So, I don’t have any excuses for missing last week, or for woefully falling short of my goal for this week (so far, still 36 hours left!). The problem is that I’ve been trying to force myself to finish this current story, Ghosts of Dogshead (find the first part here!), but I’ve utterly lost where I was going with the story in the first place! The initial idea that I had got lost in the extra details I started putting into it, and the whole purpose of the story…shifted. I no longer have a clear idea of where it’s going or what I want to talk about with it, and as a result I’m not feeling inspired to work on it. So I am consigning it to the great pile of unfinished stories that I may return to one day, either to complete or pick their bones clean of ideas.
Here’s a final scene for now from our friends on Dogshead. I’ve had other ideas for that setting, if not these particular characters, so I’m sure this is not going to be the last that we see of Dogshead Colony. Next week, we go Kung Fu!
The centaur’s dome was sparsely decorated. Sabu stared out of its transparent shell at the blinking lights of Faraday, so much closer now than at his own dome. From here he could make out the fires from the stacks of the reclamation and processing factories on the outskirts of the small settlement, the dark hulking shapes of the buildings dwarfing the smaller homes and businesses in their shadows. He was lost in thought as music softly began to play in the background, a slow melody of pure tones.
“This planet is filled with ghosts,” the voice came from behind him and Sabu turned, startled. Victor stood by a branching sculpture that reminded Sabu of a tree bare of leaves. He was stroking it gently, and the musical tones responded to his touch. The instrument shimmered like flowing mercury, and the music continued as Victor drifted away from it.
“Do your people…” Sabu swallowed, his throat suddenly dry. “Do you believe in ghosts?” He tried to sound more incredulous than hopeful, and said a silent prayer that the alien was not familiar with human inflections.
“Ghosts, as your culture understands it, may be the wrong term. I speak of the essential memories of those that have come before us, the mark that they have left on the knowledge and institutions and people of a place.”
“Oh,” Sabu could not think of what else to say. The robes that covered Victor’s lower half betrayed little movement, and he seemed to float across the floor until he stood within two meters of Sabu, gazing into the night sky.
“We have been here for long ages,” Victor said. The voicebox translation made him sound like he was narrating an info-vid. “This planet is at the farthest frontier.”
“Of your empire?” Sabu asked.
“Nothing so formal as your conception of imperial government. We have a sphere of influence. One could hardly consider this planet to be under our influence. Until very recently, we held only a simple military-science outpost here.”
“It is a poor translation,” Victor seemed to glance sideways at Sabu, though without the visual cue of pupil movement it was difficult to tell. “We have institutions that combine functions that your people tend to keep separate.”
Sabu saw an opportunity to swing the conversation around to business, and sought to take advantage of it. “You certainly seem to have taken an interest in the mining concerns that we have established on Dogshead.”
“Indeed. We can make many uses of the material you dig up from the planet’s interior.”
“If these materials are valuable to you, why would you not have mined them for yourselves?”
“A limitation of time and resources. This is a fringe stellar orbital system. It has become of more interest now that your people are performing much of the work.”
“Well, we are happy to do the work for you,” Once he had said this, Sabu was unsure if that sounded awkward or sycophantic. He wished Alize were here. She was much better at these situations. The conversation paused while they both gazed up at the stars and the dark side of Dogshead’s moon, speckled with the lights of the penal colony there.
“Sabu Achettu, what do you think of when you stare at the night sky?” Victor said with an abruptness that caught Sabu off-guard.
“I think of what afterlife awaits us when we die so far from home,” Sabu answered, almost without thinking.
There was a quiet clattering sound from Victor that the voicebox did not translate, like hundreds of small sticks being dropped on the ground. The voicebox clicked and stated, “In our long ages of experience we have found no reliable evidence to support the existence of an afterlife.”
Sabu’s face burned red. “Of course, this is a matter of faith I speak of.”
“Faith. I have found it fascinating in my reading that there are those among your people who hold equally strong philosophies of faith and reason.”
“It seems a poor philosophy that does not hold hope for a life beyond this one,” Sabu said, embarrassed and slightly indignant. “What do you believe in, if not an afterlife?”
“The persistence of self amongst the culture,” Victor answered without hesitation. “We remain in the memories of others, the influence on culture we have created, the actions that we may inspire. There are those among us who believe that self/consciousness becomes freed from a singular point and spreads across the culture to persist from multiple points, where it may continue to observe and influence.”
Sabu stared at his host, the centaur, struck dumb by this turn in the conversation. He had been curious about the alien, but never expected such an interaction. Before he could respond, Victor turned to face him.
“Our absence is noticed among the other guests,” he said. “You have been a most enjoyable partner, Sabu Achettu.” With that, Victor floated away and descended the stairs out of the dome to rejoin the rest of the dinner party.
Sabu watched him leave, unsure what to do. He felt foolish for letting the conversation run to such topics when he knew that Alize was hoping to turn the evening to their advantage. He may have wasted their best opportunity. After a few moments, Sabu followed Victor down the stairs. He only hoped that Alize did not ask him about their meeting later.