They lay on their backs in the hollow fist of the oak grove and looked up at the golden points of light in the exosphere. Old Jon said they were satellites—each with three or four radars like insectoid proboscides, gilded with cameras and lightbulbs that fed on neutrons. They had colonised the real stars and forced them into the deep black, taking up the whole sky and growing to demented proportions under centennia of unfiltered UV. Now they had strange tumours—microscopic lenses that could see right through your skin and into the molecular structure of your bones. What could you do, though, said Old Jon. Useless to demand your privacy. You can't shoot down a satellite. Sometimes, warped by the mania of solitude and distance, the satellites left messages in the sand or in the mountains, impossible structures of regolith and spider’s silk that no one could derive the meaning or purpose of, except, perhaps, to say, I am here.

They watch and they make, said Old Jon, gesturing up at the glistening dome beyond the boughs that framed his world, his knotted old hands like tuning forks wrapped in bark. They see and they move. They know more or less, or otherwise, or nothing. Perhaps these things were acts of gestation, so intently were they crafted, like the birthing places of birds and fish. Perhaps they were acts of annihilation. Perhaps they were prayers or contracts or proposals or indictments. Perhaps they were nothing but the work of lonely children pushing sand with sticks, waiting for the tide to come in and wash the world away.