Aug 30, 2018
Exigency Register A-TM-V-742 - Total Record of Events, Entry 001
To whoever finds this message: My name is Keen Forester Gloaming. I am, at time of this recording, the Chief Intercessor of the Rapid Evening in the Quire System and Primary Observer of the Twilight Mirage. I speak these words on the eve of Crystal Palace’s arrival and the scheduled deployment of a limited scope stellar combustor to destroy the divine Volition and its’....
Well shit, I guess I have no idea if any of those words mean anything to you.
Alright, let me start from the very top:
My name is Keen, and I come from a place called the Principality of Kesh. It is a collection of hundreds of worlds, tied together by a lesion in our history: A long time ago, my people spent eons enslaved by a technological tyrant, extraction exalted. And then, by luck, we found ourselves freed and empowered. And using that strength, we faced our oppressor down.
And in the generations that followed, we learned that the galaxy was filled with other threats just as--if not more--terrifying. The stars were as a forest, and it was on fire. And so we had a choice: Look away, and let our faces feel the heat from the safety of our veranda at the treeline, or intercede.
And we would not turn our backs as trillions burned.
But our efforts to save others cost us dearly, and in time, our wills shook. No terror defeated seemed lesson enough for the galaxy at large. There was always some new case of unchecked ambition, the arrival of a monstrosity we could not comprehend let alone predict.
And so, somewhere along the way, we built a machine that could uncover what our eyes could not. It is a collection of axles and algorithms, pulleys and passive dynamics. It is a structure that reveals structure. We called it the apparatus that sees the world as it is. We called it Crystal Palace.
And it told us that, with this new information, we would save a great many more people. And we did. But Crystal Palace does not lie, which means that it also told us the hard truth: that we could not save everyone, that there was a distance beyond which its own predictions would falter.
And so like armadillo curling into shell, society itself bent into permanent shape, hiding inside armored plates of reliability, and, for those deep in the populous heart of the Principality: repetition, too.
Some folks think Crystal Palace started the cycle, but I don’t buy it. There is… something beautiful about a watch that winds itself.
Which is probably why those living beyond the cycle line didn’t even notice it for those first few, beautiful loops: 2000 years set to quartz-rhythm, gliding over and over again in pendulum precision. An arcing dance of lives: a deliveryman, a gardener, a crankish politician. People found themselves in roles, not lives--repeating the steps of someone millenia their predecessor.
And as is our paradoxical way, when those Off Cycle finally noticed this happening, they interceded. The loop was modified, just in the way Crystal Palace told us it would be. A system was put in place. When someone On Cycle comes of age, they step off the dance floor, climb to the balcony, and see the ballroom for what it really is. And they are given a choice:
Join the Rapid Evening off cycle, in a world that carries always the rare possibility of the terrible improbable. Or return to absolute certainty, to the heart of Kesh.
But this system, this mirage, has proven treacherous to reality itself. And so the Cycle is broken, and what comes next for Kesh is not beautiful clockwork. It’s a factory fire.
I have been a member of the Rapid Evening for a long time, for decades. I have done things I regret, and which the apparatus has told me I will always regret. And yet the first time in my life off cycle, that I truly, really, deeply wish that Crystal Palace would be wrong.
But I know better than most that wishes do not hold back tomorrows.
And I know that when it all happens, regardless of what I want, regardless of what I think is best for the galaxy, I will be standing in its halls of glass and steel, helpless. Just five or six steps away from where I will stand, a spark will catch the tinder of the galaxy, and I will be the only one close enough to stop the blaze.
And I will fail.
This week on Twilight Mirage: Futura Free Pt. 4
Cover Art by Craig Sheldon (@shoddyrobot)