“This is our shared dream. We can do it.”
I grab their hand, the same fire burning in my longtime friend’s eyes.
Together we leap over the cliff, hanging suspended in the air for a moment before the cushion of air beneath us kicks in.
Reality splits apart around us as we dive into the ultra compressed memories of the world. Trillions of tiny moving particles all around us form, stretching out into forever all around, coming across as an overwhelming sea of moving grey static until looked directly at.
As we’re lifted by the formless air, I grab their other hand and look firmly into their eyes.
“You’re here with me. Don’t ever forget, you’re you.”
They nod, the same determination sparking in their red iris and black pupil. The moment our eyes meet I see something more, as our memories come out of us, dissolving into static in the foam around us.
Within us and around our skin at the same time, drowning us in too much information to possibly comprehend at once.
But I fix my eyes on their memories, searching, holding onto the spark of determination inside of me even as it flickers under the wave of information everywhere.
I can’t see the sky above us anymore, only more tiny, rapidly shifting blocks of static everywhere, each speck of which would reveal fractured memories of strangers if looked at closely.
My breath catches, my lungs closing up, and I look at my friend’s eyes, reassured by the determination in them as they keep looking around us.
They look up at me questioningly, and I clench my hands tighter around theirs and smile reassuringly.
I can’t be the one to lose focus and taint their determination.
I keep looking, filtering through their memories of childhood, their memories of being raised in a normal household, fighting with their siblings, long hours at school, weekends at home, holidays and birthdays, cake and music, math and english, names and apoligies, a fearful afternoon spent curled in the corner- there, what is that?
I instantly zoom in on the memory, the image of them staring at their hands, blackened claws flickering in from a crack in their memory before it mended.
A thousand new paths open up from this one, all around me, and I take in all the information I can.
“It was you, wasn’t it? You’ve been with me all this time, just to betray me.”
The voice is different, but unmistakably them. The expression of the strange, alien winged demon in front of them is unreadable.
“Grow big and strong,” the voice that’s so much like my friend’s says, as their hand extends in front of them, watering giant seeds in an cavernous underground garden lit by fire dancing freely along the walls.
“I think we’ll last forever,” that voice says, looking out over a massive underground city lit by pools and lakes of blue glowing water so bright it echoes off the ceiling high above.
“I know we will. We’ll make it so,” somebody else says as the memory shifts aside, to be replaced with a vague, unsettling memory of a feeling, red and black, internal muscles freezing and choking as if held in a steel grip, problems unable to be healed by internal magic, despite desperately throwing that magic around, searching for anything to grab onto to fix the problem.
And then I lose sight of the memories as they’re swept away by a wave of other memories, too many and too fragmented to grab hold of.
“I can’t find them!” I shout, realizing with huge relief that I’m still holding my friend’s hands.
“It’s time to go!” they say back, pulling me in a direction.
I have no idea if we’re going up, our movement pushing aside waves of static that clings to my head, too many and too small to make anything of, too much information at once, making a mockery of reason and thought.
We break through into fresh air a minute later, after I’d given up hope of seeing it again, blindly pushing on.
We swim around, my friend searching around until they find the stairs, surfing over waves of foam that are somewhat more tolerable with the fresh air around our heads and the sensible, ordered sky above.
We emerge onto the stairs, climbing until our knees ache, never saying a word until we’re on the cliff and further.
I never want to go back there if we can help it.
“I didn’t find them either,” my friend admits, looking disturbed as they stare at the ground, “there was something I forgot, but, it wasn’t…” they look like they’re going to throw up or cry, I’m not sure which.
“I saw it,” I reassure them, grabbing their shoulder.
We don’t have to go back, I hope desperately.
They look up, startled,
“But I thought you said…?”
I’d laugh if I still had it in me after that experience.
“I meant I couldn’t find them after they were swept away by a wave of that… static,” I say, shuddering, wishing I could forget the sensation of too many fractured memories engulfing my skin from all angles.
“What did you see?” they ask intently, their eyes widening.
I sit down, still holding one of their hands as I try to recall everything I saw and tell them in as much detail as I can.
“I see,” they say, their face lined in some invisible pain, “this still doesn’t tell us where I came from, or how I came to be reborn, or tricked into believing I belonged, in that family. It doesn’t tell us where the old city was, or why I was betrayed… but… I think I can… guess.”
They don’t meet my eyes, their face pale, seeing something that isn’t there.
I’m caught between wanting to ask them what they mean and telling them they don’t have to tell me now.
They continue anyway.
“I found a memory that branched out into many others. They’re memories of my childhood, but they’re not the ones we saw at first. Only, I think they’re the true memories. I made many of those surface memories up. To forget the person I was.”
They look up at me finally, distantly, as if seeing a stranger.
“I’m not me. And our shared dream is a fantasy.”