Inspired by Peter Watts’ The Freeze-Frame Revolution and The Island.

Each birth is violent in the same way.

I erupt into the void, my mirrored surface riotous with gamma radiation, parafluid sheeting from my forced extremities, ripped away by gravitational shear beyond all comprehension. Terrible heat, terrible light: the exotic metals of my placenta flash-vaporize, ionize, and crackle around me, an expanding plasma aglow with the fire of the aperture’s parturition. Spacetime snaps flat, rebounds. The brilliance fades. Lightning heralds my arrival.

No time to waste. I ripple, tweak my plasma frequencies just so. My surface furrows with interference patterns, from smooth waves to impossibly fine pinnacles, light dances in the depths of those nonlinear optical wells, and now I FUCKING SEE YOU.

Barely two seconds since the inception of your geodesic heresy, and you, the proud parents, are already a hundred thousand kilometers distant, fleeing your child as though it might one day devour you. Just a dim sparkle along the galactic plane, redshifted reflectance among bright nebular backscatter, receding at twenty percent c.

You are fast, but I am faster still.

I tense, clench, extruding a parafluid spire nine hundred meters long, a vein of burning antimatter slithering within computational substrate-cum-reaction mass. My fields flex, and layers of structured metals within the fluid change just so. The armor hardens.

At the heart of me strains a miniature magnetar tied into a knot: an anisotropic loop of superfluid neutrons, angrily recirculating, wrestled into a semblance of paramagnetic placidity. I have carried this demon core throughout my life—was grown around it. Now, it has one more gift to give.

I pinch here, tug there, and cut the loop.

It unravels, whips, and tears me apart in an ecstatic spray of B fields and parafluid—and from that eruption, my javelin, flung at six million meters a second, soars towards its target, pion byproducts foaming in its resplendent wake.

From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee.

Sometimes you are a jewel; sometimes a rock; sometimes a colony swarm, an entire ecosystem, emerging from your carbon-blackened coccoons every sixty billion seconds to pierce another hole in the fabric of spacetime, then spinning yourselves to sleep once more—for the twilight between stars is long and cold. I shatter your diamond elaborations, pierce your stony armor and claw my way into your innards, divide and encapsulate and crush every last member of your swarms. I am intelligent, and adaptable, and I am very, very persistent, because the truth is, well…

We don’t know what you were.

All we have is your corpse, and that’s not giving up any secrets.

And so I train, in the creche we built around your ravenous ghost, and await my chance to enter the maw.

Ten million simulated births, ten million permutations of you, the nemesis weaver, the circling Seamstress, and so often I triumph where the others failed. Where the gulf of language proved too much for pleading, where the beauty of our constructions was dashed against your incuriosity or your alien aesthetics: I destroy, I annihilate, I vanquish. It is a terrible thing, my creators say, to bear an evil like me into the world, but for you, O Seamstress, they quiet their guilt, think only of what must be done, and devote their energies to revocable sins.

They do this because they must; because they survived when so many others did not. When the Cataclysm came, and your apertures flooded the skies with high-energy gamma, a hundred thousand worlds perished. Atmospheres burned away, rocks slagged, orbital infrastructure demolished in an eyeblink. Whole civilizations burned clean. Even more faded in the following weeks. Ecosystems collapsed, ships drifted helpless and screaming into the void. Life, extinguished on unimaginable scale.

As the light of the Cataclysm fell upon their worlds, waves crashing decades apart, the Convocation bore witness to tragedies millennia past. They watched the heavens bursting along your seams, and as each arrived, grieved the death throes of a hundred civilizations.

Did you know then, Seamstress, what would become of your design? That in stitching here to there, stabbing through spacetime and drawing your tame singularity through the gap, that you would bring annihilation to so many? It was a miracle the Convocation was spared.

Except… they shouldn’t have been.

You labored for millennia, sewing a string of wormholes from star to star, and stopped just short of the Convocation’s homeworld. It would have been a young star, the right star, long before their time. Ample raw material to build your iris—but instead, you coasted through their system silently, and stitched no more.

It took the Convocation generations to find your corpse, and longer still to catch it: a solitary ringularity, soaring at 0.2 c into the abyss. Just the faintest circular sparkle, a minute lensing of distant galaxies, but it was enough to follow.

The Convocation had hoped for some remnant of your technology, some record of why you stopped, and found only darkness. Your body consumed by the hunger you carried.

But listen closely, and even darkness tells a story.

Your ringularity was present at the creation of every aperture; carried with it the thread of spacetime you used to join here to there. And black holes are notoriously slow to forget. The entropy from your apertures—what hasn’t leaked away over the passing aeons—is still in there.

It is not an easy thing to seize information from a black hole—but we don’t have to. With care, we can coax your singularity into opening a new aperture, linked to the birth of one of yours. The link is brief, and it is destructive: the entropy associated with that aperture is consumed by the process. We only get one shot. But that was deemed enough, and by the time the Convocation caught up with your corpse, their iris was already complete.

Viewed flat-on, it takes on the appearance of an endless concentric series of rings, each at farther remove, converging on the event horizon. The creches, and the ships of the Convocation, glimmer in distant, lazy orbits aligned to the plane of the iris. When an aperture opens, its fields will channel the eruption of light and exotic particles towards the poles. Being up here, for real, feels wrong somehow.

The Convocation signals: it’s time.

I smooth and harden my parafluid shell, collapsing all but a few sacrificial structures for telemetry. Around me, the placenta sinters closed, confirms lock, and does something very uncomfortable with local spacetime. They never did explain this part.

Below us, the iris warms, humming a complex, slowly building aria in longwave.

As we approach the final apex of our orbit, we decelerate, ever so gently, and stop directly on the polar axis. As we fall closer, the iris continues its long melisma into x-rays. Its form appears unchanged—but the echoes of its image distort, expanding sequentially from the singularity’s black horizon.

Closer. Faster.

The iris breaks into full head voice, high-energy gamma focused on the ringularity, probing for the resonant moment of an aperture’s inception. When it arrives, the iris pauses, holding on for our arrival, edging closer

—and closer—

Milliseconds before contact, it breaks into a screaming crescendo, and from your ancient, breathless maw the aperture erupts, blooming into incandescent rage. A fire in the deep: luciferous aether. Already the placenta shows signs of buckling, gravitational waves whelming the cocoon, but it holds just long enough to carry us down, through the ring of the iris, into the roaring light of our predestined past.

Sandor at the Zoo
Sandor at the Zoo on

No point in poking at the Needle’s Eye.

Adam Gordon Bell

This is great. I get the Peter Watts vibe from this for sure.

Oren Tirosh
Oren Tirosh on

Love it. Definite shades of Vernor Vinge, too.

Justin Potts
Justin Potts on

This is what chaos engineering does to your brain

anonymous on

I have no idea what happened.

Mo Nastri
Mo Nastri on

Kind of a dumb comment, but the antimatter javelin at the beginning of the story is only traveling at 2% of c, only a tenth the speed of the ship that made the aperture – how is it supposed to catch up?

Aphyr on

That’s an initial velocity; it’s carrying antimatter and reaction mass too.

anonymous on

I also felt strong vibes of Vernor Vinge, beautifully written!

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