Are You Receiving Me?on August 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm
I travelled to the Lace’s Old Sixth by taxisub, pumped at great speed along the fastest of the megalopolis’s ecosystemic conduits. At the borders of the Sixth I was obliged to transfer to a slower local system of impeller tubes: this ancient district has been preserved in its historic state, with the architecture and all but the most crucial technologies maintained as they were five centuries ago.
Within the original chaplaincy hub, still known to the locals as the Godnode, I located Blessing Hex, a great domed plaza surrounded by the churches, temples, mosques, gurdwaras and synagogues of the major human faiths of a demimillennium past, and on its threeward side the Cathedral Church of St Meredith of Lagrange.
St Meredith’s is of typical 22nd-century habitat design, making creative use of flexible prefabricated elements, and delighting in its sprawling floor-plan after the harsh constrictions of living space which these early settlers had experienced on Earth. Wei-ling and her cohorts insisted that each of these places of worship be built to hold several thousand, so it is understandable that losing members of his hundred-strong congregation might occasion Fr Naguib his present unease.
I found him, as unassuming as ever but rather greyer than I remembered, awaiting me in the vestry. I had forgotten what a small man he is, barely taller than I am myself.
‘I hope, Father,’ I said, once we had renewed our acquaintance sufficiently, ‘that your request for my presence here is based on my expertise as a xenotheologian.’
Naguib glanced nervously across at me. ‘Oh yes, Monsignora,’ he said. ‘I have great respect for your knowledge of extraterrestrial faiths. I only hope that you can tell me more about this cult and their doctrines, so I can combat them.’
I felt only partially reassured. Of late my calling has frequently taken me out of academia and into that combination of practical fieldwork and diplomacy to which the Holy Father has decided that I should dedicate my gifts; it must be said that the nature of this work has leant itself occasionally to some decidedly sensational reporting. Privately, though, I was more concerned that his reason for involving me might relate to another source of unwanted notoriety: my youthful encounter with the assimilating, predatory Power whose conscripts (as I have discovered since being granted access to the Vatican’s Collection of Necessary Secrets) have been known to the Church for millennia as the Mal’akh.
As Fr Naguib described his strange new sect to me, he spoke significantly of rebirth, a transformation into something formerly human which was both free from conventional morality and yet, in some way, obscurely and indefinitely absorbent. As he gabbled on, I feared that he might be drawing a frivolous parallel between these so-called ‘Remotists’ and the genuinely and appallingly inhuman terror which I had faced on Murigen.
Worse still, I feared that the parallel might not be a frivolous one.
In his larval form, Philip Purser-Hallard is barely fifteen microns in length. He has been writing for Faction Paradox since The Book of the War in 2002. He inhabits ponds and rivers, burrowing in sand and living on aquatic micro-organisms. His first (and to date only) novel, Of the City of the Saved…, was the second in the series of original Faction Paradox novels. As a juvenile, Phil passes through several stages of metamorphosis, or ‘instars’, growing with each, until his eleventh instar seeks out the strong currents which draw him down to the ocean. His previous Faction Paradox short story, ‘A Hundred Words from a Civil War’ in A Romance in Twelve Parts, was a 10,000-word sequel to Of the City of the Saved. Now adapted for marine life, his twelfth instar takes up residence in an ocean crevice, coaxing small (and later large) fish into his mouth using his bioluminescent ‘lure’. He has written three novellas, Peculiar Lives, Nursery Politics and Predating the Predators, and some fifteen short stories for Obverse Books and others. His twelfth instar lives and grows indefinitely, occupying progressively larger trenches as his body-mass increases. Phil’s most recent book is Tales of the City, a shared-world anthology set in the City of the Saved and published as part of the Obverse Quarterly series. At the appropriate time, according to a combination of ecological, oceanographic and astrological factors, he enters a state of dormancy which coincides with the metamorphosis into his final apocalyptic instar. He produces 140-character microfiction on Twitter, under the account name @trapphic. Aeons hence, Phil will arise and ravage the lands, consuming all life thereupon and reclaiming its biomass for the world’s ancestral seas, to which he will return to die. He currently lives in Bristol, with his wife and three-year-old son.