Wednesday, June 17, 2020


There's no day and night is space. Obviously. But nonetheless, since most of us are creatures born and raised in a place with some diurnal concept, you can run into places that feel like night, out there in space. Day is the default, but night, night is something particular.

Sometimes when your spaceship is off course, and you're lost in the heavens, you can find yourself in... the NIGHT ZONE.

Cosimo Galluzzi
How does the Night Zone come into existence? Maybe there are no suns here for some reason. Maybe they're captured in Dyson spheres of some ancient alien civilisation who barely ever visit, or who live in the dyson spheres oblivious of what they've created outside of them. Maybe the Zone is surrounded by a dark nebula that blocks all but the brightest starlight. Maybe it's just cursed by a space god. Maybe there is no discernible reason, and it's just an odd, sunless place, a fluke of the infinite variability of the cosmos.

The Night Zone is never densely populated by people. There's no traffic of spaceships, no cargo lines. It's quiet. It's like when you walk around at night, really, that's why it's called the damn NIGHT ZONE. Silence, and a sense of both tranquility and impending danger. Also bats. There's a lot of space bats in the night zone that live in the wrecks of space cruisers and fly away into the cosmos ominously when you pass by. The occasional ship, orange headlights on, sleeting through the dark. A car through the rain finding its way back to its haunted radio show.

There's no real planets in the night zone. Well, that is to say, there are, but they're all just eerie cold-coloured gas giants that judge you quietly. Big, round ghosts. Or they're small rocky ones, maybe orphan moons, inert and idly dirfting by. A lot of asteroids though. Rocky pieces on which pale space lichen grows. Derelict stations and cruisers. Ruins of buildings on the floating rocks. That one's a belfry. Who built a belfry in space?

Arthur Suydam
There are forms of life in the NIGHT ZONE. Space bats, big and small. Lichens growing on debris. Odd, dark and leafless trees. White pale growths. Space vamps, space bats. But where did this come from? There's next to no light and no geothermal activity to really speak of. This is kind of the mystery of the Night Zone.

Portlight Dock

Somewhere in the Night Zone there is a station for ships to dock at. It's the only place in the whole area that really has economic activity, and most of that is smuggling. The Night Zone is a very handy thing to smuggle through, if you're equipped for it. Portlight Dock is a fat and shadowy Art Nouveau metalwork thing, its slow-moving huff-and-puffing industrial belly hanging over the side of the rock it's sat on, its long docking pole fingers sticking out in front of it. It trades in a lot of things that are destroyed by direct sunlight: in the bones of stars, in dark art (which is like regular art, but a few layers deeper), in orphan moonlight, in false ice, and so on.

The owner of Portlight Dock is Nyx, the alleged goddess of the night. She allegedly smokes cigars made of stardust like a steam engine, to the point where she looks like a thick gloomy nebula with two shiny pale legs wearing red slippers sticking out. She has many daughters, the Keres, who are specters of black velvet. They enforce their mother's will in Portlight Dock as a secret police, led by the eldest daughter Nemesis. Making a lot of noise among the otherwise hushed proceedings of Portlight Dock will put you on their radar.

Portlight Dock is the place to be for smugglers and people who want to hide from the law, debtors, the press, or themselves. However, all of the latter tend to hire bounty hunters in increasingly likely order. That's also a significant portion of Portlight Dock. This is easily the most alive place in the NIGHT ZONE. This means that people hurriedly skitter from bar to trading den to opium house to bar, trying their best to be seen by nobody, let a lone recognised. The streets are haunted by chilly mist and shadows slink through the alleyways and corridors. You'll have to go through a few redirections, a red-lit moonlight-catcher bar, a stalkhouse (fungal greenhouse), a few hideouts and probably a shadowy chase to get a hold of anyone, especially once they know you're looking for them.

When navigating Portlight Dock, watch out for the artists. The venom can kill in minutes. And, for the love of lady night, don't take the Unfission pamphlets.

Angel's Egg, 1985
The Antihelites

A bizarre religion that is based in a monastery on the yellow-blueish moon of pale azure gas giant PHRIKE ZERO, floating around in the vast nothingness. They observe what they believe to be "Mega-Anti-Suns" as the explanatory factor for the absence of any stars in the NIGHT ZONE despite the fact that there do seem to be planets, which assumedly orbit around something. A Mega-Anti-Sun, according to them, is a sun that emits light, but also absorbs all the light that falls on it- allegedly why planets in the NIGHT ZONE are visible, but these suns are not. Whether there is any proof to these claims seems to concern them little, as they have no way off their moon and the monks do not seem interested in leaving to find out either.

The pope of the Antihelite mystery cult is called the High Obscurator, and all its features are concealed from the monks in accordance with the Mega-Anti-Suns. The Obscurator communicates to those who seek its audience though a whispering voice and by changing the intensity of the light in the otherwise empty room where the communion takes place. According to the monks, a skeptical traveler snuck into their monastery once to find the High Obscurator, by smashing the walls of the audience room, but found nothing. Then they bricked him in, and in the dark of the wall he saw the Obscurator. That's the end of the story. They'll smugly tell you they bricked a man into the wall, as if daring you to go looking for the Obscurator yourself.

In fact, the whole place seems to have a conspiratorial, taunting atmosphere. For recluses the monks are too willing to let you stay. The physics of their theology are too shaky. They're throwing their cult-ness in your face. It's like they want you to ask questions you shouldn't so they have an excuse to do...something.

In exchange for your accomodation, the Obscurator asks you to…
…re-paint the big anti-sundial on the face of the monastery’s tower.
While doing this you accidentally discover…
…what the Antihelites actually worship.
…retrieve a monk who has gotten lost in the stalkhouse.
…what the High Obscurator is.
 ...find the leak in the monastery's plumbing.
...why the monastery was built. the monks carve out a new cellar chamber. 
 ...who the man bricked into the wall is.
...move a bookcase of volumes to the new library. 
...why the monks don't want to leave. the machine that extracts drinking water from the subterranean ice.
...why the High Obscurator let you stay in the first place.