Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: The Ledge

Harpy Eagle, Jeb's Totem, from http://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/

We are in what I’ve always thought of as Thyal’s Totem Reality that I visualised when I first met Thyalsene when we were still on Lotor. 

The Kosi-entity pulls me toward the edge of a narrow ledge, I think such flattish places on the side of a cliff are called. “We’ll study the landscape, see where the prey are hiding.”

I remember Wren’s frightened face when I, in my Harpy Eagle mode, made to grab her. She was too smart to be caught. And I now think every one of my group is too smart to be caught. Haven’t we all been out-witting Lotor all our lives? 

I release Lithe. He turns and pulls at the next person and encourages her to one side. The next person to the other side. They both help him with feeding people along the ledge. Opposite is the steep green hill sloping down from the sward at its top that becomes stonier as it nears the creek at a bottom. 

It’s the cliff face we teeter on. Above and behind us, the membrane shows the images of tall brown cliffs that seem to rise almost to the blue ceiling. That the topside airlock is not visible suggests that the totem reality takes in less than half the underworld. 

At the base of the cliffs rushes the white water creek into what looks like a deep still hole, and out the other side. All of it might still turn out to be the same weird sort of light as the forest in the white room. 

I feel the granules of a thin layer of sand underfoot, the ledge seems real. It also seems that it must be an extension of the floor in the rest of the underworld. 

Back in there we saw the airlock that is now directly behind us. There might be a pair of airlocks to either side, just the other side of the cliffs. Out of reach because either side of the ledge are metres of blank stone and no way to climb across should anyone want to. 

The fourth airlock should be straight across where the upper part of the slope covers it if it is there. 

Someone jostles me and I nearly overbalance. The ledge is becoming too crowded to fit everyone still coming. People beside me clutch each other when they almost overbalance. People overcome their fear of Kosi and line the ledge on the other side of her. We’re three deep in places. 

I study the distance down to the creek. Two-three metres? But anyway, needs must. I lift my voice. “We’ll need some spare shirts and pants to let people down to the creek.”

An old-timer cackles. “Spare clothes she thinks we carry.”

“Shirts and pants that aren’t necessary to your modesty,” I say. “You could miss a shirt. I can miss my cloak threadbare though it is. Four hundred cannot fit along this ledge.”

They get the idea. Shirts and pants are knotted into ropes. Two per rope start to encourage everyone else over the edge. 

At first, those setting foot for the first time in their lives in Earth-style water—It’s real!— are overcome with excitement. They splash and play. Quite soon a second wave drags them onto the grassy slope, by osmosis perhaps. Though no one goes very far.  

People are still coming through the brown, stony-looking membrane. I hear their surprise multiplied by dozens … at the huge blue sky, then the green green grassy slope and then the water. 

I’m wondering how Thyal and I could’ve dreamed this reality when we knew nothing yet about the Ark Ship or even that this other ship existed? 

One thought leads to another. Thyal is still missing and so is Mongoose. Nor have I seen or heard Ant, Meerkat or Wren and a few more. Too many of my people are still missing. 

I do that thing when it is absolutely not the right time to cry. Think of something totally different. 

Won’t be me who reminds the Kosi-entity, if it is her beside me, that she ordered the Maremma girl to find three dogs to help with the hunt. I still don’t know whether the Maremma people in the over-world are really people who use Maremma dogs for herding their sheep, or whether they’re using Maremma dogs as their totems? 

That misery I saw in the Maremma girl’s eyes … apparently, the Kosi-entity, though she once was a real live person, doesn’t remember how it feels to be human? Don’t forget she’s probably been this … this bio-pattern for at least two hundred Earth years? I’m assuming bio-pattern because she says one of the boots did it. 

I shudder—surely it can only be a one way process?—and is the dark eater animating Arley’s skin to get it among the people, and using the Kosi-entity to get it close to me? 


Knowing the danger does not make it feel better. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: All about Alien Technology, Version II

Space suit being sewn in previous version, being worn, in space, photo courtesy of NASA

One of the necessities when posting ongoing excerpts of a work in progress is the need to backtrack sometimes to rewrite a section. Today's post is a reworking of one from a few weeks ago. Anyone who feels like comparing I have left the original version in situ for your interest. 

“Why half?” Kosi says.

“Didn’t get to finish my schooling.” I’m lucky there’s still that easy answer available. I make my voice light and my tone light-hearted though I’m thinking dark things about my mother possibly having an Earth-grown body floating about in a silo somewhere in space. “They’re dead, the bodies left behind in the silos?”

Kosi knows exactly what I’m asking. “Some might still be in stasis,” she says. “But don’t worry about them waking up. They can’t by themselves. Most in the less technologically-advanced silos will have died by now through running out of nutrients. How can I separate the data-waving boots from the mysterious object so I can have a good look at it?”

We have nicely circled the presence of the Ark Ship. “What is the object?” I say.

Kosi laughs. “For me to know and you to find out, I think. Be more fun that way.”

Fun for who? Maybe that thought shows on my face for the entity starts into an explanation. 

“Earlier I was thinking we’d borrow a couple of bodies and go hunting. You seem to like the Maremma girl, you could borrow hers. I’ve never been hunting.”

“You’d borrow the Maremma girl’s body?” I say. 

“I don’t need to now,” she says. “The thing in the airlock is a life-suit. Strange that the Ark Ship refused to touch it? No moral against using it that I can see. I’ll reprogram it. Hip hooray! It’ll be the first time since I got data-waved that I’ll have arms and legs to do things with!”

The only thing resembling a life-suit that came with my group was probably the skin of the blood-drained woman called Arley, infected with a malign agency. This is me finally putting two and two together. The skin-suit was brought to Thyal and Mongoose and me by one of the flying horses just before we took off in the shuttle, to be destroyed by the Ark Ship. 

And the Ark Ship didn’t? I shudder. 

And now the entity that calls itself Kosi Lionhair is going to try to re-program the Arley-skin-suit while it still contains that malignancy. Because why would it have left? Where would it have gone? 

 At the Shaman School, I was forever listening in on lessons ahead of my grade. Wanting to know everything right now. Did the shamans let me gorge myself on less important things to keep more advanced things from me? I don’t remember hearing anything about the re-patterning of biological entities. 

Didn’t mean it wasn’t part of the syllabus, did it? 

Where before I merely didn’t like the sound of going hunting in the Totem Reality, now I dread it. “These data-waving boots …” I begin. I revise what I know about them. They extract human DNA + personality patterns from people stored on spaceships called silos and transfer the patterns to Lotor. If the boots can do that, why wouldn’t the malignancy use them? “… they are not from Earth, are they?” 

I rush on. “The life-suit isn’t a natural thing either. Well, okay, it once was a human person, but it can’t now be if the Ark Ship’s molecular destructor won’t touch it. And this ship we’re in … it’s pyramid-shaped. Two pyramids joined at their bases. Not the doughnut-shape of the ArkShip I learned about at the Shaman school.”

Kosi laughs. It’s a machine-generated sound with no flesh and blood backing it to moderate its clattering sound against the plastic surfaces of the hall we’re still in. 

“Does it matter?” she says. “It’s not like the Ark Ship is what it was, or even normal for that matter. It wants all its animals two by two? The silos are the only normal spaceships you’d hope to use, and look what happened to me in one of them?”

The Ark Ship is not what it was? And, is not normal now? I’m lost. It wants all its animals two by two? 

“The boots you said,” I say because I do after all have a tiny clue about the upside-down boots that only transfer the bio-patterns of people. 

“Yeah, they’re part of this ship. I could show you exactly where they get recharged but …”  She chuckles. “I suppose like every other so-called human you are aiming to get onto the Ark Ship despite what I said just now?”

“What exactly did you say?” As I expected, she does not explain. Probably not the right time. I don’t like what she might be implying but is there any other answer? “Yes. I do.” 

“I suppose to be forewarned is to be fore-armed, as Hen used to say,” Kosi says. “Come on then.”

She causes the door panels keeping me in the room to slide apart. I fall into the Maremma girl’s arms. 

“She’s with me,” Kosi says at the girl. “I might need a hunting dog or three? Go find them, bring them to the underworld?”

The Maremma girl shoots me a gaze of such misery before she runs off, that I boost my attention to hyper-alert. “Where are you taking me?” I say.

Kosi laughs. “Obviously, I can’t physically take you anywhere. But you’ll probably follow the rainbow blip arrowing along the floor if you want to see your friends again.”

She threatens me and my friends? I take a deep breath. 

 The blip sparks and sparkles with the same colours as the watchtower on the cliffs during my last night on Lotor. The cherts still under the skin of my feet liven up too. Prick and prickle. 

I realise two things. The blip is of the same alien technology as the watch-tower, and so possibly also the life-suit, and it is interacting with the therefore also alien cherts. Wish I had a pair of tweezers. Funny that the Ark Ship reconstituted me with them intact?


 The arrowing starts along the upper U gallery and I follow it to the opposite arm. It spirals down the fireman’s pole, and I slide to the floor of the hall from where I follow it into the mysterious crowd circling the mysterious mid-point.  

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: The Human Machine Pattern

The way forward ... Image from barbarareid.ca

Lithe calls me and beckons. "Jeb!" Hurry. As in, there’s no time for either the Chief’s fireworks or whatever is causing me my red-faced excitement. He’s right. We need to get everyone we can up here in one crowd. I join him on the other side of the hole. 

I drop to my knees. “How can I help?” I say with a wobble of suppressed emotion.  

“You’ve got an idea?” Lithe says. 

I nod. “All of us came on board through Reception. The rest of the humans apparently came directly from the Ark Ship and were delivered either here or in the over-world now below us?”
Lithe nods. 

“Through what doors?” I say, nodding in various directions where airlocks might be expected to show on the horizon. A few moments more will at least give me someone else who understands. 

Lithe rises. Looks around. I see his glance slide over the corner where the reflective membrane stops us seeing it. I see him hesitate over the rectangle in the corner directly behind us where the shadow tried to disappear. He kneels back down opposite me, on the other side of the hatch. 

“The quadrant behind that reflective membrane is the only one where none of us combined has yet been,” I say leaping over large chunks of explanations. “There’ll be three doors.”

“With you,” he says.

“The shadow tried to disappear through the door behind us,” I say. “The Ark Ship refused its entry. We all need to leave at the same time.”

He nods again. “Or get eaten.” He sticks his head and half his chest through the hatch. Is talking out in the over-world. 

He lifts himself out again. “Things are not good when my own brother doesn’t recognise me. Convince them we are real?”

I dip my head through the hatch. I’m down at floor level of the over-world looking up at the crowd there fronted by Limber. “Limber, show the way. Watch out if I need to vomit from having to do this down-is-up thing again.” 

I get out fast because I do feel queasy. “Bring everyone,” I call through.  

Limber, laughing, tries to drop through feet first. The abrupt change in gravity catches him and he starts to collapse back. 

Lithe catches his brother’s legs and drags him through and aside. Uncle Puma reaches him a hand to get him standing. 

Limber reels. Goes to a knee. Pushes himself up. His eyes bulge. He gags. “I was going to say … Jeb convinced me the place was real when she said that about being sick.”

“Is real. Different rules,” Lithe says. “You got them started is the important thing.” Lithe catches the next person, passes her into the crowd. “Chief, tell Limber about the eater. He’s tall, good for a spotter.”

 Each person coming through the hatch is caught, helped to stand, and passed still stumbling further into the crowd. At the end, the Maremma girl comes through herding a bunch of young people with the heads of dogs. I cringe at Kosi’s casual cruelty. 

The transformed ones are taken into the crowd with only the relief that they are still alive. Perhaps there’s a cure. 

As Lithe and Uncle Puma place the hatch-cover back over the hole, there’s an outcry at the edge of the crowd near the upside down walkways and ramps structure.   

“Jeb! Jeb! Look at me!” 

It’s the Kosi-entity’s voice calling out and she is excited! 

The crowd between her and me parts abruptly—I see naked fear—people stepping behind others trying to hide; people staring at the floor; people hiding their faces behind their hands. I get that Kosi’s voice and its portents are known very well. 

But it is an old woman clad in a short grey tunic who dances toward me. I feel sick. It’s Arley brought back to life. It was her skin we carried rolled up with us onto the shuttle? 

Kosi chirps and carols. “I’ve got arms. Legs. A body! Finally I am a human again!”

She is not alone in the skin. She can’t be. Her tongue and mouth, formerly Arley’s tongue and mouth, are so black that I can’t see their detail, and her nostrils and eyelids are rimmed with the same darkness. 

Arley’s dark brown eye-pupils are set in a grey that flashes like silver when Kosi twists and turns cavorting toward me. 

“We’ll hunt now,” she says. She’s breathless, and catching my arm, supports herself on me while she gulps air. If only I could see the dark one’s smile for how Kosi means it. She’s relieved, happy, overjoyed that she is still human? 

But how am I meant to think about a machine pattern that believes itself human? I glance around the crowd. A sea of bent necks, of people minding their own business, hoping against hope that the bad thing will go away without hurting them. Uncle Puma, a shag on a rock, shrugs as if saying do what you have to, niece. Red-tail nods. Be my Shaman, Jeb. 

 Kosi starts to drag me toward the doubled outer part of the crowd. “Come with me into the Totem Reality.” 

She dents the surface reflecting the crowd ahead of me and melts through. 

I grab Lithe and don’t let go. “Quick! Make like I’m the golden goose! Everyone must come!”  


Kosi pulls me from the other side and I shut my eyes as the membrane gives way with a soft silken stroking that reminds me of the feel of Earth-water when I was lucky enough to bathe in a tub of it.  

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: Uncle Puma

Never never will Jeb accept that Mongoose is gone ...

As I struggle to stand upright someone hugs me to him with strong meaty arms. 

The man catching me against his chest is broader and he has neither Mongoose’s smell nor his voice.  It isn't Mongoose.

I wrench loose. 

It’s Uncle Puma. I catch his expression—glee? Can’t be—as he blinks it away. “I’ve counted through this crowd a couple of times to no avail, as I’m sure you have searched through the crowd in the over-world,” he says. “So you might as well accept that Mongoose is lost.”

Never never will I accept that Mongoose is lost. 

“We’ll also need to do without Thyal, a far greater loss in my opinion, and a half dozen more, your friends Ant, Wren, and Meerkat among them.”

A lot of unnecessary words when I have already read his meanings in his touch and his eyes. I control my voice. “I’ve been busy.” 

It sounds like an excuse. Why does Uncle Puma always make me feel like I haven’t done enough? I use a well-worn strategy to get his attention off me. Indicating the doubling I ask, “What’s happening?”

“According to a stage-hand we happen to have amongst us, the area we are in is partitioned with a reflective membrane,” Uncle Puma says. 

“A stage-hand?” I ask, implying the what and where.

Uncle Puma shrugs. “Just another mystery. It appears that many of the people here travelled from Earth with our ancestors. If they are to be believed, they were woken by impossible creatures and driven into this place.”

“To be eaten,” says a person alongside. “By them.” He indicates the ceiling. “The shadows up there among the mosses. Eaters. There, and there. Your friend Lithe now our friend too organised us to keep tabs on them.” 

“There’s one going down!” shouts a spotter. 

I stare at the place where the woman is pointing, halfway down the tented ceiling and I see a black, vaguely humanoid shadow creep down a slanting way among the growths.  

“Surrounding the spotters, are the people responsible for moving them every time Lithe and Red-tail decide to move the crowd,” Uncle Puma says. “There’s been no one eaten since we organised.” 

“I wonder if anyone has counted them, whether they know if there’s a new one?” I say. 

“What are you saying?” says our buddy alongside.

“If there is, Arley’s skin will be lying empty somewhere.”

Uncle Puma seems to expand. He becomes the same obdurate angry statue as always when someone displeases him. But with the chief in him still, he doesn’t ask about Arley, the life-suit or why and how it happened to have joined us. Or why his niece Jeb the half shaman knows about it when he doesn’t. 

Instead he picks up on my mood. “And that’s a worry?” 

“There’s a human-entity in the workings as well. An Earth-born pattern. She intends using the skin aka the life-suit to give herself substance. Then she wants …”

“Red-tail!” 

The crowd jostles us from our conversation. An outcry takes my attention. A shadow flits into a free-standing structure below and Red-tail runs toward the spotter-group nearest a hodgepodge of powder-blue bars and extrusions in the only wide corner. 

When I shift my perspective, because I’m tempted to follow Red-tail, I see two pastel-blue U-shaped galleys in the structure that they are part of that could be upside down ramps and galleys. Similar to the galleys, ramps and fireman’s pole in the over-world, except that here the structure stands as if in storage.

The shadow flits about against a rectangle within it, then goes to ground. 

I feel hot and cold all over in waves when I suddenly see a fold in the ceiling, almost grown over with vegetation, that runs down to that plain dark rectangle, large enough to be—yes! 

Feverishly I think it through. If I believe the double-pyramid to be a separate structure from the Ark Ship, where could it be expected to have got stuck or wedged within the Ark Ship’s doughnut? 

The double pyramid has six points where its triangles come together. One is the shuttle port dedicated to hauling us into the scene below this floor in what Kosi calls Reception. The other is above us. 


Leaving the four points at the widest parts of the double-pyramid to secure the thing within the torus of the Ark Ship. I’m all but gasping on my eureka moment. At Red-tail’s directions, the spotter groups are arranging themselves in a half-moon around the structure. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: The Underworld

Imagine now kneeling in front of this hole and sticking your head down into it ... what will you see?

Remember the manhole cover last week? Jeb lifts the hatch cover. Lays it aside. Looks down through the hole ... 

I need to close my eyes and swallow and swallow. I peer between my eyelids but the vertigo is ongoing. Close my eyes, pretend to lift the hatch cover; pretend to lay it aside; pretend to look down through the hole. 

Peer between my eyelids. All still the same. The walls and ceiling down there follow the same lines as the ones of the place I’m in except that they are upside down. I see an airlock in the nock of the pyramidal ceiling, far away. The new place is like a reflection, its base is the underside of the floor I’m kneeling on. 

I dip my head down and through the hatch into the reflection. There is no disturbance, like rippling, so it isn’t a water reflection. My face and upper body leaning into it aren’t reflected, so it isn’t a mirror. 

Weird but good. There’d be one more of me than I could cope with, I think as flippantly as I can to generate the next bit of courage needed. 

I push down further and see a forest of upside-down human legs, skirts, long pant legs and cloaks around the hatch-hole. I see feet standing comfortably on the floor plastered to the underside of the floor where I am still crouching. These are the people we’re looking for?

Blood rushes to my head because if they are the right way up, I am upside down. I feel like I’m the right way up. Would I be able to crouch down the way I am without floating or falling down to my ceiling? Their clothes should be drooping around their heads. 

Then I recall the second pyramid sticking upside down out of the torus of the Ark Ship that I saw on the wall in the white room. It seems I must abandon the concepts of up and down. Looks to me like this so-called underworld is connected by its square base to the square base of the upper pyramid that half my body is still in. Time to climb through. 

In the underworld, feeling awkward and wrong, I stumble about like a drunkard. A large hand under my elbow helps me re-orient myself. Four fingers shorter than normal. 

“Lithe?” I stop him leaving me with my other hand over his. “I’m really really happy to see you.” Although he is Limber’s twin, he isn’t a double of the people in the over-world. Another possibility I can let go. 

“Limber is through there,” I say. “And lots more people. Get everyone from there into this scene?” Even being able to ask someone what they think is a comfort. 

“Having everyone in the same dimension should be helpful,” he says. 

I ignore the doubt I hear in his voice about getting everyone in this dimension. “Dimension? Oh. The gravity? I wonder how that works?”

“One of them is starting to get restless,” says a person staring up at their ceiling. “Too many of us standing still for too long.”

“We’ll split,” says a woman. 

I recognise her voice. It’s Red-tail. 

“Lithe, you work getting the crowd from under there into here,” Red-tail says. “I’ll take the four faster outer ranks and swirl. That should confuse them.” 

I stare where a sprinkling of people are looking, Red-tail among them. The ceiling, aka the pyramid’s inner skin, is thick with mats of purples, dark greens and browns. It takes me a couple of seconds before I realise I’m looking at a landscape of mosses, ferns and worts. A shadow would be right at home among them. 

I do not dwell on any particular piece of darkness and drop my gaze to the crowd instead. The people in each of the outer four ranks are arm in arm and circle left as if they are in a giant dance, except that all four circles are moving into the same direction. 

I can’t stop my gasp when the people at the left end double and double and double until six or seven in each of the circles are reflected as if in a floor to ceiling mirror. The dancers stop, change feet and dance rightwards. 

The doubling to the left disengages and disappears. Still moving, still to the right, the circles double at the outer right edge which is but a reflective mid-wall, I see suddenly.

The dancers move left again and start over at speed. The swirling confuses me as much as it might be confusing the beings the dancers are aiming to influence.