MONDAY: Termite Mound


Copyright is held by the author.

EIGHT MONTHS, eight wonderful months that Tara and I have lived together, and finally I proposed and she accepted and eight months will become forever. Last night we went to the farthest observation port on the outer ring and lay on the glass and watched the nebulae and touched so gently and then made love over the stars.

She is ready to leave, she said, to depart the station and go to live with me on Rhea. She wants forever too. Forever. I am happy, I cannot stop smiling, even this morning I am giddy. I have never proposed to anyone before, I never wanted to. And then she says something that freezes me in my step and wipes the smile from my face.

“I must go to the Mound.”

Mound is the past tense of mind, in the way that ground is the past tense of grind. It is their little joke, a marketing ploy, those six women who form a colony intellect, and hire the group intelligence out to analyze hard problems. But there aren’t six women, they are all comatose, Mound is a group mind, a fusion of the six, formerly seven, until Tara escaped.

My smile fades in an instant as my belly drops. My blood turns to ice. I did not expect this. She has been happy, these eight months, rarely mentioning the Mound, and only to place it in her past.

“Why?” I ask.

“To say ‘goodbye’”

“Couldn’t you send a card?” I smile sheepishly, knowing my joke will only annoy her, yet hoping that she is joking, that this is all a horrible, perhaps a cruel jest from her. I want to see her smile, laugh, and tell me that it does not matter, that she was merely joking. But we both know that she will not do that.

“Don’t be like that, Sara.”

I want to cry, but Tara does not handle tears well. I turn my head so she cannot see my shining eyes, and keep my voice flat, as I ask, “How long will you be?”

“An hour, maybe two, no more than that.” She runs her fingers through her hair. “I’ll bring dinner home. Are you good with curry?”

I shrug, utterly defeated. She grabs my wrist and pulls me to her. I want to resist but I don’t, and she kisses me deeply. We aggress, both of us, she tastes of candy and clouds and everything good. She tastes like my sweet future, slipping away.

“You can’t lose me, Sara. This is to say goodbye, to put a period on the end of the sentence. Last night . . . was like nothing before. I said yes, and I’m going to marry you.”

I smile weakly, wanting to believe. I see on her face and in her eyes that she does believe.

The next day I am sitting alone in our apartment in the dark. Reality has lost colour. Food has lost taste. I have lost Tara. I called last night, just before 00, and it went to message. I knew it would. I went to bed as a zombie, no dinner, and woke early this morning, not at all hungry. I try to be angry with her, at the casual way she said it, like just another errand. She was almost flippant, no big deal, returning to the place she barely escaped.

I would cry, weep for my loss, but I am too numb. Reality has lost colour. Every minute, every second that passes separates me further from her, and yet she is still here, a few tens of thousands of meters away, a third of the way around the innermost ring. It is after 1200 and I have not eaten and I am not hungry. I can barely remember what hunger was like. I am so fully anesthetized that I feel barely alive.

I need to accept this. Tara never left the Mound. I wanted to believe, I wanted so badly to believe, that for a time I almost did. Oh, my love, my lost love, you are not a termite in a mound, not a part, you are so much more, suns in your sea green eyes, how could you return there? Why did you not fight for me, for us, why did I not fight you, instead of simply letting you go? Did you not know? I didn’t know, but I feared, I greatly feared.

I am on autopilot. I am in the elevator, headed to the hub. I do not know what I am doing but I know exactly what I am doing. I walk in the mixed crowds of smiles and frowns. I notice no one and am noticed by no one. Reality is grey and palpable. Just a day ago I smiled and now I cannot imagine smiling. I still have not eaten. I ride the tramway around the innermost ring. Eighteen minutes since I left our . . . my . . . apartment and I am at the Mound.

I am not admitted. An avatar hologram forms in the hallway, a pale bald woman in a light grey and seamless jumpsuit. I am small and she is smaller than I. Her face is expressionless. Her eyes are blank and devoid, like shiny little buttons.

“Hello, Sara. I am Mound.”

“Where’s Tara?”

“Back where she belongs. She can’t see you.”

“Do you care at all that it hurts me to hear that?”

“Yes, Sara, very much, actually. But there is no way for you to not be hurt. And if I were to minimize your pain, you would persist longer. This is the current situation. It will not change, and you cannot change it. I am sorry. Think of yourself as an injured innocent bystander.”

“I want to hire you, Mound.”

“I don’t want your money.”

“But all I want is information — knowledge. That’s what you do, isn’t it? Think and cerebrate and answer questions for money? Simple assignment — why?”

“Go home, Sara.”

“I’ll join you. Do you hear me?”

“There is no joining us, Sara. You become us, and we become you.” There is still no expression, but for a moment the shiny eyes seem brighter. “Tara is lost to you. She has retaken her place in the colony mind. If you take a place then you will be lost to yourself. Sara will cease to be. The Mound will grow stronger and Sara will be no more. Is that what you want?”

“Yes,” I say through clenched teeth. “That is exactly what I want.”

I have sat motionless in this chair for 28 hours. I feel tingling and itching along my spine. An hour ago I started to feel pinpricks. There is nothing I can do. I can no longer move. I am calm and not as sad and I do not know why. Have I chosen to die? The Mound is and always was the void, first to Tara and now to me. It called to her, I always knew that, and I thought she was resisting. Now I wonder if she ever resisted, or if she could.

The prickling along my spine turns warm; the pinpricks become a strip of warmth. My limbs begin to shake, gently at first, then violently, then motionlessness sets in again. I am damned for loving you, and if you are lost, then I am also lost.

The void did not call to me. I called to it. I gave myself to Mound. I chose to not be, to no longer exist. I am told I have less than three hours of consciousness left. And yet, I am no longer sad. I will never see Tara again. I am puzzled, in a completely disconnected way, that I no longer miss Tara. I have given my body and mind to the same entity that she was once part of, and has now rejoined. Was Tara bait? Is this how Mound grows?

And Mound comes to me, not an avatar, but the locus of the colony mind, the active body of Mound. The jumpsuit was holo-illusion. Mound is naked. Equally, the projection lacked the cabling that Mound now trails like a tail from the back of her head. She bends over me, her hand soothing on my forehead. I can move only my eyes, and I see galaxies and nebulae shining in her dark eyes.

“I am sorry, Sara. Tara was an experiment. She wouldn’t leave. She had to be pushed away. She did not know. Her love for you was real, and yet she was a vessel. Not just Tara who loved you. All of me, the hearts and minds of the seven women that I am, all fell deeply in love with you. It wasn’t planned.”

Her hand moves again across my forehead. I feel a peace I have not known before.

“I loved you? Not Tara, but the fragment of Mound active in Tara? I never felt anything like that before.” But I don’t speak those words, I think them, and Mound answers.

“You were loved as no one has been loved before, by seven women at once, no jealousy and no restraints. I am a consortium. The women that form me are effectively dead, not conscious, not dreaming, not even she whose body is my locus. They have given themselves for a greater dream. And yet, though dead, they can rise again, as Tara did.”

I am Mound. I was seven women and now I am eight. A woman I/we loved became part of me/us, and the fulfillment exceeds that of perfect knowledge. I have joined with my love. I feel them in me, Sara and Tara, together as lovers have never been. And I am whole and complete as never before, even as beautiful Sara falls comatose and still.


Image of William Suboski

Bill is an aspiring fiction writer with a background in computer programming. He is still trying to decide what he wants to be when he grows up. Born in Indiana, Bill is a transplanted Hoosier living as a Buckeye by way of Canada and the Netherlands. Contact Bill at WSuboski—at-yahoo-dot-com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *