Authors: Pat Black
The Bringer of Light
The Bringer of Light
Published by Pat Black on Kindle
Copyright © Pat Black 2016
Front cover image Copyright © Pat Black 2016
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The Bringer of Light
-Cn u c hm?
-I c hm nw
-He’s there fo sho
-Stars. Big guy
-Speak to her maybe?
-Oh god so am I
-Wait for me
-Oh stars I’m coming too
Cutwater adjusted the goggles, bent his frame against the blizzard and kept moving. The sled had long been ditched, a burden that might have ended his journey sooner rather than later. He’d given it one last look before disappearing over the edge of a bluff; already, the pink hull was feathered with snow, its shocking hue muted.
And now for the real cold, he thought, gazing into the grey haze in front of him. Here at last, he became aware of the bones sheathed in his skin, the muscles not thick enough to swaddle them. Something in him cried for cushioning, and he envied the blubber of those he’d left behind. Thick, fur-fringed boots plunged on into the snow, deeper with every step. He could not stop until he reached the mountain, a looming shadow somewhere up ahead, with its possibility of shade and shelter.
Cutwater had known this time would come. The body was only meant to take so much. Soon there would come a time when he went beyond cold, when his body began to speak to him in softer tones.
, it would whisper.
Lie down and sleep
He angled his bod against the wind and carried on, breath creaking in his lungs. How many miles now to the peaks? Three? Four? In the blizzard he began to fear for his bearings. If night fell and he was not under cover…
He ignored the high-pitched whining at first, supposing it to be an acoustic by-product of the shrieking wind. It grew in intensity, and Cutwater turned to face it.
A familiar dread added heft to his physical burdens.
Dread… and a shameful sense of relief.
The orange-tinged heat shield reminded Cutwater of the old halogen lamps he’d seen in the jungle cities years before, coronas of dull light that had once lit up whole hillsides, building up panoramas of weird, flickering flame. The glow from the shield was circular, but steady, only the disconcerting slant of the snow obscuring it as it ambled up the hillside, a serene will o’ the wisp melting the snowflakes to steam in an instant.
Inside the shield, stood on a pedestal-like generator floating three feet off the ground, was a girl, certainly no more than 22 or 23; thin and pointy-featured with jagged, blood-red spikes angling from her scalp. Striking, in her way, and beaming like a child. She looked like she could have been famous, a screen idol or a singer in another age; redundant terms in this one. Looping over her ear, and covering one of her eyes in an oily black pool, was a Unix set. Naturally.
“What do you want?” His voice was torn away on the winds.
“Reckoned!” she cried, waving, as he felt the blessed warmth of the heat shield slap his face. “Do you want to come inside?”
“No, I do not! What are you doing here?”
“I have to see you.”
“No you don’t. Go back where you came from.”
“Oh, Cutwater. Don’t be like that! You know the trouble I went to, coming all the way out here?”
“Which hardware provider sent you? Gilder? Gullwings? How many times do I have to tell you people? I’m not interested.”
“I’m not from anyone.”
“Rubbish. You people are never alone.” He stumbled in the deep snow, and for a moment he feared he would pitch forward onto his face. Slowly, he righted himself, backpack straining the muscles of his lower back.
“Are you alright?” The heat shield – blessed, golden as a full fire in the grate and just as heavenly on his wind-scuffed cheeks – came closer. Within the glowing bubble, the girl reached out a hand. “Come in. Please, don’t be silly. It’s too cold. I saw you struggling with the sled.”
“I’ll make it,” he said. “Now you go on home. I don’t want company. Can’t you understand?”
A strange spasm crossed her features; so quick Cutwater might have guessed it was an illusion caused by the interference of the snow in his visual field. But he knew better. For an instant she looked angry. “Do you own this part of the valley?”
Cutwater managed a smile. “Which one of your watching millions asked you to say that?”
“You do own this valley, don’t you? Out here? Wherever we are?”
“No, I don’t. If you want to claim it, feel free. I have to move on.”
“Well then.” She beamed again, and her voice became shrill. “I think I’ll stay here with you.”
Cutwater waved her away, and trudged on. Behind him, the girl glided forward, cleaving a molten trail through the snow.
-She’s gonna do the bump
-Bump for sure
-*** 2/1 Cutwater and Joon bump***
-Stars I’ll have
-Me too, coming
-Uh, imagine if they bumped. Coming.
-They’ll bump #coming
-I’m not coming
“I’m serious. I need you to leave. Go.” He gestured with a tin fork towards the orange glow.
They were sheltered in a rocky outcrop, and Cutwater had a fire going among the slabs of stone. It would not last long; even the accelerant he’d carried in his pack, his one concession to modern technology, would not last forever in the howling wind.
Secure in her orange cocoon, the girl said nothing, but the Unix unit embedded in her head, obscuring one eye, seemed to flash, like the windows of a passing jet catching the sunlight. Her visible eye jerked and rolled, like a puppet on a string. Since he’d opened the tin of tuna, she’d followed his every move with razor-edged keenness.
She said: “It’s a free world.”
“I don’t want you here. Please leave. You’re getting in my way.”
“Who sent you?”
She shrugged. “No-one special.”
“You’ll be recording this, yes? Is that a Unix unit?”
“Newest one – Firebird 461.”
“A 461! Whoa. Impressive stuff. Ten times better than the RS232 Interface III?”
“Naturally. What’s an RS232 Interface III?”
He laughed. “I’m joking. It’s a joke. I wouldn’t know a 461 from a tin-opener.”
“Oh.” Again, that wave of activity stirred her features. “RS232. Now I see. Jokes.”
“That’s it.” He gestured towards her with the knife. “Want some tuna?”
“Tuna was banned in the 2092 Committee, sub-section three.”
“Not everywhere. Not in this country.”
The girl leaned over, the corona of light bubbled around her head. “How old is it?”
“I dunno. This tinned stuff lasts years.”
“Hey – you want some of my food patches? You could come in here. Get warm. I promise I won’t try and bump you.”
Cutwater almost choked on his food. “Awful decent of you!”
“You’ll come in? You might freeze out here. Your vitals aren’t scanning rightwise.”
“I’m just fine as I am. I’ll be moving on, soon.”
“Why won’t you come in for some heat?”
“It wouldn’t be the same if I used a heat shield. I don’t want a heat shield. And I don’t want to be anywhere near a Unix unit, even by proxy.”
Her features rippled. “Five hundred and twenty-two people have died on this mountain in the past thirty years trying to reach the walled city known as Tegrut. Bodies lie less than two hundred yards from this very map-in. That’s where you are going, isn’t it? Tegrut?”
Cutwater shrugged. He gazed into the sputtering flames, at the rising smoke torn asunder by the wind once it rose above the outcrop.
“I don’t understand why you would risk your life. Is it for flicks?”
“Flicks? For likes?”
“I have no idea what you’re saying.” Cutwater packed away the empty tin. “You do speak awfully well for someone your age, though.”
She beamed. “I learned. I viddied your speech.”
“That’s nice. Well. I’m going to get moving now. You sure your heat shield is going to make it through these temperatures?”
“I hope so. Because I’ve got some statistics for you. In 40 years, not one Unix unit has made it to Tegrut.”
The girl’s face flickered. “Reckoned. But the 461 is the stars model. Seoul style. I’ll be there. No tears.”
“I hope you’re right. If you falter, you’ve got nothing to save you from the cold. I can’t carry you. And you do know there are other things living up here besides the people of Tegrut?”
She brightened up. “Oh, hi-fi! Monsters, hey?”
“As far as you’re concerned, yes.”
“When do we set off?”
“Now. Incidentally – you got a name?”
She beamed. “Joon.”
“June.” He nodded. “Seems a long way from June out here.”
Her mouth twitched. “No, not June.
Cutwater laughed, spreading his mittened hands over the dying fire. When it was no more than embers, he got up and gathered his gear, face cast in shadow. Perched on her heat sled, she watched, features shifting rapidly, as he put on his hat, fixed his goggles and set off straight into the wind. He trudged through the snow, heavy walking stick in hand, body angled against the maelstrom. In the distance, the mountain loomed, a giant with armour of ice and black stone.
Light as a bubble, Joon’s pedestal floated free of the outcrop and followed Cutwater’s deep footprints at a slight distance.
(Reckoned from the long-play Filie, The Hornet’s Nest, by Albert F Golding)
The quantum event, as is so often the case with new technology, was as a result of sex. Actual physical bump.
Or rather, the lack of it.
It was traced to one incident in particular, the humiliation and subsequent revenge of one man, William Dutton, subsequently known by an internet handle, Sexface.
Sexface was a typical middle-aged, middle class man, with a wife and two children who worked as a newspaper – *search opened* an ancient type of bogrolled screed of newsies and viddies *search ends* He was commissioned to write a travel newsie in rural Froggyland, with a fellow party of journalists. This was seen as a treat for people in Dutton’s location, but the incident had repercussions that would be felt across the world.
Taken to a plush, renovated hotel deep in the Froggy countryside outside Paris, Dutton was wined, dined and feted by a travel company seeking to drum up business through the newspapers and other media outlets. It seems that Sexface had a good time, but for some reason he drew the ire of one other member of his party. Ironically, although this person’s hacking work as part of the Hornet collective changed the world, their name has been forgotten by history, while Sexface’s is immortal and sploogy.
Sexface took to his room in the hotel, and took a perve at viddies of bump, which were then well reckoned. Trad then was for viddie-watchers to then self-chuck. But, bump was confined to the outer world in those days and there was great embarrassment among people like Sexface for mostways across the world to be caught self-chucking.
What the hacker had done was to patch into Sexface’s pre-Unix hand unit (a laptop) and broadcast his bump to the world through the old internet system. This was not quite the first synchro-bump, but it soon became the most famous owing to the sexface William Dutton showed to the rest of the internet.
Sexface underwent socialaggeddon; his wife and children left him, he lost his job, and he was soon world famous owing to his embryonic synchro. Although bump synchro is normsies now, this was not the case back then for people with jobs, status and prestige to consider. William Dutton went underground… But soon he came back in odd ways.
The orange halo was a blur in the face of the blizzard, fragile as the flames a long way back at the camp. He could barely feel his hands, and every breath seemed to crystallise before it had a chance to leave his body. For the first time, he understood the scale of the task, the difficulty involved in reaching Tegrit.