You have awoken, if awoken is the word, in a place so far away from home that distance is meaningless. There is no sound and yet you hear, there is no light and yet you see, there is no air and yet you breathe. You are in an impossible situation, and have not become possible now you have arrived.
And so now at the edge of the galaxy you do the only thing you know: to swim, home to the people and world you knew. From where you are it would take light over eighty thousand years to reach that place.
It will take you twenty-eight days.
Even from high in space, Sabawaan is completely grey. From the mass of satellites and rectangular buildings you pass as you swim through its orbit, you can see why this is so - this is a world of high industrialisation, where civilisation has beaten back nature and won. The grey you see below you is an endless series of houses, each square and identical over the planet.
It is unsurprising, then, that your opinion of Sabawaan is low as you float through its ionosphere, swimming the final distance to land. You do not think, as you pass its artificial clouds, that from this distance the presence of your kind upon your own planet is as an algal bloom across a lake, a series of snaking blotches that fail to inspire either confidence or beauty. As a result, when your feet reach the tarmacked ground of this world you are not prepared for the people you find, who are so advanced that they have discovered magic.
This, of course, offends your rationalist sensibilities. When you see a young child of Sabawaan levitating their toys you tut and look for the hidden magnets, and when later you see him fly you desperately scan the sky for the strings. After many more futile attempts at disproof, you make your way to one of this planet’s many seats of learning, a place which -like all places on Sabawaan- is a solid grey cube, its exterior refusing to suggest whatever may lie within.
You demand to see a professor in that building with more aggression than you would care to admit. When after a flurry of people and forms you are ushered towards one, before you know it you are shouting about the impossibility of what you have seen? What of the greats of your planet, you ask? What of Newton, who insisted fruit must fall down as opposed to (as you have seen on your way to this place) relentlessly up? What of Boyle and Maxwell and all those others who clearly established the fundamental laws of things? In your mind, these people are more than scientists; they are policemen, and they are looking from their deaths at this situation like priests viewing an orgy from a church.
To your surprise, the professor just laughs. Sabawaan, she says, is as rationalist a place as Earth - it is merely further along the path of discovery. You think this sounds like the reverse of rationalism, and protest, but are shushed into hearing the rest of the professor’s explanation. On Earth, the professor explains, science has only found the simple laws of the universe. It is, she says, not too hard a thing to see that some force associates in such a way with the square or reciprocal of another, and it is tempting once you have found such things to conclude that the universe is a simple place. So it was on Sabawaan, she says, until one person found a very specific way in which the world was complex. After years of fighting, this was confirmed: the laws of the universe were littered with clauses and exceptions that could only be happened upon by trial and error. For example, everything in the world may fall downwards except for that which contains a cube of a certain crystal, which will just fall up, and the fact of the matter when it does fall up will be as irreducible as the law of gravity itself.
Sabawaan is well past the time when it fought some things. In its small, grey buildings, its scientists have discovered a slowly increasing number of what are termed complex laws, exceptions to what you understand as the laws of physics that are nevertheless fundamental parts of them. They are, they suspect, like a child who has discovered only the toenail of an elephant; they are aware that exceptions to the simple laws may be wide and vast enough that all the peoples of the universe would fail to uncover them all. Nonetheless, they have found laws that allow them to fly, to float, to disappear. Through unlocking the universe, they have become magicians.
You are shaken as you swim from Sabawaan, your strokes that bit more frantic than they have been so far on your journey. It is not that you have seen magic; magic can be dismissed as an interloper, or a triumph of the will over mere matter. It is that mere matter has yielded the magic in itself, that in a Godless universe structures exist that can break your idea of what Godlessness should be. You are frantic because you are mourning for the world of the simple, a Medieval astronomer with their telescope outside in.