THE TATTERED VEIL • by dj barber

Carly sat on her folded legs and peered down through the hole. There was scattered light sprinkled throughout the darkness. She cast a few more points of light from her hand and glanced back at Sryl, her mentor, who stood some paces away.

“Not a bad job, Carly. However, you’ll not get credit — you realize that, yes?”

Carly gazed back into the hole. “I’d like to go out there sometime, Master Sryl. Explore the whole lot, see?”

“You’ll have to wait a bit, my dear. It takes time for things to settle, resolve into a sensible state — but what about the issue of not getting due recognition, Carly?”

“I’ll know,” she said, still concentrating on the wondrous sight through the hole. “They can’t take that away.” And then she looked back at Sryl. “Can they, Master? They can’t make it so I wouldn’t know?”

“You’ll not get credit. Don’t push it, Carly. It’s the way of things.”

She rose and grabbed the cover. “This is heavier than it used to be,” she said as she set the cover over the hole.

“And it’ll get heavier still — things do, you know,” Sryl said.

“Why is that, Master? — why does it get heavier and then heavier still?”

Because it covers more — and will cover even more in time.”

“Time! There’s that again. Why must we have Time, anyway?”

“We don’t, but through that hole — that’s a different story. Time is the catalyst — that and Light, of course.”

Carly shook her head, not sure of what her Master spoke, and followed him out.


The sensors suggested a massive object, but it would be orbits before reaching it. The nano-probe had been ejected from a modified collider just a few hundredths of a percent shy of the Speed of Light many generations before. It had originally been programmed for a simple mission — to find the edge of the known universe. A fool’s errand to be sure, but the Makers had given the diminutive probe the very finest in nano-technology; a self-repairing ability to the point of having the capability to evolve into a more efficient craft. It was now in its thirty-fourth evolution, or generation, as the probe itself reckoned. And that, too, was new — this ability to reckon — think — not just anticipate as it originally had.

The nano-probe had come to the realization a few generations ago that it would have no way of sharing the facts of its journey with the Makers — their solar system had grown old and died long ago. But its Primary Mission was still at its core — it was unchangeable in the program. Those Makers had thought the nano-probe might traverse a great circular path — return, perhaps, from whence it came. But no! — Yes, there had been an arc of Light some generations ago, and yes, the nano-probe had thought — well, at that time, anticipated — to bear around. But it held its course — hadn’t seen any light to the forward in — only the Makers knew! The Light — what there was left of it — diminished always and only to the rearward. The nano-probe ventured on.


Carly sat and sulked. It had been quite long enough, she believed, and still she wasn’t allowed to go explore her creation. And that was another thing! — Sryl had been correct in her not being allowed, not recognized for her efforts, either! And it wasn’t enough as she had thought it might be.

Sryl watched her as she sulked and felt for her, but Fires and Stars! — he had told her so! He approached, but knew immediately his empathy wasn’t welcome. He paused and thought to speak, but left without a word.

Carly rose and paced about, glancing at the cover over the hole from time-to-time, and sighing impatiently. Her brooding was suddenly interrupted by a pinging thump on the cover. She ran over and grabbed hold, but could not lift the cover. She pulled with all her might; the cover barely budged. Leaving, she followed Sryl’s path and implored him to come with her.

He looked sadly at her and said: “To what end, Carly? This sulking must end.”

“Master,” she said with an earnest face, “you must come and help.”

With no little trepidation he followed.

“Help me, Sryl,” Carly implored as she kneeled by the cover. “Please. This cover is far too heavy and something is there — just outside the cover.”

“Carly, I don’t know if — ”

“I can’t do it alone! Help me; please, Sryl. Something knocked.”

“Knocked? Why that’s…”

“Incredible, I know, Master. Just you wait and see.”

He stooped and grabbed hold of the cover opposite Carly. They pulled with all their strength, but the cover would not lift. “We’ll try again; grab hold!”

Sryl followed her lead and this time the cover budged and they were able to slide it sideways enough to see beyond.

A small particle, not much larger than a dust mote, floated upward and bobbed in mid-air.

“Ah,” said Sryl, “I see the gravitons are still attached to the outer bulkheads or this poor little spacecraft would have met its demise.”

“This is from — Out There? — This is from…”

“Yes — yes, Carly, it’s small, but certainly has made an epic voyage.”

He held out a hand and the small craft slowly drifted down into it. “Now, let’s set it in the —

“No, Sryl, no. Give it to me.”

He complied and held out his hand and carefully dropped the small device into hers.

She stooped and set the small craft down and suddenly she began to shrink. In only a few tics she was as small as the craft. It had a ragged appearance; tarnished, battered and bruised. She set her hand against it and a tiny cord appeared at the side of the craft facing her. She held the end of the cord in her hand and her mind was filled with pictures and sounds; images of a small world far, far away. She cried with joy — as all mothers do.

dj barber lives in the Willamette Valley between the mountains. He writes when he can and whistles when he should.

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