When the new sun was born the impulse to kiss his remorseless, deathless face had to be held at bay. Slumbering peacefully, the lightest touch would rouse him, incurring the violence we feared and longed for. In our shinning world of straight edges, mirrored glass, blue screens and open source, it was easy to lose track of the other thing, that which lurked in the places we had avoided for so long, the real animal brutality of our own deepest subconsciousness. Emerging from the depths, and not from the skies where we raised our dream machines towards the stars, the old King returned to us from the realms of myth and shadow.
He came from the caves, from the hollow center of our world, a kingdom we had forgotten in our infancy as a race. Somewhere through the ages, in our race for distant suns, we ceased to look down at our own root. The memory of the inner Kingdom faded as the last pages of the world’s most ancient books turned to dust and blew into the cracked walls of crumbling libraries. When the first star was born in a magnetic bottle and its power was harnessed to make the world a fantasy of unending light, we shed that old skin of memory, of dream, shadow, and terror and began the expansion beyond the terrestrial.
In our quest to drink in the light of all the stars our universe could offer, in our dance with infinite space, and a newfound command of movement and time, we found worlds like our own. One in every thousand had the potential to raise life from its mineral rich soil, and on some we found the evidence of civilizations that had flourished and fallen before we had ever even mastered the use of fire. Thus, we learned that there had been life in the universe, but death had won over it.
Among the ruins of tumbled citadels sunk in grey sand dunes beneath the faint glow of a red star we wept. There would be no meeting with the alien other, no exchange of ideas or culture. Our archeological work began. Countless dead worlds came under our scrutiny as the expansion continued. For our biologists there came a few worlds where life was present as rudimentary single celled organisms. We would have to wait and see if our cosmic brethren might someday grow from one of these worlds.
Eventually, the expansion lost its appeal. Our songs had grown cool and calculated, our dreams had flown back to us empty handed. The age of our enlightenment was coming to a close. Our own star was near death for the second time. We had mastered the art of reviving it, yet it was upon this reoccurrence of imminent stellar collapse that we ceased to resist and plunged into darkness. The door to the inner world had been re-discovered in our arctic desert. Perhaps we had forgotten and remembered it many times during our evolution. Now we remembered it again. As our star shone small and white, its planetary nebulae dancing red and blue in the vacuum, the ancient seal was broken.
There would be no brotherhood among the stars, nor any great conquest there. No friends to keep nor enemies to vanquish, until the seal was broken, and the Old King rose from our hollow core with a fearsome bellow. His legions were loosed, his appetites awakened. In the moment of our most supreme boredom, we were catapulted into reckless, euphoric terror. Our Council was crushed, our infrastructure demolished, our stranglehold on light loosened. The shadows grew longer, music roiled, wild and discordant, as the Old King showed us what it meant, that old word: vanquished. He walked amongst us once more, drew us into the inner world and gave us gifts both beautiful and terrible. Upon the surface he ruled as he hadn’t for an eternity.
When the new sun was born the impulse to kiss his remorseless, deathless face had to be held at bay. The old King grew weary as it grew strong and we returned him to his sanctuary, singing our farewell. We were naked as we bore him back, our skins stained with the fruits of the vines, the soil from which they grew, the blood and sweat that had been spilled in our orgiastic remembrance. His legions followed and folded peacefully around him like fallen leaves upon a forest floor.