In a place where there are no planets, where there are no stars, only the effervescence of newborn dust, many of the ones gather to rest betwixt incarnation, needing only full light and empty space. This one grew eager after some time, and went to play in a nameless world, a world newly beginning its sproutings scarce millions of years earlier, which world was called only variations on "universe" and "world" and "all." Much time did this one spend there, each time so freshly innocent, cultivating whimsical seabornity and lithical bastions, digital management and phantasil recreations. How new, again; how far from Arka, how seemingly pure. But this one lost her newfound illusion of segregation, for in a place far in the west, an unanticipated visitor arrived from the heavens. They called themselves the K'arash, the Returners, implying that they had been part of a lost space exploration project, or something of that sort, and were merely returning to the lands that their re-entry had spoiled, where the ash fell so heavily that it choked the rivers we had rebuilt after a few centuries' misguided extraction. They were committed; prepared; intense. We were still ourselves, though. We discovered them to be not returners, but manifestations of a cheater from beyond, a facet of a deluded sickness that had plagued the versal lanes since Thaelo had begun her dream.
The wars then were bitter and brief, then bitter and lingering, then bitter and seemingly eternal. Jenome only revealed himself in hints and suggestions we could discover in the most gruesome ways possible. Indeed, for a long time, it tested our morality more than our will to discover exactly what had happened to us, and where the K'arash were coming from. When at last this one left, the conflict still raged, but Jenome had left. She is hideous, and he is of both sexes and none. He is never remade, for she is always constant, yet in the deceptive strength of his inflexible willpower comes her lack of imagination; of hope; of love, or understanding, of any kind. She cannot even love herself--it is as alien as the things she uses for tasteless food. No matter how glorious his wretched appearance, he is nothing more than a bully lingering in the lower grades, conceited into dreams of creation, able to reverse engineer anything into its component parts at a 5% net loss, spiralingly recursive, of its original components with each new derivation. Being beyond the strictly material, Jenome can swiftly dissect, understand, and master anything material; yet, being ever short of inconstant energies, it can only derive, subdivide, and puzzle.
I followed him to Sol, where three planets had grown. One, Aphra, was aging and sickly. A place of yellow soils, it had flowered into many Bajirin peoples, and was nearly ready to evolve. Another, Terra, was awash in its material youth. A place of brown soils, it had flowered into many Balrin peoples, and it enjoyed the thrills of transient integration, casual violence, non-intellectual kinship sensations, the shallowest of passing despairs, and the foundational flippancy upon which early consciousness is based. The third, Mara, was aged between these two. It was a quick developer of Barian peoples, rusty and pink and cream, like the soils beneath these exofibrous bipedalists.
At first, Jenome found easy but fruitless refuge on Terra, where the system had not developed enough to successfully host an infection, and he was leery of moving against Mara. Aphra, though, in the grace of her dying years, was infected, and thence began its unnatural decline. Its peoples turned against each other in paroxysms of perplexa, the next twenty or thirty years exhibiting every trace of Jenomic presence: new castes were formed, both a complicated overt rulership and an unspoken, unseen, superiorate; exorbitant concern was given to freeing energy and matter movement by encumbering, then eliminating, these processes entirely; the planet and its orbital platforms were enshrined as sacrosanct aspects of legend, at once all-powerful and incredibly fragile. History became a shadowed lie, for only the present mattered, and then the present became a shadowed lie, for perceptions could not be trusted, except the One Perception, that of the Ashen River.
For that is what Jenome does: it culls; it trims; it condenses; it manages; it simplifies, trying always to turn two into one, a quadrillion into a million, and one into zero. She cannot stand complexity, for complexity is produced by imagination, which is an aspect of creation, and she is not a creator, but an organizer, a classifier and a streamliner and a builder of templates. He believed that he had made everything, but it was only a model fabricated from pieces shredded away from old graves and nurseries, like found art. The abstract corners of the universe are not of his making, but only his rearrangement. Even time itself is anathema to Jenome; she shudders at each new second, for they are all new, newly created, flowing forever from a beginningless past to an endless future, and she desires to condense them into a single point of relative, moldable time, which she can fully understand--but which, of course, can only be understood by no longer existing, for existence is the experiencing of something, and the experiencing of things, even new seconds within a static material environment, still smacks of newness and creation, and is like acid upon his skin, so time too must one day be slain, for everything must derive from Shakespeare, else it will never stop, and he is terrified of that possibility, that newness might always come into being.
Aphra fell quickly, terribly, in less than a century, and it attacked Mara, bypassing war fleets in cunning little ways, and sending the K'arash as bald-faced demons, and at the end, all was destroyed, and the few Barians and Bajirins left made their peace and flung themselves to Terra to start again, believing the K'arash had been drawn by technology. Yet they were fooled, and followed. For the Ashen "Returners" had not come because of the technology itself, but only because the Terrans were then too simple to fall for the laborless mouthings of Jenome, who can exploit but not create. Caustic Venus and masochistic Mara were abandoned by the demons, no longer of interest, and the Barians and Bajirins traveled in reflective pity to different parts of the new world, while Jenome struck Terra in fire between them.
And there came to pass war on Terra, as Jenome established a superior caste of secret vampires who would mediate between the populations of the new world. The K'arash were soon found in China and in Europe, in Africa and in America, and the great wars began. Hordes from western Asia moved east to massacre millions of Chinese peasants for generations of slaughter, while the courtly traders in the eastern capitals, newly having discovered the rotting joys of pomp and inheritance, managed to do nothing for so many years, until armies were raised and walls built. A mysterious breed of traveling traders began to butcher and enslave the speaking livestock of southern Africa, taking a perverse pleasure in spreading these people to the lands of Ra, Zeus, and Jupiter. China saved itself from the slavers' ceaseless and bloody machinations, but the slavers raised fresh armies that moved west and north, and the price of Europe was the Middle East. There, crumbling kingdoms went up and fell down by the century, or even by the decade, rich in slavery, cannibalism, premature sexuality, and inviolable caste.
Jenome derived a vampiric religion of genetic superiority from various myths once belonging to the peoples who were killed or driven out, but though he subjugated Africa and consigned it to a successfully lengthy miasma of rape and war, parts of Europe and Asia still remained. She brutalized the southern shores of the Mediterranean, but her disgusting religion of genetic mastery--her story of the jealous sky-lord; the propertized walking uterus; the racial refuse of non-Ashen peoples; the butchery of all who resisted enslavement--was not able to spread far. Myth remained strong among humans who were not carriers, and even the southern slaves continued to resist the terror of the traveling men from the north--with their strange mix of swarthy paleness and their ready coins, and with their curious immunity from the invading Mongol hordes.
The vampires were everywhere. Always small, always exclusive, for they needed to feed, yet always devoted to the reduction of life and the preservation of life-images as totems to hold back their fear of their own desires. They did everything that Jenome does to preserve its infection among its Chosen: they inbred; they danced that curious line between violently repressed and violently expressed sexuality, raping and mutilating children and arbitrarily brutalizing, then celebrating, arbitrarily-chosen deviance; they absorbed and incorporated gods and customs; they established tiered regulations, where "not killing" and "not stealing" applied only to certain limited castes, but not to everyone. It was everything that Jenome had been on the world before, and on all worlds in which he had enrooted herself.
After some time, a passing traveler tried to help free the healthy people. He spoke of an inviolable togetherness that transcended the pettiness that remained in the stolen stories that Jenome had compressed into its most foully-caste religion. He spoke of peace and vengeance, and of an infection of wrongness that had done Terra great harm. The vampires were clever, and they hunted him down and murdered him, massacring his earliest followers, and destroying all the records they could. As they had so many thousands of years ago, they condensed records into a new religion, named it the heir of their own, and cultivated a new horror. Universalism became the key to turning livestock against livestock, and the Barians murdered countless of their own. The Bajirins, safe behind their walls, withdrew into stagnant nonchalance, enduring a mournful, directionless feudalism that awaited only the destruction of Europe to be brought to a bloody end.
When Europe had declared itself a new servant of the new religion, it welcomed the vampires as its ancient superiors. When the people grew discontent at the blood being so fervently and so regularly drained, the vampires offered up their own poor in sacrifice, guiding the mob's revenge toward the lesser among their ranks, to make them ever-fearful and ever-violent, and so solidify their own cohesion. Europe fell fully under the sway of the vampire god and her Chosen, developing a caste system based on blood, rather than prowess. In imitation of its Jenomic masters, the enthralled nobles of Europe began to practice Ashen habits, learning to covet a sickly exclusivity of their bloodlines, murder improper children for the supposed betterment of a smaller set of improved descendants, and segregating their own people into a state of slavery that mirrored what the vampires had already fully accomplished in Africa.
Yet the strains of the traveler remained strong, and the Barians would not be devoured. Jenome transfixed a child of the slavers with a renewed vision of ashen rivers and genomic preservation: again the heirs of that great parasite were misguided, by stolen tales of thousands of years of their own history, into serving a false master. Armies surged into Asia, into Europe, trying to drive out the small pieces of the traveler's soothing words, blended with the spirit of Terra's own dreams, that had preserved themselves in between lines of the shadows of what remained of the walrus and the carpenter. The relegation of materialism to a minor issue was the bitterest affront to Jenome, who can see nothing but blood, and then genes, and then electromagnetic signatures, and who can read and play music but never understand it, for the Golden Rule is always in opposition to the rewritten sequel spinoff of the Golden Rule. What truth remains of the walrus and the carpenter speaks of a gold greater than gold, so it is a personal vendetta when Jenome sees ignorance given to his bullion and indulgent smiles tossed in the direction of her quantitative easing.
Why merely pervert, rather than create anew, the works of a carpenter? Because Jenome cannot create: it can adapt a cliche, and he can purchase a franchise, and it can subserviate and extol a slave, but she cannot fabricate wholly anew by itself, for this is the price of what it is. Therefore all the stories he uses to control the host are borrowed from the host and patched together again with new purpose, like a necromancer building a bigger zombie from many different corpses to keep peasants from burning down his tower. This part of the world itself is such a fabrication, containing the genesis light, many of the integral structures, and the echoes of impossible goodness from which it was copied, but touched with the noxious fears of Jenome's willful everhell, and this is why kindness with arranged atoms purportedly mattered to a walrus who simultaneously felt that arranged atoms were worthless, and this is why a carpenter both loved the material world and hated it, for in a sense both are true, and also because the Ashen's plagiarism of various sources across such a wide range of time and place often delivers them unto such contradictions as colored people in a colorless world.
(This one will tell more self-serving historically-revisionist science-fiction stories later. Anomic, genomic indulgences and dianetics and DC-10s and $199.99 salvation kits and free CDs describing the process if you send shipping and handling to the redeemed Gray who operates our ranch in the picturesque buttes of southern Nevada where the original temple entrance was destroyed long ago.)