Fifty thousand years in the future the universe begins to collapse prematurely. Despite having advanced technology the only viable options to survive the end of the universe come down to creating a Dyson Sphere enclosed in shielding that would resist the collapsing forces during the progression towards singularity and investigating a mysterious object that has been sighted two billion light years away towards the edge of the universe. Because of its bizarre nature this enigmatic vessel is rumored to have come from a prior universe.
While the Dyson is being built and populated, Mila and Thorne are sent on what is considered a long shot expedition to see if the rumors are true; if this strange object is really from a prior universe, could it guide them to the next? On a planet where the infrastructure is failing, Strider and his mysterious telepathic companion known only as The Sylk struggle to survive in the hope of finding answers to questions they can barely even understand yet.
As all these paths converge can humanity forge a path beyond the end of this universe; can they find a way forward to a new future?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.82(d)|
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Beyond Creation's End
By Nicholas P W Coe
AuthorHouse LLCCopyright © 2014 Nicholas P W Coe
All rights reserved.
Strider was a loner. It seemed like he had been alone for almost as long as he could remember. And now as he trudged through the endless sands of the burning desert he was still alone.
"You have never been alone. You had parents, which is more than I can remember. You have me," The Sylk snorted in his mind. "Just hang on, we'll find water soon." He sensed her ranging nearby still searching.
Far off, almost lost in the purple distance behind, was the Mountain. Seven miserable hot sleep periods away now it was barely discernible shimmering in the blistering hot air rising from the undulating dunes. The Village, his village, the place where he grew up, was nestled in the foothills, lost forever now. Even if he wanted to go back which he did not, without food and water they'd never make it.
His back pack hung slack and empty seeming to grow even lighter at the thought. They had precious little water left now and food for one more meal. He wished he'd had more time, but wishing would not change anything now. He shrugged the pack up on his shoulders.
He sensed The Sylk nearby and then spotted her sleek brown form streaking across the sand dust spurting from her feet as she ran. He paused as she leapt to his shoulder, landing perfectly balanced. Then, with the barest glimmer of a greeting, she hunkered down, anchoring her claws, tail switching distractedly. Maybe it was his imagination but she too seemed lighter.
He tried unsuccessfully to lick his lips. He reached up to shade his eyes and saw how leathery his skin was. They were burning up, they had to have water.
The Sylk jumped down as he squatted down and slipped the straps of the pack from his shoulders. Their meager supply of precious water sloshed as he lifted out the water skin. He carefully poured some into a dish for her and then drank sparingly himself. She lapped the water thirstily.
"More?" he asked.
"No, you have it, you have the greater need."
They both knew that wasn't true.
He slipped the pack back on and The Sylk resumed her place as he trudged off through the sand. Up ahead, still just the faintest smudge in the distance, was their goal. It seemed impossibly distant yet he knew it could be done. His father had made the journey twice, but still it seemed hopelessly far off.
"We can do it." Her claws dug into his shoulder pad, reassurance punctuating the thought.
He nodded. They'd try, of course. They had to.
He kept on walking.
For the hundredth, maybe the thousandth time he regretted leaving the Village. Right now he could be sitting in the shade of the tree outside his house sipping a cool beer instead of dying of thirst in this endless desert.
"They would all still be there," The Sylk retorted, with a snort of disgust. Strider knew without looking that the fur was ridged along her back.
It was true his life in the Village had not been happy. He never really knew why his mother and father moved their family from Lysara, the city where he was born, to the Village. His parents' explanations that there were problems and that he needed to grow up in a different place were too nebulous for him to believe or understand. They had lived in a nice house in a better part of the Village and his early memories while his father was still around and his mother was well were of a peaceful life beneath tall shade trees. He remembered how he had loved watching the varied aquatic life in their small pond. He must have been about eight cycles old when they moved, but he could never remember his earlier years and never understood why.
The years in the Village were gauged by the celestial rotation of four suns. Amrys, the spring sun brought soft verdant light with green tinged sunsets. It was a time for planting the crops and watching them peek up from the soil, a welcome respite from the rigors of sunsleep. Everyone enjoyed the time Amrys reigned, but when it began to wane Tau, the summer sun, rose and dominated their lives. But the warmth Tau brought was gentle with soft rains that helped the crops grow. Those days of summer seemed to go on forever until they finally ended in glorious golden sunsets. The crops would ripen and everyone would look forward to the harvest. Then as Tau began to fade Myr, the autumn sun, would rise with its gentle russet evenings. The rains eased and it was time for harvest, a time of festival, a time of celebration to mark a successful crop, a time to be happy because everyone dreaded the season to come. When Myr finally sank below the horizon it was the time when Ricca began to pace his slow, searing course across the sky. It was the time of sunsleep when darkness was banished for a hundred sleeps after Myr faded and set. Sunsleep seemed to last forever until Amrys rose at last, and shining longer and longer each day brought the promise of spring and best of all darkness to herald the end of a day.
Things changed when his father started leaving on longer and longer trips. He said he hated the Village and wanted to raise his family in a better place and was searching for somewhere new for them. Strider had asked him again why they had ever moved to the Village but his father just grunted and turned away. Then, while his father was away, his mother became ill and there was no one to help her. The Village was quite large for that designation with over a thousand residents including men, women and children, but medical care was limited to an elderly woman who brewed potions from local plants. None of the nostrums she applied to his mother helped. His father eventually brought back medicines but these did not help her either. Then his mother grew even weaker and died and his father, grief-stricken, left saying he would be back to take Strider to a safe place where he could be happy. He never returned and Strider was truly alone.
It was shortly before his mother died that The Sylk appeared. One day he simply found her sitting on their front step. She had smooth, dark brown fur, gold eyes and, as he found out fairly soon, she had extremely sharp claws. At that time he had little concept of measures of weight but the woman who brewed potions had an old battered scale and by weighing different sacks she reckoned The Sylk must have weighed about eight kigs which she said was about the weight of a six month old child.
The Sylk was unlike anything he or anyone else in the Village had ever seen. Strider had been unsure what to do when she first arrived so he had simply stared at her until she spoke in his mind and he instinctively knew she posed no threat. She was just as confused as he was. She did not know where she was from or how she arrived on his doorstep just as he knew he came from another place but did not know anything other than the name. She mentioned once that she felt she was from a very distant place and she remembered a terrible feeling of falling and a very long time in the dark before she found her way to his house, but neither of them knew what any of this meant so they never talked of it again.
He'd realized he was different from the other children almost as soon as he arrived in the Village. At first, while his father and mother were around, he was sheltered and had little interaction with other children because there was no school in the Village where he might have forged social relationships. His mother, when she was well, tried to give him lessons at home but he had paid little attention. Once he was on his own the local children began to make it readily apparent that he and especially The Sylk were different and therefore a target for their taunts. He was tall and thin with fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes that stood out like a sore thumb among the short, olive skinned, black haired village children and The Sylk was – well - The Sylk, truly unlike anything else in the Village.
The bond between the two of them strengthened as they matured. The Sylk grew slightly heavier but otherwise did not seem to change much while Strider grew tall and gangly and as he got older the gap between him and the other children widened. They jeered at him constantly about his flaxen hair, his pale eyes and the strange companion that rode on his shoulders. They said he should never have been born, that he was a widdershin. They didn't really know what that meant, but they taunted him anyway, making fun of his long spindly legs, calling him 'long shanks' or 'spindle shanks'. They said he'd been born with 'fast witch' muscles. None of them knew what that meant either. These taunts were just words they had heard from the adults. But they did know if you had these muscles you could run fast, and he certainly could run faster than any of the others even when he was young, faster and further. So they called him Strider and the name stuck with him. He could not remember his real name and they didn't care.
As he matured, growing taller and stronger, he worked in the fields, hunted for game for the Village and for the most part got on well with all the adults he worked with. He worked hard and they respected him for that if nothing else. For most of the year the work was so hard that there was little time for leisure. Yet it was in these brief downtime breaks from working that the taunts were worst. His success in the summer games angered the older boys because he could outrun and outrace any of them. One of the popular girls had once called him a streak of wind, momentarily filling him with a surge of pride until he realized what they'd really meant. They had laughed even harder as he ran from them his face burning in utter mortification.
Like the other boys, he'd felt his interest in the girls grow. For a time he had dated a sweet girl named C'aneal who was taller than most of her counterparts and her skin was a little lighter. In these differences they had found some common ground against the ever present taunts. Strider thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen after his mother, and C'aneal for her part seemed to love Strider. They had dated and then lived together for quite a while and they had even talked about getting married. Their love had struggled to be real but in the end the taunts were too much and they split up. Strider was heartbroken and threw himself into the work in the fields. But the taunts continued. The other young men encouraged at their success in breaking up the relationship between Strider and C'aneal, had redoubled their taunts to show the other girls how superior they were.
The Sylk was always there and that enraged the boys even more because she was something Strider had that they did not. She liked to ride on Strider's shoulder because it brought her up to the level of her tormentors. But her claws were needle sharp and his shoulders always bore the marks of her landings. By this time he estimated that she weighed about twelve kigs.
He knew he needed a pad on each shoulder to protect his skin. When he returned from hunting with a fine skin draped over his shoulder they laughed even harder. "The mighty warrior returns," they hooted, kneeling on the ground, bowing in mockery. "What is that, a baby Tagger? Oh my! What bravery, a baby Tagger!" Then they hopped around, pawing at the ground, convulsed with laughter.
He had shrugged off the insults. Sure, it was only a Tagger, he didn't need to kill anything bigger or more dangerous. He had already proven his skill in the hunt. Then he scraped and kneaded the skin, keeping it moist and supple with alum and salt until finally he had a fine soft pelt to protect his shoulders. The whole village had laughed when they saw his inexpert stitching, but by that time he no longer cared. The patch was adequate for its purpose. Now, even though The Sylk was faster and more agile than he was, he could afford her the small luxury of carrying her on his shoulder when she wished and without the accompanying agony. Looking back, that moment was probably the beginning of his determination to leave.
After that, things had grown steadily worse. Sun sleep was particularly bad that cycle, the one he called his twenty second. Ricca had scorched the land, drying everything until what little water they had even tasted like dust. It was the worst sunsleep anyone could remember. The boy's taunts had been growing in an effort to impress the girls especially those with the biggest breasts. Now they were hot, thirsty and irritable and the bullying became even worse.
Surprisingly, the worst of all was not one of the boys but one of the girls. Strider smiled, recalling that spiteful Halftoe would forever bear the scars of the time she'd baited The Sylk beyond her endurance. The Sylk might not be very large but when roused, her size belied her ferocity.
Those livid reminders on her face had driven Halftoe to persecute Strider and The Sylk with almost religious fervor. The Sylk told him it was also because Halftoe was jealous. She wanted The Sylk for herself, not because of who The Sylk was but because of what she was. She was the only one of her kind and therefore special.
The Sylk ignored Halftoe with a studied indifference that drove Halftoe into a frenzy. So she egged the boys on in their tyranny. And because she had the biggest breasts and also, The Sylk informed him, because she was letting the older boys do things with her in the secret shadows of the night, matters went from bad to worse.
The day The Sylk had marked Halftoe was also the day they had decided to seek The Crystal City, the place of his mother's birth. Lysara, she'd called it, but that was just another meaningless word like so much else she had tried to tell him. He shivered to remember how hard she'd struggled to teach him of her life before the Village, of the wondrous things in the city. And he also remembered, sadly, how little attention he'd paid. None of that had seemed important then, only the Village and his life there had mattered.
His mother had told him once, that sunsleep in the City was shaded, a time of pleasant warmth to be enjoyed not dreaded. It was a time as gentle as vernal Amrys, or the peaceful closing of autumnal Myr. He recalled again how she had suffered that last sunsleep and his heart grew heavy once more with the sadness of her death.
He and The Sylk had not had the luxury of time to prepare for the journey. When Halftoe learned that despite her efforts to hide the livid scars behind a veil that the Village Chief had decided on someone else to be his son's wife the whole village heard the scream. Her temper was legendary, so everyone crept around that day as if someone had died. Then later, during the sleep time, having worked herself up into a frenzy of hate, Halftoe rounded up some of the bigger men, and with promises of special night-time delights once Amrys rose alone, they marched on Strider's home.
The Sylk had known they were coming, of course, and since they were ready anyway, sunsleep or no sunsleep, they departed well ahead of the belligerent mob.
That was seven sleeps ago, disturbed, miserable, hot sleeps. And still The Crystal City seemed impossibly distant.
He peered into the heat haze ahead, hoping for some sign of water.
"We'll find water," The Sylk reassured him.
"How do you know?"
"I just do."
Unconvinced, he adjusted her form around his neck and trudged onwards, head down, counting footsteps.CHAPTER 2
Strider could not go on. The last water break had done nothing to ease his thirst and his legs shook as he stumbled up yet another slope of shifting sand.
"Up ahead," The Sylk urged, sitting up on his shoulder, staring into the distance.
He looked, but saw nothing except the interminable purple heat haze.
He knew he'd reached his limit. Sure, he could stagger a few more steps. They could finish the water and he might make it for another hour or two, but they were getting nowhere. They'd certainly never make it to the Crystal City.
He lifted The Sylk down and sat cross legged in the sand, holding his head in his hands.
He should have been more tolerant, life in the Village could have been all right, after all. But he knew in his heart that wasn't true. He could never have given up The Sylk and for sure Halftoe would never have compromised. Despondency settled around him like a woolly, black shroud.
The Sylk circled round. "It's up ahead," she repeated insistently.
"You're just imagining things, it's the heat," he croaked miserably, shucking off his back-pack.
"Wait!" she insisted emphatically, anger edging her thought, adding force to her insistence.
Excerpted from Beyond Creation's End by Nicholas P W Coe. Copyright © 2014 Nicholas P W Coe. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse LLC.
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