darklight 11: beneath ourselves

Previously on Darklight: a traveller, the railway guard Anélia, and the Ibid Bird, have come to the Inverse Realms, where time runs backwards. They found Selena there, and she has revealed that the meeting is her first encounter with the traveller. For her, their time together hasn’t happened yet, it is in her future. Episode one is here.

I was moderately despondent. My odyssey
had finished in a self-referential loop,
my time spent with Selena had caused itself.

Selena topped up my tea.

Some final words of encouragement
for you, stranger.

Reflections of Narcissus in the cosmos
misguide us. By our easy thoughts,
we are misled. But dreams are waiting
in the everyday, when we choose to look.

Read this.

She handed me a page.

This page intentionally left blank.

I turned it over. Apparently, the reverse side
had been unintentionally left blank,
and the side that proclaimed its blankness
clearly wasn’t, since that very sentence appeared.

Should I write something?

Anélia gave me a pencil. I’ll dictate.

beneath ourselves

Fluttering echoic stasis,
a sameness with the long ago,
is a vision without a virtue.

But there’s still time before we’re made
reality’s remainder, if we don’t dream
beneath ourselves.

The truth has always been a weave
of mystery and light, ravelled beyond
all measure, so we choose to believe
beneath ourselves.

We live beneath ourselves,
in cubby-holes and cul-de-sacs,
but we can rise.

I’d run out of space, and I wrote
the last line running up the margin.

—What will I do now?

—With the page?

—With myself.

Anélia gave a subtle, but persuasive, indication
that she was about to speak.

—You could do worse than going back to Sydney.
I’ve applied to work there at the Darklight Terminus.
Intricacies and fantasies bore me,
I’d like to pass
some time with ordinary people.

—My suburb is very ordinary,
my street and my home.
I am, too.

—I’m picturing a house with two cats
and rows of triffids in the yard.
For floral arrangements, if that’s legal.

Selena smiled, and I recalled her farewell note:

Don't forget to feed the cats.

There were no cats in the yard back then,
but she knew that felines were in my future.

The Ibid Bird was well-informed on triffid regulations.

Cultivating triffids in non-commercial quantities
for private use is fine.

I might come with. I plan to do some editing
for the Cyclopedia Aerolithium.
Our travels together have shown me
that the section
on the coming end of days,
when the birds will conquer all the realms,
has a serious shortcoming. It doesn’t specify
who’ll be spared to serve us.



  • Darklight Rail, Sydney Terminus
  • The farewell note appeared here.
  • Triffids first appeared here.
  • Our House, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, 1970.
  • The Cyclopedia Aerolithium first appeared here.

the ordinary awaits (detail above), made with VEE, the visual evolution engine. For higher resolution full image, click on image above or link, then click again to zoom in/out on a region.

17 thoughts on “darklight 11: beneath ourselves

    • Thank you, Sobhana. That section reflects my views about the world. Of course, a large part of the world’s population has no opportunity to think about anything except survival. But for those of us who are privileged, from what I see on the news, in general, we can do better.

      And you too, stay safe.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I truly enjoy immersing myself in your story world. This phrase struck a chord in me… “For her, their time together hasn’t happened yet, it is in her future”…. I dreamed of a faceless man who seemed to be from my future a few nights ago. I wonder if this is collective dreaming I had experienced? Thank you for the beautiful imagery Steve.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Gina, nice to hear from you, and glad you enjoyed. Unfortunately, I am posting very rarely these days.

      This is me trying to untangle some of the paradoxes of the implied time travel in Darklight.

      I mostly find in my dreams that I either know who people are, or know what their role is in the dream. This is not to say that any detail is there, you only get what the dream tells you.

      So, sorry, can’t really help. But I think that, if you wake up and you feel good or pleasant, then that’s a positive sign, and sometimes you can work out why for yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your generous comment, Erik. I wanted to bring it back, to an (almost) ordinary spring world (the season here). Certainty and safety are what hold us and comfort us, and perhaps there is a measure of that in the Icelandic music (Thanks, I had a listen.)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Paul. Resolving the past and future in time travel stories requires a bit of flexibility, but I think it’s fair enough. We want the past to be our solid foundation, but memory is fluid, and history is subject to frequent ideological revision.

      And you too, Paul. Perhaps there is a ray of hope shining in the pandemic future.


  2. The page left blank message is one of those useful oxymorons with a valid purpose. Only by spoiling the blankness of a page can we be made aware that it was by intent. All in all, it’s better than dealing with the legions of people who would write in to ask what was left out.

    Our hero seems to have lost a Selena and gained an Amelia, not to mention two cats and an array of Triffids. And yes, I did catch the song reference.

    I like the idea should always dream above ourselves, and never below.

    Part 5 of The Crystal Knights is currently up at Farrago Express, and part six goes up on Saturday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Over the years at university, I saw many things with exam papers. The cover page says something like, “This booklet contains N pages numbered 1 to N.” Students never check, and when hundreds of them get halfway through and discover a page is missing due to a printing error, it gets interesting.

      Given that it’s been rough for the protagonist, I wanted to finish with a pleasant future in sight. I’d already planned “Beneath Ourselves,” actually it must have been months ago given how infrequently I post. Glad you are not following my example.


  3. Gorgeous colours in your artwork. My favourite line in your poem is
    “We live beneath ourselves,
    in cubby-holes and cul-de-sacs,
    but we can rise.”

    So true. The symbolism of the intentionally blank page will stay with me. Thanks for another fascinating read. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks; my pleasure, Nikita. I hope we can rise. When I watch the news, I wonder though.

      We start with a blank slate, but the years go by and it fills up. I definitely have a closed mind on some topics, but I still try to leave space for the new, the unexpected. Hopefully not an alien invasion. 😸


    • Thanks, Magarisa. Perhaps the artwork isn’t quite abstract ordinary life as I originally intended, but life does have its ups and downs.

      Hahaha. The Aerolithium is making some grandiose predictions about the future of the birds. If it’s anything like Wikipedia, the truth might be very different.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m sure it’s a very, very, very fine house, the one with the two cats in the yard. This one is another mind bender Steve, that sensation of meeting oneself coming back. “You could do worse than going back to Sydney”, I love the acceptance in that!
    Fascinating as always, and your videos are a treat, a feat of the imagination…JIM

    Liked by 2 people

    • Glad you enjoyed, Jim. I’m currently doing a comment catch-up.

      I wanted to finish Darklight with a bit of quiet suburban hope, given the state of the world, the cat(s) had already appeared, and I couldn’t see the Ibid Bird being left behind. The song popped into my head at the end, the way songs do.

      Liked by 1 person

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