Image from adapted from Luke Cambell
|An image of Hos'tho while she lived on one of the orbital habitats|
Snapshot: Hos'tho , in "Above the sky"
*qualia* indicates qualia only experienced through electroreception
((qualia)) indicates qualia only experienced through echolocation
(To'ul'h cultural symbol-concepts will be translated to their nearest equivalent to the reader, if EG privacy settings are set appropriately)--------
I'm living my second week back on the homeworld, returned from the alien-constructed orbital habitats in the void. I hadn't become used to it all, even after ten years of calling the orbitals home. They feel distant now, the *brightness* of their metal and circuitry fading into memory, from their disturbingly efficient methods of experimental agriculture to grow our medicinal fungiforms, to the pin-braille smart matter interfaces I'd used to understand alien mechanisms, to the swarms of the ((invisible)) stars I saw in their pin-braille window-screens. So new and grand. Entire cities spinning in the void, less than a century old, with many of the orbitals finished after my birth. Still, my routines in the *bright* modern habitats had shuddered away in the flight of the landing shuttle. Two weeks of immigration & readjustment to the older homeworld brought me from the dream, back to the city of Toh*luuus where i'd been born.
The modern apartments in the cliff face disappear out of the range of echolocation as I hop-glide toward the train station. Alien autohelpers along the street, newly graffiti'ed with ceramic curse-bricks and piss, call out and reconfigure their faces with pin-braille ads for joining off-world colonization. I feel the *hum* of an electric light turning on from one of them and a vague brightening to my left for the benefit of one of the strange new cyborgs who's using light to see on the surface for some reason. The aliens had described full light-sight to me a few times, but I'd never yet felt much interest for the implant, even while living in the orbitals. Maybe one day, if I feel like light-seeing stars.
The doors hiss closed and my evening public train leaves the western quadrant. I hear the roar of the tunnel as we pass under the great cliff face that protected the old city. The latest polmusic hit from the city debates plays in earbud devices of some person sitting next to me and the *bright* metal doors hiss open. I join the crowd as they pass by the recreated diorama of the 9th dynasty's gas-powered train in the grand central station.
I can feel the sense of history here, cruder, older, but uncolonized by the new aliens, as I am. Smells like a grandmother To'ul'h pervade everywhere. Some of the locals avoid me and mutter 'collaborator' when they catch my scent. I ignore them. The government patronage for my work up there, teaching To'ul'h medicine and pharmaceutical harvesting to the aliens so they can reverse-engineer it, will sustain my children and even grandchildren once I finish this book. I'm still not used to public pin-braille literature for -everyone-, especially eastern highlanders, but i'm starting to see the benefits.
The marshy smells and ((soft)) textures of well-landscaped fungiform gardens fill out the airwalls along the bridges of the main street, presenting their soft anatomies along the sides. I can smell the spices and musks of the different varieties. A few people in the crowd hop-glide up to the second and third floors to examine shore-feudalist antiques. I walk on the gravel of clay bricks that old To'ul'h repurposed from the hill fortifications, surrounding the old city 6,000 years before, during the second reconstruction. Some of those pyramids had stood guard over the river delta for longer than the first structures on the frigid homeworld of the aliens' ancestors themselves. It was something my aristocrat grandparents always reminded me with pride in the remote voice-calls to the orbital. I usually responded with a quote from one of the new polmusic lines about how at least the aliens had deployed near-universal basic healthcare in mere decades, with proper birth control gaining traction. I might not like space, but the new ways have their advantages and maybe we won't all blight out out like the sixth dynasty lowlanders. We are still older than the aliens though.
I join a tour group at the entrance to the old cathedral and the clutter of bodies recedes. I might be modern, but I appreciate our history. I'll eat a piece of my grandmother's body when she dies, like a good daughter of To'ul'h.
The sculpted metal and ceramic patterns along the cathedral floor ((glitter)) and reflect back the echoes from the touring crowd. I could ((sense)) their lung cavities grow and shrink in the air as they meditated in the temple. Most of the ceramic on the floor was new of course, but the stone on the walls had listened for millennia as the worshippers of a hundred polities had risen and fallen like the air in the lungs of the meditators, and were replaced by others like cobblestones in the street.
I dip my fingers into the stepped pool and feel the *buzz* of the branching seabush from the bottom of the water conducting a holy magnetic field. I can ((klik)) the statues of the four old creation gods at the bottom of the pool, closest to heaven, and remember. I consider again the pin-braille symbols of the ((invisible)) stars of the void, in the orbital, and how the alien interface told me such faraway fires had created all the matter that composed me with the incredible energies of this nuclear fusion. Yet the old gods sit here, at the bottom of the pool, still as death, losing power. Old superstitions, certainly, but they still feel more familiar than the very real alien gods out there, around other worlds. The friendly demons in orbit. *bright* metal gods from the ((invisible)) stars, building some new form of paradise up there, in hell.
-translated snapshot from the autobiography "Above the Sky", about the life of Hos'tho, a To'ul'h Doctor/Pharmacist who lived during the time after First Contact. Published 4106AT.
The Life of Hos'tho