Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Decker 34

He decided to start with someone from his recent "past"; someone without a lifetime of memories, but still fairly well fleshed-out in his mind. Tut seemed a likely choice. Sitting in the mossy bed where he had awakened, eyes closed, he tried to recreate Tut's image and persona in his mind. He envisioned the big spectacles, the pinwheel colors of Tut's shell, the professorial mien Tut presented.
"Well, if it isn't ol' Fuzzy, found his way back to the homeworld." Lizzie's ironic tone sent galvanic spasms down his spine. She had something that looked remarkably similar to a science fiction serial phaser pointed at the center of his chest. "So which one are you, bub? Fuzzy number one, two, or three? Don't bother answering that, it's a rhetorical question. Just take this little homing beacon and put it around your neck." She tossed him a silvery chain with a blue-glowing, high-tech looking pendant attached, identical to one that hung around her own neck. "You're coming with me back to Ops Central, what's left of it. You've made a nice hash of the cosmic matrix, and we're going to figure out how the hell you did it."
"B-but I, um, I didn't... I didn't, er... bring you.... aaahhh, shit to the seventeenth!"
"Bring me? Hahahaha hah!" She shot him an imperious glare. "I suppose you thought the temporo-spatial grid monitor was safe with Tut?" She pressed a stud on her pendant and metamorphosed into the giant turtle. "By Tesla's lightning bolts, Decker, were you not perspicacious enough to discern my authentic identity?" She pressed the stud once more and re-assumed her human form, a mocking grin on her face. "You didn't summon Tut or I to your lonely little hideout. We tracked your energy signature here with the grid monitor. Now get up and turn around. We're going for a ride."
As soon as he was facing away from her, he tried to bring an image of Degren to his mind; tried to have him materialize behind her. He thought he felt the presence of his friend beginning to materialize when Lizzy put her hand on his shoulder and said in a crisp, hard voice, "Control, engage NOW!" The cave dissolved before his eyes and was replaced by what looked like the engine room of a spacecraft.
"This is just getting too shittin' weird now!" Deckren threw his arms up in the air, causing Lizzy to flinch and nearly drop her phaser. "All I was looking for was a little psychedelic exploration, maybe a spirit guide manifestation, and I get all THIS? WHAT THE FUCK??!? I'm DONE playin' this fuckin' game! Ya wanna shoot me with that fuckin' electric shaver, GO THE FUCK AHEAD!" He ripped off the homing pendant and flung it at Lizzy, whose exhaustion and desperation were crumbling her smug demeanor like a heat lamp on a slushie. The pendant struck her in the nose and she nearly fell over. Her gun slipped from nerveless fingers before Deckren's emotional assault. He pictured her crying and sinking to the floor in a heap, and she did. The attendant at the console where the grid monitor was plugged in looked confused and abashed, but he fumbled at the holster on his belt with one hand while reaching for an intercom button with the other. "Um, c-control, we have a situation down here... would you..."
Deckren lashed out with his mind, wrapped tentacles of hilarity around the man's vacillating thoughts. "This is all really funny, isn't it, Louis?" He imagined the attendant rolling on the deck in paroxysms of laughter. The dude didn't know what hit him; he fired off an accidental phaser beam into the ceiling and doubled over in full-throated, uncontrollable, breathlessly silent glee.
Deckren was galvanized now; he jumped for the comm button, extemporizing, "..start a pot of French roast for Lizzy and I? She's yawning like the pit of hell."
"Uhh... roger that, Epstein, gimme twenty clicks. We don't want Lizzy to get dizzy."
Deckren looked over the temporo-spatial grid monitor and realized it was beyond his comprehension. He grabbed the two pendants and tossed them in the case, closed it, and imagined himself and it back in Degren-land. The bulkheads of the spaceship wavered, disintegrated, and were replaced by red-gold sandstone bluffs. A figure lounged in the shadows in front of him; his heart jumped into his throat. "Degren...?"
The figure emerged from the shadows, bright yellow-green scales iridescent in the afternoon sun, "Err...sorry, certainly some sympathy, simply your saurian sidekick,.... Coxli....suited for service."

Decker 33

He realized he was exhausted; there did not feel to be an ounce of struggle left inside him. Still, his mind swirled and railed against the fog, the rising water, the desperate isolation... it would be so easy to just lay back and sleep if the empty thoughts would stop racing.
He imagined a soft, mossy nest like the one he and Furge had once shared, tucked into a sandstone cave just a stone's throw from the chattering, tumbling river their little village abutted. Through pangs of loneliness, he felt his head easing into the soft mass, his legs relaxing into its yielding embrace.
He thought he could almost hear the burbling of the river, smell the smoke of cook fires as his eyes closed and his body relaxed. The aroma of the moss, its soft roughness, the almost imperceptible flicker of fires, stronger than memory, coaxed him into sweet, empty somnolence. At that moment, as the adrenaline ebbed from his muscles and the comfort of memory enfolded him, it seemed that oblivion was the perfect choice.
He awakened slowly, groggily, to amber light suffusing his eyelids. The smell of moss was strong in his nose, and his cheek rested in feathery cushion. A tinkle of muted applause resolved itself into impish currents over stone.
He rose with vague scenes of village life playing in the recesses of his mind, distant and unreal as fading dreams. The cave, the mossy bed, the river's chatter all remained but the bright, biting smell of wood smoke had turned sour and dead. He hesitated to step out of the cave's solitude, fearing that he would look on...
Three steps and his fears were confirmed. No footprints lay in the sand around the dying and dead fires; no gnawed fish bones, no desiccated, charred-edged leaf bowls... no sign that anyone but he had been here.
But how did he get here? He had been lost in a foggy, mutable non-reality, a damp nothingness of dead possibilities and stagnating entropy. He had nearly been swallowed by it, lost in ennui, when somehow he'd found himself here... what had been the catalyst?
"Shit and quadruple shit!" The rasping tones of his voice almost startled him. Brief echoes played among the burbles and splashes of the river, then vanished. "What is this trip, and when is it going to end?" He scratched his head, noting the soft fur there.
He was Deckren again; an amalgam of three personalities. Memories of his journey along the underground river were crisp in his mind. He thought about how, when the temporo-spatial device had failed, he and his alter ego(s) had been able to create their own "bridge" between realities. He remembered how he'd altered his recent realities. Now this... hadn't he been envisioning the world that Degren and Furge had occupied before this whole crazy trip had started?
Had he "created" this scene? Was it real, or just a figment of his imagination? "I've gone totally fucking bazonkers," he growled.
He tried imagining that one of the fires was in full blaze; it almost instantaneously burst into flame, loaded with dry driftwood. He imagined a set of stone steps carved into the sandstone bluff he stood before, and it was there.
"I'll be screwed, glued and tattooed!"
He spent the better part of an hour making things appear and disappear. Cacti, ball-point pens, dune buggies, radios, rocks, statues, even a detail-perfect cafe, the one in an old railroad dining car... but he hesitated to make anything animate. Brief flashes of people and animals crossed his waking dreamscape, but he pressed them away. Would it be weird to "create" people?
But wasn't it possible that all the characters he'd interacted with in this extended peyote trip (or whatever it was) were manifestations from within his own mind? Giant fashion-obsessed white ducks, psychedelic genius turtle professors, iconic but comedic cowboy miners, furry, superhuman hominids... beautiful, evil spy women?
He decided to fill his little cafe with comic book superheroes. One by one, in full regalia, they appeared inside the windows; in booths and at tables, just as he'd remembered them from his youth.
He walked in the door of the cafe. The walls rang with the clinking of silverware and the intense dialogue of intrepid world-savers. It was all a little thin, though. The characters were a bit two-dimensional... just as he remembered them.
Feeling crazier by the minute, Deckren made all his creations of the morning vanish. His heart thudded in his chest. His mind whirled. If he wanted to grace this reality with anyone approximating the multiplicity of dimensions that a real, live, sentient entity encompassed, he was going to have to start with a much broader palette. He was going to have to tap memories of people he'd had real interactions with; people he'd practically or really seen inside.
This was going to be a much more significant challenge.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Decker 32

The river, wide and flat, ran through mist-blanketed plains. Here and there a downdraft would open an eddying hole in the low fog, revealing desolate washboard beneath. The sky, too, was shrouded in low-hanging haze; sulfur-tinged, uneven, it was the blotchy, sick-glowing ceiling of an endless claustrophobic cavern. In some areas, it seemed low enough that Decker might reach up and stick his hand into the cloud.
The river, though shrouded overhead with the same dead yellow cover as the land, was not blanketed in fog. He could clearly see the shore, and the first three feet or so of land, some fifteen or twenty steps away. He splashed toward it.
The water was rising fast enough that he could see the mist being pushed back; see the land being consumed by the water. Though it felt solid underfoot, it appeared that as the river swept over it, the shore was somehow being dissolved, altered...
Stepping hesitantly from the water and into the shin-deep mist, Decker wished for Degren's leather-tough soles. He was going to have to move away from the river quickly, and though the mist swirled away as he pressed into it, he still had no clear view of where he was placing his tender, boot-accustomed feet.
Six or seven steps further and the harsh, abrasive feel of the ground grew gentle and welcoming. He thought his feet might be numbing due to some effect of the river water, but when he lifted one up to examine it, he noted it was covered in short, dense, fleshy-hued fur. The bottom was walnut-stained and leathery.
"I'll be damned," he rasped, "am I still tripping? Wonder if tripping's like dreaming." He grabbed a fold of forearm skin between finger and thumb and bore down. As electric twinges jumped up toward his shoulder, he realized that he hadn't learned much from the experiment... except that there was no fur on his arm. Chortling to himself, he pressed on.
He remembered the difference in strength and dexterity between his body and the Degren body. Stopping and dropping to a half-squat, he tensed his legs and leaped with all his might. The result was disappointing. "Shit, I'm just me. I wonder..." He set his mind on metamorphosing into the soft-furred, hard-muscled entity he'd come to know and love in his dream, or trip, or adventure, or disaster, or whatever it was...
...and found himself covered with velvety beige fur. "Hot damn!" He sprung into a high-arcing forward flip, landing 20 feet ahead of where he'd jumped. He was inspired to duplicate an Olympian tumbling run. Flips, triple flips, twists, cloud-grazing pirouettes, round-offs, reversals... he felt as though he could travel for miles in this fashion. The sky seemed to brighten and dome upward where he cavorted and bounded.
Exhilarated, he howled and yipped like a coyote, all the while performing whatever acrobatic acts he could think of. Distracted by his own antics, he soon found himself splashing along in shallow water. the tingling in his toes returned, galvanizing him to race away from the rising river until he was far enough to allow himself a brief pause for thought.
"Okay, dude, what now?" The water was rising. He'd not seen so much as a cockroach or a blade of grass, much less any other sentient life. Unless he could imagine food and a place of safety from the seemingly all-consuming water, he was screwed.
The pendulous ocher clouds seemed to darken and sag over him, shortening his field of view. It was as though invisible walls closed in on him, suffocating, petrifying. Suddenly, he couldn't decide which way to go, or imagine why he should even bother,
He was alone on a dead, drowning world. What companions he'd had were probably hallucinatory. The memories he considered "real" were mostly of a solitary existence, where even his family was ghostlike and distant... did he have any childhood friends? Brothers or sisters? he couldn't remember. Even his parents were foggy specters in a fading dream. The Degren/Furge memories, whether hallucinatory or otherwise, were fuller, richer visions.
The cloud ceiling was only inches above his head; the river licked his shins. A thin layer of fog was creeping over the shore and onto the water, threatening to obscure his view of the transition and leave him directionless between rapidly closing horizons. Once again he raced out of the water, away from the shore, while he could still discern which way that was. Thin, wan bolts of lightning arced across the sky, away from him in every direction.
He ran until he was exhausted. His heart thudded, leaden in his burning chest. A fading endorphin rush pressed back the sky, offering him a view of endless swirling fog below and ominous, mottled-glow mustard clouds above. The lightning became sporadic, shorter, ebbed and ceased.
As his energy had waned, he'd felt as though he might have been running on a slight incline. Looking around seemed to confirm this sense; the fog sloped away from him in all directions and the clouds, which danced around his head where he stood, planed away from ground level into the distance.
Decker collapsed to his elbows and knees, let his forehead rest on the coarse, clayey sand. As his heartbeat slowed and ragged, burning gasps eased into more normal breathing, he rose to a kneeling position, arms akimbo. He noted that, as his mood continued to darken, the conical incline he was centered on seemed to flatten incrementally, though not quite as quickly as the sky descended...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Decker 31

It was very hard to determine whether he was enveloped in absolute darkness or brilliant light. For uncountable milliseconds, he fixated on that question.

With slow awakening came a sense of floating bodiless, empty...

It was just...nothing. There was no space to fill, endlessly, and nothing to fill it with. No memory, no motivation.

A distant echo percolated through the void; quiet laughter and an ethereal, ephemeral image of a gaunt Buddha...

The image swelled, faded to near-nothingness, fleshed out, became a round, serene figure ensconced in a summery riparian scene, sitting lotus-fashion on a great tree stump.

There was something in his not-mind, a feather floating perhaps, or an idea... he was supposed to perform some act when he saw this figure along the road...

He was still formless, though he knew it was he that had created all this form around himself. Was he desirous of form?

A blunt-tipped, double-edged sword, broad and heavy, materialized before the Buddha, who glanced at it disinterestedly and returned to his meditations. It hung for a moment, glowing softly, then dropped to the ground and rang like a great bronze bell.

The reverberations precipitated wisps of chromatic fog from the air; gelled around the nexus of his consciousness. He was no longer bodiless, in fact he was a "she", blue-skinned, garbed in scanty silks and hammered, glinting metal.

She reached for the still-ringing khanda, her fingers meshing in its familiar grip, joined her voice with its reverberations and brought its blade around, overhead, down, to cleave the imposter in twain...

...and found himself chained hand and foot to a great stone, himself rent from pelvis to sternum, with vultures gorging on his swollen entrails as a wide river rushed and cackled...

...bounding stone to stone, his curling horns thrust menacingly across a shallow, laughing stream in the direction of his rapidly impending mirror image...

...clucking, proud and sore, leaping out of her still-warm nest, direly thirsty, strutting toward the cool river's edge ...

Faster, faster, projections of sound and vision, buried whims and memories, flooding over his empty dreamscape, chaotic fragments of reality fighting to create the perfect vessel as, all the while, a hungry river roared in the imminent background...


It was a voice he remembered; clear, resounding, defining the boundaries of his skull, his chest...

...it was himself, and memory flooded in, over visions and myth, over superimposed icons and avatars, archetypes and facsimiles...

He was Decker.

But what did that mean?

He stood on the shore of a rapidly rising river; a river that had already dissolved his hiking boots and was creating odd tingles in his feet, his ankles, his shins, his knees...