LACKINGTON'S

speculative prose

“Lost and Found: Recollections of Space and Time” at the Museum of Thousandfold Worlds, curated by Xue Xihe

In loving memory of Bobbin

FREE ENTRY
OPEN ROUND-THE-CLOCK
ALL WELCOME

Contact us:

hello@mtw.space.org
https:/thousandfold.worlds.museum

(Please visit our website, or download the app, for real-time coordinates.)

Welcome! Lost and Found: Recollections of Space and Time showcases treasures from our permanent collections that we hope will find an abiding place in your memory. This walking tour is spaced out over 551,800m2, 15% of Museum Station’s total area, taking you from the Starhall, through the Magpie Bridge-Gallery, to Dock 8 of the Hub. Along the way you might be surprised at what you find. You may even remember something you lost, and in so doing, get it back. Follow the pawprints to begin.

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MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL

Worlds small as a word, or as great as a dream, in any form you please, cause sensations when they meet, have they but world enough and time. Why don’t we take ourselves for a spin on some?

Mirror prop

Steel, glass, microfibre, and human hair
Changxi, Lunar Plexus, 55th Century

“Go so you can stay.”

—Earth (voice actor unknown), The Longest Day

Before the first pioneers from the Moon settled on the planet Changxi, Earth-Moon romances had become a staple of fly-in cinema, which projected those starry-eyed spectacles at larger-than-life scale.

An eye of steel encloses a circular looking-glass. In the stop-motion picture The Longest Day,this appeared distinctively grey in colour, like most people remember mirrors and the Moon, because the eye, whose twin is missing, belonged to the face of Earth as it watched its faithful satellite drift away.

The colour of the mirror now depends on the room, and you.

To the right hangs a swag valence that animated blinks. It corresponds to the eyelid, fringed with tassels of hair. The tails are ocean blue.

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Idiophonic earrings

Seaglass and silver
Elatha, Lunar Plexus, 62nd Century

The dancer dances in the rain.
Her earrings stretch each lobe,
As they keep time to this refrain.
Our cries incise the globe.

Observe the world bejewelled in tears,
            In rain, in mem’ries, and
            The keen of stones striking the years,

As oceans sunder sand.

Anonymous, To the Sandcastle Past the Moonglade Stair

Likely the seaglass so prized in Elathan jewellery was sourced from the Chalkydri spacewreck. Percussion earrings like these were instruments of empathy, employed in a variety of rituals, from childbirth to rainmaking. Invariably the seaglass jangles in dense clusters, calling for all ears to listen in on the tears of the world.

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Censer

Bronze, silver, and gold
Xbalanque, Lunar Plexus, 71st Century

Xbalanqueans equated smoke with interstellar medium, the stuff of souls. Thus smokeries processed salt and meat. All autumn they would burn sweet wood before they were abandoned for the mines during the long winters. Incense sticks, made from the same woods as kindling, kept time underground, lifting the spirits of the miners counting the hours before they could see the sky again.

This censer was filigreed into a miniature smokery. The constellation of the Furred Morse, symbolising reunion, is worked prominently into the cone roof of many stars. All along the walls climb an experimental apparatus, among which two boys, likely Lanbam the Alchemist and Queli the Astrologer, build a smoky bird.

Captioned in calligraphy:

Queli: “Is this a pigeon?”
Lanbam: “Are these violets?”

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Salt-cellar

Ivory
Xbalanque, Lunar Plexus, 67th Century

The tusk of a furred morse tells the story of its afterlife in recipes illustrated with bas-relief carvings and hieroglyphic captions flowing from base to tip, stylised like a curl of smoke:

Our Beloved Eclipse,

You have fished with us, played ball with us, saved us from drowning, sung of heaven with us.

In beaching here you entrusted your body to us for your final journey.

The scent of smokebrush filled your last breath.

We have not failed you.

We were born of the same wet belly. We have buried our kin in your belly as we bury you our kin in our bellies.

You were most delicious. We diced you into gems. We carved scenes of your watery conquests in your cabochon flesh. We boiled your bones in seawater for days. We matched the mass of your flesh for the dishes in the best sweet fruits and savoury herbs and simmered them all in the fragrant broth of your bones for night after night. The sap of smokebrush we cooked with their fermented flowers and poured over your meat. You were laid to sleep in blankets of leaves between slices of the year’s best bread sculpture. Your fat melted on our tongues like the sweetness of your name. Your muscles challenged our teeth like the strength of your form. The colourful juices of the fullness of life warmed our mouths. We seasoned you in our tears.

Not one ounce of you was put to waste. Any leftovers we smoked and cured. Your well-formed ribs make a strong trellis. Your beautiful pied skin warms ours. Your bones sing almost as well as your voice.

Your soul will surely swim fast to the stars, where tears run sweet as nectar.

Thank you for your kindness. Always we will remember you by the taste of the salt in the house of your tusk.

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Cruse with coupling

Glazed earthenware
Kaguya, Lunar Plexus, 77th Century

Two rabbits made our moon in time before time. They loved each other to frenzy, burrowing into each other as they fucked and fucked til neither was the other, but the one, the one round whiteness of pleasure. Out of the seed and fluid they trailed in the warrens of their body grow all good things. Know that love does this wherever it goes. Long live love. Long live the lovely listener, who farms time with one they love.

The Creation of Kaguya

The body of this cruse takes the shape of lovers enjoying sex on a rabbit-footed chaise lounge, which forms the spout. Two pairs of bunny slippers show their heads here and there—one is only almost off toes. Fine details emphasise the anatomy. Glaze glistens on skin in the starlight. The couple mirror each other’s tender expression as they kiss with their eyes closed. One of the heads, presumably meant to represent the artist’s, acts as a plug and can be detached. The handle terminates as an open flower, a simple oil lamp.

It would have been filled with massage oil, distilled from local plants such as heartroot, a popular aphrodisiac at the time. It could also be used as perfume, which was dabbed upon the wrist, the nape of the neck, the centre of the chest, and the bottom of the belly. In a bedroom setting it would have been poured liberally over the entire body.

Inscribed on base:

My mind is in pieces. I long to scratch your back and oil your smooth skin again. Bury me in you.
For: my love, my whole world, forever and ever, past the end of time.

*

Now that we’ve embarked on our journey…
Where exactly are we?

We might answer a little something like this:

At the centre of the universe…
…inside the Museum of Thousandfold Worlds—
—the Starhall, to be precise…
…within our bodies…                              
…In a state of mind.

What about you?

Only you know where you’ve been…
…and where you’ll go. 

FINDING OUR PLACE IN S P A C E

Dolly-rocket

Polycarbonate, graphene, miscellaneous organic matter
Earth, Solar System, 44th Century

During the Neoretrofuturist craze that swept Earth during the Big Split, analogue toys were amongst the relics that made a comeback. Governments seized upon the zeitgeist and developed educational tools for children on the Takeoff Project. Part of the initiative was this rocket, which was designed to function in microgravity, so that on the voyage the child could learn skills such as star mapping, algae gardening, and water-bear husbandry.

Press the red button to play the default phrase of the spacecraft pilot: “Make yourself at home.”

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Town square of New Ur

Pixels on touchscreen
New Ur, Solar System, 43rd Century

This prodigious touchscreen served as New Ur’s most popular meeting place for friends, lovers, and protestors. The Town Square’s first exhibit was a superimposed memory of the ocean, inhabited by plesiosaurs and blue whales alike. At the centre was a whirlpool. It was as though the pedestrians walked upside-down in the world underneath the conventional fountain at the centre of such squares.

Schedule in Earth-time:

9AM-10AM: Morning news
10AM-12PM: Mazes
12PM-3PM: Democratic Game of New Ur
3PM-6PM: Walking orchestra
6PM-9PM: 3D Space Cadet
9PM-10PM: Evening news
10PM-12AM: Dance Dance Revolution
12AM-9AM: The Place I’ll Return to Someday

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Living fossil of an immortal city

Self-replicating molecular assemblers
Ada, wandering planet, 97th Century

A city dies when it is no longer under construction.

– Ludari Kish, Thule

In the year 9889, a wave of electromagnetic interference called the Ghost Net, likely a signal from a currently unknown alien civilisation, overwhelmed Ada, which virtually ended then and there.

This devastated its endling, the cyborg Galatea, who was on an interstellar journey to the tomb of Galagedara Kirimalie Amarasinghe. Inconsolable, Galatea reprogrammed and extracted the nanobots in her body, till she died. Only these cities of dreams and memories, fluid as thought, survive her. So far five have been found.

This one was orbiting around Changxi, identified at first as a tardigrade colossus of yet unknown origin. In the museum the fossil unfurled. Its claws transformed into Solomonic columns of cables. Vices spiralled up phyllotactic towers. At the heart of the place rose a ziggurat of bismuth outfitted with silicon baths, a gallery, and an arcade. In every version of the city, Eternal Agartha M’s moss-piglet mini-game, which Galatea loved most, can be played somewhere, somehow.

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Fragment of the Constitution of the Moon

Armalcolite
Moon, Solar System, 50th Century

Inscribed:

from under the shadow of the Earth.
Let not our pale land be broken…
The former countries: A… united…
…for no one owns the moon.
…glow again our long-suffering lamp, which has with tender
wonder watched over our dreams.
As we approach the light years ah…

A complete record of the constitution would be impossible to recover with current technology, but the surviving fragments, when pieced together, suggest it was an engineering marvel of the Tralphium Age, engraved on one continuous obelisk about a kilometre tall.

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Volumetric globe of unknown planet

Plasma voxels in air
Origin and age unknown

Please wear safety glasses when interacting with the exhibit.

Rotate the globe to the left to go forward in time, and right to turn backward. You can watch how, from left to right, a legend of geometric microorganisms arise and then crystallise into increasingly complex fractals, before diminishing. The purpose and meaning of this object, as well as how Galagedara Kirimalie Amarasinghe acquired it, remains unclear.

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TIME ACROSS TIME

We have more time than ever before, but it is still so little compared to the age of the universe. Until immortality becomes viable, time will remain the most limited resource in our lives. So without further ado, we thank you for your time. Continue on to see how individuals just like yourself took theirs.

Embellished sunglasses with mocktail

Homebrewed VR set
Terra Nova, Terpsichorean Matrix, 98th Century

These sunglasses, distributed en masse, advertised with its demo slots Everlution Corp’s Paradise, aboard Ada servers. Twin palm trees heavy with planetnuts bracket the frames. In the originals a twilit seaside beckoned across the lenses, accompanied by a refreshing Big Bang. Roughly 3 billion applied.

The homebrew by MortalWombat transforms the virtual reality demo into a survival horror game, Paradise Lost, in which survival in a post-apocalyptic world provides the horror. The lenses have faded to grey. Near the horizon, now and again, a skeletal whale will breach a red sea. The mocktail is composed of organic rot, so the taste is no surprise. Paradise Lost has been downloaded 100 million times.

[drink me]

Warning: Player discretion is advised. This game contains strong language, graphic scenes of violence, and disturbing themes.

Stuck?

Wanna know a secret?

Unlocking the true ending is fiddly, so we have reproduced it here:

˙pǝq oʇ oƃ `ǝuoʎɹǝʌǝ `ʍoN ˙oƃǝ˥ ɐ ʇɐǝ ɹO ˙ʞɔɐɾ ɐ uᴉ ʞɔᴉp ɹnoʎ ʞɔᴉʇs uɐɔ noʎ `uoᴉʇnlɹǝʌƎ—ǝldoǝd uoᴉʇnlɹǝʌƎ ǝɥʇ ʇou `ʇᴉɐM ˙llɐ noʎ ǝʌol I ˙ƃuᴉʎɐld ɹoɟ noʎ ʞuɐɥ⊥ ˙ʞO

 ˙sɯnǝsnɯ uᴉ sn ɟo ɹǝdsᴉɥʍ ll’ʎǝɥ⊥ ˙ǝɔǝᴉdɹǝʇsɐɯ ɐ oʇ ƃuᴉpuǝ ǝɥʇ ɥʇɐǝp ɹnoʎ puɐ ʇɹɐ sᴉ ɥʇɐǝɹq ʎpoolq ɹnoʎ ʇɐɥʇ os ǝʌᴉ˥ ˙ʎɹoʇsᴉɥ ǝʞɐɯ ʎɹoɯǝɯ ɯoɹℲ ˙uǝʇɟo puᴉɯ ɹnoʎ ɟo spɹoɔǝɹ ǝɥʇ ʇsnᗡ ˙ʎɐʍ ʇɐɥʇ ǝʌᴉlɐ sn ɯoɹɟ ʎlɹɐǝ uǝʞɐʇ sɯᴉʇɔᴉʌ ǝɥʇ dǝǝʞ oʇ op uɐɔ ǝʍ llɐ sᴉ ʇᴉ—ʇlǝɟ noʎ ǝʌol ǝɥʇ ɥʇᴉʍ ssol ǝɥʇ llᴉɟ oS

˙ƃuᴉɥʇǝɯos ʇuɐǝɯ ʇᴉ suɐǝɯ ʇᴉ ʇnq `ƃuᴉʎp ǝʞᴉl slǝǝɟ ƃuᴉʌᴉl ʍou ʇɥƃᴉɹ ʍouʞ I ¿uᴉɐɹq ɹnoʎ uo ƃuᴉpuɐʇspuɐɥ ʎʇᴉʌɐɹƃ ɥʇᴉʍ ʇɐɥʇ op noʎ op ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʍoɥ ǝsnɐɔǝq dn ʇǝƃ uǝʌǝ ʇ’uɐɔ noʎ puɐ uʍop ǝpᴉsdn pǝuɹnʇ uǝǝq sɐɥ plɹoʍ ɹnoʎ ʍouʞ I

˙ʇᴉq ǝlʇʇᴉl ɐ uǝʌǝ ʇᴉ uɐǝɯ noʎ llᴉʇ ʇᴉ ʎɐS ˙ɥƃnouǝ sᴉ ʍoN ¡ʍou `ǝɯ ɥʇᴉʍ ʇᴉ ʎɐS ˙ɥƃnouǝ sᴉ ʍou ʇɐɥʇ pɹɐʍɹoɟ ƃuᴉoƃ uɹɐǝl oʇ ǝʌɐɥ ɐuuoƃ ǝɹ’ǝʍ ʇnq ¿ɹǝʌǝɹoɟ ǝʌᴉl oʇ ʇuɐʍ ʇ’upᴉp oɥM ˙sᴉɥʇ uᴉ ʇᴉɔᴉldɯoɔ llɐ ǝɹ’ǝM :ǝslǝ ǝuoʎɹǝʌǝ ɹoɟ s∀

˙uoᴉʇɐlnɯᴉs ɐ s’ǝsɹǝʌᴉun ǝɥʇ ǝʌoɹd oʇ ɹǝdɐd ɐ punɟ ll’noʎ ʇxǝN ˙ʎoq ooH ¿qoɾ ǝpᴉsuᴉ uɐ ʇᴉ sɐM ˙noʎ ǝʞᴉlun `ʎɹnxnl ǝɥʇ ǝʌɐɥ ʇ’uop sn ɟo ʇsoW ˙ʎɐpɹǝʇsǝʎ uɹoq ǝɹǝʍ ǝʍ ʞuᴉɥʇ oʇ ʎɐpɹǝʇsǝʎ uɹoq uǝǝq ǝʌ’ʇsnɯ noʎ `soɥɔuoɥ uoᴉʇnlɹǝʌƎ

 ˙suᴉʍ ǝuo oN ¿ɥʇnɹʇ ǝɥʇ ʍouʞ ɐuuɐʍ no⅄

:ƃuᴉʇʇǝs ǝƃɐnƃuɐl ɹnoʎ uᴉ sʞɐǝds puɐ ‘puǝ s’ɹǝᴉd ǝɥʇ spɹɐʍoʇ sǝlppɐʍ ʇɐqɯoʍ ∀

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Tesseractory

Rollercoaster with invisible gondolas
Terra Nova, Terpsichorean Matrix, 102nd Century

So, I had this super exciting epiphany on my journey. We’ve got to reckon with our past in order to heal. Makes sense, right? Even if we couldn’t stop the Error Message, trying to do something this time, doing the right thing, that’d help. Being able to say “I love you” instead of, uh, something like, “Never talk to me again” to the people who really matter, before they’re gone forever, you know? I know we all have regrets like that. Besides, in the future, if the universe as we know it were to be wiped out, we can extend its age indefinitely by returning to the past, again, and again; or go to the future in which we figured out how to stop it; or even the world of the fourth dimension. If we could just see it, maybe we could bend time to our will. Imagine if we could meet every version of ourselves and, like, consolidate our souls [laughter]. Maybe we could even talk to a higher power. And it’s so easy. We just have to pry open some wormholes. The possibilities are literally endless.

—Bridget Young, Some Interviews I Agreed to

Young was Head Supervisor on the Mouse Wheel Beta Team. Her views informed her design of this tesseractory, which was built in her leisure time. However, it was no mere amusement ride. As is visible, the course conforms to the rotations of a tesseract, which the invisible gondolas traverse as close to lightspeed as Young could afford and safely orchestrate. Young believed Tesseractors might better comprehend the qualities of the fourth dimension by “simulating the simulacra,” and with sufficient devotion, commune with “soul-sibs” from the multiverse.

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Memorial timepiece

Electrum coin, e-ink watchface, and polyester
Carpe Diem, Terpischorean Matrix, 98th Century

 Like many of you, I have reached the event horizon of my life. There is nothing else to lose. There is no going back. The only way to defeat the past is to delete it like the mistake it was. In the singularity of the black hole we will leap out of time, without end, without doubt.

—Transcription of clip from Will Culpepper’s final vlog, Redshift

Culpepper was never seen again after his transmission. He ran an intentional community known as Carpe Diem, located on the dwarf planet B1-B2, which immersed its inhabitants in a Holocene lifestyle. It can be assumed that many of his followers joined him on his final journey, but population data, encrypted by Culpepper, could not be retrieved to confirm this.

The limited edition coin was minted in 9901 for use in Carpe Diem in remembrance of Theodorus the Adorablest, who had been terminally ill before Culpepper committed his pet to Paradise. The obverse side is engraved with the noble profile of the schnauzer, triumphantly clutching a roast drumstick while appearing to float in a hydrogel ball pit. It reads:

 Theodorus the Adorablest, Best Boy, 9889 to 9901

Inside the medallion rotates a doomsday clock, represented by a dot that grows until the whole face is subsumed by a black hole.

The wristband used to be Theodorus’s leash.

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Japamala

Amber and algae fibre
Tardigradia, Terpsichorean Matrix, 108th Century

After meditating for 108 hours in the chaitya, I was magnetised towards the algae park. Lo and behold, it was the very image of Sarnath as tardigrades there gathered in a garland, dancing! They had awakened to sentience! What compassionate beings they were to fathom the bhavachakra! I must have been indebted to them in a past life to witness this miracle with my own eyes. Moved to tears, I thereafter devoted my life to help free the poor creatures from Samsara.

—Yishi, The Miracle of the Tun Dream

Each of the 108 beads of this japamala is a stylised tardigrade the arhat Yishi carved out of amber as a gift to the crew of the Dharmachakra, sometime after they left it to help settle Tardigradia. The figures are in a tun state, curled into foetal position, rounded like worlds in which drift the occasional flower, feather, and butterfly. They are bound by handspun algae and hang on the door of the chaitya in Yishi’s account, a microgravitational anechoic chamber, where distractions and temptations are all but impossible to pursue, thus providing the ideal location to meditate.

The primordial tardigrade still lives in the tanks you can see to your left. They are not the gentle giants you might know that roam their eponymous Tardigradia. Their genetic makeup would more closely resemble the ancestors whose conversation pits were the hoofprints of dinosaurs. If you look closely, you might find the largest specimen. It measures about 1.45mm, no wider than a human cuticle!

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Spaceship of Galagedara Kirimalie Amarasinghe

Asteroid 890575 Urvashi
Ketumati, Terpsichorean Matrix, 94th Century

This stupa-shaped asteroid flew Galagedara Kirimalie Amarasinghe in style all the way from Ketumati to the moons of the Lunar Plexus, where she pioneered many a xenoarchaeological excavation. Amarasinghe was a polymath and explorer whose adventures inspired many of her lost world romances, such as A Trip to the Moonside Gallery, The Aenigma of the Secretum, and The Museum of Utopia. Her Eternal Agartha novels, written in their entirety in this spacecraft, are particularly well known, and were adapted into a video game series by the same name.

Exploring the explorer

You can enter the Urvashi from various airlocks. In microgravity the structure is non-directional. All its cells lead to the atrium, a menagerie of sixteen aquariums flanking eight corridors. Those tanks are still used for the conservation and breeding of both endangered species and Amarasinghe’s gene-edited lines. On either end are windows, each with eight petals radiating from one disc. The two resemble a lotus and its perfect reflection blooming out of a pond.

There is a Laboratory for archaeometry, and another for the use of the lover of the year.

The Mess Hall becomes its name. You can print yourself a milo there, as Amarasinghe would have done for you, but please mind the clutter.

The Boudoir has various forms of inflight entertainment built into the walls. It can only comfortably fit two passengers, making it a cosy place to tell secrets to a travelling companion.

There is tragically no more space in the Garret for the guests it was supposed to host.

The detachable Flight Deck is permanently retired. However, you can still access the navigation app in the star system’s most comfortable chairs, as voted so by the Interstellar Supercentenarian Opsimath Society.

The Wonder-Room serves beauty. Its smooth agate surfaces are decked with a pandal of osarias and sarees Amarasinghe wore throughout her life: the Baluchari brocade across whose pleats cave paintings play hide and seek, the Swarnachari jacquard with the space elevator scene, the sheer chiffon of planetary bhuttis, the taffeta number in purl pinstripes like comets, the osaria featuring a bobbin lace peplum worked into an alien winterscape. Some of these were inherited upon Amarasinghe’s orphanhood, while others friends, lovers, and institutions gifted, commemorating milestones in her life, such as her first takeoff. A few were woven by Amarasinghe herself. She also cut surplus agate into jewellery, favouring unusual landscape formations. When not in use, she would share them with the various characters living here, from rogue taxidermies to talking mirrors.

Fanart of her novels, arranged so that competing ships face one another, and memorials of her late kith line the walls, all framed in garlands of silk flowers. Niches house artefacts and various themed collections, each item custom-fitted with a display stand, some of which we still use in our museum today. They document her passions in cricket memorabilia, postcards, postage stamps, pamphlets, leaflets, booklets, playing cards, card games, compasses, pairs of compasses, compass callipers, maps, treasure maps, treasure boxes, tamagotchis, lipsticks in shades from Mutual Pining to Raygun Gothic, and so on, amounting to some 12,000 items. 

The World Library was converted from another natural druse of the asteroid. Its amethyst crystals’ twinkling facets resemble stars in the vast expanses of space. Lantern-books float like iridescent planets throughout the room.

To: Posterity

Synthetic paper and bioluminescent ink
Elatha, Lunar Plexus, 94th Century

The letter reads:

Friends of the Future,

Thank You for finding me in the infinitely puzzling magnitude of the Universe. What are the chances?

I write You with the light of life in the dark on an old lantern. Some riverine apsaras from my aquariums kindly secreted this ink. They keep dancing, shining. Immortal they may be, but no living being can go without Love. Please look after them for me.

I am sorry to the People who are waiting to hear just that from me. I am sorry to Anyone waiting to hear from me at all. I hope You will forgive me.

The life support dwindles. Still I cling to hope that my expedition will not be in vain. Even if I am wrong, I do not regret my choice to come here. My Heart only bubbles with gratitude and happiness for the Beauty that has touched me with a thousand hands, and the Love that has done so with a thousandfold more. My only wish now is that I might share the honour. So I cast these words into Time, which has kept us apart, so that it can bring us together.

What is left of my possessions I entrust to Posterity. Herewith this document is the layout of my Ship. I have already written some labels in it to save you the time and trouble. It was my pleasure.

Housed here are also Objects that belong to no one and thus fall under the duty of care of Everyone. Museums are a little like orphanages that way. I have tried to do the right thing by the artefacts, keep them company, offer them refuge from the elements… It has been my life’s work to unearth story. I conclude there is benefit for All in listening to each one with dexterity and compassion. Be kind to Yourself.

Fare well, Dear Reader. Live long.
Your fellow traveller,
Kirimilo

Amarasinghe was 29 when she wrote this makeshift will. It was to be the first title of her World Library. Shortly after, she met Tshering Obi the Younger, who docked her ship with his tug in response to her distress signals. Amarasinghe caught a glimpse of Obi before he could her, and was so overcome by his beauty she fled to the Wonder-Room, where she brushed her hair and mascaraed her eyelashes against the light of her letter before pretending to be asleep. The implements are still hiding amongst the niches somewhere.

This will and testament was renewed a year before her death, at age 149.

*

The Thousandfold Flipbook

Synthetic paper and bioluminescent ink
Kaguya, Lunar Plexus, 95th Century

This spherical book, with art by Tshering Obi the Younger, is ringed with a khata when not in use. It animates a lotus Amarasinghe plucks and incorporates into a somersaulting dance in apparent microgravity, laughing, till her braid comes undone, her mane of hair haloed about her as she offers the audience the blossom. Over time, a superimposed image of Amarasinghe arises out of the transparent sheets, her arms flaming all around her. The work spans the years Amarasinghe took Obi as her 5th, 10th, and eventually final lover.

More often than not, Amarasinghe voyaged through the vast expanses of the cosmos alone, using the time and space to cultivate her interests. She later taught herself the art of marbling to transform her spherical books into paper planets. In them she wrote many of her translations of Lunarian text.

Make your own!

To create the monotypic covers, Amarasinghe would squeeze out a sphere of water approximately the size of the book. The liquid was sometimes enriched with carrageenan from the algae farm. Amarasinghe dropped inks into the solution, and allowed them to disperse naturally. She would lace the sheets of her books tightly before placing them inside the globe…and voila! A tiny planet is born…

In greater gravity you can use a tray of water, but your inks must be oil based. Drop your desired colours onto the surface. Make concentric circles with a pipette, or noise with a brush. Agitate the colours with anything you don’t mind getting dyed. We suggest a straw, a fan, or hair. You can make waves, comb shells, move mountains, or nourish flowers to blooming. Once satisfied with your design, press the paper on top. Dab clean. Air dry. Your unique works of art have endless applications: letters, drawer lining, endpapers, giftwrap, bookmarks…

FREE-D PRINTING

Print one souvenir at no charge here. Access the PREZZIES app and choose from one of the following:

WHO WE ARE

We are so pleased you followed the pawprints! Each one represents a lost pet who found their forever home at Museum Station. Next time, try to take the trail with mouse pawprints, and count them all, as they number all the mice who contributed, and sometimes sacrificed, their lives to science. Read on to learn more.

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The Museum of Thousandfold Worlds

Titanium, Kevlar, and carborundum
Museum Station, Terpsichorean Matrix, 101st Century  

This peerless raconteur is chronically punctual to the ball, and eternally present at it. She is the life of the party, as she dances in fractals with herself in countless mirrors so fleetly, her storied torque spins about her neck. What in the world is her name?

—Anonymous, Novelties for Time-Riddlers

We end where we began. The circular shape of our spacecraft generates gravity as it spins just like our thoughts, and many of the worlds we have visited today.

No different from any space in time, our museum is the site of arrivals and departures, as any modern establishment should aspire to be. We strive to facilitate reunion instead of separation. Our permanent collections comprise only unowned property. We too are unowned property, and always have been.

At first we were the Mouse Wheel, a settlement of scientists bound to nothing but the name of progress. The station provided an optimally sterile environment in its dozens of laboratories, quarantines, and sanatoriums. 549 different nations and NGOs joined together to mine the asteroids to construct the project.

The Mouse Wheel was defunded due to the unrests that shook Terra Nova during the Era of Errors. However, the laboratory animals and scientists still lived here, as did an increasing number of asylum seekers. The first items we acquired in our collections were launched from Terra Nova for conservation. The Mouse Wheel became known as the Dharmachakra to Meta-Buddhists and the Rota Fortunae to ex-mafia, among other names.

As political tensions subsided, we became the de facto Lost Articles of our star system. Stray pets, undeliverable mail, abandoned vessels, stowaways, runaways, thrownaways, lost luggage, and even unclaimed funds all found themselves here.

Eventually, our station ran out of room. As we prepared articles for transfer or disposal, we noticed that we were, in effect, organising collections. We had been doing so ever since our inauguration—and for some of us, much earlier than that. Plans were at last drawn up for a universal museum, which, over time, became the one you stand in today.

*

THE MUSEUM OF MUSEUMS

Please enjoy your stay at our heritage-listed Museum Station, whether it is for a few hours before shuttling off to Tunland; the day; or a night or two for its own sake. At our information desk you can find your bearings, and booklets like this one on all the local attractions. There’s one in particular the curator of our exhibit would like to point to, if you’d just spare us a moment…

Living museum

You
Here, now

What museumgoer has never been moved to tears by the beauties who have journeyed so far through time to meet us? I weep for the dispossession, mutilation, abduction, and humiliation they have endured merely to be here. I weep to receive the present of their presence. I weep with the pleasure of my mind filling and then stretching beyond fullness to fit the great breadth of their stories.

The Museum of Utopia, Galagedara Kirimalie Amarasinghe

With the rise of virtualised spaces, online-only collections, and identical forgeries, brick-and-mortar museums may be a dying breed, but flesh and blood athenaeums are alive and well. Nothing can replace the museum in your mind, and no one besides you can preserve its collections. Why not try?

Make your own!

Let’s build museums everywhere. You can start small; say, with an Imaginary Museum, which takes up almost no space at all, especially if it lives on the internet.

Alternatively, fill a mint tin with items of a certain theme. The Pocket Museum of Overwhelming Nostalgia might contain within a faux-delftware caddie lolly-wrappers of interest, such as those with tiny comics printed on them; a friendship bracelet; the eyelash of a lover; tickets from a holiday; worry dolls; a fortune that came true; and foldout labels stuck to the lid with pretty washi tape. Curate for an occasion, and it would make a thoughtful and inexpensive gift.

Many of these precious tins could then be displayed on a shelf: The Museum of Micromuseums. If it doesn’t come with columns, we can paint on some caryatids and frescoes ourselves.

In fact, what’s stopping us from plastering photos across whole rooms and titling them like the first sentence of a story? (You can finish it with the rest of the label.) We could revive cabinets of curiosities.

We could take them to the streets, building little street museums to neighbour the little street libraries.

Outer space is the limit.

Your invaluable life can enrich others far beyond your mortal years. Others can learn from your mistakes and your victories. Even after we discover the secrets of immortality, we will require archives to record and share the sheer scope of our existence.

What would you want to house in the museum of your life? Consider: Your favourite dress, which frames the wonder of your body, the body that will always catch you when you fall; a melody you have carried with you for years, despite not knowing its name; the blankets you have not thrown out, because they still smell of someone dear; the cookbook you write on your tongue as a palimpsest; and the art you are growing, growing, growing inside you. Perhaps you could even display this booklet. It would be the honour of any item to be the keepsake of a cherished memory, dyed with coffee and lipstick, tattooed in doodles and marginalia, dogeared, foxed, collected, remembered, recollected, a museum within a museum.

*

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Issue 22 (Fall 2020)

Story copyright © 2020 by Xue Xihe

Artwork copyright © 2020 by Kat Weaver

Xue Xihe is lucky enough to have published twice in Lackington’s and adopted Bobbin, an Aussie terrier cross who loved walks, long grass, digging holes, coming home from walks, and more than that, more than pats, more than even roast chicken, people. People loved him, too, and do still. Xihe invites readers to continue Bobbin’s legacy by letting someone dear to you know how you love them, with a message, gift, or snuggle. For honouring his memory, she thanks you.

Kat Weaver is an artist who sometimes writeand a writer who sometimes makes art. She has previously published written work in Luna Station Quarterly, Timeworn Literary Journal, Lackington’s, and elsewhere. In addition to previous issues of Lackington’s, her illustrations can be found in Metaphorosis, the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows anthology, and Crossed Genres: Hidden Youth. She lives in Minneapolis with her wife and their two birds.

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This entry was posted on June 7, 2021 by in Stories.
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