Of Breaking Waves

I’ve been away for a while

I swallowed.  “Thank you for answering my question, however much it may hurt me.  And I’m happy finally to met both of you. I’ve seen you here often enough.”

“Go now! Go quickly!” Duty ordered.  “Go!  Or you will fail!” I waved good-by to them, then did as I was told.  The thought that memes, ideas, were not only solid here, but were living beings, was beyond my understanding.

The climb was so terrible that I could barely face memories of it.  It was so dark the phosphenes vanished from behind my eyelids.  It was so cold that I froze solid, but could still move.  The air filled my lungs with tiny knives, sharp as diamond shards.  I could hear the crunch of frozen lung when I breathed. Finally I reached the top and slid downward, fast stepping to kill my not-quite-fall.   In the end, I stood on an overlook.  Rolling green hills that stretched out forever were far below me.  An enormous, elaborate, aluminum arch more miles high than seemed possible rose to my left.  A crystal sphere filled with sapphire fire hung from the arch’s keystone. As promised, light came from behind me.  I told myself not to look over my shoulder.  Instead, I jumped.  I fell.  And fell.  And fell.

And found myself on the porch, the sound of rainfall flooding my ears.

It was interesting to learn that I could come back from death, if I did everything right, but as one American philosopher had said, ‘if it weren’t for the honor of the thing’ — in his case, being tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail — ‘I’d as well do without it.’  I heartily agreed.  Perhaps I only got to climb that mountain once.  Perhaps I’m not up to doing it again.

But that climb explained why every muscle was sore.  I’d climbed and climbed, albeit in my memetic body, of which my real body is some sort of mirror image.  It was still a real climb, for which the description ‘Glory does Everest’ came to mind, except Everest is much too low to the ground.  I’d climbed almost forever, and completely exhausted myself.  

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Of Breaking Waves

I was away for a while, but

I tried to imagine wanting to stay in this place.  It truly was beautiful. The pain that had laced my body was gone.  Duty somehow seemed to be a kindred spirit.  “…heavier than worlds,” I answered.  “I still have obligations.”

“Ten thousand years!” Duty whispered.  “But I do not know the way.”

“I do,” Life’s End said.  “I can tell you, Eclipse, though you may regret the learning of it.  Alas, Duty, I will speak, but you are required by the laws of nature not to hear.”

“As always,” Duty answered.

“Tell me,” I answered. “Please?”

“You must walk north, north and up,” Life’s Ending said.  “The mountains will become colder and colder, darker and darker.  You will reach a place where the blackness is total, where the cold surpasses all imagination, where the pain of breathing is an agony without end.  You must persevere.  Finally you reach the slippery slope down, along which you will slip and slide, stopping just before you slide off the overhang. Be sure you stop, or you will fall and die.  The light will come from behind you—do not look to see where it comes from, or you will surely die.  Be not concerned with the Infinite Arch.  Instead you must gather up your courage and jump off the overhang, though the fall will be many miles and you will be unable to fly.” I swallowed.  “Thank you for answering my question, however much it may hurt me.  And I’m

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Of Breaking Waves

“I’m Eclipse,” I answered, “But that’s a name, not a meme.  I think.” Or was it?  This place was much more real than it had been, before I died.  Or whatever I’d just done.

“You eclipsed Solara, as your garb promised,” Life’s End answered.  “You eclipsed the three memetic monsters. But…” She put a hand out.  There was a barrier between us, not a force field, not something I was doing, that kept her from touching me.  “…you do not share my meme.  You’re alive. And you’re here.  That’s  unusual.  Very unusual.  I shall have to ask The Needed Answer to explain.”

“I seem to be here,” I answered.  “The Well closed.  Do I wait for it to open, or is there another way home for me?”

“Do you have a need to return?” Duty asked.  “Most people who come here find they are happy to stay.”

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Of Breaking Waves

Missing Paragraphs

That last walk—and I remembered how I got here.  The Well of Infinity had snapped shut.  Wherever I was, the sky changed in an instant from deep twilight to bright and sunny, except there was no sun and no sky.  When I looked up, I could see the meme for sky, not the sky itself, but it looked exactly like the sky.

“Welcome to the true world, younger daughter.”  The voice was not quite directly behind me.  I whirled, to find myself facing the elderly Nipponese gentleman with the sword.  He smiled. I smiled back and bowed.  It seemed to be the right thing to do. 

He shook his head.  “It is I who should be bowing to you,” he said, “though you don’t exactly belong here.  I am Duty. And this young lady is Life’s End.”  The girl from the barrow was all at once at his shoulder.  She still was dressed all in black, and still had her perky smile.

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Of Breaking Waves

First, Practical Exercise will be out this month, likely in the next week or two.

Returning to Eclipse

Mindscan started giving warnings.  What had it found?  There was a mind control scheme.  The scheme was no longer in my mind.  It had failed to cross over when my body was destroyed. I let mindscan trace out the spider-web of holes, gaps in my thoughts where the control had been implanted.  Of the mind control scheme itself, absolutely nothing remained, only the gaps where it had lurked. My body shuddered as mindscan deleted the gaps.

What had the mind control scheme been doing?  I couldn’t tell.  Nothing was left of it.  How had I missed it?  The control scheme had always been there, even looking back to memories of my first breath.  It had infiltrated my mindscan gift, so Icouldn’t see it.  Now that mind control process was gone, so I could see where the process was not.  How had Mum not detected and stopped it, back when I was a toddler?  That made no sense.

I thought I was brave, but now I was seriously frightened.  What-all might I have been compelled to do?  So far as I could tell, the control scheme hadn’t forced me to do something.  It just kept me from noticing something.  If I heard it or saw whatever it was, the mind control scheme deleted it and papered over the gap in my awareness.

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Of Breaking Waves

There followed a note from Cloud, in High Goetic.  His Goetic wasn’t perfect, but his message was clear.  He told me where all the money was hidden, in a language no one here and now could possibly know how to read.  After all, Goetica Arcana hadn’t happened here.  Or yet.  Or something. I compared dates on the note and the wall clock—weird that Pickering’s world’s electrical clocks display date as well as time.  They’d been gone three days, so I’d been not-exactly-dead for three days.  They’d be home by now. 

I sat and slumped across the table.  I was too tired to do anything. The living room held a long couch. I dragged myself to it and fell sound asleep.

Early the next morning I drifted out of deep sleep.  If I’d had dreams, I didn’t remember them. This isn’t home, I thought, the place I’d rather be, but it’s safe and warm.  Home was the keyword.  My presets triggered. I called astral projection, once again taking my mind out of body.  I wished that trick would get easier with practice, but it hadn’t.  Leaving my body, momentarily, would break almost any mind control traps someone had implanted in me. Mind scan sifted through my thoughts and memories, looking for things that did not belong.  The scan moved with the speed of thought, but it had a lot of mind to scan.  Meanwhile I floated a few inches above my face, listening my breath, slow and shallow, and staring into my unseeing silver eyes and platinum-white locks.

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Of Breaking Waves

A note lay on the breakfast room table, weighted by a tea mug.  I managed to reach it, catching myself on the table top so that I didn’t collapse onto the floor.

“Eclipse,” it began.  “We’re sure you died killing the Star Demons. You were Athena’s Spear and Shield, just like the Wizard of Mars promised.  You gave your life to save the world, when no one else could stop the Invincible Star Demons.  Together we found how to beat the Tibet Doom.  Maybe I should say you found it, many attacks at the same time, and we got it to work for us. We saved Tibet.  We agreed to fly back.   I said we had to leave this note for you to read, just in case we were wrong about your being dead.  If you’re alive, I know the flight back is a real killer for you.  I don’t know how to fix that.  You could stay here.  The house should run on automatic for a while. We’re gone.  The house is yours, if you want it.  We all mourned for you.  Sadly, Comet.”

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Of Breaking Waves

Paragraph six and seven. And today I added some paragraphs to the story, filling in a gap in the telling.

I’d died, hadn’t I, facing the Star Demons?  No, there’d been something afterwards, the people who lived at the bottom of the Well of Infinity.  They told me how to return here.  They’d warned: The return trip did not happen in linear time.  I couldn’t remember the return until it happened, and it hadn’t happened yet.  I’d need a while before I remembered it. 

I sat, arms wrapped around knees, waiting to recover a bit more.  As the clouds faded into night, I could push against a wall, walk myself upright, and stagger to a door.  Kitchen door.  No lights inside.  I rang the doorbell, then knocked once and again.  No answer.  I wasn’t up to doing a mindscan.  Null links?  My null links to the three Wells children were dead.  The Wells children, Comet, Star, and Aurora,  weren’t here.  They weren’t anywhere.  Had they died?  They might have, while I was, well, not dead, but someplace else.  Or had I been dead?  My physical body had been destroyed; my memetic dual survived.  Now I had my body back.  Comet and kin might be in another universe. I finally thought to try the door latch.  Unlocked.  I pushed on it. The door swung open. I didn’t quite fall on my face again, but only because a coat sleeve snagged on the door handle.  The motion detector noticed my movement and turned on the lights.  The sudden brightness hurt.

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Of Breaking Waves

Paragraph 5

Without thinking, I checked my Medico rules engine.  The dead-black glyphs were now pure white.   I wasn’t  dead any more.  Somehow my body had returned.  Medico reported that since then I’d had chills to the edge of having convulsions.  I’d pushed way too deep into my gifts, which I surely already knew.  I hadn’t torn any muscles or shredded any ligaments, but I’d come fairly close.  That was the bad part of bodybuilding. If I had muscle spasms, I could seriously wreck myself up.  The matching good part from all that weight lifting was that I had all those muscles, so I hadn’t dropped into hypothermia and died after reaching here. 

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Of Breaking Waves

Paragraph Four

I expect that we will accelerate our posting pace, but not quite yet.

I really ought to stop doing this to myself, I thought. You’re twelve, I told myself, an age where your persona adventures should involve rescuing kittens from low trees, no matter that you know perfectly well that the kittens will get down by themselves and learn from the experience. Your adventures have been a bit more demanding.

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