Thursday, 28 February 2013

Pictonaut -Feb 2013 - Dead Places - Strange Attractor.

My second attempt at a pictonaut challenge from my good friend, the rogue verbumancer. Tried to stick close to the 1000 original prompt rather than the 5000 mess of a logic puzzle I wrote last time. This one is short and sweet and based on some pretty pretty physics. John called it Dead Places, I call it Strange Attractor.


The car jolted as the road transitioned from rough dirt track to smooth tarmac. A short bump and the car was flying, gliding smoothly through the night as though there was no ground beneath it at all. She turned the lights out to enhance the effect, and now she was no longer on the road she knew so well, but soaring through a pitch black ocean of silence, just her, the car, and her thoughts. She drove, she flew, and the world around her melted away into so much dead space; an unthreatening void, without fear or punishment, without beginning or end.

There should have been landing lights. She missed that thin strip of sodium yellow fireflies that guided her safely to her destination. The warm glow of their comet tails as she drifted past them through the darkness comforted her. Without them, her fantasies of the all encompassing and protecting night soon turned to a revulsion at the coldness of it, at the danger that lay within.

She flicked the lights back on and guided the car around a long slow bend. She took it casually, she was in no rush. Despite what horrors lay behind her, despite the dread from which she fled, she had time - all the time in the world.

The headlights of the car swept around as the car cornered, resting on a great grey disk, twenty feet high and ten times as wide; A building, crumbling and decayed like everything else in her world, the skeletal ribs protruding from the husk of the corpse where the brick work had fallen away. Yet, despite its dilapidated state, it could still inspire awe in her. Its symmetry, its size, the very fact that it still stood was enough to chill her spine and raise her hairs. She loved it, she was in love with it. But deeper than that now, she relied upon it.

She pulled the car up in front of the building, ignoring the fading car park bay lines, redundant now that whoever had once shuffled themselves into those little boxes, held in sway to the power of little white stripes, were long gone. She left the car running with the headlights pointed towards the great, wide-open doors of the disk. The lights cut two great swathes out of the darkness, a beacon to see by in the deepest gloom. She followed the line of the beams into the building, her shadow stretching on before her, entering the room beyond and spreading itself out luxuriously before she had even taken a single step towards the door, travelling ahead of her at the speed of night.

She stepped with the deliberation of routine into the great disk. Above her, an immense checker board of wires was suspended from the ceiling, from each one hanging vertically a thin, cylindrical electrode. At her feet, a vast array of concentric, copper coloured metal circles, epicentred to the middle of the room, lay recessed into the floor. An endless tangle of cables came from the back of the wired ceiling, bundling together above the cross-hatch metal strings into a single, massive, optic nerve that curled away and down one wall towards a heavy duty throw switch. A second cord led down into the floor, giving the impression of an equal and opposite nervous system below.

As she stepped deeper into the room, the obsidian giant of her shadow began to retreat back into her, ever decreasing until they were like for like, her shadow now a dark reflection of herself on the wall infront her. Her hand stretched out, her shadow hand followed. Her fingers of flesh and blood interweaved with her fingers of insubstantial dark as both hand and not hand wound around the switch on the wall. And here she paused and breathed, though her shadow did not. She threw the switch.

The floor sparked faintly beneath her rubber soled boots as she slowly paced back towards the centre of the room. Tiny blue forks of lightning licked at her toes and heels, growing brighter with each footfall until, a few paces from the central ring, some two feet across, there was an audible crack as her feet touched the ground. As soon as she had surrounded herself perfectly on all sides with the hall around her, she cast her glance from the rings beneath her, now beginning to emanate a constant, dim purple glow, to the grid above her.

From the lower point of each dangling electrode, a small white light appeared, first one, and then another, and another, until the room was filled with man-made stars. At first tiny pin pricks of heat, they slowly grew to fairy size, and as each one fattened up to its peak, ripe and bright and growing brighter, it separated from its metallic source, like a water droplet becoming too heavy for a tap. Yet, rather than plummet to the ground and shatter in a shower of sparks, these electric droplets hung in the air below the grid, humming and hovering. And then, almost imperceptibly at first, and never faster than dust floating in a sunbeam, one of the sparks began to drop. And then a second. And then a third. A force unseen took the starscape, the galaxy miniaturised and confined, and began to spin the floating shards of light in great, meandering spirals around the hall. Synchronous at first, the lights soon began to dance around each other, this one fell faster, that one lifted upwards once more, this gained speed, that slowed. They were almost alive with the chaos of their activity. When two began to fall into each other, they would spin and spiral and zip away rather than collide. She gazed in awe at the wonder she had created, not turning her eyes from one spot just ahead of her, but rather allowing chance to dictate the exact dance she witnessed.

Presently, a new event occurred. A near miss between two spiralling sparks sent one tumbling in a tight corkscrew over the other and towards the centre of the hall. It shot forth in a tightening helix straight for her. She did not move, she did not flinch, but she allowed the spark to strike her right shoulder. There was no force behind the impact, she remained steadfast in her place, but there was now a faint iridescence to her pallor. As the spark was absorbed into her flesh, the faintest of glows, almost entirely overpowered by the light emitted from the spiralling starscape around her, began to grow and spread from the point of impact. It was not long before a second of the dancing fairy lights was shaken from its path towards her, this time straight as an arrow and twice as fast, directly into her left hip, and her shine grew brighter with it. A third took a long spiralling arc towards her, but merely grazed past her face, right on the level of her eyes, at its first pass, only to be caught by the light field that now emanated from her, pulled round and into the back of her head. Her eyes sparkled at the impact as more and more of the pin points of light found there way towards her, infusing with her. She shone brighter and brighter until she was a beacon in the cold night air. At last, the final spark meandered towards her, her body now obscured by the oppressive brightness of her. Slowly, almost casually, the final spark was bathed and consumed by her light, and, at the same moment, a great column of pure white electric evanescence shot from her now shapeless form, penetrating through the ceiling of the building and towering into the darkness beyond. This was followed by an almighty flash, rippling from her very core, expanding outwards at an impossible rate. In a fraction of a heart beat, the building was gone, engulfed in the white hot shockwave, and on it went. The city, the county, the country, the continent, on and on the light cut through the surrounding darkness. The night, the all encompassing, never ending night, that had held the world in its sway for so many years, was over. Dead space was torn to living, breathing light. Now, the dawn had begun.