A Swimmer in Time by Martin Chase

I have been to many worlds, many realms. I have travelled for years on end, and borne witness to things you would never believe, lest you feasted your own eyes upon them. The bloody skies of Ares III, where the White Dragons roam in rivers of mercury rain, and the lush, sea-jungles of Aquides, where sacred Lemuria and fish-men reside submerged, still flow vividly through my head like a bubbling stream of thought. My feet are forever restless, my tiny, silver rocket always in want of fuel, as I soar like a lonely comet across the vast, pitch oceans of time and space.

In the confines my little argent vessel, I have scoured the milky, gleaming star-continents of a thousand galaxies. Nearly everything that lies within their brilliant, immaculate luminescence has been yielded before me in my many journeys.

But there was one sphere on this physical plane, upon which neither the soles of my worn, leather boots, nor the steel pads of my faithful vessel had ever set foot, until this very moment. ‘Tis a silent planet, marked by clear, turquoise skies of glass, and miles upon miles of golden sand – not a peak, plateau, plant or person as far as the mortal eye can see.

This is the Planet Without a Name, or the No-World, as the Imperial scholars and priests oft do call it. Upon its majestic, granular surface, not single mannish footprint, nor a haughty, looming Imperial banner are anywhere to be found. For most doubt of the No-World’s existence, and write it off as mere myth, scoffing at those who speak of it as fact.

Those who believe in its presence have far more to say, however. The religiously inclined say that it is the cradle of the All-Father himself. The embittered Separatists, blasting off into the starry seas of space in flotillas of flaming brass spears, shaking their calloused fists at Olympus below and the Emperor on his gilded throne, see it as hope incarnate, a shining beacon towards paradise.

As for me, I can state nothing. What can I really say of a nameless world? I can only state the bare facts; I stand without any subjectiveness regarding this unmolested sphere, having never landed upon it up to this point.

It is simply the sole satellite of a burning, brilliant white sun – a lonely, globular isle of sand quadrillions of miles beyond the shores of our own galaxy. A cosmic castaway, perpetually orbiting its mother star ‘till Ragnarok returns, and the patriarchs of the Aesir and Jotunn rise from their celestial tombs to wage war once more under the branches of Yggdrasil. And until this day, in the thirteenth year of the Emperor Harco Germanicus II, none had ever so much as paid a visit to this solemn, galactic hermit.

But now, leather-clad feet crunch upon the granular surface of this empty, canvas world, a line of elongated footprints snaking out of from the slim belly of a little silver rocket. Though the noise of my footsteps should be scarcely audible, each one booms sonorously like cloudless thunder. There is not a single object upon this world that may obstruct the sound of my scraping boots. The roaring engines of my ship alone must have echoed across the entire circumference of the planet! I can still hear them, though the engines themselves are as cool and silent as a soft, frigid, and soundless breeze. They seemed to have echoed from the site of my ship, all the way back to my very ears, and continue to do so as I speak!

Can this really be possible? Or are my wits simply addled under the influence of clrto root ale?  But I digress. This world is not bound by the laws of nature that have been created under meticulous observation by millions of alchemists, scientists, and scholars over countless millennia. Though it wanders so close to a white star whose very radiance would cause most planets to burst into heavenly torches of orange flame, the air feels cool. Yet there is not even a single wind to be felt, not a cloud in sight. Even stranger, the sun is nowhere to be seen throughout the entire expanse of the jewel-blue firmament above, though everything underneath is brighter than goblet full of stars. The No-World is like a stubborn, willful, planetary child, a dejected rebel wandering alone throughout the stygian span of space, creating its own natural laws whenever it deems fit.

Perhaps, then, I should not be surprised when before my very eyes, inches from my time-worn visage, it appears. Lo and behold! A massive, mountainous ridge of masonry, with peaks like golden limestone daggers, and towering lacquered gates of deep blue – massive enough to fit millions of Imperial dreadnoughts abreast no less! – materializes before my eyes like evening fog.

Was I dreaming in that instance? A vision of hallucinations, like those of the oracular Ravenseers? Had there been a dissonance of time and space, a sudden, tremendous explosion of dimensions?

The smooth, porcelain-like surface of the god-like edifice before me – not a bump nor crack to be felt – disproves my doubts. It is real – yet it is not real. Or is it? But it cannot be! What is real then, and what is our imagination? Are the laws of nature false then, and simply written out of our own pitiful attempts to comprehend a random universe, unhindered and unchained from logic or reason? Or are they unchangeable after all, and this great Non-Temple of Non-Existence, really is just the child my own addled, imploding consciousness? I still have doubts. And furthermore, is there a key to this gate?

Then it opens inward, like an introspective, philosophical eye. Though three-times taller than even the thirty-mile high mountains of Utgard Castle, and wider than the diameter of a small moon, the gates swing inwards without even uttering so much as a creak. And by god! They swing open as effortlessly and lightly as one would push aside a hingeless partition of planks! What madness is this?

Regardless of whether I am over or under the rainbow of sanity, I step into the minute gap  that has formed between the two gates – which by itself, is a full nine-hundred meters wide!. How can I describe what I see? It is like a non-dream; the blackness and blindness of dreamless sleep slowly peeling away at the vivid, incoherent visual-babble of the subconscious. All I can see is a courtyard consisted entirely of nothing – emptiness. Yet simultaneously, it is everything all at once.

At one moment, it is more vacant as a space bereft of molecules. Endless, landlocked seas of colorless cobblestones, and white walls of blank fog. Not a sound, nor sight, nor scent to be sensed, not even the odor of my own body, nor the low thud of my boots (or what should be the low thud of my boots; I can hear nothing, in fact). I look down at my hands, and I see that even they have disappeared! ‘Twas as if they never existed at all.

And then stars! Spinning skies! Scents sounds, tastes, textures, and I swear by the All-Father…so many sights! Millions of silver-fleshed men, women and children, dwarves in stature, dancing joyfully in a circle in scalding, ashen-smelling pools of flaming orange magma. Gargantuan sapphire snakes with lion whiskers, and freezing exhalations with violet hues. Skyscraper minotaurs clad in bristly fur and crumbling stone, the earth trembling resonantly as they kneel obsequiously before sun-blotting ships with impenetrable raven hides of steel! The whole of the Galactic Empire, and the billions of planets beyond its borders, across thousands of galaxies, and thousands upon of thousands of years, are laid bare before me!