She’s a Rainbow
(A Predict fiction piece)
No, neither fear nor love. To rule for thousands of years, employ mystery and awe. Here:
Every spring, in the capital city, there is a great Parade. Wagons, decorated with props, costumed performers standing atop them, roll through the streets, telling a story in stages to all those gathered along the sides. And when the time has come the guards filter forward, interposing between the onlookers and the road, motioning to us.
We all kneel, as is the practice, and duck into a curl, arms outstretched ahead of us on the ground, our faces nearly touching the dust. Horns blare upon Her arrival. We could hear them from afar, winding closer, anticipation rising. Here, on this gilded cart rolling past us now, is the Empress-Pharaoh, in all Her finery and rarest dyes, surrounded by treasures of marvelous beauty. She stands, looking over us, and none look back. If any raise their head for even a moment, those guards will cut it off at once. No one may ever see Her. The Parade’s finale remains obscured.
It was all in a dream I had, years ago, still perfectly clear: I heard an anxious huff next to me, as we were bent over in the dirt, and I glanced to my right in time to watch as another man, trembling, craned his head upwards. His eyes were held with hooks by what he saw. His expression still chills me. I watched him die. Like a sacred revelation which causes blindness, or the word of God deafening, to see Her is to break the code of creation — your soul is sent straight back to the Moon. He was glad to be such a rare witness, to behold.
And, that is part of the purpose: suppose that you are a sickened old man, your children grown, now belligerent, resentful, your wife long gone. Won’t you secretly hope, and wait for that Spring Festival, and the culmination of the Parade? When the Empress approaches, you look up with gladness and humble hesitation, to know that this is your sanctioned escape — for those to whom all seems lost, here is the most prized gift and redemption.
There are other wrinkles to the story, too. For instance: it is actually quite dangerous for the Empress to slowly trawl across the entire city all day, vulnerable to any enemies. Instead, the palace attendants secretly dress-up one of the young servant girls. For that day, she stands bedecked in holy artifacts and jewels, in a dress made especially for her that she can keep to herself.
And, imagine those last thoughts — the old man, looking up in tears, ready to die, the glint of gold and silver stunning him for a moment. Only a few seconds before the axe falls. And, his silent realization as she turns to him: “Oh… wait. It’s you! The girl from the market — our queen was with us this whole time?!” Everything mundane is secretly divine.
DO NOT REMOVE YOUR HELMET.
So, I am trembling now, in this dream. I remember the old stories, and I think that this must be the same. Here, on this icy moon, its surface melted by impacts which froze over so delicately — the glassy ground is a vast, green-tinted lens. I stand on the edge of a two-way mirror.
The sun has been creeping toward the horizon, only the narrowest ghost of an atmosphere giving hint of it, until — like a fire being lit in the belly of the world, a beacon rising from the sea, that sunlight hit the ice just beyond the edge of sight and was channeled like a data-fiber, ricocheting and emanating forth in a kaleidoscopic rainbow before me now. A lake of fire under foot. Light is all. The sun is being born from the depths.
It’s terrible. I can feel it viscerally, like a hangnail tugging at cotton balls. The glint of that rainbow, as it hits my reinforced visor — the glass of my helmet is muddling, smudging those intricately interlaced diamonds of shifting light. I am trapped behind it — I can’t stand it! If… if I just hold my breath for a second, so that I can see it clear! See truly, what it is to stand in the midst of it, naked!
That is what every other explorer thought who came here. I was forced to land off to the side of the best plateau, and crawl past piles of frosted-over suits, just to have my view of it. So many, their faces black-blue from decades of radiation, helmets in their mitts — they watched over me as I walked here. Every one of them smiling. Tears frozen on their cheeks! That look the man had, in a dream.
Have you seen Her?