I come to a crossroads and look up and down it with disinterest. Decision making is incredibly difficult. The buildings that tower above and the human traffic all around are so dense now that I feel safely cocooned, and anonymous within it.
No-one shows any inclination to help me out here either. Yet my appearance is useful in one way. I don’t have to vie for space. A bow wave of mistrust ensures several feet of sidewalk magically open around me.
So, I’m standing in this invisible force-field, obstructing the flow, and struggle with choices of direction when confetti begins to rain down from above.
Is it a parade?
The paper slips have printing on them. A sheet latches onto my arm. I detach it and nervously squint at the leaflets blurry life-blood. It is a poorly written, cheaply printed, anti-government diatribe. The propaganda is surrounded by doubtfully sourced statistics, inflammatory opinions and unsupported accusations.
I stuff it into my pocket and look above me to discover where it came from. A workman’s platform is hanging way up there. The men papering the billboard are not the cause of my shock; it is the unpleasantly familiar slogan upon it.
“Come tomorrow... a better world.”
My mouth hangs open in an idiotic gape as, unbidden, my mind tacks a caustic ‘4 WHO?’ onto the slogan.
A lynch-pin is pulled in my brain, letting loose a virtual flood of hidden information. Sudden awareness of the Chang Government, its blanket propaganda campaign and the underground movement’s opposition to it, blasts me with the hate and violence those words encompass.
We; the poor, weak and downtrodden, are the backbone of this rebellion, and I sense I am an appendage, of sorts, to a faction of it. There are old memories of an air-headed youth, dared and taunted to risk death and prison to scrawl that rebellious message across similar billboards many years ago.
And a thousand other youngsters have done so ever since.
I know one thing for sure; it won’t be me hanging off those high girders tonight.
A larger speck attracts my notice up there amongst the fluttering paper. It’s growing bigger by the second. The realisation that I’m being bombed hits me at the same time the object does, smashing into my forehead...
...Am I dead? I think I’m unconscious; but I’m fully conscious of this state? How this works I cannot imagine.
My concentration is laser sharp now that the malicious, thumping headache that has ridden me all day without sparing the whip has been evicted. Physical pain has no place here. My awareness expands, and I am privy to how little I know of myself. The previous excursions into my thoughts and ideas were mere walks into the cave’s mouth compared to this. I am inside my mind’s infinite caverns now, and I look about myself in awe.
I am floating within a sea of sub-consciousness. It is a thick soup full of random flecks of data. Inconsequential likes and dislikes are mine for the taking. I accidentally discover that I am partial to the taste of oranges, chocolate, dried and fried foods. I am incapable of being truthful for more than three consecutive sentences. My primary purpose in life is not to be hurt.
Well, my primary purpose is not being complied with today, but I’m quite happy to leave my body to its own recourse out there; it sounds pretty dangerous unlike this glorious place. And anyway, this may be my best chance to retrieve those lost memories.
With this justification in hand I decide the stuff around me is junk. The really good stuff must lie deeper down. I dive into the forbidding black waters below me without fear, and swim through a zone of shallow thought. It is cluttered with useless paranoid delusions, prejudice and half formed beliefs.
I burrow deeper, searching for the mother-lode.
It occurs to me these depths are not meant to be travelled by a split mind. I seem to be repelling myself and it’s only by strength of will that I remain here. The result is a stretching and tearing of my psyche. I figure it’s already fairly beat up so I forge on.
Deeper still is a quiet, disturbing place full of half-seen ghosts with inner glows of worn out starlight. They sink fast as soon as I observe them, but in a rush I seize a mass, gripping its gelatinous body, tearing at it, seeking to expose whatever it chooses to hide from me.
The inner muck is a vindictive and contrary monster. And strong to boot. I’m gripped by a steely embrace and force-fed with what I sought to taste. The images it rubs maliciously into my mind make me jerk and writhe. I throw a salvaged handful back, desperate to placate the creature I had no right to confront.
It does not care.
I am to see it all.
Impossible leaping spider creatures; death and destruction on a city wide scale; and a hauntingly beautiful woman, left behind.
Déjà-vu flogs me all the way to the surface of my conscious mind, using a large stick dipped in panic, loathing, and madness. As I rocket upwards, endless puppets cavort beside me; all wear my face. They look at me with an awful knowledge entrained; and an ageless, inescapable destiny stretches between us.
I scream at them to keep away, even as I burst from that deadly lake. I want none of their misfortune and pain. I have plenty of my own. The last thing I see below is a dark hole; it winks at me and continues to suckle sustenance from deep inside my soul...