Thursday, May 11, 2017

5/11/17

End of Uncertainty
By Frances Gow


The day the exploration robots landed and began scraping the surface of Grelathae for signs of life was the beginning of a new Age of Uncertainty.

Moon date: 24th of the 156th bypass.

Dr Wren says I should not be so obsessed with dates, as once we reach Earth, I will have no use for Grelathaean time. Waking from deep slumber, my joints groan with age, crystallised by the frost of a hundred-thousand moon passes. The waters run free now, defrosted by the humans’ robots. My kind has all but disappeared; those remaining were preserved in stasis, awaiting the End of Uncertainty. But our sleep was disturbed before time and most of us woke up too quickly to survive the transition.
Dr Wren lives on a moon called NASA. She talks to me from a distance and explains the rescue operation. I have to wonder why they feel the need to rescue us from our natural habitat. I have to wonder what kind of life they hope to provide for us on this place called ‘Earth’. The robots have flat faces with shiny moving pictures, which show me visions of Dr Wren and her people living on Moon NASA. We have conversations that go something like this;
“Brath, Brath? Can you hear me?” she says. We’re on first name terms now, you know.
“Sophia,” I say. Spoken through the translator, it sounds like the kind of gargle you get in the back of the gilleypipes when travelling through the moon rushes. “We’re fast moving into Uncertainty down here.”
Now, Uncertainty to a Grelathaean has a completely different meaning to Uncertainty in Dr Wren’s world. To us, it is the force of nature that allows us to be ourselves and to feed on the nourishment of the universe. Dr Wren says that such a complex organism should not be able to live so far beneath the surface of the planet and that we defy all known biological rules. How little she really knows about Uncertainty.
Most of the surface of Grelathae is ice, below which we have an intricate network of rivers, interconnected with swathes of ocean. The first Age of Uncertainty forced us to hunker down and live most of our lives beneath the surface. We sleep for sometimes two or three hundred moon passes at a time. I don’t think Dr Wren really understands. We don’t like being woken before our time; it makes us cranky. When the robots first landed and started drilling through the surface ice, some of my sisters pulled a couple of them under. Some unusual tasting minerals, but it meant that a few more of us survived the awakening.
During the first moon pass after their arrival, Dr Wren asked a great many questions. What did we look like, how did we feed, reproduce and breathe? I projected the images into the NASA moon and they duly returned some images of themselves; ugly looking creatures with snub noses and long bare limbs. But, who am I to rebuff their solicitous advances? We are after all in an Age of Uncertainty. I asked if she could send us some more robots; the first lot had tasted odd but were surprisingly satisfying. I didn’t hear from Dr Wren after that for at least three moon passes. We knew they were still up there, but maybe they didn’t want to share their robots.
“Brath. I’m securing the final location. We can take you on board and leave the robots to complete the cleanup operation,” she says. I should tell Dr Wren that her observations are quite correct. We are indeed able to live for thousands of years due to our uncannily slow metabolisms. I should also tell her that once awake and feeding, we could move faster than her NASA moon’s ability to observe and record us. I really should tell her.
The moment comes to leave the depths of our home, helped by the NASA moon. The humans learn a little too late what the Uncertainty Principal means in Grelathae. We rip through their moon, devouring the minerals like we haven’t eaten for a thousand passes; which is almost true. Dr Wren’s mouth hangs open. I loom in front of her like some phantom of her human nightmares. I wonder if some of her personality will be absorbed by my waves. I hope so; we have an understanding.
“Brath,” she says. A trail of smoke escapes her lips, carrying my name as though it really means something to her; maybe it does. “I guess we got the measurements wrong. The universe really is full of uncertainty.”
It seems that more of Dr Wren’s personality is preserved in my casing than even I or my brothers and sisters could have first anticipated. Indeed, we have all absorbed a little more ‘human’ waves than even Sophia had calculated. This moon is no longer in orbit. This moon, called NASA, is on a trajectory towards its home planet, Earth. We are going home.
We had a glut on robots when we first embarked on the NASA moon, but as time moves on, my brothers and sisters are wandering around sniffing at the flat-faced food source with increasing disgust. The robots prove more useful than simple nourishment as we discover how they can operate this moon and navigate it towards its resting port. How hungry we will be, once we finally reach our destination.


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I have previously been published in a variety of magazines, including: Liquid Imagination, Aurora Wolf, The Lorelei Signal, Bewildering Stories, The WiFiles, The New Accelerator, Electric Spec and New Realm. My first two novels have been published by Double Dragon Publishing.

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