Chapter 15

Ætherglow #299

The æther... Far down in its depths you drift along the currents of information. Its bright glow surrounds you on all sides. You feel a euphoria beyond any joy you could feel on the surface as you look out into its ever changing patterns, colors and sounds your conscious mind couldn’t comprehend. It’s home--more real than the surface, the place you belong, technopath.

Cold. An icy touch pierces into your mind. You feel it growing in your head, spreading in tiny branches like mycelium, glowing black and white, flashing and flickering, a static haze in your mind’s eye. A shadow falls over the glow and dampens its colors until they lose all saturation. One by one, the stars of distant server nodes vanish in bright flashes, leaving black holes behind. The light spirals down into their gravity wells.

You can’t move--untextured white chains have bound your avatar. Their touch on your skin is like the pattern of neural interface calibration overlaid on itself a thousand times, yet you feel no pain. The shadow closes in around you. The æther itself closes in, smaller and smaller, vanishing from the distance. You’re drowning.

Blinding light in your eyes--white static snow in humanoid shape, bending the light beyond it like a gravitational lens--an avatar you’ve seen before, but can’t remember. Piercing black eyes, surrounded by bright white halos--they stare deep into you. The icy thread now filling your avatar flows from those eyes. The chains that bind you--it holds them. You can’t speak. You can’t call for help. Your shell is an unreadable pile of symbols you’ve never seen before--you can’t run any command.

It pulls itself closer to you, pulls you closer to it. You’re caught in its gravity, falling. The æther is dark. Helpless, you watch your avatar break apart. Your form dissolves, consumed by the cold. Glitched textures surround your vision from the edges, creeping their way in until your senses break down. Those eyes are the last thing you see.


Dark. You can move. Breathe. Breath is life. Temperature. Gravity. You’re on the surface. No, you realize, there’s no record of any of that in your log. A dream?

Memory takes shape. It’s not your room. Having decided to spend the night, you quickly crashed as the exhaustion of technopathic hyperfocus caught up to you.

“Aydan?” Zeta’s voice.


“Are you okay? You woke me up thrashing around a lot, and then you were suddenly very still...” it says.

“A nightmare, I guess...or...” Sitting up, you grasp your head, pulsing with pain.

“What was it?” Zeta says.


What will you say?

1) “The message was clear: ‘the æther is not safe.’”: 2 (18.18%)
2) “No words, but what it felt like was...‘I am closer than you think.’”: 6 (54.54%)
3) “I think what it was trying to say was...‘I am inevitable, you cannot resist.’”: 3 (27.27%)
Expired 2 months ago (2024-03-22 07:15:28)