Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | May 28, 2008

Cloud Encounter

Red Rocks, Colorado. April 21, 2008.

The creature didn’t intend to be here.  No, a stop was not in the rules.  This was not right at all.  Right for pale brown wobbly beings, maybe, or bright green buzzing beings, but the creature was long and shiny with glittering metallic purple plates protecting wired limbs and interconnected nodes.

One moment it was home, in a world where a steady buzz of electric static charges the air, sparking electrodes into life.  A world where beings followed the rules, where nothing was ever unexpected.  The next moment, the creature was here.  It had something to do with dimensions.  And physics.  And rules beyond understanding.

The creature didn’t care how, it wondered why.  For a while it lay perfectly still, noting the choking, stale air, the chaos of green growing things, the wall of a substance hard as raw metal but rough and bland.  There wasn’t enough charge in the atmosphere for more than an hour’s exploration.  Then it would have no choice but to shut down, inert unless a random spark should happen to fall.

It let one node snake forward, drawing the next close behind, emerging from behind a boulder like a chain of soap bubbles.  Only these bubbles were stronger than diamond, and quivering with fear.  The creature spoke to the rock, little jolts of fizzing power that left black lines on the unresponsive surface.  It spoke to the bright green buzzing beings, but these only died, burnt to a crisp by the creature’s lasers.  This was no good.

The sky was too bright, the ground covered with scratchy, poky, crumbly beings that slipped between wires and clogged up connectors.

Who built this place, anyway?

The creature left a trail of small, multi-dimensional cubes.  It compressed the crumbly ground inside one node with a micron of its own memory as it shifted, and placed each creation in a line unevenly spaced.  Any who measured the spaces between cubes would find proportions corresponding to an ancient code.  This was not a path, but a message.  A sign to any who might follow.  I am here.  Hurry up.

The sky began to darken, and the creature felt its last node fading out.  Shut down, the central processor urged, shut down.

But what was that?  High in the sky, one cloud grew larger and darker than all the rest.  The creature let every node fail but the most central one, and watched.  Even with only one sensor, it could feel the air tightening, whispering, coming alive.  This was more like it!  All around, beings slithered and flapped and screeched for shelter.  This creature stretched its sensor out as far as it could reach.  Finally!

With a crack and boom, lightning broke the sky.  Rain dashed into red dust, spattering the creature’s brilliant purple plates.  I drink the storm!  It shouted in a laser that seared through a bush, scattering twigs in the growing puddles.  Node by node, the creature awoke and buzzed, full and satisfied.

It raised all its sensors then, and when all thirteen wires pointed towards the dark cloud, it gathered a burst of energy to rival the sky’s flashes of light.  Boom!  lightning shot up from the ground, into the sky.

The cloud shouted with surprise and joy, but the creature was gone, quickly as it had come.  In all its years sailing across the land, making storms, rain, and hail, the cloud had never once gotten such a response.  Come back?  It urged, with the brightest, jaggedest bolt of lightning it could muster.  Nothing.

On another world, one purple bubble creature joined a throng of others, all different swirling shades of metallic color.  I spoke to a dark creature up in the sky, the purple one said.  It made the most beautiful display, and woke me when I thought all was over.  The creature’s words were jolts of static from sensor to sensor, not nearly as grand as the lightning on earth.

We will bring that cloud-being here, said a blue creature.  We will, we will, the others responded.

But it is not in the rules, said one.

The purple creature buzzed with memories of green and blue and black.

The rules are changing.


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