writing chapter 2.5
Posted by jeanne
Portia was still sitting with her back to a wall in the hallway of the ballroom level. Her body was still buzzing from the vision of the night before. If she shut her eyes, she knew she could get back into the dream and fly back to their world. But she couldn’t shut her eyes, because people kept coming up to her and wanting to hear the details. Again and again.
People kept asking for proof. She could only offer the pictures she took with her phone, and the text message, and maybe some graffiti on some rooftops. No proof at all.
When she told the story of their progress thru their gameworld, she felt as if she’d lived the lives of all the characters simultaneously. Rich, fulfilling, multilayered lives, whole families and tribes and nations of people following their own destinies; and if you wanted to fight, you could go questing for battles. Otherwise, you built the best life you could imagine in the spot you loved the best, and enjoyed it with people who made you happy. And this seemed like the most natural thing in the world, like the way life was supposed to be.
She happily remembered the world they built in their vision last night, and shared her experiences with all her friends. The whole circle felt warm and supportive. She wanted to curl up in the middle of all these people who loved her, while somebody else answered the questions. If she could just close her eyes and take a deep breath, she might even be able to take them with her, back into the gameworld. She began to yawn violently, suddenly feeling bone tired.
But people were still asking questions. Yes, they could feel cold and heat in their world. And hunger. And injuries – they hurt like fuck. Yes, they peed and shat. Sex was excellent, much better than usual (don’t tell Josh). It was completely real; everything. Real snow, real water, real rocks, real plants, real weather. And the passage of years. The adding on of life upon life, generation upon generation, and the vast ocean of memories and experience they all formed, accessible for some reason to her and the boy. Even now in their ordinary consciousness. The boy, off playing tournament games, paused to agree with her.
That’s what she wanted to tell people: about the things they learned, the truths they discovered. There was a whole layer of understanding that changed everything once they’d been exposed to it; and the lessons were right there, as clear as if they were written down. But right now she couldn’t express them in words. She was too drained, too speechless. The words were unfamiliar, as if the language she spoke had diverged from theirs centuries before.
She shut her eyes, and felt a humming, vibrating deep inside of her. It was a feeling, a sound she’d grown accustomed to in their gameworld, loudest when she was flying, but always in the background, like crickets, like electric power lines.
“We were able to access the…the flow, I guess. Like, the interface between matter and energy.” She tried to capture and distill what she wanted to say. “The place where it goes from being the future to being now.”
She looked up, wondering if she made sense. People were listening. “We learned to ride that edge, of, uh, possibility, I guess, between what is and what could happen. You can do a lot of things when you surf the present.” She stopped. That sounded stupid. “There are a lot of choices when it’s still virtual,” she tried.
The hum was louder. She asked the girl next to her if she heard anything. The girl touched her arm, and Portia felt the hum as a vibration that began in her arm and went down into the floor underneath, and suddenly the building was vibrating, too. She looked up at the ceiling, imagining 24 stories of rebar and concrete twanging gently, like a bell. The girl removed her hand from Portia’s arm, and the feeling passed, but she still heard the hum inside and around her, louder than ever. She needed a nap.
She continued trying to explain their experience. “Flying was just leaning into the flow, you know?” Several nodded. “Kind of like pushing and being dragged along, both. And when we created something – a plant or a city, it didn’t matter – it was like scooping it out of thin air, like turning it into substance with your hands and your mind. And it was easy, because it was real. The energy was real; the intent, the making…” She stopped again. None of this was coming out straight. But the people around her didn’t look confused, they looked like they understood every word. And believed. More than she did.
“There’s a web of energy that connects everything.” She was being careful. Let’s not attract the wackos, the boy warned. “We learned how to work with it, and we were like spiders in a web, where we could feel every movement. And by reacting to it, we could also kind of control it.”
“And that’s the secret of magic in your game?” someone asked.
She thought about it. Magic. “That’s not all of it,” she said, thinking of the horrible mistakes they made, “but I guess it’s the basis of all our powers in the game.” She shook her head as his eyes lit up. “There’s a learning curve,” she cautioned.
“Did you bring any powers back with you?” someone asked hopefully.
She thought about it. We can read minds, the boy suggested. “Yeah, we…we’re still in each other’s heads from last night when we did all this. I’m talking with him now.”
“What’s he doing?” someone asked.
I’m losing, he replied, as his avatar was blasted. “He’s down to his last few lives in this round,” she told them, “but at the moment he’s still in the top ten.” She used body english to help him clear the remorting area and fly back into action.
“Can you get into anybody else’s head?” someone asked.
She checked. There was only the boy, screaming at the tournament boss he was battling. “Maybe it’s because we were together,” she started, and then fell silent as she reached out with her mind.
There were other voices, other presences. She searched for sensations, and realized that the space inside her head and all around her was filled with life. With lives. With individual spots of energy. Just like in the game. She sat with her eyes closed and listened to the thoughts of the people in the crowd, and the people in her game. All the voices buzzed with excitement.
“I can hear all of you here,” she told them. “And also the people in our game. They’re all around me, like you are.” They were as clear as the players in their vision. “There are millions of people in the game, and millions of people in the real world. They’re like a cloth made of light, all crumpled up and twisted together. They’re all playing the game. Creating the game. It’s like some galaxy.”
She was speaking very softly. The people around her pressed in closer, and the people in back closed in around them. People touched at the knees and hips and shoulders, their arms on people’s backs, their heads on people’s shoulders, connecting in a circle around Portia, who sat still, rocking gently with the strength of the hum.
Millions of players stood on a plain that stretched to the horizon, involved in their own games, milling about and playing with others. She saw millions of players creating their own worlds, worlds that were all real worlds, worlds that they were already living in. There was nothing specific she could tell her friends, there was just a weightiness; the certain knowledge that these players were the ones in charge of creating the real world, and the strong feeling that everything depended on their actions and choices. It was up to them to transform everything, and the players were playing as if their lives depended on it. Their energy gusted past her like a wind, loose and undisciplined; like arrows waiting to be gathered and aimed and sent on their path.
The people next to her felt it first. Like the hum and buzz of a computer, like the rattling of an unbalanced ceiling fan that makes the air shudder, the jitter of a generator on the other side of the wall. They could feel it thru their butts on the floor, and thru the other people they were jammed up against, and in their ears. They could even taste it, like zotz on the tongue: a tingly, sour taste.
The area around the group fell silent, as if all the sound had been absorbed into the circle. Passers-by stopped and crowded in; a knot formed in the traffic, and backed up all the way to the escalators. Movement in the hall slowed to a crawl.
Everybody was feeling something. They were all leaning in to catch it, straining with their ears and their nerves and with every muscle on alert. The whole crowd was feeling the hum, everyone vibrating in place as if being electrocuted. But it didn’t hurt, and didn’t feel at all unpleasant. Some people felt it in their hands, or their feet. Some felt it in their heads, and in their jangly teeth. Some felt it in their genitals, some in their shoulders, some in their bellies. It felt good, it felt beneficial, almost nutritious. Like warm sunshine in their blood.
Nobody could say if the feeling started inside them, or whether they were being shaken by some outside force, some subaudible beat. But it felt like the whole world was vibrating at that specific frequency (not too fast and not too slow), and the more people paid attention to the feeling, the stronger it got, until everyone in the crowd – now several hundred people – were bobbing and bouncing like tethered balloons in a stiff breeze.
It felt to the girl as if she were very small, floating around in her own enormous body, so that all of her could fit into the palm of her hand. Her hand felt enormous, but when she cracked her eyes open to look at it, it was the same size. She felt tiny, but she was the same size as everybody else. She was aware of everyone in the room, all breathing with her, all buzzing with the same vibration, all being bathed in the energy of the universe – the energy she was trying to tell them about. She reached out to them with her mind, and their attentions focused on her. She felt them blend into her, and then her body was endless.
All the players in the game, and all the people around her in the hall – everyone fit inside of her, and she closed her eyes and wished with all her might to be flying thru space, following the star, gathering more people as she went, beginning to approach the Garden and their gameworld.
She rose slowly into the air, sitting in the middle of her circle. She could feel the pull in her gut, and could feel everyone around her, like threads connected to her, keeping her from zooming away. She hovered a couple of inches off the floor, grazing the knees of the people closest to her. The opened their eyes and saw her floating in front them, and she swept her hand around herself, touching each one. They each sighed as if they’d had a massage, and each one bobbed up beside her, touching the people around them as they rose. And so a wave started, ring after ring rising gently into the air around Portia, the hum louder, the vibration lower.
The people in the hall realized that they were floating. Some of them looked down and wiggled their feet in the air. It didn’t seem so very unusual to be weightless. They were all jammed together, surely their internal gasses were enough to levitate them. Or something. They were floating because they could: that was something they could all agree on.
They realized that they were all communicating with each other, like an enormous chat room, tho the hall was silent. They realized that they could find their friends in other parts of Dragoncon, and could see their families having breakfast at home.
They remembered playing the game the girl and boy were describing, and realized that it was their favorite game, and they’d played it a million times at some point, long ago. They reached out as a group mind and began touching other minds in the world, sweeping outward until all the people in the world were talking and playing. They reached out again, and the universe was filled with friends, and unknown dimensions were filled with more friends, new friends. And it went on and on, faster and faster, the group larger and larger, stronger and more aware.
Suddenly the lights in the room went out. A shock fled thru the crowd. Each person felt a jolt of electricity and snapped back into themselves. Instantly they all thumped down onto the floor. The concrete floor trembled.
Maniacal laughter filled the air as a hooded figure flipped the lights back on and fled.
They looked around at one another, shaken. Wow, that was real, they thought.
“Let’s do it again,” somebody suggested. They agreed right away, but Portia was curled up in the middle of the crowd, groaning and clutching her stomach. So they talked about what had just happened, and were pretty sure it was real, despite the asshole bit at the end. Portia huddled under a shawl and shivered. People got up and went to their next panel.