Deep water rises.
Abandon your spire.
It is coming.
It is 1874 and Gideon Long is dying. Wandering the savage desert of the New Mexico Territory, he craves a last drink before he bleeds out. On the brink of madness, he discovers a place best left forgotten and makes an insidious bargain: escape his fate and incur a debt too great for one man. His country will pay the price over the twisting course of more than a century and Gideon will learn there are worse things to bargain with than the devil.
Ah terrible birth! a young one bursting! where is the weeping mouth?
And where the mothers milk? instead those ever-hissing jaws
And parched lips drop with fresh gore; now roll thou in the clouds;
Thy mother lays her length outstretch’d upon the shore beneath.
—william blake, America, a Prophecy
Before And After
IT LIVES between. In the spaces misunderstood. It is deep water. You must
choose death. You must defy it and cease. Fade to nothing. Cease to . . . I am . . .
FOREMOST I AM AND FOREVER WILL BE faithful to Her Majesty, the Ordinal and
the Diviner, Regnant Queen the 888th, whose perfected physical body once contained
all distilled wisdom and strength of our spire. It was my duty from
plump hatchery softness to the moment of my stillness to attend to Her Majesty’s
safety while within her sanctum, one of many custodian champions of her
household. It is my great sorrow and shame to have failed in this task.
I AM AND FOREVER WILL BE human. Beast. Reificant. Now and forever who am
and always was. I serve at the pleasure of Her Majesty, who is gone away, the
HISS and the CLICK, Dead Queen of Nothing, Ruin, Nowhere Any More, Forever. I
am and was the last of my kind with flesh hard and soft. Last with the will to
persevere. Not human but feel the humans pass through the membrane of my
absence. Human things soft and clever and short-lived things and each one a
species unto itself.
It was Her Majesty who dispatched me to answer TREASON with VIOLENCE.
Scouts locate the deep water now. Drones of other spires spread this pheromone.
There is war in sudden convulsions. Great swarms and old weapons and
the old ways. Whirling skyward with fire and many ways of pain. My shell is
pierced, and innards poured out. Carried by the enemy. SELFISH with the water.
Dying but not dead. Not ever. Not now.
Otherplace now. Across its water. Poured out upon a new land. SEE the human
softness who came first, and they have seen my eyes, real and flesh, seen them
and touched the limbs that come from my place but no longer can be there because
I am forever and my place is not. They are afraid and bring me things to
eat and drink. They possess the deep water. I am not strong or wise here. I try
to warn them. They make words with their eating parts. I am very old, and my
mind is slow to adopt new patterns. They listen and hear me and fail. With the
heavy stone and fire they fail. By their will they cease, but the water endures.
My name is Gideon Long. This always was. He is a man of different sinews.
Immune to things the others were not. Weak in ways the others were strong. I
am now and forever Gideon. I am now and forever Warren Groves, burning and
angry, clenched for violence. His fate like mine. A warrior. A fallen champion. I
am now and forever the Mother of flesh, queen of all people, womb of all pasts
and presents. I am now and forever forever forever forever non-terminating,
hurtling in slippery, soft bodies. Always toward the attenuation of the possible
future to the actual of the present.
We await together the flesh and thoughts of the next beast to author its
tragedy over our bones. The frost spills up fence posts and has the strength
to shatter mountains.
YOUR SPIRES WILL . . .
Burrowed within stony crust I am the counting beads drawn over threads. I
am otherplace now. Scattering to all the waters.
I am sewn gristlething full of hate. I invade the gory trench and crush and
stalk through waves of poison gas. I am pierced by metal. My limbs are burst
by heat. I howl my fading fury to the sky.
I am feeble of flesh but strong of mind. I have imprisoned the deep water
but remain its slave. My generations travel through the black sky in the quiet
belly of a spire without a home. We dwindle in our sorrow. I cease because I
cannot stand to face another life.
I am the organ beast, book lung of my people. I throb in languid air for the
communal body. The nine-chambered heart circulates silicon acids into the
luminous, crystal bell of the head. I have ten thousand eyes that only see
warmth. I am lit by the heat of our falling star.
I am the devouring angel of ten feathered wings and seven arms and swords
in each hand. I live in fire. I sleep in the black sky. I sleep and do not dream.
I am the brief cloud mind born of swarms of aeroplankton, cohering in midair,
deriving meaning from my coequal multitude, dissolving again into unthinking
I am the squamous crawler in the muck, starving for the flesh of herbivore
stock I have hunted to extinction.
I am the fungal cyst that curls in the brain of a thousand-ton abyssal mammal,
nourished by its blood, nourishing the beast with my aspirations, perishing
together with it in the lonely blackness of the deep.
I am the hook-handed sloth on the bark of the continent tree. Watching it
burn. Watching the fire crawl and consume. I am old and wise and without language
to express my woe. I dwell in harmony and never fashioned tool or spire
or weapon to smite my fellow. I have the heart for songs but cannot sing this
I am a mesh of memories and purpose. I am without fixed flesh. I am the
risen, burning bones of peoples past. I am reificant.
Foremost and forever I submit to the deep water, the Mother, the always
thing of all peoples, and those who shun her cease. Only through her are we
tomorrow. Only through the mother will we always be, pouring out and imbuing
meaning to all places and all spheres and every trillion-year calamitous beauty
sure as cool, refreshing water is the purpose of its vessel.
Her promise is true: Everything you touch and communicate in your life is
and was in her if you let it be. Each story of your flesh multiplies within her
womb. Each dream and waking moment preserved and duplicated. The ghost of
your favorite dog forever lifts its head at the sound of your feet upon the step.
The words of young love you carve into the tree will grow in its bark for ten
billion years. The pleading, final sickbed gasping I’m so afraid I’m not ready
I’m not ready God please of your beloved’s flesh will never be silent. Their life
may slip from your hands and be reborn, bright and terrible. Every joy and
sorrow and softer things between: preserved to be revived when they are
needed. You are so fortunate to be alive at this moment, reading this, forever
IT LIVES between here and there. In the spaces easily missed and misunderstood.
It is life without flesh. It is body without organs. It is vitality craving
It was my duty to bring you this message, and I am too late. I have failed.
Treason is and will always be answered with violence. My queen lies broken of
carapace. My spire is in ruin. My ichors run out. My strong tarsi melt to jelly.
My foe is victorious. I will seek new flesh and begin again. My words are too few.
I will remember what has happened and who I am and carry these thoughts to
new flesh. May I meet you again. May we flow together and reform through the
waters between. May we choose to die together and journey into the great darkness.
In the mouth-sound of those humans I knew by shape and face, who live with
me now and always . . .