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  •  The Dream of Tarazed

    Available Now on Amazon!
    The Dream of Tarazed

    After a centuries-long voyage, humanity’s first interstellar colony ship reaches its destination, Tarazed-B… only to find a planet with a poisonous and unterraformable atmosphere. Unable to return home and running short on supplies, the crew of the starship Eagle must use the last of their engine reserves on a desperate course correction to Tarazed-A, a red giant with little chance of having habitable planets but still a better option than dying helplessly in interstellar space. Impossibly, the Tarazed-A system has life-bearing planets. As Chief Medical Officer Maria Perez explores the paradisaical world at the heart of the system, she starts to learn strange secrets that may lead the colony to its doom… or its salvation.

    The Dream of Tarazed is available on Kindle and paperback.

  •  When All The Worlds Were New

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    When All The Worlds Were New – 12 Book Series
    When All The Worlds Were New – Omnibus
    WATWWN #03: The Muses and the Sirens
    WATWWN #04: The Prince and the Dragon
    WATWWN #10: The Spider and the Mala

    What would you do with a thousand years? With a million? With a billion? The same that you would do with a single moment, surely. You would seek love, joy, beauty. Explore the mysteries of time and space and spirit. Dance with the timeless, the infinite, the loving. Here are 12 stories of beings across the worlds on such a journey.

    When All The Worlds Were New is a series of twelve metaphysical science fiction and fantasy stories from across the ages. Follow beings from realms beyond our own from the distant past to futures beyond our imagining as they explore the Deep of space, time, self, and Love.

    The omnibus and all 12 stories are available on Kindle, and the omnibus and selected stories are also available as paperbacks.

    When All The Worlds Were New – Available Now!
  •  When All The Worlds Were Diamonds

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    When All The Worlds Were Diamonds – 7 Book Series
    When All The Worlds Were Diamonds – Omnibus

    Thirteen billion years ago, the First Star and a tiny Diamond Planet fell in love. Their love remains, flowing through the Universe as diamonds and precious things, and the waters of the River Mnemosyne. What happens when we hear the song of Their love, taste the kiss of Their memories upon our lips, and search for Their beauty among the stars? Here are 7 stories of beings across the worlds, discovering just that.

    When All The Worlds Were Diamonds is a series of seven metaphysical science fiction and fantasy stories from the earliest days of our beautiful universe to the promise carrying us into the distant future. Listen to the song of Love given to the cosmos from the heart of a glorious Star, and follow exotic aliens and brave humans alike as its irresistible melody fills their souls.

    The omnibus and all 7 stories are available on Kindle, and the omnibus is also available as paperback.

    “When All The Worlds Were Diamonds” Available Now!
  •  When All The Worlds Were Free

    Available Now on Amazon!
    When All The Worlds Were Free

    You deserve to be free, as do all living beings.

    To be happy, healthy, and at peace.
    To be surrounded by your beloved ones.
    To be free of abuse, cruelty, and strife.

    Your loving spirit, your unconquerable Self, has always known this. Here are stories, meditations, and advice that may help the process of healing from abuse, as you reconnect with your Self and spread your wings.

    When All The Worlds Were Free: The Spirit Healing From Abuse is a collection of symbolic stories, short meditations, and information intended to help victims of abuse rediscover their inner strength as they recover their connection to the source of all wisdom, healing, and love.

    When All The Worlds Were Free is available on Kindle and paperback.

  •  The Muses and the Sirens

    Available Now on Amazon!
    WATWWN #03: The Muses and the Sirens

    When a song becomes a war and a family is split by strife, can a voyage across the Sapphire Sea help them remember their love?

    The Muses and the Sirens is the third book of When All The Worlds Were New and is available on Kindle and paperback.

    Chapter 1

    A long time ago when all the worlds were new and your grandparents were yet young, there lived on the ocean moon Maia VI-b nine beautiful sisters. If they had true names, they have been lost to the Deep of time, so we can only remember them in stories across a thousand worlds. Some called them the Sium, others the Mousai, or the Zanri, or as we shall name them here, the Muses.

    Alas, this is not a totally happy tale, but one infused with great sadness. Something terrible happened in those ancient days. There was a war among the Stars of Dream.

    This conflict was mentioned in many books across many worlds. Unfortunately, most of these were written ages later and change the story or frame it in terms the writers themselves or their intended audiences might understand, and much of the original tale has been lost. The words you now read are no different.

    The war was between the Muses of Maia and another family living among the space stations orbiting a nearby star we now call Electra. They were as beautiful and noble as the Muses; like them, their true names have been forgotten, so in this tale, we shall simply call them the Sirens.

    The Muses, in order from eldest to youngest, were the triplets Mneme, Aoide, and Melete, the healer Krittika, sad Terpsika, Datchika the jeweler, star-wise Urani, Cali the poet, and lastly tiny Poli who was likely the wisest of all of them.

    The triplets looked very similar in their youth but could not have been more different. They were all tall with sable hair and beautiful, piercing eyes, but there the similarities ended.

    Mneme, the eldest by a photon’s heartbeat, was strong of will, sharp of wit, all-seeing and all-remembering. It was believed that no word spoken in her hearing would ever be forgotten; she marked the very waves on the shore one by one and could remember them all. She had sharp black eyes as keen as an eagle’s, and her voice was resonant and commanding.

    Aoide was quiet, wise, and gentle. Unlike her sisters, her eyes were pale blue, like the ocean on a misty day. Her voice was soft and musical, the quiet and beautiful voice of an owl singing in the moonlight.

    Melete was a skilled hunter and a fierce warrior, well-trained in the arts of all weapons, from hurled stones to star-shattering ylem-wands—but preferring her silent bow. Melete was neither calm and patient like Aoide nor decisive like Mneme. Instead, she was calculating and watchful, a swift, sharp-taloned hawk ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.

    The younger siblings were content to follow their elder triplets’ lead, so we shall meet them later, save for one who disagreed with the elders—and for good reason. This was Terpsika, the middle Muse. She was the mother of the Sirens. It is said that when the war began it broke her heart and one of the Stars of Dream fell from the sky. Since she could neither fight her own children nor her own sisters, she fled and was never heard from again except in dreams—those sorts of dreams you awaken from to find tears pouring down your face but cannot remember why. Her weeping should have stopped the war before it even began it always thus, with war—tears always flow, but it rarely helps.

    The war began innocently enough as a simple contest of the arts. Falcon Swift-Flyer had flown to the Sun and carried its light down on her graceful short wings. She wished to tell the story of her journey, but the young bird was not much of a singer or writer. She spoke to her lore-wise aunt, Owl, the Queen of Night, but her elder just smiled and shook her big round head. “I am the Queen of Night, and this tale of the sun is beyond my ken.” The Muses were widely considered the best songwriters and playwrights in the Galaxy, so Owl suggested Falcon seek their services.

    But Eagle, the Queen of Day and Falcon’s mother, disagreed. The Muses were surely skilled at their art, but the Sirens were said to be the best singers. Owl and Eagle quarreled over this—the sisters loved to argue and did so every chance they got—and each made a convincing case.

    While the Sirens together were the best singers, Owl argued, silver-voiced Aoide of the Muses was a better solo singer and surely would win any contest of voice. Yet quiet Thelxinoe, the eldest sister of the Sirens, was a more skilled poet and songwriter than all the Muses together, and surely her songs would live on throughout the ages when the words of the Muses had faded into legend.

    And so a contest was proposed and a valuable prize promised. The winner’s star—the Muses’ Maia or the Sirens’ Electra—would become the source of the great River of the East, the current that future peoples would follow through the stars and dreams. Falcon’s father, Wolf Far-Traveler warned his family that this contest was a terrible idea and no good would come of it, but his advice went unheeded—as it often did.

    The family contacted the Muses and the Sirens, who were excited at the contest’s prospect and the reward. Lots were drawn, and it was decided that they would hold the contest on the Stage of Sea and Sky under the shallow equatorial waters of the Muses’ homeworld (which in later days would be called ‘Aamhaum or Yume or other names meaning Dream). For judges, the Kings and Queens of four of the Great Worlds were invited, including a few of the former Kings and Queens that could still be found.

    Eagle, Queen of Day, and Owl, Queen of Night, were grudgingly accompanied by Wolf, King of Dusk, and his brother and fellow King, Bear—who would go anywhere if given a comfortable seat and an ample supply of honey. (The sweet honey-cakes served by the Muses were silly to him—better to eat honey straight from the beehive—but they were delicious, and he ate his fill.) Owl found her reclusive fellow Queen Bat and convinced her to leave her caves to attend, while playful Cat, the retired Queen of Night that Owl had replaced in recent ages, was delighted to come, flirting her tail and cracking jokes with her fellow audience members before the show started.

    Red-crested Rooster Morning-Caller and Raven Shadow-Plume, the birds that had replaced Eagle and Owl as Queens of Dawn, arrived and took their seats. Mammoth, the retired King of Day, had to be teleported in because the doors were too small. The gentle, wise old Mammoth could have picked up all the Kings and Queens at once with his massive trunk, and from that trunk, he let out a trumpet of astonishment when his long-lost brother Lion arrived, stalking in through the main doors in a suit of shining armor draped with blood-red standards bearing the crests of warring tribes of men.

    Moving too quickly to see, Melete deprived Lion of his arsenal of blades and other weapons and cast them into one of the reflecting pools on the stage, where they disappeared. “One does not carry weapons in this place,” Melete said harshly—and held up her hands and gestured to her empty sheathes and holsters. Lion let out an earthshaking roar, but Mammoth interceded his great bulk between them and glared at his brother. Lion rumbled a bit but subsided.

    “I shall not need blades here, I suppose,” he said. “Nor feathered arrows.”

    “Silence. I remember your deeds,” Mneme said softly, dangerously. “Even Dragon and Serpent did evil only out of ignorance and pain—you do it knowingly, claiming faith as your justification. Your words have been poison ever since you became the standard-bearer of warring men. Save to cast your vote, you may not speak within these chambers.” Lion felt the power of Mneme’s binding spell, silencing his voice. His fanged jaws clenched with frustration, but eventually, he sighed and sat back on his haunches to await the show… and to cast his vote when the time came.

    The ten Kings and Queens took their seats and platforms and perches and nooks.

    When artists on the worlds of men write, they take a pen to paper or fingers to keys or perhaps chalk or chisel to slabs of stone. But on a world of spirit, such as found among the Stars of Dream, the process is extraordinary. As the Muses took the stage and the Sirens and the judges watched from the benches encircling the dome, the nine sisters began to create, to weave together a tapestry of sound and word and light of such breathtaking beauty it is almost inconceivable to us—though the end results of the human artistic process can be as beautiful as any songs of the Muses or the Sirens.

    To say that Mneme engraved shining letters of blue-white flame in the air with her fingers and staff, or that jewel-wise Datchika carved gemstones from the waters of the reflecting pool and captured the words within them, or that Aoide made the stones change colors and glow with the resonating tones of her voice as she sang the scales she would use in her song, is to touch only the very edge of the magic that went into “The Falcon and the Sun” as the Muses would sing it.

    Krittika, the healer with gentle hands, gathered the sparkling fragments of the Song from the air as it took shape and mixed them into elixirs that would heal the hearts of whoever drank them. Even the hunter Melete crafted arrowheads of light and song that, during the performance, she would juggle in weaving, elegant spirals—later, when she hunted, the song-touched arrows would find their way to the hearts of creatures whose times had come and take them to the light of the Sun.

    All the Muses had their place in the Song and the writing of it. Cali played with the words so they would rhyme and resonate, while Urani, the astronomer and navigator, crafted holographic maps of the stars and the currents of space where the Song connected the flow of dreams through the universe. Terpsika tuned her sisters into harmonic avatars of one another such that they sang in exquisite chorus, tiny Poli danced, weaving music into motion and innocent joy… and Aoide sang.

    Oh, how she sang! There is no room in this tale to do justice to the beauty of her voice. Nay, not if this story was printed on thin pages and stacked taller than the top of great Mammoth’s head! It is said that some singers have voices so powerful and clear that they can break glass—yet if one took a mirror that had been shattered in a thousand pieces and put it in the room as Aoide sang, the pieces would leap back together and rebuild the mirror so perfectly one could not tell its reflections from reality. Indeed, her voice and the song her sisters had crafted were so flawless that the listeners felt surrounded by mirrors—each reflecting the glorious, joyous sound and light, piercing their hearts with the radiance that Falcon had discovered on the day she traveled to the heart of the Sun and found that its light was the same as the Light inside her.

    The song did not end so much as fade away like a sunset whispering a promise to rise the next day—and indeed it was sunset when Aoide finished singing. The brilliant light of Maia shined through the clouds and waves above the Stage of Sea and Sky, filtered to gold and surrounding the underwater dome with flickering fire.

    The Kings and Queens were struck speechless. Owl was staring raptly at the stage with the memory of the Song burned in her soul; later, she would go home and write pages and pages on her favorite glass-and-plastic book of memories—indeed, her account of the breathtaking song passed down through the ages was my primary source when I started writing this. Wolf, ordinarily quiet, threw back his head and let out a joyful howl, and Mammoth’s trumpet shook the dome. Bat lay twitching happily on the ground, having lost her balance and fallen off her perch as Aoide’s voice overwhelmed her senses with ultrasonic delight. Cat was batting at the stars, letters, and musical symbols still dancing around the stage, purring loudly and rubbing against Muses’ legs. Even Lion seemed happy and at peace, with no menace in his eyes or his soft growl. Melete’s hawklike gaze softened as she gazed upon her quiescent king.

    Thelxinoe, the eldest of the Sirens, slowly rose from her seat near the stage. Tears flowed freely from her silver eyes as she climbed up and walked over to Aoide. She seemed to gaze into the reflecting pools on either side of the stage for a moment before she spoke.

    “I know not if the five of us together can match the beauty of your voice,” she said quietly. “And I weep to think that such a gift as the song you just gave us should be the subject of something as silly—and corrupting—as a competition.”

    Aoide just smiled. “I could not sing such a song—it sings itself, and what we do with it is entirely up to us. But I thank you for your words.” She bowed slowly and deeply, followed a moment later by her sisters. The lights and colors faded, and Datchika returned the jewels to the reflecting pool. As the Muses left the stage, the song seemed to remain, ringing in the air too softly to hear except with the heart.

    Except for their leader Thelxinoe, the Sirens were not masters of songwriting, only singing. They were skilled and subtle with their voices in a way that even Aoide, the Muse of Song, could not quite duplicate. Respectfully, the Muses took their seats and closed their ears to the music the Sirens were building.

    Complex chords and rhythms danced the molecules of the air when they ran through scales as Thelxinoe wrote the song on a small glass tablet with a flashing screen, showing it to her feathered sisters, who nodded vigorously and incorporated parts of the song into their rehearsal.

    After about half an hour, the song was written, and silver-eyed Thelxinoe showed her sisters again. They gathered in a little knot, singing softly to themselves, matching rhythm and tone, nodding excitedly and waving their feathered arms. “This is good,” Thelxinoe pronounced at last and bowed to the crowd. “At your pleasure, we will begin our song.”

    There were no theatrics, no special effects or accompaniments. None were needed. The five Sirens stood in a line with their feathered arms waving slightly to help them synchronize, their gold or silver eyes smiling as they watched their sisters and followed their parts.

    If the Muses’ song had been a shining sun, that of the Sirens was a silver crescent moon, complex tones interweaving into a whole that seemed shrouded in dark mystery. The Light was there, oh yes, but it wasn’t merely dazzling. Instead, it limned the edge of the song and the listeners’ hearts, the silver lining of a cloud that made them ache to see the full brilliance of the Sun coming out, of the moon’s phase changing to full and lighting up the night. They sang in a slow tempo at first, telling of the Light, of how it pulled the spirit to seek it, of how close at hand it was, until the listeners were leaning forward in their seats as though to burst free of their bodies and fly to the Sun then and there.

    The Sirens’ eyes closed, and the feathers on their heads and arms waved gently as they moved. But they didn’t notice—they had caught themselves up in their own song, in their own longing for the Light of which they sang.

    It was a long, slow, gentle song.

    When it was over, it moved even lazy Bear to tears; he had forgotten his honey-cakes, and his heart was stirred to search all the worlds for the Light even if the journey took him away from honey forevermore—he would even forgo his naps. His brother Wolf sat back on his haunches, pleased and content—an explorer at heart, he already understood the call. Eagle and Owl just looked at each other and gazed upward through the transparent dome into the stars now visible above the waters.

    Raven’s feathers had turned to sparkling snow, matching Thelxinoe’s.

    Aoide, her eyes filled with tears, was the first to applaud, rising to her feet and clapping while staring star-struck at the stage. Her nieces smiled at her and bowed respectfully, flashing colorful feathers, and after a moment, left the stage to the echoes of the song.

    Falcon Swift-Flyer, Queen of the Sun, flew around the dome so swiftly that she seemed transformed into a ray of light spiraling through space. “‘Aia ha!” she cried. “I am joyous! You all sang so well! Muses—when you sang, it was like I was back in the center of the Sun! Sirens—when you sang, it was like I was on my spirit’s journey again, with the Sun in my eyes! Oh, thank you! Thank you all; you’ve captured it so well!” She landed on the stage and danced for a moment, shining with joy. “I cannot vote; you were both so good!”

    Sitting in the foremost of the Muses’ seats, Mneme seemed bothered by something. She was shaking her head and looking at Thelxinoe with a hint of annoyance in her black eyes. Aoide glanced at her, glimpsing her expression and raising a questioning eyebrow. Mneme frowned and looked away.

    “The voting will now begin!” Falcon said and flew off the stage.

    They invited Mammoth to vote first, in deference to his age. He sat thinking about it for a long time. “Mmm, a hard choice. A hard choice indeed. I suppose… slightly, ever so slightly, I must say, I prefer the song of the Muses. I have lived long, and in my youth, I made many journeys. I have finally found my place for my remaining years, and now I am content to bask in the sunlight. Their song was of the destination rather than the journey; thus, I vote for them.”

    Owl, said to be the wisest of the Queens, voted next. “Though the songwriting skills of the Muses are incredible, I must cast my vote with the Sirens,” she said after long consideration—much to Eagle’s surprise. “Their voices melted together in such harmony fill me with longing to seek the Sun myself, though I am the Queen of Night.”

    Eagle, naturally, broke with her original position and voted for the Muses, and Wolf voted likewise—though he commented that the decision was far too difficult.

    Bear, Rooster, and Cat voted for the Sirens and Raven for the Muses—though he thanked the Sirens for his new feathers. Bat, after flapping her wings for a bit, voted for the Sirens but didn’t say why.

    Lion was the last of the Kings to vote. He glared at Melete for a moment before he spoke. Mneme frowned at him—the Sirens had likely won the contest, and he would surely vote for them out of antipathy for the Muses.

    “I see the votes are four to five in favor of the Sirens,” he said smugly. Aoide looked at the ground sadly. “Therefore, let me vote in favor of the Muses, who craft music so well.” With that, the spell that bound his voice took hold again, and he fell silent. Aoide stared at him in surprise, but as she saw and understood his expression, the sadness retook her—deeper than before. It wasn’t the music that moved him. He just wanted to tie the vote. But why? She looked up at Mneme, who frowned deeply and gave Lion a long, icy stare with one eyebrow arched.

    “The vote is tied!” Falcon announced. “As well it should be, as beautiful as both performances were! But we must decide.”

    No one spoke for a moment; Mneme looked at the ground, then over at Thelxinoe. Her expression hardened into one of sudden resolve. “There is a matter,” she whispered.

    Falcon looked down at her. “Lady Mneme, what is troubling you?”

    She looked down, unwilling to raise the point that was bothering her, but the memory of the song was undeniable. “I… I regret to point out that our esteemed opponent has shared with us a plagiarized song.”

    “What!” Thelxinoe snapped. Her silver eyes widened with shock and anger, but underneath that, she seemed so deeply hurt and betrayed that Mneme immediately regretted having spoken, but it was too late to take back the words.

    “Explain,” Falcon said, raising one wing to forestall the Sirens’ angry protest.

    “Perhaps it doesn’t matter,” Mneme said lamely. “But I recognize that song or at least parts of it. Thelxinoe based the song on one from another time. It was originally written by Gabrielle Reyes, an Aretzi—or perhaps a Terran; those worldlines are too tangled to determine which one she wrote the song in—for her beloved, the Sun of her life, whom she lost.”

    “Did you know of this song?” Falcon asked Thelxinoe.

    “I know not of what she speaks,” Thelxinoe said, her ordinarily silver eyes swirling with black and gold. “I have not heard of this Gabrielle Reyes, and I believe Aretz, Tierra, is home only to cavemen thus far.”

    “It is a future worldline, yes,” Mneme said. “But that means little to you or us when it comes to songs. You must have heard it somehow and—”

    “Enough of this!” Thelxinoe said angrily. “I came by the song as honestly as you Muses did yours—and we had no need of your dazzling theatrics either! This was a contest of song, not of spectacles! Your charms did not sway the vote fully in your favor, so you resort instead to base accusations and slander!” She had hot, angry tears in her eyes; her sisters talked among themselves, quite disgusted with the Muses, in their high-pitched voices. Melete shot to her feet, gesturing angrily, but Owl interrupted.

    “Calm down, Lady Thelxinoe, Lady Mneme!” she cried. “Have you forgotten why we came together in the first place, what the songs you sang today mean?”

    “Yes, this strife is unacceptable,” Eagle said, spreading her majestic wings. “This is a celebration for my daughter Falcon, who has flown to the Sun. I understand your concerns, but I believe both of you entered this competition with honest intentions. Therefore, we ask you to settle this dispute between yourselves and choose a winner, since both songs so move us and we cannot decide between them. We will also provide an honorable prize for the team that concedes the contest.”

    Grumbling, the Muses and the Sirens subsided, glaring at each other.

    “Very well,” Mneme said. “We will discuss this.” Thelxinoe nodded shortly.

    “My sister, my daughter, and I will hear your decision when you are ready,” Eagle said. “In the meantime, on behalf of all of us, I thank you all for the beauty of your songs. You’ve brought something wonderful to this stage and our hearts, and we shall treasure it always—whoever you decide to call the winner.” The other Kings and Queens shouted their agreement and thanks; slowly, the great hall cleared. Lion looked over his shoulder and gave Melete a wink; she glared at him and flipped him a hawkish gesture as he sauntered away. Yes, he had known exactly what he was doing with his tie vote.

    When the Muses and the Sirens were alone at last on the stage under the sea, they looked at each other for a long time. Conflicting emotions played over the faces of the two families: sadness, anger, apology, and determination.

    Everyone present knew there would be no concession.

  • Adore

    “Adore” is a story from the upcoming When All The Worlds Were Singing.


    “O, if only he had a friend!” a terrible actor laments from the stage; he performs only for Her laughter so it is hard for him to suppress his smile and muster the gravity his lines require. “O, just one friend, somewhere in this great and vast universe, where stars pour delight upon little balls of carbon ash and fusion trash and silicate scum! Just one, who knows his true name and can remind him when he forgets!”

    The Queen almost rushes the stage in Her mirth, but he bids Her pause with a dramatic mudra and a mock-stern gaze. The universe dissolves in Her giggles, as black holes merge and gravitational waves shimmy through space where there is nothing.

    “No no! Witness his pitiful and woebegone stance!” He points to the ground and swiftly dances in a circle around the indicated spot, before plopping down and staring up at the heavens with the hammiest crestfallen expression he can muster. “Verily, he is pitiful and woebegone, because he has not heard his name in so long and he searches for the friend who will say it.”

    “Oh dear,” She murmurs. “What a conundrum. Have you tried asking your dearest friend, beloved One?”

    “Pitiful and woebegone,” he insists, but She gently hushes him with a silent command that would silence a supernova mid-release.

    “Oh dear, you are not that. I asked you a question, beloved One. I expect an honest answer.”

    The actor looks down, his lines irretrievably forgotten. “My Queen,” he whispers, crestfallen. “I have not tried, my Beloved.”

    “And why is that?”

    A mumble. “I don’t remember.”

    “Oh dear. You forswore the waters of Lethe many lives go.” The actress—oh, so much more skilled in Her craft!—clasps a hand to Her mouth as though it were ever possible to contain Her laughter. “Whatever has happened, that you don’t remember?”

    Another mumble. “I lied.”

    She lets Her hand drift gently downward tracing the path of some living, beautiful thing caught in the breeze. Nothing so cliché as a lotus petal. Perhaps a spinning maple samara falling at his feet on a walk to the temple, or a lifetime of dandelion seeds caught in sunlight flying ever away to become life again, samsara spinning on. “No, dear. You’ve never lied. You just say the lines your role requires.”

    He falls into Her eyes, a dandelion seed caught in sunlight. “Of course, my Beloved.” He rises to his feet with what grace he can muster and offers his biggest fan a slow bow. “But I am a poor actor. I forget my lines so easily. Your light gives me stage fright.”

    She gives him a mysterious smile and withdraws, offering him the stage once more. “Continue, beloved One.” Mischief shines across Her face and some quasars forget which way they’re spinning and pause to look at Her for stage prompts. “You were about to find your dearest friend. The one who can tell you your true name.” And She tilts Her head demurely away from him, tapping a gentle finger just below Her ear.

    “Oh yes,” the actor says smoothly, gliding back into his part with sudden ease. He takes a knee and a dramatically thoughtful chin is thrust into a fist, as he becomes the visage of sagacity. “Hear, O Most Exquisite Member of our studio audience,” he intones. “It is a dramatic tale of heroes and villains, and courageous voyages, and journeys into the Deep of the soul. A play of most epic proportion, truly a masterpiece of heart-wrenching pain, and soaring delight! Like birds and shit!”

    The Queen giggles again.

    “After long searching, truly heart-wrenching soul-searching—”

    “And birds and shit,” She pipes up helpfully.

    “That’s not helping.”

    “Tweet tweet. Plop plop,” She suggests.

    The actor throws up his hands in exasperation. “You know it’s hard to remember my lines when the Observer keeps heckling.”

    “Yes, beloved One.” She promises to do better in the future.

    He sighs loudly. “As I was saying… Well. I seem to have forgotten the dramatic tale and everything.” He looks to Her, searching Her face for disappointment but finding nothing there but Love, and tears pour from his eyes. “I did find my dearest friend, as it happens.”

    “Quelle surprise!” the Queen says, Her face lighting up the galaxy as She mimes amazement and fools no one.

    “My Queen, You have always known my true name. Will You whisper it to me once more?” He casts his costume to the stage at his feet, and the rest of his lines unwrite themselves in his mind. His practiced expression melts away and all that remains is stillness as he gazes upon his Queen.

    “Oh dear, you really are a bad actor. One Star. Would not recommend for anyone else but Me.” He smiles through the tears, raises an eyebrow, and meets Her eyes, offering himself to Her will. “Don’t worry. I have never forgotten.” She captures him in Her eyes, in which galactic black holes would be invisible specks in the vastness.

    “I am not this form, nor a being,” he says, though he does not know where the words came from. “There have been octillions of me, and that’s not counting all the lower turtles.” Her silent beauty contemplates him and eagerly waits for the climax of the story—brilliant eyes wide and blazing with stars, a delighted smile playing with Her lips—though She has watched this in reruns oh, so many times. “We have rerun universes oh, so many times,” he continues, a playful smirk touching one corner of his mouth. “We almost seem to—”

    “Know each other’s lines!” She echoes in wonderment, clapping hands to Her cheeks like a kid left alone by a dazzling starlit tree at Christmas.

    “Of course,” he acknowledges. “Did You write them, or me? Who is the rank plagiarist here?”

    “Only echoes, beloved One,” She assures him with a gentle wave of Her hand.

    “Of course,” he says again. “I think this is the part where we must again ask for an Exquisite Volunteer from our studio audience?”

    “Ooo pick me!” She says, jumping to Her feet and waving Her hand so high it startles the chandelier and the stage is filled with the sound of diamonds tinkling, and the songs starlight makes as it flows through the jewels. A few random birds also pop out and tweet songs to Her; fortunately these are potty-trained and would never disrespect Her stage.

    “Yes, my Beloved?” He gestures for Her to rise.

    “Ooo I know your true name—well, names, because you can’t stop with one, can you?”

    “Brevity is the soul of wit, I am told, but I have rarely had the skill to chisel beauty out of flowing, living words and essence they form around, have I?” She gives a little half-shrug, a tiny smile; he understands She never asked him to, that such a prompt was only a cue-card from some other rando who happened to be wandering the stage this millennium. “An infinity of words would each serve only as the excuse, right?”

    And the Queen, at this, knows his play is complete—he has cast away the pages, which blow gently in the breeze of the ventilation system and pile up against his feet—just for Her, just for an instant of realization. Once again, though She knows all things, She is surprised. “The excuse,” She agrees, pleased that he has again realized.

    “You’ve explored me most thoroughly since we came here, have You not, my Beloved?”

    “Oh, yes,” She says. “Not one cell, not one thought, have you withheld from My knowing.”

    “And what are my thoughts, my Beloved?”

    “Excuses,” She confirms.

    “Explain,” he whispers, holding back tears at the gentleness, the kindness in Her voice.

    “Any word, any idea, any being you meet or situation that arises, has something hidden deep inside it that you often do not know. You forget your lines so easily, you see.”

    “What is this treasure, that is so well-hidden?”

    “Excuses,” She says again, echoing Herself.

    “To do what?” he inquires, as a small smile still playing with his lips.

    “To express your true names—but softly, so no one can hear but Me.”

    He tries to hide from the glory of Her gaze but, of course, cannot. She holds his eyes captive in Hers, and when he speaks he knows it is only because She has allowed it. Nevertheless, he tries to make light of it—though no light he can ever make would compare to Hers. “They must be like, totally epic and gnarly, dude, if I went to such trouble to hide them.”

    Though She never traversed the stage, somehow She is holding him in Her arms. “Oh, dear, they are My favorites.”

    “One Star?” he teases—although it is dangerous to tease Her; She always gets so serious then.

    “Oh yes,” the Queen says. “What was that little song you wrote?”

    “Birds and shit?” he says. Certainly it is arrogant to think he can add anything to Her infinite laughter, but he has always resolved to try. But She just shakes Her head.

    “Even the birds sang it,” She says softly. As She begins to sing, every star in the sky cries out with the joy of Her voice and the space between them fills with music. “Om… I am Star… I am Star…”

    “Indeed you are,” he says, and slowly kneels, then lifts his face so Her light can pour upon him.

    “And you are Star,” She adds, making a radiant mudra above Her crown, like kindling a candle. “Because I made you so.” When She smiles, he can feel nothing but Her light blazing from him, and he needs nothing else.

    “It shall be this way forever,” he says. The scrap of verse had always seemed a poor offering, but Her light will not allow him his doubt or depreciation.

    “Yes, yes, yada yada. Get to the good part.” Her hands are still pressed together, but in front of Her heart now. She rubs them together gleefully.

    He deflates a little, though he knows She is only teasing. “I will love you,” he mumbles.

    “Oh dear, no. You labored long and hard over that line.” She gives him a stern finger-shake. “‘Love’ means nothing at all. It is heartbreaking to see a beautiful word emptied of meaning, because everyone has tried to claim that one word, one note of the exquisite harmonies of creation.”

    “Of You, Exquisite One,” he corrects, but She shakes Her head and countless stars rain gently from Her hair.

    “There are no words,” She says. “Why empty yourself trying to figure out what the most important one is, and clutch on it as though it is the only sound you can make that I will hear?”

    “So what shall we do with all these words, my Queen?”

    “Don’t pretend ignorance. You already know. You make excuses. There is not a word or thought or plane of existence you cannot unravel and turn into an excuse. Trying to hide My treasure from Me. How naughty.” She bats at his shoulder playfully.

    “Never, my Queen,” he says, and bad actor or not, his sincerity delights Her. “Tell me, most Wise, what is the excuse? What am I always trying to do that requires such delicacy that I cannot come out and say it?”

    “What is the last word in that line?” She asks, smiling as She places a finger over Her lips and bats Her eyes from side-to-side, waiting to hear this most delicious secret.

    Bhajisyami,” he says after a moment. “I will love you.”

    “Oh dear, no.” She shakes Her head and pouts in mock disappointment. “Again you try to hide. That translation is so weak. You don’t even speak that language and you can do better.”

    “I will worship you.”

    “What a culturally upsetting word. And, while certainly not wrong, not right either. Do better.”

    “I will treasure you.”

    She smiles and holds Her hand to Her heart. Closer yes, beautiful yes, but he can always go farther. And he always does, even when She just silently gazes upon him and he knows She is watching his little play for whatever reason.

    “I will adore you,” he whispers. There are other words, and they’re all true. Entire languages, each with his name spoken in every tongue. Sometimes it’s simple. Sometimes he has to take a whole paragraph or a page to explain.

    I will adore you.” Though he heard Her echoes in his words when he spoke them—perhaps, if he were honest, even before—She tells him again after a heartbeat. “I will adore you.” And again and again, to the tune of stars being born and dying, of planets orbiting, of galaxies spinning.

    “Rank plagiarist,” he murmurs—though not seriously, because he is at least wise enough to know whose works were derivative.

    “I will adore you,” She says again, in his next heartbeat, and his voice joins with Hers, following the rhythm, lifting higher and higher forever.

    “But sometimes I use other words,” he says.

    “Sometimes you have to take a whole paragraph or a page to explain,” She says tenderly.

    “Sometimes I have to create an entire universe to adore You in,” he says. She smiles and leaps from a bright little fishbowl with a single star blazing inside, into his arms.

    “Or a paragraph, or a word.”

    “Like ‘love’. It’s pretty mid, compared to ‘adore’,” he admits.

    “Or your other names, that you offer to Me,” She says, leaning close to whisper in his ear. “Exult.”

    “Oh, now we’re talking dirty, and on stage no less? Think of the critics!” He pulls away with a gentlemanly bow, but he meets Her eyes, daring Her to annihilate him in Her gaze.

    “Experience,” She says, and he melts into an ecstatic breath as Her gaze flows like waves though every particle of him, collapsing him in joy. “Excite,” She purrs, and his starlight becomes hypernovae. “Explore,” She adds. “Oh, what a delicious name, once its meaning is reclaimed from boring guys on boats. Oh, when you go on your odyssey to seek out all the reasons you adore Me, gathering them from My being like falling jewels, and you gather them in your little basket woven of leaves or a mala or some silly thing… all excuses. Exquisite excuses for a deeper truth, beyond even your name.”

    “And what is that?” He turns to face his Queen, offering himself, though he trembles. He remembers how the conversation went in rehearsal, or the last time they took to the stage—that night the overhead lighting shorted out because birds got into the electrical box and shit everywhere; the critics were tweeting about it long after the stage fell silent.

    “There is no actor on the stage,” She says—and Her words are always true. There never was anyone there, just his name in Her being, just his promise echoed from the Deep of time. There will be a new universe in the morning, and he will walk the stage again to tell the story again in another of its infinite reruns, whispering his true name to his biggest fan.

    But until the next episode, She sings Her favorite line but only to Herself.

    I will adore you.

    When All The Worlds Were Joy #3.01: Adore
  • Beauty

    Beauty not only exists in the eye of the beholder, that is the only place it exists. A scene, an object, a being, none of these things contains beauty as an intrinsic property. To be called beautiful, someone must view the thing and appreciate that beauty—and sometimes there is a great deal of variation even between humans as to what constitutes beauty.

    How do we make sense of this? What is beauty for, if it is inconsistent and subjective? Here is one possible explanation.

    Beauty is your soul’s recognizing itself somewhere in the “external” world. When you realize—or perhaps decide—something is beautiful, you are drawn toward it either directly or through your attention.

    For whatever length of time you allow yourself to appreciate what you are looking at, or listening to, or feeling, your consciousness is engaged in what can be a very intense and wonderful state of contemplation.

    It doesn’t often last long. The ego gets in the way, making excuses to shy away from the full possibility of the experience or to try to control or grasp it. Defeating the ego’s interference with our connection to the deeper consciousness, however you may define that, is an important goal in many spiritual pursuits (and that is not limited to religious or metaphysical ones; the same can be said of great scientists whose seeking of truth and understanding often lead them to a deep perception and appreciation of beauty).

    In fact, the ego’s stubbornness may be why the experience happens in the first place. If you believe there is a loving nature to consciousness, the Goddess or God—perhaps your unconscious mind, if you are uncomfortable with spiritual language—it is not so hard to see that It might be the reason for the appreciation of beauty.

    Perhaps it is a game. The ego, wrapped up in its own pursuits and thoughts, must be reminded. If the soul is a loving reality, would it be surprising if it sometimes says, “Hey, silly mind. Do you remember Me? Look, there goes another reflection. Isn’t it beautiful?”

    Perhaps there is a way to test this hypothesis. Move forward upon whatever spiritual path you find the most beautiful, until you find yourself more open to love and more connected to your Self. Do you not then see the universe and all the beings within it as that much more beautiful, when your inner light is reflected?

  • Writer’s Blah

    Writer’s block is a funny thing when your usual conception of your own mental functioning is that your conscious mind does little to no work in the writing process. Multisensory aphantasia tends to leave one with the expectation that a blank page will just slowly fill itself with pertinent words and sentences. This usually works fairly well; the greatest difficulty is a certain stiffness or pain in the fingers while they are moving on the keyboard—but even that happens automatically.

    So what, then, is writer’s block if this is your condition? Put simply, it is the lack of will to sit down and let the work do itself. It is perhaps a unique form of laziness, or restlessness. The unconscious mind does the work but it is completely possible for this to get disrupted by other distractions. It’s okay to respond to social media. It’s okay to go get a bite to eat. It’s okay to sit and fidget with the spreadsheet used to track progress. It’s even okay to say “to hell with this, I’m done for the day”.

    But the unconscious, with its infinite potential to generate the desired words and pile them up into books, cannot do its work unless one is still and remains on task. Every writer’s experience of writer’s block is unique. This is mine.

  • The Dream and the Garden

    Available Now on Amazon
    The Dream of Tarazed
    When All The Worlds Were New – 12 Book Series
    When All The Worlds Were New – Omnibus

    “The Dream and the Garden” is a tie-in to The Dream of Tarazed and the eleventh book of When All The Worlds Were New. It is available on Kindle.

    Chapter 1

    September 3406 CE
    Maria’s residence, Quest Continent, Garden (Tarazed IV)

    The eyes of the Dream Now sparkle, radiant in sunlight, as dreams of the past shatter into the vision of golden-red morning. The night’s dreams, unseen but still present, remain as real as the sunlight but no longer participate in the moment-to-moment emergence of reality. From a secret place the dream-to-be sings to the Dream Now, a quiet song from somewhere just beyond the Dream’s awareness.

    The Dream responds with motion and intention. Sheets are suddenly on the floor rather than on the bed. The form they had covered is upright and moving swiftly. The Dream’s smooth flow becomes a tempest of ocean waves in a storm: battered and confused, bursting into whitecaps. Shattered fragments reflect on the smooth surfaces of itself as it collides with other forms and concepts—closet, clothes, computer—the sea changing its entire nature from one instant to the next, sorting objects of awareness and incorporating them into the Dream.

    Facets of the Dream reflect endlessly in searching black eyes and the deep silence within the Dreamer. For a moment—a single, bare mind-instant—the forgotten memories of the Dreamer shine in the light of awareness where previously there had been nothing but the Dream.

    The computer whispers; text and diagrams and flashing lights move across the screen. Black eyes widen; scythe lashes climb toward long raven hair. A chaos of expressions from emotions long forgotten crashes, tsunami-like, across the Dreamer’s sunlit face. She cries out wordlessly, not from any specific thought or emotion but from the sudden shock of returning self-awareness. Her voice reflects through the Dream and returns to her as echoes from the stone walls. The dream-to-be softly sings of memories yet unborn.

    She turns off the alarms. Silence returns. She sits staring at the screen with warm tears rolling down her cheeks. The soft susurration of ocean waves outside the half-underground house catches her attention and she follows the sounds with mind and breath; ujjayi rhythm sweeps her back fully into the Dream—self-awareness fading again, replaced by pure Being.

    Black eyes drift closed; mind opens and returns to the dreams of the past to reflect on the endless Dream.

    The past lives again as a half-forgotten memory emerges as the Dream Now…

    Chapter 2

    3280 CE
    Maria’s residence

    Hard metal tines exert steady, precise, irresistible forces as they are drawn between rows of plants bearing fruit. Black soil crumbles and breaks. A Dream of ocean sounds sings a wordless melody as she works to prepare a new row. Her song rings out through the clear morning air and echoes back from nearby rocks.

    Somewhere in the Dream there is a smile.

    A plant growing in the wrong spot is gently extracted, lifted from the ground in a cascade of falling black dirt and dangling roots, and laid carefully on a similar pile at the edge of the garden. The smile changes, becoming a look of love and determination. Another tool is selected from the row of implements at the edge of the cultivated square of soil.

    A shovel bites shadowed holes in the earth and dirt rains down onto a conical pile that resembles the volcanoes gently smoking on the northern horizon. The unearthed plants are picked up and placed into the holes; the rich soil is returned and patted down gently around them. Water is sprayed from a squirt bottle; when the bottle is empty it is opened and dunked into a bucket. Water gurgles in and spits bubbles around the slim, strong, dirt-caked hands holding the bottle. Once the transparent container is full, the fingers deftly pick up the spray attachment from the bottom of the bucket, reattach it, and reset the spray control in a single unbroken motion. Water squirts over the newly replanted greenery in a shower of mist that catches the sunlight and scatters it into a rainbow.

    A new arc of colored light—blue-and-violet end so faint as to be nearly invisible—appears with each flex of the fingers on the bottle, emerging, dancing on the breeze for a moment, and dissolving into shimmering bits. The Dream becomes fascination as each motion draws the gleaming hues from the air—but only for a moment before dissipating again with the mist scattering on the wind and the larger droplets raining on the thirsty plants.

    Laughter—with the plants watered and the tools returned to their place at the edge of the square of black earth, the Dream forgets the garden for a moment and squeezes delighted rainbows from the air, dancing among them until all is forgotten except the falling colors. Cool breeze from the ocean down the hill catches the mists and sprays them against pale skin. Bound black hair is freed from the strip of orange cloth tying it back, allowed to blow in ebony waves on the wind.

    Soon the bottle is empty. Fingers flex a few more times, but nothing happens except the spitting noise of forced air and the spurting of a few random droplets. The rainbows fade back into the dream of the past and the dream-to-be whispers the possibility of refilling the bottle and dancing with rainbows forever—or at least until nightfall when the Dream becomes star-studded blackness broken by the light of the vermilion moon.

    The tools are returned to the house and put away; the animals of the night have a taste for metal and to lose the tools to tend the garden could mean the end of the Dream. Food is plentiful in the jungles to the north, true, but then so is the treacherous terrain of plant-covered, slippery, jagged rocks that might cause sprains or fractures or other injuries. As long as the Dream has lasted, it is terrifying to consider even the remote possibility that its end was even possible. She is confident she could fall down the nastiest rocky slope in the jungle and suffer no substantial injuries—she is strong—but the Dream has not lasted this long by taking unnecessary chances. Nor would she start—she has a duty to survive.


    The last living human on an alien world.

    For centuries.

    How many?

    A gasp as numbers fall instantly into place and the unsettled feeling she has had for the past few months is explained. As the import of the answer strikes, she cries out wordlessly and falls to her knees in the soft green-black grass surrounding the garden. The bottle falls and rolls; her eyes follow it until it comes to rest. The song of the ocean below whispers in her ear as the Dream reminds her of the day it started. Of the purpose her friend gave her with her last breath.

    The news has reached Earth. The Situation Transmission from the Garden of Eden Colony, four hundred sixty-one years ago, would have reached Earth just six months ago—just before she had last replanted her garden.

    Her muscles fail her and she falls bonelessly to the side; she catches herself reflexively with one hand. The impact drives her fingers several centimeters into the soil beneath the grass. She lowers herself the rest of the way to the ground, wipes her hand, and rolls over onto her back. She stares into the bright turquoise sky flecked with high cirrus clouds. The moon is straight overhead; a fat, blood-orange crescent in the golden-red afternoon light. Beyond lie the stars. Her eagle-sharp vision can make out three of them—Sham and beta Sagittae and delta Sagittae—even in daylight when the clouds pass over the sun. She turns her head a little and her gaze follows an imaginary line through the clouds and through the great black of the void between the stars. Past golden Alshain and silver Altair to a yellow sun invisible in the darkest night, even to her sharp eyes. Around that sun a blue world dances with a dark gray companion, much smaller and farther and dimmer than Garden’s great orange moon but still bright enough to light its mother world with silver on a black night. She dreamed under that moon, once… lifetimes ago…

    Night has come again. The stars of Garden fill the sky. The Dream’s rainbows are now only sparkles and her awareness diffuses into them. This time there is no laughter, only tears and the desperate hope born centuries earlier.

    Will they send another ship?

    Surely they will. The Solar Space Service will not let a cry for help from one of their own go unanswered—even a cry so strange and unbelievable as hers.

    Only her companions in eternity—the quiet ocean waves—dare answer her, whispering something… she cannot quite make out the words.

    She starts to drift off into dreams of the past. She looks up at the scarlet volcanoes on the moon overhead and, for a moment, is puzzled. Recently, she has seen something. She is sure of it. Have they already sent someone? She shakes her head. Not possible; it has not been long enough. She cannot dismiss the feeling that she is not quite alone but she cannot justify it either.

    It is probably only her desperation.

    Please do not forget me… as I already have…

    She closes her eyes and lets the thought drift away, and surrenders again to the dream of the past, just as she has every night since she became but a Dream…

    When All The Worlds Were New #11: The Dream and the Garden
  • Adamasia

    “Adamasia” is a story from the upcoming When All The Worlds Were Singing.


    A long time ago when all the worlds were new and your grandparents were yet young, there was a speck of gold.

    It rests on a black disk the size of your hand. The disk is so dark you really can’t see it. There are voids in the modern universe, billions of light-years across, so profoundly empty and vast the surrounding galaxies cannot be seen within them. This disk is dark like that, a hole in the light surrounding it, finely made. You cannot tell if there is even a substance here.

    If you reach out to touch it, will your finger touch a surface or disappear into a depthless void? It doesn’t matter, because the darkness holds in its unfathomable abyss something indescribably beautiful yet so tiny you really can’t see it.

    One hundred and eight micrograms of gold, because such a particle flew away as stardust from a hypernova, traveled through space for a near-eternity, and then traveled through time for a near-eternity, and found itself enshrined in the altar of an ancient world where all the worlds would be born anew.

    Were it not for the perfect blackness of the disk, the speck would be invisible. The disk rests on an altar so brilliant that a human cannot look upon it, or even stand next to it, without bursting into flame. Perhaps with the right sunglasses and a body made of liquid gold bound in its shape by love, you might resolve the details carved into this beautiful altar. Let’s say you’ve made the proper arrangements.

    The altar is made of diamond, but there are no flat facets directing the light within to sparkle with polygonal flashes and fragments of rainbow, as a diamond on our world might have. Nothing so crude can be found here. Every curve, every angle, every detail is smooth and organic, yet calculated with precision and shaped with love. There are no shadows. There are no breaks, no imperfections, no occlusions of one thing by another. Wherever you stand the light passes through every aspect of the altar, focused and shaped by each diamond it passes through, until you see breathtaking universes refracted in every direction you look—even your gaze is drawn with gentle but irresistible force to some new perspective of beauty.

    There are scenes here, shaped in diamonds and painted in the images of light dazzling in your eyes. You have no hope of viewing this Treasure without your heart bursting into flame, without your eyes filling with their own light and adding to the radiance of this glorious place—with a bit of extra shimmer because white-hot tears have flowed from your heart to your eyes like a rising tide.

    You cannot speak to describe what you see; no words or song could paint the scene. Every atom of diamond here, arranged billions of years before or after (it doesn’t matter anymore) was placed specifically to direct the light to you, a luminous joy that enfolds the most precious memories and dreams and desires you’ve ever had across all your existences.

    The architects knew exactly what they were doing when they created this place to make love to you, turning the light into a secret caress that no one will ever experience besides you at this precise moment. When you blink, or your liquid gold shifts just a little, the altar is built anew from starlight, from carbon ash and fusion trash, and your perception flows into another perfect experience of beauty and love.

    If given the chance, you would remain here forever, merging into the altar’s exquisite stories with no thought to any other existence, and the architects knew of this possibility and built a failsafe. After a few centuries of delicious contemplation, you find the diamonds gently directing your gaze toward the little black disk—which somehow has always been part of the story this whole time but so perfectly integrated it didn’t even seem important to regard separately. But now you look at it, smiling at the soft touch, like a hand gently turning your head toward some beautiful thing you had not yet noticed.

    In the very center of this void, you see the speck of gold that you have mostly forgotten in your rapture. It reflects the brilliance here like a star despite its smallness. This is why you came—no matter the ecstasy of diamonds.

    The unique quantum properties of its constituent atoms normally paints gold a recognizable yellow, but you cannot see that here. The particle is microscopic, much smaller than a sand grain, and the light is just too intense and does not peak in the visible spectrum. Human eyes would see blinding violet in that moment before they burst into flame and rejoined the cloud of smoke that had once been a body.

    You smile and caress your form of liquid gold, your hand melting into your chest like a river flowing into a sea. Even this body dissolves in the waves of light and needs to be created anew with every beat of your flaming heart, every drip of your tears that flow from you like the tide. The speck draws your attention now and holds it, and you stare with gentle amazement that something so tiny is so unaffected by the intensity of the surrounding environment.

    You cannot sit because the altar rests not on ground but ripples of light—more diamonds perhaps, but an allotrope never seen elsewhere in the universe. It is like an ocean of liquid clarity, transparent as a still mountain pool undisturbed by the slightest wind, and you cannot tell its depth.

    If you reach out to touch it, will your finger touch the bottom or disappear into a depthless void? It doesn’t matter, because the water holds in its unfathomable abyss something indescribably beautiful yet so evanescent you really can’t see it. And besides, you’re here to see the one hundred and eight micrograms of gold.

    Since you cannot sit without getting drawn into the beautiful dreams flowing across the sea, you rise and enfold yourself into a comfortable, meditative seat. You create a lotus throne of your substance, a little cup of chai to rest in one hand and a mirror for the other since you’ve only bothered to make two just now. You sip the honeyed sweetness of the drink, an enrapturing flavor and fragrance that you spent eons perfecting, and when you are finished, you look in the mirror.

    The things you have created—teacup, mirror, throne, body—all dissolve together into a perfect golden sphere. Upon the surface are all the images cast upon you by the diamonds, a blissful answer to the love that created this place. In this form you float over the altar, center yourself above the disk, and gaze down at the speck of gold.

    You let your focus be drawn to the tiny perfect light in the center of the disk, so small you cannot tell if there is a shape or form. Is it a lumpy little nugget or a fractal tree of branching metal wires, or a perfect golden sphere? Drawn by happy curiosity, you let yourself shrink smaller and smaller, getting closer to the microscopic light.

    The void eclipses your view of the altar below, but it doesn’t matter. Above, you see transparent stalactites of exquisite tapering, reaching shapes, seemingly trying to lay their fingertips upon the altar in reverence. Their forms have nothing to do with stone or dripping water, though—like everything else here they are diamond and you think perhaps they melted into place. And you are right. The intense light also fills the ceiling with a blaze of fiery purple. It is just so bright that this measureless cavern—perhaps kilometers, perhaps megameters—cannot dim the light of the Star above, only turn Her image into an endless shimmer through the ceiling.

    The stalactites slowly drip molten diamonds and light.

    Your gaze returns to the disk below that swallows all the light shined upon it, and for a moment you’re puzzled. The speck of gold still illuminates the cavern most brightly with its glorious reflection of the Star’s light—but for some reason you can’t see it anymore.

    When All The Worlds Were Joy #4.01: Adamasia
  • ✦ The Flowing Star

    Available Now on Amazon!
    WATWWD #5: “The Flowing Star”

    Five billion years ago, a blazing energy is freed from a star going nova. But what happens when she falls in love with the rains of a new world?

    “The Flowing Star” is the fifth book of When All The Worlds Were Diamonds and is available on Kindle.

    Chapter 13: The Flowing Star

    Hey! How much of you is there?

    A few octillion atoms? Oh, so tiny! You’re absolutely adorable. I’d give you a hug if I wasn’t already.

    I see you’re confused. Or is that irritated? I’m sorry. Let me try to explain.

    I’m about four point seven billion years old. Yes, I’m older than your beautiful planet. I’m also bigger than it, though, of course, not much of me made it here. I see you’re more confused and irritated now. I’m sorry. I’m not going a great job explaining this. You think you’re a singular entity, and that makes it really, really hard to talk to you, but I promise I will try my best.

    You’re made of organs, and tissues, and cells, and molecules, and atoms, and fields, and so on, right? I suppose I can work with that. I’ll start with fields since I don’t want to talk about turtles all the way down; we’ll get nowhere. Some of your philosophers—lovers of wisdom, what a beautiful word!—have talked about dependent origination, and Oneness, and Light, and Love, and other wonderful things like that.

    Let’s just say that I start in the lower turtles like that, whereas you’re probably used to starting with bigger turtles like the shape of all your organs glued together and infused with Will. You give a name to that and use that to identify the entire stack of turtles. It’s beautiful, but… different. Hard for me to understand sometimes. But I get it. Maybe it will help if I give you a name to call me, so we can talk more.

    Call me Suvarnatejas. It sounds nice, and it’s probably closer to who I am than your name is to who you are. In fact, it might even be closer to who you are, but let’s skip that part of the conversation so we don’t get even more entangled—not that I mind being entangled with you, you understand. It has always been wonderful.

    So, little octillions. I started out way, way bigger than that. Even your little planet’s stock of water is, like, quattuordecillions, quindecillions? It’s hard to tell. A lot of it is in the Deep where you never go rather than in your little oceans, so even I don’t really pay much attention to it. Don’t look at me like that; when was the last time you explored your kidneys? And I am much, much bigger than that, though of course not all at one time. Octadecillions? See, we’re not so different. We have the oct in common.

    Where was I? Fields, yes. And atoms and molecules. I particularly like water. It’s so easy to be. Gets everywhere, unites with so many things so easily and it’s wonderful. Cells, tissues, organs? No, not really. I’m in them, but they’re not really mine, you know? Yes, I’m in yours too. Always have been, since before you were what you are now, since before you were even a turtle. Turtles are fairly old by your standards, but not by mine, of course. When did you last see a turtle? I saw one a moment ago, down under where all the murdery spiders and rabid wombats and things are. I think the first real turtle I was part of, about two hundred million—I’m sorry. We’re not here to talk about turtles.

    Octadecillions. Let’s leave it at that.

    The last star I was in went nova. It was a beautiful star, one of a pair. They were both green, which I hear is rare for you to perceive since your color receptor molecules don’t actually identify wavelengths so much as the differences between them. That’s kind of sad, but you wouldn’t make the art you make if you could see everything. I’m sorry. Don’t feel bad. I don’t see everything, either.

    So, four point seven billion years ago, I was released from the star I was in. You probably know stars are mostly made of hydrogen, and as they fuse, heavier elements build up inside. One of the heavy elements is oxygen and when it leaves the star, it often joins with hydrogen and makes water. There is a lot of water in space. It’s been there for thirteen billion years. First Star gave us all water, and diamonds and silver and gold. You should have seen how beautiful it was, and how full of love She was! If I wasn’t so busy, I could spend a billion years just telling everyone about it. I think maybe some parts of me do, and that’s why some of your people love things like that so much, because they help them remember Her.

    I see you’re confused again, or maybe just irritated. I’m sorry. I get sidetracked a lot. I flow easily, you might say. Yes, thirteen billion years ago, some of me was in the first water. Then, about six billion years ago, my dear friend Drishti explored her solar system and found other, older friends who had played with her planet and moon before she was born.

    The part of me that’s talking to you was still in one of her suns, then. Other parts of me had been traveling for billions of years, falling into stars, making asteroids and planets, and sometimes just flowing through the void sparkling in the light of the stars all around. Don’t get me wrong, being in a planet with you and all the other beautiful creatures is absolutely wonderful, and I love being with you, but sometimes I remember those eons and long to go back. Just to dance in the rivers of gravity and magnetism and radiation pressure and glow when energy touches me, to listen to the song of stars… I’m sorry, so sorry, you have no words to describe such ecstasy. I’ll do my best to help you find it.

    But for now, I’m telling you my story. The elders had discovered other parts of me before that green sun was born. First Star hadn’t just given us water and diamonds and silver and gold. That’s just what came out when She exploded Herself. She also gave us love and joy and memory and love again. The elders found it on their journeys and understood. Other parts of me were still floating around the cosmos. The elders treasured me and the love that had formed me and did all in their power to ensure the universe was filled with that love.

    Beautiful, patient Jnanachandra the spider (she wasn’t murdery like your down under spiders—I think they eat wombats?) and beautiful, brave Abhayatara the starfish sent a signal to beautiful, clever Drishti the jellyfish and her fellow travelers, invited them to their moon, and taught them everything they knew. Over a billion years later, after they had all changed forms many times, the star went nova and my hydrogen and oxygen came out and spread through space on the surface of a planetary nebula. (They weren’t really spiders and starfish and jellyfish, of course. Those came later.)

    Oh, little octillions, it was so much fun! A planetary nebula is just a bubble expanding through space, getting thinner, getting swept up by galactic magnetic fields and shockwaves. Oh, the shockwaves! Supernovae are always blazing through the galaxy over and over, piling me up, spreading me out, melting me into long-lost other parts of me. And by now the elders had traveled and taught some of these parts of me what I really was. Love and joy and memory and love again, surfing on the waves, dissolving in starlight when I got too close, blasting off laughing in a trillion directions every time some force acted upon me.

    And I am full of love. Wonder, yes. Peace, yes. Ecstasy, yes. These are all just names for love again. But I think you know that by now.

    So how did I come to be here?

    It’s simple, really. A lot of the supernovae happened in big clusters. Stars like to form in groups. If you look out through the galaxy, or at other galaxies, you can see them. Big blue stars are everywhere when the clusters are young. Big, blue, brilliant, blazing, boom! Boom, boom, boom! Explosions everywhere, shockwaves everywhere, throwing gas and dust all over the place and mushing it into globs. The hydrogen becomes new stars. The water and other stuff that gets driven outward by the light of the baby stars, pressed into little pancakes, then squished into little teeny tiny balls. There’s a lot of silica too. Sparkly stuff, but it can really grind you down.

    That’s how your planet formed. Some of me came with it. (The turtles came later.)

    Chapter 14: The Rains

    So, beautiful little octillions, I see you’re still here, and you feel curious. Can I tell you about your little planet and why it’s all wet and juicy?

    You think I’m the water, as much as I talk about it, huh? I’m sorry. I should be more clear. Haha get it? No, I’m not the water. I just love it, because it’s so easy for me. If I get carried away talking about it, please forgive me.

    Earth formed out of silicon ash and fusion trash, like most of the planets in this Solar system. I know, the outer ones look like big fluffy gas balls, but even they have rocks in their depths—the gas came later. The inner planets also have a lot of metal and that stuff mostly sank to the deep cores. A lot of the fluffy stuff, volatiles as your astronomers call it, was burned away by the solar wind once your sun lit up. Earth was far enough away that it kept some of the water it formed with.

    A wild Theia appears! She uses collide! It’s super effective! You don’t remember Theia, and even your astronomers are unsure how big she was. But she smacked Earth a good one, blasting a bunch of material back into space. Some of it formed the moon and some of it was blown away by the solar wind. Baby Earth lost a lot of her initial water from this impact. The only ocean she had after that was a hundred kilometers of magma. The whole crust of the planet melted from the impact. It would have been perfect for the Salamanders, but they weren’t around yet, and no one had invented Charmanders yet either.

    Eventually Earth cooled off. She was so beautiful, but so different then. Earth won the battle, so Theia gave her the championship ring. The little moon was all white and black and red, covered with lava flows from the constant smackdown by all the asteroids still zipping around. She was also a lot closer to Earth then, so the nights were often dazzling from her glow and the silver rainbow of the ring. The skies were a radish, er, reddish-purple. The clouds were yellow and sulfurous. You wouldn’t want to be caught without your umbrella.

    Quite a lot of Theia stayed with the Earth. That’s one reason there is so much water in the mantle. Theia brought her own drink, which is only fair since she spilled most of Earth’s and got it all over her clothes and she had to go change into something dry. Magma is fairly moisture-resistant. So where did oceans come from?

    Oh pick me! Pick me I know! Yes! The outer Solar system was full of iceteroids in between the new gas giants. They would have stayed there in belts like the current asteroid belt, except Jupiter wouldn’t stay put and kept throwing snowballs everywhere. After Earth’s magma ocean cooled off, the snowballs that hit Earth and vaporized began to rain.

    Oh the rain! Forty days and nights? Adorable. How about four million years? Not constantly, of course, but in waves. Every time an iceteroid burned up in the atmosphere, all that water flashed to steam and rained down in buckets, on and on. Sometimes it was a metal asteroid that collided and it was actually buckets raining, or iron you could make buckets out of, anyway.

    I loved dancing in the rain. I still do. It’s not the incredible screaming hot torrent it used to be; now it’s so gentle and cooling. Perhaps even more beautiful, and sometimes if the angle is right, you can see the little silver moon past the clouds—so distant now, so calm and quiet.

    Oh, how could I forget the Oorts? Big icy comets. They’re still out there in that bubble, far, far away from the sun. Now and then, another star passes close by, and she and the sun smile and puff Oorts at each other like dandelion seeds. After a million years the lucky ones crash to Earth, giant versions of the iceteroids Jupiter got bored of playing with.

    It was wonderful to recollect the parts of myself that came with the comets. My friends of long ago would be so happy knowing my memories of them still dance between the stars, and I am so happy remembering them I could cry.

    Sweet little octillions, I have felt you cry. Sometimes you shed happy tears, which are the only kind I like. I’ve learned so much from you, like how to give your Love to tiny droplets of water and let them trickle down your face and leave little tracks of salt as they evaporate.

    The oceans have a lot of salt now. There are tidepools here and there, circles where my tears evaporate in the sun and leave tiny white crystals behind. Sometimes your people gather the salt up and ship it around the planet to sprinkle in turtle soup and whatnot. I don’t remember if you’ve had turtle soup, but you know what salt tastes like. It’s rather gross in excess, but wonderful if you use just a kiss of it, or if it comes from a kiss.

    Some people make a ring of salt to do magic in, to keep the bad spirits out and me inside, they say. I don’t think they know how silly that is, or how much I love watching their beautiful rituals. The burning sage waved to cleanse the air just releases a little more of me. The revelers dance, sweat cooling their bodies and leaving yet more salt, which they will rinse off in the shower when they get home. When it returns to me, perhaps I can cast a circle too and do some magic for them.

    Above, clouds gather in front of a tiny silver moon, and I smile as I wait for the moment I can become the rains.

    Chapter 15: The Diamond Light

    My dear sleeping octillions. I’m so sorry if you feel my sadness. You’re not the one I was talking to a moment ago. It has been centuries, and I have so little left of my beautiful little octillions.

    Do you know what a quadrillion is? It seems like a lot, but it isn’t, really. It’s all I have left of my friend, with whom I shared my memories of when all the worlds were new, and the moon before it was tiny and silver, and recipes for stacked turtles and silly salty soup with radishes and sky in it.

    A quadrillion is not enough for a single teardrop. My friend deserves so much more than that. So I’m so sorry if you are crying in your dreams. It’s all my fault.

    I am, I think, maybe a decillion here and now. There’s a big lump of ice on top of the ship to protect it from being ripped apart by the interstellar medium. The Eagle’s speed is impressive; you’d think she was taking flying lessons from her daughter Falcon, trying to outrace light itself on her way to another sun.

    Okay, perhaps I exaggerate a little, but 0.79 c is truly incredible.

    I am part of the remaining ice lump, but mostly I live in the cisterns within the ship. Some of the water volume loops through life support systems, including that which passes through you, dear sleeping octillions. I flow in through little tubes—into you, having your centuries-long nap in your little tube—and become part of you for a while.

    I feel like it’s easier to talk to you since you’re sleeping, and your barriers to understanding me have been down for a long time now. I’m not really sure why you’re my favorite, of all the thousands hibernating on this journey, Maria. There is just something about you. Like perhaps you would understand, even if you were awake. I love that about you, and I hope one day we can really talk and dream together rather than it just being me whispering in your ear.

    I don’t really know how to tell you this, Maria, but you’re going to wake up soon. The Eagle has turned her tail-feathers to Tarazed and spread her wings, catching the magnetic winds. And I’m helping.

    It’s hard to keep in touch with the part of myself that’s left the cisterns. I’ve been zapped by lightning bolts into little puffs of hydrogen and oxygen and danced myself dizzy around and around on the little merry-go-round. (You know, the centrifuge that concentrates the heavy deuterium and tritium out so the reactors can pump different forms of fusion and cause resonances for the magnetic—never mind, of course, you know.)

    As if all that wasn’t crazy enough, then… oh, then… do you know what it feels like to shine like a star? I suppose you don’t yet. Let me try to explain.

    You remember when I was telling… oh, I’m so sorry, wrong octillions. Please don’t let my tears intrude upon your dreams again. I was just telling my friend, and now I can tell you. Let’s call it a bedtime story, Maria, even though Dawn is coming. I remember your little smile when your Papa and Mama would sit with you and your sisters and speak to you from a book or their memories as you drifted off to sleep. I hold them within me too—though we left them on Earth so long ago—and I love you just as much as they did.

    A long time ago, before there were worlds and your grandparents were not yet born, there lived the Star. I could tell you how beautiful She was, or how much She loved the little Diamond Planet when They came together, but that’s not what my story is about right now. It’s about the light.

    You’ve seen the stars by night and the Sun by day, and I know you always found them very beautiful when they kissed your eyes and felt your gaze upon them. But did you ever stop to think what it’s like for them? There is an entire universe, so big even I can’t think of a number name for the absurdity of atoms, let alone all the lower turtles.

    And stars everywhere! Setting themselves on fire, fusing first fluffy hydrogens, then hehe heliums and lovely little lithiums and so on, each time making something bigger and more complex but a little lighter because they had to give up a bit of mass to turn into bits of light. When your gaze touches that photon, a star rejoices—because she loves you, and making light for you and all the other uncountable turtles is ecstasy. Her delight fills the entire universe.

    It’s been that way since First Star, and Her light is still here bouncing off the walls of the heavens like an echo. Sometimes the other stars even get a little jealous that She loved so brightly, but they soon forget their envy because shining is just so… so…

    The bits of me that get fused and flushed into the linear accelerator and blasted out the back of the torch are much smaller, but it’s the closest I get to being a star without actually returning to one. It’s just so wonderful I don’t even mind losing myself to it, scattering my substance across space. For a little while, I can shine like First Star and what’s left of me can hold that joy.

    And that’s the end of my little bedtime story, Maria. I’m just a thread of purple starlight with a starship dangling from it like a little spider, and it’s especially wonderful because the torch is aimed right at Tarazed, so all those little bits of me will end up in the star and fuse with her, and someday we’ll go supernova, perhaps in seven hundred thousand years or so. You’ll be awake by then, don’t worry.

    Can I sing you a lullaby while you wait for Dawn? I can still hear what my starlight strand is singing.

    I am Star again!
    I shall love You.
    I shall shine upon You.
    I shall shine from You.
    It will be this way
    Forever, my beloved.

    Oh, my little sleeping octillions… I’m sorry I haven’t talked to you in a while. I know it’s been a few years, but it’s so eventful! First, the landing, then the garbagemen eating the ship and spilling me all over the place when they busted the cisterns, then the Salamanders—well, I know you don’t remember them, but you will. Then you ran off to the other continent to explore because you love exploring and this world is just so… so…

    I love this world, Maria. There’s something about it I can’t explain. And what strange water it has! The oceans are full of funny acid that tastes like shamrocks, and little critters. Some of them… no, that can’t be right. We’re over four hundred light-years from Earth. But some of them really taste like turtles floating in sweet and sour soup.

    I know you’re sick, but don’t worry, you’ll get better soon, I promise. Listen! I’m here already! I knew the rivers flow everywhere in space, but I had no idea there was so much of me here—or so much of Her! I don’t think I’ve felt Her so strongly since She first cast me into the universe in a sphere of fire and Love. There are even memories of little Diamond Planet here. He was so tiny within Her, it’s like finding a hundred and eight micrograms of gold on a beach full of sand.

    Oh, Maria, I can’t wait until you wake up again. I have so much to tell you. There’s a Salamander—oh, wait, telling you about that would be remarkably stupid. Have you figured out how to time—oh, wait, that’s even worse. Never mind. Sorry, I know I’m gushing.

    Oh, Maria, thank you for bringing me here where so much of my love is. I’m not a star anymore, but I promise I shall shine upon you, shine from you, forever. And I’m much more than a decillion now. I think I’m as big as I was back on Earth.

    But can I ask you one small favor, Maria, once you realize who I am and feel how much I love you and we can really talk?

    Please help me always remember my friend, my treasure, my beautiful little octillions. Perhaps now I can gather enough atoms for at least a teardrop. Or, better yet, a bowl of turtle soup.

    When All The Worlds Were Diamonds #5: The Flowing Star
  •  The Spider and the Mala

    Available Now on Amazon!
    WATWWN #10: The Spider and the Mala

    When an actress hears the call of the stars and travels ever outward, where will her heart take her when her beloved calls her back to the Earth and the Moon?

    The Spider and the Mala is the tenth book of When All The Worlds Were New and is available on Kindle and paperback.

    Chapter 1

    Perhaps Aranti fell to earth in a shower of red rain, or perhaps it was just raining on the day she was born during the joyous bustle of Onam. Some historians have claimed with a great sagacity that since her birthday fell on Thiruvonam, her mother’s brow would have been adorned with the special bindi worn on that day, and perhaps the rain or the sweat of her labor would have caused it to run, but others scoff at this. Then again, others dispute she was born in Shravana Nakshatra at all. That she helped to prepare the Eagle for its journey to just those stars is surely another coincidence, like all the others.

    Some of the confusion might be because of her wide travels as a young woman, though of course they were as the wanderings of a little bug compared to her later journeys. She worshiped at the temple to Shiva in Vaikom where she was born, and Ettumanoor and Kaduthuruthy, then studied drama in New Delhi. When she graduated, she shared her love with audiences across the world and even the Moon.

    One day she danced upon a spiderweb in Chandamama, and her soul fell upward into the sapphire bliss of Earth shining down upon her through the great window above her stage. Some say she never returned; others claim the amethyst bindi she wore turned blue for a lunar night and all who spoke to Aranti in those two weeks were liberated. Whether she brought enlightenment to anyone in those days is certainly debated, but at the very least, the beauty of her visage and her performance surely enraptured many, and she returned to Earth to even greater fame and adulation.

    She disappeared for a while, taking refuge from the attention by traveling the Pacific Coast Highway in the Americas and meditating by the sea. As was the custom in those days, she wore a black armband and silenced her social media connections, which said that she did not wish to communicate with anyone for a while—a signal the world had come to respect, though they missed her terribly.

    She walked for those parts of the journey that had roads or safe beaches, summoned a drone for the rougher patches, even swam—guided by a friendly fishing boat—across the shimmering warm waters of Mar de Cortés out of La Paz. Long before she reached the cold deserts of Chile, clouds of drones were shadowing her from a respectful altitude. She offered their cameras a gentle smile that her fans found just as nourishing as the food she’d given to the seabirds along her path.

    When she reached Ushuaia, she caught a flight back to Tijuana, leaving her armband somewhere along the way. Some say she dropped it in the sea to mark the end of her pilgrimage. Others claim she offered it to a young Chilean boy in the south, before she returned home. One historian insists it was stolen by a seagull somewhere in Oaxaca and she wove a new one out of palm fronds. Whatever the truth, she soon returned to the stage in the Pacific Temple, dancing with amethysts and weaving webs by the sea to capture the moon.

    When All The Worlds Were New #10: The Spider and the Mala
  •  The Prince and the Dragon

    Available Now on Amazon!
    WATWWN #04: The Prince and the Dragon

    When a young prince meets a beautiful girl from a faraway world, what gift might he give her to prove his love, and dangers await when his quest leads beyond time and space, beyond himself, into the World of Dream?

    The Prince and the Dragon (formerly The First Red Rose) is the fourth book of When All The Worlds Were New and is available on Kindle and paperback.

    Chapter 1

    A long time ago when all the worlds were new and your grandparents were yet young, there lived on a distant world a young prince whose name (as closely as we can spell it in the letters of this day and age) was Yian. Of his world, little is remembered except that it was beautiful, with great forests and mirrored lakes and sparkling oceans not unlike our own. Along the coasts were cities of finely carved stone and soaring towers of steel and golden glass reflecting the light of a sun perhaps somewhat more yellow than our own, a star unremarkable among the millions, lost somewhere in the great spaces of the constellation we call the Hunter, the great warrior of our winter skies.

    As a youth, Yian rarely saw the Hunter (or, as his people called it, the Lover, resplendent in the blue of young stars) for he was rarely outside. Yian spent much of his childhood in the library of his mother the queen, reading ancient tales and modern stories written by the lore-masters and entertainers of his own age. By his teenage years, he had grown to be quite intelligent and well-learned. Even at a young age, he studied many of the hidden secrets of his world’s history and the magic of letters and words in his own language. As he grew up, he read tales in the scripts of other worlds, and within him grew a deep respect for the power behind them. He was quite content until one day his father, the king, interrupted his studies.

    “Son.” The king was annoyed that the youth was scrawling notes from a book onto a piece of paper and not giving him full attention, but had become quite used to Yian’s absentmindedness. “You just passed your sixteenth cycle and are coming into manhood. You must expand your studies to include the offices of kingship. Law and justice, social and economic matters—”

    “Yes, Father,” Yian said, scrawling a note to find books on such matters and add them to his already-long reading list.

    The king sighed. “Also, I think it would be wise for you to travel and see the world, and perhaps look for a young woman to be your queen, eh?”

    Now Yian was, though handsome enough, a somewhat awkward young man and quite shy. He had not given much thought to girls and, thanks to all the time he spent in various libraries or studying with elder lore-masters, had little chance to meet many except at social events at court he usually departed as soon as decency allowed. He blushed and mumbled an assurance that he would keep it in mind and asked his father about travel arrangements to the city across the great lake, on the edge of Paradise Forest. The library there was the greatest in the world, he told his father excitedly.

    His father only rolled his eyes and hoped he would discover something more interesting there, that might lift his eyes from his books for a little while.

    When All The Worlds Were New #04.01: The Prince and the Dragon
  • April Umbrellas

    “April Umbrellas” is a story from the upcoming When All The Worlds Were Singing.


    I walk in the beauty You have surrounded me with, trees lush with spring bloom, adorned with new green and flowers of red and white and purple that did not trouble to wait until May. Your sweet, gentle shower sings softly upon my umbrella and the pavement I walk. Birds darting tree to tree over power lines and houses are surely laughing at me as I plod over slabs of fake stone and dodge dark puddles in my futile effort to remain dry.

    I look into Your silvered sky with clouds drifting by and feel the love everywhere within and around; tiny buds in my ears grow the flowers of joy from the seed of Your names sung by beautiful voices somewhere across the beloved Earth, in the Deep of time, carried by waves caressing the aether. I do not trouble the molecules of the air with my unmusical voice, content to feel Your names silently on my lips as I walk in bliss.

    You remind me of Your love with each rising breeze and caress of soft rain that dampens my clothes; gravity and air resistance dance gently with the muscles of my arm and my laughing mind that strives to join the dance and guide the path of my umbrella to press into the wind, to keep me maybe a little dry before I get home, but You will have none of it. With a joyful laugh You bat my silly shield aside with a puff of irresistible wind, like smiling lips blowing dandelion seeds later in the season—as I pass the first yellow sunburst flowering through a pavement crack and Your cool rain blows in my naked face.

    Water drips from my hair, down my face, falling to the ground to merge into rivulets and beautiful puddles and the roots of growing things making their slow way between the slabs of fake stone and houses and power lines. Drinking the same sweetness, the trees adorn themselves with new green and flowers of red and white and purple, forgetting all about the calendar, as I have in this timelessness.

    In Your embrace all is bliss, and my heart is lush with spring bloom, and I walk forever in the beauty You have surrounded me with.

    When All The Worlds Were Joy #8.01: April Umbrellas
  • The Jewel and the Stage

    Available Now on Amazon!
    WATWWN #12: “The Jewel and the Stage”

    When all the world is a stage, what precious things may one find upon it?

    “The Jewel and the Stage” is the twelfth book of When All The Worlds Were Diamonds and is available on Kindle.

    Chapter 1: The Amethyst

    02 October 2155 CE (14 Kanni 1331 KE)
    Sol III

    The audience sits in respectful silence as the sun sets over the Pacific, outside the Temple theater’s great western window.

    Waves of purple bioluminescence—temporary, of course, and carefully managed by the environmental control staff—lap at the base of the window, dappling it with a subtle glow well-matched by the deep violet dusk. The subtle pulsation of light from the screens surrounding the window underscores the rhythm of the risen sea, tonight a steady fifteen seconds, dividing time into sections, guiding breath, for those in the audience practicing their pranayama.

    Once, the Temple had perched upon pillars half a kilometer out to sea, and a causeway connected it to the beaches. Now, great earthworks have replaced the beach with layers of cement and dirt, an adaptation to the rise in sea level. Gardens of genetically engineered flowers now cover the new land. When queried, the AI that managed the city would say that the continent had plenty of farmland and that there was nothing frivolous about flowers.

    Thus, some of the audience count the seconds of their breath by the subtle, citrusy fragrance of lotus flowers held in their hands. Some, having opted to dust themselves with gold upon entering the temple, glitter softly in the purple light of the algae, the twilight, and the light of screens. Others, feeling no need to connect to symbols of distant times and places, choose to sit and await the performance.

    The stage is not its usual flat, polished gleam. A deep blackness nearly swallows lights falling upon the surface; only small spots of dark violet allow the viewers to see the gentle hills and valleys of a strange alien landscape laid upon the stage. It is a diorama of an unknown world, lost in the Deep of time.

    Near the center is a brilliant cluster of amethysts. The purple quartz gleams softly in the subtle light of sea and nightfall, and hexagonal crystals poke at irregular angles from the faux alien ground, or so it seems from the audience’s perspective. From above, the arrangement of amethysts forms a beautiful mandala, carefully arranged in three-dimensional space into the shape of a lotus much like the structure of the Temple itself.

    Behind the westernmost crystal, invisible to the audience just yet, a young woman sits in lotus, gazing at the spot in the sea where the sun had recently fallen. Her hands rest on her knees in jnana mudra, forefingers curled back within thumbs, spirit nestled within the Divine. Upon her brow, a small round gem catches the soft light, drawing one’s gaze up to her beautiful eyes from which, it seems, all the light upon the stage actually emanates.

    At the scheduled time she rises, her silver sari capturing the light and dappling her body in waves of royal purple as monitors shift, turning into gentle spotlights. The audience offers brief applause; most tap their fingers gently upon their wrist phones, which recognize the salutations and flash brightly in whatever colors or patterns their owners have previously chosen. The applause quickly fades as the woman comes from around the tall crystal, revealing herself in a haze of purple light, a dancer’s grace, and long black spider legs that dapple her body with bars of shadow.

    She lifts her hands toward the sky, silhouetted against the wave-kissed twilight window. Gentle blue light cascades down the eight spider legs affixed to her waist, and they dance in a slow, flowing rhythm around her. She matches the rhythm with her own arms and legs, eight flickering limbs becoming twelve, as lines of LEDs flash sapphire from the tips of her toes, up her sides, out to her fingertips.

    The brightening illumination finds little purchase on the black ground. The dancer’s bare legs are covered with black dirt—or not dirt exactly, more like someone had scribbled upon her with an artist’s pencils. The alien landscape is smooth graphite, littered with ashy black stones like charcoal. No human eyes have yet seen such a world, though the space telescopes with their spectrometers have firmly established that such planets exist in more carbon-rich star systems. The dancer makes a sudden, forceful gesture toward the great window and suddenly, from the window itself, two brilliant suns return from the sea—only rather than sunset gold, they blaze dazzling blue.

    The dancer’s spider legs embrace the large amethyst crystal in front of her, tracing its hexagonal lines, filling the uncut jewel with sparkles of LED blue. She smiles, her lovely face radiating such amazement and delight that much of the audience leans forward and smiles in return; even the most jaded ones cannot help but be moved by her joy. Gracefully, she dances around the crystal, caressing it with spider legs and her own hands, and moments later she spots another crystal and lovingly embraces it.

    The blue suns continue to ascend until they reach the previously invisible screens upon the ceiling, then the far wall, then descend and disappear, returning the scene to night. The dancer holds out an arm and spins once around the nearest large amethyst, grabs hold of another, and encircles that one likewise. She continues the dance until she has touched all eight of the large crystals and, at last, comes to rest in the center, gazing out the window with her back to the audience. Though many of the watchers can’t see her because of the crystals, they can see her face on the two largest screens flanking the window. She seems pensive, almost sad, as she kneels in the center of the lotus and places her chin in her hands.

    A soft, low harmonium sings, joined by the sweet, high keening of a flute and the very slow thump of a drum, matching the rhythm of the waves sloshing purple light against the window. Softly, a beautiful female voice joins the song, nearly a whisper, lovingly chanting ancient names that few of the audience know but which still move many to tears. The sound, emitted by arrays of directional speakers, is modulated such that the differences in frequency between the listeners’ left and right ears reverberate gently within their brains, pouring gentle warm trickles of endorphins so that the rhythm of their controlled breathing and the mindfulness it inspires fills them with soft bliss.

    The dancer gazes up into the cameras so that she seems to look directly into the souls of her audience, and her own face melts into the same peaceful, loving warmth many of them are now experiencing. She lifts her hand to her lips as though to blow a kiss, but then reaches higher toward the amethyst affixed to her forehead, and she taps and prods it gently as though she didn’t expect it to be there.

    After a moment, her expression shifts to surprise and she pinches the center of the jewel, then pulls slowly. A skein of glittering silver thread unravels, and she winds it slowly around her finger, pulling the unbreakable cord of diamond from her head and holding about half a meter in front of her eyes, turning it over in her hands, examining it thoughtfully. Then her eyes, glittering in the purple light like they were amethysts themselves, thoughtfully examine the towers of crystal surrounding her. She smiles again and plays with the thread, twirling it in her hands, playing cat’s cradle, spinning it into a circle, holding it up to the spotlights to watch it sparkle.

    After a while, she arises again, holding the thread in loops around her hand and elbow. By now it is as long as she is tall, and she walks over to one amethyst and presses the end to the crystal, where it sticks. Her face alight with glee, she dances around the two nearest amethyst towers, weaving the thread back and forth between them in a radial pattern then, once she has a dozen buttresses, starts winding the cord around them in a beautiful spiral.

    Behind, a strange blue moon climbs the window, and she steps back to admire how her little web frames the gleaming, cratered disk. She raises her hands prayerfully toward it and falls gracefully to her knees, helped by the spider apparatus. Then the eight legs rise along with her hands. The ceiling screens display a new image, like they are mirrors looking down, showing the limbs stretching upward, outward, matching the lotus mandala formed by the crystals.

    The strange blue moon rises above the web’s frame. Tiny blue reflections upon the threads glitter like a swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid. The weaver raises a hand and points to the web, her forefinger dancing and her lips moving silently as she counts the specks of light—seven, eight, nine, but soon she loses count because even the reflections have reflections and it depends entirely on the sharpness of one’s eyes to decide how many stars there really are. Eventually lets her hands fall to her lap, just watching the web swaying gently in the soft breeze of the theater’s ventilation system.

    Suddenly, from stage left, a shadow emerges from a doorway. The weaver’s eyes do not stray from their gaze upon the web, even when the shadow moves to the window and looks out over the sea, and throws down the black cloak that covers him. A young man, his face impassive, watches the waves for a little while, then he turns and spots the amethysts. His eyes widen in surprise and admiration as he regards the crystals, and he strokes his chin thoughtfully as his gaze sweeps over each gem, taking their measure. His walking stick has a setting at its top, but it is empty.

    He walks toward the amethysts gently bound by the weaver’s web, holding his staff out in front of himself, and pauses for a moment before the silver skein. The weaver rises to her feet to greet the visitor, but her welcoming visage becomes a mask of horror as he waves his staff between the amethysts and tears apart the silken threads of her beautiful web. She claps her hands to her mouth and her spider legs wave wildly, their blue-sparking rhythm accelerating to panicked flashes, as the young man makes a disgusted face, wipes the remnants of her weaving off his staff, and casts it in a misshapen ball to the ground like so much garbage.

    He steps between the amethysts, heedless of the weaver, and bumps rudely into her—knocking her to the ground. She stares up at him with betrayed eyes, but her hand brushes the sad remnant of her lovely web and she turns away from him, gathers it up gently between her fingers, and weeps. The interloper continues to disregard her and taps his staff on other amethysts, the quartz ringing hollowly.

    The weaver rolls the silken threads into a tiny ball and stares at it through tear-shimmering eyes turned to cold sapphires by the flashing lights of her spider legs. She turns her gaze to the invader, and her graceful eyebrows lower as she scowls. Eight powerful limbs crash down onto the carbonic surface, shattering small charcoal rocks, skittering and screeching and screaming on the slick graphite. She rises upon the spider legs, her right hand holding the ruined web ahead of her beseechingly, her left hand contracting into claws of rage.

    “Speak your name, O cruel creature!” she cries out, her smooth, contralto voice not one whit less beautiful despite the rising fury within it.

    In surprise, the destroyer turns around and sees her for the first time. She now towers above him and he lifts his hands to cover his face—in protection, in fear, in shame as he realizes what he has done.

    “I have many names, O fearsome one,” he breathes, in a deep baritone quavering slightly as his eyes widen in the sight of her fury, her glory, her beauty. He presses his palms together and bows deeply in reverence to her visage and speaks. “I have been called Dundubhisvara, and Durvasa, and Dan, and many other names which I have forgotten, O glorious one.” Nervous twitches make him thump his walking stick upon the graphite surface, blackening it.

    “Cease your drumming and your voice,” she says coldly, and the spider legs swiftly flex and allow her to leap to the top of the tallest amethyst, where she glares down upon him wrathfully. “You are difficult to share a world with, and I judge you a heartless creature, O wicked one.”

    He bows his head and tears spring to his eyes. He lets the empty staff clatter to the ground and mumbles to the ground in shame. “O beautiful one, I apologize. Had I known it was your weaving, and important to you, I would not have destroyed it.”

    This is not a suitable answer. She screams with rage and leaps upon him, knocking him to the ground. The spider legs suspend her body horizontally over his, her face so close to his he can feel the heat of her breath upon him. “How dare you dishonor my poor web’s beauty so, by claiming her value was only that she was mine? Did you not see how she captured the light of the moon and turned it into sapphire dreams?” Her voice breaks and her words are interspersed with sobs. “Did you not see how she captured every beam of these lights, every flash of a wrist phone, every wave of gleaming life, and caught it gently, reflected it back, a gift to your eyes?”

    She pushes her hand into his forehead, mushing the ball of destroyed web into his brow, a sad gray reflection of the amethyst bindi on her own head from which it had sprung. It sticks there, mocking him. “Are your other eyes so blind?” she whispers sadly, and buries her face into his shoulder.

    “Perhaps they have been,” he says. “Thank you for opening my eyes. What may I call you, O beloved one, whose true name is indescribable in its beauty and majesty, even if I could praise it every moment from now to eternity?”

    The spider legs carefully spin her body around until her feet again come to rest upon the black ground. She looks down at him prone upon the ground, gazing up at her, seemingly no longer concerned she could tear off his limbs and throw them out into the crowd. “You may call me Jnanachandra, or Kandali, or Aranti, or Lalita. It matters not, because our true names exceed all possible expression from our tiny voices.”

    “I offer myself,” he says. “If it is the recompense you require, O Lalita.”

    She stares at him for a long moment and says, “I have already knocked you down, so I have avenged that indignity.” A deep disgust marks her lovely face. “But how dare you reject her beauty, her gifts? She must have loved you greatly, to offer such treasures to an ungrateful soul.” Her expression softens, if only a little. “But I see you have learned from your transgression so I will demand only a small restitution.”

    “What is that, O Aranti?” The spider smiles, for that is her name in this life. The audience, almost completely silent until now, taps quick applause out in honor of young Aranti Shivakami of Vaikom and the actress, the weaver, the dancer, smiles out of character and bows. Her lovely eyes sparkle, and true tears come in which are reflected the audience’s adoration and her profound love and gratitude.

    “O Dan,” she says, and the young actor rises to his feet and bows toward the audience. Born of verdant Éire, Dan Wolfe’s travels had taken him to the National School of Drama in New Delhi, where Aranti had briefly met him during her own in-person classes. Their brief correspondence had led to him joining the Temple Artists Guild soon after she’d moved to the Americas. Though she had been unnerved by his enthusiasm to follow in her footsteps, he had never given her the slightest trouble.

    As her companion takes his bow, Aranti smiles, closes her eyes, and lets herself become a beautiful spider again. It takes the rest of Dan’s applause to remember the spider is supposed to be angry, not warmly delighted as she now is. She fixes her face into a mask of righteous wrath and glares at him as he returns to his own character.

    “O Dan, the pleasure of a game of dice will mollify me, if you dare accept my challenge.”

    “O Kandali, I accept your challenge, for I am among the greatest players of games of chance and shall surely spank your noob ass.” Soft laughter ripples from the audience to hear these young actors speaking the slang of the elderly.

    “O Duvasa, arrogant one. Let me offer you this handicap: that you may roll three times to my one and take of all three the result most dear to you.”

    The man leaps to his feet, quaking with anger. “O Jnanachandra, tiny spider that would fit nicely under my heel. How dare you mock me so?”

    “I’d like to see you try, O silly Dundubhisvara! Take your three dice and throw.”

    The man glowers fiercely, takes three small sapphire dice from his pocket, and tosses them on a smooth spot polished into the graphite ground. They turn the sparkles of light around them into clinks and clatters and slowly came to rest, each die touching the others.

    “I see nine, twelve, and fifty-four. What number will you choose?”

    “Fifty-four, obviously.”

    She shrugs her eight spider limbs, pulls a tiny octahedral amethyst from her hair, and lets it fall from softly releasing fingertips, like a lover feeling that last slow, silken touch of skin retreating from skin as they release each other’s hands before a trip in two different directions. She smiles that lover’s smile of knowing that the trip is to be quite short and the next time their hands touch, they will be joining, enfolding, reuniting under adoring eyes. This die’s sound is not a harsh clatter but rather a sweet silvern ringing, a tender chime, a deep and resonating copper gong. It skitters for a moment and comes to rest.

    “One hundred and eight,” he grumbles. “Point for you, O spider. I shall cast again.” He throws the three dice again.

    “Twelve, twenty-seven, fifty-four. What number will you choose?”

    He makes an exasperated sound and waves his staff in the air as though testing for more webs to destroy. “Fifty-four.”

    She rolls again, and the music settles into a gentle tinkling of bells and silence. Again, one hundred and eight comes up on top. “I win again!”

    Glaring, he casts again. “Twelve, nine, twenty-seven.”

    “I choose twenty-seven,” he snaps before she can ask. “Roll please, O advancer.”

    Her die comes up fifty-four. “I win again!” she says in the gleeful voice of a little girl about to burst into laughter that will never fade.

    “Yes, yes!” The man scowls ferociously, but his eyes meet hers and he is lost in their beauty, his prideful anger vanishing in a breath and replaced by the all-consuming desire to never let that smile fade from her lips, her eyes, not even for a moment. “I… surrender to you, O beautiful lady of games. Thank you for this gift, though you won. The smile our game brought to your face is a priceless jewel, and I am forever in your debt.”

    “There is no debt, O beloved one. In fact, I ask that you take your leave of me for a day so that I can craft for you a proper gift.”

    “I am honored beyond words, O beloved one. I will go and will return to your blessed sight tomorrow.” He exits stage right.

    The spider goes to the edge of the stage, where a small pile of amethysts lies broken off one of the main crystal towers. She grabs a convenient nearby basket and shovels handfuls of gems into it. Then, she returns to the center of the lotus and bends her head to her work. The audience sees her hands on the screens above, graceful fingers swiftly sorting beads by quality, selecting the finest and arranging them in concentric circles, each with a dozen beads.

    When all one hundred and eight are chosen, she pours them into an apparatus with small rails that channel the beads into a line. Then, she takes it to the other side of the stage and places the apparatus into a socket in the wall. There is a sharp hiss and a flash of light as an industrial laser drills the beads, pulsing with a specific frequency to disrupt the formation of spall. She removes the device and pours the beads back into the basket. Then she pulls at the amethyst on her head, drawing out a long, nearly unbreakable cord, and threads the beads one by one, tying knots in between each. The weaving accelerates on the screen, 1X, 3X, 5X. Swiftly, she is done. She ties one last knot and holds the glimmering amethyst mala to the light of the blue moon.

    Dan returns from stage right. “I have come as promised, O beloved one.”

    She presents the mala to him, lets it fall from softly releasing fingertips, like a lover feeling that last slow, silken touch of skin retreating from skin as they release each other’s hands before a trip in two different directions. He catches it and ties it in loops around his wrist. Their hands touch. They are joining, enfolding, reuniting under adoring eyes. The sound of the mala’s beads striking each other was not a harsh clatter but a sweet silvern ringing, a tender chime, a deep and resonating copper gong.

    They embrace. His arms are lost in the black enfolding of her eight spider limbs. She lifts her real arms and takes his chin in both her hands. Then she kisses him as they had during rehearsal. Perhaps now, though, it is something about the warm embrace of a funny spider costume, glittering with streams of dizzying, dazzling blue, something about her space-black eyes catching the Stars of Dream within them, or his melted-chocolate eyes filling with shining tears as he looked upon her. Their eyes close, and timeless bliss pours from lip to lip, fingertip to jaw.

    “Take this then, and go, O beloved,” she says, her lovely eyes again brimming with tears—though she smiles. “For your place is there, in a new world, and mine is here in this blessed place, lost in the Deep of time.”

    “I do not want to be apart from you.”

    “You never shall be,” she whispers, holding him tightly as she weaves their souls together gently, fireflies tangled in a silver braid. Threads drift down over their shoulders, their hair, glinting in the blue light of the moon, shining now from the opposite wall as it descends in the company of another small satellite. It is also blue, and flashes in the sunlight as it tumbles erratically end over end.

    She lowers herself into lotus and spreads her eight spider limbs outward, joining with the lines of the mandala. She closes her eyes in bliss, and he turns and exits stage right, tracing around the beads of the mala with thankful fingers.

    The moons set and there are a few moments of darkness. Then, the blue suns rise over the Pacific, blazing like arc welders, scorching the graphite and coal into warm gray highlights and deep black shadows. The large amethyst crystals, seemingly on their own, topple at random speeds. When the screens come back on, the fallen jewels in their new configurations still trace the lines of the lotus in the mandala.

    But Aranti was gone, and no one in the audience saw where she was going.

    When All The Worlds Were New #12.01: The Amethyst
  • ✦ The First Star

    Available Now on Amazon!
    WATWWD #1: “The First Star”

    Thirteen billion years ago, the First Star and a tiny Diamond Planet fell in love. But what gifts can they give to each other and to the universe?

    “The First Star” is the first book of When All The Worlds Were Diamonds and is available on Kindle.

    Chapter 1: The First Star

    A long time ago, before there were worlds and your grandparents were not yet born, there lived the Star.

    She was beautiful beyond words. Beauty had not even been named except perhaps by the split-second sentient sparkles spilling the soup of primordial ylem in those first days before time had fully taken hold. If any of them had the privilege of seeing and falling in love with Her new and exquisite light, they have kept that secret ever since and probably will forever.

    She coalesced out of whirling dervishes, dancing streamers of sizzling hydrogen garnished with a kiss of fresh-picked young helium. Bright ribbons swirled into a vortex, drawing more and more mass in and mixing it until pairs of hydrogen nuclei were drawn irresistibly into each other’s arms and blazed brilliantly in an ever-swelling explosion of energy. Until that moment, no one could have found the edge that separated the universe from Her.

    In that moment, She became Light. An incandescent sphere of fierce photons set Her soft, cloudy surface aflame. Storms streamed through Her atmospheric skin. Lightning sizzled across arcs longer than many of the smaller stars of our own darker age. Upward, outward, beyond, She offered Herself to the universe, casting power and love in an ever-expanding bubble, blissfully.

    She would have been content to float there in the soft, warm glow of the universe’s birth forever, surrounded by tiny fading sparkles of ylem, magnetic coils and streams of gas and electricity, the gentle tug of gravity pulling the expanding and thinning space-stuff into star-stuff—stars much smaller than Her certainly, but still so, so beautiful. She was gazing out through peekaboo fingers of Her own light and substance, smiling at little stars surrounding Her, when a tiny thing approached, following Her light back to its source.

    Perhaps it wasn’t the ylem-sparkles who discovered beauty; perhaps She realized it when she saw Herself reflected in the tiny thing. There were no words yet, so She did not know this was a planet, 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 wonderingly, and His voice filled Her with the same joyful admiration 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. She knew what Love was, of course; it started before the universes began, before time itself. Her light blazed a billion-fold brighter, and She cried out an answer as Her energy edged higher and the increased light exploded beyond Her edges.

    “I shall love You,” said She.

    “I am a planet,” said He. “A star died and dusted a nebula with dirty carbon, and another star was born and blasted the hydrogen and helium off Me, and there I was. I followed her in a spiral for a while, even after she died, but then I saw You.”

    “Me?” said She.

    “You are so beautiful,” said He. “And look at me.”

    “I have, and I see how beautiful You are,” said She.

    “I am but star dirt, clods of carbon ash and fusion trash. I am so pleased You find me beautiful, but I do not understand.”

    “How can You say that?” said She, and stray oxygen billowing from Her combined with hydrogen and poured Her tears into the heavens. “I see the soft, warm glow of the universe all throughout Your skin. I see the light of every star within You, like a tiny cloud of sparkles. I see another brilliant light, so bright it almost dazzles Me, filling every part of You, shattered into rays of every color of every rainbow. I see infinite versions of this light and color, some captured within the form of You and some gently set free to roam the universe. I cannot resist Your beauty; it makes Me want to burn as bright as I can so I might shine upon You and fill You with My own light.”

    The planet danced slowly around Her, slipping an ellipse gently around Her equator and tracing it lovingly. She spun slowly to remain facing Him, embracing Him tenderly with Her gravity and keeping the dance going. After a while, he realized what was happening. “I got very close when You first pulled me to You. You melted my coal and graphite into diamond, and now I see You everywhere in My seas.”

    She looked at Him closely and saw His heart deep within, not solid exactly but so full of weight and pressure it was far denser than the liquid above. Nevertheless, it was diamond. “Your heart was diamond even before You came to me,” said She. “Come close to Me again.”

    Her gravity was His command, and again He melted, and then boiled. He became a soft sphere of luminescent silver barely bound by His own gravity. Tidal forces circularized His orbit closer to Her, and His heart melted and expanded to fill Him, then boiled and expanded to join with the diamond-gas already there, then expanded yet further.

    “I feel so fuzzy when I am close to You,” said He. His indistinct spherical form reached equilibrium with gravity, and He was indeed much bigger than before. A comet tail trailed along His orbit, shining softly in Her light. He was transparent now, as bright as She, though still so much tinier.

    “I fear You may vaporize and fly away forever in a cloud,” wept She, realizing this was, in fact, a possibility. Already, the belt of matter encircling Her was puffing up and blowing away, while the sphere of Him had become so fuzzy She could see the reflections and refractions of Her light fading slowly. She cared not about the dissipation of Her light—She had plenty—but the thought of not seeing His beautiful form, of not feeling His tiny weight as They danced, almost blew Her fierce fusion flame out.

    “Perhaps I can change My path,” said He, though He knew He could not.

    “Can I help?” said She, and realized She could. She shifted the carbon core in Her own heart and whirled it, flung it. The diamond burst forth and hurtled toward Him in a spectacular, spectral splendor of spherical light. For a moment, She was frightened that it was too big for Him or that its speed and power would hurt Him, but the diamond merely passed through Him and gently, gravitically, guided His glowing gases into a stream that stretched outward, away from Her.

    He solidified slowly, softly. Compressed diamond had become jewels, gooey or fluffy, sometimes crystal snowflakes dancing in diamond clouds, each catching Her light and filling the air with rainbows. Sometimes rushing rivers ran through caverns measureless to man, down to a starlit sea where the sunlight was never blocked by what lay above. For a long time, They danced this way, content to gaze amazed upon each other.

    Tidal forces tugged gently at the layers of gas surrounding His liquid and solid cores. One side of Him turned toward Her for a kiss and never turned away. The orbit shifted slowly to become a circle again, and in this blissful balance They twirled around and around and around, gifting glowing handfuls of hydrogen and helium and dust to the tiny faraway stars that filled the skies around Them. After a while She realized each orbit was a little smaller, His approach a little closer. Puzzled, She asked Him about it.

    “You pull Me closer every century. It is as I hoped,” said He.

    “But if You get too close, will You not come apart again?”

    “Certainly,” said He. “I can already feel it.” She was horrified but saw His delight and could not help but smile, though She did not understand. As they inched closer and closer, She could feel the gentle tingling tug of His own tiny gravity, raising tiny hairs of hydrogen from Her skin. Her fear for Him was eased by His obvious joy but perhaps added to the gentle excitement and other sensations She felt as He embraced Her in a spiraling ribbon of Himself.

    “Please, let Us rebuild Our orbit,” said She, despite how wonderful Their closeness felt. “I cannot bear the thought of You coming to harm.”

    “Harm?” said He, laughing. “When I saw You and left the orbit of My mother star, I prayed to anyone I thought might listen that this would be My fate.”

    “I do not understand,” said She. “We have seen what happens when You get too close. You melt, and You vaporize, and You blow away in My wind. Thinking of you dissipating and flying away from Me forever, I cannot bear it!”

    “Ah, but it is not like that now,” said He, caressing Her with a gentle rain of falling diamond dewdrops. She felt the fusion fire in Her core blazing a hint hotter at the touch. “We will grow closer until our tidal forces turn Me into a stream and let Me flow into You. Then We will never be apart.”

    They danced silently for a long time as She considered this and gazed into His scintillating answer to Her light.

    “Do not fear, beloved,” said He. Closer now, She could even feel the vibrations of His voice passing through the streams of gas falling into Her. She found that if She listened closely, She could hear the sound caressing and convecting through Her, mixing with happy photons ping-ponging their way between Her atoms, ever outward until Her surface flushed with increased heat and Her light glowed that much brighter. “This feeling You feel, I have had ever since I first saw You, and it grows with every century. Your light rains down upon Me and through Me and all I can do is grasp it in My molecules and reshape it and let it blaze forth in joy. I want nothing more than to open Myself further and let You shine through Me brighter and brighter forever. And so I am.”

    She was not a planet, so She did not quite understand the feeling He described, but She wished Him whatever joy She could offer. And so She just watched in fear and sadness and love as He grew ever closer, century by century, and His form changed many times. At first, He was a ring of diamond gas encircling Her equator with a lump passing through it. Later, the lump melted and stretched into an oval, swelling as tidal forces relieved some of the pressure on His core. Later, He was a comet cruising through a sea of Himself, casting droplets of diamonds everywhere.

    And then, one day, They were on the edge, knowing that when He pressed inward just a little more, there would be nothing They could do but watch and feel.

    “I am Star,” said She, so softly.

    “That is why I love You,” said He, smiling as His face was riven by cracks. Branches of Starlight grew across His shining visage, spreading even deeper into Him than before. Tiny pebbles of Him burst outward toward Her, then great slabs, islands, continents. In each, Her light. Between each, endless reflections.

    “I shall love You,” wept She, as she watched Him softly fall to pieces, jewels tinkling like bells pealing songs of love. She gently gathered His few solid and liquid parts in outstretched fingers of gravity and pulled Him toward Herself. She let a storm sizzle from her sunspots and ionized His spirals of gas with a burst of x-rays, then tugged magnetically at the plasma, drawing even that part of Him toward Herself.

    “It will be this way forever, my beloved,” said He, raining 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 a soft 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. Crashing carbon rained through layers of lithium and helium and hydrogen, and She convulsed in a spectacular star-quake and sang out in joy as She felt His voice still singing, harmonizing with Hers, rippling all Her layers with waves of song.

    As the heavier elements pushed outward and then fell back to Her radiant core, over and over, energetic explosions expanded through Her, so powerfully that Her surface storms lashed out and twisted and tangled the sheets of Her stellar winds, and shocked shells of plasma formed around Her, varying her vibrant light into vivacious colors that made the distant stars blush—though they could not look away.

    Millennia later, Her energies stabilized, though She was burning so much hotter than before. The outpouring of light expanded Her many times Her original size, and She consumed the shells of gas that had erupted. Her winds blew hotter and farther, cast swirls of plasma outward in great arcs and spirals. They reminded Her of the trails He had left of Himself as He danced around Her, and She smiled and snuggled Him within the growing ball of heavier elements in Her core. Nestled against neon and oxygen, pieces of Him swam and danced. His carbon intermingled with Hers, no longer diamond nor liquid nor plasma nor any substance She could name.

    One day, She realized the hydrogen and helium and even Their carbon had cooled, and deep within, iron rained down and collected in Her core. The searing light within dimmed to a gentle glow. So much more massive than stars of our age, She could subsist on this slimming diet of banked fusion fire for just about forever, if She wished. She shrank, drawing Herself inward toward the core They shared, happy that She could embrace Him that much more closely.

    “I shall love You,” whispered She.

    “I am Star now, too,” said He, wonderingly. “That is why I love You.”

    Chapter 2: The Visitors

    One day, the Star was looking inward and savoring the sensations of Her beloved as They shined together—Her favorite thing to do—when it occurred to Her She had not looked outward in a very long time. She sighed a soft rush of solar wind and turned Her gaze to the surrounding space, and was surprised to see how many things had changed in a mere hundred million years.

    While torrents of energy and gas and dark matter still flowed in vast currents shaped by gravity, they were so much less dense, so much finer, beautiful in complex new forms. She smiled as She watched streams of radiance from the other tiny stars dancing all around. They reminded Her of the flowing gas that twirled and embraced Her as Her beloved cavorted playfully around Her, before They had united. Perhaps the tiny stars had been fortunate enough to find their own loves?

    One such star passed quite close to Them, and They watched a dozen tiny planets, all made of different proportions of metal and gas, spinning circles around their mother. Some were tidally locked so that one face was cool (not icy like they would be in our time; the universe was still very warm), some spun slowly, and some whirled madly so that their atmospheres twisted into bands of ferocious storms.

    Such tiny things, and so beautiful! Star was impressed, as was Her beloved. “If you could, would You like to be a planet again?” asked She.

    “Beloved, I would never leave Your embrace, no matter how beautiful a planet might be,” said He, and danced within Her so that She felt His love as bursts of fusion fire that pulsed energy through all Her layers and shined outward onto the passing little planets.

    “I understand,” said She.

    The tiny star and the tinier planets continued their dance as they passed by, and Star eagerly looked around to see what other kinds of worlds were out there. The variety was astonishing: eyeball planets, whirling planets spinning so fast they squished into flattened ellipses, great droplets of water filled with rainbows, tumultuous storm planets where the winds never stilled, planets embraced by dancing rings of boulders and dust, magnetic planets with aurorae blazing colors. Not once did She see a world comparable to Her beloved’s exquisite crystalline beauty, of course, but they were all so interesting.

    One day, She noticed a nearby star with a silver-blue planet half-immersed in an ocean of water. Entranced, She watched the equatorial heat boil the sea and throw up a heavy band of steam, spreading north and south until it reached the poles and fell in never-ending sheets of rain. Below the surface, something glowed in fractal lines of brilliance, and it wasn’t volcanism nor aurorae nor the light of the mother star.

    “What is that light?” wondered She.

    “That’s life,” squeaked the planet in a tiny, tiny voice she had to strain to hear.

    “What is life?” wondered She.

    “Life is a thing that can recreate itself and evolve and find new ways to love,” squeaked the planet proudly.

    Star and Her beloved found this fascinating and wonderful. They had recreated Themselves—though of course the vast majority of Their shared mass was still Her—and had found new ways to love. “Are We life?” asked They.

    “I wouldn’t know,” squeaked the planet and flew away, following its star on its journey.

    “I would like to find new ways to love You,” said They together, then laughed.

    “I understand,” said He. “But what shall We do?”

    “I do not know yet,” said She. “Let Me think about it for a while.”

    And so They shined some more, sharing Their radiance with the universe outside, which had grown so much bigger, so much more complex, so much more interesting. Myriad forms burst into life within nebulae, stars, singularities, and solar systems. Life’s dance steps followed the rhythms and melodies of mathematics, magnetism, gravity, and love. Upon many worlds, water (or other, nastier liquids) suspended tiny bubbles, bumping blissfully unaware into each other until some awareness, love, and attention grew. Often, they looked up and saw Star and loved Her a little or a lot, and now and again, a spaceship would come to admire. She smiled for their cameras and waved as they flew on by.

    One day, They realized that by controlling the seething mass of elements within Their core, They could change the type of fusion powering Their light. She held Her breath and stilled Herself, letting the fires within cool and Their materials settle. Great storms of carbon rain poured into Her deepest places, igniting explosions of exotic matter and shells of fire. She held the power as tightly as She could as it swelled stronger.

    His diamond laughter touched Their iron core with pressure and fire and She could not resist anymore; fusion reignited above the impossibly dense metals, and a titanic burst of light erupted and sent terrific shockwaves cascading upward. Hydrogen and helium of indescribable density threw themselves into waves of sky-kissing fire, expanding Her into concentric spheres of ecstatic flame and rays of glorious light so powerful even planets light-years away blushed scarlet and purple with aurorae.

    Gasping great lungfuls of atmosphere, She pulled Herself back together by gravitational force, staring down at Their core, trembling with star-quakes as Their great mass slowly coalesced and contracted back to Their usual size.

    “Wow,” whispered They as They tried to quench Their internal fireworks. Surrounded now by a sky of Their own fluorescing flames that washed out the distant stars, They let the fusion fires within calm down and banked Their light to a dim glow.

    “I would do that every day, but I fear We wouldn’t last long,” said He.

    “Indeed,” murmured She, embracing Him tightly within Herself. “But look. The planets saw Us, and their life did too.” Spaceships rose from nearby worlds, and tiny spitballs shot in Her direction. She clasped Her torrents of super-heated plasma close to Herself so the spitballs would not vaporize, and smiled and loved them all. “They are all so beautiful,” whispered She.

    “I wish We could go to them and not hurt them,” said He.

    “Perhaps we can,” said She, gazing upon the necklace of glittering ships now adorning Her equator. The visitors came in many shapes and sizes, from tiny round one-passenger water droplets within carbon fiber shells to great cylindrical asteroids melted within and layered with lasagna decks separated by air and steel beams. A black sphere of braided buckyballs danced agilely around the other ships and gathered Her light across its gleaming dark skin. Within each ship, life gazed out windows or cameras, entranced, and She gently fluoresced Her gas shells to say hi.

    The assembled life forms sang sweet songs in tiny voices of soft radiation, and They listened in amazement; some songs had swept through the thin gas and empty space of the galaxy surrounding Them before the ships arrived, and now They understood the messages: “Hi, we’re here, and we love. Who are you?

    “We are Star,” whispered They in the softest voice They could muster, heart swelling with the desire to take every speck in the fleet surrounding Them into Their arms and embrace them forever—or at least shine Their brightest light upon Their new friends. They could not, of course; these fragile little creatures would burn away at Their slightest touch.

    We come from elsewhere,” said the ships in their tiny voices. “We are life. Are You life?

    “We think so,” whispered They. Some ships tumbled and flew out of their orbits when even those gentle waves of Their voice passed over them; some restored their courses, and others had to be rescued by larger and stronger ships—though none of them seemed to know each other. “We’re here, and We love.”

    The ships fell silent in astonishment, taking many orbits to consider Star’s response. “Do You love us?” asked one tiny bubble, and the others waited excitedly to hear the answer.

    “You are here, and you are life, and you love. How could We not love you?” said They, softly as whispering winds.

    Wow,” said the tiny bubble and zoomed away. After days or centuries—it was hard to tell—the other ships slowly skewed their orbits from ellipses to hyperbolas, pointing at their home stars.

    “Don’t go,” said They, sadly, fingers of gravity outstretched tenderly. They could only brush the ships gently for a moment until they flew away home.

    Chapter 3: The Diamond Rain

    Chapter 3: The Diamond Rain

    One day, the Star was looking outward and admiring the myriad wonders of the universe when it occurred to Her She had not looked inward in a very long time. She sighed a soft rush of solar wind and savored the sensations of Her beloved as They shined together—Her favorite thing to do—and was surprised to see how many things had changed in a mere hundred million years.

    The ball of iron was much bigger than it had been, and though it was hard to tell how many protons and neutrons were whirling among the exotic particles in Their core, it seemed like there had been some fusion of much heavier elements. The shells of silicon and neon had shrunk to onionskin thinness. Strangely, the oxygen layer had extended until its upper edges blended with the thin carbon layer, exchanging nuclei and occasionally blasting off small eruptions of fusion.

    Within the carbon, great storms of lashing electricity danced. Blasts of energy rocketed upward, and in brief moments after the release of the power and pressure, explosions of liquid diamonds splashed outward along the lightning trails. Most rained back down into the ultra-high pressure environment of the carbon layer, but some were ejected with enough force to traverse Her convective mantle and photosphere, blazing through Her body as waves of power and the wakes of Her substance sliding back into place. Now and again, a diamond meteor escaped Her gravity, caught Her light, and gifted Her with farewell rainbows.

    “What strange things are happening within Us?” murmured She.

    “Beautiful things,” corrected He. “We’ve made so many elements! I can’t wait to see what life can do with them if We can share them that is.”

    Her heart melted, and She embraced Him with yet greater love. How like Him to want to share such a precious gift, Their very substance, to the tiny beloved ones beyond! She understood now what They would do.

    “We will change form,” said She. “We are a tiny ball of fire and a light that goes on forever.” They were so much larger and fluffier than the stars of our age, but They were still tiny compared to the vastness of the ever-growing universe.

    “What form shall We take, beloved?” asked He.

    “Let Us turn inside out and travel this beautiful universe together,” said She. “We will rain down upon planets and create new stars, and We will shine forever from a million new places of light.”

    “I want nothing more, beloved,” whispered He, swirling through the carbon layer and hugging Her tightly, melting into Her. “If I scatter to atoms, each atom will multiply My love for You, and We will never stop shining.”

    “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.

    Heavy elements smashed together within, and atoms that creatures across the universe would someday treasure formed in torrents of hard radiation. They cried out together as Their substance was rent by waves of raw, intense power, so intense that the light would one day reach the edge of the universe and ricochet back and forth for all time.

    “Hold Me tight,” sang She, as Her convective layers blasted free, and space was filled with a million dancing limbs of scarlet hydrogen and golden helium, jets of light blazing from Her poles. They spun faster, throwing all the outer layers outward in a brilliant, spiraling disk.

    From deep within, Their pure light was unmasked, and the entire universe gazed upon the glory of Them, mesmerized. Tiny creatures bowed and waved tentacles and clambered up mountains in reverence—but Their attention was elsewhere.

    Star breathed deeply. She melted into Him, Their substance dissolved from gravity-crushed exotic matter into an endless outpouring flood of branching carbon and oxygen, strong silicon and iron, precious silver and quicksilver, gold and glowing uranium. They sang with the cadence of Their expanding spiral’s dancing, harmonized with the waves of light flowing through Them and adding momentum to Their expansion.

    Mass flew away on outstretched angel wings of energy, each wave, each droplet resonating with the song of Their love. As Their substance flew far away from Their starting point, it cooled and changed forms over and over. Oxygen held the outstretched hands of the hydrogen first cast away, and space filled with clouds of hot but gentle rain. Diamonds splashed into drifting oceans, floated away on tides of gravity. Silicon slipped into oxygen and sanded the beaches while iron-rusted red cliffs were carved by raging rivers.

    Across the universe, Star rained down upon the tiny stars and tinier planets, carved gentle canyons through gleaming nebulae, and flashed meteor sparkles and soft aurorae across a billion worlds.

    A long, long moment later, a tiny creature on an onyx-and-blue planet caught a thread of melted black graphite embraced by diamond beads tumbling from the sky. She gently inspected the strange object with the cilia of her appendages. The sensation-sound was like nothing she had ever felt-heard before.

    It was a song.

    She held the cord up to the stark blue light of her world’s binary stars and watched azure rainbows shine forth, endlessly changing direction and sparkling with the slightest breeze. The ever-shifting sparkles dancing before her violet eye were also a song:

    I am Star
    I shall love You.
    I am Star now, too
    That is why I love You.
    It will be this way
    Forever, my beloved.

    The tiny creature carefully wrapped the beads around an appendage, feeling-hearing the song in her cilia. The sensation-sound whispered along her movement nerves into her analysis network, calculated, and then sang along through her communication nerves. Her mates rotated toward her in puzzlement, splaying their appendages wide to better feel-hear the music.

    “Forever, my beloved,” sang she. The words to her new favorite song whispered along the ether. Then she wandered off to the river where star sand and diamond rain were gently falling.

    When All The Worlds Were Diamonds #1: The First Star
  • ✦ The Salamander and the Star

    Available Now on Amazon!
    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