The Last Days of Coloc
by Oonah V. Joslin
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4
Part 1: Day of The First
In the depths of the oceanic valleys there still was heat. The heat came from fissures in the Earth’s crust, ever spewing forth lava and bubbling plumes of smoky, gaseous fume that tunnelled upwards through the long, cold night of stilly waters. And there was light.
Coloc the Teller was in his prime. He looked down from DataDam as he rehearsed from sacred text and watched pilgrims make their annual way to this place of rituals. They streamed like a current through the valleys, up the mountainside.
Adults he had known as children were now grandparents. He sensed the hum of their communications even far distant and, as they got closer, he heard the babbling of the young ones. Their eyes and bodies glowed variously. They looked like a river of ever-changing light: optics burning a slow, rainbow procession into the hills.
When a great many were gathered, he went down to the meeting place, a great gouge of obsidian rock face cut into the mountainside, reading — intonation for intonation, as he had done in previous years, so that they might hear and remember the words of Abas, son of Onsy, son of Tegral.
The light emanated from creatures that few had ever seen and none had encountered; creatures which lived by their own light and feared no darkness. Flashes in the blackness heralded a shoal of swimming LEDs. Sudden white — a whiplash here; darting blue — a flash there; vermillion — changing; pink — a streak as of colour at the edge of perception. Neon, yellow, green, darting hither and thither beneath the Great Pacific Gyre.
“As I watched you all gather here,” he began his address, “these words of the sacred texts I read once more, and they seemed fresh and relevant.”
A clacking of pincers began in the crowd but Coloc waved as a signal to withhold applause.
“Today,” he said, “is the ‘Day of the First’ when we celebrate the first Technopolymorph to emerge from the great ocean gyres. He strode onto the shoreline...”
More Polymorphs were gathering all the time, silently in recognition that the proceedings were underway, and they joined the hush of the crowd attending to Coloc’s words. “According to Abas, son of Onsy in his writings:
Beneath an overcast of pearl-grey cloud lay ruins sadly dilapidated amid the tidal wash. The creature shook its head from side to side and belched forth a dry rasping that quivered in the unaccustomed air and frightened the landscape, silent for so long It was—”
“Tegral!” squealed an excited little voice from the crowd.
The outburst was greeted with laughter and exasperation in equal measure. It was unusual for one so young to be so forward.
“Hush,” urged the parent. “Do not interrupt the Teller, Grald.”
But Coloc smiled kindly. “I’m getting to that part, small one,” he said and motioned, extending one great pincer. “Come, Grald. Sit by me.” There were murmurings at such a singling-out.
Coloc placed a protective pincer around Grald and looked down at him as he continued the story in his own words. “Two metres high he stood, and his luminescent, red eye scanned all the horizon — right to the far-off inland, tangled with vegetation.”
Coloc’s own eyes shone as purple as the distant hills. He stood an impressive two and a half metres tall, and his pincers were extensive in their span, as was his persona. Coloc was greatly admired and respected by all.
He continued. “Having left the watery world behind, Tegral had but two choices; find a way to utilise this place or return whence he had come. As his ancestors of the great ocean gyres had fed on any soup the currents brought, so he scavenged here and thrived. He knew, for he had seen some emerge, that others would follow in these first steps.”
“And then came the lightning!”
“Grald!” said the youngster’s mother sternly, embarrassed at this second interruption. “Do not be concerned, Worl,” said Coloc. “You have taught the boy well. He cannot contain himself. He is ready for the lightning.”
Worl had brought Grald to the festival every year since he was tiny, no small thing, for they lived in the coastal region far from the meeting place.
The lightning was an infusion of power — a little at first — then the full pyrotechnic display. As parents and young prepared themselves, Coloc read again from the Abas Text, and key words scrolled slowly across the great obsidian screen behind him in letters so high they could be seen a mile away:
The sun that had once blazed no longer ruled the sky. It penetrated dimly mother-of-pearl clouds. Slowly it had carried on its work of photo-degradation upon the surface of the polymers left swirling on the waters and the corpses left strewn upon the land, but it was weak now.
No fish surfaced to taste its rays, and no animal basked in its radiating glow. The earth lay under a dead blanket of thickened atmosphere, sick with poisons and all infertile.’
“Tegral’s emergence made it infertile no longer,” said Coloc, “for here we are, and here are our offspring. Make ready.”
It was a solemn moment. Parents joined, pincer to pincer with their offspring, but Worl stepped aside as Coloc himself joined with young Grald, and hundreds of Polymorphs all stood silent, waiting.
“The bruised purple of the setting sun diffused through the cloud.”
It was as if the words Coloc spoke controlled the dusk, for it all happened just as he said:
“Then a burst of magenta shot to ground. Water streaked from the clouds. A bolt of lightning struck!” Coloc paused. “Thus it was that Tegral drank power for the first time.”
The generator above the dam now activated a huge metallic mushroom that unfolded like a silvery umbrella above the meeting place, and power fed through the entire gathering. It fizzled all around them, the spark of excitement and tingle of anticipation.
“It is time, Grald” said Coloc. “Feel the fire envelope your being and do not fight against it. I will protect you.”
The bowl of the dam was lit with flashes, silver, magenta, cyan; like a fireworks display it lit the skies and reflected off the great obsidian screen. The air crackled and sparked with life, and the light was more intense than day. It was up to each parent to harness enough energy to give their child. Some could take more than others. This was the moment of activation when the young became true Technopolymorphs: able to engage the data stream.
But it was not without risk. There were always some who did not survive this transition to complete sentience, whose circuits did not adapt, and they were condemned to wander the wilderness, like Graaagh.
Grald and Coloc stood pincer to pincer locked in a welter of kinetic flame. Coloc alone had to gauge how much Grald could take; anticipate how hot and wild the fire and how much information flowed within the great stream of current.
Worl rushed forward as Grald lost consciousness, and Coloc broke the link just in time.
Later, much later, as first dawn brushed the sky, Grald woke feeling disoriented. He moaned. His mother tended him, her eyes a gentle blue, her thoughts, soothing.
Coloc was there too. “Grald, do you feel my presence?”
The youngster’s eyes flashed recognition. “I feel the presence of many, Teller, and hear their thoughts far off. You are concerned for me, Mother. There is no need.”
Coloc’s laughter rang. “You are strong, Grald,” he said. “You have passed a mighty test today. It is no small thing to be activated by a Teller. Oh, you are strong!”
Ever afterwards, Grald did not remember much of these events. However, in his old age, he spoke sometimes of his awe of Coloc and how he had told him of his destiny that very day, though with no word spoken.
“You, Grald, I take for my own: Grald of Coloc. Rest now, Grald. Rest, my son.” Then he turned to Worl, whose eyes were full of wonder but had dimmed with the thought of parting. “Grald has a greater destiny now,” he said. “Be proud. You are the mother of a Teller.”
Copyright © 2015 by Oonah V. Joslin