Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Planet of the Dog-Men
8,348 / 90,000
In the following bit, written this morning, our hero Ramachandra Jason "RJ" Stone wakes for the second time.
When I woke, I felt like one enormous, dull ache. My eyes still shut, I tried to lift my arms, but my muscles refused to cooperate.
I groaned, the sound of it surprising in my ears.
“The sleep which spreads out it awakes,” barked a gentle voice at my side.
I opened my eyes, and looked up into the grinning muzzle of one of the dog-men. The ceiling and wall beyond its head was a smooth unbroken curve of white, studded here and there with strangely shaped protuberances. It was not a view I recognized from Wayfarer One. Had I been moved since last I woke, or had I been too groggy before to realize where I was?
“Wh-where…” I managed, just barely.
The dog-man paused for a moment, head cocked slightly to one side as though listening to a sound I couldn’t hear.
“In mining boat,” it yapped, at length. “Of the Pethesilean Mining Consortium.”
“Alien…?” I croaked.
The dog-man paused, again cocking his head to the side.
“No. Me it is commander. Executive.”
I struggled to lift my head, but couldn’t. It felt as though I was pinned down by multiple gravities, as though in a ship at high acceleration, but the dog-man stood casually upright, suggesting the problem was instead with me.
“Can’t… move…” I croaked.
Again the pause, the cocked head, and the dog-man answered. “It spread out and it degenerated the inside long sleep. Remainder and to spread out and recuperate.”
I drew a ragged breath, blinking slowly, drained by the exertion of simply filling my lungs.
“How… long… sleep?”
The dog-man listened to the silent voice, and nodded. “It is year T8975.” Then it reached out and patted my head, gently, as though soothing an ailing pet. It’s other paw held the silver lozenge device over my eyes, and the dog-man added, “It sleeps go.”
I was asleep before I could groan another syllable.
My sleep was dreamless and dark. When next I woke, the ache I’d felt before had subsided somewhat, now concentrated mostly in my joints—knees, elbows, and wrists particularly.
I lay for a moment in red-lidded darkness, listening close. I could hear soft footsteps some distance to my right, the sound echoing faintly off of wall nearer to my left. Less than a meter from where I lay, I could hear the rhythm of regular, calm breathing, sounding for all the world like a content puppy at rest.
I tried to lift up on my elbows, and surprised myself when I levered into an upright position. Startled, I opened my eyes in a panic, my hands reflexively shooting out to either side to steady me. My muscles seemed to have regained their strength as I slept, and it now felt as if a gravity one third that of Earth’s was pulling on me. Like that of a large moon, or a ship under acceleration.
My head swam, as my insides struggled to realign themselves. I hadn’t felt so disoriented since the time on Ceres when Laurentien had insisted I share what she euphemistically called a “peace pipe” to seal our negotiations, but the figure advancing on me now shared little in common with the Dutch queen, so there was no chance this experience would end anything like the same. The dog-man was saying something, speaking a strange, guttural language of growls and barks, and though I had no clue as to his meaning, his agitated manner was plain enough.
“Stay back…” I said, raising my hands in front of me in a defensive posture. But they weren’t my hands, were they?
I flexed, and the fingers moved, slow and tentative. The joints were thick, the fingers gnarled, the backs of the hands covered in liver spots.
These weren’t mine. These were the arthritic hands of an old man.
The dog-man was within arms reach now, brandishing the silver lozenge like a weapon. It let out another string of barks and growls, but then paused, seeming to remember something, and in a gentler voice yapped, “Sleep.”
I felt a faint tickle, somewhere in the back of my mind, and my eyes closed on the world once again.
That's all for today, I think. Tomorrow RJ's "escort" takes him to the quarters prepared for him on Earth (which isn't quite the planet he remembers... or even a planet anymore, for that matter), he gets a new set of clothes, and he meets the spiritual descendants of the Society for Creative Anachronism.
CITY is a pretty cool story cycle, which is why I was so jazzed to get to write about it in Westfahl's encyclopedia project. The style's pretty dated, but man, is it chok full of ideas. :-)