Clockwork 1


Jim Lantern


Clockwork Series (Category) – See list of this new series on Science Fiction Stories Page

Clockwork 1

Jacob went out of Beersheba, on the border of the desert, and walked alone, carrying his staff in his hand. One evening, just about sunset, he came to a place among the mountains, more than sixty miles distant from his home. And as he had no bed to lie down upon, he took a stone and rested his head upon it for a pillow, and lay down to sleep. And on that night Jacob had a wonderful dream. In his dream he saw stairs leading from the earth where he lay up to heaven; and angels were going up and coming down upon the stairs. And above the stairs, he saw the Lord God standing.

Dreams, barely remembered upon awakening.

Nightmares, never to be forgotten.

What I’d awakened from, and where, was a struggle to know…

Awareness . . . sensations . . . beginning of consciousness. I felt cold. Discomfort, being a hard surface under my back, with several edges from one side to the other. Pain, in the form of a headache. Some dizziness, as if I were fading in and out. Pressure on my ears, but no sounds heard, so far, a kind of silence echoing silence. Bad taste in my mouth, being the flavor of recently having eaten something burned during cooking. Then my mouth turned dry, and I became extremely thirsty. I tried to swallow, and as I did, the pressure on my ears was released. Then I could hear . . . the sound of wind . . . yet I did not feel it upon me.

I tried taking in a deep breath . . . and doing so gave me energy, as if the air itself contained energy, or whatever I breathed in.

I slowly opened my eyes . . . and found darkness slowly giving way to a dimly lit haziness. Fog? I sniffed the air . . . discovering the crisp smell of fresh-fallen snow. But I couldn’t see any snow, and it would have been the last place a Christian would expect to find snow, anyway. I believe it simply was the purity of the place, a cool mistiness, not too difficult to breathe.

I noticed my clothing . . . appeared to be a one-piece leisure-work jumpsuit, made of a dark blue material . . . charred to black ash in a few places, and torn in some other places. Black boots on my feet appeared to be in fairly good condition. No blood . . . no burned skin . . . I did not appear to be injured, although I felt like hell.

From my back, I rolled over onto my right side. Then I realized I had awakened on stairs. My feet were pointing down the stairs, or so I assumed—based on my position and what I believed to be the force of natural gravity. A form of stone-like material, the stairs felt to my touch, cold and hard. It looked like rock had been melted and poured to form the stairs. They appeared to be new.

I tried to become better oriented . . . thinking in terms of up the stairs being north, although being diagonally upward. Still on my right side, I was facing west. At that moment, the source of light came into focus . . . the eyes of my soul adjusting . . . to reveal . . . stars. Countless brilliant stars. I leaned over carefully, to look over the side of the stairs, straight down below me, to view . . . more stars. No ground. Nothing to support the stairs, there, apparently in open space. I felt more dizziness, so I leaned back for a while.

There is no air in space, you know. But, what sounded like wind—I mean, air blowing against something, I could not at first identify. Then it became louder. I began to sense its direction, although I could not yet actually feel air blowing against me.

Again, I looked below the stairs . . . carefully leaning slightly over the side. You see, there were no handrails to grasp. However, upon leaning further over the side, I felt the force of gravity move with me. It held me to the side of the stairs, being only about two feet thick. Then I discovered I could move around to the underside. It had the same design of steps as the topside. Gravity on the underside was as strong, and it held me as securely as it did upon the topside. A bit disorienting. A new perspective.

The source of the strange sound became closer. I looked in the direction I still considered to be west . . . and about forty-five degrees of what had become up from the underside or down from the topside. I watched it approach . . . slowly coming into focus . . . what appeared to be an ancient three mast sailing ship. However, the sails of that ship, I then realized, were apparently designed to also catch the wind of the stars. The solar wind, or something like it. As the ship came closer, more details came into focus. I could see some of its crew, out walking around upon the exposed top deck . . . and all of them wearing spacesuits! I felt a momentary sense of panic, knowing I had no such protection—no spacesuit! But then fascination overwhelmed the panic as I continued to watch.

The ship was up-side-down, from my viewpoint, so I crawled back around to the topside of the stairs . . . putting my view of the ship right-side-up, as if it mattered. Designed in the likeness of an ancient sailing ship for voyages upon oceans of water, it was—or would be—a spaceship on voyages between worlds, in a realm between the physical universe and the spiritual universe . . . and a timeship on voyages between what will be, and what was, so long ago.

Why that design? I felt like I might eventually discover the answer in another place and time. I turned around to face east and look over the other side of the stairway, as it passed under the stairway from west to east. As it did so, I could see one of the crew, on the top deck, wave up to me! So surprised was I that I did not think to wave back until the ship was nearly out of sight. Should I have wondered who he was, or will be? For time travelers, of a kind, answers can come before questions. Who am I here after, that he may be there after?

Next, I looked down the stairs . . . to the point where they vanished into perspective . . . the point appearing to be down on a planet. Was the stairway really going down to that planet?—or coming up from that planet? I guess it depends more on whether one is more optimistic or more pessimistic, one way or the other. The stairway didn’t actually touch the surface of the planet. If it had, it would likely have been pulled along by the planet’s rotation, if the stairs were real, rather than an illusion, I concluded. Although there was some cloud cover, I could see continents and oceans. The visible landmasses looked like they could be fitted together, like the pieces of a giant jigsaw picture puzzle. With that thought, part of my memory was triggered.

Some of the members of the . . . expedition . . . referred to that planet as “Jigsaw”—the “jigsaw planet”—because of the shape of the continents, appearing to have once been part of a single large landmass.

I turned around and looked up the stairway. Or perhaps I should refer to it, in that direction, as being a starway. I could see at the top of the stairs what appeared to be a colossal space station in the shape of a wheel, with many spokes connected to a cylindrical hub at its center. I expected to see it turning to create artificial gravity, but it was not. And, I could see the stairs appeared to be connected to the outer rim, at a giant door. To the left of the door, from my viewpoint, I noticed three large windows, but couldn’t see through their reflective surfaces. I should mention, I would now estimate the station to be at least 100 miles in diameter.

I didn’t want to return to the planet . . . assuming that’s where I came from . . . so I stood up and began to walk up the stairs. I wasn’t sure exactly how far I’d have to walk, from where I’d awakened, to where the stairs reached the space station. A few thousand steps, I guessed.

I’m not sure how long it took me to reach the top of the stairs, but time passed quickly…

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