/* You are not expected to understand this */
Its icy fingers spread throughout the core of my being,
a malignant, creeping cold wind of death and despair
that brought in its wake chills overlaid with hot flashes,
deep aches within my bones, a sense of my nerves vibrating
like tuning forks, waves of nausea, intense loneliness,
and a black suicidal depression building within
slowing time, mitigated only by my knowledge that Ly'is was
waiting, that I only had to step through the Sages' doorway
to once again be with her, within an'tala. Through the damp
fog that prevented even the solace of the stars the light
of the setting moons glowed, creating a soft, almost
mystical, illumination that da'ahta warped into a sense of
ominous dread, the very soil of the clearing where I had
my bivouac, the plants growing here and there, the
dying embers of my small fire, whispering, we're not
real, we're only streams of zeros and ones in a computer
program, as are you, you died aeons ago, your body, and all
that has transpired during the 800 and some years since
your Awakening has been nothing but a machine dream.
Even the stars are not real, only simulated, and for you it
makes no difference if the real stars, shining within the
distorting lens of space-time, are still in existence, for
you will never again see them, never again wonder in
innocence about their nature, what lies beyond them, never
again have their comfort...
We are the lucky ones, Jorgensen had said.
You will shortly find it more than
uncomfortable, the admin said.
Is it important? Morgan had asked.
Time was becoming blurred, mixed in my mind, when had
what been said? Did what Jorgensen say come before or after
what Morgan said? Or had Viggen said it?
I struggled to rise, reach my quiver-pack before total
immobilization overcame me, failed. I could not move, my
energy draining out, time stretching, vision starting to
strobe, information now coming in discrete packets,
beginning to distort, colors starting to take on an unusual
vividness, image borders, cracks in the rocks, plants, the
coals of my fire starting to move in an internal dance,
patterns flowing across the inner rods of my eyes, merging
into the fog, becoming one...
It was always our dread, our vulnerability, the
Achilles' heel of all warriors. And now,
deeply absorbed in the flow of my memories, the decision I
must make, I had -- just like on Earth when, preparing for
a class, completing an assignment, doing computer
programming, Baroque music playing softly in the
background, I would sink so deeply into hack mode that I
ignored hunger, thirst, even relieving myself, the hours
passing as seconds -- done much the same with the first
signs of da'ahta: pushed it off for a moment as I followed
the train of my thoughts, and, by so doing, let it creep up
We lived under a delicately balanced, double-edged
sword. An'tala, a warrior's telepathic bonding with her
diak -- a bonding that created a deep physical addiction
on both sides -- is what enabled us to survive in our harsh
but beautiful desert environment, survive against not
only the forces of nature but as well the men, the soldiers
who tried so hard to capture and kill us. Yet, when a
warrior's diak died, or when they were separated by more
than about twenty kilometers, an'tala, being
distance-dependent, was broken, and, if she did not find a
new cub to bond with within two and a half to three days,
or was unable to rejoin her diak, she would enter da'ahta
and, shortly thereafter, die.
I tried again for my quiver-pack; again failed...
The coals of the fire caught my attention, their
shimmering glow seeming to whisper, see, this is what it
will be like, your world, look, look how the colors flow,
their patterns, see them growing, expanding outward, now
one AU, now two, now --
The sound of a night hunter, its cry, just overhead,
pierced the fog, streaming tentacles of moving color
turning into sound back to color back to sound, and I
jumped, the reflexive movement causing an inadvertent and
unpleasant orgasm, the orgasm becoming one with the sound,
the colors, my vibrating nerves, and as I fell I glimpsed
my quiver-pack on the other side of the fire, twisted,
rolled through the coals, was able to grab it, reach
into its pocket, extract a sy'ahta root. Found my dagger in
my hand, cut off a piece of the root, started chewing.
Its taste, foul beyond belief, bitter, shunned by all
except warriors and diaks in need, flowed through my mouth,
into my nose, down my throat, and I found myself crying
with relief as da'ahta began to fade, sanity return...
Whooo, said the night hunter, flying above the fog.
I sat there, watching, as the coals shrank, became just
coals once again, but now changed, harbingers of the
future, a reminder of how critical things were, what was
This excerpt from PDU-1: A Novella of the Remote
Future Copyright © 2000 by F. E. Potts,
all rights reserved.