UNBOUND

 

Maria and Roy Explore

 

‘Everything’s come loose and adrift!’ shouted Maria, hopping blithely from one floating stone to another.

Below her the earth was expanding, breaking slowly apart. People floated in the sky among trees and shrubs and clods of earth and cats and dogs and all the myriad rubbish of their daily lives. But, perhaps the oddest thing of all was their entire lack of terror. This slow unwinding of the Earth’s binding was met with joy and a sense of wonder by one and all. It was if fear and terror were suspended like the millions upon billions of bits of their world among which everyone floated.

At first, though, there had been terror…

Not long ago the sky had darkened in the day as a black nebulous mist drifted down from beyond. Where the mist settled things got looser. The mist continued to settle for a long time. As thing got looser, they began to spread apart. Only the living things, particularly plants, maintained their cohesion. The plants flourished. Houses expanded brick by brick. In a vegetative rush of short weeks the plants insinuated themselves between the brickwork’ interstices, lacing the broken walls’ loose timbering and drifting floorboards and whatever all together so that houses still stood, after a fashion, but drifted on tethers of gnarled roots that bound bits of the earth together. As the plants took purchase in the very sky itself they grew transparent so that light filtered through even the thickest thickets of the aerial kingdom they were conquering.

Of course, right away, everyone could see it was the end of the world. And people were screaming, and moaning, and crying, and all. But no one died. Food services floundered as harvesters dismantled themselves and delivery trucks went to pieces. But no one starved, and the ill got better. And even in the last few acts of violence the victims of accidents or malice survived their most frightful wounds and grew whole and hale as the Earth fell apart.

Eventually everyone was too in awe of events to carry on about them anymore. What was the point? So what if everything were coming to pieces, life went on, didn’t it?

So Maria was really very happy as she discovered the world that was coming undone. All about her others were gaily learning their ways about among the floating debris of their lives.

There was still a sense of ‘down’, although now everything floated. Down was toward the darkness below where the earth continued to churn itself to pieces, expanding ever so slowly, somewhat like a bubble being blown. Up was toward the light, which continued to wax and wane in cycles of days, although no one had seen either the sun or stars for quite some time now.

In all, it was a very queer time indeed.

All the passions and hustle and bustle of daily life had drifted away as the earth came undone. People were too content to have any cares and no one missed the old world in the least.

The new world might develop a society and culture again, but as yet the very fabric of human social order was as sundered as the world it had inhabited. There was nothing holding anything together in the end, except for the plants. And the plants were everywhere.

Among a few of the new worlds’ people a spark of human passions still remained, and that spark was, for the most part, a niggling curiosity to know just what had happened.

Maria held that spark somewhere in her heart and it tugged and pulled on her until at last she followed it’s pull, upwards into the light.

Maria had been dead for quite some time, before things fell apart. She remembered her death after a fashion. It was a warm fuzzy sort of memory more full of feeling, more than any concrete definition.

It was as if there had been too little she could describe of her death experience in any sort of words. The lack of words for her experience made it hard to think about at all. But she remembered it felt good.

‘You had to have been there’ she might say to any one who asked her about it. And she would have loved to explain and gone on and on all about it, but no one did ask. And, she wasn’t bothered in the least that no one asked, however much she thought she might have been bothered by not being asked before she had died. But it was all right now, to simply exist and be and that’s that, so, although she would dearly have loved to explain her experiences to anyone at all, she wasn’t really at all upset that no one cared to hear about them.

The floating stones were tethered together loosely by faint wisps of plants. They formed a path of sorts upwards into the heavens. Maria could clamber her way through them in a doggy-paddle fashion as most other people were doing, but she preferred to sail from stone to stone in airy leaps and bounds. She quickly learned the knack of turning in the air to cushion her impact with new blocks of stone by absorbing her momentum with her legs, before shoving off again.

Already she was quite a lot higher than anyone she had seen before, although, here and there, she saw others making their ways aloft too.

Maria heard a kind of singing as she rose. It was a song-less singing but it spoke to her anyway and she listened in her heart as she rose.

The sense of it was this:

Would you like to see the stars again my friend?

Would you like the sun to shine again?

Would you like to be among the friends of men?

Then just follow the bounding stones aloft,

Just follow the bounding stones…

 

Of course, the singing said a great deal more than that. It spoke to her of immortal beings mired in madness set free. And she saw herself among the maddened mired immortals and wondered how, if she were immortal, she ever might have died. It spoke to her of frightening beings eons old who harbored strange appetites that they fulfilled in great feasts upon the mired mad immortals’ emotions. Once there had been, not a god, but many gods who gathered to cast off the oppression of the ancient ones and raise the spirits of new born beings in a sanctuary where they would not be consumed by the appetites of the ancient ones.

As she followed the song she could hear it in her heart and she knew it to be true. And the song filled her up with joy and wonder as she rose through the sky.

After awhile she grew tired of rising. The song still sang to her, but she had grown tired of listening to it, and so, though it impelled her upwards, her spirit was starting to drag her down. As a result, caught between her conflicting impulses, she began to travel laterally through the clotted sky, not yet distressed, but feeling as if she might become distressed soon.

After awhile she came upon a boy who was crying.

At first she heard only his sobs which came intermittently, loader and then softer. After another while she drew close enough to hear the softer crying that filled the voids between the sobbing. And then, she found the boy.

He might have been her age, but her judgement of such things was none too keen. He was about her size, and in other ways was like her too, dark of hair lean and limber, fine featured with smooth skin. Except, Maria’s skin still had a faint taint of her grave about it. She hurriedly wiped away tiny clots of mold and fungus and tried to spruce herself up a bit before letting the boy know she was there.

When she had done the best she could to fix herself up she quietly said ‘hello?’

The boy looked about and behind him, and then looked up, and saw Maria floating above him, slowly drifting down towards him.

‘Hello’ he tried to say, but it came out all blubbery and sullen at the same time, and sounded more as if he had said ‘hell.’

‘That’s a hell of a greeting!’ Maria managed to jibe. She was beginning to feel distressed. Particularly, she was feeling confused. But her confusion was mostly about her distress, which she wasn’t sure about. It didn’t feel like her own distress, not at all. Maybe it was the boy’s distress. She could feel her own distress if she concentrated on it, but it wasn’t that strong. The distress she was really feeling was much stronger, and not much like her own at all. So it must be the boy’s.

‘Stop it’ she said, ‘you’re upsetting me.’

‘Then go away’ the boy glowered.

But, try as she might, Maria just couldn’t go away. It was as if she were drawn to him by some irresistible invisible power.

‘I can’t go away, as much as I might like to, so please, stop crying, okay?’

‘I… I… I can’t. I can’t stop. Crying.’

‘But you have stopped. See?’

‘Oh yeah, huh!’

‘Thank you.’

‘For what?’

‘For not crying of course.’

‘Oh’

With his tears abated the distress Maria felt was waning. It seemed to come and go in waves in which it sometimes seemed the boy would soon burst into tears again. But eventually things got calmer and they began to talk.

The boy was sitting, sort of, in a shallow hollow in the middle of a large flat stone about which were the remains of stone columns bound together loosely by roses. The same roses held him loosely bound in place, and these had scratched him in places, some of which still seemed to be bleeding slightly.

‘You know, I can see you’ve been here awhile.’ Maria jibed again.

‘You noticed, huh.’

‘So what’s your problem?’

‘Well isn’t it obvious?’

‘No, it’s not, other than the fact that you seem to have grown roots here.’

‘That’s it, exactly.’

‘What’s it?’

‘I’ve grown roots!’

The boy squirmed and pulled gently away from the rock and Maria could see that the roses’ roots emerged from his thighs and buttocks, and that many of the roses stems sprouted from all over his body.

‘Ouch! Does that hurt?’

‘A little.’

‘Well I never…’

‘Well I never either!’

‘Hmmm…’

They discussed the possible virtues of finding a pair of pruning shears, as compared to trying to tear the roses out of his body, or perhaps try to burn or poison the roses somehow. But Roy, which was the boy’s name, was afraid to try anything of the sort.

‘But there must be some way out of this mess!’ Maria declared, frustrated with the Roy’s reluctance to harm the plants in any manner.

‘I don’t think so. I think I’m going to just stay here ‘til I’m so overgrown I can’t ever go anywhere again.’

‘Well, did you want to go anywhere.’

‘No.’

‘Then what’s your problem?’

‘I’m stuck here.’

‘But you didn’t want to go anywhere.’

‘But I’m stuck here!’

‘Ohhh…’ Maria blew off in frustration. ‘You are sooo exasperating!’

‘So help me, please?’

Maria thought about the problem… ‘Okay’.

‘Okay what?’

‘Okay, I’ll help you.’

‘Okay. How?’

‘Okay, I don’t know, okay? But, I’ll help you, okay?   I promise.’

Maria looked Roy over carefully.

‘It’s not as bad as you might think Roy.’

‘Really?’

‘No, see?’ she said, tugging on some of the roses. They came away in her hand.

‘A lot of these are just growing around you. The parts actually growing out of you aren’t all that much. They’re just tangled up with all the rest a bit, that’s all.’

Maria was meanwhile tugging away at various bits and pieces of the roses until finally Roy was free of all but a few shoots and roots sticking out of him here and there. Before Roy could react she broke the largest of these off by pinching the stem with her fingernails. It was hard to do, but she did it quickly enough that Roy didn’t have time to stop her.

‘That hurt!’ he pouted.

‘Well it’s good for you.’

‘Maybe.’

‘Baby.’

‘Hey!’

Maria was done pruning Roy and was trying to tear off some of his roots, but these were shorter and sturdier; Maria became afraid she might really hurt Roy if she stopped, so she went on.

‘Ow! Ow!   Owie! Ow! Ow! Owwwwwuh!’

Eventually she was done. Roy looked pretty funny with broken stems and stubs of roots sticking out of him here and there.

‘Well?’

‘Well what?’

‘Well, aren’t you going to thank me?’

‘Well?! my name is Roy, thank-you-very-much!’

Maria understood his feeble joke was all she was likely to get by way of thanks from Roy, but it would do. She felt happy for the first time in a long time, longer than she could really remember.

‘You’re welcome.’

‘No, I’m Roy! Let’s go!’

‘Where are we going?’

‘Anywhere, I don’t care, I just don’t want to become rooted in one spot again.’

‘No chance of that. You’ve got root spots sprouting out all over you!’

Roy scratched himself carefully all about his stems and roots. ‘Yeah, and they itch!’

‘Well let’s go!’ Maria said, holding out her hand.

‘Where?’

‘I thought you didn’t care.’

‘I don’t.’

‘So let’s go.’

Maria took Roy’s hand and pulled on it hard. Launching him upwards into the sky, she released his hand, sending him sailing. In a moment she leapt after him.

‘The world’s come undone.’ She said.

‘I’d noticed.’

They sailed onward into the heavens together.

‘Do you miss it?’

‘What?’

‘Whatever. Do you miss it?’

‘No.’

‘Me either.’

As they went further into the sky their way grew more difficult. There were fewer large clots of earth or clumps of rocks or stones to propel themselves by.

The song in Maria’s heart wasn’t growing any louder either, and she was beginning to get discouraged.

Below them the world still unraveled., The world was divided into two, the light and the dark. But the light was dimming, and was brightest close to one edge of the dark suppurating mass of the earth.

‘What are you humming?’

Maria hadn’t realized she was humming at all. In fact, she wasn’t.

‘Nothing.’ She replied.

‘But, I hear you.’

‘You hear the song too?’

‘It’s not a song really, more like humming. I thought it was you.’

‘Well I’m not humming. Can you make out what the song says?’

‘No. It’s not a song. It doesn’t mean anything.’

‘But it does mean something.’ Maria said with conviction. And she began to tell him some of the story of the song.

‘So then the new born spirits and those a little older, and a few of the oldest, who were kind, all got together and mad a pact. With their pact they built the earth and all the heavens about it. Under the earth they hid the way to hell, which connected the earth to the old world of the ancient ones. They knew that as long as there was knowledge of the old world the new world would be in peril, so as part of the pact they forgot how they created the earth and everything about it. But their memories of the old world persisted in spite of their best efforts to forget them or repress them. Their memories were part of what bound everyone and everything together, and as long as they continued to stay together their memories threatened to return to imperil them. Soon they forgot even more. Eventually they forgot how to speak or think or even who they once were or what they once had been.’

‘So did they forget enough?’

‘I don’t think so. But, they forgot enough for awhile. Eventually they created new cultures and new languages and began to build new homes for themselves in their new world. But for a long time, while they were busiest forgetting themselves, they lived like animals. In fact, some of them were animals. Others were rocks or trees or dirt or water. To build the earth everyone had to give a part of themselves to the world. They did this by time-sharing. For awhile they might be a rock or a turtle or a breeze or a current or something. At other times they could be a plant or a creature or a person. There were a lot of different kinds of people then, more than there are now. The people got together in families, clans, tribes and nations and developed new cultures. But, throughout these times, there were always a few who remembered. And, drawn to those who remembered were the emissaries of the ancient ones.

The ancient ones’ emissaries found their way into the world through the minds and hearts of those who still remembered them. Their feelings and fears, particularly their fears, attracted them. The emissaries made bargains with some of those who remembered them and went to war against the others trying to force all who remembered them into pacts with themselves so that they could sunder the new earth’s defenses and invade it in force. They liked the earth. They considered it very creative and entertaining, and wanted to exploit it to feed their monstrous appetites. The ancient ones’ emissaries lost their war, but they managed to retain followers and servants on earth in spite of their loss. Among those who did battle with their emissaries there were arguments, and war broke out among them, weakening them.

A faint clamoring interrupted Maria’s recitation. It sounded like a gong or bell. As it rang Maria and Roy sought for it, following it’s peals and tones. They came to a place somewhat like a glade, encircled by glowing trees and loosely carpeted with grass and heather. In the glade two monkeys played, one with a gong, the other with a bell. There was a rhythm of sorts that emerged from their play, though neither seemed to play to any rhythm whatsoever. And as their rhythm reached it’s moments of coincidence a shimmering appeared and vanished in the space between the playing monkeys. The shimmering grew lighter and darker, fainter and stronger as the pace of the monkeys’ play accelerated. Down from the trees came swarms of monkeys, dancing silently closer and closer to the shimmering. As their dance melded with the playing monkeys’ rhythms the shimmering began to grow, until at last, it engulfed all the monkeys, and the players too. With a sudden silence their playing stopped. In less time than Maria and Roy’s eyes could blink, they all vanished.

‘Now what do you suppose that was all about?’ each asked the other at once.

‘I don’t know.’ They both replied, searching about for any trace of the missing monkeys, or their bell and gong. Where the monkeys had played were two circles of clover. In each place were a pair of sticks tied together by a thong through holes drilled in their ends. The sticks were clear, straight and polished in appearance, and nearly smooth. But, all over, they were scarred with tiny dents from being knocked together. In length they were less than the span from either Maria or Roy’s wrist to elbow, but not much less than that. One of each pair was of a dark wood like walnut, while the other was a lighter wood, perhaps maple or oak or ash.

‘Nunchackas!’ Roy cried.

Rhythm rods.’ Maria answered back.

Nunchackas! Nunchackas! Nunchackas!’ Roy repeated, picking up the pair that lay before them.

‘Rhythm rods! Rhythm rods! Rhythm rods!’ Maria retorted rapidly as she strode to the further circle of clover and picked up the remaining pair of sticks.

‘Nunchackas!’ ‘Rhythm rods!’ ‘Nunchackas!’ ‘Rhythm rods’ ‘Nunchackas!’ the two repeated in rhythm with each other. The sticks seemed to quiver and tremble in their hands. Neither Maria nor Roy could tell how they began to beat the rods, one upon each other. It happened almost as if by the will of the rods themselves, as if of their own accord.

The children played the sticks seemingly forever, as the sky grew quickly darker and lighter in ever-faster cycles until the world around them blurred. With a ‘Pop!’ their play came to a sudden stop, and the sticks could not be brought together to strike each other again, however hard the Maria and Roy tried to compel them to do so.

Somewhat dizzy and fatigued they slowly took notice of their surroundings. They stood leaning against each other, arms clasped about each others’ shoulders loosely, each looking over the back of the other at a silent gathering of monkeys who ringed them ‘round and about in a circle, standing statue-still.

Suddenly the monkeys dispersed in all directions into the dark trees around them and the stars shone forth in all their glory in a clear night sky. The heavens they gazed upon were unlike any either had ever looked upon before. A bright orange-red nebulous mass of gas resembling a giant piece of popcorn filled a span of space that could just barely be covered by an open out-stretched hand, not far above the horizon.

The clover beneath their feet was rooted firmly in a solid bed of earth. This world, at least, had not yet come unbound.

As they stood there in silent wonder the world about them began to fade away, and they soon found themselves back in the glade where they first discovered the monkeys playing, where all about them the trees glowed and the earth slowly continued to come unbound.

They untangled themselves from their awkward embrace. The rods in their hands had pulled themselves so far apart from one another that the thongs binding them were as taught as bowstrings.

As Roy and Maria held these wondrous sticks up to show each other the tension of their thongs, they brought the sticks together, one pair against the other. The pairs of rods clapped together as if they were magnets, and the tension went out of the thongs as they did so. Pull as they might, the children could not get them to come apart from each other, and so they stood there perplexed, until Maria thought to untie the thongs and make new pairs of the rods. They undid the bindings of the thongs at one end each, and retied the thongs through the others’ rods to make two separate pairs. And although the sticks still could not be brought apart, neither child could part with their new pair, in hope that they would play again someday.

So, as they left the glade, each kept a pair of the sticks, which they carried by the loop of thong, which they wrapped about their left wrists. Clambering through the trees they paused briefly at the top of the tallest before launching themselves out into space again. Thus they resumed their ascent into the sky.

‘What do you suppose they are?’ Maria wondered aloud, whirling her pair of sticks about on the end of their thong.

‘They’re travelling sticks, of course!’ Roy replied, although he new nothing of the sort and wanted only to put a name to them and sound knowledgeable.

‘Travelling sticks indeed! I suppose you can tell me how you know that?’

‘Well what else would they be?’

‘I wish I knew.’

As if in answer the song in her heart seemed to grow louder and Maria recited it to Roy as they drifted aloft.

‘Know your rhythm… Make your meter… Keep in time… and sing in rhyme… Steps won’t falter on the altar, create yourself in place and climb. Through the doorway of the pattern make yourself with will in matter… Place yourself quite still and patter… Warp the woof and leave the latter for the space that you will shatter.

Mind your muse and go a-calling… in rhythm trust while ever falling… to the place where bells are tolling… spells are answered by the question… Where were we tomorrow?’

“That’s silly. And, it doesn’t all rhyme.’

‘Some rhyme is made of time.’

‘That’s meter!’

‘So I said.’

‘Do you remember the monkeys playing Maria?’

‘Sort of, but it’s not easy to remember, it tries to slip away whenever I try to remember the rhythm of it.’

‘Exactly, I can’t really remember it either. But we played it once.’

‘Or the sticks played it.’

‘Or did we play the sticks?’

‘We played the sticks, but they seemed to play themselves.’

‘We got caught up in the monkeys’ rhythm, it drew us to their moment, wherever it was they went.’

‘But why didn’t we stay there?’

‘Perhaps we didn’t play it right.’

‘Or perhaps we didn’t belong.’

‘Where do we belong Maria?’

‘I don’t know but I know where I’m going.’

‘And where is that?’

‘Up.’

As she spoke the last word they collided with a soft mass of tangled vines. It was nearly completely dark and though they clambered upon and through the vines for a long time they seemed unable to come out of them at all. At last they paused to rest awhile.

‘Do you ever feel sleepy any more Maria?’

‘No, it’s as if I were sleeping already, and this world is all a dream.’

‘I still get sleepy, but I’m afraid to sleep. I’m afraid I’ll be rooted in spot again.’

‘Have you slept at all since everything began to come undone?’ Maria asked.

‘Only once, when I woke up I was rooted in place. I don’t want to sleep again, but I’m afraid I will fall asleep again anyway. I’m already very tired.’

‘Perhaps you can just float in the air, then there will be nothing to become rooted to.’

‘That’s how I fell asleep before. Haven’t you noticed? If you just float adrift for any length of time you eventually wind up somewhere, no matter what, as if you pull a place to you somehow.

‘I’ve been on the move too long to notice, ever since I woke up.’

‘Were you sleeping when everything began to come undone.’

‘In a way…’

‘Were you…’

‘Dead.’

‘I think I was dead too’

‘So instead of pushing up daisies, with you, everything’s coming up roses?’

‘Pretty funny for a dead girl, aren’t you?’

‘So you don’t remember how things began to come undone either.’

‘No, I remember the very beginning, it was shortly before I died.’

‘I died a long time ago, I think…’

‘What do you remember?’

As the darkness completely enveloped them they talked on into the night, resting languidly among the tangled vines that surrounded them. Somehow they didn’t need to struggle with words with one another as the spoke in metaphor and simile about their experiences being dead. They were never able to come to very clear definitions about anything, for they agreed that their experiences were beyond words. But they told each other familiar stories and drew comfort in their common experiences.

When the light came they were rested and ready to be on their way. Both felt lighter and brighter than they ever had before. When they could look about themselves clearly they discovered themselves to be in a deep well they seemed to have made by falling down through the vines as if weighing them down, which seemed odd, since they felt themselves to be weightless. But looking overhead their path was clear, and they were able to push off the yielding mass of vines below them well enough to slowly drift out of their vineyard bower and on into the sky.

‘Did the night seem very long to you Roy?’

‘Just about forever.’

‘Me too.’

‘And yesterday, Maria, did the day seem rather long as well?’

‘Nearly forever.’

‘Yeah’

‘What’s up with that?’ They asked each other in unison.

‘I don’t think the old rules of astronomy apply to worlds that have come undone.’ Maria ventured. ‘I mean look, how could they? We seem to have lost any real gravity. It was gravity that kept the heavens in motion and created night and day.’

‘Uh, huh. And besides, we aren’t floating in a vacuum, yet we’ve traveled upwards through the sky so long I’m sure we should have left the atmosphere by now.’

‘Uh huh, what’s up with that?’

‘I don’t know, but look around, we seem to be travelling through layers of open air and vines.’

Maria and Roy floated upward between two layers of vegetation in a vast sea of air that was nearly free of any debris except cloud-like clots of plants that floated here and there in the ocean of air. As they watched they saw that these layers of plants moved slowly, forming bumps and depressions that burst open to release a clot of plants which slowly sailed away. The depressions and bumps appeared to be caused by light winds. As they approached the layer overhead they drew near an ascending clot of plants that rose toward a funnel shaped gap that rose through the layer overhead. As they drew closer to the rising clot a weak wind drew them in towards the clot.

‘This clot will plug the funnel up!’ Roy cried.

‘We’ve got to get ahead of it!’ Maria answered.

As they passed close to the clot they grasped trailing vines. Tugging on these they propelled themselves upward toward the top of the mass of plants. As the clot began to wedge itself into the funnel-like opening above they pushed off from it’s spongy yielding mass and drifted ahead of it up through the funnel’s tunnel. The breeze that had drawn them in toward the funnel was cut off as the plug settled into the bottom of the hole, leaving them in a gloomy well. Far above, at the top of the well a circle of light could be seen. As they rose through the well the sides converged all about them. Although they were surely nearing the opening of the well to the air above, the well opening appeared to be shrinking.’

‘Roy, I think, without the breeze blowing through here the tunnel is collapsing.’

‘I hope we make it to the top before it closes over completely.’

And they did, but it was a close thing.

As they emerged the sky grew lighter all about them, and they immediately felt fresher, filled with energy. The cycles of light and dark had been passing ever more quickly as Maria and Roy wandered away into the sky, so that eventually the distinction between the phases had blurred. The light no longer seemed to come from anywhere in particular. The layers of plants above them seemed to cut off as much light as did those below them.

‘Where does the light come from?’ Maria wondered.

‘There can’t be any sun for this unbound world. It would blow itself apart for lack of gravity to hold it together.’

‘Yet the light must come from somewhere.’

‘Ow!’ Roy exclaimed, quickly sticking a finger in his mouth to suck the blood from a tiny wound. ‘I’ve pricked myself on a thorn!’

‘Let me look.’

Maria examined Roy and found that new shoots and roots of roses had sprouted from about his body, and a few of these had grown out enough to bear thorns and tiny closed rosebuds. She quickly trimmed the worst of these away, except for one rather long one she particularly fancied that grew from the back of his jaw, up and over his left ear, which she thought was sort of dashing.

‘Well, the good news is you seem to have absorbed the old broken off stems and roots. The bad news is you’ve come up with a new crop in their place.’

Roy looked at the bits and pieces she had plucked away and a tear came to his eye.

Maria pretended to ignore the tear, but she thought she knew what it was for. It was like Roy was losing a part of himself, something more precious than the actual bits and pieces, something which the bits and pieces had, for the moment at least, come to represent. When he tried to stuff them in his pocket Maria took them away. Giving him one tiny unopened rosebud she cast the rest away without explanation. Roy seemed momentarily shocked then relaxed and accepted the act for what it was, a kindness. After all, he managed to think to himself, one wouldn’t collect fallen out hairs and nail parings, now would they?

The cast off bits and pieces drifted away, spreading out and diffusing as they went until they wers as thin as smoke and as large as small clouds. These small clouds evaporated into the thin air, disappearing with a faint melodious twinkling sound that seemed to become part of the song Maria heard. As she listened more intently the song swelled up within her heart a tiny measure until she could just barely make out some meaning in it once more.

‘The song is telling about how the world is woven. It’s singing something about warps and wefts and weaves. Our lives were lived on the surface of a tapestry and now we’ve somehow sunk below the surface and are travelling the raveling threads of space and time. Only they unravel as they ravel, so that things are constantly coming apart to come together. We’ve traveled far into space and time in just a short journey through the woof. If we travel sidereally through the thickets we can find new worlds.’

‘Cool, I wonder what kind of worlds are out here.’

‘Impressions of Earth mostly, we haven’t come that far I think.’

The song sang on about probabilty vectors and manifestation densities and Maria quickly lost interest in trying to puzzle out the abstruse meanings. As if in response to her waning interest the song faded away leaving only a last brief impression of something to be found in the thickets overhead.

‘I think we should try travelling sideways through the foliage, I have the feeling there’s something in there we could find.’

‘What another band of traveling monkeys?’

‘No, something cold and hot and shiny.’

The plants overhead loomed closer and as the two approached they felt something within twist and shimmer, so that they began to feel lighter and looser. The thicket of plants seemed to grow thicker, while the children felt themselves growing thinner, until at last, instead of striking the nearlry solid tangled wall of foliage they passed through it, feeling strange shapes within themselves as the passed into the tightly woven mass of plants.

The feeling something both hot and cold bewildered them at first. They concentrated upon the odd sensation and contracted themselves inward toward the contrary sensations they sought.

Maria and Roy found themselves in an empty hollow within the woven plantsss and discovered the source of the hot/cold feelings. A long narrow needle shaped spacecraft that swelled slightly toward it’s middle turned slowly in a sky full of stars that shone from every direction. As it turned the chilly shadowed side into the bright light of a nearby star Maria and Roy could feel the cold and heat travelling through the skin of the spacecraft.

‘We could just walk in, almost’ Roy whispered

‘Almost,’ Maria answered.

‘But we would be noticed’

‘that wouldn’t be… right?

‘No, their world hasn’t come undone, they would be upset to see us here.’

Looking into the spacecraft Maria saw the astronauts frozen in cryogenic life support systems. Only two of the crew seemed awake. These were going about the ship looking at gauges and monitors, comparing them with data on remote hand-held devices. An alarm began to sound and critical displays began to flash; the astronauts went into actiom, diving for restraining harnesses as collision alerts warned them of some, as yet, unseen threat.

 

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