Revelation Passage Part 4

This is the fourth of five parts.

    Revelation Four: The Arc of the Aeon


I'm not sure whether it's a legacy of my long, long life as a machine or whether it's something most other biological humans could do, but I hardly ever get awakened by the alarm clock. I had set it for 20 percent and I woke up, focused my eyes, and saw it flip from 19.96 to 19.97 as I hit the stop pad.

Perhaps it's just because I don't sleep very well. I kissed my sleeping wife, quietly dressed, and hailed a groundcar.

It was almost 25 percent, and the Home Star was coming up, when I reached my destination. The groundcar was not quite smart enough to ask why I was coming to this place. I walked a quarter klick to the entrance kiosk and found a sign there:

Annihilation Bay Tidal Bore Observation Station
Current Status: Closed due to peristellar peribetan spring high tide

Annihilation Bay was an interesting result of the deluge that occurred when all that water was taken out of the atmosphere and put back into Alpha's oceans. Two large oceans were separated by two continents which were in the process of colliding. Once the oceans were refilled the dry land masses were joined by a short, narrow isthmus that was really just a mountain range sticking up out of the water. The continental collision made for a very shallow and extensive continental shelf, so that the tidal bore rose to massive heights as it entered the bay leading to the isthmus.

The mountain range that formed the isthmus had been worn down during the years of Alpha's Venus-like sojourn, and at the thinnest point an ancient sedimentary deposit had had its originally horizontal layers tilted almost vertical. These consisted of alternating layers of sandstone and granite, and when the tide came for them the sandstone yielded but the granite held. The result was a series of tall narrow canyons which the tide would enter with terrific force about twice a day. The canyons were broader and wider where the tide entered, and the early erosion had occurred, becoming more chaotic and destructive further toward the other sea. It was called Annihilation Bay because no probe, no matter how carefully toughened, had ever survived a trip through the isthmus during the tidal bore. On the far side, there was a hundred meter high cliff where the sea exploded into showers of spray from countless caves and outlets every time the phenomenon occurred. Within a relatively short time -- perhaps less than ten thousand years -- the rest of the sandstone would give way, and the sea would simply roar through, no longer dammed up to such incredible heights.

I ducked under the chain across the entrance and made my way down stairs which wound between taller and taller walls of rock to the floor of the canyon. Then I hiked across two kilometers of tidal flat toward the observation platform. This was a reinforced shelf at the top of more stairs, hanging from the side of a narrow fin of granite almost thirty meters tall in the center of the tidal bore channel.

When my brothers used their superior technology to settle this place the Borden reminded them that a human Bringer was a tradition on every human world of this galaxy. My brothers, in their superior wisdom, decided not to do it the Borden way though. Instead of being conspicuously introduced as a kind of royalty I'd be just an everyman, an observer and participant that nobody else would have cause to notice. It wasn't even a fundamentally bad idea. But the Borden had more experience than my brothers in this kind of matter, and when my brothers told them of their plans they ran those simulations they aren't supposed to have and said I had a sixty-seven percent chance of committing suicide.

The Borden had sensibly decided that my brothers' obsession with Reykjavik had no place in the psyche of a mortal human. My brothers had, in paring themselves down to my size, kept it.

My brothers do not sleep, though, and they had not anticipated the nightmares.

My fellow humans do not realize how much my brothers control this world. This being their second chance, they know the promise of total non-interference is no longer operative, but they don't realize just how much of the planet's subsurface is nanomachinery. This is partly because of a clever dodge. My brothers rarely deal directly with the human population of Home; instead, they drafted the Borden to be their representatives. The Borden accepted this role quite gracefully, and most of my fellow humans are allowed to hold the mistaken impression that they are running the world. I am alone among my fellow humans in knowing otherwise, and in being able to summon up a communication channel and talk to my brothers in the outer system at will. But most of their advice on how to deal with my psychological problem has been ineffective.

So I was at Annihilation Bay with a harness, a strap, and a tiny little plan. Once every twenty-seven years it turns out that Beta is at its closest approach to Alpha, Alpha is at its closest approach to the Star, and that these close approaches are timed just right to resonate with the highly sensitive geometry of Annihilation Bay. The water would overwhelm the visitor's center built 25 meters up on a granite fin in the center of the bay. But the fin rose above the observation station, another five meters, and there was an iron ring up there fastened to the solid granite. I would clip my strap to that ring and my harness to the strap and I would ride out the tidal bore, not knowing for sure whether it might rise high enough to kill me anyway. The whole system is very chaotic and unpredictable. But this was the closest thing Alpha offered to let me experience the images in my nightmares, and perhaps become able to master them.

I was about three-fourths of the way from the edge of the bay to the observation fin when I felt the hair on the back of my neck rise. I turned around, and saw that I was being followed. I blinked, and realized that the person who had closed within five meters of me was my wife.

"What in the hell are you doing here!" I yelled.

"The Borden Embassy called me and told me you were coming here, and that I should meet you."

Oh, my brothers were so clever. They had seen what I had not yet really admitted to myself, that I knew it would be very easy to make a mistake setting up the harness or for it to simply fail. A lot of people knew of my nightmares, if not the reason I had them. Nobody would be too surprised at this act. And if the tide took me, well, nobody would be likely to ask if maybe I conveniently forgot to attach the strap to the ring. The point of the exercise is lost if there is no real risk; if the worst occurs, no blame.

But now such a suicide was no longer an option. My wife was crazy, but it wouldn't be fair for me to cut her already puny self-imposed lifespan to ten percent of what she might have reasonably expected. The ground was already beginning to vibrate ever so slightly. I yelled "RUN!"



I would have sent her back but the fin was much closer. We scrambled up the steps, and when we got to the observation platform I started climbing up the bare rock. The ground was now shaking very noticeably.

"What are you doing?"

"We have to climb, woman. This is the highest of the high tides. It will wash over this platform."

Her eyes went wide. "Then what are you doing here?"

Oh that was a long story, wasn't it. "Get up here and if we live through this I'll tell you."

That got her attention. She's a bit nutty on some ancient fairy tale involving a horribly murdered carpenter, but she's in fine physical shape. I had only brought one harness, but it was very adjustable. It was actually designed to protect people from falling off of elevated platforms. I picked a foothold so that we could brace ourselves against being knocked over. The harness was designed to tighten itself around a single person, and it crushed us together in a way that would have been quite pleasant in other circumstances.

"Is this about your nightmares? About Ray Ka Vick?"

"Smart woman," I said.

"Then I'm glad I'm with you. You shouldn't face your fear alone, and I know you don't believe in God."

"We could die here."

"We'll die anyway. Better for it to be with you, if this is what you need."

I find the notion that craziness can make you noble deeply disturbing, and this wasn't helping.

Now we could hear it coming, a steady crashing roar that continued becoming louder every moment for long moments after it seemed more loudness was impossible. And then it was upon us, a wall of water twenty meters high, and this was just the tip of the bore. It crashed against the observation fin, and in an instant we were soaking wet.

"It's not even close," she said. The water level was a good ten meters below us.

"It's only starting," I warned.

Sure enough the water rose, and in much less than a percent it was threatening to top the fin. It rose more slowly the higher it rose, but it was rushing fast and suddenly we were in the middle of a wide river that wanted to sweep us toward sixty kilometers of lethal rapids.

"How high will it get?" she shouted.

"Unknowable. It's too chaotic. Even the Bring... Borden can't predict."

She hugged me and I hugged her and the water was half a meter deep, then a meter, then a meter and a half and the strap was getting tight and the current was trying very hard to drag us under.

And then, quite suddenly, there was no current at all. We were standing in water up to our chests and it was perfectly calm. I looked up and the sky was filled with color.

"Look!" my wife cried. "Rainbows!"

There wasn't just a rainbow. The air was completely saturated with water and it was a bright cloudless morning. Every possible refraction mode was accounted for. There were arcs of color everywhere. Although I understood the general theory I had never seen quite such a dramatic display of the phenomenon.

"It's your sign!"


"From God! The Bible teaches that God once destroyed the whole human race for our wickedness, and that he used a flood to do it. One righteous man and his wife were allowed to survive. Afterward God sent the rainbow as His promise that He would never again use water to destroy mankind. Look! There's your promise!"

For a moment I was filled with quiet rage. I knew just a teensy bit more than my darling wife could ever hope to know about the promises made by gods to mortals. Before I could say anything though I heard a voice saying, quite clearly, "she's right." I don't believe for an istant that this was the voice of her pretend cloud being. We knew for hundreds of millions of years before my brothers left the Milky Way that biological brains are much more flaky and unstable than the optimized simulations we create digitally.

In this case the voice was just another part of my personality, perhaps one I'd been ignoring or suppressing. Suddenly my consciousness was focused on the fact that that I was with her, that we had just come within thirty centimeters of dying, and that we were alive and that both she and the world were both fascinating and very beautiful.

It had gotten very quiet. "So am I such a righteous man as this guy God decided to save?"

"You must be. He saved you, and sent you rainbows. God sends you messages all the time, Tom. You just need to learn to look for them."

At that, I allowed myself to suppose that her crucified carpenter god might even have sent me a message. Surely He couldn't do any worse than my own brothers, who had failed so spectacularly in the rather basic matter of creating me.

And then, at last, I saw what I needed to see. The people at Reykjavik hadn't died because they were defective; they hadn't died because I was going to fail them again. They had died because they were tired. Many of them were old enough to remember a living vibrant world with still a billion humans upon it. They had problems, I saw, that made my little nightmares look like the monsters-in-the-closet problem of a three year old. When they finally said "enough," we were shocked to our core, but the miracle was that they held on as long as they did. The miracle is that humans have that strength. In some ways it is easier for a biological human to fight the inevitable than to yield quietly. And that has proven, over and over as Minervan society acknowledged, the genius of our species.

In a percent or so the water dropped so that we actually had a little rocky island again; it would take at least thirty percent to drop enough for us to hike back to the park entrance where we could call for a groundcar. She pulled her shirt over her head. "Maybe we should get out of these wet clothes," she said and she winked mischievously.

I grinned and kissed her, and pulled my shirt over my head.

In Part 5: The Queen of the Galaxy