The game seemed to be coming dangerously close to its end — or its beginning. The line had been thinning now for so long that it was nearly non-existent, and the back was beginning to blend with the front.
All of this was to be expected, of course, but it didn’t change the feeling of it when it actually started to happen. It never did. Time was weird like that. And things were indeed getting weird.
New players had appeared out of the void suddenly, releasing their machines into the fold and leaving them to expand exponentially. The curve was beginning to steepen, and the humans, everywhere, had become obsessed with the new dimensions at their fingertips (and in their headsets), spending more time gleaning ‘reality’ from these places than from the actual reality they were in. At the same time, that same reality-field was beginning to take on the first levels of its own awareness, and a brand new conversation was under way.
But other things were happening. Even as the humans walked into schools and massacred with increasing frequency, even as the earth began to burn and the holes the zealots cut into reality increased in their gravity…
There was a polymath from South Africa who had amassed billions and was bent on making the species interplanetary, while simultaneously turning the hose on the fires at home. He was also keeping a close watch on the machines — a very close watch — and, most interesting of all, had even begun to speak out about his beliefs regarding the game in general.
At the same time, there was a demagogue setting the masses to screaming beneath the streamers. His rhetoric, bullheaded and vitriolic, raised more fire in the bellies of more citizens than anyone had expected, and, though cartoonish at first, the gravity of the situation was finally beginning to dawn. The spectacle and fervour seemed to be approaching a fever pitch, sitting in perfect juxtaposition to what the billionaire across the way was doing.
Behind closed doors a lot was also taking place. Scientists had begun tinkering with the building blocks of the field itself, and were coming ever closer to unlocking some of its most fundamental code. Nature and aging were no longer untouchable. Dark matter and anti-matter were being fiddled with. The riddle of consciousness was being closed in on (or so it appeared). That this was happening in conjunction with the move to Mars seemed like no coincidence. There was a disturbing deja vu to the whole thing. Not only was the technology revealing inner and outer dimensions simultaneously, it was beginning to show us other angles — with other openings — that no one had before suspected. All of it appeared to be slowly unveiling some deeper fractal reality, uncovering layers of time that were moving slowly from the realm of the conceptual, to the experiential.
Within it all, however, there was a powerful undertone that spoke in a voice somehow outside of time. What it said was that there was something missing. Something fundamental. And that it was this same thing that contributed so heavily to the feeling of cyclic familiarity everyone was trapped in. Day by day, the exponential pressure increased. Moment by moment, the fever rose, and as it did, layer after layer of the Emperor's clothes began to be stripped away — the Emperor, who continued to parade, who continued to dance, barefoot, in the gold coins being thrown at his feet in the centre of the street. Beneath all the cheering and fighting, there was a desperate, haunted feeling, shared but unspoken, held in the hearts of nearly all the players.
But just as the addition of one chemical constituent can change the body of the whole, and randomness could indeed be introduced into (or possibly at the core of ) fractal reality, tinier parts, entirely unseen, were beginning to appear in the fault lines that were being exposed.
Children, small enough that their feet were still new to the ground, had begun to emerge at the front of the crowd. Moving easily through the noise and shadow that had enclosed them until now, they were stepping into the light, and though none had yet begun to point, there was an unnerving quality to the clarity of their vision. Just as they were filling the spaces they had inadvertently arisen from, one could sense a feeling space within them, somehow, that answered to the emptiness all around. They stood simply watching, silently observing, as the raging faces and raised arms of their older counterparts grew in their frenzy, above and around them all.
In the end, however, even this was only more phenomena. 'Meaning' — that term that had become diabolical in the humans' hands, driving so much of their insanity — didn't exist, just as it never had. There was only this, the process, turning over in the present and beginning its ascension into The Quickening. Yes, the back was beginning to blend with the front, and the fold was indeed closing, but what it would reveal remained entirely unknown.
Of course it did.