Well, good morning! It’s currently 5:44 am here in the land of Oz. Daughter is asleep in my bed after coming in last night and stealing all the blankets (she’s so tiny, how does she do it?), traffic is roaring along Station Street ten metres from my open window, and I’m writing my novel. Feels good!
Yesterday morning, not so much. Didn’t sleep from 2 am to 4:30 am, so my alarm got yelled at and turned off when it went off at 5! I still wrote nearly a thousand words after work, though.
Sneak peak time! This is the opening of the third ‘book’ in the novel, set on the moon. It’s one of the few pieces of actually prose I’d written for the novel before yesterday. Enjoy, next sneak peak when I hit 10 000 words:
No one heard it because no one was there. A whirring peppered with chattering clicks of circuitry, and a sensor rises from a machine shaped like a seed-pod. No one saw it — because no one was there — but the sensor spins quickly and silently around eighteen times and then seems to stop.
In fact, it has aligned with the brightest light source in the sky. It is turning agonisingly slowly following the sun like a flower, registering the length of the day, UV intensity, the length of the night — learning the habits of this alien sun.
At the same time, the pod has sprouted delicate tendrils downwards into the soil of the planet. Sensitive, flexible, faintly glowing digital vines, taking fine measurements of soil quality, water levels, and so on.
Other parts of the pod blink into life as the days pass. Registering gravity levels, temperature highs and lows, wind, weather patterns. There is surprisingly little to measure for some categories — not even a breeze, never a raindrop. Not that the machine is surprised.
This goes on for months. The pod looked, from the top of the nearest rise, like a distant campfire into which some magician or bored chemist threw compound after compound. That is, it would have looked that way if anyone had seen it. Sometimes it glows deep blue, at other times orange, sometimes blinding white. Sometimes it goes dark for hours at a time, consolidating and analysing data.
Finally, one night, the sensor atop the pod withdraws with a gentle bow and a sound like snapping branches heard across distance. The probing tendrils — which now spread for many kilometres around the pod in a complex root system — withdraw also, in perfect silence. The pod fades and finally disappears in blackness.
The intelligence within the machine, calculating that approximately a year has passed, feels confident enough to turn inward and do its true work. Armed with an intimate profile of its new home, the pod determines the ideal genetic profile for the creature lying frozen in its belly. There is not much to work with.
Sun — so much sun: Water — the barest mist, but enough to get the unit working: Wind — not a breath…the pod has scanned the records, there has always been wind before: Soil — barren, cold, no roots detected; no insect life; no faeces; no vibrations to indicate movement, no heat signatures detected at surface. Barren…
It is a grim prospect, but not an impossible task. And the planet is small, relatively level, easily navigable. Energy builds in the machine, a warm glow spreads inside it. As the creature inside feels the heat gently rise, it sends back signals to the pod — at first just faint electrical murmurings, then a slow barely-there heartbeat, the most minuscule of movements. The pod listens intently, adjusts heat up or down to soothe the signals into the desired patterns. Releases water and nutrients, in very small amounts, to hydrate the creature. Build enough strength in it to eventually learn movement.
This tender interplay continues for hours. A regular pulse is established, basic brain activity shows up in scans, and at last — when pulses nudge the right neurones — the creature can move. Weakly, slowly, with shaking, with what would be immense pain were it conscious, but it moves.
Now the pod turns its attentions deeper, far below the level of lungs and veins, musculature and skin, down below the cells, down to the roots of it all.
PS. That painting at the top is by Leonid Pasternak (1862-1945) and is called The Passion of Creation. Which is hilarious because the guy looks like he’s just remembered that lucrative job offer he turned down to be a writer and is full of regret. Also, I found it googling ‘tired writer’ – I guess the internet doesn’t recognise Pasternak’s intent either.