We Are Folded
A story by Tim Yao
What are the responsibilities of higher order beings to those who are
The universe rushes by me in vast steps. Eryl asked
me to make myself small so I can ride in his pocket. Some surprise!
Bored, I extend a thought tendril.
“Becksy,” Eryl chides, gently snapping it away. “You
promised not to peek.”
I pretend not to listen. The vistas, which I see
through the one opening he has left me, intrigue me: the hot turmoil of
blue stars, the busy efficiency of mitochondria, the colorful emptiness
of three-dimensional space. An eye, huge beyond imagining, surprises me.
Suddenly, the pocket vanishes around me. Eryl
squeezes me into an unfamiliar shape. Beings of a similar shape are all
about us, but they walk past us and through us. We are still out of
phase from their perceptions.
“What they appear to be, Becksy. Simple creatures.”
I open my mind to them. Something deliciously
complex and yet naive swirls out at me. Before Eryl can stop me, I let
my taste tendril shoot forward to lick it.
Too late, I see how thin these beings are, existing
in five dimensions but only aware of three in their consciousness. My
taste tendril has completely overwhelmed this small one. It shudders
and stops. A larger unit beside it draws near, concerned and then emits
a wailing sound.
“You have to be more careful, Becksy,” Eryl draws me
into their immediate past, though I can still see the blue and white
striations of grief in the large unit’s near future.
I let the purple-greens of rue wash over my faces.
“Sorry. It was just so tasty.”
Eryl pats my head. “Don’t worry. There are many of
these creatures. You just need to moderate your hunger.”
I frown. “Where have you brought us? Why haven’t I
heard of these beings?”
“We’re in protected space.”
At my gasp, he reassures me, “Don’t worry. We won’t
get caught if we’re careful. Let me demonstrate.”
He extends his tendrils, intertwining my own. His
touch is skilled, deftly surrounding the large being’s mind. Ever so
carefully, our receptors open to its thoughts.
thoughts. She is a mother.
Her name is Diane Rafferty. There are intense feelings of joy, love, and protectiveness that her child engenders. The small unit in
the baby carriage beside her
is her daughter Caitlyn, only
three months old. Even though Diane is reading a book as she sits on this park bench, she glances over at her
child often. Caitlyn amuses herself with a rattle.
Diane’s emotions are incredibly rich. I start to
open up my receptors as I had done with Caitlyn, but Eryl’s touch keeps
my receptors at their current level, preserving Diane’s life and the
local timestream. The tastiness of Diane makes my tendrils tremble.
Slowly, Eryl withdraws his own tendrils, gently
forcing my own back within myself.
“I want more, Eryl,” I say.
“All in good time, Becksy. We have to be careful.
Let me show you how it’s done.” He raises us up out of the three
dimensional space to where we can see the pulsing, pink lines that form
a squirming, tangled network of interconnecting worms across the land.
Our recent proximity to Diane and Caitlyn allows us to pick out their
A hot rush of shame and sadness washes over me to
see Caitlyn’s bright potential abruptly ended, her all-too-brief three
month life terminated by my clumsiness.
“The important thing is to do this neatly, Becksy.
We’re not monsters. The only point of true consciousness for these
beings is what they call their present moment. The rest is available
for us to ingest.” He lets his taste tendril gently reach out to
Diane’s distant past, inviting my thought tendril to witness what he is
Diane stood there
in the sandbox. Allen boldly reached out and took her hands in his own.
Diane’s cheeks grew hot. Allen leaned forward and touched his lips to
hers. Someone gasped. It was Mary, she had seen Diane’s first kiss.
The incident took all of ten seconds. I see where
the cross section of Diane’s worm form was diminished by Eryl’s
consumption. Racing my thought tendril back up her timestream, I feel
the impact. A key memory of hers has vanished, but she chalks it up to
the normal diminishing of memory as she ages. It was, after all, only
human to forget things.
I smile. “Let me try one.”
I reach out to the first moment when Diane had first
held Caitlyn, her tiny body wet and warm and wriggly as the doctor laid
the baby upon her chest.
“You are so
beautiful,” Diane said, the bonds of motherhood being forged to be
stronger than steel.
Though this moment I savor is briefer in time than
what Eryl had enjoyed, it significantly erodes Diane’s worm form,
tearing at her white hot grief in her present.
Eryl pulls me away, glancing in twelve different
directions at once, his agitation and fear showing flashes of bright
white and yellow. He shakes me. “I swear, Becksy, you don’t have a
single bone of common sense in your body.”
“This is interdicted space. You have trespassed and
caused harm,” a Voice intones around us, though we can not sense from
whence it comes. An inexorable force reaches out, takes hold.
We are both unceremoniously dumped back into three
space and my higher order self vanishes, severed by a shock not unlike
that of a lobster being thrown into a pot of boiling water, one of
Diane’s memories I now know had caused her great dismay.
Diane weeps as she holds Caitlyn’s still body in her
Eryl and I stand near her.
“Help me!” Diane shrieks. “My daughter’s stopped
Eryl kneels down in front of Diane. “I’m sorry.
There is nothing we can do.”
I stand there, wishing I had my tendrils to drink
her grief, but I myself am limited, become human. I embrace them,
feeling my heart pounding in my chest.
Copyright © 2016 Tim Yao
Having found out about National Novel Writing Month
in 2003, Tim has written a first draft of a novel every year since
then. NaNoWriMo is so much fun that he became a volunteer co-Municipal
Liaison for the Illinois::Naperville
region. The region features a writing community called The Writing
Journey; Tim helped found this in 2007.
Tim is the author of short stories in six anthologies of The Writing
Tim Yao is a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at Nokia.
The Writing Journey
http://naperwrimo.org - NaperWriMo
- the Illinois::Naperville region of NaNoWriMo