RP [Closed] Colab Expo Thing (unrelated to anything go about your business)

muto mentem

“It’s important that you understand this. We all need to know where we’re going, and how important it is to be ready when we get there.”

Sabina blinked. The face of the overseer vanished. The medical equipment all around her was gone. The cramped backstreet clinic fell away in a shower of sparks. All the careful pretences and abstractions she’d employed to protect herself as a netrunner were stripped away, leaving her exposed to an endless flood of empty information.

It took a moment to cut it down into something manageable. The current rushing by her was water, obviously–a canal. The information itself–traffic, right?–was a parade; the floats (haha) were stacked up to the sky with bits of tatty bullshit–statues and balloons and towers made of superheroes and supermodels and toys and dragons and videogames and porn stars and forever and forever and forever. And all along the canal’s edge, there were thousands upon thousands of skyscrapers, and from each skyscraper’s windows, she could see thousands upon thousands of little hands reaching out on arms that were far too long, breaking pieces off the float-boats, clutching their prizes tightly, reeling in, disappearing back into the brightly-lit darkness. And over all that, the noise–a thousand trumpets, a thousand voices, a thousand screaming kettles, a thousand clicks and alarms and bells and whistles, all at once, all yammering and complaining and playing and singing, all coming together into one tremendous chorus.

And under it–God–she hadn’t realised just how fast they’d been going. The canal was more like a waterfall than a waterway, when you really looked at it--a vertical descent, almost; it'd have to be, at this speed. Or was it the buildings that were sprinting by, churning up the water with their odd stilt legs, while the floats remained motionless amidst the spray?

And, something else–she wasn’t on a float; she was a float. Or, no, that wasn’t right, either. She was lying in the canal, staring up at the sky, and at the same time, she was staring at the world all around her through the eyes of dozens or hundreds of tiny Sabinas, crawling all over her. Some of them were holding onto the fabric of her hospital gown for dear life; others were tumbling into the water, leaving nothing behind but a bit of panic--no splash, no scream. She couldn’t move, for fear that she’d send them all overboard, and oh, god, oh, saints, I’m not ready for this, how could anybody be ready for this, and now that she’d thought of herself and all the little scraps of her she was wearing like dead skin, the other floats were transforming, too, into all the things they really were–bodies, monsters, heroes, gods–and they were all falling, too, into the water–or, no, into the sea–and the canal-ocean-road-waterfall was turning red all around her as, she couldn’t help it, she flailed, and she could feel parts of her dying–ideas, dreams, hopes, desires, fears, lost in the water all around her, becoming the water, joining the flood–

Cold, and dark, and nothing.

Or - everything, really, but when you were sinking in everything it all became noise. Bubbles - floats - hands - eyes - rushing in the dark water of the canal, little trickles, monstrous roars. It didn't feel like being swept away, really. There wasn't any sensation at all. That was leaking out into the water, too, becoming a part of the everything, becoming a part of the nothing. No -

But it certainly felt like drowning. Choking. Coughing. Struggling. Ceasing. Floating in the vast expanse, mind too small to hold it. Too small to hold itself.

Then - a pang. A sharp hook of heat. A bullet through the skull. In the vast nothing, the drowning static, that minute, overpowering pang was enough to give an anchor. Something to latch onto. Something to feel.

The canal lurched. Maybe one of the floats had hit her on the head, or maybe a fish had swam into her ear. Or maybe she was dead, and this is just what dying felt like. It was all possible. Anything was possible, with this much pain. It grew and grew, blossoming into a spectral headache that filled the dark with flashes of blinding light.

She was in a motel room. Not quite a cube - but not as big as a conapt. An old television flickered across the way, recording of a parade going down a canal. The announcers might have been saying something - it was muted, though, so whatever it was, it didn't matter. She was cold. The room was cold. But - the silence here was normal. It was truly quiet.
It was truly quiet. She'd just woken up from a nightmare. Or maybe she'd been taken here to convalesce. She'd been put under for a surgery, hadn't she? Only something felt wrong about this. Like she was missing something important.

She'd been lying in bed. Drooling. Ew. She brought her sleeve up to clean her mouth, and was greeted with a brand new flavour of hospital gown. And on the back of her wrist, where there should have been--

... What, exactly? And why? Had there been--did she have arm piercings? Ridiculous--it didn't sound like her at all. The overseers were so strict about unauthorized--and her parents had always been--

Wow, her vision was blurry. She couldn't even make out the broadcast's timestamp. When was the last time she'd had this much trouble seeing? She'd needed glasses, ages ago, but something had happened, and then--

There was a knock on the door. A very polite knock, given she'd just fallen out of bed, taking a lamp to the ground with her. Then the door opened.
Nobody stood on the other side.

That was odd, wasn't it? Normally when there was a knock on the door, there was someone on the other side. Especially when the door opened immediately after. But instead, the open door only showed an open hallway, flickering fluorescent lights leaking into the room with a droning hum. And hum. And hum.

No - the hum wasn't from the lights. It was from the open mouth of the woman in the corner of Sabina's eye. Something about her face was wrong. A bit too long, a bit too featureless, but if she tried to turn to get a better look, she'd find the face shift to stay hidden in the periphery.

The door closed.

"Where are you?" the woman murmured. Or - ? Her lips hadn't moved. The voice wasn't coming from her, but from the television.
The television, which no longer displayed a parade. The television, which now displayed Sabina's own face. And Sabina's own face felt odd, now--too smooth, too long. Her hair wasn't moving right--like a cloth cap, more than a collection of strands. And had it always been so dark?

Except that wasn't her face. It belonged to the lady on the television--the lady now standing (she'd fallen over a moment ago) in a hospital gown, in a cramped, dirty motel room. That lady was very definitely not Sabina. But then...

"Where am I?"Sabina murmured. Or - ? Her lips hadn't moved. The voice wasn't coming from her. It wasn't coming from the television, either. It wasn't coming from anywhere. And anyway, it was lost in the endless rushing of the wind around her as she fell, down, down--or maybe up; maybe she was flying, through the endless black. But either way, the television screen was rushing away from her--escaping. Like it was afraid.