The Prophet Mother

 

March 21, 2023

I am forced to admit, at least to myself, that I was initially skeptical about both the prophet and his vision.

When I was given the coveted assignment of meeting, and spending a week living with Richard Kryuss and his rapidly growing band of devoted followers, I was wary. I made a promise to myself that no matter how thirsty I was, and no matter how good it looked or smelled, I was not going to drink any Kool-aid offered to me by anyone inside of the compound. Even if it was Tropical Punch.

It wasn’t like that, though. Wasn’t like Jonestown or Waco or Heaven’s Gate. I quickly developed a grudging admiration for the man and his genius as he told me about, and showed me, some of the far-out technical innovations his brilliant mind has given birth to.

I mean, there’s forward-thinking, and then there’s Kryuss. I came to believe that his plan was not only feasible, but likely to work. He wasn’t crazy, and he wasn’t a joke. With brilliant eloquence, he provided beyond satisfactory answers to all of the questions designed to make him look like a fool, and it was, in fact, I who looked like a fool for asking them.

I never went home. That was almost two years ago.

I knew that those on the outside were laughing at us. They didn’t believe we’d succeed, and we were routinely mocked by the news media and late-night talk show hosts who spoon-fed Americans their opinions. I myself, as a fairly high-profile journalist, became a target as well, for a time.

After grainy satellite footage of the orbital construction of our ship, the Effugium, was leaked by China, everything changed. They began to take us seriously. They called us selfish, and elitists, for refusing to admit any more passengers.

Even the President got in on the act, taking every opportunity to lambaste Kryuss via social media in an obvious attempt to distract the public from his own inability to act. Kryuss never bothered to reply.

Everything came to a head when a small army of activists showed up outside of our gates, weapons in hand and desperation burning in their eyes. Kryuss had anticipated this day from the beginning, and had trained us accordingly. They had guns, but we had more guns. Bigger and better guns, and we knew how to use them.

When I saw him, my prophet, stride very calmly right up to the fence that the protestors were pressed against, unintimidated by their shaking, hitting and biting of it, unfazed their hateful chanting, I said to myself, now there’s a man I’ll follow to the stars and beyond.

I don’t know what he said to them, but they all backed away from the fence. I suppose he probably warned them that if they didn’t back off he was going to turn the fence on and anyone still touching it was going to get fried. Had they made their way into the compound, they’d have been greeted by a hail of bullets that would’ve turned them into 97% lean ground chuck in a matter of seconds, but it didn’t come to that, thank the Creators. With my own trembling finger curled around the trigger of an AK-47 and the green-haired head of a particularly antagonistic protestor in my crosshairs, I breathed a sigh of relief when it became apparent that I wasn’t going to have to take a life that day. Kryuss had staved off disaster, peacefully, using words instead of violence. And I loved him for it.

Morgan the First tapped the screen of her tablet, powering it down. She stood and looked out the window at the lush green meadows that lay beyond the glass, speckled with wildflowers of all colors.

Such a cruel tease, it was, even though it was designed with the best of intentions. Sometimes she could, at least momentarily, fool her mind into believing the view was real.

But it wasn’t, of course, and that realization always left her feeling worse than if she’d never bothered to turn it on in the first place.

She deactivated the display, the green valleys giving way to a sea of shimmering stars stretching endlessly across the cold, still vacuum of space.

The child had been sleeping so silently that she’d nearly forgotten he was there when she heard a gurgling noise come from his cradle.

She scooped him up into her arms and whispered nonsense in his ear. Already she could see the nose taking shape, the eyes, the look of contentment on his face as he gazed upon her… it was all very familiar, all Richard. Except of course, that it wasn’t, even if it kind of was.

The incarnation of Richard Kryuss she presently held in her arms would never play little league baseball. He’d never mop the floor with every single competitor in every school science fair from elementary school until his graduation at age 15. He’d never climb a mountain, never learn to fly a helicopter. He’d never swim with dolphins or explore centuries-old shipwrecks deep beneath the sea.

The limited life experiences available to him on board the Effigium would result in a man who looked like Richard Kryuss, but who had spent his life cooped up inside of a spaceship, breathing recycled air and never knowing the simple joy of the summertime sun warming his skin.

Would he even be qualified to lead the council, when the time came? Who amongst these people could teach Kryuss the Second how to be Richard Kryuss?

She looked at the guitar standing in the corner, Richard’s favorite cherry red Gibson SG. It hadn’t been moved since he placed it there, days before his death.

She set the baby back in his cradle and went over to the guitar; strummed her fingers across the strings. She smiled as she remembered how much he pretended to hate it when she did that.

In truth, she didn’t believe for one moment that he hated anything she did, so great was his love for her.

She stood by the window, looking out upon the stars and marveling at what she saw, thankful for the second chance at life that he’d granted them all.

He mother, her father, her sister, all of her friends…everyone she’d ever known was either dead or enslaved by the evictors. Sometimes not knowing which helped, and sometimes it made it worse.

She’d loved Kryuss more than all of them, such was the charisma of the man, the aura that surrounded him: she’d been unable to resist it, and she never got used to it. The child possessed it, too.

She sighed. No, he wouldn’t be Richard, and he probably wouldn’t even be much like him.

He looked at her with that deep, penetrating stare she could never hide from and though she knew better, she could’ve sworn he was reading her thoughts. She smiled.

“But you’ll be special,” she said. “Of that I have no doubt.”

May 14, 2037

Kryuss the Second is every bit the tinkerer his predecessor was. He knew the ship’s systems inside and out by the time he was ten. Of course it all made sense to him; it was his mind’s creation.

I know now that he is who he is, a personality so distinct, so strong-willed and driven that it transcends environmental factors, for the most part.

He’s less playful, though. Lamentably, depending on who one asks. Kryuss laughed constantly. He felt that laughter cleansed the soul and made life bearable. Kryuss the Second doesn’t laugh much. And, most peculiar of all, he doesn’t like 1950s rock n’ roll.

I realize that’s not too unusual of a dislike for a modern teenage boy to have, but for Kryuss, song structure, the precise placement of notes, the melodies and the harmonies, it was a science to him.

Kryuss the Second has, however, demonstrated a great fondness for classical music, particularly Bach, and particularly Bach played on a pipe organ.

He’s built his own pipe organ now, sturdily and cleverly constructed, one that can be heard throughout the entire ship. He plays for his people, and they adore it. This precocious young child is in his own way far more of an adult than the original version ever was. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, nor am I saying it’s a bad thing–it simply is.

As he ventures into adolescence, his face has unmistakably become the same one I followed to the stars so many years ago. It’s alarming, quite frankly. I’ve almost come to think of myself as his mother, and the similarities… no, the identicalness…well, it’s hard to ignore. I love him, and yet he reminds me so much of the one true love of my life that every time I see him, a lump forms in my throat, and tears well up in my eyes.

He’s too perceptive not to notice this, but he pretends he doesn’t. He’s uncomfortable with overt emotional displays. The polar opposite of Richard. I know that he loves me, through. I can see it in his eyes.

I tell him stories of life on earth, of places he’ll never visit, of wonders he’ll never behold, and I realize that I’ve become his window screen, his tantalizing glimpse into an untouchable world.

How could I inflict this cruelty upon him? How could I not? The flame must be kept burning.

Morgan the first had no desire to visit with the gerulus who’d just given birth to her clone. Her “continuant” as Richard had insisted they be called. Nor did she have any desire to visit with the clone itself. After it was released from care, of course, she’d be required to train it, ostensibly, to be like her, but it wasn’t a prospect she relished, raising herself as a child. She was already raising someone else’s continuant, and had no desire to double her responsibilities. Besides, there was something inherently depressing, if not downright threatening, about the prospect of watching a younger mirror image of herself blossom into womanhood even as her own beauty withered and faded with age.

Still, she knew her duty. She refused to exempt herself from it, even though she easily could have. She was the Prophet Mother, after all.

She scowled when she thought that.

With young Kryuss II in tow, she made her way to the hospital wing, politely acknowledging and smiling at everyone they passed in the corridors on their way there, all the while wishing she were still in bed with the covers pulled over her head.

The nursery’s doors parted, and Dr. Caplan the First looked up from his desk monitor; removed his reading glasses. He stood.

“Good morning, Prophet. Good morning, Mother.”

Morgan tried not to wince. “Good morning, Doctor. “How’s the patient?”

Caplan smiled. “Alive and kicking. And hungry. Vita is nursing her right now.”

“Oh,” said Morgan, “perhaps we should return later. We’d be disturbing her.”

“Nonsense,” said Caplan. “Come with me. Just be very quiet.

Morgan sighed inwardly and followed Caplan past a row of incubators, all occupied by tiny, sleeping infants, to a room at the back of the nursery. Caplan placed his palm on the lock panel and the doors slid open.

There she was, her continuant, her clone, her exact replica suckling contentedly at the breast of a breathtakingly beautiful young woman whom she’d never met. She didn’t like this at all. Any of it. But that was irrational, she knew. The problem was hers alone, not Caplan’s or Vita’s or the Council’s–just hers.

“Oh, hello, Mother,” said Vita, and Morgan instantly felt old. There was also something else; an irrational twinge of anger at this young woman for being so pretty, so full of life.

She suppressed the feeling before it made its way to her face, taking solace in the fact that though her best years were behind her, she’d lived a good many of them with solid ground beneath her feet and a vast blue sky over her head.

“Hello, dear,” she said sweetly.

Kryuss was staring wide-eyes at the baby. “Can I hold her when you’re finished?”

“Of course, prophet!” She suddenly seemed anxious. “If the Mother permits it, of course.”

Morgan couldn’t tell whether she was being referred to as the mother of the child or the mother of the ship. Either way, the title wasn’t going anywhere, and she knew that she had little alternative but to accept it if she wanted to retain any semblance of joy in her life. She made a mental note to ask Caplan about giving her something to relieve her anxiety.

Morgan the Second finished her meal, and Vita gingerly transferred her to the arms of the young Prophet, who seemed instantly smitten with her.

“She’s beautiful,” he said, looking up, is eyes glazing over with tears.

Morgan had never seen him like this, so warm and sentimental. What was that feeling welling up inside of her? Jealousy? Stop it. Stop it right now. You’re being absolutely absurd.”

“Yes, sweetie, she is.”

And of course, she was. She was well on her way to being everything that Morgan the First would never again be, and one day, she’d replace her completely.

Kryuss the Second kissed Morgan the Second on her soft, tender forehead.

October 2, 2056

They’re going to be married. On a ship full of sterilized passengers who openly make love with each other without inhibition, they’ve chosen to honor a now-archaic social construct from a planet that no longer exists as we know it. There’s something honorable about that, I suppose, even though I know firsthand that monogamy isn’t his natural inclination. As long as Morgan the Second can accept that, they’ll be fine.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

I miss his father so much.

Kryuss the Second pressed his nose to Morgan the Second’s hair and slowly inhaled, savoring her scent.

They sat together beneath his favorite apple tree, leaning against its trunk, her head nestled in his chest and his arm around her waist.

She raised her head and pressed her lips to his. “I love it here,” she said. I only wish everyone else could experience this place.”

“You know they can’t,” said Kryuss, twirling a lock of her hair around his finger, then pulling back, releasing it and repeating the process over and over. “The trees are too important. The trees are everything. All that is us. My father restricted access to them for very good reasons.”

“Yeah, I know,” she said. “But still.”

He looked at the beauty that surrounded them, drank it in. “Yeah. Some day.”

December 9, 2057

There’s an old gospel song we used to sing at church when I was a little girl. “Can’t feel at home in this world anymore,” says the chorus. I’m not sure what the title of the song was or who wrote it.

I know they don’t need me anymore. I’m taking up space. I have no purpose here anymore. Oh, I’m still the “Prophet Mother,” and I have certainly been fulfilled beyond my capacity for words by living to witness the births of both Kryuss the Third and Morgan the Third , like any proud grandparent would, but I’m an outsider now, a burden. The time will soon come for me to step aside and allow my continuant to take my place as the keeper of the flame. She’s a fine young woman, and she’ll make a worthy Prophet Mother, and she won’t have to do it alone, like I did.

This will be my final entry. I have nothing of importance left to say. To anyone who reads this diary that I’ve maintained since the last days of mankind on Earth, my most fervent hope is that it reminds you what it means to truly human.

We all have doubts, fears, hopes and dreams, and no matter how much we are blessed, we always want more. None amongst us is perfect, not even the Prophet Mother.

Morgan rose from the bed she’d once shared with the love of her life and walked over to the guitar in the corner. She picked it up and began to play.

14 thoughts on “The Prophet Mother

  1. oh.my.goodness. I can’t describe how much I am loving this story. The more I read the more I want. Anyway. I was going to ask why clones.. then saw they were sterile. Why are the humans sterile? Was it forced upon them? Or was it a result of something?

  2. They’re clones so that their lineage from start of voyage to finish will be more or less the same people. People who have bad genes are eventually culled out though, discontinued because of limited resources. They’re sterilized so that they can all fuck without anyone getting pregnant.

  3. Ahhhh I see. So eventually the clones will be able to breed? It seems that only either the women or men would be sterilized. Cloning is always such an interesting story line and subject matter. In my favorite story ever (Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained by Peter F Hamilton) nearly everyone (except purists and zealots) are for the most part cyborgs made of clones where the brains are the computer part (though still organic) where memories are uploaded and downloaded to the clone. Interesting premises all around. Can’t wait for more from you, Patrick. I sincerely mean that.

  4. Yeah, they’re cloned for the voyage, but at their ultimate destination they’re able to breed. They just sterilize the clones at birth. In one of the other stories in this series, a character I think makes casual mention of it, that they kept the numerical name-passing thing but now bred for real, as they don’t even know how to clone anymore, anyway, once they arrive at an arbitrarily chosen planet that they pretend is the “promised land.” So this story will definitely be in

  5. Will definitely be in the anthology book, which will serve as kind of the “bible” for this universe. I can dip into any one of these eras for full-length novels and already have the terminology and technology and stuff all worked out for myself so I can really crank them out without stopping to think too hard about that stuff.

  6. No, that’s good, it hadn’t occurred to me, it’s a great point. I just kind of shit this out this morning and didn’t really think of that, lol. I was thinking “Yeah ok they’re given some kind of sterilization med.” but it makes more sense that they’d do the simplest, most efficient and effective thing

  7. Nah I took it as a logical and legitimate question. These are essentially rough drafts and there are a lot of tiny changes I’ll have to make to tie certain things together before I compile them into a book. So that kind of question is helpful, as I’m kind of openly developing this universe. Any constructive commentary is totally appreciated. Basically if the subsequent books are my Lord of the Rings, this anthology is its Silmarillion.

  8. There won’t be a whole lot to change, just minor tweaks and some fleshing out of things, making it all feel more cohesive. They’ll also be in chronological order. I expect to have it all done around May or June, at least that’s what I’m shooting for. I’ve also decided that there’ll be no graphic language or sex, because I want it to appeal to a broad audience. So, simple and accessible for mainstream readers but hopefully something that fans of sci-fi will enjoy too.

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