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Poem: "The Transformations of Terror" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "The Transformations of Terror"
Here is the latest epic in search of cosponsors. This poem came out of the October 13, 2009 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from janetmiles, siege, and wyld_dandelyon (posting for her niece). These folks all got me thinking about what would frighten an inorganic shapeshifter, and why. Ulterior inspirations include Madelaine L'Engle (kudos to janetmiles for correctly clocking that one) and the Cthulhu Mythos. This is pretty intense horror of the ooky kind, but with science fiction motifs included. Donors so far: janetmiles, stonetalker, wolfbrotherjoe

EDIT 10/17/09: The poll voted to fund more verses of this poem out of the general donations. Voters, if you'd like your names added to the donor roll above, please let me know.
EDIT 11/9/09: The poll voted to fund more verses of this poem out of the general donations.
EDIT 11/19/09: This poem has been fully funded by a new donation.
EDIT 12/28/09: This poem has been revised, and the new version is here.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them. The rate is $.50 per line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements.

84 lines, Buy It Now = $42
Fully funded 11/19/09

The Transformations of Terror

There was one transformation they all feared.
Nobody wanted to transform into a starship.
Oh, they weren’t afraid of heights –
They all loved to fly.
They weren’t afraid of space –
They would orbit happily in station form.
They weren’t afraid of travel –
They could drive quite gladly around the whole planet.

But they weren’t alone.
And they knew that.

And they knew IT was out there,
High up in the thin aethyr of hyperspace
Where they had to go if they wanted to get out of the system.
They knew IT was there,
Waiting for them.

The transformation itself is quite ordinary:
The shifting of wings and rocket pipes,
Legs tucking up to broaden the base of the body,
Head slipping forward to become the bridge.
Even the delicate internal assembly of the stardrive itself
Comes together as naturally as crystals forming.

But they don’t want to jump in.
It’s worse than the first dive
After learning to become a submarine,
When the water seems to gleam with an evil threat.
This time they know what is waiting for them.

The ones who steel themselves for the journey
Find themselves facing IT at once:
The slick sinuous mass of IT makes them queasy
Right down to their reactor cores.
At first IT just hangs there, folding into and out of itself
Like a tesseract made of meat.
Then IT senses them and surges forward,
Faster than they can imagine,
And they cannot flee although they always try.
They can scan IT undulating as it approaches,
Tentacles uncoiling to reach for them,
Suckers moist and pulsating.

They try not to scream as IT clamps on,
But that’s hard,
Especially when IT covers their sensors
Leaving them deaf and blind
To the whole journey through hyperspace
So that they have to trust the coordinates
Uploaded ever-so-carefully into the pilot-drive.

All they can do is pray
And try not to think of what’s happening
And remind themselves that this will be over eventually.

Finally, finally,
The suckers slop away from the hull
And the scanners are clear of everything except slime
And the awful trip is finished
So that they can dive into the atmosphere
And let the cleansing fire of reentry burn away all traces

Except for the memories they cannot forget
No matter how many times they try to delete the files.

They go about their business, then,
As submarines and shipping vehicles and jet planes,
Reveling in safer forms of motion.
Some of them return to space
And hang content as stations curled up in a comfy LaGrange couch.

But sooner or later,
They have to take downtime,
Have to let their busy minds rest and recover
From the challenges of life.
Then it hits them – then the nightmares come.
There is no escaping them.
Over and over they suffer the same terrifying transformation
Into a starship and the quivering leap into hyperspace.
Over and over they relive the horrible stroking of their sensors,
Their vents, and their tightly latched apertures as IT probes them.
Over and over they suffer blindness, deafness,
And the creeping certainty of something striving to reach them,
Right into the central braindrive where the soul resides.

Telling who’s been a starship is always easy:
They’re the ones
Who wake up screaming.

As far as the records show, IT has never hurt anyone.
But nobody believes that.
Ships do get lost sometimes,
Gone without a trace,
Swallowed by hyperspace.

Everyone who has ever seen IT
Knows who to blame.

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Current Mood: busy busy

6 comments or Leave a comment
fayanora From: fayanora Date: October 18th, 2009 12:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Scary! Kinda like Cthulhu in space.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 18th, 2009 02:21 am (UTC) (Link)


Kind of like, yes. There's a related poem that I really should write up, if it comes together.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: October 22nd, 2009 11:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just realized another allusion -- the dragons of the ainniq in C.S. Friedman's This Alien Shore
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 23rd, 2009 01:10 am (UTC) (Link)


Yes and no. Yes, in that they are perceived the same way. There is an ancient and widespread archetype of monsters attacking unwary travelers, especially when people venture into unknown and mysterious realms. Sea monsters guarded the oceans; dragons and rocs guarded the skies; and when we had pretty well conquered the Earth and started writing about star travel, we followed through and put dragons and malicious energy beings into subspace and hyperspace and all sorts of other places. The ainniq dragons are one representation of that archetype, very well done.

And mine, well, things aren't always what they seem. There are competing truths in play here. I wanted to do something a little different with this motif.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: November 9th, 2009 11:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
At first IT just hangs there, folding into and out of itself
Like a tesseract made of meat.

That second line is my favorite. I had to have kengr explain a tesseract, but the image is so... awesome.

I love this so far! Poor spacecraft.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 10th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC) (Link)


I'm glad you like this so much. It's fun to watch the tale unfold as new verses are added.
6 comments or Leave a comment