Outside

Some boundaries, once broken, can never exist again

Another favorite writing exercise of mine is a setting vignette, a short piece of fiction narration that lays the groundwork for stories to explore and build upon. I imagine them as often being the back cover of a book or the lead in text scroll or voice-over narration in a film. There is no set format or length, things being just what they need to be to convey the message.


   The oldest fear of mankind, written into our genes over
countless millennia, is a fear of the unknown darkness. We drove
back the physical darkness first with the flickering light from
our tribal fires. Then we evolved our myriad sciences to retrieve
knowledge from the dim recesses of ignorance. Somewhere along our
journey, the celebratory sounds of our own successes drowned out
the warning our bones were shouting at us from the past. We pushed
onwards with assaults on the very fabric of space-time using
high-energy physics. All in an attempt to open what we felt were
the final few doors hiding our rightful knowledge of the inner
workings of the universe. These reckless efforts indeed opened
doors hiding some of the universe’s secrets. These secrets though
have informed us of a dark gulf of knowledge deeper than we
thought possible, one where our universe wasn’t alone and
certainly wasn’t ours.
 
   At first, the tears in the walls of our reality were just a few,
microscopic, short-lived anomalies to be studied. But as things 
will often do, the few grew to many, the small developed into
large, the short-lived evolved into long-lived and metaphors of
doorways to other realities suddenly described ironically real
ones. When energy emerged from these portals, we rejoiced and our
scientists touted their incredible accomplishments. When matter and
alien flora began spreading from the thresholds the scientists’
willingness to take credit for the unfolding events disappeared and
our inner voice once again began sounding its ancestral warning.
When ambulatory, seemingly sentient things began crawling from the
portals our oldest fear caused our genes to scream.
 
   Mankind knew how to tear open the fabric between worlds but alas
lacked the knowledge to mend the fissures. As the portals’ denizens
slowly spread their contagion across the countryside, the people
flowed towards the cities. The destructive might of our armies
formed an uneven breakwater against which the dimensional
encroachment stalled. A wave of humanity retreated like a beach at
low tide, leaving the abandoned remains of urban sprawl to decay
under the spread of the interlopers or be reclaimed by Earth’s
wilderness. The populace resigned itself to face man-made misery in
gilded prisons, often at the hands of their fellows, rather than
risk the alien predations at the edges of civilization. Men huddled
close together, as their ancestors did around the tribal fire,
whispering superstitions to each other in an attempt to give a
reassuring logic to the chaos. We were unaware that the genetic
scream had fundamentally changed the minds of some of these men.
 
   The soaring edifices of concrete and steel, glowing with light
in this near future world, served as our tribal fires holding back
the night. The masses of mankind teemed along the web of
connections lacing the air and penetrating the ground in these
newly concentrated megacities. While the foundations of our cities’
architecture rested securely on pilings and bedrock, mankind’s
fractured ego still needed to heal from the realization that it
was not the special creation once thought unique. Our
superstitious whispers raced across the electromagnetic spectrum,
memetic ghosts in the machine. 

   The universe did not love us, did not evolve us for a purpose,
in fact did not take any notice of our existence at all. Our
scientists tried to codify our new reality, our politicians tried
to reconcile our new social structures and for some men, their
minds’ new abilities seemed to laugh maniacally at it all.

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