I wake and find myself holding Gomer's genitals. How this came about I don't know. Gomer waits for me to sit up then tells me we traveled far.
"Did we reach the Theisen?"
Tenku, sitting with his back to us, answers, "No. Not yet."
"Do you journey with us? I think you're there but you're not."
They leave me. I check my recorder. Nothing of the hallucination has been recorded. Then I am chilled.
Tenku spoke with his back to us. The normal postures were ignored.
What has happened? What have I done?
The nanny, Hepob, has taken on the task of feeding me.
Tenku has awoken me. We go to the edge of our Tower closest to the other. The ground is uneven and churned here. If there were more moisture it would be muddy. The sun has risen enough to heat the two plains of the Towers of God. Gomer joins us. There is a great mist rising from the altiplano table and atmospheric venting is creating a turbulence between the Towers. It reminds me of a high speed oil and water separation. I can make out the other Tower through the turbulence but not enough to determine details. The wind gusts up the edge of this Tower and the other like the updrafts beside some coastal shelf.
There is a rumbling in my gut. All the males join us, all of them Gomer's age or older. The only other males in the village are prepubescent kids and those not yet off the teat.
How old do they think I am?
I still don't know how old Gomer is. As more and more older billies join us, the rumbling grows. It feels like a sonogram with too much power. The billies are panting. No, I see now they are taking rotary breaths.
Are they purring? Is that the sound I feel? They line the churned earth, leaving a great center space between them. My god it's deafening.
They all face the other Tower. All the males seem joined in this chorus. The earth, this Tower, quakes beneath us. The mist clears in a column, as if some great tube were being laid between this one and the other, a passageway with invisible walls. The mist rises around it but does not pierce it.
This passage, this sonocasting, grows warm, although no sunlight penetrates the thickening cloud.
There is another rumbling, another purring, an answering chant, from the other Tower and, as I watch, the young billies start to come across.
Some walk although it is clear they are afraid. Some run. Others leap. Some leap but not through the passage and you hear their separate cries ascend the Towers as they descend to their deaths.
A few walk and show no fear. Some hold onto others, some help others.
They are braver than I.
"What is going on?" I ask Tenku.
He doesn't answer, his concentration on his breathing, on the direction of his voice, his eyes holding onto the passageway their song has made between the Towers.
The translator is failing so I use it sparingly. The recorder I use because I can. I will take a guess and record the date as 916015.
Funny how much lighter these units have become without The Merrimack to power them. The mists cleared. The earth is churned more than before due to the leaping and running of the young billies. Most of the elder billies have gone, as have all of the young. There is no more rumbling. I peer over the edge of the Tower and make out the bodies of those who didn't make it.
Tenku is staring at me.
"What happened here? What was this?" He grabs my genitals. I don't know if that is the answer, but it is the only response I get.
He doesn't seem surprised by them. I am surprised at the gentleness of his touch. They must seem a child's, weak and ineffective in his hands. How did an ancient Hebrew oath rite find its way here, I wonder.
Back in the village, Hepob offers me the same porridge as when I arrived. It tastes slightly different and I see scrapings of the black root in it.
After I eat, I rest.
I slept long and deeply, yet my sleep was fogged by dreams as thick as the altiplano's Aguirran gnats. I no longer know how reliable or intelligible this redaction has become.
I remember several dreams, although only a few clearly. In one, I was back at the ship. Sanders, Galen, Tellweiller, and Nash walk through me and past me as if I don't exist, nor can they hear me even though I scream at them. The Old Ones have advanced. The Merrimack was called home.
In one dream, I watched Galen and Tellweiller on one of Dave's C3I monitors, then realized I was Dave watching the monitor. This wasn't a common dream, where you know who you are and have a sense of yourself no matter what you are in the dream. Here, I was more a passenger along for the ride; not David Sanders, but able to experience his environment, thoughts, and emotions along with him. Not a pleasant journey. He seems a lonely, fearful man.
On the monitor, I watched Tom ask Bob if he'd like to join him in a little exploring. "Care to come along?" I sat with Dave in C3I as they finished lunch in the Common. Dave tapped in the commands for a two-way screen split and zoomed a separate window onto each man's face. His eyes, always quick, looked down and over his nose at the images on the screen. They went out of focus momentarily and he "hmmed," bridging his fingers against his mouth and nose. His eyes still out of focus, he titled his head back further, just enough so he could see the tip of his nose in the foreground of their faces. This is an unconscious habit he has when talking to people.
As the two men cleaned up their table and left the Common, Dave adjusted the Eyes to follow them out of the ship. They hadn't travelled far when they stopped. Without even looking for any remotes or robotics, they fell into each other's arms, laughing and giggling, pulling off their suits and, making themselves comfortable against each other, finally ... finally I looked away, not so much embarrassed as wanting to afford them their privacy. My only thought was "How could they have kept this secret so long?"
Dave continued to watch and I felt him dissociate, fighting to have no emotions, finally losing so that the only emotion he had was disgust and even this one he denied himself. In the end, Dave made a note in his log about each of them and included a special adjunct to talk privately with Bob. Dave, I now realize, lives by the book because he is terrified to do otherwise. Within those paper-thin walls he is safe. Outside of them he is open to the attacks with which he attacks others. Seeing others outside the book is a threat to him, a constant reminder of what he has not.
Nash, brown hair and beard, brown eyed, tall and heavy, leaves The Merrimack, calling Bob and Tom back to the ship before the storms come. I watch him through Sanders' eyes then suddenly am him and suddenly realize he tends to direct his words towards some space over people's heads.
Tom and Bob return and I am them, my mind hearing both their words and their thoughts, feeling their emotions, moving their bodies, and I note as I-Bob answers Nash that I-Bob tends to look over our head as if to read our words as if they appear in the old style cartoonist's speech ballons. Although I was never conscious of it before, I now understand I thought this gazing was due to self-consciousness over a speech impediment which tended to leave certain words swimming in saliva back around his molars.
Back in the ship, my equipment looks foreign to me and there is a young billy dead in my chamber, lying on my couch.
In the next dream I am back on Earth, back in New York City. I meet an old lover there and, in the magic traveling of dreams, we are suddenly on the Towers. She is on the far one from me. She starts to walk towards me and I scream at her to wait, there are no billies with histories to create a bridge. I open my mouth and tears fall from my rasping Goatman tongue. The tears fall down the side of my Tower and swell into a rising mist. She leaps and falls. I do not hear her scream. I only hear her hit.
Then I am back home, in my apartment on Earth, and dream that I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I went into the bath and turned on the light. On my way to the toilet, I passed the mirror and looked into it. An Old One with my face stared back. I remember being terrified of it. The Toelitchte didn't recognize me and was angry, near enraged at me.
The last dream was the most vivid of all. I was somewhere on Aguirra, although I didn't know where exactly I was. There were massive trees before me, far grander in size and age than even the oldest Sequoias or any tree in any rain forests on any world. Yet they did not smell of forest floor. Instead the air reeked of human sweat, tears, and blood.
They talked to me. More correctly, they talked around me. I could not speak their words although I know they could understand mine.
"Who are you?"
They didn't answer. Or if they did I was unaware.
"What are you?"
No reply of which I knew.
"Talk to me," I shrieked.
Their branches ruffled. They made sounds in the wind. I looked up and could not see their tops, so high were they in the sky.
A great catlike creature, one of the ones Gomer mentioned to me, came out from behind one of the trees. It was more like a cross between a tiger and a bear, with the great lumbering body of some monstrous ursus yet the swiftness and retractile claws of a feline. Its eyes, also, were those of a cat. Its belly was white and the rest all brown, with small tufts of white at the tips of both ears.
It came at me. There was nowhere to run or hide and, in one breath, it was upon me. Its first swipe of those six toed claws opened me. The second broke through ribs. The next three cored me deeper and deeper until there was nothing left.
Then it left me there, bleeding on the ground, as it walked away. I felt other things, smaller things, tickling me and entering me. They were the roots and shoots of the trees, spreading through me as if I was the earth in which it grew. Suddenly I was one of those massive trees, looking down at myself on the forest floor.
Only it wasn't me I saw. Tenku was there, his body eviscerated as was mine, only mine was not to be found. The air changed its smell. I was engulfed by the black root.
That's what I remember of my dreams.
I will be more careful what I accept in my porridge.
I don't know how long I've been here at this point. I've been making records as often as I think to, always when I wake up, but have no idea of how long it has been. 33Hepob and all the other females of kid-bearing age are due soon, if not today. I wonder who Hepob's mate is, or if she even has one. For that matter, why are there only two sexes here? Why not one, or ten? There is a life form on Chalderon that was at first thought to use seven hosts before it could reproduce. We discovered too late there were seven sexes and each played a significant part in the fertilization and development of the embryo.
Unfortunately, only the last sex was sentient, and when your life cycle is several thousand years and your planet is colonized right before the end of your mating period?
It is too horrible to think about.
Tenku is here. It's black root time.