STORIES OF NO MAN'S SKY
In this iteration she was called Zin. Nantli Xocoyotzin. She had other names but this was the one that whispered of connections to the first star that made her. Her movement was constant. Sometimes it was so slow as to not appear to be movement at all. Other times it was faster than the light that traveled to her from the skies. It was insistent. It was precise and purposeful. The gathering of the sixteen circles was all that mattered now. The telling, the remembering, the acknowledgment of existence in all its forms.
She moved through the galaxies, leaving circles for someone to find even though the odds were against it. From space, this planet had looked like many of the others. It was not until Zin landed that she finally understood. This was where she would make her home. This would be the way back that she never had before. This would be the place where she would wait for the others to find her.
Sentinel. One of many. Many of one. Sentinel had no name. It may have had a designation at one point in time, a number of its own. It mattered little now. If there had ever been a number it was gone. The memory of anything before was gone. Scan. Process. Identify. Classify. Upload. Process. Even without a number of its own, everything Sentinel perceived was numeric. Everything made sense. Everything had order.
A ship. Pieces of a module left behind. Numbers. A message. Sentinel tried to compute...0613...6136...1361..3613...dots and lines that were not recognized. 6736...7367...3673...6736. Unfamiliar forms, delicate lines that were part of no known equation, no catalogued logarithm. Sentinel repeated the sequence, rebooting through most of the bright time in an effort to fulfill its primordial mission.
The efforts continued. Dusk. Night. As the infinite points of light let themselves be seen, Sentinel worked on through the darkness. Process. Identify…Kzzt...ERROR...kztkzt. In those few precious moments before the dawn, Sentinel might have exceeded its mission. It might have fluttered and sparked with something akin to understanding, something that belonged only to Sentinel. A sense beyond mathematics or an arrival to the very heart of it perhaps? An intimate calculus that was unique, a new language that gently ended the small machine. A signal that it was time to leave its hardware shell behind.
Another sentinel eventually came to search in the daylight, to investigate the glitch. Sentinel’s husk was scanned, classified, coded. The new arrival began to run the numbers. It tried to compute. 0613...6136...1361..3613...dots and lines that made no sense ...6736...7367...3673...6736.
When your last face will say your name
Destroy me again
Until there's no you
--Beauty, Love Supreme
She heard the water in the shower before she opened her eyes. He was singing, loudly and badly. She couldn’t help but smile. Her sweet pirate, an unexpected treasure fallen from the sky like a star. Had it already been a hundred years together?
Their wariness with one another in the beginning had eventually grown into ardent appreciation of their tremendous luck. She had never heard her name in such a way as the first time he’d said it, whispered into her ear like a precious secret when he thought she was sleeping. It was this that made her know she loved him. It was this that made her certain he loved her.
By the time she pulled herself up in the small bed and let her bare feet touch the cool floor, Aluk was standing near the nutrient processor preparing breakfast. He was still humming contentedly. The sound of it drew her to him and she pressed herself into his back, the top of her head barely reaching his shoulders.
“Grah! Good morning, my beautiful baruu,” he growled, turning to press his forehead to hers as he raised her up to him. “It shall be a wonderful day!”
And it was. Zin supposed now that this was why it was so painful to remember the rest of it. The proud and hopeful grin on Aluk’s face as he came over the hill holding his find. The blooms were beautiful, red as the old blood she remembered from her childhood in the floating city. She froze in disbelief at her arrogance. It had been thousands of years since she’d burned the last hateful bulb. How could he be holding one now? By the time he reached her, it had already begun.
The formidable Vy’keen fell to his knees and then forward, doing his best to warn her away even through the pain. The plant changed and grew so quickly, mimicking the form of Aluk as he withered before her eyes, confused and trying to speak in liquid gurgles. The Portthorn tendrils curled. They shaped themselves into a writhing smaller version of her beloved, its excited movement contrasting with the stillness of Aluk’s dead flesh and Zin’s keening.