Dawn had begun to sift through the horizon. It wept pale yellow over the galaxy of trees, touching lightly at the flanks of Paradise Discothèque. The astronaut was in his control room, observing various views of the slumbering leviathan while light crept slowly into his parlour. He saw sleeping guards and vacant tombs. He shuffled between visions of dog kennels, pyramids and flocks of flamingos. He turned huge batteries of floodlights off an on for no reason. He ran schematics on all his slave-gang rocket thrusters, plotting vectors on a wrist-mounted holographic calculator. Taty meanwhile had risen to her elbows, lying in the hot rain of the huge shower like a little sphinx. She had dozed off in the delicious onslaught and awoken feeling somewhat better. Despite the horror of the murder, it had begun to feel more like an exorcism; a purging of the darkness, which had begun with her brother and peaked in the lonely reaches of the Necropolis. She crawled slowly out of the ceaseless water and climbed steaming to the landing, where she shut of the roaring flow. The pearly dripping of a hundred droplets pinged and echoed throughout the great tiled globe as she stood, realigning herself. There were two towels and she wrapped her hair up in the smaller one, swaddling the large one about her like a cloak. When she felt ready, she headed back up the strange corridor.
The pale light of dawn illuminated the cream leather lounge, gleaming in quietly through a stereoscopic array of windows. She noticed that a pile of her things lay neatly across the floor, draped beside and across one of the couches. She approached to find that all the items from her room, closets and lockers were present: all her shoes and dresses and costumes, her suitcase and blankets, her wigs, cosmetics and jewelry, her walkie-talkie and even its shrine. Everything except her machine gun she noted wryly. Somehow, she found herself not offended by this invasion of privacy or the liberties taken. She felt that she could not return to that room now no matter what. It was a pattern with her, she realized: kill and run away. So she stood there, dripping in the gathering light of dawn, surveying her entire life, gathered inconsequentially across a weird couch and a patch of blonde shag. Everything had changed and she was on the move again. After a few moments, she padded up the stairs to the control booth. She found the spaceman at his world of television screens, watching over his perverse little kingdom, just like the insane dictator that he pretended to be. The sight of him amused her and she came up beside his chair, sitting down heavily on what looked to her like the most delicate piece of apparatus. He noticed her trying to crush the device with her ass and unzipped a pouch on his suit. She watched as he withdrew a can of cola, which he then tossed over to her. She caught it and almost dropped it due to its surprising weight.
“This soda weighs a ton!” she exclaimed, discovering a bizarre reinforced pressure seal at the top, complete with a pulsing LED.
“I designed the cans to withstand the void, they are radiation proof as well.”
“Space cola – fab,” she clucked, cracking the can and taking a long swig.
He turned in his chair, regarding her as seriously as a one could with a reflective Smiley over their face.
“Let’s you and me get out of here,” he proposed.
“Get out of where?” she frowned, wiping her mouth off on the back of her hand.
“I don’t know. This planet for starters.”
She looked at him for a few moments, realizing that his helmet was the only mirror she had seen since the shower. She leaned forward toward him, brushing her hair back with her fingers and inspecting her teeth.
“Sure, why not,” she murmured, engrossed in her own reflection.
“I’m so glad that you have decided to join me on my fantastic trip to the dark side of the moon,” he declared in his robot voice.
“I’m like one of those shark things, if I stop moving I die.”
“Don’t let a little homicide get you down.”
She leaned back, unimpressed.
“And how exactly are we supposed to get to the moon Mister crazy spaceman?”
“That’s what this place was built for,” he declared grandly, sweeping his arm around to somehow encompass the entirety of Paradise Discothèque.
“The old people constructed it to ferry their god to the moon. It was the sole purpose of their entire civilization.”
“Isn’t it a bit mean of you to jack his ride then?”
“I find it rather funny actually.”
She sucked cola grimly at this.
“I suppose it is pretty funny,” she murmured bleakly.
She finished off the heavy can and hurled it at a small screen, managing to crack the glass. This little act of destruction seemed to cheer her up and she turned to him with some satisfaction.
“So,” she burped. “When do you want to go?”
“How about right now?”
She blinked at him for a few moments, a tiny smile beginning to flicker at the edges of her mouth.
“That sounds good,” she mumbled quietly.
He slapped his kneepad and rose triumphantly, crossing the room, toward the upper airlock. She followed like a domestic pet, waiting as he unsealed the massive door. He led her through the long corridor of stone reliefs toward the distant light while she goggled at all the notes and carvings. They arrived at the high pavilion, where dawn had begun to paint the reeling vista with its clean palette of yellows and blues. The birds were cheeping in their universe of trees while a fragrant breeze gusted against her moist skin, refreshing her instantly. She moved from pillar to pillar, gazing out over at Paradise Discothèque in wonder, staggered by the view. Cloudbanks were rolling in from the west, threatening rain later that day. The astronaut walked to the center of the pavilion and loomed over the featureless pedestal.
“There’s your ticket off this rock,” he declared.
“But, it’s just a stone thing…”
He drifted toward the edge, where he leaned against a pillar.
“Not to someone like you,” he said.
She stood blinking at him, unsure of his meaning.
“Alphonse, Florix and I had Jennerator’s everywhere, scanning for just the right ghost girl, trying to amplify their talents when they came in out of the cold. We needed one special enough, one who had the ability to do this. You have no idea how long we had been beachcombing, trying to find that one last piece of our beautiful jigsaw. Perhaps Alphonse got sick of it all, distracted by his cookie jars. He was always easily distracted… ”
Taty had gone quiet, unbalanced by this sudden confession.
“What are you talking about?” she murmured strangely.
“Well, this is what he was training you for, this exactly.”
“You mean Alphonse sent me out here, for this…”
“How did you think I knew to find you in the Necropolis? Or that I was the first to test drive your abilities in the Shell Sea?”
“I thought you just…I thought he…”
She sank down suddenly, leaning against a pillar. He watched as she retched, vomiting quietly over the edge. When she was done, she wiped her hand carefully over her mouth, sobbing on the ground. Tears were spilling down her shivering cheeks.
“You mean, he was trying to save me?” she groaned.
He walked over and kneeled down heavily beside her.
“You have such natural ability, shining like a little star against the darkness. Perhaps you doubt yourself, but I understand your true worth.”
She was crying heavily now and her voice stammered when she spoke.
“You mean this is why you wanted me to ghost a globe without an operator? This!” She exclaimed, pointing at the pedestal.
“The old people had perception similar to yours. Only one with their abilities can operate the incredible device that they have left behind. And you my dear, are able to do just that – aren’t you?”
She rubbed her bruised eyes tenderly, swabbing away the tears so that she could gaze upon the pedestal in a new light. She held her concentration in like a breath, feeling a tiny surge of pressure behind her sinuses. All of a sudden, the world inverted, coalescing into a familiar miasma of spectral currents – that secret, mysterious anti-world she had seen in glimpses throughout her entire life. Beyond the cusp of the astronaut’s brilliantly shining sno-globe, the jungle teemed with protoplasmic energy. She gazed out across this microbial orgy of forms to witness highways of energy, seething in across a flickering sky. These bands of force travelled over the jungle in a massive ribbon, twining and pulsing around Paradise Discothèque to create a circuit of power, which looped back out toward the horizon again. Somehow, Taty recognized instantly that this highway of power originated from the pyramids in the Necropolis. A massive exchange of energies swelled constantly between the two complexes, gathering force from the jungle with each circuit. Rivers of natural psychic energy, the very same which she had once used to move objects with her mind, had been somehow tapped and channeled, directed by these ancient structures. It was this concentrated telekinetic force, which had kept them suspended in the air with such dependable constancy all these centuries. She understood now why the ancient people had not been able to activate their creation themselves. The monoliths had required millennia to accumulate enough ectoplasmic force to rise above the ground, storing psychic charge in their links to one another.
“It’s what killed them off…” she whispered.
“Yes,” the astronaut answered, holding her arm to steady her. “It was their intention for the pyramids to drain and channel their energy, siphoning off their sno-globes one by one, compressing an entire race into a river of spiritual fuel, which would exist in perpetuation, strengthening itself over time.”
“What I’m seeing is…them?” she whispered incredulously, gazing out at the gleaming loop of spectral force which raged around the structure and back out again, moving at a speed which was not speed.
“In a way, yes,” he answered. “They have transcended entirely, into a single form, still living, yet existing as pure energy, developing itself slowly toward that moment when their great plan would finally come to fruition.”
“Oh my dog they are still alive!”
“Yes, but their consciousness is not as ours, not any more – they have become some kind of cosmic exercise bike, pedaling ever onward across the centuries, swelling in ectoplasmic mass, charge and speed, a sentient telekinetic engine manifested for one purpose only…”
“Gasoline for god…”
“A one way ticket to the outer dark.”
Taty gazed down, dizzily observing the bands of energy as they snaked up the flanks of Paradise Discothèque, woven together by the loom of the four pyramids. These bands grew smaller the higher they went, more concentrated and tightly woven, spinning up toward the uppermost area. She turned around dizzily to see them coalescing in a blinding vortex around the pedestal of the high pavilion. Just above this vortex, hovering at about chest height was a flower-like form of energy, which billowed and turned: the focal point for the entire circuit.
“My spectral filters allow me to see it,” The astronaut said. “It is the collective soul of the old people, the activation area where they wait – the flower of the moon…”
“Its so beautiful…”
She rose, entranced and the towel slipped off her shoulders. He managed to catch it as she advanced, naked toward the pedestal. She did not seem to notice her nudity and continued forward, like a sleepwalker. He watched, struck by how pagan the image was: an unclothed psychic priestess atop an ancient temple at dawn, about to fulfill a centuries old prophecy. He had occasionally suspected the ancient collective of saturating the consciousness of the surrounding jungle and its people, somehow manipulating events to their own end. Such a moment smacked of orchestration and he could not shake the sense that the temple itself had manifested this sequence of events. Taty seemed to have entered a sort of trance state, and through his spectral filter, he saw the energy of the pedestal reacting favourably to her strangely pulsating, oversized sno-globe. It swathed her with a billion tendrils of speeding light, drawing her perceptive faculties into its age-old presence of power. She felt the ecstatic presence of a thousand people a second and it made her ache in wonder. She had now entered the vortex and could feel the currents of the gargantuan circuit infiltrating her energy body. She was lifted bodily off the ground, much to the surprise of the astronaut who observed her levitating strangely before the pedestal, hair swirling about as though buffeted by powerful aquatic currents. It was a surreal effect against the relatively still morning air. A phenomenon compounded by the stitches of static electricity, which occasionally gathered and broke across her skin in discharges of white and blue. The vortex swirled her gently around the pedestal in a spiral, a movement that brought her within the aureole of the revolving flower form. The floral manifestation was pinkish, comprised of unfathomable dimensions and translucent in all aspects. She sensed a benign, yet unaccountably alien guidance and knew instantly what she had to do to unlock the ancient mechanism. Delicate tentacles of her own energy swirled from her hands, and when she brought her wrists together, these tendrils twined into a caduceus which entered the alien flower in the same way as the tongue of a butterfly. The contained force of the ancient form caught her emanations like ink in a whirlpool and she cried out in shock, feeling her energy suddenly reeled into a tremendous maelstrom. The astronaut saw her go rigid in the air, arms held out as though casting a spell. His spectral filter was unable to process the vast amounts of energy and now only showed white. He was forced to switch to a standard view of reality, only to find that she was spasming violently in the air, back arching unnaturally as her eyes rolled to the whites. He was unsure of whether or not to interfere, though some instinct reassured him that she was still somehow in control of the situation. Taty felt her consciousness expand, as tentacles of her energy sucked recklessly out into the great grand prix of the energy circuit. These tendrils elongated into unimaginably fine filaments, spanning hundreds of miles in an instant, whipping around the spiral tower, through every floating pyramid and back to Paradise Discothèque in a heartbeat. She sensed her perception following this course, riding out in unthinkable velocities over the jungle, through the pinball machine of the Necropolis to plug back into her. It was an indescribable experience, to be aware of each structure in this way. Every stone of every pyramid felt, for a moment, like her very own flesh. She could track the subtlest movement of each plant along the path of the energy band, the awareness of each animal, the placement of each stone. From somewhere far above this vortex of sensory data, her mind knocked frantically at the door of herself. She sensed that unless she broke the circuit immediately, her sno-globe would be irreperably absorbed into this fabulous relay of kinetic fascination, upended like a thimble into a fast-forward river. She concentrated what attention she could on the flowery shape, feeling her minute filaments wrap and weave into every aspect of its form with each turn of the circuit. It was easy for her to twist it all apart after that, dropping a spanner into a machine that had been running smoothly for countless millennia. The flower form froze like a star, separating into a million petals, which instantly severed her connection with the circuit. All of a sudden her cosmic consciousness of the jungle and pyramids was lost irretrievably. She felt herself shuddering back into her sno-globe with a jolt, watching as the highway of energy snapped like some immense rubber band. It whipped off over the horizon, reeling back toward the Necropolis in an instant. Taty awoke from her trance state, realizing that the whiplash would strike Paradise Discothèque at any moment. She tumbled to the ground as gravity suddenly reinstated itself. The shock of reality hit her with the ground. All of a sudden, it was dawn and she was naked on the stone floor of the high pavilion, covered in goose pimples. The featureless pedestal had begun to retract into the floor, filling the air with a dull grating. Without it, the featureless globular confines of the high pavilion began to take on the qualities of a birdcage. The astronaut came up behind and draped the towel around her shoulders, helping her to her feet.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
She glanced up at him in confusion, her eyes shining gold as her vision flipped back and forth.
“Hold on to something,” she warned, just as the sirens began to boom.
Perimeter alarms had been tripped by sudden seismic tremors. Flocks of birds and pterodactyls poured out into the morning light, spooked by the noise. Their panicky forms scattered through the air as they fled the structures. A low rumble sounded from far below and the astronaut backed off to the pillars, feeling the entire structure shiver beneath his boots. The ever-present hum of the pyramids suddenly intensified to a low frequency din. The sound caused Taty clap her hands to her ears in reflex, an action that did little to numb the deep buzzing which travelled through stone and flesh alike. The sound passed quickly enough though, vanishing entirely, leaving a massive gap in the familiar acoustics of the place. The astronaut turned to see one of the pyramids shudder against the dawn. The nest systems of the pterodactyls atop began to crumble and slide down the sides, prompting mass panic amongst the flying beasts. All of a sudden, you could tell that it had lost its buoyancy. It hung sickeningly in the air for a moment, before falling in a sort of slow motion, trailing shafts of dust and debris. They watched it crash deafeningly into the outer courtyards, cleaving in half as it struck the trees and broke apart. Taty watched in disbelief while a cloud of dust began to fountain from the crash site, swarming up the walls, swallowing balconies and terraces. She braced for the impact of the dust cloud, but found herself pulled to the floor, as the entire mass of Paradise Discothèque uprooted like a tooth, jerking suddenly up above the trees. The displacement of air sucked the dust cloud back down and she glimpsed the massive entrance sign falling, slipping into the churn. You could hear people and animals screaming as the next pyramid unmoored and fell disastrously into the chaos below. Its fall boosted Paradise Discothèque even higher, through some strange psychic displacement. Taty watched in amazement as the horizons slipped and the jungle fell away. She crawled to the edge and observed a staggering airbourne view of the destruction. The bottom parts of the immense structure trailed soil and debris into the gaping chasm as distant figures rushed across rooftop plazas and balconies in panic. The remaining pyramids fell together, lifting the temple to a staggering height. The people in the surrounding jungle heard the noise from miles around and came from their dwellings to see the spiral structure lifted high above the trees like some gigantic airship. Its underside was an inverted stone spiral, made up of causeway walls, dark with dirt and tapering to a rounded point. Water vented from severed pipelines, showering the area below with a rain of muddy effluvium. It was like some great, golden beehive in the sky, shining brightly in the rays of dawn, which had not yet reached the canopy of trees. Stricken people clung to the walls of fractured passages, falling occasionally to the receding canopy. Couches and cars spilled out into the sunlight. All manner of objects rained down in a bizarre slow motion, entering the cloud of dust wherein spiked the rubble of the pyramids, now proved to be nothing more than telekinetic ballast for the central structure. Somebody witnessed a crocodile tumbling above the trees. They watched in fascination as it plunged through the upper layers of a hardwood, entangling itself in vines halfway down. Below, in the dingy, subterranean barracks, guards had awoken in their bunk beds, roused by the great noises. They fled as the flagstones in the floor loosened, letting in shafts of sunlight. Some made it to the door, where they glimpsed the long room falling apart, spilling stone cubes down into the forest like children’s toys. All about the place was riot and calamity, and Taty clung to a pillar above it all, wild eyed, with the sun in her hair. Once the four pyramids had fallen, the ascension leveled out. Paradise Discothèque rose as smoothly as a balloon, gathering strength from the Necropolis, which had only now begun to disintegrate.
The bird people had sensed a gathering hum in the pyramids and fled to the upper tree line where they witnessed the first of the structures begin to tumble and fall. Cubes of weathered stone began to roll like dice through the decayed boulevards, smashing arches and colonnades, instantly leveling structures that had stood for a thousand years or more. One by one, the pyramids dislodged and fell, radiating outward from the center of their swastika formation in a corona of destruction. Some of the larger structures even punched abyssal clefts through to the subterranean labyrinths of the Lost Quarter, letting in sun where before there had been none. A biblical cloud of dust was raised, distributing outward through the ruins, like some fabulous undersea creature. This wall of obscurity reached the bird-masked people like a ghostly pall. It invaded the jungle in an impenetrable cloud, within whose gyre could be discerned the distant, ceaseless explosions of falling masonry.
Taty clung to her pillar, staring in disbelief at the jungle, which had now flattened out to a distant emerald sheet. She could not believe they had risen so quickly into the silences of the upper reaches. Here the air was clean and dry, the light piercingly bright. Gusts of wind travelled through the pavilion, forcing her to keep a tight hold on her towel. The astronaut came up beside her and handed her a futuristic pair of binoculars, pointing out a faraway patch of paleness against the endless green. She gazed through the device and saw that it was the Necropolis. Many pyramids were still afloat, piercing through a veil of dust, which was slowly rising, wafting outward like milk in coffee. She observed in amazement as pyramids dropped, one by one into this fugue, transferring their energy to Paradise Discothèque. She was watching spectacle unfold when a chilly whiteness stole across the lenses to blind her. She removed the binoculars from her face, only to discover that they had passed into a low cloud. It was cold and soundless within the nebulous mass. The acoustics took on a cotton-wool closeness, which made everything seem to reduce in size. She could barely see the opposite end of the pavilion where the astronaut stood against the murk, his gold visor shining like a beacon.
Down on the pool decks a lifeguard was panicking, running through the misty cloud while bikini girls screeched indecipherable insults at him from across the patios. The water in all the pools swayed drunkenly, from side to side, like an overflowing cup. It had splashed everywhere, sliding off the distant edges into space. A poodle was yapping hysterically from a fountain. On the tables, some of the luncheon lobsters had begun to move, revived by the moistness of the cloud. Within the lounges, cinematic windows gazed out onto glowing whiteness. Gamblers and hangover harpies stood speechlessly against the glass while waiters in full livery ran about like headless chickens. A peacock fluttered squawking through the rooms while glass crashed and tinkled. Then suddenly, without any warning whatsoever, the whiteness fell away and the chambers were flooded with a crystalline, high altitude light. A vista of blinding white clouds revealed itself dramatically, sprawling out towards a dreamscape of contorted cumulonimbus formations. These gigantic clouds reached their hammerhead pillars upward, into a bright blue firmament, scratched over with cirrus smears and patches of roaming whiteness. Pendulous top-heavy mushrooms of vapour, towered above these ceaseless canyons and arroyos of whiteness, leaving those who observed staggered and silent. A rush of wind unexpectedly rocked the structure and everyone had to catch their balance. Entire bar areas smashed apart as hundreds of bottles toppled and fell, filling the air with the pungent aroma of a thousand cocktails. A swarm of bright parakeets flew unexpectedly through the lounges and hallways, escaping into the clouds via broken windows and ruined walls. All the open doors swung drunkenly as the temple tilted again, swayed by sudden surges of wind. Entire galleries of statues toppled and smashed, their heads and arms rolling through the passages while people scampered to avoid them. Taty was staring speechlessly, watching as the towers of cloud rushed past, as though viewed from an ascending elevator. It was now icy in the open air, despite the bright sunlight. The astronaut had grabbed hold of her as the winds began to bluster and she clung awkwardly to his arm while cumulonimbus giants rose and fell by the wayside. Wisps of paleness lashed through the pavilion as they wafted eerily through stray areas of cloud. Stray sparkles of frost had begun to glint along the stone, lending the pavilion the appearance of a sparkling cake. Her feet and hands were long since numb and she felt her teeth begin to chatter uncontrollably.
“You should put some clothes on,” the astronaut pointed out. “Its already below zero.”
“I can’t leave now!” she clattered, pointing excitedly at the clouds.
Yet, it was scary for her, to see those puffy leviathans beginning to shrink slowly beneath them. She gazed out over the cotton wool mindscapes of the cloud layer, watching the polystyrene magic of it all slip away as they climbed steadily higher into frigid, unadulterated space.
“Go back to the bathroom and press the yellow button,” the astronaut said. “A pressure lock with unseal, leading to a storage facility. You’ll find your spacesuit in there – I had it made up some time ago.”
“Fucking A!” she whooped, shivering uncontrollably and grinning despite the fact that she had turned a subtle shade of blue.
She rose and crossed the pavilion, huddled ineffectively in her soft towel.
“Back in a tic tac toe!” she called, yanking open the airlock and scampering down into the corridor of reliefs.
She ran all the way, scooting down staircases in a mad frenzy, sprinting down the black tiles with her towel trailing from her upraised hand like a flag of triumph. She emerged into the bathroom, panting heavily and thumbed the yellow button. A rectangular section of the wall protruded with a clank and hum, revealing a similarly tiled walk-in closet. She entered and poked around gleefully. Several spacesuits, identical to the one the astronaut wore, hung like dead versions of himself. Only one of these spares had a Smiley Face etched onto their visor and she guessed that many remained unused. Oxygen tanks hung beside silk dressing gowns and Turkish slippers preserved in airtight glass capsules. White linen suits, leather shoes, striped flannel pajamas and a pith helmet all offered tantalizing glimpses into the man behind the suit. It was strange for her to even imagine that there was a person in there. She walked deeper into the large space and found four smaller spacesuits hanging at the back. She was delighted to see that these suits had been designed differently to the astronaut’s, plated with an alloy, which had been given a sugary glitter-pink finish. Large fishbowl helmets dangled like bright candy pearls, their glass gleaming with a reflective blue-green finish. The metallic fly-green of the bubble visors contrasted quite intensely with the shimmery candy of the suits and made her nod in approval. He had obviously wanted to make her happy with her suit and had something created which he believed she would like. She was impressed and gave the suit her full stamp of approval. That said, she clambered naked into the nearest suit. Webbing adhered to her form within, holding her in place and offering plenty of mobility. The suit sensed that she was inside it and activated automatically. Lights began to flash along in inner and outer lining. She had to attach the gauntlets separately, once the suit was in place. Mechanisms locked them in place as soon as her hands were within the comfortable inner gloves. Digital readouts began to flutter along wrist panels, showing the status of various life-support units. She grabbed one of the helmets and crossed back to the door. She found out very quickly that the suit was ridiculously heavy. She emerged from the closet like a pink beetle and pressed the yellow button again, sealing the closet with a hiss of pressurized gas. She then hit the white button and doused the spherical vault in gloom. She was about to exit when a tinny scratching made her stop in her tracks. The shower globe was a remarkably quiet chamber and the sound felt immediately foreign to her. She stepped back out onto the ledge and looked down, sensing that the sound had emanated from the chrome lipped hole. More scratching and scuffling leaked up at her and she quickly pressed the white button, turning it up to full capacity to flood the tiled sphere in a galactic light. She quickly realized that something was moving in the pipe. A long, pale arm quested unexpectedly from the sloping tube, clutching at the lip with long, needle tipped digits. She let out a piercing shriek as the distorted, blank-faced head of the dead god emerged from the chromium hole. It began to coil out quickly across the tiles, its segmented spine flexing nauseatingly in the surgical glare. Taty turned and fled, up the endless shaft, hopelessly hampered by the restrictive bubblegum spacesuit. The helmet slipped from her grasp, bouncing and skittering across the tiles ahead of her as she struggled to heave her titanium-soled boots. At that point, she turned her head and saw the god emerging into the corridor. It was so massive that it took up half the passage and had to remain crouched to avoid scraping the ceiling. The sight of it jolted her into a nightmare of adrenalin and she yelled out in fear as it hunched down low, galloping fluidly toward her. She stumbled and fell in panic, sliding across the tiles with her arms thrown over her head. Horrible visions of Appleseed’s pterodactyl mutilated body filled her mind as she skittered and scrabbled for purchase. She was still screaming intensely when she felt the god pass above like a wind. It sidestepped her neatly and accelerated on down the passage. She lay where she was, sobbing in an absurd combination of relief and confusion, watching the deity recede, until it had vanished entirely around a far corner. An instinctive realization occurred to her and she began to scrabble up, suddenly aware of what was happening. She began shouting uselessly for the astronaut as she ran, scooping up her helmet as she fought to bridge the gap.
It took her a few minutes to reach the lounge where she paused for breath, perspiring profusely from her efforts in the suit. Ice caked all the massive windows in fractal formations and she could see that they had already ascended beyond the feathery cirrus formations and into the immeasurable blue distances of the upper stratosphere. She did not tarry and rushed as quickly up the spiral stairs as quickly as she could. In the screens of control booth, she glimpsed many scenes of ice ravaging the interiors of Paradise Discothèque. Freezing winds blew crockery and furniture out into the void. Already she could see the blue outside deepening to the indigo of the ionosphere, those great bands of terminal distance where no wind ever blew. The airlock leading to the corridor of stone reliefs had closed automatically and she pulled it open without thinking. A blast of icy pressure sucked her almost a quarter of the way up the corridor without warning. Her helmet also flew out of her hands, travelling ahead of her. She tried to scream but found that she was unable to draw breath. The air was too thin and hurt her throat with its merciless coldness. The entire corridor was sparkling white with frozen condensation and she slid and skittered across this glittering wonderland, clutching at her throat in panic. Light attachments hung like frost blasted branches overhead while she struggled against the inrush. Ice flakes were already beginning to form across the suit, as her skin grew numb. The blinding overture to an ice cream headache had begun to blossom, aided by oxygen deprivation. She glimpsed the airlock slamming behind her and flustered crazily for it. Luckily, the sealing of the lock equalized the pressure and her helmet came bouncing back down the slope. She grabbed it and rammed it over her head a few times, struggling to get all her hair in so that it could seal properly. She was running out of breath when the helm clicked satisfactorily into place. It was a peculiarly unnatural sensation to enclose her head when she felt that she was suffocating, but she had learned to hold it together in a car crash and pressed on. A green light flashed and warm air began to gush reassuringly into the glass bubble. Her skin started to tingle ferociously as it thawed and she could suddenly hear herself gasping and gulping in confinement. De-misting vents cleared the condensation in an instant while digital readouts began to flicker across the interior of the glass. A speaker system kicked in and she could suddenly hear her surroundings in stereoscopic clarity: the distant hiss of escaping air, the grinding of frozen stone and the sound of metal objects striking one another in the chaos without. She pulled herself to her knees as her breathing evened, struggling to raise herself up. Once on her feet, she began lope up the long passage, trying as best as she could not to slip on the ice particles, which frosted over everything in a shimmering patina.
She could hear them smashing against the pillars before she even emerged through the lock. The god was whipping about its sacred chamber, attempting to gain a hold on the astronaut, whose defense mechanisms delivered powerful psychotronic shocks wherever contact with the suit was made. The results left them hopelessly entangled, with blinding rainbow discharges issuing constantly from the suit. The shielding seemed to create an electromagnetic force field, which repelled the clutches of pale, reptilian claws and spines much the same way as two opposing magnets repel one another. The result left him slipping chaotically between the whipping coils like a bar of soap. It was maddening to see and obviously damaging to him. He was attempting to fight back with concentrated bolts of psychotronic energy delivered from his palms, but the god was too quick and massive: a vast spool of pale musculature, which writhed endlessly. It was clear that he would not last long despite his clever mechanisms. Outside, the measureless vista of pure blue was already darkening into the radiant blackness of outer space. The frozen battlements of Paradise Discothèque had tuned into that high-resolution clarity peculiar to a lack of atmosphere. They stood out in cut-glass detail against the hazy glow of the planet below, seeming almost hyper-real in their crispness of form. Clouds roiled across the luminous span of the world beneath, much like the milkshakes of energy she had seen in sno-globes, except far slower, as though existing within a larger time-frame. Iced beach umbrellas, deck chairs, freeze-dried waiters, pets, sofas, champagne bottles and countless other objects joined the crusts of ice scaling from the rising leviathan. This debris fell like glitter, flowering back into the ionosphere like pollen from a monstrous orchid. The astronaut’s voice came suddenly into her helmet, cut with crackling and strained with effort.
“Get back inside!” he was yelling. “I can’t hold it off for long!”
A magical moment followed where the gravity became noticeably lessened. The god’s coils spooled outward, relaxing and filling the space like an art nouveau detailing. Their struggle seemed to pause as both figures acclimatized to their new sphere of balance. Taty also felt herself float above the ground and reached madly for the airlock handle. Her flailing arm only tipped her into a graceful somersault and she almost sailed off the pavilion entirely had it not been for a nearby carving of the god, whose blank face she was able to grab a hold of. She re-oriented herself as the figures began clashing once more, their exchanges spinning them faster and faster within the globular space. They began to create a slippery maelstrom of forms, as though trapped in a whirlpool. The blue without had become deep purple and a kaleidoscope of stars was visible, gleaming like the solid chips of an unimaginably vast and shattered diamond. The sizelessness of it all somehow calmed her, lending her a moment of perspective. She knew what she had to do as they entered the vacuum. She drew her perceptive faculties back toward the spectral realm and the blackness of space suddenly became a rainbow spectrum of nebulous forms and hues. Incalculably immense planes of colour struck and melted into one another across the galactic distances, saturating the vaults with celestial iridescence. She was dumbstruck, but had the good sense to concentrate her attention on the figures before her. Their sno-globes had distorted, like white blood cells attempting to devour one another. The astronaut’s was relatively normal in comparison to the many spheres of energy she had seen, but the sno-globe of the dead god was an entirely different affair. It was massive and seethed with countless bubbles of energy, much like a matrix of cells or a cluster of frogspawn. She drifted closer and was able to discern tiny humanoid forms encapsulated within each of these cells. She became startled by the realization that the bubbles were in fact all the sno-globes upon which the god had feasted over the centuries. The energy bodies had not been consumed after all, merely compressed and stored in miniature form, bereft of their long-dead physical frames. Taty did not allow herself to be distracted and instead scanned through the cellular formations, to the ectoplasmic infrastructure of the god’s globe. She found what she was looking for and reached out her hand, throwing a pseudopod of extended energy deep into the clusters of compressed sno-globes. She wrapped her tendril about a spongy, frilled formation and in one sharp movement, decapitated it. The effect was instant and explosive. The entire sno-globe retracted, much like a collapsing star before a supernova. The physical form of the god rapidly untangled, whipping itself into a perfect circle. Its tail twined about its upper regions to create a spiny ourobouros, which fitted perfectly within the globular confines of the high pavilion. It was a display which demonstrated the design of the chamber clearly. It had been constructed with the precise intention of containing the god in this form. Taty and the astronaut had stopped moving, struck by the vision of the god in its state. When the deity began to spin within its chamber the astronaut immediately reached out for Taty, but was too late. The curve of the god-ring struck her unexpectedly, knocking her past the pillars and out into space. Her screams were deafening within the claustrophobic confines of the helmet, further intensified by the sheer lack of sound feeding back through the deactivated speakers. Space was like being locked in a tiny room, forced to watch herself on the largest screen in the universe. Now she watched in panic as the pavilion slewed away from her kicking boots at crazy gradients, her choked breathing harshly amplified in her ears. She was tumbling erratically, high above the roof terraces. These platforms rapidly fell away and she saw the walls stretching down in a moment of suicidal perspective before spinning out over the far edge and into the void. A moment of indescribably vertigo struck her in the stomach as she flailed helplessly above the vivid surface of the planet, watching in horror as Paradise Discothèque drew further and further afield. The astronaut meanwhile had escaped the pavilion, in an attempt to avoid the god, who had now begun to whirl like an uncontrollable centrifuge. Its external features had begun to blur together into a sort of pale sphere as it accelerated faster and faster within the fitted form of the stone pavilion. The astronaut turned and saw that Taty had diminished, to a tiny, flailing form, thrashing against the glowing fields above the planet. He acted quickly, unlatching a slim metal cable from a ratchet-loom in his waist rig and locking it around a nearby pillar by means of a titanium carabena. He quickly threw up a map of vectors, which calculated a flurry of gradients, projected along the inner glass of his visor. Once a course locked, he diverted the co-ordinates to his pressure booster unit and felt an array of nozzles swivel and orient about him. The blast jolted his entire body and he suddenly found himself propelled outward at high velocity with the metal cable unreeling neatly behind. The stony parapets of Paradise Discothèque wafted dreamily underfoot as he passed quickly above them, entering the space beyond. He hadn’t had enough time to calculate the necessary boost and simply pushed the mini-thrusters to their limit. It was far more important to get the launch trajectory correct and that had taken up more time than he was comfortable with under the circumstances. It was always strange estimating speed in space, he found, as there was no way to tell how fast you were moving without relative objects to gauge against. His only hope was that he would not overshoot her, as he had burned all his fuel in an attempt to catch up. The suit thrusters had been designed for minimal movement in a vacuum, not for launching out after high-speed objects. The astronaut quickly uncapped the opposite end of the metal cable and armed its magnetic catch-lock. Thus prepared, he readied himself for the flailing pink form, which grew closer and closer in his line of sight.
Neither of them saw the moon verandah’s roofing begin to open. The velocity of the spinning god had created a force, which activated some ancient architectural mechanism. The roofing and pillars all began to blossom outward at equidistant gradients, much like a flower’s petals extending. These various pieces of masonry separated from one another and continued to extend outward into space, detaching entirely to leave the platform bare, save for the pillar supports and sunken entrance to the corridor of reliefs. The god meanwhile had become an almost solid sphere of velocity. Spectral light seethed about it like St Elmo’s fire, saturating its form in a halo of pale fire, which gathered steadily in intensity. This build-up of energy seemed to attain some form of critical mass at a certain point and ghostly humanoid figures began to spew out of it at an alarming rate. The spinning was somehow decompressing the sno-globes contained with the god, releasing them as ectoplasmic doubles of their former selves. These translucent ghost forms comprised people of every possible description who had been harvested over the ages by the dead god: Colonial explorers, sacrificial victims, reptile people, warrior chieftains of long extinct tribes, cat people, lost children, bird headed jungle Indians and a plethora of others, some indescribable. The figures flooded out in streams, as though underwater, tumbling in spectral profusion, collecting in a growing cloud, high above the turning god. The ghosts began to turn when they saw the great moon shining through them. They all faced it, separating like curdling milk, linking wrists and ankles to create a sort of order out of their cloud of protoplasmic chaos, much like bacteria breeding under a microscope.
The astronaut came up toward her much faster than he had anticipated. He slammed the magnetic cable lock against her abdominal plate and activated the reel-back mechanism with a flick of his thumb. Unfortunately, the disparate velocities tore the belt rig that secured the cable device to him. Without anything to hold him in place, the inertia caused him to overshoot before he had time to react. She had just enough time to glimpse herself reflected in his Smiley Face before he was gliding away from her at tremendous speed. She reached out her hands to him, only to feel herself jerked backwards by the metal cable. She was being reeled back toward the safety of Paradise Discothèque like a fish, held fast by the magnetic lock.
“Don’t leave me!” she shrieked at the shrinking, turning figure.
But, despite her wails, the reel-back had already lengthened the gap between them dramatically. Combined with his uncontrollable speed, it only heightened the uselessness of the situation. He was already nothing more than a glinting speck, vanishing into the luminous curvature of the planet.
The spinning and steady loss of souls had caused the god to shrink rapidly. Spectral figures still fountained out of it at a seemingly unstoppable rate, and within this self-perpetuated vortex, the god was already only about half its size. Above the pavilion, the ghosts had begun to extrude a tendril of their linked bodies. This structure of wrist and ankle bound ghosts stretched ten figures across, unfolding a strange highway out toward the distant moon. This highway formed rapidly from the gathering nebula of souls and shocked Taty into silence when she saw the moon shining through their jelly-like cloud of transparent bodies. The rate of bodies spewing out of the god had, by now attained a white water velocity. They jetted out like bubbles from a Jacuzzi, expanding into their full forms like popcorn on a hotplate. She found herself reeled in toward this boiling cluster at an alarming rate. Already the cloud above Paradise Discothèque had attained gigantic proportions, shadowing most of the roof terraces in an underwater play of shifting shadows. The ancient stone walls loomed up to meet her and she was suddenly soaring over the pool decks, into the outer corona of floating bodies. She stared in fascination as a glassy hunter in feathers drifted by. Their eyes made contact and Taty realized that they were still conscious, only somehow programmed like drones to fulfill their celestial roadwork. All manner of these jelly-like characters began to pass her, like enormous fairground balloons. She went straight through an old man and was surprised to find that they were semi-solid, comprised of some ectoplasmic jelly. She glanced back to see the man re-forming in her wake, oblivious to his temporary dismemberment. She entered the gushing rapids of this river of souls and the sounds and sensation of their many impacts across her suit was like being pelted with a hundred water balloons a second. The cable wound her inexorably through this tumult, locking back into itself at the pillar. She unlocked the release mechanism after a moment of fiddling, but kept the magnetic lock engaged and the cable secured around the pillar, lest she lose her footing and blow back out into space. She began to lean into this waterfall of gelatinous bodies, trying to penetrate into the eye of the hurricane. Fate came to her unexpectedly and she glimpsed the face of Alphonse. Their eyes met only for the briefest instant before he was lost in the writhing mass of forms. Yet, despite this, the impact upon her was huge. A massive funnel of guilt and possible salvation seemed to glint within her and she felt a renewed vigor. The onslaught of souls was diminishing. Already it was more like being in a shoal of jellyfish than a river rapid. Within moments, they had dissipated altogether, floating upward like helium balloons, to gather in their mass, refracting the gold of the moon within the silver of their bodies. The god was turning slowly in the geometric center of the empty pavilion. It had shrunk to the dimensions of a large kitten as the last remaining souls oozed from it, popping out into shape and ascending, leaving it dazed and spinning. Taty bounced up towards the creature and took it in her hands. It felt loose and sleepy, half conscious after its ordeal.
“When did you get so cute?” she clucked, tucking it under her arm and swimming for the corridor entrance.
The airlock was still open and it was chaos inside the corridor. Tablets of stone had dislodged, knocking soundlessly against loose instruments and dysfunctional birds of paper. She struggled down the passage, pushing aside bobbing blocks of masonry and paraphernalia, squeezing past obstructions in a peculiar underwater miasma of floatation. It took her several minutes but she finally made it to the opposite airlock. She ‘put down’ the god in mid-air and opened the ‘WARNING’ panel to reveal the PURGE and RELEASE levers. Without thinking, she pulled down on the RELEASE control. An explosion of escaping pressure blasted her backward violently as loose items began to suck out after her: bottles from the mini bar, papers and pencils all swarmed out of the airlock, smashing against her with the intensity of arrows. Frozen air also gushed out in blinding shafts of vapour. Luckily, there was so much heavy debris in the passage that the large stone fragments quickly created a jam at the far end, much like a clog in a drain. The pressure momentarily equalized and Taty was able to scuffle back toward the automatically closing airlock. She snagged Devoid who was still spinning in a dazed fashion and pulled herself along the railing with all her might. Some chairs had jammed in the airlock, preventing it from closing properly. She managed to squeeze past to find that an emergency seal had closed just beyond, preventing any further loss of cabin pressure. She disengaged the magnetic cable-head, cleared the chairs and climbed into the narrow space between the airlock and the metal seal, breathing heavily from her exertions. She was eventually able to close the airlock from the inside and found herself crunched into the sardine can space between. This time she pulled the PURGE lever. A red light came on as the area depressurized. Within moments, the light burned green and the emergency seal overrode. It cranked up and she floated back into the control booth in triumph, her little god still under her arm. Outside the stone tablets relaxed their vicious clog. The pressure dropped, and everything in the corridor reverted to a dreamy floatation.
The nimbus of souls above Paradise Discothèque had shrunk visibly as their highway knitted outward. The clarified, diamond light illuminated the figures, as each soundlessly pivoted to grasp one another’s wrists and ankles. Within a few hours, their work was complete and a shining, quilted road stretched from the head of Paradise Discothèque, reaching a finger into the unknown.