The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
If you missed part one visit here
If you missed part two visit here
Ilya stayed also, not out of a real desire or commitment to the expedition. But rather, it turned out that the Terrans were more interesting than she expected, and in a delightful an unexpected way. She had found a young man named Telos, who treated her as if she was the universe’s gift to him.
Cal did something nobody no even him could explain. He disobeyed his orders to return to Verna and instead launched the empty Mariah into an orbit which would carry it to the edge of the solar system and back. The Mariah contained the only power source for the transmitter, therefore they would be out of contact until the Mariah completed her three year orbit program and returned to Terra Cal always behaved with a pilot’s imperative.
When Pele returned to the campsite and found Cal sitting next to where the ship had been. She demanded an explanation from Cal. When she got it, she roughly clutched at his chest and shouted:
“You were to take the ship back to Verna and return!”
Cal shrugged himself loose and said,
” Well Frack that, I mean they have bench warrants out for me that make me as good as dead, if I come back without you solving this language thing problem”
Then he looked at her with a smile that made him seem half his age as he said, rather softly,
“Pele it’s not that it was not a great night but I decided I was going to be your pilot long before I met you in the bar.
Then he added,
Would I miss you?
Do I care about you?
He stopped realizing he did not exactly mean the next thing he was about to say.
“As much as I care about this desert,”
Do I understand this?
I never know what you three are talking about!”
He shrugged, “Maybe we’re all a set.”
He limped towards a small town, tossing different sided dice into the air, looking a little a crab scuttling across a sandy beach.
“See you in a while,”
Cal knew just enough Terran to explain the dice game to the locals. So the pilot who chanced a starship and its entire cargo on the throw of a single die, settled down to gamble for room and bed with a hope that some Terran women would take pity on him, because he knew it would be a long time before Pele ever did again. What he did not know was that Pele had her own secrets.
Ceil, Pele and Ilya set out to learn the living history of Terra from Mara. Most of it was written down some place or other and it turned out that Mara could read the ancient Terran scripts as well as Pele. Ilya tried to reconcile ancient maps with what they knew about the area and Pele spent her time around the temple of love.
Their ship moved effortlessly into the orbit of the outer planet. Meanwhile, there was an empty seat at the council head at Verna III. No one had expected things to change so quickly. Vernan cargo ships were being blown to bits and for no reason. Old treaties were being disregarded and the rest of the Verna planetary system was starting to re-arm. The means of dispersal of matter were so simple. The four on Terra were oblivious to all of it now that Cal had taken them out of communication. The ship still had to swing past the outer planets and turn back towards Terra.
Cal moved to the city and Ciel and Pele spent the first year with the writings.
A change came over Ilya. She asked to be released from the expedition, which she was. Instead, she learned to work with stone to earn her livelihood. Her long strong large hands learned the craft very quickly and she became noted for her fine work. She was able to make light sing through the stone window frames she carved.
The hands that awkwardly held the compass, held the chisel like a paint brush. Mara heard of her skill and asked her to do a gate in the inner temple. She was summoned there and Mara spoke:
“I am told you make stone so light that it seems to fly.”
“It is not the stone that flies but the way the light hits.”
Mara had seen one of her windows in a stone house of a prospering Terran merchant. The light should not have shown on the inside the way it did. The stone could not have been made thin enough to let light through yet the light shone on the other side of the stone.
“I have learned the craft of stone cutting with my hands. It is beyond words,” said Ilya.
“Draw what you want and I will make it.”
“I want a gate that catches the sun in the morning. Take as long as you like and sleep where you will,” said Mara.
Pele spent her days alternating between taking long walks into the forbidden area where she found some ancient cities that dated from the last battle. On her walks, she was often accompanied by Ceil. The two seemed to be held together by a long thin strand. A strand that stretched forever but would not break, would always tie them together. But for a while they had to separate.
Ciel seemed bored with Terra. She translated easily almost as if she was moving through a compulsory dance. It was hard to tell the difference. She almost never made an error, but it was a job more than an art.
The next day Cal sat across from her working at a long table, seeming to show almost a primate interest in her work.
Ciel spoke first, almost as if he was not there.
“It seems that the last battle really lasted almost a century,”
“For almost that long all the planet’s resources went into the war. The records are much better for the first few years than the rest. It seems that they used all of their high-energy weapons in the first few days. After that, all we have is isolated chronicles. Look at the difference between this news dispatch and these later scrawling.”
Cal looked at her and thought to himself,
“Why don’t you just make a Goddamned speech, it’s
Not like I am really even here.”
But something about what she was saying held is interest; maybe it was like making a dead place come alive.
She read out loud from an ancient dispatch, and her voice became more animated, and making the inside of Cal’s vision becomes a living theater.
“This is the real thing – red dog four. The forces of the scourge of God the Ayatollah IV have released the reign of God’s war upon the Godless Marxist Republics of. Batu, Volgrad, Kiev, Krakow have been hit by medium range missiles. The forces of the Republic respond with a massive counterstrike which flattened the whole Iranian Plateau.
Last transmission from Tehran from The Ayatollah IV,
“Today my children we will dine in paradise. They the infidels will burn in hell”
Projected casualties – Iran: 90%; Republics: 40%. Counter force strikes, doomsday, doomsday. Dooms- Exchange duration: 6 days,”
The world is on fire the conflict spread like a grassfire and the entire world released the fires of hell.
“There seems to be a second stage. It lasted one generation,”
“Names appear like the empire of Phoenix, the Duchy of Detroit, the Black Visitation, the Fourth Reich, the Empire of the fifth Kahn, the divine Wind. The breakdown spread from the centers of high technology to outlining areas but still they fought over what was left. In the last stage, most political units broke down, but military units continued to fight for what was left of the centers of technology and then it stopped.”
Cal looked at her through a raised eyebrow and said,
But my dear,
“The question is do you ever stop talking.
She looked him like it was the first time she acknowledged him as human and said,
“Do you want me to stop talking, are you tired of the sound of my voice”
She waited for Cal to say something, and when he answered she was astounded,
“ No you voice sounds like a song played by the wind on crystal wind chimes, in the hollow of a ruined Cathedral, filled with the ghosts of all those who died in those terrible times.”
She looked at him as if he just started tap dancing and asked,
“What do you know about Cathedrals, they have no such thing on our home world?”
Cal just smiled and gestured for her to go on, so she continued.
“Then the fighting stopped,”
“I can read it,”
“Where is the key?”
Then she added,
“They lose the dates. They last hundred years are just local records”
A silence hung in the air.
Ciel was like a dancer that had danced too long, trying to perfect an impossible set of moves. However, for the present, she was at the end of a progression, and could go no farther. Cal gestured for her to go on, but she would not and that was the last she saw of him for the next two weeks.
Ciel could help thinking about the nasty little man with the short legs and too large body. She had heard little from him since they talked a month before. There were enough supplies at the camp to survive. But, Ciel needed company.
They had heard little about him since he had sat at the table a month before. Cal decided to teach the Terrans how to gamble. So Ciel decided to hunt down Cal in the town.
She was right. Cal was in the shade of one of the buildings. He had a small crowd of Terrans around him, each with a pile of dried fruits in front of him. Cal’s pile was only slightly larger. He threw the four-sided die and looked up to see Ceil’s long legs in front of him. He gave her a nasty smile and said:
“Out of my light, please, I will be waiting to take you back but don’t break up our game.”
“No starship to lose, Cal”?”
She dug her toes into the dirt.
“He glowered, “What does a slip of a woman like you know about starships?”
“More than you think. Can you give up this great game for a bit?”
He shrugged, “You would never talk to me on Verna. Why talk here?”
“Do you want to talk or not?”
“I do not walk well.”
“I have a place.”
Cal had surprisingly neat personal habits. Ciel was quite surprised when she entered his quarters. The moment was tense. They had travelled across a galaxy but all she really knew about him was that he was a skilled pilot who was a lousy gambler. Cal sat in ways to relieve his knees from some of the pain of walking.
“What is it you do with these inscriptions,” he asked.
“I can read the ancient Terran languages,” she said.
“Yes, but what is the good of it?”
“Why do you stay?” she asked.
“I am not sure. If I went back to Verna, I would just have to take out another group of nuts.”
Then Ciel got personal with Cal and asked,
“How did you meet Pele?”
“How did I meet her?
She would come to the pilot’s clubs. Not much to look at. I figured, she was just out for a fling.”
Ciel serious with him and asked,
“What is there between you?”
Cal was very frank.
“I see her or she sees me once a month. Usually, she comes by after sunset and if my quarters are empty she stays, but she leaves before sunrise. A lot like it was when we were on Verna.”
Ciel looked at him again and wondered what he was like. Ciel changed the subject.
“I think I can help your knees,” she said. “You should stretch them and strengthen them.”
“Do you want them to feel better? Stretch out on the floor. I know about this.”
She stretched his knees and ankles pulled and rubbed his short thick legs and she felt the pain seem to run out of him. And then he felt her long thin fingers on the inside if his thigh.
“What do you think you’re doing?!”
She pressed her fingers across his lips and said softly:
“You do not need to speak.”
She felt so strange on top of him. At first, he felt ludicrous, but then he started to penetrate. He was much younger now. He could hear soft sounds and then thought of blue lagoons. Gentle rocking and faint pressure was what he felt. He sprang once and stiffened again inside her. She lay softly on top of him and he stroked her hair but neither said anything.
They felt a part of home inside each other. At first Ciel felt revolted with herself for taking him they way she did but it past and she remained curious.
Ciel stayed a week with Cal and he did not gamble. They talked about the dance of language in a language that Cal knew very well.
He asked her
“Have you ever been hot with the dice?”
“I make them sing,” he said. “I am inside of them.”
Ciel said sadly
“It is like when I translate – ’til now – But I am at an end of it. I know what the words mean but Pele doesn’t know what she wants anymore. She is in and out of time. It is so hard to talk.”
Cal really did know Pele and tried to make Ciel understand as he said
“You’ll never know just what she wants, because it is just so vast, she wants our world not to die in a terrible world, and she wants to see her grandchildren flourish, and you can help if can get back to work.”
Ciel could not believe that cal could talk about Pele this way he was so full of surprises as he added,
Just take what she gives. She is fighting a battle she once described to … I cannot talk about this anymore. Leave.
But please come back.”
The ship Mariah took a delicate almost imperceptible turn and swung back towards Terra and the sun. It was almost as if the ship was turning back from the deathly cold of space. It accelerated a bit and silently glided towards Terra.
The temperature in the court had dropped twenty degrees in less than half a day. The chisel sang in the hands of Ilya. Her hands were slowing as the chisel became colder and colder. Pele stood silently behind her and spoke:
“We have no seasons on Verna. This is the thing that Vernans l or hate about Terra.”
Ilya continued to work as she spoke,
“I have almost forgotten about maps or charts. Perhaps I will not go back.”
“I will not force anyone to do anything, but do you think you can remain satisfied with your life with this beautiful young man?”
“He is like beautiful marble. His veins are like the finest pigment in granite.