The steady thrum of machinery permeates the air with a calming buzz, occasional pneumatic releases embellishing the soundscape with their release. Sepia tones are peppered with rust across ancient mechanical structures, the reddish hues accentuating decay. A vast array of Cylindrical and angular structures stand tall, reaching for the sky, towering over passers-by. It is not immediately clear what exactly any of it does, but the sense of function is inescapable. The operational remnants of Old City’s retired power grids represent nostalgia to the max.
The folks who keep these borderline useless mechanisms intact are deeply committed to keeping them chugging along. They tirelessly inspect and maintain both the analog and digital components that keep the machines running, a secret unspoken language apparent in their movements. Spooky has always had a soft spot for antiques, and she is enthralled with how dedicated the workers are. Even their attire is a throwback to fashion from a forgotten era, adorned with leather aprons and studded straps housing manual tools of all types.
As she walks by the engineers, they look up at her and nod subtle hellos. She smiles back, and continues her stroll through this massive time capsule that spans 4 city blocks. She muses about what kind of person it takes to commit to such a niche job. This reminds her that she is on her way to configure a rare input based art generator block - a very niche object. The irony of this amuses her, and this time she smiles to herself.
As she approaches the overground Metro station entrance, it starts raining. Throwing her oversized black hood over her head, she dashes up the stairs, her dark overcoat transforming her into an amorphous blur of dancing fabrics. Her HUD bleeps air pollution level warnings into her retinas, and she enables the filtration system built into her cowl. Everybody around her slides on masks, and enables similar PPE to avoid lung burn.
As the train approaches, impatient passengers shift from one agitated stance to another. The procession of chrome carriages come to a smooth stop, and glass barriers open up to let the restless crowds through. Commuters pile out rapidly, replaced with newcomers eager to get out of the weather that is slowly getting denser around them. As the doors close behind them and the HEPA filters kick in, Spooky feels an intense release of tension. Finding a seat, she disables her filters and throws her hood back.
Looking up she sees an inconspicuous stranger looking at her curiously, through round framed glasses. The glasses look ancient, but she can see that they have enhanced AR lenses from their anti-glare refractions. He blinks at her, and types something into an info tablet in his hands and swipes it towards her. She blinks her AR into focus, and sees an incoming shortwave message from the stranger. Seeing no media or rated content warnings in her UI, she accepts the note.
ɴɪᴄᴇ sᴛᴀᴄʏ ᴛᴏᴋᴇɴ
Suddenly alert, she takes a closer look at him through her AR lens, and sees a small blue butterfly fluttering near his head. Only token holders can see other token holders in augmented interfaces, which means he personally knows Liz, or possibly The Founder. She swipes a message in her palm back to her fellow Stacy token holder, her wearable keyboard flexing around her index finger as she writes.
ᴡʜɪᴄʜ ᴏɴᴇ ᴅɪᴅ ʏᴏᴜ ᴛᴀᴋᴇ
A grin appears across his boyish face.
ǫᴜɪᴛᴇ ᴀ ғᴇᴡ xᴅ
ᴄᴏᴍᴇ ᴛᴏ ʟɪᴢ's ᴛᴏɴɪɢʜᴛ
Curiosity piqued, Spooky shifts in her sea of flowing fabrics a little. She blinks her response back.
ᴡʜᴏ ᴀʀᴇ ᴜ
The train begins to slow down, as it approaches New City’s Central Station stop. The stranger gets up, and drops a neatly packaged parcel in her lap, blinking a message back at her rapidly.
ᴛᴀᴋᴇ ᴛʜɪs ʙʟᴇɴᴅ
ᴄ ᴜ sᴏᴏɴ
Before she can respond, he is swept out of the train in a tide of people masking up to brave the weather. Though their message thread is now severed, she can still make out a little blue butterfly trailing behind him. Saving Path’s address, she grips the package in her hands knowing full well what it is, and looks out at the torrential downpour that is crushing the city. Pollution meters are spiking on every visible holo screen, and the city has its collars and hoods up, its collective identity distorted by its facelessness.
One stop later, Spooky gets out of the metro in New City’s Fashion District. The streets are mostly empty now, the brutal storm having rushed denizens of the sprawl indoors. Rapidly stomping through puddles, she gets to her studio and activates UV sterilization at the entrance. Passing through the 360 archway of light, she throws her overcoat over a chair and plops down on a sofa. She looks up at her latest curation hanging on her private gallery’s walls, and marvels at how all of this generative art has become a standard in the art world.
She digs out the Stacy that was gifted to her by the stranger. Opening the package, she finds something staring back at her that she cannot fully understand. A pill shifts its dark, stone-like texture incessantly before an impossible fractal explosion made of a void-like substance. It strobes an impossible glow of monochromatic light, haloing the pill as it holds golden diamonds in its orbit, hovering continuously around magma-like edges. The Pill has one single eye staring back at her with an aperture that gazes into her soul.
Out loud, she says to herself, “Best not to overthink this.” Opening its enclosure, she plucks up, and throws the bizarre pill in her mouth.
The transition is immediate.
The continuous hum of machinery coats the atmosphere gently, pneumatic releases agitating the soundscape with occasional hissing. Amber and bronze tones radiate warm tones, sporadic oxidized splotches exposing the age of these ancient mechanical devices. Shapes like rockets of varying shapes, these relics of engineering stretch thinly towards the skies, leaving passers-by in the shadows of their enormity. The specific functions of these behemoth structures are lost to time, now serving as nostalgic remnants from Old City’s retired power grids.
Committed engineers work incessantly on the outdated mechanisms. Their shared hive-mind work ethic is apparent in the way they meticulously maintain all manner of analog and digital components, both on the exteriors and interiors of the machines. Spooky admires their synchronicity, and is pleased by their attire studded with vintage leather tool belts and aprons. They are like a swarm of dedicated gremlins conserving the mechanics of an alternate reality.
As she walks by them, one of them looks at her through a pair of darkened goggles. Looking into the darkness in them, she sees a swirling void almost entirely devoid of light. A subtle monochromatic pulse of light draws her in, and she finds herself suddenly falling down a dimly lit ravine, a massive lightless abyss below her. Her mind loses all sense of cognition, and she feels a sense of dread pervading the entirety of her being.
As the free-falling sensation engulfs her, an internal panic peaks, her mind feeling like it is going to shatter like a rock upon impact. Having lost all sense of reason, she stops fighting and gives into the fear. As she relinquishes control, she sees a flicker of rippling light approaching her from below. Before she can discern what it is, her body hits a body of mercurial liquid that is blacker than night.
Instead of pain, the impact results in a sensation of being suddenly submerged in fluid softness. A prehistoric substance envelops her, and instead of wetness she feels a strange firmness spreading around her body. Looking at her hands, she sees monochromatic topographies of hills and mountains; entire landscapes are forming from this darkly primordial substance that has coated her like a second skin.
As she focuses on the creation of worlds unfolding on her being, she finds herself zooming rapidly into these newly born environments. She hurtles with increasing momentum towards a mountain that has formed, and discovers that she can will herself to stop before slamming into the terrain in front of her. Levitating above the black mass below her now, she suddenly feels very much in control, and a sense of calm surges through her. She has found a place of quietude within, and relishes in the tranquility.
All sense of time decimated, an eerie silence sinks in, and Spooky realizes that she can manifest anything in this strange colorless universe. And just like that, she brings into existence a warm golden light, which suddenly illuminates everything before her. As the light dances across the contours of this landscape, tiny diamonds rise up out of the ground to bask in the warmth of her radiance. They refract her inner shine like floating beacons battling gloom.
Taking a deep breath in, Spooky draws color out of the scenes before her. Reddish glows begin to emanate from under dark trees, and out of previously pitch black rivers meandering through hills. As lava colored luminosity begins to peak in brilliance, she exhales - and the entire dimension she is now inhabiting turns itself inside out. A fractal implosion of what was once an extension of her body and mind, she finds her spirit being sucked into a black hole of impossible geometries.
A pulsing white light begins to eat all color, like a nebulous monster. Unable to perceive any corporeal attributes, Spooky feels her mind grasping for anything that can qualify as logic. Once again, she gives into the sensation, and feels the gravity of what can only be described as the maw of this impossible cosmic beast. In submitting to the force that is pulling her in, she abruptly becomes aware that she is approaching an event horizon.
She reaches out with her ebony stained hands to connect with this convergence of light and hunger, and finds an aperture-like gateway materializing in front of her. 10 golden shutter blades recede in response to her touch, and the portal pulls her in without resistance. Her fear now replaced with curiosity, she calmly passes into this new, non-Euclidean universe. The curious eye-like doorway closes behind her, and she marvels at the enigmatic transition she has gone through. Though clearly mechanical in some ways, her passage feels independent of tactility.
She finds herself inside a vast chamber that has an infinitude of grayish fissures lining the interior. Sudden rays of light startle her as they begin to shatter their way through the cracks, an intense burst of multi-colored light. Soon multiple spectrums of light saturate the interior of the structure Spooky has found herself in. She finds herself bathed in every color she can think of, as well as those she has never even seen before.
As suddenly as the brightness came, it abruptly fades away. Her body however, retains all the colors she just experienced, in the form of an incredibly fine film of flexible plastic. The fissures now begin to glow with very deep crimson and orange hues, and she realizes that the temperature in the space is suddenly increasing to an uncomfortable level. For the third time, fear washes over her.
Slowly, her new skin begins to lose resolution. The multifaceted color wrapping around her begins turning into a myriad of tiny triangular pixels, and a steady digital buzz begins to build up around her. Instead of feeling any sting from the heat around her, she instead feels the steady sensation of liquidized diagonal pixels sliding off of her body. The digital kiln she has found herself in washes everything away, and she watches as her stress and burdens pool below her in a swirling mass of color.
Feeling incredibly light, she stretches her body outwards. As she strains her muscles, the raven-like layer of skin that remains also begins to de-res and slide off, the environmental buzz changing its tone to a deeper frequency. As it layers itself over the rainbow of molten plastic below her, a diverse geography of forests and mountains begins to form again, bordered by a sea of red magma flowing out of the fissures in the walls.
Spooky breathes in the island below her, and watches it reach up towards her, peaks and valleys undulating to match shifting topographies. She reconstructs some sections with hand gestures, swapping lakes with hills, forests with deserts. Her motions trail arcane symbols made of light, hieroglyphs from a forgotten language she has discovered within her cosmic memories. She exhales, and the scene solidifies like enamel into its new configuration. Her intentions have baked a new reality.
In awe at this strange power that has surfaced within her, she gazes out at her creation. She speaks to it without words to express her love, and it responds in full by exploding into a cloud of a million electric-blue butterflies, oscillating all around her. Entranced by this fluttering kaleidoscope around her, she lets go of any remaining tensions. She blinks at the fluttering beauty around her, and watches a shower of pixelated color raining down around her. She blinks again, and finds herself eye to eye with an aperture. It blinks back at her, and she is now looking at a fractal bloom made of monochromatic natural landscapes. She blinks at the panorama, and is now in the warm embrace of a sentient dark liquid. Blink. She is in her studio, staring at shifting pixelated constructs on screens of various sizes. Slicking her hair back to tie it into a ponytail, she is assured that she is back in regular space-time.
She looks at the time in her HUD and realizes she has a few hours to modify the generator block, before heading out to Liz’s. As she glances over at the art on her walls, a message rolls into her peripheral vision.
ɪ ʜᴏᴘᴇ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴡᴀs ᴇʏᴇ ᴏᴘᴇɴɪɴɢ
Smirking to herself, Spooky shoots an 👁 emote back. She flexes her hands with a newfound confidence, and finds herself thinking in a new language. The prospect of fusing this new alchemy of the mind with an algorithm excites her. She jacks her neural interface in, and dives into the art block’s interface with complete abandon.