>L35[this_bogeyman]

You know what everybody needs in this world? To become dangerous.

That’s the only equality. That’s the only freedom.

I plugged the leading wire into my neck-port and donned the skeletal mask.

“You’re six feet deep in over your head, Frode.” Ashmedai was on his perch again, looking down at where I worked on the floor.

Night had fallen again outside and the poor incandescent light remaining was straining my focus. My skin was crawling with nervous energy, I was so beyond ready to act. Tonight was the night I moved on my goal.

My entire life had been leading up to this, I realized. So many sleepers in their skyscraper coffins would pass up this day as ignorant as the last. With them nothing would change and as the city’s rot progressed they’d play their luck that the next fleshy harvest fell on another door. Every day the same.

But not for me. Whatever happened tonight, I would never forget.

I laughed as I stood. The mask in my hands was a patchwork of electronics, wires wrapping around my neck, running into me and behind into a backpack. The mask itself was Jerry’s faceplate, a white skull marring the front.

I felt bad about dismantling him. But he would live on. We could both evolve. Continue reading

>H22[lonely_bread]

My vision was captured by what I was being shown, but I could feel, as if I were a blind man, Dag’s hand grabbing mine, keeping me stable.

“Don’t give it anything. Don’t think about anything,” he warned me. “It can’t see your memories if you don’t access them.”

What I saw was a grey landscape. The dead bodies piled up, the broken machinery strewn across miles of land, all of it the sight of war.

Michael guided me, stepping over corpses. That was its name, I knew.

The dark clouds overhead rumbled. Sheet lightning flashed.

“A slaughter,” he said. “But you had your revenge.

“What revenge?” I asked.

This isn’t real.

But the data was. Normal people, their eyes could be fooled by computer-generated imagery. With my mind, though, I had learned a long time ago to distinguish even perfect replications. It wasn’t easy, sometimes lies walked a thin line of amalgamated truths. But I knew BCI input from my own organs.

But this was raw. Clarity increased wherever the shadow scanned its head, and I could tell he had walked here before. This was the AI’s memory.

Oh, Christ.

The soil was stained with blood and oil under my bare toes. Continue reading

>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. Continue reading

>A02[numb_hand]

Heaven poured out its angels.

With eyes screwed shut, inky shapes in thought stretched out to stranger perspectives. They were impression buried beneath reality, like memory. My free hand burned then as I clenched it.

I inhaled.

Blackened oil roiled in my mind, the sight of it washing pink flesh, permeating and staining it sallow in the dark contractions of my lungs. I really should quit, I thought.

My eyes opened.

Cold breath appeared on a plume of smoke. Heat and moist air came against the frigid breeze and distant light in a drifting fog. I took another intake, the rain pattering lightly around me. The plastic umbrella over my head was propped against my shoulder, my leg pulled up against my chest to brace it as I sat.

The midday gloom was hanging low, flowing overhead between the concrete heights of the school. The thirty-foot tall red sign for spicy noodles blazed across the street. The playground was only just around the corner from where the buses were loading. From the top of the slide, I had an eye on them.

Only a moment more to breathe.

I had one more drag before dropping it, strangling a cough as I did. That last exhale sputtered out. I picked up my legs and slid, the wet slide soaking me on the short ride to a quick stop.

“You look stupid.” Continue reading