This was an idea I had while ignoring my journalism lectures about nine years ago. It’s painfully obvious how hard I was trying, not to mention how terrible the narrative is. I absolutely do not recommend reading this. Abandoned. 2,298 words.
Most people kill themselves within a few months of returning. The men in charge, the ones with the sparkly badges and pressed ribbons chained all over their vests, tell us it’s because of transition stresses and combat fatigue. But supposedly we go through transition all the time and allegedly none of us violently remodel our brains via small-caliber handguns.
Well, besides McDouglas; that sad asshole pulled out his own throat with a pliers. He’s actually the only one of us we were told about, because unlike the fighting ones, he didn’t bullet-spike his braindrink. He still only lasted a day or so in any case, so no one could find out what he knew. We don’t really talk about him because that’s both highly disturbing and McDouglas was the part-time crotch-pet of Director Green, and Director Green is frightening and homicidically sybaritic.
But in terms of hotheaded throat-centered seppuku, I don’t really think about the subject unless I’m reading the newflashes about another returned veteran who offs herself. And since I’m already thinking about it now—which is befuddling my post-masturbatory high—I’d like to point out how every one of them blasts out their smart stuff with handguns. In the bathroom. And always in full military uniform, making sure to lean off and not get any gray goo on the smart black-and-silvers of mess dress.
My point before this whole introspective journey began was that I’m not looking forward to my transition tomorrow, hence my underthings around my ankles and twenty screens crammed with questionably non-meritorious imagery. I’ve never transitioned before although I’ve read enough quality literature on the topic to satisfy Norton P. Skepticist and his gaggle of pessimistic assholes—not to mention watching every documentary covering everything I should need to know.
Including the ones with probably less authentitious content than my present visual company.
I saw this one—I can’t recall the title but the cover graphic proudly displayed a little green man with blue hair and gold eyes and arms longer than he was tall—which had interviewed the few combatties who hadn’t blown their heads off within a day of their return. I think maybe three in total? But all of them screamed at the interviewer to deliver one message, verbatim: “don’t be bad.”
Like, what if there are these huge aliens who stop your transition and cut off your balls and tell you how awful of a person you’ve been? Or what if, say, big-ass giraffes ridden by zombie orangutans in spacesuits make you impregnate their women? I’d sure want to chew on some cranial salad of my own after that. I mean I don’t actually know what they do on the other side, since for us they wipe our associative memories, and for the fighters…well, none of them last long enough to need anything more than one bullet and something to stick it through their skulls with.
All I know is that before the selection we were all told to make extensive journals and write down anything we’d like to remember, since apparently they accidentally erase more than they mean to sometimes.
And yes, I work for these guys. I do like to feel what we’re all about is important, but between rubbing myself and my spirits cabinet I sure don’t think the emotional footprint is balanced by what we’re leaving behind for humanity.
You see, ever since we found the gatepath for transitions, there hasn’t been much left for humanity except the continual drive to send boys and girls through there armed with enough weaponry to blast out half of the planet, and only one in a million ever come back. None last more than a week after that. Anyone who has a sufficient enough battery of genetic flaws, like me, and who can do something more with their intelligence than feed themselves, is cultured for transition in some other way.
Me, I spent my first twenty learning to navigate anything that moved, including Proxies. I could hang glide to the moon with nothing more than a bottle of water and two baggies of pretzels to keep me from passing out. Then I spent my next two dozen reading books on xenolinguistics—the ones we know about, presumably from the other side though no one cites any material—and any other words the women in blue suits could wedge inside me.
I’m saying this to you, stupid little camera, because if they erase me I at least want to know that all my testicles are in place and I used them well. And yes, yes I did.
He sat back, thinking over what he’d done while idly remembering his present appearance and resituating his trousers. Tomorrow was to be his shining moment, his glorious apex of a lifetime of self journey—forced upon him or not.
She was taking the transition too, which made his mouth stretch into a full-hearted grin and eventually a full-chested chuckle. They’d had good times, Ninnehtessa with her ridiculous fiber-opal hair and outfits more scandalous than what he’d proudly admit to enjoying on his console, and Torvas, his miserable alter-persona everyone except her saw him as. He didn’t like admitting to being the boring student of words and directions, so when it was time to shack out in the dormitories he became Elias the Deviant.
He consistently failed to mention any of this to the headsurgeons during his endless pre-transition screenings. He’d also neglected to mention to her that he was even making transition; her face would be something he hoped above most hopes not to have formatted away. She seemed to enjoy Torvas and Elias equally, though some things she put Elias up to when the lights went out would probably get Torvas ten lashes.
Removing that from his thoughts, Elias replaced his eyeset and got back to carefully chronicling his various conquests.
Thirty minutes before transition and Torvas was in the launching module with two thousand other besuited persons, all with their headgear in hand and faces upturned to the Queen. Her sheer appearance was enough to blast first-time viewers through a bulkhead and ricochet off the nearest shockfield, and that physical reaction seldom deteriorated significantly with repeat encounters.
Even with so many bodies in pressing proximity, the Queen looked as if she were inside his personal space, close enough for him to reach out and touch her arm to see if she were real. Of course that’s absurd, because unless she was eight hundred feet tall and as many front-to-back, she was probably just unjustly attractive. All the same, when she opened her mouth it produced an effect which made her bodily image irrelevant. It was as if a million chanteuses were cantillating the most heart-stopping melody in flawless concinnity directly into the auditory cortex, while consensually partaking in the most skilled seducer’s services and a massage by a muscular quadriman.
It didn’t matter what the other side was like: he wanted to go. Whatever the Queen wanted him to do, he would’ve done just then, even if it was hanging himself from the doorjam.
“Daughters and sons of Sol: my brethren, my offspring, my champions! We are a great people, a proud people, a people with history and memories and strong hearts. We are also a broken people, a broken nation, cast off and put aside by the shaping forces and powers yet beyond your comprehension. Our forerunners left Sol to locate our past, our history, and that they did find; it was no more than an eyeblink in the time of universes, and yet it was the greatest mission we have ever embarked upon. It was a terrible history these seekers found, a history more ghastly than my words could possibly detail. I cannot prepare you for transition more than you already are, but I caution you to remember who you are. You are women, you are men, and you are from Sol! Hold that dear to you, hold that beside you every breath you take, and you will survive. Forget or neglect your history, my daughters and sons, and you will perish. Speed and serendipity be with you!”
Torvas had no time to think as the Queen retreated from her dais in a vast swirl of dresses, nor any pause to locate Ninnehtessa. Immediately the circular platform under them began shaking and rattling and jostling everyone about. Some seconds later he realized a dome was closing above them, rising from the edges of the disc and covering the women and men with an opaque shield. They were crammed so tightly none could have fallen by the time they were sealed in, and as if in response, gravity rocketed through his legs and chest and ravaged into his inner ear.
If he’d glanced through his new roof, he would have seen hellfire and a blue inferno as their spheroid capsule pummeled the atmosphere and was mercilessly discarded into space. Despite the loss of air and significant friction, the violence retreated little. In the far distance he could have caught sight of a fantastical lightshow, a radiant beacon hung amongst the bland backdrop of space like an ever-dancing cosmic marionette. What was opalescent or jarringly violaceous one instant was garishly titian the next. Unrestrained detonations of conflicting color whipped around the grandiose spectacle with an elegant brutality not glimpsed anywhere else in existence.
By the time his or anyone’s senses had returned to them, the phenomenon loomed massive in their eyes, becoming rapidly closer as they waited. Was this transition? Would they even remember seeing this stellar heaven? Would they be hurt, or transformed, or enlightened? What did transition hold for them? Every last woman and man among the two thousand possessed thoughts much like these until the capsule stopped moving with less grace than their departure.
And then the roof began retracting.
Even with the feeling of recycled oxygen humming through his suit, Elias knew there was no sound, though the force of stunned silence was loudly majestic in its own way. No one moved as the universe around them was so shocking it made all forget they were even alive. There was nothing except for Elias’ eyes, and even those almost ceased functioning at the beauty they were exposed to. Like being blind and regaining lost sight, or deaf and exposed to an organic operatic symphony, or dead and then alive, it was on the other side of reality. The blinding force of color alone was enough to stamp out Elias’ circulation, but the motion of chromism was traumatizing. Amaranthine snaked into xanthic, chartreuse sinuated into cerulean, and garnet melted into indigo. Blazing combustions of richer shades noiselessly concussed around the serprentine weaves as they scourged about each other.
And then it happened, and it was nothing at all like the training.
Elias simply wasn’t. Torvas, Ninnehtessa, the others, the capsule, breathing, the colors: all the opposite of something. Slowly, Torvas returned, but it wasn’t back to his body or the flat disc of the capsule’s pad. He was somewhere else entirely, and as he glanced around it became apparent he was flying.
Great pearl-fringed emerald wings jutted from his shoulders like grandiose befeathered copies of the ones he’d seen so often in the histories attached to animals who defied gravity. But it was right, in a sense; Torvas was cognizant this hadn’t always been his physical condition, and yet simultaneously it was how he was designed by a source of power beyond him. It felt as if he’d regained a lost limb, and he immediately knew what to do.
As Elias soared, he realized the immense cloud of lights was all around him, and yet he had no difficulty pulling oxygen into his lungs. The cloud parted in a sense, yielding a majestic vista of colors he’d not known existed. He felt different too: good. Amazing in fact, and it kept getting better as he became larger. His wings were stretched to their snapping and his muscles were tensed with a power of plasma-springed space mines. His closely-shaved chin rose up and he was overtaken with a blast of ecstasy.
He knew the universe. And the universe was good.
He knew men were always this way: tall and with pearl-trimmed emerald te’oh. He knew breathing in the deep void of seemingly-colorless space was natural, and men could soar on veins of colored lightning for intoxicating lengths. He knew men and women had created enormous swaths of civilization, slashing through galaxies with ease and spreading delights of their presence for all races and species to bask in. He knew there was no darkness which would not yield to man’s congenital effulgence given slight exertion. In fact, he knew anything not one with man’s resplendence desperately sought out the radiance. He knew men welcomed all things with arms and te’oh spread wide. He knew woman and man were paradisaical in an axiomatic fashion, and he knew he belonged with them. He of The Twisted.
It made him cringe and shy away though nothing faced him, yet embarrassed he was. He knew how men had lost their te’oh by casting aside bliss and willingly embracing another part of humanity. A part that wasn’t meant to be, that ingenuously SHOULDN’T.
But he was shamed, and so he left the emotion behind and powered ahead, working his te’oh with commanding faculty. A great saturated panorama was splayed across his purview, and to his left and right his fellow thousands were spreading te’oh and beginning toward a dazzling structure. The flock of women and men neared the construction rapidly though the distance must have been unimaginable, and as the gap shrunk it became a lavish cityscape.
Tremendous complexes were arranged in a haphazard formation atop a floating