This is another of the short fiction texts that I wrote for the New Scientist Competition. The idea behind this one was quite simple as you will soon see...
Because I really liked it but this version was definitely too long, i decided to see if I could write a different one.
And that you will see next week...
(936 word count)
As he began to walk down the corridor he started to doubt if all of this was just happening in his imagination.
Was he really dreaming? How long had it been since he arrived? And how many had died simply because he refused to believe all of this was real? He remembered the car being torn apart, bits of metal flying everywhere, eating lives away.
I can feel it now.
He motioned cautiously, trying to be as silent as possible, blood pumping in his temples, breaking his focus. He held his breath but his chest burned more and more. Behind him there was a scrapping sound.
I’m getting closer.
He started to run. He could hear the hooves and the crescendo of the odzark’s sucking sounds. The walls shook in fury and began to collapse. He plunged into a large room filled with all manner of animals. He darted between them looking for cover. They stared at him, barely moving. The odzark burst into the room shortly after. Everything went silent and cold for a moment. He turned. The animals tried to run but, one by one, they were sucked out of existence as they fled. Then it saw him. It advanced. He tried to run. But there was no window. No door. He was trapped.
Emotions gathering. Taking over.
He was inside water. A pool. He couldn’t move. The waters were too thick, lukewarm and gelatinous. There were screeches and wails everywhere. Something bit hard into his leg. He screamed as he felt it being ripped apart. He tried to push it away but teeth gnawed it off.
Then they began to emerge.
The dead were eating him alive.
My body is breaking up. My mind will surely follow. And the soul will become clearer.
The air, too dry for him to breathe. No. Not dry. Something stuck in his throat. Dust? No, not dust. Something else. Something tightening. All around him. Ropes? No, not that. He tried to move but at every gesture thin and strong threads won him over, again and again. Then a thumping sound and a whisper almost below hearing level. With utmost effort he turned his head and he saw a huge spider rushing towards him. Its fangs reared, dripping poison. Its mouth ajar, glowing jade green, hungry for his flesh. And he could feel his flesh beginning to melt as the acid dripped all over.
A burning sensation all over me. Is this what I was meant to feel? Where am I again?...
Everyone had died and he was alone. There was no escape. There never had been. It had all been a trick since the beginning. The ghosts started emerging from the walls and the trees and the lake. And at each time that they touched a fragment of his being dissolved and vanished. He could feel himself disappear one piece at a time.
What if I’m not dreaming this time? Is it going all wrong? Am I dying?!
He was running faster than he’d ever ran before. His heart racing so fast he thought he would soon die of a heart attack rather than sheer exhaustion. He could feel the hunger of the creature chasing after. It was like a scent that traversed his skin and made his brain want to scream. He could hear its claws tearing down the trees like paper. Its footsteps falling on the ground like a jackhammer.
Can someone save me?! Please!!!
As the ceiling of the cave collapsed in a great THUD! He could feel the dust crawling slowly into his lungs. How could he breathe? He couldn’t even move. It was getting hot. Hotter. The dry air, unable to fill his lungs. His heart pumping out of control. He kept on, trying to breathe, pushing his lungs in and out, desperately, but there was never enough oxygen. His mind raced. He was going to die here. He was trapped and he was going to die. He would suffocate so far away from everybody else that no one could ever possibly rescue him in time.
I can’t breathe… I can’t think… I can’t…
The air stopped working. His body felt made of sand. Then it went numb. His mind was retreating fast, into a corner of itself where it could not be seen. He was going to die.
His mind disappeared.
And with it all fear vanished as well.
A great peace washed over him. A burning sensation overcame his senses, eliminating everything, everywhere.
He felt himself wake up as if he’d always been awake within a sleepless dream.
“Welcome back.” said the smiling man with the long white hair.
“For a moment there we thought you were not going to make it.” said a younger man with dark rimmed spectacles.
He tried to get up from the table. The two men rushed towards him.
“Now now. Don’t move. You’re not ready yet.”
“You’re still plugged in. Your brain is still digesting the information cocktail we’ve been feeding it.”
“Don’t worry. In a couple of hours everything will be alright.”
“What happened? What’s all this?” He asked.
The room began to coalesce in his mind. There was a bonfire. There were candles burning. Stones carved with runes. Strange symbols painted in red on the husk of trees.
He was outside. There was a lake. A forest. And… cables?
He could now see the neural disruptor half hidden beneath a fabric depicting an epic battle scene on a great plain. There was also a tipi.
“Congratulations. You’ve just completed your shamanic vision quest. But, tell me, what did you see?”
Technology fascinates me. And one of the things that attracts me about it is the fact that technology doesn't merely deliver some sort of future to our doorstep. For me technology also allows us to retain the past in a different form. I think this has been at least part of the history of our world. After all many of our traditions have simply been changed superficially, accomodated within the new technological constraints.
when the Guillotine appeared it was said to be a most humane method of serving the death penalty.... and so many centuries have passed and, even though the guillotine is no longer in use, the death penalty still is around...
In any case this story affirms my belief that the near future at least will still carry today's beliefs in disguise.
I was just reading a bit about Ancient Egypt, how the Greeks and then the Romans took over the leadership of the country. Their beliefs were affected by this, of course, but more than simply disappearing and being replaced, they were altered. After all it is best to use what's already there to one's advantage rather than start from scratch (in these cases at least... the last time someone attempted to start from scratch things didn't go that well for a lot of people... and yes, I am thinking of Adolf H...)
I think that the methods may change but the core reality will not.
So, to me, this story is not saying, Shamanism will always be an illusion and a creation of the mind. For me it is saying that our own quests will make usage of anything in their way in order to make themselves real.
Technology merely opens doors in new ways, perhaps more easy ways.
It is up to our perception to cross them or not...
but beware of consequences.
Like the Hermetic Tradition teaches, there are many levels of causality and consequence - not all of them perceptible...