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A Credencium story
Kaolin Imago Fire
Start at the beginning of the Credencium series
Joshua took a deep breath, and let it out. "The future is now." He shook his head. "The future is fucking now."
"You coming back, Dreamer?" Spike was on the couch behind him.
Joshua looked around, taking the place in as if he'd never seen it. It was different. He didn't know how, but he knew why. It was special. He'd made it special. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm coming back."
"Yeah...no.... Yeah. I know what I have to do."
"I don't like the sound of that, man."
"You shouldn't. I don't like it, either. But I know."
"Well, you know I'll help. You know that, right?"
"I know that. I know you'll help, when I need you. But I don't know when that's going to be."
Spike laughed. "Ouch, man! That's harsh."
Joshua let himself smile. "Yeah. Yeah, but it's not like that. It's just...I'm going to have to go away for a bit. And I'm going to need you, and John Doe, and anyone else you can get your gutterpunk paws on, when I get back. Because then, if that's what it comes to...then we're going to war."
"So what are you doing?"
"Going back to the beginning."
Joshua loitered in front of the downtown Berkeley train station, opening himself up to the ebb and flow of the city; to belief and hope, fear and despair. He opened himself to the possibility of Cerberus walking by, juggled thoughts of what he might ask.
Cerberus would hear him. And Cerberus would come, because, well, that part he didn't get yet. But he would come. And then maybe they could talk like adults. Jesus—had he just called himself an adult? That had to be the drugs talking. Jesus.
He was, admittedly, in a bit of an afterglow from the exercise earlier. His breathing was easier, the world was more vivid than he could remember; sounds were richer, smells brought formerly-buried moments of happiness from his childhood, and everything just kind of...glowed.
He opened his eyes. "Cerb."
"I got your message."
"Can we talk?"
Cerberus looked him up and down, appraisingly, then scanned the sky almost off-handedly. "Yeah, I think maybe we can. You're doing some funny things."
Joshua looked at him quizzically, but Cerberus just looked him in the eye. "Alright. So...well, I don't know where to start. It all seems kind of absurd, right?"
Cerberus shrugged. "Reality's what we make of it."
"That's the premise, sure. And true, on a number of levels, without even getting metaphysical. But what are we doing, really? Me and you? The "us" and the "them"? What's the game? What's the division?"
"That's complicated. And is the particular sort of talk that'll gather too much of the wrong attention regardless of what you're throwing up to ward, or misdirect, or whatever it is you're doing."
"Then give me your pitch. You're building an army, right?"
"We're building a world, man. We're building something better. And we're going to do it without harming a soul that doesn't want to get in our way, that doesn't want to keep us—and you—down. How does that sound?"
"Better sounds vague. World peace? An end to hunger?"
Cerberus chuckled, raising his arms into the air. "All that and more! For just three easy payments."
"As simple as that."
"It doesn't sound simple."
Cerberus nodded. "That's why you need to join us. Listen to the oracle speak. There's a lot of training—"
"That's what I want."
"I want to be trained. I'll join. I'll do what it takes."
"Well, why not? Or was I kicked out before I started?"
"No...no, that's not it at all. You know? She declared you off limits. Said you were hers."
A shock went through Joshua's heart. "She—she what?"
"Said you were hers, man. You had promise, but she was adamant; and really, in the scheme of things—you were just one more. We didn't need you."
"I think she had a crush on you, from that first night."
"Yeah. She was young; seriously. But she had a way of seeming older, you know? Well, not older, not like that. But wiser."
"So she called dibs, and what, you all just backed off?"
"We all...well, we all had a soft spot where she was concerned. And throwing her a bone now and then wasn't the worst of ideas, considering what all else was going on."
"And what was that?"
"She didn't fit with the game anymore." Cerberus held up his hand. "That's all I'll say right now. You want in? We can pick up where we left off, anyway. I'll talk to the big kahuna."
He could feel their eyes on him, even as he closed his and bent deeper into the yoga pose. Two or three weeks in, and he was having more trouble than ever understanding his "enemy". They were kind, within reason. Open minded. Calm. Communicative, as far as he was willing to probe. He didn't want more attention than he already had.
And maybe he was just imagining that they were watching him. Maybe he was drawing their attention with that sort of thinking. It wasn't very different from Phoenix's teaching; perhaps more rigid, more focused. Certainly more organized. He found it as disturbing as he did both freeing and relaxing. His was not to wonder why; just to trust, to do, and be.
There were some odd things, like disallowing "fraternizing" with previous connections. But that wasn't so odd, really.... His friends would just distract him, bring him down. The Order certainly made a big deal of how everyone had to believe, together; how they were all in this, together, for the betterment of man-and-woman-kind.
It was funny, looked at from his new perspective, from inside. He could feel his mind molding to the community. It was simple. It was easy. The more he was like them, the more they were like him, the more they could pool their belief together. And who knew what sort of things they could accomplish like that, together? What had Phoenix been so afraid of? The power, yes—but he felt like he knew his fellow acolytes fairly well. They were like him, as he was like them. They wouldn't abuse the power. They just wouldn't. How well had he really known Phoenix? It didn't seem like she'd even known herself.
The hair on his arms stood up. He breathed in, and breathed out, focusing on the flow. He saw that his mind was wandering, accepted that, and tried to bring it back to center. Something was bothering him, and he didn't want to be bothered. He wanted...to...flow. He still had flashes, nightmares, half-remembered glimmers of something wrong, something under the surface of it all, but they were muted, here. He was calmer; protected.
It was amazing how great a solid community could be. They didn't hurt for food, or money. Nobody hassled them about where they lived. Together, they could influence the world, hardly even trying. Sure, they lived in a derelict warehouse off towards the Oakland docks. But it was theirs, and they'd fixed it up pretty well. And the acolytes kept the food coming in by sparechanging—but it wasn't penny ante, and it wasn't games. It was training. They'd sit out on the street in simple clothes, and believe that they would all be provided for. And they were.
He'd been passed over for rotation twice, and that was grating on him. He wasn't supposed to practice on his fellow acolytes, but he wasn't allowed back into the real world, either. He could believe in his power of belief all he wanted, but doing something cemented it.
He knew he was strong. Believed, just given his training, and what he'd been through—as haphazard as that was—that he was probably much stronger than his fellow acolytes. He wondered...if he believed it was his turn, if he believed he wouldn't be passed over for the rotation this time...maybe he could get out, and have a chance at applying some of the subtleties of what he'd learned here. He could show them that he was trustworthy. He didn't have to contact his friends, not yet. He just had to get out, flex his wings, catch the wind under them....
Firm fists grabbed his arms, pulled him up from his pose. He struggled reflexively, then stopped, and was proud of himself for being able to control that, and for not shouting out. He went limp, but let them march him out of the gymnasium. His heart beat rapidly, but he calmed it down. They'd heard his thoughts, that was all. It was completely out of line for him to try to change things here, and he knew that. He knew that he deserved whatever discipline he got.
They were doing it for his own good—and theirs—and the world's.
Story and image by Kaolin M. Fire, Copyright 2011