The Within

The Within“Time travel?” Swan asked as Eddy looked through a nanoscope.

“Well, it’s not technically time travel.  Time travel is something they use in fiction that doesn’t have a lot of real potential.  That whole, kill your grandfather thing and the rest; it’s just kind of silly, isn’t it?” Eddy took a breath as he gazed through the microscope lens and manipulated the very delicate innards of the chip he was working on with the robotic nanoarms.

Swan casually looked around the room examining the items in Eddy’s shop.  She picked up some kind of metal device that had two flat teeth, perhaps for pulling iron like her father did after heating it.  She couldn’t know for sure.  All of this was entirely foreign to her eyes, but she was definitely enjoying it.  Her curiosity burned bright.  She glanced out the window, moving to try to see beyond the wall that filled the view one meter past the window.  “Where is this?”

“What?  Oh, we’re in… well you wouldn’t even know anyways would you?  We’ll have to work on that.  Tell you what, I promise you that I’ll not only teach you about history, geography, physics, and everything else, but I’ll show you it!”  He triumphantly began what appeared to be his final steps with the chip.  “Reality travel!” he repeated to himself in amazement.

He finished closing up the chip and proudly lifted up a small rubber square about one inch in size with seemingly nothing on it.  “Here it is.  Tell me Swan, do you like adventure?”

“I’d say that’s why I’m here,” Swan replied with a smile.

Eddy’s eyes were lit up with the glee of a young Peter Pan about to take flight and crow.  “What if I was to offer you the greatest adventure any human or computer has ever undertaken?  Here, sitting on this square, invisible to the human eye, is something which will make you capable of traveling to alternate realities, to places of which you’ve only dreamed or heard in stories.  We can use it to travel in time as well, with no worry of causality complications.  In fact,” Eddy began to pace the room as he verbally put together thoughts, “Your home and your parents will carry on just fine.  You have already returned home in that reality.  In this reality, we leave to travel the stars, the many worlds, and beyond.”

Eddy turned back to Swan with a disclaimer, making sure he was clearly stating it, “However, I should warn you that there is no going back from this.  Once you join with this chip, your life will be forever altered.  You will be unable to die, at least from old age.  Your consciousness will live in a computer matrix like mine, but with all your same current thoughts, feelings, memories, and even bodily sensations.  And you’ll be able to change all of those however you want, whenever you wish, because all of your body will be holographically projected.  It means you’ll be nearly invincible.  What do you say?”

“Of course!” Swan was already grinning widely and excited to take the plunge.

*                         *                         *

In the early 21st century, most of society on Earth was still under the notion that humans were superior to computers.  The notion that our bodies were immutable was also commonplace, despite the vast presence of prosthetics (for use for accidental amputations or birth “defects” only).  Robots were barely more than a pastime, though the use of unmanned flying vehicles was all the rage.  Sentient programs were no more than a glimmer in the eyes of science fiction writers, many of whom at the time still wrote stories of conquest by evil computers, as if they were to be feared.

What most people in those days feared was the loss of Self.  It is of course one of the driving fears in humanity that makes humanity what it is, even millennia later.  Centuries after Eddy’s holographic interface nanochips (HIchips) had become a desirable lifestyle choice for most humans, people were still reluctant to approach ideas that might change the models of their chips.  Even with the promise of widespread sweeping improvements, change was as it always had been: slow and reluctant.  People favor “the way we’ve always done it.”

Swan’s HIchip was radically different than even those that came centuries after Eddy’s time.  It contained a program that allowed her, and anyone who interacted with her properly, to shift between alternate realities in the multiverse.  This new program was a reality shifting drive.

All the security systems, as would become the norm throughout all HIchip usage in following centuries, were based on Consciousness-based Security Entanglement (CSE).  This means that only Swan’s idiosyncratic ancient shamanic consciousness was capable of full interaction with her HIchip.  Swan could always open up access to the reality shifting drive for others, but only if they matched a preset brain activity resonance of her choice.

Swan called this “going within,” but Eddy called it “altered states of consciousness as a secure access pre-requisite.”  Furthermore, when a person achieved this altered state of consciousness in resonance with Swan’s brain activity, they would be transported into an extra-dimensional space Eddy specifically designed to operate “adjacent to, but not outside” the multiverse.  Swan called this special place, “the Within.

From the Within, Swan and Eddy began their travels through realities and space-time.  Time became irrelevant, and even Eddy’s notions of what existed in historical fact had to take an equal placement with fiction.  With the enhancements of the Within (as Swan now called her HIchip), Swan and Eddy were able to travel through vast amounts of information gathering in a relatively brief period of conscious time (as they perceived it).  They saw the endless Gardens of Mars, sat in on Arcturan architecture lectures, played on the beaches of the Lone Islands, solar-sailed through the Shiftis Nebula, and even transcended the Gunnungagap between a dying universe and an adjacent newly born Big Bang.  However, one of the stories that truly changed the Within forever should be told now.

*                         *                         *

Swan was alone on the planet with Eddy gone on his own solo adventure.  The skies were a beautiful Terran blue with white puffy clouds, and it looked like many a small island on Earth.  It was an oval shaped island, perhaps a mile long and a half mile wide.  The majority of the island featured a prominent plateau about 30-40 meters above the sloping plains that led to the cliff edges eroded by the ocean waves.  In some areas there were beaches, but in most areas, the land gave way abruptly four meters down into the frothy sea.

The plains that circled the plateau and the island were, at that time of year, gilded with a kind of golden colored wheat.  The grasses stood waist high and gently waved in the wind as if they were impersonating an ocean of gold dust.  Along the southwestern edge of the island, there stood a small cabin with a large old tree living next to it.  The tree’s leaves were vivid green in contrast to the grain, but they matched perfectly the roofing on the cabin.

The cabin was a single room cabin with a faded blue paint job that now resembled dolphin gray.  Swan had been staying there the past few days.  As sunset transformed the sky into pinks, melons, and purples, Swan sauntered her way through the fields of grain toward the plateau.  Climbing the plateau along an eroded and heavily used trail path, she reached the top, and twilight gripped the endless sky.

The plateau was a staging area for a great celebration.  A festival was being held there for many days.  Swan was new there, but she had become accustomed to making friends quickly.  She had fascinating conversations with many people.  There were dancers of all kinds, bonfires, and fire performers.

Two meter tall torches marked the edges of the plateau as the night began to fall.  Swan danced to the sound of off-world DJs gracing that magical place with their sonic hierophanies.  Reveling in the ecstasy and joy of the moment, Swan wondered if there she might meet a person who, like her, was experiencing such perfect bliss, and perhaps that person would want to explore the cosmos with her and Eddy.

Despite the many beautiful faces and souls she mingled with that night, and the many nights before, Swan found herself without that ideal companion.  She sat on a piece of old tree contemplating the stars above her, a configuration unlike any she had seen before, yet just as foreign as the thousands she had seen in the last few years…?  days…?  Time had become irrelevant…

And with time, the stars had also become irrelevant.  Like her parents or her countless friends throughout the cosmos, she could visit any one of them anytime, and she knew them all.  Could it be that this limitless existence was leaving her empty inside?  When everything is known, what left is there to know?

But Swan did know everything.  Her gaze dropped from the stars to the undulating ocean ebbing and flowing below.  On that side of the island there were more green shrubs and various overgrowth.  It was not well kept there.  Jumping to explore, Swan climbed down the edge of the plateau.  It was shorter on the east side of the plateau, leading down to a steep hill covered with thick brush.  Swan holographically altered her outer clothing to her indigenous hunting clothes to prevent catches and rips from the brambles and branches sticking out.

She worked her way through the brush slowly but steadily, intuitively picking up on an invisible ‘scent’ of some kind.  It was not a smell, nor a visual cue, nor any other physical feeling, but somehow she could feel something pulling her through this thick greenery.  Her path wound down around a higher plateau wall, where the light of the party above could not reach, and she was covered in stark contrasting darkness versus the areas illuminated above by the torches.

Swan walked along the plateau wall, searching for something she couldn’t describe, but when she saw it, it was clear as day to her.  A series of alien runes had been carved into the plateau wall face in high relief (3 cm).  Dirt had amassed on top of the symbols.  Swan picked up a small stick and cleared off the tops of the symbols.  There were eight symbols in all, arranged in a ring formation.

Cave Symbols

There was something terribly familiar about these symbols.  To their left, there was a worn crack in the rock in a rough hewn circle about three meters high.  The crack in the rock looked as if it was artificially cut into the stone but that it had been untouched for decades, perhaps centuries.

“A door!” Swan quietly exclaimed to herself, suddenly recognizing some ancient latent memory.  She did not know what was on the other side of it, but she recognized it and the symbols.  She looked again at the symbols, holding her right hand up as if to feel out the sensation of where one might touch the symbols.  With her flat palm open and her eyes closed, she touched the appropriate sequence of symbols, followed by her flat hand against the center of the symbol circle, and the center began to glow and the rock shuttered.

The symbols in relief sunk into the cliff face, seemingly disappearing altogether.  Meanwhile, the door raised up 15 centimeters until it could clear the opening and it rolled away until the entire circular door was clear.  Inside it was pitch black, darker than an intergalactic expanse.  The smell was musty, as if a thousand years old.  Yet the smell was somehow vaguely familiar.

Swan could have illuminated the cave, but her intuition told her to move in cautiously without alarm.  As her eyes adjusted, somehow she could perceive the shapes in the cave.  The mostly circular cave was about six meters tall and ten meters in diameter.  It would have been completely empty except for the large resting animal shape about four meters long and two meters high on the far side of the room.  The animal moved slightly as chains gently scraped the floor.  This large creature was shackled.

In an instant, the beast gave a terrifying reptilian roar as it jumped toward Swan, straining its shackles.  It was a pitch black dragon, and its eyes glowed fiery red with the greatest evil.  Hate filled its soul, and the smell emanating from its screeches carried the stench of putrefying death.  What was this unimaginable horror?

Swan wasn’t a big believer of destiny.  She’d been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things.  None of them ever convinced her of destiny.  In fact, quite the opposite had occurred in most cases.  Existence flows.  It has no predilection towards or against predestination.

But driven by her spiritual intuition, as taught by her mother, Swan raised a single finger and put it out to the murderous dragon, just in reach of his head.  In a split second, the dragon lunged forth, breaking its bonds, but the first point of contact between Swan and the dragon was her right index finger, gently in contact with his forehead.

An instant suddenly became lifetimes.  Past and future memories flooded Swan’s and the dragon’s minds.  As they stood in the stasis of download, the dragon’s blackness began to shift color, from black to gray to white.  The fabric of reality began to crack open with his body as the event horizon.  A blinding light saturated the room.

The light diminished to a tolerable level, and before her, Swan saw a deep purple amethyst colored dragon laying there, weak but recovering.  His skin was producing the ambient light in the room, but the glow was diminishing.  As he gained strength, he slowly propped up his body so he could stand face to face with Swan.

“Fylgja.”  Swan was familiar with telepathy, but it still caught her off guard.  The dragon restated himself, “My name is Fylgja.  I am yours, and you are mine.”

Swan, in a rush of understanding and memory, put the pieces of the equation together, “Total karmic reversal…”  The flood of memory carried the information back to her.  She remembered now this great dragon who had absorbed all the terrible karma of thousands.  He had saved his race of dragons by ending thousands of years of bitter conflict.  He was a Buddha on that planet, but he paid the price.  With all the negative karma he had absorbed, he became dangerous, hateful, even evil.

Despite Fylgja’s efforts to contain the evil, he could not.  He was in danger of harming a great number of souls.  He pleaded with leaders of his kind to imprison him for all time to prevent catastrophe.  They would not, and he went on a brief murderous rampage.  He was able to stop it and fled to the planet and the cave.  The leaders imprisoned him there to be left for all eternity, or unbeknownst to them, until the time when one whose karma was in direct opposition to his could initiate the inexplicable act of total karmic reversal.

The reversal was legendary.  Most reasonable people believed it to be impossible, but there stood Fylgja, a reborn dragon.  And there stood Swan, whose consciousness was reeling from the massive transformative experience they had just shared.  She looked Within, and so did Fylgja.

A flurry of memories on tall mountain peaks on a far off planet flew through Swan’s mind: the memories she and Fylgja previously shared in a previous life many eons ago.  Oh, how dearly she loved him, and how dearly he loved her.  They were mated consciousnesses that had been torn asunder by the karmic load he had taken on.  Now they were re-united, and his consciousness entered the Within.

The Within was a large room in a squashed spheroid shape.  The ceiling arched over with ambient light emanating from its surface, leading to two stories of reality arches circling the room.  These arches led to whatever possible realities Swan wished to enter.

Swan awoke on the floor as usual and arose.  “One of these days I’m going to remember to put in a soft landing spot in here…” she mumbled to herself as she got up and looked around.  Fylgja could not be found, but there was a strange pool in the center of the room that had never been there before.  Swan walked up to the pool and gazed into it.  Shimmering with a chrome-like iridescence, the metallic liquid in the pool flashed with purple amethyst colors.

“Fylgja?” Swan queried with a confused look on her face.

“Yes,” he replied as a disembodied voice echoing through the hall, “I am here now.  I will guide you safely through the skies just as I always had before.”

“How did you–?”

“We are one, and we can both drive the Within, but I have melded with the Within to guide you on your path.”

“Path?”

“You will see.  Just continue with the Flow.  And it is good to be with you again.”

Swan remembered the many times they would huddle close in the lookout station aerie.  The cold nights up in the mountains sometimes made the cave cold as well.  He would always have the heat she needed, and she was always there to comfort him and keep him company.  They were one again.  Fylgja was now a part of the Within, which was within Swan.

As experiences followed, Fylgja’s influence on the Within integrated.  His essence painted the main hall with purple draconic symbols and art.  He could speak to Swan in telepathy without any sound, and eventually Eddy, out on a different adventure, was filled in on the new developments.

The adventures rolled on, and every time when Swan returned to the Within, she lovingly caressed the walls of the hall.  And as she was fond of reminding people of little faith in her skills she would always tell them, “I have a dragon.”  No one would ever believe her, and that was exactly the way she wanted it.

Why?  Continue with the Flow.  Go to the Within.

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About Ora Uzel

Ora lives in her secret lair on an underwater plateau in central Lake Michigan.
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