This is a very short story by me, broken into five parts and illustrated by Molly Crabapple. Limited-edition prints of all five of Molly’s pieces are still available at this link.
No-one knows how old Ariadne is any more. She’s said by many to live in seclusion within a cloaked and baroque lunar atelier, which is a strange thing for a woman known to have wanted to see everything there is to see. Some say that, by some hypercosmic string magic, she watches herself as a child, studying the day that curious young Ariadne had her idea. No-one had told little Ariadne not to ask questions, and when she worked out that plants were the best machines of all, she asked why they couldn’t be made to do things that her computer machines could do. And when no-one had a good enough response, Ariadne came up with the best answer of all: I will find out by learning how to make them do that. And that is why Ariadne lives on the moon, and why we are all here today.
There was lots of names for the thing Ariadne made: computational flora, iGrass, memory trees, That Damned Stuff. There were lots of names for Ariadne, too, because when she got tired of nobody being able or willing to answer her questions, she just released Ariadne’s Meadow into the world. Fields began thinking, and forests began processing, and the world discovered that Ariadne’s Meadow was actually quite a nice place that just wanted to help. So much so that seven years later, when everyone discovered that Meadow probes had begun to break up Mercury, Venus and Mars for power, living space and computing strata, nobody really minded very much.
Very soon, the solar system was a mass of warm and grassy island computers. But Ariadne was far from finished. The best machines ever should be able to answer all the questions, and she knew there was more to see. And so there were soon trees that stood so high and strange that their silver tops crested up into the universe next door. Ariadne grew bridges across the multiverse, the set of all possible universes, just to see what she could see, which is of course the best reason of all. And, on the foot of every bridge she crossed, she gave Meadow to every Earth she found. As did Meadow itself, when it explored on its own, as it was a friendly kind of Damned Stuff, and also because weeds get bloody everywhere.
But what Ariadne discovered on her walks with the Meadow was that there were bigger places to see. The multiverse hangs in the metaverse, a room where all the universes hang like sheets on a great hypermagnetic wave. And the Xenoverse is the weather outside that room that causes the wave. And the Hyperverse is the weather system that causes those winds. And the Omniverse is the impossibly giant ecology that contains all things. Ariadne, of course, knew as well as you and I that weeds get bloody everywhere. So it was not an impossibly long time before she, in a boat of Meadow, could look down on all of creation and know that everything everywhere was really nothing more than things growing. And she, no less than a clever woman who never learned not to ask questions, did look down, and smiled.
After that, of course, Ariadne could be said to have seen all the places there were to see. Which it’s why many say she retired to the old Moon that still hung above old Earth (because she never changed anything just for the sake of change, and the old Moon was still a perfectly good old Moon). A lonely, lovely little atelier on the Moon, just Ariadne and her science, as the new reality she’d grown for everyone crept and budded and bloomed all around the Omniverse. But Ariadne and the science is the reason we’re all here, and why no-one has died since the Meadow first grew. So, perhaps, listen to the people who knew her best, because they say she’s ageless because she trained the creepers of Meadow along Time itself, and now she dances along them, meeting all the people who ever were and teaching them always to ask questions. Because that, as I said, is why we’re all here.
Words by Warren Ellis, pictures by Molly Crabapple.
Limited-edition prints of all five of Molly’s pieces are still available at this link.
© Warren Ellis & Molly Crabapple 2012