Epilogue

2028 AD

It’s 25 years after Ellie’s first encounter with the Vegan machine. She stares at the same door which opens to the gantry.

The containment field collapses, no longer isolated the door opens. The enigmatic sphere awaits at the end of the drawbridge.

For the last time she steps out of The Fishbowl.

Frank takes Ellie by the hand. He walks her across the gantry to the sphere. She turns, she smiles. Palmer stands at the door, safe in The Fishbowl. He is leaning against the door jam. He smiles.

“Send me a postcard,” he says.

“If I send you a cab fare will you come up and see me sometime?”

“Sure.”

Ellie struggles a little to walk away from the smile, but she does. Then she’s in the sphere and sees the door shut between herself and the world she is leaving behind. She tries flexing her will and she finds she can quite easily centre herself in the sphere.

She felt light.

Then there are stars.

She sets her sight on the constellation Lyra; fourth star on the right, and straight on till morning.

1452 AD

There is an exotic forest setting in a small clearing. Overhead, through intermittent towering clouds in an atmosphere that shimmers with gaseous fluidity is a sky emblazoned with faint stars and a striking nebula; a backdrop to a menacing vision. A moon, one quarter crescent white, and one quarter looming red like a hellish spectre. Baphomet’s eye peering down at the land with its nocturnal black reptilian iris.

The scene holds the essence of Eden refound, a homeworld that had reached and transcended the pinnacle of civilisation. Dense clouds meander across a scene devoid of sentient life.

A path leads into the lush verdure of the forest, which sways over its compacted line like a submarine algal understorey before it glances ricocheting off a cliff face. On the left is a drop into a canopy of white, on the right is a river that makes its final oblivious turn before its plummet. A bridge crosses the river. A cloud obscures the other side.

The bridge is of a suspension construction. It has a thin grey ribbon spanning it and is tethered by fine lines. The cloud moves on and reveals that the ribbon meanders past a dome, its smooth surface rising from the ground like a Monadnock. There is no outward sign of its inhabitants. The cloud moves again and the scene clears. There, beyond, rises an extraordinary construction; a gimbal machine that dwarfs the dome.

The inner annulus begins its rotation, the others join the dance and before long the system becomes a chaotic whirling dervish. The rings blur, the outer surface merges into an iridescent sphere.

“So my companion, we mark the epoch of many good ages. It has been memorable and I look forward to the next era,  but we’ve wandered far and stayed long. We have little time remaining here, the nearby red consumes itself. Let’s not carry regrets, let’s find our way home.”

“It’s coming, I have seen it. We should go, distinct as always, but this time you should go first and wait. I will find you soon, and  again we can explore.”

“Soon then.”

A ball at the pinnacle drops. It traverses the sphere like a drop of water might pass through a soap bubble without its bursting. It is captured and returned to its place at the peak of the armature. The ball drops again and rests. The gimbal freewheels for a very long while before coming to rest.

Its sleep remains undisturbed for a lifetime and a blink before its home is baked in red brilliance.

When the choice is made to leave this world the vessel must be left behind.

Two 18 hour recordings sit silent, waiting to be awakened.

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