The news report said to avoid downtown, so why is everyone headed that way? I changed channel on the radio trying to find something other than the same news feed repeated on every interrupted station. I had someplace to be, and the only way to get there was straight through downtown so whatever was in the way better depart before I get there.
The off ramp I needed was blocked so I pulled off in line with others having the same alternative route in mind. Above us a helicopter circled with commands blaring out of the crackling speaker.
“Danger. Unknown entity ahead. Avoid at all costs. Violates the law of [static]. Turn around now!” The message repeated without pause, leading me to think it was a recorded message.
The helicopter’s message faded in and out as it made a large circle over something further along my route. After I was able to make out the complete message for the third time, there was a loud noise like a shout of surprise from the speaker then the helicopter disappeared.
I looked up and saw where the helicopter had been, was now a dispersing cloud of something like flower petals. As they fell over me and others stuck in traffic, I saw they were small slips of paper. A helicopter was stamped on one side. The acronym “ROFL” was scrawled on the other in a very hasty capital script.
“What is this, some sort of a cosmic joke?” There was no answer to my spoken question.
The lane I was in diverged from the others to empty into city streets. Five cars ahead of me, I saw oncoming traffic suddenly pull away from something in the center of the road. The driver of the fifth car in front of me slammed on the brakes, causing the fourth car to run into them.
The driver didn’t exit to study the damage. They turned away from the center of the road and sped to leave the area as fast as possible.
I leaned out of my window and saw something like a person seated crosslegged in the middle of the road. They wore loose jeans and tightly laced sneakers. Their black hoodie was zipped up and the hood was over their head, obscuring their face.
Everyone who was able to see the face couldn’t get away from the figure fast enough.
A police officer came up behind the figure with his gun drawn. He was shouting at the figure to lie down on the ground. One moment the figure was seated on the ground watching cars speed away from them. The next moment the figure was standing and facing the police officer with their hands in their pockets.
The officer twitched upon seeing the face. The gun became a block of compressed rust that was destroyed by nothing more than the unresisted grip of the officer. If the officer was aware that the gun had been transmogrified, he gave no indication.
He was too busy being turned inside out and folded in on himself as if the very spacetime he occupied was being folded up like a sheet on laundry day.
I and the other drivers had seen enough. We all meant to turn our cars away from the figure and speed off as well.
The figure was suddenly facing my side of the street again, still with their hands in the pockets of their hoodie. They swept their stare over us all and I saw a portion of their face.
They had no face.
But there wasn’t a void or a shadow, at least, not like one would expect of a horror.
There was a swirl of infinitesimal motes and particles where their face should have been. A slowly moving spiral of blue and white and yellow and red. It was like looking into a blossoming nebula.
My skin burned, pulling my attention away from the impossible.
My car was gone. All our cars were gone. In a span of time so short, it could not be measured, the cars were removed and the city around us was shrunken so that we were running in a blind panic through what appeared as an amusement park’s playground.
We all fled on foot, trying to avoid being seen by the hooded figure but also trying to see where the figure was so we would know which direction they were not facing.
Every time the figure turned in my direction, my skin burned as if exposed to radiation. No matter what was between us, no matter if there was no line of sight, no matter the distance, my skin burned.
My skin continued to alert me that the figure was looking more and more in my direction. It was no longer just idly watching others. It was seeking me.
It was hunting me.
They moved without walking. Suddenly they were behind me, burning the shirt off of my back.
I became lucid enough to remember that I am not bound to what laws of physics I could remember or expected to find. I did not become lucid enough to know what I am.
I was lucid enough to change the game.
“Fuck this. I’m out.”
I converted the tatters of my shirt into wings and took to the sky. As I did, I slashed at the air with taloned hands, tearing a hole into the dream. As I slipped into the dream to escape the figure I felt a twisting in my gut. Not from gore or horror, but from the realization that I was fleeing the figure for the wrong reason.
The figure was here to help me, but I allowed my fear to take me away from them.
I awoke in terrible pain. A migraine had been building from yesterday and what I thought would be settled by a good night’s rest was only waiting for morning to fuck with me even harder.
In the sudden delirium, I called on a spirit I had not encountered for seven years. My last encounter with her kicked my ass as I received the full due of my impertinence and suffered for four days until she left me. A strange instinct opened my mouth and call on her again. Would she answer that call now? Do I really want her to?
I don’t know when sleep retook me. Only that I was now kneeling on the ground in a nondescript place during a nondescript time of day. The pain of the migraine followed me.
My head tilted forward as I lost my balance.
Soft hands caught my face and pushed me back into an upright position.
“You remembered me.”
I could not see her. I could only feel her and hear her. “Yes. Am I in error for doing so?”
“You have kept to the law I gave you seven years ago. You are holding to that law now. No, you are not in error.”
The pain surged and I wondered if I was going to vomit in this unspace. She smoothed her touch over my head and while the pain remained, I felt disconnected from it and my body. Much like I did seven years ago.
“Do you remember what happened before? When [he], [him], and [whothefuckknows] came? What was done to you?”
I could not physically answer, but I did remember. It was a critical point in my history and I was physically changed by the encounter for the better.
“When you hold to the law as I gave you, when you call upon me as you do now, never forget… I do not act alone.”
I felt her presence solidify behind me. Her touch was removed from my head and I felt myself starting to tilt forward again. Another hand caught me and pushed me upright. I opened my eyes and saw a right hand extended before me. The skin was glowing slightly, but I did not notice until after I had taken it.
The figure pulled me to my feet. As I rose, I recognized the slack jeans and the black hoodie. With fear and curiosity I raised my gaze into the face of the hooded figure slightly standing above me.
The depths of the slowly turning nebula looked deep and infinite, as if I was staring into deep space instead of a pocket of cloth.
Somehow, I knew they were smiling. They caught me, as was their intent in the first portion of the dream. They have me in hand, and it is good to be close.
“Reality bender.” The words did not fit, but they were the closest I was going to get in the English language. They nodded.
I felt her touch on my head again. She touched me in the same place she touched me seven years ago. My body froze in place as my awareness was fully disconnected from anything resembling a physical state.
Just as it was seven years ago.
I felt infinite. I felt as if my skin was the surface of a Klein bottle. I felt as if my body was an artificial construct meant to divide the universe from itself. I felt that what was inside the skin was the same as what was outside the skin and that the skin was a terrible lie created to teach an unbearable truth.
This was a new response to her.
The nebula figure shifted. Without looking, I knew they had just thrust their hand into my body, piercing the skin, breaking the membrane of the Klein bottle I felt as.
I was turned inside out.
No… I was turned rightside in.
The figure began to fill me with… myself. With… starlight. With… movement. With… everything.
And while the form of my body remained the same, the space bounded by it felt like it was increasing exponentially even as the space outside of my body felt as it was collapsing on itself.
Suddenly, there was an equilibrium. The infinity inside my body was the same as the infinity outside my body and the skin of my body was an illusion that served only to separate Me from Not-Me.
But All was Me.
Because I am a Klein bottle in spirit.
The nebula figure shifted. And gone.
The spirit lowered my willing form back into a kneeling position.
She released my head, and I snapped back into a human-centered awareness.
The pain was gone.
“What is your name for me?” Without turning around I knew the spirit was behind me, floating above me, and dissolving into motes of light and nothingness.
“Remember, I do not act alone. My helpers are as infinite as the stars.”
The dream ended.