Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: Contact with the Ark Ship

The forest in the White Room

In which Jeb possibly makes contact with the Arkship.

My mind roils on. Our ArkShip was said to have been locked in a struggle with an unknown entity when it dropped my settler ancestors off on Lotor. I feel hot and cold in quick succession, hot from fright and wanting to run, cold from terror and freezing in place. What if our ArkShip didn’t win? 

I want to think it all through again in more detail, maybe find the solution already in my memories. I laugh. All this? In my memories? Even Soowei never made it off-planet. I need to explore. Find out more. 

So I’ll need to leave something in this place where I stood, to show I’ve been here already. When it is walking in circles, it is about not getting anywhere. 

I step from the path at the base of the wall into the forest. Grasp at the bottom end of a streamer of bark, to rip it loose from its tree. If I get a lot, I’ll be able to dress too. Missed it. My hand seemed to move through it. 

Try again. Missed again. 

Slowly this time. 

When my hand is where I should be able to feel the bark rough and fibrous on my palm and within the cage of my fingers, there’s only a brown tint shading my fingers.  

The trees are for looks only? Only half an hour ago I discovered that the floor is covered with nothing at all. That the tree litter I’m standing on is the hard plastic floor and I forgot that already? Am I even awake?  

It’s even more necessary now to make my mark on something. If I had a knife I could carve a groove on the wall. I don’t have a knife. My hair isn’t long enough to bite off a length. My fingernails are, though a bitten-off sliver of a fingernail is very small. It will just get lost underfoot. Scratch myself hard enough to draw blood? It feels like my only option if I want to wake up.  

I worry at the place where a corner of one of my fingernails is torn. Yes, it hurts. Get some blood finally. Write ZA. My call sign. It’s a kind of test. If the entity knows it, it will mean she won, knows everything about us, and is playing with me in the way that a cat plays with a grasshopper. 

I slide to the right, between the close growing trees walling the wall and the wall itself, I hardly want to have the colour of the trees touching me. Wouldn’t you know it, I come to a place that looks like a corner. Not two separate walls coming together at right angles to one another, but a white plastic wall with a pinch pleat in it that forms an almost right-angled space inside an elbow. Because looking up I find that the pleat goes no higher than about three metres, from there on smoothing into the angled ceiling. 

So I trace the seam down into the not-real forest litter. If I want to know how the floor joins to the whole I will have to get my hands dirty. Ha ha. Dirty with reflected colour from the not-real dirt. I haul the pretend soil back with my cupped hands. The soil that I heap up in front of me dissolves. The hole in the ground is growing. 

Thigh deep is about as far as I want to reach down to dig without getting into the hole. Though what that really means is stepping into the place that is no longer covered with the pretend soil. 

Shall I? I’m suspicious. I have been suspicious since the entity first opened her mouth. She is nothing like as logical as I imagined the Ark Ship’s intelligence to be. Events so far have been …very unusual, I decide to think of them. 


A pink glow washes through the bit of the room’s floor that I just uncovered. My cold feet at the edge of the pretend forest litter are warmed. 

I hope I didn’t show my surprise in any physical way.  

I trek back to where I left my call sign for when I’m talking to the ArkShip. 

There are more letters. 

Underneath mine.  

Stare. Stare. Stare. The letters don’t disappear. AZ. TheArkShip’s call sign for when it is talking to me?  

I don’t want to have what I think it means in my awareness and I struggle through that. Because, what is this place if our own ArkShip can only talk to me secretly? 

Then I see the impossible. The ArkShip’s call sign is written in red the same as mine. A substance that drips from the bottom of the uprights of the letters. 

Someone must be in this room with me. I discount the entity, she isn’t flesh-and-blood. I search through the trees. The more I touch them as I slide between and around them, the more they fade. The ground, as I trample it, loses its definition and then also fades. 

The room is empty and I am alone in it. I check the letters. Both sets are retreating. All four letters are inside the plastic now. Then they are gone. 

I make ready to engage with the entity. I stand with my back flat against the stone doors. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: Thinking Through the Problem

This image sourced through google. Check out the blog it came from, for an amazing performance piece ...  http://www.jacopocastellano.com/numenfor-use/

Alone in the Reality that Jeb was meant to 'furnish', she analyses where she might be and comes to a conclusion only about where she probably isn't ... 

The plastic wall feels real. How would it feel if it wasn’t real? I cast about for comparisons. Back when I was in the black cell … no, forward away from there. I escaped.  

The second night after I escaped, Mongoose and I and Ant and Uncle Puma joined a larger group and we all spent the night on the second platform. Thyal, the group’s real shaman—other than me, the half shaman, I mean—despite that he had no amulet at the time encouraged me to think myself into the Totem Reality he hoped to see on the Ark Ship. 

Yes yes, I know it was an imaginary place in our minds. But. Were there any walls? 

I recall the blue sky at the top of the Totem Reality. And I flew over a deep valley with a white water creek rushing through it, at the base of the Reality. One one side cliffs, the other a steep hillside clad with low green vegetation to hunt through for prey. No walls. 

It was of course an imaginary reality. Aka a reality I imagined in my mind. Since I shared it with Thyal and he agreed with me on its structure, it was a consensual reality. 

It had no smooth plastic walls that we remarked on. No hard horizontal plastic floor. No ceiling. The place I am in is a large room. More properly known as a hall, and it is one of many halls in this part of the Ark Ship. 

The internal shape of this hall niggles at me. This isn’t a vertical wall that I’m leaning against. I have to crane my head back to see how the wall slopes inward as it rises. The wall becomes the ceiling. 

So what does that mean? The wall curves up slightly, or the ceiling curves down quite a lot? And anyway it isn’t much of a curve. More a straight line ended by a pair of angles. I’m not educated enough in geometry to be able to guess by how much of an angle but it’s the wrong kind of line for the kind of spaceship I imagine the ArkShip to be. 

Not that we didn’t study the ArkShip at the Shaman School. It was held to most resemble a very large wheel. Wheels on Lotor were cast in a mould carved in stone. Hemp fibres laid in the mould were fixed with molten silicates poured over them.

I try to imagine the rooms like the one I’m in, stacked up and surrounding the central hall with its forever circulating human herd, in the wheel that is the Ark Ship. 

Crowd of people, I interrupt myself. Don’t get sucked into the people are only animals story. Remember that I saw Lithe in the crowd. 

Didn’t the Maremma girl say she had six so-called realities in her row? And remember that there was the base floor and two upper U-shaped floors of rows. 

Why am I thinking as though the scene was like that but isn’t now? Everything is still out there somewhere. 

But still not the entity in here with me. 

Three sixes are eighteen. The canteen is in the curvy bit of the middle U and the place where I came out of the Reception Hall is in the curvy bit of the upper U. So, leaving out the curvy bits, two sixes per U are twelve. Three twelves are thirty-six. There are thirty-six rooms masquerading as realities? How will I find you, Mongoose?

I will not dwell on that scary thought. 

Where was I? Stacking up the rooms. The one I’m in is a weird shape. Floor is horizontal. Inner wall where normally the sliding doors are is vertical. The wall I am at I can’t see very far in either direction, left or right, but what I can see of it slopes inward as it rises. If all the rooms are shaped like this one, when fitted together they’d make a shape with a zigzaggy back wall. 

But wait, the room I was in oh so briefly on the ground floor diagonally across the central hall from this room, what shape was that? 

I remember a bull-shaped man sitting at a cafe table. Beyond him tall stacks of cells. Double if not triple the height of the wall I’m standing near. The room I’m in stacked on that one … a barn shape?

I can’t see how a bunch of barn shapes could be stacked inside a wheel other than with a huge waste of internal space. Vaguely I recall information about a second skin inside the exterior skin of a space ship. 

Still that stacking problem. I don’t believe there’d be any such waste. I can no longer believe that I, or all the others of my group, are in the ship we intended to meet. What chance that there were two ships orbiting Lotor? Thyal and I would surely have seen two reflections twinkling across the night sky? And how would our shuttle have known to dock with a starship not its own? 

Still not the entity back with me. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: Make a Fire? With What?

Campfire, from thelandy.files.wordpress.com
Can a fire be the solution for Jeb when the entity takes her clothes?

I’m standing there pressed against the glazed stone. Unclothed. No one to see me but the machine all around me, so what do I care? I step away.  

I feel the cold before I notice the goosebumps rising on my arms. The temperature is dropping? I start to shiver, more from consternation I decide than from cold. But then I start to shiver in earnest. I crouch down and hug my knees so that where my skin meets skin I can stay warm. “I’m cold.” 

“On Earth, ages ago, you might’ve made a fire to keep you warm”

“Me personally, or anyone?” While I talk, my teeth don’t chatter. 

“Anyone and especially you personally”

“My mother, whose pattern came from Earth, talked about making fires. She and her little brother used to for survival skills. Where she lived there were trees and dead wood.” I gesture with my head. No reason to wave my arm and let the cold in. “No wood here.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure,” I shout. I expect my voice to clatter off the hard surfaces of the hall, but it dulls in a white mist that rises from the floor surface. The mist ribbons and twists like smoke rising. Where it meets the ceiling it fades. 

“No need to shout”  

Now parts of the mist darken. Those bits solidify into shapes of trees of the kind you see writhing in story books. Some kind of magic I’m probably meant to think.

“Oh!” the entity exclaims. 

There’s a breathless silence. 

“The wolves have found something very interesting! This I have got to go and check out!” 

Just like that, I’m alone. Lucky me. I try to recall what Mother told about keeping warm in general and making fires in particular. Wood is the fuel of course. We did have fires. I can still hear her telling her stories, though she’s been dead since I was ten. I wander into the mist.

Once I’m in under the trees, the mist thins. The air around me is warmer. The trees are weird. For one thing, they are so much taller than I am that they are bent against the ceiling. There’s a ceiling? 

Some trunks are covered with rough bark, some with smooth. Most split into smaller trunks above my head. Branches, they are called. Then smaller branches. And smaller, that might be called twigs. These have bunches of green leaves sticking out. 

I get a crick in my neck from staring up and I rest my neck by staring at the ground. The tree trunks stand in dirt that is decorated with moss? and mushrooms? and tree litter? They are my school lessons come to life, but only resemble the ones in what I recall of my studies by where they are. On the ground, or on the tree trunks. 

I rest my brain by just thinking a memory. My mother said that fibrous bark works best as clothes. I search the scene for tree trunks that are festooned with hairy strips of fibres. Make that fibrous bark. Yes. There are some to the left.


I go back to staring at the ground, at my bare feet on the litter of dead brown wood, broken twigs and soft dead brown leaves. I see forest litter. 

I feel … I clench my toes a few times to make sure … I feel that I’m standing on a hard floor. 

It seems like an unsafe discovery. I wait for a comment from the ceiling or wherever the entity makes her home. 


I check all the trunks on the left of the path. Path? Yes, right through the middle is a hard trodden path. Like a parting in hair. At the end I see? A wall. I walk there. It’s real. I rub my hands over it. Smooth white plastic. Everywhere I can touch it, jumping high, sliding sideways in both directions, the wall seems to be made of a hard white plastic. 

I wait again. The entity does not speak. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Half Shaman in Space: The Nothing Reality

The Nothing Place
Please be patient with Jeb. Would you swear if an entity took your clothes? Jeb does, though she considers it a step backward. 

The Maremma girl and I come to the end of the row. The guard-rail curves around and joins the wall. We overlook the rear-wall of the hall but right next to me is the final set of sliding doors along this gangway. 

“The reality in here is special,” the girl says. She still has not volunteered her name. 

Of course I’m supposed to say, Special how? “Exactly right for a learner shaman, I bet.” 

She’s edging me toward the still-closed sliders. “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never pushed anyone in here yet. A first timer will give me five credits.” She punches the air. “I’ll be the alpha-bitch when I get back to the kennels tonight!” 

She comes forward against me, growling and slavering from a fierce dog-like expression and I am so shocked I fall back against the doors. 

Which slide open and cause me to fall into that reality.

The doors slide shut. 

I turn on my butt. Scramble up onto my feet. Stare. Allow my jaw to sag. Stare. 

The place I’m in is completely devoid of features. Whitely empty. 

How long I stare I don’t know because not a thing keeps on happening. 

"Yet to be made”   

“Yet to be made. What does that mean?” I step off the sensori-mat. There’s nothing to tell me whether I’m on the floor, a wall or the ceiling. My head reels. Nausea roils in my stomach. I step back onto the sensori-matting and press my back to the doors. 

Which don’t open. 

Not that I expected them to. “There’s nothing here,” I say after a long silence in which I slow my heart-beat with deep breathing. 

I start to observe again. Though the place is lit, light does not emanate from any particular place. Walls, ceiling and floor as white as they were in the Reception Hall, if that is what it was. 
“Yet to be made”

“Great. I have to make the whole universe myself?” 

“Call yourself a shaman?”

“Singing the totems and calling the ship is all I learned.” I sound like I’m whingeing even to me. 

“Credit retracted”

It could do that? Not fair. I swallow. Two tokens, two credits. Then I think it through. “Why bother with credits at all when there’s no shop in here?” Maybe I say the obvious. Maybe I’m stupid thinking there’s a listener. Maybe I’m just talking to myself. 

Long silence. 

It’s a stalemate. That’s what I’m calling it. I’m still standing with my back pressed against the doors. I lift my feet one at the time to inspect my soles. The ribbing of the sensori-mat has made patterns on my bare feet. 

“Hey! We had a mat like this at home. Dad used to get us to stand on it to scold us. Same pattern on my feet.”

Was that a distraction I just threw into the silence? Didn’t bounce, even for me. The mat at home was probably eaten by Lotor along with everything else. 

I try a little story. “Weird if our mat was a historical artefact? I could go round to all the places on the ship with sensori-matting. See if any are missing. Could be one slid from the … from the shuttle with all the people.” 

There’s a break in the sequence right about where I stuttered that I hope the entity doesn’t notice. But never mind, there is no change in the ambience. 

“Mongoose thinks people used all the sensori-mats from all the shuttles as landing pads. That they already knew Lotor for what she is when the settlers first landed.”

The sensori-mat disappears! The ribbing on my foot too. The doors behind me change into glazed stone. 

“Three credits retracted”

“Wait … why? What did I do wrong?”

“Remembering is not discovering. Making things up is not discovery. Exploring some other person’s meanings is not discovering” 

One fucking credit. “Go on! Take that one off me too! What use are they?” When I shout my voice clatters through the space. 

The only answer I get is that the temperature rises. 

I take off my clothes as each item becomes impossible to wear. The fucker running the show isn’t human. All the other humans too busy in their own hells, I assume. 

The white cell was the previous place where I only lasted because I decided to relieve my feelings through swearing. I nearly cry because this is a definite step back. 

When I am naked, my clothes disappear.