The crying woman in the crystal throne is the fourth wonder of the universe. You absolutely must visit her at least once, even before you consider the andromeda galaxy, the temporal shift at the edge of space and time, or the super-massive blackhole down past my bio-uncle’s planet. They even say… if you listen closely, you can hear voices of the past inside her head. Leagues of scientists have studied the relic to uncover her mystery. They say anyone who can will learn the secret of the universe.
My mother took me to see her when I was only twelve Earth-years old, hardly able to compute the mass amounts of shared data firing in my brain from my shipwrecked scrap of a colony. At that point, I’d only downloaded a small portion of the collective, equating to an earthly IQ of 198. Let’s just say, mother hoped a spark of the crying woman was still alive to repair my slow-acting synapses.
We’d arrived during tourist season and the throne gleamed against the orange super-nova perpetually bursting in the sky, the deep citrus sweetness dripping off the crystals in cascades of lost energy.
“Do you think she’s still in there?” I asked, whirling to clutch at my mother’s skirts.
She plucked me off for the third time as if I were an Earth-tick and pinched my cheek. “Now be a good girl, and go offer a donation.” She wrinkled her nose and squinted. “Maybe you’ll win her favor and we can upgrade to the Domain’s ship.”
Bouncing on my toes, I held out my undersized palms and accepted the falling data chip mom had excavated from her purse.
Chip secure in my grasp, I waded through the sea of dumb and wide-eyed children. Tripping and tumbling, it become apparent I wasn’t going to get very far, so I shoved the chip in my pocket, zipped it closed, and launched through the crowd with both hands together like a spear. Weaving in and out, it was more fun to vibrate my lips like I was an astroid crash-ship while I sped straight to the crystal throne.
Coming to a halt at the crusty base surrounded by children offering their data chips, I contemplated the wide bursts of crystal that could almost be considered steps if they’d been a bit smoother and a bit longer. My gaze drifting up, finding an unmistakable path for someone just my size. I’d never heard of the crying woman granting a wish placed at her feet, so I latched onto a fiery jagged shard, finding it pleasantly cool, and lifted myself up.
I drew on the hushed gasps spreading behind me as if I were sucking on a foul-tasting nutrients tube, grasping each smooth handhold and climbing the vast distance to the top.
Heaving and wheezing, breaking Sunday’s rules and tapping into my implanted oxygen reserves, I got the final boost I needed and came face-to-face with the crying woman.
She was magnificent! A perfect statue with copper colored flesh glazed over like a frosted pastry I’d seen in the museums. I expected her to have closed eyes, but they were wide open and rolling around, looking at all the children below until she saw me.
My heart overrode the rhythmic pacemaker and managed to skip a beat. Her gaze is locked onto mine, and even though she was an ancient experiment gone wrong, she seemed almost sentient.
“Can you make me smarter?” I asked, holding up my measly data chip. Even if she wasn’t sentient, it didn’t hurt to try. “It’s not much,” I offered, thinking humility was a good approach to any foreign entity.
A hot light jolted from her fingers, running through the throne and nearly unclasping my grasp from the handholds.
I yelped and clung to her icy legs. They felt more like steel than flesh. “Are you trying to kill me?”
I readjusted my grip and climbed up to match her gaze. “How about this. You don’t have to make me smart, or any of that. I want to live forever. That’s got to be easier than rerouting all of the wires jammed in my brain.” If I found the secret of immortality, we’d get a lot farther than the Domain’s ship. Mom would be so proud!
Her wild eyes darted in all directions. It wasn’t going to scare me. I stared defiantly into her face. That’s when I noticed the detail in her lips. They weren’t like mine, but pronged and slotted in the center as if it were a terminal outlet on one of the old transport barges.
I did the only logical thing there was to do and inserted my data chip. My reward was a plethora of beeps.
Grinning, I leaned in even closer and waited for my boon. The throne hummed and grew louder in its electrical calculations. The cool crystals grew warm and steadily glowed with their own light.
“High-born Space Embassy here I come!” I squealed, barely able to keep my knees from bouncing me right off the throne.
Instead of the secrets of ever-lasting life being shoved into my augmented brain, a flash of agony shot through my grip and straight through to my skull.
Everything went dark. Then, I saw myself looking back at my own face, my eyes are rolling back into my head. The body fell, plummeting to the crowd below.
Tears spilled down my cheeks as I realized I’d joined a host of other ambitious fools. The voices of the past whispered words of wisdom. Now, I could understand them.
I’m the crying woman too. And after a hundred years, I now know the mystery of the universe:
No one is meant to live forever.