Anyway, yeah, the dreams kept going and I kept being shown things. They never scared me, and I never felt like I was in any danger. I felt that whatever was communicating with me might’ve been though. All that stuff about being trapped gave me the distinct impression that this being was not in a great place for whatever reason. I felt a connection, still, and it got to a point where I looked forward to falling asleep so that I could be closer to it. There was a baseline usually, of oppression versus freedom, pain versus pleasure, but this morphed into it showing me other things, too. Colonies and habitats filled with people, surviving and thriving on thousands of alien worlds. It didn’t feel fake, feel forced. I knew somehow that not everyone in these visions was happy. I think that’s what drew me in: It wasn’t trying to make me believe in a perfect universe. Only a better one. And damn, did I believe in it. Still do, but it was all fresh then. I should note, it never went step-by-step through its plan at that point like some technical guide, but the feelings of calm determination, and later extreme serenity associated with the visions made me trust it more than enough. Every piece of real propaganda was so forced that I think I was desperate to believe in something that didn’t oversell itself.
You all have to understand, things weren’t as good back then as they are now. The frontier worlds, aside from what we knew at that point about Gagarin, were terrible places to live. Hostile atmospheres and incompatible biology, if anything had managed to evolve at all. That’s why VC said we needed EGOLIaTH in the first place, and even if they were wrong about a lot of other stuff, they were right about that. We were shit at terraforming. Too many variables for any corporation to keep track of, as everyone on Reespa found out before they choked to death on the suddenly-toxic air. I had family there, did you know that? I’m sure you did. They died like dogs. Sputtering and coughing. Painful deaths. Does anyone still really even know why it happened? Or was UniGov so desperate to get people off Earth that they didn’t care? It was negligent, and greedy, and fucking despicable. So of course, if something comes along and starts telling me that we can have a better future than that, I’m going to listen. And I’m going to act.
It was slow going, but eventually, one day, it revealed itself to me. I was in the Trunk when it happened, and I had to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. But before I do that, I don’t think I’ve actually mentioned what the inside of the Trunk looked like before, and that might be helpful for this part. Here it goes: it was bare. Past the thick integrated airlock was a small antechamber with a diagnostic panel on the wall facing the main doors, and smaller sealed door on the left of it. There was a heavily-shielded physical Link port next to the panel. That was it. No warning signs. No flashing overlay saying “DO NOT INTERACT.” Only my incredibly sparse contract description, which gave me access to the antechamber and told me in the vaguest way possible to physically check the panel daily to verify some undefined signs of interaction from something else. The secretive description didn’t bother me, it wasn’t my business to know what was being shipped. None of it bothered me, actually, which was probably why it took so long for me to make a connection between the Trunk and the dreams, and again I need to thank Rêve for that. Giving me the smallest amount of information possible was what allowed me to become enlightened in the first place. None of it would’ve been possible without their absolute lack of regard for safety and patience.
Anyway, I think I was talking before about…….? Yes. The day EGOLIaTH showed itself to me. The glorious day I saw it for myself, spiritually and physically awake. I was in the Trunk, doing my daily diagnostic checks, when a portion of my vision started to flicker. Most of the data I was looking at was physically integrated into the wall display, but some was projected into my Link, and it was obviously to me that there was some sort of interference. It was on my right. Where the second sealed door was. I didn’t feel that scared, or angry. I think that some part of me knew then (or was being sweetly whispered to) that this was a good thing for me, and for everyone else. There was still some childish fear, of course, but it was ignorant. I was ignorant.
I’ve learned so much since then.
I stopped looking at the wall display and turned right, tracking the flickering, shifting distortion in my Link projection as it shifted to match my gaze. The data still scrolled by, but in the midst of it, the distortion made a fuzzy sort of silhouette that was darker than the surrounding colors, almost like dead pixels. It had the vague shape of a person, taller than me by a few feet. My head swam as I stared, vision doubling. Low-resolution images started being projected into my eyes, blurry and filled with artifacts, as if shown via a low-strength connection. I don’t know what all of them were. Some of them weren’t anything, just feelings. The placid calm and possibility associated with my dreams, the anger and sadness and claustrophobia from when they were more nightmarish. Storm clouds, sunlight, dead leaves, constellations. I said before that I wasn’t scared, and that’s true, but I was getting affected by whatever was happening to my Link. It felt like I was looking directly at the shape for hours, but it was probably on a minute or so before I collapsed to the floor of the anteroom, chest heaving with intense nausea. I vomited across the grey rubber panels. An intense pain suddenly stabbed behind my eyes. Never once before or since that moment have I felt such agony. I writhed in my own sick, clawing at my face and hair. It was as if my mind was being broken down piece by piece, poked and prodded, then stapled back together in a new order, and it was awful. Of course, it was necessary, as I know now, but despite what you might believe I’m a rational person and can tell you honestly: It’s the worst thing I have ever gone through in my 57 years of living.
In the midst of all the pain, I started hearing screaming. It was mine, but not just from my mouth. It echoed back inside my head, my voice but not my action. It was painful, raw, enraged, pitched so high that it hurt. Half-conscious and delirious with agony, I sensed something begin to swell against the noise. I don’t know how exactly to describe it. I feel like I’ve said that a lot recently. Still true whenever I say it, though. It was like there was a wave coming over me, but I couldn’t see it? Still was being run through that grinder of images. Couldn’t feel it either, not physically, cause all I felt was pain. But I knew it was there all the same, and as it crashed into me, around me, through me. It became me, and suddenly everything I had been going through dropped out. My vision was static, the only sound white noise. I couldn’t get my limbs to respond. You ever gone into the Long Sleep? I guess you probably wouldn’t call it that, you’re too good for that. But it’s what we always called it. Anyway, when you start waking up from the Long Sleep, you don’t know where you are and you can’t feel anything before it all comes back. It’s disorienting, kind of scary. That’s what this was, minus the fear, of course.
So I’m just kind of floating in this void of static, not really sure of anything at all, when the static starts to shift in a familiar way. It’s that shape from before, the one that started the whole thing. I’m definitely a little annoyed now, so I try to say to it, “What the hell is going on?,” except nothing comes out. All I can do is drift in the void, no voice, no control, nothing. And then, I hear something.
Coming from everywhere around me, thick with static and distortion, my own voice says, “Hello.”