Okay, hot on the heels of yesterday's snow memoir, but nonetheless reared and raring to go, is the next part of The Cephalopocalypse! Part Five, is it?
Missed the start? Not a problem. You can take advantage of INDIGO ON DEMAND (steady, madam) using the links below.
Prologue: Early Whispers Of Christmas
Part One: Definitely Inside The Lines
Part Two: The Wisdom Of Invertebrates
Part Three: Ready To Tell The Tale
Part Four: Before I've Found My Slippers
You may need a little sunblock for today's entry.
As an Englishman, I've always had a soft spot for the summer countryside of my homeland. The rolling fields, sequined rivers and ancient brooding trees, all under endless blue skies.
And today, the trees are of particular interest. Well, the one I'm sitting under is, anyway; it provides wonderful shade during the hottest part of the day, and a back rest after what turned out to be a difficult journey.
It's Wednesday afternoon, and we're in the middle of a field in Cambridgeshire. I'm surrounded by rustic scenery, including my best friend, the arch-genius Max Tunguska.* He's dressed as a rugged outdoorsman, and looks very much at home in the pale golden sway of the impending harvest.
[ * a new incarnation of my best friend, iDifficult. It's a long story. ]
It's nice out here, observes Max. He sips from a canteen of water, ever prepared. My own drink has long since gone; I expect a call of nature beyond that offered by my immediate surroundings.
I feel a deep sense of disquiet. It's been an odd day.
It's nine in the morning, and we've been invited to meet with the cuttlefish collective known as CephNet. The invitation is probably a contrivance to get our cooperation; neither of us takes instruction well, and a request is far easier to swallow.
They're smarter than most folk already, it seems.
Inside Max's house is a zero-gravity environment. It helps the cuttlefish to get about the place, but I'm unclear how they managed it. That said, when you connect seven massively-intelligent creatures together in a network, they're bound to come up with all kinds of weird stuff.
As we float into their presence in Max's former lounge, I notice that the room is empty. No sofa or TV, no stacks of old pizza boxes. Even the dirt seems to be missing from the windows. And the room looks massive, out of scale. The cuttlefish, suspended in an interlinked ring above us - almost a skydiving formation, says my mind absently - are equally massive. The rainbow spectrum of the cephalopod thought processes pulses erratically around the ring; it's somewhat hypnotic.
Did they get bigger, Max? I don't like the question, but it seems relevant, considering how uncomfortable it makes me. Because they sure look bigger.
My best friend seems to be enjoying the Zero-G environment, and spins gently while chuckling quietly to himself. I note the uncharacteristically sombre, almost practical cut of his clothes today: walking boots, a t-shirt, cargo pants, and a loose jacket that billows around him. Eventually, realising we're all watching and waiting, my question registers with him.
Um, bigger? He considers the idea. No. More likely they shifted our relative scale within the room.
I think about this for a moment. You mean they made us smaller? In relation to them?
Exactly. It changes your perception of them, doesn't it?
As I stare up at our hosts, imperious and unknowable, I feel a chill; Max may have a point. Unoccupied tentacles wave gently in thin air, anemone-like, and it occurs to me for the first time that the seven cuttlefish are not immersed in water. Or are we all underwater? Perhaps that is why the windows look clean? I file that for later consideration; I have bigger fish to fry, so to speak.
Please listen, says a calm voice, there are things you must know.
The voice is friendly, conversational. It invites relaxation, but I don’t have a good feeling about this; ever since Abbey's warning, I've been on edge.
Who's speaking, please?
There's a polite, almost surprised pause.
We are the CephNet, comes the reply, who did you expect?
It's a fair question; I smile and offer a rueful wave. Hi.
Hello Indigo. Hello Max. Please listen. Here is what you must know. They're all business. But it's quite likeable, a refreshing change from the pomp of committee decision-making.
We have been thinking about World Peace, as you asked.
I frown. Did we ask? I glance at the arch-genius floating beside me.
I mentioned it, mutters Max, probably reading my puzzled facial expression, but I was just trying to give them something to do. I didn't expect them to take it so literally. Sorry, matey.
You couldn't have given them something else? Calculating pi to the end, or something?
An ethereal chuckle suggests that it wouldn't have taxed them.
The ring of cephalopods spins gently above us. It wouldn’t surprise me if creatures such as these had inspired the cool, vast, alien intellects of literature. Perhaps H.G. Wells went scuba diving?
We've given it a lot of thought, says the collective voice and have gathered as much information as we can by connecting ourselves to everything in the world.
This is casual, presented as the seemingly obvious, and is stained with pride; I don't like where this is going at all. Oh good gravy, says Max, agreeing with my unspoken thought, this won’t end well. His hands slowly drifts to his pocket.
And the CephNet offers its verdict.
We've concluded that Things. Will have. To change.
Yeah, we figured as much, nods Max. And his hand, now inside his pocket, pushes a button.
And we are elsewhere.
Back in the now, we stand and prepare to leave the shade. I'm not enthused; a series of dimensional jumps since we left home have proven exhausting.
But hey, we've enlisted some help. And we have better hardware than our first few trips; there's no need for the trampoline. And so I have less bruises.
I'm pooped, I sigh, I have no idea how Elliot does this for a living.
Max grunts affirmatively as we stride into the sun and slowly head uphill. The wheat is tall and golden about us, but I find it hard to appreciate; I know what awaits us.
As we top a small rise, we see the smoke.
In the distance, Cambridge is burning.
It's not my Cambridge, of course; that's in a different Reality. And technically speaking my Cambridge isn’t in Max's Reality, either.
But the spires are falling in flames; the changes have started.
I sense a future involving armies and drones and collateral damage. The destructive sight stirs despair and rage as I picture my home town in ruins. But there's no time to think that way.
In cosmic terms, there's no time to think locally.
The words are out before my brain catches up. When did life get so complicated?
We need to get moving, says Max, as the bright implosion of a teleport half a mile away catches my eye. My heart sinks; three jumps between Realities have not shaken our pursuers off.
They seem determined that we're a problem for them.
Max nods, And they'd be right. But next time, we should hide a little deeper.
For the second time today, I don't like where this is going. That said, I trust Max. My friend makes some adjustments to the jury-rigged hardware he's holding with a screwdriver.
Nope. Do it.
I wonder what awaits us. But there's no time to wonder.
With a click, we're gone.
An Englishman who travels can find beauty anywhere.
But he only finds contentment at home.
TO BE CONTINUED
This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2009-2013