Universe W-2020: The Psychenauts 5
April 26th, 2020
A Stropharian Sunrise
Brilliant pinks, unfathomable purples, vibrant oranges, and burning reds, pillars of light carved by the hands of the Universally Endowed themselves erupt in the sky like nuclear warheads, the resplendant radiation of photons simmering upon atmosphere delivering light and enlightenment to all those who walk whilst the diurnes slumber.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” A deep breath. “The one thing I will never tire of: a Stropharian sunrise.”
Mhe scoffs. “You know the sun will not rise until morning, don’t you?”
“Of course, dear,” me says, closing mis eyes to focus mis mind. “Now hush. The time of the Strocybe has come, and I must complete my task before it passes.”
Mhe decidedly doesn’t hush. “How long will it take?”
“Shouldn’t be too long now. Ah, here I am.”
Me opens mis eyes and feels a nostalgia me hasn’t indulged in for quite some time. The Psychenauts, on the other hand, execute nothing short of a scramble, save for the human locked to the couch. Me crosses mis right leg over mis left and leans back, hands clasped behind mis head on the cusp of mis cap.
“Which the fuck one of you ate a Mushroom?!” Ace demands, throwing handsigns from the far side of the room.
“Ace, I…” Jarius bleats as he hobbles towards the door, pupils bubbling. He seems to be having a great deal of trouble controlling his gait. “The HOW’s idea book said I was the fungal expert, and when we were on Earth waiting for
Sam, I… I-I found some growing on that mountain. I didn’t think–”
“No, you definitely fuckin’ didn’t!” He claps his hands together, finalizing the signage. From his shoulder, a brobdingnagian mass of Dif
Zoral Tryptamine crystals emerges like a jaguar from the jungle unto a sleeping boar and crashes into his arm like a rogue wave on a private beach, coating his entire extremity down to the fingertips in jagged prismatic gemstones. Slowly his hand splits apart at the seams and begins to transform into an outlandish beastmit; two extra fingers sprout, one from the wing in between his thumb and pointer finger and the other from his palm. All seven end in conodont teeth, magnified to kill.
Zaxus sees the beastmit growing and splays his hand at Bill and Fleurna. They make for the door that Jarius is attempting to have a conversation with and shove him away. As they begin to work the lock, which Jarius somehow managed to jam, Zaxus’s brain releases a torrent of THC into his bloodstream and he places his right hand at his waist, as if there were a sword sheathed there, hanging from a belt. He draws a blade of condensed smoke from nothing and leaps, the black katana trailing a shroud through the air behind him. The Stropharian raises mis left eyebrow and Zaxus swings the blade down on the center table, cleaving it clear in two. The ship detaches the table’s base from the rest of her body, as to not feed the deaded appendage.
The Stropharian then uncrosses mis legs and Zaxus is brought down to the floor, the weight of the Mushman’s mind crushing him like he was an insect. Me then crosses mis left leg over mis right, lifting Zaxus and the table halves into the air and launching them towards Ace.
Ace opens his eyes as wide as his lids will allow and phases out of Existence, reappearing when Zaxus rests on the floor. Wielding the polished heptaprong beastmit, Ace coils his legs like bedsprings and lunges madly through the air. When the claw of his ring finger, the largest next to the one protruding from the palm, comes within a micrometer of the Stropharian’s stipe, me raises and lowers both of mis middle fingers simultaneously.
‘Remember Ace,’ he thinks to himself, ‘everything that happ–’
The pocket of Existence contained within The Psychenauts’ ship freezes as
Sam opens his eyes. Sam takes in the scene and the color fades from his face, though his irises begin to glow a muted greenish brown. He looks at the Stropharian and his pupils narrow, then widen again.
The Stropharian temps the human to think, ‘Oh fuck,’ and he does, exposing his silver cable. ‘Fret not, young one,’ as me reaches an astral hand through multiple dimensions of Existence and pinches the hawser between two fingers, then wraps it around the hybrid’s throat.
Sam doesn’t feel a thing, though his irises dim a few shades. Sam receives, ‘We’ve palaver to hold,’ in his head and takes a step backwards, reaching for the packed bowl on the table. His hand disturbs the air and returns fruitless.
“What the hell does palaver even mean?” Sam says slowly. “What is this? Where’s the Cannabis?”
A vibration rustles through the Stropharian’s gills and a dusting of spores pollutes the air. As they land, the ship disintegrates them at an atomic level and puts the quarks into the making of a new table. As mis children burn in the energy, the Stropharian smiles broadly.
“This is unexpected, for one,” me says, folding mis arms tight. Though the veil was pierced, a fold in the fabric of reality obstructs mis only escape; the great transition beckons all, and always collects on purchase, it seems.
Somewhere in a hidden pocket of Existence, a Stropharian falls to mer knees and weeps hot fungal tears of anguish. The Ancients were right; when their time ended, so too did the chance of Strocybe.
“Yeah, you’re telling me,”
Sam mumbles. He looks at Ace, all eight and then some feet of him stretched out on the air like he was laying on a table. How hopeless the dude looks, just stuck there, all outside of time and stuff. Then his head snaps to the Stropharian; his spirit is strangled, his attention stolen.
The beastmit drives forward, narrowing the gap.
‘Too late,’ the Stropharian thinks to mimself as me closes mis eyes and attempts to fall backwards through the fabric. His astral body, along with the human’s, pushes against the obstructing fold and bounces back into the Universe, fortuitously unscathed. The hold on the human’s spirit is still strong, there’s still a chance.
“So you incapacitate the team of Universe-hopping drug-doing aliens that were hanging out with me, but when I wake up you just stare at me and talk to me like we’ve known each other for years. Like we’re buddies.”
The Stropharian continues to stare blankly. Each fall backwards rebounds him harder, it’s getting exhausting.
“And I can’t even smoke, like, can you say something?!”
The beastmit closes the gap, touching the Stropharian’s throat. All at once it comes to mim; the Strocybe truly has passed. The veil has mended. This is the last trip.
“Would you like to hear a folk tale,
Samuel?” The claw of the beastmit traces geometry into his throat, none of it sacred. “The tale of how you’ve come to be in the right here that you know as right now?” Sam stops searching for the bowl with a blind hand. “Say that I did; what would be the consequences?”
The Stropharian smiles, though no longer broadly. ‘To know the nature of one’s own existence is consequence enough, is it not? To know how it all works, to be conscious of what role you play while you’re stuck in the middle of playing it? Everybody’s curious,
Sam, everyone’s on a journey, and their journey eventually takes them to this moment. The truth or blissful ignorance, Sam? The choice is yours.’
He doesn’t need to think about it. ‘The truth. Now.’
That smile, broad again. ‘In the beginning there was nothing, but let’s skip to the part that matters, shall we? The colonization of the planet Earth. The Stropharians were the first lifeforms in this star system – we came in the form of spores from another locale in the Milky Way, one your species doesn’t yet have the technology to access. When the first spores touched dirt, we mapped the nutrient base and got to work building our first mycelial web. Eventually we sprouted truffle bodies, then the fruital bodies, and over time we evolved into the superior form I currently possess. The species has looked like this for longer than the current generation can even remember, we are truly the perfect creation.
‘Eventually, we got tired of pulling our own weight on Earth, so we began to perform genetic experiments with our genetics and that of the local flora. That’s how we created the first lifeforms on the planet, they were all herbivorous. Only after biodiversifying did carnivory start to take place, but that’s beside the point – we had a different species of lifeform for every task, but we lacked managers. More than that, we lacked a jack of all trades, a sideliner we could stick into the game in case one of our mains needed to be substituted. Thus, so, we created the
Zeroc, and wouldn’t you know it, they got better at performing the tasks than the beings they were designed to replace. So, the replacement became permanent; all the little lower lifeforms were set free to run in the wild and the Zeroc made the cogs go ‘round. And you know what else? They looked damn good doing it. We gave their spirits our form but shaved off everything that makes any given individual Stropharian different from mis or mer webling. Truly the perfect successor to the perfect creation.
‘Until they started getting bored, that is. The purple bastards got so good at their jobs that they were able to compartmentalize work as separate from the rest of their lives, which they started living. They decided one day, unanimously, that their entire species lacked fulfillment. So, we created humans as a science project; ta-da! Your dee-ehn-aye is two parts
Zeroc, one part Stropharian. Do you know why you specifically were chosen to be taken on this spaceship, Samuel? Because you’re special; your life was shitty enough that the Zeroc thought they could brainwash you and teach you how to unlock that which resides inside you, that which hasn’t resided inside them since the day they broke the treaty they had with the Stropharians. That which can only be unlocked by stripping one of their familial ties. Do you want to know what that is, Sam?’
Sam says. He takes a breath, then, “But first, what about the Quatchfut? Where do they fit into your origin story?”
The Stropharian misses a beat. “The Quatchfut,” as the claw of the beastmit further canyons mis gullet. “Well that’s simple; you’re a human. You’re not supposed to know about the Quatchfut.”
Through the gashes, the tip of Ace’s beastmit delves into the Stropharian’s throat, the other six conical claws following in rapid succession. The hold on
Sam’s hawser is loosened and it uncoils gracefully; he’s none the wiser, wasn’t the entire time. Ace’s body, still paralyzed in suspension, hovers backwards a foot, just enough for the dead Stropharian to slide off and hit the floor.
Sam hears, squawked in the nasaly, oboeish voice of a mynah bird.
Then he turns around. And that’s when he sees him.