Tag Archives: Axis Mundi

“Axis Mundi” – Fiction by Cameron Suey

The Ash Yggdrasil - Friedrich Wilhelm Heine
The Ash Yggdrasil – Friedrich Wilhelm Heine, 1886

Cameron Suey has been one of our favorite storytellers for several years now. His tales of horror and dark fantasy have filled our heads with some of the most deliciously terrifying images our minds’ eyes have ever seen, and we’re eternally grateful to him for that. We’re excited to present his story “Axis Mundi” below, as well as in our Spring 2014 Issue.

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CAPTAIN ELISHA DRIFTS BACK TO HER BODY. Sedative fog curls around her edges for a long, liquid minute before she remembers she has eyes to open. Lids slide across her sclera, a syrupy-sweet motion that tingles her spine like some small secret pleasure. Her forearms feel hot and then cold, as catheters spit the next layer of the wakeup cocktail into her blood. Already, the induced euphoria’s fading, shepherding the last of the delirium and confusion away to be replaced by a conscious, knowing glee. They’ve arrived.

Her new stateroom smells of wood and leather, warm aromas painted in crimson and deep oak hues. The armchair creaks as she moves, and smartbands retreat into its folds like startled snakes. The catheters slip from her flesh, spraying a thin mist of skinbond to cover their tracks, and constrict away into the arms of the chair.

Her vision drifts to a far wall, her eyes looping on a pleasing swirl in the burlwood, where Mithradates projects her feeds in layers of soft amber light. The most important detail rises to the surface in pulsing cobalt: No one has followed. Right up until their unscheduled departure, no alarms were even raised.

Now the slip is over, only a few hours passed, and the slick ebon needle of her new ship, the Mithra, drifts above the ecliptic of Gliese 667C. Mithradates maps the bewildering orbits of the neighboring stars and the six rocky planets around 667C, adjusting for any local eccentricities since the stellar event. The third star, a dull red coal, squats at the center of a tangle of scorched planets. Elisha waits for Mithradates to find any sign of their quarry, but so far she only sees the purples and oranges of worlds and moons.

The nausea arrives as she scans the display, inevitable postslip vomit rising up at the back of her throat. A small basin of burnished silver extends on a silent pseudopod, awaiting her purge. Everyone must sleep during the slip, and only Goetsch claims to have conquered the purge. Elisha could have asked Mithradates to confirm, to see if it’s just more bluster from the mission’s XO, but she’d rather let the man keep his boasts.

With a twinkling of glass bells, a white dot appears in the orbital map, then another. The Odin, and the Yggdrasil. The ghost ships, in the shadow of the third planet. Elation rises up in her, along with something else. Elisha leans into the gleaming mouth of the basin and gags before her throat unlocks to spray a hot foam of sweet pepper bisque, her last meal before their covert flight from Terrapin Yards.

As she blots her lips with a soft cloth, the remains of the first slipprobe from the Reclamation Society appears on Mithradates’ map. Closer in, trailing the orbit of the third planet, it’s just a few hundred thousand kilometers from the Odin and the Yggdrasil. It reads as a scattered cloud of pinprick fragments in the readout, the slip engine still bleeding weak exotic energy signals even a few weeks after the probe’s demise. The second probe, following hours after and launched at great risk of detection, had been more circumspect. From a high and silent orbit, it brought back word of Odin and the Yggdrasil, their distant silhouettes barely visible in the shadow of the dead world.

If there were still survivors aboard, separated by more than 900 years of cultural and technological drift, they would need to be approached with cautious grace. Her spine crawled with excitement at the thought, as if the universe had unfurled to give flesh to her dreams.

When they had told her about the probes, she’d thrown every ounce of social capital she had to get the Reclamation Society’s nomination, abandoning the last of her studies. She’d been the one to propose the theft of her mother’s ship, the Mithra, and she and Goetsch had arranged to patch the ship’s entity, Mithradates, in secret. In the end, they were the only possible crew. She bent and twisted the world to deliver them to this moment.

More sounds, ringing steel this time, as Mithradates tells her the rest of the crew are awake and ready to begin. With his new software, he vibrates with excitement, almost as eager as her to begin. A third tone, hollow wooden chimes, and Mithradates paints new information in the air above the Odin and the Yggdrasil. Her brow furrows. The numinous excitement that suffused her since her selection fades into the background. She leans closer to confirm what Mithradates is showing her.

Around the great sphere of the Yggdrasil drifts a cloud of objects, an accretion disc of ablative armor shrapnel from a thousand years of micrometeorites, drifting screws and abandoned tools, and corpses. Thousands of frozen corpses, lashed by ropes. Loops and whorls of the dead sketching glyphs and geometric shapes drift around the ghost ship, held close by the Yggdrasil’s gentle gravity.

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