Fronts (Lives of the Koanan #2)
Ristad came to awareness and felt perself turned from the world. That is, per had the impression that whatever existed outside of per was behind, a spatial concept per had learned from constructing virsocs. It was interesting. Per opened to the situation in the sponge-like manner of the Koanan, and found perself accompanied by a sense of presence, all at per back, as if per were a body turned on its side. There were streams of breath interrupted by vague chunks of matter. The streams were dark red in feeling; they were mellow in colour; they were stealthy in tone, slow in movement. Were they per companions? Yes, companions, because they were present, but were they Koanan?
Per was struck by the sense of intimacy. How close was everything? Per had learned earlier in per season of growth that the world was infinite and that boundaries only occurred in the different phases of awareness, when one probed the matrix for information. In these phases one lived in experience before receding to deposit one’s knowledge in the common store. Were these streams, these bodies, the actual components of per environs, or were they intuited knowledge?
At any rate, all was peaceful. Ristad continued to probe, but gently, because per felt no stronger impulse. If this was a lesson from the knowledge store, it had to concern something preceding, or something to come. It was as if per had awoken at a phase that was not a phase, as if per were invigilating per own sleep and sensing the elements between happenings.
But is there any phase without happenings? Don’t all elements happen? Per felt perself lean into the concave cushion at per back, aware that per was being supported, that all locations of per were engaged at once, and that per was drawing no conclusion, except that per was knowing the world with per undivided self. Now where did that notion come from? The question created action and per probed for a virsoc.
Brightness. A kind of brightness per knew was not of the elements, or rather, was manipulation of the elements. Beings with bright faces and limbs, as if made from something malleable, but with an overlay that was stiff and polished. They shone. Shining is pleasant, Ristad thought, still aware of the dim presence at what felt like per back. The beings were speaking and smiling, speaking and smiling. They were contained in something hard. Ristad probed further for the source. Entering one of the containers, per found an array of objects. Some were organs that moving beings required, such as brains, hearts, livers. Others were products—needles, clothing, jewellery, lenses that could channel light for making pictures.
Ristad drew back and looked at the beings again. Over-bright, it seemed, images of themselves. Again per delved into a container and found internal organs and objects. But this time per stopped long enough to know something else. Streams of signals, such as per had felt on awakening. Dark red, bright yellow, but experienced all over as sound and vibration, as if per had per back turned. No, as if per were whirling slowly, frontless.
Frontless. Per was made aware of per frontlessness by the presence of fronts in these beings. Who are they? Do they have a name? There was no answer. Per studied the environment. Clear, unobstructive, and in it a plethora of these motile beings, contained in an array of shapes, moving on crowded thoroughfares, entering and exiting larger containers. They were not all bright. Many were dark, greyish, but all seemed to be in some way propelled by their fronts, which were distinguished by having a stiff frame and constant surface motility.
The containers in which the beings moved were more like products than bodies, as if they had stepped into them before leaving their abodes, as one might get into a motored vehicle. Ristad tried to imagine them without the containers, but when per did, per returned again to that sense of charged streams, slow sounds, tendril-like reaching, quiet colours, whirls of breath.
Then the answer came. Visbers. The society was ruled by the presence and concept of the front. The front did almost all the apperception and all the communicating. Without a front, or sight of a front, nothing could be understood. Not only this, but each front changed on meeting another. Everyone was a mirror, mirrored in the others, walking in a mirror.
Ristad entered several containers to find out more, but in each case vision failed per and per was immersed in indefinable signals. As per could know nothing from the insides, per tried to read the fronts. Per could not. It was as if they spoke a language to which per had no access. Was this because per was frontless perself, or because per was not trying hard enough? The conundrum made per ache. Incapable of solving it, she receded.
Coming again to awareness, per realised per had abandoned the study of the virsoc because per had lacked probing skills. A swell rose up, surrounding per, no sense of a back or front this phase. Information, signals, large flows, mingled in per environs, the usual Koanan weather. Per felt safe but dissatisfied. Per had failed. There was no answer, no conclusion. Per had probed and found only conglomeration, no definition.
Per felt a smile pervade the matrix. Subtlely linked companions were sending support. Then there was a stronger movement and the whole mindscape started to laugh. In a sudden fullness, per realised per was Koana through and through—faceless but seeing, bodyless but sensate, material but all thought, separate but blended. In per Visber phase, all per understanding had been dissipated among per various faculties. It was not inadequacy to allow each component to live in its own way without delivering a report. There would be another phase when random experience would be useful in argument, and solidify as conscious knowledge. Visbers lived only to confront, believing that what was projected and seen was all that happened.