Character study: Augustus Sloane

Sometimes, if you want to understand a thing, it helps to start small. And you can’t get much smaller than aactur[1].

[1] Well, technically you can. Science-magi in the First Age succeeded in splitting the aactur, resulting in a subspecies, the aactil, that was composed of far fewer conceptual ‘aactur-atoms’. The subsequent containment breach and expansion of the subspecies literally destroyed the universe as they knew it. The universe we live in now is the reconstructed one that took its place, and we’re all still suffering the consequences. It was widely agreed never to try to split the aactur again.

It’s not worth thinking of aactur in most readily-accessible terms. You can’t really think of them as things, like motes or mites or molecules or protons. Go in far enough and there is no matter, no energy, there are no waves, no particles. It’s all aactur, exposing different facets of themselves to the universe.

Aactur are expressions of a fundamental, founding binary – each one is composed of equal reflections in reality and unreality, perfect halves making up a whole, which in turn makes up everything. And that’s a far broader concept than even most people think. Molecules, atoms, subatoms, spectra, subspectra, energy, all of it, is all made up of aactur. They skitter across the quantum foam like dust devils on the surface of a moon. They make up everything in the universe – in the urverse. They are the urverse and, owing to their binary nature, they are also Limbo. They form it, and thus define it.

It also doesn’t pay to think of them as life-forms in any sense we really understand, although they are conscious entities according to their own unknowable qualifications[2]. Each aactur reality/unreality couplet comprises a basic expression within each sphere, and contains those two most important features of life: the spark, and the conduit. Spirit and soul.

[2] Indeed, they are legally unknowable, their mystery enforced, in the mythic knowledge of the terrible consequences of studying them too closely. Whenever a melodramatic technophobe intones that “some things man was never meant to know,” there is a certain amount of Aactur Plague genetic memory coming into play.

The spirit, the lifespark, of the aactur displays in different ways depending on the waves, energy, atoms they’re forming, and whether those atoms are making up organic or inorganic matter. In a process that goes beyond conceptual and enters the realm of pure divine-level symbolism, the aactur making up organic matter bend their lifesparks to that one purpose, forming the spirit – according to the different biological orders – of the life-form, anchoring it to existence on a femtoplanck level. But the spirit is nothing without the soul.

Just as each aactur has a lifespark within reality and a function in both spheres that dictates its place in the cosmos, so too does it have a connecting umbilicus between reality and its reflection in unreality. This connection is the soul, writ small: a conduit between the urverse and the unimaginable gulfs of Limbo. This conduit could be described as the soul of the aactur, if the aactur could be described as a life-form in any sense we understand. But at that level, it’s really just the element of a soul, in that everything in reality and unreality is a gestalt of aactur in different configurations.

Perhaps, then, you begin to understand the meaninglessness of the question of whether only sentient organisms have souls, whether animals or vegetables or minerals have them, and the even greater nonsensicality of the question of when a living thing can be said to have a soul. It’s simply a matter of arrangement, just as different atoms have different sets of properties and masses, so too will different formations of aactur make up things with different interpretations of that mystical connection with the other sphere.

At least in a sense, however, the question is not meaningless. Each aactur has an infinitesimal element of the soul, and these run together to form the larger conceptual construct within a life-form, giving it mind and self and that vital link to Limbo that allows it to continue after the degeneration of its physical molecules and the passing of their lifesparks. That whole, once woven together, endures in unreality and will return, if you believe the stories, at the End of Days to make its voice heard when the walls between the spheres cease to be.

But that’s a little beyond the scope of this essay.

How, exactly, souls are formed and preserved, and how elements of aactur in unreality form into souls and connect to life-forms in reality, is all a matter of conjecture and mystical theory. But it seems to be a fact that at a certain point the souls-in-potentia in the aactur making up a life-form reach critical mass and a soul is born, connecting the life-form’s flesh in reality to its shadow-counterpart in unreality, by the functionally-infinite anchors of its spirit lifespark.

When does this happen, turning a froth of unwitnessed and miniscule potential into a living thing? A vastly pointless question, since it is all a matter of the rearrangement of concepts too small for us to even imagine … but then, like all the pointless and unanswerable questions, this is one with which an inordinate number of people are far too concerned. Sometimes it happens at conception – the aactur that make up sperm and egg, in human beings for example, already have the requisite elements, but it’s arguable as to whether these cellular genetic building blocks have souls in the same sense – or in any sense, really, any more than a stone or an amino acid chain have souls just because they’re made up of tiny elements that might have tiny soul-elements. Get close enough, and all such considerations cease to have meaning. It’s a knowledge with inexpressible potential for coldness of vision.

Sometimes it happens later, just another decoration hung randomly on the tree from the genetic grab-bag of biological growth bestowed upon an organism by dint of its gestation inside its progenitor.

Sometimes, particularly in cases of births that take place before full gestation process is complete according to the natural law of the species in question, the soul does not coalesce and actalise until after the birth, resulting in an organism from which something is – however briefly – missing. Until it isn’t.

Of course, there is a logical if rather horrifying projection of this fact, and indeed there are myths in many cultures about the neversouled, infants born without souls and in which souls never blossom … but this is all they are. Myths. A life-form cannot exist without a soul any more than it can exist without a second dimension, or its atoms exist without mass. A soul may be late to express, but never more than a few moments once that symbolic step into life is completed. Otherwise, of course, the life-form simply dies, and becomes nothing more than an assemblage of flesh.

A soul is infinitely more likely to be removed[3], warped, or damaged within the body of an established life-form than fail to initialise in the first place, and there are not only myths about this but actual science-mystic precedent, especially since it is through the soul, and the conduit to unreality it represents, that things in reality exercise magical power.

[3] Or, more accurately, the intra-aactur soul-element bonds broken down and the collective conduit essentially closed.

Nevertheless, the myth of the neversouled is an enduring one.

There is an element of compelling, disturbing truth behind the myth, even if the idea of the neversouled itself is inherently nonsensical. It is because of this grain of truth, and the superstitions and prejudices that have grown around it, that some of the older and more expensive medical establishments and institutions employ Soul Doctors. They are extremely specialised and exclusive, their work is very complex and often their talents centred on a single species, it being all but impossible to comprehend an alien soul. They can see if a soul is missing, see it when it blossoms in the unborn foetus or newborn, see what impact its arrival – late or timely – has on the baby. They perform other functions, too, since “watching, eternally vigilant, for the arrival of the neversouled” is a dubious justification for a paycheque at best, but their other tasks mostly fall under the definition of therapy, disgnostics or counselling.

There are no Soul Doctors on Earth, at least there weren’t at the time of Sloane’s birth. There aren’t that many human Soul Doctors anyway, it being a discipline that requires extensive training, a broad knowledge base and above all a life-span beyond the mere century or two afforded to the average human being. And, more importantly, Earth at that time simply couldn’t support the profession, recourse to the required magical energies having long since been sealed off by vast and remorseless powers. But it would have come as absolutely no surprise to any practitioner of the craft to learn that Augustus Sloane’s soul had only flickered into life two point four seconds after he was cut, gasping and squirming, from his mother’s belly as she lay dying in an overdose-related seizure.

In those to whom the soul blossoms late, it is said, the flesh remembers what it was to be a spark without conduit, a life without a soul.

Augustus Sloane. Sometimes, if you want to understand a thing, it helps to start small.

And sometimes it doesn’t.

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10 Responses to Character study: Augustus Sloane

  1. dreameling says:

    So everything has (some kind of) a soul, since everything is composed of aactur and each aactur carries that couplet connection (“soul stuff”)? Why does a living creature have a single soul rather than, for example, one soul per body part or organ? Do conjoined twins have a single soul or two souls? What about a network of fungus?

    If the unreality version of a creature endures after the reality version dies and decomposes, what exactly is the unreality version (or the aactur that it consists of) connected to in reality? What happens when the scattered aactur of the decomposed creature form to compose new life?

    Is a keskonen screwed by default?

    PS. I’m writing this from my phone and without a spell checker, so any errors are totally not my fault.

    • stchucky says:

      In sentence order: Yes, some sort of; same basic reason you think of yourself as a single discrete being even though you’re composed of the same atoms and molecules as everything else and are forever sloughing off cells and consuming the cells of other beings and sharing their air, it’s mostly a sense-of-self illusion coupled with a symbolic braiding of the conduits on the unreality side, but the difference is really moot, the main actual difference between a human being and a rock in terms of aactur is that a rock doesn’t belt on all the time about how it’s a rock; yes; what about it (no, seriously, not flippant – what about fungus? Obviously it has something, but I assume you’re talking about non-sentient Earthly fungus, in which case I have no idea what sort of soul it has); nothing, the souls of the dead are disconnected from reality except in special cases, the aactur binary undergoing a special change, the conduit “tip” touching reality but not extruding to form any sort of matter (indeed, the prevailing theory is that after enough time, sufficient aactur will be changed this way that the balance between aactur in unreality and aactur making up reality-stuff will tip, and that will cause the End of Days when the dead rise to face Judgement); this I covered in my sticky notes, when a thing dies, there is a separation allowing the soul to bud off in unreality while the decomposing matter’s aactur continue as whole aactur making up said matter – allowing, for example, you to eat it and incorporate it into your own matter, the off-budded conduits rebraiding into your own “soul”; I don’t know what a keskonen is; I didn’t find any errors but I’m not blessed with an abundance of free time to think or write right now so my attention is at a low ebb.

    • stchucky says:

      But excellent questions, even if some of them are sort-of-covered by the essay and my marvellous sticky-notes – I admit it could all be a bit clearer. But nobody ever said a grand unifying theory needed to be so simple as to be understood immediately in its entirety on first reading.

      • dreameling says:

        Impressive. And I’m for sure reading some of your output differently from what you intend. This is pretty high-concept stuff, and you’re giving it an appropriately poetic spin, so you’re absolutely going to lose something in translation — no matter how clear everything is in your head. But I can understand and relate to the kind of thinking and drive that goes into metaphysical world building — it can be just the coolest thing figuring out your own imaginary shit — so I’m intrigued, and hence the questions. (I’m not sure I still totally get the soul logic of the aactur couplet connection, but that’s fine. I don’t need to get everything at once.)

        A keskonen is a preterm birth baby (didn’t realize yesterday that I had Google Translate on my phone). I was born a month early, so I was wondering whether in your urverse I’d be a potential Augustus Sloane.

      • stchucky says:

        It’s possible. You do prefer Samsung over Nokia and K Market over S.

        Seriously though, that’s far from the intent I was aiming for. More essays required. If I ever get time to write the fucking things.

      • dreameling says:

        Well, I’m just one reader, in addition to which our respectives mindscapes and conceptual sensibilities may indeed be utterly unbridgeable, what with these staggering K vs S disconnects, so I’m hardly what you would call a statistically valid sample. Maybe you should do like a poll or something. (It would actually be pretty cool if WordPress supported some sort of ready-made auto-poll function.)

      • stchucky says:

        No no, I have planned and partly-written more essays on the subject, these have just been intros so far and I’m impressed you’ve understood and followed along this much!

        I’ve made a grouchy crank of myself all damn day today just trying to get five damn uninterrupted minutes to write on my phone, but can I? Can I balls. And five minutes at a time, between parental nagging and offspringal demands, just isn’t optimal for writing a series of documents I happen to think are pretty important (in my own sad, geeky way) to the foundations of my fiction.

        But does anyone in Sotunki get that?

        Do they balls.

      • stchucky says:

        Plus, my response to you was mostly about your question about possibly being a neversouled (or technically a sufferer of conduit-braiding lag) on account of your being a keskonen. My original phrasing was “Sometimes, particularly in cases of births that take place before full gestation process is complete according to the natural law of the species in question” – key words Sometimes and particularly. It doesn’t mean they all end up that way. Sometimes conduit-braiding lag even happens to timely or late births. But the risk may be higher for incomplete buns being removed from oven.

        Say, one in ten million rather than one in a hundred million. But I don’t know, never tell me the odds.

  2. dreameling says:

    See, we’re totally talking past one another here. It’s hopeless. (Meaning I should read stuff more carefully.) And you have fun with your overflowing cup of familial responsibilities and distractions, sir. It’ll empty out eventually. At least a little.

    Can you really concentrate on creative writing on a tiny mobile phone screen?

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