The Second Consciousness

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We landed on the new planet only three months ago. The planet was twice the size of Earth, and thrice as luscious, thanks to the self-replicating bots that terraformed it before we got here.

The planet didn't ask for too much terraforming to make it fit for men—it was already a water world, albeit with poles too tilted, and ice too cold—so we just needed artificial intelligence to address a few tweaks before we landed.

We called it Eden, since we struggled to separate from myth. If anything, the Collective Internet made it impossible to unbind from religion; too many of us rocked ourselves to sleep at night with the soft vision of God's fingers cupping under us like a cradle, and the rest of us felt connected by the experience.

In terraformed Eden, out in the Deep Space beyond Sol, we were certain we found a new haven for the development of life. We would create an ecosystem here, spreading the footprint of mankind.

We assumed, if any life stirred in the oceans deep, it at least couldn't be intelligent enough to live in the same state of consciousness as we. Krill might sustain vast kingdoms, but they hardly share ideologies with human ways of life; they lacked the same empathy, spiritual quintessence—presence.

♦️

Artur was certain he heard a clapping against the ocean, like a whale slamming into the sea, though the salt spray hardly let him see in front of his face, much less what was happening beyond the bow.

The ocean glowed red in the double sunset, chasing twin shadows along the deck.

Flicking a button on his headset, Artur scanned the neon blue-and-pink virtual overlay of the red-tinted, salt-sprayed ship, before telepathing to the Collective Internet, I'm worried there's a native whale out there...? How complex does Eden's life get?

Then the ocean split in front of him, like a big rip along the foamy swill, and a giant woman—her torso, wide as the ship—emerged into the bleeding purple sky, the iridescent fin of a thick and slippery fish following from her hips, where legs ought to be.

Artur's earpiece buzzed from the Collective Internet, A mermaid!?

Another user said, A giant mermaid. Like she's Jack-and-the-Bean-Stalk sized.

But how beautiful, someone replied. She's enormous and astounding.

Below the crashing waves, and the storm-stricken ship, the mermaid swam into umbral dark. Her conch earpiece glittered with the laser-etched glass that caught echoes from the Collective Whalesong.

When the mermaid said to the Collective Whalesong, I found the intruders, another pod replied, Good. Back-up is coming.

♦️

First draft: October
Word count: 464
Inspired by: The first Halloween Vault contest, as seen here:
https://my.w.tt/FLPEuSsSHQ

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