Dawn Harshaw / Dream Magic: Awakenings / Chapter 19 - Teleportation
Too few observers, and your reality isn't objective enough. Too many observers, and the identities merge together, collapsing the wavefunction beyond repair. Get it just right, and your reality might maintain some coherence.
[Teleporter's addendum: There's no need to operate at such high level to extract usefulness from this concept. Sidestep, and stretch yourself briefly - teleportation is your easy-going, everyday friend. Note, 'subspace' and 'hyperspace' are ugly words.]
- Stability, Dreamer's Handbook
Eric rammed into the door.
Thankfully, his thick forehead absorbed most of the impact, and before his nose would flatten painfully against the grainy surface of the door - leaving a mark of snot and blood - the rolling-lock mechanism gave way to the pressure and Eric tumbled through the open doorframe.
"Next!" Annie yelled.
Eric stood up, dusted off and closed the door behind him. While he walked back to the end of the line, other students repeated the process.
"Teleportation is about pushing and pulling distance, fixed points and frames of reference. Some of you might remember, I talked about self-distances in telepathy class. The theory is the same, we just use it differently."
Typical Annie; making us do things before explaining what it actually is we're supposed to do. Eric chuckled. She probably forgot.
"The blink is the easiest of teleportations and requires only minor displacement within. It has a short range, and what you lack in understanding or finesse, you can make up for in willpower. It often occurs naturally, as a subconscious response to a higher stress situation. This training takes advantage of that fact. It's like riding a bicycle; once you learn it will come naturally."
The doorframe stood erect in the middle of a field of green grass, placed there by Annie solely for the purposes of this exercise - there was no wall or anything. Bashing through the door wasn't particularly painful, but it was uncomfortable and awkward. At least her classes are not boring, I'll give her that.
Winter went away as fast as it came, and spring blossomed again. Eric suspected it would be less perpetual than before. He had gotten used to the new realm teeming with life - it felt as natural as shifting one dream into another - but every now and then Eric would spot a minor detail, which would send him contemplating and admiring the beauty and complexity of it all; be it a bug, the dance of a rustling leaf, or a smile that expressed a new feeling.
When it was his turn again, Eric sprinted into the door - with the same result.
"The world around you is the framework of your existence. You awareness is pointlike within it, at the location you currently are. Your awareness will be pointlike at your desired location as well. All you have to do is raise your awareness, affix the framework, and condense your awareness just a tiny bit farther away."
"Like this." Annie extended her hand, and for a moment, she appeared to be holding hands with herself as she blinked just two steps away. "The degree to which you are able to temporarily enlarge your awareness, yet still hold yourself together, determines the blinkable distance."
I can do it. I just have to concentrate. Eric knew mentally that his human shape was present in a dream only because his habit willed it there. Surely, willing it to be on the other side of the door shouldn't be too difficult. Yet, it was clear to Eric that knowing something in one's head and actually making use of that knowledge are two different things.
After repeatedly bashing his head into the door, Eric noticed that, just for a fraction of a second, his mind behaved differently from the moment before impact until the moment just after. Derailed, shocked, or just a in a state of greater receptiveness - but certainly different. After a few more repetitions, it felt like that one moment was composed of three: some of his thoughts went ahead, anticipating the consequences of impact, some braced for it, ready to process the signals, and some lagged behind, clinging to a previous location and state of mind, about to imprint the future with the past.
Progress was slow, but Eric's introspective disentangling of thoughts got more refined. In his mind, he leaned on the farthermost thought and its feel of space - like when shifting balance from one leg to the other - and let the lagging thoughts snap towards it, skipping the in-between.
Eric tumbled on the grass. He got to his feet, dusted off, and turned to close the door behind him. Much to his amazement, the door remained closed. "What- how..."
"You did it; well done. Move on to the second exercise," Annie said. "Next!"
Eric slowly walked in the direction Annie signaled. Trying to convince himself that he indeed succeeded blinking through the door was time-consuming. He wasn't sure how he did it, but he had to accept that he did.
The site of the next exercise contained nothing more than a huge, long slab of rock. Its sides were almost rectangular, and only one side was polished flat. From afar it looked like the rock was placed at the end of a short, red-graveled running track, but upon closer inspection, the gravel was in fact red-bladed, trimmed grass.
Rose was already there with a couple of students. One after the other, they sprinted into the flat face of the rock.
"Hey," Eric said.
"Hey," Rose replied.
While the previous exercise was uncomfortable, this one seemed outright painful. Eric didn't let that faze him. Falling and splattering on the ground, or sprinting and splattering on a rock wall - makes no difference.
He heard Annie's voice from close by.
"With the standard teleport, the situation is reversed. The distance here is large, often far outside of view, but still within the same realm. The only requirement is that you have a very clear view of that location in your mind's eye."
"Since the world is quite different between the two locations, this time the fixed point has to be your own awareness while the framework changes around it. So, you let the world move while you stand still. This is a partial folding of space-time, in which all your relevant relations are transferred to the goal location."
"Large blinks or teleports within viewing distance we call jumps. Which method you'll use in this exercise is up to you."
Eric forced himself to relax. He stretched a few muscles, took a deep breath, and ran head-first into the wall.
It was pretty much what he expected: painful. But, he didn't lose consciousness, and the damage wasn't so severe that he would have to rematerialize. Eric collected himself. His nose felt strange and crooked. He grabbed, twisted it, and after a hurtful crackling of bones, the nose was back as it's supposed to be. What blood dripped off, he willed away.
Not too keen to mindlessly repeat the experience, he sought to apply his earlier insights while waiting for his turn to come around.
The next few times he subconsciously sabotaged his own efforts - he either ran too slow, trying to avoid the pain, or too fast, trying to prove himself needlessly and missing the moment.
When he did manage to collect his focus and disentangle himself as before, the wall felt less firm and more rubbery, bouncing him back rather than halting him outright.
He kept trying to make that moment longer and cover a greater distance, but the slab was just too long.
Others were not faring better either, but that was no comfort to Eric. Teleportation is such a versatile skill - I have to learn it!
The next time around, he made a mental misstep: his lagging self entered the rock too, but his anticipating self wasn't anywhere near the end and he couldn't snap back to safety. Panic engulfed his mind as he realized he became stuck in the rock. His fear had weight and it was crushing him. Instinctively, he tried to inhale but couldn't, and he exhaled instead.
Last breath, he thought, before panic overcame him and reduced what remained to pure instinct.
...there was an action of breathing in, and Eric regained some control. His mind told him it was impossible to breathe rock, but he was doing exactly that, in whatever half-state he existed. It felt like breathing water except more arduous; the action imparted pain through his fear and into his awareness.
He clawed through the rock with his breathing and emerged on one side of the rock.
Eric had his human form, and couldn't believe existence could be so light again. He panted for long minutes, sitting on the ground and leaning on the rock. It took time to think and feel coherently again.
Eventually, he stood up and walked to the end of the line, which was by now a few students longer. Knowing what to expect, his fear subsided. While waiting he devised motions and strategies to breathe rock as well as distance.
Breathing rock for the second time wasn't easier, but he persevered. Each of the Eric-fragments transmigrated through the big slab, pushed by Eric's powerful breath.
Having rematerialized at the end, Eric fell to one knee. After a few seconds, he stood up and went to back to the line.
The third time Eric didn't sprint. He walked to the face of the wall and gently ran his hand over the surface. Yuck. A thin layer of blood and snot got stuck, and he wiped it off on his pants.
Eric inhaled. He envisioned parts of him swimming through the rock and reaching the end. He exhaled in a loud, inarticulate yell and pulled distance to zero. It was a simple realization - he was already everywhere; it was only his awareness of it that determined his location. I can go to nothingness and back, no problem.
Eric took several more large breaths to wind down after the jump. The twisting no longer felt strange and he felt in-sync with himself. The slab of rock rested solidly behind him.
Eric straightened himself and looked around. Where's the next exercise?
* * *
"Gather around everyone. I want to show you something," Annie said.
"Another exercise?" A girl asked.
"More like a short excursion... I'll show you a technique I learned not too long ago. We're going to do it together, okay? Hold hands with each other and form a circle. Once we start, don't let go!"
Eric grabbed hands with Rose and Lucy, and by the time the circle got completed, they all looked like they were about to break into a traditional folk dance. Annie's eyes wandered as she made sure everyone was following her instructions, and her expression turned serious when she began concentrating.
Nothing happened at first, but a sensation slowly enveloped Eric. It was subtle, similar to the feeling of gazing aimlessly into the distance. Or when I concentrate too hard and things begin to flow and mesh together - a feeling of moving without moving. Yet, this time a sense of direction emanated from Annie, or rather, the direction of many possibilities rolled into a single one.
It occurred to Eric that Annie deliberately searched for this feeling, and it wasn't just a side-effect of whatever she was doing, because when she found that feeling and successfully impressed it upon the members of the circle, things began to move faster.
Eric got lifted into the air. He glanced at his classmates, but a shimmering impaired his vision. His mind slowly acclimatized, and Eric realized that he could somehow sense the directions his classmates were looking in.
Eric squeezed his partners' hands, and got light squeezes in response.
Once again, as this feeling or sense grew and matured, he felt it all being herded together by Annie and directed into a single line of travel.
"Don't talk, just listen. The points you affix can change dynamically within the jump-timeframe, sort of bouncing back and forth. A temporally extended jump is called realm-walking. Its conscious use is extremely hard to master, but subconsciously it is the commonest way of navigating through a not-too-lucid dreamscene. That's why dreams are considered to be 'dreamy' and 'shifting'. Blinking and 'porting are minor extremes of this process, and so are time and space in general."
He got thrust forward in a way he hadn't imagined possible before. Like breaking the wall between two different dreams, but this was continuous movement both in- and outside.
"Such movement can feel like breathing, and we often regard breathing as a sense on its own - a sense of existence, if you will. There are more arcane forms of teleportation as well, but those are high level multidimensional operations rather than straight up teleport spells, and they can be very hard for humans to instinctualize."
Eric soared. Landscapes of deserts, mountains, islands, forests, and many others flashed before his eyes. His mind found points of reference to hang onto, only to be forced into releasing them a moment later. But, with time, the speed of his perception increased and he could hold on longer.
Eric found the mountain landscape most impressive: silent and majestic. The swampy region evoked an urge to slap down mosquitoes, but thankfully, there were none. The islands and their long beaches promised rejuvenation. The burning sun of the desert warned of challenge and danger. The jungle... Something's wrong.
The landscapes were beautiful in the way paintings are beautiful. Something's missing. Other than his fellow realm-walkers, he didn't see any humans. Except in the desert, plant life was lush and the animals... There are no animals!
Eric spotted a few small birds and when he concentrated - which wasn't easy, considering all the mind-boggling movement - he could sense several species of bugs, but those were the same as in the green fields and light forests of Dream Camp. Shouldn't a jungle be full of animal life?
"Hold on," Annie said.
The ground turned bleak and transparent. Plants grew scarce, and the ground itself lost its earthy texture. Lines formed squares on the translucent floor, literal place-holders, as if saying: 'geography goes here'.
Eric's entire hand-holding group came into focus as they descended. They landed near a patch of assorted greenery, and surprisingly, a human being.
Maeve? She was rummaging through a box and throwing small green items over her shoulder, which bounced off the translucent tiles a few times before coming to rest.
Eric chuckled. They look like tiny frogs. What a silly thought.
Upon coming closer, Eric was surprised to see that they were indeed small tree frogs - unmoving but otherwise unharmed.
"You're not supposed to be here," Maeve said without turning around.
"Hello! I got permission from Master Joe to visit the shelved realms, and I was just introducing my students to realm-walking. What'ya doing?"
Maeve sighed and slowly straightened herself. "Realizing I can't handle it alone. With everything going on at the Outpost, and managing all this plant life, I can't possibly handle the animal biosphere... This latest cycle was taxing. I'll have to bring in a specialist." Maeve sighed once more. "Yeah, that's what I'll do."
"What's with all these frogs?"
"Surplus. They breed like rabbits and I had to put them in stasis. Which reminds me, I had some rabbits too... hmm..." Maeve continued rummaging through a big sack.
"Anything we can do to help?" Annie asked.
"Unless you have an expert in both zoology and realm-weaving in your group, I don't think so," Maeve said.
"All right. We'll leave you to it then." Annie turned around to leave and motioned her class to follow.
"Wait! There is something you can help me with..." With tired steps, Maeve walked behind a cluster of lonely trees, and guided back a white horse with a long, straight horn on its forehead. Beautiful.
After a moment of awe and exaltation, the kids ran to Annie, clamoring for permission to pet the unicorn. Annie looked questioningly to Maeve, who nodded.
"Slowly!" Annie yelled after the kids crowding the animal, who endured the ordeal with dignity.
When Eric looked into the eyes of the unicorn, he could see a wise kind of innocence. To Eric, the animal's radiant aura felt like the color white, fresh bed sheets, and the seeds of a dandelion floating gently in the wind.
"Is it a real unicorn?" A boy asked, stunned.
"As real as they get," Maeve answered.
"Remember when I told you that some feelings are so strong they can become places? Well, they can become animals too," Annie said.
"Kyle and Lyle will get green with envy when we tell them," Lucy mused.
"That's what they get for not coming to classes," Eric said. "Besides, they would find another, throw a lasso around it and ride it like the little cowboys they are."
Rose and Lucy smirked.
"Would you please take it home? I found it not too far from here, must've wandered off," Maeve asked Annie.
"Of course, it would be our privilege," Annie said.
Maeve nodded. "One less thing to worry about. Travel from where we are now straight to the Playground. After you reach the Playground, keep going in the same direction until it gets too bright. The unicorn will find its way from there; just don't let any of your kids go farther beyond. Can you handle it?"
"Yes," Annie said.
Annie gently patted the unicorn along with the others, and let her hand rest. "Come on everyone, let's take it home! Put one hand on top of mine... we'll take a shortcut."
Dawn Harshaw / Dream Magic: Awakenings / Chapter 19 - Teleportation