15. First Night

The drifting swells of the ocean knew not the shape in which they sat. To one drop of water, forward is as abirtary a distinction as flamingo, and so they simply respond to the whims of gravity and other related forces. Somewhere, a very irritated lecturer explains how centrifugal isn’t a word, and another points out it’s as good as any other, and a mathemetician mocks them both in the privacy of her skull, but the water doesn’t care. The water’s been in her body, in his, in his, and it has been in Napolean’s and it’s been in the earliest moments from the dawning of the world. It has been part of a tar and it has been part of an ocean, and in this moment, it was part of a storm.

The thing that rose from the ocean had done so with a ponderous lack of grace, sloshing and bobbing as it breached. The water that crested off its crenellations and surfaces ran in ways that meant nothing to anyone, but meant something to the water. Energy followed patterns, and patterns pulled energy after them – and so powered turbines, which pushed air, which created the most dreadful and sonorous bellow that rang out, across the waves. The machine caught more awter, as it tilted and juddered and shook on the ocean surface, taking on water, which spurred more patterns, which prompted more glowing, eerie light – and prompted another, later bellow.

What had been clear sky, but a few short minutes before it rose up was now a rolling nexus of storms and webs, crackling lightning that lit up the strange, brooding seaweed that had been transformed by these stone bellows. Slowly growing and calcifying, the strange architecture attempted to form a crackling skin on the ocean’s surface, rippled and broken by the storm and noise around it.

It set out about itself a nearly circular ring of clouds, sending a near vertical river into the ocean, somehow amplified by the strange and magical influence of the device. Expanding by stages the storm sheeted down onto the empty world beneath it, the rain striking only the inhuman faces carved on the stone with their expressions beyond understanding. Eyes held wide apart, all palps arrayed about the forward mouth to create a nearly perfectly round hole, shell and tissues spongy and inflamed. The artisan whose hand? had crafted the device did not seem to mind much whether it was understood or not what was expressed – but it was expressed very hard.

Satellite photography could barely get a good look at it. Attempts to flyby the zone and take photographs were stymied by the weather. The only thing anyone could say, with any certainty, was that it was, yes, yelling, on some peculiar timing, and every time it did, the stars shook in their sky.

The world was changing, in one single day.

Jerusalem was gone. Not destroyed, not a crater, it was just plain missing. Jeeps riding towards the cordoned perimiter found themselves driving out the other side after only a few minutes of driving, like the whole of the city had been rolled up and tucked away. Political analysts were already making silent, grim wagers on the bodycounts of a million people hidden from everything else. Would there be anything to clean up when it came back? Would there be an era of understanding?

Would it ever come back?

The world was so full of magic right now that the patterns didn’t have to be exact. People were filling with it, and some weren’t handling it well. Some people felt the energy thrum in their minds, and the banks of the Ganges were littered with the bodies of people who, hearing the echo, had moved as it had bid them, and so sent on the echo to the one next to them, and sent the echo on to the one next to them, to them, to them, to them, until the dance was complete and the body fell, prone and silent, but smiling forever.

Every day, people wished the world was a bit more magical. As with all such wishes, the problem was proportion.

In Enkudu’s town, one large family, considered witches by their neighbours, ‘but harmless folk, anyway’ were hearing the screams. They’d lived their whole lives with a drop of magic between them, passed around like a candle in the darkness, reading one word of a great and fascinating scripture, truth revealed one generation at a time. Snow on the rooftops was sloughing off in the screams. They had learned to live with a little light – and now the sun was rising.

In Angus’ town he ran from window to window, trying to shout at people, trying to find them, trying to provoke something, someone, someone – and strangely terrified as to why he could not. He bellowed in the faces of children, only to find them reacting as if to nothing at all. The police start their curfews, and a state of martial law is declared. More than one man on the news uses the phrase ‘Everyone Has A Nuke,’ and the world becomes that little bit more scary, that little bit more dark.

In Barbara’s town, when the police come to instate the curfew, they are unsure and they are afraid as well. They do not know what it means, but they know that one girl in their town, and her family, walk tall and without fear. They know that there are messages on the wires. They know something is wrong… and they hold on, with both hands, to their guns and their armours, trying to reassure themselves that the world is going to make more sense, tomorrow.

In Holland’s town, a school had disappeared.