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Matthew Lee Knowles

June 2019
All sentences containing the five letters LIGHT,
extracted from M. John Harrison’s novel LIGHT.
This includes words like:
DELIGHT, SLIGHTLY, SUNLIGHT etc.
The following 274 sentences contain
284 instances of LIGHT.
Wintry rain dashed at the windows of the private dining room and ran down them in the orange
streetlight. In the street outside - shrugging, wiping one hand quickly and repeatedly across his
mouth - he thought he saw a movement, a shadow on the wall, the suggestion of a movement in
the orange streetlight. In the mix, he thought he saw dozens of small motes of light. Up there, a
thousand lights out of the galactic Core, the Kefahuchi Tract streams across half the sky, trailing
its vast invisible plumes of dark matter. Some hours ago she had lured a little convoy - three
dynaflow freighters, civilian ships carrying 'archeological' artifacts out of a mining belt twenty
lights along the Beach, hurried along anxiously by a fast armed yawl called La Vie Fuerique - into
this benighted spot and left them there while she went and did something else. Tiny actinic
spangles of light showed where these had begun to encounter the minefields she had sown into
the gravitational subcurrents of the cluster days before the freighters arrived. They gathered by
the portholes, arranging the light that fell around them so that they could make the most tragic
picture, looking at themselves in mirrors, whispering and running thin fingers across their mouths
or through their hair, rustling their dry wings. We have several missions available forty lights
down the Beach. The light was obscured in Sullivan's doorway. Sunlight glittered on a receding
tide. Back in Soho Square, the woman hadn't moved, but sat blinking into the weak sunlight,
occasionally calling out to passers-by, but reserving most of her attention for two or three
pigeons hobbling about in front of her. You saw light in their eyes, but it was the ignis fatuus.
There, ill at ease but worn out by what he thought of as the emotional demands of Brian Tate,
Anna Kearney and the woman in Soho Square, he turned on all the lights and fell asleep in an
armchair. Every afternoon, the pale, scarcely teenaged girls his cousins had become would squat
in the warm sun-speckled gloom - their grubby feet slightly apart, their scratched knees and
bundled-up skirts close to their chests - rubbing quickly and deftly at the stretched white fabric
between their legs, while Michael Kearney watched them from the trees, aching inside his thick
underpants and grey school shorts. One or two puzzling artifacts lay quarantined in its deserts,
which had themselves not been deserts until the escape forty years before of a two-million-year-
old gene-patching programme someone had picked up on a derelict less than two lights along the
Beach. The lights had gone on in those ridiculous glass towers which spring up wherever the
human male does business. The streets of the port below were filled with a warm pleasant smoky
twilight, through which all intelligent life in Carmody was drifting, along Moneytown and the
Corniche, towards the steam of the noodle bars on Free Key Avenue. The code parlours, the
tattoo parlours - all run by one-eyed poets sixty years old, loaded on Carmody Rose bourbon - the
storefront tailor operations and chop joints, their tiny show windows stuffed with animated
designs like postage stamps or campaign badges from imaginary wars or bags of innocent-
coloured candy, were already crowded with customers; while from the corporate enclaves
terraced above the Corniche, men and women in designer clothes sauntered confidently towards
the harbour restaurants, lifting their heads in anticipation of Earth cuisine, harbour lights on the
wine-dark sea, then a late-night trip to Moneytown-wealth creators, prosperity makers, a little
too good for it all by their own account, yet mysteriously energised by everything cheap and
tasteless. A belly as hard as a wax pear, he claimed to have discovered the origins of life, coded in
fossil proteins on a system in Radio Bay less than twenty lights from the edge of the Tract itself.
Something was broken up there, the lights were oil, someone had melted down. The lights were
off. It was empty up there, with a drench of streetlight across the disordered bed and a faint
smell of Elizabeth's clothes which had remained to haunt him after she left. He went back down
again and switched on the lights. He switched the lights off, and waited with a satisfied air for the
apartment to fill with streetlight instead. On to the empty white wall above the sofa, in a bright
parallelogram of sodium light, something outside was projecting the shadow of an enormous
beaked head. I go down to the Core, it's five hundred light years of money. Carmody appeared
like a sticky, abbreviated smear of light the colour or extent of which you couldn't be sure, on its
island in the curve of the southern ocean. She dawdled her fetch along its magically lighted
streets. Downtown was black and gold towers, designer goods in the deserted pastel malls, mute
fluorescent light skidding off the precise curves of matt plastic surfaces, the foams of lace and
oyster satin. Down by the ocean, transformation dub, saltwater dub, pulsed from the bars, the
soundtrack of a human life, with songs like 'Dark Night, Bright light' and others. Suddenly it was
dawn, and in a corner of the sea wall, where a water-stair went down to what was now new-
washed empty sand, grey in the thin light of squeals of rage. The flight of a bird, the height of a
wave, the colour of the sunlight. As soon as she was gone, two of the shadow boys turned on the
third and cut his throat for cheating, then, overcome by the pure existential moment, cradled his
head in the warm golden light as he smiled softly up at nothing, bubbling his Those beautiful boys
in the sunlight. For the first time in a year, the lights were on in the human quarters of the ship.
They hung in corners, whispering and clasping their hands in a kind of bony delight. The oldest
was maybe eight, with lightning flashes etched into the short hair above her ears and a Nagasaki
Hi-Lite Autoloader clutched in both hands. All the colours went out of his world, and all the
beautiful simple ironies along with them, and then the world itself was folded away until through
it, try as he might, he could see nothing but the cheesy fluorescent lights of Tig Vesicle's tank
farm. After a moment explosions and flashes of light lit up the windows of the tank farm. Tim,
whoever he was, sat propped up against the wall at the head end of the bed, his face three-
quarter profile in the yellow glow of two or three nightlight candles. He was in his mid-thirties,
with good skin and a build light but athletic, features which would help give him a boyish
appearance well into his forties. He folded the paper up and stared at a trickle of Asians making
their way across the departure lounge for a flight to LAX. People were hurrying to make flights,
make phone calls, make headway. Cards spilled across the old chenille tablecloth, fluorescing in
the late afternoon light, each one a window on the great, shabby life of symbols. I was thinking
that sunlight will transform anything. They had had to wait four hours for a flight. It was a
common sight, but Anna, delighted, clutched Kearney's arm. Her smile was delighted and ironic
at once - the smile of a lively student, rather surprised to find herself a mother. And there,
behind the three of them, with his hand on her shoulder and his face slightly out of focus, stood a
man. He had eyes a penetrating light blue, and a black pencil moustache. The hair of the women
was brush-cut and lightly moussed to have a semiotic of assertion. An irradiated-looking grey
space, near the centre of which you could see, knotted together, some worms of spectral yellow
light, constantly shifting, pulsing, bifurcating and changing colour. Seria Mau found herself staring
into a lighted shop window. From there they could see the whole sweep of the city, falling away,
clotted with light at major intersections, to the docks. Plunging downhill into the maze of light
and dark, they were soon nowhere again, wandering aimlessly round corners into the sudden
teeth of the wind until they found themselves back on Yulgrave - the black, echoing, completely
deserted perspective of which stretched away between warehouses and goods yards, apparently
forever. Do you have light? She burned away quite slowly, like a firework consuming itself to
make light. Night and day they crouched in the service bays with arc-light slicking down their dark
grey flanks. They switched on, stood back, stared at one another in delighted surmise. Inside, it
was always lighted, but only by the hologram channels, or with lamps designed for New Men
eyes: so that what actually reigned was a kind of grey-blue twilight, like the light of some antique
monitor. They looked up for a second from masturbating, eyes as empty and reflective as the
eyes of animals in the odd grey light. The traffic was aggressive, the expressways dark and dirty,
knotted up into intersection after intersection like Kearney's nerves, and after less than an hour
Anna had to take over because though Kearney wouldn't stop, he couldn't see any more through
his headache or the glare of oncoming lights. The last thing he saw was an Interstate sign four
hundred yards ahead, shifting and luminous in the lights of passing trucks. Then it was daylight,
and they were in Massachusetts. At night, they could see the lights of Provincetown across the
bay. The rest of the day, while seabirds flickered over the shallows or hung like kites above the
beach, she ran, sat, rolled, posed looking out to sea, against the white sand in the coastal clarity
of light. He turned off the lights and for a while ran idly through the stuff he had taken on the
beach. A film of rosy gas with a pinch of brighter light at its centre. Three hours later they were
on a standby flight, climbing above the Newfoundland coast, which at that point looked like a
skin of mould on the sea. Up they went through a layer of cloud, then broke into glaring sunlight.
Late afternoon, as the light went out of the room, he laid it on the arm of his chair, from which it
fluoresced up at him, more an event than a picture. It would enact those dreams of childhood,
when everything had been filled with promise, and predestination, and light. Light will transform
anything. Half a light in the last thirty nanoseconds. Half a light? A quarter of a light, said the
mathematics. The White Cat flickered back into existence ten light years from anywhere. His eyes
were a brown so light it verged on orange. He knew he shouldn't feel safe in the warren, where
only plankton like himself collected, just beneath the surface in the dim blue light. It was sudden
analepsis - images, people, places, events, caught by an unsteady camera, lit with bad light. The
instant she was safe you could hear the cheers a light year off. Turn the lights up, she said. They
blundered over outstretched limbs in the bluish light. Her eyes, lively and slightly unfocused with
excitement, glittered into his. Shortly after that, the light got greyer and less blue. Straint, a
perspective made of walls and streetlights, stretched off into the distance like a canyon full of
confetti. The remains of Evie's head flopped backwards like a bit of wet rag in the streetlight.
There wasn't much natural light. It was 9 a.m. and the table was carefully set with place mats and
lighted candles. He spent much of each night staring at the wash of streetlight on the ceiling of
the room, listening to the traffic murmur to and fro across Chiswick Bridge. The male hurried up
to him and fawned about at his feet, but the female only sat where she was, the light making a
transparent corona out of her white fur, and waited for him to come to her. There was a flash of
arctic-blue light. A million coloured lights, boiling and sweeping about like a shoal of startled fish.
He was in flight. After an hour or two, a boy sauntered past outside in the twilight. Though he
was slightly built, his shoulders, hips and thighs had a rounded, fleshy look, and on his face was
the self-satisfied and yet somehow wincing expression of someone acting out a fantasy in public.
Candlelight flickered on the walls of Anna Kearney's apartment, where she turned in her sleep,
throwing out her arms and murmuring to herself. She didn't wake, but murmured, and moved
her legs slightly apart. Now she is seen lying back on her elbows in front of an empty fireplace,
wearing light-coloured trousers and a soft wool jumper. Her legs are raised at the knees and
slightly parted. The room was lively with light, the sound of people, traffic. His engagement with
the Shrander - his flight, if it could be described like that - was as private as Kearney's, as private
as madness. Sprake, who had worked himself up into a fever in the lift, now stood with his face
pressed up against the glass wall of the building, staring down at two or three lumps of packing
material the size of refrigerators, floating along the canal in the gathering twilight. Lightweight
separators in pastel colours were used to create privacy inside MVC - Kaplan's otherwise
featureless tent of bolted glass. Bare grey dusty floorboards, net curtains, cold grey light. She got
to her feet and waited for the door to open, staring at the darkening platform, the lighted ticket
office beyond. He couldn't eat, and the slightest rise in temperature made him sweat. Kearney
turned the lights out and sat down on Tate's credenza. It was a quiet spill of light, emerging like
fluid from one of the ruptured displays and licking out across the floor towards the dark. Light
continued to pour out of the broken screen, a million points of light which shoaled round his feet
in a cold fractal dance, scaling into the shape he most feared. Between the planets, under the
sleets of raging light, rogue moons wove their way, in fantastically complex orbits. An
unpredictable ocean of radiant energy, of deep light. His age was uncertain, his skin darkened by
the light of a thousand suns. A flickering light went across the control room walls, which had
original hieroglyphs on them similar to ancient Earth civilisations. When I woke up we were a
thousand lights from anywhere, looking down at the halo. It presented as faint grey fingers
knotting and unknotting against spectral light. At this there came a light but peremptory tap on
the inside of the glass. Against a background of ruched oyster satin stood a piece of stiff white
card, on which was reproduced the crude and lively drawing of a man in black top hat and tails,
caught preparing to light an oval Turkish cigarette. He would tip back his hat with the end of his
ebony cane and fade slowly into nothing while the Kefahuchi Tract slithered across the ruched
satin void behind him like a cheap Victorian necklace and the streetlight flashed - ting! - off one
of his white, even, incisor teeth. There was a prickle of white light in the upper atmosphere of
Redline as mid-range ordnance, despatched into the dynaflow before the raid began, popped out
to engage Billy Anker's nominal complement of minefields and satellites. A rocket with a ten-year
hangover, entering Seria Mau's sensorium as a pained, lazy worm of light. A fusion torch fired up
at the rear, setting nearby vegetation alight and generating gouts of radioactive steam. Its
engines went up in a sigh of gamma and visible light. It was pitch black out there, lit with oddly
angled flashes of white light from the docks. Detecting his approach, advertisements crawled
across the sides of its hood, coalesced as soft lights in the air above it. In the light of the next flare
from the rocket yards, he discovered the rickshaw girl. But then her whole head blurred, and
seemed to break up into lights. The lights seemed to flutter up into the softly glowing region
where the rickshaw ads blossomed out of the air. Then lights and ads together poured back down
into her face, which received them like a dry sponge soaking up tears. Every so often she shook
her head, and an aerosol of sweat sprayed up into the cab's soft corona of advertising light. She
drew his attention to a distant cluster of lights, then, when he seemed unimpressed, gave him an
anxious look. See those lights? It was the flight into the grotesque. These gemlike tableaux -
acted out behind glass under powerful lights by the clones of fat men about to have heart attacks
on a Zurich metro platform, anorexic women dressed in the Angelino sport-fuck wear of 1982 -
brought to life the whole bizarre comfortingness of Old Earth. Like fairy godmothers they had
blessed the Circus at its inception, funded its early whirlwind travels across the halo, and now
supported its declining years in the twilight zone of New Venusport. Ed ate the samosas, looking
comfortably around the little room, with the marine light falling into it and the sea air filling it.
Maritime light was spraying up off the naked concrete, maritime light and heat to daze and
irritate the unwary. The light was harsh and violet. Ed stuck his head round the open door, out of
the frying light and into the cool gloom inside, where he found three skinny old men in white
caps and bronze polyester pleat-front trousers too big for them, throwing dice onto a blanket on
the floor. Skin coffeed by sunlight. Some said it originated on the ancient trundling sublight ships
of the Icenia Credit. Symbols fluoresced briefly - interference patterns, ancient holographies blue,
green and red - as they passed through a slanting bar of light. Every day he picked someone new
to represent her, some figure seen at a distance, sexually ambiguous, half-visible in the violent
uplight from the concrete. Annie was delighted. The huge bronze pressure tanks or mortsafes
floating three or four feet off the ground with a kind of oily resilience - so that if you touched one
of them, however lightly, you could feel it respond in a simple, massively Newtonian fashion -
filled him with a kind of anxiety. He was afraid of the way they followed their keepers across the
site in the distance in the deceptive sea-light at noon. The old men never switched on the light in
their empty bar. The neon glow of the Tract, seeping in through the open door, was light enough
for them. Tiny lights began to pour into the room from somewhere behind Ed. The lights were
like foam and diamonds. He looked sideways in the light leaking through the open door.
Kefahuchi light, which made Sandra Shen harder, not easier, to see. An empty bar full of dust and
Tract-light. Sweat pours off him in the shitty light, his feet kick and rattle against the floorboards,
and - under the impression that he is screaming - he produces a faint, very high-pitched whining
noise. The oriental woman lights an unfiltered cigarette, watching him intently. Though the skin
seemed smoother than usual and slightly sore, as if he had used cheap exfoliant before a night
out. He craned his neck to look, but all he could see was a piece of grey net curtain and the
reflection of the streetlight on the dirty glass. It was smeared with streetlight, lower than you
would expect to see a face, as if quite a young child had been sent to answer his knock. Low
wattage bulbs on timers allowed you twenty seconds of light before they plunged the stairs back
into darkness. Near the top of the stairwell a skylight let in the angry orange glare of the London
night. Valentine Sprake lay under a wash of fluorescent light, inside a chalk circle drawn on the
bare floorboards of one of the upper rooms. She switched the light on suddenly. Meanwhile she
spent her time with the ship's mathematics, trying to understand what was going on behind
them, where, several lights adrift, the Krishna Moire pod wove itself chaotically round the curious
hybrid signature of the Nastic ship, to make a single, watery, undependable trace in the display. It
was the tiniest of stations, with wrought iron posts and tubs of Earth flowers, washed bright as a
new pin by the little showers of rain falling through the sunlight. As soon as she woke up she
switched on all the lights in the human quarters. He raised the lid of the box cautiously (a bell
chimed, a soft spotlight seemed to shine down from above) and eyed the upwelling and slow
purposive spill of white foam. It was thinly represented compared to some, scattered across fifty
cubic lights and half a dozen planets, with outstations huddled so close to the Tract it soon
became known as the Kefahuchi Culture or K-culture. Under the dim fluorescent lights the
shadow operators whispered to one another, turning their faces to the wall. That weird twist of
light just hangs like a crack in nowhere. His greeny-grey eyes, harder to bear than usual, were
lighted from inside by his joke, his hidden narrative, his fierce construction of himself. Light. Deep
light. Fountains, cascades, falling curtains of light. I could feel the code, humming in the fabric, I
could hear the light pour over me. We just hung there in the wash of light. Harsh violet light fell
between the slatted louvres and sliced Sandra Shen's emerald green cheongsam into the uneasy
colouration of some jungle predator. Lights which shivered and writhed away from him in shoals.
A voice saying delightedly but far off. They built a cramped little stage for him, between 'Brian
Tate and Michael Kearney Looking Into a Monitor in 1999' and 'Toyota Previa with Clapham
Schoolchildren, 2002', lighting it with racks of antique coloured spots and some careful
holographic effects designed to maintain the theme. Also a microphone as old as the lights. He
sat on the wooden chair in his tuxedo in the coloured spotlight and stared out at them. He had
got out of the chair, she told him, to stand facing the audience for maybe a minute in the shifting
light, during which time he trembled and slowly pissed himself. She gave him a flushed, obstinate
look, then pushed her way through the ticket barrier and down to the eastbound platform where
- the light of a malfunctioning fluorescent flickering harshly across the upper half of her face - she
challenged him. He set his teeth, got off the train two stops early and walked as fast as he could
for a mile or so, into the light and activity of West Croydon and out into the suburban streets the
other side. The cat ignored her, leapt lightly up on to the hardware, and from there on to Tate's
shoulder. It looked thinner than ever, its head more than ever like the blade of an axe, ears
transparent, fur a corona of light. Fluorescent light fell mercilessly across Tate's face, stubbled,
exhausted, old-looking, and with an abraded appearance about the eyes, as if he had been
working without spectacles, or crying all night. As Kearney watched, it turned its thin, savage
little head towards him, and its tears poured out into the room like points of light. It wasn't much
of a place, but it was as far away as they could get from the cold endless suburbs and those
streets of decent, bulky stockbroker homes with one lighted room visible between laurels and
rhododendrons. He found the pocket drive he had taken from Tate, weighed it in his hand for a
moment then put it on the table between them, where it lay gleaming softly in the coloured light,
a nicely designed object not much bigger than a pack of cigarettes. He left the bar and took a cab
to Heathrow, where he booked himself on the first available flight to New York. Their own myths,
in which the Ur-swarm travelled without ships at all, beating its wings down some lighted
fracture in the continuum, alternately warmed and fried by radiation, could be discounted. She
wanted to feel the weight of his gaze, she realised, in a room full of light, on a summer afternoon.
The lighting mimicked afternoon leaking through half-closed blinds somewhere in the temperate
zones of Earth. His forearms were long and brown, corded in the yellow light. She brought up the
lights until they had the glare of hospital fluorescents. He looked like a plucked chicken in that
light. A splatter of particles organised itself in a millisecond or two from a fireworks display into
the ugly lines of a K-ship - the White Cat, her torch already alight, heading in - system at a shallow
angle to the ecliptic on a brutally straight line of fusion product. It did something strange and
absorbent to the light. As soon as this word was out, the dream faded to nothing, like lights going
down. Mona was gone all the way to diaphragm, blue-black dusty feathers which seemed to shift
and grow and do something odd to the light. All she did was shrug lightly. The bar at the Dunes
Motel lay in its baking afternoon darkness, split by a single ray of whitesunlight. Curious bluish
jolts of light were emitted undependably from its cathodes. It was like this the night he met her,
bad light flickering across waste lots. Ed was stuck there in the glare of the old theatre lights, the
cold white glare of Bella Cray's smile. Mercury vapour light made everything look half real.
Annie's delight never knew any bounds. Michael and Anna Kearney, with their English accents,
careful clothes and slightly puzzled air, drove north from New York City again. By its light the
Tarot, generator of epiphanies, looked like a trap. He was twenty years old, and the clean yellow
front of an Intercity train, rushing towards the platform in the sunlight, no longer filled him with
excitement. Most nights he turned it over for a minute or two in his hands in the cold blue light
of the TV screen, then put it away again. Anna, almost as white, lay half on her side in the
firelight. The same light struck through into a third floor room, where, in the heat under the roof,
it was always late afternoon and there was always a deep, inturned breathing sound, like the
breath of someone who has lost all consciousness of themselves. At the time of the collision,
Uncle Zip's vehicle of choice - the K-ship El Rayo X, on loan, along with the Krishna Moire pod,
from undisclosed contacts in the bureaucracy of EMC - had already torched up to around twenty-
five per cent the speed of light. Meanwhile, said Uncle Zip, I find that by his own lights the guy is
in fact already dead, though his ship-math maintains him as some sort of fetch. Under its shifting
blue and grey internal light, the White Cat felt empty and haunted at the same time. Something
like lightning flared across the face of the gas giant, as it began to torch itself up. Better light out,
she advised her mathematics. He had laughter in his eyes - they were a penetrating light blue -
and a black pencil moustache, and his jet-black hair was brilliantined close to his head. A few dim
points of light. The oily preflight roll of the dynaflow drivers came up to him from somewhere
below and the hair rose on the back of his neck for the millionth time because he was alive in this
place and this time, and leaving it all only to find something else out there. They shimmered with
navigational fields, defensive fields, fields for target acquisition and ordnance control, fields
which shed everything from soft X-rays to hard light, Local space miraged and twisted around
them. Its blade flickered in the TV light, uncertain and grey, which filled the room. Silent sparks of
light began to pour out of it into the room, bouncing and foaming across the bare boards to the
fireside, where they encountered Anna Kearney, biting her lower lip and moving her head back
and forth in a dreamy, inturned manner. Fractal light poured from the TV screen like the fanned-
out tail of a peacock. Deco uplighters introduced to the room a gradual pearly illumination,
wavering yet triumphant. White light spilled out to meet her, and Seria Mau Genlicher carried
the package up into navigational space, where she intended to do what she should have done all
along, and introduce it to the ship's mathematics. Two hours later and a thousand kilometres
away, shrouded in blue light from the signature displays in the It was like a magnetic field,
sketched slightly out from the ship's hull. He got them free and facing the right direction just in
time to see the White Cat accelerate from a standstill to ninety-eight per cent the speed of light
in less than fourteen seconds. Go close enough and this mad light enabled you to see clusters of
barely pressurised vessels like leaky bathtubs, each hosting a failing hydroponic farm and two or
three earthmen with lost eyes, bad stubble, radiation ulcers. A fragile vulva of light into which the
White Cat could be seen propelling herself like a tiny sliver of ice, those curious annular
shockwaves still slipping regularly back along her brilliant raw trail of fusion product. Instead, the
day the circus left New Venusport they took off too, each firing some weird engine of its own -
something that produced a mist of blue light, or curious slick pulses of energy that presented as a
sound, a smell, a taste in the mouth - and giving new meaning to the words 'containment vessel'.
He stared up at the screens. light poured out of them. Then he caught sight of a twist of frail light
on the inner edge of the accretion disc. Tricked thus into looking down, saw instead a spill of light
emerging like bright foam from Sandra Shen's fishtank and licking out towards him. Light
continued to pour out of the fishtank, a million points of light which shoaled round Ed's feet in a
cold fractal dance, scaling into a shape he almost recognised. Between each version of herself,
Sandra Shen filled up the control room with sparkling motes of light, like one of her own
tableaux, 'Detergent Foam in a Plastic Bowl, 1958'. A filmy twist of light, a faint vertical smile
seven hundred kilometres high, hung above them. The lunch tray slipped out of her hands in the
wet light from the window. At the end of which, deep light would explode in upon him, in ways
none of us can imagine. Dazzled briefly by the sunlight dancing in the raindrops on its bonnet, he
seemed to lose sight of her. As the rain cleared and the afternoon light shifted west, the
brickwork took on a warm orange colour, and the garden wall seemed to recede a little, as if the
street had widened. Light poured round her thickened, monolithic silhouette, transfiguring the
bare floor of the room, then spilled out on to the landing at Kearney's feet, illuminating the rolls
of dust beneath the cream-painted skirting board. When he did, everything lurched and there
was nothing but blackness and a sense of enormous speed, a few dim points of light. After some
time a few dim points of light appeared. The light roared in on him unconfined. It was light
unburdened, light like a substance: real light. He felt the most extraordinary sense of surprise and
wonder and delight. Then, staring up at the collapsing, constantly replaced towers of light, he
changed his mind and began to wonder what he could offer in return. He saw the raging glory of
the light. An actinic white light - sourceless yet directional - sprayed round the edges of every
moving body. Everything - box, giftwrap, and all - (dissolved into pixels, streamers, dark lights like
non-baryonic matter, and blew past Seria Mau's upturned face at near-relativistic speeds).
Outside, a single blue riding light, normally used only in the parking orbit, winked, redundant and
steady into nowhere. The wormhole exit, a filmy twist of whitish light, fell behind. It's light years
of blue and rose fire, roaring up out of nowhere, toppling away again in real, human time. She
was in the tiny shipboard surveillance cameras which fell like dust through every ray of light.
Terror fell across her like the light from the Kefahuchi Tract. No need for extra light! She felt the
light catch her wings. They flocked to her whispering delightedly and clasping their bony work-
worn hands. Her wings lost their look of feathers, and the Kefahuchi-light ran along them from tip
to tip like wild fire. The ship manoeuvred for a second or two, the aliens in their mortsafes visible
briefly in intermittent bursts of torchlight. At his shoulder - odd and uncertain - looking in that
raging, intransigent light, yet somehow less threatening than it first appeared - stood the entity
sometimes known as 'Sandra Shen', sometimes 'Dr Haends', but most often down the years, and
to most of its brief associates, 'the Shrander'. Do you know, the Shrander said, with an air of
delight, I'm not, either! Then, after a moment, gathered up her resources and gestured in a way
that took in the low ruins, the inexplicable artifacts in the dust, the K-ship squatting there like an
evil demon of engineering, its systems cooking with radiation, its armaments extruding
senselessly as it detected possibly threatening events a hundred lights up and down the Beach.
No, Ed, I'd have been delighted just to bring you here, but it wouldn't have been cost-effective
just for that. He pulled off a strip of light-bleached rag that had adhered to its ribcage, let it fall,
watched the slow gravity take it down. I watched him fire up from nothing, Ed, then go out
suddenly, just like a light. He took the dice and turned them so they caught the light from the
Kefahuchi Tract. The familiar images flickered and yearned, as if they wanted to jump off the
faces of the dice and cook in the light. A little later, paraplegic, catheterised and stuffed to the
limits of his nervous system with brand new drugs, Ed Chianese, twink, felt the Einstein Cross
light up his brain, and took control of his K-ship. The mathematics was delighted to do that. She
leapt forward on a line of bright white light and shortly made a hole in nowhere.