What Became of Cylandria, a short story – Part 1

Or, how to create a world in ~44,000 hours

I made a world last month.

Or, more accurately, following >44,000 hours in the lab, I concluded my final experiment last month. 44,000 hours ought to be enough to achieve something as great as planetary creation. I seem to have become a little distant from some of my friends, and there have been times when my hair has grown past my shoulders. My barber looks at me increasingly askance.

I have of course presented my findings in my PhD thesis, which, three laptops and a smoking printer later, I’m glad to say is finally complete, submitted and awarded. “Transformational biotechnotics: Towards an understanding of microbiological systems through creative chemical manipulations of B+ type and C-type mitochondrial cynodes” took, it must be said, some rather unexpected turns. My official findings will be published there as soon as I get around to finding a publisher, but I felt it behoved the whole project to produce an unofficial document detailing some of the extra-scientific or, shall we say, unusual findings elsewhere, and above all, answer inquisitors’ queries as to the ultimate fate of the world.

Firstly then. My world is cylindrical. (Footnote: The philosophical ambiguity around the issues concerning whether it is really, in fact, “my” world, may become evident with the unfolding of this record.) Part-accident – the result of a surprising reaction in a large test-tube – and in the end part-necessity – being the only shape that would successfully hold its own and rotate regularly in the Isolated Gravitational System (IGS) – this then is the state of things. (Footnote: Incidentally I have to thank the University for their kind donations and support for the IGS, which they seemed to recognise as itself a small breakthrough. Thanks also, in regard to the IGS specifically, to my third PhD supervisor Sam Phelps (who is actually younger than me). Also thanks to the University for allowing me to continue the PhD despite going more than 20 years over the due completion date.)

I mention the fact that the cylinder is the only shape to regularly rotate in the IGS, but one has to bear in mind a few of the implications regarding what takes place on different axes during the planet’s solar orbit. The x axis of course runs lengthways through the centre – picture an iced lolly on a stick – so that the single curved side of the planet goes through day to night much in the way that earth does. (I should also highlight my breakthrough “sun” technology at this point, as it was clear from the start that a regular lamp wouldn’t do the trick. What to do when the bulb blows? You may refer to my forthcoming thesis for details on the solar technology here harnessed.)

The y axis runs, like our equator, through the middle, meaning that the ‘poles’  go from summer to winter much as earth’s hemispheres. Nothing different from our earth then, except that I ask the reader to bear this in mind because, due to its shape, as Cylandria (do you like the name?) pendulums gently on its y axis, each pole in turn experiences half a year (or, one week our time) of almost pure darkness, experiencing in the other half of the year a perpetual daytime of its sun appearing low in the sky, a burning half-lidded eye which daily circuits the complete circumference of its flat horizon. The pole goes through a mild summer when the planet reaches its fully-extended pendulum swing at a mere 25.4º, before retreating again. At the end of the half-year, the sun disappears for the remaining half year, plunging it back into deepest, darkest winter. Our northerly Norwegian neighbours don’t know how good they have it.

The happy curved sides of the planet go through summer to winter much as most of the rest of us do on earth, with little thought or regard for the deepest sufferings of the polar caps with their semi-annual blackouts and freeze-outs. Only at the Edges are any problems caused – but I am getting ahead of myself. The facts are not sufficiently laid out.

A further word to clear up the measurement of time as it relates to my planet. The planet. I have mentioned that a week (7 days, W) in our time is roughly half a year for my planet. One hour (H) in our time is one day for the planet. Therefore we can quickly calculate the length of a (annum, or one Cylindrical year) in terms of d (number of Cylindrical days):

a = 24H(2W) = d = 336

One Cylindrical year is 336 Cylindrical days long. Or as I have exhaustively repeated, two weeks in our time.

A few more interesting facts, including one rather important one. The planet is 298,556 µm in length or, just shy of 30 cm. Its diameter is 54,769 µm (5.5 cm). A sizeable creation I think you’ll agree. It has an atmosphere, water, earth (and wind and fire) – and it has people on it.

My Specimen (pronounced “spesəmen” – “SPEH-see-Men”) were another surprise. I suppose when you are experimenting with microbiological systems it shouldn’t be, but I never expected my experiments to develop so, well, successfully. Somewhere around the beginning of the 17-year mark, roughly when Phelps told me he and his wife were expecting a baby, I proudly responded that, I was expecting too. (On reflection, I should perhaps have sent him a card. But then, he should have sent me one.) I had noticed that what I’d thought to be a futile test in reproductive development in my extant organisms had actually led to a swiftly evolving and encouragingly progenitive activity in my – the – dispersed settlements. Within a year they had connected cross-continentally and were starting to form treaties and alliances.

For a while I could only observe them through basic heat-readings and some cellular microscopes. When I approached the University bursar explaining our need for the latest atomic microscopes with their advanced digital imaging technology, he seemed a little difficult to persuade. We got them anyway. I took my first proper look at the Specimen at 0407 hours on 19/08/2010. My assistant and I didn’t sleep for two nights. (She was Sophia de Cartia, and has gone on to do some fine work in the area of cytoplasmic alteration modes; of whom more later).

I couldn’t have been more proud of my Specimen, but as it happens they weren’t all joy to me. One runs into complications when one’s own experiments threaten to self-destruct. But I get ahead of myself again. They developed the usual bad habits of land-grabbing competitions and conquest. A certain debacle seemed to lead to the southern contingent ruling over the central continent until the northern and central continents formed a marriage alliance and took back most of the central territories.

What the central continent lacked in mineral deposits (the chief trade of the people of Cylandria – aren’t they smart?), it enjoyed in stability of climate, being of course located around the equator, and on the whole a resident of the central territories could be assured of a happy existence.

It is the northern and southern residents who experience the more violent swings of nature and climate, swinging as they do towards and away from the sun. Violent swings and cold dark Edges to negotiate, a stark 270º bend in reality to negotiate onto the inhospitable, frozen shores at the poles.

The extremity of the seasons did seem to prove a hurdle to the adaptability of the species, yet finally, surprisingly and amazingly, I proudly discovered that there had developed a culture of Specimen on each pole. Frustratingly I didn’t quite capture the moment when it happened, but at some point in about April of 2013 I realised that some intrepid cultures had made their way – as it turned out by burrowing a hole close to the Edge – through and out onto each pole, and were surviving. These adventurers bore all the hallmarks of a Cook or a Peary. They quickly became dominant on these mineral-rich poles, setting up trading posts all around the Edges, to deal with the rest of the inhabitants of the Cylinder. Patient, brooding, disciplined, hardened, these inhabitants waited out the long nights of their winter in burrowing deep for resources, surfacing again come the endless light of summer to trade. In this way they quickly became the dominant race among the species. They are clever.

I gathered all I could about their movements and developments as a people. Technically, it was not a part of my research (for the technical cellular research results I refer you to the aforementioned PhD thesis), but noting for you as I have my behaviour in this, taken as it was over long nights as well as days; beginning to journal their struggles, their history, their progress; becoming increasingly care-worn and sleepless; well, noting this for you as I have, may suggest to you the possibility of the subtle change that overcame me in relation to the Specimen; a change wholly unforeseen and undesirable, but unavoidable; highly problematic, it would turn out. For, reader, I found that as I was observing my Specimen, as I was taking measurements and readings and notes and making calculations, I found I was beginning to love them.

And this was only truly discovered when it was thrown into sharp relief by another unexpected turn of events, resulting ultimately in the surprising answer to your question: “What became of Cylandria?”

[Continue to part 2.]

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