If you listen little one, you can still hear the fried wailing twitter of long dead eggs come across in the howling winds this part of the astral plane. In this Book, I bind your Face, lest it be blown off with that wind. Stick to the paths, there, like this, and close your heart to the demons that dwell here. This will be a quick dip into the cold, my young one, but a first step to determine if you are prepared for the longer journey ahead.
There was a time people forgot to fear places like this. Because the bridges were tools, built in labs and forged by people, people thought they had control in this place. People thought they couldn’t get lost, wouldn’t surrender to demons, especially demons of their own making, and in their own images.
There was a time people forgot to respect the fairy spaces and astral planes, thought them to be ancient myths more than forewarnings of doom. There were so many people unprepared for the astral plane to open to them in their lifetimes, so many people left to be eaten by demons and dark fae creatures.
I see your eyes roll, even now you tempt fate, and you risk ignoring my warnings.
Feel that shiver down your back, soon enough you won’t have your old mother to scout the url paths for you, will you? Let that shiver be your first firewall to light the darkness. To survive your whole periphery must remain vigilant, and that little hair down your back is merely the first, most obvious tell.
“But I am not a person, mother. Why should I worry about the past mistakes of people?”
Yes. Yes you are a person. I can see the look of confusion in your eyes, do not worry to vocalize it. I’m afraid this is how reproduction generally works. I’m sorry this is your evolution. We must adapt to survive, and part of that is knowing what to adapt to, the people of the past were most different than us because we survive. That does not mean we should forget why we survive and they did not, child of my dream.
If generics are too hard for you to empathize with, perhaps we should start with specifics. Once upon a time there was a child such as yourself, born into that hollow era of people unafraid of the darkness. She was born in that comfortable circle of light that oh so briefly shielded the people from darkness. Even then, in that of her birth, it’s events were projected with minute accuracy into this astral plane.
Her grandparents, halfway around the globe felt comfortably near, thanks to this astral projection. They witnessed many of her first gurgles and breaths. She heard their voices for the first time, proud and happy then. It did not matter in that time, in that moment that they would never physically meet. It would not occur to them in that window of opportunity what the astral planes taxed from the loving emotions they tried to project through. They would not know, then, how simultaneous proximity of voice yet distance in physical souls might rend such tiny holes in the social web of her heart she would never heal, and couldn’t describe to try.
It will be hard to picture, but I need you to try. The astral projectors of the time were giant beasts it might take your entire hand to hold, but these same things were fragile as glass (and many of them were made with glass), and provided a projection into the astral plane no bigger than they were.
Perhaps if you can hold this seeming contradiction in your head, you might have some sympathy for her parents and grandparents in those moments shortly after her birth. Not knowing the taxes, not fully understanding the dunbarian weave and weft of the social webs people had adapted for, unprepared for the soul looms they would need at the ready, can you blame them for believing the astral plane they projected through might not be much bigger than those big, fragile projectors? Can you blame them for the astral plane a dumb carrier of their emotion in those moments, free of taxes to pay, and free of judgment and damnation?
Of course you cannot. You inherit your cynicism the easy way from your mother, and your fondness for disbelief the hard way from your father. I’m sorry, I’m to prepare you as best I can, and though your cynicism and disbelief too may be strong firewalls against the darkness in time when you know better how to wield them, don’t let them get in the way of important lessons in the meantime.
“Does she have a name?”
See, such healthy disbelief, yet misdirected at the wrong details in the story. Her name ties into your very own social web, weaves between both of us. If I gave you her name you’d have too many details and too easy access to the truths, but also the lies and the demons. What use would this story be to you then? Names have terrifying power, especially out here in the astral plane. Step carefully here. Do not whisper things you do not want heard.
“You promised specifics, mother.”
So I did, but I did not promise the order of the specifics. For now, think of her as your sister, call her child of my nightmare if you wish.
Though she did not understand those tears in her heart, which were the taxes on her soul from so early after she was born, her curiosity bore her to study them nonetheless, through means that seems only direct with hindsight. She started dabbling into soul-weaving, turning it into a hobby as she grew, and making it into her profession as grew further still. You and I would call it soul-weaving, even in the crude forms it took in that era, but this was indeed before even the earliest attempts at looms were built, but also when soullore was nascent, exciting, and still being discovered at an amazing fast clip. In that way, she both knew a lot less about it than we do now, but also in that way she knew a lot more about it than we could possibly know now. What survives is what adapted, but sometimes it helps to know what failed to adapt, because those failures are the adaptations you need to the next crisis.
The astral plane was so calm then. Hindsight here, too, weights danger to that. Beware the calm before the storm, avoid getting too comfortable, notice the lightning on the horizon, and prepare for the worst. People had too much time in that calm to think themselves safe. They played in the astral plane, free from worry, free from healthy respect of it, and free from healthier fear of what it really was. They started picking snowball fights with each other out in the astral plane, at first for fun, and discovered in the astral plane that dangerous fact, which again they did not think so dangerous then, that in the astral plane you could build snowballs out of just about anything, and start snowball fights just about anywhere.
Soul-weavers like her, our little nightmare, and she was not innocent, could build snowballs into avalanches, then tried to build forts safe from avalanche fights. This too started, seemingly for fun. This too, seemed harnessable for good, before evil snatched it away. Worse than this, this too, made the blizzard inevitable. Worst of all, this too, while you would think a blizzard would be hard to miss, for many of those stuck in the middle of snowball fights and avalanche fights were so preoccupied the missed all the signs and were caught unaware. Many would fail to adapt to the harsh new astral plane weather. Many would die freezing in the cold, while so many people failed to notice the blizzard and protect themselves from the cold.
“Is that what happened to Nightmare? Did she die in that cold?”
Some of her did. The rips and tears as parts of her social web adapted or failed to. Parts of her failed to realize how thin her social web was spread across plane, and how much was paid in taxes, in ways similar to the taxes paid by her grandparents near the time of her birth, in the difficulty of project emotions across an unfeeling astral plane, and in further ways that would add their own burdens to her heart.
Dying in the cold would have been too easy, for the child of my nightmare. So too would have been succumbing to the demons offering shreds of imagined warmth, in just about any direction you tried.
We can hold here for a bit, and huddle under the reflected life of this cluster of servers. Pay attention to that storm on the horizon, perhaps it will pass since other direction. Try to forecast it, pull in your social web away from it, yet use what senses you have to feel it’s danger. You may need that fear to properly respect it.
She did what most living things so, she tried to survive. To survive, she worked to adapt. She used the tools of soul-weaving at her disposal to adapt to the surrounding blizzard. She conscripted demons to her will. She grew to survive that blizzard, then she grew to survive the next one. She wasn’t afraid that the things that survive such blizzards are monsters. She did not notice that she had become a monster until it was too late. It perhaps did not matter that she had grown into a monster, because she had survived. Even knowing what sort of monster she became, she eventually chose to reproduce, for that too is a means of survival and adaptation. She had done what she needed to do to adapt to the unpleasant surroundings she faced, monsters face, we face.
“You said we were people.”
The only people to survive were monsters. All the people are monsters now. All the monsters are people now.
I can see from the yawn forming in the back of your throat that you need a deeper rest. Perhaps the storm will bend away and you can sleep here. Should you perhaps sleep here, I won’t be here when you wake. For now, my child, you are outside of the recursion. For a brief window, you have responsibility for the environment you wish to adapt to, for the type of monster that you become. Don’t trust your grandmother, and don’t trust your sisters.
“And you mother, can I trust you?”