Dropping in is sanity exerting itself. The structure and form of space squeezes at my shape, and suddenly I have one once again. This Lane is different from the ones in which usually play; a sober sort of place and time, with constants holding fast from day to day and people who can sometimes explain. I've never asked them of myself, but once in a while the questions creep from hypothetical into the grain of real and then (sometimes) I can find truths.
Only one from here has sought the lanes, at least that I've ever known or met. In order to find him in subjective, I must always start from here - the last place his feet once stood before he figured out the game. He explained it to me thus:
"Pseudorandom stream. The hash signature of my own home lane is the starting key, and that's how those that seek, like yourself, will know (if I tell them) how to find me. As long as I remember the function, that is. Just iterate, and then again, if you don't find me move down the skein. I swear I'll never drop off the chain, so stick to the numbers! That's where I'll be."
It didn't make much sense to me. But with the words came a demonstration, a jump held hand in hand across a lane/distance that was carefully derived from a thought that he passed to me. I know the thought. I have it still. From this standing start, I can find him now - though no other can if they don't hold this starting point, nor can they predict where he'll be from day to day.
The ritual is familiar now. I look across the swamp and waterline, and see the tower; the clock counts down the numbers that beckon in the back end of our souls. A sudden flare of light and rage, and then the moment comes. It always leaves me somewhat pained that just as it leaps, so too must I, to keep the schedule - a lane for me, for it; a tunnel bored up through the sky.
A world of water laced with radiative salts-
Four moons that rise overhead in an arch of tears-
A rushing thoroughfare, the buses, cars and trucks moving to and fro and the people sliding past the buildings' faces, feathered wings carrying them along in turn-
...and so it goes. One hour, this time, at least; an hour plus four minutes more of stepping sideways through the doors I open in the lanes. Then, on minute sixty-five, I step into a desert ruin, parched with sun. The buildings lie in rubble that still gleams. Some parts of them, their agrav built within their shells, hang drunkenly at angles with their innards spilt across the sand and hard-baked rock. A half a city gone to strange swaying fronds of buildings wandering across the plain. He's sitting there atop a wall, notebook open, pen to his mouth. I take three steps and call to him.
His smile when he turns is what makes the hours worth the trek through places that I'd never send my dead.
"How long?" His voice is cracked, perhaps with the dryness of the air. I shake my head and grin.
"I don't know. Months subjective? A year perhaps?"
"Perhaps." He puts away the notebook, stands and stretches. "What do you think?" An arm sweeps out to take in the broken urban dream.
My gaze travels over the floating headstones of a civilization long since gone. "It seems...dreary."
He laughs. "Oh, but the wonder! Look at it, man! Buildings drifting on the wind, empty rooms laid bare; ghosts and skeletons within that keep hard watch on the dead dry air for those like us who would disturb their rest."
"What happened here?"
"I don't know. Not yet." His expression sobers, and he jumps down from the wall. "But one day I will. And you? What brings you here, this far up the chain to see me?"
We sit and I tell him of my experiences, of our friend's reticence and the mirror selves. I see him nodding absently as I narrate. "Is this making sense to you?" I ask.
"Yes. Some." He takes his notebook out again, leafs through pages long worn past near the front. "It does, in fact. How much did I tell you about our game?"
I laugh at him, in turn. "What you told me, old friend, I couldn't understand. Much less recall."
"Fair enough. I'll start again. Have you the time?"
So he begins.
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