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Outrunning the Storm

Michele Dutcher
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Harris Tobias
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Jeromy Henry

The Letter


Ishmael Soledad

Dear David


I hope that this letter does not surprise you too much, it will have been many years although I am sure your mother has told you all about me. Even though most of it would be wrong, some things she says may be right, perhaps in spite of the bearer. Be that as it may, this is (as you may have guessed by now) your father. Yes, I am both alive and well, probably better than I have been for many years now, and it is well nigh time I did contact you. You only turn eighteen once in your life and now that you are an adult you deserve at least an explanation or failing that at least the story of why you find yourself without me. There are reasons as to why I cannot just simply drop by and see you or chat with you across a coffee somewhere; good reasons you will see that I will try to explain. To set your mind at ease this is no begging letter, mea culpa or attempt to dislodge your mother from your life in my favour. I simply want to tell you my side. All I ask is that you read this letter, then do with it as you will. As for my preference for paper and pen well, for now just put it down to an old man’s quirky mistrust in emails and texts.


So to start at the beginning, your mother and I were together for nearly two years living in that old flat by Riverside until you were born, after which we moved to the wooden house in the hills that perhaps you still inhabit. We met when she had finished her studies and she may have said an old scoundrel seduced her, to which I plead guilty. I was well beyond her age, an established businessman with not much else to recommend. I had never married, seemingly never shown much interest in women or the world at large outside my business or immediate family. She was, is, and I hope has proven to be perfect. In no way was our attraction one sided. I loved her honestly and completely as best as I am able. Her family disapproved strongly of us, mine were accepting to the other extreme. It may seem strange as my side will have no contact with you at all, but such are the ways of these things. You were no accident, no mishap of oral contraception failed or waning strength, but from both of us planned and cherished, an expression of love and – as with all parents – ultimately hope. I stayed through her pregnancy and your first year of life, sheltering and supporting you both as best I could.


Even as we joined I knew I could not remain. The house was bought and given to her, your trust account drawn up and filled, and the mechanisms to sustain put in place. As you grow I know these mechanisms will remain, as they were designed to do. Her job is secured through one of my family’s minor interests (not that she will ever know) as is your physical safety. Even should she find another – as much as one is able to be found - and even should they provide you with brothers and sisters all will be taken care of. Nothing, I mean absolutely nothing, is of greater importance to me than you. My great despair is only that I can’t remain past this birthday. My pain is my father’s, his father’s, and before.


We are descendants of a forced migration. Our family history reaches back thousands of years, back beyond the time of our setting foot in the Americas. You would not and cannot now know the riches of the past our line has seen. Imagine being present at the zenith of the Incas, marching on Tenochtitlan with Cortés, watching Lewis and Clarke stumble north, sharing the pipe with Tecumseh, or leaving Scott and his party on the Antarctic. We have borne witness to these things and more. This is your true inheritance of which your mother has no knowledge. It is only among us that such things are spoken of, our ability and desire through the years to remain in the background, unseen, being both our pride and vocation. As it will be yours.


I know you will feel different through the years, apart but with your peers at school and home. You are burdened to be different and even distant from your mother, even from the whole of the world. I know that this is not destructive or violently tinged, and your tendency to melancholy is formative and reflective. You see, I know more of you than you think; you may say I know you as well as myself.


How can I know, having not seen or spoken to you in seventeen years? How can I say I have never seen you even though I watched over your crib for these twelve months past? How even across these years can I know the burning resonance my letter will ignite in you that will drive and force you to finish it? It is simply that I have planned it this way. You are precious, you are the single most important person in our universe, this world or others.


Our family is small, but a dozen of us now although in the beginning we were eighteen. How far the beginning is once exorcised us greatly, some saying 3,000 years and others 4,000 years but in reality it matters little. Long ago we have learned to forget the immaterial and to remember the valued. Time is, as we must always relearn, illusory.


We were migrants, voluntarily to Australia and before that North America, and before involuntarily to those of South America. An accident brought us here with no return possible stranded unimaginably far from our homes beyond this arm of the galaxy. We cannot recall our home fully, even for us the fog of time has muddied our memory.


We were as babes in the woods on our arrival. In our old home the machines nurtured us and cared for us. We simply asked and received. We had no written or spoken language, having outgrown them when the machines proved more able. We thought our way through life, a triptych of telepathy, machine and us. We were left to explore, think and grow. That was our inheritance. Once here and stripped of machine, memory, knowledge and communication it was hard. It is difficult to conceive the shock of that change, how we were cast into barbarism and desolation from our former state, how great that fall was. We lost our six before we could integrate, before we could adapt, and even afterwards could not make them understand who or what we were. The spoken word is more limited than you can possibly imagine. What little did they grasp from us was translated to lines in fields of stone, carved images and sadistic ritual, mere distorted shadows of truth. So we melted away, determined to stay in that interstice between controlled and controlling, to wait. We do not have the means to get home, or even to find it, but one day either home will come to us or this society will go there. We are patient.


I know all these things because I have seen them, I have lived them, and will yet live to see. You and I, we dozen, are both more and less human than human. We have in essence hyper-longevity with only accident, suicide or happenstance being able to end us. Not one of us can recall a death in our people from old age or natural causes. So with me, so with you, so with the dozen. Our body decays as it must, but over a much longer span of human lifetimes allowing continuity of effort and application to ensure our future and viability. But even this is nothing in comparison to the universe itself. It is but our minds that tilt the field to us.


Our children, the children of our race, still breed true here even when inter-bred. It is our genetics that dominate, and our force of will that reinforces. It was both our fear at first and our joy. The true children of our race differ from those of this species in only one respect, the mind, an apparent difference so minor it is nearly undetectable. Our children’s minds are plastic empty shells until twelve to fourteen months of age. Up to that point they develop much as those of this species, yet at fourteen months our children simply die as the brain stops. Unless.


Unless, critically unless. Unless before that fourteen months the parent’s mind moves upon that of the infant. Male to male, female to female. It is no mere photocopy, no reproduction, but so much more. It is how we breed, how we survive, how we grow fresh and driven. It is how we cheat the ultimate darkness.


So for all of us, once our bodies decay or fail, we have a son or daughter born. And as I write this, looking at you in your crib, gurgling bright eyed beautiful and healthy, I know that my choice of your mother was right, that this time too is right. When the child reaches twelve months, as you are, the parent transfers their mind in toto – memories, knowledge, skill, hopes, dreams, fears – into the child. It does not release into consciousness immediately but sits safely in the subconscious until the child’s brain can accept the deluge, the reality. The child grows and learns, the personality of the parent facing outwards while the rest remains hidden even from themselves until the time arrives. That is the eighteenth year of life, as measured here. And to release that mind a trigger is needed, set in place by the parent, loaded into the child, and awaiting time.


For both parent and child the transfer process is not painful. For the parent a successful transfer is marked by a feeling of peace and release, followed immediately by death as the mind is emptied and shuts down. It is a pleasant way to pass I believe, calm, euphoria and then nothingness. For the child at the time it is totally uneventful; at eighteen it is a surprising and joyous epiphany, a bursting from utter darkness to glorious light that we have experienced uncounted times before and now, again.


And our trigger is this letter. David, as I write this as my last act I know that it will lie in your mind until you see, some seventeen years hence, these ink stains dried upon this page. Once I am finished, once these lines are written and my name signed, and my mind emptied, this body will cease. I pay homage to this body having brought us thus far before I abandon it. Jonathan and Mary are with me now, and will see that this vessel is disposed with the care and respect it is due. Seventeen years from now they will deliver this letter to us, wait for our awakening, and take us back to meet our brothers and sisters. I will not see me growing in our new vessel until that day. I trust we will keep it well.



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