Stratoplasmic Interference

The alien, yet vaguely familiar scene before Zeke began to flutter a little bit, like some faraway lightning flickering everywhere at once. It almost felt like his eyes were beginning to short out.

He looked down at his extremities and the cork vessel. The glittery goo that coated everything seemed to be also consuming all of the lines that serve to define one object from another. It was a slow progression at first and then sped up drastically. 

Zeke's perception of time speed distorted and warped until he wasn't sure if it was even progressing anymore. The omnisciently consuming glittery goo became all there was. Whatever Zeke now was, it was clear he still was aware of consciousness. But, how long would it last? He wasn't even sure if this is how it'd always been, and those memories of his life were simply some fanciful dream born of cosmic mind. How long would this state last? Or, is this actually the only state there's ever been or will ever be?

The old man in the hover-round uttered words that sounded profane, but were not of this world. He was cursing the tangled light circuits inside an exposed recess of the airstream's skin. "Damn it! Why isn't this working? He should have returned by now. There must be some stratoplasmic interference somewhere. Oh wait! What's this doing in there?" The old man had forgotten he'd jammed his stogie into the board earlier when pretended to be asleep. He dug into the sloppy photon circuits with titanium surgical chopsticks to fish out  the still burning, red-stained stogie. "What a dope! Come back to papa little guy."

As the old man yanked the strange red stogie butt from the circuit apparatus and jammed it back into his mostly broken teeth, the entire forest began to flicker the same as it had for Zeke. It was a slow pulse at first, and then strobed in rapid succession until everything momentarily morphed into the sizzling goo, and then snapped back to full materialization. Only now, Zeke was standing bewildered before the old man.

Zeke was shocked by the now unfamiliar sensation of gravity and struggled to maintain his balance. He looked around the camp site, and focussed on the airstream's metal door. His memory was starting to come back, but he still felt a little unbalanced and woozy. 

The old man took the now lit wet stogie from his teeth and thrust it toward Zeke. 

"Hey buddy... You alright? Hellooo... You with me pal? Snap out it... Here, smoke some of this."

disembodied thought

Back in the forest, the old man whirred his hover-round to face the camper. His head was cocked back as if he'd lost consciousness and his eyes slowly opened to dense Spanish moss hanging above. The camper was pulsing with light like one of those little night-lights that gradually dissolve into different colors and the soft light illuminated the forest, especially the jangly moss canopy.

The old man grinned as he lowered his gaze and carefully hovered his way back toward the pulsing camper. Once closer, you could tell the outer skin was completely covered in the same sizzling metallic goo that engulfed Zeke.

Once he'd reached the same spot he occupied when Zeke encountered him, the old man tilted his head back again and read the strange text that was projecting from some unknown source into the underside of his rainbow umbrella.

The characters looked like some kind of cross between Mayan hieroglyphs, Hopi pictographs, and Egyptian symbols. The old man appeared to recognize some patterns in the electronic crackling that emanated from underneath the umbrella. 

He reached into his silk robe for a pair of old, cracked spectacles that had little pods at the ends that go over your ears. He inserted each side into his ears and the sounds translated to thoughts the man could receive not as sound, but more like shared, disembodied thought. And, the alien symbols projected on the umbrella morphed into readable text.

"How many are there inside?" The old man responded in thought, "Just one this time. A male. I didn't get a good look at him before I seized, but I think he was mid-aged." "How long has he been activated inside the vessel?" "I suffered a malfunction and lost connection for a time, but I would guess no more than a count of 20 of their secondary time units." "Splendid. Let him cook for another 10, then bring him back." "Standard debrief? Or, will it be denial this time?" "Evaluate his condition upon reentry. If he appears stable enough, let's see how he tolerates denial." 

Zeke's free fall over the infinite milky ledge leveled back out into a floating forward motion through what felt like a thick atmosphere that was breathable. Not quite the same as air, but not as dense as water. It took him a little more work to draw in a breath, but it didn't cause him any distress or panic. 

Below the cork boat he could see structures raised from the surface, but none had any obvious entry points. No windows, gates or doors. And they looked like they were solid enough, but still sort of soft looking. The structures were all interconnected to each other via large diameter, shining cables made of the sizzling metallic goo material. The entire landscape looked like a giant plasma circuit board of sorts.  

The cork vessel glided a bit lower toward the surface and Zeke could make out shapes of beings, but none of their features were defined much. He could just tell something was there and all of them knew of his presence. His mind became confused for a few moments. It was as if it contained several more than his own thoughts and he couldn't focus on just one stream, nor process the multitude. 

Confusion and a little fear gave way to a feeling of familiarity. He'd been here before.

infinite translucence

The button felt soft and mushy to the touch, sort of like a marshmallow. Zeke mashed into the glowing blue enigma as far as he could. Nothing happened. He withdrew his finger from the soft machine and then mashed it again. Still nothing. 

He held it mashed for a few seconds and noticed the sound started to dissolve into more of a watery soundscape and the intense light started to fade down. Zeke became apprehensive and withdrew his finger which now appeared to be coated with some viscous metallic goo that sparkled with a hidden electric charge. It tingled a little and seemed to increase his energy levels. 

Zeke wondered about the old man and twisted around to see if the entrance to the camper had reappeared. Still engulfed in the same infinite translucence in all directions. He took a deep breath and mashed the button once again and held it steady until the light and sound started to fade again.

This time he noticed his hand and arm were also dissolving into the darkness, but the sound became more defined as definitely aquatic.

Within seconds all was dark and Zeke felt completely disembodied and gently floating. All fear had also dissolved away with everything else. It did feel like he was being pulled in some direction but he couldn't tell where.

Zeke hadn't realized that his eyes were now closed. He hadn't noticed it because up until this point, he didn't feel like there were any eyes to be opened, or a body for that matter. Slowly, he opened his eyes to a brilliant deep blue that filled his vision completely. 

His eyes began to adjust to the new light and the most beautiful puffy white clouds wafted delicately into view. The clouds had a bit of a pink patina and were so surreal that they only barely looked real at all.

The sensation of gravity gradually and having a physical body returned. Zeke sat up and discovered he was in a small simple boat carved from cork, and floating in a river of some strange white liquid he couldn't immediately identify. The most lush exotic jungle pressed up against the banks of the white river, only all the plants were of a vivid flamingo pink color. He realized the pink patina in the clouds was actually reflecting from the jungle foliage.

Zeke held up his hands and arms that were now completely covered in that same metallic goo that still sizzled with a tingling electric charge. Not only his hands and arms, but his entire body was completely coated.

The cork boat continued to gently float along slowly in the white river and there was a sweetness in the air. It was as if the light itself was creating the sensation of sweet nectar. 

The rushing aquatic sounds started to change and mix with a delightful tinkling of chimes. Zeke noticed ahead that the edge he floated toward, looked like the edge of an infinity pool with a vast white ocean beyond. 

As the boat finally reached the infinite horizon, it slowed to the point of being perched still on the cusp of the infinite horizon. The most baffling part was that he sensed no fear at all. Until, he felt the boat slip. He gulped hard and clung tight to the cork boat sides into a full free fall . 

The sensation of descent changed to no particular direction at all. It still felt like movement, though it didn't necessarily feel like it was specifically downward.

residue of twilight

It wasn't a particularly interesting day, to say the least. Grey and nondescript. The kind of day that you feel like wasting, but you know it's never a good idea to waste any day you're granted, so you just sit and wait for a spark or at least a glimpse of a lost muse.

Zeke's coffee tanks were already topped off, but still there was no motivation to do anything at all, other than to stare at all the other lost souls also trying to distract themselves long enough to make it through the day.

Perhaps he could tolerate just one more dose of liquid anxiety? Decision made, he could. Only, the barista made an error and poured two more cups. Maybe that second cup would be the tipping point that would send him over the edge? Not likely, but there's no sense in wasting good jitter juice.

That last cup was starting to burn a bit. Still no revelation, no idea, and not even a twinkling of a muse. He was trying too hard. Maybe some aimless, meandering would reveal some curious nugget if he'd surrender into the invisible currents.

Off he pedaled through the strip center parking lot, looking for something of interest while trying to get hit by one of the driving zombies shooting off one last meaningless text. 

Nothing, just the steady drone of business as usual. It almost seemed like everyone moved in a slow motion choreography to some bland muzak noise. Even the back alleyways were lifeless. No sirens, no screaming, no laughter. 

On the way back toward the mothership, Zeke noticed a street he'd never seen before. How could this street have remained hidden for all these years? It looked like a possible shortcut, but there were no structures, and the pavement gave way to a winding dirt track. 

The light changed a little. It had been mostly unchanging throughout the day. A steady delivery of lifeless grey, but now it started to have a faint purplish color even though it was still overcast. He forgot about the time change so maybe it was the first residue of twilight. 

Some short cut. There's no way he shouldn't have already popped out of the woods into the dense residential area by now. Something felt wrong and he started to feel a little dizzy and started to walk his bike until equilibrium returned. 

Up ahead the trees were almost completely consumed by a combination of kudzu vine and Spanish moss. It was becoming more difficult to see, but Zeke noticed someone had hung twinkling white holiday lights in the highest boughs, and he could make out the metallic reflection from a beat up old airstream camper. 

Finally! Surely there'd be a driveway that would get him back into the residential area. An old man wearing a silk robe and ascot appeared to be sleeping in a hoverround chair with a rainbow umbrella fastened to it. The man's legs were exposed and were covered with sores. Perhaps phlebitis? The old man didn't even appear to be breathing, but a sizzling sound was coming from inside the camper. 

Zeke feared the old man was dead. Could be he just fell asleep with something cooking inside, but it didn't sound like that kind of sizzling. More of a strange, otherworldly sound that pulsed from the whole camper. 

If the old man was just asleep, best to try and gently try to wake him, before going for help. Just as he reached to tug at the old man's robe, he awoke with violent coughing. The old timer's eyes bulged wet as he tried to compose himself. 

"Sir... are you ok? Do you need any help?"

The old man said nothing as he fumbled through his pockets looking for something and started gasping for breath.

"Sir! Do you need something? Asthma? Nitro pills?"

The old man pointed toward the camper. 

"Hang in there, I'll see if can find something inside."

Just as Zeke stepped up into the camper, he heard the hoverround's electric motor start to whir and the old man was rolling away and into the dark forest at top speed. 

Inside the camper everything was pure white and sort of translucent. Even after his eyes adjusted, he couldn't make out much detail or where the walls were. Some bizarre optical illusion made it seem... infinite. 

He spun around to see if the old man had come back and found the entrance had closed. There was nothing but this whiteness and electric sizzling sound that became so loud he had to cover his ears.

Then it stopped immediately. Zeke heard a distant scream but wasn't sure if that was his own voice crying out. He felt disembodied, as if he were now floating in the light energy, but he could still make out the outlines of his hands. A soft pylon emerged from the whiteness with a small octagon-shaped button that glowed blue.

It felt like he was no longer in control as his hand reached out and pressed the button.