His grandmother had had disturbing dreams after her conversion. The family had holo recordings of it speaking of those dreams, the old thing seated, in full flesh and color, though the lighting was harsh from the side and generally poor, as if it were seated by a window. There was that strange cast to the skin of the face, so indeterminate and mixed. Not genderless, but too fully gendered. "I'd been unisex four years, with dreams, oh, the dreams, sometimes the man over me, I underneath as I remembered it, other times myself protecting as if a fighter in the African wars I remembered from my childhood, or lusting. There were the terrible images of blood and death, and the limited nuclear accident you can still see where Gibraltar was. It was so strange, sometimes the dreams would make me both at once, lover and loved. So strange..."
Its voice grew frail and odd then, as if it fell into an empty reverie, as if it had the Syndrome. But it straightened in the chair. "Before the Vostok Massacre," it said, its voice sliding, as unisex voices did, up and down the scale unpredictably. "Eleven days before the Vostok Massacre I dreamed. A child ran down a tunnel, holding a stick, a very precious stick. I knew the feeling of it, that it was valuable because it was wood, which made the place Antarctica, of course, where wood's so very scarce. The meldslats of the tunnel wall like ribs, and running with the stick so it clicked on the slats. It was joyous, that running, and the clicking sound of the wooden stick."
It paused again, the story was so old, so well-worn with the telling of it. There was a trace of smile at its lips, remembering. "Then the tunnel collapsed, the hum of neurophage weapons, that awful sound like nails on chalkboard, like the squeal of atmospherics crossing one another, that awful silence as the voices cut off. The child stopped running when the tunnel collapsed, stopped running, stopped the clicking, stopped. Just stopped. The winds blew down, so cold, so cold, through the open ceiling of the tunnel, you see. The child froze there in the tunnel, her hand frozen to the metal wall, her precious stick in her hand."
It looked into the scanners directly, its features moving from light to shadow and back as its head turned. "I awoke then in fear. This dream was real, real as others I had, but more terrible. Why would I dream of a massacre like that? I knew no one in Antarctica then, knew nothing of the place, yet I knew from the dream how precious a wooden stick would be, what a treasure it was to a child. A child who would die.
"The frightening thing of course was that the men who came in through the broken walls were Elite Neutralization Corps troopers. They were our soldiers, attacking a city in the ice. Why? I could not believe it, though I knew from the feeling of that dream that it was true. I haunted the holos, the newsnets, but there was nothing. Days went by, but each night the dream returned, bits of it. The tunnel, the winds, the clicking sound, distant voices. I saw a heat pump power plant, underground gardens, a nursery. Even then, of course, people feared the Ants because no one knew what they were doing, what they were up to. The satellites couldn't see them well, ice baffled the infrareds, and the coverage was patchy. That's what the newsnets told us. Then the newsnets told us the ENC had investigated the Ants' research center at Vostok. That's what they called it, an investigation. Years later we knew it was a massacre."
It shook its head, and its hair, very white now, swirled like snow in and out of the light. "The child froze," it said. "A very disturbing dream. I told no one of this dream, or of any of the others. Only this recording. But I saw the Vostok Massacre eleven days before it happened."
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All text © 1986 Rob Swiggart. "Portal : A Dataspace Retrieval" is available courtesy of the Author's Guild Backprint Programme. ISBN: 0595197841All programming and software © 2002 Salim Fadhley. Released under the GPL. Code available on request.
Updated: Sun Apr 14 2002
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