Exploration of new worlds delighted Berenike. They’d yet to find one that would make an acceptable colony but she enjoyed the process of discovery. Until they landed on one bleak grey world and discovered something so far beyond her expectations that Berenike feared for her and her team’s survival.
Eternity in a Touch is a SF exploration of time, space and the urge to connect that spans worlds and utterly different species that is sure to entrance you.
Eternity in a Touch
By Meyari McFarland
Berenike shivered, her fingers dragging across delicately carved surface of the obelisk. At least it looked like an obelisk, tall and slender, carved of some impossibly perfect stone that their instruments had not yet been able to identify. It stood at least three times as high as Berenike was tall, twice as tall as Chloris, off muttering curses by the lander.
Delicately grey, the same color as everything else on this long-abandoned planet. Berenike traced one particular swirl of alien writing, following its curve down then up then inwards in a spiral the twisted into a knot of roughness. She could feel ever smaller swirls going in like fractals though her eyes showed her nothing. Other bits of writing, some angular, some scooped out the stone as if tiny melon ballers had worked it over, surrounded the swirl.
When she swept her hand over the surface it felt like the bumps and swirls, dips and gouges, drove her fingers straight back to the central swirl as though it was a black hole sucking Berenike in. She leaned closer, breath briefly fogging the surface of the obelisk, to try to see exactly what shape those innermost swirls too. Could they truly have created a fractal image that swept outwards from here?
She thought so. The entire city swept outwards from the obelisk, wrapping and shifting, walls formed in strange loops covered with ever growing bumps and hollows that became windows and doors that would not open for her crew. Silent, buildings coated with a fine grey dust that perfectly matched the fine grey stone they were constructive of, the city lurked like the frozen swirl of a whirlpool, the image of a black hole’s corona as it collapsed ever inwards.
Berenike frowned, her finger tracing the swirl again. It all came back to here. Everything. She’d reviewed the aerial photos.
“Do we have any analysis of the dust?” Berenike asked.
“Not yet,” Chloris snapped. “We only just landed. Give us a minute.”
“Mm, just wondering if we need breather masks,” Berenike murmured. “Volcanic glass in the lungs is a terrible way to die.”
Chloris’ head snapped up. Berenike ignored her, ignored the fervent cursing, and only turned once Chloris grunted once over her equipment. Their lander was so desperately out of place, blocky body a painful contrast to the elegant buildings and apparently impervious paving underneath it.
She wanted to strip the color of it, drain the black into grey, shift the red and white lettering declaring “MHS Baird: Lander #13” on the side until it faded into nondescript greyness like everything else. Even the shadow it cast over Chloris’ equipment, blocking the dim red sunlight, seemed too dark to belong to this quiet graveyard.
“Not volcanic,” Chloris said. She sighed and nodded once. “Metallic. Not angular. Big enough particles. Shouldn’t hurt us. Dust masks’d be good though. It’s sticky.”
“Issue them out,” Berenike ordered. “Call the others back in for it. I don’t want anyone harmed if we can avoid it. Even if we do need a new world, this probably isn’t the one for us. Not enough life even with the atmosphere match.”
“Right,” Chloris grunted.
She stood and strode into the lander, head ducked against the perpetually too-low ceiling. Her boot heels echoed like asteroid impacts in the interior, allowing Berenike to track her progress back to the supply locker and then out again. Her muttered orders were a dim murmur over Berenike’s comm. Berenike turned it up again only to scowl at the excited chattering din.
“No, I really think they’re gone,” Elisavet exclaimed so loudly that Berenike winced. At that volume she had to be flailing her arms and bouncing on her toes wherever she was.
Of course, Ismeme answered her. “You don’t know that. Our scanners aren’t telling us enough about the city or its power supply. We can’t even get into any of the buildings, Eli. For all we know they’re watching us right now.”
It was a valid concern. Berenike’s skin crawled for a second as though someone had run fingers over her spine but no, it was her fingers running over the innermost swirl on the obelisk. She turned back to it, frowning. Another brush across that central swirl. A longer, more intimate sensation of fingers gently trailing the length of her spine, starting at the small of her back with a broad, warm palm, trailing off into the faintest of fingertips at the base of her neck.
So good. It had been much too long since her last lover and the imaginary touch felt incredibly good. Berenike set her hand against the swirl, pressing gently and then firmer. An answering hand, no a dozen hands, pressed gently then harder against her chest, her right breast, the swell of her belly, her left thigh just above the knee. Hands, touching her, pressing into her, exploring her body with pressure, gentle, firm, kind, harsh, all dependent on the way Berenike touched the obelisk.
“You okay?” Chloris asked.
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