Soul Catcher

To the Ksthi, it was the soul catcher, a place to be avoided, but Royce Mummar Na'ir no longer cared. He had transited eight gates to get there, spent all his stolen money, and almost run out of life.

Na'ir had first heard of it a year ago. from a Ksthi Holy Woman, her voice an affable background drone as he picked phrases from the ancient speech. ".. it is said to catch the souls of the dead, that it is God's doorway to heaven."

Finding it was ridiculously easy after that. All it took was a gate number and some orbital parameters - a dozen numbers to reclaim his dead wife. He no longer cared that he was obsessive, even paranoid. All that mattered was to see her again, to hold her, to say he was sorry for missing the shuttle, sorry that she had died alone as the ship's death gave a false dawn to St. Petersburg a lifetime ago.

He stole a small ship, stole money and flew. He forgot to wash, forgot to sleep and rarely ate. His life centered on a perfect rectangular facet cut into a nameless asteroid millions of years ago. He stopped, floating on the edge of an unmarked boundary a kilometer or so above the smooth rock, looking into an impossible fractal pattern. Gold and silver, rose and a hundred shades of blue. You could see anything here if you needed it enough.

There! On the edge of the whorl. No, not there, but further over, beside a storm of green and violet. It was her hair. Her eyes, there ! His heart raced as her face took shape, eyes forgiving him, offering absolution. He moved the ship closer, ignoring the warning from the beacons placed to protect the curious.

From the corners of the facet came bursts of light, impossibly bright and impossibly short. Na'ir and his ship died as metal, ceramic and flesh flashed into gas and dust.

Down on the surface of the rock, the pattern looked subtly, microscopically different. There, beside a spray of green, a patch of blue folded and merged in, the green moving slightly to accomodate it.

And the doorway waited, like an elevator not yet full ..