The story of the narrator starts one or two centuries beyond our present time. It is in accordance of my own beliefs that this kind of technology (to be able to live a long time, if not forever, and to have decent space travel methods, to start with) will be available and ready in our world, in reality, at most around this kind of timeframe. From there, the narrator says they wasted a century before getting to work, and that this note was written after “three score centuries” or 6000 years, have passed. So the story begins at least after 8316 CE. The last note puts it at 8570 CE, but durations are purposefully left fuzzy to allow for wording and the difficulty to measure time accurately over space travel, FTL, and times beyond anything we, humans of the 21st century, can reasonably imagine.
The story for the “reader,” who is not the reader of this short, but a character named Otto who finds this note and then begins a search for the narrator (presumably to tell them how Earth is?), begins in 9387 CE. The search lasts 200 years, during which the narrator leads Otto on a merry chase of stashes of research and notes across the Universe. We, the reader of the short, only get to read a few of the notes, as hinted in the Nyctimene entry; furthermore, there are also the stacks of research results and notes provided along each entry; it would not be realistic for just those few clues contained in the entries to be sufficient to find the next one. But those ones put together have an interesting thread.
The Sechura desert is better known as the place where the Nazca lines are. The Owlman is a Nazca figure representing a person with an owl’s face, arm raised up.
ATHENA is an actual X-Ray space telescope that is being built and will be launched in a few years. ATHENA ΑΘΕ is probably one of its far, far successor. This is happening 62–72 centuries in the future, after all. The ATHENA telescope, ours, is going to be in L2 orbit; obviously this latter one, version ΑΘΕ, stayed there, too. “ΑΘΕ” was an inscription on Athenian drachmas in Ancient Greece, accompanied by a depiction of an owl.
The Phæthontis quadrangle is an area of Mars. Phaeton was a demigod who, one day, drove the Sun’s carriage across the skies. “as dusk falls” is a reference to the philosopher Hegel, who noted that “the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.” Jiang Maze’s name does not mean anything and is not particularly significant; I pulled it from a box of tea and a poster in my brother’s room. Jiang is the family name. They use the pronoun “they” as written in the text. Speaking of pronouns, notice how none of the characters have a defined gender? The two names, Jiang and Otto, are neutral in this regard. What gender did you give the characters, in your mind, while reading?
2150 Nyctimene is an asteroid (or minor planet, to be precise) in our solar system, which I have dubbed Sol system in this short, discovered in 1977 bla bla bla, none of that is relevant.
It’s located quite a ways from Earth, on an orbit inclined from the elliptic; in my story, that provides a place that is accessible from other planets by conventional propulsion, and then brings your vessel away from the influence and business of the main plane of our system, so that you may engage your FTL without causing nor getting undue interference.
To get back to the reference thread, Nyctimene was the daughter of Epopeus, King of Lespos. Pursued by her father, she was rescued by Athena who turned her into an owl, the very owl depicted on the drachmas.
The Owl of Athena, or the Owl of Minerva, as called by the Romans, was, by the way, a symbol of knowledge and study.
Dagon is the name of an exoplanet orbiting the star Fomalhaut. It is situated within an immense disc of debris floating around the star. Photos of that disc of debris and the star show a distinctly fuzzier band: a dust ring. A view from the side of that disc makes it look elliptical. All in all, from here, it kinda looks like an eye, with a massive ball of fire in the middle of it. Fomalhaut is about twice as large as the sun.
For the imagery, we have to go back to Epopeus: his name came from ἔποψ, better known as the hoopoe, also nicknamed “the watcher.” Then we abandon Greek mythology and go to the Persians, to whom the star was one of the four “Royal stars,” and more precisely, was named Hastorang, of the winter solstice, “the Watcher of the North.” (That’s not meant as a reference to a very popular TV series of the moment, it’s entirely coincidence. I needed a star with a planet that referred to the Nyctimene somehow, and I’d already made plans for two other Royal stars.)
The planet is located near that dust ring mentioned before, which completes the explanation for the Eye of Sauron mention. The shielded structure is because the planet is moving through the disc of debris, impacts are frequent, so a shield is necessary; and in turn, the shield would generate a sky of continuous showers of burning meteor remains (the shield would destroy said meteors instead of bouncing them or repelling them; I felt that was more realistic compared to the fairly fantastic shields present in some other space-bound sci-fi.) Finally, the planet has a very long orbit, spanning 2000 years.
Aldebaran is another of the Royal stars. Its current name means “The Follower,” in Arabic. In Hindu, it is called “the mansion Rohini.” For the location in this story, I went with a reference to the excellent BD “Les Mondes d'Aldébaran,” which inspired me during my teenage years. One of the first scenes in that story depicts a very long and beautiful beach, on the planet Aldébaran-4, fourth and only livable planet in the Aldebaran system.
Antares is also a Royal star. It’s a red supergiant nearly 900 times the size of the sun. In Ancient Greece, the citadel or acropolis of a city-state contained its royal palace. Antares has had various names in history, like: “the Lord of the Seed,” “The King,” “Jyeshthā” (“the Eldest”). In Māori, it is called “Rehua” and regarded as the chief of all the stars.
The title, Regulus, refers to the fourth and last Royal star, and perhaps the next destination of the narrator, who knows.