Chapters:

Prologue

Ages ago, before gunpowder, before industrialization, humanity existed in balance and harmony with the environment. It was on its way to becoming an annihilistic juggernaut, but had not yet mastered its own powers of mass destruction.

Metalworking had not yet been discovered. The tribes of humanity cast across the globe hunted with flint-tipped spears and rock knives. The bow and arrow was the height of technology.

People moved with the weather and with the animals they relied upon as sources of food. They worshiped many gods. They lived in tight-knit communities that knew nothing of the shame that later faiths would use to poison the population into docile complicity. Sex was a gift. Raising children fell to the entire tribe. Family was not merely the nucleus but the cell, an amalgam of cells, an entire organism.

Across the planet, on the plains, the deserts, the steppes and tundras ... one portal for every environment, and every walk of life, human or otherwise, opened.

Animals regarded the portals with suspicion. What was that strange land on the other side? What was the tear in the very fabric of reality? Why was the sky that strange color? Where are those three suns?

The humans, too, approached them with caution but also intense curiosity. They asked all the same questions as the other animals, but they could not resist finding answers.

The pale people in the coldest climates were the first to cross over, eager to leave their barren, rude and desolate homes for anywhere else. It was why they roamed and reaved so far afield on Earth. They lusted especially for the things others had, that they did not. They were the principal forebears of that aforesaid annihilistic juggernaut, after all.

The people on the African plains and the brown-skinned residents of what would one day be claimed by imperialists as Australia began their forays. They threw objects through the tear and watched its trajectory suddenly change, as if it became heavier on the other side of the tear, but it landed on the strange ground as surely as if it would have on their own soil. They waited for the rocks and sticks to disappear. They did not. They herded animals and reptiles through the gap. The iguanas were particularly bold and chickens less so (but they were dumb and compliant). The creatures became more sluggish on the other side. Like the rocks and sticks, it was as if the iguanas, chickens and other test subjects became heavier. They labored to move. The humans waited for the creatures to vanish. But, like the rocks that sat inert on the other side, so too did the chickens cluck and the lizards slither. One of the chickens bobbed its head back across the threshold, back onto the familiar land as if it all—here and beyond—were seamless but, back on Earth, it stepped higher and tottered, confused, as if full of helium and apt to float away.

After some time, certain bold humans took tentative steps over the threshold and yelped in surprise at the heavy sensation that came over them. To pick up their feat from the ground was an exhausting trial. After only a few minutes, they felt the oppressive pull of greater gravity but didn’t understand it as such. They retreated, slow and sluggish, from the strange purple-, red- and pink-hued perpetual twilight sky and the red, clay-like earth to the familiar side of the tear. They discovered themselves to be suddenly buoyant, back home. Light as feathers. Despite their fatigue, they could jump higher, throw farther … but their suddenly super-human strength wore off quickly and the exhausted, intrepid explorers slept, dreaming deep dreams of the strange world, its familiar-but-alien colors, its triplicate suns.