Chapter 5

Ætherglow #86


“No, that’s too risky for ÆR, I’ll drink the dissociation juice.”

You break open the white bottle’s seal. The colorless liquid inside has a sweet smell.

“Drink it fast,” Akiko signs. “It’ll be easier.”

You try to follow her advice and drink most of the little bottle. You can immediately see why. The taste is sickeningly sweet, obviously covering up how bad it would taste otherwise, and the texture is thick and soupy yet full of little undissolved grains. You force yourself to swallow it, but it takes a few tries. You wish you’d gotten it all in your mouth, though, as you still have a little more. With all your focus you make your body drink the rest of it.


“Well, that’s over with,” Akiko signs. “That will take at least forty minutes to take effect. Meanwhile, lay down and try to stay motionless, you’ll be less nauseous that way. I’ll start getting the program set up.”

You do as she says and lie down on your bed. After a few minutes, you feel a wireless connection, and realize it is an authorization request.

“To succeed, there can’t be any barriers between us,” she signs.

You let her in, with full sensory and emotional access.

You hear a voice in your thoughts, not your own. “Testing telepathic link…” you think it says. It’s not even a “voice” in the auditory sense, it’s more as if the impression of what she says is communicated directly to your understanding. But it seems distant, hard to grasp.

“As I thought, you can’t get out of your head while you’re in a state of normal consciousness,” Akiko signs. “But the technopathic synchronization program is active. We can try...most of the tricks I know for making the bond easier, but...only if it doesn’t make you too uncomfortable.”

“What do I do?” you sign.

“When you start to feel yourself slip away, think of me, only of me, okay?” she signs.

You nod.

“It might help if you look at a picture of me too…”

“I don’t have one,” you sign.

“Um, here, use your terminal camera,” she signs.

You sit up a little and lift up your arm, turning it over so your terminal screen faces her. You activate its video feed, and close your eyes, projecting its visual output onto your field of vision through the neural interface. She nervously looks away when you point its camera at her.

“Sorry, when I’m synced with you this is basically like direct eye contact...” She forcibly turns to face your camera so you can capture her image.

“Got it,” you sign. “What else?”

“Normally the advice would be for you to also have a recording of my voice, but...who needs that anyway.”

“Yeah, not really applicable here.”

“Oh, touch...” She reaches out to you with her hand.

You hear her telepathic voice through the cloud cover of your mind, “...Touch.” You reach up and bring your hand to hers. It’s soft, so soft.

“The sync is bringing us closer, Aydan. It’s a normal part of this. Don’t fight it.”

“I wasn’t trying to.” You manage to telepathically communicate back, you think.

“Good… Senses are the key. Hold my image in your mind. Say my name. Remember my texture, my temperature. Memories of us together. Anything that you associate with me. Even my public key. Above all, relax, and let me in.”

Your fingers and hers move to intertwine.

“We are one, Aydan. We are one.”

Externally, you feel her release your hand. You open your eyes. The lights are so bright. Akiko stands up. Zeta has been waiting, leaning against your desk, looking away from you doing something with its primitive computer.

It glances your way. “We should get going, to the meetup spot,” it signs.

“Right,” she signs. “I’ll be with you soon.”

Zeta opens the door and turns back to you. “See you soon, Aydan!” it says.

You look up at it, shielding your eyes from the light with your hand. Words are getting harder to grasp, like you can’t remember how to say them. You sign, “Good luck, Zeta!”

“Don’t worry about us, I can handle anything.” It turns your lights out as the two leave. The last thing you see before your door shuts is the glow of Akiko’s eyes looking back at you, making contact with yours.


1) think of the past, the first time you saw her, by moonlight, her reflection in the water at the world's edge...: 100 (100.0%)
2) think of the present, her thoughts in your head tonight, the softness of her touch...: 0 (0.0%)
3) imagine the future, one where you're both older, together...: 0 (0.0%)
Expired 1 years ago (2022-04-28 17:45:00)

NOTICE: this poll was conducted on Ætherglow's previous home site. After total loss of the server, we only had records of which results won, not exact vote totals.