Above Their Heads Tongues of Fire

She has forgotten — for the moment — that life exists beyond the many-curved wheel of the hull. She has written a word in the false sand beside the reservoir, without meaning or import, washed away by a regulated tide.

Pythia shivers, the deep heavy tone that means — she feels the memory stirring — that the shield has fallen away at last. The universe beyond the shipsoil exists once more. She sinks her fingers into the shaggy trunks of Pythia’s cedars and climbs beyond the spinning clutch of gravity, climbs to the endless, spiraling fall of the hub.

She kneels as well as she can in weightlessness, tucks her clothes in tight. “Oracle,” she cries, “Snake eater!” A pealing as of many bells. Incense, mountain air, the taste of laurel. She nearly chokes on nutmeg. The hub irises open and she shudders before the many blazing eyes of the universe, stares out at stars — stars, she remembers now — never seen before.

“O all your wonders,” she whispers, and Pythia tolls in sympathy.