The Captain’s Daughter

“We don’t know how long it took to get here.  We have been traveling for generations.  My grandfather was Captain of the ship Borjenswar.  You might suppose then that my father was now the captain but you would be wrong.  It was my mother who trained as captain alongside her father.  My father is the second engineer and he looks after the machinery that enables the fusion that runs the Borjenswar.  The first engineer is really a fusion technologist.

Now let me summarize for you.  All this means is that granddad left our home, what was left of our home planet, when he was a young captain and took with him his very new wife who was actually the ship’s secretary.  She wrote up rules, plans, happenings etc, but mostly Gran was a counselor to the crew.  She was everyone’s mother or auntie.  Granddad and Gran had three children on the voyage.  Mother studied to be Captain, her two sisters became ordinary crew and when they were old enough got married to other crewmembers and just had babies for the new colony.  Mother and father had me first and then my brother.  Even though he is younger than I am he is in training to follow mother as Captain.  We start early on Borjenswar.  I am studying to be an agriculturist.

We have extensive and intensive agriculture on board.  Size doesn’t matter in deep space.  Borjenswar is huge, we just went from our home planet in shuttles out to the ship and all took up residence.  We carry at present five thousand people and several animal species that my teacher, and boss, feels we may infect the new home world with if they get loose and become feral.  I’m not sure, as I don’t think they will survive.  We have seen three possible home worlds since leaving our own but the populations were not friendly enough to allow asylum.  The leaders on Borjenswar feel we should just keep going.  Our life on board is very good and we can deal with five thousand.  We have plenty and are self-sustainable for a long time to come.  The next planet is coming up for our inspection in about four time tours.  I will be older then and may have several children of my own.  I have my eye on a second chef trainee.  I like food and its preparation as well as growing it.

When we have children here on Borjenswar, more often than not, because of our duties we all help care for the children.  Depending on their parents’ duty some children are closer to their neighbours than their parents when they are young.  It is only when they can understand that they can really claim their parents.  It doesn’t seem to do us any harm though; we all just live here together anyway.

Our home world was very depleted and so we all came onto Borjenswar.  After many time tours out, during a visit to a possible home world, somehow an introduced disease passed through the locks into space.  I was lucky.  To keep our family tree intact my paternal grandfather had to let go of his wife and two of his brothers to rid us of the disease as they along with thousands more had become carriers of the disease.  It has been written down in the history of the Borjenswar as the greatest tragedy of the voyage.  Well, I am a realist and I say you cannot call it that yet, we have a long way to go

I am developing a new strain of plant for my traineeship exam at the end of this tour and it is becoming a struggle to keep the seedlings alive.  They need something in the mix and I’m not sure what it is.  We are always attempting new species in the plant house that is at one end of Borjenswar, near the engines. It is cool at one side and heated on the other so we have both micro-climates without drawing on extra power for heating and cooling systems.  We travel by a monorail system to get about Borjenswar.  A number of the population have ideas that they send to us regarding food for the future.  Our diet is somewhat limited although we keep trying to extend our resources to encompass new vegetation, and the animal carers try to breed new and more vigorous species.  There are some fowl that have been enlarged by increasing the amounts of certain genetically improved plant food that they favour.

When we have a new food source completed we always grow and supply enough for both the working food kitchens at once.  A number of the kitchens are closed now but there is a kitchen to one side of Borjenswar and on the deck below is another.  They are both in constant use as five thousand people eating around the clock needs two kitchens.  On break days I go to the view deck with my second chef trainee and we look out into space and see if we can pick out a home planet.  There isn’t much else to do on board.  You work and spend time with your friends.  Once upon a time we had games of chance to play but they caused arguments and in-fighting in the families so the Captain stopped them.  We can’t have disorder here.

When we do find a home planet we will have to begin again with the indigenous plants and animals no doubt.  Perhaps we shall find a new home eventually and maybe I’ll experience the excitement and adventure of such a find in my lifetime.  We are wary of new places though because there may be disease, hostile natives, and even ferocious animals.  When it’s all said and done I think it’s much safer and comfortable on Borjenswar.”

The House on the Hill

“There were rolling hills here in the back country before you reach the desert.  Now the hills have been flat-topped to allow for more buildings and new roadways into the houses clustered in enclaves all over every available land surface.  People, people, people, everywhere you turn.  It wouldn’t really be a problem but it is the only land left except for the desert.  They have built up a buffer zone.  Those few scrappy shrubs and rocks over the hills there are the buffer between civilization and the desert.

The desert is quite severe and even just a few miles in people have got lost and died.  There are no water sources out there or here in the hills for that matter.  It does rain here though very sparsely out there in the wilderness.  People frantically collect rain in dams and tanks when it does fall here in the hills.  So here we are on this little island kingdom where everyone wants to live.  Two-thirds of the island is literally covered in by wall to wall houses with small roadways between clusters, roadways wide enough to allow a pack animal or a narrow cart, some only a person wide.  In some places the houses are built with a narrow lane running through their middle and that is getting ridiculous.

People keep arriving here to stay.  They bring baggage and furnishings, animals and relatives, too many that we can see.  My family had a house on the hill below the castle walls.  The castle was built up there because of its vantage point, a 360 degree view over the whole island, on a clear day with an off shore breeze you can see to the farthest shore.

How far now the view?  Only to the next wall I’ve no doubt.

My family house was old and sprawling.  The King ordered us all to another area and off our own land.  Our house was demolished for smaller box-like accommodations for others, for new arrivals.  I notice the castle and its walls still stand for all their age and sprawling tendencies.  The elders of my family have decided to petition the King for a larger house but I have my doubts as to whether or not we will be seen.

Trade flourishes of course, particularly in foreign furnishings and timber wares. A foreigner told me the other day that timber products are now in short supply.  Well already there is no growing timber left on our island it’s all in houses.  I asked this foreigner where he came from and he told me his story.  In our ocean there are two islands his island was slightly bigger than ours.  The people that lived there now live here.  They had used up all their natural resources, trees gone; erosion, no buffer left and the desert sands rolled over the lot, the whole of their land, in the space of a decade.  No rain means no water, so they are all coming here to live. Already we have no growing timber left and are built up to the buffer zone.  Where will we go? We really need to see the King.”

Heronimus the Great

There is an occurrence in the universe that happens every now and then.  A being emerges who has a greater knowledge and presence than the greatest one who came before.  Heronimus was such a being.  His equal is yet to become.

Heronimus had an ability to immerse himself in the concepts of the broader vision.  He could envisage magnificent worlds of plural realities that intermingled in a chaos of beauty and eventually he needed a way to express these concepts.  On one of his journeys into vision he saw a female being using a long stick with a pointy end.  She was moving the stick over a flat wall and where she touched the stick colour and shapes were left on the wall.  Heronimus decided to attempt this, to leave a copy of his vision for others to appreciate.

A stick was alright but did not really work the way he had witnessed in the vision.  Heronimus began to experiment with other implements and also colours.  Where did she get the colours?  His vision had shown that she was a very different kind of being from Heronimus and in her world perhaps there were implements he had not yet beheld.  He would continue to try different things.

The red came by accident when his offspring skewered a sea creature and it exploded red juice all over the rocks.  Of course! The colours could be found in the world around.  A being of lesser greatness and presence would never have connected to the colours in this way; the yellow in the mineral paste that the scarabs licked, the purple on the sole pads of the scratching remnant that invades the cereal plants.

Heronimus was ecstatic as he was on the right track now.  He even had a wall.  His offspring assisted with the collection of colour samples and Heronimus was ready with a selection of implements to dip and touch to the wall.  With superb sweeps of his forearms colour began to appear in scratchings and bold strokes across the wall.  Heronimus drew the female being of his vision with her two arms and two legs.  Two eyes and one mouth and a sprout of filaments from her head completed this perplexing graphic as she applied colour on her wall in that far away reality Heronimus had envisaged.

Others came to see the wall, those who willingly acknowledged that they did not have the vision of the now Great Heronimus, but who could judge greatness in this colourful wall.  No other walls had ever been coloured before and there was no such unfortunate creature, with two arms and only two eyes to compare with this vision, within their universe.  Yes!  Heronimus was great, a superior being indeed one who could envisage such a scene and replicate it on a wall.  Others must now be taught how to do this and it was so.  Heronimus was hailed historically for his greatness and presence.  However, future versions of the original wall by those of lesser greatness gave the poor creature more arms and eyes so that she could feel happier and more at home on any wall.

 

The Monitor

“How beautiful the light.  Swathes of coloured cloth festoon the trees and loops of colour swirl through the forest on the hill.  The new wave of emotion that has come from the people hits me as I float gently above the canopy of the colour forest.

The people see me, look through me; I am also colour, the colour of the sky.  So they nearly all see me as sky.  There is only the discernment of a few who are aware that I am a shape within the sky.  I have been here for many, many moons too numerous to count and I watch the people as they enjoy the colour forest.

I have witnessed the previous generations replace the leaves with the materials of all colours.  It happens when the leaves fall from the trees and die into the soil in which they live.  The bolts of diaphanous colours emerge from the shed below the forest.  The bolts are unrolled and unfurled in graduations of tone on tone as they fly in the breezes that cross the forest floor and the colours seem to blend into one another as they waft.  I am overhead now and an observant person is pointing up in a futile attempt to help his partner discriminate my outline against the sky.  Blue on blue I am not.  I am transparent and the blue shines through.

A child has the end of a piece of cloth in its mouth and is sucking.  A mother curbs her daughter from wrapping the cloth around her sister.  There is happiness and gentle caring in the colours.  Everyone will return to their homes at twilight and the colour swathes will go dark and wait for the dawn again to blaze in their glory.  I will become the blackness of the night then and the stars will shine through the membrane of me.

I am the watcher, the observer who has the switch that turns on the lights in the exhibition hall.  Outside, when the people leave here, they go to bleakness and grey.  When the feeble sun does arise sepia tones of drab invade the outside world, outside the exhibition centre.  My cousins on the outside have been decimated by the toxins and the apathy.  I am the only colour monitor left and I am imprisoned in the hall.  How beautiful the light!”

The Newcomers

In the forest beneath the green mountains of Mendash the new people came to meet their Elders.

The Elders were part of the forest now, had been now for millions of ages past.  It wasn’t until the new people arrived on the island that they woke.  The y came out of the trees and sat in the clearings around the pools where the new people thought they might build their homes.

They had to be told – the new people had to say “we will cut down these trees and build homes near the pools” and the Elders had to say “you cannot live here, if you settle in this place you will become one with the forest as we”.

The new ones were bold and spoke up quickly of their intentions to denude the forest in this area , to build their homes and furniture from the wood.  The Elders tried to explain that what they were planning was not good for them.

The new people didn’t heed the arguments or warning of consequences and in a short period of time forest was disappearing.

The new people began building their houses around the pools. They were good houses, sturdy of design and pleasant to live in. The furniture made them home.

More new people came and the number of houses swelled, some even up the mountain side. So much activity that any noise the Elders made could not, would not be heard.

Eventually all the houses were built and finished, the noise settled and the new people were happily living around the pools. Children played, all were happy and content.

The Elders were also happy with the contentedness of the new ones.  It made for good neighbours and calm furniture.  Because in the dense green forest beneath the mountains of Mendash lay a dark secret.

The Elders, who lived in the forest, were now part of the forest and they too had once been new people who built their homes around the pools.

When the rains came to fill the pools and water the trees of the forest everything was renewed and grew.

It started with the furniture…

The Fun Fair

Make of this one what you will ……….

When Garson met the maker of the fun fair, he was very impressed by his creative demeanor.  The maker of the fun fair was called Hepata by most of his employees, but Garson noticed at times that two of them called him Hermani, to his face.  Perhaps it was an endearment, Garson thought, and paid no more mind to the disparity.

On the eve of Garson’s third week of employment at the fun fair, he was climbing into his suit ready for the evening’s performance when Hepata came to his cabin and stopped him.  This evening he wanted Garson to play another part and gave him a different suit to wear.

The new suit had different coloured dots on it, and was a very different shape.  In this suit Garson would be a dog, he thought, and said so to Hepata.  Hepata just laughed and left him to suit-up.  When Garson arrived at the staging area, he was told, by the assistant, Greenspan, what movements were required.  He was then given the musical cues to follow.  Garson went over it once or twice with Greenspan to get it right.  This act wasn’t hard at all.

Then the lights went up and Garson walked off the staging area high above the crowd.  The sound piece in the suit played out the music and on cue Garson did the actions required of him.  The crowds below applauded, and shouted as the big spotted dog, that seemed to float in the air above them, rained liquid down on them, as he cocked his spotty leg against a floating lamp post.   As the big spotted dog trotted back to the staging area and disappeared Garson could still hear the audience below squealing and laughing.  Hepata met him as he landed on the staging area and congratulated his performance.  Hepata also said it was a joke performance to catch the audience unaware and to give them an extra thrill.  He said Hermani liked to do this sometimes.  When Garson asked who Hermani was, Hepata laughed uproariously.  Garson didn’t like being made fun of, even though he liked to make people laugh, and so he didn’t join in with Hepata’s laughter.

Suddenly Hepata stopped laughing and with a jolting shock, Garson saw his face become that of another.  Ah! Hepata and Hermani were the same, just different personalities of the same person; Garson reasoned and smiled his understanding.  The smile froze on his face as Hepata/Hermani seemed to separate, and two people stood before him, laughing, and pointing, laughing at his ghostly white complexion and their terrible idea of fun.

THE MAZE

On the eve of Sentamorth our hero is about to become the first Gramoth to officially enter the maze.  The maze has existed in the centre of the old city for as long as anyone can remember, and the city is very old.  The ones that built the oldest part of the city and the maze were the Ingramoth, who are the ancient ancestors, the pre-Gramoth, who evolved into the race that now inhabits the moon, called Spet.

The maze is an enclosed jigsaw of tunnels that cut deep into the dirt and rocks.  Underground for the most part, in recent times some structures have been built over the roofs of the upper tunnels.  The roofs are very thick, as are the walls, and the myths tell us that the maze is not just on a single or level plane, but layers and levels deep.  No one living knows for sure what form the structure takes, nor does anyone know what is in there, that is apart from the little she called Sogra, who everyone thinks is lost in there.  The whole city has been searching for Sogra and everywhere has been searched.  So the maze is the only answer to her sudden disappearance.

The only entrance to the maze that is known is in a cave like structure near Sogra’s house. Earth works solidly blocked the actual gateway into the maze until Sogra found a way in.  The little she usually went into the cave to play, as she liked to explore the old city.  How she got in we don’t know but there was evidence of digging, and a small wedge shaped hole, big enough for Sogra to squeeze through, in the back wall of the cave.  This was the only evidence of her disappearance that pointed to her entering the maze; there could be no other explanation.  Gramoth do not kidnap offspring, or steal from each other, as a matter of fact the whole of the Gramoth population felt the same angst as her parents when they discovered Sogra was missing.  The Gramoth are compassionate, and their empathy is renowned across the universe.  Sogra must be found, and as soon as possible for everyone’s peace of mind.  Elders had ordered the widening of the hole in the wall so that a search could begin.

Emrath had volunteered to go into the maze in search of Sogra.  He was handsome and strong, and his parents had put his name forward as the one to seek Sogra’s whereabouts, as Emrath had always been fascinated by the ancient history of the Gramoth and even had some minor knowledge of the maze.

As they widened the hole with digging sticks and shovels it became apparent just how thick the walls were.  They were as wide as the height of the Gramoth, who was at that moment lying prone, while he was digging into the inner wall.  Young Sogra must have been scooping away at the small hole she had managed to dig out, for many days.  So it wasn’t just on a sudden whim that she went into the maze.  It seemed that she had been helped by a slight rockslide, and perhaps a cave-in, a small amount of in-fill probably loosened the inside of the wall at just the right spot.  Just the same it seems she was determined.

Everyone around the cave entrance felt the trepidation and anxiety that was coursing through Emrath as he said good-bye to his proud, but pushy parents.  He was actually excited and very curious as well, which only seemed to heighten his anxiety.  What would he find in there?  Had Sogra taken light and provisions?  Emrath had encased his body in a protective suit that would shield him from the cold, but little else.  The elders had packed torches and flints, and for food he had the little insect cakes that his mother baked in the communal oven on even days, and fruits from the orchard, that were dried on racks behind their house.  It was all in a pack that he could carry on his back so that his arms and wing-cape would be free.

The wing-cape was the current product of Gramoth evolution.  It was known that the Ingramoth had flown with their wings, tough, leathery and very colourful, as well as intricately patterned.  Large wings that carried them far and wide were now stunted and sat like a cape that arose from the centre of the thoracic spine.  The once separate wings were joined now, and could be raised or lowered with the muscles in the back and neck.   The colours of the intricate designs were still there and the cape was now very much a part of the body language of the modern day Gramoth.  Nowadays the Gramoth walked everywhere or rode the short donkey-like creatures they called Verak.

Emrath glanced back once, as his mother and father, and the group of elders watched as his red and pink patterned wing-cape disappeared into the dark hole. There was silence as their feelings supported Emrath, and urged him further into the darkness of the tunnel.  No one dared to follow him.  He was on his own.

The darkness closed around him, it was darkness so thick that the flames of the torchlight didn’t penetrate far.  Beside him the tunnel went both ways, and behind was the thin sliver of light that came in from the outside.  Which way, right or left?  He felt an intuitive urge to go to the left, but he needed to look for little Sogra.  She must be distraught.  He called her name, and jumped when his voice bounced back at him from the thick darkness.  Putting the torch down to the floor of the tunnel, he saw next to his own feet, a smaller version of imprints in the ancient dust.  As he moved the torch around his heart sank as he saw that they pointed to the right.  As he straightened, the torch reflected off the walls, and for the first time he noticed that the large aperture, that had once been the gateway into the labyrinth was crowned by an intricately decorated arch.  The patterns could have been a collection of the coloured designs of the Ingramoth wings recreated into a fresco around the gateway.  It was very clever and beautiful.  His large eyes were becoming more accustomed to the impinging gloom and he could now make out writing on the opposite wall.  This was news; the Ingramoth wrote words, and as far as he could make out as he walked closer, the letters were a slightly different shape to that of modern Gramoth with the occasional unidentifiable word or letter.  However, the calligraphy had a smooth rhythmical flow like an unbroken mountain stream.  Such clean lines, Emrath was so fascinated to read this ancient script that it took a few moments to register just what he was deciphering.  His heart sank again, by going to the right Sogra had taken not only the hard way, but the most dangerous route through the labyrinth.  Apparently the left-hand route was an easy stroll by comparison.

Readjusting his pack he began tracking Sogra into who knew what?  Sogra obviously hadn’t read the wall; her tracks looked like she was skipping along the centre of the tunnel.

Following Sogra was easy; her foot prints were almost centered in the wide tunnel.  Emrath however was an explorer at heart and couldn’t help himself; he had to look more closely at the tunnel walls.  So every twenty or so steps he would walk to the right or left to examine the walls.  He noted the structure; in some places looked as though it had been bored through the earth, and in other places the rocks were precision cut and dovetailed so perfectly that they didn’t require mortar.  He saw no more writing or decoration, and so he would cross back to the centre and take up Sogra’s trail again.  At length his gut told him it was time to eat, and he squatted down over to one side of Sogra’s track, took off his pack and nibbled on some insect cake.  Emrath had rammed the handle of the torch into the floor of the cave, and as he sat back on his heels he laughed as he caught sight of a disturbance in the soil nearby.  Sogra had stopped here just ahead of him.

Emrath felt as though he had walked for a whole day and decided it was time to stop.  Over to the left side of the tunnel he settled for a small snack of dried fruit and sleep.  It wasn’t unusual for Gramoth to sleep on the ground.  Many felt happiest lying close to nature.  Emrath didn’t mind, but he was very glad that he had worn the suit.  It was cold here.  He wasn’t sure how far he had come, and he was pretty sure that he hadn’t passed by any cross tunnels or branches.  His large eyes were becoming accustomed to the gloom and he was still on Sogra’s trail.

When he woke, Emrath used the flints and lit the torch.  He had placed everything beside him so he knew where to reach in the pitch dark.  As his eyes adjusted to the light he wondered why he couldn’t feel Sogra’s emotions.  She was probably only a day ahead of him, but when he thought about it, he reasoned that it could be longer, maybe another day, if little Sogra had left in the middle of the night.  He might feel her if she was distressed.  For a little she, Sogra was very organized and he knew now the Gramoth might not know where she was, but Sogra was not lost.  Sogra was not wandering aimlessly around down here; she could have followed her own tracks out as he would when the time came.  No, he reasoned Sogra was on a deliberate mission to explore the maze.

After another few hours of walking Emrath felt a change in the tunnel, he wasn’t sure what it was at first, but because of the pattern he had been walking, he soon discovered a Y shaped branch ahead in the tunnel.  Again there was a right or left choice.  He looked at the walls here.  There was no written word except for a series of dots.  There were three in the inside wall of the left branch and six on the corresponding wall of the right.  At first he thought it was Sogra’s work, but dismissed this when he examined them more closely.  These painted dots were old.  He had no idea what they stood for; Gramoth didn’t use these kinds of symbols in their numerology.  Checking the floor, he saw that Sogra had done it again, gone down the right branch.  In the middle of the tunnel her track disturbed the smooth surface of the ancient floor.  The left branch was undisturbed.  Emrath was beginning to detest these right turns they really felt wrong.

Another branch loomed up in the curve of the tunnel.  This was the first time Emrath was aware of a curve; previously he had only felt that he was walking a straight line.  The length of the maze awed him.  On the surface it only took half a day to walk its length.  It was obviously huge and had depths no-one had dreamt of, and he was sure he was still walking on the same level, but he must have been walking a slow decline taking him way beyond and below the maze that was apparent on the surface.

As he rounded the curve the branch went to the right again, Sogra’s prints went in and beside them came out.  It must be a dead end.  He checked the walls for marks or dots.  Sure enough there was a painted mark on the inside wall of the branch.  This was a circle like a zero; perhaps it meant a dead-end.  Emrath didn’t bother to checkout the dead end, he continued to track Sogra in the direction of the curve and felt happy that it curved left for a change.  It was so easy to loose track of the days down here, and he could only really go by his body clock, and he intuited it was the same for Sogra. He had passed her sleep sites, often close to his own, as he progressed along the tunnels. No writing or patterns, just walking, and it was becoming monotonous, Emrath was unaware at times that he was loosing concentration, and he was afraid of becoming disoriented.  So he decided to pay strict attention to the details.  Here the tunnel walls seemed to be hewn out of the natural rock.  The tools must have been strong to enable the workers to cut a wide tunnel like this through solid rock.

Oh, this wasn’t good; Sogra had taken the right hand branch again and hadn’t come back out of any of the three branches facing him.  The dots were there, six on the far right branch, three on the near left of it, and four dots on the far left.  Sogra was following the sixes he reasoned, and of course so was he.

He decided to sleep at the entrance to the right branch, and he curled up under the seemingly inevitable, six painted dots.  When he woke he ate an insect cake, and a piece of dried fruit, then he took off along the right hand branch that took such a sharp decline in places he was almost running downwards, it was so steep.  In the tracks he saw that Sogra had rolled part way and he hoped she was unharmed.  The tunnel bottomed out eventually and he slid to a standstill.  He could see where Sogra had scrabbled to keep her footing on the lower part of the slope.

The torch sputtered out and he couldn’t get the flint to strike and so he felt his way along and nearly banged his beak into a wall that seemed to curve left in front of him.  His hand led the way as it followed the curve.  He felt the tunnel close in for a moment, and reaching out his left hand grazed his knuckles, on the now, not so far wall, and just as suddenly the pressure changed and he knew he was in a very large space.  He tried the flint again and it struck.  With the torch ablaze he saw that he was in a circular cavern.  Exploring the cave he noticed that this was a natural feature, there were stalagmites and stalactites, still forming, and unlike the tunnels it smelt damp.  There would be food in here.  Whilst searching out insects he found a piece of Sogra’s pack.  It was just a flap that had caught on a sharp rock.  He hoped Sogra had dined as well as he was, the insects were different to those on the surface, but just as tasty.

Sogra was following sixes again, and as he followed he wondered what she knew that kept taking her this way, or was it just a whim?  Emrath didn’t really know Sogra; he had seen her in the neighbourhood, around and about, but never actually met her or shared her feelings.  Sogra was just a little bit younger than his age group, and whilst in the future her age might place her ready for partnership with his age group, at the moment that time was a long way off, and to Emrath a long way away.  He hadn’t spoken to Sogra’s parents before he left because the circumstances and the empathy had pushed his entry into the hasty search.  Too fast in hindsight, he was beginning to think and feel that there was more to Sogra and her journey than met the eye.

He could feel the pressure like a huge weight above, he decided that meant he was far below the surface tunnels now.  Yet Sogra was still ahead and her track marched on.  He called out at intervals several times each ‘day’.  If Sogra had heard him she didn’t return his call.  With the oppressive weight that seemed to enclose him he didn’t think the sound would travel far down here, it would simply soak into the walls.  The tunnels had become like a warren now, he was sure he had turned several hook curves and had passed numerous dotted branch tunnels.  Six seemed to be the number.  Perhaps Sogra had gleaned some knowledge of the way; perhaps she found some ancient writing that gave her a formula to traverse the labyrinth.

The width of the tunnel was now only the width of his outstretched arms.  If the Ingramoth only flew through here it would have been tricky negotiating this on the wing.  They must have crawled through here.   The tunnel narrowed again; it was so tight that he was scraping the sides with his wing-cape.  He looked down at Sogra’s tracks, they continued on through the narrow gap, and so did he.  As he squeezed through the slot, he emerged into a blind cul-de-sac.  Surely he hadn’t been tracing Sogra’s backtrack in the wrong direction…. he turned to check and where he hadn’t trod on her footprints he was assured they only went one way…. into the cul-de-sac.  He couldn’t afford to panic.  He raised the torch and the light bounced off the walls, it flashed on the colours, on the intricate patterns and writing that told him to ‘look up’ or maybe it was ‘go up’.  Emrath waved the torch high above his head and he saw steps, narrow steps made for small feet, that curved up a chimney to a higher level or maybe out of the maze altogether.  In the far curve of the cul-de-sac he found evidence of Sogra’s resting-place and he slept soundly in the same spot.

Waking up in this space was not easy and he was feeling cramped and oppressed, it was then, as he was going to complain loudly, that he heard a sound.   It pinged like pebbles hitting a larger stone.  Several small, marble like pebbles were cascading down from above and hitting the sides of the steps, clattering.  He called up the chimney to Sogra.  Her voice came back, questioning him, from far above.

“Who was he?  “Why was he following her?” and she sounded annoyed.  He yelled back the answers.  Did she really believe she could just disappear like that and no one would look for her?  He told her to stay put, that he was coming up, and so began the climb of a lifetime.  At least Sogra was safe.  He reasoned that if Sogra stayed where she was he would reach her soon.  He climbed and climbed, there was nowhere to stop, up and up the shaft, spiraling up the narrow steps he stopped, balancing as he ate his last piece of insect cake.  Then up he went again.  He called to Sogra once or twice but received no answer.

Suddenly he was at the top of the stairway, and it opened immediately into another tunnel.  Sogra was not there waiting.  Emrath was very annoyed with her and he called her name sharply.  No answer came back.  He looked around the tunnel floor for her footprints and they led back down the tunnel and out again on the other side, where she had begun climbing again.  Here was a continuation of the steps, and the chimney was wider now so the spiral was wider as well.  He rounded a few spirals and came to another cavernous tunnel that opened out on the opposite wall to the dead end below. This was another natural cavern and he could hear insects scrabbling about on, and under rocks.  He would eat and explore at the same time.  A movement caught his eye at the same moment as he was picking up a sweet tasting beetle.  It was a spot of light moving along, and illuminating the underside of an overhang just to his right.  Sogra! She was looking for the six dots and the right hand tunnel…. no doubt.

Emrath came up behind her and pounced, she was not getting away from him, and they would travel together from here.  Sogra put up a mild struggle, but she quickly realized how much stronger her opponent was.  She knew him by sight. She had seen him around the town.  Sense always prevailed with the Gramoth and as they empathized with each other, they sat down together and ate sweet and succulent beetles.  It was time for Sogra to share her reasons and any knowledge she had found that had led her here.  Sogra could feel his annoyance, mixed with curiosity, and some relief that he had found her.  Emrath felt that she was also annoyed at being found, and her relief that there was food here.  Apparently she had emptied her pack of food two sleeps ago.  Now he knew for sure that she had planned this trip into the maze.

Emrath listened, and Sogra talked.  She had found a small piece of fresco on the outside wall of the cave.  When the entrance had been filled in, ages ago, the ground outside had been chipped up, and the covering of rubble and dirt had been pounded down to make a flat area inside the cave entrance.  Sogra had used the cave entrance for years as a playroom, as it was next to her house.  Playing at being an explorer, she had often dug holes in the cave entrance floor, one day she had found a piece of fresco that she thought had come out of the tunnel.  She pulled it out of her pack.  It was about a hand-span, an Emrath hand-span, and it was red writing on a shiny brown surface.  There were only a few words: “six dots to the right will take you far”.  It had taken Sogra a long time to understand what it could mean, and when she came to her conclusions, she had begun planning her adventure.  Emrath could feel her anticipation and excitement, and the dark and the seemingly endless tunnels hadn’t quelled her excitement.  Emrath admired her courage and conviction and he said so.

Sogra had had enough to eat and she jumped to her feet ready to move on.  Emrath suggested taking some beetles with them as they had no idea what might be ahead.  With a meal of beetles in their packs, they each began looking for another tunnel with six dots.  The entrance was behind a large curtain of stalactites, and as they climbed in, Emrath tuned in to Sogra’s excitement.  His own feelings were mixed; he didn’t have any tracks to follow now they were making them together.

Sogra was a good companion and together their energies worked well.  This tunnel felt different somehow but he wasn’t sure what the difference was.  Perhaps it was because he wasn’t alone?  It was only when Sogra verbalized the same thought moments later that they stopped to discuss it, and look around more carefully.  They had only been using one torch, and so he asked Sogra to light hers as well.  The extra illumination was a big help, they saw that the tunnel they were in wasn’t a made tunnel, but part of the same cave system as the cavern just behind them.  This natural tunnel was wide but the roof was much lower than previous tunnels, any lower and Emrath would need to stoop.  It was only the floor of the tunnel that had been deliberately leveled and made into a wide path.  If the Ingramoth only flew why did they need paths, were they evolving already or did they always have arms and legs similar to the modern day Gramoth.  These sorts of questions plagued Emrath as he had no answers.  Still maintaining his vigilance, looking for writing, designs, branches and cross-tunnels, Emrath began to discuss his questions with Sogra.

Cross-species, that was Sogra’s idea, and she thought that somehow or other the Ingramoth had crossed with another specie, and that would explain how the powerful legs and arms developed.  She continued with her theory: she thought that was why they ate insects and lived to breed, and more than that, they lived on after breeding, and because of that they didn’t fly anymore.  All this theorizing came spilling from Sogra as she walked along down the middle of the tunnel a few steps ahead of Emrath.  It was such a big theory for a little she.  Emrath just had more questions.  He didn’t agree or disagree with Sogra’s ideas, who knew?

They hadn’t walked much further when Emrath began to feel another change in the pressure on his body.  Something was very different again.  He walked carefully to the left and couldn’t find the wall.  He held the torch above his head and couldn’t find the roof of the tunnel, so he moved cautiously to the right across Sogra’s centralised track.  It was the same story; they must be in another giant cavern.  At his request Sogra pointed her torch down to watch the floor they were walking over; he didn’t want the floor to disappear from under their feet.  It didn’t disappear at all, but gently sloped to the right and ended at a wall.   The wall was covered in writing and pictures, all framed by the intricate wing patterns of the Ingramoth.

Emrath couldn’t see around the wall so he side-steeped to the left and found he could walk that way on a ledge which ran along the front of the wall, until he came upon another wall.  He continued walking, right shoulder to that wall and reached another, jutting out, from the last.  All were covered in writing and pictures.  They were so tall he couldn’t see the top half from where he was standing.  He would have to be at a distance to see each wall completely and work out how to illuminate them.

Between them there were ten torches left, Emrath took seven of them and made his way to what seemed to be the beginning of the scripted walls and there he lit all the torches at once.  With the extra illumination he saw that the natural cavern was even more vast than he had imagined.  Sogra was making her way towards him, and her torchlight showed him that the walls were stepped back to the first wall they had encountered on entering the cavern, and he could just make out a platform of sorts that faced each wall.  In fact there were viewing platforms for each wall.

They arranged the torches to their best advantage and made their way to the first platform, which was farthest from the entrance.  Reading the wall-sized tablets was going to take an age and besides there were words and symbols here that neither could identify.  Together they read out loud, discussing possible meanings of strange symbols and generally got the gist of what was written there on the wall before them.  They were astounded.

In all there were five huge walls in this stand.  The first wall told of a war, which was actually a campaign of genocide.  The Gramoth had always known that there are other moons that orbit their mother planet, the parent of their moon that is called Spet.  According to the writings, the Ingramoth had been invaded by a tribe from one of the moons called Ensegra, which is a small dark ball on the outer orbit of the mother planet.  Apparently, the Ensegrans felt they had no other choice.  They were not like the Ingramoth, who were then giant moth like beings, highly intelligent, intellectual beings whose compassion and empathy, and joy of living was highly spiritually evolved.  The tribe from Ensegra were bi-pedal, with strong torsos and highly developed technology.  They had spaceships and aircraft and a hunger for more territory in which to spread their progeny.

The Ingramoth were at first easily exterminated, they had soft bodies and without their wings could not travel far to get away, and eventually they were driven underground into this labyrinth which they had created, and connected throughout the subterranean depths of their moon.   Emrath and Sogra had moved on to the platform of the second wall.  They stood very close together as if for warmth, but it was the warmth of comfort they needed because maybe Sogra was right after all.  Some other questions arose: If the maze pervaded the moon, where were they now?  How far had they walked?

Reading on, they discovered that the Ensegra people had taken possession of the surface of Spet and the remaining Ingramoth had lived in this subterranean world, and because of who, and what they were they thrived. Ensegra colonists that included families of workers, technicians, engineers and scientists had followed the original invasion force. The Ensegra were unable to make Spet work for them in the longer term and over long generations began a natural attrition, until there were not enough left to run their cities or their craft.  It was like a failure to thrive away from their mother moon.  After a long time the Ensegra left the Ingramoth alone to live in relative safety and peace in the bowels and internal structures of their moon.  Out of sight, out of mind Sogra thought out loud and Emrath agreed.  He could feel the excitement building as they deciphered the third wall, rearranging the torches almost frantically in their need for further answers to this mystery.  Eventually there were only a few Ensegra left, and in panic their scientists began a genetic breeding program.  The trouble was they had been here so long, their judgement was skewed and they had become desperate.  They were not spiritual beings, like the Ingramoth, and there was a lack of integrity and ethics in most of their experiments. The poorly designed experiments resulted in genetically modified Ingramoth and Ensegra appearing over the next generations.  Reading the continuing surreal history of their species Sogra and Emrath concluded that the following thousands of generations had eventually given birth to the Gramoth, now standing here in this cavern.  As the fifth wall affirmed they read about the demise of the last Ensegra, and the return to the surface of the Ingramoth, who then embraced the remaining Ensegra mutations into the population.

Exhausted by the emotions and revelations, Emrath ordered that they search for food and then sleep in the crevasses at the edge of this huge cavern.  Emrath snuffed out all the torches but two.  Sogra sought out insects, there were grubs and sweet beetles here, Gramoth didn’t eat moths of any kind, considering them sacred.  They ate well and fell asleep easily.  Sogra was tucked up in a cleft made by two rocky outcrops and Emrath was nearby, just around the rock and close to Sogra’s feet.  It was a long and deep sleep for them both.

Emrath woke first and lit both of the torches.  As Sogra hadn’t stirred he took one of the torches and leaving the other rammed into the dirt near her so it would shine on the arrow, he scratched into the dirt floor, to indicate the direction he was taking to circumnavigate the cavern.  Sogra called to him when she awoke and he called back urgently, telling her to bring the torch and her pack, to see what he had found.  Hurrying along his tracks she could feel his pulse racing and his head spinning.  Nearly at the point of calling out her concern, she rounded another rocky outcrop in the path, when she saw him frozen to the spot like a statue, the last in a line of statues that had been carved out of the huge rocks that littered the cavern floor.  He had placed his spare torches between 3 or 4 of them, but she could see that there were many more leading off into the darkness.

Emrath had literally walked into one of the statues that looked like a Gramoth, but whose wings were still separate.  That was why Sogra had felt his heart hammering, he had been so surprised by the discovery that his heart had thumped in his chest.

They were looking at a record of the genetic and evolutionary changes of the Ingramoth/Ensegra up to the almost modern Gramoth.  They explored for a long time, moving from statue to statue.  Sogra had found where it started, two figures side by side, one Ensegra; that is where the original strong legs, and muscular torso and arms had come from; and the Ingramoth with his long beak, and wings, and the large eyes that had such a wide perspective.  Backtracking along the gallery of life-size figurines, they saw how the changes to both species had evolved into themselves.  However, this place had been lost and forgotten in the modern history of the Gramoth of Spet, because there was no statue that completed or rather continued the record.  None of these resembled Sogra or Emrath.

Both of them decided that they would return here when they had spread the news. They would work together as a partnership, and they would continue to keep the history of the Gramoth of Spet making sure that the following generations did not forget.

It took them many, many sleeps to return home and on the way they found so much more to explore on future forays.  When they emerged from the cave entrance next to Sogra’s house they were hailed as heroes or initially Emrath was for ‘saving’ Sogra.  Later when they spoke of their findings and what their plans included they were both celebrated as the new trend in Gramoth society and everyone wanted to learn what they could teach.

There must have been something carried forward through their evolution, because very few Gramoth wanted to venture underground to see the evidence.  Only a few of the younger generation took up with Emrath and Sogra to further explore the maze that was Spet.