I can see it, and feel it, but I don’t understand it at all.
It’s been one of those days, when you’re going about your business yet still anticipating the alarm.
Tokie and I were riding around Downtown Minneapolis on some cute, green Nice Ride auto-rental bikes, headed in the general direction of Mill Ruins Park and the Mississippi River. She did something to the bike network with her plastic fingers, so now we can ride all day for free.
Not that I can’t afford it – I still have a few thousand left in twenties, from my Mom’s grand acts of bank customer “donations” (robbery) by proxy. But it’s still cool – she can just reach right in with her mind and wiggle the circuits around or something, and then there’s instant access.
That’s one thing all of the Ghost Collective is really good at – doing electronic things they’re really not supposed to, all for the sake of things far greater than lulz.
Anyway, we were riding all in the middle of street and shit, because as usual, there barely were any cars to speak of – perhaps one every few blocks? Well, maybe not right around Nicollet Mall, with all of the Target stuff (Target Center! Target Field! Target Target!) and skyways barely used by office drones. Over there it reminds me of a slower downtown Portland – much taller buildings, but still highly jaywalkable.
It was still Summer-ish, with a bit of almost-Labor-Day rain here and there, but nothing to whine about. I liked hanging out by the river, and that huge, black theater building by the exploded Mill museum and farmer’s market. While we passed by some condo-apartment-things that were simply trying too hard to be upscale, Tokie suddenly turned to me and shimmered a bit.
“Sorry about this, but Aurora is projecting in – she has to talk to you right away. I’ll be back later.”
And with that, she faded away just enough for Aurora to plop on top of her plastic skeleton, without actually exposing the smooth, melted soda bottle interior. Her bike didn’t even waver a bit, as Aurora hit the breaks and motioned for me to pull up side her.
The first time I saw her, a few days ago, I was too excited to be freaked out. There was no way I could still blame her for anything, after I remembered everything about my past she always had to tiptoe around. It just felt weird – I’m still totally hot for her, but that’s tempered by the strong, steady girlfriend feelings for Tokie, even though most of those are from a few thousand years ago (depending on how you count up all of the looped, variant time).
Doesn’t matter – Aurora still does it for me, and I wanted so badly to draw my hands through her long, blonde hair. Of course, I can’t, because it’s all holographic, and her real body was burned to ashes months ago.
“Hey baby, I got a newsflash for you.” She was “wearing” one of her crunchy granola rainbow outfits – I can never really tell if that’s really what she’s like, or of it’s all just cosplay that hides her real, secret self.
“I got a real flash for you, if you just find us a dark alley somewhere.”
“Stop it. Seriously, Sasha was able to figure out your TV problem, what with all the static and whatnot.”
“Don’t you shit in my toilet! Don’t even explain, just make it stop so I can finally get uninterrupted z-action.”
She got off her bike, and walked it over to a wooden bench near the riverfront – 3 planks for our back, and 3 for our asses, with some stone (granite, maybe) to hold it all together. I could tell she wanted to explain anyway, so I just threw my bike on the grass, and sat down next to her.
“Alright. When I was alive and much cuter than I am now, I could control all the Energy that ever was and will be. I know you’ve read about this, but thing you need to know is that it’s not magic at all – there’s very clear cause and effect.”
“So were you using your energy voodoo on me back in Portland? Making me think nasty thoughts?”
“Not that I couldn’t, but no. When I did have to create gamma rays or whatever, it was all coming from either the existing environment, or some mixture of the White and the Black. Somehow, somewhere, that energy was transferred to me, instead of just spilling out with each breath.”
“This is so terribly yawny. You know I can’t pay proper attention when faced with mystery-solving.”
“Anyway, cause and effect, conservation of energy, and something you have to understand – I specialize in Energy, but I can make Matter, too. It’s a pain, with lots of limitations, but I can. Now you…” She poked me on the left shoulder. “You can control all Matter, even though you haven’t figured it out yet. But, you can also spit out Energy if necessary.”
“Not like I know now – I’ve been spending whole minutes trying to make my dirty socks turn into Hostess fruit pies, but it’s simply beyond me.”
“That’s the thing. You have the potential, but only someone with Yogic levels of control over their body can really tap into the Black and the White. Without etching, and the instant control it provides, the best you can do is subconsciously affect things. Which is dangerous as fuck.”
“Children of the Corn dangerous. Destroying the black hole at the center of our galaxy dangerous. Yeah, I’m being all hyperbolic, because the natural checks and balances prevent the big, grand stuff from happening without clear intention and initiation. Still, your mixed up dreamy mind has been keeping busy over the past few months…”
“Let me guess – the Figma invasion.”
“Yeah… we’re not quite sure of the mechanism, but after the Fourth Event, your subconscious, latent power was crazily amplified, and certain things started to shift in directions you’d appreciate more than anyone else. So Cassie’s Ghost projection project ended up looking like huge Archetype Figmas. The Massive Cloud Burst game scenario you were crazy about started to casually but firmly overwrite reality. And Tokie…”
“What about Tokie?”
“Well… we haven’t figured it all out yet, but it seems like you managed to shift this last variant, so that Tokie became a perfect host for SAR.AI. We can’t figure it out – she’s only tangentially in Frisbee’s and Ai’s bloodline, but she was still chosen. That sort of manipulation is purely in the realm of Cassie and Hel, but here you are – controlling destinies as you sleep.”
I wasn’t understanding this. I was understanding more than I could even think about.
“So yeah. Your mind and spirit have been wishing big and winning all sorts of lotteries, from Portland to St. Cloud. And one sign of your subconscious manipulation is all of the infrared and radio waves you’re putting out. Big bursts that can’t help but throw your TV into static with random success.”
“It’s me? I’m the one making the TVs go crazy?”
“Yes. But that’s not the crazy part. The crazy part is that you’re actually broadcasting coherent messages along with the randomness. They’re the kind of encoded signals that SETI dreams of receiving from outer space. People who know how to listen are starting to notice.”
“So I’m some sort of Antenna now? I haven’t even been tattooed or anything?”
“Not yet. But you will be – you’re broadcasting very clear instructions on how to find you, and just what to do with you.”
“What the fuck to do with me?”
“Like I’ve been telling you over and over – you’re the Chosen Light. You’re calling to the Nameless, and the Black itself, and that siren song is irresistible. But something else is listening too, through the Grand Supreme. It wants to break that code, and take over all of existence for itself.”
“Sasha OS my fucking ass! Who the fuck came up with this shit? Fuck!”
I couldn’t help myself. I reached down to my bike, grabbed the front wheel, and tore off the tire like newspaper.
Not like newspaper. The tire became newspaper, and I gathered it, crumpling it into a ball the size of a softball.
Down the street, we could hear a car crash.
Every toddler walking with their parents suddenly fell to the ground and pissed and shat themselves.
My hands and wrists turned an inky black.
I scrunched the softball of paper smaller, and smaller, until it felt like I was holding the sun cupped between palms.
Inside of the burning dark was a shining, golden jawbreaker.
It was my rage externalized, my broadcast solidified, my perfect weapon.
“No. Too. Souuunn……..” Aurora was gone, and her plastic host was melting away like water from a faucet, leaving a pool of clear plastic streaked with soda bottle labels.
I didn’t know what to do. People were starting to look. Should I get on her bike and just ride away?
“You’re calling me.” I heard the faint whisper of a girl, only no one was there. “I’m coming for you soon.”
It sounded like Cassie a bit, only angrier. Her twin sister Helena?
“Kaia is holding me back from halfway around the world, but she can’t last much longer.”
I still don’t understand who Kaia is anymore. She was just this woman in Munich who liked Die Database. Has she replaced Ai as the head of the Collective? Is she related to my mother? Is she my mother? No one on the other side will talk to me about it.
Something else was also speaking to me – the jawbreaker. I couldn’t understand it – it was buzzing against the nerves in my hand, but the most I could get was an insatiable urge to run towards the ruins of the old Gold Medal Flour mills.
I left the bikes behind, and sprinted across the street, running on planks of wood past joggers, tourists and trees. The blue sky was streaked with clouds. I could feel each drop of water suspended in the fluffy whiteness.
“You don’t know what you’re doing. Let me teach you.” The voice was coming from between my ears, from beyond the sky. Familiar and frightening, like the growl of a stray dog as you reach in to pet it.
I had to get into that shell of a building. I had to….
As I ran past the broken, brick walls, I bumped into two little girls, couldn’t have been more than 7. They were dressed in Minnesota Twins gear – the baseball caps and little button-down uniforms and everything.
“Just like we promised.” One of them took my hand – it was sticky like from too much candy. The back of her jersey had a big number 1, and said “HEL”.
“You still haven’t built our clubhouse.” The other one, with a jersey reading number 2, and “CASSIE”, grabbed me by the waist. The sky collapsed into the street, my head suddenly met pillows, and my body was caressed by high thread count sheets.
I was asleep, right? I never even went to the city?
I thought it was a dream, until the golden jawbreaker rolled out of my hands and onto the hotel room floor.
I can see it, I can feel it, but I don’t understand it at all. What am I supposed to do with it?
The television was speaking static as I got out of bed, but I turned it off with a faraway glare.