Chapter 14

Ætherglow #288

“ÆON’s not the only one we haven’t explored, is Æ? What about the soundscape inside YOUR mind, Pulse?!” you say.

Pulse’s image turns and grasps the handle of the door. “As you wish.”

She opens the gate. Darkness spills out and floods the streets of Arianeville. It creeps up around the edges and climbs up the glass walls. It closes in above you and envelops the sky, eclipsing the stars. The gateway vanishes behind you. Everything has vanished--the world, your friends, your own avatar.


Floating in the void, you hear the first wave approaching. You feel it flow past you, bending the æther, distorting your shape along with it--the first of many. The pulse lays the foundation of the soundscape. Layers stack on top of it--a dense field of sound, and no light to see.

When you concentrate, you can feel the subtleties in the waves--diverted in direction by interaction with solid forms. In the æther you feel the presence of the others. But you can’t discern their details--the densely layered music interferes.

Thinking of what Akiko taught you, you reach out with tactile sight to touch the æther at a distance. After all, there is no distance here. You feel...soft fur, it could only be Zeta. Hard, cold steel, it must be Synth. A static shock as you approach--Électricité. And a recursive tactile feedback loop delving down into infinite deeper layers of æther--ÆON. You reach for them all and pull them toward you, closer together.

“This is so stimmy,” Zeta says.

“But I expect it’s only the beginning,” Synthesis-03 says.

You feel it too--solid ground beneath you. The music transitions--a downward spiral of notes falling into the sub-bass range, lower than your ears could detect, notes your mind has never processed. You turn your perspective around and it spirals back up into frequencies too high to understand on a surface-level, only as math. As you turn, you feel a familiar sensation, the sudden moment of vertigo that always comes with a change of direction, only when you’re on a colony. The illusion of false-gravity pulls you down against the wall. You struggle to keep your balance, the force is so strong--double what you’ve grown accustomed to on TLA.

Samples play, interwoven into the soundscape, glitchy and harsh, confusing noise spoken in spaceling Japanese.

“So this is your homeworld,” you say. You feel the soft moist touch of living plants, the textured wood of trees, the smooth edges of concrete, stone, metal, plastic. Some points are hot to touch--lights? Between your tactile sense and the reverberation of the song, you piece together the city around you.

Suddenly the song sounds subdued, muffled as if a wall stands between you and the source. You reach out to feel smooth glass and concrete walls, a prism structure, a small room inside a building. It’s too quiet, you can barely hear the pulse through the walls.

Spoken samples play. You hear them from all directions in Japanese. You absorb their meaning:

“He still hasn’t spoken a word.”

“Never plays with the other kids.”

“Just sits there.”

“Tapping on things.”

“Random objects.”

“Yes he has toys, he doesn’t use them right.”

“Just making noise.”



“All day.”

“Every day.”


“He won’t stop.”

You can’t move your hands. The æther binds them in place.

“Quiet hands!”

When you can’t move, the song is silent. Empty, untouchable void, too quiet, nothing here, nothing.

“He isn’t responding to the treatment.”

“Only getting worse.”

You can move again. The song starts to break through the walls, intensifying.


“Can’t keep him still.”

“Perhaps you’re looking at this the wrong way.”

“Let us run a test. It won’t hurt.”

Loud. The walls shatter. The floor shakes with the constant pulse. The song drops to half time--heavy aggressive sawtooth waves.

“Sync rate--76%. It’s very good for an untrained child.”

“A child like this...”

“Very valuable.”


“A bright future ahead!”

“Little question he could qualify.”

“A great asset to our company.”


“Autistic Technopathy.”

The voices dissolve away. The ground beneath you absorbs back into the song as loud waves vibrate you to your core. You can touch the edges of the waves passing over you. You can feel their echo in the distance. Your movements affect it too, diverting the waves or bending them in frequency, amplitude, waveshape--like a control panel you can touch with your thought. The math unfolds in your mind--pulling the waves apart, breaking the square waves into the piles of sine waves they are--pulse waves.

What will you do?

1) Stim with the controls: 1 (10.0%)
2) Dance on the waves: 0 (0.0%)
3) Vibe in the soundscape: 2 (20.0%)
4) Answer with your own musical touch: 7 (70.0%)
Expired 4 months ago (2024-02-07 10:48:06)