darklight 9: isvénia

Previously on Darklight: a traveller accompanied by the Ibid Bird, and Anélia, a railway guard from the moon, is on his way to meet Selena. They have reached the border of the Inverse Realms, where time flows backwards. The first episode is here.

I would have liked to tell you of the Turnaround,
where time’s pendulum pauses before it reverses,
but every memory of it had vanished from my mind,
if not my body. My shirt had been shredded,
bloodied from the cuts of sharpened claws.

The Goddess Bastet roams that place,
the Ibid Bird informed me, while Anélia
studied her fingernails.

According to the Ibid Bird, we’d arrived
to the township of Isvénia, where enormous
and invisible Isvénian land squids
consumed unwary visitors in a single slurp.
And its sandfalls were a tourist draw card.

Not to worry, said Anélia,
See that empty tourist bus?
I’m sure the squids have had their fill.

While the others sought information
on Selena, I was left to my own devices.

My devices and I chose to visit a lookout
beside the sand flows, to watch the trickles
and the torrents and the drifting whorls,
where every grain was abraded,
ground away to powder by the others.

I wondered whether I was one of them,
cascading in an hourglass through the
slender neck of the present,
and never seeing beyond.

Might those sentient grains imagine
that their space and time were irreducible?
That nothing else existed, not even Sundays?

These weren’t questions
Selena would have answered.
She’d only ever answered
what I didn’t ask.

I thought I heard a wetter sound
beneath the swooshing of the sand,
and I looked around me
for suspicious shimmers,
refracted by a less-than-skilful
land squid. But not a glimmer
was out of place.


—We found her easily enough. “Selena de Tal”
is not a common name in the Realms.

—She lives in Sondandinho,
where everyone who leaves, returns,
to somewhere else, or Sonandinho.

—We’ll take the free-range electro-trolley.
It will surely stop there, eventually.

I had pointless feathered questions,
but they flew away before I asked them.


The trolley pulled in with a sizzle
of sparking pantographs, the conductor
punched our tickets, and we stepped on board.
I found a window seat, and Anélia took the spot
beside me, with the Ibid Bird nestled in her pocket.

The passengers in the queue outside boarded
without incident, until one was carried aloft,
and vanished with a slurping sound.

After a moment, she reappeared, distraught
and wet. The next in line was hesitant,
and subsequently slurped.

Anélia explained.
The land squids take two seats,
they need two tickets.

to continue


  • the catty Bastet, ancient Egyptian goddess,
  • Isvénia and Sonandinho are two of my favorite places and have appeared in different guises in other works.

Beneath ourselves relates to the next episode of Darklight, which is somewhat previewed on the YouTube page. It is another UHD pilot video made with VEE, the Visual Evolution Engine, and ALISA, adaptive art automation, rather than animation. The soundtrack is via Audacity® and Lisp, the computer language everyone loves. Reduced quality, but best viewed in 4K/full screen.

18 thoughts on “darklight 9: isvénia

    • Thank you, Paul. Your generous comment made me think about where the sand grains came from. When I was young, I was keen on rock collecting, and on the rocky coast of southern NSW where my family holidayed, I ignored the vistas of sea and sky, and peered short-sightedly at wave patterns in the sandstone and tiny crystals hidden beneath ledges. Later I learned to pay attention to the sea at least, always a good idea when you’re rock fishing.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m not sure which aspect of the land squids is most unnerving; their invisibility, their intelligence (manifested in knowing that they need two tickets), or the fact that they use public transport at all.

    I got the notification of your comment on my poem “Reflections” but when I went to answer it, I get a message that the domain registration has expired. I presume that is the last we will see of The Peaceful Pub. As for a new site, I have been having trouble with my eyes, which limits my time online. I seem to be experiencing a conundrum; I suspect some of the things I want are not available unless I make it a paid site, and I am reluctant to pay for it until I can get it the way I want it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The site still not exactly as I wanted, but I went ahead and went live with it. I apologize for posting a link without contacting you, but I could not find any way to do that. You have my permission to leave this message. However, you may now find me at:

      I presently have three pieces posted. More to come.

      Liked by 1 person

      • All good. The site looks fine and I’ll be over there soon. In case you ever want to contact me privately for any reason, there should be a link “contact inconstant light” up above on the right-hand side, right beneath the list of popular posts. It’s not super obvious.


    • I agree, it’s hard to see a good side to the squids. Perhaps they’d cook up well with a bit of garlic for an Italian meal, but you’d need a large group at the table.

      I hope your eye problem can be resolved, and congrats on getting the new site up. Possibly, if you have questions about features, you could ask them in the help chat? I’ve been having an issue where all the notifications under the WordPress bell vanish. I contacted them and their people are looking into it, but it’s a nuisance because it slows me down (even more).


  2. “I had pointless feathered questions, but they flew away before I asked them”…so much mystery and beauty in this poem, Steve. The shimmering art work is beautiful. Greatly enjoyed this piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Perhaps our bodies do hang on to certain memories longer than our minds do, especially when physical scars remain. However, we do have completely new skin every seven years… do our bodies renew themselves faster than our minds? Just rambling. 😊
    If land squids regurgitate their food intact, how do they get the nutrients out of it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s hard to localise between mind and body: when we go deep, we get back to the nervous system and very basic stimulus-response loops that affect both. Neurons don’t replace themselves very often, I don’t think. Perhaps there is a trade-off there, because new synaptic connections between them form very quickly, important for memory. (This is me rambling.)

      I haven’t read up on all the details of land squid biology, 😸 but their food passes through various “stomachs” over a relatively long period, for digestion of large prey. They weren’t interested in consuming the passengers (or dissolving their tickets), so they would have only drawn them into the first stage before regurgitation.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well of course the land squids need two tickets, standard trolley protocol!
    “where time’s pendulum pauses before it reverses”
    great line Steve! Also the passage that begins “My devices and I…”. I like the sound of “torrents/whorls/grain/abraded/ground powder”
    Enjoying this series! JIM

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jim. One of my early stories was about another turnaround, where time craft travelled into the past, but were slowed because they were running against time. Eventually, like pendulums, they turned around and came back. Never did anything with it, though.

      And thanks for pointing out the sound. The sandfalls come from holiday time spent at the cliffs on the coast south of Sydney. In places, they look like a frozen sea.


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