It was a temple or palace, no doubt, but it was not greatly different from the city at large. Before me was a parklike expanse of trees and grass; in the center of the park was a pavilion like the one I had found myself in when I arrived here.
The winged men were gone in a rumble of wings before I could ask them what was to come next. Either they feared this place or the felt that even one such as I would know what to do here. In that they were mistaken.
The pavilion sat in the center of the park and was the most likely place to go. No doubt those who had ordered my coming expected me to enter it.
I picked a fruit from a nearby siskal, eased myself to the ground and turned my back to the pavilion. The fruit was exceptionally sweet and I was glad to get off my feet.
The presence returned. I ignored it and continued to eat.
Are you unaware of us?
“Of course not.”
Then why do you ignore us?
“Among my people it is a gesture of contempt!”
The fruit was snatched from my hand, the sky darkened, the ground heaved, and I was thrown prone. Fear was in me, more fear than I had ever known. I strove to conquer it in the only way I could, by hurling curses at the presence. There was sudden silence.
There was more than silence.
There was a complete absence of light or sound, touch or feeling of warmth and cold. My mind was somewhere, still within my skull perhaps, but utterly bereft of sensory input.
I was alone, as utterly alone as human can ever be.
I was afraid, but that feeling passed.
I was beyond fear, but not beyond loneliness.
I was myself, but without others to lend boundaries to myself. I was everything; therefore I was nothing.
I was a lone dust mote floating forever in interstellar space and I was God. Nothing and everything; in the realm of uttermost loneliness both are the same.
As I was unbounded in space, so was I unbounded in time. My consciousness stretched eternally forward and backward and in that vast expanse there was none but me.
In the midst of nowhere, the presence came to sit by my side. It gestured with an absent hand and the stars shone about us. They wheeled in their courses and one grew until all others were occluded. About it swarmed planets and one of these grew until it blotted out the others. Gigantic polar caps receded and advanced and receded and advanced. Species were gained and lost until at last there rose a genus of winged animals capable of fleeing before the advancing ice. They multiplied and grew dominant. Species were formed and lost, but two outstripped the rest, one large and one small.
The presence made his will known on these unformed species and they worshipped him, but as their intelligence was imperfect their worship was imperfect, so the presence moved his will upon them and they were given speech. He made the larger dominant over the smaller and gave it intelligence far greater than the smaller so that even as the larger worshipped the presence, so the smaller would worship the larger.
Thus the world was made perfect.
Again the ice caps advanced and species were broken. The ice retreated and new species arose, horned and angry species, unlike the gentle creations of the presence. Only the dilwildi on this island and the herbies survived. The winged people were utterly destroyed.
Why? more tomorrow