The Rainbox

By Christopher Owen

In the lush wet forests
of the sacred world,
Strange Powers are at work,
Taming, caging, shaping, making,
binding the forces together.

The sum total of their energies
were combined
to give the artifact life,
Until mewling, breathing, shouting, weeping,
the object finally awoke.

Mind alive to the smallest sound,
It cast its sensenets wide,
Touching, feeling, tasting, seeing,
Learning the world of its heart.

Strangers stepped
into the domain,
broke the taboos on the land,
Careless, heartless, unknown quantities,
To be examined from afar.

A humanoid stepped from the blue cuboid. She was small and female - this much the artifact knew from its parameters. It had been programmed to recognize its children. However, there were anomalies - the figure did not correlate exactly with the model superimposed on its neural web. A second figure appeared - larger and male. He was using a device alien to the artifact. Inorganic - and therefore of a higher level of technology than that allowed for. It would have to wait and observe - alter its programming to deal with the new situation.

‘Nice place for a holiday I suppose. The weather's an improvement on Brighton.’

‘I did warn you not to go swimming.’

‘In that sludgedump? If you remember it wasn't my choice. Where are we anyway?’

‘A sparsely inhabited planet. In a few years it will be noted for its wide variety of flora and fauna. All untouched as a result of an enlightened ecology programme.’

‘Anything dangerous?’

‘If I said yes, you would be worried, and if I said no you would be disappointed. So let's keep it a surprise.’

‘Some holiday.’

‘We are at a point in the planet's development just prior to the arrival of the first explorers. I have a job to do.’

‘Saving the universe again?’

‘Only a small part. A minor adjustment really. Why don't you go exploring? We'll only be here once, and you won't find these plants in the Kensington gardens.’

Entering the midday twilight,
the steamy jungle heat,
Pushing forward through greenness
Sweating, driving, the wildlife thriving,
Birdcalls ringing in the ears.

A vibrant rainbow parrot chirps,
Its plumage held aloft,
Looking at her quizzically,
Questioning, testing, challenging, besting,
All with the blink of an eye.

Then the singing splendour is gone,
Departed like a flittering dream,
Reaching, striving, floating, diving,
Vanished from out of the gloom.

Advancing again up the blessed stair,
Roots giving way to rocks,
Hand over hand up the rock face,
Gripping, yelling, lungs expelling,
A shout of triumph at the top.

Poseidon descends,
a titanic cascade,
into an enchanted pool,
Crashing, clashing, droplets flashing,
Alive in the zenith sun.

She looks.
She sees.

A box lies under,
the fearsome caress,
images appearing in the black burnished glass,
forming, dissolving, combining, reforming,
water the oil for its canvas.

She considers.
She touches.

Electric ecstasy,
two minds are one,
dreams are instantly joined,
Hope, passion, fear, lust,
all emotions, arise and subside.

Circling, praying,
reality warping,
for green is the joy of the dawn,
Harping, hooting, all life singing,
Worship to spirits of earth.

Falling, crying,
fears not dying,
for grey is the sorrow of night,
Boasting, pretending, false honour defending,
All revealed in cold lonely light.

She knows.
She understands.

‘Dorothy...’
‘Elvashayar...’

And she is alone.
Or maybe not quite.

The parrot perches,
with a curious eye,
and suddenly all is well,
Singing, dancing, on the rocks prancing,
She celebrates salvation from hell.

The humanoids were leaving. The artifact accepted that as inevitable.

It had learned a lot from the female. And she had told him more would come. The proper ones. The ones its programming had prepared it for. But he had extended his knowledge beyond even that. To think that the ‘humans’ led such lonely, unhappy lives.

The humanoids were about to depart. It awoke the sensenet once more. It had a desire to know what they were saying, in their primitive so-called ‘speech’.

‘Find anything exciting, Ace?’

‘No. Not really. But it would make a good place for a holiday.’

The artifact was unsure, but it believed its visual senses caught a smile on the male's face.

This item appeared in Timestreams 4 (April 1992).

Index nodes: Fiction