By: Dinar Rahayu
JUST like a nightmare still haunting while one’s awake, that’s how it feels to travel with the Space and Time Bending Machine. Chempasuchitl awakened with nightmares lingering in his head when he was ejected through the pod’s door in the same way as a toilet bowl which holds too much feces eventually overflows. The quick hands of the machine attendants caught Chempasuchitl who was soaked with water and phlegm formed as a side effect of the travel.
“Good morning, Sir, welcome to the City of Light port,” greeted a female pod attendance while handing a towel to him. “Please take the time to get yourself refreshed first, and if there’s anything I could help, just call me.”
The young lady exuded a fragrantly fresh odor, apparently she had splashed on her body a perfume extracted from glowing lizard’s gland. Nightmares and phlegm remaining from the travel still drenched him. He gulped the water down as if he hadn’t seen water for thousands of years and then took anti-dizziness drugs.
He had arrived at Planet Light. The fifth planet in the Illuminata Perpetualis galaxy. The stellar system comprises 15 planets revolving around a small star, as the system’s administration center. Each and every planet and star in this system links to each other with the Space and Time Bending Machine so the inhabitants can move to and fro without having to get too old upon arriving at their destination. He himself lives in Planet Words. He works as a Super Computer Servant at the heart of the system. Together with tens of millions of other servants, he takes care of administrative odds and ends that govern every aspect of the residents’ life for the system viability. This time around he had to go to Planet Light, to its capital, the City of Light, to attend an exhibition of energy production that is presumably cleaner and more efficient.
The port lies within approximately 679 tsuks from the city center. It’s in fact impractical to install a Space and Time Bending Machine to travel such a not-quite-long distance, so Chempasuchitl boarded a super-fast air balloon. He stared at a holographic catalog of travel packages offering tours to various planets as he drank a cup of tea made from excrement of light tree caterpillars known to be capable of refreshing the body, and treated himself with crispy, grilled caterpillars. He listened to bits of newscasts: “Harvest of light fruits in the countryside across Planet Light, an accident on Track 303 of the Space and Time Bending Machine line.”
Chempasuchitl has a girlfriend, living in one of the City of Light’s moons, Lili-Pol is her name. Lili-Pol has a large telescope that can be used to peer into distant galaxies, she’s been fighting for her discovery, a peculiar planet which is the third from the central star of that galaxy. According to her, one of the planet inhabitants has the following attributes: walking on two legs and having two hands, a certain creature always stumbles into multi-story buildings because this species walks with eyes fixed downward while pressing buttons that are much smaller than their fingers, often entering the wrong toilet, and early in the morning they eat something coming out of an orifice of a creature that makes “cackling” sound, with a beak and wings.
Illuminata Perpetualis’ Star Forecasting Agency could not accept Lili-Pol’s findings yet for the idea that there’s another planet occupied by such creatures is ridiculous. But, Lili-Pol didn’t give up. The Agency doesn’t mind about her activities, as long as she could gather further evidence.
Chempasuchitl’s recollection of Lili-Pol left him startled. It just occurred to him that today he should have taken her to go for a walk to see the Trees of Words blossoming on the outskirts of the City of Words, but the Administration Center sent him on an urgent assignment to Planet Light.
He immediately waved his hand. A holographic screen appeared before him. He thought of Lili-Pol and immediately a call sensor displayed her image, also her home phone number. Chempasuchitl nodded, immediately the caller connected with Lili-Pol’s machine. Shoot! It turned out the young lady wasn’t at home. The machine did a search and found she was on the fast track heading for Planet Words. On Track 303.
“On Track 303!” the phrase burst out of his mouth along with the tea and a chew of grilled caterpillars.
“The accident on Track 303!!!!” he shrilled at the hologram machine that immediately got the red indicator flashing suggesting his screaming was too loud. The machine immediately brought him all the news about the accident on Track 303. Around 2,000 passengers of the Space and Time Bending Machine were sucked into a dimensional vortex as the machine had a failure at Track 303. Each atom of the passengers then scattered randomly in the past, present and future. The transportation agency was gathering data on who the passengers are, what their defining features are, and it expected that their family members or relatives visit the nearest transportation office carrying a lock of hair, a piece of skin or whatever so the passengers’ bodies can be reconstructed properly.
The Time and Space Bending Machine calls off death. Yet, the news received is sometimes as painful. For example, it goes like this: “Thirty percent of your father’s atoms are scattered in the past, 50% in the future, and less than 10% dispersed in the present, and the rest spread out in between the machine’s cabin walls.” That’s not the news of death, but it remains similarly intractable to be faced and passed on. Even if one is saved, there’s another problem lurking; the passengers’ memories, minds, experiences sometimes get accidentally exchanged, left behind, mixed up, stuck along the machine line. The speed that twists the distance between planets seems to put these things out of the equation, although such accident rarely happens at Illuminata Perpetualis.
Chempasuchitl looked around. All passengers on the air balloon were now fixated on that particular news, and when the balloon commenced its landing sequence and the step-ladder was attached to it, all the passengers got off slowly while continuing to gaze at the holographic screens and listen to the news. Across the holographic displays at the port, air balloon anchorage, city and city parks, news on the accident on Track 303 was running.
Chempasuchitl attended the exhibition with his mind wandering off somewhere else. Lili-Pol’s face continued to be etched upon his memory. The Space and Time Bending Machines are equipped with safety nets, but could she be one of the passengers whose atoms were so dispersed that the safety nets could no longer contain her, and the atoms were tossed about across the universe. Attracted by one star’s gravity and blown away by another star’s explosion?
Three days in Planet Light’s revolution had gone by since the accident. Chempasuchitl extended his stay in the City of Light. In front of him sat Lili-Pol, apparently lacking nothing whatsoever. She remembered Chempasuchitl, she recalled many things that happened in her life, but she didn’t know how deep she was in love with him. Lili-Pol was neither absent-minded, nor forgetful, only that part of her memory was scattered somewhere. Perhaps, it was swapped inadvertently.
Chempasuchitl—assisted by the Transportation and Record Agencies of Illuminata Perpetualis—had delved into all existing data, looking for reminiscences and memories that got mixed up. Various media had queried who have memories of sitting together at the City of Light’s beach, overlooking the sea and watching the glowing lizards ate fruits from the Trees of Light that are submerged in shallow waters, of those nights when they sat together staring at the sky, watching the Trees of Words shot up words in the air, making a series of sentences in the sky of Planet Words. The problem is, millions or perhaps billions of people shared similar moments, sorting out which specific memories belong to Lili-Pol is the trickiest. But as other persistent and diligent citizens of the galaxy, Chempasuchitl never gave up. Until this story was written, he was still searching, in different memory data centers, in the depths of Lili-Pol’s eyes.(*)