Writing Challenge: The Journal

I ended up submitting the Writing Small challenge story for this week to Daily Science Fiction, so I’m going to post a longer piece from over a year ago when my intention wasn’t to “write small.” This wasn’t written specifically for the challenge; it’s taken from the third novel in my SF space opera series, Children of the Om-Mar, but it met the conditions of the challenge quite nicely.

Here’s the wording from the original challenge:

This Week’s Challenge is “The Journal”

A journal is found which describes a series of events as experienced by one man/woman/thing. The entire journal is told through his/her eyes with no other source of input.

Example journals include: A Captain’s Log, A Diary, A Papyrus Scroll, A Twitter Account, A Stone Tablet, A Voice Recorder, etc.

+10 Bonus Points if you write in journal format (A series of dated log entries written in the first-person.)

CHALLENGE: The Journal

The following excerpts are from the personal journal of Imsspud Midhand Fighting-claws, Chronicler, Ecaur Homeworld Project; translated by Shung-Si Karsten.

Translator’s note: A significant portion of the original version of this document was recorded in the author’s full tri-sensory language. While most of the document could be translated directly, certain references—such as personal and place names—require the subtlety of the author’s original language to differentiate between them. To this end, I have done my best to represent these subtleties in a way that will separate the references without alienating the reader.

The aural component of the reference is spelled phonetically, based on this translator’s limited human hearing. The visual component is represented by a written description. (For example, the “Midhand Fighting-claws” reference in the author’s name indicates an unsheathing of the double talons on the speaker’s middle set of limbs.) The olfactory component is not used.

In addition, I have taken the liberty of using the pronoun “he,” rather than the more biologically accurate “it” when referring to individuals of the author’s race.

Lastly, some of the concepts used by the author possess no direct translation or correlation to common human concepts. Whenever possible, I chose a word or phrase that represents the idea. When such a word or phrase was not available or when further explanation was necessary, I included notes to assist in the reader’s understanding.

For the reader’s reference, the initial entry in the journal was recorded approximately 3,000 standard years prior to it being translated.

***

Sixth Age, 104th Year, 72nd Day

I am Imsspud Midhand Fighting-claws, historian, xeno-sociologist, and Chief Chronicler for the final phase of the Homeworld Project. I will keep this private journal as a supplement to the official chronicle of the Project expedition, although I hope it will stand on its own as an account of my personal thoughts and feelings during the decades this expedition is expected to last.

Many say the Homeworld Project will be the true legacy of our Sixth Age; others claim it is nothing but folly. Thus far, I reserve judgment, for the answer lies in the outcome of the mission. If we manage to recreate the conditions of our homeworld on the target planet, then the Project could very well become the legacy of this age and mark the true beginning of our return to prominence—the true beginning of our Sixth Age—a far better marker than the supposed end of our war with the Geddon-hir, a war I do not believe will be over until every one of them (or every one of us) is dead.

Yet even if the Project fails, I will be hard pressed to agree it is foolish for us even to try. After our long recovery from the war, our people need something to look forward to. The re-creation of the conditions of our homeworld, conditions we have found nowhere else, gives them that something. If successful, it will provide a place for the scattered remains of our people to gather, a place we hope will be safe from the Geddon-hir. A place where we can start over.

Many of those opposed to the Project believe that, because it was our attempts to emulate Nature that led to the creation of the Geddon-hir and, thus, to the destruction of our homeworld, we should live without such a place and let the absence remind us of our foolishness. And foolish it was. But it is no reason to deny ourselves a new homeworld, for what we did in creating the Geddon-hir was no more foolish than what any of dozens of other Fourth Age races did by creating new species or manipulating existing ones.

Nearly every race that survives its Third Age becomes convinced it must, for whatever reason, attempt to improve on Nature. Inevitably, something goes wrong. Yet, even knowing that, each race seems determined to try, to be the one to get it right. None have.

Lifeforms need the millennia used by Nature to develop correctly. Trying to force such development in too short a time, no matter how well researched and planned, often results in out-of-control creatures such as the Geddon-hir or helpless slave races such as the Bassej (created and used by the Vale) or the Kanda’hirst (enslaved by their creators, the Krayca, as well as others).

As a follower of the philosophy of Universal Ecology, I must acknowledge that such creatures have their place in the Universe, but it is sometimes difficult to accept such an all-encompassing belief, for too often it is the innocents created who must pay the price of their creators’ foolishness.

***

Sixth Age, 104th Year, 84th Day

Many of the readers of this journal may notice that I use no clan designation in my name. Rightfully, one might assume this is because I am a member of one of the families whose actions during the Geddon-hir War so disgraced the clan name that I prefer not to—or dare not—use it.

The truth is, I am truly without a clan. Not because my people were lost during the War (being only eighty-four years old, I am too young to even remember the War), but because each of my parents were from a different clan.

Due to the number of clans destroyed during the War, the Directorate decided to allow a limited number of clan breedings to take place in hopes of establishing new clans to replace those that were lost.

Although I am the product of such a breeding, I am not automatically qualified to begin a clan. The Directorate must first approve the new clan, and before I can petition them for such approval, I must master three of the intellectual sciences, three of the physical sciences, and at least one of the arts.

Although I take my responsibility as a possible progenitor of a new clan very seriously, it is the opportunity to learn that truly interests me. And, although my participation in the Homeworld Project will limit my ability to meet and study new races, it is my hope that it will allow me to learn other disciplines. I hope that my participation in this expedition will help to advance myself toward these goals.

Two of the physical sciences in which I have found an interest are botany[1] and xeno-biology (which also aids in my study of the intellectual sciences of xeno-history and xeno-sociology). To this end, I will be assisting Barist Clan kiSheel Scissortail, Chief Expedition Botanist, and Zanscha Clan Uil Hindhand Travel-claws, our xeno-biologist.

I have already started working with Barist. The homeworld plants we are bringing with us for implantation on the new world have been readied for Sleep and appear to be doing well. I only hope that I am as ready, for we will not be using the Rintoel Drive, so as not to alert any Geddon-hir to our movements, and this will be a long journey, the length of a full Sleep.

This would not bother me so much, save for the fact that this will be my first off-schedule Sleep. But the Sleep is necessary, not only to spare us from having to endure the journey, but more importantly to allow those of us on the project to share in the auryl[2] and, thereby, be fully prepared to work so closely together for so long.

Still, I have my reservations. Although I have been approved medically for the artificial Sleep-inducement procedure and know that, in theory at least, one can survive indefinitely in Sleep, I keep remembering the stories of those who never awaken.

[1] Here, the term “botany” is used loosely, as many of the plants to which the author refers would not be classified as such using human classification methods.

[2] Loosely translated, the term auryl means “group mind” or “combined consciousness.” During Sleep, the consciousnesses of nearby sleepers join. It is believed this phenomenon developed initially as a survival technique. Originally, clans entered Sleep only with fellow clan members. Auryl allowed all sleepers to awaken simultaneously, or nearly so, in case of an attack or other threat. In this reference, the author’s hope is that the individuals from different clans will become closer, more of “one mind,” to aid in their future work together.

***

Sixth Age, 111th Year, 120th Day

It has been over seven years since I made my last entry to this journal; over seven years since I entered Sleep.

I came through the artificial Sleep well. One of us, however, was not so fortunate. Of the twenty-seven members of the expedition who entered Sleep, only twenty-six awakened. Caton Clan Uil Neck-Arch, head engineer and one of the originators of the Homeworld Project, died shortly before the Awakening process began. His passing is a great loss, but we will continue our work in his memory.

The initial survey of the planet has been completed. It has everything the scouting reports indicated: a stable orbit, mild climate, and a wide variety of useful natural flora and fauna. For our base of operations, we have chosen a series of caves near the equator on one of the planet’s larger continents and have moved the Sleep chambers and other equipment from the ship into our new home. The ship will be leaving soon and will not return for approximately one hundred years, at which time it will bring the equipment for the final stage of our work here: imitating the effects of the rogue star that visited our home system every forty years or so. Once the ship has left, our only tie to our people will be through our Communicator, Nessa Clan Vig Tail-Arch.

Not long ago, I was able to join one of the survey teams and see some of the planet for myself. A race of primitive First Age bipeds seems to be the only sentient life. We were able to observe several groups of them for some time.

A debate has arisen between several members of the expedition as to whether or not the sentients are natural to this world. There are some indications that they might be a Created species, but there is no sign of a Caretaker race or any other reason why we should discontinue our work here.

Expedition leader Gifsen Clan Roaf Hindhand Fighting-claws has granted me permission to contact the bipeds directly and explain our mission, assuming they can be made to understand. He thinks it will make for an interesting study to observe their reaction to us and their attempts to contend with our work here.

I realize that, as a scientist, it is not proper that I get too involved with any observational subjects and that whatever happens is part of the Ecology, but it is my sincere hope that the bipeds will be able to adapt to the extreme changes we are to bring to their world.

***

Sixth Age, 119th Year, 248th Day

Today marks the end of the ninth local year since our arrival. The installation and testing of the field generators and their related systems is on schedule, with only the expected complications.

We have completed our first six-year botanical adaptation study. Most of the plants are adapting well to the local conditions. A few have even begun to show a Cycle-like adaptation to this planet’s natural seasons. However, the most difficult phase of the adaptation is yet to come, for it will require far longer than the longest natural Cycle for us to complete our work here. It is hoped that most of the plants will be able to survive this prolonged time without a period of true Sleep.

***

Sixth Age, 157th Year, 65th Day

Today, twenty local years after the generators were activated, we received the first indication that they are beginning to affect the planet’s orbit. However, this good news was tempered by the fact that we will soon be entering a prolonged Sleep to await the return of the ship. It is scheduled to arrive in approximately fifty years, at which time we will use the equipment it delivers to begin the final stage of making this planet our new Homeworld. We expect those on the ship to contact us well before their arrival so we can prepare for them.

Nessa, our Communicator, will monitor for contact during Sleep. We will join him in auryl to aid his efforts. Once contact is made, we will awaken again.

Having come out of a natural Sleep less than six years ago, I do not look forward to returning to the chamber so soon.

***

The auryl comes alert at the presence of another new consciousness. The new one is close. Too close.

Alarmed, it begins to contract, severing links, pulling back to its focal point.

The sense of oneness shatters. The knowledge of self returns.

I awaken.

I know it has been long, almost inconceivably long. The auryl was odd; many were missing, and some were not Ecaur. What has happened?

Memory begins to return.

I am Imsspud Midhand Fighting-claws. I flex those claws, and those on my fore and hind hands. I flare my neck and side spines. Is there danger?

I sense my companions awakening around me, but there are so few, only eight. I remember the auryl growing smaller with the death of each of us. Briefly, I recall the sorrow of each loss. I remember the strangers, the non-Ecaur who shared the auryl with us. I remember the one that started the Awakening.

Zac. Not Ecaur, yet powerful. A Communicator? Again I wonder what has happened.

I stretch and touch the chamber controls with a forehand. Instantly, the Sleep water that has encased my body begins to drain away. I feel gravity for the first time in—

How long has it been?

I turn my attention outward.


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About Mik Wilkens

Writer of fantasy, science fiction, and other speculative fiction. Author of The Silver Cage, a fantasy novel, coming 12/1/10.
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