Chapter 16

Ætherglow #321


This is clearly a trick, you think, meant to prey on your humanoid side and its presumptions about space and motion. Gravity is optional, there is nothing forcing you to walk across this bridge. You let go of the ground beneath you and drift through the air above the threat--only to find yourself falling up toward the deadly river, above you. You reach for the space behind you to fly away--water below. On every side it flows, a corridor reflecting your negative image in a forever-repeating pattern.

“Ædan, Ædan, you think you are so clever,” the little exopath says, circling around you and casting its dark reflection on the water. “Do you try to just evade all your problems forever?”

“No! I don’t...”

“Your life is written all over you,” it says. “Always looking for ways around, never seeing what’s right before your senses. You run from your Messenger, from your destiny--”

“My destiny is my own to decide!”

“Is that what you want? Are you even capable of deciding something for yourself? You’re always letting someone else do that for you.”

You feel the æther compressing around you as the waters close in from all sides.

“I trust my friends, I listen to them and I make my own decision!” you say.

“Do you? You know so little of yourself.”

The rising waters overtake the bridge completely, leaving you suspended in your little bubble. You raise your shield, shining gold, can it even reflect this threat?

“You’re just a semiconductor yourself, Ædan. You flow along the current others placed you in, changing directions only when one path flows stronger than another.”

“Of course I do, I’m a technopath, transistor in flesh.” You fall back on your training--grasp the æther, pull it apart--space is yours to make. You push the waters back, expand the æther. The path ahead opens before you. You fly through the corridor, across to the far shore. Then let go--everything drops into its place, the world and the waters. The tower looms ahead.

“Well done, well done,” your companion says.

“Space is mine to make.” You touch the ground and press on towards your destination, always lingering at the edge of the curved horizon, in a liminal space between directions.

“We shall see.”

You walk on, on and on across the glass grassland. The ground above you glows like fire--its heat bears down on you, wilting the æthereal plants into brittle crystal points that crack and fall to dust. The water grows sparse, consumed by crystal dust. The plants are no more. You feel weirdly nostalgic in the grey desert burning bright in the crushing light.

Then clouds overtake the bright sky. Snow falls--first a few tiny glass crystals, then a heavy storm. The wind blows against you. You shield yourself from the sharp little snowflakes, directing the air current around you. Still a few of them pierce your defenses and mark tiny cuts in your avatar. Their touch is cold as Lunar night.

It’s dark along the path. The clouds clear to a sky full of glowing rivers and lakes like stars. As the heat starts to shine ahead, you stop at the boundary. And the spiral tower ahead, glowing with a faint aura, remains just as far on your horizon.

“Why...” you say.


“Seems like...”

1) “...neverending way...”: 0 (0.0%)
2) “...this isn’t working, I need to take a different route than straight ahead.”: 1 (10.0%)
3) “...this obstacle isn’t navigable in space alone, the tower is ahead of me in time, and I’m trapped in one place.”: 5 (50.0%)
4) “...I should stop moving myself nowhere, and force my destination to come to me instead.”: 4 (40.0%)
Expired 12 days ago (2024-06-05 10:18:02)