Floozman in Space
by Bertrand Cayzac
In a space station in Earth orbit, Janatone Waldenpond, a refugee from Europa, is trying to return to Earth. She meets a long-lost cousin, Fred Looseman. Meanwhile, Jenny Appleseed, the president of the Cosmitix Corporation, holds a conference to plan interstellar expeditions.
Chapter 13: The Seventh Ennead
Is it the mildness of the wind or curiosity that has driven the ex-financial director to the secret passageway, under the garden walls and thence into the reeds? The night is clear, voices were singing and whispering in the groves.
Winaretta has beckoned to him to follow her. They stroll under the ferns down to the embarcadero. The security cameras follows them: he is tall and stiff in his gardener’s outfit; she is slim and awkward. Her prominent, hooked nose makes a sharp blade on her face, and her eyes are those of a marvelous fish when she laughs, like a very wise elephant when her eyelids are heavy.
Her complexion is of the light clouds of Earth; her hair is thick and black; her teeth are as white as the first snow on Kyoto. Winaretta, what do you want with that boy? You are two hundred and fifty years older than he!
A barge takes them to the palace and from there, in the carmine chiaroscuro of the galleries running just below the ice surface, they reach the academy underground. Winaretta searches for her way, hesitating at the crossroads in the blind crowd of workers. Untouchable in her power nimbus, she divides the crowd of these creatures of repetition, the quasi-living divers with their translucent bodies, the miners with black crystal skin, the practico-inert shale centipedes, the poor-in-world drones.
In the uncertain swirl of the CosmiGirl’s wake, Stuart Surof sometimes grazes these sidereal existences, and his heart freezies with terror.
By corridors designed in various former times, they enter peaceful rooms with ceilings ornamented with wooden moldings, which walls populated by antique books of leather and paper. The Appleseed’s library!
Browsing the oaken shelves, their gaze brings forth the flow of past works into the immediate Web, together with the memories of kings, patrons and splendid cities. Authentic masterpiece paintings and contemporary productions emerge, as well as enveloping installations painfully close to beauty.
Inside hermetic showcases crouch patient mummies, black and semi-naked, clinging to their knees as matter clings to form. Beggars of death. Stuart Surof is stunned by the extent of the collection; it is much larger than he has imagined.
All these treasures illegally introduced on Europa are not reported in the balance sheet and, if they were taken into account, how could their value be assessed, he wonders. These questions are tinged with a sense of urgency. Wouldn’t all this have to be secured in a safe place before Comex triggers his attack plan? Has anyone thought of that?
But his guide, Winaretta, is looking for something. For a long while, she offers her supple back to his gaze while the dust — the dust from the Earth with as fine a grain as pure memory — celebrates the new light by making her a crown.
They go ever farther, as far as the most distant stores where mountains of antiques have been hoarded: golden crockery, furniture, ceramics, moth-eaten clothes, more books...
In the eighth room they visit, Winaretta hesitates before a manuscript of modest size, made up of one or two hundred dry sheets held by a worn binding. The gilding seems to have retained a remnant of luster to illuminate this encounter. Surof is impressed and confused.
“That’s it,” Winaretta says in a low voice. ”I’m gonna take it. No one took the time to scan it. This is may be what will save it from destruction.” She smiles, as usual, at her own irony.
Surof is startled at hearing the word “destruction.” “What is it?”
“An old thing that talks about the place we are going to, I think. It is not a recent acquisition. I found it by chance while looking for a red garnet, and then I forgot about it. I did something else....” She falls silent, lost in memory.
“Where are we going?”
“Hold on... There’s a formula in the colophon. I’m sure there is.”
“A formula?” Stuart Surof leans over Winaretta’s warm shoulder; its beautiful, round flesh is particular to this person and no other, depending, in truth, on her own will, which would alert her if he touched it...
He discovers Latin text with its angular letters meticulously copied and arranged in numbered paragraphs. In an illumination in the margin of the last page, he sees algebraic signs and figures. Some of these figures look strangely familiar to him. I know what this is, he says to himself, but what is it?
“Ah, the formulas excite you, don’t they, Surof?! They can burn as well as the rest, you know... Here, I’ve found it. It’s the formula I saw, or close enough! Let’s go.”
She closes the book and takes it under her arm while dragging the ex-financial director towards the exit.
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Copyright © 2015 by Bertrand Cayzac