An alien encyclopedia. A missing scientist. A drug called Vermilion.
"What we've got here," the REPLman said, "is made possible by the long term investment in advanced soil biologics." It was a well known fact that the unintended consequences of mass scale farming and genetic engineering was an ecosystem that allowed almost universal bio-templating, providing the human race with the ability to grow the organs its decrepit, aging population needed to survive the same way they'd grown corn and wheat and pumpkins and so on.
"When we began building we thought we could build forever. The stones and the trees, they used to go on and on. This island of ours kept us afloat in the middle of what we assumed was an endless ocean, and ours the only island. Since our ancestors, pilgrims, came here hundreds of seasons ago, this was the only place we'd known. And we built because we wanted the towers and we wanted the avenues, we wanted courtyards and we wanted the balustrades and foyers and the anterooms. The thought of living in the jungle was abhorrent to us likewise the thought of small individual domiciles for entire families, that barbarity of living in close quarters."
"It stood on the old stone wall. I could hear that sound coming from it now, maybe an engine of some kind. It was built like a dog, not like my dog, but some approximation of a dog. Except where the head should be there was just a blunt ending, a termination of the metal chassis that made up its body. On top, towards the front but in no way a "head", was a sort of octagonal protrusion. I could see it swivel, back and forth, then back again, pausing at times, spinning round, returning. I had no real idea if it'd seen me. But it raised one leg then the alternate, placing the rubber paws back down with disconcerting precision, with a springiness that vaguely appeared dog-like but was too sharp and truncated and powerful and unyielding. Tense metal, not flesh, the legs snapped rather than flexed."
"The exposure had to be just right. It was a world in a box. She tried to be careful, but accidentally strummed the attached wires which made an electrifying noise, at a frequency that gave her goosebumps. If she didn't get it right, she'd have wasted that week, the next station would have to start over. She packed up the results, tying it precisely, wrapping it above then below with the prescribed magnetic twist."
"Modar roamed the land by the billions, continents of fur, a great herd, an impenetrable geography of beasts. In the Sagas they were followed, tracked, relied on. They were the great creatures whose deaths fed and clothed the ancestors. Before cities, before airships, long before all of that. The Sagas begin with Modar, they are central. Their world was a single hum, a long thumping march, an expanse that seemed endless, no constraint, no prophecy, no agenda."
"No. 2 and 3 and I sleep in the same bed. Some will find it odd. But brothers are brothers are brothers. And we've always slept in the same bed, always struggled over the covers and pillows and snored (not me but No. 2 especially), and the farts are often too much but yes admittedly something about gas makes it comfortable. I am jostled and prodded and No. 3's toenails are usually sharp so that I'm even scarred on my shins. We roll, back and forth, in sync, arms flopping over like willow branches or gate arms going from closed to open to closed."
"You see, I was burning up last night. I walked as men possessed wander the ends of the earth, reaching out with numbed arms, & with tongue tied, & with nothing except the need to see the Truth; but aware, none the less, of things happening around me the way drunks excise moments to make a steady haze. Like that day with Asher & Gad I went into the trees & brush—true, not woods but the park—& lost myself until what I had was only the Word—the Syllable made after God made the animals, & by which we the deformed but hopeful & struggling masses attempt to amend our condition. I should remind you that the Word comes these days with snarls & snorts, no fussy doctrine at all."