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clockwork10 [2012/11/17 01:37] (current)
doan created
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 +Now that he was safe, relatively speaking, Cass decided to test his Saturn to make sure it hadn’t been damaged during the retreat or by whatever had happened to the building. There was no obvious breakage. He looked over all the cables and connectors to check for frayed wires or loose contacts or anything else that would make it dangerous to plug in, and was relieved to find none. The game CD he had left running was a little scratched but it probably was like that before – just because he cared about his games didn’t mean he was any good at looking after them, and Saturn game CDs were as annoyingly fragile as newborn babies. When he assembled the console and turned it on, the game loaded with no issues. He played it for a while anyway, just to test that the scratch wasn’t on a part of the CD that affected later play, and also because his nerves were frayed to all hell. Fatigue was setting in, now that the adrenaline was wearing off and his mind was once again faced with the dilemma of whether the past few hours had actually involved any real sleep or not. He couldn’t let himself fall back to sleep. He was worried about the bad things living in the dreamlands he had learned about, things that had caught sight of him, some of which had been stalking him, some of which might not have lost his trail yet. He was also worried that Claris and Elliot would drive away or even destroy the Egg Clocks that he had been told to follow and research, and then be unable to tell him enough about them to compensate for it. He still couldn’t believe he had met Claris Sinclair. The other weird things that had been happening made it seem less believable. Meeting a celebrity in the street and finding out she lived in your neighbourhood was an everyday exciting event that could happen in someone’s life. It didn’t belong in the same world as the one where you met talking cats, incarnate nightmares and demonic alarm clocks who demolished your house. Sleeping and waking, mundane and fantastical, dream and nightmare, it was all blurring into one. He could well believe what Hauptmann had said about this not being the true waking world.
 +
 +“What’re you playing?” asked a soft voice. Cass almost jumped. He had been so absorbed in his favourite game and an intense bout of worrying that he had completely forgotten that the smaller boy was in the room. He threw himself on a chair and rested his arms on the back of it, and his chin on his arms, watching the screen intently.
 +
 +“Dragon Force,” replied Cass, and began explaining what was happening on the screen. He was relieved that his favourite game had been in the Saturn when he was forced to move it in a hurry but he was suddenly struck with an almost nauseating sense of guilt and worry about the games he had left behind. Were they still in their box under the bed? The bed was intact and he hadn’t seen any boxes visibly sliding out.
 +
 +Will laughed at a particularly stupid pre-battle taunt from Ayrios, then commented, “You don’t get games like this any more. I wish I had the money to collect retro systems. ”
 +
 +“I don’t really collect them, I just still have all the ones I had as a kid,” said Cass, “And I order them online when I really want to play them, or I can find them cheap. You just have to look around.”
 +
 +“I’ve got some of the good SNES and Mega Drive games on Virtual Console, but I don’t imagine it’s the same experience.”
 +
 +“No,” Cass sighed, “I… imagine it isn’t,” a deep, dark mist was clouding his senses, a heavy weight pressing upon his soul, and he found himself clutching his controller in a death grip, his in-game strategy abandoned in favour of a battle charge that was probably a good approximation of what Gongos would actually command his forces to do if he was drunk, “Do me a favour. Please don’t ever talk to me about Mega Drive games being on the Wii again.”
 +
 +Will gave him an odd sideways glance, then shrugged and diplomatically changed the subject, “So… are you a dreamer like us, too?”
 +
 +“I don’t think so,” said Cass, “I mean, I can’t do anything special, in my dreams or out of them, like you can. It’s my first time even learning there’s a world like that inside my dreams.”
 +
 +“You can probably learn. You’ve got potential, if you’ve been to Nightopia already.”
 +
 +“I had a guide,” said Cass.
 +
 +“Cool! I did, too, my first time. It was an owl,” he said, beaming, “Anyway, your yellow and white Ideya are pretty strong, and it’s mostly the Ideya that counts.”
 +
 +“I have strong Ideya?” Cass blinked, “I was just told that my red Ideya sucked.”
 +
 +“Claris says that critics who only tell you the bad stuff are just as bad as critics who only tell you the good stuff,” said Will, “Besides, your Ideya can still grow. Mine are going to grow a lot, ‘cause I’ve still got growing up to do.”
 +
 +Cass laughed, “Lots of people tell me I need to grow up. I say ‘at least I’ve still kept my innocence’. It’s funny, if I really have a strong white Ideya.”
 +
 +“I’m not sure if innocence is the same as childishness. Helen would probably say it isn’t. Anyway, I don’t think green Ideya stops you being innocent. It would be silly to have two Ideya that cancel each other out!”
 +
 +“You’ve got a point,” he said, “I don’t think you’re right about the Yellow Ideya though. I don’t have much hope. There isn’t anything to be hopeful about, when you already know total defeat.”
 +
 +“That’s only the things that have already happened,” said Will, “You have to be hopeful about things that are going to happen, that you’ll overcome them, that they’ll turn out okay, so it doesn’t make any sense to have hope about what’s already happened, is there? Its not like you can change them, or even see them again.”
 +
 +“You’re far too wise for someone who keeps saying they’re a kid.”
 +
 +“Green and Red are my strong ones. I told you, it probably isn’t anything to do with being a kid or not.”
 +
 +A swarm of further questions buzzed in Cass’ head, all trying to escape at once, like angry captive bees, but it gave him a headache to try and pick out individual thoughts and examine any of them closely enough to decide how to phrase them. There was still so much he didn’t know about this new world. He didn’t even know the things he needed to know right now to complete the task in hand. He didn’t think he could take in the answer properly, he felt so exhausted. His vision swam so much that he could see a double image of the screen, and kept thinking that his forty samurai were fighting two hundred dragons. He also realised that only a tired and stupid player would let himself get that outnumbered. He paused the game, yawned and stretched.
 +
 +“You okay?” asked Will, “There’s pizza and tea in the kitchen. Out that door, there, then three doors to the left.”
 +
 +Pizza and tea didn’t sound like typical food for a secret society of Zen Buddhist lucid dreamers but he had no idea whether their technique was diminished by caffeine and sugar or not, and right now it sounded the perfect thing for an exhausted, grouchy and incompetent gamer. He found the door after several failed attempts, then located the kettle and microwave and sat on a chair at the kitchen table, waiting for the pizza to narrowly avoid burning and the tea to become as strong as medically possible. He had also found a chopping board and a carving knife large enough to cut the pizza with, although he wished he could find a proper pizza cutter. With his accuracy, he would probably end up getting the pizza everywhere and maybe even killing himself with the knife. He wondered if he should ask Will to do it. He felt a little silly asking someone who barely looked old enough to buy sharp objects to cut a pizza for him.
 +
 +Don’t give a weapon to your enemy, fool. No, on second thoughts, deliver it to him blade first through his heart.
 +
 +Cass blinked and shook his head. Where had that thought come from? Was it a quote from Dragon Force? He mentally berated himself – it was rude to pretend you wanted to kill people you knew, and you could especially get in trouble for saying it on Facebook because employers would read it and think you were really a psychopath, and then the Government would read it and you would be deported.
 +
 +He is not your friend. He said so himself. Remember the conversation about the Wii?
 +
 +No, he told himself, he was probably born way after the end of the war, and besides, he was just a kid.
 +
 +So were you, and yet you blame yourself. Here is an enemy. Enemies are for killing. Stab him through the heart with the knife. Avenge your fallen comrades.
 +
 +Even if he was an enemy, he’s made no hostile moves, he’s welcomed me into his house, fed me his own food…
 +
 +Like he would any prisoner of war. Because you are acting as though you have surrendered already. He has sent you away. He could be plotting anything. He is in the room alone with your Saturn.
 +
 +But he really liked it! Maybe he’ll be converted by the experience. Maybe he’ll see a better way…
 +
 +He is as incompatible with any other way as you are, and you know it. He will always be your enemy. Now, KILL HIM!
 +
 +The voice was like the clarion call of an Angel of Death, and Cass could not look into those crimson eyes, or at the terrible visage of the figure in the battered topaz-blue armour, a revenant risen from the grave though he looked as though thousands of battles had claimed him before, and twisted phantoms of cerulean light like a thousand blue screens of death leaked from the hole in his armour where his entire left arm had been sheared, without obeying his call to war. He gripped the handle of the kitchen knife.
 +
 +He moved silently and single-mindedly as a machine. His vision was growing blurry, the corridor narrowing to a tunnel, at the other end of which he knew was his hated enemy. He advanced down the corridor and thought of revenge, and hatred, and the natural order of things, his steady heartbeat thumping in his chest. He imagined how it would feel to finally end the life of the enemy, to witness their final movement in this world as their blood drained away and life ended, to turn the tide in at least one small part of the world.
 +
 +And as he advanced down the corridor, an act that seemed to take an eternity, he heard the glorious, jubilant music, saw the radiant golden light bursting from the ceiling…
 +
 +Saw the child with the controller, laughing…
 +
 +He threw the knife and it skittered across the room before landing in a corner.
 +
 +What are you doing?
 +
 +He turned and faced the armoured figure whose expression was a mask of outrage made more twisted by the crack down one side of its helmet. Then he raised his hand and cupped it around the yellow light, as if he was trying to pluck the sun out of the sky.
 +
 +“Fear not, brother, this is but a bad dream, and you shall soon awaken,” whispered Cass. He knew it probably wasn’t the exact quote that Goldark had said to his brother in Dragon Force, as he lay dying in his arms, a life cut short in a pointless battle engineered by a force that sought both their destruction, but it was the sentiment that counted.
 +
 +It is your own world that you condemn to death.
 +
 +“No, we’ll be immortalised,” he said, smiling, “Because… because what’s left of our world won’t leave people’s memories, it’ll be passed down from generation to generation. That’s why we have to pass it down now, while there are still people who remember how beautiful our world was. And one day, when the conditions are right, our worlds will grow again, like a princess waking up after a thousand years of enchanted sleep. Because ideas, memories, dreams… they last longer than people do, or even nations. Maybe even worlds. In fact, people and worlds need their dreams to remember what they are.”
 +
 +You are naïve. Ideas have died before. Evil people have killed them. They’ve killed everyone who believed in them, and destroyed all evidence that they existed, and poisoned the minds of the next generation so they’re too afraid or ignorant to believe in them.
 +
 +“Yeah, and they’ve always come back in the end. After thousands and thousands of years, but someone’s always found out again, and they’ve passed it on, and the idea has come back,” he said, “In fact, the only thing that really kills dreams… is Nightmaren. I’m really, really sleep-deprived, aren’t I?”
 +
 +Well, yes, but the best ideas always come to you while you’re…
 +
 +“And you’re really wounded,” he said, “Because I remember you, and you didn’t look like that the last time I saw you. Your armour was red. Did I mention I hate turncoats and liars and other people who try and get me to do the wrong thing by messing with my head?”
 +
 +I joined you! I swear! I did it because I tried to help you! I just want what’s best for all of…
 +
 +The Nightmaren stopped talking when it found a carving knife, wreathed in gold and silver flames, as though it were some holy knife that had been pulled from some celestial forge while it was still being tempered, embedded in his left eye socket.
 +
 +“The last person who was acting ‘in my best interests’ decided that my dream, my inspiration in life, was a harmful addiction, for no reason other than they didn’t share the dream and didn’t understand it. What they did to me is the reason I don’t sleep at night any more,” he said, “So that isn’t the best thing to say to me. Not that it matters, because you’re lying to me. You would say exactly the same thing to me whichever side I’ve been on, no matter which side was winning. It wouldn’t matter, as long as I destroyed my own dream and someone else’s at the same time. But I’m not going to. So you’re the only person who’s lost this battle.”
 +
 +The Nightmaren’s other eye flared with a last desperate flicker of light. He opened his mouth to say something else, then his eye closed for good and his form sagged, lifeless. Cass calmly retrieved the knife and placed it on the table, next to the plate. The energy surrounding it morphed back into two spheres, yellow and white, that hovered over his upturned palm, orbiting each other like twin stars. He watched them thoughtfully, then concentrated hard on the white sphere. He felt a slight tug of resistance, like that of a wary animal, but after it saw that his intentions were of harmless creativity, it allowed him to shift its shape so that it was a long, thin cylinder, then bend it into an ‘S’ shape that wrapped around the yellow sphere. He was pleased to find that the shape stuck, even when he turned his head to look for other objects to manipulate. He loved being lucid. He had just managed to turn his clothes into a grey cloak over a blue-grey tunic and trousers, the Saturn logo emblazoned like a Knight’s heraldic emblem over the back of the cloak, when he was shaken awake by a small hand.
 +
 +“Hey, are you okay? Were you asleep? I woke you up because you said you were trying not to go to sleep. Was that right?”
 +
 +Cass blinked a few times and stared at him, “Yeah, I’m okay. I shouldn’t fall asleep when I’m cooking,” he said, “It’s my fault. I should have known I was too tired to force myself to stay awake. I might have an accident with a kitchen knife or something.”
 +Will gave him a worried look, then diplomatically placed the knife back into the rack, “The pizza’s a bit cold. The tea’s still warm but it’s probably a bit too strong to drink now.”
 +
 +“There’s no such thing as too strong tea,” Cass told him, “Especially when you’ve got important stuff to do.”
 +
 +“Why, what are you planning on doing?”
 +
 +“I’ve got to go and find my box.”
 +
 +“What, right now? It’s still dangerous out there!”
 +
 +“Which means my box is in danger,” said Cass, “And besides, I have another job I have to do, and I’m worried I’ll run out of time before I get it done.”
 +
 +“Do you need any help? I’m not supposed to leave this place unguarded, but I’m not supposed to let someone just run off on their own into danger either!”
 +
 +“Have you got any cameras or recording equipment?”
 +
 +“My DS has a camera,” said Will, “I think it does recording as well. It’s pretty good at it, considering it’s not really supposed to be a camera.”
 +
 +Cass sighed, “I suppose it’ll do.”
 +
 +“Do you need anything else?”
 +
 +“I need you to explain something for me,” said Cass, “Would a Nightmaren be able to get in here?”
 +
 +“Well, they’re not supposed to be able to, but they do,” he said, “Nightmaren are like that. But we can drive them out if they do get in. The Ideya are stronger in here. It’s to do with how this place maps into Nightopia, or maybe just because there are lots of strong dreamers around here all the time. We kind of affect each other a lot. Why, do you need to go back to sleep?”
 +
 +He shook his head, “I don’t feel all that tired any more. I was just wondering. Although a quick game of Dragon Force might do us both some good. What am I saying?” he smiled, “There’s no such thing as a quick game of Dragon Force.”
 
clockwork10.txt · Last modified: 2012/11/17 01:37 by doan
 
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