Home > Endymion (Hyperion Cantos #3)

Endymion (Hyperion Cantos #3)
Dan Simmons

1

You are reading this for the wrong reason.

If you are reading this to learn what it was like to make love to a messiah -- our messiah -- then you should not read on, because you are little more than a voyeur.

If you are reading this because you are a fan of the old poet's Cantos and are obsessed with curiosity about what happened next in the lives of the Hyperion pilgrims, you will be disappointed. I do not know what happened to most of them. They lived and died almost three centuries before I was born.

If you are reading this because you seek more insight into the message from the One Who Teaches, you may also be disappointed. I confess that I was more interested in her as a woman than as a teacher or messiah.

Finally, if you are reading this to discover her fate or even my fate, you are reading the wrong document. Although both our fates seem as certain as anyone's could be, I was not with her when hers was played out, and my own awaits the final act even as I write these words.

If you are reading this at all, I would be amazed. But this would not be the first time that events have amazed me. The past few years have been one improbability after another, each more marvelous and seemingly inevitable than the last. To share these memories is the reason that I am writing. Perhaps the motivation is not even to share -- knowing that the document I am creating almost certainly will never be found -- but just to put down the series of events so that I can structure them in my own mind.

"How do I know what I think until I see what I say?" wrote some pre-Hegira writer. Precisely. I must see these things in order to know what to think of them. I must see the events turned to ink and the emotions in print to believe that they actually occurred and touched me.

If you are reading this for the same reason that I am writing it -- to bring some pattern out of the chaos of the last years, to impose some order on the essentially random series of events that have ruled our lives for the past standard decades -- then you may be reading this for the right reason, after all.

Where to start? With a death sentence, perhaps. But whose -- my death sentence or hers? And if mine, which of mine? There are several from which to choose. Perhaps this final one is appropriate. Begin at the ending.

I am writing this in a Schrodinger cat box in high orbit around the quarantined world of Armaghast. The cat box is not much of a box, more of a smooth-hulled ovoid a mere six meters by three meters. It will be my entire world until the end of my life. Most of the interior of my world is a spartan cell consisting of a black-box air-and-waste recycler, my bunk, the food-synthesizer unit, a narrow counter that serves as both my dining table and writing desk, and finally the toilet, sink, and shower, which are set behind a fiberplastic partition for reasons of propriety that escape me. No one will ever visit me here. Privacy seems a hollow joke.

I have a text slate and stylus. When I finish each page, I transfer it to hard copy on microvellum produced by the recycler. The low accretion of wafer-thin pages is the only visible change in my environment from day to day.

The vial of poison gas is not visible. It is set in the static-dynamic shell of the cat box, linked to the air-filtration unit in such a way that to attempt to fiddle with it would trigger the cyanide, as would any attempt to breach the shell itself. The radiation detector, its timer, and the isotope element are also fused into the frozen energy of the shell. I never know when the random timer activates the detector. I never know when the same random timing element opens the lead shielding to the tiny isotope. I never know when the isotope yields a particle.

But I will know when the detector is activated at the instant the isotope yields a particle. There should be the scent of bitter almonds in that second or two before the gas kills me.

I hope that it will be only a second or two.

Technically, according to the ancient enigma of quantum physics, I am now neither dead nor alive. I am in the suspended state of overlapping probability waves once reserved for the cat in Schrodinger's thought experiment. Because the hull of the cat box is little more than position-fused energy ready to explode at the slightest intrusion, no one will ever look inside to see if I am dead or alive. Theoretically, no one is directly responsible for my execution, since the immutable laws of quantum theory pardon or condemn me from each microsecond to the next. There are no observers.

But I am an observer. I am waiting for this particular collapse of probability waves with something more than detached interest. In the instant after the hissing of cyanide gas begins, but before it reaches my lungs and heart and brain, I will know which way the universe has chosen to sort itself out.

At least, I will know so far as I am concerned. Which, when it comes right down to it, is the only aspect of the universe's resolution with which most of us are concerned.

And in the meantime, I eat and sleep and void waste and breathe and go through the full daily ritual of the ultimately forgettable. Which is ironic, since right now I live -- if "live" is the correct word -- only to remember. And to write about what I remember.

If you are reading this, you are almost certainly reading it for the wrong reason. But as with so many things in our lives, the reason for doing something is not the important thing. It is the fact of doing that remains. Only the immutable facts that I have written this and you are reading it remain important in the end.

Where to begin? With her? She is the one you want to read about and the one person in my life whom I wish to remember above everything and everyone else. But perhaps I should begin with the events that led me to her and then to here by way of much of this galaxy and beyond.

I believe that I shall begin with the beginning -- with my first death sentence.

2

My name is Raul Endymion. My first name rhymes with Paul. I was born on the world of Hyperion in the year 693 a.d.c. on our local calendar, or a.d. 3099, pre-Hegira reckoning, or, as most of us figure time in the era of the Pax, 247 years after the Fall. It was said about me when I traveled with the One Who Teaches that I had been a shepherd, and this was true. Almost. My family had made its living as itinerant shepherds in the moors and meadows of the most remote regions on the continent of Aquila, where I was raised, and I sometimes tended sheep as a child. I remember those calm nights under the starry skies of Hyperion as a pleasant time. When I was sixteen (by Hyperion's calendar) I ran away from home and enlisted as a soldier of the Pax-controlled Home Guard. Most of those three years I remember only as a dull routine of boredom with the unpleasant exception of the four months when I was sent to the Claw Iceshelf to fight indigenies during the Ursus uprising. After being mustered out of the Home Guard, I worked as a bouncer and blackjack dealer in one of the rougher Nine Tails casinos, served as a bargemaster on the upper reaches of the Kans for two rainy seasons, and then trained as a gardener on some of the Beak estates under the landscape artist Avrol Hume. But "shepherd" must have sounded better to the chroniclers of the One Who Teaches when it came time to list the former occupation of her closest disciple. "Shepherd" has a nice biblical ring to it.

I do not object to the title of shepherd. But in this tale I will be seen as a shepherd whose flock consisted of one infinitely important sheep. And I lost her more than found her.

At the time my life changed forever and this story really begins, I was twenty-seven years old, tall for a Hyperion-born, notable for little except for the thickness of calluses on my hands and my love of quirky ideas, and was then working as a hunter's guide in the fens above Toschahi Bay a hundred kilometers north of Port Romance. By that time in my life I had learned a little bit about sex and much about weapons, had discovered firsthand the power greed has in the affairs of men and women, had learned how to use my fists and modest wits in order to survive, was curious about a great many things, and felt secure only in the knowledge that the remainder of my life would almost certainly hold no great surprises.

I was an idiot.

Most of what I was that autumn of my twenty-eighth year might be described in negatives. I had never been off Hyperion and never considered that I might travel offworld. I had been in Church cathedrals, of course; even in the remote regions where my family had fled after the sacking of the city of Endymion a century earlier, the Pax had extended its civilizing influence -- but I had accepted neither the catechism nor the cross. I had been with women, but I had never been in love. Except for my grandmother's tutelage, my education had been self-directed and acquired through books. I read voraciously. At age twenty-seven, I thought that I knew everything.

I knew nothing.

So it was that in the early autumn of my twenty-eighth year, content in my ignorance and stolid in my conviction that nothing of importance would ever change, I committed the act that would earn me a death sentence and begin my real life.

The fens above Toschahi Bay are dangerous and unhealthy, unchanged since long before the Fall, but hundreds of wealthy hunters -- many from offworld -- come there every year for the ducks. Most of the protomallards died off quickly after their regeneration and release from the seedship seven centuries earlier, either unable to adapt to Hyperion's climate or stalked by its indigenie predators, but a few ducks survived in the fens of north-central Aquila. And the hunters came. And I guided them.

Four of us worked out of an abandoned fiberplastic plantation set on a narrow thumb of shale and mud between the fens and a tributary to the Kans River. The other three guides concentrated on fishing and big-game hunting, but I had the plantation and most of the fens to myself during duck season. The fens were a semitropical marsh area consisting mostly of thick chalma growth, weirwood forest, and more temperate stands of giant prometheus in the rocky areas above the floodplain, but during the crisp, dry cold snap of early autumn, the mallards paused there on their migration from the southern islands to their lakes in the remotest regions of the Pinion Plateau.

I woke the four "hunters" an hour and a half before dawn. I had fixed a breakfast of jambon, toast, and coffee, but the four overweight businessmen grumbled and cursed as they wolfed it down. I had to remind them to check and clean their weapons: three carried shotguns, and the fourth was foolish enough to bring an antique energy rifle. As they grumbled and ate, I went out behind the shack and sat with Izzy, the Labrador retriever I'd had since she was a pup. Izzy knew that we were going hunting, and I had to stroke her head and neck to calm her down.

First light was coming up just as we left the overgrown plantation grounds and polled off in a flat-bottomed skiff. Radiant gossamers were visible flitting through dark tunnels of branches and above the trees. The hunters -- M. Rolman, M. Herrig, M. Rushomin, and M. Poneascu -- sat forward on the thwarts while I poled. Izzy and I were separated from them by the heap of floatblinds stacked between us, the curved bottoms of the disks still showing the rough matting of the fiberplastic husk. Rolman and Herrig were wearing expensive chameleon-cloth ponchos, although they did not activate the polymer until we were deep in the swamp. I asked them to quit talking so loudly as we approached the freshwater fens where the mallards would be setting in. All four men glared at me, but they lowered their voices and soon fell silent.

The light was almost strong enough to read by when I stopped the skiff just outside the shooting fen and floated their blinds. I hitched up my well-patched waterproofs and slid into the chest-deep water. Izzy leaned over the side of the skiff, eyes bright, but I flashed a hand signal to restrain her from jumping in. She quivered but sat back.

"Give me your gun, please," I said to M. Poneascu, the first man. These once-a-year hunters had enough trouble just keeping their balance while getting into the small floatblinds; I did not trust them to hang on to their shotguns. I had asked them to keep the chamber empty and the safety on, but when Poneascu handed his weapon over, the chamber indicator glowed red for loaded and the safety was off. I ejected the shell, clicked the safety on, set the gun in the waterproof carrier strapped across my shoulders, and steadied the floatblind while the heavyset man stepped from the skiff.

"I'll be right back," I said softly to the other three, and began wading through chalma fronds, pulling the blind along by the harness strap. I could have had the hunters pole their floatblinds to a place of their own choosing, but the fen was riddled with quickmud cysts that would pull down both pole and poler, populated by dracula ticks the size of blood-filled balloons that liked to drop on moving objects from overhead branches, decorated with hanging ribbon snakes, which looked precisely like chalma fronds to the unwary, and rife with fighting gar that could bite through a finger. There were other surprises for first-time visitors. Besides, I'd learned from experience that most of these weekend hunters would position their floats so that they would be shooting at each other as soon as the first flight of mallards appeared. It was my job to keep that from happening.

I parked Poneascu in a concealing curl of fronds with a good view from the south mudbank of the largest body of open water, showed him where I was going to place the other floatblinds, told him to watch from within the slit of the floatblind canvas and not to begin shooting until everyone was placed, and then went back for the other three. I placed Rushomin about twenty meters to the first man's right, found a good place closer to the inlet for Rolman, and then went back for the man with the idiot energy weapon. M. Herrig.

The sun would be up in another ten minutes.

"About crossdamned time you fu**ing remembered me," snapped the fat man as I waded back to him. He'd already got onto his float; his chameleon-cloth trousers were wet. Methane bubbles between the skiff and the mouth of the inlet indicated a large mudcyst, so I had to work my way close to the mudflat each time I came or went.

"We're not paying you to waste your crossdamn time like this," he growled from around a thick cigar.

I nodded, reached up, plucked the lighted cigar from between his teeth, and tossed it away from the cyst. We were lucky that the bubbles had not ignited. "Ducks can smell the smoke," I said, ignoring his gaping mouth and reddening face.

I slipped into the harness and pulled his float into the open fen, my chest cutting a path through the red-and-orange algae that had covered the surface again since my last trip.

M. Herrig fondled his expensive and useless energy rifle and glared at me. "Boy, you watch your crossdamn mouth or I'll crossdamn watch it for you," he said. His poncho and chameleon-cloth hunting blouse were unsealed enough for me to see the gleam of a gold Pax double cross hanging around his neck and the red welt of the actual cruciform on his upper chest. M. Herrig was a born-again Christian.

I said nothing until I had his float positioned properly to the left of the inlet. All four of these experts could fire out toward the pond now without fear of hitting one another. "Pull your canvas around and watch from the slit," I said, untying the line from my harness and securing it around a chalma root.

Recommended
» Forever Too Far (Rosemary Beach #3) read online
» Never Too Far (Rosemary Beach #2) read online
» I Am Legend read online
» Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies #1) read online
» Divergent (Divergent #1) read online
» Breaking Dawn (Twilight #4) read online
» Twilight (Twilight #1) read online
» The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) read online
» Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5) read online
» Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) read online
» Insurgent (Divergent #2) read online
» Breakable (Contours of the Heart #2) read online
» Fallen Too Far (Rosemary Beach #1) read online
» Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) read online
» New Moon (Twilight #2) read online
» Unseen Messages read online
» Easy (Contours of the Heart #1) read online
» Allegiant (Divergent #3) read online
» Rush Too Far (Rosemary Beach #4) read online
» Eclipse (Twilight #3) read online
» The Darkest Seduction (Lords of the Underwo read online