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Old 12-06-2020, 07:52 PM   #4 (permalink)
Trollheart
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Title: "Light of the World"
Genre: Science Fiction
Written: September 6 2020
Word Count: 1507
Notes: Once you get into the story, it's not hard to see where I got the idea, but I like to throw the reader off a cliff, sorry off-balance if I can, so the theme develops hopefully in a way that could not have been anticipated. If you got it before it's revealed, feel free to let me know by posting.

Light of the World

Ah, I don't know. When you've been married as long as we have, maybe it just gets a little boring after a while, but I had really hoped this cruise would save our marriage. Harry has been a real pill all through it though: moaning about every spot I want to go, claiming he wants to be other places, undermining everything I do and generally being a real pain. It's not as if I don't love him, you understand, but, well, when you've decided to blow your life savings on this one big trip you'd think he'd at least try to enjoy himself.

But no: it's “Myra this and Myra that. Myra I can't find my shoes. Myra this atmosphere is playing havoc with my insides. Myra, why did we come here? Myra can't we just go home?”

Like I said, a real pill.

But of all the places on our list, this planet was the one I had been looking forward to the most. Harry doesn't understand – or pretends not to. He moaned all the way as we descended in the shuttle. Still, even he had to admit the one with the rings was beautiful. I don't know what they used to call it, who even remembers? But it sure is nice.

We weren't going there, of course. There's no surface, and while we don't need to breathe, naturally, even a Generation 9 can't walk on air, and we're both lowly Gen 4s, very much older models. Hell, sometimes I feel it in my circuits how old we are, but after four thousand years you're bound to feel the odd twinge or two. Reckon I got another few centuries left in me yet though before they throw me on the scrap heap, and even if Harry ain't gonna play ball, even if we end up drifting apart (as I worry we will, and what will I do without him?) I'll be damned if I'm going to miss out on my dream cruise.

We've seen the ice falls of Rigel XII, watched herds of pamanthrapa sweep majestically across the plains of Indios XVII, explored the ruins of Seven Centuries City on Stelios II and listened in rapture (well, me anyway; Harry complained it was just noise. What a philistine, whatever that is) to the most beautiful melodies the planet Vangelis Maximus, on the outer edge of the Horse Head Nebula (what is a horse, I asked the guide, but he just shrugged) can produce, and let me tell you, I ain't never heard nothing so sad and wonderful and inspiring and evocative in all my life, and that's saying something.

But now, we're heading down to this planet which our guide informs us in a bored voice has been designated SL/E/0009-03, but which I secretly call the Garden Planet. Harry's moaning all the time, but what can you expect? Why did I ever marry him? I coulda had anyone. Oh well, what's done is done; let me just enjoy this trip and what will be will be when it's over.

“Willya look at that, Harry?”

I try to get him to show some interest, but he's flipping through his incopad, and I swear, if I find any more suggestive comms from Gen 7s in there...

“What? What? I'm busy, Myra.”

Yeah, he's busy all right. I grab the pad from him irritably, shut it off. For a moment he looks like he's gonna say something, but for once he knows better. This is important to me.

“Just look, will ya? We came all this way and you ain't even gonna look at it?”

“Didn't even want to come,” grumps my husband of three thousand years. Then he sighs and must decide to make an effort, as he says, with bad grace “What's so great about it, Myra? It's just a big statue.”

“Shows what you know!” I sniff, looking up at the huge figure towering over us, looming like some protector. The servo-mechanism that oils the joints in my mouth fails for a moment; my mouth is dry. “This was hand-made, Harry, over four hundred thousand years ago. You know, back when there were organics in the universe?”

It's his turn to sniff, disdainfully. “There never were, Myra,” he argues. “That's just stories for children.”

The scientist in me deplores his ignorance, and I begin to say “Research into the prehistory of the universe has suggested...”

Then I stop.
What the hell? I won't let him get to me. I won't let him make me start an argument. This is supposed to be a fun trip. My dream cruise. Our dream cruise.

Yeah.

“Just... just look at it for a minute, Harry.” I almost beg him, and snorting, annoyed at the loss of his pad, but still in some ways my Harry, he looks up. Perhaps he feels he needs to say something, so he does.

“Looks a bit – I don't know -” he searches for a word, shrugs, “oppressive.”

“Oppressive?” I'm surprised, but glad that he is at least taking an interest, even if he's only doing it for my sake. Or to shut me up.

“Yeah. Look at how its arm is raised, ready to attack.” He squints through his glasses. “What was this anyway?”

I have to shrug. I'm a scientist, not an archaeologist.

“I think they used to call it an idol.” I'm guessing, but he actually looks impressed.

“Idol.” He tests the word, shakes his head.

“Yeah, it was... let me see if I can remember my classes on ancient folklore. A representation of a higher being which organics believed directed their lives. I think they called them... bods? Sods? Gods? Not sure. Something like that anyway.”

Harry is moved to laugh. It's the first time he has done so on this trip. I'm glad to hear it. Reminds me why I married him.

“Sure is ugly,” he comments, and I can't agree, but I don't want to spoil the moment. So I laugh too. It's the first time in probably a century we've laughed together, and it feels real good.

“The arm you see raised,” I tell him, moving a little closer (and thrilled that he does not, for once, move away) “isn't to strike down its followers. It used to hold something, holding it high.” I have no idea what it could have been. Harry takes a guess.

“A sword? Doesn't legend say the organics use them?” He adds, “If they existed.” It's meant to be a sour comment, but it doesn't come across like that, almost more like a joke. We used to joke a lot, Harry and me. Feels nice to share something again after all this time.

“Yeah.” I'm doubtful though. “As weapons. But like I say, I don't think it's meant to be threatening.”

“What, then?” There's a slight irritation in Harry's voice, so I shrug and let it drop.

“Who knows?”

We stand in silence for a few minutes. Companionable silence, for once.
“Missing its other arm,” he points out. I nod. We're very close now, almost touching.

“Hey!” He suddenly starts. “What's that writing on the base?”

I shrug. “I think it's a prayer.”

“A prayer? What's that?”

I try to remember. It's been so long since I read about this thing in 5,000 Sights of the Galaxy You Must See Before You Die.

“I think it's like,” I falter, “some sort of command, or instruction to these... these gods – is it gods? Yeah, I think that's right. Gods.”

The light of comprehension dawns in Harry's eyes. He nods.

“You mean like a sub-routine?” he asks, trying to make sense of it. “A program of some sort? Is it code? Did these organics control these... what did you call them again?”

“Gods,” I say, frowning as I think about his question. “I don't think so, Harry. From what I've read, I think they believed the gods controlled them.”

It's nice to be discussing something with Harry, even if it is ancient, forgotten lore. Better than arguing anyway. Hell, even the arguments were better than the cold silences that have characterised our relationship for the past five hundred years.

He squints through his glasses, trying to read the inscription, trying to make sense of something scholars have been trying to work out the meaning of for millennia.

Give... me... your... what's that word? I need to get my eyes looked at again.”

“Tired,” I say.

Tired,” he repeats, reading on. “Your... hobbled...?”

“Huddled.”

“Huddled masses yearning to breathe.. free?” He looks at me, confused.

“What does that mean? Breathe? What's breathe? And free? Free from what? We're all free, ain't we. Myra?”

I smile, standing beside him in the shadow of that great giant ancient god of this deserted planet where legend has it life once thrived, and where now only the deep verdant jungle holds sway.

“Yeah, Harry,” I tell him. “We are.”

“So why...?” I place a finger to his lips.

“Let's just enjoy the moment, Harry.”
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