The Palace On The Shore
by J.F. Gleeson
mass ceased building replicating armed star tunnel.
By the shore hung a palace.
By the shore hung many of them, though none but this one were any longer occupied, all others evacuated or sundered.
These palace halls were filled with imperfect remembering and they were very empty.
Beyond this palace lay example of the most conceivable instance of infinity, so the walls were bulked to permit no sight nor direct experience of the outside for the death and danger it posed. The palatial superstructure had been lofted up in the direction of this place in worship of obsession, but too a building itself obsessed with keeping.
The Marker cruised these arched passages.
He had not always been the only one.
But was now alone.
But for a universe.
mass spire filaments by width transmutable.
A reconstitution arm was filling out the bowled grooves of what earlier had seemed the bounds of a tunnel but was newly detailing itself in the mode of long sculpture, ribbed throughout, hollowed, the sum length arbitrary now in its unfinished state, arbitrary as it would be if it ever became finished, which was not likely, and just as it would be if it became finished and the Marker knew that it had become finished, which was even slighter in probability.
The other Markers had dwindled and drudged around these halls. Some took to their tracts and assemblies with rare attention and were rarely perceived because of it. Some found heights and corners and systems where they could fold themselves away and never attend to their tracts, and never be seen, and because of this become impossible to differentiate from those who worked at confinement and spreading and torturous arrangement as though it were sacred ailment.
The Marker busied all computation and thinking with compartmentalisation and division and structuring though it did not refill the halls.
The Gulf might gush forever and never do so.
incorrect foaming transitory geons.
At an arbitrary time far removed from the time of stationed Families and activity and channelling of disparate pins of matter and information by many thousands of Markers stationed disparately through many great stations, and far into the time of this last Marker’s solitary refinements and organisations, the final occupant of any of the palaces sieved short particle funnels emitted by the Gulf that had been caught and filtered by the station, being reconstituted into pentachorons that would only persist in pressurised tumbles of liquid, would disperse in anything else, and would come together again if replaced.
This could change given any minute additions, as an atmosphere may change with the introduction of element, and in this way any classification of the Gulf’s forceful tide was transitory and may later be removed.
The Marker was at this lonely task when another spoke within the palace.
It was past rare, and past surprising.
The Marker came to whence the speaking had come, and found no other Marker but something else. It was something very different.
Surveyor? the Marker asked the something else.
The something spoke no more, and stilled, then spoke again, after calculation: Yes.
I thought no further bother was put about the stations. You’re here to bring me away?
Oh no. Am I? No. No more than I am named.
There is not much now to be Surveyed.
You stick just to Marking if you think so.
fractured spun appendages.
The Surveyor came to the Marker’s palace by way of arrival at another station.
That station was vacant of its populace and workers and meaning, but continued to gleam in utility, its great collections of miscellanies assessed into, when the entire network of palaces was consulted at once, something approaching order.
In the hollowed depths of the place the Surveyor travelled first a forest of metals, a spacious place among enormous spaces, suffused with hanging rolls of steam that gave the impression, though it was not true, of cellular automation. Through the end of that gargantuan habitat he came to white tunnels in the style of the Markers, chambers at their sides walled off with transparent screens, behind them shades of dead matter; and by appraisal of the dead matters and their unfinished symmetries, oars, sharp ends peaked in ideas of mobility or congruence to sensory limb, it seemed as though these clods and clumps and spines had not always been without activity or even thought.
In one of these chambers a figure that scattered light and which could not be perfectly consulted had been sat into a kind of chair. The figure too, had it not always been so, was dead, relinquished of historical occupation. The palace, continuous, threaded energies of many kinds through the thing, but while it thudded and jumped and looked a horror, no animation or vitality could be induced.
There was after this a pillar, not in the Marker style and so part of the reconstituted output of the Gulf, unyielding to traversal not because of its pits and scores that may have comprised information in themselves, but because its elongation heaved far out through the halls of the palace so that it continued through a breach in the bulkheads, far on towards the Gulf’s heart where there was nothing to be considered by the lowly Marker for the transcendent vista of white screaming heat, vanishing all outside but circumventing where it contacted the pillar’s surface, screaming around it, the pillar extending on out of sight, becoming adventurer’s bridge into the impassable.
Is there a difference of Laws? the Surveyor asked.
That question another among heaps of things not possible to tell, the Marker said. Things rebuilt that might have been as we say alive are not so when remade. The Laws are not right for them, here, yes; or either that some other condition is not right but that the Laws are exactly replicated. Or that still the things remain undone, missing critical branches. Structured masses have reconstituted and seemed very shortly some entanglement, which must encompass sentience, to be instantly crushed within a casing environment no matter the controls put upon them.
It’s a lot of things to not know, isn’t it, said the Surveyor.
It is, yes, it is.
The new companions went to a dome in which were laid rebuilt things, set into no compartments and put about casually as though for use as rest or recreation. The dome itself faced into the Gulf, its light minimised but not out of bright to burning.
And how did all the palaces empty? the Surveyor said. Where went they all, these Markers, dropping their work so sudden? It would be no exaggeration to say: dropping worlds so sudden?
I thought that you would know, said the Marker. It isn’t any reason more exciting than the slow phase of disinterest. When time is grand enough holding endless tasks, it will always happen, no matter programmed intent. The palaces continue without runners.
I did notice.
They’ll continue. They’ll carry on. That’s more power frothing out the Gulf than I’ve ever seen. They will race the pouring in of stuff. Departure did not begin with this event, but close Families looked far too inward. They did so at themselves. All particles dark and not have, at that right minuscule scale, their inscription. The treatise of the direction of the thing, of every movement, push, interaction, each thing it will do. It’s the amazing reading of those and our needling that permits reconstitution. Put through the palaces the Gulf uses its own energy, fuels our recreation of the things from their constituent smallnesses. You knew that?
Yes. But tell me.
But all things were destroyed, and of those available parts the palace collects only what it can. And so though these particles must have, at the level of their inscription, their eventual dismantling and sending through to Markers, and when from there? Anyway. There was no artifice and it did not occur in sects; some Families turned to their inscriptions.
Yes. Would you see your living noted down? To look at one’s own buildup, the endless notation of the past and future of all things making you, and the things not you before and long after. And on from there, of course. How to edit such notation? How to erase and change?
I don’t offend any Family, your own or otherwise, but such research. It is no game for the conscious.
Surveying ends in report. Yes? You may judge or not, and apologise for neither. They did not make much progression. And taking on this, their Marking lost attraction, and fatigue began to settle. And Markers left or they were burned flat by the Gulf.
I put into the palaces algorithmic contrivance. It disallows my viewing inscription that is part of me.
You feel the draw?
Not often. There is enough debilitating work. There is a world, and the threading of it into category. It reaches such classification that each particle might be left alone. We are at the level of them all different. Or but for inscription they are all the same.
And do you think about the other shore? the Surveyor asked.
I think about shores and palaces and impossibilities. There is enough time to do so.
The Marker stilled. Though his build did not facilitate anyone external to him to discern, his dwindled industry showed somebody worn.
conical laces shrinking.
The Surveyor travelled to one of the grandest reaches of the palace, a knotted appendage that was piped and quiet, and where its output hissed infrequently was a fantastic surface, incomplete as all things were in this place, yet filled in enough and cast out enough to go beyond the depths of his sight.
There was a lot of emptiness throughout the palace, though no thing like the peace wiped through here like a pleasant exhaustion.
The Surveyor travelled the extension of planetary hulk, beneath him aimless mats of black fibre that was wound into the crumbed rock beneath.
Some form of twine comparable to our age of vegetation, the Marker said, appearing and moving minorly across the plain. It is not alive of course. And vegetation might be an incompatible analogue.
It moves at least in this wind, the Surveyor said. The motion is soothing.
Yes. No true wind. I have put the station generating it. For otherwise there was something very horrific, quite frightening, in this great expanse unmoving, sucked to stillness.
The sky was the phenomenal blue of approaching light, wrapped dark and hard over the plain as though to force wondering on its benefactors so great that it would stop them traversing farther, where they would come inevitably to the break of the unpieced together world, lose perception in the unfinished state of yet another thing.
This sky too, said the Surveyor.
Yes, said the Marker. Otherwise too much ferocious white to function.
mass swallowing spheroids.
The palace shook in a deflective rage.
The screams of the Gulf, it screaming a universe, screamed at the palace. It screamed at it the pieces of an emptied palace in closer orbit, thrown apart by screaming and made into scream, things stitched together blown again into grains simpler than dust, shaking the bolted palace, running deep scars down the last station giving a Marker home.
spiralled ices translating bulges.
I remain for a dream, the Marker said.
Out here in a much earlier time, I was locked. This palace was of a third ring. It is quite sturdy. Twelve Families were killed in one single station, of the first ring, of an ill placement. A lance of light cast right through and incinerated everyone inside, and incinerated the palace whole. There was not a bit of detritus worth collecting. We collected a lot of things of course. Look at them. What was left was just a smear of cresting radiation, a dirty whine on any reading. One forgets the black among the stars. It is energy only out there. One forgets our place in the obsession with another. And look at how it is violently immediate. We have a lot of emptiness here, but I forget. And I find that I cannot leave the precipice.
For a dream. I apologise for roaming. Out here in an earlier time when there were Markers at least to most stations, at least a Family to a palace or near it, I saw a part of a reassembly rising, some steepled thing, not aware of self or of anything, nor, it was not organic, some construction by some thing.
The Marker looked off with a poise himself of caused incompleteness.
It does not bear further description, he continued, but that, far sooner in time than I came to the Gulf, sooner than a palace ever orbited it, I saw it. I saw that steepled thing by dream. And to see it again. And that awed me forever.
They sat with low spectrumed gaseous matter fading over and past them and misting finely down the hall.
Here is my report, the Surveyor finally said. I’ve Surveyed a great many things, and Surveyed a great many things done to a great many knowledges. I have seen a knowledge incinerated on a scale unfathomable to the thinking things that incinerated it. Sometimes those have been knowledges cast knowingly through galaxies, caused out with the slow generosity of the sharer. Sometimes they have been a knowledge untended for the lifecycles of systems, pieced in its time of stillness and eventually picked up in parcels. Parcels to be opened and uncomprehended and devastated over. I have seen knowledges in deliberation barged away from potential holders, tipped into other universes. Pure understanding of universal function does not equate to purity or purity of being or purity of command. Nor does pure misunderstanding. Nor part misinterpretation, nor belief in universal dysfunction. I have seen knowledges incarcerated and rewritten.
It can all sound very fanciful and of no admirable purpose, said the Marker.
One might report: too much for one.
Too much knowledge? the Marker said. The Gulf may not be infinite.
The turns of the knowledges are. And perhaps it is the only thing. I soon depart. All of these things, and he indicated the direction of what he intended the very wrought heart of the Gulf, will approach and they will, all of them, go where they need to go. If need describes the thing. They will go and arrive and do. And though these places were stationed with hard obsession, one might report the peace in ceasing. One might take their head out of the star to drift on its warmth. if it is to see that dream again that you are pointed, it will show itself. If it is to anything else, it will be otherwise.
It is not the report I might have expected, the Marker told him.
And so might it the more be of effect, the Surveyor said spaciously. There is some value in all these knowledges. Do not lose your own pieces in that fire. That cosmos wells into this one, as this and that do into so many others.
fluctuating harmonied hardbranes.
The old companions spoke once further before departure.
The Marker scaled the ribbed tunnel-sculpture of his earlier review, permitting himself a final flurry of fretting and satisfying hot irritation of considering how to classify.
I believe I’ve seen a thing such as this, said the Surveyor. Seems a constructed representation of a biology, in all its dimensions. And in time as well.
The Marker scanned the smoothed pits of the tunnel from length to length.
You are, he said. You are quite right.
The Marker completed for himself an incomplete formulation of the biology represented, and with pleasant exhaustion considered the thing, not with irritation, nor with frustration. He considered that thing with some degree of wonder.
The Surveyor turned toward the hot blaring void, the hot blaring wind out of it blowing smouldering universe dust around and through and past him.
He could see its attraction.
The Marker drew apart his algorithm.
He left the palace for somewhere.
J. F. Gleeson’s work has appeared, or is soon to appear, in Dark Void, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Orpheus + Eurydice Unbound (Air & Nothingness Press), Ligeia, ergot., Mandrake, Déraciné, Sublunary Review, Bureau of Complaint, Bullshit Lit, Overheard, Mystery Tribune, Maudlin House, Crow & Cross Keys, Lamplit Underground and other places. He has a small and exciting website (https://deadlostbeaches.blog).