Black and white engraved illustration. A humanoid creature covered in scaled and with horns upon its head hunches over something, a trident held in its hand. A true monster of the deep.

The following piece of fiction was inspired by Coordinated Universal Time—a podcast of five episodes released between May and December 2019. It was an experimental concoction of sounds, music and speech. The blurb for the podcast read:

Coordinated Universal Time is a sonic collage of foxfire-side readings, thinking machines, disembodied conversations, music we found in this world or made in another. Deep time reverberations and field recordings from the front lines of a future held in common. An aural zine hand-pasted and neural-networked by solar golems from the 23rd century, still quickening in the coals of the present: a podcast for now.

The idea of solar golems stuck. It wouldn’t leave, hanging out in the frontal lobes until it had to be exorcised by pen and paper so it would stop rattling around in there at all hours. What follows is a rough fictional manual from the future.

The solar golem has been a dangerous part of the landscape for well over one hundred years—a remnant of the automated industrial revolution from the pre-NEUropean age.

Like the trolls of old, the solar golem is a solitary creature that roams the lands. Usually found above the treeline, or on heaths and other areas with little vegetation and outcroppings to block the sun.

The best time to hunt solar golems is around the winter solstice. Once you have located a solar golem, deploy a mechanical hare or tie bait to the back of a horse for drag hunting. It is recommended to have a team of at least three horses if you choose to drag hunt. This way there is less chance of exhaustion resulting in the death of the horse and rider, as you can relay the bait between the hunters.

Signs that the solar golem is running out of energy include: a slowed pace, dimming of the dorsal tarsus, audible whirring as the internal flywheels spin down, an inability to pick up boulders, trees or other objects used as missiles, and reduced trajectory and speed of thrown missiles.

Once the golem halts, do not approach. Wait until an hour before sunrise for a guaranteed depletion of energy stores. If you do not have an hour before sunrise you may choose to spray covering foam at the golem and return the following night.

Once you are certain the golem is flat, erect a geodesic dome tent around the golem. Ensure that the faraday shielding is intact, otherwise the golem may send a distress signal should it become aware of your proximity to it. Do not get tempted to use the golem to lure other autonomata close. There is no surviving evidence of this tactic ever working against more advanced autonamata. If you register a repeating signal even after the tent is up, retreat.

WARNING! Do not attempt to dissassemble or otherwise damage the solar golem. The internal workings of the golem is well shielded for a reason and any kind of breach resulting in a leak will lead to a slow and agonizing death.

Once the tent is in place, mark its possition on the community map and start recording. Make sure to photograph: the dorsal tarsus (use a reference for lenght), all sides (a 360 degree scan is preferable), any visible printed markings or serial numbers, a macroscopic of the solar cellular epidermus.

WARNING! Do not use flash photography. The only light that is known to not cause a charging effect in a golem is infrared light. Therefore nightvision enabled cameras and head rigs are recommended while working inside the tent. Do not open both doors of the entryway lightlock at the same time.

After logging all photos and notes, set the foam charges inside the tent and retreat to a safe distance before setting them off. While peeling away the tent, make sure to spray any exposed parts of the golem with additional foam. It is better to use extra foam than to return to find the sarcophagus shattered. Lastly, spray the sarcophagus in a high visibility color and print out a sign noting the date, the golem UID (as per the community map) and the hunters that entombed it.

Exactly 571 days after the entombment it is safe to crack the top off. The remnant slurry left behind by the decomposition can be harvested and processed through a reclamation refinery for minerals and chemicals usable in modern manufacturing.

Now that this vision is successfully pinned to the page, I’m just going to go see what will take it’s place in my head meat.

Until next time.

// Cornelius K.


Title image from The red fairy book (1890) via Old Book Illustrations.