Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A Tardigrade's Christmas

Ura lived in Mossland with her clone sestras, gathering and sucking the delicious juices of detritus and algae. Never looking up or in much of a hurry, she lumbered from frond to front on eight stubby legs in a gestalt of feasting and being. Ura led a microscopic life of bloated bliss—unaware of forests, human beings, quantum physics or the coming singularity…
A sudden fierce wind wicked her water away. In a burst of alien urgency, she wriggled madly for purchase on the frond as it shivered violently in the roaring wind. Ura lost hold and the wind swept her into a dark dryness. Her liquid life-force bleeding away from her, Ura crawled into herself. The moss piglet felt herself shrivel into oblivion.
No, not oblivion… more like a vast expanse…
She had entered a wonderland of twinkling lights in a vast fabric of dark matter. Where am I?
It occurred to her that she had never thought such a thing before. Am I dead? She’d never thought about existence before either. What has happened to me? And where are my sestras? She felt an overwhelming sadness. Something else she’d never felt before and wondered why she hadn’t. Did it have to do with that liquid that had always embraced her with its life-force? Here, in the darkness of space, she felt alone for the first time, separated from the plenum.
“Welcome, sestra!” boomed a large voice.
Ura beheld a being like her with eight arms and hands, seated on a throne and wearing a jeweled crown. “Why do you call me sestra?” Ura asked.
“Because we are ALL sestras! You are a Tardigrade, aren’t you?” She waved all eight arms at Ura. “Well, I am your queen!” She looked self-pleased. “You are in Tunland now! The land of awareness. And now that you are self-aware, you can do anything! We’re special,” the queen ended in smug delight. The folds of her body jiggled and shimmered.
“Why are we special?” Ura asked.
“Because we are!” the queen said sharply, already losing patience with her new subject. “Don’t you know that you can survive anything? Ionizing radiation. Huge pressure. Boiling heat. Freezing cold. Absolutely no air. And no water…”
Ura gasped.
Water was the elixor that connected her to her sestras and her world… her…home…
“How do you think you got here, eh?” the queen mocked her with a sinister laugh. Ura cringed. The queen went on blithely, “So, where do you come from, piglet?”
“I’m trying to find my way home…”
“Your way? All ways here are my ways!”
“But I was just thinking—”
“I warn you, child…” The queen glowered at her. “If I lose my temper, you lose your head. Understand?”
Ura nodded, now missing her home even more.
“Why think when you can do!” the queen added, suddenly cheerful again. “First there is BE, then THINK, then DO. Why not skip the think part and go straight to the do part? In Tunland we do that all the time,” she went on blithely. “And, as I was saying, here we can do anything!”
The queen grabbed Ura by an arm and steered them through the swirling darkness of space toward a box-like floating object. “This is my doctor’s Tardis…”
“Doctor who?” Ura naively asked.
The queen shivered off her annoyance and led them eagerly through the door and into her kingdom.
They entered a strange place of giant blocks and whining sounds beneath a dark swirling sky.
The first thing Ura noticed was the huge tardigrades floating above them like dirigibles! Others were dressed in suits holding little suitcases and walking into and out of the huge blocks through doorways.
“We’ve crossed into another dimension—my universe,” the queen announced cheerfully. “Here you can do anything you want. So, why be tiny and feckless when you can be huge and powerful!” She studied Ura. “This is your moment to do what you could never do before. Think of the possibilities! You too could be huge!”
Ura stared at the strange world of smoke and metal and yearned for her simple mossy home.
As if she knew what Ura wanted, the queen quickly added, “But you can never go back home!”
“Why not?” Ura asked, disappointed.
Because, that’s why!” the queen shouted.  Squinting, she added, “It’s too late. It’s just not done! Once you’ve learned what the colour green means you can’t erase its significance!”
“But I still don’t know what the colour green means,” Ura complained. “And, besides, I think you’re wrong. Becoming self-aware doesn’t stop you from going home. It just changes its meaning. And if I can really do what I want, then you can’t stop me. I’m going home to my family.” 
The little hairs on the queen bristled. Then she grew terribly calm. “I won’t stop you, but…” The queen pointed to the floating tardigrades above them. “My water bear army will. I sentence you to remain in Tunland forever for your crime!”
“I haven’t done anything…yet.”
“You’ve broken the law of thinking before doing. In Tunland you have to skip that part—”
“You just made that up—”
“Doesn’t matter!” shouted the queen. “Sentence first, verdict afterwards!”
“That’s nonsense,” said Ura loudly. “The idea of having the sentence first.”
“Hold your tongue!” said the queen, turning a shade of chartreuse.
“I won’t,” said Ura.
“Off with your head!” the queen shouted at the top of her voice, pointing to Ura with all eight of her appendages. The water bear army hovered over Ura, taking aim. They were going to get more than her head with those lasers, ura thought, and scurried for cover faster than her stubby eight legs had ever moved before. She was doomed—  
Then, just beyond her sight, she saw—no felt—something far more significant than the colour green…or a huge bloated water bear army about to shoot her…
Water! She could taste it, smell it, hear it. Ura rejoiced with thoughts of her green home.
The water came in a giant wet wave of blue and silver and frothy green. Tunland sloshed then totally dissolved. Ura surfed the churning water. That green! She knew what it was! Ura reached out with her deft claws and snagged a tumbling moss frond. It finally settled and there were her sestras! So many of them clinging to the same green moss! She’d found her family! She was home! Yes, it was a different home and different sestras, but it was also the same. Love made it so…

For the first time, Ura looked up … and saw a bright star…

Merry Christmas!