Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Daily Story 76: GMT + a*bt/τ

I dream of Avalon each night; the apple trees and bamboo forests stretching out endlessly under twin moons. When I awaken I find myself back in my apartment, the open land replaced by two narrow rooms with ceilings so low they make me feel as if I've been entombed. Today, however, I know that this life is over and in just a few minutes I will be dead - shot by the security guards here in my lab or passed away from old age in Avalon. Either one will be an improvement. The hammering on the door is growing more urgent every second, and it's a matter of seconds before they break through. If there's anything I've learned here it's how much of a difference seconds can make.

I've watched Avalon grow from an inhospitable primordial world to the paradise it is now, witnessed our plants slowly take over the surface and carpet the black mud - one day the world was a lifeless swamp, the next it was the green of moss and grasses. The next trees had sprouted and died, forming little islands. Now Avalon is all rolling hills and crystal lakes, any crop taking hold eagerly and providing more fruit than could ever be eaten. I can't let them turn it into a mirror of this world.

The door flies open, and I know I've lost my ticket out. I could have been selfish, could have snuck into Avalon by myself and lived an entire lifetime before they caught me, but I thought about the contraband I had smuggled in - books, actual books that I had read and loved and then left there to break down into the soil. Did I want that to be my legacy, to vanish into a foreign world in another dimension and be forgotten? Far more noble to take something there that won't erode, won't be destroyed by the elements, will thrive and continue on across the brief ages. The guards are raising their weapons, and I hit the button.

Shots fire out as the Transport room flares to life. I had been setting up a delay so I could go too, but I can die happy knowing my contraband has been sent. Packed into the chamber so tight they could barely breathe, an eager batch of young colonists have just been sent to my previously unpeopled world. The bullet hits my shoulder, and I fall to the ground. Before the guards can pile into the room I pull the gun one of the colonists gave me, feeling the weight of the antique in my hand. I shoot blindly at the doorway, each shot buying them more time to live in peace. I count off the seconds - one year, two, three.

They're trying to talk me down; good. Talk is slow. I really should destroy the device entirely but we had more pressing concerns than explosives and there's nothing I can do with this gun. I can destroy this control panel, but there's another I won't be able to reach. Suddenly the guards run for it and they have me, pinning me to the floor and wrenching the gun from my grip. I had hoped they would just shoot me. Already someone is manning the control - it's Robert, we've worked together for years but he's a coward.

The guards are ready to storm Avalon and kill the colonists. How long did I give them? Two minutes? That's well over a hundred years, maybe it was worth it. The gate flares to life but before the guards can move arrows fill the air. A war cry erupts from the chamber as a hundred armed warriors pile into the room, wooden swords cutting the guards down in their tracks. They're moving quickly; they know that this mission is costing them years with their families. They carry me past Robert's body, and past some smoldering barrels they're placing around the device.

The gate flashes once more, and the empire of Avalon cheers my arrival.