A Thousand Suns

If the radiance of a thousand suns
Were to burst at once into the sky,
That would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...
I am become Death,

The shatterer of Worlds

—taken from the Bhagavad Gita

All alchemists write their notes in code, not just the paranoid state military. It's not just a question of security, it's the nature of the trade; symbols, encryptions, layers within layers of meaning and enigma.

Roy is no exception. Less so; stationed here in Ishvar, the security is doubly tight. This is a war of science, where knowledge is the most valuable weapon—the only weapon. The risk of their precious resources falling into the wrong hands is too great, could be the one thing that brings it all down around them.

Roy writes his personal notes in code; intricate layers of deception and dependancy veiled in seductive women's names, interspersed with basic alchemical symbology so crude that even a non-student would recognize some of it. As they are meant to.

But there is one thing in his notes that is not in code. It is plain and simple truth, completely bare of veils or abstraction, and he knows it is safe to write it so because nobody would ever believe, on reading it, that it does not mean exactly what it says.

Today, Roy writes in his notebook, I saw the god of fire.

He'd seen it before, from time to time; glimpses of lampflames, candles, out of the corner of his eye, gone when he turned his head to catch it. He'd first seen it clearly in the Academy, a flicker in the heart of a clear blue Bunsen burner flame; a burst of understanding, too brief to shape in words. That one brief moment of revelation had drawn him onto the path of learning fire. Shaping fire. Knowing fire.

He's seen it many times, since coming to Ishvar. In that moment, when the flame is roaring to an uncontrollable height, the moment of wild expansion before the lack of earthly fuel can quench it... that moment, when looking into the flames, you can see how it all connects—this moment of fire with every fire, this destruction with every destruction—and beyond that, how destruction is a part of transmutation and all things are connected by transmutations and all things touch in this one moment of conflagration. He's seen it.

Some days, Roy wonders if he is going mad, seeing what other people do not. Other days, he wonders if the world is going mad, for not seeing what he sees.

Maybe he is breaking down. Falling apart.


And just for a moment, when he looked into the heart of the flames, he saw something stirring there, something struggling to be born into a world where its rumor should have been no more than an idea, a metaphor. Something strange and terrifying which turned its eyes on him, and reflected in them the burning of a million suns, too vast and terrible for any one mind to comprehend.

Today I saw the god of fire, Roy writes in his notebook, knowing he will never be believed. And I am very much afraid that it saw me.