“You killed yourself. ” said Mother Mayhem.
“Yes. ” said Erik. “Completely and totally. It was like suicide, but moreso. I was already someone almost nobody knew. So it was easy for me to destroy what traces of me existed in the system … I’ve always been good with computers… and within a couple of months, it was like I had never existed. Tabula rasa. Gone and forgotten. ”
“And I loved it. I was finally truly free. I’d cut all ties to my terrible past and could reinvent myself from the ground up. And I didn’t even really need to do that. With my skills, I could survive as a nowhere man for as long as I liked. ”
“That must have been very liberating. ” said Mother Mayhem.
“And then some. After that, I drifted for a while. Got tired of that, eventually, so I settled down in a nice sleepy litttle mid-sized town, got a job and a girlfriend, and lived a normal life for a while. ”
“And how long did that last?” asked Mother Mayhem.
“About a year. Maybe a little more. ” said Erik. “Looking back, I was mostly just seeing if I could do it. Create a life, blend in, pass as normal, become part of the scenery. Once I had done that, it was time to move on. ”
“But what about your girlfriend? And your job? Your co-workers? And everyone else who knew you? Tell me you didn’t just ghost them. ” said Mother Mayhem.
“Of course not. ” said Erik. “That would leave a trace. Instead, I phonied up a job offer in Europe, told everyone I would stay in touch, and pulled my disappearing act again while keeping that persona’s email and Facebook accounts active with increasingly infrequent updates about my great new job etc. ”
“You really put a lot of thought into it. ” said Mother Mayhem.
“Only because it was fun. ” said Erik, as if defending himself from charges of motivated action. “To me, it was all a game. A game called Can I Fool Everyone? It turns out I could. So when that got old, I vanished again. ”
Mother Mayhem nodded. “A selfish act, but you handled it well. ”
Erik smiled. “Thank you. That means a lot to me, coming from you. After that, I drifted some more. Starting looking for some kind of meaning in my life. Because a low-key background member of many religious and spiritual organizations. But it was plain to me that none of them had any real answers. Just workable delusions. I wanted to find some capital-T Truth in the world so that I could make sense of things. ”
“A noble cause. ” said Mother Mayhem.
“Glad you think so. ” said Erik. “And the truth is, that kept me going for many years. Everyone I met had some little piece of the truth as seen from their perspective, but somehow, no matter how hard I searched, it was never enough for me. The picture of the world in my mind was still riddled with maddening gaps and the feeling that absolutely nobody knew anything about anything grew within me, along with a great and hateful bitterness toward the world. ”
“And that’s when I met you. It was a stroke of luck, really. I never thought learning to meditate would do me any good. But there I was in that ashram in Northern California with nothing better to do, so I learned it. As it turns out, it was exactly what I was looking for without realizing it – a way to clear the noisy chaos out of my head so that I could think clearly for once.”
“And once I could think clearly, I had a great epiphany : FUCK THE TRUTH. Fuck it to death. What mattered was not the Grand Truth but my own truth. My own reality. And once I realized that and accepted the truth of it into my heart, all of my hateful bullshit just melted away. ”
“Because I realized that it was up to me what I allowed into my consciousness. Good thoughts could be welcomed in. Bad thoughts could be shown the door. I had the power to purge myself of my toxic attitudes and all I had to do was stop blaming others for my emotional state and take responsibility for it myself. ”
“How old were you when you had this epiphany?asked Mother Mayhem.
“32. Why do you ask?” said Erik.
“Then it is official. You, my friend. are spritiually precocious. Most people do not realize their own role in how they feel until they are facing their own mortality. If they realize it at all. ” said Mother Mayhem.
“Why thank you, Mother. ” said Erik. “The hardest part, for me anyways, was giving up blame. I had lived my life with such hate in my heart and such a clear vision of who was to blame for all my pain that even aftermy epiphany, I found it hard to give up.”
“What finally did it for me was the realization that I wasn’t trying to say that nobody was to blame for what had happened to me in my childhood. Many people were very clearly responsible for it. What I was trying to do was cut ties with these people not because they were not to blame, but because they were beyond my control. There was nothing I could do to make them pay for what they had done to me. And the more I thought about it, the more the very iudea of taking my revenge on them made me sick. It all seemed so pointless. There was nothing vengeance could do for me that I could not more easily achieve on my own, within my own karma. And the best part of that was that I could do it without depending on a specific response from them. It took the power away from them and that made it worth doing all on its own. ”
“Because in the end, what does holding on to all that pain do for me? Because there could be no doubt – it was definitely hurting me. Some of it had been hurting me for decades. And all for the slim chance of maybe hurting them?”.
“It just didn’t make sense. So I gave it up… forgave those who had transgressed against me, and moved on. Not for them, but for me. ”
“Weren’t you afraid of letting them ‘get away with it’?” asked Mother Mayhem.
“They had already gotten away with it. Because it was in the past. Nothing I could do to them would change the fact that had happened. All I could do was sever the connection to my inner demons and move on. ”
“I remember those demons. ” said Mother Mayhem. “I saw them leave you. They looked disappointed and confused. ”
“Good. ” said Erik. “With that burden gone, it was easy to ride up to the higher levels of the Astral Plane, and that’s where I met you. ”
“At one of Peter Pan’s Pan parties, if I recall correctly. ” said Mother Mayhem.
“Do you remember the first thing I said to you?” said Erik, a twinkle in his eye.
“I believe it was ‘So like, is this guy the real Peter Pan, or what?’. ”
The Dreamer stirred in its slumber uneasily.
Recently, its long languid dreams had turned to stormy and turbulent nightmares. It could no longer tell which thoughts and emotions came were its own and which belonged to another sentient. Everything was in flux and his private reality’s only constant was that the next transformation would be radically different than the previous one in a way that was totally unexpected, and of such emotional intensity and sensory density that there was no way he could process it all before everything changed again.
One moment, he was an insectoid sentient clinging to the underside of an enormous fungal outcropping, readying herself with time-honored rituals to commit suicide by dropping onto the coordinating neural complex of the enemy hive and releasing the spores that would dissolve it into molten pump in seconds.
She was looking forward to it. The Great Hive awaited her. She felt truly blessed.
The next moment, the Dreamer was a wretchedly sick deer-like creature on a planet with a grey-tan sky and enormous forest of lichen. It thought of the laman-dog it/she had hunted and eaten. Had there been a touch of purple in its eye? A stiffness in its anal bristles? She could not remember. But judging by the great wracking spasms she was experiencing, it was a strong possibility.
Could she, a respected and highly placed Provider, have actually eaten a laman-dog sick with the Blackness?
If so, she would never live it down.
Another transformation, and the Dreamer was a herbivorous bat. stuffed with pollen and fruit from the Festival, languidly masturbating as he digested his dinner and drowsed in the late-summer darkness of a picture perfect day.
It had been too long since he had reconnected with his home tribe. The life of a village administrator was always busy, and it was deceptively easy to get so absorbed in one’s work that time slipped past and before you knew it, it was Festival, and you were in the middle of about ten different things, and you had to drop them all and fly back home at top speed or risk becoming one of those sad people celebrating Festival alone.
He wondered what his children were doing. Probably copulating wildly in every way they could think of, knowing them. Festival was, after all, for the children.
AS he ejaculated, his sparkling sperm painting a neat stripe on the moss below, he wondered how they were doing.
And how many of them would survive the Draining.
And so forth and so on, life after life after life, with no control over its destination or how long it would have till the next shift came.
The Dreamer did not like this at all. It was used to order, and control, and authority. This helpless whirl of experiences was utterly unacceptable. Someone was warping his personal fluidic psychosubstance, and that was disrupting his filtration systems, and that made him very angry indeed.
So he began to ignore the changes. Pain, pleasure, happiness, sadness, heart rending grief and Sphere-shattering orgasm, they were all the same to him as he concentrated on extending his tendrils deep into the tissue of his medium so he could regain control.
And when he did, there would be a very stern reckoning for whatever being or beings were responsible for this disruption. He was supposed to still be dormant now, and here he was verging dangerously close to Awakening.
And if there was one thing the Dreamer knew, it was that his Awakening would signal the beginning of the end of everything.
The prophecy was clear. When the Dreamer wakes, the spheres will crack, the night will shatter, and the lives of the Sleepers will become as one.
It was something even the youngest spawn knew by heart.
But what they did not know was that the prophecy also said that on that day, the Dreamer would be transformed into the Dragon of the Midnight Sky, and in his great maw, minds by the thousands would be crushed so that their essence might be added to his own and increase his power.
And to be frank, the Dreamer didn’t like the sound of that. Not at all. He was content to live his life in the spaces between minds and had no desire to be transformed into anything at all, let alone some ridiculous ravenous mind-beast.
So whoever was pushing him closer to that fate was going to learn a very thorough lesson on why one should not provoke the wrath of Astral Plane royalty. Whether it was the Dreamer, the Wounded Mother, the Elite Eye, Harmony Eclipse, or even the Barnacled Hermit, angering he or his siblings was unwise in all dimensions.
The pain he would inflict would be legendary.
And minds never die,.