A Credencium story
Kaolin Imago Fire
Start at the beginning of the Credencium series
Dreamer was deep, riding Hunin and Munin around the city, sending reports up the chain. He was a conduit, bridging the worlds of here and there, of now and soon. He didn't realize anything was wrong until the world went black.
Voices whispered in his mind, not the susurrus of comfort and oneness. Out his mind? Outside. He writhed, found himself bound, hands and feet. Voices more insistent, belief pulling belief. Pulling him out. His vision flickered, waves washed over.
"Dreamer," echoed—echoed. "Dreamer!" Harsh whispers, commanding. He was not their puppet! They silenced. Uncertain, hesitant—he opened his eyes; they moved reluctantly, gummed from disuse. He'd been dreaming—how long? What was length?
He closed his eyes again. He could see them anyway mostly, burned in his retinas. John Doe... he must be dreaming. John Doe had gone. "Dreamer!"
Was he calling? He?
"Who?" His voice? John Doe's. "What am I doing here?"
Dreamer tried to sit up, slowly, and the hands helped him, held him. "Shouldn't I—"
"We're getting you out of here." Spike. Yeah, Spike would be there. He'd dreamed this... before. Hadn't he? Was this him? He didn't want to leave.
"He doesn't want to leave," said John Doe.
Something pinched his arm, then pinched it harder.
"Sorry," said John Doe.
The world exploded.
Dreamer was deep, riding himself. He looked around and saw loops, loops and loops, swallowing each other, splitting into infinity, infinitely wrapped back around on themselves. He dove—surprise.
Something was in him, holding him back, throwing thoughts in the way of his existence. Inertia washed through him, slowing every process, slowing time itself but not his thoughts. They raced, faster and less coherent with every moment.
His heart pounded in his ears, all around him, all the hims, wrapped within, dancing without. Screams erupted. His screams, each scream making breath for another, ten others—
He opened his eyes again. He was on his back in a dingy apartment he vaguely recognized. It smelled... familiar. Richly familiar. His mouth was closed. People were screaming, around him, above him: mouths open, their diaphragms forced raw fear and anger through their throats.
Someone collapsed next to him. He pushed himself up to sitting, his arms weak, rubbery. Was this a dream? He tried to push himself up further, but he couldn't move. He was breathing heavily, and he tried to calm his body. The screaming stopped. Dreamer sighed, and scooted backwards until he hit something to lean against.
Spike coughed. "I don't know, man. I've never seen anything like—"
"Seriously. I think he accomplished—"
"They're going to be coming."
They were coming for him. They would rescue him. Weren't they here?
Something pinched his arm, then pinched it harder. No—that wouldn't happen again. Warmth flushed through him, but he channeled it. Dreamer stood up and took a deep breath, using the wall as support. "Who are the purple?" He shook his head. His vision filled with feathers, black, iridescent. Them. No, they weren't real... just a... what was real? "They're coming."
"Pull it together, Dreamer." He recognized the voice, but couldn't place it. Simon... why was that name familiar? There was a kid in his class named Simon. What was he doing here? Or was he back in class? Was he dreaming?
"—got to move!"
The voices blended together in his head, a comfortable drone. He could feel the oneness a step away; he walked into it. They screamed—and he silenced them. Just a susurrus, a lazy breeze, a leaf blowing away....
Acolytes were gathering outside. They would rescue him. The police? He remembered the couch, the carpet, the voice—it crashed in on him and he collapsed. Simon. Simon Sezowski. What was he doing with John Doe and Spike? What kind of fucked up dream was this? He needed to control it. He needed to slow things down, make sense of them. He needed to breathe.
John Doe helped Spike up; Simon stood between them. The acolytes were frozen outside the door—indecision, conflicting orders, Dreamer let it all happen. They worked as a team, one coordinated mind and four bodies, clambering out the window, dropping down onto the garbage bin one level down.
A bus would be coming soon. It was late—there was a line waiting, but they'd still get on. Dreamer knew how that would play out. And then he would figure out why.
They crowded into the back of the bus; Dreamer squeezed into a middle seat, and John Doe and Spike bookended him. Simon continued to stand, holding onto a rail.
After they'd gone a couple blocks silently, Dreamer decided to let them talk. He looked from face to face, then eased up on John Doe. "So... you're back. This is real."
John Doe turned to look at him, and rubbed his neck. "Holy shit if it's real, man. You're something else."
"What's going on?"
"We had to get you out. I mean, I expected you to do something crazy, and I'm sorry I couldn't help. We do what we can, and I had to leave or I would probably—I would probably have joined you, and we'd both be gone. Do you... do you know what I mean?"
Dreamer shook his head.
"Do you know how long you've been gone?"
Dreamer stared at him, uncomprehendingly.
"I'm just glad you recognized us at all. You've been in there for months. Well, some sort of you. That's what I mean by gone."
"You're different than my dreams."
"That's almost a miracle in itself. Man, the things they've done to you. The things you can do. I didn't think anyone could do that, except maybe Phoenix before they blocked her. Maybe."
"Why did you come for me?"
"You were gone. You... Joshua. The kid Phoenix tried to save."
"Joshua.... I remember Joshua. I think he let go. Everybody...."
"Yeah, Dreamer. Everybody helped, in some way. Hey, we're not out of the woods yet. We've got part of you, and the rest should come back if you want it."
"Why...?" Joshua chewed on the concept of self; he realized that the more he thought about it, the more he would be. "I should get back. I should go back. I should—"
"Whatever they sold you, it's not good."
"How do you know? You weren't there. They—it's amazing. They're going to do great things."
"How are they treating you? They can promise the world, but it's what they do, now, and how they do it, that really matters. How have you been? Right, you haven't. Doesn't that tell you something?"
"I've been—it's been—wonderful. So wonderful. I've been needed, I've been encouraged. I've been—"
"—molded. Into a tool, a weapon of belief, a source they can pump and drain. Destroying the ego until you do whatever they need, unquestioningly."
Dreamer shivered. He could feel himself—self—ego—trying to refute. He dove into John Doe's head, sussing out splits in reality. It made sense. He didn't understand it, but it made sense. "We need to get out of Dodge."
"That's the plan. Phoenix was always afraid of San Francisco. The Golden boys don't seem to go there much. That should be good cover for us."
Joshua relaxed into the seat, then started. He was still holding onto Spike and Simon. That wasn't right. What had the Golden Dawn done to him? He slowly eased control, letting their minds drift back to the surface.
Story and image by Kaolin Imago Fire, Copyright 2011