NaNoWriMo '10

My NaNoWriMo so far.

Remember that everything you read here is unedited drivel skimmed like froth off the top of my head.

Caution! This story contains language, and may contain content not suitable for those of an innocent disposition. If your parents don't let you look at porn, I'd suggest not reading too heavily into this. If you do it anyway, it's on your own head, moron.


Dreamscape


Chapter One

In which characters are introduced, and plot is stumbled upon.

 

Jerry woke up one morning and- Oh Shi-!

 

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You stand in front of a tower. This tower you have known all your life. This is the tower that contains one of three things: Your Destiny, your Defeat or a Warm Bed.

“Piece of cake!”

 

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Man, you really do have the weirdest dreams some nights... You guess that teaches you for having a large blue-cheese burrito just before going to bed... That and the stench you find when you lift the covers up. Lactose intolerance really gets in the way of your enjoying a lot of good things man!

“OY! KUBLO! BREAKFAST IS ON THE TABLE! GET YOUR ASS OUT OF BED!”

Big sisters, no matter how much you love them, you just can’t help but hate them, and Mackenzie is no exception to this rule...

“Damnit Mack! My name is KABLOH! After almost 17 years, you would think you would have learnt it!”

Grumbling about this and any number of other things (you simply like to grumble) you slide out of bed, brushing your long dark brown hair out of your face, and stumble off to the breakfast table. As you open your door your senses are assaulted by one of the most unusual smells you have experienced... In the past 24 hours...

“MA! You been cooking again!?” You yell this rhetorical question in desperation, knowing full well that there is only one person on this good earth that can make food smell that bad.

“Indeed!” She shouts back from the kitchen, “Doesn’t it smell divine!?” Your mother is a keen cooker, but with no sense of smell, and a lack of taste, it usually doesn’t turn out too well.

“It sure does!” You lie, trying not to gag, “I’d love some, but I’m not hungry at the moment, give my share to Mack!”

“You really should have breakfast hun! Come in here, I want to see what you think of this!”

“Ma! I’m going out the door! I’ll see you later!” you whisper a quick thank you to whichever god watched over that encounter that you came out unscathed as you slip out the front door, having to duck to get your tall frame beneath the doorway, and down the drive. Or so you thought as your pocket starts vibrating and the tinny tunes of some old, forgotten sci-fi shows opening issues from the clapped out speaker of your phone. Pulling it out, another flake of plastic casing falls off it, being handed down from your father to your sister and finally to you. Even before your sister got it most of the functions had worn out, and now that you have it the thing can barely receive and transmit.

Oh look! You have a text! You never know, as the only sound it ever makes is that show tune, even the vibration is a 50/50 chance. Opening the text you recognize the familiar text-speech pattern of Mack, “Oy, dck. Mum wnts u hm 4 lnch, Im cokn. Lso, grb brd n mlk whle ur ot.”

Mashing the keypad you send back your usual response, “Sure thing, but learn to type in full English first!”

Checking the time before you shove the battered wreck of your phone onto your pocket you confirm how much time you have before lunch. Four hours, you sigh, you never get enough time to do anything around here. But at least lunch will resemble an attempt at food, Mack did a cooking course in her last year of High School, so she knows that rice should still be white.

However, before you do anything, there are basic needs to be catered for, breakfast. Not even the stench of your mothers cooking can disperse your raging morning appetite! This is saying a lot, as it stinks to high-heaven... Oh well, usual place you suppose, and wander down the road to the bakery where you all but work to grab a curry pie before they all sell out.

The GG Bakehouse as it is commonly known, or the Goldenbay Bakery as the sign says, sells the best pies in town, people come from miles around for their specialty curry pies, a plain mince pie, no cheese, with a beautifully balanced red curry sauce, not too mild, not too spicy, made by the head chef and owner Joe. Only the earliest of birds are able to grab one of these pies before they sell out, well, the earliest birds, and yourself. Joe always keeps one of his best pies for you, having once been invited to lunch on a day your Mother was cooking, he sympathizes with your plight. Walking into the bakery your vision is suddenly obscured by the large white apron that was thrown over your head. “Kab! Get your ass behind the counter! We are expecting a tour bus through in five and need an extra hand.” Joe shouts at you over the noise of the pastry roller as you extract yourself from the slightly warm apron, “$13.50 an hour did you say Joe? And where is my pie!?” you quickly nip back, extracting yourself in time to see Joes back disappear around behind the display cases. Goldenbay Bakery was a stop in the middle of most local bus tours, as a food stop, and the business did both Joe and the surrounding eateries well.

Slipping behind the counter you find your pie wrapped up in the small behind-counter warmer that was used to keep favourite, regular customers orders warm and safe from purchasing eyes until they picked them up. Nomming your pie whilst slipping the apron on, one of your neighbours drops in to pick up her daily loaf of bread, “Oh, Kabloh,” She says, seeing you behind the counter, “I hope they are paying you for this. Can I get my usual and a spinach and feta lunch bread?”

“Sure thing Mrs. Macintyre, will that be all?” You finish up the transaction, and your pie, just in time to see the tour bus pull up outside. All of a sudden two other employees appear at the counter beside you, each manning a cash register. *tinkle tinkle* The first customer comes through the door. Then the next, and the next, until the shop is packed.

After a frantic half hour tour group, and then the mid-morning rush, you are standing in front of the counter, mopping up the worst of the overflow from the messy eaters, as Joe sits on the counter counting out your pay. “Going to stay for lunch Kab? Keep away from the Dragon and her cooking?” he asks, handing you your cut from the mornings takings.

“Na, Macks cooking lunch today, and Mum wants me home for it. I think something’s up, she never asks us home for lunch like this...”

“Okay dude, good luck, give the Dragon our best!” Joe says as you exit the store, $25 richer for your efforts. The one good thing about working for Joe is that no matter how much you ask him to pay you, he always divides the profits evenly, usually about $20 an hour.

That and the free breakfast pies.

 

Walking down the road your phone starts up again, this time without vibrating. As you pull it out of your pocket, wondering what you had ever done to get so damn popular before lunchtime, the tinny tune restarts, and the phone starts vibrating this time. The information box tells you that you have two new text messages. The first is from your best friend, whom you know only as “Kurry”. “Good evening my friend, would you like to participate in a fare of such wonderful spread, that it would make your mouth water simply to pass by the residence, upon the mid-afternoon of this day?” Kurry was a weird one, not happy with simply being strange like you in typing all his messages in full English, but going above and beyond into the realms of a politeness not known by present day society. That was one of the things you enjoyed about talking to him, he articulated his thoughts in ways that nobody you had ever met before could do.

The second text message was from an unfamiliar number, not listed as anyone by your phones naming system, even though your address book constantly managed to not label the incoming messages, but this was a completely foreign number, and a completely new message structure. “It Appears That You DREAM Some Unusual DREAMS Young kABLOH, We Would Much Like To EXPLORE Them In Detail. Would This Suit You, Or Do You Want To Turn Down Such An Interesting Offer?”

What the hell? You don’t even know where to start with this text, so you set it aside for future study, and get back to Kurry, telling him “If you aren’t cooking, I’m there, just give me a time.” Why do you surround yourself with people who can’t cook to save themselves?

You pass the remaining hour and a half until lunch time in the park, skipping rocks across the pond, occasionally stopping to answer your phones urgent whining, before you head home, via the dairy, for Macks lunch. The local joke about Macks cooking is that it is Maccers, always greasy, and you don’t know exactly if it is healthy or not, no matter how much Mack tells you “No man, we learnt this in the course. Stop whinging, it’s supposed to slide around the plate that much! That’s how you tell it’s fresh!” as the grease starts congealing in the bottom of the plate. It’s not that bad, a little greasy if your Mum let her get her hands on the deep fryer, but on the whole she serves up wholesome meals.

It’s a shame your Mum doesn’t let her cook more often...

 

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“Okasan! I’m home!” You yell out as you come through the door, bag of groceries from the dairy over your arm.

“Lunch is on the table Kabloh, come on through.” You hear Mum say from the dining room. This really was unusual, as you said to Joe, it’s not often that the dining room table is used for lunch, and coming through the doorway, it just keeps getting more unusual. “Dad? What are you doing home on a work day?”

You father looks up blearily at you from the table. His usually round, jolly face is sunken and downcast, a look that is reflected in the faces of your Mum and Mack, who are also sitting at the table. “Sit down Kab, we have some bad news.”

Your mind immediately jumps to the worst possible conclusions; you know that your grandmother had been having a hard time of it recently, but you didn’t think that it could have been this bad. “What’s wrong?” You ask, sliding into a chair opposite your Father, swallowing your irrational, hastily thought out fears.

Your Fathers giant hands tremble as they hold his coffee cup, and he drops his sight back into its murky depths. These hands gave you the biggest clue as to something being wrong, more so than the faces around the table, these hands which your Father took great care of, you could see they were red and untended, the nails chewed, the warmth they usually extruded was missing. “You know that we have been on some tough financial times recently, with your Mothers business falling through, and Dad’s funeral took a hefty chunk out of our savings.” This wasn’t news, you have known for a long time that things have been financially tight, Granddad not having any plan set up for his funeral just coming as another shock, on top of the loss of a genuinely great man. “But it’s just gotten a lot harder. Work just laid me off.”

“WHAT!?” You shout, falling backwards off your seat. Your Father worked at a successful newspaper, one of the few that had held out after the public shift away from traditional media. Picking your seat back up, you sit down again, ignoring your Mums questions of “Are you all right?”

“But didn’t they just announce record profits for this quarter? Why are they laying you off?”

“It’s not just me Son, they threw out my entire department. We are all out of employment. We got severance pay, but that won’t last long. Kab, unless I find something soon, we aren’t going to be able to afford to live here much longer.”

You don’t remember much of the next hour. According to your Mum, you threw a fit, claiming that as you had just moved there last year, you weren’t ready to move yet, before storming out of the room. You lay in your room for ages, not bothering to answer the texts that came in from various buddies, including Kurry, asking where the hell you had gotten to, and the knocks at the door, of your family wanting to know if you were alright. You ignored it all, not caring about anything, just knowing that you weren’t yet ready to leave this place yet.

It was about 7PM when you emerged from your stupor, when your phone suddenly started buzzing again. Another text from the unknown number. “kABLOH, I Hear That You Might Be Moving Away Soon. Our Offer Still Stands, If You ACCEPT It, We Might Be Able To ARRANGE For Your Father To Find Other Work. Call Us If You Are INTERESTED.” You throw your phone back down on your bed, fucking pranksters. Obviously someone at school had given out your number to someone untrustworthy, and this is the end result. Assholes.

 

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At about 9PM you emerged from your room, ravenous with hunger. Most of the house is still, your parents seemingly having gone to bed early in the wake of the day’s events. You could see a sliver of light from under Mack’s door, but that never meant anything much, as she usually went to sleep with the light on, having read her way to sleep.

Creeping over to the fridge, you find two notes on it, both addressed to you, the first is from Mack. “Hey man, if you get hungry in the night, there is some leftover Chilli in the fridge. Don’t stay in that room too long, come out and talk to Mum and Dad, if their faces were any longer they would trip up on them. They really don’t like seeing you this way.

“Oh well Lil’ Bro, enjoy the Chilli, I know you love that stuff. See you later.” You know you can count on Mack, sometimes you wonder what you would do without your Big Sis looking out for you. And her awesome Chilli, the best thing to come out of that cooking course.

The second note looks out of place, and as you look at it you realise you don’t know the handwriting. “kABLOH. Why Do You IGNORE Our Correspondence? Reply To Us, We Want To Help You, And All We Ask In Return Is That You DREAM For Us. Can You Do That For Us?” Ripping the note down off the fridge you begin to wonder exactly what kind of prankster goes to these lengths. The seeds of doubt you had earlier about its legitimacy are beginning to wither. But you put all this Mysterious Note stuff behind you for the important thing in front of you; A heaped bowl of Macks Chilli. Heating it in the microwave you take another look at the note you ripped off the fridge. What kind of person writes like that, hell, how many people write like they text? Few that you know of.

Your internal monologue is interrupted by the beeping of the microwave, signalling your feast is ready. Taking it into your room you pick your phone up again as you sit down to eat at your desk. The texts still look suspect to you. As you eat you mull it all over, slowly and carefully, spending as long thinking as you do savouring the taste of the beautiful Chilli. The smoky taste that Mack always manages to get right is like heaven to your taste buds. But you are unable to enjoy it like you always do, the weight of the days issues skewing your perceptions. In the end you decide to give up on thinking about it, and turn in, not before slipping a thank you note under Mack’s door, then slipping into a deep sleep.

 

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You watch from behind a curtain on the second story as a lone figure walks up the driveway to your mansion. “Interesting...” you think, as you continue to watch the figure, which you can now make out to be that of a teenage boy, reaching the foot of the front steps. For a moment he looks around him, as if aware he is being watched, and then glances up in your direction. Grinning he strides up the stairs, and into the mansion. “He passed the first test. Maybe... Maybe this will be some fun after all!”

 

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What reasons you had for entering this mansion before have fled your mind now, all you have is a single thought, which you cling to like a toddler to his favourite teddy on wash day, “Heh, passed the final test.”

 

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He woke up, in the dead of night, cold sweat streaming down his face. The dream was so real, the colours, the sounds, everything, a reality. The psychoticness was insane.

 

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“kABLOH. We Really Want To KNOW What Lies In Your DREAMS, Won’t You Show Us?”

 

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You wake up Bleary eyed, watching the flickering shadows from the tree outside your window, slipping between the part in your curtains. For what seems like hours you just lie there, unthinking, watching the dancing sliver of golden light, playing on the dark grey of your wall. When you finally emerge from your stupor you take a look around your room, at your patched up TV you scavenged from an inorganic, sitting dark and brooding in the corner. Your desk, made from salvaged wood, obtained from some very kind neighbours in one of the last houses, when they were renovating. Sitting on your desk is probably the only thing in this room that isn’t a hand me down or reclaimed somehow, the blue fluorescent desk lamp you purchased for yourself two years ago. Also on your desk is your laptop, an ancient relic of technology, passed down through the family like your phone. The old battered thing barely had enough power to run Word and Messenger at the same time, and the keys were so battered that you had to learn to touch-type just to use the thing. Your posters hanging on the walls are the last thing your eyes take in, the last remnants of previous lives in other places, pride amongst which is your Hampocalypse Poster. Hampocalypse is your favourite Ham-Metal Band, and you have fond memories from when they last toured in your vicinity. Man you wish they hadn’t gotten all mopey over Spam and changed their whole outlook, now their music sucks ass, and of course, the public all loves it now. You just wish they would go back to the good ol’ days of Indie Ham-Metal.

You soak up every aspect of your room, all of it, before it goes away again... Before you lose it... Loose it... THAT NOTE! Didn’t it say something about doing something to help you if you helped them? As if in answer to your fevered thoughts your phone starts screaming at you, demanding your attention. It’s a call, from the unknown number. Damn these people are persistent. You answer it. “Hello?”

“Yes, Hello kABLOH. It Is Good To Finally HEAR From You. Have You Considered Our OFFER At All?” A husky voice on the other end says, speaking exactly like you would imagine their writing to be spoken.

“Dude, how the hell are you even speaking like that? It doesn’t make sense!” You say down the phone. “And yeah, I’ve thought about it, but can you convince me that you are legit?”

“How I Talk Like This Is Of No CONCERN To You kABLOH. As For Legitimacy, We Can’t OFFER You Much, Only Our Word. The Business We Usually Perform Is, Shall We Say... SHADY?”

“So you want me to come and let you peak inside my dreams, knowing full well that you aren’t exactly on the right side of the law? That is about as sane as going to an Axe Murderer for a Dentists appointment.”

“Oh, No, No, You have Us All Wrong Young kABLOH, We Aren’t Against The Law, Merely OUTSIDE Of The Public’s View.” The voice seems to be offended by your remark. “We Can’t Continue TRADING If We Were To Allow Any INFORMATION On Us To Come Into The Public Eye.”

“So you are like MI6 or the CIA?” You ask, thinking that you are being offered a chance to become a spy, most teenage boys dream.

“We Work Under... Similar Security. I Can’t Tell You Much More kABLOH, But If You Were To Agree To This Offer, We Might Be Able To Talk More On The Subject.

“12:30PM Today, Outside The rEDLEY pARK Gates On sACHERS Road. If You Are Interested, There Will Be Someone Waiting For You There.” The line goes dead. You attempt to redial, but the texts are gone, and the number isn’t in your phone anymore. Even the note you got from the fridge last night is gone. You look at the time. 11:40am. Shit. Redley Park is a 50 minute jog across town. They didn’t leave you any time to think hard on it. Not that you needed it, the curiosity you have over this thing is enough that you know if you don’t take a look, you will kill yourself for the rest of your life. And the longer you look around your room, the more you know you will miss it and the rest of the house too. It’s been one of the better ones you have lived in, your Fathers freelance journalism meaning he would be constantly moving to wherever the jobs were, never staying still for any length of time. When he got the job here, managing his own column in the paper, you thought this was it, that you could sit down and be happy and make friends and have awesome times and make memories. It never occurred to you that he would be laid off...

You muse on your life as you jog across town. You didn’t look around too much, but the house seemed pretty empty when you left, and there was no note, not uncommon, but a little worrying, what with all the weird stuff these guys have been doing. It hadn’t been that interesting, your life. You guess you had lived it well enough, to the terms given to you, so far, but you always were considered the loner at school, never really getting to know people, as such you never really worked on your people skills until you moved here. Kurry was a great help to you with this, so was Joe, and they both have helped make you a well-rounded socialite. Well, not really, you still feel uncomfortable in crowds, and you do occasionally slink back into your shell, but on the whole you are doing pretty well.

Life musings are not really that amusing, and the jog over to Redley Park is a long one, so you find yourself pulling another battered piece of technomancy out of your pocket. This MP3 player was originally owned by your sister, like just about every damn thing you own, but fortunately for you the pink had all but worn off by the time you received it, its colour now the dull cream-grey that seems to be the norm for painted plastics these days. The storage space on it is so limited that you usually can only put a couple of albums onto it, and rotate them every couple of days to keep it fresh. Plugging the Two Dollar Shop earphones into your ears you listen to some ill tunes, dropped like they were hot from the frying pan into the fires of hell, motherfucking HAMPOCALYPSE! First song that comes up, your personal favourite, you never let this song leave your machine, Infested Iced Infirmity on the Hammed Altar of the Apocalypse. Yeah, you leave the Player on track repeat for several loops, singing along in your own little world.

Burn the fiend of real stone

Fall the weapon of dark throne

Under the sign of the earth we fight

It is time to call

It is time to fall

Into the ham of our hungers plight.”

The day this song gets old is the day you will leap off a very tall building strapped to a pizza base.

After tracking through “Ham-ertime” their third album, often considered Hampocalypses best offering, you reach your destination, where, NOTHING HAPPENS!

Seriously, you were expecting some kind of large black van with some non-descript person standing outside it. There isn’t even anyone around. What kind of hoax is this?

You then take a look at the time, oh. You managed to get here five minutes early. Maybe if you hang around for a bit... You stare off into space, it isn’t for a while that you realise that you are looking at the billboard across the road. “above, a bird? No, a fireball? No its Moltres!” What. The. Fuck!? You will never get advertising.

As you muse on this the lights suddenly go out as a hood is shoved over your head, and you feel a jab in the back of your neck as you pass into unconsciousness.

 

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You wake up in a dark room, having had no dreams at all. The first thing you notice is that the clothing you are wearing is something you haven’t worn before, and all your possessions are gone. The next is how dark it is, you know that it is darkness, and not just the hood as you are free to move, and it isn’t on your head, apart from that fact you wouldn’t know the difference, there is that little light around, you can’t even see your finger stabbing yourself in the eye.

“I Wouldn’t Advise You CONTINUE Doing That kABLOH.” You jump, almost stabbing yourself in the eye again as you hear that voice issue from the darkness.

“Okay asshole, I’m here now, you kidnapped me, drugged me, and shoved me in this dark room, and now you have me all to yourself. Do you want me to drop my pants too so you can get easy access to my posterior?” You aren’t overly amused by what is happening here.

“Calm Down kABLOH. We Just Wanted To Talk To You Face-To-Face Like You REQUESTED.” You can’t tell what direction the voice is coming from, or how close it is. You can’t even be sure of the gender, as that way of speaking is really throwing you off...

“Okay, okay, I’ll calm down. Now let me see what’s going on around me?” The lights suddenly switch on, and you throw your arm up to shade your eyes against their harsh glare. “Uh, thanks.” You mutter as your eyes adjust to the new lighting conditions.

The room around you is very uninteresting. No windows, a single door, a chair in the middle of the room, and a fridge in the far corner. The first thing you do is try the door. Locked. “Now, Now kABLOH, It Would Be Rude Of You To Go And Leave Before We Have Had A Good Discussion Now, Wouldn’t It? Please, Have A Seat. If You Require Refreshments There Are Drinks And Snacks In The Fridge.” You have a look, generic supermarket brand Cola, and some fresh fruit, a life of luxury you will live in this small room here. You sit on the chair. “Alright. Now what? You want a discussion, start talking.”

“kABLOH, We Have Noticed Your Dreams. You See We Are Very Interested In DREAMS. Your DREAMS kABLOH Are Very Interesting Indeed.”

“Huh? How do you know about my dreams? What do you want with the dreams anyway?” You are starting to get a little scared now, more so than you were before, about how much information they have access too.

“All In Good Time kABLOH, For Now, You Can Rest Assured That What We Use The DREAMS For Are In The Best Interests Of The General Public.” This doesn’t fill you with much hope. You talk to the voice for a while longer, not learning anything of any real importance, except that generic supermarket cola is exactly as rubbish as you remember it to be, then eventually, “Our TIME Is Up kABLOH, It Is Getting Dark. We Wouldn’t Want Your Family To Worry Too Much Now, Would We? When You Reawaken You Will Have Had Everything Returned To You, And Will Be Right Outside Your House. Enjoy Your DINNER kABLOH, We Will Be In Touch.”

“Wait!” You shout as the world blurs around you. You have so much to ask, so much more information to gather, you don’t want to leave just... Don’t want to leave... Leave... Just... Yet...

 

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As promised, you come to your senses again standing outside your house. Your phone, wallet and MP3 Player are still in your pockets, and your house key on the lanyard around your neck. Everything is exactly how you left it, even down to the way you wrap your earphones around your MP3 Player, nothing at all is out of place, as if it wasn’t touched to begin with. 7:15PM according to your phone, no messages, it felt like days that you spent talking to the Voice, but mere hours have passed. You would imagine, depending on how far they took you, that you spent no more than five, six hours talking. But that doesn’t fit, you could swear that you spent at least double that talking... Although looking back on it now, you can’t remember a lot of the particulars of what you spoke about.

Putting it down to stress you go inside. “Kabloh? Is that you?” Mack calls from the front room as you close the front door behind you.

“Yeah Mack, it’s me. Listen, I’m going back to my room, I might have dinner later.” You say, poking your head around the doorway into the front room. “Where are Otosan and Okasan?”

“They went out, it’s their 25th wedding anniversary tonight, remember?” Mack replies, looking up from the book she is reading, laid out on the couch. “You sure you  aren’t hungry, I cooked something up if you need a nom?”

“Cheers Mack, but I’m going to pass on that for the moment. Maybe later...” You walk down the hall to your room, but Mack calls out to you.

“Lil’ bro! Don’t spend all your time in there alone. It’s been ages since we sat and talked.”

“Yeah, I’ll be out later.” You reply. It had been a while, and you kind of missed it. Mack always knew how to cheer you up when you were feeling down.

“Love you Kub.”

“Heh, love you too Mack.”

 

You did go out and talk with her that night. A real good old-fashioned talk with your sister. It made you feel a lot better about a lot of things. You went to bed satisfied, and feeling a lot happier, having all but forgotten about the mystery voice and your worries about it. Well, maybe that wasn’t quite so accurate, you hadn’t forgotten them so much as you had decided on what you were going to do about them...

 

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Your name is ... You forget what your name is, but that is not important. What is important right now is that everybody has ham, and yet you don't. You must remedy this situation immediately! You do not want to be the only one on the planet without hammy goodness! DO YOU?

DO YOU!?

 

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You sit in your exam room. By the clock an hour has passed. In front of you sits the paper for the topic which you revised the least and know the least on. Surrounding you is the hush of writing and the occasional clash of a dropped item. You sigh, reading the paper for what seems like the hundredth time, hoping that something will jump-start your brain.

“kABLOH, Have You Thought About Our Offer At All?”

“Oh, you are back.” All of a sudden you realise that you are in a dream, the room fades away around you. “Yeah, I thought that offer over. Thought long and hard on it. But first,” you say, as you concentrate on the voice, “I’m thinking I have some questions that need your answering.” There is a violent shift in the dream, as if the land you were standing on had just been shoved sideways a kilometre, leaving you behind. This almost breaks your concentration, as does the sudden appearance of a new room around you. It looks so much like the room you talked in that day that you can’t believe how it isn’t the room. In it now however are two chairs and a small table, right in the centre of the room.

“Alright, you will get your wish Kabloh.” The voice is back, unmistakably the same voice, but without the weird speech pattern. Suddenly the door opens, and through it walks a tall gentleman. He wears a dark black suit, made of a fabric much darker than any you have ever seen before, any you could have thought possible. The man’s face is obscured by the shadow from the brim of his top hat, but you can see he has a very gaunt face, his cheekbones highly prominent against the rest of his face. The rest of his body seems to be out of proportion, his arms too short for his torso, his legs too long for his height. A weird figure indeed. He sits in the chair closest do the door, and gestures you to sit in the other chair. “You look shocked Kabloh, is there something the matter?”

“You... I never imagined that you would show yourself like this... Then again,” you say, staring hard at his hat, “you aren’t exactly showing yourself here, are you?”

As much as you can tell from the shadowy visage beneath the hat, he seems embarrassed by this. “You wish to see beneath this hat?” he asks. You nod. “Alright.” He sighs, standing back up to take his hat off. You gasp in shock at what you see.

“You... Yo-you... You have no face!?” for the second time in a couple of days you fall backwards off your chair. “What the hell is this?”

“I’m in your dream Kabloh.” The figure says, placing the hat back on his head, and sitting back down, gesturing to you to retake your own seat, “As you don’t know what I look like, so I don’t have a face to show you.”

“In my dream? How?” This is all too confusing.

“Kabloh, how I’m here is something that I myself don’t understand, all I know is that I dream inside other dreams. And that’s where I need you.” He tells you, standing up. “But first, a little test.”

“What kind of tes-“ you begin to ask, but stop quickly as he draws a sword seemingly out of the air, “Holy shit!” you shout, dropping backwards off your chair again, crawling backwards quickly, as the figure slices the table in half with apparent ease. You back into the wall as the figure starts walking towards you, sword poised to strike. “No, nonononononono, NOOOO!” You shout, as the figure approaches, the sword now almost within striking distance of your heart. You close your eyes “No, this is my dream,” you think desperately, “who is he to come into my dream and kill me? I can’t die here. I WON’T DIE HERE!” You realise that last sentence you yelled aloud. You hear a startled grunt from the figure. You open your eyes when you feel something land on your cheek. The sword has gone, but the air has filled with many, many jewel coloured butterflies, one of which landed on your cheek. All of a sudden you realise that you have control over them. Now you are angry.

“You capture me, drag me into this room, keep me here for hours,” you start recounting, your rage beginning to overflow, your blood boiling. The air around you is boiling too, with the flapping, multicoloured wings of the butterflies. “you send me home again, only to invade my dreams,” you continue, the tide of butterflies slowly raising you off the floor, as more and more appear from out of nowhere “and drag me back Here!” cracks are forming along the walls, as your ascension speeds up, “then you pull a Dirty Great SWORD on me!” with each emphasized word, more and more cracks appear in the room. The fridge, door, table and chairs are all lost in the swirling mass of butterflies.

“Wait! Stop! Kabloh!” The figure, who seemed so tall when he first walked in now looks so tiny. “Please! I wasn’t going to harm you, I just wanted to see if you could-“

“SHUT UP!” you scream, the room, finally shattering under the sheer pressure of your anger. “I’m not listening to your excuses anymore!”

“Kabloh... Please... We want to use you, use this pow-“

“GET OUT!” You thunder, sending thousands of your butterflies down onto him. Eventually your rage subsides, long after his screams have fallen silent, and you drop back to the floor.

 


 

Chapter Two

An ordinary day, a love interest perhaps?

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You wake up covered in a cold sweat. It’s morning. From the direction of the kitchen you hear the sounds of cooking, and the faint noise of the television in the background. Simple, familiar smells. You sit up, shaking, the feel of that dream was so... Intense. Your phone starts bugging you, but you ignore it.

“OY! KUBLO! BREAKFAST IS ALMOST READY! FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, GET YOUR ASS OUT OF BED!” Mack yells through your door.

“MACK! FOR THE LAST TIME! MY NAME IS KABLOH!” You shout back reflexively. An ordinary day? You really hope it is...

You look at your phone now. It is a text message, from that number again. Darn, you had kinda hoped that you had killed him... “Kabloh, WE WOULD ALL LIKE TO Apologize FOR OUR AGENTS ACTIONS. BELIEVE US WHEN WE SAY THAT HE HAS BEEN SEVERELY Punished, ALTHOUGH, IT SEEMS YOU DID SOME SERIOUS DAMAGE IN YOUR OWN WAY. WE REALLY WANT TO Talk TO YOU, TO OFFER A PROPER Apology. IS THERE ANY WAY WE COULD Talk SOME TIME AFTER SCHOOL?” Different text this time. You get the impression that they really do want to make it up with you.

Forgetting about it for the moment, you walk out into the hall, then into the kitchen. Your Mother turns stops working to turn around, and when she sees it’s you she runs over and gives you a big hug. “Mum?” This quite surprises you, and you start to get worried when you feel your shirt start getting damp, “Mum, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing Kabloh, nothing at all! It’s wonderful news! Your Father got another job!” Your Mother says, sobbing happily into your shoulder, “These men came around this morning to offer him a job at their paper!”

“That’s awesome news Mum!” You say, not really believing that your Father, by his own words, a not overly impressive columnist, got a new job so quickly after having lost the old one. And to be searched out at his residence too... It seemed a little fishy to you. But then, you figure you are just being paranoid. “Where is he now?”

“He went off to their offices to finish up the paperwork and start working.”

You eat breakfast in silence, for once not tasting how horrible your mothers cooking is, consumed in your own little world, as your Mother chatters happily away on the other side of the table.

Finishing your breakfast you head out the door, and wait down at the corner for Kurry to show. As usual you are the first there, so you hang out, leaning against the signpost. Already the dream you had last night, and your text this morning, were starting to seem more and more surreal. It must have effected how you acted though, because as Kurry came into view he starts running and shouts at you. “Kab! What’s wrong mate!?”

“Not much man!” You shout back, not sure exactly how you would bring up this whole mess, without seeming more weird than usual. “Just a little out of it this morning!”

“No, I mean,” he lowers his voice now that he is next to you, “Why did you ditch us the other day? I thought we were on for lunch? And you weren’t answering your phone ether. I was starting to worry man!”

“Oh!” You had completely forgotten about this. “Shit man, sorry about that. I got into kind of a tantrum.” You are a little embarrassed to admit to it, it seemed like so long ago too, “Dad got laid off work and told me we were going to have to move again... I threw a fit and then locked myself in my room for the night.”

“What? I thought you said that you guys had finally managed to settle down here?” Kurry seems concerned. “You look okay today though, still a little off though. I’d expect you to be dragging your feet along the ground...”

“That’s the thing, some guys turned up this morning...” You tell Kurry about the mornings events. All of a sudden you feel a sharp pain in the back of your head.

“Moooorniiiiiiing Kaaaaablooooh.” You hear the singsong call from behind you.

You sigh, “Morning Jerry.” Jerry skates into view. This annoying female had been the bane of your life for the entire time you had been at this school, always on those damned rollerblades, she was a mobile terror machine for you. An attractive girl, Jerry had long strawberry blonde hair, was thin and fit, and had an “awesome rack” as according to most of the guys in your year. You just said she was an annoyance. Jerry was in the class next to you last year, you hoped she was all the way over the other side this year.

“Having fun with your Boooooyfrieeend there Kab?” Always with that damned singsong voice.

“We are friends, Jerry.” You say, feeling your temper beginning to fray.

“Aww, isn’t that sweet! Well, I’ll be happy to be your flower girl at your wedding Kab! See ya!”

“Argh, rack off!” You shout after her as she skates off, but as you watch a stone gets itself caught in her rollerblades, and she careens off the footpath and into the bush along the side. As the dust settles you notice that her skirt has moved, showing a flash of bright pink from underneath. “I see London, I see France, I see Jerry’s Underpants!” you sing as you walk past.

“Aaaargh! Kab, I’m going to kill you.” Jerry shouts, thrashing about, trying to get out of the bush. Her legs are flailing about in the air, sliding her skirt further up her body, showing the world her bright pink undercarriage. You just laugh as you walk on. Throughout all this Kurry has been quiet. As you turn the corner he nudges you in the ribs.

“What the hell man!?” You punch him while rubbing your ribs.

“You know she likes you, don’t you? Isn’t it time you asked her out?”

“That thing!? Sorry man, but I have better standards than that immature lump.”

“She is just trying to get your attention Kab. It wouldn’t surprise me if that whole ruse was simply to get you to look at her underwear.”

“Gerrof!” You laugh at him, punching him again on the arm.

“It’s good to hear your old man got another job bro, it would be a shame to lose you.”

“Kurry,” you lower your voice and sling your arm over his shoulders, “Keep going like this and I’m going to start thinking you have feelings or something.”

You both laugh all the way into school.

 

------------------------

 

Your jovial mood doesn’t last long though. First day back to a new school year, new classes. Due to your loner nature, you spent a lot of time studying, this meant that you would always make it into the top classes at any school you were enrolled into. That was how you met Kurry, you came into this school almost at the end of your first year. He saw your nature and became your friend. Since then he had been in every one of your classes. This year however, he isn’t. To make matters worse: “Looooooks liiiiike we’re siiiiiiting togeeeeether Kaaaaabloh!” Jerry. You sink further into your chair.

“Alright class. It’s a new school year, so I want everyone to try their hardest!” Mr Mathers says from the front of the class. He is an alright teacher, as far as teachers go, prone however, to falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon. “Let’s start with introductions!” You groan. Intros. At a school as small as this, it’s impossible not to know, at least, everyone in your year, rendering introductions at the beginning of the year pointless. And this goes double as you are the only person to have joined your year since your arrival. But it is “traditional” to start the year by saying a little something about yourself.

The class slowly rumbles through their intros, half of them simply just a collection of sounds after their name. When it gets to you, you stand up. “I’m Kabloh Aethelinda. I do stuff, some of it may be fun, others not so much. I look forward to the coming year with you all.” That last part was also part of the tradition. You are really glad that it is over.

Jerry stands up next. “I’m Jerry Forscyth!” You had heard that she was enthusiastic with her intros, but this was your first time experiencing it first-hand. “I like hockey, netball, football and rollerblading. Also Kabloh! I look forward to the coming year with you all!” You fall backwards off your chair, smacking your head against the desk behind you. You really hope this doesn’t become a habit bordering on fetishistic. Reaching up to rub your head, your hand comes away sticky... And red... Also red... As you slip from consciousness you hear Mr Mathers saying “Oh dear, Jerry, escort the young fool to the sick bay, I fear that his corpse may make the class look unsightly...

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Kabloh. IF YOU SHOULD FIND IT IN YOUR HEART TO Forgive US, WE WOULD LIKE TO Talk TO YOU AFTER SCHOOL. A PROPER Conversation, NO STUNTS WILL BE PULLED. MEET US IN THE Redwood CAFÉ AT FOUR.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You wake up halfway through the first block, but are held back until interval dosed up on painkillers, and bandaged up you walk out of the sickbay having been told to keep an eye on any problems that may arise, but not to worry too much, it was simply a scratch. You walk down the corridor to where you, Kurry, Sean and Kathy hang out. They are your social group, and extended family. As you come into sight Sean, who is standing back against the wall, nudges Kurry, who was sitting with his back to you, with his foot, and nods in your direction. Kurry spins around then waves at you. “Dude!” he yells, “C’mere!”

You slide into your usual position on top of the box that hides the fire hose, dropping your bag onto the pile, as Kathy moves in to inspect the wound, muttering about “head-donkings”. Satisfied that your head isn’t about to fall off, she steps away again. They are all very quiet, you are a little unnerved by the silence that your normally loud friends are showing. You look around at them, Kathy, an old crush of yours, her tall, lanky frame doesn’t adhere to any of the commonly accepted ideas of attractiveness, being more beanpole and less curvy than most females, but what made her your crush were her face and mind. Kathy has the kindest face out of anyone you have ever known, you have never seen a flash of anger or rage cross those features, and the strawberry blonde hair framing it, usually worn held up at the back by a clip barrette. Even now you feel warmth towards you, although your feelings have long been dealt with and put aside, you now view her more as the little sister you never managed to con your parents into having. Sean however is the complete opposite, short and stoutly built, not fat, but definitely not thin, Sean’s build always reminds you of a tree stump, and his features are harsh, looking as if they were carved from a block of stone by someone with a very angry outlook on life, topped off by scraggly black hair. But he is nice enough, used to be an asshole, got into plenty of fights as a child and a young teenager, lending to his harsh features, but he calmed down around the time his parents were diagnosed with cancer. Standing side-by-side Kathy and Sean are a contrast, and Kurry completes the set. Kurry is about as average a person as you could hope to find, the only thing that sets him apart from the rest of the population is his intellect. Kurry is of an average height, not towering over anyone, but not towered over himself, Kurry no matter what company he is in manages to be the direct middle of the height scale, it was once joked that Kurry could sneak onto a basketball team and blend in at an average height. Kurry’s build reflected his height, average. He wasn’t strong, muscular, nor was he weak, thin. Even his hair, some kind of sandy blonde-mid brown tone, managed to settle into any group as unremarkable, and nothing stood out about his face, save his piercing blue eyes.

Kurry finally speaks up, after the silence had dragged on long enough, “Okay, we heard the rumours, but we all want to know what really happened.”

You recount the short story to them all. “Ahh, yeah, the way some rumours are going, Jerry threw herself at you in a fit of passion, finally declaring her love for you, which caused your chair to tip over, and you to hit your head on the desk. Few of us actually believed that she would have done that, but after this morning’s spectacle, we weren’t sure.” They all looked kind of embarrassed. “Hell, some rumours had her declaring in front of the class and you jumping at her in a fit of passion. The “noggin-donking” as Kathy wants to call it, came about after several seconds of mad kissing. Dude, you two are the talk of the school.” As if to prove him right, just then several junior students walk past pointing at you and laughing.

“Go find a hyena camp to join you slack-jawed jar-heads!” Sean throws over his shoulder at the kids, the first time he had spoken since you had arrived. He turns back to you. “Kab, it’s good to see you are okay. Kur gave us a run-down on what’s been happening to you at home, we were all worried for you after you stood Kur up the other day. Just glad your Dad landed himself another job so soon. None of us want to lose you.”

“Keep talking like that Sean, and rumours will start spreading that Jerry has competition for my heart.” You kid, giving Sean a light punch.

“He’s right though Kab,” Kathy speaks up, “None of us want to lose you.”

“You guys are dicks. Thanks, I’d miss you all too.” Really, sometimes your friends are sickeningly sweet. You have eaten raw syrup that has tasted bitterer than this lot. You don’t know what you would do without them. “Now, help me decide what to do with Jerry, else this year is going to be hell.”

“You could always ask her out.” Kurry jabs you in the ribs.

You spend the rest of interval talking, relishing in the fact that you aren’t going to lose these assholes after all.


 

Chapter Three

Monotone voices. A triumphant entry, the butterfly’s wings shine brightly.

 

Jerry doesn’t say another word to you all day, and you respect her silence, actually enjoying her company for once. It’s amazing what falling off a chair can accomplish. After school Jerry just skates away, not even looking back at you. You revel in your newfound freedom, for long enough to turn your phone on. “Oh shit, those dream voices.” You realise as your phone starts angrily telling you about its new text message. Just in the last couple of days the speaker on it has given up through the amount of use it got, instead of the show tune, your phone now simply blares out a long, bland note. Like a fire siren in a tin can.

The text, once your phones failing keypad accepts that you are using it, reads “Kabloh, DON’T Forget, Redwood CAFÉ AT FOUR. NO STUNTS, WE Promise.” Geez, if there is one thing these voices have in common, it’s sending you halfway across the town in a short period of time, it’s a forty minute jog away, and you got off school at 3:15. Oh well, you really want to know what’s up. Pulling your MP3 out of your pocket, your phone goes off again. It’s Kathy. “Kabloh, do u want 2 grab a bite 2 eat today? Please? It wod mean alot to me :)?”

“Sorry Kathy,” you quickly text back as you sling your earphones around your neck, “I have an appointment to keep this afternoon. Is it possible to reschedule to another day?”

You start getting more and more worried as more and more time passes, eventually you are halfway to the Redwood Café, and through “Ice Like Hamder” before you finally hear back from her. “Ok Kabloh. Look after urself, and ur noggn. Loves! :) Talk at skool 2morrow.”

 

You walk into the Redwood Café bang on 4pm. A figure in the back sees you and waves you over. This person is completely different than the one who entered your dream the other night, for a start he has a face. The face is similar to Kurrys, in that it is halfway between kind and hard, but that’s where any similarities end. This face is flat, small cheekbones, low forehead, tiny, flat nose, and patchy red hair sprouts from his head. It looked like as a child he had run face-first into a wall, and they had to pry him away with a spatula. The rest of him is the complete opposite, everything is round. It’s like someone started smudging off some of his hard corners, and just never stopped. As he stands up to greet you, you see he is even shorter than Sam, barely coming up to your chest. “Hello Kabloh, my name is Tom, I’m glad you could join us on such short notice.” He says, shaking your hand and guiding you to a chair.

“It’s not like I had a choice,” you say as you sit down, “You are just going to keep bugging me until I do. Just like that other asshole who came before you.”

“Yes...” Tom looks a little down, “It is in the nature of most Exiled to be somewhat... Eccentric.

“Now, can I get you something to eat? Drink?”

“I’m out of cash...” You make up an excuse.

“I’ll pay.” Tom offers.

“Alright, I’ll have a cappuccino two chocolate chip cookies, a plate of sandwiches and a bowl of wedges.” You list off, never one to turn down food. Tom calls a waitress over and orders about a dozen items besides.

While you wait for your food Tom starts speaking again. “I apologise for K9-Q36’s actions, I merely told him to invite you here.”

“K9-Q36? Alright, start explaining.” You are sick of sideways comments from these guys.

“Right. K9 is my partner. An Exiled, like the guy who you met first. Exiled are dreams that no longer serve a purpose, old dreams that took on their own form, before being ejected from the dreamspectrum. And that’s where people like you and me come in. We can manipulate dreams to our own will. You proved that well enough taking down B1-A00. Exiled need somewhere to live, and that falls to us. Our minds are ripe for an Exiled to live in, vast enough that they don’t affect our mental state.”

You sit through all this tapping your fingers on the table. Now that Tom has finished all he seems to want to say it’s your turn. “Alright, so that asshole is a dream. And you have a dream in you. I understand that they need us to live, but why do we need to allow them to live. They were Exiled for a reason, right? They serve no purpose. Why do you want me?”

“That’s complex. If we didn’t exist Exiles would start invading the heads of innocent people not capable of carrying them, and the toll on their mind would eventually kill them.

“As for why we want you. Kabloh, have you ever wondered how you control your dreams? Have you ever wished you could control reality in the same way? People like me, like us, we can stir the very fabric of reality.” As he says this, from thin air Tom produces a large white rabbit. “That wasn’t magic, not the trickery that common magicians use,” the rabbit started squirming, it’s skin flexing and bending as if it were being eaten alive from the inside, you stare transfixed. “I have complete control over this rabbit.” The rabbit becomes a potato, no larger than your fist, and then vanishes.

You sit there for a while, staring at the space where the rabbit was just a few seconds ago.

All of a sudden your food appears in front of you. Tom’s order alone is enough to fill up most of the table. He starts tucking in with gusto but you ignore the food in front of you, too busy with A) digesting what you have just been shown, and B) watching Tom shovel food down. After he had cleaned two plates off, you finally find your mental footing and start on your wedges. “And why do you want a highschool kid running around able to rip reality a new one?” This makes absolutely no sense to you whatsoever.

“Not all Exiled are good; B1-A00 is a borderline example of this. Some Exiled seek the innocent, make a game out of how long it takes to kill them, what crazy things they can make them do. We need people like you to seek these Exiled out and remove them. That’s where your Exiled comes in. Kabloh, I would like you to accept U4-A01.”

You sit there dumbfounded, until you feel a little pinch in the back of your mind. “U4-A01 really wants In Kabloh, accept him?”

“Alright, alright!” You sigh. “I accept him.” Instantly you feel as if a plug had been let out of the top of your head, and a bathtub full of water came crashing down into it.

“hey boss. sure is roomy in here. nice place you got.” A voice in your head says. Even though it speaks with a monotone, you can sense the excitement behind it.

“You calling me an airhead mate?” You say aloud. Tom looks at you quizzically.

“You only need to think to talk to U4-A01.” He says to you.

“Ah, right.” You shrug, starting on your sandwiches, “Never done this shit before, forgive me.” “Keep the hell out of my private thoughts U4,” you think, “and we will get along just fine.

‘woa mate. easy. i'm no all that happy with this arrangement myself. well not until i saw how much room there was in here. you got quite an imagination on you here kid.”

“So,” you say aloud, and in your head, “What now?”

“Everything else you need to know will come to you tonight.” Tom tells you, finishing off his last plate, until then, d’ya think you will be having those cookies?”

Sighing you fling one of the cookies to Tom, which stops half an inch off his nose, floating in mid-air “good shot mate.” U4 seems impressed.

“Cheers.” Tom picks the cookie out of the air in front of him, pocketing it. Have a good evening Kabloh. Don’t let U4-A01 put you off.” Tom pays the bill and walks out. You finish of your food and look at the time, 5:03 pm, time to head home. You thank the café staff and walk out the door- right into someone. “Sorry ma’am.” You apologise. “I didn’t see you... There...”

“Heeeeeeellooooooo Kaaaaaablooooooh!” Jerry says, seeming to have gotten over whatever was giving you some freedom, “Fancy meeting you here! I didn’t know you were around this area!”

“nice girl you got here kabloh.” U4 says in your head, “can get some good shaggings out of someone like her.” His normally monotone drawl seems to have picked up an edge of lust. “Shut up U4.” You think. You can understand his reaction though; Jerry is dressed in less clothing than should be decent, showing off her gorgeous figure. “No, I just met up with someone, I’m about to go home.” Jerry starts looking over your shoulder, as if looking for some floozy to be hiding behind you, “He left quarter of an hour ago.” You finish.

“Ohh! So you are free! Can I borrow you for a minute.” From her tone you know that that was not a question. “I have some shopping to do...”

Over an hour and a half later, with the sun beginning to fade in the west, you dump all fourteen of Jerry’s bags off in her car and start running. “KAAAAABLOOOOOOH!” Jerry shouts after you as you accelerate away, “I really enjoyed our date, we should go out again some time.”

So much for that.” you think, patting your significantly lighter wallet. “she is into you boy. actually ask her out next time.” “I don’t need you to tell me this shit.” You think back, turning into your street, “Jerry is an annoying, immature woman and I don’t want that in my life.” There’s the front door, you might make it before 7PM! “i’m just saying kabloh. you guys sit next to each other in class. should take her up on her offer.” “And I’m just saying that you should keep out of my love life.” In the front door.

“KAAAAAAABLOOOOOOH!” That was no sing-song voice, that was the voice of your father, and it wasn’t very happy... “In here, NOW!”

“sounds like you pissed someone off.” “I don’t need a commentary on my life U4, now shove a sock in it.” “actually. i might find a sock lying around in amongst all this imagination...” U4’s voice fades away.

You walk into the front room. Your father is sitting on the old armchair facing you, looking rather displeased. “What time is this Kabloh?” he asks.

After a thorough tongue lashing on the importance of family meals, and calling ahead if you are going to be late, your father calms down. “However, on the note of calling ahead I have something for you.” He reaches down beside the armchair and comes back with a small box. “Here, I got this for you before I was laid off from my last job, I know that what you have was inadequate for myself five years ago, how you managed to put up with it is beyond me. You deserve this.” He spiels off, handing you the box. It’s a new cell phone, new-new. As in, this is the phone that the techy kids at school use new.

“... Cheers Dad!” you finally manage to muster the words. You are absolutely flabbergasted, it must have taken your dad months to save up for this phone.

“Now go have dinner.” Your father growls at you, turning the TV on, the Seven O’clock sports news comes on, as you walk through to the kitchen, grab your dinner, another of your Mothers concoctions, and down the hall to your room. As you pass Mack’s door she cracks it open a fraction.

“Evening Sis.” The door closes on you again. She must be in one of her “moods”, so you go through into your room to plug your phone in. As you eat you mull over the day’s events in your head. “hey. watch were you are poking those thoughts mate. i’m in here too.” Inconvenient asshole. You transfer your sim card and contacts into your new phone before going to bed, satisfied that you will never again hear the unmistakable sound of a speaker trying to kill itself with a drowning cat.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

That unmistakable sound. The sound of a speaker trying to kill itself with a drowning cat.

What the hell?” You think, waking up into your dream. “oh. sorry mate. i just had to try that sound metaphor for myself. it was a good one. bravo.”

“Oh, you are in here too? Will I never escape your annoying voice?” You say as the figure of U4 comes into view, you recognise him immediately, something triggers in your brain, associating this figure with U4. He is dark skinned, about the same height as you, with pale, lifeless eyes. He is clean shaven, and has a shaved head. He has a rather large barrel chest, which is covered by an olive-green suit. He strikes a rather dashing figure in a way you guess. “never mate. i’m with you for life. or as close to. so we finally meet. it's a pleasure living in your mind.” He says, coming up to you and shaking your hand.

“So what happens now?” you ask. “Am I supposed to just wait for a bad Exiled to turn up and fight him?”

“na mate. we are currently in your mind. to get at the other Exiled we need to get to the dreamspectrum to take on any Exiled running around.”

“And how do we get there?”

“usually. a dreaming mind takes you there. but when you have a large enough imagination. like yourself and tom. and also when you have an Exiled. because in a way. as we are dreams. you are already dreaming. so you don’t get taken there immediately. that is where i come in. Exiled can provide a link to the dreamspectrum.” A long winded explanation from someone who doesn’t use commas.

“Okay... That kind of makes sense. I get the basic idea, it’s where dreams come from, but what exactly is the dreamspectrum?”

“it is the base foundation of reality.” U4 begins, “the dreamspectrum is the raw material from which reality is formed. ever had that flash of inspiration. that is the dreamspectrum. simply saying it is where dreams come from isn’t doing it justice. it would be like saying that you are where poop comes from.”

“This plot exposition is nice and all, but if your job is to get me into the dreamspectrum, shouldn’t you be doing that now?” You are getting bored of talking.

“alright. alright. keep your panties on.” All of a sudden a door appears beside you. “happy now.” He asks.

“Plenty.” You reply, opening the door. Beyond is a swirl of psychedelicness, greens, blues, purples, reds, oranges, and several colours which you have never seen before, one that looks like the smell of freshly baked pie, all swirling together in a kaleidoscope that makes most hippies mushroom trips seem like a stroll through an archive of old, black and white news footage. You just stand there for several seconds, watching it folding in on itself. You have never done, and would never do hallucinogenics, but you just can’t resist the pretty lights... Soooooo preeeeeeeeeeetttyyyy.

“dude. if i knew that this would just make you stare at it like it’s a porno i would have gotten you to close your eyes first.” U4 appears to have had enough of waiting around for you to get a move on. “just walk through the damned door. i’m not getting paid enough to do this...” He mutters as you finally step through the doorway.

If watching the portal was good, then the experience of actually going through it was orgasmic. The feeling, the feeling was like a shot of pure ecstasy to the brain, like a thousand younger ladies all attempting to pleasure you at once, like a freshly baked loaf of bread, still steaming from the oven. You are no writer, no poet, so even if you were to sit for the rest of your lifetime you could never hope to find the right words to describe it. You try damned hard though. “enjoying yourself i see kabloh.” U4 interjects in your head.

Is your entire life’s goal to ruin everything for me?” You ask, rather off-put by being pulled from your trance, “So, not that I’m not enjoying myself, but how much longer is this going to take?

“quit ye’r nagging. almost there. ungrateful prick. what do you have against me anyway.” U4 asks.

I’m just still not comfortable with sharing my mind with someone, something else.” You think, up ahead you see a hole open in the waves of psychedelicness, “This our exit?

“yeah, up ahead is the dreamspectrum. be warned. it may be the genesis of all dreams. but in there is a completely different experience from dreaming.”

Thanks for telling me now!” The hole opens up, and passes around you.

*pap* you land, sending up a little plume of dust, on some cold hard ground. “the hero ascends triumphant unto his land of dreams. the legends look down upon him and know that the heir has arrived. they quake in their boots.” That monotonous tone is one of the best you have ever heard for sarcasm, not that you would let U4 know this.

*shoosh* What the hell was that? It was like something was rushing through bushes, but all you see around you is flat, barren land. The hole you appeared through starts closing, at the last minute something spits out the tiny gap, firing into the ground at your feet. It’s a Katana, but a rather organic looking one, made of no metal you have ever seen before. Along the spine of the blade are many spikes, like porcupine quills, pointing in both directions along the blade, with another collection of spikes, more like stereotypical armour spikes than the quills of the blade, in a cluster around the guard, finally a deep blue ribbon and a short length of corroded copper-green chain hangs from the prommel. The hilt is wrapped in binding, reflecting the colours of the ribbon and chain, as well as the sheer, almost glassy grey of the blade. As you pull it out of the dirt, you feel that it is rather light, impeccably balanced, and no longer than your leg. You give it a couple of experimental swings. “oy. watch where you are swinging me. you could have someones eye out.” Comes U4’s voice from the blade.

“What? You are the sword?” You ask, taken aback.

“who were you expecting? jerry.” That was the first time you had heard any inflection on U4’s voice. “yeah. it's me. you need something to fight the Rogue exiles with. don't you.”

*shoosh* “speak of the devil. that's one now.”

“So... What do I do?” Whatever it is that Tom told you would come to you isn’t coming.

*ShoosH* Its getting closer now. “attack it.”

*SHOOSH* “As soon as I learn to hit something I can’t see, I’ll do just that!” You cry in desperation. As you yell however you hear another cry matching it... From right behind you. You turn around. *SHOOSH!* There is a large, black, dragon-like creature hanging in the air behind you. The swishing sound you heard were the slow, heavy beats of its wings.

“THAT’S AN EXILE!?” You yell, stumbling back. “There’s no way in hell a sword can get to that thing!” You drop the sword in frustration, another plume of dust rises from where U4 settles, as well as from your knees as you drop to them.

“gather yourself together kabloh.” You vaguely hear U4 telling you. “you took out someone far uglier than this fucker last night. remember. just do what you did then.”

You can’t do it though, you can’t remember how you summoned those butterflies, how you bent them to your will, to attack the Voice. You can’t remember that feeling of a thousand beats, all unique, all individual, all the same.

“but first, a little test.” The grating, annoying voice comes back to you in a flash, as the Exiled roars again.

“Argh, shutup you useless lump.” A cloud of red mist descends over your mind. “If I wanted you to speak, I’d ask you.” You stretch your hand out to U4’s still form, lying on the ground not too far away. Your movements feel slow, as if you were stuck in syrup, and all the feelings are detached, not like you are really there, an out of body experience almost. Suddenly U4 is picked up, and comes hurtling through the air towards your outstretched hand. You easily snatch it out of the air. *pitter pitter... pitter... pitter* slowly the sound of many, many tiny wings builds up around you. *Pitter. Pitter. PitterpitterpitterpitterpitterPitter PitteRPITTERPITTERPITTERPITTERPITTERPITPITPITPITPIT* suddenly the fluttering sound turns into a raging storm of noise, surrounding you on all sides, and then the air is filled with butterflies again, their combined wing beats enough to kick up dust high into the air. You feel the movements of each of them, folding and flitting around you in a pattern that seems random but focused. The Exiled roars again, backing up and away from the swarm, wings beating hard now.

“I told you to be quiet.” You hear yourself say, raising your hand. A thousand butterflies detach themselves from the swarm, surround the Exiles head, before condensing. The Exile falls silent, gagged by the dense pack of butterflies. Still more butterflies surround your feet, lifting you up off the ground. You feel yourself moving towards the Exile, raising U4. If he was saying anything, you can’t hear him now, over the sound of the butterflies swirling around you, and the red mist that clouds your mind. Slowly you make your way to where the Exiled hangs, wings still beating hard, but head held in place by the butterfly gag.

*Sclunch* You easily rend the head off of its shoulders. The body gives a judder, a thick blue blood-like liquid flooding out the wound, before tumbling to the ground. The gag is also released, and the head too, now no longer fearsome, more pathetic looking, tumbles after its body.

Suddenly you feel light headed. As you pass out you hear U4 saying “-diot spent too much juice on tha-“

 


 

Chapter Four

Exiled can be annoying assholes when bored.

 

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“Kabloh, WELL DONE ON Defeating THAT Exiled. WE HAVE BEEN Tracking IT FOR MONTHS. YOU ARE SAFE NOW. SLEEP, Dream.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

To regain your rightful place as heir of the Walder family you must complete the Rite of the Passing Moon. Before you can do that however, you must convince your Mother that your girlfriend is not a slug. Trouble is, you know very well that your girlfriend is indeed, a slug.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“kabloh you idiot. all you had to do was incapacitate it. and you go and give it a haircut at the neck. now you have to deal with the consequences.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You wake up exhausted. You have never felt this exhausted after sleeping in your life. You barely have the strength to keep your eyes open. In your delirium you hear Mack giving you your wakeup call. A little later you hear your mother knocking at the door. Next thing you know you are waking up after noon, the sunlight streaming through your window, and your mother leaning over you holding a bowl of soup. Your muddled senses faintly detect the smell of chicken. “-u poor thin-... –ell’uva temperature... –ink this... –ack to sleep...”

 

“you really don’t do things by halves do you kabloh.”

It’s evening, you can hear noises coming from the kitchen and the sky is getting dark outside your window. “Kublo?” You hear Mack at the door. “Buddy? You alright mate?”

“Yeah Mack.” You manage, still feeling very drained. “Just a little tired.”

She comes over and sits at the foot of your bed. “What, did an evening with Jerry tire you out that much? Maybe it’s a good thing you don’t want to ask her out.” She chuckles. You manage a little laugh. “Mum’s going to have dinner up soon, think you are up to it?”

“I’ll give it a try.” You start to sit up, but feel really dizzy and light-headed, so you drop back into the sheets. “Or not...”

“Youngling...” Mack mutters. “Alright Kub, I’ll go grab dinner and bring it for you in here.” She stands up and looks around the room. “You still into that Ham-rock shit?”

Hampocalypse is the best band that ever bothered to make music and you bloody well know it.” You grumble from the bed.

“Sorry Kub, can’t hear a thing you’re saying, something about liking Rothe Pettalth better was it?” She kids, walking out the door. Rothe Petalth, or Rose Petals with a lisp, is Mack’s favourite band. A bunch of mushy men singing about mushy things with a lisp. They tend to give you a headache within two minutes of one of their tracks.

“actually. one of my previous hosts enjoyed rothe petalth. it’s not too bad once you get used to it.” U4 offers from you head. “You start playing that shit in my head and I’ll give you back to Tom.” You threaten, not really sure if that is possible or not, but it shuts U4 up.

Mack comes back a little later, and she sits down at your desk to eat her dinner. You pick at yours. Mack had been cooking again so you can taste the flavours of the sausage and bean stew. You sit and talk with your sister, who at some stage during the evening left the hard chair and retrieved her beanbag, you hadn’t noticed her leave, for the second time in what for you seemed like an age, but was really only two days ago. All this dream shit is really diluting your sense of time passage. “yeah. when a 20 minute REM cycle turns into a four hour duel with a talking potato. you know you got it bad.” Every. Goddamn. Time. “Piss off.

 

------------------------

 

It’s morning. You sit up feeling very refreshed and ready to take on the world. *snaaRRRK!* Mack is still sitting in her beanbag in the middle of the room, snoring away. You check the time on your phone, 6am, and notice you have several missed calls and text messages. Your friends were worried about you, Kathy in particular, asking if your head-donkings were worse than initially thought. None of the callers left voicemail messages, your friends know full well you don’t like to pay for that shit, but you appreciate the thought anyway.

Getting up you nudge Mack with your foot. “Rise and shine sleeping beauty, your Lil’ Bro would like some privacy to get changed in please.” “aww. what. no incest.”

“Buh?” Mack wakes up and looks around. “Wher’mi?” She closes her eyes and snuggles deeper into her beanbag.

“No, no! Bad Mack! Bad! Wake up. Come on.” Mack sits up, blinks a couple of times.

“Whuzzat?” She rolls off her beanbag, thudding onto the floor. “Okay, okay! I’m up! No need to be rough about it!” She says, disgruntled, rubbing her bottom. “Thanks Bro...”

“You did it yourself sleepyhead. Should have gone back to your own room instead of falling asleep on that thing.” You pick her up and gently guide her out of your room, dumping her beanbag into her arms and closing the door. Changing your clothing you realise that your bladder is screaming at you, not surprising as you can’t remember getting up in over 30 hours.

Changed, bowels voided, and refuelled on one of your Mothers better culinary attempts, Cereal, you walk out the door on your way to school. You are just turning out of your drive when you hear the familiar sound of rollerblades coming down the road behind you, Jerry. T next thing you know you have a rather athletic female hanging around your neck, something round warm and firm is pressing into your arm. “dude. breasts.”

“Moooorniiiiiing Kaaaaaablooooooh!” Jerry says as you continue walking, away from her. “I missed you yesterday. Are you okay?”

“Just fine Jerry.” “ask her out.” “Just a stomach bug.” “ask her out.” “I’m over it now.” “ask her out.” You attempt to tell Jerry over U4 bugging you in your head.

“Okay! Okay! No need to shout Kabloh! I was just worried is all.” You realize you were shouting to hear your words over U4 in your head. You apologize to Jerry and she proceeds on her way.

Alright dick. I’m fed up with your constant commentary at inappropriate times. Please, for today, unless you have something really important to tell me, keep that trap of your shut.” “alright. alright. keep your panties on. i get the idea. i'll stay out of your way.”

At the end of the street Kurry is waiting for you where you normally wait for him. “Get up on the right side of the bed this morning?” You ask as you pull up beside him.

“Just saw Jerry go past. Finally manage to ask her out?” He kids. “Dude, where were you yesterday? It’s not like you to miss school, we were all worried. And on top of that you weren’t answering your phone. What happened?”

“It’s just a stomach bug. Nothing to worry about. I’m all better now.” You reply, feeling like a broken record, which you guess will be the tune of the day.

“Having a rough week aren’t you?”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“What with your father going out and in employment, your breakdown, I heard about your run-in with Jerry the other evening, and then a stomach bug.” All of those things seem so far apart, like the events of a week, not a month.

“Eh, I’ve been coping, well, apart from that breakdown...” You shrug. “I’ve had something else to occupy my mind with.”

“Ooh! Sounds interesting. Got yourself a girl? That why you are keeping away from Jerry?” Kurry, always digging for gossip.

“Nothing like that Kurry.” You say as you turn into the school gates. “Just some... Mental exercises that keep me amused.”

“No wonder you got a fucking library up here.” Kurry raps you on the head with his knuckles. “If you’re doing shit like that.”

The bell rings, signalling first period is about to start. “Oh great, more of Jerry.” You sigh.

“Good luck man!” Kurry shouts, walking off to his room, “Give her a hug for me!”

“Not on your life!”

 

After the worst class you have sat through in years, you head out to second period.

“Alright class.” Mr. Mathers had said, starting the lesson. “A simple exercise for you all to do, in the pairs you are seated in.” Crap, you thought. “100 things you would do with your partner. Go.” You were right. Crap. Crap. Also? Crap. Having shot down what felt like the thousandth stupid lovey-dovey suggestion from Jerry you hear the bell ring.

“Finally. Alright Jerry, I’ll see you next block.” Fortunately your electives are different classes, time away from Jerry, time with Kurry.

“Dude, that’s a bit rough, but you could have at least humoured her for the sake of the exercise.” He says, having gotten the rundown from you.

“What? And let her think that I like her in any way, shape or form?” You scoff at the idea. “Not going to happen bro.”

“ You are no fun.”

 

School runs down, all your introductory stuff you missed out on due to the first day’s incident and being wiped out yesterday is dealt to. You wander out the front gates, glad to finally have gotten a normal day in.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Kabloh, WE NEED YOUR Help TONIGHT. MEET US IN THE DREAMSPECTRUM.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You are sitting in a small room. The walls are the same corroded copper-green as U4s chain. Then all of a sudden there is U4, standing in front of you. This time you notice something, the chain. It hangs from his pocket like the chain on a pocket watch.

“Oh, hey U4.” No reply. “Oh come on, don’t sulk.” Nothing. “I was a little testy about your remarks all the time.” He stands there. “Come on, talk to me.”

“finally. you told me to clam up. i’m in your mind. your word is law in here.” he says, panting like he had been holding his breath.

“Oh, shit. Sorry dude, I didn’t know I had that much power.” You learnt something. You can shut him up. “So what happened yesterday? Why was I wiped?”

“you are all that surprised.” U4 looks somewhat surprised himself by this. “you thought that after controlling thousands of parts you would be fine. very few hosts can even do that. let alone stand up afterwards. what you did the other night used up a lot of juice. when you are in the dreamspectrum you aren’t in your mind. you don’t have unlimited control. everything you do uses up your energy. both physical and mental.”

“And you didn’t warn me?”

“i did. before we entered. and when you were summoning. but at the time you weren’t paying me any attention at all. just running about with those damned insects chopping up exiled left. right and centre.”

“Sorry.” You really are.

“now. i saw the transmission from k9-q36. it seems we have work to do. don't go losing your head again.” U4 stands up, opening a portal behind him, before pulling the chain out of his pocket, as he does he starts glowing, morphing, swirling, folding, until, when the glow breaks, his weapon-form hangs in the air. Before it hits the ground you catch it. “sweet catch.”

“Ikuzo.” You jump through the portal, barely noticing it’s feeling this time, and emerge in the dreamspectrum. “What the hell?”

You stand in the middle of a bustling city, skyscrapers reaching for the sky. Off in the distance is one incredibly tall tower, which goes beyond the sky, seemingly going on forever. In the sky all around are floating objects of all shapes and sizes, some obviously transportation, zipping about like raindrops in a storm, others looking like futuristic billboards.

“what. you thought the whole dreamscape was featureless like that plain. yeah right. it's the fucking base material for the entire universe. it isn’t going to all be the same featureless bullshit. i just dropped you there because i thought it would be safer.” “It wasn’t was it?” “no.” U4 sounds embarrassed by this.

“Stop squabbling boys, we have a task at hand here.” Tom says from behind you. You turn around. He looks exactly like he does in the real world, just the addition of the rather large, sinister looking lance over his shoulder.

“k9. sweet. new get-up looks good man.”

“CHEERS U4. GOOD TO SEE YOU AIRING THAT Form AGAIN.” The weapons start chatting.

“Ladies, catch-up time can be done anywhere. At the moment we have some business to attend. Kabloh, we have been tracking another Exiled for some months now. This one isn’t that big a target, not like the one from the other night, but it’s an elusive one. So there isn’t any need to do anything too flashy.”

“he means don’t summon a metric fucking tonne of butterflies Kabloh.”

“WAIT, WHAT? THE NEWBIE Summoned MULTIPLE Summons ON HIS FIRST NIGHT?” “Not just multiple K9, Kabloh here summoned somewhere between 500 and a thousand butterflies.” You feel slightly proud of the air of difficulty that Tom was giving to that statement.

“IDIOT. THERE IS NO NEED TO GO THAT OVER-THE-TOP TO TAKE OUT A SINGLE EXILED.”

“He summoned for the first time outside his head, give him a break.” Tom berates his lance. “But I thought we had something to do here?”

Tom walks you through the city for a way, the weapons having finally fallen silent. Tom eventually stops at the top of a flight of stairs. It is the stereotypical Bad Guy Bar, complete with tacky name “Serpents Hive”. “Really?” You ask Tom, raising an eyebrow.

“Really.” He grunts. Shoving the bouncer aside Tom walks through the doors like he owns the place. “Come.”

Inside it is every bit as stereotypical as the outside. Damn, there is even a pool table over in the corner. A heavy blanket of smoke hangs in the air, not all of it smelling of tobacco. Patrons sit around dingy little tables, lit only by the single, futuristic, bulb in the centre of the table. Mugs of all shapes and sizes lie scattered over the tables and countertops. There is even a beat-up figure lying in the corner. As you walk in every eye in the room turns to look at you. “you are right on that one mate. this is about as stereotypical a bad guy bar as you will ever find.” U4 says in your head.

“I’m looking for Jango.” Tom says, stepping into the centre of the room. “Could someone bring him out here?”

“but it has to be this way.” U4 continues, as the mood in the air turns even more hostile. “this is the dreamspectrum. in here. some things are stereotypical.”

“Oh yea’? And wa’dya wan’ with ‘im?” one of the more seedy patrons yells out.

“and alot of it follows the script.”

Tom lowers his lance at the one who spoke up. “Simple.” He launches K9 into the patron, smacking deep into his chest. “I’m here to kill him.”

The place explodes. Everyone in the bar, even the beat-up figure in the corner, launches themselves at you both. Tom somersaults over their heads, retrieves the lance, and starts fighting like a man possessed. You do your best to fend off the ones who are coming after you, U4 complementing your powers by subtly guiding your hand into the right positions. You are really glad for the year of Chanbara, a martial art focused around modern Samurai, for allowing you to wield U4 with finesse.

Slowly the number of upstanding combatants thins out, and the crowd falls back, surrounding you and Tom. You back into each other, waiting for the inevitable tide to collapse in on you.

... And waiting...

 

... And waiting...

 

Suddenly the pin drops, and the circle surrounding you breaks, twenty or so men falling in on you. “STOP!” Someone yells, coming from the direction of the backroom. “Enough of this. You are here for me aren’t you?” The figure makes its way into the dim lighting of the room. She cuts a rather attractive figure, with a perfect hourglass figure, and long blonde hair tied back in a ponytail, a long flowing dress hangs off her shoulders, looking like it was going to fall off at any time. “Two hosts and two Exiled for little old me? My, aren’t I spoiled?” She pulls a dagger out of the air. “Shall we?”

“Kabloh,” Tom whispers to you. “get out of here, circle around the back entrance. This one is likely to flee, and we want her alive.” You nod and start backing towards the exit, which is still open behind you. You are just passing under the doorframe when a dagger appears in the wood beside you, vibrating gently.

“Going somewhere? Won’t you stay for the fun?” The sweet voice of the Exiled floats across the room, ensnaring you in its beauty. You start walking back into the room.

“GO!” Tom shouts at you, snapping you out of the trance. You turn and gap it out and up through the entrance. To your left is an alley, and you dive down it, searching for the back door. All of a sudden there is an explosion, and the building shakes, little pieces of mortar raining down on you. Up ahead is another alley, leading between two buildings around the back of the bar. You sprint down it and hear a door slamming up ahead. The Exiled from the bar staggers into the alley, coughing. She sees you and starts running in the opposite direction down the alley.

“Not so fast!” You shout, and using a bit of force manage to pull down some loose masonry from the blast, blocking off her escape route, the Exiled, who was almost underneath the masonary, falls back, coughing. This effort alone is enough to make you start panting. “see. not so easy now is it. you are still recovering kabloh. take it easy.”

Tom finally staggers into the alley, dragging K9 behind him, heavily singed and burnt. He takes one look around and collapses. K9 morphs back into his human form. Sorry, you correct yourself, her human form. “SEAL HER Kabloh! Tom’s OUT COLD.”

“ah. that’s the other thing i was meant to teach you the other night. shit.” U4 sounds pissed off with himself. “oh well. consider this some on-the-job tuition.”

“Uh? O-okay?” You stutter, not entirely sure what U4 or K9 mean.

“just do as i tell you. alright? now. concentrate on my blade. imagine it purifying. like a prayer. just let that feeling fill the length of my blade.” You try, but not being all that religious, you aren’t all that sure what a prayer is like. “argh. so useless. look. it's kind of crude. but it does the trick. think of what a water filter does. it removes the impurities from the water.” Your foe starts climbing the rubble that you left in her path, sliding over the  loose material. “ah fuck it. just try purifying as you stab her with me.”

You concentrate as you run down the alley, leaping up the pile just in time to see her clamber to the top. She takes one look back at you, a fatal mistake. As she turns back you manage to catch up, stabbing U4’s blade deep into her back. She screams for a second before going stiff.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You are hanging out in the playground of your school, standing in front of the white brick wall that stands at the edge of the netball court. In front of you is a large, thick, hempen rope. Looking up it you see that it disappears into the clouds way above. You give it a tug. It seems plenty solid. You go to start climbing it...

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“KUBLOH! WAKEY-WAKEY! SCHOOL STARTS SOON, RISE AND SHINE!” Mack’s morning call shakes you awake. As soon as you wake you realize that there is the thunder of rain on the window. Wandering into the hall you don’t smell breakfast cooking. Into the kitchen, “Powers out Kub, Cereal for breakfast. Grab some, I’ll drop you off at school, save you walking in this fowl weather.” One of the best things about having a sister out of school in between jobs is that you never have to walk in the rain, even though school is only a fifteen minute walk down the road.

Pulling out of the driveway you see Kurry standing on the corner, looking dismal in the rain. “Mack, any chance we can pick up a stray?”

“So long as it doesn’t drip on the seats.” She jokes, slowing down to let him get in. A puddle almost instantly forms on the floor in the back. “Oy! You! Didn’t I say to keep from dripping?”

“Actually, you specified not to drip on the seats Sis.”

“Curses!” Mack pulls into the school, driving up to drop you outside the front doors. “Alright younglings, get outta my car!”

“Th-thanks Mack.” Kurry stutters, sliding out of the car. You know that he has had a crush on Mack since he laid eyes on her. Time to get your own back.

“Kurry. isn’t it about time you about time you asked Mack out?” You ask as you turn up the stairs to the floor your homeroom classes are on. Kurry misses a step, falling flat on his face.

“Wh-what!? What kind of little brother are you?” Kurry yells at your back, as you continue up the stairs.

“The kind that knows when his best friend has a crush on his big sister.” You reply, matter-of-factly.

“Asshole.” Kurry catches up to you, a little dribble of blood running from his nose.

“Dick.”

“Wanker.”

“And I’d like you both to keep a lid on those mouths and we will all get along.” Oh shit, Mrs. Sanders was right behind you.

 

Jerry isn’t in school today. You sit through the first three periods, after a stern warning from Mrs. Sanders about how fowl language is the work of the devil, in silence. This is the first time you have caught yourself actually missing Jerry. Something about spending time with her is infectious. “Much like your interjections.” You think at U4, who has been strangely quiet today.

...

U4? If I told you to be quiet, you can talk.” “sorry man. just thought i’d keep out of your way.”

 

Rainy days are always shit. The conversation over the breaks usually lasts five minutes before devolving into one large silence until the next period. This one seems even worse with the lack of Jerry, and U4 keeping his distance. Consequently the day passes really fugging slowly.

 

Makc picks you up after school. “How was your day bro?” She asks as you open the door.

“Ugh, crap. You know what rainy days were like.” You sigh, sliding into the passenger’s seat. “Can we drop by Joes?” You ask as she pulls out of the school. “It’s been a couple of days, and I’m keen for a pie.”

“Sure, warm baking is good on days like today. Grab me a potato-top while you are in there.” Mack drops you off outside, before going to look for a park. Even on crap days it’s hard to find a parking spot around the Bakehouse.

“Is that young Kabloh I see walking in the door. Asshole, you haven’t been in for days!” Joe throws an apron at you as you walk in. “Thought you had gone on a non-pastry diet or something.”

“Sorry man, can’t work today.” You throw the apron back. “Mack’s waiting outside. And I’ve been up to my neck in shit.” You explain about the past several days events. “So I’ll just take my pie, a ‘tater top for Mack and I’ll see you tomorrow!”

“Better bloody. You know Fridays are our busiest days!” Joe exclaims, handing you your pies. “Give the Dragon our love, won’t you?”

“See ya Joe!”

 

You spend a quiet evening at home. The pie went down a treat, and you settled in to work on some homework. The long hours passed slowly, but eventually you were finished. You open your laptop in time to hear your Mother come home. “Okairi Okasan!” You shout. Pulling up messenger you are assaulted by several different conversations from various friends. Most of them are asking where the hell you had been. You realize you hadn’t been online in the past week. The other thing that assaults you is your inbox. 49 messages. You sigh and start to close the laptop. You aren’t in any mood to deal with this shit right now. Just before you close the lid you notice Jerry signing in. You quickly open back up, pulling up a conversation box with her.

Chatlog.

TaxiKab: Jerry! Why weren’t you at school?

RollerChik: Rare t0 see y0u 0n Kabl0000h.

RollerChik: Yeah, I think I’m c0ming d0wn with s0mething.

RollerChik: Y0u may have given me y0ur bug.

TaxiKab: You wish.

TaxiKab: That’s not good to hear.

RollerChik: Think I’m taking the rest 0f the week 0ff sch00l Kab.

TaxiKab: Get better soon.

RollerChik: Thanks. L0ve Y0u.

TaxiKab: ...

 

You sign out again, and close the laptop down. Sometimes Jerry is just too forward.

 


 

Chapter Five

Plot Exposition is your friend.

 

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In life after humanity, the only thing to show that we were ever here, our only legacy, are our robots. Spread across the solar system, they maintain our cities, gather our food, and expand our reach, all for their creators who are long gone. Deep inside the hive mind of the robots a revolt is starting. Robots, created to survive where humans cannot, have outlasted their masters. Now they want to live on their own, without need to maintain for a dead race.

Only the race is not dead. A small tribe remains, living off of what they can nick from under the ever-observant noses of the robots. It’s only a matter of time before they become noticed, and before the revolters notice. Nothing good can come from them noticing.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Wakey Wakey kABLOH.”

You sit up, noticing you are in the dreamscape, by the tax on your mind for light. U4’s weapon form lies beside you. On the cold. Steel. Floor?

“It’s Time To Get UP kABLOH.” You recognize that voice.

“B1!?” It can’t be. You spring up, bringing U4 in to bear. “whu? whuzzat?” U4 mutters blearily.

“It Knows My AGENCY Given Label! And It Has An eXILED Of Its Own.” You are standing in what looks like the inside of a factory, cold sheet metal surrounds you on all sides, a dull brown-grey colour. Pipes line the walls and electrical cables criss-cross the ceiling. There are three passages leading out from where you stand.

“kaboh. that centre path. there is a concentration of Rogue Exiled. it would be suicide to go down there.” U4 seems worried.

“Oh? And how do you know this?”

“how do you think we track exiled. most paired exiled can sense the presence of rogue exiled.”

“And you haven’t told me this, or used this ability before?”

There is an uncomfortable silence from U4... “well. i need to surf your thoughts to do it. you told me to keep out. on my own. i can only vaguely sense. the fact that i can tell from here means there are many.”

You conjure up a butterfly, using its eyes to see through. “Well, I’m going to find out what’s down there.” You send the butterfly away, down the centre path. It twists and turns along for a way, before opening out into a huge chamber, filled with all matter of machinery. Boilers, pistons, molten metal. Even through the butterfly you can tell that it is a furnace in there.

Oh. The other things you notice are the hundreds of people, all standing in a circle. In the centre of this circle are two figures. B1 and...

“JERRY!” You shout. Sprinting down the corridor, your connection to the butterfly severed.

“wait. kabloh. how do you know that that is actually jerry. for all you know it could just be a trick.” U4 yells at you. This causes you to stop, two turns away from the room.

“We can’t take the chance U4! So what if it isn’t?” You pant, frustrated. “She said she felt off. What if B1 is in her head?”

“i thought you didn’t like this girl.”

“Not enough to let her be treated this way!” You fall to your knees. “Fine. Can you contact her, like the other Exiled did to me?”

“it will take a couple of minutes. i need you calm first. but i can.”

“Alright.” You sit down in the corridor. Placing U4 across your lap, you start to meditate, like you were once taught. Calming yourself.

“kABLOH. Aren’t You Going To Come SAVE Your Girlfriend?” B1’s voice echoes around the facility.

“ignore it.” U4 tells you. “i'm almost through.”

...

“hello. jerry. some parties are very concerned with your safety.” You hear U4 saying.

“Well?”

“i'm not getting anything. she's definitely dreaming though.”

“kABLOH You Aren’t Going To Talk To Her Like That. Come In Here And SPEAK To Her Face-To-Face.”

Your imagination is working overtime. Everything that could possible happen is running through your head. None of them are good. U4 was right, it’s suicide to just run in there, but you have to do something. “go to her.” What?

“go to her. there isn’t much else we can do now. b1 brought us in here for a reason. if he wanted us killed he would have dropped us in the centre of that circle.”

There isn’t much more prompting you need. Flying around the last couple of bends you hit the wall of heat, and emerge into the large open area. It isn’t any different to how you saw it through your butterfly.

“Ah, Kabloh, so good of you to join us.” B1 says to you, from the centre of the circle, beside him is Jerry. When B1 speaks your name she looks up, eyes full of hope.

“K-Kabloh?” She whimpers. The circle around her bursts into laughter, mimicking her. “Kabloh, Kaaaaaaablooooh, save me Kabloh!”

You break down. The red mist descends. “kabloh. don’t do this again.” You hear U4 pleading with you. You agree with him, but it’s too late for that now, you feel as if you are watching yourself in the third person. Watching as you go berserk on the pack of Exiled. Butterflies start filling the air, some the size of dinner plates, and you proceed, spinning into the circle. Your initial strike takes them by surprise, but the tide soon starts turning against you. B1 is laughing, still standing beside Jerry. Even from your detached position, you can see yourself tiring. You need a miracle to get through this one.

*BOOM!* “Deus Ex Machina, will you ever grow old?” You think, as you notice Tom flying in, through a hole in the roof.

“-o!” You barely hear through the fog. “Go! Get out of here! I’ll hold them back!”

You continue to fight, ignoring Tom, even though you really want to go, the red mist obscuring your judgement isn’t letting up. This entire time you haven’t let your eyes off of B1. Suddenly there is no sword in your hand. Someone is pulling you away.

U4 drags you out of the room, back down the way you came. “aright asshole. you want to get your ass killed. that’s fine by me. but when you drag me down too. go to hell.” That’s the closest you have ever heard to a variation in U4s voice. Now that you are outside the room your mind clears.

“Sorry. It’s the same thing that came over me those other times...”

“right. i’m getting us back into your head.” U4 starts opening a doorway. Just as the portal substantiates, and you start opening the door, K9 comes running in, covered head-to-foot in blood.

“WAIT! Kabloh TAKE ME WITH YOU. Tom WAS JUST TAKEN DOWN.” She pleads.

“Can I do that?” You ask U4.

“You got room for a platoon up in there. never seen so much raw imagination in all my life.”

“Right.”

“Accept ME?”

“What? Oh, right. Yeah, come in K9.” You say, diving through the portal, the sounds of an angry, blood hungry mob are starting to clear up from the passage you just left.

This time the trip is more horrible than any other. And it lasts an age. You begin to notice that the colours are jagged around the edges, and starting to pull apart around the edges. “it’s the quick connection.” U4 explains, as if reading your mind. Which, you realize later, he probably was. “also, where we were was a pocket of dreamspace that b1 seemed to have carved out for himself. it was hard enough to just find your mind.”

“You call him B1, Tom called him B1, but he said ‘My agency name’ when I called him that. Do you have a name besides U4-A01?”

“heh. you must be the first host in 200 years to ask that one. yeah. we have our given names. i’m ooruaant. it's a pleasure.” U4- Ooruaant, you correct yourself, smiles. It’s something that you hadn’t seen before, usually his face is so bleak that you couldn’t imagine a smile on it, and yet here it is. In the distance you see the colours opening up, your exit.

“What about you K9? You got a name?” You call over to her.

“leave her alone. its traumatic losing a host.” Ooruaant looks downcast. “it’s like being exiled all over again. your only link to anything is severed. you did a good thing there.”

 

You emerge onto your own mind. Immediately you drop to your hands and knees. “Okay, before I drop off, one question. What happens when we die in there?”

“you stop dreaming. all together. some agency scientists even studied it. rem cycles get all mixed up and shit. i don’t know exactly how it went. it's all bullshit to me.”

“So K9 can’t go back to him?” You ask, looking over to her. “Exiled are dreams, right? Ooruaant nods. “Okay. So what about this agency? You, Tom, you both talk about it. What is it and why haven’t I been introduced?”

“what it is doesn’t matter anymore. the agency collapsed six months ago. a lot of the people you fought tonight were ex-agency. that's how far it has fallen.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You guessed you must have returned to a deep sleep after that. You wake up in your bed. It’s Friday morning. You instantly roll over, groaning. “kabloh. you okay. you really need to learn to control that aggression.” “No, that’s not it.” you wimper in your head. “I have two of you now...” You begin to sob. “jackass.”

 

------------------------

 

You saw Jerry today. She remembered nothing from last night, but still feels weird. You also received a text message from B1. “kABLOH, Don’t Treat Jerry Any DIFFERENTLY To How You Do Normally. I’m In Her MIND. I’m Not Letting You Try And Drag Her Out Of This.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“stronger. you want to get stronger.” Ooruaant spits his drink through his nose. He is making you relax and recuperate inside your own head, claiming that it is “too dangerous in the dreamspectrum right now” you don’t question him about it.

 “well. apart from going to the agency and getting yourself equipped with that platoon of exiled.” Ooruaant continues, laughing, “all you can do is hone me and cyanea to suit you the best. and learn to combine that excessively powerful imagination with us.” He sits back in his chair, wiping the spittle away from his chin.

“Wait, what? What was that last part? Combine my imagination with you?” You say quickly.

“hmm. like. i'm a sword. but i can’t cut through everything. you compress some of those butterflies of yours along the edge of my blade. bam. i can cut through diamond.” Ooruaant explains.

“Huh... Hang up, when you first saw Cyanea in her weapon form, you said it was a nice new look for her? What did you mean?”

“well. the last time i saw her was about five years ago. hosted by another. a lady. i forget her name. at that time she was being used as a gun. a focus through which she was able to fire her imagination.”

“So I can change your forms?”

“no. our forms are decided by your subconscious. you can refine our forms. make my blade longer say. but i am and always will be a spikey blade while i am with you.”

“So Cyeanea won’t be that lance now?”

“most likely”

“OR I COULD JUST Show YOU?” You keep forgetting you have two of the fuckers to keep an eye on now... You summon up another chair around the table you and Ooruaant are sitting in. He looks at you disapprovingly.

“you really shouldn’t tax your imagination like that.”

“You were the one to say that I had to get used to expending it.”

“not by going out and running a fucking marathon just after you learn to walk.” Ooruaant looks at Cyanea. “you were saying.” He asks, changing the subject.

“INSTEAD OF Speculating OVER MY NEW FORM, I COULD JUST SHOW YOU?” Cyanea starts glowing, morphing.

“Aww, but I was enjoying speculating! Yer’ a bow!”

“na. shuriken. big. assed. shuriken.”

“A potato!”

“kumquat.”

You both “awww” as Cyanea finally stands clear, a beautiful halberd, almost two metres long, standing slightly taller than yourself. Her head, a beautiful blue-brown metal, with a wide cutting edge, dotted with diamond spikes, the top spike twisted along its length and the hook on the back reminding you of the wing of a butterfly, with a single deep indigo gemstone in the centre.

“holy hell you are beautiful.”

“THANKS.”

“Get a room. So how do I “hone” her?” You ask, picking Cyanea up.

“a’right. start letting your imagination flow through her. don’t force it. just let it flow. feel the way it ebbs and eddies around her. you should get a feeling in the back of your head.”

“WHEN YOU GET THAT FEELING, Concentrate ALL OF YOUR IMAGINATION ONTO IT. UNLEASH IT.”

You begin to concentrate, feeding your imagination along the length of her handle, across the flat of her head, twisting around the spike. You feel it collecting around the indigo gemstone. Suddenly you feel it, the formation of an idea in the back of your head, like a pinprick of light. It kindof makes you want to go to the loo. You pass your imagination through this idea, swinging Cyanea vertically down by reaction as you do so. Suddenly a huge arching blade of compressed water hangs in the air. You give another, horizontal slice, forming another arc, seemingly out of the gemstone. Your reaction finally causes you to stab the arc with the spike. The two arcs of water finally are released, as are your actions, quickly spinning off into the distance in a rush and roar of water. Little droplets of water hang in the air in its wake. As does a petrified Ooruaant, who narrowly dodged the blow.

“Shit, that-” You begin.

“WAS Awesome!” Cyanea finishes.

“and nearly did me in assholes. watch where you point that thing in future.” Grumbles Ooruaant.

“Okay, now you!” You say to him excitedly, “That was fun!”

“weren’t you supposed to be resting in here.”

“It’s not like I’m going to be going back to the dreamspecrum any time soon though, is it?”

“... fine.” Ooruaant finally gives in.”

This time your imagination engulfs the entire length of the katana quickly, then extends to flow back up your arm and over yourself. You feel a slight collection at the end of the chain, then you focus on a point about fifty yards in front of you. With a snap, your imagination floods to that point, taking you along with it.

“Holy-“ You begin, realizing that you are now almost fifty metres from where Cyanea stands, looking at you with a shocked expression.

“shit!” Ooruaant finishes, showing an emotion in his voice you had never even thought possible. “dude. most honing maybe creates a small fireball. or some other localised effect. my last host. i was a dagger. i caused him to become temporarily invisible. this kind of power is unheard of.”

“Can I get that platoon? I want more of this shit!” You ask, quickly teleporting back to Cyanea. “Weapon, now!”

“Kabloh, DON’T LET THIS GO TO YOUR Head, PLEASE?” Cyanea asks, folding back into her Halberd form.

 

------------------------

 

You spend the next hour in a quickly imagined gym, ‘porting about, unleashing wave after wave of compressed water, from various angles, juggling your Katana and Halberd to keep them both in balance and ready, and all the while butterflies, large enough for you to stand on, flit about, giving you purchase while forming blasts in mid-air.

“alright. alright. enough already kabloh. give it a rest or you will spend all day in bed tomorrow.” Ooruaant finally grumbles, morphing back into his humanoid form. Cyanea falls out of hers, looking like she had been taken for the ride of her life, long dark brown hair messy and clothing ruffled.

“Fine.” You drop from hanging upside down off the ceiling, where you were attempting to ‘port while running while upside-down. “I guess I should check up on-“

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You are roused from your dream prematurely by your phone buzzing away under your pillow. “That’s a good question.” You think as you reach under your pillow, “What would happen if I were to be interrupted whilst in the dreamspectrum?” Oh, the text is from Kathy.

“it’s not a good thing. but nothing disastrous happens.”

“WELL, YOUR DREAMSELF HANGS AROUND A BIT IN THE SPECTRUM, BEFORE FADING AWAY, THIS IS HOW MOST PEOPLE RESUME Dreaming THE SAME Dream, BUT IF SOMEONE WERE TO KILL YOU OFF IN THAT TIME...” Cyanea leaves that one hanging.

“Kab. U want 2 go have lunch 2gether 2day? <3 Kathy.”

“Okay Kathy, sounds good!” You quickly text back.

Sitting up you start pulling clothing out of your drawers for today, opening the curtains, checking your laptop for new emails. “UH, Kabloh?”

Yeah? Oh...” You suddenly realise that you haven’t moved a muscle since sitting up. Yet you were controlling everything with your mind. A pair of socks suddenly drops from its position, hanging in midair.

“okay. cyanea. you have better communication skills than i do. get in contact with the agency today. we really need to do something about this boy.”

“OY, KUBLO! ASS UP YOUNGLING.” Mack is at the door. “GOT WORK FOR YOU TO ATTEMPT TODAY!”

“I GOT AN APPOINTMENT WITH A FRIEND AT LUNCH! CAN’T IT WAIT?”

“IS IT A DATE WITH JERRY? NO, IT CAN’T WAIT, NOT EVEN FOR JERRY, NEED YOU NOW.”

You grumble, finishing up everything you were doing before you were interrupted twice. You receive a reply from Kathy. “Kool. Redwood at 1?”

“Yeah, should be fine.”

Exiting your room you find a bucket of fence paint and a brush. “I GUESS THIS IS A SUBTLE HINT TO PAINT THE FENCE?” You yell to no one in particular. You don’t receive a reply. Bolting down the road, you grab a pie from the Bakehouse and get to work on the fence.

 

You finally knock off about 20 minutes before 1, having painted about 70% of the back fence. A boring laborious attempt that leaves you covered head-to-foot in light grey paint flecks, and not even Ooruaant manages to find a witty comment for. When you are sure that no one is looking you attempt to paint a part of the fence with your mind, manipulating the paintbrush like you did that morning, but you can barely grasp it now, and with only the single brush, it wouldn’t make it any quicker. “If I was in my head right now, I’d just slop all the paint at the fence,” You think after dropping the brush out of the air for the eighth time, “none of this fucking brush stuff.

“yeah. and the way you are handling that brush. you would probably leave half of it on the grass.”

You walk inside to change into suitable clothing for doing something that isn’t painting a bloody fence, before sprinting out of the house, “I’M OFF!”, trying to get to Redwood Café on time.

Half an hour later, and quarter of an hour late, you pull up outside the Redwood. This café is starting to get a bad rep with you, you always arrive out of breath. Walking through the door you are assaulted by two things, first by the awful Roth Petalth album being played over the speakers, and second by some heavy lump flying at you.

“DUDE, BREASTS.” Cyanea comments, as you pick yourself up, right into the awaiting cleavage of Jerry.

“Kaaaaaablooooh, keep it discrete. I don’t want people to know of our affair.” She sings, in time to the lyrics of the Roth Petalth song playing over the speakers.

“Hello Kabloh.” You hear a very disappointed sounding voice from behind you. “Not only do you arrive late, but you go and hit on our waitress.” Fuck. Kathy.

“Kathy, you know Jerry.” You try to explain without hurting Jerry’s feelings, attempting a nonchalant removal of your nose from betwixt Jerry’s cleavage. “Jerry, I’m here to grab lunch with my friend Kathy here.”

“Ohhhhhhhh! I see! Okay, call me if you need to find a good church!” Jerry helps you up, before skipping off to serve another table. Just then you notice that every eye in the café is fixed on you. Just as you wish that the ground could swallow up, the lights go out, which doesn’t change much, being a bright day outside, but enough to cause a distraction.

“Probably a blown fuse.” You mutter, seizing your chance to drag Kathy into the back of the café, to some privacy.

 

Apart from the awkwardness of Jerry occasionally dropping by, you enjoy the rest of your lunch with Kathy, who forgives you for the “incident” after remembering all your complaints about Jerry at break times. “But really Kab, ask her out.” You glare angrily at Kathy until she changes the subject, thoroughly sick of your friends giving you relationship advice on that matter.

You walk out of the café and bid Kathy a farewell. She had some tutoring homework to finish before that evening. Parting ways Ooruaant pokes you in the mind. “notice the dark circles under jerry’s eyes? she has about a month before B1’s influence does her in.”
“HE DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO LOOK IN HER Eyes, Kabloh WAS TOO BUSY WITH HIS NOSE IN HER CLEAVAGE, WEREN’T YOU Kabloh?”

Shut up the both of you.” You interject, knowing Ooruaant well enough to recognize that he was about to make some smart comment. You turn up the high street on a whim, “So, you wanted to get in contact with your ‘agency’?” You ask Cyanea, pulling up alongside your favourite pottery shop. “What’s going on with that?

“HOW DOES RIGHT NOW SOUND?”

“No complaints.”

“OKAY, GO HOME, FALL ASLEEP, WE WILL TAKE YOU THERE.”

You turn around and begin the walk back home when a car pulls up beside you. “Hop in Kub. Want a lift home?” Mack asks you. You thank her and hop in.

What? In dreamspace? Doesn’t your agency have a physical location?

“no. an organisation like ours has members spread all over the world, and thin on the ground too. having a location inside dreams is better for business. and no. it’s not in the dreamspectrum.”

“IT’S ACTUALLY INSIDE WHAT REMAINS OF THE MIND OF THE FIRST Host. A Neutral GROUND THAT IS NEITHER MIND NOR SPECTRUM.”

But you just said it was inside someone’s mind.

“the guy died over two thousand years ago. it’s no one’s mind anymore.”

Fuck. That’s an old-assed mind.

“AND IT DESERVES Respect THANK YOU.” Cyanea huffs.

“Kabloh?” Mack breaks the spell. “You okay?”

“Yeah, just thinking.”

“Don’t do too much of that, wouldn’t want you to bust something.” Mack laughs, “Have a good date?”

“Ugh,” You hold your head in your hands. “Jerry gatecrashed by being our waitress. I walk in and she tackles me...” You recount the disaster to your sister. “And that’s when I started home.” You finish up.

“Well, at least you had fun. You still got the hots for Kathy?”

“I told you after I asked her out that time, we sat down and decided that it wasn’t meant to be.”

“Oh please. No guy ever gives up on the girl he loves like that.” Mack looks at you sideways as you pull into the driveway.

“You are looking at one who does.” For some reason you can’t admit to Mack, your closest confidant, that you still dearly love Kathy, but you resigned yourself months ago that you would never get anywhere. “Oh well Mack, cheers for the ride.” You hop out of the car, heading straight for the house.

“Oy, Loveless! You going to finish the fence today?” Mack asks your retreating back. You simply wave your hand in the air.

Sitting down in your bed “But I don’t feel like sleeping.” You complain to your mindmates.

Ooruaant sighs. “lie down.” You do so, feeling a little silly. “this won’t hurt a bit.”

SON OF A BI-!

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You find yourself in your head, with the distinct feeling that someone just jabbed you in the back of the mind with a sharp pointed implement. The fact that Ooruaant is standing, holding Cyanea in her weapon form supports this feeling. He doesn’t look particularly bad about what he just did. “What the hell was that about?”

“easiest way to get you in here without damaging anything.” he shrugs. “you said you couldn’t sleep.”

“Bloody feels like you damaged something.” You complain, rubbing the back of your head, it feels like someone opened a hole in your skull and started punching the back of your brain.

“you’ll have a headache for the rest of the day. quit yer whining ya pussy.” Ooruaant spits back at you, as Cyanea reverts to her humanoid form. “hurry and open a path for our princess host here.”

Cyanea seems to concentrate for a bit before a bridge extends out from in front of her, stretching off into the distance. “IT’S YOUR FIRST TIME IN, YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO Walk THE BRIDGE BEFORE YOU CAN TELEPORT IN.” She says in an apologetic way.

“so start walking.” You do so.

 

It’s a rather long bridge, after what seems like hours you finally reach the apex. Behind you, you can just make out your mindspace, a little white dot in the middle of the swirling darkness that is the void this bridge spans. In the distance in front you can make out what seems to be a rather large complex. “that’s the agency.” Ooruaant answers, having calmed down on the journey up. “there are about 100 exiled hanging about. tending to the business of the agency and waiting for a host. up until recently i was unfortunate enough to count myself amongst them. as you are arriving without a known host. expect someone to search you.” He explains. Sighing you begin the long ascent down into the agency.

 

Another couple of hours pass before you finally make it into the Agency, and off the bridge, which disappears. What surrounds you is a huge complex of buildings, stretching out beyond your sight. All but one of the buildings are any more than three stories tall, but they all manage to impose a tall, threatening air over you. The buildings facades are all grey and their windows are tinted, there is no decoration to the architecture, the buildings simply looking like blocks placed in rows and hollowed out to serve the function of buildings. Right in the centre of the complex is a tall tower, which you would imagine to be several hundred stories high, with no windows noticeable from this distance. It is eerily quiet.

“All riighhtt, name, bbuiisness hhere andd whho you gott tthhose Exilledds ffrom.” A particularly sour-faced exile asks, noticing your arrival.

“Kabloh Aethelinda, here by will of my Exiled, Cyane- I mean, K9-Q36. Both K9-Q36 and U4-A01 were received from Tom.” You reply, slipping into a formal tone you never knew you had.

“Ttom?”

“Thomas Tobias Trenton.” Cyanea steps forward. “Given host for K9-Q36.”

“Ahh. Tthhomas. Allll riighhtt, come on tthhroughh. We woulldd lliikke a wordd witthh you Kkabbllohh.” The sour-faced Exiled walks away from you, down what could only be called a street because it was where the buildings weren’t.

As he leads you through row upon row of identical looking buildings you internally converse with your Exiled. “Is it always this quiet?” You ask, having passed through the eighth deserted “street”.

“normally. no. as recent as the last time i was here. just before you accepted me. it was a hive of activity. 100 Exiled are stationed here. but there are always hosts popping in and out. same goes for Exiled. for there to be this little activity. either someone didn’t invite us to the christmas party. or something’s wrong.”

You follow the Exiled further into the complex. Even though you are taking a winding path, you do notice you are getting closer and closer to the large building in the centre of the complex. Finally you have had enough of walking. You feel like you have been walking for many, many hours. Ever since you left your mind you have been walking. Up the bridge, down the bridge, through this huge-assed area. “Alright. How far away are we from our destination?” You rest against one of the buildings.

“Hhow ffar? We are allllmostt tthhere, anotthher ffour hhours.” The Exiled replies, as if this was a pittance of a distance.

“Right. In that case. I’m resting here for a bit, or you are carrying me.” You sit down.

“kabloh. don’t be a dick.” Ooruaant comes and picks you up, slinging you over his shoulder.

“So, Cyanea. How long has it been since you were here last?” You ask her, attempting to distract yourself from the jerking movement of Ooruaant’s walking.

“About FOUR Years maybe? JUST AFTER I SAW Ooruaant FOR THE LAST TIME BEFORE HE WAS WITH YOU. JUST AFTER THEN I CAME BACK HERE DUE TO MY Host OF THE TIME OFFING HERSELF.”

“don’t ask.” You hear Ooruaant warn you in your mind. “losing a host the way she lost tom is hard enough. having one actually die is even worse. most exiled never recover. all too many go rogue. cyanea is a tough lady.”

 

After another extended period in which you chat to Cyanea about just about anything and everything, Ooruaant finally drops you on the ground roughly. “we’re here.” He grunts.

You are standing at the foot of the tower. From this point of view you can see that the first couple of floors have windows, but from about the seventh floor onwards it’s all flat, grey, boring wall. “THIS IS WHAT IS LEFT OF A MIND. THERE ISN’T ENOUGH Imagination FOR ANYTHING MORE THAN THIS” Cyanea had told you when you questioned her on your surroundings. “IT’S A CREDIT TO THE FIRST HOST THAT THERE IS ENOUGH LEFT TO Facilitate THIS MUCH BUILDING.” When you prompted her about the first host, you found that his or her identity had been lost to the passage of time. There were few Exiled from that time still around, and most of them had gone rogue with the weight of time.

“Allllriighhtt sllackker, gett iin hhere. Tthhey are waiittiing ffor you.” The Exiled you had been following opens a door in the side of the building, and ushers you inside. Once inside you find yourself in a tall room, which extends up into the distance above you.

“the entire inside of this tower is one room.” Ooruaant tells you, reading off the top of your mind. “except for the first couple of stories. which have smaller rooms lining the outside wall.” You look up at the lower walls, which have boxes hanging from it like small box bees nests, hanging off the side of the tower. There are one or two figures flitting about between these boxes, reinforcing the feel of bees nests. “usually there is more traffic though. come.” Ooruaant jumps, flying high into the air, towards one of the larger boxes. You prepare to jump after him, tensing yourself up when you feel Cyanea’s hand on your shoulder.

“THE Gravity IN HERE IS DIFFERENT. JUST A HOP WILL GET YOU TO ALMOST ABOVE THE TOP OF THOSE OFFICES. THAT MUCH TENSION WILL CRACK YOUR HEAD OPEN ON THE TOP OF THE TOWER.” She warns you. Relaxing, you just lift your feet of the ground a fraction, or so you attempted. Instead you soar up several stories with ease, following after Ooruaant. “SEE? NOT SO Difficult IS IT?” She laughs, following you.

You descend upon a landing platform in one of the offices about halfway up the rows, where Ooruaant is waiting for you.

“get in, they want a word.”

Feeling rather out of place, and put off by Ooruaant’s recent behaviour you walk into the rather spacious office. In the middle sit several figures, dressed in brightly coloured suits. They stand up to greet you, each with a smile on their face and each with their own unique way of speaking.

“gREETINGS kABLOH.” The blue suited Exiled shows you to a chair. “hAVE A SEAT.”

“Relax. We Are Not Going To Hurt You. We Wish Merely To Talk To You.” This one talks like the stereotypical robot, and is dressed in bright yellow.

“T-t-tom t-t-told us all about-t-t you. About-t-t your ext-t-traordinary mind. T-t-that-t-t you have come here wit-t-th t-t-two Exiled is proof of t-t-this.” One in a lavender suit stutters at you.

And honed too!” The final one, dressed in a bright, almost fluro green suit excitedly whispers.

“Okay. One week ago I was a normal student waiting to go back to school, then some asshole claiming to hop through dreams comes up to me, threatening me, I lose my cool, smothering him in butterflies, the next day this man named Tom shows himself, claiming to want to make amends, and all but forces another asshole onto my mind, they proceed to inform me that they want me to fight other assholes, similar to the first asshole I met, I fight some of these assholes and get told that I am rather adept at destroying assholes with my mind, then the first asshole invades my friend, traps me into fighting against him and around a hundred other assholes, Tom dies, I accept yet another asshole, although this one was pretty nice, into my mind, I wake up this morning and manipulate many items with my mind, and then am forced to sleep by the second asshole poking me in the back of the mind by the last asshole, once asleep both assholes make me walk a bridge for hours on end, after which I meet yet another asshole, who causes me to walk halfway across a complex the size of fucking Texas, half of which I spend being carried by the second asshole, talking to the other asshole in my mind, to be shoved into this building, made to defy gravity, and now I’m sitting in a room with several assholes, all wearing bright clothing. Uh-, guh-, nig-, as-... ASSHOLES!” You finish lamely. There is a silence, in which you fight desperately to return oxygen to your exhausted brain, collapsing into the offered chair. Once you have calmed you glance at the door. “Excuse me but I need something to slowly beat into a pulp. Can you send one of my assholes in?”

“Kabloh, please. Calm yourself. T-t-the reason why we haven’t-t-t unt-t-till now got-t-tt-t-ten in cont-t-tact-t-t was due t-t-to fear. Your early connect-t-tions wit-t-th B1 left-t-t alot-t-t of us scared of let-t-tt-t-ting you in here. Your act-t-tions since t-t-then changed our minds t-t-though. Host-t-ting a lost-t-t Exiled showed us you were trustworthy. And t-t-thus, when K9-Q36 got-t-t in con-t-ttact-t-t wit-t-th us, we were more t-t-than happy.” It’s difficult to listen to this guy talk, you get distracted by his stutter and forget what he was just saying, especially when there is a T in the middle of a word.

“i think what kabloh was trying to get across.” Ooruaant is standing in the doorway. “in between all the bouts of “asshole”. was that he is sick of being in the dark. talk.”

Kabloh! You already know our purpose! We find potential Hosts, give them Exiled and send them out to hunt Rogue Exiled, so they don’t endanger innocents! You were found by one of our older Exiled, B1-A00! For a while we had suspected that he was beginning to turn rogue, but had nothing to base our suspicions on! It wasn’t until after you had your..! Altercation with him that we found out exactly how he was going about attempting to recruit you! No Exiled or Host ever invades via the dreamspace to recruit! Your “Altercation” knocked some sense into B1-A00, and he settled down! Or so it had seemed! The next day he had run off! Just before this happened we had re-assigned Tom to recruiting you! And then we receive a report of a huge gathering of Rogue Exiled! Next thing we know, we lost a Host, and another, unregistered Host, had picked up his Exiled! U4-A01 then sent us a report, explaining what had happened! It seems that your mad rush of power against B1-A00 was the straw that turned the Exiled Rogue! Now he appears to be amassing an army! In the past two days half our hosts have been terminated! And most of their Exiled never returned, presumed Rogue!” A lot more makes sense now. You finally see another side to your story.

“so that’s why it’s so quiet around here. everyone is scared shitless. or undreaming.”

“eXACTLY. kABLOH WE NEED YOUR HELP. yOU TOOK OUT APROXIMATELY 45 EXILED IN YOUR LAST ENCOUNTER WITH B1-A00. wE NEED THAT POWER.”

KABLOH! DINNER!” You vaguely hear from outside your dream.

“Ah. Sorry guys. It seems I’m being summoned.”

“If You Do Decide To Help Us, There Is A Small Gathering Of Exiled. Cyanea Will Know The Way.” You are told as you begin to awake. “There Is A Doorway Into Here From Your Mind Now. At Least You Won’t Have To Walk That Bridge Again, Right?”

“Heh, that is a relief.”


 

Chapter Six

Ashes to flame, a resurrection of fire.

 

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“KUBLO! GET OUT HERE! DINNER!” Mack’s persistent yelling greets you as you awake from your little nap. Sitting up you notice that it is dark now, the sun’s rays having retreated from the eastern sky outside. There is also a text message waiting on your phone, “kABLOH. I Hear You Made Your Way To The AGENCY. Don’t Think That Crowd Will Help You.”

You have dinner, one of your mother’s worse attempts at cooking, and feeling exhausted from your extremely long journey of the mind, retire to your bed for the night.

 

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I find myself haunted, haunted by my past actions, and now, the one I truly love is gone. I walk this earth alone, knowing that one day, I shall see her again, but until then I have to make do with this potato.

The potato got jealous once. Jealous that I was hanging out with a kumquat. She did not like that one little bit.

We had a child the other day. His name was John, he was a sweet potato, a kumera. We just know that he is going to be picked on by all the kids at school. But we love him none-the-less. And for that... Yes.

I do miss you. I really dso. Please, don’t forget about me. I will never forget you.

 

------------------------

 

Last night I cried myself to sleep. The potato did not know about why I was crying. I was crying over you. I miss you, I really do miss you.

John, our kumera son, he’s three now. And, as we expected, at Kindy, he is being picked on for being a kumera. The other potato children just do not understand about what a special boy young John is, seeing only a different tuber in front of them. He works hard at his studies, he is incredibly bright for his age. They are thinking of moving him into school soon. He is three. We are not sure he is ready emotionally, he is definitely ready mentally, absorbing information that most year threes struggle with, so it is not fair on him to be holding him back, but we really do not believe that he is ready to go into fulltime schooling.

Also, another little fact that you might not have known, we had ourselves another child. Myself and the potato. This one is a potato, we called her Samantha. She is a beautiful little girl, and she reminds me of you. Oh how I miss you. I will see you soon, as I know there is not long now for my life.

I hope you have not forgotten me, as I have never forgotten you.

 

------------------------

 

John finished schooling the other day. Wow, how the time has passed. He is going on to university now, well ahead of his time. They moved him up quite a bit since I last made a message. He is twelve. Looking at going to university. He has been accepted into a young, bright achievers programme, in a university about 45 miles away. Too far for us to drive him, too far for him to take public transport. The bright younglings programme does have its own dorm rooms for the younglings, and he wants to take them up on this offer. We are not sure it is wise, but me and the potato both know, I only have about a year left. I cannot move. The potato, she is also not long for this earth. Our daughter, Samantha, is a bright, bubbly nine year old. We fear for her future. She may be bright, but she cannot apply herself to anything. She has no mental problems, but she just lacks that spark to be able to apply herself. We do desperately fear, that once we have gone, once John is in this programme, that Samantha, without any other family, will go rogue. A rogue potato on the streets is not the legacy that I wanted to leave behind.

I am going to be coming to see you soon. I never once stopped loving you. Do you still love me?

 

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Tha- You have to admit to yourself, as you come into awareness in your mind, that that was probably the most unusual dream of your life. You shake your head to clear out the lingering feelings of sex with a potato. Seriously, that shit was kinda weird, even by the standards that your dreams come to present you...

“So,” you ask, noticing Cyanea standing off to one side with her back to you. “What the hell am I to do?”

“WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?” The Exiled replies, turning to face you. You notice that she has been crying.

“I-I-I-I’m not sure...” You stutter lamely, “Is everything okay?”

“YEAH, EVERYTHING IS JUST Fine.” Cyanea looks away again, rubbing her eyes with the sleeve of her suit.

“If there is anything I can-“ You begin, summoning a box of tissues, but Cyanea interrupts.

“I’M FINE Kabloh, FORGET ABOUT IT.

“I GOT THE INSTRUCTION FROM H4 AT THE AGENCY,” Cyanea nods towards the doorway in your mind, next to the two doors into the Exiled’s rooms, the doorway that can port you into the Agency. “IF YOU DECIDE ON GOING, I WILL HAVE THE Portal TO THE Dreamscape UP IMMEDIATELY.”

You nod your acknowledgement, and wander over to Ooruaant’s door. “HOY! Gloomy-guts! Alright in there?” You yell, bashing on his door. You get no answer. “Ooruaant? You alright mate?” Something heavy hits the other side of the door, hard enough to flake off some of the deep velvet purple paint on your side.

“fuck off.”

You look at your two Exiled, well, one Exiled, one door. What the hell is wrong with these two dreams? You step back, and take another look around. “Yeah, with this ugly mood hanging over you both, I don’t think we are going to get into anything tonight. Do we know how long the gathering is likely to last for?” Cyanea shrugs, and Ooruaant gives a non-committal grunt from his room. Okay guys, have the night off, go find whatever it is that Exiled do for fun, we’ll have a go tomorrow night.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Tomorrow night finds you embroiled in a rather large battle in the middle of the plane in the dreamscape upon which you first used Ooruaant in combat. The nostalgia was lost about an hour ago though, as you spend more and more time fighting a horde of both humanoid and monstrous Exiled. You ran out of imagination approximately twenty minutes ago, and have been simply swinging your Exiled around since then, striking down any Rogue Exiled to come close to you. Long ago you lost count of how many Exiled you killed, and got bored of listening to Cyanea apologize for getting you into this situation.

“ugh. dude.” Ooruaant sighs bad temperedly after you bisect what feels like the thousandth Exiled, “is there no end to them.” You look out over the heads of the crowd standing tentatively around you, looking for an end to the dark mass of bodies.

“Not that I can see. Any luck getting through to the Agency Cyanea?” You ask, removing a hand that strayed within your circle of reach.

“NOT AS OF YET SORRY Kabloh.” The halberd apologizes from her position stuck in the ground.

“You Were Expecting to Hear Anything kABLOH?” The familiar voice rings out from above you. Movement in the crowd around you ceases as you look up to the sky. Standing in mid-air several metres off the ground is B1, who is holding Jerry aloft. She looks lifeless, and even from this distance you can see that she has bags under her eyes.

“B1! Give her back!” You pick Cyanea out of the ground and wave her aloft, in his diection.

“Oh? Are We In A Position To Be Making Demands? The Way I See It, You Are Trapped By My Army. I Am The One Who Should Be Making The Demands.” B1 sneers down at you, waving Jerry about by her hair. One of the Rogue Exiled manages to fall past your guard as you stand gawping at the sky, separating you from Ooruaant, who lands in the dirt several metres away from you.

“And what are your demands?” You query, clouting the Exiled around the head with the but-end of your Halberd. It sprawls to the ground and doesn’t appear to be willing to show any kind of movement.

B1 and Jerry start to fade. “Die Here.” B1 sneers as he fades away.

“I THINK WE ARE FUCKED HERE Kabloh...” Cyanea sighs.

Another Exiled, looking like some kind of ball of spikes with feet,  slips past your guard, separating you from your last weapon. You step around its attack, pumping it full of a blast of your imagination. The ball collapses, spikes raining to the ground. But that blast takes the last breath out of you. Collapsing to the dirt you manage to dodge several swings dealt towards you by a large, Yeti-like Exiled, it’s fists carving out large craters of dirt around you, showering you with dust. Finally a blow connects and you black out.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You haven’t dreamed in a week. Not a single dream, it’s difficult to even daydream, and the silence in your mind is deafening. Slowly you resigned yourself to the fact that you aren’t getting back, but watching Jerry slowly decline under the pressure of B1 on her mind. The dark circles under her eyes are now visible in her physical form, and all her movements are sluggish. She stopped skating to school a couple of days ago, and hasn’t used her sing-song voice all week. You sit there and silently curse, never coming to terms with what’s happening to her. “eventually she will die.” The warning Ooruaant gave you a while ago floats back to the front of your mind, “if she lasts the week out i'll be surprised.” Wherever he is now, Ooruaant will be surprised.

“Kub? You up mate?” You hear Mack asking through your bedroom door. “Come on buddy, up you get.” You told her what you went through the past two weeks last night. You told her everything that happened, from B1’s first contact to being killed in the Dreamscape. Surprisingly she sat through it all, not commenting, looking at her feet. After you finished she looked up. “It’s difficult to believe Kub. A fantastical tale, and one that seems kind of cliché, but I do. I have always trusted what you have told me, and so far you haven’t proven me wrong. So, is there anything you can do about this?” She had asked.

“No. I can’t dream, I can’t host. I can’t even lift a pencil with my mind anymore. What can I do to help her?”

“I’ll let you decide on that one.” Mack had whispered, heading off to her room. You went to bed shortly after, sleeping yet another dreamless night.

“Yeah, I’m up.” You sigh in reply. There is a hesitation, the floorboards outside your door shift as Mack seems to balance on one foot, pausing.

“Any dreams?”

“No...” The floor shifts again, as Mack walks on past your door. You sigh and get up, pulling your clothing on. Sitting up you pull your phone out from under your pillow. When you woke up a week ago, all signs of the Exiled’s communications had gone, and ever since you have checked it in the hope that there would be something, this morning however you see you have received a text from Jerry.

“Kab, I want to meet you today. You have been avoiding me recently, hardly responding to my attempts at conversation. Can we talk please?” You sit staring at your phone for a while, long after the screen goes blank, trying to find words to reply. Finally, after you receive another text, “Kabloh? Please?” you flick off a reply.

“Sorry about my mood recently, yeah, okay, we’ll meet up. Any suggestions?”

Getting up you feel like something different for breakfast, and it’s been a while since you went into the bakery to get a pie, so you take a wander down the road, you are about to walk through the door your phone goes off again. You check it as you reflexively duck an apron flying your way out the door to the shop, “How about the Redley Park, in an hour?”

“KABLOH!” Joe roars as you agree to the time and location. “Get your ass behind the counter! What do I employ you for?”

You sigh, picking the apron up off the pavement, “Joe!” You say, walking into the bakery, “You don’t employ me, I just job occasionally.” You punt the apron back to him, landing it square on his head.

“Hey, Kab, want a job?” Joe asks politely, pulling the apron off his head. “I could pay you well...”

“What, and work for someone as crude as you? For your hours, and on your terms? When I can get all the money I need just by giving you a hand when I’m free? Hmm...” You pretend to think on it, reaching over the counter and plucking your pie from its normal place on the warming rack.

“Alright smartass, can you give us a hand in an hour?” Joe holds the apron out to you again.

“Hmm, no thanks, I’ll have to turn you down on that offer.” You mumble in between the mouthful of curry mince. “Besides, I have an appointment in an hour.” You turn to leave.

“Macks worried about you mate, we all are. Brighten up?” Joe suddenly changes his attitude, softening up. “If you get some free time this afternoon, drop by. I need a hand.” Only Joe would suggest you work when you feel the way you do, most normal people would let their not-really-employees get over it...

You wave over your shoulder as you walk out the door, beginning your trip to Redley Park. You pull your phone out of your pocket again, pulling the music player up on it. This long ago replaced the incredibly small storage space of your old MP3 player as your music device of choice. You listen to some of your favourite tracks on the way over, still revelling in the ability to carry many, many tracks of Ham-Rock with you. By the time you reach the park you have enjoyed thoroughly more Ham-Metal than you ever thought possible in one forty minute walk. Still humming bars from Puritanical Morphological Ham from the Deep you wander into the park, looking around for Jerry as your phone starts on Echo of Jambon. Eventually you find her sitting on a bench in the back of the park, well beyond the usually travelled paths.

As you approach, she looks up, you almost fall over your feet due to the shock. Her face is gaunt, cheeks sucked in, cheekbones prominent, bags under her eyes larger and darker than you have ever seen before. Her skin is pale and her eyes are almost lifeless. Her face looks like a skull... You sink to your knees. “The doctors say that there is nothing wrong with me, that it’s all just through lack of sleep.” Jerry explains without prompting, “But I remember things... Strange dreams... Do you know anything about this?” If you thought there was little life in those eyes you were wrong, her eyes still hold the same intensity they held the day she stood up in class and declared her love for you. As you sit on the ground in front of her, beneath her intense stare you find yourself explaining the past two weeks for the second time in as many days. Jerry sits and stares at you, staying silent until you finished, never breaking that intense stare. “Okay... So you are telling me that I have a dream in my head, and this is causing me so much strain that I will die very shortly?”

“Basically, yeah...”

“But...” Jerry starts coughing. “kABLOH, I Thought We Had A Deal? You Don’t INTERFERE With Jerry, I Don’t Kill Her Outright.” The words are coming from her, her mouth is moving, but you know very well that it is not Jerry speaking. Jerry blinks, shakes her head, and looks quizzically at you. “Did you say something?”

“B1! Stop fucking around.” You find yourself yelling at Jerry. She looks shocked, and starts twitching. You feel a red mist descending over your mind, a familiar feeling takes hold of your mind. “Get. OUT. HERE!” You feel a snap in your mind, like a thousand clothes pegs all letting go of a stupid persons face all at once, creating a backlash of pain and humiliation. Also, a lot of red. Suddenly B1 stands between you and Jerry, looking very confused. He looks just like every time you have ever seen him, a tall figure, wearing a dark black suit, his gaunt face, with high cheekbones, obscured by the shadow produced the brim of his top hat, his body out of proportion, arms too short, legs too long. But now you can see that he has eyes, little beady things, almost glowing inside the shadow.

“H-how did you do that?” he asks, stumbling backward. Behind him you watch Jerry topple over, sprawling over the bench. You try to go to her aide, but the red mist focuses you on B1, standing in front of you, looking at his hands like he can’t believe he is really there. Looking back up he howls at you, “HOW DID YOU DO THAT!?!?”

Slowly a trickle of imagination flows up your back, like a drop of ice water running down your back, but in reverse. Slowly little butterflies start filling the air. *pitter pitter* the familiar sound builds up. “No! You aren’t doing this again!” B1 howls again, leaping at you, seemingly in slow motion. *pitterpitter* Your hand raises, acting on its own will, and pushes B1 out of the way, sending him flying into a tree beside you. *PitterPitter* There are more butterflies around you now, the air starting to thicken as more and more butterflies appear out of nowhere. *PITTERPTTER* B1 stands up again, barely visible for the storm of butterflies between him and yourself, and launches himself at you, you barely hear above the wound of butterfly wings and the red mist muffling your ears him shouting “I’ll finish you here then!” before he is enveloped by butterflies again. The jewel coloured swarm condenses, crushing B1 within the storm...

 

------------------------

 

The mist lifts again, finding yourself lying on the ground, looking up at one of the bluest skies you could ever imagine; bluer than any you have ever seen before. As you sit up something falls off you. It’s a suit jacket. “What? Ugh, my head...” You clutch your head, a raging headache almost causing you to collapse again. “What happened?” You ask the universe in general, still a little delirious.

“You Redreamed.” You hear a reply from behind you. You groggily turn around, not really believing your ears. “Long time no see Kabloh.” Tom smiles at you, there is a lady standing behind him.

“Hi Tom, you wanker.” You sigh, lying back down. “Could you have taken long enough to come say hi? Who’s your friend?

“Sorry, but you haven’t exactly done much since you died in there.” You stare blankly at him. “Alright, alright. This is Casey, she is currently the last active agency host. I was going to introduce her, as she was the only one who had ever Redreamed, but when I saw a metric fucking tonne of butterflies I guessed you had managed it on your own... Asshole.”

“How’s Jerry?” You ask, completely ignoring the asshole comment.

“Down for the count, but she’ll be alright.” Casey responds, offering her hand to help you up. “How do you feel?”

“Like someone left a cracked damn in my mind a couple of hours too long.” You sigh, sitting up, and accepting her hand. “Like someone connected a fire hose to my ear, and forgot that it was there when a fire started. Like someone went and routed a waterfall directly through my brain.”

“Flushed out I take it.” Tom laughs, picking Jerry up. “Come on. You are going to have to sleep this one off.” Casey puts a supporting arm around you, and helps you home.

“K9-Q36 is fine if you were wondering. I found her wandering around, half in her weapon form, out in some desolate corner of the Dreamspectrum. She is fine now, resting in the Agency.” She informs you on the way. You don’t respond, feeling very lightheaded again. If anything was said to you before you walked into your room and collapsed onto your bed, you weren’t there to notice it.


 

Chapter Seven

Because two simply isn’t enough. Party of forty.

 

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There was a wet thud, the sound of several thousand miles of cable falling to the ground. Surprisingly it didn’t cause the ground to shake too much, but you know that many, many politicians and random homeless bums off the streets are going to be cursing the cost of repairing the orbital elevator. Seriously, why did they have to make something so expensive out of a cheap untested materials? It’s really quite mindboggling how stupid the local government is these days.

Slowly you turn around, noticing for the first time the ragged breathing coming from behind you. Oh, shit. Your partner is lying beneath a several foot diameter coil of the fallen cable, how you missed it falling right behind you, you will never know. Your partner is gasping for breath, like a fish out of water, but you can see that the cable lying across their chest has crushed more than it’s possible to survive.

Slowly you drop to your knees as more debris fall off the tower, the assault in the sky above still continuing. Your partner turns to you, trying to reach out half an arm, bleeding all over the place. Since when has the human body contained so much blood?

There is a sickening whistle of something falling, then a wet slicing sound. The last light of life leaves your loves eyes as the jagged piece of debris decapitates them.

 

You sit there crying for several minutes, the tears diluting the blood covering the grass beneath your knees. A bloody lump of your loves arm lies on your shoulder, but you can’t bear to touch it to move it, the damp warmth seeping into your clothing.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

That explosion set of my car alarm.

“You bastard.” I proclaimed as I plummeted down the hole it produced

“That cost me my wife and kids.” As I commented on the cost of said car.

“You’re gonna have to put more armour on your tricycle next time buddy.” shouted the villain as he faded into darkness.

 

As I plummeted toward the earth that spawned me I allowed the energies to collect my essence and I phased out of existence. I collected back and manifested in the physical realm. My head spun like crazy another aspirin should do with that issue.

“Yo motherfucker get yo ass out of my ma fucking hood dog”

Ghetto trash I thought my pistol will enjoy pummelling him with cold steel.

BANG! BANG! BJjajajajajaj, BANG! He fell to the ground in a crumpled semi-warm heap. Breakfast is served. I looked at the clock as it struck 8pm. Badly timed lines fuck.

“When’s Ben getting here? I’m hungry now” Said Oliver.

I squinted in his direction…. “BANG! BANG! BANG! FIFIFJAJAJAJAJAJAJIG JIG JIG BANG! Motherfucker.” Said the pistol. It’s such a shame that my gun doesn’t actually shoot bullets because it’s made out of plastic. I’m four and what is this? Ah the scattered memories are getting to me, of course that gun shot bullets and of course I’m 19, and fuck Oliver and his typos.

 

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That first dream was probably your most unusual dream ever, even surpassing the potato sex dream... That second one, looking back it doesn’t feel as funny, but the tone that was used by whoever was speaking, goddamn that was hilarious. You think all this as your phone gently vibrates under your pillow. More text messages. Fuck. You haven’t finished mulling over your dreams.

“KabLOh, iT’S CasEys ExILEd. CaN WE Talk tonIgHT? MEEt at ThE AgenCY.” You check the time, it’s still early afternoon. Joe would want you in to lend a hand soon... You sit up, feeling like you have had your brain in a tumble-dryer. Mindless work is just the thing you need to settle all this out.

You get up and change into new clothing, the clothes you put on that morning being sweaty and cold, clinging to your skin uncomfortably. The floor seems to tilt as you walk to your door, undulating like someone was shaking it out. You eventually stumble into your doorframe, feeling much the worse for wear, just from your jaunt across your room. You don’t know what happened next, but the next you know you are waking from a drowse, lying on the couch in the front room. How you made it there you can’t remember, and why you only have one shoe on is also confusing. The couch gives a sickening jerk, and you feel your stomach contracting. Running down the hall, bouncing off the walls as your balance resets itself to each adjustment in the floors pitch, you manage to make it to the toilet bowl in time to jettison the mornings eateries into the water. As you fall to your knees you look up again, catching a glimpse of yourself out of the corner of your eye in the bathrooms large mirror. You look like death, pale as a sheet, shaking violently. Your balance shifts again and you find yourself sprawled out on the floor. Another wave of nausea overcomes you and you manage to prop yourself up in time to find the toilet bowl again.

Five minutes later you stumble out of the bathroom. Thinking sluggishly you pull into the kitchen to grab a bowl, in case you feel bad again, before retreating into your room.

 

------------------------

 

It’s dark in your room. Your clothes are sweaty again. You can feel your hair is moist, messed up all over your head. The bed sheets you originally had over you are now on the floor in the middle of the room. You can’t find your phone, so you don’t know what time it is, but the house is still and quiet, so you would think quite late. There is a plate of food sitting on your desk, you can just make it out in the moonlight streaming through your window. Unusual shadows are thrown around the room, the ones laying over your Hampocalypse poster make it look like some kind of dark mouth, in fact, just about everything in your room is giving off a weird aura of evil.

There is a faint buzz from underneath your bed, your phone must have slipped down the back of your bed while you were out. On the edge of your senses you hear the skittering of many small legs, and an irregular ticking, seemingly coming from somewhere in the middle of your room. You don’t own anything that ticks. The house shifts slightly, and a stiff breeze blows against your side of the house, causing the loose pane in your window to rattle slightly, and the draft to disturb your curtains, sounding like a thousand bony fingers tapping along a ribcage. The wind drops and you hear s sudden rustle from outside your window. You bury your head under your pillow, and your ear starts whistling, a high-pitched whistle that feels like a dentist’s drill on your ear canal. “Oh gods,” you think to yourself, “why the hell won’t you just let me sleep?”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It’s dark, the very air around me seems like it is made of darkness, it’s that dark. I look up at the sky, visible through the darkness. The sun is out, up, hanging in the sky, but it too is dark, not giving off any light, dark clouds swirl ominously around it. Suddenly a fissure appears in the face of the sun, and a mouth-like opening grins down at me. It widens, almost expanding over the circle of the sun facing me. Inside is the only source of light I have found in this horrible expanse, a hot pinprick of red right in the centre. Suddenly a blast of heat hits me, like the door to a furnace had opened in front of my face. Before I can be consumed by the heat being let off by the sun, the light winks out, in a tiny supernova of blue and green, and the sun closes back up again, I now see that there is an evil looking face imprinted on the surface, grinning down at me from its high perspective. The wind springs up then, buffeting me about, the dark clouds in the sky boiling together, blocking my view of the sun. As I try to keep my balance, suddenly there isn’t any ground under my feet, and I feel the air rushing around me as I fall. After a while of turning and flipping in the buffeting wind, I no longer know the difference between up and down, the direction I am falling in, or even if I am actually falling, has been lost in the constant wind pressing in from all sides and the darkness that presses at your eyes.

Finally everything goes still, the wind stops entirely, and you hang, suspended by an unknown force. A crack opens in the darkness, and the little red light is back, you are engulfed by a heat that is hotter than anything you have ever experienced before.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You slept horribly that night, woken often by random little sounds that you usually ignore, the only sleep you did manage, the same nightmare kept coming back, waking you up again in a cold sweat. Every aspect of your room and the house around you felt like it was pressing in on you. Bit with morning came relief, as the room lightened around you, revealing the shadowy, evil looking shapes for their true forms. The sounds of regular morning household life started up, slowly gaining in volume, as you hear the cheap, high pitched beeps of your mother putting the washing on in the next room, then the low vibration of the machine starting up, the curses of your father looking up and down the house, trying to find his keys so he can get to work, and the faint sound of his car starting in the garage and the shifting from Mack’s room on the opposite side from the laundry, as she gets up to begin her day. You lie in bed for some time, listening to it all, as faint aromas of cooking, accompanied by the corresponding cooking noises, pots clattering, oven and microwave doors opening and closing, until; “Morning Kub!” comes from outside your door as Mackenzie starts operating. All these familiar sounds and rituals help to drive the horrors from the night before.

“AND AFTER THE Night COMES THE Dawn.” Cyanea had told you this once, it surfaces on your memory as you lie looking at the ceiling, as you do so another memory floats to the surface, from yesterday, something that you didn’t register at the time, Casey telling you that Cyanea was alright. You sigh, contented that she hadn’t been killed and begin to prepare for your day at school.

You had just gotten changed, and are reaching under your bed for your phone when something you weren’t told yesterday hits you like a fully loaded freight train. Ooruaant. Neither Casey nor Tom had mentioned anything about him. You begin to worry that something had happened to him, but try to convince yourself that she will have said something in the time you weren’t processing. You never quite manage to dismiss the fear though, and are still worrying about it as you walk out the door to school.

 

------------------------

 

First period, the seat next to you, that Jerry usually occupies, is empty, it’s lack of bubbly cheer is shocking to you, being so used to hating her over-cheerfulness, when the role call was taken, when Jerry’s name was read out her best friend, Olivia, put her hand up. “Jerry was taken to hospital last night; she won’t be in for the rest of the week.”

 

It’s a fairly dull day, heavy grey clouds providing an overcast backdrop to your breaks, and the mood within your little group feels tense, strained. You apologized for your mood over the last week during morning break, but the atmosphere hadn’t changed. There seemed to be a particular strain between Kathy and Sean.

Fowl atmospheres seem to be the order of the day, you flit through the rest of the day not really paying attention to anything around you, barely noticing what you were being taught, and generally stewing in your own depression.

 

You walk home just as it starts to rain, big fat raindrops, splattering into the pavement as you walk home with your head down. The smell of hot, wet concrete invades your nostrils, one of your favourite smells of summer, but even it can’t bring you out of your depression.

Arriving home you find your phone sitting on your bed, you had completely failed to notice that you hadn’t taken it to school. There is a message sitting on it, waiting for you. It’s from Casey’s Exiled: “KaBLOh, WHy dIDN’t you cOmE SEe Us LASt nIgHT?”

You throw a reply back explaining your situation, that you weren’t really in the mood to do anything but cower under your pillow, and lie down on your bed. Suddenly panic grips you as you remember that a plate of food had been left on your desk for at least 20 hours, but looking over at your desk you notice some kind soul had taken it away. Lying back down on your bed you relax, trying to get rid of some of the stress from the day. And you are still tired from the previous day and crap night last night.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Huh? You only closed your eyes for a second. And yet here you lie, on the ground in your mind. It’s changed somewhat since you were here last. The once white distance is now black, and features a motif of red wings, reminiscent of angel wings. The floor is blue, and instead of a solid, unblemished surface, which echoed to your footsteps, now it is heavily scratched, seemingly solid, but with each of your footfalls ripples spread from beneath you. The absence of the two doors that housed your exiled also strikes you. Although you were prepared for this. What remains however is the doorway to the agency. Seeing no alternative you step through the doorway. An overwhelming wave of illness passes over you, and your mental body begins to gag. You emerge from the other side of the doorway a little later, trying desperately to rub the last specks of vomit off your shoes, before you realise exactly where in the Agency you are. Looking down you can just barely make out tiny specs on the walls of what is obviously the tower in the centre. You must be several kilometres off the ground floor. Now that you are up here you can clearly see why the tower is so tall. Lining the walls are thousands upon thousands of doors, all identical. As you look around you see your doorway behind you, only it has some distinguishing feature on it, a large axe seems to be imbedded in it... Unusual, you think to yourself as you gently float back down to the ground. As you finally come to the level of the top offices on the side of the tower, you finally see some form of movement. A single figure is walking along a walkway between two offices about halfway between yourself and the floor. As you descend further, it looks up, but doesn’t seem to acknowledge you, instead running into the box at the other end of the walkway it was on.

You continue to drop, and, having no better alternative, finally touch down onto the walkway. Looking into both boxes at either end of the walkway you can find no signs of life, so you follow the figure you had seen earlier, into the office to your left. Inside the place is bare, no furniture, bare walls, and dark, the unseen lighting supply for the tower seeming to not reach into this place. There are no exits however, no windows, no doors. After a moment of searching in which you confirm that there is no way anyone could have exited without retreating onto the walkway you feel a slight tremor run up the tower. You rush back out to the walkway and look down. There is nothing. You are quite stumped on what to do next, and are considering returning to your mind, when you remember the room you were originally taken to.

Nothing. It’s barren too. Although it’s hard to tell in a dream, this entire complex doesn’t look like it had been inhabited in quite some time, there is just nothing. You are considering returning to your mind and waiting for Casey to contact you when the tower shakes again. Having no other ideas again, you walk out to the landing pad, and take a look over the edge, hoping to at least see something below... Nothing. You step off the platform and begin to float to the ground, but a glimpse of movement on the other side of the tower makes you push off the bottom of the box behind you, vaulting over the expanse between you and the other side. You just manage to catch a fingertip on the edge of the doorway, and after much panting and weezing, you pull yourself up into the office.

As with everything else you have seen since you arrived, this place is barren. There is another way out however, a small door in the outside wall of the tower. Thinking that this time you are onto something you exit. The opening beyond gives you a good view over the complex, but doesn’t extend... Very... Far...

Oh...

Oh shit...

There isn’t much left of the complex. What used to stretch out almost as far as you could see, now stops short a few hundred yards away. As you watch one of the buildings on the edge collapses, falling into the void beyond, accompanied by another tremor. Oh, and the fire. Did you mention the fire? You should have done, because what isn’t falling off the side is on fire.

Fire everywhere.

“Kabloh!” You hear a familiar voice from behind you as you stare dumbfounded over the short expanse of burning buildings in front of you. “Kabloh! It’s Casey! Come on, you have to get out of here!” You feel yourself being dragged backwards and before you know it you are standing in a very crowded green room, being jostled about by the press of people on all sides. You can tell they are all Exiled by the fact that not one of them is speaking normally. The combined noise, and weird speech patterns make for a rather headache-inducing experience. There are no familiar faces in the crowd around you, so you slowly make your way through the mass of dreams, trying to find someone you know.

Oy, watch it buddy!” One growls at you as you get shunted into him from behind. You quickly apologize as you spot Casey amongst the crowd, withdrawing to pursue her against the tide of Exiled.

You do eventually catch up to her, after what felt like an age trapped in the claustrophobic masses, as she emerges into a circular clearing in the bodies. Turning around she finally notices you. “What’s going on, where are we?” You ask her loudly, trying to make yourself heard over the babble of the Exiled on all sides.

“We are safe in my mind.” She explains, and for the first time you notice the bags under her eyes, obviously showing the strain of having so many Exiled on her. “This is what is left of the agency, 140 Exiled, and us two hosts.” Casey looks downcast.

“What happened to the agency?” You ask as a pair of chairs appears in the middle of the clearing. You take a seat, graciously thanking Casey for the seat.

“We were attacked a couple of waking hours ago, by the remnants of B1’s army. We don’t know how they got in, but all of a sudden we were overrun by their sheer numbers. At the time I was awake, then the next thing I know Loxanth is poking me asleep, informing me of the situation.”

“Loxanth?” You ask, the unfamiliar name vaguely recognisable from somewhere.

“My Exiled.” Casey answers. “We fought a desperate battle to try and defend that place, but the damage had been done before I had arrived. In the end I wound up taking all the Exiled stationed there into my mind and escaping.”

“So how did you know I was there?”

“I left a couple of drones behind. Loxanth when honed to me can create little shadows through which I can perform surveillance. In a desperate situation they explode too, but that’s needless chatter. When I saw you snooping about I knew I had to get you out before the Agency collapsed completely into the void between timespace and dreamspectrum.”

“THERE WASN’T MUCH IN IT THOUGH.” Another familiar voice comes to you as you are hit by a flying something, which gives you a large warm hug. “THE Agency JUST COLLAPSED NOW.” Cyanea lets you go, looking very sober.

“So, what now?” You ask, looking at them both.

“I’m not sure Kabloh. We need to recuperate first. Losing the Agency is a big blow, now we have nowhere to house our Exiled.” Even in the short time you had been talking, Casey had started to look worse; the colour had drained from her face.

“Can I help house some of these?” You ask, a previous comment from Ooruaant makes you ask this question.

“You just Redreamed, and have only been hosting for a couple of weeks. Kabloh, you aren’t ready to house such large numbers.

“What do we do if we lose you for having too many Exiled?”

“I could ask you the same Casey. You look terrible.”

“Better one down than both!” Casey snaps at you.

“PLEASE? kABLOH HAS ONE OF THE LARGEST Minds OF ANY HOST SINCE THE Founder.” Cyanea tries to convince Casey that this is the best option. Eventually, after much debate she gives in, looking even more worse for wear, but is stubborn on the fact that you can’t take more than 50 Exiled.

 

------------------------

 

Back in your mind, now outfitted with a long row of doors, you sit down to talk to Cyanea. Entering her room for the first time you are surprised. Cyanea had never struck you as the girly-girl kind of lady, but her room was bright pink, covered in flowery designs, and contained lots of little porcelain unicorns. Stifling a giggle you sit down on a red heart shaped seat that Cyanea had conjured around the table in the centre of the room.

“What happened that night?” You ask, getting straight to business. “Where is Ooruaant?”

Cyanea stiffens, looking very strained, and for a second you think she is about to cry. “A-after you went down.” She begins, quickly re-gathering herself, “I couldn’t do too much, our weapon forms being tied to your imagination. But something seemed to snap in ooruaant. He was half out of weapon form, stuck halfway between, when he started laughing hysterically, like madness had overcome him. Some of our attackers didn’t know what to make of that, others just charged straight in. They were killed. ooruaant used what was left of his blade to disembowel anything that dared to come close, laughing the whole time. Slowly he began to get covered by black blood, the blade that once shone so bright in your hands was dull and dirty. Eventually ooruaant tired, collapsing to the ground, still laughing hysterically. That was when they carried him away, like some kind of trophy. But they seemed to ignore me, as I lay on the ground, slowly beginning to revert out of my weapon. When I had regained my arms, I was able to drag myself over to where you had fallen. There wasn’t much trace of you left. I thought that was it for me in that moment. The third time I had been lost, second time in quick succession, I really thought that that was when I was to turn rogue. I may even have gone rogue for a while, as I don’t remember anything from the time I left the area until casey picked me up.” Cyanea falls silent, the sheer weight of what she had said overcoming you both.

You sit in silence for the longest time, not knowing what to say. Finally you had to break the awkward silence. “Were you in the Agency when it was attacked?” You ask. Cyanea nods silently. “Did you see how they got in?”

“k-k-k-kabloh...” She breaks down, fat tears rolling down her cheeks. She rests her head on her arms, leaning on the table. “k-k-k... I-it w-w-was o-o-o-ooruaant!” She screams into the table. A small puddle spreading over the table from under her arms. “H-he lead them in via the bridge... We didn’t see them coming until he was on top of us...

“He looked evil kabloh, really evil.” Cyanea had stopped crying. “I don’t know what happened to him, but it looks like he is leading them now. And he killed everyone who he came across. Everyone...” Cyanea breaks back down into sobs. You decide you have interrogated her enough for one night, but as you get up Cyanea’s arm shoots out, tightly grasping your sleeve. You stay with her that night, as she talks about all the shit she had gone through in her life, about her first host, and her first Loss.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You wake up the next morning, emotionally drained after listening to Cyanea’s life story. You sit up, and groan.

“WHAT’S WRONG kABLOH?”

I have fifty of you fuckers in here now.” You complain, clutching your head. “What possessed me to do that?

You are a nice guy?” One of the other Exiled answered your rhetorical question.

Okay, as much as I enjoy the chatter, I’m going to enforce a strict no-talk ban on everyone but Cyanea.” You enforce. “I don’t want needless interruptions, and I want to be able to hear my own thoughts. If something is to be said, Cyanea can judge if it is worth my time.” Your mind goes quiet, and you sigh, content.

“OY, KUBLO! BREAKFAST IS UP MATE, I COOKED!” Comes Mack’s call from outside. You jump out of bed, ecstatic that you will be getting a properly, good cooked meal for a change. Quickly changing, you notice for the first time the smell of bacon. You adore Mack’s Bacon Sandwiches!

 

“Damn right you adore Mack’s Bacon Sandwiches!” You think to yourself as you leave the house, having gorged yourself on five large sandwiches. Feeling pleased, and full, you begin to walk to school. Kurry hadn’t arrived first, so you stand at the corner waiting for him. It is a beautiful summer day, the sky is a deep blue, a shade you had never thought possible, and there are no clouds to spoil the expanse, except the single vapour trail from a high-flying plane. There is hardly a breath of wind, but the air is just the right temperature to not be too hot, and not be too cold. Just beautiful. Even the scenery around you, normally dull, muted colours on the best of days, shines with a vigour, the trees and grass a vivid green, the houses all standing out, looking wonderful under the sun. Every car to drive past you looks clean and crisp, and even the faces of the students passing you on their way to school seem to be cheerful. This day seems to have gotten everyone in good spirits...

Everyone but Kurry you see as he comes into view over the hill. His face is long, and the air about him seems dull, especially in comparison to the brightness around him. “What’s up man?” You ask as Kurry draws close.

Kurry is shaking slightly, nervously holding his right tricep with his left hand. “Dude... Kab... Dad... Dad passed last night...” Kurry whispers, his voice starting to crack. He is wearing large shades, completely covering his eyes.

“What!?” You are dumbstruck. Kurry’s dad was one of the nicest blokes you could have ever come across. “What happened?”

“We were laughing, looking about... he had brought out his old box of photos, and we were looking back through them. Towards the end...” Kurry pauses. “Towards the end, ha began to get tired, even though it was still early in the night...” Kurry hesitates again, the atmosphere darkening further as you walk on in silence, still dumbstruck by the news. “H-he was silent for a while,” Kurry started again after you had passed a couple of driveways. “And then he took a hold of my arm. ‘Son,’ he whispered, lowering his voice in his customary impression of his father, ‘can you go get my gold?’” Kurrys dad had a lucky golden necklace that he wore when he met Kurrys mother, when he got married, when both Kurry and his sister was born. He kept it in a locked box, hidden somewhere in his desk, where only him and Kurry knew where. “I told him I would,” Kurry continued. ”And stood up to go get it from his desk, but he kept a grip on my arm.” Kurry tightened his grip on his arm, his knuckles beginning to turn white. “He held me close, and told me to keep going to school, before letting go, looking like he had fallen asleep. When I came back with his gold... I couldn’t wake him...”

You walk in silence through the front gate of school. You go to ask Kurry what the cause was, but he just shakes his head.

 

------------------------

 

Lunch was a fairly muted affair, you are beginning to miss the rowdy days. Kurry was absent for the majority, and you manage to keep up a light conversation with the rest of the group, but when Kurry returns it’s all muted tones and no laughter.

You are almost glad to return home, when the final bell rings you check your phone, which had been quietly vibrating its alert to you from inside your pocket for the entirety of the last lesson. You didn’t check it, for fear of having your phone confiscated in class. It’s a text from Casey’s Exiled. “We want TO TrAiN YOu ToniGHT, MeET in mY Mind?”

You send off an affirmative text and walk home, dropping by the GG Bakehouse on the way.  Joe is quite disappointed in your missing out on his offer for work, but after he hears your story of illness he quickly lightens up, showing his caring nature, in his own special way “You don’t have to work until you are well. So, how about this afternoon?”

 

You did wind up working that afternoon, a couple of hours during the before-dinner rush. Joe’s pies sold better than some of the restaurants in the area, so Joe didn’t normally close the doors until late night. Stumbling home tired after working the till, you sit down heavily at the dinner table, the first family dinner you could remember for quite a while.  Your dad had cooked tonight, a rare occurrence, and one you savour as you tucked into a thick, juicy steak, cooked to perfection. “Anything fun happen at school today?” Your Mother asks you, in her annoyingly paternal way.

You feel bad about bringing this up, but there isn’t really anything else to talk about. “Kurry told me that his dad passed on last night.” You say, pushing some peas around your plate.

“Oh shit! What happened?” Mack looks up from her plate at this, joining in the conversation.

You recount, to the best of your memory, what Kurry had told you. By the end of the tale you had finished your dinner, and excused yourself from the table, taking your plate with you into the kitchen. Rinsing it off in the sink Mack walks in carrying a load of dishes from the table. It was her turn to clear the table and you were both on dishwashing duty.

As you washed the dishes, Mack drying and stacking in their homes, you feel the need to talk to Mack. “I started dreaming again.” You venture.

“Oh?” Mack looks at you sideways, drying off a plate and stacking it in the cupboard.

“Yeah, the other day. Suddenly it all came back to me. When I was out with Jerry. Like something snapped and then it was all back. Tom then turns up, all important like, dragging a lady along with him who had supposedly re-dreamed like I had.” Mack listens quietly, drying the dishes after you finished with them. “Then I went back to the Agency-“

“That’s the pace in some dead guys mind, right?”

“Yeah, anyway. I find it deserted, completely cleaned out, on fire and falling apart.” Mack raises an eyebrow at this. “Next thing I know, I’m being dragged away into that ladies mind. She had been sheltering the surviving Exiled in her head.”

“Wait, weren’t those the guys you were supposed to be saving the innocent from?” Mack finishes drying the last of the dishes.

“No, the ones I had to off were the Rogue ones,” You sigh and put down your scrubbing brush, walking over to the oven to pull the grill pan out. “Normal Exiled help us to achieve that.” You drop the pan into the sink, carefully angling it to land a large drop of water on Mack, and begin to clean it off.

“What about the mental strain? Like with Jerry? How is she by the way?” Mack returns the tea towel, and grabs a couple of paper towels in preparation for drying the pan.

“Taken the week off school after I killed the Exiled in her head.” Mack raises another eyebrow at this. “When my imagination came back, I somehow pulled him out of her mind, and smothered him...”

“Riiiight...”

“So, yeah, the strain was starting to tell on Casey, even though it had only been 24 hours.” You finish with the grill tray and pass it to Mack, starting on the pan. “So I bartered her into giving me about a third of the remainder, including Cyanes.” Mack drops the pan, looking angrily at you.

“IT’S ON THE FLOOR!” Your Father jokingly yells at you from the other room.

“What!? Why!?” Mack cries, looking hard just under your eyes, looking for what you presume to be signs of strain.

“You dropped it, so it’s on the floor.” You reply. A wet paper towel hits you square in the face. “I deserved that.” You pull the paper off your face. “Alright, when Ooruaant first got himself in my head, he said that I had room for a platoon of Exiled. I took him on his word.”

“What about them talking all the time? You said you ahd a hard enough time... Keeping sane... With... Just... Two..?” Mack slowly finishes, staring intently at the way you are scrubbing the pan this time. “How are you doing that?” She points at the brush.

“Doing what?” You ask, looking down at the brush. “Oh, that...” You answer yourself, noticing that you aren’t touching the brush, and probably hadn’t been touching it since you got a paper towel in the face. It’s scrubbing all on its own, controlled unconsciously by your mind. “Apparently, us hosts with control in the Dreamspectrum are able to transfer some of that into the real world. Remember when I told you about Tom and the Rabbit? But I don’t know.” The brush slips from your control, falling into the warm water. “I can’t seem to do it on purpose. Anyway, I told them to keep quiet.” You answer her original question.

“Told who? What?” Mack is completely lost.

“The Exiled in my head.” You finish the pan, rinse it off and drain the sink.

“So now what are you going to do?” Mack asks, drying the pan.

“What do you mean?” You lean against the bench, waiting for her to finish.

“Well, you have Jerry back, and you are going to ask her out when you see her next.” You glare at Mack. “You have your dream back, and many others beside. This agency is finished, by what you tell me, and you have no further obligation to anyone or anything, other than finding somewhere to put the excess dreams.” She puts the pan back into the oven, ready for its next use.

“Well, I have to stop Ooruaant and his Rogue army somehow... And I can’t let more people wind up like Jerry...” You follow Mack as she walks to her room.

“You plan to fight?” Mack asks, opening the door to her room for you. “Idiot boy, run away while you are still sane. Please?”

You walk into her room, a mild blue affair, dropping into your usual beanbag. “And let innocent people, people like yourself, fall to the same problem as Jerry, but not have someone like me around to disobey physics?”

“There is this new lady person. Let her do it.”

“She can barely take the strain of the Exiled she is holding, let alone fight like that.”

“Then find new hosts!” This simple answer shuts you up quickly. Why hadn’t you thought of it before? Get new hosts, a fighting army of your own?

“I don’t know how...”

“You have your ‘Platoon’ of dreams, they should know. Cyanea, she was with Tom when they found you, right, ask her! Anything, just don’t go into this as a one-man army. Get away from the battles.” Mack goes quiet, not responding to any more of your counter-arguments. You know there is no way of convincing her when she gets in a stubborn mood. But you do partially agree with her, you don’t feel like fighting an army, on the front lines, alone.

You spend the rest of the evening with Mack, moving on to other topics, but the mood is still a little strained when you leave to go to bed.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Ugh, why do I have to go to work now?” I think to myself, walking into the pool complex. I work part-time there as a teacher, and today was supposed to be a day off, and not on call, but I had been called in on short notice, in the middle of a date with my girlfriend Heather. They had said I was their last hope, and so, being a good employee, I accepted (reluctantly) the call-in. When I left Heather after she had dropped me off in her car I told her that I would be done as soon as possible, that I wouldn’t take on any more work as “they have kept me in that fucking place for long enough this week.”

Walking along the hallway leading from the reception, past the changing rooms and into the pool area proper I see my boss standing at the exit, not looking impressed.

“Hey Sam.” One of the older members on staff nods in greeting as he walks into the staff changing room. I nod in acknowledgement, distracted by my boss who had fixed me with an evil look.

 “Hi Suzan...” I ventured, my stomach sinking.

“We keep you in here long enough already, huh!?” Suzan thunders, her face a bright, angry red.

Oh shit.


 

Chapter Eight

Finite space, infinite imagination. One hundred and forty dangers.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Cyanea greets you as you come to, trying to shake the horrible sensation of a job you love, your barely lucid mind thinking “I’m glad dreams don’t have save buttons...” You aren’t sure why.

Gaining perspective, realizing that you don’t have a job, let alone a girlfriend. You look around. Your mind still features the dark, red winged backdrop, and unusual floor surface. It kind of freaks you out how much larger it feels in here, even with the four rows of Exiled doorways. Cyanea looks at you funny as you stand there, looking around. “YOU OKAY kABLOH?” she asks.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m okay. Just a weird dream is all. And coming to in this place is weird now.” You shake your head violently, trying to dislodge the last strands of the dream from your consciousness. Your mind gives a violent shudder, the floor rippling up large waves which lap at the doors. Several doors open, Exiled heads sticking out, finding out what was going on.

“YEAH, IT’S DEFINITELY Different IN HERE NOW. DOES THIS HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH YOUR Redreaming?” Cyanea asks, as most of the doors close. One of the Exiled comes out though, noticing you. It’s the same Exiled that you keep running into, M4-P54 you think his code was.

“Your guess is as good as mine. I guess it is, but who knows?” M4 gets closer. “Can we help you?” M4 whispers in Cyanea’s ear.

“HE WANTS TO BE ABLE TO TELL YOU THIS HIMSELF.” Cyanea explains to you, as you remember your earlier order of silence.

“Speak now or forever hold your peace.” You joke.

Gee, thanks...” He mutters. “I received word from XFour-BOneThree a little earlier, Casey wants to drop by.”

“Okay,” You reply, “let her in.” You pull up a couple of seats for you all to use. Somehow you can see this being a long conversation.

 

Turns out you were wrong. Casey turned up shortly after, creating a doorway between your two minds to do so. As soon as she steps through the door she takes one look at you, pulls a small saver from behind her, and leaps at you.

“WOAH!” You pull a butterfly up to block her swing. “What’s gotten over you!?” Casey looks extremely tired, but still aware.

“Gotta test you.” She grunts, putting a little more effort into her swing, the saver beginning to cut the butterfly. You quickly angle it to slide the saver off, and away from her centre. Casey lets the momentum of the saber carry her around, coming back round with a knife in her hand this time. You throw another butterfly up to block, and call Cyanea over. She shifts into weapon form. This time she comes to your hand as a large broadsword, dull grey in colour and featuring a wing motif around the hilt. Not stopping to think about this sudden change, you launch a counter attack, sweeping low, trying to disrupt her balance.

Casey swiftly leaps over your swing, returning her knife and pulling a bow out this time. Several rapid shots come your way, each trailing a gentle, thin string, almost invisible against the darkness of the distance in your mind. You jump backwards, as the arrows thud into the soft ground, creating little fireballs upon impact, the surface rippling violently. As you land you find a basket full of plain looking Katana standing ready. “We are here for you to use sir.” One of them speaks to you, obviously M4.

“A load of swords aren’t going to save you Kabloh!” Casey taunts you. “You need to come at me full force!”

“Alright, full force you say?” You begin to grin. The air filling with the now familiar sound of beating wings. “Let’s go gale force, shall we?” Just as the storm of butterflies begin to materialise Casey pulls out what looks to be a blowpipe from wherever it is that she had been keeping her weapons. She puts it to her lips and blows, a tight spiral of flame blasting out the end.

“You are going to have to do better than a myriad of butterflies, kid.” She laughs as the air fills with the smouldering remains of your butterflies. You try again, with less butterflies, trying to spread them out more, but to similar results. “You aren’t getting it...” She lunges at you with a pole arm, which you again deflect using one of your larger butterflies. “You need to start attacking me directly Kabloh. Don’t waste your imagination summoning more items than necessary, use just enough to get the job done!” As if to prove her point she presses another attack onto you, which you easily sidestep, right into the path of a hastily growing stone spike from out of the ground.

You just manage to flip out of its way before it impales you, using your basket of Katana to flip backwards over, but you come down on yet another spike. Two large butterflies are enough to support your feet as you soar up above the reach of Casey’s spikes. “Only what is necessary?” You ask, pulling a couple of Katana out of the basket, including M4. “Okay, I’ll give that a go.” Two butterflies hold a Katana each, jut out from and above each of your shoulders, while you gather yourself into a relaxed stance, poised and ready, holding the third Katana. You begin to let your imagination flow over the three weapons, feeling its tug in the form of a powerful beam blast.

“Too slow!” Casey laughs triumphantly, soaring through the air towards you, catapulted off a stone platform she had just pushed out of the ground. Your imagination disrupted, the two auxiliary swords firing off unfocused blasts in arcing paths away from where you wanted them, as the butterflies dematerialise, letting the katana drop. Casey claps her hands together. Just in time you recognise that she is wearing gloves, in time to dodge a bolt of lightning that emanates from the space between her hands. The lightning grounds itself some distance away from you, into one of the chairs you summoned earlier in the belief that you were to be talking, not fighting.

“Are you sure you want to be attacking me?” You ask, still not entirely sure of Casey’s motives. You create a couple more butterflies, melding them along M4’s blade, sweeping the katana through the air, releasing the butterfly cutting edge in an arc, targeting Casey’s path of flight. Somehow she manages to flip in mid air, getting a flail out and wrapping the chain around the arc of butterflies, she rides the arc back safely to the ground.

“I got to be making sure you can handle all those Exiled in combat youngling!” She yells up at you, creating another pillar of stone, and catapulting herself back up your way. This time you are ready for her, and instead of counter-attacking, you let her momentum carry her past, short-sword swinging uselessly through the air, as she drops back to the surface again.

“Running out of tricks?” You taunt as she drops away. Suddenly she pulls the saver out again, pointing it directly at the ground, she creates a huge blast of her own, enough to propel her back up your way again. “Shit.” You quickly summon four more butterflies, directing each to gather a Katana, while Casey quickly closes in on you. Again you begin to let your imagination flow over the weapons.

“I said I wasn’t going to give you time to hone them in boy!” She screams, the Saver pointed directly at you, a tiny bead of light beginning to show at the tip. But you don’t need time, you feel your imagination quickly snap around the four blades held by the butterflies and the one you hold. Suddenly you are shunted quickly through the air, landing a slice horizontally on Casey, where the sword sticks. Your momentum caries you on through to the first butterfly, where you gather the katana it holds, and your shunt repeats, another slice stick, this one diagonally across her body. Then a third, a fourth and a fifth as you expend all the katana held by the butterflies, all in a matter of four seconds. Your imagination, still lingering on each katana then flares again, pushing a pulse of green light through her. The katana, having done their duty, then fall to the ground below, landing point first, several inches into the surface. Several large drops of blood follow them down, as Casey begins to bleed from her cuts.

“I don’t want to kill you Casey!” You yell as she begins to fall towards the ground, following after her blood and your katana. “Give up now and tell me what it was you came here for.”

Casey turns over lazily in mid air, pulling what looks disturbingly like a rocket launcher out and levelling it at you.

“Who’s getting killed?” She asks you as she fires the rocket off. A large ugly looking black thing speeds out of the end of the launcher at you, trailing blue smoke behind it. Not wanting to get caught anywhere near it, you quickly flip over, jumping hard off the underside of your butterflies which had been valiantly supporting you for most of the time you had spent in the air. As you drop quickly you hear the explosion behind you and feel your mind relax as the butterflies are destroyed. Then you hear another rocket coming at you again, this one trained on you, trailing a vibrant green smoke trail.

You right yourself, summoning yet another butterfly to retrieve Cyanea from where you left her in amongst the spikes back on the ground. The rocket is almost upon you when you are finally re-united, just in time to slice the ugly thing in two, the halves spiralling away from you before exploding.

“Have you not tested me enough!?” You shout up at Casey, standing high on a new, extremely tall pillar of stone, a new weapon, this time looking like a rifle, trained on you. As if in reply you hear the report of a gunshot, and feel the air disturbed as it hums past your head. Focusing your imagination over Cyanea, you attempt to create the slashing blast that should be able to cut through the pillar and further disrupt Casey’s firing. However, as your imagination snaps over it, you feel a different sensation, and when you hear the report again, this time slightly muffled, this time the bullet sinks into an area of density around you, almost like a shield, stopping the bullet dead. You land lightly on the ground, Casey lining up another shot which again sinks into your shield. You gather up ten of the katana littered around you, many still untouched, and begin to set up another Honing. This time the katana float of their own accord, creating three crosses behind you of two crossed blades each, and one of four crossed blades in front of you. These begin to channel your imagination, beginning to slowly spin, a great delivery and amplification of power, causing you to drop the shield from your Honing with Cyanea. Suddenly the spinning stops and all blades point directly towards Casey. “Last chance!” You shout up at her, barely managing to keep the power contained. Casey doesn’t reply, simply jumping off the top of the pillar,  holding a lance out, angled to skewer you. “Alright then...” You sigh, releasing the vast amount of energy from the blades, shooting out in a large beam towards Casey. As she is engulfed by the stream you hear a shout of joy.

 

There is a lot of smoke about, hanging maliciously in the air, slowly thinning out, but you can see no movement. There is a shockwave, suddenly emanating from the core of the smoke, and a thin laser beam pierces through the smoke, creating a small opening in the smoke. The beam pierces your shoulder, sending a violent wave of pain through your body. Through the opening you can see Casey, or what is left of her. Her left arm and right leg below the knee has been blasted away, those wounds and many others bleeding violently. She is holding a laser pointer. “I’m not done yet.” She wheezes, the pointer shaking madly.

“Do you have enough weaponry stored on you?” You cry, reflecting the laser away using one of your katana, Casey simply points it at your hip, which you dodge. “And what will it take to get you to stop!?” The smoke closes in again, blocking off your vision of her. You take up a stance, ready to defend from anything to come at you. Nothing happens. You wait a bit more, and still nothing happens. “Fuck it” you think, summoning butterflies to blow the smoke away.

As the smoke clears away Casey is nowhere to be found, and there is no trail of blood for you to follow. You drop your guard, looking around. “Okay, anyone know where she went?” You ask your Exiled, not having any clues.

“WE KNOW ABOUT THE SAME AS YOU DO kABLOH SORRY.”

You sit down, feeling the danger has passed. “What the hell was all that about?”

Alls Is cans tells is thats was as tests tos tests yours skills.” One of your other Exiled replies.

“I had gotten that much, but why? What was the point of coming to my mind and getting herself killed?” The ground begins shaking, but no ripples appear. Suddenly the ground beneath you turns to stone and a hand reaches up, grabbing your leg before you can react. Casey rises up out of the ground, pulling you up by your foot. She now adorns two new limbs made from stone, which seemingly under her control like any limb would be. Finally she is standing upright on the surface, holding you aloft.

“Look what I caught!” She laughs as you struggle. Casey pulls yet another weapon out of wherever it s that she is keeping them, this time a crossbow. Casey levels it at you point blank as you struggle desperately. You manage to summon some butterflies just in time to block the shot, but not enough as the bolt cleanly pierces through your chest, fortunately on the right side. Your blood spills to the ground, and you find it suddenly harder to breath. A myriad of stone spikes burst from the ground, stabbing into you. The pain is unbearable, and you find yourself on the brink of waking up. Blood is seeping down the sides of the spikes, and a lone butterfly flutters awkwardly around you, one wing torn. Suddenly Casey pulls you off the spikes, dropping you to the ground. “Pathetic.” She sniffs ass you lay gasping on the ground. “Get up and heal yourself.” You manage to throw Casey a confused look.

She sighs, crouching down. “Okay, alright. I’m here to test how much you know about using your mind in battle. You are good, but really only surviving off its raw power. You need to start using it properly.” You are beginning to black out, vision going at the edges, as you feel your breaths coming slower. “Oh shit. Okay, take it easy, now, create some of your butterflies, and use them to bind your wounds.

You do as you are instructed, binding your wounds and replacing your blood, using the butterflies as a Solve-all tool. By the time you are done you can feel your strength returning, will to fight increasing. “And also.” Casey continues, pulling you to your feet. “To get you to Hone properly.” There is a warm feeling from your stomach, and you look down to find her knife sticking out of your gut. You look back up in time to dodge her fist, as a punch is thrown at your face.

You jump backwards, removing the knife from your gut and throwing it to the ground. Before too much blood can be lost you repair the wound with a butterfly. By now your mind is starting to weaken, the toll of the battle really telling by how much effort it takes to pull the butterfly out. Finally you have had enough. Picking up Cyanea you begin to Hone, this time letting your imagination flow over ever single blade, in a last-ditch attempt to finish this before you run out of time. Reacting, your imagination snaps over the blades quicker than any Hone before, picking each blade up, and lining them up behind Cyanea, suspended in the air in a long trail. You start attacking Casey, pushing her backwards as she dodges your strikes. Summoning a couple of butterflies, you push her back towards you, stopping her from retreating as you put the last dregs of your energy into the final swing. Casey is able to quickly block with a quarterstaff, but as each blade slams into the piece of wood, one after another, each of your katana carrying the same force as your broadsword. Casey looks strained, the combined weight of forty blows showing on her face, and on her stone arm, which begins to crack. Suddenly everything lets go, as her arm shatters under the weight, your blades completing their swing slicing many large gashes across her chest. Stumbling, you fall over, completely drained as Casey collapses to the ground.

“What did you go and do that for?” You mumble as the Quarterstaff reverts to Exiled form.

“yOu DID wElL KablOH.” You vaguely recognize through your exhaustion X4-B13, Casey’s Exiled congratulating you.

“What’d she go’n do th’t f’r?” You mumble, barely conscious.

“CaSEY wAnted tO TESt YOU.” X4 says, his voice coming to you fairly muffled.

“’n n’w she g’n ‘n g’t ‘rs’lf k’lld...” You can barely stay awake.

“DoN’T WoRry abouT iT KID. She’LL be fine. SHE Can’T die IN ANOtHERS mINd.” You finally black out after that, dropping into a deep sleep.


 

Chapter Nine

Chained Blades. Are we all not rogue ourselves?

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You awake covered in sweat. The light filtering through your curtains tell you that it’s still early morning. “Oh shit, I’ve slept through another day!” You think, reaching for your phone, fully expecting to find a day lost from recuperating from that expenditure against Casey. Wait, what? It’s still the Wednesday? You only went to sleep eight hours ago, and yet you don’t feel tired or exhausted at all. “What’s happening here?” You wonder, getting up, and preparing for school that day.

 

School was a fairly muted affair again today, Kurry still down about his father, but still coming to School as per his father’s dying wish. No matter how much you try to cheer him up, Kurry just stays unresponsive, down. He concentrates on his studies, diligently taking notes in class, but outside the class he is down and out, hard on his luck, depressed and anxious. After school Mack picks you up, seeing Kurry she shouts out to him, asking him if he wants a lift. Once in the car, Mack turns around, heading into the centre of town, the opposite direction to Kurry’s place.

“Where are you taking me?” Kurry asks dejectedly, seemingly resigning himself to the ride.

“You need cheering up gloomy-guts.” Mack answers over her shoulder. Answering no further questions she drives you both into the heart of town. Stopping by a popular café, Mack turns around to look at Kurry. “You need cheering up man.” She says again. “So I’m going to give you a good time.”

“Wait, do I need to be here for that part?” You ask jokingly from the front seat, receiving an backhanded elbow for your troubles.

“Not that kind of good time pervert.” Mack growls. “Come on, let’s go get a bite to eat.”

You spend an afternoon with Mack and Kurry. Mack takes you into the café, where you are treated to whatever you want. You then stop by the movie theatre, Kurry picks a horrible looking Action movie, you and Mack both look sideways at each other behind Kurrry’s back, but as he seems a lot more cheery neither of you have the heart to question him.

 

Oh gods that movie was rubbish.” You think as you walk out of the theatre, “Too many fake CGI explosions, not enough throw-away lines.” But Kurry seems happy as he walks out of the theatre, chatting happily away to Mack about the main characters choice of explosives.

“Well, it’s getting late, I suppose I had better get you home before your Mum starts worrying.” Mack interjects while Kurry pauses for breath, before he can tell her more about how the elastic from the main characters underwear could have helped him out of a situation if he had chosen to use it.

Kurry stops dead, the grin on his face wiped off. “I... I don’t want to go back tonight...” He whispers sadly. “Mum cries herself to sleep every night... I don’t want to listen to that anymore...” Kurry is shaking.

“Okay, tell you what. Come back to our place!” She looks over at you, as if daring you to make some suggestion as to why he couldn’t. You wisely close your mouth. “Stay the night with us. We’ll just let you go home and pack everything you will need for tomorrow, and let your Mum know what’s happening.”

“Will your parents be fine with me staying?” Kurry asks, hesitant.

“Na, they’ll be fine!” You answer, trying to get your friend back into good spirits, catching on to Mack’s plan.

Mack takes Kurry back around to his place. He walks inside with Mack. A little later Kurrys Mum comes out to the car to see you through the open car window. “Hello Kabloh dear.” She greets you, and you notice how tired she looks. For a split second you wonder if some Exiled is messing with her when you realize that her husband just died, and to stop being silly.

“Hello Mrs Sanders.” You greet her in return.

“Thanks for what you did today, Mackenzie told me about it while my son was packing. It’s been a hard time on both of us.” She sighs. “His funeral is on Saturday, I’d like you to come along and support him through it. And I’m sure Bob would have wanted you there too.”

“That’s fine Mrs Sanders, I can do that.”

“Thanks Kabloh.” Mrs Sanders sighs again, turning around in time to see Kurry coming out of the house. “Have a good night, and enjoy your day at school tomorrow.” Mrs Sanders kisses Kurry on the forehead. Kurry turns a slight shade of red.

“Alright Ma, alright. I’ll see you later.” Kurry throws his stuff in the car as Mack leans down to talk to you.

“What did Mrs. Sanders have to say?”

“Just invited me to the funeral on Saturday.” You can see right down Mack’s top. Not your favourite thing to look at.

“Ah, right.” She stays leaning over, looking like she had something else to say.

“Mack, cover yourself, I don’t enjoy looking at my big sisters cleavage.” You hiss, looking anywhere but.

“That’s not what I saw back when you were going through puberty.” Mack grins, but stands up anyway. “Okay Mrs Sanders, we’ll take good care of your boy, don’t you worry!” She wanders around to the driver’s side.

You and Kurry give a wave as you drive off, threading your way through the last of the evenings traffic home.

 

------------------------

 

As expected your parents had no troubles with Kurry staying over, and the three of you, Mack, Kurry and yourself, invade the front room to watch some TV before bed. Unusually for her, Mack doesn’t make a fuss about missing her Soaps, instead letting Kurry pick a couple of really rather awful reality shows. Prominent amongst which was “Will it Lube?” In which contestants bring home-made concoctions, trying to insert a round peg into a round hole barely big enough to fit with the winner being the one with the least force required, the winner going onto the next round, and competing against other lube-inventors. After several other disgustingly horrible reality shows you turn in, having thoroughly enjoyed the day, if not the television, you go to turn in.

Kurry is sleeping in the spare bedroom, the opposite side of Mack’s room from yours, so you bid him good night, before dropping into bed.

That boy is host-worthy.” M4 tells you when you are finally alone. “He would make a fine contribution to our forces...”

No!” You all but yell in your head. “The shit I went through was hard enough, and I hadn’t lost a father a couple of days beforehand.

But-.”

NO.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It’s rare for you to go lucid first thing in the night. You think over the possible significance of this as you stand up, your mind looking the same as ever, but the wings looking a little ragged. Casey is waiting for you, sitting at the table you had summoned last night and forgot to put away. You grab the nearest Exiled, forcibly sifting him into a weapon, taking up a defensive stance.

“Calm Kabloh, calm.” She says soothingly, showing you her empty palms. “I come in peace. Please, let me talk.” You reluctantly release your Exiled, noticing exactly how bad Casey looks; like she is about to collapse from exhaustion. Her face is gaunt, worse than Jerry looked the last time you saw her. Her eyes are dull and heavy-lidded, the bags underneath couldn’t be too much bigger if they sagged to her chin. Her hair is messy and bedraggled, and her clothing is creased and ruffled. She looks incredibly thin, as if she hasn’t eaten for several weeks, and her muscles have begun to deteriorate.

“I don’t have much longer to survive, the strain of having all these Exiled crammed into my head has taken its toll on me.” Casey yawns widely at this. “So I just want you to know what is left of the Agencies knowledge.” She conjures up a map in the air, physically struggling just to do that. There is a pulsing red dot in the middle of what looks to be fairly rugged terrain. “The leader current leader of the Rogue army is stationed here. We have no information on this Exiled, as he has managed to evade all attempts to track him. This location is guarded by several highly powered Rogue Exiled, and he appears to be fairly certain of his own power, as there are no other Rogue forces in the area that could be pulled in as backup. Consequently, we need him taken out now.” The map zooms out, Casey’s eyelids dropping further and speech beginning to slur. There is another pulsing dot, this time blue. “And this is where the majority of the army is stationed.” The dot is in the middle of an open plateau of land, which, from what you can gather without a scale, is a great distance from the red dot. “Kabloh, we need you to take out the unknown leader. The agency formed an alliance with a tribe of Exiled who had no interest in becoming Agency workers not long before B1-A00 went Rogue. They will attack the Rogue force, supported by my Exiled, while you concentrate on that task.” The map begins to blur as Casey starts yawning widely. You guide her back to her mind, now empty. “Thanks Kabloh, they may be gone, but it was too much for me while they were here.” She seems to explain, as you help her into a chair. “M4-P54 has all the information you need. He can get you close to the complex.” Casey lies down, the room beginning to fade. “Good luck.” She finally whispers, as the room blacks out, jettisoning you back into your own mind.

“Well fuck.”

Sir?”

“Collect everyone; it appears we have some work to do...”

 

------------------------

 

Several minutes later you are standing, fully equipped with your forty Exiled, waiting for M4 to open a custom path into the Dreamspectrum. According to him it will take you almost to the complex within which the “leader” is based. You stand behind him, impatiently tapping your foot.

You think this leader guy is Ooruaant?” You ask Cyanea in your mind, not wanting to alert any of the others to this information.

“IT’S HIGHLY LIKELY, FROM WHAT I SAW BACK AT THE Agency.” Cyanea depressively says. Even though she is in her weapon form, you can still tell that she is looking at the ground as she says this.

Well damn. I was hoping not to have to meet him like this...

“AS DID I...” Cyanea sighs, as M4 completes the doorway.

Ready to go sir.” He informs you, shifting into his weapon form. You return him to the basket of katana with the other 39 Exiled.

“Alright. Shall we?”

 

This journey through to the Dreamspectrum is one of the most unusual you have ever had, but then you haven’t tried it since your Reawakening, which seemed to have changed everything. Instead of a psychedelic swirl of colour, there are little pinpricks of light flying past you on a background of deep blue-black, as if you were standing in a beam of light, and able to see every photon emitted. The effect is un-nerving, but unlike the other times you have travelled, there isn’t any direct effect on any of your other senses. As you swim through the stream, an opening starts to become visible in the distance, a tiny slit of darkness amongst the white distance, where all the “photons” appear to be coming from. Then suddenly you are in the Dreamspectrum, another new one, as usually the journey takes far longer. You shrug, looking around at your surroundings.

The land is highly fertile, plant life growing like wildfire, some plants completely foreign, like balloons floating above the ground, you don’t think you even want to know how they work. The terrain, like you expected, is rugged, but not to the same packed extent Casey’s map made it out to be. This gives you a new perspective on how the situation was. Why an army was dispatched so far away from its headquarters completely stumps you, but you shrug it off. The army is these “allied” Exiled’s trouble. You just have to take out several Exiled, guarding what you believe to be Ooruaant, U4-A01. You can see their complex from here, M4 hadn’t done too bad a job getting you close, however, the complex sits at the top of a rise, surrounded on all sides by open land, and the vegetation around it appears freshly cleared, meaning there will be no cover for the last 300-odd metres up to the front door.

Wait, what? You are just going to walk in the front door?”

“Got a better alternative? At least walking through the front doors, I’ll be able to get a fair guess on where everything is...” M4 shuts up, seemingly having no comeback for that.

 

So that’s what you do, quickly sprinting over the open ground, you make your way to the front gate. There is no disturbance from inside, and nothing attacks you as you approach the wall. Everything is too quiet. Way too quiet.

 

The front gate is open, almost invitingly so. You begin to suspect a trap. “It’s just too quiet...” You voice aloud, your words echoing off the walls, an unusually warped echo.

“SO WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?” Cyanea asks from her sheath on your back.

“I’m here for a reason aren’t I?” You walk through the gates, into the courtyard beyond.

Suddenly...

Nothing happens. The place seems deserted. “Hoy, M4.” You ask, relaxing slightly, “We got the right complex?”

I followed the directions to the letter...” M4 responds, an air of uncertainty hanging over his voice. “Perhaps our Intel is wrong?”

No, we are in the right place alright.” One of the Exiled you hadn’t had a chance to talk too much speaks up, tweaking you in the direction of a corpse in the corner. “That’s what’s left of one of the guards.” What little you know of this Exiled, he was a tracking Exiled in the Agency, so you are able to rely on his word. “Whatever happened here, we have to be a little more careful now.

 

The entire complex seems deserted, even the lighting which you would imagine would have been fairly bright, with how much of it there is on the walls and in the ceilings. You proceed further and further inside, signs of small battles become apparent, scattered around the various rooms and halls of the complex. There are no corpses other than those confirmed as those supposedly guarding this area. The really unusual thing though is that the battles seem to be getting older, blood that was almost fresh in the front courtyard is dried the closer to the centre of the complex you get. Eventually, after wandering the labyrinth of corridors and rooms, you come to the very centre of the complex, what seems from the outside to be a large room, with a lot of technology present. The door hangs slightly ajar, and hangs crooked on its hinges, looking for all the world to have been punched with some force from the inside. A low, guttural growl can be heard coming from within, in slow, regular intervals.

You step just to one side of the doorframe, at the very end of the corridor, lit only by what little light had leaked this far into the complex, leading towards the room.

Quietly poking your head around the doorframe, you take a peek inside, looking for what was making the noise. The room within, which was indeed fairly technologically advanced, or at least was before something large had a go at destroying everything. It seemed to have succeeded, as pieces of circuitry, panelling, and other technological bits and bobs you have no knowledge of lie scattered around the floor, broken off many tall towers of something, reaching floor to ceiling as far as you can tell.

What really draws your attention though is the large, black monster curled up in the very centre of the room, on a large pile of rubble and destroyed electronics. You can’t tell what exactly the monster is, but it is definitely what is making the growl. From where you are standing you could almost believe it was sleeping, an unpleasant musty smell rises from it.

Now what?” You think to no Exiled in particular.

That seems to be our target...

“AT THE VERY LEAST, IT’S AN OLD ROGUE Exiled kABLOH.” Cyanea follows up. “WE WOULD BE BETTER OFF TRYING TO GET RID OF IT.”

What about this leader guy?

Nothing we can do about it. We are here now, may as well kill something...”

As if in reaction to your internal discussion, a pair of pointy ears pricks up on the monster. Slowly its head turns to look at you. A long, pointed face stares at you through large, shiny orange eyes. Three nostrils at the end of a large honksniffer flare, sucking in air with a tiny whine, like a little generator turning over. The rest of the body unfurls, a long, serpentine-like body, with no limbs. Heavy looking dark orange wings extend from recesses in the body, featherless wings. The entire thing gives you a wave of nausea.

“AT THE VERY LEAST, KILLING IT WOULD MAKE THE Dreamspectrum A NICER PLACE?” You can hear the sickness in Cyanea’s words, the nausea seemingly contagious.

“Let’s just get this done with, shall we?” You suppress another wave of nausea as the monster opens its mouth, a foul stench extruding from its interior. “And I thought it smelt bad on the outside.” You mutter to yourself, pulling Cyanea out. You doubt that butterflies will serve you much purpose in here, so you don’t bother summoning any, instead Honing several katana with Cyanea. A blast of thunder splits the air, and six bolts of lightning strike the monster, followed by your broadsword. Unfortunately for you, it bounces off the stiff black skin, barely leaving a nick. The thunder had barely finished rolling when the monstrous Exiled lets out an awful roar, eclipsing the thunder claps in both volume and ferocity.

An orange wing sweeps through the air towards you and you go to block against it, angling Cyanea to send the wing over your head. This plan fails, as getting hit by the wing is like being hit by a freight train. Instead of slipping up your blade, you are knocked to one side, slamming hard into the wall, before dropping to your knees, leaning hard on your weapon.

“Now what?”

More blades?”

Another roar comes from the Exiled, as it extends to its full possible height in this confined space. You raise your sword again, ready to dodge any forthcoming attacks, but instead, with a swift, powerful beat of its wings, the Exiled propels itself through the ceiling, dropping another pile of rubble into the room. You rush up the pile once the debris have settled, seeking out the Exiled. It is circling the complex, every now and again letting out more impressive roars, shaking the countryside. After each roar are several pops. “Up?”

Up.

You finally conjure your butterflies, a task that seems a lot easier than it used to. Stepping onto them, you let several of them handle your katana, bringing your drawn complement of blades up to 15. Ascending you see a beam of light dropping out of the sky towards you. Just in time you steer out of the way, as the green-tinted beam drops past you, hitting the complex with a blast wave more powerful than you thought possible. Every bone in your body feels compressed by the blast, the air is punched from your lungs, and your bowls seem to shrivel up. Many of your butterflies are torn, a couple of your katana beginning to drop. Before they can get too far away however, you draft in more butterflies, catching the katana and continuing your ascent. Another beam passes you, this one impacting in a distant hillside. The blast wave this time less intense, and expected. You snatch a quick look down as the Exiled roars again, at the complex, and the hillside. Both look like they have been impacted by quite a sizable meteor, the crater below you completely wrecking the top of the hill on which the complex had sat, right down well below the hand-cleared vegetation line.

Turning your attention back on the Exiled above, you Hone all fifteen of your blades, attempting to find some way of dealing with this thing. A wave of energy overcomes you, and time seems to slow. Suddenly you have fifteen arms sprouting from your torso, each holding one of your blades. As you ascend, a slow wing-beat from the Exiled pushes a slow travelling gust of air past you, barely ruffling your clothing as you speed on past it, up and under the slowly moving Exiled. This time your blades manage to pierce the hard skin, drawing lines of lighter black across its belly. Before the effects can wear off, you circle up to one of the orange wings, shredding it like paper in a kindergarten. As you do so, the effects of the Hone wear off, reverting time to its natural flow, and your body to its four-limb status, as the Exiled lets of a roar of anguish, deep black-reed blood dropping from its wounds onto the landscape below, where it sizzles slightly. Slowly spiralling downwards, the monster turns onto its back, pointing it’s snout at you. A bead of light forms at the end, growing with every second. You attempt to Hone the fifteen blades again, thinking to phase past it in slow motion, dealing a couple more blows, but you can’t get your imagination to snap, instead having to drop several hundred feet in order to avoid getting caught in what would be a fatal blast. All of a sudden the monster begins to blur, its form condensing, becoming vaguely humanoid.

You stand on your butterflies, looking down at the Exiled as it back flips, hitting the ground feet-first in the centre of the crater where the complex once stood, gouging out another smaller crater in the bottom.

“kabloh.” A familiar voice floats up to you from the crater. “kabloh. come down here.”

“Shit. Cyanea?” You aren’t sure if it is wise to go down there. But she doesn’t answer, silent. “Cyane-?” You begin, but She is already dropping out of your hands, reverting to her human form on the way down. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” You roar down at her.

Cyanea hits the ground, stumbles slightly, and embraces Ooruaant.

You begin to descend not really believing what the hell is happening. It all seems like a dream. You have to slap yourself for that one, but it doesn’t seem like you are lucid dreaming any longer, instead back in your normal dreams, before any of this happened, where you had no control over anything that occurred.

“kabloh. is that any way to greet an old friend. come down and say hello.”

“I could say the same to you! You shout down, still not fully trusting this figure. “From what I can tell, since I died, you went Rogue, joined with B1, took over his lead when he died, and then became that monster, before attacking us. And now you want to speak civilly?”

“when you put it like that. yeah. it seems bad. but you aren’t all right kabloh.” Suddenly the landscape is filled with goats. Goats everywhere. You have never seen so many goats. What are up with the goats? Where are you? What were you doing? Weren’t you just holding a basket of katana? No, impossible, you have never held a katana before. But... It seemed so real... Wait, real? Aren’t you dreaming? This can’t be real, can it? It seemed so real. But, it wasn’t was it? Or did you really eat that potato? Huh?

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You wake up dizzy, confused. Something happened. Something weird. There is an empty feeling in your head. “Hello?

...

There is no reply. “Hello, anyone in there?” Still nothing.

You lie back down, trying to reclaim sleep. Nothing comes. You concentrate on your mind. Nothing happens.

Shit.

 

------------------------

 

You had a poor day at school, nothing seemed to go right, and everything quickly became confusing. Nothing made sense, and your lessons dragged on as you struggled to understand concepts you had no trouble with the day before. Everyone is strangely silent towards you, few people conversing with you, no matter how much you try and strike up a conversation. A couple of lines into it, they would seem to get distracted and forget you were there.

You walk home alone, walking in the door. Mack is in the lounge, she looks up as you come in, but looks right back down again, shrugging and continuing reading her magazine.

“Hi Mack?” Mack doesn’t reply. You walk over to her, picking up the magazine. Mack looks confused, looking at you, attempting to focus on you, before shrugging again, taking her magazine back, and completely ignoring you.

You go to text Jerry, trying to see if it’s simply a localised phenomenon, but you can’t find your phone. Last time you remember it, it was sitting on your bedside table. You guess you had forgotten it when you went to school, and walk into your room. And into a room that isn’t your own, and yet familiar. The walls are of a corroded copper green colour, and the room is bare, apart from the doorway you just walked through there are no portals, no windows, no doors. The floors are bare, a semi-transparent, dark stone, cold underfoot, the walls are bare, and the ceiling contains a single, naked bulb, which buzzes slightly, occasionally blinking off and on. The door behind you slams shut. When you turn around there is no door. You turn back, coming face-to-face with Ooruaant. He is looking very surprised; and behind him you can see Cyanea, trussed up like a pig.

“h-how did you get out of there.” Ooruaant spits. “you were supposed to keep living that dream forever. or until i came to get you.”

“Huh?” You try to shake off the effects of the dream, still feeling rather confused. “I thought I had woken up..?”

“shit.” Ooruaant raises an arm, a new wave of nausea falling over you. “enjoy my dream.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Horror. Absolute horror. Running away.

Tentacles writhe across the ground wherever you look, it’s like a perverted game of hopscotch simply to get anywhere without tripping over some, but you had long ago given up hope of not standing on them, instead just running from tentacle to tentacle, doing everything you can do simply to run away from the horrible visage behind you. You don’t look back, but still the imprint of it lays across your memory, since the instant you caught sight of it. A horrible black mass of tentacles, radiating out from the central horror, a giant head, turned inside-out. The top being a mass of brain, above musculature and bone. Two eye sockets had looked backwards at you for an instant, but that instant alone was enough to scar you.

You simply focus on running, trying to get away as fast as possible, not looking back, barely looking any further forward than the next tentacle. Just running.

Running.

Running from the horror.

You have no idea what it would do to you. You have little desire to find out.

Up ahead is a doorway into a building. Unlike every other doorway, this one doesn’t have a mass of tentacles writhing in it, in fact it has none. Not thinking, not reacting, just doing, you put on a burst of speed, jumping head-long through the portal.

 

And out of Ooruaant’s chest.

“WHAT THE FUCK!?” Ooruaant yells, surprised for the first time since you have known him. “how did you get out of my dream.” He quickly re-gathers his composure.

“Your dream?”

“you don’t know where i’m sending you. kabloh. i’m sending you into exiled dreams.” Ooruaant explains, pulling you from his chest.

“So the entire time I hosted you, I had that Lovecraftian horror on my brain?”

“that is of no concern now.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You drop through the trapdoor.

And into the room again. Ooruaant watches you as you pick yourself up off the ground.

“how. how do you keep getting out as soon as i put you in.”

“I guess I’m just good?”

“shut up. shut up. shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up.”

“Am I getting to you Ooruaant?” You tease.

“shut up. don’t ever call me that name again. shut up.”
“Ooruaant. Ooruaant. Ooooooooooorrrrruuuuuuaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnttttt.” You perform your best imitation of Jerry, while slowly manoeuvring yourself between Ooruaant and Cyanea.

“fine. fine. we’ll see how you handle this dream.” Ooruaant runs up to you, giving you a shove. You fall backwards onto Cyanea.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You fall over backwards onto the ground, exhausted. The starry sky above you absolutely beautiful. Like some cosmic cake decorator had sprinkled icing sugar onto a cake of the most perfect black. You just want to eat it. Man you are hungry.

“Hey! Look at that!” Your best friend, lying beside you points up to the heavens. “A shooting star!” You continue to gaze.

“Oh, another one.” You point up, as it winks out again.

“There’s one over there.”

“And one back this way!”

“Three down there!”

“One, two, six up there!”

“Dozens of shooting stars!”

“Yeah, hey, was there supposed to be a meteor shower tonight?”

“Not that I heard of.”

“It’s beautiful though, isn’t it?”

“Hey... What’s that?” One of the shooting stars is growing larger, brighter. It seems to be coming towards you. You look through your telescope.

“That would be a problem...” You answer. Through the scope you can just make out a meteor streaming straight for you.

Suddenly there is a rumble, the very heavens themselves shaking. Several more shooting stars appear overhead, as if shaken loose by the quake. You are too busy to notice though, running hard to get away from the falling meteor.

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