Take a look at that book. The D'ni spoke of the Art of Writing, but they took up all their arts with the same unhurried, deep passion. The leather cover is faded, but barely worn -- no splits, no cracks. It lies gently on your fingers. Your sweat will not stain it. The paper is thick and soft as wool; the ink as sharp as the day, a thousand years ago, that a D'ni master took up his pen. He expected to use this book for a century, and then pass it on to his children. He knew that a blurred symbol, a fading stroke, an embrittled page, could cost a reader's life.
The linking page is elegant, as always. A border of delicate freehand strokes; and then the brilliantly colored view, positioned high on the right. Like the titles of the books of my youth. No other introduction is needed.
The crude red DRC stamp on the City books has always looked like vandalism. Imperfectly positioned, unevenly inked, reproduced -- no doubt the D'ni would have been horrified. Even the graceful imprimatur of Yeesha's "share" glyph seems an intrusion. But this book, long lost under Ae'gura rubble, is pristine.
The view is in motion, drifting along the verges of a sunlit indigo lake. Ripples glitter blindingly; it seems as if the light must shine up out of the page, illuminate the dim room in which I stand. This is an illusion. The viewing panel itself appears to float, a coin's thickness above the page, and that is illusion as well. If I bent and sighted along the paper's surface, I would see nothing. I resist the urge to try it anyway.
If you looked closely at that image panel, you would see the texture of colored ink on paper. If you used a powerful lens, you could make out pen-strokes. None of this would explain the way the image moves.
I open my hand and lower my fingers to the page. For a moment it seems as if they have dipped below the surface, into the space beyond -- as if a linking book were simply an open window. Then I feel the paper beneath my fingertips, after all.
How does physical contact engender a physical translation? If you could read the book from cover to cover, understand the D'ni symbology, hold all the descriptive logic in your mind -- would that too be a link?
Paper, ink, letter, word. Information hums against my fingers, a conversation just beyond understanding. It describes the motion of stars, the pressure of wind, the shriek of birds, the silent crackle of life eternally growing. It is an argument that swells and roars; it is a world more urgent and precise and convincing than the one in which I stand. The story consumes me. I believe.
One imagines a Book as a passive object; but a book is meaningless without an audience. Linking, the audience is you. Perhaps it is not a journey, but an education: you learn in one instant to see the world in new terms.
For a moment, bisecting a stopped breath, there is nothing. A chaos of principles and details, trying to sort themselves out in darkness. Waves of silent pressure batter me. Then -- knowledge is overlaid by a sound: water, lapping gently at an unseen shore.
Waiting for an Age to come into being is like waiting for the completion of a sentence. You already sense where the Writer is going.
The air changes, or has always been this way: warmer, softer, fragrant with weeds and the faint undertone of lakeshore decay. Humidity brushes against my skin. Earth gives wetly beneath my feet.
Sight is the most remote sense. Smell, touch, even hearing, all root inextricably within our bodies. We think of sight as the most important sense, because it is the only one we can use to keep the world at bay.
Vision is last, fading from darkness into existence. I see the indigo water, the stands of heavy-stalked trees, the pale clouds against a misty horizon. I see the low angles of the distant volcano cone, trailing ash into the sky. I see footprints leading off into the brush.
It is as if you had never been anywhere else.
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