[DEAR READERS (to whom I am eternally grateful): The titles of posts are going to change as often as I need them to. “In the Beginning…” fit — y’know, the beginning. It no longer fits. Further, whatever length we end up at with this piece, I am now pretty sure it will be comprised of sections w/ their own titles. SO! Don’t worry: New titles don’t mean a new story. ALSO! I hope you keep reading, because I hope you continue to enjoy what’s going on in Subject 343’s realities. Thank you –dbm]
Calvin curled inward on himself, his knees almost touching the head he held with each hand. He was awake but not what one would call conscious.
He made pleading noises, intermingled with those expressing sorrow for himself, regret made an appearance or three, blame surprised the entire gathering when it showed its head… But as Calvin rocked back and forth pathetically, it was an absence that alerted him to his presence.
Eventually he realized the benefit of gathering sensory input from his hands. They weren’t sticky or wet with blood.
He smelled the air. And that gave it all away.
His eyes shot open and ElectricBlue shot back, leaving a residual image burned on his retinas just as staring at the sun would. Were it blue. And everywhere.
“What the fuck?”
Calvin asked the universe that was his and his alone, for all he knew. …Oh — and God could be in there too.
The lack of noxious odors, the climate so perfect it had no effect at all on him, and the soothing, Valium blue… Had it changed on him?
…Oh God. Had he changed on it?
Calvin spoke his thoughts aloud out of habit, and because why not(?).
“They were ripping my skull open. …The head guy — The Smoker — he was gonna scoop up my brains with his goddam hands. …Why?
“What went before?”
Calvin eased his eyes into slits, and by micrometers would eventually open his eyes.
“I was here. But I was not here as it is now. …I’m here bec– Recovery! Something happened to me. To my brain. What happened to my brain? I was here. I had moved around. Did I get laid?
“Oh fuck I’m stupid! ocules, shade fifty percent!”
Calvin’s eye sockets were covered with small dark-hued domes.
“Jesus is that better! …It’s strange… Hard to get used to having whatever you want when you want it.
“And what happens when I do?”
Calvin didn’t let himself begin to contemplate the question. Hearing it leave his lips and begin its way around infinity scared him on a primal level that switched topics for him.
“Why did I hear that that way? …Not hear it — but know the sound won’t make it all that far, really? I don’t know that shit. –Holy shit I can see sound waves! La la la la la!”
Subject 343, in his grey (formerly white) coveralls, shouted from his perch on nothing, maybe in nothing, and with nothing but joy, shouted funnels of noise all around him.
“Has it happened? Did my brain hemorrhage or stroke out or shut down in some way? Am I only safe here, now? Is my ‘real’ self a vegetable?
“Oh my holy fucking shit, is it actually impossible for me to leave? Holy shit!”
Calvin was ecstatic. He twirled and spun on all axes at impossible speeds through the blue on and on and on.
“I’ve been doing everything wrong. Say I’m not dependent on OV for existence. Suppose what happened before — maybe the months in this concrete, Sub-Seven subsection of hell were all in-OV. …Don’t complicate it. The thing is: I have to make myself inextricable. Maybe I am. More likely not. Maybe a plug in ‘reality’ is the only way I become part of here. Maybe there’s no escape.”
Calvin thought for some time (which he found difficult to make sense of, and would soon attribute to the seeming uniformity of OV space (spacetime).
A sphere surrounded Calvin as he disappeared his coveralls to appear dressed in lazy tongues of red fire that overlapped like living links of amorphous metal.
His hair now looked like fire, but danced like electricity, his scalp a hyperactive Tesla coil that rose around but mostly above his head up to two feet.
“Let’s change the behavior, not the color for the wardrobe too.”
The red electricity was comprised of millions of events per second, none more than an inch in length. He thought it looked strange, covering him as a garment might. He made it his skin. Which became the outer boundary of a body Calvin reshaped after a picture he recollected.
Calvin kept his face. Otherwise, he was Michaelangelo’s The David.
…With a considerably larger penis, that is. Though Calvin covered both it and his ass with clever use of his skin’s electro-pyrotechnics.
“How can I manage this? How can I make something like this? How can I remake my skin to do a million things a million ways, not the first of which I understand?
“…Was the just-before real? I mean, did it happen? Is my brain being not repaired, but improved?
“Wonder later. Action now. If I’m the only one plugged in, they can’t come for me. But they’ll unplug me if I am a veggie. No way am I the only one on the only plug. Encrypt. First step.”
Calvin imagined his sphere, which was one kilometer in diameter, to be impenetrable. A formidable-looking grey-black became the color encompassing the inner blue.
“Password protect? Wait wait wait, no: continuously variable encryption. I’m the key. The only thing that can pass through.
“Gotta be invisible.”
Calvin suddenly watched the sphere seem to vanish. He held up an arm as though to — his arm was gone. Everything he was and made seemed like any other part of the OtherVerse.
And then things reverted to as they had been.
“But the plug the plug the plug the goddam fucking plug! If it’s outside — not here — I can do nothing to it. What if I can? If I make disconnection kill me, they’ll kill me. Probably.
“Shit! Wait… My brain. It’s been enhanced. Not modded like they do up top, I can be sure… Which would mean any repairs were more synthetic than biologic.
“So fucking what?”
Calvin’s technicolor dreamcoat put on a hell of a show as he wrestled with his predicament. Frustration made him glow and sizzle hotter and brighter. Workable ideas made the calm they brought him visible as it washed over him, dimming his form from head and heart.
“Good for now. How to make it so OV is undone if I am unplugged? …Gotta make OV depend on me and me depend on OV. Is it the only way? The best way?
“What can I even do?
He felt the nape of his neck. His eyes closed. His heartbeat slowed. His breathing deepened. He forgot himself.
He saw the human/OV plugs fuse. A swarm of metallic tendrils spiraled from the skull to the headrest, joining the two as seamlessly as the former plugs now met the brain. The snaking metal followed the remaining cable through the chair to its terminus, under enough concrete and cement to safely store nuclear waste. And formerly safe enough for an OQT — an OracleQuantumTuring.
Calvin would be infinitely grateful he hadn’t seen what he imagined. But in the meantime, the almost-liquid metal wires spun around human arms like a spider capturing itself. When close, they jumped to a wall and made this message:
“I can access OQT. I die, the cat’s dead.”