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A Credencium story
Kaolin Imago Fire
Start at the beginning of the Credencium series
"You're going to what!?" blurted Spike. Joshua almost backed down at that—he'd never seen Spike angry, hadn't been sure he could be. It was scarier than he'd thought it would be. But his friend seemed to be at a low boil now, and Joshua needed that.
"I'm going to figure out what's going on, dammit! I'm going to figure out the purpose of all this. Of Phoenix. Of the goddamned Golden Dawn."
"No. You're going to fucking kill yourself, Dreamer."
"We're already dead, man. Isn't that what J.D. would say? But he's gone who knows where. Everyone's gone, and I'm just spinning my wheels watching the days turn gray."
"No." Spike moved closer to him; Joshua could feel the heat of his body, the wind of his breath. The 'no' was like a rotting punch in his face. It was worth it. "No," Spike said again, pushing his finger into Joshua's chest. "You're alive. She's dead. And you've got the whole world to believe in. Anything you want. You've got power. I'm not sensitive to it like some, but I've seen what you can do—"
"That's just it! I'm not any closer to what's going on, and the town's been dry of this—", he shook the baggie of white powder in his hand, "—since before Phoenix was Ashes. If I don't get deeper, I'm going to dry up. We might as well have buried everything we had with her. As it is all I've got is parlor tricks and misdirection."
"No." Joshua could feel Spike pushing his belief onto him, imposing his reality, his hope. "You don't need to do this now. You don't need to push this limit. I've seen what you can do. I've seen someone hold the door for you to go into their house without even noticing they were doing it, then lock the door behind you. And you're just getting started. But that's the thing—you're just getting started. Phoenix was something else, and you saw what they did to her."
Joshua let his breath out, and smiled. "Focus on the positive. I don't need to push this limit—maybe that's true. Or maybe time is ticking, and if we don't head it off, no one will. But believe I can do it. Phoenix knew more about this than anyone, and this is the path she set. So believe in her, keep believing in her, and believe in me, and maybe we'll turn this on its head."
Spike did a double-take. "Holy shit, did you just play me?" He laughed. "I am amped! I do believe in you, and her, now even more." He shook his head in slow bemusement. "I'm in. You're better than I thought."
"There's a lot of different things going on, man. I'm better than I should be, I think, and I don't know what's going on with that. Ever since Phoenix... passed. And the wind-up wasn't just that. I am frustrated, I have been losing myself, and I do think this is the best way to go about improving."
Spike took a deep breath, let it out slowly. "Alright, so what do you need from me? What can I do to help, really?"
"Like I said, I need a minder." He shook the baggie again. "I'm going to do this, but I haven't done it, before, not really; not knowing what it is going into it, and I need someone to make sure I don't hurt myself."
"Alright. Yeah. I'm your man. Find us a house."
Joshua lay on his back on the shag carpet, kneading his fingers and toes through it. This was a good place, he could feel it. He was going to imprint on that, bind it with the experience he was about to have, and then never come back. He never went back to the places he stayed at when he played his little mind tricks on the world. Once, and it was fun, an adventure. More than that and he'd start to feel responsible, feel like he was taking advantage, worry about the people he displaced.
He and Spike were in a little cottage up the hill on the north side of campus. The yard was busy, a touch unkempt, but filled with a riot of bushy flowers. The windows were filtered by shimmering fabrics, leaving half of the room he was in a bright green, and the other half split in a paisley pattern of earthy browns and vibrant blues. An older artist couple lived here; the wife worked at the university, teaching ceramics, while the husband was retired, though he still painted on canvases that took up an entire wall.
Joshua had never met them, but this was what he believed. He believed that they were on a trip to Amsterdam, renewing their wedding vows. He believed that they had a housekeeper that would come in the next day, but not find anything amiss. He believed that they liked to leave a spare key in the mouth of a ceramic frog off to the side of the house, by the water spigot—they never brought anything with them that they couldn't afford to lose. That's how he'd let himself in. Joshua wanted them to be his grandparents, wanted to be part of their lives, but all the same he knew that he'd never meet them, and that that was best.
Spike lounged in the corner of a faux-leather couch, waiting for him to be ready. One part of Joshua didn't want to let go of the moment; and most of the rest of him was afraid of the next step. He needed to let that fear out, be mindful or aware of it, accept it, and then just let it fade. He breathed in, and breathed out, letting his insecurities and concerns flow away with his breath, welcoming them to explore the universe without him. Another few breaths, and his mind slipped away. He was one with the physical sensations of the world, his body, and illusion.
"Now," he said slowly.
As soon as he thought about it, the smell hit him, his senses locking onto the idea of it, nothing less than the smell of his brain burning. Spike came to him with a jar, gray smoke roiling about in it. Joshua cupped his hands around the lid of the jar and sucked in its contents. He breathed deeper, and deeper, could feel the smoke numbing his lungs; and deeper, and deeper. It seeped into his blood, his legs, his arms, his head. It spread into his neck, his hands, his toes. And then it was everything, and he let it out. He let it out, and himself, and the world. It was in him, having its way. A thousand thousand thoughts picking at his veins, his cells, picking away at him and rebuilding him.
He giggled, then coughed. The giggle tickled, and the cough shot pain through his nipples, his knees, his testicles. The world went gray, then black, and then streaks of purple and green and pink flowed across his vision, dancing through each other. He coughed again, and came. He shivered. His entire body tingled, burned, buzzed.
Joshua giggled again, and it grew in breadth, deeper and higher and louder; and louder. He noticed his tongue in his mouth, and then his tongue was the most salient thing in existence: his, but not his, all-important. The only thing he could trust to tell him about the world. He moved it around in his mouth, feeling every tooth, his gums, his palate. He trilled his tongue, and then laughed again, and remembered the carpet. He writhed with ecstasy in the carpet, turning around and around, rolling side to side, tumbling forward and back.
He stretched, as wide as he could; toes and fingers, his neck, his back, his shoulders. He stretched his jaw, and his feet, one at a time. He stretched his lungs, yawning, and breathed in deeply, and the void swallowed him.
Colors disappeared. The world disappeared. Joshua floated in nothing, as nothing.
A hand spoke to him, its fingers wriggling disconnectedly. When he tried to focus on just one finger, it would float away and the others would crowd his vision. "The world is your body." It was a quote from something he knew. A quote from the universe, quoting itself? His heart beat like a super-heated iron core, pulsing magma through him. He marveled that his flesh held it in.
The magma pummeled his back from the inside, trying to escape. It cooled, congealed, ground against his ribs, pushed out around his ribs and kneaded his back. His back rippled; his head exploded. His stomach sucked itself in, trying to consume itself.
Joshua remembered flesh—his flesh; he needed to escape it. Something was in him; he was inside himself. He tore through his flesh and found himself in it again, a shredded costume beside him. He tore through the new flesh, his fingers and their fingers running under layer after layer. He couldn't shed it fast enough—the fingers had some other agenda, sometimes aided, sometimes got in the way. It was agony, both the rending and the inescapability of it all. He needed to be reborn. Like Phoenix. He knew he could do it right this time.
This time? She did this. They did this. He did this. The universe was his body. And he was its.
The five fingers grew fingers of their own; which all grew more fingers; until a city was covered in tentacular filaments, self-similar; writhing. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't see. He couldn't find his way back. Drums pounded in his skull, thundered with urgency. A thousand thousand throats opened, howling.
They spoke: "The future is now."
His sight fractured; the world exploded; magma thundered upwards. The fingers chanted in an inhuman language that he could hardly replicate in his mind, sounds he could barely interpret as physical. They came up and kissed the sky; and the sky was him, and he couldn't escape from their touching, grasping, biting. He gasped for breath, and screamed; and screamed.
Story and image by Kaolin Imago Fire, Copyright 2011