The Colimpha

The chain begins to fall. It vanishes at once below the surface. With nothing to hold them in place, the lowest few links rattle on the glass and then slide down to the ocean floor. Each link falls further than the last, with those at the top plunging from scattered sunlight, through light blue into a deeper blue and into a deeper blue still and then into black.

Alexander stares up as each link of the chain falls into his little patch of lamplight. And then it stops. And everything stops. And there is just the Ocean. In every direction the unbroken Ocean.

The lamp shows up a circle of the seabed where the bubble rests. It is cracked and convoluted. Currents sometimes stir up billows of sand, and then they settle back on the floor and swirl down hollows and ravines.

A light appears somewhere in the sea. It illuminates bulging eyes and an array of long and terrible teeth. The light disappears into the distance again.

Alexander runs his hands along the walls of his new empire, cutting through patches of condensation until the tip of his finger becomes numb. On one side, he touches the ancient Nile, slicing green through the sands of Egypt, guarded by stern sandstone Kings. On another the deep green Hyrcanian Forests, intermingled with mist from the Caspian sea. He moves across the high plains of Persia to the wide Oxus of Margiana, then to the mountains of Gandhara, higher than even eagles and snow-leopards can survive, higher than the air itself. And then down the Indus river rushing from the mountains and spreading out across the plains, facing onto India.

The frontier of India where the world-conqueror, who dared to call himself two-horned Ammon-Ra, was lifted on the wings of griffins to view the entire World, and then turned back like a coward or a mortal man.

A shape, huge and vague and sweeping, briefly catches on the edge of the water-scattered light-sphere, and then is gone once more, dispatching ripples that make the lamp swing and flicker.

Some patches of the glass bulb glint shifting gold, the lamplight bounced back from the blackness. Alexander watches, and then as the light flashes away, he glimpses the face of the world-conqueror, the pale face that once stared down Darius the King of Kings. Strawberry-blonde curls surround soft, lilywhite cheeks. Tears start to form in his lapis lazuli eyes, and the unconquered Ocean extends forever.

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