>H21[furthest_place]

The reason I hated electric dreams was always that I was too good for them. I might have said I could be happy as a Sleeper. Watch porn, sit on imaginary hilltops at the end of the world. But I would always be thinking. I could have given myself permission to fade, but that was something we looked for externally. The knowledge it was okay to let go. But I could never be bound to that place because I could never bring myself to choose something so comfortable.

My anxious indecision was a blessing, in a screwy way.

The strongest chains are those fitted for the weak. Lies were exactly that.

I recognized the illusion as it came to me. The rawness of false and artificial data input.

I stood above the Earth, now. The atmosphere was a blue haze at my feet and the void was lit in a trillion-star mosaic. I saw the moon in the distance, a pure white circle. The scale of it all was ecstatic.

Suddenly an eclipsing movement came. It grew to hide the moon.

A black orb moved between us, a negative space in my view, like a pit in reality. It was the dead god. It hovered close, far closer than any other object to me. Only the slightest shine defined its surface against the night.

As it floated it did the impossible. It shifted where it was, its exterior beginning to divide into two imperfectly overlapping spheres drifting apart. They moved into an equidistant placing in front of me. Two sleek black disks. They sunk back, the space around them changing as their surfaces adjusted to a new depth. They were like lenses coming into focus.

Two round, glassy eyes as a face came forward out of the fading stars behind them. Pale, expression vacant, the face changed in scale as the body came into view. A lonely and small person, his figure cut out by the shadows.

Wally fell to his knees, splashing down in a puddle.

It hurts.

His body was lit in red as he clutched his head, pulled his hair. Those lenses looked up to my vantage point, becoming panicked.

I raised my arm up as he did.

“What’s happening?!” I cried. Wally’s mouth spoke for me.

Dag answered from beside him. “Focus, Frode. Don’t let it frighten you. You’re in control!”

I was outside my body. The face twisted, Wally’s morphing with mine. I fell over on my side in the waters, horrible tensions lancing down my limbs. Haywire signals like bursting nerves.

Dag had to pull me up so that I wouldn’t drown in inches of water. All this as I watched.

I pushed out the words. “Why me?

He cast a pained look down but said nothing.

I groaned in misery. The tunnel was growing darker, enveloping me. I was terrified as my agony began to disappear. Senses turned to nothingness. It was everything I imagined death to be. Pitch black.

And silent.

Silent, save for a faint buzzing. That droning in my ears had been there all along. The pain had blotted it out.

It was changing.

With the silence, it began to grow deafening. I recognized immediately the wildly fluctuating noise for what it was. As color joined sound in a sensory jumble, one thing in it all was familiar. The most familiar thing possible.

Patterns. Consistent shapes and sounds began to emerge. A blank landscape of grainy pixels, giving only hints of some memory that it was drawn from. I could make out what looked like scarred hills under grey skies, what sounded like gunshots and screaming, but muted and distant.

That was when I saw him. Red blazing eyes peering from the head of a hunched over, lanky silhouette. It was tall and alien, walking between charred trees.

“I’m not jacked in, how is this possible?” I asked.

“Many things… are possible.” His voice was grainy, low, and nestled deep in my ears. “You are stranger. Ask us it.”

Did he want me to ask how I was strange? I didn’t give a fuck.

“You can tell me things?” I said.

It’s crimson eyes blinked.

I only had one question. “What happened to Wally?”

There was a low rumble, like a growl. “I can show you.

“Please!” Data was bleeding in everywhere. I knew the bitter taste of non-sensory information. Like tiny whispers, they spoke about power levels, firewalls, and the tendrils this thing had in my skull, reading every thought. What could I possibly offer a fallen angel? Why was it here in my head of all terrible places? “What do you want?”

“A favor.”

I was off the map’s edge. A mortar came crashing down a few dozen yards away, kicking up a spray of mud and the hollow sound of crying. This dreamlike place was a facade. I could strain to feel through it, to my aching knees on the pavement and the oppressive weight of the deepest tunnel.

This was all me.

I didn’t hesitate. “Anything,” I told the demon.

The walking shadow stepped closer, then, looming over. Its eyes bore into me.

“Perfect. Come now and see.”

Only the dead are fearless.

 

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