'Gravity's Revolt or; Now tis in his throate! / I, I perceive it plaine. / 'Twill out! 'Twill out; stand cleere. See, where it flies!'

And the world raged around them, incessant and malevolent, the earth howled and the wind shook and they thought this was to be their end. Mountains trembled and fell, oceans rose and crashed, sleet blew and the thunder spoke the death knell of the lives they once knew. All over chaos reigned and the people trembled in their skins. Those great cities, reified and pulsing, fought tooth and limb and were overcome.  In the early days their science brought them much comfort, hidden away in radiant fortresses, so revered for their responsiveness, so relied upon for their intelligence, and all the more hastened to their destruction.  To respond and react was one thing, then, but to cope was another matter, for the world had lost its agency.  Its populace had become enabled and hamstrung, that ingenuity had escaped them and left them destitute.  Further attempts at righting historic ailments were beset by despondence and overwhelmed by forces that had been neglected and since divorced from.  The people would gather in small bands, cowering under such structures as they could fashion made to face the ends that each small group could fathom.  Here an inhabitable instrument that sheltered thousands, only to be torn asunder by elements outside of the instrument’s measure.  There, a machine that housed a multitude, only to crumble by the onslaught of powers greater than an automaton's programming.  All around, a great efflorescence against the almighty march of the inevitable.

--

And yet, life remained. Humankind was not of such ilk to disappear quietly into the night unheard. There were those who had harbored in themselves a quantity of themselves hitherto unknown.  A smattering, spread across the globe, had crept silently among the rocks, gathering what they could salvage, using long forgotten impulses, to build small, earth­bound shells against the onslaught.   Squirreled away in the dark corners of this ill begotten rock, they assembled their life rafts of an unholy sort.  Bizarre compendiums of metal and earth; they lived on yet.  A few of these managed to slip erstwhile into the sea and lay dormant and embryonic under heaving ocean waters.  Homunculi built up over generations and their escape may yet come to pass.

--

And the unending steam billowed forth in tumults of blue, ravaging what little land still gasped for the air above the waters. Drowned, this little mote of dust in the cosmos had returned to its most balanced state.  The skies may have ceased to rumble in exhaustion and the shaking crust may tremor no more.  Equilibrium has finally come at long last.

--

And then they burst from the firmament of that bedeviled earth, sailing beyond starlight, ejected from a mote of dust suspended on a sunbeam, off toward an as-yet  fabled future that could haunt them all. Swaddled in fear, they grew dimly aware of the vast chasm of their alienation and commenced to rebuild themselves to a more Universal means.

--

And so, generations on, we overcame our neurochemical selves.  We would feel our many mastered genomes coursing through newly incorporated molecules into the singsong swelling of a new habitation. Our words and culture and technology would weave together and substantiate a new individuation, billowing out into our new home between the stars.

'which belongs to the category of lipograms'

The medical ward ran low and long across the ridge on the outskirts of the shimmering city.  It swept across the landscape in sensual curves, here the turn of a lower lip, there the sweet arc of a breast.  Seamless as shark skin, it seemed perfectly evolved, as though it had come into this world fully formed in its perfection.  One was unable to grasp its origins, to comprehend its purpose or function, but was left in awe of it nonetheless.  Tomlin walked towards the shadow, if one could even call it that, of the edifice and could feel its brightness, the light of progress radiating from some gland of that seamless skin.  

A large swooping tendril loomed over his approach, and yet still offered no sense of entry, no sense that it deigned to register his presence although he was sure somehow that he had not gone unnoticed.  At his side crept his own shadow, real and full of the depth and richness only true darkness can bring.  He sensed that it was this darkness, this depth, that sent waves of ersatz warnings ringing through the hollow cores of that hall of knowledge, that beacon of hope.  As he made this mental note, he felt a slight breeze, as gentle as a caress, flutter across his face from the left.  Turning, after a tenuous deliberation and fear, he saw that the wall had recessed several feet from a point that was imperceptible from where he stood.  At first he thought it odd, but the longer he looked, the more the ward made it seem as though it had always been there.  That there had been no change, no possible alternative.  

Tomlin reeled slightly in his confusion but gradually allowed himself to be convinced that he had been wrong and the ward to be infallible.  His shadow and he ventured a step in the direction of this aperture and he noted that it was the merest of slits in the grand form but still wide enough to allow three people to stand abreast within.  Unlike most apertures, this had no shadow lines, no sense of a beyond and yet it pulsed ever so slightly with an even white light from within.  Edging nearer, Tomlin smelled at the air cautiously and could only think of it to be scented of stainless steel.  He thought with vague direction that this was the only odor the place could be made from.  An even smell without nuance or crevice, without points of weakness or entry.  Solid.  Featureless.  His fear came rushing, screaming, pounding, eating at his senses.  His hands and fingers locked rigidly at his sides, palms out slightly raised so that he looked as though an idol or apostle awaiting the creed of a greater god, perhaps the one sprawled so languidly before him.  Through no particular will of his own, he was propelled forward, feet following his shoes rather than shoes after feet.  The threshold seemed to buzz after him as it stood immense and light.  Though he knew it didn't move, his now streaming eyes made it seem to flutter.  To his horror he felt his shadow's depth growing dim as he moved forward.  He could see it crumpling from within, losing itself, biting at the ground, determined to stay rooted to that earth, that soil.  And there, just at the threshold of the ward, his shadow's grip failed and vanished and he passed through with a scream caught at the edge of his throat.

'or fans in asylums spin a loom of fate'

During the third stage of the transmutational encryption, Marie felt an odd shift in her temporal reflexor which triggered a small response in the left dorsal mediator that felt…strange.  One of her eyelids twitched involuntarily and without purpose. She couldn't think of anything else to do, so she shook her head left and right one or twice, very quickly. In doing so, she inadvertently dislodged her miniscule cortical inducer, causing damage that would haunt her through what would be the final few hours of her considerably long life. Unfortunately for her, the malfunction was also enough such that she was incapable of registering that that single alteration, would indirectly lead to her imminent demise.  Marie then ignored this strange feeling and waved away the encryption device and stood up.  The device wheeled away on a particulate breeze, alighting to find its next check-up, disappearing into the iron grey sky above her.   Marie considered her options, blinking in a strange new way that must have been part of her update; she considered briefly that this would be rather annoying to get used to.  After taking mere seconds to accept her new protocol, she took off at a leisurely lope towards the supply station.

Sensor gates whirred in a dull manner over her head, of which she took no notice.  The units buzzed faintly, but she did not reflect that it seemed as though they spoke to her, to each other.  The thought did not occur to her that she was strolling through sometime alive and connected, for truly it was not a conception of ‘alive’ she was capable of understanding.  She did not register her enmeshed connection to this settlement from which she did not know she was not capable of escaping.

Rounding her third corner absently and with the practiced ease of habitual routine, she was startled to see groups of people darting swiftly towards the supply table.  Only one man within the reach of her perceptual augments was not making the bounding strides with the others and for the second time that day, she felt…strange.  He wore an emotion on his face that she could not quite distinguish and it annoyed her for its recalcitrance. Marie rolled her eyes and confidently strode over to the table, swept up the vial that materialized, and gulped down its contents.  She lingered only for a second or two longer than she normally would have, and thought, perhaps, she shouldn't have ingested that.

You will wake into the heartless darkness of the world and feel fear.  It will come flying across eons to find you curled here in this fetal escape, tarnished and magnificent.  You will at first wear it as armor.  Swaddled in fear, you will wield demons from your lips.  It will abandon you until your throat opens.  You will swallow it and taste the acrid burning coursing through turnip veins and it will rebuild you.

Marie turned to find the man with the recalcitrant face, only to find a vacuum in his wake.  Her perceptual augments picked up this vacuum trail of recalcitrance leading off between various fabrication units, enticing her to follow.  Without her cortical inducer intact, she surprised herself by unexpectedly setting off after him. She walked a unknown route through the settlement that had been her home for nearly a generation, noting required repairs that would need to be reported before they became too egregious to patch.  She wondered who the monitor was in this sector, and the thought flashed briefly that it was the man with the recalcitrant face, but was replaced due to its absurdity.  She took a deep breath, not being accustomed to having absurd thoughts, and re-focused her augments to a different frequency in order to maintain control and subsequently lost his track.  She looked up to note her nearest sensor gate so that she might research this in a moment of spare time later in the week, a moment that would never come.

Suddenly, the neuronal capacitors in her gut flared and the minute strangeness she had felt earlier came barreling back into focus, overpowering any and all fail-safes and corpus callosum checkpoints.  It was a mental onslaught of proportions she could not conceive, hammering relentlessly and with a cadence more severe than any override could maintain.  It made her eyes feel sour and hot, her lips cracked and salty, her breath ragged and shallow.  Marie reeled and sat down hard into the stony dirt. She tore wildly at her pouch and pulled out the vial from the supply station, and struggled to read its description.  Her eyes settled on the phrase ‘medical trial’ just as she lost consciousness.

A criminal wave of carnal pain will rip you in two.  It will leave you split asunder, clawing at life like a seed fighting the wind, attempting in vain to stay rooted and safe under the soil.  You will be scattered on the breeze, fragments of your meat brain fleeing from one another as terror drives small bands of birds apart like strangers. You will lose it all and be the fool who is none the wiser that you may come up again, perennial and menacing.

'Go to, it is a plague / That Cupid will impose for my neglect / Of his almighty dreadful little might.'

The iron grey sky above him had not changed in tone or texture for three days.  It provided him no hint of rolling clouds or that distant orb that had once heated the ground upon which he stood.  Before setting off over the hillside, he kicked vacantly at the cold stony ground and wondered if the sky would change before he made it back to the forward engineering unit.  That is, if it ever changed.  Sighing through his thin lips, he trundled along, heavy in his gear and heavy in his heart under the hermetic sky.  Vacant thoughts and minor voices roiled around his inner ears as he walked along, the loudest of which was the one that he did not want to hear.  It bit at his mind, day in and day out, taking chunks away to be sequestered there with those other persistent thoughts.  He imagined that this gnawing consumption of his brain had some primeval origins, perhaps something to protect him, some kind of force other than logic and amplifiers.  But then, just as he would be considering the antithesis of logic, those exact amplifiers and condensers would whirr to life and re-orient his mind.  A fail-safe, they called it.

See the man wonder.  See the wonder lost among stones of progress.  Frayed and fragile husks left tearing themselves to pieces longing for the lustful wonderment of a child.  See the man look for the child.  See the child fleeing as a shadow from the sun.  The ever-creep of light.  

Stopping before the great white wall of the Unit, he chewed his bottom lip for a moment before passing through the brilliantly silver sequence of the sensor environment gates.  The amplifiers pressed deeply into the creases of his meat-brain rang out in a cadence that he thought resembled some kind of electric aria, and sounded a final metallic chord to signal his entry.  Another sigh rolled from between his dry lips, as his gaze wandered among the clumps of men and women, willing transplants each, working steadily and with dogged focus on whatever mundane task the Unit required of them at the time.  To his immediate left, three statuesque men were guiding the replacement of the overhead sensor gates with the fluid ease of perfection and an easy chatter amongst them, brilliantly white teeth glittering occasionally through taut young mouths that sat squarely in symmetrical faces.

Feel the bile rise.  Feel a curling blue flame licking at the base of the spine, stealing that hot wet breath from between broken teeth.  Smell the noise rattle in your brain, fully formed cruelties singed and cooking about the corners of the mouth.  Ready at an instance to flow raging as a river of tar might devour weeds and the ephemera of men. 

He continued his trundle down the main thoroughfare, glancing up occasionally to note that fictional sky above them all.  For a fleeting moment, he considered that the others were unaware of its fictitious nature.  More likely that they simply did not care.  A flurry of motion to his right re-oriented his attention towards the supply station.  A few others had rushed the console in anticipation of a new delivery.  The quick dispatch screen showed a pile of silver-white, nearly translucent pills sitting next to a clear vial containing a multitude more.  The label on the vial read "Polymer 100."  A man chortled in glee as the first of the vials materialized on the console only to be snatched up in quick succession by the nearby settlers.  Without so much as a passing thought, they shoveled the pills into gaping mouths at a speed that made him reel.  They had not even had time to read the small, nearly unintelligible, description that flashed briefly alongside the image of the vial on the dispatch screen.  He blinked rapidly trying to follow and could only make out a few clips and phrases.  "Full immersion" followed by "total freedom" and "clinical trial."  He stared at those who we finally dispersing after their gluttonous display, faces all as blank as eggs.

Taste the nausea.  Smell the sour at the back of the tongue. Feel the deep fear and anxiety rise as water in a deluge.  The flood in the brain that sprang from the gut.  The feedback loop of dirty water in dirty crevasse, sinking down deeply to flow back again.  Seething and filled with a terror that eats, a terror that burns under muscle tissue, a terror that moves.  Feel the breathing coming ragged, throat scratching, eyes seared.  Clenched teeth no longer rattle in the skull.