The Ninth Archive

Dark peach tree amid strange fronds bearing a single glowing fruit with a human face made of bark, sleeping

E号-P002

Peach Saga

Ignoble Uak can no longer remember a time when they had not been searching for the peach’s seed. The thunderstorming mind, full of migrainous sparks and grey concussive bursts, compels one to wander, just as the scent of the first raindrops of the mind compel one to seek. Perhaps it is the way the soil breathes half-felt memories at their touch. Condensed waters of the mind intangibly feathering a parched earth. This sensation Ignoble Uak knew well and pursued.

The peach’s seed is the ancestor of this followed scent. In a murmuring garden Ignoble Uak had gambled against a trellis’d entity in a multi-layered game. The two devised three-dimensional writing systems and traced interlocking tales in wind and moonlight, countering and undermining one another’s narratives in a poetic struggle for dominance. Though the winner was determined by whose contribution more closely resembled the paths of nectar-bearers to and from the roil of coalescent flowers around them. Ignoble Uak, whose stories were unconquerable in subterfuge and skullduggery, chose as their prize a drop of amber liquid said to be without age. Their mind never recovered from this taste.

Though Ignoble Uak drank the drop, felt it flow through fractal interior aqueducts of absorption, the drop ultimately consumed them. When the haze of it had worn off, when the essence of that iota of liquid had been utterly transformed by its contact with Ignoble Uak, they knew only the desire to understand the nature of what they had experienced. Over the course of what others would perceive as a long time, they learned that the trellis’d being’s garden was situated atop an old battleground–or perhaps a carnival-ground, the translation was imprecise–and memories swam in the soil. A tree of peculiar fronds drank the recollections of a knight-like creature who for her vassalage was rewarded by having her image added to a tapestry depicting the anointment of a monarch with three drops of the juice of an exceptional peach, whose seed, bereft of flesh, hung like a beast’s stuffed head above the woven hall. In the eons between Dust and Copper, the image emerged from the tapestry, a single mote of amber liquid suspended above her brow, and challenged the knight to single combat. At the end of the duel, one remained, and none knew if she was knight or image. The tree of peculiar fronds found this experience charming and sought to replicate the peach juice though combining by experiment its myriad internal secretions. The drop imbibed by Ignoble Uak, bequeathed to the trellis’d being, was what it deemed its most successful approximation.

Only the seed could satisfy the searcher. The seed that might produce a tree whose branches would bow deeply, laden with ripened fruit. The sheer succulence made tremors in Ignoble Uak’s mind, made their eyes sting without pain. The compulsion of the thought of the peach’s seed brought them to a place where the sky flowed like a dying river and all surfaces splintered fractal downward, outward, inward, as though eroded by windblown dreams. Eyes overhazed with pursuit, they descend one of these chasms, jagged glyph in a cavernous mass, beginning in what others would call one age, and finding their destination in what others would call another. Far from everywhere, in a grotto of angular stones the color of drowned suns, Ignoble Uak seeks an audience.

A being with dark hands breathes in the viscid air of the chasm, coiling like plasma trails. It regards the interloper in its presence and speaks: “In this vessel I discern turmoil, tattered purpose, senses made agnostic by passing time. Why?”

Ignoble Uak says, “The peach seed. Its penumbra of rumors shines from here. You can help me find it.”

The being with dark hands says: “I discern a thing that is golden, a beginning without an end.”

Ignoble Uak’s eyes gleam while their body wavers. “Yes, that is it, you have distilled it. Oh, to imagine its gilded boundlessness incarnate. You must assist me.”

“The golden thing is here. Yet it is of the nature to evanesce, and will not remain without three anchors that this vessel must provide.”

“Tell me, I will provide anything it is in my power to provide.”

The being with dark hands shifts in the light that is like the soul-light of worms and a shudder reverberates up the chasm. “The first anchor is an enduring: what is untouched by time, yet grows stronger whenever it changes?”

“Myth!” says Ignoble Uak almost instantly. “A myth is a snake that cannot shed its skin, armored by a thousand tellings, that lives in the bones of they who hear it.”

Ignoble Uak waits. The sound of immense unclenchings fills the grotto. “Is my answer correct?” they say.

“The anchors will hold or they will not,” says the being with dark hands. It is moving closer in slow lurches. “The second anchor is a weighing. Consider a balance of three pans. On one pan is a fragment of creation-matter: fundamental and immutable. On a second pan is a mind and all its contents. What can be placed upon the third pan so the balance remains in equilibrium?”

Ignoble Uak considers. “Perhaps fear, but no, no terrified mind endures. Perhaps pain. No, too transient. Wait, yes, it is this: forgetfulness. In this way the mind’s contents will never exceed the weight of the matter.”

The grotto pulses, as though it, too, were poised on a shifting balance. The being with dark hands’s breath is cold as the ice between instants in time. “The third anchor is a planting,” it says. “In what soil can grow the peach of immortality?”

Ignoble Uak blinks. Their mind races, running like wax down the side of a golden candle with no bottom, flowing-curdling-hardening, redolent of summer fruit. They cannot lose this moment, they are so close their tongue spasms and curls. Haze thickens over their eyes, thick as swarming insects. The drop led them here, the drop imperishable, drop of the infinite, drop pursued and found but not yet, not yet.

“I–I don’t know. A soil without,” Ignoble Uak pauses, trembling. “Without disparity. Without strata. Without end. A soil where a seed may sprout roots along the axis of histories forgotten that grow until they crack the sides of the universe to guzzle the waters of the outside.”

There is silence in the grotto. The being with dark hands says, “this vessel will serve,” and with an infinitesimal exertion crushes the neck of Ignoble Uak.

In time, a seedling sprouts from the body, like a living lance. Leaves appear on its branches. They sway in the viscid air and drink the soul-light of worms. And when it is full grown, it produces at its crest, glowing with unreality, a single exceptional peach.