I wouldn’t see Andrea again for six weeks, but after our last session she implored me to keep going back into that world, and to do so, not just as a passive participant in a waking dream, but as an active observer – to ask questions and learn things about my subconscious mind that would otherwise be obscured to me.
I went back in a few days later and the vision picked back up at the arena as the four of us were waking up from around a now extinct campfire. I took Andrea’s advice and immediately started asking questions of the barmaid and I got some answers. I learned that the tech is a means through which an ancient people used to channel that same blue magic that I can summon and (somewhat) control through my “body”. In my raw, untrained state I could summon it, but couldn’t command it well – making only crude forms such as knives, or shields – more sophisticated spells seem possible, but only under extreme distress. What the barmaid is able to do, on the other hand, is not to manifest this energy, but to finesse what already exists in the environment, based on tech already put in place by others long gone. The fact that she’s represented as a woman makes sense, since women are the representatives of nature/reality (a point I’ll come back to later).
As we moved through the arena and down a narrow passage we came to small chasm and instead of asking the barmaid to activate the panel, I asked her to teach me. She agreed and showed me how to use it. It was difficult at first because I kept pushing through the holograms and hitting the rock, or clumsily bungling my fingers along the graphics. But she was patient and showed me how to get my fingers at the right spot to gracefully glide along and operate the digital keys. Eventually, a bridge formed, and the walls moved so that we could carry on.
“What about the bugs?” Ego asked as the incline in the tunnel began to drop, somewhat sharply.
“If you learn how to manipulate the intrinsic forces of the Universe, the Universe is not going to like that. It will manifest ways to stop you; antibodies if you will.” she answered.
“And since insects are the most basic and versatile forms of complex life, that’s the form such antibodies often take.” I inserted.
“Exactly.” she said.
I noted to myself that the beetle, especially the scarab, was seen by ancient peoples as both a symbol of power, and rebirth, which caused the graphical representation of them in my mind to make all the more sense.
We continued on down the path. At this point the span of the cave walls and ceiling were massive – maybe half a mile high. Eventually we were greeted by floating, glowing, orange cubes with blue orbs in their center. The barmaid told us they were no threat, and then they emitted blue beams of light that scanned us. Shortly after being scanned, holographic projections of some of my old memories started to play underneath them. Most of the memories were of girls that I admired in my early childhood, including, for obscurity’s sake, a figure skater I saw once at a local skating rink when I was about eight years old.
“Ya know,” the barmaid chuckled, “for a guy that’s so happy being single, a lot of the oldest memories that you’ve hung onto seem to have a common theme.”
“Please….don’t.” I sighed, partially aggravated and somewhat embarrassed.
As we continued to walk on, a large, glowing orange pillar manifested in the middle of the path, not too far before the tunnel ended and opened left towards a large rupture in a massive pipe that was at least twenty feet in diameter. Around the orange pillar were large, orange screens.
“What is this?” I asked.
“A memory terminal.” She answered. “From here you can access any memory you want. I’m sure we’ll find others as we go.”
Just then some of the giant beetles scurried out from the pipe, crawling along the walls. They saw us and quickly scurried back from whence they came. We all raised our guns and carefully entered the opening. It was pitch black in both directions, but it was obvious that it wasn’t up we needed to go, but down.
After staring at the void, panning my rifle light around the walls of the pipe I could see the bugs moving down into the tunnel, away from the light, deeper into my subconscious. I pulled a flash grenade from my belt and lobbed it into the cold expanse ahead. It exploded a hundred yards away, but barely registered, being swallowed up by the inky blackness.
I decided to stop at that point and bring myself out of the vision, knowing that what lay beyond would require all of my fresh focus and attention.