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Surrounded, Alone

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#1 Offline Cederak

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Posted Aug 03 2012 - 11:16 PM

I just reached 4,000 posts and, to celebrate the milestone, I am posting my first CoT story. Enjoy.



Surrounded, Alone


I am not a god, nor have I ever met one. And if I did, it was either very convincing of the contrary or I was not perceptive enough to realize. I was made a very long time ago, the product of some celestial event. I cannot say for certain where my genesis lies, only that I exist as part of the universe. During my existence, I have detected many sentient creatures throughout the void; I can attest to the fact that they are partial to naming their young at birth. I was not named, I was not raised. Perhaps I am some kind of orphan, an abandoned scion that was left to its own devices. Yes, perhaps. I can still recall the time of my youth, even without a memory of the very first moment I lived. The early days were quiet and hot. Not hot for me exactly, as I cannot feel heat or the absence of it, though I could see the effect it was having on celestial bodies around me. It was a lonely time, letting me reach out across nascent galaxies not with the refined skill of fingers, but like the curious exploration of so many tendrils. Mine was the company of solitude, so peaceful among the rocks and gases. The sentients often say that nothing is permanent, and this axiom translated perfectly into my existence. Of course, by the time this occurred, I was already present across much of the universe. In this respect, you might suspect me of godhood. There are those that believe in me and those that deny me, those that believe I possess incredible power and those that see me as nothing more than a part of the machine – another agent that serves the gestalt that is the whole of the universe. I would not say I am anyone or anything’s servant, but once more, I am not a god.


I have never suffered from boredom, but I have a penchant for staying occupied, for examining this frozen rock or analyzing that burgeoning star. In spite of being nearly everywhere at once, the universe is vast enough that there is always something transpiring. Given my proclivity for studying silent objects I, no doubt, overlooked the first sentient creatures. Organic life had sprouted up in many places in the cosmos, some of them remaining very, very tiny. Others developed into larger organisms, some walking on two legs, four, six, and some not walking at all! This was all long before the sentients, before I knew they would come to be.


A newborn cried out, squinting in the face of a blue-white sun very far from its planet. The creature’s cry didn’t reach far, cradled in the multiple arms of its mother as it breathed in a new world for the first time. Through me, the sound echoed across galaxy clusters and caught my full attention at once. It was the cry of life, a beautiful sound against the backdrop of a dead silent void. Such sounds cannot live in space, only on chunks of rock – for the sentients can only thrive there during the early stages. It always progresses along the same path. The micro-life is first, swimming about with basic ideas of survival and reproduction in mind. Culture doesn’t arise until there is language – the creatures need to communicate with one another after a time, be it through speech or mere gestures. Once language is established, there come stories.


For some reason, there is a prevalent theme on many worlds that there is an entity or entities responsible for their existence, and sometimes, the creatures will pray to these entities. I can’t say how the idea enters their minds, because from where I’m standing (standing being a terrible misnomer of a word in my case), nothing reached out to make the sentients successful, no one arrived to improve their way of life. They give themselves too little credit, devoting lifetimes and destroying lives all for the grace and glory of these invisible gods. I would like to meet a god one day, though I don’t expect to. It’s possible that they only hint at their existence to the sentients, doing so little here and there. But where are all the gods? Why are they as invisible and silent to me as I am to the sentients? It seems more likely that they do not exist. Yes, it seems exceedingly likely. Still, I remain with unanswered questions. Could it have been one of these gods that made me once? If that is so, why leave me in solitude? Why ignore one wondrous creation for so many smaller others? I have heard what the sentients think of gods, their ideas and visions of these illusive entities. Gods are strong and infallible, noble creatures that are undying in nature. To ignore any creation (let alone one that has done nothing harmful or malevolent) does not seem like behavior fitting of such a majestic existence.


After a time, talk of gods gave way to other ideas. Science rose to dominance in many galaxies and I cannot properly describe how thrilling it was to watch the sentients finally take to the stars. Spacefaring creatures are often shy when first traversing their star system, but it doesn’t take long before they start cruising along. It’s a shame that many have yet to achieve instant travel across massive distances of the universe, and the few with that technology have little chance of encountering the unfortunate groups. Even though the sentients with instant travel are in an immensely outnumbered minority, the colossal scope of the cosmos makes it terribly unlikely that they will stumble upon one of the many younger civilizations.


I am never bored, but that is not to say I do not become anxious or impatient. The sentients have given me an appreciation for music, for the arts, for their philosophies. I spent a great deal of time musing on the idea that I was a god that had yet to understand its power. When I heard a prayer, I took it as a personal message and logged it away to be handled later. I remember every prayer I’ve ever listened to – they are curious. I would warn the sentients to use their time more wisely, for they perish so soon. I am seemingly everlasting (so long as the universe remains alive) and it is of no consequence to me that I pray to something. Of the countless statues and structures built for gods, I am partial to none. The closest thing to a deity I have ever known is the universe itself. For the sentients to craft a monument to the universe would surely be underwhelming and disgraceful in my eyes (another misnomer).


Regarding the many aspects of the sentients I cannot understand fully, a notable one is emotion. In particular, love. I do not know love, but having never felt it, I do not feel any less complete because of that fact. There are ideas I am fond of and those I am not. I lack the proper parts to feel anything beyond that. I have seen what love does to the sentients. They will fight for it…die for it. And they have built for it, so much crafted and created in the name of a desire. They may bring the end of themselves in an effort to attain all that they long for, all for love.


Of those that have considered my existence, most find me too inconsequential to be bothered with. I am of no service to their aspirations, whatever they may be. They cannot realize that the universe is their prison, because they are too small to see it. For the sentients it is more of a playground. Perhaps I am the prisoner, sealed off from everything but forced to watch and hear it all play out. I am the first inmate and certainly the last. I cling to the hope that one of these sentients will make use of me one day, that my existence will play a greater role than it has for far too long. At best, I have only received vague names. Creatures have referred to me as “the cosmic phantom,” “ghost space,” “the negative universe,” “celestial shadows,” and many other phrases. The latest sentients to consider my existence are quite resourceful, but still far too young – the youngest to ever postulate that I am among them. I am not sure what to think of them yet, still so infantile in their little sector of the universe. They have named me “dark matter.”


I’m rather fond of the title.

Edited by Cederak, Jan 26 2014 - 02:02 PM.

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#2 Offline GSR

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Posted Aug 03 2012 - 11:31 PM

First things first: excellent choice of protagonist/narrator.One thing I find interesting was the narrator concluding that the gods almost certainly don't exist because he can neither see nor hear them even though he's much the same to typical sentient life that hasn't advanced enough yet. Raises the question - is he being shortsighted, or is his rather unique perspective on things enough for us to say, "he's probably got the right of it?"Other than that, it was a fast read in a good way, and I didn't notice any particularly clunky bits of prose or anything like that. Nice story!
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#3 Offline Grant-Sud

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Posted Aug 04 2012 - 12:09 AM

When you said you had a decent Short story on the way, I should have taken that a little more seriously. This was wonderfully done and it had me captivated the entire time. Like GSR said, it's a quick read because it holds your attention so easily and flows smoothly. One thing I really liked about the narrator was the fact that even though he had more understanding of what was around him, he was extremely relatable by his pondering and questions. Awesome job and one of the better COT stories I've read here.
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#4 Offline Mare Tranquillitatis

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Posted Aug 04 2012 - 08:49 AM

Excellent job. Choice of words has been done very well. And the plot has a very strong effect: it makes you hold your breath until the end, until you find out what is going on.Also, once one reaches the conclusion, the title becomes very clear, yet full of misteries and surprises at the beginning. Now I can perfectly understand what does Surrounded, Alone mean. Very well done. I bow at you, sir.
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#5 Offline The Lord Of Wednesday

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Posted Aug 04 2012 - 05:39 PM

A brilliant story Cederak, I especially love the twist at the end when it reveals itself to be what we think of as "Dark Matter".I do find it interesting how the being seems to be something similar to an agnostic atheist because whenever god/gods are mentioned he is dissatisfied with metaphysical plausibility, yet the being is in the same boat when in relation to us and it. It is cool that such a being technically has actual metaphysical plausibility considering the overall ambiguity (or rather total lack of knowledge) relating to Dark Matter itself.Anyway, this next part is speculation. Considering the being's seemingly billion year memory and near-omnipresent presence, then if it did have a purpose then I think it would indeed have been to chronicle the history of the universe. After all, it does not appear the have many feelings other then curiosity, and with lacking emotions like love it allows the being to be able to better record history without much bias.These are just random thoughts, though if I didn't know any better Ced, then I would call you a philosopher.
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#6 Offline Cederak

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Posted Aug 05 2012 - 11:01 AM

Thanks for the reviews and commentary everyone. This is inspiration enough to post another story here at some point, when the inspiration comes of course. :)
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#7 Offline Nuile the Paracosmic Tulpa

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Posted Aug 08 2012 - 01:46 PM

It was pretty, and odd; it was compelling, and dark. And I use these words advisedly as the best to describe it.Another word I will use is profound, but rather in a hollow way. You said "everything is"--but you didn't say what it is. But in fact, that's exactly what you were saying: it isn't. It's hollow. By intention or result, it worked. I can't say I'm at all of the same perspective, but I won't say this didn't work out as it was meant to.Speaking of perspective, I always enjoy looking at things from a different angle, and "dark matter" certainly has an interesting vantage. Seeing ourselves, and the likes of others we know only via our imaginations, through the eyes of space itself, was instructive, in a way. Humbling. It was one of those "big picture" moments I so enjoy. I think one of the greatest thing about being a writer as that we (or most of us) see the small, medium, and big pictures, without forsaking any one for the other or anything in between.High commendations on your style. The pace was perfect, there was character in the narration, it flowed well, and it was imbued with the proper vibe.I don't have anything to criticize here. I will say that it wasn't really a story, so much as an essay, which rather leaves me without a plot to analyze. Personally I prefer an allegory over an essay for its depth and vibrance. But you wrote this in a way that makes it in part an allegory. It's a--disquisitional allegory? That's how I can best describe it.Oh, I just thought of another apt word to describe it.Darn good.Wait, that was two words.Thank you for choosing the SSCC, Writer Cederak. :) If you're satisfied with my review, put a good word in with SSCC Co-Curator Cederak for me, would you? ;P

Keep writing,

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#8 Offline Cederak

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Posted Aug 10 2012 - 01:47 PM

Thanks for the review, Nuile. You really found some depth in my work, and I am more than satisfied with your critique. :)
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#9 Offline Velox

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Posted Feb 07 2013 - 02:38 AM

Official SSCC Charity Review. Of course, you know all about these, so I can skip my usual introduction.  Of course I was pleasantly surprised to read another of your stories -- I always love your writing style and ideas, and this story definitely didn't disappoint. In fact, here especially the writing style was quite supurb, particularly in the unique narrator and the main "character." I loved the revelation at the end -- I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting that. =P But back to the narrator for a second, I think you did a really good job with him/it. Of course people could argue for hours and hours (or at least, I could =P) about some of the things your character said in your story, and get all academic about it and whatnot. But I'm not going to do that -- instead, I'm just going to look at it for what it is: a story. Because it really doesn't matter if you agree with what you wrote, or if I agree with what you wrote or not (not saying I agree or disagree) -- what matters is that your character thinks these things. And I love stories like this, because as I write I know how fun it is to play around with totally random viewpoints and beliefs, through different characters. Whether one agrees or not, what you've created here is a very "persuasive argument" in a way, because your character really believes these things, and he has reasons, and you've showed those reasons and made it very apparent his thinking. I know I'm starting to ramble here but to put it simply: your character made a convincing "argument" of his beliefs. Whether or not the reader agrees, they can see that the character really believes these, and has reasons. And that, to me, is really interesting. Because like I said, I love playing around with characters and different beliefs and viewpoints and ways of seeing things, and that's exactly what you've done here -- you've written a story from the viewpoint of something/someone totally different than one would expect, and I loved that.   But before I leave the topic of the narrator, there is one thing I want to mention: maybe it's just me, but I felt like the contractions were out of place. I imagined this "being" as an extremely intelligent, quite possibly even artificially, and so that image just screamed "no contractions" to me for some reason. Of course that is a completely tiny nitpick, but they did stand out to me, oddly enough. But besides that, I enjoyed the overall voice of the story -- again, interesting character, interesting concept, and told very...interestingly? Yes, that works.  One last nitpick: 
I do not know love, but having never felt it, I do not feel any less complete because of that fact.
 This line is of course used a lot -- I'm sure you've heard it before in stories or movies or something. But honestly I've never been convinced that it's accurate. I think people do miss things/feel less complete, even when they don't experience it for themselves. For example, let's say I never went to the movies with my family (I have =P). Yet, I go one day, and see families going together, all happy and having a good time. I've never experienced that for myself, but I still feel that loss, and wish I could, right? So I think it could have been more interesting if you did something with that...what would a being like this think about love -- and seeing how people react to it? As you said, people will die and/or fight for love. Now he may not want to die for something he doesn't understand, of course, but would "he" want to know what that feels like? To care about something so much that he'd be willing to sacrifice himself? The answer doesn't even necessarily have to be yes, but I think it would just be an interesting thought process to see for your character.  But besides those two tiny nitpicks, I really don't have anything to critique except: paragraph size. I think Nick is influencing you. =P But I felt like many times the paragraphs could've been broken up into two or even three.  Oh, and of course there is the obligatory baby comment I must make: =D babies ftw, even possibly alien? ("multiple arms" sounds alien to me). Oh and: 
but that is not to say I do not become anxious or impatient. 
 "Anxious Solitude"? =PBut that reminds me! The title -- I really liked it, I have to say. It definitely fits the story extremely well. How the character is surrounded by so many people/things/etc., but completely and utterly alone because he's the only one of his kind.  Overall, again, it was a "Caleb story" -- well-written, very enjoyable, great idea. Well-done.Posted Image

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