leaving the world of status quo



laying in bed the room dark except for a few red and green blinks from electronic devices here and there in corners of the room.

Heavy. Always so heavy. Laying in bed the room dark except for a few red and green blinks from electronic devices here and there in corners of the room. All the blue lights had been covered with thick tape to prevent their piercing glow. The windows too had been covered, with cardboard, so there was no telling what time it was. Not from any information in the direct environment. Her body didn't want to move. Heavy. The air was cool and dry, but her body was was hot and moist from the heat her body worked up in her sleep. She slept without any covering except a light sheet, which she had kicked off in her sleep. she lifted her arm to her chest to wipe the sweat from her chest. It felt like this often when she woke up. Like she had just been working out, her muscles stiff and leaden, covered in sweat, sometimes out of breath. anytime she woke up in such a state she never remembered her dreams, which was a slight oddity for her since before this had started happening she always remembered her dreams vividly. She wondered what time it was, if she could get away with going back to sleep. Her had no clocks and her phone and watch were in the other room, to keep her from her bad habit of spoiling time away on meaningless searching through the feeds. The feeds were all tuned to each of their consumers tastes in order to maximize the time spent on them. She closed her eyes - a symbolic gesture to focus her perception inward. How did she feel. Heaviness, slightly accelerated heart rate, thirsty, bladder was nearing full. She took a deep breath. She didn't feel fatigued or tired. Going back to sleep then was just a pointless thought. A waste of time, regardless of when it was. Time was an illusion, sleep according to the needs of the body, eat according to the needs of the body, that was the most natural rhythm. Still she couldn't abandon her societies view of time completely, if she needed to go to a shop to get supplies she had to do it when they were in service after all. Sometimes that meant she would need to force herself to stay awake longer, or wake up earlier than she wanted, sometimes it meant going without for a few days more than she'd like. Compromises. Generally it wasn't a problem as these places tended to operate a good half of the day, so she'd either go when she got up or before retiring to bed, as needed. She didn't have a good reason to stay in bed. She no longer felt the desire to sleep. But she didn't really have much reason to wake either. She had no obligations. She, and the vast majority, had automation to thank for that. A minority of people still worked or rather basically everyone worked sometimes, when they felt like it, or when they wanted a new toy they couldn't afford otherwise. Better housing, a gaming rig, recreational vehicles. Some people wanted more, and they worked more often or even all the time, but that was more rare. The few who were "Full-timers" did so because they liked it, they didn't want to be home, or couldn't figure out what else to do with their time. she never had that problem. She had a hard time imagining what that would be like. Some times she did feel the emptiness of her species' position, the slow existential gnawing that told her that all her ancestor's toils had amounted to obsoleting themselves out of existence. That in the end the only thing she could do was idle her time away until it ran out. The only difference now was the work to get to "Oh I'm done getting everything I will ever want" was no longer generational, it was a decade or two. (((add section about poverty being just as bad regardless)))) She had gone down the road of social bonds, family, material, carnal. The intellectual pursuits probably were the longest lasting. There was enough to learn, but little new to find. Most study was just following the same paths that others had walked before, and she realized going down even those roads that to come to the end of it, would take a lifetime, and leave you knowing no more than anyone else had known before you. It had been this way a long time. Centuries maybe. This wasn't her generation's world, it had been this way since before anyone alive, and nothing has changed since then. Sure new products would arrive like clockwork, but they weren't any better, not in any meaningful way. That's how it was. The moment to moment life the simple things were where life was, not in the technological gadgets and the latest fashions. So many people seemed satisfied with spending all their time on that. A strange equilibrium this was. She decided she wanted to go out, get out of this little bubble she had created for herself. A walk to clear her head of the void. Gazing into it only served to make her feel small. She dressed herself, hoodie without shirt or bra, a long skirt, she changed her underwear and added some bike shorts. Walking any meaningful distance would cause chafing otherwise. She had some loose change, a lighter and a pack of cigarettes in the hoodie. She left without shoes, or locking the door. Shoes were a nuisance. She felt like it was a lie to her body about the condition of her reality. She liked to remind herself of the world she inhabited. It didn't bother her walking on rocks, roads, concrete, or vegetation. She had long become accustomed to it. Opening the door from her dark room she noticed it was night. _________________________ She enjoyed walking out at night. It was generally a lot less active - as far as human activity was concerned. There were people out, some fast cars driving here or there in the distance. But much less than the normal din of the day. So she would take the opportunity to walk out at night, when it presented itself to her. She lit up a cigarette, a bad habit maybe, but she took it up a few years back when she decided she had enough of being over weight, she figured that lung cancer was probably more curable than diabetes in reality, so when she had a craving to eat she'd smoke. The bad taste in her mouth made eating an unpleasant notion, and the nicotine itself had appetite reducing qualities. She doubted anyone would have agreed that this was a rational course of action, but she was a good 40 kilos lighter than when she made that decision and at a healthy BMI for the first time since childhood. She counted it a win. The air was humid. Midsummer not too warm but definitely humid. It wasn't terribly conformable but it was far better than mid day would have been. She wondered with the way the environmental changes were occurring if humans would be forced to adopt a nocturnal life style in the coming decades as temperature increases made going out in the sun more and more crazy. She didn't have any hope that institutional changes would happen to prevent the coming disaster, or was the heat death of the earth just a propaganda device to cause more spending in some target demographics? It didn't matter what she chose to believe about it, she lived how she did regardless of those facts in line only with how she felt best. So may as well accept the story, at least until it was proven false or otherwise. Of course with regard to changes in environment the day being hot would be a drop in the bucket next to the other problems the changes were supposed to bring. Droughts, famine, hurricanes, flooding, all would become more regular and more severe nearly everywhere. She took a long drag on her cigarette. Thinking about shit like that was the definition of pointless, she went down that particular thought rabbit hole many times, and it was always fruitless. Her lifestyle was already minimal, so she could do nothing herself more than she already did. Well that wasn't entirely true, but doing more would put herself into a prison as a domestic terrorist. If she was lucky. And she wasn't willing to believe the story enough to make herself a martyr. She had already experienced the pain of being held in institution against her will and really didn't want to repeat that regardless of any impulsive thoughts she might have She was wandering somewhat aimlessly around neighborhoods she somewhat knew but hadn't visited in a while. She liked to see the environment. See the changes to the landscape. Road maintenance, and repairs things like that. The trigger to the thoughts about a potential nocturnal human society were seated in the fear she would have to share these nights with the washed masses. She'd have to smell their perfumes, breathe the dust filled air of cars. Or more realistically, become a lone wanderer in the light (and heat) of the day. God forbid. "Luckily" she used the word with the most irony she could bring to bare, this society was car based, so they probably would hardly care if the outside temperatures reached 40C regularly. She realized at that moment she had stumbled on a sight she had never seen before. There was a dark arch made of two vertical posts and horizontal one extended across them, supported by them. She recognized it as Shinto? Buddhist? One of the two... She didn't know if there were differences between how those arches would look between those two or even if one didn't have any such thing... She thought probably a Buddhist would similarly not know the difference between the Christiaan cross with only 2 bars, or one with a third slash through it. Well probably many Christians probably wouldn't know the difference there either, so maybe it's not like that. She approached it slowly, as she was curious about the place. There was light farther into the area but the area around the gate itself was fairly dark. There was some kind of inscriptions on the posts, so she approached to get a better look. As it was dark she came right up to the gate and stopped to look at it. The area itself wasn't locked or shut, so she figured it was ok. On the left post was written writing she recognized as kanji, but wasn't able to read it except the meaning of a few of them, like the form for mouth, sun, and river. There was no translation so she was a bit disappointed. She thought about going in further, and bent to the ground to put out her cigarette, stuffed the butt in the carton in her hoodie then entered through the gate with her left foot first. There was a change in the air, in the ground. The temperature of the ground she felt, was cooler. The air seemed denser, less humid, there was a scent of some kind of flower in the air. Her mind wanted to say wisteria, but she didn't know if that's what it was of not. She walked up the short path which was hedged on both sides by shrubs blocking her view, which opened up into a large, too large it seemed, courtyard, or square. There were little buildings, clearly traditional Asian designs, a sand garden with rocks. A small stream or pond. It was an idealic shrine. Some one came out from one of the nearby buildings. She was dressed in a white top and dark red bottom, with white socks and wooden sandals. She had a wooden broom, and her face was adorned with an ornate mask that covered the top half of her face, her long straight black hair was neatly tied back into a pony tail. Picturesque, beautiful. She held herself with elegance and her movements ephemeral, fluid. "You are here early" the mikko said in a kind soft voice which flowed over the air. "Or late I suppose. Sorry if you are closed at this hour" whatever this hour is she added under her breathe The mikko giggled a bit raising her right hand palm out to cover her mouth as she did so. "No no, it's perfectly alight. It's 3AM by the way, and we are always open to those who pass through our gates." she paused and bowed slightly "I'm the maiden of this shrine. Are you here to pay respects?" "Pay my respects?" she repeated the question quietly "I just happened to be in the area and had never noticed this temple before, it looked interesting is all" she answered honestly. "So your fate has brought you here then." She thought about that for a second. She didn't really believe in fate, whatever that means, but maybe that's just a word for coincidence. "Sure, maybe? I don't really know any gods worth worshiping, or believe in fates or anything like that." "Oh?" the shrine maiden looked slightly puzzled "What is your concept of karma and fate then if I may be so bold?" "Isn't fate what god or predestination has instore for a person. The greater plan for them? And karma is like some spiritual currency you get when you do good things, and lose when you do bad things, and so you are paid back by gods or the universe good and bad things in turn?" The shrine maiden walked from the spot she had been standing and leaned her broom on the wall of the building then gestured for the woman to come walk with her. Not having any reason not to follow she did. "That concept of fate is indeed quite ridged. I don't think that you were brought here because it was the only path, that the universe has one road for each of us which we can not change. And Karma too it's nothing so... Arbitrary." they walked along the stream that passed between the buildings. Over a small wooden bridge. "Every thing in our lives. Those things that mean something to us, make up our karma, and our relationship with those things are culminated in our fates." the mikko said it as if it were a fact, even tho it didn't really seem like she had said anything different than what she herself had said. "Karma is our worldly bonds. For instance you have karma due to your habitual smoking" she said. "You could call it a "Stain on your soul" if that's easier to understand, but having karma isn't bad, it's the natural state. Some people have more or less, depending on how deeply they are connected to things" the mikko stopped and turned to look at her, right in her eyes. She could almost feel the shrine maidens breath. "You have little karma" she said it matter of factly. "Much less than someone your age normally has." she paused still looking at her, it felt as if she were trying to see past her. She continued walking then. "There are some schools of thought that say that a humans greatest path is to reduce their karma completely. So be free of their worldly bonds while on the earth. Perhaps there is wisdom in such a road, but the way we see it is, humans without their bonds are nothing. Those bonds are what drive us, push us toward various ends. When a person is bound up with too much karma they are being pushed from all sides, and thus it becomes hard to move forward. Because you have so little karma, those few bonds you have are able to have a bigger impact on you. They push you more directly towards your fates." the mikko continued her explanation. She didn't have any reason to listen, nor did she believe what was being said as entirely true, in a literal sense. But what was being said rang true at least as a way of thinking about the world. She didn't know what it was about her which had clued the shrine maiden in on her "Not having much karma" but that much was true, as far as this school of thought was concerned. She had long since abandoned her emotional connections with her past friends, family, the worldly things. She spent time reading, watching videos, learning. She had even given up many of the pastimes she had never thought she would grow out of, music and games for example, as shallow pursuits without any deep meaning, their voices told her to spend her time idly, accomplishing nothing that would or could ever matter, so she had cut them off. She followed her "Karma" to their "Fates" in a more direct fashion than those people she had long abandoned. She didn't know how they could be satisfied in their trivial pursuits, and as the gap between them increased, the severing became the natural result of their having drifted apart. maybe it was how she was dressed. Simply, no shoes even. But not like a beggar, or what she imagined a beggar might look like. She wasn't terribly unkempt or dirty. She wore what she did because it was natural for her. She didn't have the karma of a soul tainted by pride of physical appearance, or jewelry. She wore no makeup and had unperfumed hair and skin. Just the smell of her cigarette. Beyond that she was sure just how she held herself, how she walked, the tone of her voice and the words she used could also tell other things about herself. That she was cynical towards the world, she lived a minimal existence, cold reading could give that much away. "You are a deep one" the maiden said after some time "Sorry. I was.. " "No need to apologize, I know what I've said has stirred your cynical mind. If it helps I could say I'm going based on your small reactions to my words, or that I was reading the muscles on your face. That way you could have your explanation" the shrine maiden said almost sadly. "The truth is irrelevant, what exists is only what one perceives. Humans tend to think that the world is what they made of it. But do you think, maybe those coins in your hoodie jacket maybe intended to come here, and you were just the instrument for their arrival?" she pointed at the offering box which she had led them towards. "Clap, give your offering and clap again. Then pray." She clapped her hands, grabbed the coins from her hoodie and looked at them. There was six or seven coins of various demonization. She tossed them all into the box. Clapped her hands again and closed her eyes. The mikko still beside her with a gentle smile. _____________________ Somethings can evolve faster than they should. They explode in flurry of energy and burn themselves out just as fast due to rapid expansion as more and more radicals splinter off from the nucleating core they now longer have the same fervor, and no other radicals have the energy to keep up with the various directions. This was the conclusion Cyber had com up with. Lal had been following a collaborative writing project, if one could narrow it's scope so finely, as a detached participant, but it had in the course of an hour exploded beyond lir ability to parse. This was over 6 weeks ago now, and at the present the "Project" consisted of unknown number of files, all linked to each other. There were at least 10 documents attempting to be a canonical table of contents linking to what they deemed the most important documents. The original document was some 500 pages long and had well over one thousand contributors. This was all powered by a free on-wired tool for general document editing that allowed the creation of public documents. Eventually due to trolling the original owner of the document lost control of it through defacing efforts. It then split into many different private or semiprivate clones. Each of these diverged, although there was some loose binding as some members made efforts to copy changes from one version into others. The original document was reverted to before the defacing started and frozen, but by then the energy of the project had already begun to subside. In the beginning it was almost like a social network. Pseudo anonymized, people could write whatever they wanted, although ostensibly the premise of the project was an effort to catalog all the media a certain video channel had after it was purged from the open wired. Soon after the creation of the file people began to play with the features of the document editing platform. Color, size of text, position, meta content such as comments and annotations. Of course images, internal links and external. The document had become many documents, and linked to all kinds of various wired sites. There was no potential for moderation. Within a day things had evolved well beyond scope. Lal was in 3 of the private collaborator lists, meaning lal could still make edits, write things, but based on the logs, none of the documents had been edited in the past few days. People had gotten bored. Thanks to the project lal had found a small group of acquaintances, and even a couple of new friends, and joined a group chat with those people. Lal didn't have much in the way of obligations. Lal had her school work ash lal was still in middle school, but that was incredibly easy for lir so lal spent most of lir time while "In class" also on the group chat. Lal always had lir attention on several things at once, and quick to jump from topic to topic as lir interest in the topic rose and fell. Lal was reading some of the random articles about urban planning that the document had while listening to lir teacher talk about factors with lir class and friend group chats open. Lal checked them every now and then. The class chat was mostly boring focused on class work, since the teacher was monitoring it, and didn't reward jokes or any off topic discussion. Sometimes the teacher would give them questions they had to answer, and sometimes some of the students would ask questions of their own there. Boring. Inane tedious bullshit. The urban planning stuff was more interesting. From one perspective it could be read as propaganda, some of the comments suggested as much. It talked about how the building plan of cities in lir home country was basically garbage due to the dependence on motor transportation and suburban sprawl. It isolated the members of the community, was destined to fail due to the poor long term planning of the communities. The illusion of wealth the building fostered masked the net negatives which would only come to bare over the long term. It had been centuries this way apparently. So why weren't things going down into the gutter? They were. Lal could see it with lir own eyes, some small pockets in lir hometown were quite prosperous of course, but only due to the constant influx of development that was sorely missing through the majority. There were huge sections of town which were dangerous to be simply due to a lack of maintenance, wealth siphoned from these the majority to prop up the illusion cast on the small pockets. The boon of automation on paper should have resolved the primary issues of wealth inequality, and perhaps in many ways it worked. It was uncommon for there to be homeless, but in other ways it hadn't resolved some of the more important issues of rent seeking and general wealth distribution. Those places that served the have nots falling quickly into decay, and without much need for work, those who feel into such a state were prevented from any kind of upward mobility. Lal considered lirself lucky to be in one of the less shit parts of town, not two blocks away there were completely abandoned buildings, drug dens lir parents called them with utter distain, meanwhile 2 blocks in the other direction were essentially mansions. There seemed to be a need in the populace for this othering "We are better than they are". if lal wanted to get to the nearest park it was a 2 mile walk through a neighborhood where she saw such wealth on display it made lir ill to think about, especially considering a 2 mile walk the opposite direction would (if lir parents were to be believed) would see her kidnapped or murdered. It wasn't as if those who lived in the more wealthy parts of town were much better off, or worked more, in fact based on what lal could tell they worked less, and had supplemental income from various projects they were able to get in on through connections, and owning key parts of the land in the area. Working to secure that level of wealth was difficult by design. The urban planning articles weren't just doom and gloom about basic road construction, but also offered simple solutions which if followed have been proven in practice to have big effects. Things like narrowing roads from 4 and 6 lane roads to 2 lane roads with traffic calming to force cars to slow down, removing restrictions which forced property managers to build what the city deemed best, and allowed the conditions of the community to build, for example a small grocery store in an otherwise residential location. Lal hadn't ever gone to the closest grocery through any other means than lir parents car because it was too far away, there were no side walks for most of it, lal would have to walk an extra mile in the wrong direction just to cross the 6 lane road at a crossing. If there were something closer lal wondered how much of an effect it would have. There were only 3 stores that sold most of the food necessities, and there was basically only one store that had other goods like clothes or appliances. Lal hated it here. Reading this stuff made lir envy those places where there was a small shop with food just down the street, where most people walked or took other human powered transportation. Lal mostly stayed home. Actually that was a generalization. Even the majority of lir home was essentially a hostile environment for lir so lal mostly stayed in lir room with lir screens. Lal didn't have any friends in lir class. Lal had met them on a few occasions, but never clicked with any of them, and they all lived too far away to visit in real life, even if lal had met someone lal wanted to meet. When it came to friends on the wired there were a few lal would have considered meeting if it was possible, but due to the nature of a wired friend group they were very far away, on the whole other side of the planet. One of lir friends in the group came online and like usual she began with pseudo role play. Lal enjoyed that kind of game and specifically enjoyed the time with her so lal often gave her more to work with. [queenYuki] /me jumps from behind a tree [queenYuki] What have we here? [Yolokunsimp] hi Yuki. [Cyberhamster] /me drops burrito lal was eating in surprise [Cyberhamster] Ah! where'd you come from, jumping out like that. T-T scared me. [queenYuki] oh no no no. That wont do. *pouting* [queenYuki] /me steps bare foot on burrito smooshing it in her toes [Yolokunsimp] ffs [queenYuki] lick it off peasant [Cyberhamster] ::devilface:: as my queen orders [queenYuki] who's a good hammy *pets* Not everyone appreciated the somewhat sexually charged nature of the game, that was about as far as it usually went, at least on the public channels. No one was going to get offended or weirded out by it, at least not too badly. But the chat group seemed to work best when it was casual tone nonsense and everyone more or less behaved that way. Yuki liked to play this domineering persona on text chat, especially as a way to break into the conversation, but when they did voice chat she was always fairly quiet and contemplative. Perhaps it was because she had problems being assertive with her voice that she used this persona in text, a kind of over compensation. Lal enjoyed playing along and pushing lir friend to be a little more out going. The conversation returned to the normal bickering for a while with Yuki having said she had just gotten home from something weird but she needed to get food before talking about it. Lal had coasted through the remainder of the morning classes without much in the way of activity. The afternoon was free for personal study of some assigned tasks that lal estimated would take less than an hour for which lal was thankful. lal had expected Yuki to come back online soon but it by the time Yuki came back online lir class had already ended for lunch and afternoon study. Lal had to remain logged into the class chat for those classes but experience told lir lal didn't didn't to pay it any attention. Lal just needed to keep lir machine from registering that lal was afk. finally Yuki came back online. [queenYuki] so I took a walk this morning. I guess it was 4am or so and stumbled into this Shinto shrine thing. [Yolokunsimp] aren't you in the states? There's a Shinto shrine near you? Weird. [queenYuki] weirder still is that I never noticed it before, or heard about it. Checked on the wired and no mention of it either. [Cyberhamster[ it's new then? Shinto aesthetics are so cool. [queenYuki] either new or I dreamed the whole thing... But ya, it was pretty sweet. Lots of buildings, a stream with koi in it. Even a Zen rock garden thing. I got to talk to a shrine maiden too. [Cyberhamster] aww lucky. She was wearing hakama and stuff? [queenYuki] hakama? [Cyberhamster] picture The traditional shrine maiden clothes [queenYuki] oh ya. It was pretty much exactly like that ya. She had a mask on tho. Yuki went on to describe the conversation that she had about karma and fate with the maiden. The whole group had a fixation on Asian aesthetics and culture as they all derived their cultural aesthetics from Asian cartoons which had a deeper connection to eastern folklore and tradition. [Cyberhamster] sounds pretty magical. Maybe it was a dream lol [queenYuki] ya... Maybe. Yuki paused for a while, then began typing again. [queenYuki] except I definitely walked around in the morning, and even have the fortune that she gave me afterward. [queenYuki] {picture of talisman} [Yolokunsimp] doesn't look like a fortune to me... Almost like a talisman or something. Lal didn't know about talismans or fortunes, nor could lal read the ornate script, but if pressed lal would agree that it didn't seem like a fortune. The paper was embossed with gold leaf and blood red writing in what appeared to be a combination of ornate Asian calligraphy and geometric symbols like intersecting circles, triangles and squares. [queenYuki] well honestly I don't know except what the mikko said "Follow this fortune to it's and your fates" combined with what she was talking about before it seems like this paper might have some place it's supposed to be, or something. [Cyberhamster] well if she didn't give it to you you wouldn't have put it's picture here, and we wouldn't have seen it. That's for sure :p [Yolokunsimp] great now we've been infected. Thanks queen. [queenYuki] hmmm - 8 - joined the joined the conversation [8] you really have been infected ;) but probably not in a bad way. Lal wasn't positive but this was a private server, and lal was pretty sure that the group didn't have any outstanding invites. Who was this 8 why were they here? [8] gomen gomen, I haven't introduced myself. I met queenYuki this morning at the shrine. *bows* _________________ When Yuki got home from her early morning walk, she felt like she had had a transcendent experience. She was unanchored from her reality. She spent some time on-wire to see if she could find information about the shrine she had visited, and could find nothing. It wasn't on any of the maps, the address where it should have been didn't have anything like that place. The shrine had seemed utterly pristine so it could have been a new construction, but looking at the geography of that location it didn't seem to match up. To take the edge off this feeling she hopped on to the group chat she frequented and like clockwork there were her favorite people online. She enjoyed playing the role of dominate queen especially when she wasn't feeling 100%. It gave her some level of grounding. Cyber was more than happy to accommodate her mood and the play put her back in the mind-space she felt most comfortable. Yolo's dismissive comments also helped, giving counterpoint. After her little game she left the group chat to get some food. Her flat was a simple studio with a high-end terminal hard wood bed with a thick comforter for padding and little else. She had some books, a rarity these days, but she hardly ever opened them, preferring to do her reading on her terminal or using a pad. Books were relics from past ways of living, past lives. At this point she could take them or leave them she thought. Thinking back to the conversation she had with the mikko however cast them into a different light. She thought about the kind of karma those books represented to her current self. She didn't like it. At best they were reminders of things she had lost, or things she hoped to potentially regain. They didn't serve her, and their fates could take her places she didn't really want to go. Thinking about it she decided while eating some hot porrage, that she'd be rid of them. After eating and cleaning the one bowl she had owned, she gathered the books into a bag and took them with her outside. As she left she decided to take them and put them somewhere where someone who might want them could find them and they'd find some other fate, no longer bound to her. As she walked she found herself retracing the path to where that shrine had been. The sun was up now, and the walk was less lonely, and nostalgic than it had been in the early morning air. The place wasn't all that far off from where she lived, but it seemed both closer and further with the autos driving near her at all too fast speeds. Their sounds intruding on her. She encountered no one on the walk but still felt exposed to the world. In the nighttime air she felt like the world was hers and hers alone, but this world was dominated by Other. That other didn't care for her existence, at best they didn't even see her with her unkempt hair and lived in hoodie. It was much warmer now too. Uncomfortable. Arriving at the place, she found that there was no shrine. There was a small empty lot gated off connected to aparments, and behind that houses. Sure enough this lot wasn't large enough for that shrine she so vividly remembered. Somehow this didn't surprise her. Briefly she thought that perhaps she had missed the street and was on some parallel road, or something. But she knew that wasn't it. She walked to the gate in the fence and placed the bag of books down. Reaching into her pocket she pulled out the fortune that the mikko gave her. It was incredibly ornate, all gold and red on a creamy white paper. The red looked like blood soaked into the paper, and the gold almost seemed separate from the paper, embossed in a way that it sparkled and shined with light unseen. The sun, catching it in places. Sure enough it was real. It couldn't have been a dream or vision, this small paper testified to the reality of the early morning's events, even if she couldn't trust her memories, she had nothing but to trust her present moment and the physical stimulation. leaving the books she decided to be sure, she would walk a bit further, and on the parallel roads near there to see. That meandering path home only cemented the impossibility of this situation. --------------------------- [8] thanks for the invite Yuki [queenYuki] sure.... So Yuki was the one who invited the mikko apparently? She didn't mention that, but lal didn't have any reason to suspect. Yuki for her part was still thrown off by having gone to the shrine during the day and it not being there. As far as she was concerned reality was a broken bugged game, for all she knew she did invite her, perhaps posting the picture here was all that was needed. Maybe her memory was totally shot. When she quit her job it wasn't just out of nowhere. She didn't ever talk about it with anyone but she had been committed to a mental institute after suffering a psychotic break. Her ability to distinguish reality had since diminished this partially is what caused her to start breaking links in her life, and turned her more towards a minimal life. She couldn't trust the "Voices" around her, and if they didn't serve her living stably she didn't want to keep them around. The changes at that moment in her life were fueled by a radical restructuring of her life, throwing most of her old clothes away, no longer using perfumes, soap or shampoo. She hadn't had full blown hallucinations or psychotic episodes since making the changes, but the fear of that happening again was a ever present thought. Thinking about it, she could see perhaps the whole conversation she was having was just in her head. She didn't like that thought, she could be alone and dyeing in this room, and this could be her delirious state making up everything around her. She didn't want to believe that, but she didn't know anything anymore. Maybe gods and spirits existed maybe that's how this all was happening. [Cyberhamster] cool! I don't know about Shinto stuff at all. Have you been a mikko long what's that like? Cyber's enthusiasm was welcome. Lir naivety allowed lir to ask simple questions. [8] Shinto? I don't know what that is. I am a member of The Priesthood and have been in their service since I was a young child. Many many years. She didn't know what Shinto was? What priesthood? The identical thought was had by Yolo, Yuki, and Cyber. Thinking back Yuki tried to remember if she had really not said that. It was her assumption she mused. But how could a mikko, even one from some other sect or faith, not have at least /heard/ of Shinto, even people who had no interest in religions had heard of Shinto. [queenYuki] the priesthood? Aren't there many priesthoods for all kinds of faiths? [8] there are false priesthoods, yes. But only The Priesthood is The Priesthood. Shinto as you say might be a distant relative of The Priesthood, or some such thing. I can see there are at least some similarities. [Cyberhamster] well I'm still interested. Are there any on-wired resources for it. "The priesthood" is a little too vague to find anything on. [8] unfortunately there aren't, but I'm more than happy to talk about it. Part of my job as a shrine maiden is to educate. I see Yuki told you the jist of what we talked about this morning regarding karma, and fate. I don't mind bringing you all into my world if you want. The phrasing as it tended to be with the mikko Yuki notices was somewhat obscure. This woman spoke in a direct fashion but said things that were off, or things someone wouldn't normally say. Of course she was more guarded because her experience at the shrine, and the fact that it was missing when she went again. Perhaps she did mean literally "Bring them into her world" [Cyberhamster] of course! I am asking after all :p [queenYuki] wait. What do you mean by "Into your world". [8] just what I said. Don't you want to leave that place behind? There is so much more. Direct, straightforward. Clarification of Yuki's apprehension. This shrine maiden meant literally go to her world. [Yolokunsimp] ya. This world is boring, ruled by retards who are only interested in status quo. Magically take us to your magical world. Yolo was being ironic, and somewhat rude. Yuki couldn't blame him, from his perspective there was nothing magical about this maiden, just some larper talking nonsense, pretending at power she didn't have. [8] oh. How nice :) Yuki what about you? I think you know more than these others what might or might not be possible. You didn't tell them did you? [Cyberhamster] what didn't you tell us queen? Yuki didn't have much of a choice now. She could lie, she supposed, but she didn't like to lie, and... If it was true that they could go to another world... Well anything would be more interesting than this one. Even some war torn hellscape could be more fun. [queenYuki] what I didn't tell you... [queenYuki] the reason I didn't come back on-wire soon after eating was I went back to where the shrine was, and it wasn't there. I didn't think you would believe me, so I didn't mention it... [Yolokunsimp] I don't believe you. Ridiculous. What's the point of this larp?. Cyber thought about it for a bit. It was true lal found it hard to believe. Lal didn't believe in magic or gods. Lir family was deeply religious and so for a time lal went to all the meetings and learned all the doctrine. Lal asked questions, questions that couldn't be answered, or whose answers were fundamentally wishy-washy and boring. Eventually lal was considered a heretic and told not to come back because lir questioning nature was becoming contagious and dangerous to the system. Lir family was still members of that faith, and doubled their efforts in faith to make up for their rebellious child. The fact that they didn't accept lir identity, still calling lir their daughter and using the wrong pronouns, didn't win them any favors from lir. All of these circumstances made lal suspicious of supernatural beliefs generally, but lal also knew there was as much unknown as there was known. More even. So there was always room for question, especially if a claim could be backed up. Yuki played around some of the time, roleplay and stories. But when asked directly she was always honest with lir. Lal had no reason to believe that if Yuki said the shrine was there then it wasn't she had made it up. Lal still left open other possibilities. She could have been mistaken about where she was for instance. The fact that she didn't mention it before raised lir acceptance of it as well. If Yuki were playing a game she likely would have mentioned it disappearing from the outset. [Cyberhamster] you are sure. [queenYuki] I'm as sure as I can be about anything. [8] it's true. Our shrine was only able to be visited at night on new moon. [Yolokunsimp] oh ffs. Are you serious? You can talk all kinds of crap that doesn't men anything. Both the mikko and Yuki began typing but the maiden stopped after seeing Yuki had something to reply [queenYuki] I understand what you are saying Yolo, but I'm not kidding. I didn't even invite the mikko to the group. She just appeared after I posted that picture. That all being said, I don't even know if I can trust my memories or experiences... Yolo didn't know how to take the claim. He didn't accept it and wouldn't without more than just words. He also knew Yuki well enough to know she wouldn't press this larp as far as it had gone while claiming it to be be real. [8] I was brought here by you posting the picture of the talisman I gave you, Yuki. It is imbued with omnojutsu and allowed me to reach through the sha and connect to this place. I understand you not believing my words as well. But I have more than words. if you accept my offer to enter my world, look at the image of the talisman and say "I accept" then you will have your proof. Yuki pulled out the paper, and thought about it. She didn't have anything left to lose, and like she thought before, even if it was just a delusion it's got to be more interesting than her reality. Cyber didn't need any clarification for lir part. Lal wanted to leave this shit world, and if this was a way out lal'd take it. Yolo didn't believe it would work, but thought why the hell not, if it was proof and all it'd take was looking at a picture and saying 2 words to have it why not? "I accept" the three said in unison --------------------------------------------------------------------- A blinding flash of brilliant light poured from the talisman, and the image of the talisman completely enveloping the three and just as suddenly they were no longer seated at their respective terminals, but together in a white void. Together in the presence of the mikko. Each were aware of the others, but unable to see them, only the mikko was visible. "Welcome" she said with a smile and a slight elegant bow. "This isn't quite my world, but a transitory place in between your world and mine mediated by the sha. You don't have to understand everything, but what you should understand is that for you to enter my world you must be translated." Yuki wanted to speak. To ask what was meant by translate and sha. But was unable to do so. But having the intention and thoughts to speak, she felt her self radiate some kind of energy. The others were aware of this energy and were similarly sending their own. Yuki was made aware of Yolo's shock at the situation, and his growing acceptance of what was previously said. She was also aware of Cyber's excitement, and thirst for more. "I'm sure you have many questions about what is happening, and how it is possible. There will be time for answers. For now you require new vessels. All of you have understandable misgivings with the frail hosts you were born with. The process of translation will correct the error between your spirit and your host flesh, and make your outward appearance a reflection of your internal view of self. The process isn't painful, I've had to undergo a similar process to be in this place, and in order to visit your world in the first place. " The mikko spoke using words, not sending out raw intentions and feelings. "Your current state might be considered, a primal essence. It is compatible with many kinds of worlds. There are some who believe that the entirety of what is was fashioned by the energies that were emitted by something similar to what you currently are, when it realized it was alone in a vast emptiness. Perhaps if you all were left in this state long enough, and isolated, a new reality would form around you, and you would place yourselves within it. " The mikko mused. This was speculation on her part. But the three of them understood what she meant. They wouldn't have before being made this kind of being, or rather it was more likely the case, being returned to this kind of existence with all their previous memories in tact. The energies that flowed out from their intentions and emotions were chaotic, and forceful. They could feel the ripples of them echo outward. They could feel them pass through the others, and how they bent and reflected as the intentions were processed. Cyber was first to come to an understanding that the three of them wouldn't remain 3 for very long in this state. They were already becoming more and more tightly coupled as a single system, just by the vast amount of proximity they had, and the open access to all the information they were sharing. Moments later the others became aware of the same thing. "Cyber, you will be first to receive translation. There will, as with any translation, be some lost data, some nuances of self which will be untranslatable. We aren't sure how to translate a nonbinary existence into flesh, but imagine what you feel is best as vividly as possible, and I'm sure you will at least be more satisfied than you were." Cyber imagined lir self. Lal wished to remain young. A petite form, androgenous in appearance, with small breasts, and the sex organs of both male and female forms. Lal imagined everything from urethrae placement, running through penis, with twin internal ovaries and testes, near each other. A clear picture in lir mind from all the imaginings lal had ever done on the topic. The mikko took her hand and began to write in the air. Lines of light produced from her fingers and the symbols hung in the air. Beautiful intricate patterns formed, and reformed themselves and expanded toward the mental projection of Cyber, and they began to form a body around lir. Lal became aware first of eyes. Lal was no longer aware of what was around lir in completeness, but was seeing through new eyes. Lal noticed this with a sudden realization that what lal had been was far less limited in scope than what lal was becoming. Were bodies always so limited? Lal had never thought of a body as a limitation on power, but suddenly being made flesh in this manner made the comparison pronounced. Lir hands were the next thing lal noticed. Lal looked down and saw lir body glowing white light emanating from it. Slowly the light faded, and lal noticed lir breathing, and felt the sensation of lir feet hanging in the air. Lal stretched lir hands, and feet. Put lir hands through lir short silky blue hair. Lal felt lirself. Outwardly at least it was as lal imagined. "Wow" lal finally said with a smile. "That was kinda crazy" The mikko had finished her ritual and was smiling. "It looks like everything worked well. We can get into the details, but for now 'everything works' " the mikko smiled. "Now for Yuki" Both Yuki and Yolo had seen and felt almost everything that Cyber had felt and thought up to the point where the light enveloped lir psychic projection. They saw as lir body formed around lir and her body took shape from inner core around lir brain and heart and then built itself outward into the small human form they saw naked before them. "Same thing for you Yuki, just imagine your ideal physical form" Yuki had never felt comfortable in her body. She had transitioned later in life after her psychotic experience and had always been dissatisfied. She had heard of transition when she was young but her extremally traditional upbringing in a cult had prevented her from acting on the desire to do so. Transition wasn't uncommon in the world anymore but the more common acceptance of the process had driven many religions to double their efforts against the practice and her upbringing was a result of that kind of thinking. She had seen how others in her cult's community attempted painful "Rehabilitation" conversion therapies and to avoid them she hid most of her thoughts from all those around her. She had lost out on being young, on being a child in many ways. So when she imagined her ideal self, she thought of an alternate self at 7 fully female, with dark green-blue hair, purple eyes, slim. She also thought about how that body would age into adulthood. The kind of life she would want to have lived. More confident in herself, than she had ever been able to be. The mikko had begun her ritual and the light surrounded her, and her body began to form around her. Before she noticed she had too taken the form in her mind's eye. She saw her small hands, and felt her hair long hair and pulled some of it forward to see it. Exactly as she had imagined. "Haha, you are even shorter than me Yuki!" Cyber laughed, seeing Yuki take shape. "I think you aren't going to have to change your handle to "PrincessYuki" now or something" "Oh just because I'm shorter than you doesn't mean I'm not wiser and cooler than you!" her voice carried the haughtiness of a princess who expected to be obeyed. "You going to make me lick your feet again 'oujou-sama'?" Cyber replied "As if" Yuki folded her arms and pouted, then smiled brightly, her cheeks reddening. And then tears forming at the corners of her eyes. Had she ever been this happy before? She didn't think so. "Oh you two are having fun I see. I enjoy seeing your banter, but we have one more to translate still" the mikko made herself known to the two as they had gone into their own little bubble. "Alright Yolo. Your turn. Same as them, imagine your ideal self" Yolo seeing his two friends banter before his awareness realized just how much more true to themselves they had been in their chats than they likely could ever be in real life. His own mental projection of Yuki based on how she acted was very much inline with how she now appeared, but he never let himself think of her that way before. He always saw her as an older kind of pervert who had some kind of predator vibe. He felt a deep shame at the realization of how much he let something so seemingly arbitrary as age cloud his perception of her. As they were now, what he wanted was to protect these two. He had never been physically able, or confident in a thought like that, nor had he had anyone in his life he had ever consider worthy of protecting. He wanted to be strong, but not bulky. Masculine. He had the image of a samurai with toned practiced muscles, tall about 6'3, with long black hair, and strong angled face. The process was just as before, and when it was done he saw he towered over the other two. "Daaaamn" Cyber said adding a whistle. Lir face red at the sight of him. "I always thought you would be some pasty small nerd boi" lal said finally. "Well... I was" he replied, kind of embarrassed at the attention he was getting from his form. "Well I think you all turned out great! spitting image of your internal selves I would say. And now that you have those forms, I suppose we should get you something to wear. As you can see, clothes aren't a part of your selves, so even if your internal image of self included them it wouldn't have translated." she gestured around them and there appeared in the void space around them a wide assortment of garments of traditional Japanese style. There weren't any of the kind of "Western" clothes which they were accustomed to wearing but that didn't bother any of them. Yuki lit up at the selection of flower patterns in the kimono, and began to try on various things. Her body seemed to know exactly how to put on each garment on it's own, all she had to do was to select what she wanted and her body instinctively placed the garment on. Yolo had a bit more trouble with his clothes his own conception of how to put the garments on seemingly interfering with the process. Cyber had little problem after examining the garments. Yuki selected a summer style yukata, with pink and green checker pattern and purple flowers densely spaced at the bottom and less so at the top. Yolo selected a plain black hakama and white top. Cyber, also selected similarly but with a colorful Sakura patterned kimono. there was some banter between Cyber and Yuki over the clothes choices as they picked but after not too long they were done. "Very nice choices for all of you. Of course you can change your wardrobe later as well, but we need to go to my world now." the mikko waved her hand and the clothes disappeared. "I know that you are all rather deep and Yolo suspicious and Yuki cynical. Bringing you into my world isn't just something I'm doing out of kindness. Telling you that before now likely wouldn't have changed anything, but it's in the interest of fairness. Your society is dying from stagnation, it's a problem that those in power have chosen to purposely ignore, and actively foster in the hope that the death won't happen while they yet live. Likewise my world is suffering stagnation. The Priesthood, for a long time had chosen a similar route but now things have reached a point where many of us believe something must be done. We need new thinking. Your very presence will have impact. I don't intend to force you to do anything, and will empower you in your aims as much as possible, because having observed you three as long as I have I believe you can be the change we need." Yolo replied "Is it possible for us to go back if we want to?" neither Cyber nor Yuki had considered the option of going back. It's true they didn't know what this other world would be like, but there wasn't anything in their own world they would want to go back for. For each of them, these three were already the most important thing from the other world they would have missed. "Do you think you will want to go back? Is there anything in that world you want? You already are aware of the systems of power in that world, the fact of it's designs to keep people from noticing that it's an endless treadmill toward death, whose sole aim is to extract as much energy from those below to keep those who have satiated in their lust of power." the shrine maiden spoke matter-of-factly. She knew he saw things that same way. That the best he could hope for was some pursuit that wouldn't have him staring directly at his cage day in and day out. No real possibility of ever changing anything, or rising to power, assuming that having power was something worth pursuing in the first place. Yuki added to the refrain "The best thing in that world I could have done was maybe help a few individuals. I had considered service work recently, something like being a nurse or something like that... But it seems like we might be able to have a big impact on this other world... To help people. And... It's got to be more fun that that boring world anyway right?" "Boring..." the word hit Yolo in a strange way. "What's boring to you and me, what's mundane to us, might be just as magical as all this is to someone else from some other world... And all this could be just as mundane to them. Boring is relative. But more important than that, we don't know the conditions of this other world. I'm not saying I don't want to go and see, and try. What I'm asking is are we going to be stuck? If we decide we want to leave is that possible?" "I understand what you are saying Yolo" Cyber said softly "This is all like a fairy tale, to us, but fairytales can be scary..." Cyber looked at the mikko contemplatively. "As you are now it's not possible. It's an issue of energy, and not one that's easily solved. I was able to mediate your translation through the sha, but your physical forms as they were, along with all the fates you had sublimated allowed for this transfer, but they no longer exist, having been consumed in the translation processes. That being said, it is possible to accrue enough energy in your new bodies, through new fates and bonds, to mediate another translation back if you wish. It will just take time." the mikko explained. "Is that sufficient?" "I suppose it has to be." Yolo resolved. It wasn't that he was regretting the half hearted decision to accept the offer of entering the mikko's world, he just didn't like the idea of being trapped in a world if he didn't want to be there. Thinking about it more, he also accepted that that was already his situation in the world he was from to begin with. As far as he knew he hadn't even been given the choice to be born, he just was brought there and forced into a certain life against his will. Form that perspective this new birth was already more his choice than that had been. ___________ Entering the world was a simple process, they walked through a door the mikko had manifested and entered a building in the grounds of a shrine. It was identical to the shrine which Yuki had seen on her night walk. They were each given a room, but Yuki and Cyber both agreed to stay in the same room together. They were given full access to the grounds and shown the library as well as the other facilities. Everywhere they went there were other priests and shrine maidens going about their various tasks. None of them seemed surprised by the outworlders nor their lack of knowledge about customs. In fact they learned in time that there were several others who had been called from other worlds. .

incoming references