Psychonaut: The Nexus - Chapter Sample

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 K.Z. Freeman 0 Comments


Morning paints the world in gold as we reach the end of our trek. Our wanderings have taken us before the very feet of the fortress. The shadow of its bulk surrounds us and a wind blows down its construction, so immense it seems to breed its own microclimate. Cooler air near it smells of old, stagnant stone, as though passing from an unseen cave system. I cannot see the tip of it as I gaze up, it seems to merge in dark unity with the sky. The gate barring our entry is titanic. Almost as wide as it is tall, standing inlaid with mosaic depictions and gothic symbols of an age forgotten.
There are places in this world where you can feel the pulse of history within the very space surrounding you. Places where you can taste the ancient wind borne to hidden knowledge left behind in a bygone time. This is one of those places, but also not. Here history waits laid out for you, etched into the very front gate and depicting secrets of forgotten eons. Each carving and epic figure upon the metal is inlaid with text. A language I had never heard a word of and can’t hope to understand. It feels that even when the language had been used, it wasn’t spoken. Its very syntax seems to suggest a language of secrets, of knowledge kept and guarded.
In the center of the gate, alloyed with it, there are two words; Illuminatus Arx. The ‘I’ alone is bigger than any gate I have seen, taller than ten men standing on top of one another.
“How do we get in?” I ask. “Where have you taken my friend’s father?”
“Illusions are a part of this world,” says Awir behind me. “Some would say our very world is an illusion.”
His words feel familiar and they pain me in a way I cannot explain in words. “Where is the man you have stolen?”
“Stolen?” asks Bain. “We have stolen nothing. He has come to us freely.”
“Where is he?”
No answer.
I have come to understand Awir likes to talk in riddles. But there is something in his voice. It sounds aged sure enough, old, yet bares a youthful vigor as though everything he says is something to be met with enthusiasm.
None of the others had so far spoken to me, save Awir and Bain. During their conversations, I’ve since been able to name them. Ezar, Unas, Ia, Huron and others whose names I have forgotten. They all sound alike, booming voices and clipped speech with little room for missed interpretation.
“You and your word-spirals, Awir,” says the one I have come to know as Ia. “You’ll tire the boy before he even gets to see the thing.”
For all intents and purposes, I am their prisoner. I do not feel immediately threatened, but something tells me they would not hesitate to end me.
“Loregar, do you dream?” asks Bain. His question surprises me. It comes as sudden as his turn to face me. The gate’s depictions match those of his armor. He is like a statue, unmoving and cast in the spire’s shadow. The gatekeeper.
“I dream,” I nod.
“What do you dream about?” This question… I have been asked before. It feels less of a coincidence that not only the question’s wording is the same, but the pronunciation of it as well.
Recollection sometimes hits you at the most inappropriate of times. A sudden clarity, an instant realization of truth and the subsequent feeling that you have known in tall along. You want to keep such a truth, grasp it, store it in your mind. But you forget… only to be reminded it later, probably at an equally inappropriate time. The time for my truth, however, is very much appropriate, it seems. It hits me and doesn’t let go, as though the mere words of Bain had somehow summoned it from where it had hidden itself, forgotten and out of reach. A recollection tingles its way over my skull. I remember a dream and it suddenly seems as though I had never dreamed of anything else.

A ripple and a sound, faces drawn into the sky. The sun-sphere shakes, sheds its crystal form into all themes of composition. Formations of infinite complexity spin out of simplicity, grind into all the corners of reality. A blue sound bursts out of nothing and vanishes back into nothing. Something plucks the cosmic string and the dance begins. Liars become truth-tellers and form music consisting of revelation and enlightenment. Shattered perceptions delete all reason as forms of pure vibration feed upon themselves, upon their own desires. The great serpent bites its tail, smelting the universe into a loop of fire and life, sin and desire, life and more fire. The Sun is born into a fierce union, coloring the sky with madness.  

The significance of the dream eludes me and its truth seems distant again.
“The past. Today you will dream of the future,” says Bain.
“Your mind is a conduit,” adds Awir.
They say no more and begin to walk ahead. It is Bain who disappears first. The gate is there, and he simply walks through it. There’s momentary disruption of image around the Templars as they move through, one at a time. They leave me behind, standing, staring, dumbfounded and baffled.
I move only when I feel Bain again, scraping around in my head. “Move.”
Light blinds me for a moment and I feel as though I have passed through a veil and into the very pages of history.
The hall is immense, lit by light streaming towards us from up ahead, silhouetting the thick shapes ahead of me. High pillars like in the times of the Greekians support a vaulted ceiling bearing depictions and writings much like those upon the gate, colored in fine detail. 
I remember the books father kept. Actually, it was just one book, worn out, with its pictures barely visible. But I remember the distinct pillars of stone, they had an air of history about them and had stuck in my mind.
“Our gates are ever open,” says Awir. “All it takes is the courage to enter them.”
“What happens to those who do?”
I didn’t really need to ask, for the answer lay at my feet. A path had been made between shriveled corpses and dried remains. I am met with empty eye sockets and gaping maws, teeth still white. They all have long fingernails and beards, some of those fingernails still on triggers and some of those beards graying. There are no wounds or signs of what had killed them.
“Courage to pass through the gate, and what then?” I ask. “Courage to die?”
“The right answer.” Bain’s words have a kind of malevolence to them. A finality; ‘Get this right, or join the corpses at your feet.’
“Where do the water and the waterfall meet?” he asks.
Again, the sense of fate. Inexorable. It is like a finger pointing away to some sight in the distance. You concentrate on the finger and lose view of the glory surrounding it. Fate is like that. Inexorable. You think about it and try to examine it and its destination, and you lose sight that such things are not truly the point. There are, however, definite moments in time where you feel the finger had been pointing towards. Where you find yourself there, in the very nexus of it, you can feel it. And a sense of wonder intermixes with a strange, mystic sensation of unreality.
I feel like I’ve known the question before I knew the answer, and knew the answer before I knew the question.
“They don’t meet, because they’ve never been apart. The two are one.”
Bain lunges towards me. His first punch throws me back and I crash into Huron who catches me in his hands. He pushes me away and back on my feet.
“Fight, Loregar. You are stronger,” I hear him, his voice is younger.
Bain’s thrusts and faints are expert. Each hit I attempt he seems to easily dodge only to land his own attack straight into my face. By the time he hits me for the fifth time, I can no longer hear the droning in my head. By the time he hits me for the seventh time, I can no longer feel the punches, rather, it feels like I am being punched without pause. The meaning of this is lost to me. All I can think of is his intent to kill me – with his fists no less. I see an opening and I take it.
“You are one with Bain,” Awir tells me on a private channel indicated by a visual cue on my retinal display. “Do not attempt to beat him, simply be him. Become him.”
Shut up! I grind my teeth.
I understand only when I realize an opening wasn’t an opening, but a trick. This time, the return punch throws me from my feet, an uppercut that echoes in the great hall as though a bell had been struck. It might have just been in my head.
I’m on the floor, a fist about to hammer down on me as Bain hangs in the air for the briefest moment. I kick him in the groin just before he lands on me. A low blow, but rules are not something one abides in an unprovoked attack. And whoever thinks a weak point shouldn’t be exploited in a fight has never been in a real one. Bain lands his blow as my own attack seems ignored, and I shield myself using my forearm. He staggers back. I see my chance and grab his arms, then put my helm to his with all my strength. A bad idea. Probably the worst I’ve had in a while. For a moment the world is black.
They say the world is full of wisdom and that fools yet die from the want of it. I had hoped something would stay with me, a lesson when my sight should return. But all I get with the return of my sight is a glimpse of Bain’s fist as he punches me in the face.
One step back, two, then another punch. I don’t remember getting on my feet. A third step back, a fourth, a punch intercepted. A fifth step back, a sixth forward, a punch delivered and blocked, another received in the gut and a third in the face. It seemed for every blow I half-land, I am awarded with two. Yet there are no lessons more well learned that those we learn in pain. Well, most of us at least, although such a notion would prove false should you look upon the state of the world. In any case, in the span of one breath – and my breathing is rapid indeed – I decide to give up for a time. I focus on defense. I meet every punch with a block, I move aside to every kick, I parry every backhanded swing of his massive arms. I do this until he no longer seems able to sustain his tempo, then land my own punch. His movements become slower after that, slower with each kick and slower still with each sweeping strike I manage to land. When a first, direct hit connects, hitting him full on, he falls on his ass and doesn’t get up for a while.
He grunts and slowly stands up, offers me a hand.
“Well fought.” He takes my right hand, plants his left into my forehead and I forget I exist.

A fusion of energies and a golden spiral. Its tendrils climb the sky and merge with the infinite ocean. Light breaks through from the creative source, illuminates the hidden passages of time and blends reality into a coherent whole. Vibrations of sound form colors and light up the universe. All things begin their spin, from mountains of liquid fire to the depths of granite oceans. Planets twirl into alloys of brutal, seemingly unbreakable force. Yet they break still, shatter to form new planes and moons forever in motion. Explosions mark the beginning of conscious existence, send out sleepless thoughts from their energetic centers. Beings emerge to entice reality with senses uncontrolled. Color hits their eyes and flesh feels the touch of cosmic dust. Winds speak and implant thoughts - new wonders within burning cognition. Cerebral flames paint the skies with projected images and ideas. Life takes on a different meaning for each mind. Matter becomes an illusion as beings grow and embrace a hive, a collective buzzing of opportunity and hidden spheres yet to be explored. The scepter spins in the grip of time, the pendulum shifts and slingshots from place to place into all places at once. Minds become omnipresent, neither here nor there, neither alive nor dead, but All, forever seeking refuge in all the pleasures of existence.

Shaking off remnants of the dream, I awake to a world where I am incased in a suit of armor pressing down upon me. It feels like dead weight and before its systems activate, I am panicking. The state of dread leaves me almost as soon as it had come. In my confusion, I had called upon Calyx, I had pictured her helping me, tearing the suit off with her bare hands. The brain can be weird like that. All the image did was remind me she is gone and that I’ll probably never see her again. But at least I have learned a lesson. That’s always good, right? The lesson was simple. You never stop until your opponent is down. Preferably dead. I am not dead, which is good at least.
“The day is not yet over,” says a familiar voice beside me. I turn to see Bain, his helm off, sitting on a chair. His hands rest on the arms of his seat. His face is lined with age and crested with a full set of grey hair. A beard runs down his armor to the point where I wonder how the hell he managed to put it all in that helm of his. Like the walls around him, Bain’s face is covered in writing, the ink upon his face is black.
“Are you alright?” another asks me, standing on the other side of my bed. His face is much younger, bright-eyed and full of cheek. But his face too is tattooed and darkened by ink.
“Ia will tend to you, teach you how to remove your armor. Then you will come meet me. Our time is running short. They are coming.”
“Who is coming?”
This time, his words have no effect, as though his punches had knocked some sense into me, or out me. I don’t see any food. Bain gets up from his chair, picks up his helm and walks out of the room.
I take a moment to familiarize myself with the surroundings and realize there’s not much to familiarize with. A bed and two chairs surrounded by stonework walls and a gap where a door could have once been. The room is lit by a window on my right, its light cresting the bulk of Ia.
“Brute force, is it?”
It takes me a moment to realize he’s referring to the fight between me and Bain.
“It’s what the wasteland thought me,” I answer.
“I’m not sure brute force is what’ll help us in the coming fight. But it just might, you never know.” “What is the coming fight? What am I suppose to know that I don’t?”
“I think it best if you see it for yourself,” he says.
I eat better than I have eaten all my life. Ia brings me food I didn’t even know existed, with a claim that they ‘breed’ it in their vaults. Whatever the hell that means.
He leads me through areas of the fortress that look pristine. I have never seen such smooth surfaces. I’m sure not even blood would stick to it. We wade between passages no wider than a man, parsimonious light bathing us from each.
“You seem distracted,” says Ia. “Perhaps this place will help. In all likelihood it might just make it worse.” He flashes a smile.
“Can I ask you something?”
“You already have. But yes, you may” he smiles wider.
“They told me my friend’s father has come here by his own free will. Why? Why is he here? Where is he?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know.” I have no idea why, but I believe him. It must be his eyes.
“Will you help me find him?” I ask.
“I’ll do what I can.”
We arrive at the corridor’s end, having met none of the Templars.
“How many of you are here?” I ask.
We walk into a wide and tall area filled with shelves filled with more books than I have seen.
“You were right. I thinking this may prove a bigger distraction even,” I murmur.
Books have always fascinated me. There aren’t many left and those that are, remain jealously guarded by their keepers. I have once come across a tome that spoke of dragons and knights slaying them. A laughable idea. Within a safe, I once found one which read “Quantum Theory.” I understood none of its contents and managed to sell it for enough credit cards to last me a whole year. When leaving town the next day, I found the person who bought it dead, his grave a dumpster, his hand clutching a bloody page of the book. The page talked about probabilities and I suppose he never considered the probability of someone wanting the book more than he did.
The lighting within the library is poor and the titles of each book stand eaten by age. We are surrounded by bookshelves two times our height and a sense of age permeates our existence, the smell of old paper tickles my nostrils. The ceiling is lost in shadow. Ia leads me between what seems like two random bookshelves.
“I like this one,” he says and pulls out a small, brown-faced and yellow-paged book from a shelf about his height. The book rests on his outstretched palm as if it were some precious gem, one of a kind. “This book is the last one left,” he says. “It gives insight into our minds. Careful,” he pleads as I take it from him.
In golden, winding letters, it reads, ‘The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud’.
I flip the pages, I look, but am drawn to something else. Something catches my eye at the end of the corridor, behind Ia.
I walk to it. “What’s this?”
Ia’s footsteps follow mine.
“Mind bank,” he says. “The Ancients possessed many ways of placing books into your head. They could stream images on any surface, on what they called ‘screens’ and even directly into your mind.” 
“Show me.”

Chapter 1 Sample

Read the book here.

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