Psychonaut: The Nexus (SAMPLE CHAPTER)

Friday, June 06, 2014 K.Z. Freeman 0 Comments


Dreams are ever a place where your fears find you.
A man can hide from many things. He can hide from other men and from the world. But fears are a part of him, they are him, and there is no hiding from oneself. But my dreams are like some great leveler. I suppose all men feel like this – that their dreams are something that can shatter them – I don’t know. All I know is this: dreams don’t care who you are or what you are. They care only about what you did, what you do, and what you intend to do. They use what you thought and what you think and know you better than you know yourself. They show you the true intentions behind your actions. And unlike men who want to see you hurt, dreams don’t spit in your face and leave you beaten in the dirt, gasping for air through broken lungs. Dreams speak to you through faces that you recognize but grow to hate for the foulness of their words. They know exactly what to say and say that which hurts most. They toss you into a pit and, in the darkness, show you why the darkness should be feared. Their ways are subtle.

But this day, my dreams are different. I dream of the sky. There is something out there, further even than the sky and immeasurably big. It floats towards the planet on currents of unknown technology. I blink and the scene shifts. I find myself upon a slab. I want to wake up. A pain like my spine being pulled apart shoots through me. I am bound. I am alone, but not myself. For I cannot be myself and be this afraid, can I? Can any man feel this much pain and still draw breath? The lower part of my body is gone. I observe them. I watch men in wide-brimmed hats that look more like heads that aren’t heads floating from the darkness and whispering secrets to me. My blood runs cold. Their breath is hot upon my ears as they tell me of the end. My end. Tell me how the one thing I love will fade and die. I see it happen and I scream. I scream and in this state of screaming, I awake.

They’ve heard me. How could they have not? Calyx has me by the shoulders, shaking me.
“Wake the fuck up, you bastard,” I hear her. Yet even her voice sounds weak and I tether on the edge of waking. I feel like I’ve been a part of something. As though my dream was not only a dream. I remember the words of the man, the ghost, “Dreams are never mere dreams.” I feel as if someone is collecting names, my names, all of them. From my true name to my dream-name to the name I’m known for and all the names I had been whispered in the dark. Lovers have given me names too, although there have not been many, and even fewer who didn’t try to kill me. My eyes adjust and I fully awake with a sense that,  should find my real name, my father-given name, they will have me – come for me.
“We have to go back to the man in the box,” I tell her.
“What man? What box?” Ty asks.
Face to face with Calyx, I see for the first time how sad her face is. She has that look as though smiling is not something she does often. Perhaps my face looks the same, perhaps even worse, I’m not sure. The last time I saw my face was two years ago. I saw it in a broken mirror after I had killed a man who stabbed me in the arm. He had crashed into that mirror and painted its fragments red. In retrospect, he should have gone for something more vital than my limb. I spent a week recovering from what could have cost me my left appendage, with the memory of those alien eyes looking at me. I spent that week wandering the wastes, the sky yellow and indifferent above me. All I truly remember is me shaking. 
In my wanderings, I forgot those eyes, remembered them only when the heat in me was at its most vicious and that gaze came to haunt me. I see those very eyes now, reflected in Calyx, and it feels like some old friend long dead had come back to haunt and taunt me.
I get up and walk outside. The night weights heavy on me and I realize I had not slept at all. The two follow me to the old man’s house.


The walls echo as our footfall passes.
“This place reeks,” Ty spits. We had looked around, but all the corridors of the four-story building and all the doors look the same. I open one. It has a look of familiarity. But what meets us on the other side is something quite different than what I had expected. A swirling vortex made of grey mist and electricity fades in and out of focus, as though not fully in phase with this dimension. It twists like a heart of time out of which all reality is emanating from. Tearing like fabric, the air about it seems to stretch and contract with each pulse of the thing.
“Merde,” Ty mumbles. “Right, I think we shouldn’t go in there.”
“Calyx?” I say as I see her moving towards it.
“Father?” she whispers, looking intently into the swirling maw.
“Cal?” says Ty.
“Calyx!” I yell, seeing her walk closer.
You might consider someone a rational, intelligent person, yet when that note of emotion is struck within such an individual, rational thinking is a thing forgotten. What remains is a babbling and incoherent idiot who once again reminds you people are stupid. We believe what we want to believe and the greatest lies we tell are those we tell to ourselves. And the most intelligent people craft for themselves the most ingenious lies. In times like these, I know that, truly, the greatest enemy of mankind is man. Calyx extends a hand towards whatever she sees and whatever image of her father the vortex has conjured up in her mind. I can see the need in her eyes.
“I’m here, father. How did you get here?” I jump to her, but her hand is already within. It swirls and twists, thin as hair. She too begins to bend and extend. I grab her and extend with her. Ty grabs me and extends with us both. There is no pain as we are sucked inside, only a sense of the universe coming to an end. I scream a silent shriek and realize pain would be a thing more welcome.
We find the man standing there, middle-aged. He tells us what we see, his words creating landscapes. He waits looking at a horizon in flames.
“I was young,” he began. “That day I was young for the last time. The sky was dark, but not the type of dark of the night, this was the kind of dark you could smell. The kind of dark that bites your lungs and fills your nostrils shut. Snow had fallen that day. It had fallen and kept falling for a thousand years. I knew that day we had killed it. Killed the one thing we should never have killed. We killed humanity. We killed the world. I walked alone that evening. The ash-covered streets were empty. To expect anything else would be pretty rediculous. My footprints faded behind me just like I knew the memories of a better world will fade along with me. But I was determined, you see. I had predicted this, saw it happen, felt it happening. But the stasis chamber I had built needed to be improved upon, and I had little time left. When the evening faded and night fell, the distant booming of destruction at my heels, I realized this was the end. I didn’t want to accept it. I fought it until I could fight no more. I built my own coffin and buried myself from the world.”
“How did you do this?” I ask as we begin to walk ahead. Visibility is high and I can see far into the distance. Almost as if someone fashioned my view so I could see it all. There’s an explosion out there, building a twisting red and yellow spire into the sky.
“Nomad?” Ty says, his voice uncertain, afraid. Ash falls from a layer above us the color of night, from clouds that are thick and thundering. A heat reaches us and I can smell it, like a thousand dead bodies. We stand in the light of it and all I see of the others is their black silhouettes surrounded by white. I look at Calyx, I gaze at Ty. They are silent, caught in a state like me, between marvel and utter terror. Our skin begins to burn. The pain is total, all-encamping. But it soon fades. What remains is light. And in that light, I am them, they are me, we are one. I see their black bones in the light but those too are wiped away like shapes in sand.

We come back to it beside the black box as the body – a shrivelled corpse – spills out from its confines. Fluid drips from the floating coffin, over the body and down on the floor. The corpse doesn’t move, its eyes are dead, although I imagine they had been dead for a long while. The smell makes my head spin.
“What the hell happened?” Ty asks.
“I must have asked the right question,” I answer.


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