Brian Aldiss

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The Silent Cosmos

Short story number 2 in a series taken from a month’s long attempt at writing a short story a day in September 2012.

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It was Sacred Day 35 by our reckoning and I was so proud. To me was awarded an Aspects of Resistance, Second Grade, by the Master Insuffaller himself. I swore to deny the Western Scientific Approach and went down on my knees, where my forehead touched the stone floor.
This ceremony took place in the Atrium of Telepanthic Abilities. Only my especial friend, Mouwse was allowed as witness. But throughout the Intersteies, our great flock was also feeding on the ceremony.
Afterwards, afterwards came music, The Drag, and pulse to drink. For the first time in my True Life, I was spoken to with real lips by the celebrated Consecrator. I banished prudence from my character outline and conversed with him in real empathy.
“I forsee the time is coming when the universe will reach a favourable stage of ecolution,” I said.
In full accord, he answered, “Our universe is not as
Outsiders view it., not a jot.
They are blind, with eyes like metal.
Their universe is sterile – they would kill us all alive.
Our universe islike a honey pot,
Full of flying intelligences nuch like bees in a hive.”
Thus this great man summed up in poetry our main beliefs.
Certainly our beliefs and understandings had brought us under threat. Removed to this dull site in the Cosmos.
For Belief’s reason, we had freed ourselves from Western Scientific Approach. Our earthly planetoid was set far into the wilds of Grand Siberia, on an upper paleolithic plain. We knew this place as Kanstantin. From Kanstantin we could affirm we were in touch telepathically with a variety of other beings elsewhere, many darkyears distant.

We were forbidden to touch anyone below the belt. My friend Mouwse and I tapped each other on the chest before we went to sleep. We slept in rows on the floor. Our experts had invented and provided traumasnoo. With traumasnoo we did not dream at all. The rumour ran that the outside world had invented a dream-seaker, whereby they could read dreams – our dreams – from a distance, and so learn our secrets from us. Traumasnoo had come along just in time, as is the way withprovidence. I felt its dull throb in my skull of a night.
So we slept and were unconscious while the mighty Cosmos wheeled about us. One day, it was promised, they would come for us and take us – take us to where there was no metal or machinery. No vegetation. I awoke, knowing I was now an Aspect of Resistance. Mouwse tapped my chest and I his – Mouwse’s pretty little chest, without hair.
Following Ceremony Day there were no set Communications. I drank my Pulse-plus and then went out. Compelled to breathe.
I walked, legs instructed, by the roaring river. Its banks were crusted by ice.Small trees were still bare of leaves.Verily, this was a cosmic aspect. Nevertheless, I could not understand why I suddenly felt myself to be in misery. Had I sinned?
When I steadied myself against a sapling and looked up to the sky, I saw nothing beyond the clouded air rushing above me.
A great terror seized me. I was asking was there nothing beyond. Only silence… What if this sacred place of ours stood alone in a cosmic silence, and there was nothing, no one, in all the vast rotating universe?
The terrible prospect of an enclosing solitude stripped me mentally naked. In tha exterior world, the world of ‘science’ from which we of Telepathic Abilities had been forced to hide – there was not one person in a million who concerned him or herself about communication with the vast Cosmos.
Could it possibly be that they were right and we wrong…
The sapling on which I depended bent and snapped. I slith- ered down the small bank, and one boot entered icey water.
What could that signify? A cosmos of ice and flame only?

I called to the Consecrator for reasurance but no answer came. I looked about me. Only the dreadful neutral wilderness of nature greeted my gaze.
I asked myself, What is intelligence? Where has it led me?
Weeping, I began to walk downstream, following the rushing waters.
There had to be something, I told myself, something we could never know, even among the learned of us – about the great Cosmos – about our little selves…