She became conscious. Her surroundings were rich in grandeur and silence – all was silent that is, except for the rustling of the creature in front of her. It began to introduce itself, but she interrupted:
“I know who you are. You’re a Link Officer. Just tell me if I can go back.”
“That depends on your reflections. That is why you’re here. Tell me about your experience with the humans, Aiko.”
“I see why it’s called Wild Rock. It’s unhinged, unstable. The humans are just, well, blobs of matter reeling around in the prison of their own ignorance. They are leaderless. They seek neither knowledge nor peace. In truth, they seek nothing at all. Did we put them there?”
“No, not even the first ones. All we did was melt the layers to speed up growth. None of us could have foreseen this evolution.”
Aiko flinched, her thoughts dragged by unidentified nostalgia. She became anxious.
“Aiko, did you ever sense that you weren’t one of them, when you were down there?”
“Only in my dreams. I saw things. Great whirling worlds and a web of light.”
“The cosmic band of consciousness, that’s what you saw. That’s what you always see.”
“What is it?”
“It’s the unending path. It’s where you live and live again, from consciousness to consciousness. You’re on the Mezzanine Floor now, and our conversation will determine whether you return to the Wild Rock or progress to Terra Two.”
“A retreat, of sorts. I’m surprised you’ve not progressed to the colony already. It’s a new design, for people like you. You’ve earned your place there, but you continue to reawaken on the Wild Rock. Your post-world reflections keep you from Terra Two. Why do you think that’s the case?”
“How much do I know, about the cosmic band?”
“You know what is needed for your path. The designers are very interested in you, in your journey so far. They say you’re in the top 2%, which makes this all the more intriguing.”
“Top 2% of what?”
“Awareness, of course. You connect with yourself, and the world that you’re presented with. In each human experience you’ve had, you appear to obtain clarity early on. You struggle with the humans, but only because you’ve never felt like a permanent resident. The designers think you might be able to move the humans forward. Maybe that influences your constant journey back there.”
“Are there permanent residents on the Wild Rock?”
“Yes, all but a handful of beings down there will never leave. Most of them choose destruction after 10 cycles. Here, smoke this. It will help you remember.”
Aiko was handed a pipe made of pink glass with an odourless smoke resting inside. She relied upon muscle memory to operate the pipe and was soon drawing heavily on the substance. The wave of peace was instant.
“Aiko, do you want to go back?”
“Yes. She waits for me there.”
“You know that the chances of re-connection are impossible. What if you return and she’s half way through a cycle? Or none of the way through? You will be alone and devoid of purpose. Why would you ever consider going back?”
“It doesn’t matter. I need to look for her.”
“Aiko, what would you change about yourself, if you returned?”
“Nothing. The humans are destroying the only home they have. They need to be told and that’s what I did. I told them. I defended them. I attacked them. I will again. But she was there, Hana. We spat at their churches and their corporations. We pissed on the gravestones of their leaders. I guess that’s why I was killed. They probably killed her too.
“Yes, it wasn’t a good death.”
“Why can’t we be freed together? Why can’t we both enter Terra Two?”
“She isn’t like you. She submits to the reality before her. This is why she is weak.”
“No, this is why she is strong.”
“What will you do when you awaken?”
“I will go after the powerful. I will disrupt the systems of the owners. I will find Hana and we will leave that world together. I will not enter Terra Two without Hana.
“You will not remember this when you awaken. You will be a newborn again, uninfluenced. Hana will cease to be real for you. She will be as a shadow within a dream. Let’s hope you’re born into royalty this time, and preferably male. This woman warrior path has been endured for too long. And in your old age, may you rest in the assurance that your time on the Wild Rock is over, and Terra Two awaits your arrival.”
“I’d rather be tortured as a pauper than see old age as a king.”
“Be careful with your words, Aiko. The designers are listening. You don’t want them to make an example of you.”
“Screw the designers. The humans are like sheep without a shepherd. They lose their souls in pursuit of the world. They hack out dust in their neighbour’s eyes to wipe it across the tree trunks hanging out of their own. They cast stones at the broken and idolise brutality. They are vipers, and those with religion on their lips are the most dishonourable of all. I will not change my tack. These creatures need freeing from themselves.”
She became conscious. Her surroundings were unpleasant. She was in a barn, with farm animals, and it stank. A man in his late teens held her in his arms, but even within the frame of a tiny body, she remembered everything. She remembered her conversation with the Link Officer. She remembered the name of the woman she loved, Hana.
Looking down at herself, she quickly realised that she was not a ‘she’ at all, but a baby boy. Standing behind her father stood three men in garments covered in the heavy, red dust of the desert. Each of them held gifts in hands outstretched. With every breath Aiko began to forget. The new reality ushered her former memories into the ether. She was fully human, once again.
Aiko turned her head and saw a woman, bloody, exhausted from labour. They held eye contact before the lady said breathlessly:
“My son, Yeshua, our saviour.”
Aiko felt something unfamiliar – a deep stirring of dread for a future that had not yet come to pass. She was right to be afraid.
This piece is based on consciousness and the concept of ‘designed reality’. Focussing on the unfinished story of Aiko, a female being that has become conscious after a tragic human experience, the story moves from a grand and brutal hypothesis of life into a radical ending that is intentionally offensive and unexpected.
The story explores the limits of space-time, mortality and the promise of a new colony-based life in Terra Two. Readers may pick up a flavour of John Scalzi within the text, which is not meant to be read as a ‘finished’ piece. Aiko is more of a glimpse into a story than a story itself.
As a former newspaper reporter and published author (Boxman Series One 2017) Alex Willmott is a huge sci fi and fantasy fan. He loves unfinished stories that allow the reader to co-create the narrative, and he stands against regurgitating storylines and styles that have been seen before. His previously published work has been critically acclaimed by the national press, and the short story Aiko is the first piece of prose he has written since the death of his grandfather in 2018.