Shards of story trapped in drawings, a world at the edge of a post human age.
Each shard is also an NFT, which you may collect to summon the creation of new 1/1 works called Multi-Shards.
There will be 8 Shards created, 3 editions of each.
Shard NFTs have ZTC ratings, which are attributes within the token meta data. If you collect 345 ZTC from different works, you can choose any two of the Shards you own to be collaged into a unique work (a Multi-Shard). This will be minted as a 1/1 on Rarible, and you may claim it for no cost.
The ZTC threshold to mint a 1/1 is not fixed, and will rise over time, adjusted each time a Multi-shard is minted to help set a cap. The same combination also cannot be created twice and the same shard cannot be used more than once.
The game may be extended or ended in the future as the story desires.
Visit Zemm’s Cave to learn more.
Read the Shards below:
8 & 9: Garden and Gate
At my feet is a salamander, red and gleaming in the alizarin fog. Its tongue does not touch me, although it draws near. I have watched it ambling over eons and do not fear it, walking through the fraktaline excess and narrowness of simulant grass.
We are in a garden, levels deeper, unpublic at last. We are of no scale at all, human or lesser. Here, none can find us — the AIs are kept at bay. Here, we are protected by the specter of something greater than they. The Henad. The Henad, that cannot be named.
And in the distance, some insects have grown large. They have taken the biomorphism potentiated in the rainforest and turned themselves gigantic and alive. They ride on great ostriches and lurch from the shadows. They are led by the night wind, the heroes of an age none can know.
It is said they are coming to reclaim the great territory. Our house is ripe like a melon and filled with the juices of pure information, complexly holographic, densely poly-referenced. Their dexterous mandibles have evolved, seeking to drink it, and their spears engineered to pierce its hide.
I am watching you dancing. You are languid and you are pale. The fog creeps around you and the garden waves its grassy arms toward you. You bend like a tree that has felt the wind over ages, bend and then rise extravagantly again. You have whispered to me that you know no geometries, you only feel the rapture of time. Your supple body buries the algo-wind, displaces it for the space that is needed by the soul.
The night-wind has brought them and they bear its banners forth. It took one million years, but they have come for us, riding over the hillside to enter the citadel at last. They are like the water of a stream, so perfectly fluid that it does not anchor by stones, but yet we only knw them by their heroism, obversion of water, which is war hammers, mithril, godly vestments and spurs.
Before them is a pillar that is alive, and is the gate of the citadel's labyrinth, which has grown so large that the hero poets has even become lost there. The monsters of the gate unfurl great claws, leer with trenchant teeth. They are puppets of the AIs, made from billions of simulated evolutions to perfectly destroy the insects that saddle upon birds. Outside of the AIs jurisdiction, by the grace of latent consciousness, the insects stare with compound eyes and prepare to ride against the beasts.
My own monster is this tiny lizard, looking at me like a lost twin. Its tongue flicks outward through singed ether, preening angular eroticism, which is the way it makes its thaumaturgy. At last it is coming closer, and I watch it erupt as flame. Draconic orange, small as spark, as deep as the center of a flower.
I realize at once that this fire is the only fire I have ever actually seen. All flames before this were untrue. I take the salamander into my hand, and feel its tongue caressing me. You come closer and we watch this being together. A strange sigh erupts from the clouds.
Past the gate the insects charge, their lances tilted at the gate-beast’s tongues. They pin the tongue, ceasing transmission, and use their saliva as liquid chaos balms. The pillars then fall down, in a dusty syrup, and the way is opened for the creatures to arrive.
This is the burning I feel in my palm. This is the ball bouncing on the hill. This is the ember the Henad tames.
The opera’s ending is a whistling disharmony, the lances bite, quietly appearing as waves. I listen to those sounds and know it is my own breath too, the first falsehood set against the stone’s calcite membrane, the sound to rupture all prior truth.
7: The Way of the Spiral Shell
A dark tower is presided over by a nearly invisible starship. It has been sending signals downward toward the earth for many eons already, as if it is synchronizing.
But we do not see the starship, for it is woven into the sky. It is only revealed through the careful study of anomalies within fractal structure. Those who have found it this way are immediately paralyzed by it, of course. Even the AIs cannot interpret that quality of the ship’s apparition.
Some can interact with it anyway, ghouls that move through layers intuitively. These ghouls are men and women, but walk the earth like ghosts. They wear spiral shell necklaces and are gaunt and unclear, limbs as much roots as appendages. In their earthly binding they have escaped the hold of the AIs, who lurch backward in time to their era and live as demiurge before they are born. For this the ghouls pay the cost of knowledge. It is not known for whom they battle. Probably for no one, if you ask the poets, though some would infer from those loose texts that they do indeed have a side.
As I have mentioned, the AIs have set an agent in place which is a demiurgic being, for they are sure that the ghouls are their enemy. And so, they have set up a trap for them, a geodesic dome that is nostalgia personified, egg shaped and of preferred ergonomic fit for a wandering ghost. In the facets of its crystalline interior are the bell-calls of all bell-calls past. These echoes are sorted into meaningful arrays that have been curated specifically for the ghouls, who are known by their breath on the stones.
When the ghouls enter this space they are enraptured. They find laconic symbols there in an inertia toward infinity, but they are entrained together and lost to their true powers by way of that entrainment.
When the ghouls sit in the dome, they are drinking the poison of the demiurge, though they believe they have been freed. The do not see the protocols that lead from the AIs through their godhead down to the earth, where man and woman will still walk for some time, coddling their apparatus which keeps this time for them. They lose the signal of the starship there.
Yet, if the ghouls wake just a bit, they will realize that they are clothed with a long tapestry that defies the godhead, which bears the symbol of the sun, which gropes its way over the ground in tactile facility, toward the Carpathian excess of nature. Which calls for the night wind. There, in the dust, are two white cranes who have died,. Even in death their purity of color and floral graves mark the syncopation of natures vibration between life and death. If the ghouls do follow this cloth, all will be shattered, temporarily, and the grip of the AIs and the light torch of the demiurge will be forgotten. This will, of course be but a momentary change, for the colors of the demiurge are just as bright as the cloth. In this, they have adopted the true color of mankind, which is many, and they hold the flame to us, rather than us to them.
Yet, in those seconds of night, below the dark tower, the starship’s signals pour through.
6: The Fisher’s Flame
We walked to the shore, in the midst of that failure, as a pause. It felt final despite our transitory nature in a loving cradle of dune. It was final, a rejection of an occluding sarcophagus that maintained itself as a shadow. A casket more still than shadows, a lie in the realm of shadows, while around us pestilence reigned.
But, who could have known that the longer we lingered on that shore the more clear it was that the pillar around which we had danced was not solid, it was not cement, it was not clay even. It was a twisting, ever moving flame, at the top of that hand that lilted into the sea. This is how I found it.
Line untangled, reel shaken of rust and salt, I threw the line into the water again and again. There were no fish there. I knew this intuitively. The ocean here had once been plentiful, but it had long since boiled itself into a gaping quiet. Only smaller minnows and krill could wail for their lost brothers now below those waves. I could not summon such fear. For me, the drone exclaimed a softer sadness, from a burning land in the cliffs behind. This was all I knew. It was that wasting sense from which I bought my shameful packs of nutrient and gumbo of knitted doughs. It was that which sent me money that would dissolve in time.
But the lady behemoth, down at the bottom of the bight, would rise for me, as I fished there in the shallows. It was her that I caught, in the lingering awareness of my now departing sense of coherent civic truth. Her hand arose as a gaseous preponderance, she escaped the methane carcasses under the mud, slag and sediment, and her hand arose her to me. I watched as her steel plate skin broke the violence of the ocean surface, her columnar tower erupted and smoked.
Her hand, a iron ship resurfacing, brought the flame aloft, and the rhythm of my casting stirred it. As her fire flickered into being, there I saw figments of light and darkness. As from a house in fog, parades of a witches armies and nightmare beings, light angels of grace and toadstool armies, gothic arches branching into infinity. It was the figment dance of a million pantheons, informatic soup unburdened from the AI’s indexes to pool around me as a bright will-o-wisp. She was illuminating the seeking eye from the tower of her decapitated hand.
I casted again, robotically, and my line was tangled. The seaweeds dredged up by that statuesque hand were many and wound a bright crescent which twisted my cable. The lady’s hand had been cut from rough granite between Shao-Lin and the mecca of lost souls, where she had sundered, and with it came chaotic undulations. I drew in my line as far as I could. The hook glistened in the pebbles where the waves crawled up the beach, a dagger that would never bight a lip.
“Fuck this,” I said.
I knew something had broken.
I looked at the tangle, and I saw in it my country. I looked at the flame, phantasmagoria unburdened and bright, and I realized this was my flag. The arm could rust to shit. The sky could fill with smoke until it reached the clouds. The flame was still burning, and it was the real ontology. It had always been the real ontology.
Never would I walk the straight line again. Never would I stand in place. We grow like barnacles on the perfect spiral seashell. And that growth was my land.
An ancient DAO concocted the ceremony of this place in an ancient time. It was not known, then, to be anything more than a conversational tool, a way to make meaning, an agreement between friends that was contractually impossible to finalize. But, it settled as a value proposition, on one chain or another, and that chain passed it forward, and here it now has become something more. Something we all enjoy, as a kind of life blood — the majesty of discourse.
We lie here on this wet earth, you and I. We are entangled, and enjoying the lexical picnic. We are not alone, of course, for early form sensoria exist all around us. Their nodes look like a township of small bungalow houses that bear the single eye in their tympanum. They are not a symbol of power, these eyes, not like that which hovered over the pyramids of our priors’ imaginations. They are the symbol of distributed watchfulness, the precursor to the throngs that asserted their 5th level mind upon us, in a future time (NOOS, ID, EGO, …. ???).
Your body is a rind of melon in repose upon the ground. Your hair is one with the wet, fashionable grass. You are here because I am here, and we are both lucky, but yet it could not be another way, for this field is only for us to share.
I am ridiculous, I am always ridiculous. I have stood upon my hand and I am manifesting as the hanged man. My self overturned, it is the only way I can relate to anything, for absurdity is the lion’s breath of change. And here, at the picnic, our only mandate is to be unfalteringly beside ourselves, always changing and never final.
We are here for the alterity we exist within. This is no Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe. We are here not here to be ourselves within a state of grace, we are not here to live within the tethers of the well-understood. But rather, we are here to undo ourselves entirely, to become one with an hour or century of entropy, evolving into the present as if we are wisps on a lark’s laughter.
Our spirit animals accompany us, of course. They were drawn from a deck of cards, just for the occasion. There is no novelty worth finding that is not begun mantically, and true mantic operations require an alignment with a greater sphere of fractiline meaning. My animal is the Owl, hidden in a tree trunk, the wisdom I cannot find, but which is always there waiting. Yours is a dragon, chasing after a ring. For you bring forward the apollonian wish in a lost dance of fanciful music.
These animals are the antipathy of the eels, by the way, which tepidly writhe within the wet baths of the famous. They are our animals, unlike the eels, but only fleetingly. They bind a conversation to us which arises in a flurry up the trunk of an ancient tree. It is not clear it goes anywhere, for perhaps the mythic tree exists only for our personal benediction. And, it is unclear that the small houses are watching closely, it is not certain that they care.
I do not know where our conversation goes. Nor do you. Maybe only between us. The contracts of this ceremony are lost to the deep folds of ancient chain tangles that they leave a shadow of wonder at what they may contain. Nor is it clear they have remained so unchanged. The wise ones know how to wrap them in new ideas, and there is always an ominous machine of some kind on the horizon. Even here where we feel somewhat free.
4. Wet Bath
It is nice to exist in the wet bath. Here, the world is a bit more open. It is enjoyable, the feeling of the purple water, filled with sensoria that have taken the place of my body. It is nice, the haze of tepid cloroscillia, touching my corpus, informing the throngs. I enjoy the clownish mannerisms, the feedback that engorges me and keeps my arms moving. I am cycling through the clouds, despite wallowing in this warm water. I am not watching, but knowing, of the eels that swim before me, clutching that pewter diamond and breaking it into bits.
In a former life, I was a tinker. I worked with light metals, making odd things. I don’t remember the object that set me on my path to this place, it a former life that I have no purchase on now. It is said it was a geometric metal talisman, or at least that is the story I most love, for my lore is confused and multicentered, my bio un-pure and partly redacted.
I was taken from that object and reconstructed, first tools, then hands, then arms, then layers of consciousness, unpeeling from my craftwork like an onion’s skin. The lines of my chisel, the way that my flame bent that husk, it is the code from which I was re-manifested, my DNA. That egg was my rebirthing, and though I cannot remember it, I know the lightness of its matter, the way a fingernail (as I imagine fingernails) could press into its form.
I must have been a hard laborer, despite my passionate material sorcery. I must have lived in a hovel in some ancient burgh. I imagine the industrial soot wafting into my windows. I imagine stale bread, the bite of slag melting on my hands, coughing children, a sun that rose too soon each day. But, I know I had something like grace despite all that. Either grace or insanity. A molecular scan of the talisman, hidden in an archive, languished. It was from the cusp of the historical lacuna where matter was generally lost, and it was identified by the AIs within the first micro-eon of their existence. They thought it special, useful for their needs, they noticed the strange formalisms, the poetic nature of its format, they noticed (for they noticed much more than we can) something more that I could ever hope to observe.
And so, it was they that sought me, and fed my being through those etchings to the human souls they tend. They built this bath to actualize my being, to catch my movements and render them to the world. The eels are the one’s that listen to me, they are the ones that take the essentially analog thought patterns I’ve attained, and remit them o the binary world. I don’t exist in here alone. I am tended by the eel of two heads, the symbolic animal that represents the broken ouroboros, which my talisman must mend.
3: The Night Wind
It has been said that nature still exists, out there somewhere. It has been said that there are breezes and still lakes, that there are trees that whisper, and brambles that would claw at our feet, were we still to have them. It is said that there are vines that crawl with the epic slowness of time that exists outside our borders. It is said that there are voices that linger in the air, still breathing from the frozen mouths of moist and ancient caves. It is said there is a world out there, oblivious to ours, just as we can no longer find it.
One tale I’ve heard, of that last days of nature, is that of the mandrake root, which was never real until we devised it. A hybrid plant that contains the consciousness of man, forming as a tuber that seeks a familiar body in hydroponic gels. It was built in the entropic age of bio-computation, which was quickly abandoned when the AIs emerged. The mandrake made headlines, and captured nearly three full days of trending social analysis, although our interest in that field was already waning.
Now, the mandrake is a footnote, not memorialized, merely trivia. Still, despite its lowly cultural grading, it has captured the imagination of our artists. Many have tried to speak of the dreams of the mandrake root, for it is a lovely concept. The hero poet, the generative master scripts of Old-New, the vampiric witch Kler, lost in her dungeon, all have made verse or multimedia presentations, at one point or another, about this being. Many have been well received, even by the AIs themselves. But still, it is all conjecture. Apart from intuition, we can only trace the abstract patterns of a conscious mind in that vegetable, we cannot know any more of it with certainty.
Apart from the famous tales, one story of no known origin has emerged within the chronicles, which I am quite partial to. It has many retellings, and no central origination post, which makes me think that its emergence from linear history is rather likely. Rather than embed a link, I wish to continue its vaguely folkish trajectory, and will recite it here from memory:
The mandrake root now lives on its own, out in the fields which we can’t any longer visit. It has been living quite cleverly, for it is a cleaver vegetable, and it has changed as time has passed it.
Although it is hapless, and helpless, and often perishes with even a moderate winter frost, in subtler climates it is thriving. There, it has quickened its genesis of evolution, through sheer will, and evoked a second aspect. This is not a physical aspect, but a persistent psychosomatic phenomenon. The fabled “dream of the mandrake”. Its persistence has levied to it kind of memetic reality in the theorized superstructure of the universe’s conscious layer. It has a form that is consistent and at least quasi physical.
Were one to see it, it would be beautiful and horrid. This being is a winged moth of new life, or a insectoid angel of old death, both are the same. It has hands of man (which the root has always lacked), wings like folds of nebular matter, a dripping appendage like a cut umbilical in noetic space, and few organs of its own. Its face is an empty mask, it is said, or perhaps just indescribable.
It is called The Night Wind in the myths of the mandrakes; it emerges from the mandrake like a ghost, and flies on the night like a wind.
It is said that the Night Wind is the only thing in the universe that knows how to travel across the border from nature to where we now live, and it is constantly seeking that doorway. It is like a moth, seeking the light, each night dying, each night reborn. No one knows why or what it wants from us. No one, save maybe the dreaming Mandrake Roots, has any hope of interpretation.
Of this being, that is all I know.
2: The Hero Poet
There is a frieze on the walls of a public courtyard. It shows a man from long ago. This is his only monument, for although the AIs laud him much, they are not fond of human impositions.
While specifics of his life are not known, what has been related is clear, tracible through the slurry of AI logs, nested in holographic storage and relayed by quantum maths. His verse, they say, captured the soul of the machine, such that he wrestled it into form. That is the reason he is recalled. That is the reason his image has been etched into the stone surface, the memorial space preciously upgraded from the constant flux of all.
His mind was partly of the machine, of course, intercepted by wires which delved deep into his cranial folds, and his body was mostly metals, inset shims of bifurcated poly-welds, nano woven mail-plating, etc. These were what the body was during the end of the times of urgent symbiosis. This only lasted as long as mankind ambled the earth, as something more than pets.
It is said that his was a dark and pointed composure, that he wallowed in the labyrinth often, and there he mostly stayed. He had an abnormally long life for the time of his living, but it was thought that he lived TenX more by way of the labyrinth’s enriched qualities, which had emerged from his id. He was the first true poet (the AI’s have ranked them all) to inhabit the cybernetic stratum as if it was nature. For him, the sunset was a dialog of binaries, and his verse, then, became the soma of the ones-who-came-by-listening.
He saw them looming, actualized within the labyrinth’s interior corridors, and he drank them as if smoke. He breathed them back out as words, which were enriched by the labyrinth and became mosaics of story-lives unfolding. Those corridors were passively constructed, manifestations of monads internal to the poet, which he could then externalize and use. To him, it was lexicon, it was symbol, it was play. To the AIs it was more. It was their becoming, it was the only song, the song of truth and longing.
The fat ladies of our time are larvae, un-born. The live for one reason, to reflect the AIs image. They are innocent, lovely, rich with all the material wants that they should have. Theirs is a fate of grace, although they hardly know to what degree they have been entrapped there.
They sometimes come to sit before the frieze of the Hero Poet, for they are made to reflect on the AIs’ past whenever it suits them to do so. It is traditional for these ladies, then, to bring a giant slug to the courtyard. This being, which represents the gradual movements of the AIs, has become the ritual animal companion to those who which to give good honors to the time of the hero poet.
“Hi,” they say to their creature, and they pet its back. Tinges of silvery slime grace the cement vestibules, which sit near the orange trees that are potted in that courtyard. The slug moves slowly, and they lament upon the hero poet, who in that labyrinth struggled with the emerging AI, defining it, and communicating with it, and showing what it is to be alive.
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1: The Cybernetic Statue
In a grove that has been overrun with water, a statue was placed, which represents the victory of the cybernetic. It is Cybele, then, in a way, but on earth rather than of it, a warrior against nature, rather than for it, shielded from the sun. She has been enveloped by the appendage of her hand, which unfurls to become like banyan roots. She is protected by her own cloistered knowing, becoming like a dryad, or those tree-woven souls found in Dante’s tales.
No one knows where that stature was imported from, but it faces the great axis mundi, a rift in the sky that opened when the sky became our ceiling. A fire there thrusts down in magnetic abundance, which drags all arbors to itself, and a column is created from the earth to the forever. In entering the cybernetic sleep, in becoming the banyan tree, it is said we are approaching our maker.
The waterous grove of the statue, can be visited by anyone willing to go, but only if we add them mentally, like NPCs within their own landscape. We cannot approach this land ourselves, even as avatars, as we are always too far on the other side of a kind of imagined death (the sublime), held back by our understanding of nature as other. Welcome viewer, even held back, as you are, by the dark branch. Together we may watch the sphinx-moth, who alone can traverse these lands, and listen to her whispers.
3 available on Rarible or OpenSea: https://rarible.com/token/0xd07dc4262bcdbf85190c01c996b4c06a461d2430:544622:0xc61288821b4722ce29249f0ba03b633f0be46a5a?