Chapter III: Janus
The pale sun moved across the northern horizon like the cold, dead eye of a corpse. Its unnatural rebirth had given it a sickly pallor despite the ferocity of it’s newly reactive core. It’s permanent dusk lit up the sands with a cadaverous hue making a faded watercolour of the scene.
Janus stirred in his bunk and blinked hard as the light reached his eyelids. His deep brown skin seemed to crack and rustle, like cigarette paper in the wind, as he swung down from his bed and padded across the room to the canteen. He swigged back water in great jagged gulps and ate a large, green apple from his provisions delighting in its crisp juiciness and refreshing taste. He sat down to smoke, exorcising the demons of his sleep with a long low bow to his morning, as the dust white trail of Alecto’s Spider disappeared into the heat at the corner of his quarter’s window.
“So long.” He said to himself.
“Fare thee well”.
A half remembered melody filled his head and he snatched up the last apple, biting it deeply as he opened the door to the day and headed out into the dust and heat.
Janus lived in the Northern Rise, 35 miles from the temple and the furthest sector from the gates. His quarters, however, were on the 98th floor and as such his mind and sight had always wandered to the minute silver fish that slowly slipped their way from sight beyond the farthest reaches of the city as he watched from his window. He had long wished to visit the gates and meet the 15 in person.
His sector was dominated by huge mega structures inside which the several thousand workers who were tasked with maintenance of the Dam lived. The nuclear wind that blew hard on the city’s frame hit hardest on her northernmost point and vast mountains of sand piled up in tireless procession to rain down on her in a dry, crushing wave. The city sat in a natural valley with most of her inhabitants permeating out from that high point to the ancient lost coasts of the Southern Projects. A people sunk low and fearful against the towering procession of sand from the north. Janus and the Northern Rise kept the Dam and dug endlessly at the shifting sand that advanced against it. Most of His army’s engineers had ended up here in the North directing the population in the maintenance of the vast cascade of purple light that spat and drooled it’s vicious fire as the waste wind blew against it. That violent, purple sheath, in which the city was enclosed had its origin here in the north at the confluence of the old world and the new, deflecting and devouring the saturated winds that would otherwise create impossibility for life under His new sun.
Janus headed up the long slope, dug deep into this side of the hill and out into the morning dusk. It still disturbed him, to be in a blazing hot dusk. Some primitive evolutionary mechanism continued to confuse him at this reversal of nature, this perverse oxymoron. He had known and adapted to this state of things throughout his life and yet his very genes vibrated within him and signalled to his brain that a terrible wrong had arisen such that several millennia of life could not adapt to. He imagined it to be like the great, pre-war, civilizations of the north where a perpetual dusk had pervaded for the full, long months of winter. Even then, where the temperature knew it’s place and cold and frost and snow accompanied the winter as well they should, he had heard that people were prone to suicide due to the perpetual gloom. In His new world, the beauty of contrast was now gone. The old gods were dead and with them the seasons, the only memory of their rule, this cellular, genetic confusion and the subsequent malaise within his head.
The people here were good. The work was hard but a pride in it was prevalent or at least a resignation to the truth of its importance and a desire to continue to safeguard the city from on high was ever present. The engineers of His army controlled the sector and the bars and cafes hummed with their conversation, expressed in the many tongues of His people. He had amassed a myriad texture to his banner. A collapsed rainbow of colour and diversity from across the Galaxy, called to Him by the spectacle of His coming though here, now, talking one language; that of His science and the undertaking of His work. Janus had been a promising engineering student at the Eastern District University. However, he had soon dropped out, spending his time instead in grease and grime, pulling parts from the engines of his fathers Gliders. Eviscerating them, draining their fluids, stopping their lungs dissecting their hearts. Only to once more rebuild them, changing, improving, feeling, creating a synergy between connections such that the result, without fail, surpassed both ways and means. His father had worked hard too, running their Glider at every raceway and Drone circuit in the city, his father running the numbers and Janus running the Glider. Some days were wonderful in that endeavour and he missed his father as he sat here in the violet darkness of the present. As such, with no degree and yet obvious talent, Janus had been employed in an entry level position here in the North.
So it was that Janus began his day, as he always did, at the rear of the turbine halls beneath the shield. The heat in this dark recess at the foot of the city was overwhelming and the workers who manned each turbine engine were required to wear protective suits in order to complete their work. Without their help, productivity was compromised to the extent that either extra resources would be required to meet the extra staffing requirements or the workers would simply not be capable of the work required of them. The suits were simple and made of a metallic fabric that circulated a cooling liquid through minute capillaries as a function of the weave. A small Solisphere was set at the sternum in order to enable the processes needed to power the technology. And so it was that Janus spent long, hot days at the foot of the shield. Flesh, wrapped in foil, wrapped in sunlight.
But there was still the “Night”…
Since The Lord’s coming, and his perpetual dusk, “night” time existed only in name. A whispered tale of a once remembered celestial act that now, though still acted by the planetary players, did not provoke that exquisite contrast between His day and the night. The reborn sun eternally pierced the gloom with its brilliance
The “Night” in his city was required to be a time of reflection and thought. A family time. To study His ways and discuss His brilliance. However, a vital, passionate underground also existed that sang the resonant, primitive songs of His people. The fighting pits of the Northern Rise. The pleasure Cubes in the south, within reach of the citadel itself. The Gambling rooms of the Eastern Projects and the Dream Spires of the Western Reach. All these kinds of activities had been prohibited by the old masters but had flourished nonetheless. Some, however had not existed before the arrival of the Sun God and the many peoples with whom he had travelled. Called from dead worlds and enslaved by his solispheres they had brought with them the various idiosyncrasies of their cultures, enriching and enticing Janus’ people such that these nocturnal pass times flourished as before.
The symbol of the moon was the calling card of the night. The illegal dens and dives of the sinners who persisted in the fulfilment of the unholy vices of the lunar phase. Whispered directions. Hushed invitations. Extra spectral signs; and secreted, moon shaped cards. Janus was fond of the dream spires, which were frowned upon as among the most degenerate of all the Lunar Vices, being, as they were, an earth bound pleasure and not dependent on Solispherical technologies. They were thus almost impossible to control by any other means than through old-fashioned policing. Janus could not possibly guess the number of shake downs and arrests that he had witnessed at any of the several hundred venues he had frequented over the years and he had been remarkably lucky to have escaped every one with little more than cuts and bruising from hurried escapes through sewers and across rooftops. The dreams themselves were majestic but Janus actually enjoyed the idea of being chased like a criminal almost, but not quite, more than the hypnagogia itself.
The thirst for escape did not quite take the form that most people would imagine. Although, of course, sexually explicit and violent dreams were available, and popular, overwhelming demand came in the form of the dreams of a seasonal past. “Fall in New England” was a best seller as was “A Bavarian Forest Spring”. The constant white noise from the Dam and the incessant dusky heat from the sun left a sickness within the inhabitants of His city and a yearning for contrast. Janus visited the spires every free day he had and tomorrow would be no exception. As he left the turbine hall he packed his work suit into his bag and signalled to his co-workers who were just beginning the night shift.
“See you, day after ’morrow”, he said with a wink as the doors shut behind him.
“Night time now”.
Janus shouldered his bag and headed out into the dusk. The streets teemed with the delicious noise, colour and smell of this part of His city. The only real contrast that now existed was that of His city’s peoples and it was glorious.
Janus entered the station across the street from the Dam Plaza and hopped on board the westbound transport, sitting down to a dreamless sleep. The Spires were found on the western rim of His great city among the towering glass and metal structures of His administrative centre. The people there were dull and grey, bureaucrats and bookkeepers for His city’s endeavours and so perhaps, most in need of the escape that this corner of the metropolis offered. Janus always had the impression that the more normal, quiet, dry and compliant a person was on the outside, the more in need of escape and perversion within and if the simmering, downcast look of the men, women and Off-Worlders around him was anything to go by, then this was something common in the Reach.
The one downside to use of the Spires was that ordinary dreaming became less and less frequent and Janus, being fond of the Spires as he was, could not remember the last natural dream he had had. He awoke with a jolt from the silence of his sleep, as the vehicle hissed and bumped on arrival and stood up slowly, clutching his bag, to exit the transport and walk up and out into the streets. His favourite machines were just 3 blocks from the station and he shouldered his bag and set off, head down, towards his escape, ignoring the inquisitive faces around him, his brown skin and weather beaten face enough to stand out in the characterless monochrome of these streets. Janus only had sufficient coin for one dream and as he rounded the corner to the Spires he reached into his pocket to finger the moon shaped plastic.
“Need this, Janus” he said to himself as he scanned the buildings for the mark of the moon, his phone searching the surfaces in the invisible wavelengths utilised by every Lunar establishment.
“Need this now.”
As he approached the designated building the rich, deep smell of The Water reached his nostrils, sending him into an immediate semi-sleep state with the relaxation it was soon to promise him and he dreamily handed over his last remaining card to the door men before descending the hundred or so steps that lead down to the Spires.
This was a smaller venue than most and arrayed before him, in two rows of five were the machines. The Spires, to which they owed their name, needled five metres up from the bulbous main chamber tapering off elegantly to a fine silver point. Each main chamber was big enough for the largest of His city’s inhabitants and provided plenty of room for an average human such as Janus who, after removing his clothes stepped eagerly inside and sat down on the floor, legs crossed beneath him.
A slender, old man approached him, his face covered with a white mask and the very thick glass of his spectacle’s lenses.
“Drink this, brother” he said.
“Drink as deep as the dreams to come”.
The Water reflected some unknown light as it sat perfectly still even within the confines of the moving cup, giving an impression both of being unaffected by gravity whilst simultaneously appearing monumentally heavy. It shone with the liquid colour of the moon; a bright, shimmering cousin of mercury that smelt of the earth and the sky and everything therein. It reminded him of her and he drank deep and quick.
“Alecto” he sighed as the doors shut and The Water took him from the world.