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IX. CASTLE OF ILLUSION


Chapter 3

He found himself sitting alone upon steps next to a well under a stone gazebo beneath the dark summer sky. Perhaps he was back in the rear courtyard again but he couldn’t see the building. A faint, sweet music surrounded him like voices singing from so far away no words could be understood.

As Gus gazed upward, relaxing slowly, he became aware of the sky. High above him, the ghost-like figures of the constellations shimmered, danced, and faded, the grid upon which they lay dimmed also. But the stars grew bright until the entire dome filled with dazzling lights like a Van Gogh painting, swirling and moving with unhurried and majestic grace.

The entire heavens were alive with motion, imponderably slow and unstoppable. Each one of the sparkling lights drifted in a separate direction and speed: delicate, glittering stars creeping along their own proper courses, glowing planets altering size and brightness much more quickly in an endless race around the flaming Sun, comets occasionally flashing by.

These shining jewels traced stately spirals, gliding without effort through the dark. Everything, every single thing from the great blazing Sun to the furthest speck, danced together in cosmic choreography, pulling together and twisting apart, to come back again to the thin, ethereal music. Gus, leaning against the solid skeleton of his homeworld, began to feel Mother Earth’s own movements deep within his bones, as endless as it was insistent.

This constant sensation of rolling back down to the left; must be the rotation of the Earth. The insistent push now veering from behind however, felt like the planet’s revolution around the Sun. Therefore the sluggishly-creeping, clockwise drunken circling must be polar precession.

Other motions were not nearly as easy to understand, but he worked them out, one by one. After a while, Gus found he could sense the entire solar system skipping happily like a flat spinning stone thrown across the Milky Way and thrill to the whole galaxy’s impetuous headlong rush towards far Andromeda’s yearning embrace.

The planets did their part like a stately corps de ballet looping occasionally in the near background. But never turning back in her path before them danced the prima ballerina, the beautiful Moon herself, most glorious Queen of Heaven.

She leapt in blithe ecstasy round from silvery light to charcoal shadow, a cosmic game of peek-a-boo with the Earth in her unending flirtation with the volatile, admiring Sun. Up and down she soared and dipped as she flitted across, and gradually, Gus began to appreciate her more subtle rhythms also. Higher and lower than her lover she went, letting the daystar do the same, as they played tag with eclipses.

By now he could feel the stinging flux of the solar wind drumming like rain upon the roof, and lurches from meteor impacts like bumps and potholes along the way. Gus began to feel the oddest sensation that he was driving the Earth itself like an old pickup truck with loose steering, bald tires, and no brakes, careening hell-bent down a dark dirt road across a featureless desert towards a destination unknown.

He sensed an elderly monk in Nepal gratefully handing control to him. With a different kind of sinking feeling, Gus piloted the planet.

It was to be his shift now. Listening to wordless tunes floating through the ether, feeling the tired old world rumble beneath him in the unending dark; Gus MacLantis knew it would be a very long night.

 


 

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“Even I,
who with my Ampliospectus did behold mountains on the Moon and creatures sporting in the dew,
have no mirror which can bedazzle the soul.
That art belongs to another age as yet undreamed of. ”

Testimony of Magister Ieronimus to the Inquisition,
1337

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