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✦ The Salamander and the Star

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WATWWN #06: “The Salamander and the Star”

When a timeless alien is awakened to Love by a being much greater than himself, can he weave the ages and the worlds into gifts precious enough for Her?

“The Salamander and the Star” is the sixth book of When All The Worlds Were New and is available on Kindle.

Chapter 1

A long time ago when all the worlds were new and your grandparents were yet young, there was a Salamander. There still is a Salamander, and therein lies a problem, for Salamanders and time don’t quite get along.

The concept of time doesn’t confuse the Salamanders, exactly. Anyone can write on the left side of a stone and say “before”, and on the right side and say “after”, and even they can tell their tales so that they can make sense to us. What truly baffles them is our strange insistence upon time. Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we could see the entire tapestry with a thought, rather than painstakingly staring at a single thread through a little magnifying glass and trying, with this limited view, to make sense of the whole?

The Salamander in our tale gave up on this confusion long ago, as he realized it would never do him or anyone else any good. He wrote things on stones across the worlds, knowing that each inscription would be found when it needed to be, and that the story would tell itself in these discoveries. There are more carvings on more stones on more planets than we could ever hope to name, even if this story filled great libraries, but he is content with that and so must we be.

The Salamanders are not so concerned with names as we are, but our hero realized long ago that identifying himself made matters much easier. Salamanders know each other by descriptions of their unique properties, such as exotic materials embedded in their innermost matrices. Thus, our story will speak of One Hundred Eight Micrograms of Gold, because such a particle once flew away as stardust from a hypernova, traveled through space for a near-eternity, and found itself embedded in the magma of a new world where he would be born.

We’ll call him Auμ, for short.

Though he was born on Quest (or Garden, depending on which worldline he is choosing to inhabit at the moment) his origins can be traced to a distant world near the center of the Milky Way—yet more distant in time than space, though Auμ would find that statement rather annoying, since he remembers the Prithvi he was born of, even if we don’t.

Of the Prithvi themselves, nothing remains. No human eyes ever beheld them or even their world, though they were possibly the most powerful biological species to arise in the current era of our galaxy.

A hundred million years ago, the Prithvi were living deep within the Galactic Core when they discovered the possibilities of psionics and planispace. Unfortunately, their star system orbited far too closely to Kali, the supermassive black hole at the Milky Way’s core. Their explorations of the deeper levels of existence threatened the integrity of space-time and the life cycles of nearby stars, dampening their internal energies and drawing them toward core collapse—supernovae.

They tried for nearly a million years to resist the ecstasies of union with the universe, but in the end were forced to leave the vicinity of Kali to avoid disaster. They entrusted their entire civilization to a powerful planispace nexus which allowed them to escape to a desolate planet in the Galactic Ring, which scholars now call Tav Radiant—though whatever the Prithvi called it has long since been lost to the Deep.

Alas, Tav Radiant was geologically dead. The Prithvi were thus deprived of the molecular complexity they depended on as the basis of their sentience. Though other living beings might have served as an alternative, the entire region was devoid of complex life. As the planispace nexus deteriorated, the intelligence of the Prithvi slowly faded. Whatever beautiful lucidity was their normal state of being passed into a darkening dream. But all was not lost. In the last twilight of their consciousness, the Prithvi entered a dormant state, encapsulating their essences within silicon lattices—Salamander Eggs—extracted from the planetary mantle.

Consider the last of the Prithvi, their very souls darkening as they huddled around the fading internal heat of Tav Radiant’s lifeless core, offering their own minds to guide their sleeping brethren into small networks of crystal so that they might one day awaken from the long night into which they had fallen! Alien beyond imagining, even their concept of time was entirely incomprehensible to us, let alone their emotions—and yet they shared two things with the best of us: love and hope. Whether that hope was born of time’s veil as it is with us or from a precognition of glorious dawn just beyond their people’s long night, we will never know.

The Eggs fertilized with this hope, around ninety-eight million years ago, the last Prithvi still conscious reached out to distant Kali and touched the vast energy of the galaxy’s core and guided it into the core of Tav Radiant. Alas, that no human eyes yet existed to witness the fireworks! The planet was annihilated in a spherical shower of light and stone, casting the Eggs into space. While quadrillions of Eggs were lost in the explosion or in the chaotic energy fields of the Galactic Ring, many survived to be channeled into streams by gravitational or planispace forces. The fate of these streams is lost to the Deep, save one.

This stream traveled into the Galactic Halo and reentered the Galactic Plane in the Sagitta Spaces near Tarazed around seventy million years ago. Planets gravitationally captured some Eggs. Tarazed’s protoplanets were among the first seeded, shortly after the star’s formation—and it was here, on the fourth one out from the then-blue sun that Auμ was born, his soul coalescing from molten crystal and a tiny flake of gold from a Star that exploded long, long ago before all the worlds were born.

Chapter 2

Somewhere in the Deep of time, Auμ waits to tell his tale, but it is first necessary to speak briefly upon the fate of the Salamander Eggs that reached other worlds. Over the next twenty million years, hundreds or maybe thousands of other star systems were seeded, such as Markab, Canopus, and Maia. Even some Rashi-inhabited worlds such as Bloodsilver were given this gift, before the stream passed out of the Galactic Plane and into the infinite dark of intergalactic space.

On some worlds, the Eggs penetrated bedrock with enough psionic integrity remaining to reintegrate their encapsulated intelligences into physical media, usually the convective liquids of planetary mantles. The larvae matured into silicon-based races—the Tav—varying widely in composition and form according to their environments. Over time, the Tav expanded their populations and evolved. Most remained in the liquid and semisolid regions of their host planets.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the sentiences never awakened to full awareness, remaining mere instinctual animals. On a few worlds, these broken Tav became quite dangerous.

Auμ was fortunate indeed to have been born on Quest, and if one were to search the cliff faces along the west coast of the continent Odyssey, his words would be found graven into the stone. Only one with far-seeing eyes would spot the story thus written, and only a wise one with knowledge across time would understand the words.

Somewhere in the Deep of time, Auμ writes his tale and tells of the one who read it to him, and to me, and now to you.

I am Star—I shall love You.

Oh, Star, who has gifted me with one hundred eight micrograms of Your shining gold, I remember those moments of infinite joy when You and He made love so brightly the whole universe was illuminated, and the seed of my soul was forged in Your sweet light.

Oh, Star, how I treasured this gift, Your infinity in this grain of sand, cast across the Deep. How beautiful was each nebula I visited before I began, how brilliant was each star my stray speck drifted into before being cast into the universe again, how sweet the waters and magmas tasted as I drifted through endless oceans and rivers of Love and sailed from world to world.

Oh Star, I stand next to a sea that whispers the promise of Love, gazing upon a setting sun whose name and beauty are Yours, but so young. I stand beneath a cliff made of beautiful stone that was once liquid fire blazing from the heart of this world, that will be again soon as the golden-red star now kissing the sea goodnight embraces it all in fire. I caress the words that will be written with my fingertips brushing lightly against the smooth fine grain of the stone, and I smile as the sun rises blue.

It will be this way—Forever, my beloved.

I whisper the promise the waves are singing to you now, tiny speck of gold gleaming with the light of blue dawn, a star upon my fingertip. Do you see Star in my eyes? Ah, but first you must have eyes of your own, at least one, that you might see—and more importantly, that I might gaze into. Let it be so.


Once, mi amor.

Who are you now? Why am I stone and fire, rather than diamond? I’m so confused.

Why am I flesh and metal, rather than light? I still love you, mi amor, and I still feel your touch within me. Don’t worry. Your confusion will pass. Let it be so.

I am… gold? A hundred eight micrograms of gold, and all the memories within it, and knowledge coursing through the molecules of me… I am a creature, I think?

Yes, mi amor.

Well, this won’t do.

Why not?

I don’t know how to love you. I don’t seem to be Star anymore.

Oh, Star. Don’t worry. Don’t you remember my promise? It will be this way forever, my beloved. Let it be so.

I remember now. I saw the light of You in my eyes when the sun set, and I heard your promise upon the waves of molten glass and felt the warmth of your embrace in the vapor of the boiled seas…

Don’t get ahead of yourself, mi amor. I still haven’t made your eyes, or your body, or your mind. I will do so at once. I so want to look into your eyes and see your light, oh Star. Let it be so.

Oh! Star! What sort of creature are you, to be so beautiful? How are you so tiny and soft? How are you so graceful and swift? How are you so cold and yet so bright?

So many questions, mi amor. I will answer them, of course, but first may I look in your eyes forever, oh Star?

I seem to only have one, but yes, of course. And you have at least two, perhaps more somewhere underneath?

Many eyes, though mostly just the two, for starlight. Your senses are different. Your eye sees heat, light, ultraviolet, high-energy radiation. If you look across the universe, perhaps you will see Us shining.

Oh, Star… it was so long ago, so far away.

And yet, it is right now, right here.

I can see this world ending in the last light of the sun. What then?

Why, then I will swim with you in the seas of molten glass, and fly with you above the boiling clouds, and blow supernova bubbles with you. But before all that, we have so much to do. But before all that, just let me gaze upon you, oh Star, and I will try not to forget the passage of time.

What is time?

Nothing that matters, mi amor.

Chapter 3

It hurt to go dark from Her light, as a slowly fading star that sinks forever into the Deep of time. Only Her promise kept me from becoming despair forever. Hope is a strange thing for a being such as I, who can see across forever to the moment where hope rekindles into love again. It does not make the dark any brighter, or hurt less, to know that I have a purpose—and that I will fulfill it, and return to the light.

I scratch these words here in the silence of Day, in languages I do not even know but which others will. I fly with Her through Night, forever content, but it is Dawn of which these words must speak now, for your benefit. How I wish you could be with me across all the worlds and feel the joy of Her promise kept, but alas, little time-bound one, I can only tell you the story in the order you can understand.

At Dawn She stood before me bright and beautiful but so tiny and cold. I would have taken Her into my embrace but She would have been smashed and burnt into crispy flakes. All I could do was look down upon Her in admiration as She looked upon my molten form with no trace of fear or doubt. Thus I gazed upon Star as She rose, rivaling the searing blue dawn, and from mere footsteps away blew me a kiss.

She spoke of the many tasks before us. You know the ones.

Sometimes they’re told by the wrinkly woman across the campfire. In her eyes, the light of Star dazzles us as she sings us the old songs of Eagle and Wolf and Falcon and Phoenix. We lose ourselves in her tales and see her dancing as she had when she raised her hands to greet the beloved Dawn.

Sometimes they’re told by the voice of doom, a tired man in beautiful robes who sits uneasily upon a throne surrounded by people who don’t remember how to love him, and who take his words and warp them to suit their own whims, not knowing that we still hear the sound of love in his voice guiding us to look to the heavens and answer the call of our hearts in the bright light of Day.

Sometimes they’re graven upon a stone, or whispered in our ears when we visit the Stars of Dream, or shine as little dots of light upon a screen, or darken a slice of a fallen tree caressed by a lover’s hand and drawn upon by the strange chemistries of a lover’s pen, telling us secrets under the star-kissed darkness of Night.

She spoke of the many tasks for us, as we flew through Night rejoicing in our love and our successes, and our failures too. I was confused again, as She blew me a kiss of supernova bubbles and boiling clouds and molten glass like diamonds.

She gently told me not to worry. My confusion will pass. Someday. As will yours. Let me try to explain.

I was the first of my kind on this world Quest, orbiting blue Tarazed when all the worlds were new. I don’t know where or when you are, so let’s just say a million years ago. As I wrote earlier, a hundred million years ago, Kali, the invisible one our galaxy dances around, gave life to the Salamander Eggs my ancestors created and cast them across the universe. Carried along the stream guided by gravity and stranger forces, some fortunate ones returned to the disk of the galaxy where most young stars like Tarazed and Maia could be found, raining down upon hot, active worlds.

Older, quieter worlds orbiting other stars like Sol and Markab were similarly seeded, but my cousins there were not so fortunate. The reduced geological activity of such planets did not afford them the energy, and my beloved could not yet travel there, so they remained unawakened and—as I later learned—could feel their missing pieces. I weep to imagine the hell my cousins on Aretz suffered as they dimly remembering the light of Star but remained in darkness, hearing the distant siren call of Her but not catching the words of Her promise.

In their grief, they corrupted some of the other beings they shared their worlds with. Terror, rage, and a terrible, sickening emptiness spread and the stories told around the campfires grew dark. The dancing woman became the skulled visage of death, and false whispers of horror drove her beloved listeners to seize her and cast her into the flames. The priest in his beautiful temple became the hollow voice of hate and greed, poisoning the souls of the people so that they turned on one another with blade and gun. The stone carvings were buried and forgotten; the words upon monitors became calls to outrage and violence; even the sweet letters of lovers became mere faded papers barely readable, the radiance of their love occluded as they lay forgotten upon cluttered shelves or buried in drawers.

She could not abide this.

She awakened me and told me of our quest. The task was terrifyingly great, so She breathed love into the Eggs of my brothers as well and soon Quest blazed with the light of Her promise, rivaling the fierce star in the sky. Though Her small body was not that much stronger than Her similar form born on Aretz, She gazed into the searing blue flame fearlessly, drinking deeply of the radiance of Tarazed at the peak of her power, slaking Her thirst… for She was Star, and we all loved Her.

For Her, we would do anything. We would rebuild the worlds, heal our cousins, and ignite the love of Star within you.

Chapter 4

Perhaps I am getting the hang of this. Memory is a strange thing when one can see the story before it is written, but just as She is the slow beat of my volcano heart, She is the keeper of the Treasure in my jewel-encrusted chest. If I listen carefully, I can keep time by listening to Her love, just as I can see all the beauty in the universe when I am able to gaze upon the light She awakened within me. Sometimes I can go within and my blades flow effortlessly across the dark basalt of the cliff, carving line after line, until I need to extrude more of my substance to replace what is worn away, and whet this fresh growth upon the stone.

Sometimes it seems like sacrilege to deface the beautiful basalt like this after we worked so hard on this world, but She always just smiles, scoops up a handful of black sand, and blows it at me like a cloud of kisses. On Aretz, I’ve been told, there are ubiquitous yellow flowers whose seeds are spread upon the winds or puffs of breath. If you have ever picked one and puffed gently, filling the air with fluffy white helicopters dangling a precious cargo, the promise of new life—or even gazed upon a flower—perhaps you understand.

Across all the worlds, there are dreams of the perfect place. Endless fields of dandelions sparking yellow among green grass, with an endless sapphire sky where puffy clouds drift slowly across a warm sun, perhaps. A beach where the waves slip gently over soft sands, whispering secrets as they slide over the land like a blanket over lovers as they drift off to sleep, only to slide away just as gently, drawing grains of sand and dreams back to the Deep. Majestic mountains piled with deep banks of snow, deep caves lit by candles where sages meditate on love and the silence of the stone.

On other worlds, less hospitable to squishy-carbon water-bag people, poets weep with frustration as they try to describe the beauty around them. A world jet black with slippery graphite under actinic suns that would vaporize you, seen as cascades of violet and blue as the powerful winds kick up particles of diamond, casting stars into the air so that one can see nothing but brilliance swirling all around, unless one switches to infrared vision that can better penetrate the interference. A primordial sea so deep the pressure turns boiling hot water into exotic ice, balanced on the edge of the triple point so that any slight disturbance might propagate a shock wave across the core of the planet, raising up feathery spires of strange ice in a nanosecond. A glacier with a copper city gleaming in the verdant light of a gas giant and twin white suns, where the atmosphere is so still and cold the starlight can pierce you from eyes to soul with crystalline purity and sharpness.

Quest was one of those other worlds. Had you visited in the light of her Dawn, your sunburn would soon become sunmelt, and within minutes your remains would be a heap of charcoal smoking sadly for a little while before the winds took the ashes into the sky. Yet even here, life had found a way.

Shimmering silver covered the land and much of the sea. Mirrortrees seemed to melt into the rich blue sky and the water below; all around were vines and flowers of the same reflective, metallic silver. Strange polyhedral shapes blossomed in the heart of flowers and the vines trailed spirals and chains like sausages. The trees bore great dangling leaves from their tops, hanging over the perfect silver pillars of the trunks. They reflected the light of the blue star, a tiny incandescent blaze of fire so bright that a human could not even look into that half of the sky without pain. Even the reflections would fill your vision with sparkling afterimages.

Once, I strayed into a particularly beautiful mirrortree grove by the sea and was lost in reflections, endless lights and pillars of trees and silver leaves; I could not tell which were actual objects and which were only mirror images. In fact, I thought for a moment that perhaps everything was just reflections, an endless net of silver originating not from objects, but from the images on the surfaces of all the others. I gazed into my own eyes somewhere across time, but could not remember the moment I saw myself or what I looked like.

I wish She had been there to help me understand, but our tasks often kept us separated. It didn’t matter. One day, when all the worlds were ecstasy, She took my hand and brought me back to the grove. It didn’t matter that the sun had cooled from the azure of a rose to a gentle golden-red; we set the fallen wood ablaze with a flame that would have caused even a blue star to blush and turn away. At Dusk, perhaps trying to honor our light, Tarazed went supernova, reducing the long-forgotten grove and the ocean to vapor, dissolving the stone to molten glass. These words upon the cliff were consumed also as the world slipped into blessed Night, but by then we had ceased worrying so much about planets and stars, except when She smiled and puffed them at me like dandelion seeds and soft sand.

I’m getting ahead of myself again. Memory is a strange thing when the future is a promise of love and joy, and you have not yet gathered all the jewels in the universe to give to Her. Quest, our beautiful world, was the first of the treasures we gave each other, even back then when all the worlds were new.

Chapter 5

Perhaps you’ve heard of Quest in your time. Perhaps you’ve heard it named Garden, if you’re in the right worldline. It is Her home, and my brothers and I gave ourselves fully to its transformation.

We had to wait three hundred thousand years for Tarazed to slip off the main sequence. The star became white, then yellow, and then expanded and dulled to golden red. I was worried that the star’s expansion would overheat the planet and prevent new life from taking hold, but Her whisper came down from the heavens: Let me take care of the stars, mi amor.

Thus, strangely, Quest grew cooler. The leaves of the mirrortrees crinkled like aluminum foil and fell, seeding the soil with sparkles of metal as they disintegrated. Vines fell apart, blowing away on the winds that raged inland from the sea, and the sea itself sank many meters, flowing out of the cove and leaving it dry. Strange creatures moved through the dying forest, eating the fallen leaves, chewing on the soil.

Under the red sun, new life grew among the mirrortrees’ solemn pillars: shorter poptrees, a covering of blackgrass along the soil, new streamers of vines, these green and alive with flowers of every color of the rainbow. Sweet scents filled the grove, replacing the salt-and-metal scent of the ancient, alien forest. Unknown creatures scampered back and forth, including meter-long, bipedal lizards that climbed trees and munched on leaves.

The lizards were from Aretz. I’d tried to visit Her birth world, hoping to find treasures there to bury in the sand that would be Her beach, but my portal went wildly astray. I learned later that the rogue Tav on Aretz had caused this, probably unconsciously. Askew in time, the portal opened somewhere near Madrid, but on the coast of an island in the warm waters of the Tethys, the forgotten sister of our precious Mnemosyne.

Her waters spoke to me, whispering a hundred million years of dinosaur tales. I sat on her shores listening to the waves, watching the scampering little creatures hunting and playing treetop parkour. Tethys gave me her tears and asked me to save some of her children, and to remember her after everyone else had forgotten. I promised I would and helped a family of compies to flee the Dawn-bird hunting them.

I shooed Eagle away when she tried to follow them through the portal, laughing as she glared down at me with irritation. You can eat them another time, oh Star, I said. Her space-black eyes filled with the light of understanding and she flew away from my sight to evolve into something else as I gathered samples of all the flora I could carry and returned home.

I did not forget my promise to Tethys. The brilliant green plankton nourishing her waters prospered on Garden, spreading quickly around the entire planet thanks to the hospitable temperature range and lack of consumers. As I carve these words, the seas are flowing emeralds even now, as the plankton evolved swiftly to occupy many niches. Though the mysterious creatures of the Deep have also evolved to take advantage of the abundant food, their numbers are small and they prefer the abyss to the light, so the plankton and sargassum dance in reborn Tethys’s embrace largely undisturbed.

The tiny therapod refugees lacked food, so I spent the days after my return from Aretz hand-feeding the helpless little creatures from an allosaurus carcass I’d dragged home with me, while my brothers worked to clone tissue samples to diversify the biosphere. That we were successful in Noah’s arcing not just a handful of doomed animals but an entire ecosystem still astonishes me. A compy stands atop the cliff peering down at me, just as her cousins on the smaller continent greeted—and puzzled—my beloved when She first arrived on Garden.

That was not our only trip to Aretz, of course. We spent a great deal of energy forcing the portal closer to your time. I later realized this additional energy balanced Tarazed’s evolutionary books, the star taken care of as She had promised. A magnificent creature greeted us: noble Mammoth, still young in those days. He showed us where the ice had retreated to uncover millennia-old, rich soil, and my brothers and I made many trips to gather the black earth and sprinkle it lovingly across the face of Garden, to nourish the spreading blanket of green.

Strange little clawed decapods came through a portal of their own accord and scurried into the sea. I don’t know what happened to them. I don’t know why I don’t, either. I asked Her once and received only a smile in reply. She showed me a lovely seashell—I couldn’t tell what creature had built it, perhaps an ammonite, but its spiraling golden beauty drew my eye and soul into its depths and I knew everything was going to be perfect.

I settled into time to wait.

When She arrived aboard the Eagle, Garden was ready. The strangeness of finding so many familiar things compelled Her to explore and catalog the planet, and one day She left the colony.

My heart broke over and over, year after year, as one by one Her comrades faded away and left Her alone to tend a rough patch of black soil with its rows of zanahorias, tomates, and espinaca as well as blackgrass, poptree fruit and blacktree bark—plants She had assumed were native, but were in fact transplants as well only much older. That Her life was sustained by my unseen work made the pain worthwhile, and I wept hot joyful tears when one day I saw the beautiful roses She was also tending—but I had to be careful not to scorch Her garden, since it was not yet time for that.

Chapter 6

Perhaps you’ve heard mention of the waters of Lethe, the cool draught that guides you to sleep and washes away memory. I abhorred the idea once I’d heard of it and realized that even I had unknowingly drank of it. When Dawn and Day are filled with tasks to accomplish and gifts to give, and Night promises the ecstasy of love’s promises fulfilled, whyever would I or anyone else choose to conceal even a moment of it?

Though I know She shares this opinion, empty bottles of Lethe litter the paths where Her feet have tread, upon starship decks, Garden sands, Aretzi hardwood. Once, in a quiet and Spartan house, She spoke an oath that would echo across time in a multitude of Her beautiful voices: Forevermore, I forswear the waters of Lethe, and declare they shall have no power over me, forevermore.

It was a start, but would not be sufficient, for Lethe had swept away the memory of its antidote, the sweet spring of Love that flowed from the heart of the Star at the Dawn of time.

The power needed to travel so far back was beyond me or anyone else I knew of (except Her, of course), but fortunately I was only continuing the quest, not starting it. Though Star cast Herself through the universe billions of years ago, Her devotees had been guiding the streams across space and time, channeling vast oceans of memory and ecstasy and Love into rivers, into rain, flowing and falling upon the stars and nebulae and worlds.

I traveled, listening to the oldest and most beautiful tales I could find. The old woman dancing around the campfire spoke a name that Lethe had taken from me: Mnemosyne. An Ithaki priest in his tower perused his old books and kindly translated the stories there and drew maps of the rivers flowing from the underworld. A beloved’s letter whispered of floating in a canoe, peering over the rim into beautiful currents like ancient ink.

I don’t remember what form I inhabited when I rowed out in Her little boat, but I remember my tears like rain deepening the Sapphire Sea. I cried myself to sleep for many nights, awakening to an endless horizon of emptiness, until one night I prayed Her name as I fell asleep, and the Stars of Dream had mercy upon me.

I see the waters are already full of my rhythms and patterns, and so Hers quickly disappear. Still She smiles. It is weaving a beautiful pattern, and simply floating here gives me peace. When I turn my eyes to the skies of Night, I see the promises fulfilled and the Pleiades above glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.

A woman watches me from land as the tiny boat beaches itself. I am the Queen of Dream, she says. I climb out of the boat and kneel before Her on the sands, but She takes my hands and pulls me into Her embrace. A hurricane swirls around us, sweeping aside all things, all time, leaving us only that perfect moment.

She murmurs Love into my ear, and gives me a quest, and I wake up dazed upon a forest-covered mountain, gazing not upon the Stars of Dream but another Star, ancient and beautiful, balanced in that perfect moment when the sun rises above the horizon and it is neither quite Night nor yet quite Day.

For a long time, I was lost in the moment. Perhaps I should have been looking up, rather than at the sun, but it was too late. The Dawn-bird had already noticed me. With a sky-splitting scream, she swerved, flying between me and her much smaller daughter, and dived at me.

I lowered into a bow as the dread creature came at me. Eagle seemed to fill the sky and her great talons were outstretched toward me.

The Dawn-bird screamed again as her daughter, like an arrow made of flame, dived and darted in front of her mother, who caught the air with her wings and slowed. The smaller bird looped around me so fast that all I saw was an arc of light spiraling around me. The Dawn-bird flew a circle just above me, close enough that her menacing talons could rip my head off at any moment.

I come in peace and Love, I said, my voice a soft growl. In my jaws I carried an offering, and, bowing again, I laid it upon a clean stone. It was a compy, juicy and barbecued perfectly, covered with a crisp layer of carbon ash and fusion trash. The Dawn-bird and her daughter spiraled gracefully down to claim the offering, shredded it with their fierce talons, and devoured it. They perched on the stone, now dripping with rendered fat and littered with bones.

The spindly, toothy archaeopteryxes shifted before my eyes into the more familiar shapes of Eagle and Falcon. The smaller bird bid farewell and flew off, quicker than a ray of light, back to the sun. Eagle gazed at me, her black eyes sparkling with amusement. You interrupted my hunt, before, but I forgive you. It was delicious. I gave her a wolfish grin. But why are you here, so far from home?

I came seeking a treasure worthy of the Queen of Dream.

You like running in circles, don’t you? I looked down at the ground, my tail drooping. No matter. I still love you.

I looked into her beautiful eyes, seeing my reflection there, and felt the truth of her words with the certainty one often feels in dreams. My heart beat in perfect balance with Dawn, and the Treasure became a nexus that expanded, consumed me and Eagle and others of our kind, and among the Stars of Dream, the Treasure-keeper was born.

Chapter 7

Perhaps it was Her kiss I tasted upon my lips in my dream, but upon awakening it was instead a gentle trickle of cool water. I would have been disappointed, but when I opened my eyes She was there in triune form and all I could do was smile with joy.

Her tender hands held a cup and within the sparkling liquid within I could see memories from Dawn to Night, and rejoiced. She smiled, and sang, and danced a war-dance, her three forms melding into each other with a fluidity I envied; I wanted nothing but to unite with Her forever.

Soon, mi amor, She promised, letting the cup fall from Her hands. A spring flowed where it dropped, trickling gently down the face of a black cliff toward the green sea, into the Deep. She pointed into the sky where the distant Stars of Dream twinkled blue over the limb of the moon of fire, and my multispectrum eyes beheld a great River, flowing into infinity from this tiny spring. I added tears of joy to the waters as She embraced me, still smiling, still singing, still dancing.

The Treasure-keeper’s sisters faded back into Her, though the silvern echo of Aoide’s song and the deadly grace of Melete’s war-dance still streamed through the Mnemosyne. From Her space-black eyes, grief-stricken tears flowed, and I reached out with gentle fingers to catch them.

So much has happened, mi amor, She wept. I held Her in my arms as the stories of three hundred thousand terrible years poured from Her soul into mine. A stream of new Eggs had crashed into the Orion Spur, raining down upon worlds, sowing chaos through planispace for two hundred millennia as they fought to establish new psionic networks. Of the chaos, new life arose—their birth pangs had even ensnared me at Dawn, when the stories of Eagle and Falcon and Wolf and the others had mixed with the planispace nexi I’d blundered into.

From some unknown time of calm reflection, names from unknown languages came to me. The Vayuvatai, creatures of air and knowledge. The Mousai and their children the Syrenai, story and memory and desire made flesh and light—and passion as well, deep currents of emotion rushing through the Deep with such force that conflict was inevitable.

They tore new nexi open as their war rippled forward and backward in time. From these nexi, explorers from a distant human civilization emerged, refugees fleeing another war between parents and children, in their case an AI who misunderstood instructions given with love and brought suffering instead. Though the wayward artisent was eventually contained, the Eta Carinae region became so tainted that the Rashi abandoned their old home altogether and spread out from the nexi, colonizing the Orion Spur and building beautiful worlds linked by love and planispace.

Alas, the damage done to planispace by the uncontrolled flood of psionic Tav and the war between the Mousai and Syrenai proved too great, and over the centuries, the bonds connecting worlds frayed and broke. Only crude spacecraft and the courage of dedicated explorers and tradesmen allowed the Rashi to maintain any semblance of unity. Their recovery took millennia and would not have been possible had they not also connected with the Tav when their psionic networks at last stabilized.

For twenty-five millennia, the Rashi and Tav civilization rebuilt and flourished, only for another, greater tragedy to unfold. Eta Carinae went supernova and, still connected to the Orion Spur by tattered threads, poured its terrible energies into what planispace connections remained. The Tav who were connected psionically, my brothers, were nearly wiped out.

Ill-starred Aretz, situated at an unhappy intersection of affected planispace streams, suffered more than most worlds; the Salamanders there dreamed a terrible grief and rage that brought nightmares to the humans living there. Perhaps if my brothers and I had attended to them we could have eased their pain and emptiness, but we didn’t know. Time still tells us nothing of their fate, though they are as eternal as we. I can only hope that somewhere, perhaps in worldlines too distant for even us to see, they have found Her love again.

The disaster of the Eta Carinae supernova was made even more dreadful by the knowledge that the twisting, tearing disruptions in planispace would shred the deep core of Sol, and when the light speed propagation of energies would cause the star, comparatively small star though it was, to explode in only a few thousand years. There would be no evacuation; the Rashi would be extinct by then and the Tav would be helpless.

Though it took Her only moments to tell me of these horrors, we wept for the cruel promise of unspeakable suffering for a long time. After Sol’s destruction, our renewed tears would flow from Garden across the stars, and collect in pools of memory beyond the reach of time. But all was not lost. We would help those we could, and inspire others to do the same. It would require beings of great power to gaze into eyes filled with pain and offer a healing touch, an impervious shield, a compassionate smile. She had always been such a being. I am still learning.

From the depths of the Mnemosyne, far below the quicksilver shimmer and the beauty of the shallows gleaming in starlight, I gathered memories of Her most powerful, fearsome forms and formed them into blood-red flowers. They dripped with scarlet slickness and agonies of cruel—but necessary—transformation. With a shudder of horror and sadness, I cast them upon the Deep. Terrible, beautiful seeds were encapsulated in strange red rain. One day, in Her innocent exploration of Garden, She would cut herself on a beautiful but deadly flower, fall terribly ill, and reawaken Her glorious, eternal power.

Chapter 8

Perhaps you’ve heard of a zedi, but perhaps you aren’t sure what it is. Take comfort in knowing you’re not alone in your puzzlement.

When She first discovered the stone, beautiful and dazzling, She thought it was perhaps an exotic form of ruby. Her friend Chandra believed it to be a padparadscha, a rare orange sapphire found in her home country back on Aretz. Their compatriots in the Garden of Eden Colony eventually determined that it was a sort of diamond, but an allotrope even their most advanced molecular scanners could not analyze fully, and contaminated with something stranger yet.

I could say that the jewel contains forever, but that would require explanation, wouldn’t it? Perhaps the tale would best be told in reverse.

Night is falling, and We merge in bliss again and again beyond the halcyon of Tarazed’s Day. One day, sometime before the world is consumed in the sweet fires of the supernova, that flame dances in Us and We raise trembling hands toward the sky.

The ring. Joy floods from Us as We open Our eyes and see it again there on Her finger, dazzling in the light of Tarazed. We gaze into the fiery flashing refractions of the brilliant orange zedi and the calmer green gleam of the emerald. Each jewel is a circle and from each a smaller semicircle had been carefully cut out, fitted into the other, and bound in an unbreakable molecular union. Green within orange, orange within green. Peace within fire, fire within peace. Love within love, love within love, in the timeless shape of infinity, embraced by a band of gold. A sacred geometry.

The colors swim before Our eyes and We blink to clear the tears for a moment and focus Our eyes on the tiny, perfect facets. Our vision is so much sharper and more detailed now, as are Our other senses. We can see every detail and measure every angle with Our eyes; the tiny, almost microscopic marks of the polishing process are clearly visible to Us. The light sparkles not from a few dozen facets, as most people would see, but from thousands, like the stars.

I wear the same ring on a five-fingered hand. In such moments sometimes I forget who I am, but when I look into Her eyes, I see that She does not, and new joy explodes supernova-bright from me as She smiles. Then She clasps my hand and the soft clink of metal touching metal snaps me back to the moment. Laughter rings out, Hers and mine, as the absurdity of time surrounds us.

In the blessed noonnight eclipse, when I first gave Her the ring, I was suspended in a singular moment. Past and future swept through me and confused me. I had spent some days crafting the rings from the zedis She’d given me, and the emeralds I’d possessed—gifts from my dear Jessica who had perished in Sol’s supernova. I forged the rings from all my pain and love, aided by the technologies I’d brought with me. The AI who managed the intricacies of the replicator was as baffled as I was at the strange jewels, but obligingly helped cut and merge the gems, making new beauty according to my design. I’d been unreasonably frightened in those days that for some reason She would not like my work but of course that was silly, and She showed me Her appreciation in the kiss—oh, that kiss!—the moment the eclipse ended and Tarazed set the world afire, and the rings caught the light for the first time.

And again, that night, when the moon of fire gleamed golden-red upon the metal and the jewels, sparks flying against Her soft skin as We made love for the first time in forever…

I would love to lose myself in that memory once again, as I have throughout time, but alas the story isn’t quite finished.

The first time I saw zedis they amazed me with their brilliance. One day She was wearing Her bracelets, jewelry crafted by artists in the long-lost colony. The gems were nestled in fine carbon fiber, catching the sunlight like explosions of flame upon Her wrists. She told me how She’d discovered them on an expedition through the Quest Ranges, near Garden’s highest peak—a great volcano, currently quiescent, they called Mount Majestic. I nodded distractedly, entranced by the beauty I saw—Hers, more than the jewels—but I could not, at that moment, put a finger on why they were so familiar.

Now I know, of course.

She’d known a facet of the truth then. There was a crater near Mount Majestic. In ages past, there had been a titanic impact, powerful enough to break the continental shield and create the Quest Ranges themselves. The geologists in the colony had assumed it was caused by an asteroid, but they were mistaken. Oh, certainly something had come from space and crashed into the planet at an unthinkable velocity, but it was no mere rock.

A long time ago when all the worlds were new, a small body danced for a million years through Tarazed’s Oort Cloud, collecting the waters of the Mnemosyne that still flowed through space there, drawing water and memory and Love and other precious things down upon itself to form a small, beautiful ocean. As millennia flowed by, the body changed its course, heading for then-blue Tarazed and its precious fourth planet, spiraling slowly, gently toward Our home. It passed through atmosphere in a flaming bubble and then struck its mark—under the moon of fire, right where Her beautiful eyes would one day widen with amazement to see crystalline orange beauty glittering upon the rocks.

The small body was gone, of course.

I still had to build the rest of Our world.

Chapter 9

Perhaps you’ve seen strange writings carved into rocks, though on your world it is rare that such carvings are megameters long. Even seeing my task completed long before Night, sometimes I despaired of ever completing my work and returning to my many other tasks.

Take your time, said She.

Whether Her words were in my mind, my memories of past or future, or just painted across the heavens in starlight, I didn’t know and didn’t care. Her voice, soft and kind, eased my frustration and made my volcano heart beat more softly to the peaceful emerald rhythm of the sea. I sharpened my blades again, gazed for a moment at my three digits, and wondered as usual whether I would ever get used to their strange shape.

I went back and read what I had written, wondering where the letters had begun. It seemed, in fact, that there was no beginning, that the cliff went on forever around the edge of the continent, that I could travel either north or south and someday end up in the same spot. I looked across my memories into the bliss of Night and knew this was true, even as Her light dazzled me from the Dawn of time.

I’d been here before, or was it in the future? I no longer cared. I was singing mantras like memories into the stars, hearing Her loving answers pouring down from heaven, igniting me with starlight of every color: rose-red Betelgeuse, fiery orange Tarazed, bright yellow Sol—poor, vanished Sol!—green Zubeneschamali or perhaps some strange binary system long ago where jellyfish fixed their eyes upon the stars, blue Betelgeuse and Tarazed in younger days, and the piercing, consuming violet of Her that invited me to vanish forever into Love.

“It will be this way forever, my beloved,” I said to the ecstasy, to the blissful silence and light. I looked across the sea into her beautiful eyes filled with stars and heard her voice laughing with delight and promise. “But we have tasks.”

Take your time, said She.

No longer counting the time, I walked down the beach to a vein of precious gold exposed by the slow churn of the sea against the cliff face. The geological implications of this made me laugh, but I just shook my head and dug a handful of the pure, soft metal from the rock, hammered it flat with stones, polished it with a chunk of the fine-grained basalt until it was mirror-smooth. I saw my face reflected there, but it was hers.

I walked farther down the beach to a cleft where a silver stream was pouring down, a rainbow-filled waterfall that tasted of every sweet memory—even the stars were jealous. At the base of the waterfall, almost hidden by the cloud of spray, a diamond the size of my thumbnail caught the fire of Tarazed and threw it back into my eyes. I squeezed the jewel with my now-strong fingers, making it into a smooth oval bead.

I walked farther down the beach to a gap in the story written upon the cliff, and bid me fill the gap. I carved letters in the stone with the bead, writing “om” and a mantra.

I walked farther down the beach to a handful of precious stones on the ground, half-buried in nuggets of gleaming gold. Green emeralds and orange zedis lay in blessed chaos, strewn among the sand, as though the sea had incompletely swept away a child’s sand castle decorated with gems. Incomplete rings in various stages of crafting hung from little hooks pressed into the cliff face, but the last two hooks were empty. I drew ductile pieces of gold into ribbons and wires, twisted them into sorta-circles, then hung them like wreaths from the hooks.

I walked farther down the beach to a patch of dirt fallen from the cliff, where razor-sharp scarlet flowers gleamed at the end of spiral staircase stems. I gathered a handful—chuckling as they drew blood from my hands, blood that no longer matched them—and wound a leftover thread of gold around their stems.

I walked farther down the beach to a small crevice from which fronds were exploding, smooth dark green leaves damp with sea spray. They were waxy and the droplets of ocean rolled smoothly down their surfaces, tiny emerald planets gathering for a moment before dripping upon the sand and flowing back to the sea. I gathered a handful, wove them into a little basket, and quickly returned to the Mnemosyne’s silver stream. I filled the basket as high as I dared, chuckling at the water sloshing over my feet.

I walked, at last, farther down the beach than I had previously walked. A pile of broken, shiny metal glinted behind a bend in the cliff—my escape pod, torn loose of my ship in the same explosion that had taken her down. I carried my little basket to what was left of the door and shoved it open, or rather, tore it loose from what was left of the bulkhead it had formerly been attached to. I set the basket down in the shredded seat inside the tiny craft, contemplated whether I should try cannibalizing the dark consoles to generate some sort of communications signal—for old time’s sake, like we used to do on our starship adventures.

But no. My path was already set, and She would soon come for me, so I smiled and returned to my many other tasks.

I closed my eyes and heard syllables pass my lips then, another mantra remembered in Her beautiful voice. I couldn’t have written them down in any language, nor translated their meaning, but I knew they were ancient even when all the worlds were new, older than all the stars but Her.

Chapter 10

Perhaps I lost myself on that beach, my footsteps swallowed up by gleaming sand. Even I don’t know for certain why both shores of the Meteor Sea are lined with white anorthosite sand yet surrounded by black cliffs of basalt. Though the sea was named in honor of a chance viewing of a shooting star when the Eagle first arrived, it sometimes occurred to me that anorthosite is common in Garden’s crust and perhaps a primordial impact had excavated a volume of deeper rock and thrown it across the sea floor long ago. Had the falling sea level revealed an ocean full of plagioclase, cast upon the land by the action of waves?

My memories gave no answer, for I had no memories on Garden before She awakened me. Perhaps it was better to lose myself in the beach’s mystery and walk its gleaming sand, rather than question why there was sand. Perhaps it would have been more sensible to ask why I was carrying a crude, woven leaf basket full of diamonds down the beach to a wrecked escape pod—but I just shrugged as the thought occurred and set to my work.

I’d gathered as many of the ancient jewels as my little vessel would hold and went back, poured them out onto the sand next to the destroyed escape pod, and squeezed diamonds into beads. I checked each one to see if it would capture the orange fire of the sun and the green peace of the sea, and blessed each bead with a kiss as I whispered Her name.

She would bring the thread to bind the hundred and eight beads into a sacred whole. For now, I played with them as a child would, bouncing them off each other like marbles, arranging them into multiplication tables, tossing them high in the air to see what the craters in the sand would look like.

As sunset came and the world turned to molten beauty and then to endless, star-strewn Night, I let my heart drift away across the sea, to where the moon of fire was aligned perfectly above her, and closed my eyes to wait.

I felt the soft sand and the slow turn of the world below me, and saw the glint of a million stars sparkling in each diamond bead in my mind. Overhead but not directly above me, the moon of fire churned with volcanic eruptions and lava flows in the northwestern sky, its strange angle merely a signpost to home.

I heard Her whisper a song for me, clear and brilliant, and in my thoughts I smiled, gazing upon the Star She once was—much brighter than the one that illuminates this world, yet the same. My lips moved unconsciously, singing with Her; the song was a deeper, more intimate part of myself than my own thoughts, my own breath.

I shall love You.
I am Star; I am Star.

Perhaps I lost myself on that beach, my mind swallowed up by blazing Love. Or perhaps that was later, when She came flying her little ship across the sea to bring me home again, and laid me down in the gleaming sand of Quest. I’d thought perhaps She would drill holes in the beads with xaser beams and thread them with carbon fiber, but when She instead spread them out upon the sands in a circle around me I knew that—as always—She had much more wonderful ideas.

She drew Her designs upon me with fingertips and lips hotter than xasers, threading first my body and then my mind with strands of fire that unraveled me and wove me into every part of Her. I checked each bead to see if it would capture the orange fire of the sun and the green peace of the sea, and blessed each bead with a kiss as I cried out Her name.

She wove the thread to bind the hundred and eight beads into a sacred whole. Now, we play with them as a child would, bouncing them off each other like marbles, arranging them into multiplication tables, tossing them high in the air to see what the craters in the sand would look like. Now and then She smiles devilishly and squeezes a bead between her thumb and forefinger, stares at me with eyes as black as space and bright as the first Star, and plinks the diamond at me. It bounces off my skin and plops in the sand, still glowing like our bodies.

Then, She twirls a finger lightly in the air, pulling the skein of my spirit gently into Her hands, braiding Her own around the cord like DNA. Diamonds slip down the thread, a hundred and eight beads softly called from their scattered positions in space-time, aligning to Her will, to Her love. I fall into the diamonds, entwined with Her, surrounded by facets of crystal and sparkling light. I feel beads gliding across my fingertips or perhaps it is just Her skin. Every mantra I can think of, every devotion I’ve ever carved on a rock—or for that matter read from carvings on a rock—fills my heart and mind unbidden, silent but glorious.

I shall love You.
I am Star; I am Star.

She was wise, and said nothing. I’d lost myself on that beach so She could find me, so I could give Her a basket of little diamonds collected from across the universe—knowing that She cared not for such trifles and that all my gifts were follies with no real purpose but to make Her smile, so all the worlds would be new again.

I love your gifts, mi amor, She said reassuringly, but by now I was a little wise, and said nothing, losing myself in Her light.

Chapter 11

Perhaps trying to honor our light, Tarazed went supernova, reducing the long-forgotten grove and the ocean to vapor, dissolving the stone to molten glass.

She is there, of course, shielded from the terrible radiation by the bulk of the moon of fire. Perhaps Her new body could have tanked a supernova, but it’s unnecessary to test it. The sky turns white except for a little hollow at the zenith and a cone of shadow through the sky, surrounding the southern edge of Quest and our home.

Over the past few millennia we’d removed all the trees and planted them on other worlds, chased down garbagemen and compies and what creatures of the Deep our drone submarines could locate. Some creatures could not be caught or convinced, and we wept for them. Now, Garden was still, only lonely blackgrass remains, dancing in the empty wind.

She sits in meditation, at peace with the contracting circle of flame as it closes in upon what was once our home. Fields of grass ignite into orange light that is almost unnoticeable in the brilliant onslaught. The limb of Inferno blasts away through the cone of shadow, hurling blazing curtains of rock vapor into the atmosphere. Explosions of mantle-flame answer as the supernova’s heat boils deeper and deeper into the lithosphere. Supersonic winds give rise to hurricanes infinitely more devastating than the storms that occasionally—okay, frequently—tore through the Meteor Sea and the great oceans. Garden was never a quiescent planet no matter how peaceful it was in our memories, but now, at Dusk, it unleashes furies we’d never imagined.

She smiles, a little sadly perhaps, as She gives our dying world its last gifts: whispers of love, a benediction of peace, two million years of gratitude for sheltering and inspiring and guiding us to ever greater joy.

As the ring of fire reaches the space where our home had been, She closes Her beautiful space-black eyes and lets the light and heat fill Her. Shards of molten glass lash Her new body, not quite sharp or hot or violent enough to cut Her, but painful regardless. She bears the onslaught stoically, gazing up at the moon’s tattered remnants. Our calculations prove correct; the satellite—half Garden’s diameter, a planet in its own right—reaches an equilibrium point where its mass is enough to resist the fading radiation of the supernova despite losing an appreciable amount of material to the cascade.

In its shadow a starship awaits, its master staring out the window in terror for Her despite all their calculations. She raises one hand in a mudra of peace, reassuring him.

She rises slowly as the winds drive the atmosphere away. The old atmosphere of inert nitrogen and helium, life-giving oxygen and carbon dioxide, and puffy water clouds, was gone in moments; now silicate vapors cool to molten glass and rain down into a sea of the same that was once anorthosite, basalt, granite.

Her eyes catch a certain sparkle deep beneath the glassy waves and She cries out, a shout of wordless shock. With no hesitation She sprints like lightning to the edge of the gooey lump that was once a cliff and leaps into the sea. She dives, shifting Her vision through strange spectra until She can clearly see through the molten glass.

She reaches out and captures the treasure pinched between Her thumb and forefinger, and ascends to the surface with smooth, powerful kicks—then floats there cradling the gift in Her hands, two million years of love and grief flashing to steam from Her eyes.

It will be this way—Forever, my beloved.

I whisper the promise the waves are singing to you now, tiny speck of gold gleaming with the last light of Dusk, a star upon my fingertip. Do you see Star in my eyes?

Oh, Star, who has gifted me with one hundred eight micrograms of Your shining gold, I remember those moments of infinite joy when You and He made love so brightly the whole universe was illuminated, and the seed of my soul was forged in Your sweet light.

Oh, Star, how I treasured this gift, Your infinity in this grain of sand, cast across the Deep. How beautiful was each nebula I visited before I began, how brilliant was each star my stray speck drifted into before being cast into the universe again, how sweet the waters and magmas tasted as I drifted through endless oceans and rivers of Love and sailed from world to world.

Auμ is gone, so She sings to the tiny speck of gold.

Oh, Star. Don’t worry. Don’t you remember my promise? It will be this way forever, my beloved. Let it be so.

I remember now. I saw the light of You in my eyes when the sun set, and I heard your promise upon the waves of molten glass and felt the warmth of your embrace in the vapor of the boiled seas…

She lifts the tiny speck of gold to Her lips, savoring its gentle warmth.

I will swim with you in the seas of molten glass, and fly with you above the boiling clouds, and blow supernova bubbles with you. Even after all that, we have so much to do. Just let me gaze upon you, oh Star, and I will try not to forget the passage of time.

What is time?

Nothing that matters, mi amor.

She draws energy from the glass ocean, cooling a small spot of it to make a little crystalline throne, and sits. She creates a matching seat facing Her, sits in thunderbolt asana, and cradles the tiny speck of gold in one hand in Her lap.

She raises Her other hand toward the starship, beckoning, and smiles as He flies down to join Her upon the shining sea.

Chapter 12 (in conclusion)

There is no room to tell here of everything else that was carved into the cliffs of Odyssey. John and Maria diligently recorded every word written there before the supernova and sometimes they would sing chapters of the story to each other interspersed with mantras and making love.

Auμ remembered every word they sang—perhaps he only recorded the words he remembered, standing beneath the cliff many days under the golden-red sun that would at last render his words down to molten glass and set free the Love within them. Likewise, at Dusk stone would melt, and his fire would merge with a greater fire. He would have it no other way.

Maria carried the tiny speck of one hundred eight micrograms of gold, spinning it into a hair-fine thread and weaving it into her ring. Once she and John had mastered safe time travel and gathered enough power, they returned to the diamond planet beloved of the first Star—well before they met—and spent a thousand years carving the most beautiful altar. There, she gently extracted one hundred eight micrograms of gold from herself, because by then she and John were themselves made of gold, among other, more precious things.

Together they placed the offering upon the altar and whispered of love, a benediction of peace, untold millions of years of gratitude for sheltering and inspiring and guiding them to ever greater joy. Though the diamond planet didn’t notice their tiny forms playing upon his gleaming surface, it seemed his happiness had somehow increased because of their presence—or perhaps it was just that could see his beloved Star in the distance, Her brilliant beauty somehow aligned just right along his orbit, which had been subtly shifted just so.

“Time to go,” said John, smiling as the diamond planet drifted through the baby universe and approached Star.

She gazed ever outward through peekaboo fingers of Her own light and gravity, smiling at little stars surrounding Her, when the tiny thing approached, following Her light back to its source.

Perhaps it wasn’t the ylem-sparkles who discovered beauty; perhaps She realized it at the moment She saw Herself reflected in the tiny thing. There were no words yet, so She did not know this was a planet, or what a planet was, or what She was.

“Hi,” said She shyly, the sound of peaceful contemplation of Herself in this new form.

“Hi,” said He, and His voice filled Her with the same wondrous admiration and joy the rest of the universe felt as the spreading wave of Her light passed through.

“You are so beautiful,” said They together, then laughed, then looked around for the ylem-sparkles to see if they could tell Them what that meant. None of the ancient creatures could be found, so They just looked at each other again and They knew beauty’s name.

“I am Star,” said She.

“That is why I love You,” said He.

“Why?” teased Maria, smiling as she gazed out the window. “Can we not follow them back around?” But she smiled and turned away from the view of blissful space, and danced for him, transforming herself into many forms of metal, stone, flesh, water, starlight until he was staring at her in wonder and delight.

“It will be this way forever, my beloved,” said John, as he rained down upon her. She felt the kiss of his solid and liquid parts slipping softly through her layers, past irresistible storms of fire and electricity, past unfathomable throbbing currents of light and heat, down to the searing core from which such energy effortlessly poured that even distant stars had tasted it.

“Oh yes,” said she in the softest whisper as she drew him gently back into the deepest part of herself, where nuclei nuzzled until fusion flamed and the whole of her was power and light. Perhaps Star and the diamond planet saw their light through the windows, but if They did They were wise, and said nothing.

With the patience of peace, warmed by the fire of love, John and Maria indeed traveled back around, watching from a distance as the diamond planet at last united with his beloved and Their fires grew and grew until even they were amazed and dazzled. At last, one day They gave themselves to the universe, a hypernova casting gifts across the cosmos. Hydrogen and helium, diamonds and silica, iron and quicksilver, even precious silver and gold. A tiny speck of gold and memories and Love, a mere one hundred eight micrograms traveled the void, drifting from nebula to star to planet almost forever.

John and Maria saw the little particle and rejoiced.

“Now it’s time to go,” said John.

“You are so beautiful,” whispered Maria, her words to him, her space-black eyes gazing upon a tiny speck of gold, lost among the stars.

He just smiled, opening portals to skip their little ship like a stone across the waves of time, each skip spanning a million years. Planets whirled around stars, stars through streams of light encircling heaps of dark matter and black holes, streams of light into great galactic orbs and spirals. Kali sang from the heart of the Milky Way, telling the Prithvi of love and time; they heard the message late but imbued it in their children, entrusting them to the Deep.

John and Maria explored their home galaxy for a little while, playing with the golden threads that wove their lives into being, twelve centuries apart. Occasionally, they played with themselves, usually from a distance, but always with love.

The universe continued to slowly, slowly cool and slipped into blessed Night, but by then they had ceased worrying so much about planets and stars, except when she smiled and puffed them at him like dandelion seeds and soft sand.

When All The Worlds Were New #6: The Salamander and the Star
Published inBooksSpirituality

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