against the walls of this last
fortress of mankind.
On the low hill to the North stands the august
and terrible House of Silence. Through the
millions of years since the Watching Things have
encamped against us to beleaguer our
mountain-overtopping fortress, this small House of
Silence has issued no sound, and not even the most
sensitive of long-range microphones have detected
a whisper. There are lights seen in the casement,
and yet these never move nor flicker, not in all
of eternity. The main doors stand open. It is
known that men lost in the darkness of the Night
Lands will walk as if asleep into those open
doors, and never speak or make a sound: those who
enter do not emerge. The instruments of the
Monstruwacans detect that this House is the center
of the fields of influence that trouble the aether
for many miles across the Night Lands, and most
scholars agree is it the center of all the forces
arrayed against us.
A silence filled the Night Land now. I could see
the eyes of the Southeast Watching Thing
scrutinizing the two of us. The yammering of the
kiln giants was diminished, the pounding of their
machinery which heats their buried dormitories;
the Things Which Peer ceased to stir atop their
half-unlit headland, and their hooting was quiet.
The baying of the Night Hounds ceased. A great
hush seemed to fill the night. The lopsided ear of
the Watching Thing to the Northwest could be seen,
huge and motionless, against the dreary glow of
the fire-pits beyond it. Surely our words did not
escape that terrible, watchful malice.
Perhaps he and I could have removed to the center
of the pyramid, or to the spot one hundred miles
below our feet, where the deepest of our many
buried acres of farms and gardenlands rest. It
would have made no difference. The influence of
the House of Silence was not impeded by mere solid
© John C
Wright 21 May 2007
|This story in complete form is
AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND, a
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