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Through the Stars, Darkly – Chapter 32
A Space Opera Serial // Where the flaw flaunts the imperfection.
A flaw in the design of the universe?
That made no sense. Then again, very little about this whole affair made any sense.
“How is that even possible?” asked Halden.
“Only Vikhush knows.”
Was this it, then? Were these men fanatics? Did they think this... this ‘Fault’ was some sort of miracle, or perhaps divine intervention?
He clicked his tongue in annoyance and started to walk toward the blurry column, circling the camp.
Several of the men jumped up and blocked him.
“What are you doing?” asked one of them.
Halden pointed at the blur.
“Whatever that thing is, it’s not normal. I need to examine it and, if possible, fix it.”
Gresh walked up to him and shook his head.
“Would you ‘fix’ a person’s bad temper? Or the storms that plague some worlds? Imperfections are part of the structure of the universe.”
The old man pointed toward the blur without looking at it.
“This is the greatest flaw of them all. None other can compare to it. Fixing it would not make the universe perfect. It would make it irrelevant. And so it would cease to exist.”
Halden stared at the man while he talked, becoming more convinced with each word that these people must be mad. And it wasn’t just about religion. They seemed to have a twisted perception of how things worked.
All he knew was that this wasn’t normal.
“But none of that matters,” added Gresh, “as the Fault cannot be fixed. Come.”
He moved aside and invited the scientist to approach.
They walked together until they were only a few feet from the blur. At that point, the man caught his arm to stop him.
“No further,” he warned.
“The gifts of Fellhakaah are not for the faint of heart.”
Halden was growing annoyed.
“Old man, you’re not making any sense! And where are all the people who worked here?”
That took him by surprise. He blinked and stared at the man.
“You can’t be serious! What happened?”
“I don’t know. I wasn’t there at the time.” He paused and looked at Halden with sad eyes before continuing. “It happened centuries ago, after all.”
Halden grimaced. This guy was way too far gone. He should get professional help.
“The team sent us their report just last week,” he informed the old man.
The other nodded sagely.
“Of course. The ways of Fellhakaah are inscrutable.”
“Could you please start making sense? This is all—”
The man lifted a hand to cut him off.
“You must leave your logic behind, friend. I know this is difficult for one such as you. Science binds you to beliefs that are antiquated and often perverted.”
Halden found it rather ironic the man would talk of beliefs.
“Science is not about faith,” he said. “It’s about evidence.”
“So is this,” replied Gresh as he pointed at the Fault. “It is here, is it not? Is that not evidence enough for you?”
“I still don’t know what it is!”
The old man pondered for a moment.
“Then perhaps you should go in.”
“I do not know if your body is ready for this, but I can see it is the only way you could understand, or accept.”
“The truths of Fellhakaah. They cannot be explained through words, only experienced.”
Halden squinted at the old man.
“Why are you here?” he asked. “All of you.”
“We are the watchers. There have been watchers here for a thousand years or more. We are the guardians of Fellhakaah.”
“Why do you need—” Halden suddenly paused, his eyes going wide. He pointed at the Fault. “Are you telling me this thing has been here for over a thousand years?”
The other nodded.
Halden’s eyes went from the older man to the blurry column.
If this thing was the source of the thilindrin burst, and it had been here for that long, why had it not shown in any other reports?
He frowned as he looked back at Gresh.
“But that’s impossible! This dig site was opened less than a century ago...”
The other nodded sagely.
“The ways of Fellhakaah are inscrutable,” he repeated.
“—does not make sense?” Gresh smiled and gestured again toward the Fault. “It could, if you took a step forward.”
Was this some kind of elaborate hoax?
Or a trap?
But why would anyone want to harm him? No one had even known he was coming.
“What will happen if I step in?”
“You will see the light. You will understand. You will gain knowledge.”
“Have you stepped in?”
The man smiled.
“Of course.” He waved toward the campfire, where his colleagues all stared in their direction. “As have all watchers.”
That somewhat made Halden feel better... until he remembered these people were likely all mad. Was that the consequence of walking into the column?
It was not a scientific method of proceeding, but he was annoyed, and more than a little curious.
He stared at the blur, then reached out with one hand.
It went through and, for a moment, he felt nothing special. But then his skin began to tingle. He pulled out.
“This isn’t reasonable,” he said, still staring at the blur. “I should get some equipment and run some tests. I’m sure I can find the tools I need in the camp...”
He heard the old man sigh behind him.
“I’m sorry, friend, but this is for your own good.”
As he turned around, Halden felt himself being shoved toward the column.
Through the Stars, Darkly is an ongoing, weekly space opera I write exclusively for my paid subscribers. If you would like to spread the word about this serial (thank you!) please only share Book 1. The first chapter is here.
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Text (c) 2022 by Alex S. Garcia.
Header: royalty-free stock images, edited by me.
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