The planet circling Iota Piscium seemed peculiar;
misshapen, bulbous, and malformed;
the northern hemisphere a mass of tumorous bulges,
the southern flat and nearly devoid of marks,
while huge rifts and cracks girdled the equator.
Somehow, despite its irregular shape,
it harbored life, lush fungal jungles, but
seemed bereft of all higher animals—evolution
had defied the odds once more, it seemed.
Here, archaeologists sweated in envirosuits,
painstakingly brushing away layers
of organics-rich loam;
ground penetrating radar had told them
that a structure lurked here,
below the canopy of spreading gills
and the brilliant colors of the domed caps.
Drifting white spores fell like snow,
as one man’s gloved hand touched something
neither rock nor root—smooth, even, symmetrical,
a silver cylinder appeared
beneath his careful touch.
As it gleamed in the sunlight,
a shadow passed over his mind,
and he began to speak, his voice choked
constricted, as if he could barely breathe:
Heads turned, but he couldn’t see concerned faces,
but a city of crystal and silver spires all around,
streets paved in alabaster at his feet—
and in the sky, a gash, a void,
a sucking emptiness that pulled all light towards it.
Slia’gesi, os’gesi! His voice flayed itself
On alien syllables that human vocal cords
could only approximate, on guttural clicks
and wailing keens above the normal range
of human ears. A hundred years before,
his comrades might have thought
this glossolalia, the gift of tongues
from a beneficent god,
or some trick of the devil.
Hands caught him, dragged him to the safety
of a medical trailer, but they couldn’t wrest
the cylinder from his grip, while the visions
unfurled, unrolled around him, of the faceless people
who had inhabited this world,
neither angels nor demons,
using their instruments
to peer into other universes,
other places, other times—
We found a universe that looked back at us,
he tried to shriek, but the words wouldn’t form
outside of alien syllabary, Slia’juythe’ytozixni—
Concerned doctors assumed a suit-breach,
sedated him, treated for hallucination,
anaphylactic shock at his exposure
to the fungal jungle’s spores,
but still the vision came,
pouring out from the record
clutched in his hand.
It saw us as we saw it; the abyss gazed back
into our souls; we don’t know why
or how, but it broke the seals
between our worlds,
and poured through.
The words chanted through him,
pounding like a metronome,
searing through his brain,
with images of gravity
no longer working quite as it should,
the whole inner workings of a world,
disjointed by the breakage
of an invisible constant,
and since gravity’s grip bounded time,
the surface began to buckle and tear,
whole areas of the terrestrial globe
beginning to spin faster than the rest,
We tried to shut the door! he cried out,
putting his face into his hands, weeping
as he saw storms better suited to a gas giant
build on a horizon were volcanoes had birthed themselves,
saw the spires of his city collapse around him.
We tried, but some of that abyss
was caught on our side—it fractured.
He sought one of his doctor’s hands,
Desperately trying to explain,
It’s still here, they’re still here,
but he couldn’t convey more than osm’msihh’laxa,
a meaningless cacophony of syllables,
as the doctor frowned down at him,
oblivious to the pulse of not-color
hovering behind his head
in a whorl of tangled space and no-time.
Deborah L. Davitt was raised in Reno, Nevada, but she received her MA in English from Penn State. She currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and son. For more about her work, please see www.edda-earth.com.
The Mood Swings are a band from Shaland, Oregon.