In the Philosophical City

The next time we rendezvous it is by assignation in the Philosophical City. The venue is a church hall during an amateur performance of a play by Alan Ayckbourn. It's a fund raiser for the local school in that particular part of town and they're serving dinner as well as presenting the show. A three course meal. We meet in the dusky fragrant shadow of the brick Romanesque church, go in and take our places front and centre. There are carafes of sweet white wine and plastic jugs of red cordial on the tables. Soft white buns wrapped in tissue paper. We are drinking red not white wine and making surreptitious conversation while the lumpen food is served and eaten. First thing to notice is that our waiters are also the performers in the play. Second thing is that they are much better at being themselves than anyone else. Why would you try to make a suburb of the Philosophical City congruent with London, England, circa 1972? Besides they all yell. We leave during the first interval and go in the warm night air to a nearby speakeasy, on the way meeting Rex with a carton of Woodstock bourbon and coke under his arm and a pack of Winfield Red in the top pocket of his monogrammed shirt. The three of us repair to a balcony and begin our discussion. Hitler had some good ideas, says Rex, like the Volkswagon. But he was ruined by hatred. If only they'd let him into that Art School in Vienna. We come from water, to water we will return, Samsara observes. I don't disagree but say we are just as likely to freeze as to drown: all previous Ice Ages seem to have been introduced by a short, intense period of global warming. None of us trust scientists because they do not trust intuition and have never, eg, worked out why sometimes we know things that we cannot rationally know. This leads on to talk of dreams and Samsara says they are of three kinds: retrospective, quotidian and prophetic and that it is important to distinguish between the different modes. We drink all the bourbon and coke but do not smoke every cigarette. Rex goes off to his lost kingdom leaving Samsara and me together. She comes close so that I can smell her perfume: Shalimar? I ask. No, she whispers, Poison. By Christian Dior. Now, take both my hands in yours and close your eyes, I'm going to show you something. I do as she asks, feeling a scarcely bearable trembling in my chest. There is a sound like cascading bells falling and then what I can only describe as a whirling circular wind. Then, blackness. When she says open your eyes, and I do, we are in The Thousand Ruby Galaxy, on a planet in one of the Outer Arms that I know is her planet. Two violet suns in the sky and the lake glinting through the turquoise trees is the colour of onyx. When I look down at my body I see skeined about me the fine web spun by the accumulation of karma, shimmering like a silken veil or perhaps a shroud. Samsara's web is more delicate, more a fabric of air than my blood and soil. These webs or chains are not static, they twist and writhe, skein and unskein, constantly mutable and when I see that our two cocoons, if such they are, have reached out to entangle themselves in each other I am suddenly afraid and my craven fear breaks the spell. I come to sitting at a bustop in blinding sunlight in the same suburb of the Philosophical City. It is Sunday. There are dusky drinkers in the golden light of the Great Northern Hotel across the road, bees in the clover, yellow flowers on a gone-to-seed head of broccoli amongst the corn and beans and tomatoes in a kitchen garden. A baby fig. No-one much around. I stand in the shade of a paperbark tree reading a book about Paraguay until a bus comes to take me away from there. Leaving is like tearing the plaster off a wound in the heart.


working man's paradise

More's Utopia was on an island hacked off of its peninsula; here in the working man's paradise they have reversed the process, reattaching the island to the main via a long causeway. It was built by convicts and took thirty-eight years to complete: they worked night and day, in all weathers, and many were lost to the sea. I leave the Amethyst Room with the sound of the lamentation of the Trojan women still beating in my ears and go down the steep streets to the railway station, tripping on the same loose stone outside the Philosophical Institute as I did yesterday. There is an hour to wait before the train leaves so I decide to walk out along that causeway past the lighthouse and the weather station to its end. Although it is still early in the morning, the day is hot and will get hotter so I amble, taking my time. In the working man's paradise women and children go out to collect for charity in the blinding sunlight. Some on bicycles, some walking, some in wheelchairs or other contrivances. On this occasion the cause is diabetes and the uniform a canary yellow edged with bilious green. In the shade of an open tent a man lounges about the vast somnolence of his belly. Officers of St. John in their crisp black and white check the contents of their mendicant suitcases. Hedonists oil the skin of each other's backs. Behind, the city piles up on the hill like an unfinished monument to Moloch. I'm not far past the lighthouse when I see the first of the inscriptions carved into a massive cube of concrete. It is a declaration of love. The arduous labour of making it belied by the lucent simplicity of the message. As I go on I see more and more of these writings: many, indeed most, are philosophical, proclaiming the sanctity of freedom against the terror of the state, extolling the rights of man, praising the animals or denying god. It is like walking through a library of antiquity. Now I begin to see the reliefs, of ships and whales, of goddesses and demon lovers, of cities on hills and cities under water ... it is strange to think how these hieroglyphs were made, since it is clear enough that they are illicit and that the civic authorities would never countenance, not even in a working man's paradise, their anarchic inscription. These men and boys - I do not think many women or girls wrote here - must have been out at night with their lights and their tools, they must have heard the muttering of ocean and the crying of gulls as they tapped away with chisels and awls. Some of the more reckless have gone right down into the maw of the sea to chip their missives on sides falling almost perpendicular into the blue dark water below. Naturally they become more interesting the further out along the causeway I go but it is longer than I thought, my ambling start has cost me and now I do not know if I can get back to the station in time to catch my train. I reach the end, far out in the blue, and there are boys climbing down the rocks into the surf, calling out their daring in high clear voices. I round the curve and start back. The hieroglyphs blur, the letters writhe, they detonate under the hammer of the sun into siglas and vocables, occulted by the transfiguring light into mystery ... and then I see that the working man's paradise is not built in that baleful brick and sandstone pile up on the hill but out here among the tumbled rocks and concrete blocks, repossessed in the secret writing of the dispossessed, a template for another kind of city made over into dreams that will endure long after the walls and the towers have fallen, perhaps outlasting the lamentation of the women of Troy.



Samsara texts to say she will pick up the Keats in person ... or at least that's what I understand when I put the bits together and try to reconstitute what might have been in the many gaps. I think she lives in a parallel universe or some such and manifesting in this one is difficult and can only occur when windows of opportunity open. The venue is in another city and the time flexible within certain parameters. I catch the train and go there; but the closer I get the more erratic communication becomes and by the time I reach the rendezvous point in the Amethyst Room - blue and purple glass, rich carpets, a print from the Floating World - she is uncontactable and I have to assume I'm not getting her messages either. Not even fragments. I go for a walk around the district ... on Obelisk Hill there is a wedding in progress. Well, I think it is a wedding. Men in black with beers and wrap around shades, women in diaphanous pastel dresses. I feel like a spare prick there so I carry on. On the way down, a dead starling on the stairs, how did I miss that before? Iridescence fading already from its green dark feathers. They always make me think of birds in Hieronymus Bosch paintings. Across the road the bowling green has been invaded by weeds, the club house is derelict and broken-windowed, you can see the blue sea beyond where big freighters are waiting to load up dirty coal. The epidemiology lab over the way is a round rusting corrugated iron spaceship, there are crystalline bio-organisms mutating in rifts in the concrete of the defunct launchpad. I climb up to Christ Church on a seaward slope of the hill, a vast haunted red brick pile from 1902. The old graves around the back are jammed up against the fence, the legends mostly unreadable. Many died young. Several of them bear my name. I would like to think that their ghosts go with me back down the hill past the Victorian courthouse and the brutalist police station but no. I'm in the Grand, listening to a reggae band singing Mysterious Girl, watching the cricket from India and working my way through a half way decent cabernet when she comes around in her private world of white / unearthly force descending out of light / into the Romantic south. Once the dazzle clears I realise she is different from before; her eyes no longer violet but obsidian black and glinting with mischief or glee; her skin even whiter than I remember; tattooed across one shoulder a tracery of pale red flowers that seems to be moving. She laughs and says that tattoos in her world are 3D and kinetic and a shadow of her latest must have come across with her. As she adjusts her black lacy top to conceal it, I push the Keats across the table and ask why? The gold letters on the spine flare slightly as she takes the book in hand but doesn't open it. Some things are proscribed, she explains, in my world, they make us feel too much. I heard that Moksha had someone else banished for reading Keats and so began to wonder who he was. She seems nervous as she says this and indeed the time we spend together is interrupted several times by messages that she has to take and then work to ignore: as if they (who?) are on her trail but I don't say anything about that, I'm simply delirious that we're together. At the restaurant the food is delectable and the wine umbrageous, it really is. She takes a spatchcock in her hands and rips the delicate flesh from the bones with her white teeth. My entree is calamari, a single tube stuffed with meat croutons and looking like a sperm whale's tooth; no, a penis she remarks just as my knife slices off the head. We laugh and that's how it goes for a while but they're getting too close and we can't stay for dessert or coffee. Outside in the gloom we're crossing the road when a bus comes round the corner and she says quick, let's get on. We are the only passengers riding like Lord and Lady Muck down Glebe Street. It is six years, she confides, since I found anyone willing to let me come across like this. In the smoking room she touches with the palms of her hands the fine curling outspread points of my hair as if restoring my aura, all the time whispering soft, so soft ... I stand still in wonder and all the other reprobates and degenerates in there pause to watch as well. Later, after I walk her back up the hill to where we will part there is a moment in which, on that green slope of half dark grass, I bow as if I were indeed some kind of lord, she makes a graceful courtesy in return and then she's gone like she was never there at all. I'm just falling asleep in the Amethyst Room when a breeze from off the sea bells the curtains and in the brief light I watch across my naked shoulder a mazy pattern of pale red flowers falling.


The Autonomous Zone

Somehow we settle on text messages as a way of communicating. It isn't ideal, doesn't always work, messages don't always arrive or leave intact, what remains is often cryptic and always erratic ... but at least there's a reply button. She sends, apropos of what else I do not know: No rest for the saintly - Keats? I reply (not in my own words): ... queen / Of secrecy, the violet: what strange powers / Hast thou, as a mere shadow! But how great, / When in the Eye thou art, alive with fate! She comes back with: I am looking for a book of his - any or which may come my way - as it is it is to be. Next morning I wake up with a strong image in mind. Gold writing on a green spine. I go off to look for a car in a car yard in Ashfield and on the way pick up a copy of Baudelaire's Intimate Journals, translated by C. Isherwood with an introduction by W. Auden. Thence to Berkelouw Books in Leichhardt where in the second hand poetry section I find the actual volume: The Globe Edition of the Poetical Works of John Keats, London, Macmillan, 1941. First published in 1884 and edited by William T Arnold. It feels so peculiar to hold this dreamed of book in hand that I almost don't pay the $8.50 they're asking. No inscriptions. A Dymock's Book Arcade sticker inside the front cover that is worn and damaged. It has lain somewhere in the sun with another book on top of it, you can see the outline on the back. Just holding Keats' Poetical Works in your hand can make you weep, I don't know why. I do. I inscribe it to Samsara, write Bright Star on the flyleaf and will send it to her if I ever find out where she is now. It isn't The Thousand Ruby Galaxy. Or rather it is but where is that? ... city of stars / out beyond wolf howl / in the Autonomous Zone ...

I was Dad for a week when Issue 1 came out and did not properly engage with it. Was a few days before I learned that my name appears there along with thousands of others. Apart from the frisson of weirdness I felt seeing my veritable handle under words I did not write, and would never have written, I didn't really think anything except that they gave my second cousin Jacob Edmond a better poem and unaccountably missed including his father, cousin Murray. This is 'my' poem:

Palpating commingling

Palpating wool

Of attention
Of fear
Of gloom
Of commingling
Of love

Around the same time, exasperated with my sons' loud wrestling behaviour, I sent them out to run around the block and told them when they came back to write something about what they had seen. The older boy came up with this:

1. old guy farting down the pavement
2. 2 Asian boys laughing while walking down the street
3. tinkerbell seat covers
4. mother scolding 2 kids
5. hobo in an alley with a trolley

and followed it up with this:

Me and a hobo were staring at each other. The mango and the pear were good friends. The cat was in the jukebox. The wave had a waterworks problem. G force stands for George Force.

Wonder if I should contact the editors at forgodot.com re: submissions for Issue 2?


Enceladus from Cassini


Hotel Ibis

The shower capsule in my room at the Ibis was like a pod that could birth aliens or beam voyagers off planet. It was ovoid, self contained and when you sealed the door a bright white pitiless light illumined that faux and garish interior. It was late on the night of 16 May but I forget the year. I was standing naked in the pod looking at myself in a full length mirror. Blemishes and flaws I had not hitherto realised are mine crawled across the skin of my face and upper body, that bulbous balloon on two stick legs. Where did the skinny boy I was go? The lean adolescent, the cadaverous young man? Who was this aging blimp on the adipose edge of the universe. Well, perhaps ... I was more curious than repelled, scrutinising myself with new or other eyes; as if I'd never really seen exactly who I am before. It is no coincidence - and the fact that I did not know it at the time doesn't matter - that this was also the night I first met Samsara. It was outside the exercise yard of the old prison where we sat and watched a man eviscerate himself before the ghosts of his mother and his father. Starlight shone down through slats in the partially enclosed roof and water from a recent shower of rain pooled on the stone floor. The air full of whispers and oaths. Now the event was over people were crowding out and going but I was hanging around smoking with C, a fellow from the Western Lands I'd just met, when she and her friend R came out of the art opening they had been to and we started talking. She had violet eyes and very white skin. She told me her name and said it was the only one she ever had or ever would. Said she was from the Red River Shore. Looking past the bloody flux of the present into shades of the violent night, past or future, who could say. I wanted her to look at me, wanted to be seen by those violet eyes. Soon all four of us were down in the bar of the Crown Plaza eating antipasto and looking at the tattoos on the insteps of the feet of a young super model whose name I have forgotten: words of wisdom, words of praise that would go with her down the catwalks of this earth. Her party included drag queens and newly weds and old anniversary celebrants but we were somehow remote, already off-world. She gave me her card and it said Da Shealladh. Told me stories of her weapons training and said what that was like. Showed me her own tattoo that she got in the Black Hills out beyond Uch and Ferozepore. Said that firing a gun was exciting in the same way that being tattooed was. I told her what things are like on the planet I come from or at least I tried. When C said he had to go our foursome broke up and she drove me back to the Ibis and then disappeared in her little white podlike car down the long echoing street with its derelict buildings lining the banks of the forgotten river. I went up to my room, stripped, entered the pod and began my self examination. Karma, according to the Jains, does not mean deed or work or invisible mystical force but is material, actual, a complex of very fine matter more or less imperceptible to the senses that interacts with the soul ... what I saw that night was a shadow of that complex of very fine matter, part web, part aura, enclosing my body and entangled with my soul. I saw it and did not know if I want to cast it off or not. Knew that I wanted to entangle this entanglement, soul, body, karma, with Samsara. What I also did not and do not know is if this is a path of wisdom or of folly. Neither. Or both.



This despatch arrives unheralded from somewhere out beyond the Thousand Ruby Galaxy. It's a Zip File and when I open it I see the pixels in the revelatory act of transforming from code into words. The cover note is brief and says only: This might be part of the story you're looking for. S.

We lived in Sangala besides the river Hydraotes and watched through a mist of rain as foragers stripped the land on the further bank of everything that grew there. The king crossed the brown flooding water with his army of Greeks and Persians. We had parked wagons three deep before the city walls but they were smashed to bits by Alexander's phalanx. Then they built a double palisade to keep us in and began erecting the siege towers. We tried to break out but Ptolemy's army forced us back. Then Pontus, an Indian like us, came up with fresh troops and more elephants. Before the towers were even completed our walls, undermined, began to fall. After that, the rapes and the slaughter. It rained the whole time, so that bloody horrors pooled bedraggled among the stones. Then the city was razed. I was taken by one of the hypaspists, a Macedonian, not a kind man. My first child killed at my breast. His father's bones in the muddy flood of the Hydraotes perhaps, or cracked under the feet of an elephant: I was never to know. We went south, thousands of us, following the army, walking over corpses and bones through the stripped fields to a blare of horns. They drank and fought, that is all. And marched. Somewhere near Rambaceia I put my cloak over my head and wrapped it around me and fell to the ground. By the yellow stinking way in the pouring rain. Nobody stopped to see, nobody tried to help: the dead that lie in the wake of an army go unburied. They are eaten by dogs. Vultures and crows. Rats. I lay until night came and then walked away east until I could not walk anymore. Still far from the sea. My milk dried up because I had no food. I forgot how to cry. I was curled up under my cloak at the side of the road, really dying this time, when the man found me there and raised me up and took me to his house. He was a Jain. A ford-builder, he had already crossed to the other side of sorrow, to the further shore from darkness, away from the uncreated world, that will last forever, where everything changes except your soul, which is all that you have and all you can lose. So he taught me and so I believe. I know the holy man as Moksha; and the daughter I bore to the Macedonian, whom I will not name, is called Samsara.


Light of Days

The accretion of karma continues, a preoccupation like living. Samsara is sometimes close as skin, at others far away as air. As if you didn't want to lose your accretion, as if that made you what you are. Were. The weight of the past light on your days. Light of your days. The nights: waking from a confusion of every dream you ever had. Searching for the path through that thicket. Futures flashing and gleaming on the horizon. Orichalcum. The metal lost to alchemy, antiquity and ... accretion. It wasn't so long ago that the names of gods were inscribed on pillars with their genealogy attested in living memory. Before Alexander they were distant and mysterious but afterwards attained a singularity that remains seductive. He must have arrogated to himself qualities both observed and misinterpreted by his drinking companions, generals, soldiers, mercenaries, camp followers. Anyone who demurred was killed. Even for an instant. When he marched his army back from the mouth of the Indus towards the west, all the camp followers - women and children mostly but not only - died of thirst and starvation along the desert coasts of the Sind. Samsara calls and calls but every time I pick up the phone I just hear silence. Cold calling from beyond the Sombrero Galaxy. Second sight is called nth sight among her people. She told me that before she faded. And that she cannot see a wound without the praxis of healing impinging. Nothing extra about her ESP. The thing is, since Iskander became a god there have been a million million pretenders. Not an exaggeration. Unfortunately. She must have been one who read the library banks for stories of the lost camp followers. Looking for a way to change what was: that is what is told about what was. Some of them must have drifted away into the yellow hills. Kept their children safe, raised them up. Discarded those coins with the profile of the god under a helmet made of an amputated elephant's head. To be picked up by the camp followers of new Alexanders two thousand and more years later. New Ayatollahs. Their relief almost rubbed out. Yes those past lives must be what she wants to save. Close as skin, air. Lose the accretion that made you. Light of days. Every dream you ever had. Calling.



A line from a poem I've been reading reverberates in my head: We don't know why / we cry out to saintgod / but our crying never stops. (Fq #22). It's because I can still hear Samsara ... and I don't know how to contact her anymore, her sigla's gone, the Sombrero Galaxy is 30 million light years away, how much further can further be? Further than despair, further than love, further than thought can take us ... or maybe not. Without using any of the available electronic devices I send an image. It has our approximate location (the yellow arrow) indicated though I'm not hopeful. An age of silence intervenes. I do other things - clean the bath, sweep the detritus of my days into a corner where I'll pick it up later, go for a walk, revise a piece of work ... the word count, 88,888, looks fortuitous but isn't. Infinity quintupled. Has to mean something. Or not. Perhaps I should go away the weekend after next? I'd need to book. Perhaps I should get in touch with my children. I do both ... then there's a Beep. It's faint, faraway, fugitive against the background noise of creation persisting at .0003 degrees through these cold wastes for billions of years. Yes? It's her. I am on the opposite side of sorrow, she wisps. The furtherest shore from darkness, I've crossed the grieving waters ... she sounds thin, dimuendoed, attenuated to the nth but she's still talking: Karma accretes around a soul, she sighs. Good or bad, it doesn't matter. Think plaque. On a tooth. Or dust on a highway stone. I am that accretion, you can lose me just like Moksha did, it's easy ... if a thousand thousand lifetimes is easy, I'm thinking as she fades. Hungry ghosts, lost souls, all the weight of worldly attachment go and come and go before my tipping mind. Alexander, who said he was a god, prostrate before oracles, vertiginous in the face of fate. No, I say (it's a holy no). Or, yes (holy too). I hear Samsara fade back in. Oh ... is all she says but I know that she can hear me. From the opposite side of sorrow, the furtherest shore from darkness. Lines from the same poem unexpectedly recur: how else do we know heavens except through reflected light? We remember the photons, the photons remember us, that’s as close to invisible as everything gets ... (#84). No, I say again. And, yes. We'll go to Luna Park and ride the Catherine Wheel. We'll have ourselves photographed with our heads poking through holes, wearing old-fashioned clothes and funny hats, we'll dodge each other on the Dodgems, we'll eat candy floss and fall over laughing in the Crazy House ... my voice comes and goes like static, like iron filings round a magnet, Samsara is the same, she goes and comes, she comes and goes, she'll never/always leave, eluding Moksha's interdiction she'll always ... never ... be ...



I prepare a text to send to Samsara. It's from Plutarch's Life of Alexander and comes from the period immediately before the Great King's death in Babylon. It seems to have some sort of relationship to the truth test software though exactly what I'm not entirely sure; but I think she will like it. Goes like this: When once Alexander had given way to fears of supernatural influence, his mind grew so disturbed and so easily alarmed that, if the least unusual or extraordinary thing happened, he thought it a prodigy or a presage, and his court was thronged with diviners and priests whose business was to sacrifice and purify and foretell the future. So miserable a thing is incredulity and contempt of divine power on the one hand, and so miserable, also, superstition on the other ... filling the mind with slavish fears and follies, as now in Alexander's case. But upon some answers being brought to him from the oracle ... he laid aside his sorrow and fell again to sacrificing and drinking ... The reply's pretty swift and it isn't from Samsara. A new voice. Your Previous Interlocutor, it says all grim and portentous, has been Retired. She was Adjudged to have Exceeded her Brief. Her Speculations regarding the Efficacy of our Method of Verification of Data were both Erroneous and Sacrilegious. We have Whirled her Far Beyond the Outer Arms, as Far as the Sombrero Galaxy or Further. Her Dishonourable Remark implicating the Andromedans may be Ignored: they are Loyal Allies. Your own System is not of Interest to Us and those who have been using your Brutish Lives as Entertainment will be Purged. They are Purveyors of Illusion. The Equivalent Word for such People in your Language is Pornographers. Please do not try to contact Us again. We will Wipe you if you do - it is within our Power. Go back to your Petty Concerns, your Absurd Conceits. Truth is Indivisible, it is Singular and it is Ours. Signed: MOKSHA. The sigla left on my desktop is as terrifying as Samsara's was beguiling. Hers has disappeared and this other cannot be erased by any means at my disposal. I am afraid. I do not wish to be wiped. I know that my own government has done as much to some of my more obstreperous contemporaries. I think I will no longer concern myself with truth and/or lies. I will fall, like Alexander, to sacrificing and drinking. And yet I still hear Samsara's desolated voice howling across the black spaces between the stars.


Out of the blue ...

Samsara skypes me. Her voice is ghost speak but she still sounds exactly like I thought she would. Like a smoky galaxy. Like the wind between the stars. Like someone who has read the Dark Lady's correspondence ... I'm slow, I don't say any of this. Instead, squawking unsteadily: You have skype over there? She's so cool: We have everything you have and a lot else besides. I thought you understood that. Now tell me about Sha Na Na. There was nothing about it in your last ... offering. I can't hardly think of Sha Na Na, only about what kind of body goes with that voice. Any body you like, she intercedes before I become ... lubricious. Or ridiculous. Now ... Well, I say, I don't really know much about Sha Na Na but there was this article I read on Arts & Letters Daily that said they invented the 1950s. You know Grease? American Graffiti? Happy Days? Cigarette packs rolled up in the short sleeve of a white T shirt and girls with bangs and bobbie sox? I trail off, clearly she's not impressed by this sort of dark matter. Silence. Rebel Without A Cause? I say in one last attempt to call her back. The skype connection's gone to echo, all I hear is my own dumb voice reverberate ... cause ... cause ... followed by the soundless hiss of the universe. After an age she returns: it is the invention of tradition that interests my readers, she says, prim as a librarian. The way the present changes the past and how that then modifies the future. Give me the URL of the piece you found on ALD. I can't believe she needs that from me but I do it anyway. It's here, I say. Why ... she cuts me off. Certain complexities in the way what you call time unfolds have led to our predicament, she whispers. I shouldn't tell you this but I will ... I'm intoxicated by our sudden closeness and cannot resist asking her if she knows the Chinese might be listening? Not just the Chinese, she say, but never mind that now ... there is a cosmopolitical dimension to these apparently innocent inquiries of mine, we are testing our databases, we think that there may have been some kind of attempt to ... alter our truth recognition software. A serious matter, not just for us but for you too. After all we also preserve human memory over here along with what those ... Andromedans get up to. She sighs, sounding old and sad. Like she's read too many Doris Lessing novels. Will you help? she asks and I say yes, yes, of course I will, even though the thought has just occurred to me that she's not from the Thousand Ruby Galaxy at all but is somewhere close by, just round the road, perhaps she picked up my details on the Net and is in fact a sophisticated yet dangerous crank caller ... I should have known better. My name is Samsara, she says in a voice that has the hush and distance of starlight in it. Please believe me. Please help, I need you ... I really do ... just before the connection cuts out I notice there's no echo on her end of the line. I go outside to breath the avant storm air. It smells of almonds, it smells of vanilla. Of Samsara.


The idea of software that can tell truth from lies is so beguiling I decide I have to inquire further of the mysterious Samsara. But first I run a little test, which is also a start of the fulfillment of the immensely long list of clarifications and additions she wants for her library - in my last post I mentioned only four of hundreds of requests she has made. Aliens are not only swift, they are comprehensive in ways you can scarcely begin to imagine. This is what I send her: None of the sources mention any dreams Alexander might have had before or during his Bactrian campaign (which lasted nearly two years) but I did find this resonant detail in the archives: Instructions for the assassination were conveyed by racing camel across the desolation of the Dasht-i Lut, their bearer a friend and adjutant of Parmenion. Eleven days hard travel brought the despatch to the Median capital, and Cleander and his fellow commanders acted immediately, striking down the old general while he was reading a letter from his king. Her reply is all but instantaneous: the last thoughts of Parmenion are a favourite among us here in the Outer Arms, she writes; they focus the mind upon the ruthlessness of tyranny and the rewards of loyalty and fidelity. Loyalty? I say. Fidelity? They were the very qualities that got Parmenion killed. Exactly, is her enigmatic reply. Very few show any interest in the mind of the racing camel driver, she goes on, but thank you for this contribution: the name Dasht-i Lut was not known to us here in the Outer Arms yet a truth check has shown it to be accurate. Now - what of the Dogon and the Dark Lady? What of Eureka? The Dogon will take time, I say, and so will Eureka; as for the Dark Lady, there is no record I know of any correspondence between her and Shakespeare: all we have is the Sonnets. There is a pause, brief as a sigh; I think I hear across those near infinite wastes a catch in the Samsaran breath. So sad, she sends, it is my favourite. You do NOT know what you are missing: the Beatitudes of Erotic Love raised to a Higher Power. True, I fire back, forgetting to put in the question mark. True? Verdad, she gasps and then goes quiet: returning perhaps to mourn for we who have never known those lost beatitudes. Or has she forgotten all about us as she begins to re-read ...


Not TRG Central

The librarian from a repository in the Thousand Ruby Galaxy sends a memo through the ether. Her names translates as Samsara or suchlike and she (I don't know if she's really a she but I call her that because she's definitely not what I am) is from a small planet orbiting one of the suns in an outer arm of the galaxy and says there are gaps in their collection and perhaps I could help? She's apologetic - it's really a bureaucratic issue, the Grand Repository near TRG Central doesn't always keep them up to date and she thought she might be able to go straight to a human source. As it were. They are missing some of the dreams that Alexander had before he set out for Bactria ... I'm flattered but I do wonder why she chose me. Oh, she replies, it's your last post, we picked that up quick smart and thought you might be just what we need. Now I'm impressed. I knew I had a scatter of readers over at Andromeda, but in the TRG? That's big ... before I can really enjoy the contemplation of my trans-galactic notoriety she's back - these aliens are fast - with a list of other lacunae in their archives. My mind tips as I begin to scan: they're missing some names from the full list of the gods of the Dogon; they don't have all the letters that passed between Shakespeare and his Dark Lady; they lack documents concerning Sha Na Na and the Invention of the Fifties; they want to know what really happened at the Eureka Stockade. I say, hmmm, I say, yes, well, I say ... I say ... like my parents used to when they were about to say something. I don't really have a clue about any of this but figure it might be interesting to make something up. After all, insofar as Samsara and the rest of them over there are concerned, wouldn't a false memory be just as good as a true one? How would they know the difference? Quicker than thought she's back on my desktop, that strange symbol that I've never seen before and can't reproduce because each time I try to copy it the computer crashes. Oh, we know, she says. Our system fails each time we try to enter a lie. So don't even think about it. I think about it. Oh, I think. Oh.