Skanky Nerd Land

Sex, Science and Concept Art

Category: Science Fiction

A Different Season, A Different World

Near the woods on the dunes, beside where I live, there is a Serviceberry tree growing under some pines. I often go for walks in the area with a friend, who has a strong affinity for nature and poetry. Walking with him always brings strange new ideas as he weaves Celtic mythology with science fiction and dream philosophy.

serviceberry tree flowering in winter

Serviceberry tree flowering at the end of winter.

On the path down from one of the larger dunes in a Serviceberry tree that flowers ahead of all the other plants. It is absolutely magical, this tree with its crown of flowers, flourishing in the winter landscape. As we walked past it, I commented on how odd it was, that it should come blossom so far ahead of all the other plants. He told me that it was because the tree was really from another place, another planet, on its own orbit, around its own sun. And that tree still followed the seasons of that other place, which is seeping into our world.

The Navigator’s Ship

There are many types of terror. Most times, the fears we live with and encounter are imagined. Phantoms, figments of our imagination. The result of a biology designed to over react. For most of my life, I only knew such imagined fears. The only fear I had which was truly founded, was the occasional whipping from my father when I had overstepped by bounds. The rest of my existence passed in relative comfort.

True terror, however, comes with the realisation that all is beyond your control. In an instant, adrenaline floods your body, giving you that last chance to fight. Or, if too much of it is administered, utterly paralysing you. This way, your senses are numbed to whatever horror that is soon to come upon you.

The first time it happened to me, I remembered thinking, as my mind went blank and my limbs froze, that I would never, ever let this happen, again.

***

We had been almost a month at sea when we were boarded. As chief navigator, I had been the last to find out and the only one spared. The Iliad, not even one-tenth into her journey, had been taken over by marauders. Somewhere between the old world and the new, her entire crew had been massacred. It was, I thought then, rather excessive. Our crew would surely have given them whatever they wanted, and redirected course for the nearest port, which was still within the Galician empire.

When the door to the cockpit had been broken down, I had been lost deep in my calculations.

***

Navigation, although a highly technical affair, was ultimately an art. Especially in those days. Even now, steering a vessel requires intelligence, creativity, and an affinity with the body of steel, wood and iron beneath, and all around. For me still, it remains an art. As people knew the time of the day, when they should rise and go to bed, when they needed to eat, when certain things could be expected to happen; as they could tell the time, I could navigate the seas. As they checked their clocks to be absolutely sure, I checked my tools. Unlike others, who could only blindly follow their calculations into the great unknown, I knew land well before I even saw it.

Those who boarded the ship had wanted to kill me as well. It was here I first felt that sense of paralysis that comes when you know your life is about to change forever, for the the worse. I quickly accessed my options and realised that escape was not one of them. I then told them what I was, and they decided I was of better use to them alive than dead.

I knew I would be an enormous asset to their crew, but I did not know by how much. Once aboard their vessel, this became clear. Their ship, the Irodion, was like myself. Half Taistealai, but bastardised beyond recognition. Prior to this time, I had only been once on a true vessel. Back when I was little, when they still docked along the Ivory Coast of the southern continent. This was two decades past, but the sensation was uncanny. Were this the first time I was on such a vessel, I would have known, nevertheless, it was one like me.

The ships of the Taistealai were living things, made of wood and metal inhabited by a soul, or countless souls become one. What I mean is that our ships are self-aware, capable of abstract thought, and most importantly, capable of predicting the future. Taistealai navigators could tap into the core of the ship, and as such, navigate our earth, which we now know to be vast. Much larger than any other in our star system.

The Irodion had once been such a ship, but it was ancient and over half of it had been replaced with regular materials. This did not make it any less of a ship any more than having a prosthetic arm would make a person less of a person. However, I could feel its bitterness all throughout my being as I stepped on deck. If it could breathe, its breaths would have been painful and laboured. It’s personality was filled with bitterness. The Irodion’s character, I concluded to be silent, violent and weak. I immediately felt sorry I was not fully a Taistealai. If I were, this ship would easily be subjected to me. That was the way the Taistealai built them. Because I wasn’t, we were equals. At least, that was what I hoped.

As I sensed it, so it did, me. I was also aware that the men around me had not the slightest inkling towards what I, or the ship, felt towards one another. It was then the massacre aboard the Iliad  made sense. The crew did not want everybody dead, it was the ship that did. It was impossible that the ship could communicate directly with its crew, but it obviously did manage to convey its desires in some manner. I wondered then if these people were even sane. I knew I wouldn’t be for long, living abroad this mental asylum.

I was about to enquire on the fate of the captain, for I was certain theirs was dead, but decided not to. I wasn’t sure if they even, ever, had a captain, and that it wasn’t the ship that had acquired this crew, rather than the other way around. The Irodion had such a powerful character that I knew it had been without a captain for a very, very long time.

***

I was taken up to the cockpit, which, unlike the rest of the vessel, was very well appointed. It was carpeted with furs from the savannahs of Zania, curtained with silks from the Far East, adorned with beautifully carved furniture, like such you might have seen in ancient Alexandria. It was here I began to feel the first stirrings of terror. Fear and dread like I had never felt before. The sort that rises from your bowels and makes you wish you had listened to everything your parents ever told you. I felt then, that this fear would have wiped all taste for adventure from me, forever.

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