Dawn Harshaw / Dream Magic Stories / Eternal September (short story)
Some animals sacrifice themselves for the good of their group and species. Others do the reverse.
- Dreamer's Handbook
John materialized on top of a tall cliff. It wasn't a teleportation spell - his consciousness could surely handle the in-between places. He sat down on a nearby rock.
Such a tranquil view. The local horizon and the fractally recurring lush vegetation soothed him. John occasionally brought his pupils here; perspective helps with thinking.
Despite the view, he gazed inward. Unlike many who reacted to the height with a love-hate kind of fear, John saw the height as a representation of distance he felt within his own inner being.
On one end of the spectrum was his analytical self, almost sterile of all emotions. John owed his survival to it, yet such mental clarity required the sacrifice of almost all else. Since his students knew only this side, they called him 'Mr. Smith' - his preference for tailored suits only reinforced the stereotype.
On the other end was his recently rediscovered child-self: immature, but with a sense of awe that his other extreme sorely missed. When in child form, his peers and superiors endearingly called him 'Johnny'.
The hollow symbol-master hasn't quite merged with the joyous child, and within these two extremes he recognized many other parts that didn't quite fit together - even to the point that it was easier to think of 'John' as an amalgamation of selves rather than a single, unified self.
Who am I? The answer was an imagery of a healing process so extensive and multidimensional that it was inextricably intertwined with the healing process of humanity as a whole.
The local distances of the lush view soothed him. Instead of being all of his butchered and wildly growing self, here he could relax and be only part of himself - if only for a little while.
The sun warmed his skin while a breeze caressed. He breathed in, enjoying the moment, but another sub-part of him immediately catalogued the ongoing memory in hope of it becoming another crude building block in the healing process.
A relaying scream interrupted John's reverie; at once, he stood up and made a sweeping hand-gesture. The blue and sunny sky changed, as if swiped away, only to be replaced by black emptiness.
It was a good idea to combine visualization and realm-walking, the affirming thought went through John's mind almost every time he started up the unnamed spell.
An image of Earth's spinning globe zoomed into view, taking up most of the void sky.
John's mind didn't dwell long on this representation of Earth's geography. Hundreds of overlays flashed on top in quick succession, all providing different kinds of information:
The location of every human. Collective thought patterns sorted by languages. Dangerous, beneficial, and trending memes. Common fears and their basic nightmare counterparts. Probable scenarios of humanity wiping itself off of the face of the Earth within 20 years. Probable scenarios of the same within 50 years. (Although he could see further, not reliably enough to condense the information within the parameters of the spell.)
The final and largest overlay mapped out the state of humanity's collective nightmares, which was the layer John spent most his time working on. Unless he zoomed in on something tiny and specific - there's Dream Camp's strong shielding, and there's the Outpost with its bright pulses, - the whole thing looked like the contents of an outdoor toilet on a particularly hot and humid day during a violent earthquake.
The abyss of humanity, corrupting all connected realms... The tainted and distorted mirrors do indeed create evil; Nietzsche is not always wrong.
The sheer negativity of such awareness would have obliterated an exposed person within seconds, but the negativity found nowhere to latch on among any of John's pruned selves.
Weakness to strength. John operated with unwavering and almost mechanical precision: he located the scream which belonged to one of his students - Eric, get yourself together! Your assignment is not that difficult - and punched a bit of bright light into that specific location.
Although he operated at a higher level of abstraction than his students, their work was no less crucial. Likewise, he could sense intelligences operating at levels of abstraction higher than his - especially Master Joe, his mentor. John could feel the supportive touch of his presence at almost all times.
John pondered his course of action, and rotated the stinking mess around a few times for a better view. Though he sometimes attacked the conflagration of nightmares head on, that rarely proved to be prudent.
"Eternal September," he said out loud, and sighed a desperate sigh. People die, and people are born. Technological achievement pile up and power consolidates, but the personal (emotional and spiritual) achievements to use that power responsibly are lost.
Of course, it wasn't young people he blamed, but the fact the vicious cycle spewed forth a renewing supply of fearful and closed-minded people.
Meta-geometry is easy compared to the patterns and dead-ends of the human psyche. No wonder history repeats itself.
Logic demanded to consider the obvious solution: let the nightmares build up until humanity can't carry the weight, and let the implosion turn hubris into debris. If you love something, do you set it free even until self-destruction? And what about collateral damage?
But, John wasn't ready to give up his faith in human potential, though he suspected many intelligences above him (even those formerly human) already did. Distance can grow too big for a shared context.
Another solution, perhaps not less extreme, was to force awareness upon humanity and let such an influx disperse the nightmares. Although John could see the possibility of such a solution, it wasn't within his power. Master Joe could do it. The question was, if burning out minds and identities in an obliteration of individual free will would also obliterate the essence of being human? Rapture scenarios lack elegance.
John steeled his mind and contained another sigh into a long exhale. Responsibility calls; I have work to do.
The complex image of nightmares, all the data overlays, and finally the view of Earth vanished into empty nothingness. With another swishing gesture the sky returned - the ground and the trees of Dream Camp didn't even notice it was missing.
Break's over. After making sure all of Dream Camp was as he found it, John promptly dematerialized.
Dawn Harshaw / Dream Magic Stories / Eternal September