This is based off of a dream that I had, for some reason it really stuck in my head.
The coal lands were a brutal landscape. Mining, mining, to no end. The drilling and clunking of metal against the hard wall of coal echoing far and wide. It is the only sound I have ever known.
I was born into this mayhem, this sadness, my face blackened with dust before I could even walk. My mother’s callused fingers scrubbing me down, putting the rags for clothes on my back, feeding me, stroking my hair when the sirens blared…
We had no escape because we had no currency; the only payment for our hard labour was the meagre food packets they gave us. Just enough to sustain us, just enough to keep our mouths shut. We did not know any better, we did not want what we clearly could not have. Content in this world of suffering we call home.
But not me; I have gazed up at the sky for years. Those ships that come down to take away our coal and give us our sustenance, I have always wondered where they go off to, where they come from. Those shiny vessels.
Years have passed and I am a grown man sick of this life on the coal lands. I have taught myself their language, gotten friendly with some of them, the flyers of the ships call themselves pilots. I wanted to be on one too, and maybe even fly one.
They come from a place called Earth 23. I have heard stories of this place, folktales – myths of the Earths. It is said my people come from there as well, we are descendants of Earth dwellers sent here due to crimes we had committed to live the rest of our lives in hard labour.
There are only a few Earths left. Earth 23 is an oasis, every tech you could dream of, every luxury. I mean to go there one day…somehow.
They had left the ship unattended as they got distracted by the explosion I created. It has been a good 10 – 15 minutes, they would not be here for a good while. I run towards the ship, my heart beating fast against my ribcage. Blood rushing to my head, I feel exhilarated.
The cargo deck of the ship is open, white light flooded out from the gaping gateway, only half of the coal crates are loaded in. I walk in, my steps feel heavy, I realise then how different I was, how poor…how lowly. Not anymore…I was to change that.
I walk towards the end of the ship; there was a door with an ID scanner. I knew this because I had chummed up to one of the crew members who told me everything over some good strong toddy. I had stolen his ID and I now have it with me.
I reach in my satchel for the stolen ID, my hands shaking as I try to swipe it against the scanner. The door slides open to reveal a pristine, white corridor. I possibly cannot walk in with all the grime and coal on me.
I am mad at myself, why did I have to be so dirty? I walk away from the door to find a showering area and disinfecting area. My heart sings to me to take a shower, to feel actual clean water on my skin and so I do.
Clean, warm water touches my skin, tears of pure joy well up in my eyes and join the rivulets of water streaming down my face. But no amount of scrubbing could remove the dirt from my skin. I clothe myself in the same dirty clothes I was wearing and get in to a crate and lay there, waiting for the crew to come back to take me away from here.
I have told no goodbyes to my mother, and the girl I love. We had dreamed of a day we would both escape this world for a better one…but now I have to leave her…I cannot take her along. I made a promise in my head to come back for them. To make things better.
I can hear the crew coming back, the whirring of their land crafts and their voices echoing into the forever twilight. They began loading the remaining crates, no one realised I had sneaked my way in. I could not stop smiling as the ship began to take flight.
Earth 23 was a lie. It was not the beautiful oasis the tales had described. It was just a ghost of it’s glorious past. Grey and broken, Polluted and diseased. Only the rich lived well while the rest suffered.
I hustled my way to the top, starting from the slums and going up to the tall buildings where big men sat behind big tables in the shadows dictating orders. My days of suffering were over.
I had my own space vessel now, and I have been to many worlds. My quest to uncover the secrets of the universe has led me to parts of the universe that no one else has been to, I have brought back things that have fetched me a great many accolades and money.
My past life was forgotten, no one knew where I came from and no one will ever know.
A rumour has been running around about an ancient relic which yields the power of the universe. Some people laugh it off saying it is just myth, but I believe it is what I have been looking for all this time. Some sects worship it for its power yet no one knows where it is.
Through a lot of research and talking to people, bribing them for information, alot of dealings in the nether worlds I found out probable locations for this item. A set of temples on different worlds. Everything connecting to God, this being who decides the events of our lives. An ancient belief system now mostly dead.
I embark on my journey and through many trials I come across the relic on a long forgotten planet. Its people have not seen tech like ours before. They treat me like a God; I gift them weapons and clothing.
The relic is a sort of wheel; it is ancient tech, its purpose I do not know. It is said that the wielder of this Wheel will meet his creator. I waited for this creator to appear before me, but he did not arrive so suddenly, he took his time.
God is an astronaut. A human from an ancient Earth. He summons me to his hideout, it is a vast hall of knowledge the beginning of all things and the end; there is no time here, no space. It just exists. His very presence seemed odd; he was just a person yet yielded so much power.
I ask him why he does not save the people who suffer, he says there is no life without suffering that he watches over his children and decides their fate. I stare at him, the Wheel in my hands.
He says the Wheel is a representation of ancient times before man’s inventions finally destroyed the Earth, the Wheel controls the engine of the universe. However, man found a way to inhabit other worlds, other Earths. The thirst for survival a never ending abyss of suffering. He laughs at Man.
This makes me angry, are we just his entertainment? He just watches while people suffer? He reads my thoughts; he says I have always challenged him while people had forgotten him. He says he was waiting for me but now that I stand before him he is not impressed with what he sees he says I am still the same selfish boy from the coal lands where I belong.
He says the world where I had found the Wheel is now in turmoil. The weapons I had introduced to the once peaceful nation have become their God. People are killing each other – a paradise no more. I look down in shame; he says mockingly that it is not easy playing God.
He says he applauds my courage and thirst for knowledge and he says I can do with the Wheel what I want. I then remember my mother and that girl I had left on the coal lands all those years back. I decide to fulfill my forgotten promise. I leave a laughing God to go back home.
The coal lands have been harvested to its limit only a few of the mining families remain. My mother had died leaving nothing behind, our hut taken up by another family. I looked for the girl, upon finding her I could not recognise her. She was frail, older beyond her years the mining and malnutrition had taken its toll on her. I take her with me to Earth 23.
I showed her what we had always dreamed of but she is not happy, she says there is no difference to home; suffering exists where ever she goes that there is no running away from it. I say that it is the way of the universe, the way of God. She says there is no God that would want this.
I tell her of my adventures, of my findings I tell her I can cure her and that we could live happily together. I could turn back the clock. She looks at me with tears in her sunken eyes, all her hair has almost fallen off her scalp, her bones were protruding from under her skin. She says there is no point as her heart has already been broken and to let her die in peace. She walks away as I realise that all my truth finding has led me to the conclusion that I am a broken person. I am selfish; I had forgotten my past to live a better life, leaving behind the people I loved and destroying the lives of others in the process.
I look at the wheel, its purpose now utterly pointless. There is no cure for suffering. I drop it in the dirt and walk away towards the edge.
Painting by Jeremy Geddes