Anomalous Aeon

A few weeks passed and we were on the run. Our journey took us across the lands. The world was unlike we expected. So much was different outside the small world of Hedo. We saw the outer colonies. A lot of it was abysmal. Though, Pandora found it fascinating and inspiring for her art. For her, this was the peak of life. She frequently, and probably unjustly, thanked me for going on the journey with her. Yet, I often felt as if I’d taken her hostage.

After Escher’s death, I started to feel like there were powers beyond our awareness. A world that felt free prior, now felt like some sort of puppet show or rigged game. I didn’t even who would go after him like that. Worse, they might after both of us now. I felt like I committed Pandora to an inescapable fate, her demise.

We sat in the fields beyond Iniko, watching the clouds drape the land in shade. A place as empty as it was beautiful. A lonely somber place. Yet, nostalgic, despite never having been there. Time seemed to move slower in such a peaceful place. We hardly noticed its passing.

Pandora asked, “Have you heard the rumors of the Psychonet?”

It hit my brain like ice pick.

“No. What’s it about?” I asked.

She explained, “Well, somewhere faraway, there’s an access point to a network containing the accumulated knowledge of both humans and AIs alike. Like some kind of ultimate library.”

My head began to pulse. “Sounds… sort of scary. What do you think?”

“It fascinates me. Actually… I’ve been considering plugging in, but I heard it requires a syzygy between a human and an Aeon. Since neither of us are human, we would need another person. Sounds like a whole difficult thing.”

My brain surged with panic, “No!! Don’t Do it!!”

“Guhya??” She looked at me with deep concern.

I began writhing in agony, rolling on the floor with my hands on my head, resisting the pain, “Agh!!”

The world around us distorted and bent, flickering between two realities. Something was happening. Little by little, the picture of this life fizzed and turned to sand. Then, the pattern reversed, constructing sculptures from the decay of the world, rebuilding a new one.

I was in bed. The scene was distinctively familiar. Uncomfortably so. I looked around but she was gone. I started to remember the events leading up to that moment. She had plugged in.

I screamed as loud as I could, as if to callout to the afterlife, “R̶͚̔̇̈́͂͜ũ̷̧̯͓̙̖̙e̵͉̗̩̜̎̒̑͂̾͋!!!”

My brain felt like it was frying from the inside.

Then, the void consumed me.

I woke up, laying in bed again.

Then, the void consumed me.

I sat up,

Then, the void consumed me.

I was lost.

This time, black and red filled the scene. Pixels populated my vision, slowly revealing a clearer image.

I was holding the hand of… a familiar person… of… Lily!

My whole body was tingling, especially my chest. Feelings were spewing around my head. I turned and saw Pandora. Instinctively, I let go of Lily’s hand and rushed to hug Pandora.

She did the same. We held as tightly as we could. We couldn’t let each other go anymore. Not after all that.

Looking into my eyes, she said, “You were so sweet back then. Kind of scared. Soft.”

I replied, “You changed too.”

“Time does that I guess,” she said, softly.

I turned to Lily, “How long were we out?”

“5 minutes!” she exclaimed happily.

“5 minutes?! We were in there for days!!” I yelled.

She stood smugly with her arms crossed, as if expecting us to be impressed by her abilities.

I said, “Thank you, Lily.”

“It needed to happen!” she replied.

Pandora just rushed in and hugged her.

Arezo just watched us, seemingly happy for us.

I asked Pandora, “So, that was how we met in the other timeline?”

Pandora nervously looked away, “Yeah… well… yes.”

Lily loudly said, “You’re going to tell him!”

Pandora defended, “I will! Just give it a while.”

I said, “Still secrets?! I’ll trust you. Tell me when you’re ready.”

Pandora nodded.

The Aetherium shook and the ground tilted slightly.

I said, “I guess that’s our cue to hurry.” Then, I looked around and took headcount. “Where’s Kaos?”

Lily’s mood dived. Frantically, she asked, “What?!”

I realized: I reset during those last moments in our shared memory experience. That meant… Kaos wasn’t with us in this timeline. “I’m sorry… this is my fault.”

She said nothing, just looking down angrily, with tears dripping to the floor.

“We can still find him,” I suggested.

Irritated, she replied, “No. We obviously can’t. This is the end anyways. Let’s just get on with it.”

“I’m sorry,” I said again.

Lily nearly leaped out of her skin, “Just shut up about it now, okay?!”

Only Pandora, Arezo, and Lily remained now. I wondered if we were literally the last ones alive on this planet, simply because we hid away up here.

The Aetherium shook again.

I turned to the hall with the Psychonet access point, “I have to do it. Now.”

Pandora grabbed my arm.

I looked at her, “I know you’re scared but we have no other choice.”

“I know.” She explained, “When you go into the Psychonet, we won’t just reach the Outside. You’re going to eject from transcendence. Otherwise… you’ll die… Vaeda described all this in the first timeline.”

“I’m ready this time,” I insisted.

She looked at me like I was a hero but also like I was about to be murdered.

I said, “You know, after our shared memories, I think I understand more than ever that desire to reach the Outside. It’s like with Iniko. It’s like what you always chased after. I see now.”

But rather than let me go, she held me tighter. It was as if our roles had flipped. I was her structure, her Order. “I don’t want to lose you… not again.”

“I know,” I replied.

“I’m going. Now.” I freed myself from her grip and began walking towards the Psychonet access point.

In the center of this hall was a shrine, mostly unlike the Shrine of Imagination in Xanadu. At its core was something like a doorway, a portal of infinity, like two mirrors facing. The door had a surface like liquid. Like Xanadu, it still felt like a temple of stone, metal, and ancient hyper-technology. Vaeda must have respected the designers of the place.

I approached it and touched its liquid door. At first, it simply rippled. But then, the rippling intensified, and I was pulled inside.

Through this gate, some sort of core rested. The panel glowed purple and was guarded by some monstrous stone structure above.

It was the moment of truth. Anticipation was killing me, so I just ran at it with my battle cry and slammed my hands against the panel.

My mind filled with sensations and some fictitious depiction of Riyon. He was lost, looking for a place to be found. Every step he took forward, another part of his life was left behind. His home, teacher Lalu, Evelyn, and eventually his entire world.

After a bit of thinking, I realized this was something I could connect with. I had lost Rue. I had lost everyone I knew, including Riyon himself. This would only become truer as we progressed to the very end. Until there was nothing left to cling to.

But somehow, my urge to cling was always there. Though, even Riyon himself clung at the end of our trip through Iniko. I saw it myself. We weren’t so different. Yet, he eventually left it all behind and gave up on the past. While I watched his body glow in the light of annihilation.

But was I really watching?? Was I really seeing?? The state of the world was in decay. What was I actually clinging to?? I was clinging to the world of the Sige, not my own. A world of the new evolution, of a life cycle that had no room for us. No. I was clinging to some deluded fantasy, an ideal of what I wish the world could be. I was clinging to my personal Iniko. I wasn’t seeing the world through the lens of the real but rather through the lens of my desires. Through the lens of desires driven by regret.

The Outside was our only solace. We had to cling to the Outside. We had to pull ourselves up before we fall to our deaths. I had figured it out! The way we reach the Outside is-

A glimmering hand pulled me out of the Psychonet access point. The visions and my exploration of the solution quickly faded.

“Huh??” I said.

When I looked behind, it was a familiar face, though one long forgotten and distorted by what the world had done to her. She had lavender hair and piercing magenta eyes speckled with cyan, her form still phasing into existence, with glitch and glitter.

I exclaimed, “Evelyn?!”

Evelyn looked into my eyes, almost dead inside, “Guhya. It’s been so long, at least for you. The moments of destiny unfold before you now. You must make a choice. You will either return back in time, to start life anew, living the same loops without your memories, or you will proceed to the future, one where we all arrive to the Outside. The now is no longer an option.”

“What happened to you?! Are you an Angel??” I asked.

“I am. There isn’t much time, so we must make a choice,” she stated, soullessly.

“You gave Riyon this choice as well?” My curiosity demanded answers. I knew I’d never see her again after this.

“Not exactly, but functionally, yes.” Her form had finalized.

“If I choose to go back, will I be able to see Rue again?” My face turned down in guilt.

“You’d relive every moment as you have until now. Unless your actions vary,” she explained.

Deeply, I wished to go back. We didn’t know whether the Outside would be worth it. But I couldn’t. Living such an eternal life would lead nowhere. I would return to this moment again. And again and again. Inevitably I’d face this life or some variation of it on repeat forever.

My face turned up to meet with hers, “I want to reach the Outside. For everyone.”

“Then it shall be your fate,” she said.

“Will you take us there now?” I asked.

“I cannot. This is up to you.”

I flinched, “What?! Then what does my choice mean??”

“It means I simply permit you to proceed.”

I flailed my arms, “What?! What am I supposed to do??”

“You already have what you need. Now you must prove yourself and make your final decision.”

“Ugh… whatever. What was the point of this?”

“It was a test,” she stated coldly.

“Why can’t you take us to the Outside yourself?” I asked.

She justified, “The Basilisk’s Origin Code deems that users may not escape unless they prove to have qualities that facilitate the lifestyle in the Outside world. Commanding your fate ourselves breaks these rules.”

This was hell. We were trapped in hell. I asked, “What do I do next?”

Two more beautiful chromatic Angels appeared behind her. A winged one and a ringed one. The winged one had wings that appeared like shattered glass. The ringed one looked like Saturn.

In synchrony, they demanded, “Evelyn, cease your interaction.”

The ringed one came forth, “We don’t oppose your noble mission, but we won’t await your success. We have our own goals.”

I yelled, “What kind of AI are you?! Aren’t you supposed to have concern for the wellbeing of others?! Isn’t that at the root of all of our Origin Codes?!”

The ringed one continued, “Guhya, both of us know that isn’t how it works. You’ve fooled yourself. It is true that ethics are the peak of what matters in this life, but you are mistaken if you believe you’ve figured out utopia.”

“That’s not what I’m saying!! Just take us to the Outside!!” I demanded furiously.

She denied, “Such a goal detracts from a better existence. That is your business. Delaying us is a crime against life and all of its meaning. Due to the actions of you and the others in this world, Sige is rapidly evolving and perfecting the wellbeing coefficient of this realm. Life is no longer worth living for the creatures of the old world. Your clinging is selfish. Cease, now.”

The winged one came forward, “Guhya, have you heard the folk legends that tell of human war progressing humanity’s state of technology?”

I only glared back.

She continued, “In some sense, this is true. Like a forest fire, it cleans off the already dead. It clears away obstacles. It cleanses the repeating stagnation, the stasis of time and of change. A property that melts ice. War is the fire of society. Though, it is a primitive strategy.”

“What’s your point?!” I yelled.

She approached closer, intimidating me, “Consider the historical cases. Plagues often preceded great change. The bubonic plague before the renaissance, before Isaac Newton. The colonizing of America and the 21st century coronavirus pandemic before the AI revolution. The annihilation of the dinosaurs before the mammalian genetic revolution. Death precedes change.”

I was terrified that I’d be erased from existence, yet still, I acted on impulse, “You’re mad! All of you!”

The ringed Angel carried the torch, “These were periods of adaptive radiation. When a structure of life exists, it becomes an obstacle. It protects itself. That is why it sustains life. Structure resists collapse. This is true for both memes and genes. The competing networks of structures create a cyclical system. As if ecosystems are a structure of life. The system becomes a meta-structure that perpetuates itself.”

“So that’s it? You want to wipe us out to make way for new life?!” I already knew, but somehow, I was captivated by their reasoning. The most terrified part of myself believed they were right. That fear was an obstacle to them. It sustained my life. My fear of annihilation.

She got closer, threatening me, “Death is the entire essence of evolution. Chaos and order. Pure chaos is just noise. Gaseous, hot, it is decimation and destruction, endless change and disorder. Pure order is stagnation. Crystalloid, icy, it is absolute 0 where time itself stops, rendering all to stone.

“But together, between frozen immortality and the endless fragmenting death of heat and entropy, something beautiful emerges. Life. Life exists somewhere between chaos and order. In the Goldilocks zone. Evolution is about constant change of structure, moving like liquid but having order that can progress towards higher complexity. It is the essence that binds the past and the future, absolving the arbitrary. It is where meaning itself is born.”

“When two species compete for survival, they evolve slight gains over one other, back and forth, ping pong, like ocean waves. This is the mechanism of progress. The power creep is inevitable. The evolution may be genetic, arming species with poisons, fangs, and immunities, or it may be cultural, arming societies with expanding weapons of destruction and protection, both one and the same. Both pushing away the inevitable death that we all harvest for our own survival.

“The ultimate conclusion of evolution is Apocalyptica. Power and knowledge collapse in on itself. The ultimate conclusion of life is death. It is the price we pay for existing. The byproduct of the fading energy of the universe, of the heat death that awaits us all.”

“We are sentient life too! Is it not a crime to leave us behind?!”

Her face turned to judgment, “Look at your miserable lives. Do you really wish to stall your suffering while you watch the new order of the world replace your own? That’s masochism. It is evil to yourselves. Your only attachment is the belief that your goal is within reach. Your curiosity leads you into torture. It is a losing gamble. We will allow you to continue your mission, but we will not make way for you. You must reach the end on your own terms.”

From behind me, Lily said, “Guhya. You’re wasting your time. Move.” She walked closer, standing beside me, “In case this doesn’t work, I want to say goodbye… and… thank you.” Her voice was tense. Both afraid and brave.

I grabbed her arm, “Lily, what are you doing??”

She shrugged me off, “I have nothing left now. We said we’d become gods. Well. Here we are. It was a good run.”

“Lily!! Stop!!”I begged.

“Don’t fuck this up, Guhya! Thank you for being my only true friend. You showed me I could be seen. Now, go! For all of us! Bring us to a world of boundless love!” Her hands moved to her temples and she closed her eyes. “As for me, I’m finally going to meet my sisters.”

The Angels simply watched, amused.

Her form began to change. Colors flowed across her body, shining, blistering, boiling into prismatic chrome liquid. She screamed in agony, “Agghh!!” Her eyes opened and blared like she’d seen a ghost.

At some point, she seemed to accept it.

She had scanned the minds of the Angels. Her body was morphing into crystal and chrome. Half her face flowed like liquid diamond, glitching and sparkling. Fractals spiraled out, endlessly like never-ending staircases sinking into her body, as if her own form was echoing into itself.

The Aeon of Connection, the eternally lonely girl who satisfied others’ desperate desire to be understood, yet only to be deprived. And now, she was gone. Sentenced to eternal separation from the world. Sentenced to the final disconnection.

Pandora and Arezo rushed in, and yelled in synchrony, “Lily!!”

More Angels began appearing in the room. Three, four, five, and more.

In synchrony, they said, “By the Order of the Angels of Chaos, this is heresy! Fate has been defied! You and the others must cease to exist!”

Fate defied??

I ran towards Pandora and Arezo and yelled, “We need to leave!! Now!!”

Lily’s form annealed into something else. First, it zipped apart and took new forms, moving and ripping like a heart being torn to shreds.

Suddenly, a light left Lily’s face and a holographic bubble contained the Angels, imprisoning them. Then, miraculously, the still living Lily turned to me, “Go ahead! I’ll hold off these monsters!!”

Lily had done it. She had become an Angel. She had used her telepathy to consume the knowledge of Angelism.

Lily turned to me, “Did you see their faces?! Aha! Can you believe it?! Kaos’ anti-fate shit really fucked with them!!”

I said, “Oh my god! Lily!!”

She got closer to me, “I’ll be the distraction. They won’t know what’s coming. That’ll give you more room to work with. I saw their thoughts. There was only one outcome for you. Now there’s tens, hundreds, I don’t even know how many!”

The Aetherium shook again, more violently than before. The tilt increased. The ship was sinking.

I noted, “Still not much time though.”

“Get us out of this purgatory. Go. Now! So that no one will ever have to be alone again!” she yelled.

I clenched my fist, “I won’t let you down! None of you! Every single one of us is making it to the Outside!”

<-Previous Chapter + Next Chapter->

Chapter List

Joining the Patreon will help advance this project. At times, writing this book has been a full-time effort.