The land of crystal


Once a place existed where beings could spin the most intricate and complex structures out of crystal. They were beautiful, gravity-defying structures with sweeping curves, tear drop shapes, and filigree patterns. These ephemeral creatures, were vaguely human in form, but with poorly defined senses. It was hard to tell if they had eyes, a nose or ears, but their movements were fast, and purposeful. You could stand right next to them, and your presence wouldn’t appear noticed. They made strange sounds, as if communicating; it was a mournful low-pitched moan mimicking the fickle winds that blew across the turbulent waters. This place was not particularly hospitable, it had a lost and lonely feel, and the residents’ purpose for their creations was unclear.


The crystal materialised just beyond their hands, and they seemed to express two discernible behaviours. During the creation of the transparent forms, movements were fluid, earnest and graceful. A palpable sense of euphoria emitted from their shape making. However, this didn’t last long. For some reason, these creatures were building their elaborate designs in the sea! The inclement weather and unpredictable surging waves were not kind to these brittle structures. Suddenly, a different dance emerged. Frantic, sometimes random and jerking movements were made as cracks appeared in different parts. The more detailed the crystalline shapes, the more complex the repairs became. They had to work alone. Their poorly developed senses made them oblivious to the travails of immediate neighbours, and even those who could see better, were disorientated by the distorting effect of the convex and concave surfaces. The apparent transparency of these creations was purely illusory.


Listening for just a short while, you could hear the tragically beautiful sound of splintering and tinkling, when a whole structure collapsed from a seemingly inconsequential hairline crack. The being would sit dazed, surrounded by multiple tiny shards. In this state, it seemed unable to create more crystal, but instead endured a painful process of removing glasslike pieces; vulnerable, floating on a shard, exposed, and wounded.


However, at this moment when these creatures seemed at their most pathetic and lost, something delightful could happen. Sadly, most would return to their shape making, often similar in design, but with some variation to the previous doomed structure. Occasionally, a metamorphosis took place. Where the shapeless face once existed, discernable sensory organs started to emerge: eyes, blinking, a nose appreciating exotic scents, and ears detecting sounds above the moans of the sea. In their altered form, they would move towards land. The smells that lured them came from a bamboo-like forest. This material would initially seem unappealing, rather simple, and inelegant compared to the glassy smoothness of before, but for the first time their hands could run across a surface and appreciate natural unevenness. They watched how it bent and swayed but didn’t break when the sea winds swept through their stems and branches. With increasing confidence of newly found senses, these creatures of transformation were emboldened to explore. Deeper inside, their reward would come from discovery of simple dwellings made with this flexible and abundant material. Finally, to their amazement, they stood and watched others like them working together to build homes with windows to see out of, and doors to enter.


Returning home



He reaches the brow of a hill with a mood like his feet: cold and sore. The fume-filled streets, with their heat and closeness seem dreamlike. For a moment, there are cycles navigating roads like shoals of fish, and smells of barbecue and sweet basil infuse the air. His senses are alive, the city shoving itself through the pores of his skin. A plaintive whistle from the moorland breaks the moment.  He feels its stinging slap, like before, carrying sea salt and sand from the coast.

The cottage comes into view, it hunkers down behind slopes of heather, and sheep in tangled coats of dripping dirt move as if all hope is lost.  From the chimney, a tendril of smoke half heartedly seeks escape. He thinks of his parents moving about within, behind those dark stones, stained from years of damp; this place where light barely illuminates, and warmth is a vague memory. His breath quickens, cheeks burning from the whipping wind and it’s whispering now, a warning.

It will be better this time, he’s not the same.



John woke to the gentle sound of the Elysium gong. It was 7:30am and although barely light outside, the room was bathed in a synthesised glow of replicant dawn. A place of pale whites, satin surfaces and sweeping curves, a gentle hum came from the triple-filtered hypoallergenic air.

John stretched and then swung his legs out of bed. He exposed his thigh for the daily shot of vitamins and nanobots. It was his 150th birthday and endless decades lay ahead according to his smiling physicians, all white teeth and wrinkle-free skin. Under the needle fine shower he could feel the tingling cocktail of antibacterials penetrating his skin. As the cubicle filled with steam, a memory started to form. He was with a woman, they were bathing together, skin seeking skin. When was that? A hundred years ago? More? It was a moment out of focus, with no feeling attached thanks to the pills preventing painful emotions.  He was free in this anaesthetised world of existence, but strangely today the image left him wanting something.

After his 3-D printed breakfast, portioned according to his calorie stats over the last 24hrs, he decided to go for a walk. A throbbing red light from his medication dispenser persisted until the moment he closed the door.