Author: Mike Davis
A slab of stone laid vertically on a southern continent. It was polished and carved not by the waves or wind, and towered into the clouds, allowing them to pass through the single, circular hole penetrating the otherwise perfect surface. It was a monolith. The existence of such a phenomenon was never questioned by the early life on its planet, for the timeless aberrance has always been there, just as the sand and the sea. Creatures roved by without second, or even first, thoughts. Acclimation to the monolith lasted until this life matured to be curious. It was then clear that the structure was unique. There were no right angles, or perfectly circular holes anywhere else but here. Regardless of what it was or where it was from, there was no denying its catalytic effects for the further maturation of life on its planet.
Time passed and a god was conceptualized as the monolith’s creator. Tribes organized and quarreled under it in the name of divine command, hoping for rewards of bigger yields and calmer weather. And when such fortunes did not occur, the clear answer was to blame thy neighbor’s sins. Shouts to the heavens rang out after each spill of blood, all in desperation for a pleased god. Even during easier times, it was hypercritical to sacrifice the lives of others in fear of an ambivalent future. These dismal affairs continued for thousands of years until tribes grew to kingdoms, and kingdoms grew to empires. Conflict was still present, but it became clear to the more sophisticated that it had no correlation to the elements, so diplomacy was usually favored. However, a zealous commitment to their god and its stony progeny was not abandoned; instead, it was redirected.
Distant lands beyond the wet horizons were discovered–and with it, sentient life that obeyed no god. The era of missionaries began. Sails carried word of the monolith to all corners of the planet. Most accepted these novel beliefs, and some even joined the divine voyage. Those that declined were either too primitive to make communicative contact, or too proud to concede to outsiders. A war of zealots was only inevitable.
Machines of metal rolled across foreign terrains. Ships with colossal guns scoured vast seas. Smog covered industrializing cities. Technology skyrocketed during these zealot wars, so much so that weapons were frequently used before fully understood, but this impatience was not without reason. From the starched-collar politicians sweating above world maps, to the foot soldiers marching into far lands, the monolith and what it stood for, either good or bad, was consecrated deep in the minds of all involved.
When the wars ended, the monolith and its followers still stood. Now with a conquered planet, the only next step was to venture into the cosmos. Much happened in the following hundred years. Technology of the time turned its wielders into self-perceived gods. A culture of worship was left behind and replaced with a culture of wanting to seek out and join the monolith’s creator as equals. Hints of the monolith’s creator were rumored to be scattered across the cosmos. The search did not end for thousands of years until one, disproportionally quick, moment. Rather than locating their cosmic idol, something terrible was discovered–located on their home planet all this time.
A mineral quarry revealed a layer of igneous silica spread across the grave of an ancient volcano. This stone was tough, but when it cracked, right angled slabs formed due to its molecular geometry. Trapped gas left behind holes and bubbles that created intricate patterns, and some frighteningly perfect circles.