darklight 10: the unclassifier

Previously on Darklight: a traveller, the railway guard Anélia, and the Ibid Bird, came to the Inverse Realms, where time runs backwards. They have taken the electro-trolley to Sonandinho, where Selena lives. The first episode is here.

We disembarked, I complained about
the less-than-clement weather: rain flakes
and snowlets that rose and fell around us,
the cycle of water in an inconvenient microcosm,
and there we were.

I was knocking at Selena’s sunset door,
while the Ibid Bird was pecking at her window,
like some rhymeless raven,
and Selena answered, anticlimactically.

Hello strangers, do come in. I’ve brewed
some tea. Are you selling something?

Selena was glowing more than I remembered,
and when she spoke, there was an unexpected echo.
Her lips were out of sync, as if reality was overdubbed.

I wondered aloud, and she explained.

You’re not from—it is not—the Realms—an echo,
it’s the—the Realms—immediate future—an echo,
it’s the immediate—my future words—future
—future words.

Concentrate, Anélia told me, it helps to have
one thought
at a time,
and to Selena, He takes his tea
with a lot of milk and three sugars.

Anélia had guessed correctly, but I was troubled.
I remembered every moment of our year together,
yet Selena had forgotten me completely.

When she’d served refreshments,
I showed her the object* she’d given me
long ago, as mysterious as ever, and told her
of my quest to find her.

It’s an unclassifier, a relic
from the Late Romantic Era
of the Trilobite Ascendancy,
an inelegant design, engineered
to serve no purpose whatsoever.

Anélia thought differently.

Those romantic trilobites were no fools.
We classify the unknown, file its representatives
in pigeonholes: shop assistants, railway guards,
and strangers. All it takes to change
that careless disrespect is a single thought.

The Bird left the rim of his teacup
and perched on Anélia’s shoulder.

Selena shrugged.

If you’re right, the object is no more
than a placebo. I have it somewhere.

She searched the cupboards,
and produced a pebble identical
to the one in my hand, etched with
the same obscure symbols.

I looked from one to the other,
a bewildered oscillation,
until Selena clarified.

I haven’t given it to you yet.
For me, this is our first meeting,
and apparently, I’ll meet you
in the future, and gift you
the unclassifier.

Do you see? My future is your past.
It always was and always will be thus,
farewell and hello, as surely as
the night and day chase each other.
And you will never return here,
because you’ve never visited before.

My unclassifier clattered on the parquetry,
and I spilled my tea in the saucer.

to continue

*the mysterious object appeared here


  • Time travel causes paradoxes, which I’ve discussed here. The Realms are equivalent to time travel, and there are paradoxes roaming freely in Darklight.
  • The Beatles, Hello, Goodbyeyoutube.

As described in good news for axolotls, long ago, the Goddess of Start-ups allowed evolution to go too far, and baboons wearing lab coats and Armani silk ties came to rule the earth. It did not end well.

She was persuaded to try again, and the second time, she truncated evolution at the axolotls. They were cute, and their amphibious civilization rose to dominance. Although they wore no ties, or any clothes apart from colorful scarfs, they too destroyed the planet.

“Third time lucky,” the goddess thought, and stopped evolution at the trilobites. The story of the Trilobite Ascendancy is best left for the trilobites themselves to tell.

A look at the trilobite ascendancy (youtube video), from a photograph of Sydney’s badly polluted Cooks River. The soundtrack is based on my lack of understanding of how advanced trilobites would communicate and travel. Ascendancy is a UHD video made with VEE, the Visual Evolution Engine, and ALISA, adaptive art automation, rather than animation. Reduced quality, but best viewed in 4K/full screen.

20 thoughts on “darklight 10: the unclassifier

    • Thank you, Paul. Yes, I’m not fond of the world right now, we seem to be regressing. Here in Aus, we just had protests by pandemic deniers. I mean, it isn’t like the tooth fairy, there is a bit of evidence.

      I didn’t think my head was in the right place for fantasy, but somehow, once I started, I accessed my writing mind (probably because I wanted to escape), and wound up with quite a long instalment.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Nikita. It is a curious coincidence that the sounds made by trilobite trains bear a passing resemblance to my coffee machine in action. It certainly feels like a circle sometimes. Me too, with time headaches. We are so deeply embedded in time, and with intuitive understanding of cause-then-effect, that it’s difficult to imagine anything else.

      I don’t want to make things worse, but I suspect there are physical environments in the universe where life could evolve backwards and run backwards, ie, death before birth. This is just an idea, and to be honest I’m still struggling with why we perceive the direction of time as we do. Now I need an aspirin. And a glass of Pinot Gris. 😸

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Steve this is so intricately beautiful. The phrases reality over dubbed and the raven like bird pecking at the window are very witty. How strangely dark the filing of the unknowns in pigeon holes. The idea that Selena’s future is his past and that farewell and and hello are as day chases night is truly thought provoking. Very inspiring . Does this mean now that he’s found Selena it’s the end of the story or is the end the beginning?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Margaret. I suppose that when humans began, anything unknown was likely to be dangerous, especially if it was close at hand. Then, just identifying something improves your chances, “Oh, it’s a sabre-tooth tiger. I’m off.” With people, it leads to stereotyping, which on occasions, helps, but other times, in my experience in various countries, is completely off the mark. I’m unsure about other planets, mind you.😸

      Since we live in normal forward time, although it’s only the beginning for Selena, I’m hoping the story is close to the end. Admittedly, I thought this episode would be the last.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A mind bender, Steve,,,I’m reminded of a graffiti I saw once in the second cubicle on the left in the washroom of Jerry’s Cove Pub, Kitsilano, it read “Time is nature’s way of stopping everything from happening at once”, the other graffiti were all about a girl called Joan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jim. Profound enough. I keep coming back to thinking about time, hoping to have a fresh perspective. And I do: I realise everything I thought last time was wrong.

      I suspect it would not be advisable to ask about Joan, even if she led a French army prior to a warm end.😸


  3. Have you ever watched Doctor Who? There was an ongoing storyline of reversed timelines between the Doctor and another character a number of years back. She and the Doctor ended up comparing notes each time they met, so as for each not to reveal what the other should not know. I imagine the writers had more than a few headaches keeping it all straight.

    I have a multipart story running on Farrago Express. I’m putting up one part a week, and I just posted the third part today. There will be 16 parts in all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know the long-running relationship you’re talking about: I enjoyed that thread. Yes, they did well. Actually, they do pretty well with the time travel paradoxes too, by maintaining consistency: they’re often hidden away.

      Glad you’ve got the Farrago Express rolling along, good work. I’m struggling a bit at present to keep up my once-every-three-weeks WordPress schedule, even though it’s hardly onerous. I get side-tracked too easily.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Selena seems a lot more familiar with the way time works than the protagonist does. Perhaps he shouldn’t have told her that she would give him the unclassifier. Who knows what a ripple effect that will have on her future/his past?
    Intriguing and thought-provoking, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d say Selena is more familiar with time than most people, including me. I imagine it comes from living in the Inverse Realms.

      The usual fictional solution to the time paradox would be that, when Selena meets him in her future, she doesn’t let on that they’ve already met, and everything goes as he remembers it. The usual non-fiction solution is that time travel into the past, or anything equivalent, is impossible. I don’t believe that, but I don’t have an alternative at present. Thank you, Magarisa.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So much to like in these – the rhymeless raven, the trilobites (along with railway guards, shop assistants and strangers) — your writing is a pair of electrodes held far enough apart to spark and flicker and crackle between the familiar and the distinctly odd. And the trilobite ascendancy is just wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Peter, for that wonderful description. I’ve been a big electricity fan for most of my life, from the Van de Graaf in my early teens, through magnetically confined fusion, to arcs and welding.

      I do feel for the trilobites. There seem to be a number of reasons they became extinct, including predation. Oh well. Thanks again for the electrodynamic comment.


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