Regna knows time better than just about anyone.
She has seen the ripples caused by every action. The more significant an event, the wider the ripples on the surface of the great time-river. But eventually, those ripples melt back into the ever-flowing current.
Regna, being ancient, sees time from such a distance that she comprehends the cosmic pattern. She sees that time is like variations on a musical theme; the same song, repeating in an endless cycle. There are changes in the orchestration. People, places, circumstances shift. History doesn't repeat itself exactly every time.
Still, the same melody may be perceived behind everything that happens.
Metaphor and allegory. It can be tiresome. But with something as grand and deliciously incomprehensible as time, metaphor is a mouthpiece for greater truths that you humans do not yet have the words to express.
Regna has a story. She cannot tell it like you would tell it, because she does not speak in words, so I must translate. A near impossible task. I had best stop putting this off.
Here is a story for you, Regna’s story, of a girl she knew long ago. It doesn’t come close to communicating any cosmic truth, but perhaps you may detect, behind these words, a strain of the melody of the universe.
There was once a child, on a planet far from here. Her name meant, in her language, something like eye of the hurricane. I am summarizing—names on this planet take pages to write out fully. Let us call her Linda. I am told that is a common name on your world.
Linda’s people knew immediately that she was different. I will call them the Stormfolk, because they lived in a land where it was often raining. They raised her separate from others, exposed her to ideas they would not normally, because she was so different.
By the time Linda was only twelve of your years old, she was considered an elder. This is because she had been born with a strange gift.
On the rainswept night of her birth, her parents noticed two things. First: the eye of the hurricane passed over the city at the instant she was born. This is what led to her name. Second: her behavior was strange from the very start—her movements jerky, her voice high-pitched and distorted. Her parents soon deduced what was “wrong” with her.
She experienced time differently. You see—and I must resort to metaphor again to describe this—her planet was situated at the center of the time-river, where its current was strongest and wildest. I will call it Stormworld. The philosophers of Stormworld theorized that perhaps the storms occured during ripples in the time-river. Thus, children like Regna, born during a storm, often saw time in a much different way.
To Linda, all the worried nurses and relatives and elders who watched over her moved in slow motion. In the eyes of the rest of the Stormfolk, she was like a hummingbird, always in motion, flitting about, impossible to keep in sight for more than a moment. During one of her parents’ days, some twenty of Linda’s days passed.
When she learned to write, she was finally able to communicate with her parents, writing long, detailed messages in the blink of an eye. But when she spoke, her voice was like birdsong.
Having twenty times as much time as the rest of us, she was able to learn a great deal in a very short period of time. That is how she became a wise elder in twelve years. Linda soon took up residence in—here language fails me again.
I could say it was like a tree without branches, or a great beast with roots. If you crossed a tree and a winged lion, the result would be something like this. Whatever you want to call it, it was asleep. Always asleep. It would wake up someday, when it saw fit, according to legend.
I will call it a Qualgur. This is the beginning of the Stormfolk’s word for the beast. An unwieldy word, but it will do.
Qualgurs once flew in the sky like your birds, the legend goes, and the Stormfolk rode them, nestled in their cavernous mouths. But when the beasts first saw the forest, they were so taken with the trees that they decided to follow their example, anchoring themselves in the earth and falling into a plantlike slumber. It was impossible for the Stormfolk to awake their beloved steeds. Instead, many of them made homes out of the sleeping Qualgurs’ maws, so that they would not be parted from their companions. The tree-bird-houses did not seem to mind this repurposing of their bodies, they were so absorbed in their meditation, and so it was that Linda came to dwell inside of a Qualgur.
Regna is telling me now something very challenging to relay to you. I am of a race that can use both spoken language and telepathy, a race that has been observing humans for a long time and knows their languages, so I am her translator. However, I am beginning to think I may have bit off more than I can chew, to quote your expression. (I do not in fact chew, I absorb radiation for energy.) Much of what she says I myself barely understand.
How should I say this? I will give some background. The Qualgurs, when they were ridden and not used as homes, communicated with the Stormfolk through telepathy. The Stormfolk evolved to detect telepathic messages, developing a new section of their minds devoted to the interpretation of brain waves. When the Qualgurs fell asleep, this section of the mind became useless.
Yet during Linda’s first few days living in the Qualgur, she felt a sort of prickling in her mind, a waking-up feeling. An inner eye opened. No, not an eye, more of an ear. This part of her brain she had never used before began to pick up the dreams, the slow, meditative thoughts of the Qualgur. That sense of telepathic connection lost to her people returned, an almost imperceptible, a tingling, a crawling sensation.
Then, the Qualgur fell deeper into slumber, and that feeling was gone.
Linda wove a hammock from the hairs on the outside of the Qualgur, and meditated, and slept, and dreamed, just like her living, breathing home. Occasionally, she would wake with a hint of that tingling feeling. Any two creatures who have dreamed together share a strange and beautiful bond.
Linda would give whatever answers she could to the Stormfolk’s questions. Like Regna, she did not consider herself wise. She studied ancient texts and listened to the rushing of the time-river. If she found messages in it, or important ideas buried in the ancient texts, she would pass them on to the Stormfolk. If not, then she would dream, and the Qualgur would dream with her.
One day, she heard a clear and urgent message beneath the sound of the time-river. The storm brings with it something new today. Home will be home no longer.
Disturbed, Linda walked to the city to alert the people. Something was coming.
War had never come to Stormworld, because another kind of war was fought every day against the storms. The cruel elements forced the Stormfolk to work as one. Therefore, war had to come not from within, but from without.
There is a very distant world that is home to a species called the Gganth. They are more like you than they are like the Stormfolk, I am sad to say. Their language, appearance, and most importantly, their temperament are much like yours. They are explorers and adventurers. They are also warriors and conquerors. A path of destruction lies in their wake, wherever they fly in their spaceships. A party of their fighters had reached Stormworld.
Like you, these Gganth were fairly intelligent. They knew that a storm would cloak their arrival. They hid their ships in the hurricane’s eye and followed it towards the largest settlement.
The Gganth are different from you in one sense. They have a much better understanding of time. Instead of treating this knowledge as a gift, like the Stormfolk, they use it as a weapon. They have invented ugly machines that are like dams on the time-river, machines that start and stop time, freezing their enemies in place, helpless and robbed of their time, so that the Gganth can slaughter them. This is how the warrior race was able to extinguish so many cultures. It is impossible to fight back when you have no time to fight in.
The Gganth ships slid silently through the sky. The Gganth were certain they would not be discovered until they were directly above the natives. They would eradicate the native life and mine the planet for its resources.
They did not know that Linda, who was so attuned to the patterns in history, who understood time like no other, who listened to the rushing of the time-river and brought its messages to the people, anticipated their arrival. She was ready.
When the Gganth emerged from the storm clouds, they were shocked to find the city empty. Linda had convinced the other elders to evacuate the people. Alone in the silence was a girl, a twitching, fidgeting, darting girl who moved more like an insect.
“Regna,” laughed the Gganth king, his word for “child.” He was amused. Was this the valiant defense this world had to offer? On other worlds, the natives had at least put up a fight.
The Gganth king leapt from the ship, his fall cushioned by flaps of skin on his back that were the remains of wings shredded in battle.
“Regna,” he said, “lyutha kurgeli.” It was a challenge. Linda understood.
She examined the Gganth king, searching for weaknesses. She saw that he was confident, powerful, muscular. She saw that he held a club in one of his five hands, and in another, what looked like a small box.
He did not yet understand her power, so she decided to use it to her advantage, darting back in forth until she was a blur.
The Gganth king’s grin only widened. His fingers, which were riddled with burn marks from many battles, closed over the box in his hand.
It was some sort of trigger, Linda realized, for a weapon. She was not afraid. No weapon could harm her. She would dodge any bullet in an instant.
Then, the Gganth king activated the trigger.
Linda’s thoughts were somewhere else. They were not in her head anymore. She looked down and saw herself frozen. The clouds no longer moved. The droplets of rain hung, motionless, over the ground. The Gganth king alone moved, swiftly, without hesitating. With a blow of his club he felled Linda, and her body crumpled to the ground.
Linda saw herself fall, but felt no pain. She was separate now. She could do nothing.
A tingling. A waking-up feeling. The weapon had halted everything. Yet somehow, something was keeping her thoughts from stopping. A being that was asleep was keeping her awake.
The Qualgur was tugging at her, speaking to her.
Please, friend, said Linda with her mind, it is time to wake up now.
The Gganth king stepped closer to the lifeless form of Linda. Dead? Unconscious? He would answer all questions with a single stroke of his club. He would make sure she never moved again.
There was a noise like the world was ending, a wave of sound hurling itself at the Gganth invaders. A being of such power that even a dam on the time-river could not stop it.
The Qualgur erupted from the earth, spreading its wings for the first time in millenia. It roared, violently expelling Linda’s furniture from its mouth, and surged towards the Gganth ships. It slammed its horns into the king’s craft, causing a shower of sparks. The time-halting weapon shattered into pieces, and the rain fell once again.
The remaining Gganth did something they had never in the history of their people done before. They fled. The ships vanished, as abruptly as they had arrived.
Linda saw all this. Or maybe she felt more than saw. She no longer had eyes. Her body, down below, lay dead on the ground. The king, consumed by the explosion of his ship, was dead as well.
Linda was bodiless. She did not know how she was alive, only that she could still think. Then, she heard a gentle, wordless voice in her mind. The Qualgur. Here is what it said, translated to words.
You have left your physical self behind. I cannot bring it back. I was able to preserve your consciousness, but for you to survive, you need a host. I will allow you space within my body so that you may live on as part of me.
Linda was horrified. How will I tell my people that I am still alive? How will I ever feel anything again?
The Qualgur’s wordless voice was sad, but something about it gave Linda hope. You have always felt more with your mind than with your body. Together, we will be greater than either of us was alone. I have watched you since your birth. You are the first of the Stormfolk in generations who could communicate with me so well. We may spread our knowledge across the universe, so that other beings will not fall to darkness like the Gganth. But if you are to stay with me, you must learn to speak without words.
Linda was beginning to see what Qualgur meant. To understand the melody of the cosmos, she would need to learn to listen better. To listen to the song of the stars, the teachings of all living things across many galaxies.
The Qualgur knew she understood. What shall we call ourself?
Linda thought back to the Gganth king, the name he had called her.
We shall call ourself Regna.
This is where Regna’s story ends. I will continue it a bit further. Regna, her mind wedded with that of the Qualgur, travelled from world to world. Sometimes, the creatures ignored her teachings. Sometimes they embraced them. Every planet she visited, Regna gained more knowledge and understanding, until she arrived at Earth. A planet with many good listeners. However, she at first had trouble communicating, so she returned to my world, which she had visited several of your months before, and enlisted my help. A translator. I have done my best to put into words Regna’s story, in the hopes that it may open the eyes of humanity to new perspectives. I am afraid, though, that some very important sections were omitted because of the difficulties conveying them to you. I can only hope I have been as clear as possible. I hope someday that you will learn to move beyond words, so that you may learn Regna’s secrets firsthand. Until then, I will be your translator.