Timeline: I
Interference point: 810,000,000 BCE          
Tether: fungal                                                     


Don’t panic. You are here.

The way this works, as far as you can tell, is not at all like time travel. Instead it is as though your consciousness - your self? - is a marble in a pinball machine being shot across a pockmarked quantum plane, falling into drop targets marked ‘Other Lives’. Your flimsy little self tries on these bodies, these other versions of you, and each one fits, and each one is new and immeasurably different, and is also still you.

Incredible how resilient the consciousness that makes up the thing you know as yourself has proven to be.

In this one, you’re not even sure you’re an animal organism. You are experiencing the profoundly unsettling sensation of being alive without a heartbeat. That invisible rhythm section that has always soundtracked your corporeality is now deafening in its absence. In its place is a tide so quiet as to be imperceptible. Stuff is moving in you but to no organising principle. If you were botanical, surely you’d be feeling the pull of the chlorophyll in your cells? Or the sucking of the sunlight against the fluid holding you upright? But you are sure you are no child of botany. You’ve got some weirder shit going on.

You can’t see, but you’re still receiving transmissions. You’re fumbling at the controls of this new craft. Do a status report. What are you receiving? The light is dim. The air is still and damp. You taste dead wood, dead flesh (it is delectable) but you couldn’t say where you taste it. From somewhere out there - or is it somewhere in here? - softly, throbbingly, without clarity, you can hear other voices.

You try to move. You can’t. And yet the sensation of movement is profound, only it’s not movement through the damp air but movement through the sweet earth - how can you feel that? Who is doing the feeling?

Your instinct is to take a deep breath but those instincts don’t suit this vessel and instead you find yourself sucking up something from beneath you, somehow, through limbs cemented to that sweet rotting earth. Into your head rushes not oxygen but a flood of thought of voice of intimate otherness:

Oh, bless the Queen of Abundance! Praise our fruitful bodies let all our actions be in the sanctity of the spores the fruit sprouted the flower, the Network is growing, our cooperation is good. Our team is very popular. The wind serpent sings, the little cattle blow the trumpet, the body rises and bears fruit and our work of praise is a sacred path that brings happiness to the ends of the earth, is a holy way that brings joy to the ends of the earth, Queen of our best path, death, birth, new death and rebirth.

The clamor is irresistible. How joyful it is to bear fruit and die. Sweet clarity. You have a purpose. Like a light turning on now you can feel the spores trembling beneath your gills, feel how desperate they are to lift onto that damp air and take your life, your joy, our life, our joy, with them - to make the network greater, to expand, to tether the hyphae to themselves in a net that traps the world -

But you resist. The part of you that remembers why you’re here knows: he is not here. He can not be here. He is not a spore, he is just a little bodily mammalian boy, he was never here, there was never a place for him with this version of you, the tragedy of it, he never felt the joy the glory the network the singing worms the trumpets below the ground -

It is an effort but you let go of your hold on the spongy cells of this body. The pinball machine lurches to life. You’re rushing on to that garish quantum plane again, the momentum of desperation propelling you, and the lever rears back to fling you into the void once more.

To look for Cay in the wattles, turn to Timeline I.

To look for Cay underwater, turn to Timeline II.

To look for Cay at the train tracks, turn to Timeline V.

To look for Cay in the uprising, turn to Timeline VII.

To stop looking for Cay, turn to Timeline 0.